Friday, January 30, 2015

Ten things I love about my man

Bethany aDandelion Pie has a blog post up about ten things that she loves about her spouse and she invited other bloggers to chime in and link up. 

Well, this seems like the kind of sappy thing that a young person newly in love might do, but what about older woman who has been with a man for forty years? Can she still find ten things she loves - or even likes - about him? That is my challenge, and,  just for the heck of it, I decided to give it a try.

Here we go - ten things that still turn me on about the hunk that I married.

  1. He makes me laugh. Mostly intentionally, sometimes unintentionally. When you've been living with someone for forty years, this may be be most important quality of all.
  2. He does my laundry. Of course, I still have to put it away - he's not perfect.
  3. He gets stuff down from the top shelf for me. I'm not as vertically challenged as some women in my family, but I'm not exactly tall either. It's nice to have a man in the house who is able to reach those top shelves and does so without complaint.
  4. He gets me wonderful gifts - often things I didn't even know I wanted. I, on the other hand, am an inept gift giver and usually wind up getting him things that he didn't know he wanted - because he didn't!
  5. He washes the dishes. That's one of the household duties that he took over after he retired and it is much appreciated. So appreciated that I got him a new dishwasher for Christmas, one of my more successful gift choices, as it happens.
  6. When I yell at him for clicking his pen or making other annoying, repetitive noises, he stops. Usually.
  7. He likes my cooking or at least pretends to, which is really the same thing, you know.
  8. He does the grocery shopping, another of those onerous household duties that he performs without grousing. Well, without much grousing.
  9. He's learned to love cats. He was not a cat person when I met him, but slowly, over the years, the steady stream of cats that have been part of our household have won him over, until, now, he is the favorite human and the preferred lap of our cat, Bella, who adores him.
  10. He's given me the two most wonderful daughters in the world and he had more to do than me, I think, with making them the outstanding human beings that they are. Really, they are both "Daddy's Girls."
Well, actually, that wasn't too hard. In fact, I'll give you one more as a bonus: He puts up with me and he makes me a better person just by being him.

Maybe it wasn't such a sappy thing to do after all. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Killer's Payoff by Ed McBain: A review

Killer's Payoff (An 87th Precinct Novel)Killer's Payoff by Ed McBain
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Continuing with my reading of Ed McBain's iconic 87th Precinct series, I've reached number 6 which was first published in 1958. It was the second book that featured the character of Cotton Hawes.

Hawes was introduced in the previous book because, as McBain explained in a foreword to the later edition which I read, his editor warned him that a married cop - such as Steve Carella was - could not be the hero. He needed someone who was unmarried and available to the ladies. Thus, Cotton Hawes was born.

In Killer's Payoff, McBain is obviously still working on the development of the Hawes character. He's presented as a man who falls in love - or at least in lust - with every pretty girl he meets and, immediately after falling, he's generally in bed with them. It seems to make little difference whether they are someone who is involved in a case he's investigating as a possible murder suspect or just some random waitress he meets on the road. The result is the same - a one-night stand and the next day moving on without a backward glance. So this, I guess, is what passed as "heroic" activity in the eyes of book editors in the 1950s.  A reader can only hope that in future books, Cotton Hawes might show a little more depth to his personality.

In fact, I found this book quite dated for several reasons. Many of its references would be characterized as racist and misogynistic by today's standards. Even bearing in mind the era in which they were written, reading them was not a pleasant experience. This is probably my least favorite of the books I have read so far in the series.

This time the detectives are investigating the murder of a known blackmailer named Sy Kramer. Kramer was shot with a hunting rifle on a street in Isola. The obvious suspects would seem to be the people whom Kramer was blackmailing. The problem is that he was a lone operator and nobody knows who those people were. A search of his apartment turns up no clues about their identity. His bank accounts give the detectives their first leads and Carella and Hawes pursue those leads doggedly hoping to get a break in the case.

The trail eventually leads them to a private hunting lodge in the Adirondacks and it is there that Cotton Hawes is able to develop the information that finally helps them to solve the case.

The saving grace of the book is that it, like all the others so far, was short, so it didn't involve a big investment of time, but I just couldn't get terribly interested in the plot or any of the characters involved. I really had the feeling that the author was struggling with trying to get Cotton Hawes' personality fixed, and that seemed to consume his efforts. This book did not have the sharp writing or descriptions of settings and individuals that I had come to expect from him. It was a workmanlike tale and not terrible, but just not one of McBain's best.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Dear Kitten, It's stupid human time

Okay, I know it's a commercial, but it's soooo cute. And so true to cat-life. Enjoy!

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins: A review

The Girl on the TrainThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Shades of Gone Girl and Gaslight, this is one nifty page-turner of a thriller. Paula Hawkins has used the device of the unreliable narrative and lying narrator made famous by Gillian Flynn in her fantastically successful Gone Girl and used it with great ingenuity to tight and suspenseful effect. It was a very entertaining read.

This is the story of three women - Rachel, Megan, and Anna. Each of the three shares in the narration of the story and so we see it from three different perspectives, but as we near the denouement, we begin to comprehend that none of the narratives has been entirely true. Certainly, none of the three is complete in itself.

The woman who we first meet is that "girl on the train." She is Rachel. She takes the same commuter train to London every morning, allegedly to go to her job at a public relations firm. Only slowly is it revealed that she has actually lost her job because of her drinking three months before. She continues taking her daily trip to fool her flatmate whom she doesn't want to know about the job loss.

As Rachel takes her daily trip to and from London, she rolls by a stretch of cozy suburban homes, one of which she used to live in with her husband, Tom. She was blissfully happy there until alcohol took over her life and Tom strayed into the arms of another woman, Anna. Now, he and Anna live in the house that he and Rachel once occupied and as she goes by each day, Rachel looks down on the house and remembers.

She also observes a nearby house where a young couple, whom she has named Jason and Jess but who are actually Scott and Anna, live. Rachel sees them as happy and in love, the perfect young marrieds. The truth is very much more complicated than that, as we learn when we meet Megan through her narrative.

One day as she is passing by, Rachel sees Jess (Megan) on her patio kissing another man who is not Jason (Scott) and she is shocked. Could she have been wrong about their lives?

She is even more shocked when she reads in the newspaper that the woman who lived at that address has disappeared without a trace - the day after she saw her kissing a man not her husband. Is there a connection?

While these events are happening, Rachel's life and her tentative hold on reality are unraveling completely. Her flatmate is fed up with her drinking and there is a black hole in her memory of the day that Megan disappeared. Rachel wakes the day after to find herself with unexplained injuries and unable to remember what happened, but she has a vague memory of being in the area where the woman disappeared.

Then the woman's body is found near the railroad tracks and Rachel is even more desperate to remember what happened during her blackout. She fears that she may be somehow involved in Megan's death.

Meanwhile, Anna is becoming fed up with Rachel and what she sees as her meddling in the lives of Anna, Tom, and their young daughter. She sees her as a stalker and a danger to her child.

Rachel, in an alcoholic haze, is torn about what she observed of Megan from the train and what she thinks she knows about her life and that of Scott and the unknown man on the patio. When she finally works up her courage to tell the police, they at first accept and investigate her statement but then reach the conclusion that her observations are not to be trusted because she is a drunk. She is humiliated once again.

This book has a lot of moving parts, but as we get near the end they all come together and take on the speed and force of a runaway locomotive. Paula Hawkins keeps all of the disparate lines of her complicated tale from becoming inextricably tangled and all the lies, innuendos, and threats eventually are revealed for what they are in a most satisfactory conclusion. It is a very impressive accomplishment.

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Tom Tomorrow nails it again

The attitude of the rightwingnuts, which includes much of the Republican Party, toward science and scientists is almost as disrespectful as their attitude toward our first black president and for much the same reason: THOSE PEOPLE  are just not members of the club.

Tom Tomorrow sums up their attitude toward science quite succinctly. (Hat tip to Daily Kos.)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Poetry Sunday: To a Louse

It is Robert Burns' 255th birthday today so, obviously, he must be our featured poet for Poetry Sunday. 

But which of his poems will it be? There are so many from which to choose - "A Red, Red Rose," "Tam o' Shanter," "A Fond Kiss," "A Man's a Man for A' That," "To a Mouse," "Auld Lang Syne" - the list seems endless.

I must confess though that when I think of Burns' verse, the first poem that springs to mind is "To A Louse." What other poet could take such a lowly creature and derive so much meaning from its existence and drive home a philosophical lesson for us all? Namely, if only we had the gift of seeing ourselves as others see us, it would free us from many a blunder and foolish notion and we would not give ourselves such airs or think so highly of ourselves. Yes, indeed, Robbie Burns was a philosopher as well as a poet.

To a Louse

On Seeing One on a Lady's Bonnet at Church

by Robert Burns

Ha! whare ye gaun' ye crowlin ferlie?
Your impudence protects you sairly;
I canna say but ye strunt rarely
Owre gauze and lace,
Tho faith! I fear ye dine but sparely
On sic a place.

Ye ugly, creepin, blastit wonner,
Detested, shunn'd by saunt an sinner,
How daur ye set your fit upon her---
Sae fine a lady!
Gae somewhere else and seek your dinner
On some poor body.

Swith! in some beggar's hauffet squattle;
There ye may creep, and sprawl, and sprattle;
Wi' ither kindred, jumping cattle;
In shoals and nations;
Whare horn nor bane ne'er daur unsettle
Your thick plantations.

Now haud you there! ye're out o' sight,
Below the fatt'rils, snug an tight,
Na, faith ye yet! ye'll no be right,
Till ye've got on it---
The vera tapmost, tow'rin height
O' Miss's bonnet.

My sooth! right bauld ye set your nose out,
As plump an grey as onie grozet:
O for some rank, mercurial rozet,
Or fell, red smeddum,
I'd gie you sic a hearty dose o't,
Wad dress your droddum!

I wad na been surpris'd to spy
You on an auld wife's flainen toy
Or aiblins some bit duddie boy,
On's wyliecoat;
But Miss's fine Lunardi! fye!
How daur ye do't?

O Jeany, dinna toss your head,
An set your beauties a' abread!
Ye little ken what cursed speed
The blastie's makin!
Thae winks an finger-ends, I dread,
Are notice takin!

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us
An foolish notion:
What airs in dress an gait wad lea'es us,
An ev'n devotion!