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Everything posted by Binker

  1. So all of what you have heard is true, but I wasn't very badly affected. I did deal with rolling black outs and by the second day of that, my house got terribly cold as soon as the power went off, so I went and stayed with one of my friends (from my IRL book club). Her house is on a protected grid (near a power plant) and so she never lost power. She picked me up because I don't drive in this stuff (I've never really lived where it snowed--she's from Kansas City, where it's miserable every winter). It was sort of like a slumber party where one is anxious about something the whole time. I just came back today. My house seems to be okay, although I won't know for sure until the pipes all thaw out. Some of my friends further south (so REALLY never get winter) got hit hard and their water supply was knocked out. I'm not quite sure why that happens, but I know it's miserable when it does. On FB, I follow a naturalist who lives in Brownsville, Texas (at the very southern tip of Texas) and THEY were very cold. All the tropical plants were badly affected. Tomorrow, it is supposed to get above freezing, so that will be better, but that's probably when all the broken pipes will reveal themselves. Thank you for your concern.
  2. It was the trip of the lifetime. I posted a few pictures of me on FB and people kept saying, "you look so happy." They were right. I was extremely happy. Things have been bad in the U.S. for a while and it was wonderful to get away. I am cautiously hopeful for the future.
  3. I went to the Galapagos islands over Christmas and it was the best trip ever. I had to take multiple COVID tests before going and then self-isolated and tested again after i got back. I wore a mask and some really unflattering goggles during the flights down and back. The only place I was nervous about was the Miami airport, which i knew would be chaotic and it was. The flights were packed, which surprised me a bit. But due to my goggle/mask get up and efforts to distance from others, it was fine. The tourism industry has been non-existent over the last several months. I had a day in Quito with a guide and driver. I don't think they realized how much I understood Spanish and so were casually talking about how much weight they had lost because they couldn't afford to buy food! Quito is a beautiful city. But that meant that the Galapagos were even more magical. Because of the limited tourism, no one had been there for some time and the animals were completely unstressed and in profusion. I don't think I could go back at a better time. We snorkeled every day, sometimes twice a day, and on one excursion, I had a young female sea lion come up and play with me. She came up in front of me, made eye contact, then whipped behind me. I whipped around to see her (meaning that I lumbered awkwardly around) and then as soon as we saw each other, she'd do the same thing. We did a few other playful things and I could hear myself laughing through my snorkel. Another person in our group got a great picture of us together, but I haven't gotten it yet. The photographer had an extension trip into the Amazon, so I am letting him get back and get settled. We'll see if I get it. Book related, I did try to read Origin of Species, but scientific discoveries have come so far since 1859 that it was almost unreadable. He was arguing by analogy to selective breeding of domesticated animals without any knowledge of genetics, so he spent a LOT of time on pigeon breeding, which is not interesting to me at all. So I gave up.
  4. Welcome. I am a huge William Boyd family and went to order Trio on my kindle, only to find I had already ordered it and it will appear, like magic, on January 19. I am looking forward to it.
  5. Katherine Anne Porter is one of the great writers of 20th Century America, despite a rather limited output (her personal life was so colorful that she must always have been distracted). I read something by her in high school, but I don't think it was this book. This book is really 3 novellas. The first one is called "Old Mortality" and tells the story of a family that includes 2 children, sisters, Martha and Miranda. Miranda at about age 20 is the main character in title novella, which takes place in Denver, Colorado when the 1918 flu pandemic hit there. Miranda's extended illness and hallucinations and the background sounds are all dire--the boarding house owner shrieking "she can't stay here, she can't stay here," people galloping away on horses to get doctors, old-fashioned ambulances trundling through the streets, and funeral procession after funeral procession. A historian of the pandemic thought the description of being that sick and all of the attendant reactions and fears was so accurate that he dedicated his non-fiction book to Porter. She is quite a writer, I must say. I remembered that from high school, but reading this reminded me again. The novella I haven't mentioned, which is unrelated to the pandemic, made me so tense that I couldn't finish it. It takes place on a dairy farm in south Texas in the 1890s, not necessarily where you would expect high tension, but it's there. I recommend it highly, despite not being able to finish. In fact, I recommend the whole book. I would not have read this but for my IRL book club, which has been fraying badly under the pressures of the election and COVID-19. Since it's a book club of excessively-educated bookworms, this has been evidenced by nasty emails being sent around to the entire group, when it's really just a fight among about 5 members. Plus a lot of passive aggressive behavior. I want to knock their heads together, but we aren't meeting in person, so the opportunity hasn't presented itself. Anyway, this book was so good that I guess I will stick with book club for now.
  6. I read an article that said that Trump is so fundamentally lazy that he will probably just hole himself up in Mar-a-Lago and try to make money with various TV shows. "Everyone knows" that the reason Melania didn't move to the White House right away is that she was re-negotiating her pre-nup, so I bet she's thrilled that she can get going sooner rather than later. Also, it is being reported that both Melania and Jared are pushing him to let go. But I think Trump marches to the beat of his own drummer. The count took so long and it became so clear that Biden was going to win that I think it took the surprise and fight out of most of his supporters, so I am a lot less worried about civil unrest than I was. But I could be wrong. There are 3 branches of federal government in the U.S.: Executive (the President, et al), the Senate, and the House of Representatives. There are all supposed to be equal and in function they are. In attention paid, they obviously are not. I am happiest when they are divided, which prevents either side from getting their most extreme measures passed. Right now the Democrats control the House and the Executive, which means I hope that the open races for the Senate in Georgia go Republican. An unpopular stance with my friends. Note that the Supreme Court is not a part of the government, which even Americans forget all the time. The Supreme Court certainly sees itself as independent and governed by a completely different set of rules, including one against overturning old law. So I am not as terrified by the new Justice's personal opposition to abortion. Again, I could be wrong. And I'm totally opposed to court packing, which just imposes politics on a group that should not be political at all and rarely actually functions that way. It drives me crazy when people are surprised that a "Republican" or "Democrat" judge votes a particular way. That's just not how they see themselves or how they function.
  7. We will see. The coronavirus pandemic is affecting the advice about having Thanksgiving dinner, but i have faith that that will work out. I've already made my turkey stock and done a test run with a maple cheesecake, which was delicious and will probably replace several desserts I've gotten tired of making. I never understand the politics of other countries or try very hard to figure them out, either.
  8. So we are still all on tenterhooks because once again, the pollsters were wrong. Last time, everyone said it was because they underestimated the hostility to Hillary Clinton, but that's obviously not the case here. I think Trump is such a repulsive personality that people who generally like his views just won't acknowledge that they are going to vote for him. Or something. I don't know. It felt a lot like the last election when I suddenly realized he was going to win and was shocked. Back then, I blamed myself for telling a hotel-keeper in Croatia that "there is no way Donald Trump will be the President of the United States," thereby jinxing the entire country. But I've been very careful here, so won't accept the blame this time. I think the Democrats overestimate their appeal to most people and are especially condescending to minority groups. My African-American friends (who don't love the term "African-American") have long complained that the Democrats see them as monolithic and that's even more true with the Hispanic community (which hates the term "Latinx," used solely by woke white people and some politicians, and simply tolerates "Hispanic" as the lesser of the various evils). Many of the Hispanics in the United States are here because of the chaos caused in their countries by intensive governmental involvement in the economy and so have a strong negative reaction to all of the programs the Democrats insist are for their benefit. I grew up in Miami and I know that's true of the Cuban community and think it's also true of Venezuelans. But I could be wrong. I'm not very interested in politics and so don't follow things closely. But we are very divided here and it makes me sad. My IRL book club, which I didn't really want to join anyway, has fractured with hostile emails back and forth. A bunch of old bookworms behaving badly. If we can't act sane, then how can we expect non-readers to?
  9. The noise would not alarm me at all. In the end, there was no gun to be had, but I do have bear spray. That's probably better for me anyway. I don't hunt, but I do hike in areas that have bears and they always recommend bringing bear spray. I never knew where to find it. My foray into shopping for a gun informed me on that count. I always get a flu shot and have gotten it this year. I had the flu once and I never want to be that sick again. I guess we will see how this turns out.
  10. Here I am in Dallas, Texas, U.S.A., where the weather is beautiful, but the feeling in the air is of tense anticipation--about the election, the response by the losing side to the vote, and the virus. As for the election, I prefer to vote on the date of an election, so that I feel connected to my fellow citizens. This year, I voted early, mostly to avoid a big wait, but also because of the war of words about counting all the votes. Several days ago, the number of early voters in Texas exceeded all of the voters in the last election. I am not sure what that says. The Democrats think every new vote is going to them, but I am not sure they are right. But they might be. I guess we'll see. As for the response to the election, I have been shocked by the civic unrest and violence this year and decided, for the first time in my life, to buy a gun for home defense, which I am sure surprises many of you. Fear not, there is no proper gun for me to find. I consulted with my friends, all of whom recommended a pump action shotgun (just the sound of chambering the round would probably make someone breaking into my house run away) and there are none to be found. The newspapers are reporting that first-time gun ownership is way up and one of my more gun-focused friends (really, any of my friends is more gun-focused than I am) said that it was panic buying. I live in a very safe neighborhood, so it is my hope that this is nothing I need to worry about since there's nothing I can do about it. But I do think it says something about the atmosphere of fear here. As for the virus, I do not know what to think. The issue has become so politicized here that I can reliably predict someone's political views based on their terror of or indifference to the virus. I'm cautious, but not terrified. I wear a mask all the time, but I've worn masks during flu seasons all on my own. And I wash my hands a lot, but I've always done that, too. I am still planning to have Thanksgiving at my house (fewer than 10 people) and even made my turkey stock today. And I have decided to go to the Galapagos over Christmas. I went to get shots from The Travel Doctor and she said she thought it would be fine. These are my optimistic steps in the face of a very daunting time. I don't really want this to get political. I have MORE than enough of that in my life. I have essentially quit checking Facebook because people launch into the ugliest of diatribes or post non-stop memes. It's like being force-fed bumper stickers. And I won't discuss politics with anyone, mostly because there's only one thing I can do, I have done it, and all that's left is talking about it, thereby ratcheting up my anxiety level. So I don't engage. But I thought I'd report in for those of you watching from other places. We are all on edge.
  11. I loved this book and meant to post a review. Susanna Clarke is very talented at creating worlds in which to subsume oneself. And the main character is charming, always trying his best with the limited information he has..
  12. This is the fifth in a series, so I bought the first one and will report in.
  13. I just read it. It's terrific. She is quite a writer.
  14. Patrick Gale is a great writer. This is now on my Kindle. I gave up my month in my IRL Book Club because I always feel like I am just about to quit. But the person I gave it to has created HAVOC in the Book Club and I hope will be gone soon. If so and I stay, I think I will pick a Patrick Gale book because I don't think he's as well known as he should be in the United States and I think I would like to solve that problem single-handedly.
  15. I always enjoy books about exploration and this one was no exception. I don't know what was going on in my life that I didn't read it when everyone else did, but I am glad that I finally got it read. Fascinating book. The River of Doubt is in the interior of Brazil. It had been spotted but not explored in the first part of the 20th Century when Theodore Roosevelt, then in his 50s, heard about it. He decided that he had to make an expedition in order to get his most recent electoral loss out of his system. He and his son Kermit had already explored (in a shooting big game sort of way) Africa and so he invited Kermit along. It appears that neither Roosevelt was one for details, so they left the selection of the route and provisioning of the exploration to what seems like a random selection of men, with predictable results. They had WAY TOO MUCH stuff, all of which seemed necessary in NY, but less necessary when it had to be portaged around the multiple waterfalls on their route. And they made a terrible decision about vessels to use, although it's easy to see how it happened. Instead of using canvas-covered canoes, which would have been easy to steer and much lighter to carry, they used the dugouts that were common in the area. But dugouts are heavy and lack maneuverability, neither of which is a good thing in a river that is as turbulent as this one. And boy, did they suffer! Starvation, death, murder, accidents, bugs, bugs, bugs, and disease. Roosevelt never really recovered, dying 5 years later. And Kermit went on to have a very sad life. The hero of the book was the Brazilian leader of the group, Candido Rondon, a man who appears to have been even more indestructible than Roosevelt. Rondon's attitude toward the Indians was light-years ahead of his time and probably helped save the exploring party from being killed, even if they weren't really welcomed. And, based on history, the Indians shouldn't have been welcoming. Rondon was part Indian, I think, and grew up very poor in the interior of Brazil, crawling out of poverty as part of the Brazilian military. He had strung the telegraph line through the Brazilian jungle and developed much-derided attitudes toward the Indians, for which everyone in the expedition should have been grateful. Highly recommend.
  16. I looked for an entry for this book and was surprised not to find it, since this has apparently been a huge deal in the last several years. This is the first book in a trilogy that is called "Three-Body Problem," but has some other actual name that i don't remember. The guys who brought "Game of Thrones" to life are apparently working on a series for Netflix based on the trilogy. The book takes place in China during and after the Cultural Revolution. Almost all of the characters are Chinese physicists who have suffered from the attentions given to intellectuals during the Cultural Revolution. Several of them retreat to a computer game played with virtual reality gear that has much better graphics than the typical video game. The game always posits the same problem: there is a plant that orbits 3 suns, which leads to very strange gravitational effects that are sometimes terrible and other times just fine. The era when everything is fine is called a "Stable Era" and the era when things are not find are called a "Chaotic Era." And the Chaotic Eras are TERRIBLE and difficult to predict (this is or was an actual problem in physics). Of course, it appears that this planet, cleverly called "Trisolaria," is real and its inhabitants are desperately looking for a solution or, failing that, another place to live. Meanwhile, the Chinese are convinced that humans are the worst creatures ever, which their recent history suggests is true. So the communication between them begins.... I wolfed this book down and have ordered the next one, which I will read after a palate cleanser of Candice Millard's River of Doubt, which is also excellent. If any of you enjoy science fiction, I highly recommend this book. I will report in when (if...I sometimes get sidetracked) I read the next books.
  17. I read this book this summer and raved about it. I have loaned it to 3 people, about to be 4. One of the (only) advantages of buying a books rather than reading on my Kindle.
  18. This is normally the kind of book I would love, since I adored H is for Hawk, but I know what you mean about uneven books and I don't have much patience for them. I am a birdwatcher, although not insanely so. I have 2 or 3 friends who have the same interest and we share books and sitings, but don't generally admit to the interest to other people. One of them, who lives near San Antonio, sent me these 2 books, both of which I recommend: A Supremely Bad Idea by Luke Dempsey is one of the funniest books I have ever read about anything. Probably funnier if you have any interest in bird watching, but hilarious no matter what. The Big Year by Mark Obmascik is not quite as funny, but is still amusing and almost unbelievable. A "Big Year" means that someone sees every possible bird in some area (here, North America--Attu Island is part of the geographical area and appears to be hell on earth). Near the end of the book I sent my friend a text and said that I would never ever ever want to try to achieve a Big Year. He said as far as he could tell, only men took a fun hobby and turned it into an endurance sport. But that has turned me off of bird watching festivals because they often have a "big day," which sounds similarly grueling, if for only a day. Texas is on one of the major North American flyways and so has a lot of bird festivals. This book was made into a movie with Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, and Jack Black. I have not seen the movie. Whenever we did something outdoorsy, I would tell my children that the most dangerous animal they could encounter is another human.
  19. I am on the 4th book now and they are a welcome relief from the real world. I started a very good Orhan Pamuk book, but couldn't stick with it.
  20. This is one of those books that everyone has to read in school in the U.S. and we were probably all too young to understand the themes. I always thought it was just another book that punished women for having sex.
  21. Just downloaded it on my Kindle. Sounds excellent.
  22. Clavain, I look forward to hearing what you think. I have always liked everything I have read on Mr. HG's recommendation and he always gives his reasons for not liking a book. They are usually ones that would make me not like it, too. So that's why I take the risk. Also, I'm impressed that he finishes these books he doesn't end up liking. I have a friend who has to finish every book she starts and my mother was like that, too. I admire that quality, but do not emulate it.
  23. Mary Trump is Donald Trump's niece, the only daughter of his older brother Freddy. The epigraph for this book is from Les Miserables: "If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but the one who causes the darkness." It is clear that Mary believes that the guilty one, above all, is her grandfather, Fred Trump, and he does seem to have been a terribly cruel man, prone to casual dehumanization of others, including his oldest son, Freddy (Mary's father) who drank himself to death at a young age. He was, indeed, very rich, and he used his money to prop up Donald, who was by far the favored child. She describes Donald as constantly needing to be propped up because he knows that he hasn't had the successes he says he has. His father did have them, but Donald has never done anything successful in real estate. Mary faults the national media for treating "his pathologies (his mendacity, his delusional grandiosity), as well as his racism and misogyny, as if they were entertaining idiosyncrasies beneath which lurked maturity and seriousness of purpose," when in reality, nothing mature or serious lurks anyplace in Donald Trump. She also observes that many of the men that Trump is drawn to are similar to his father psychologically, which is why Trump finds them so irresistible. I found most of her insights good. I think one has to be careful with analyzing people in the public eye. There were all sorts of "Daddy complex" explanations for George Bush going into Iraq, when I really think he just had very similar politics to his father, but without his father's skills in international diplomacy. But Mary is part of that family, poor thing, and her insights seem more valid.
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