Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Living With A Stranger

It's a good news/bad news thing where the good news is Huge and way far outweighs the bad news in significance and impact. And yet here I am writing a blog post I actually hope Ron doesn't read to vent about the bad part. Since Staci's visit Ron seems to have somehow let go of an enormous amount of anger and pain he'd been carrying around for a very long time. That pain gave my dearest a sharp, bitter edge that could be very unpleasant at times and I often felt I had to be very careful lest I set him off on a Major Angry. Which was painful to watch cause He was the one I saw so clearly terribly suffering from his anger and I have been trying since the day I met him to gently show him How to drop that burden.

I feel so much for my Ron because I have SO been there. As Staci could tell you I used to be the same way or worse. And part of me is just insane with joy to see Ron acting calm and pleasant most of the time and for the most part experiencing rather than suffering most of each moment, each day, his life.

But with all of that huge anger gone we are both having to look at all the ugly stuff that got mixed up and lost in it. It has been such an odd role reversal this weekend with Alan the emotional mess and Ron playing the patient counselor. And I am learning a lot of things about Ron that I never knew. I really am awed at the amount of anger that Ron has been able to let go of and I am trying my best to listen to him and hear what he now quite calmly tells me is what he is Really concerned about. Crucial information that Always got lost before under all the anger. I am so happy he is no longer bearing all of that pain and am happy to do the real work on our relationship that we're now having to do to actually deal with what needs dealing with.

So the saga of the friendship that was saved because they were all willing to keep talking to each other and trying to work things out until they worked things out has played against the back drop of major personal growth and the challenges of deaing with a spouse who really is a very different person.

The friend we managed to patch things up with said something to me that really struck me: "...this isn't the first time I've had a friend, especially if the friend is part of a couple, take something wrong and then boom they never return your calls again and it's like your dead to them and you don't even know what you did wrong....you two were the first couple who was ever willing to make the effort to work it out."

And he's right. Close relationships actually take some work and many people socialize with lots of people and are Never willing to do the actual hard work of working things out when someone's feelings get hurt and thus never move beyond the most superficial bonds.

Ron says we have to help our friend let go of something that is just as big as his anger rock was and once we have he will almost certainly move on to family. But when I think about what our friend said and I think about people that I myself have in fact dropped flatly and never spoken to again, I realized that having shown both of us very personally that he cares about us enough to have invited us over and genuinely looked glad to see us the day after he got to see me on my absolute worst behavior makes me realize that while Ron is no doubt right about us needing to help him with his own rock, he's already family to me.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Moving Along To Family

Ron and I have a small number of friends who are so close and dear to us we refer to them as family. Ethan Mordden talks about something similar in his books though in Mordden's world the families of gay men seem to extend only to other gay men, whereas our own "family" of dear friends includes a straight couple whom we are very close to and love dearly.

We know and see Lots of people and most of them are never going to make the cut to becoming family. And if I were to introduce Ron to an old friend and add simply "and he is family" after providing his name, Ron would immediately know the stranger before him was somebody very important to me, to be welcomed most warmly.

And the last few days when I have Not been reading any books or writing any blog posts about them I have been learning some lessons in friendship from my husband and from a good friend who is well along the road to becoming real family to us.

It could have been a nightmare. Thursday afternoon in my living room a friend said something to me that was intended quite innocently but which offended me very greatly. And from the moment my huzband saw as our visitor did not that I was utterly furious and doing my absolute damndest not to let it show, my dear sweetie efficiently moved into what he refers to as damage control mode.

My instinct of course was to try to hide my outrage and get the man of out my house and not let him see how offended I was, because I knew deep down that the remark I had taken such intense offense at was never meant as an insult. But the thing is, I am not good at hiding my feelings. When I was a supervisor at Sprynet it really got me into trouble once. I was very unhappy and pissed off about a something that happened at work and it was very obvious to every person I dealt with how unhappy and pissed off I was because no matter What words came out of my mouth Anyone who could see my Face would know immediately how peeved I was. For better or for worse I am Not good at hiding things.

But I actually might have pulled it off. I vividly remember sitting here moments after I took offense typing an IM (to another friend who is also moving along the road to becoming family) that "I am laughing and typing fast and the guy across the room has no idea I loathe him at this moment". And privately to me, Ron agreed of course that we 'must try to hustle him out of here before you explode' and yet inexplicably insisted on detaining our friend until such time as I just could not hold it in (I'm told the tone I gave to the words "yes, it's been busy" scorched the ceiling) and we ended up having a Major Scene.

I hate scenes. Everybody hates scenes. They're ugly, they're messy and they hurt. But my huzband, who in this installment is playing the wise director knows that sometimes you have to actually go ahead and Have a scene if you are to work things out and go on being friends.

It's been a tense and emotional three days. There have been a whole bunch of calls and emails. And we've just come back from dinner at our friend's place. We had a great time and I think what we all felt most was relief that we're still friends. And having done the emotional heavy lifting of actually learning how we had quite unintentionally hurt each other very badly, we have moved with him a big step along the road to being family.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Turn of a Friendly Card

Most people know Orson Scott Card as a science fiction writer. And now, I do as well. But my first experience reading Card came about in 1993. I was staying overnight with friends in Baltimore en route to that year's March On Washington for Gay & Lesbian Civil Rights and my friend Carla, who has since made a name for herself as a science fiction writer and comic artist and whom I've sadly lost touch with, told me about a book she had recently read and lent me her copy.

So it was that I sat awake on an overnight train from DC to Boston, giddy with the euphoria of having spent the day amid thousands and thousands of jubilant and proud queer folk, including some on-line friends from Texas I'd met face to face for the first time and began reading Lost Boys.

These days I tend to have a pretty live and let live attitude towards other people's beliefs and choices. But in my 20's I was pretty openly hostile towards organized religion. I believed (not unreasonably) that the religious were enemies of gay people and were in a real sense responsible for the discrimination and hate crimes many of us suffered.

Thus it was a real testament to Card's skillful story-telling that I soon found myself empathizing with and caring about a devout Mormon computer programmer, struggling to be a good husband to his wife, raise his children according to his beliefs and protect his family from dangers that seem to lurk everywhere. When I later read Card's science fiction, I would not be surprised that his agility as a novelist brought me to care about the feelings and lives of other species on distant planets; the Mormon family in Lost Boys were at least as foreign and strange to me as the Bugger Queen later would be, and incredibly Card made me understand and care about them. Highly Recommended as a psychological novel and as an introduction to Mormons.

Orson Scott Card is a prolific writer, and a detailed survey even of just his science fiction books would be more material than would comfortably fit in a dozen blog posts, so I will limit myself to discussing just two of his best and best known science fiction titles, Ender's Game and its sequel Speaker For The Dead.

Andrew Wiggin, better known by his nickname Ender is perhaps Card's most enduring contribution to the roster of great fictional characters. Introduced in Ender's Game as a six year old genius who has been selected for the elite orbiting Battle School, where the Earth is training its youngest and smartest citizens to fight an expected third attack from an insectoid race known simply as 'The Buggers' who have twice previously attacked the planet, readers watch Ender's career as a lonely and un-happy student who evolves into a brilliant leader and strategist and, after leading his fellow Battle School students to a decisive defeat of The Buggers, becomes a diplomat, statesmen and peace activist as an adult.

Much has been written of Card's concept of the zero-gravity "battle room" in which the Battle School students are trained to move, fight and most importantly think in three dimensional space, but for me this was merely an interesting footnote. As in Lost Boys, the appeal of Card's science fiction for me is his incredible gift for communicating the feelings and motivations of his characters whose psychological inner lives are the real driving force of each novel. That his ideas are often strikingly original and his understanding of scientific principles sound had made Card famous as a science fiction writer. But it his superlative talent as a psychological novelist that raises him from the ranks of mere science fiction writers to the more exalted plane of Great American Novelists. Highly Recommended.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

test of goldy unproofed

La Grande, Oregon is not a very exciting place. I don't remember just why my late partner, Joel, and I were in town that night, although we visited it many times in the course of exploring every corner of Oregon for pleasure and to research a guide book we never got around to writing. But I vividly remember La Grande as the place where I first encountered Diane Mott Davidson's series of mystery books about Goldy Schulz, a Tough Cookie who's a caterer married to a homicide detective in Aspen Meadow, a suburb of Denver, Colorado. I had wandered into the La Grande Safway late one evening to pick up a few things, including something to read since I'd finished everything I'd brought with me on the trip.

Sticks & Scones proved to be an excellent choice. A fairly standard genre mystery in a blend of the amateur detective and police procedural varieties, the story of Goldy and her Goldilock's Catering Company (Where Everything Is Just Right!!) catering a series of events at nearby Hyde Castle, an actual castle from Scotland that rich owners with more money than sense have had shipped to and re-assembled brick by brick in Aspen Meadow Colorado, is a tasty adventure.

In every volume of Goldy's adventures the menu for the important party or banquet where, inevitably, a murder sends party plans askew, is lovingly rendered on the first page of the book and recipes for these and other dishes are either included periodically throughout the text at a point when that particular dish is mentioned in the earlier volumes or in more recent volumes in an appendix after the novel.

And what recipes! Scaled for the home cook and with specific information about ingredients and sources for anything you can't find at your nearest supermarket, Goldy's recipes always make my mouth water. I won't say exactly that reading Davidson's books causes weight gain in and of itself, but if reading about Goldy's cooking doesn't make you hungry and send you straight to the kitchen to whip something up, I will say that you don't care much about cooking delicious food.

As Goldy and her son, Arch-- a troubled pre-teen suffering through his parents divorce in the early books who comes into his own young manhood as the series progresses, along with catering assistant Julian, best-friend and local gossip queen Marla serve up the most sumptuous vittles before inevitably stumbling upon a murder at a major party, it provides a framework that Davidson uses very well to spin her tales of murder investigations and creme brulees and lots and lots of cookies and cappucinos.

So it is with great pleasure that I announce here on The Thin Red Line that Davidson's latest Goldy titled Sweet Revenge is now available at a library near you. That the murder in this one takes place at the local library, where Goldy has been hired to cater an employee breakfast, makes this one especially dear to me. I've only just started to read but am as always quickly drawn into the world of fancy parties, Episcopal church women's gossip and fast-paced adventure Davidson is renowned for. So if you are a foodie or a mystery lover who appreciates good suspense novels, do yourself a favor and head to the mystery stacks and check out Diane Mott Davidson.

Friday, October 5, 2007


Robert A. Heinlein

There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. Usually spoken as the acronym TANSSTAAFL (pronounced Tan-staffle) it is the national motto of Luna, the Earth's moon, in the 2100's thriving as an independent nation-state. Dr. Richard Ames (aka Colonel Colin Campbell) is a resident of Golden Rule, a luxury space habitat orbiting Luna. While dining late one evening at one of the habitat's classiest and priciest restaurants with Miss Gwen Novak (aka Hazel Stone), a man comes to their table and delivers a cryptic message. The mysterious messenger is immediately killed by a poison dart and is quickly and mysteriously whisked away by extraordinarily well-timed waiters.

So begins The Cat Who Walked Through Walls, my first exposure to the science fiction of Robert A. Heinlein. In the following 24 hours Campbell and Stone will fall in love, marry, disarm and kidnap a man sent to assassinate them, are evicted from their apartments on Golden Rule, accused of a murder and barely escape from the habitat, disguised as a Japanese woman and her samurai in a rent-a-wreck Spaceship from Hertz.

What appealed to me most about this book, at a time when I thought that I did not like science fiction, because I neither understood or appreciated the science in most science fiction, was that with Heinlein it never mattered. Heinlein was a master story teller and entertainer and his books were always written such that you neither had to know nor be able to understand the science behind the plot, although he always explained it. And the explanations were always easily understandable even to the non-scientist.

Suffice it to say that the newlywed's marriage does not get any less zany or frantic in an adventure that will take them to the other end of the galaxy, several thousand years into the future and back and end ambiguously with them in a fight for their lives attempting to save a computer named Adam Selene, a computer said to have "woken up" and become sentient. If you enjoy a fast paced, comic adventure story this one is Highly Recommended.

Equally frenetic and comic in it's way, Friday is the story of an artificial person or AP, named Marjorie Baldwin who works as a combat courier for a mysterious un-named quasi governmental espionage agency. Created in a laboratory from various genetic materials, artificial persons ("my father was a test tube, my mother was a gene knife") are designed to be and in fact Are completely, beautifully, fully human. Exceptional intelligence, strength and other abilities enable them to do all sorts of otherwise impossible jobs. Because their unique and amazing abilities are resented, AP's are often regarded as super-human or less-than-human and are widely reviled in society. Most hide their status and often claim to be orphans when asked about their parents.

Thus Heinlein is able to work in some pretty sophisticated social commentary on prejudice and discrimination without ever mentioning black vs white or any other real life examples of discrimination which might inflame animosities or make it appear that he was taking sides. This novel also provides examples of the types of plot and scenarios that earned Heinlein a reputation as a "sexual libertarian"-- group marriages and casual promiscuity are presented in a tone that is clearly proscriptive rather than judgmental. This theme of sexual liberty would appear again in many other Heinlein works including Time Enough For Love and To Sail Beyond The Sunset. Highly Recommended.

Stranger in a Strange Land, widely regarded as a hippie "bible", and considered by some of the free love generation as a religion or at least a life plan manual, is the story of Valentine Michael Smith, a human born on Mars and raised by Martians after his human parents and the rest of their space exploration team perished. A subsequent space ship arrives and spirits the now fully grown off-spring back to earth and things quickly get antic in the classic Heinlein manner.

Due to a peculiarity in Earth's inheritance laws and the terms of the contract under which the ship carrying his parents was sent to Mars, Mr. V. M. Smith is legally the owner of all mineral, development and other rights for Mars. The fact that Mars actually belongs to the Martians quite escapes the pompous governmental flunkies, business executives, slimy television preachers and reporters of every stripe who are all insistently drawn to the Man From Mars. He quite fails to understand what all of the fuss is about. You see, he thinks in Martian. And that makes quite a difference.

Brought from the returning space ship to a hospital to recover from space sickness and adjust to Earth's much heavier gravity, Mike displays a number of extraordinary behaviors, such as slipping into a catatonic trance when nervous or excited. Spirited from the hospital by a kind-hearted nurse who sees the dangers implied by the many people desperately trying to sneak in to see her patient the two take refuge with one of Heinlein's most memorable upper-middle aged male curmudgeons, Dr. Jubal Harshaw (who also appears in several other Heinlein novels).

In an extremely clever maneuver orchestrated by Harshaw, Smith appoints Joseph Douglass, Secretary General of the Federation of Free States, Earth's de facto planet-wide government, as his agent, thus neutralizing the threat of his many sycophants and shifting it onto Douglass, who in a manner preiscient of Ronald Reagan's government run by Nancy and her astrologer is guided in all things by his wife Alice, the classic power behind the throne.

Thus shielded from the dangers of his exceptional wealth, Mike begins the process of learning human language and culture and does so at an astonishing rate. Mike consumes entire encyclopedias as quickly as most people read dime store novels. After a season of learning, Mike sets off with Jill, the nurse who spirited him from the hospital, and sets out to work as a sideshow magician with a traveling carnival. His Martian-taught ability to move, create and destroy matter by Thought (Martian's find the exertion expended by humans to do such things physically strange and pitiable) enable him to produce some amazing effects but his lack of showmanship dooms the act to failure.

Learning from his mistakes and inspired by the lead preacher of The Fosterites, a religious sect that might be described as Mormons go Vegas, Mike earns a Divinity degree and starts his own church. He teaches his followers to speak, then read, then think in Martian and his church is a wild success, with rituals and practices that are at once familiar and utterly foreign to readers familiar with modern day Christianity. In a very Christ-like finale Mike marches unafraid into a pack of hostile rowdies who kill him. His followers retrieve his body and take it home to eat, thus closing the circle of life in the Martian way.

Stranger In A Strange Land introduced into the vernacular, "I am only an egg", an expression of the individual's insignificance in comparison to the group and of the long road of learning required to become an elder, which for a Martian means watching and learning from the world around him until so much is grokked that the next stage of growth is not just possible, it is inevitable. Which brings us finally to the word grok, Heinlein's most unusual and enduring contribution to the language. Because I do not speak Martian, I do not yet grok grok. For me, waiting is not yet filled. If after reading the book, you too fail to grok grok, Wikipedia may be of some help. Highly recommended, particularly to anyone who ever was or ever wanted to be a hippie.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Back to the dentist today for root canal. Reminded of the old joke 'The operation was a success but... In the case it looks like we saved the tooth but my wallet died. I remember when I was working for Waldenbooks and was for first time responsible for my own bills (as in off my mother's payroll) I would go to the dentist and the bill would be a hundred or two hundred dollars but with my insurance I would pay like 10 or 20. Now the bill is like 750 to 1000 and I am to feel fortunate that my part is only 125 today, 212 when I go back next time to get the "build up" and undoubtedly even more at the appointment after that for a crown. But on my bargain basement wages a couple of hundred sure aint equivalent to what ten bucks was to me back then. All I can say is that I sure as hell hope when the politicians figure out how to fix health care they Include Dental.

Monday, September 24, 2007

the power of blogging

Blogging continues to be quite an experience for me and today was....interesting....

Two longish posts appeared on my blog today. In one, expressed my dislked of the naming of the "____ For Dummies" line of books, expressing irony that a company has a hit based on books which call their customers STOOPID in real big letters on the front. The second discussed my concerns about pricing quality and other issues with blog2print, a new service that lets you put a button on your blog from one can click and purchase a bound book copy of your entire archive of blog posts, ("your blog in a book).

I have in the past so many times expressed just these sorts of complaints about companies publicly online before. And it was always pissin' in the wind which was all I ever expected it to be.

But today an employee of Wiley publishing dropped by the blog comments, threw an arm around Ron's shoulders, chuckled manfully and spoke "Like you said, buddy, we're all dummies about something, and a good guide book can sure help." It was an odd moment for me, being addressed through Ron while I was standing right there....

My review of blog2print was significantly more critical, and I was even more surprised to get a LONG e-mail from one of their staff who took some pains to address the issues I presented. According to Ann Manby of SharedBook, Google may a change to an API that is interferes with their ability to pull posts from all dates and they are working on a software upgrade to fix the problem I encountered. Then she spammed me a bit of legalese from the click through in stressing that her company has no liability whatever for any copyright violations in any material they print, which I'm sure is true. But it's little comfort when their software widget has selected, seeming at random two images from among dozens that appear in the pages they were to publish, put the front cover of one author's book on the front cover of my book and another books front on my back cover. And they were both books I panned.

I also told Ann that I love the concept of what they're trying to do and hoped future updates would address some of these concerns.

What's so remarkable about to me about these exchanges is that they happened. I've been bitching about flaky software and the companies who distribute it and criticizing things publishers do with and to books pretty much since I started reading and since I started using a computer. This was the first time the publisher and the software company talked right back.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Tired today. I think that I probably have all of the meds right now (I haven't had any more of those horrible dizzy spells) but I slept late and woke up tired and have been just kind of blah all day. I did go to the library and brought home two stacks of books-- one stack of stuff I may blog about this week and another stack of books on blogging.

I'm really thrilled with the outpouring of love and kindness I received in response to yesterday's post. The more that I think about, the surer I am that separating my personal diary from my book review site will enhance both immensely and I am so grateful to Jim for helping me to realize this.

Among my library books was a cookbook for challa bread, which Ron is reading now. Ron makes really great breads and I am hoping he will feel the inspiration to do that someday soon.

Friday, September 21, 2007


Blogging has been quite an experience for me. I basically started out of a nostalgia for a time when my closest friends were actually quite far away but I talked to them on my computer more or less all the time. The magic that was Section 17 for me (in the early days anyway) has never been really duplicated. I have since met many wonderful people online and made other friends, spouses and everything in between online. But I've never again had that wide circle of far away friends whose daily messages make them seem a part of my life when they are not there. And when I realized that the final two people of that great group friendship that I could keep up with, were mainly (sorry, couldn't resist) keep-up-with-able because they now blogged about their daily lives and it was so cool to hear from and talk to them regularly that I decided to just jump in.

I have always been a book person. I've been a voracious reader since the moment I learned How, I've worked 3 1/2 years in the retail book business sucessfully selling books I've read and recommended to customers. I now work in a job where I am constantly exposed to thousands and thousands of books every working day. So I gave my blog a book theme. Thinking that I would just talk about books when the mood struck and mainly give the kinds of personal updates I once would have posted in issues. And so I mostly did.

And then it happened. I started noticing that there were actually people reading my book reviews who weren't just the handful of personal friends I'd been missing but people who just came in to read the review. (Oddly the review I posted of Dishwasher has been read a lot. It appears that because my blog is called The Thin Red Line people searching for GE Thin Dishwasher get my book review on their first page. And a very surprising number of them click through and read it.

So I started tying to actively promote my blog. I joined two syndication services. In return for displaying headlines (blog post titles) from other bloggers on my blog, my headlines are in turn displayed on other blogs with similar topic areas. I also began the long, tedious process of registering my blog with all of the blog directories (you'd be surprised how many there are).

I recently got an extremely helpful review from James Bashkin on Blog Catalog, who basically told me that my book reviews were quite good but that the personal was so Very personal as to be a off-putting.

After some thought I have decided to migrate my personal day to day shit postings exclusively to my Purely Personal blog, to migrate Joel's fabulous pictures to my Joel's Pix blog and focus The Thin Red Line on regularly posting about three interesting books, aiming to provide readers with an introduction to books they many not be familiar with, rather than anything approaching the detailed critique of a full review. My goal at this point is simply to gain readership. I love to write and I want people to read it.

Henceforth please check in here at http://outofit-personal.blogspot.com for what's up with me. The Thin Red Line will soon be more tightly focused on presenting books.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

from The Thin Red Line : Dizzy, so dizzy my head is spinning

This is the original post as published at TRL. The book review portion of the post has been re-titled. Friday....must mean jambalaya

One of my new meds seems to have a bad side effect of
making me very dizzy. I first took the two new meds around lunch time yesterday, then just before I was ready to leave to work my 3--9pm shift I had about five minutes of feeling extremely dizzy and nauseous. It passed, thankfully, and I went on to work, and had a routine shift. Around 8:30pm I took my final break and went outside, sat down on a bench and smoked a cigarette. When I got up to go back in side it hit again and I could only barely manage to waive my wallet at the security thingie and stagger in to a chair. It again passed after a few minutes. Today I worked 8a--3:30p and just as I was fixing to leave I had another terrible dizzy spell, though I managed to get to the car and after a few minutes it passed and I was able to drive home okay. Ron thinks it is the statin that is causing the side effect so I will not take that one and see if the problem recurs. Guess we will have to call the doctor on Monday.

Ron teased me that the only reason I picked up The Naked Soldier was in hopes there would be pictures of naked soldiers inside, which is as good a theory as any. (Honestly I don't know why I decided to read it.) Tony Sloane was a lower class 18 year old from rural England who decided on a whim to join the French Foreign Legion. This book is a memoir of his 5 years of service in that famous army. To be honest, I found his story appalling. The early chapters relate the intense abuse that new recruits to the Legion are systematically subjected to, while the later chapters relate how the recruits become "cold blooded killers" who routinely subject not only new recruits but also the general population of various African countries to unimaginably horrific treatment. Unless you are interested in reading about lawless, reckless and unspeakably cruel young men, this one is NOT recommended.

I was shelving in the 910's this afternoon and came across a post-Katrina travel guide for New Orleans (first one I've seen) and picked up. I was mostly interested in finding out what things are still there and still recommended. It was somewhat disappointing in that as of the November 2006 publication date so much was still up in the air. I was very pleased to learn that The Fairmont Hotel (the subject of Arthur Hailey's novel Hotel, site of my high school senior luncheon and where Joel and I stayed on a visit some years back) is being repaired and will re-open. (Previously Ron and I had heard that there were no plans to re-open so this was good news.) They also say that The Camelia Grill is expected to re-open, though as of the press date it had not.

Reading about New Orleans, the restaurants and the food put in the mood to make jambalaya for dinner. I have chopped onions and celery, sliced smoked sausage, peeled a pound of frozen shrimp and boiled the shrimp shells to make a broth. Now I just have to put it together. This is not exactly on my diet, but I have been pretty good about South Beaching it for the past week or so and my blood sugar has been in the low 100's every morning so I feel entitled to indulge. Bon Appetit!

from The Thin Red Line :Tokyo Cancelled Practically Perfect Hep-Cats

Note this is the original post from TRL. A post with the title remains on TRL with more personal informaiton edited out.

Sunset falls as ferry crosses Eliot Bay
undated photograph by Joel Farmer

Today's pic is for Ron, who admired the ferry pic I previously posted. Yesterday I finally saw dr. shrink, who sez I am not depressed and who prescribed Xanax for my anxiety, which my huzband greatly approves of. Meanwhile, my tooth ache is back, though thankfully off again/on again rather than constant. Unfortunately, no relief will be forthcoming until my root canal on the 25th (the dental office flatly refused to refill my pain pill and I am reminded again that we live in a society that prefers to punish people for hurting rather than ease their pain). Sigh.

I confess that today's books have all three been on my couch in varying stages of being read for a couple of weeks now and were not in my mind connected until Blog Rush advised that I could improve my click through rate with catchier headlines. My apologies to anyone who clicked through expecting a sensational story about a local government summarily executing exceptional jazz singers.

Compared to Chaucer's Cantebury Tales, Tokyo Cancelled is a novel about delayed travelers entertaining each other by telling stories. A flight to Tokyo is diverted by weather and lands unexpectedly in an un-named city (presumably Delhi, India) where they find that an economic conference and the protests it has drawn have created a shortage of hotel rooms. Eventually all but thirteen of the planes passengers are dispatched to various accommodations when the remainder are told there are no more rooms to be had and settle in for a night in an airport lounge and begin telling each other stories to pass the time. The group of travelers proves to be from all over the world and each tells a very different story. The framework of this novel allows the author, Rana Dasgupta, to explore an unusually diverse range of ideas and settings, which he masterfully does, while never losing the believability of the 'stuck at the airport' framework. A thanks to Cromley whose review first brought this one to my attention. Recommended.

I have never been a big fan of "self-help". While I firmly believe that each and every one of us must solve his own problems (if for no other reason than that nobody else is going to do it for you), I have rarely been a fan or a consumer of the mega industry of self-proclaimed experts with a sure fire scheme for resolving some problem or another
they are convinced I have. Neither apparently has Jennifer Niesslein, whose Practically Perfect gently skewers a wide range of self-help gurus and movements. It reminded me a bit of Aunt Erma's Cope Book, though in a very conversational tone that is evocative of a diary or journal rather than Bombeck's laugh out loud wit. The book did not persuade me to try Real Simple or any of the other self help philosophies mentioned, but I am confident Niesslein never intended it to. Recommended.

Hep-Cats, Narcs, and Pipe Dreams passed under my check-in scanner a couple of Sundays ago and caught my eye. I brought it home and read the introduction, which has a very "Drug War" tone and left me feeling the book would be more of the usual propaganda and set it aside, unread. Ron then picked it up and read it and liked it very much. He said that contrary to the impression I got from the introduction, this very readable history of prohibition in America clearly shows the lunacy and un-intended consequences that have flowed from our tragically flawed drug policies. He liked it very much and it is now back on my 'to read' pile. Jury still out on this one.

Post Moved From Thin Red Line

Mount Rainer seen from Seattle's Magnuson Park
Undated photo by Joel Farmer

I have been thrilled to see that this blog has been attracting a few new readers, and it occurs to me that in many posts I have addressed myself mainly to a handful of very old friends who know all the backstory. What follows is for everyone else.

From June 1997 until his death on June 24, 2005 Joel Farmer was my partner in life. When we met I was new in town and working at hot ISP called Sprynet where I seemed to get a promotion and a raise every other month and Joel was working in gas station. My star continued to rise for awhile at Earthlink while Joel moved on to increasingly responsible positions in the rag trade, first at Eddie Bauer and then at London Fog.

A couple of weeks after 9/11, I got laid off by Earthlink, the mega-ginormous and very tone deaf ISP that merged with Mindspring, which had acquired Sprynet from AOL, which had acquired it when it bought Compu$erve, which had been my own very first online experience way back in the mid-late 80's. (And the dear friends I mentioned are people from those long ago days.) At any rate I had at one point or another been on the payroll of every one of those big companies, had a huge stack of outdated business cards (before they axed me I had gotten my Earthlink business cards printed up with the job title Numbers And Letters Guru; it was a wild time in Seattle those daze) and had received packages and bonuses and incentives during each and every one of those changes of ownership (it was a great time in Seattle in those daze) so with me laid off and flush and Joel soon after on disability from London Fog we were able to spend the last years of his life traveling extensively.

We went to Hawaii, numerous trips to El Lay and N'awlins (I am a native of New Orleans), plus countless car trips all over the Northwest, particularly to the Oregon Coast and Boise, where Joel had lived for many years and to Mt. Rainier. And to damn near everyplace else. And wherever we went Joel took lots and lots of pics. Joel proved to be an excellent photographer and became extremely adept with Photoshop. In the birthday photo above, the crown on his head was Photoshopped in later. When you know this, you can tell but it is very well done and fooled many.

I am seriously considering making a second blog dedicated exclusively to Joel's photos, but I am painfully aware of just how much Photoshop and Blogger timer it would require so I am not jumping into it with both feet. In the meantime I am sharing a few of Joel's best photographs each day. Please regard all images on this site as (c) 2007 Alan Jobe.

Since Joel's death, I have a new life partner, Ron, whom I often refer to in passing. I also have a dear, dear friend from those old, old days on Compu$erve who is named Ron. In determining which I am referring to it is helpful to know that my friend Ron has a blog, Joyzeeboy, and my huzband Ron does not blog. So that's who these people are that I keep talking about and who's photos I keep posting.

And now, back to our regular books report.

A barn in Pierce, County Washington
Undated photo by Joel Farmer