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|Wednesday, December 4th, 2013|
I'm not a huge mystery fan, which is too bad, since that is the most represented genre on the laundry room bookshelf. Here are some mysteries I've read:
Saving Faith by David Baldacci - Baldacci is a popular author and I have 6 of his books (thanks to the laundry room), but this is the first one I've read. Faith is a government whistle-blower who finds herself on the run with an enigmatic private investigator after an FBI rendezvous goes wrong. They are not sure who they can trust (even each other), and the sense of danger and thrill of the chase keep things moving. How do you stay under the radar in this electronic age (or 1999, when the book was published)? Not bad.
Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child - Any book that takes place in New York gets extra points, and this one had a definite sense of place. Jack Reacher witnessed a late night incident on the subway, and the story progressed from there. Cops, foreign operatives, good guys, bad guys, violence... just an ordinary few days in Reacher's life.
Wanna Get Lucky? by Deborah Coonts - Las Vegas is the star of this book, with female impersonators, adult film industry functions, and general debauchery overshadowing the mystery. A woman jumps to her death from a sightseeing helicopter... or is it murder? Lucky, who works for a casino, is on the case.
The Bone Collector by Jeffery Deaver - Lincoln Rhyme (played by Denzel Washington on the movie, which I didn't see) is a disabled criminologist who solves murders from his home, with the help of police detective Amelia Sachs (Angelina Jolie). The forensics and police procedure seemed authentic, but things got grisly and I didn't always want to be there.
Dying to Get Published by Judy Fitzwater - Jennifer is having trouble getting her book published, and blames it on evil literary agent Penney, so what could be more logical than murdering Penney and using that as the plot for a book. WHAT? This premise seemed distasteful, though it was done tongue in cheek. As Jennifer solicits opinions from her writing group on the best way to carry out the hypothetical crime, things happen which I won't spoil. I dunno, it didn't sit right with me.
The Appeal by John Grisham - Nasty corporate polluters, struggling lawyers, corrupt judges in the Deep South. Yup, typical Grisham. I liked this one less than usual.
Hollywood Confessions by Gemma Halliday - Allie is an LA tabloid reporter yearning to work for a more legitimate outlet. She rubs elbows with dubious reality show characters, sleazy Hollywood types, and quirky coworkers investigating the murder of a producer. One hysterical scene had her sneaking into a salon, pretending to work there, and doing a bikini wax on an unsuspecting source. This is part of a series, and I'll have to check out some more.
Compliments of a Friend by Susan Isaacs - "That's it?" I thought when I finished this. Granted, it was a short story (given to me by NetGalley), but it seemed unsatisfying. The fashionable Vanessa kills herself, or is it murder? Judith Singer (from Compromising Positions) plays detective. The Afterword explained that this story was written for a writer's group and was the basis for the novel Long Time No See (which I own, but haven't read). So I'll hope that the return of Judith is more substantial in the full book.
The Strip by E. Duke Vincent - Vegas is again the setting, specifically heavily Mob-influenced Vegas. A TV producer with a shady background of his own back in the Midwest deals with mobsters, blackmail, fast women, and snoopy reporters. Of course this is totally fiction, and there are no real people anything like this.
|Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013|
I must again fulfill obligations to review some books obtained from various early reader programs, so here goes:
Sister Mother Husband Dog by Delia Ephron
- I received this from Penguin First to Read program, but didn't finish in time and the ebook magically disappeared from my iPad. However, all was not lost as I obtained a paper copy of the uncorrected manuscript. Delia Ephron does not try to avoid the shadow of her recently deceased older sister, Nora. Nora appears throughout the book, including the very first essay, "Losing Nora." Sigh, she was gone too soon. The sisters were close and also collaborated professionally, on movies and theater ("Love, Loss, and What I Wore" had a long journey to the stage, where I saw it a few years ago). Though they had a privileged Beverly Hills upbringing with screenwriter parents, alcoholism was an issue ("Why I Can't Write About my Mother"). Other than the piece about dogs (I am not an animal lover, and indeed the author recommends non-dog owners skip to the next essay), I enjoyed this trip through a more upscale, celebrity-filled New York than I live in. And Delia went to Barnard, yay! (she graduated just before I arrived)
Falling Off The Fast Track by Gail Hewitt
- Samantha Hudnutt is a consultant in Manhattan struggling to maintain her business. The work descriptions were full of management jargon which struck me as BS-y, but clients pay big bucks for this sort of thing. Her personal life was messy, with the married guy looking for action, the cute ex-colleague seemingly not interested... I won't spoil anything. The situations felt realistic, with current events like Hurricane Sandy adding to the atmosphere.
The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger
- I'm a sucker for books in the form of letters, notes, emails and other forms of communication that aren't straight narrative. An early favorite in this vein was Up the Down Staircase. The Divorce Papers drew my interest immediately due to its interesting visual presentation. Besides the NetGalley copy on Kindle, I also had a paper Advance Reader's Edition (which I got from the book giveaway table where I freelance). The paper copy rendered the documents more clearly, as some were in handwriting, different fonts, highlighting, and varied formats. While I'm all for electronic reading, this book is better suited to paper.
I'm also a sucker for quality chick lit, and this filled the bill. The characters were upscale and educated. Rieger is a lawyer with extensive academic experience, and puts that background to work in the legal documents and correspondence that form part of the story. Mia (stay-at-home mom from a wealthy family who gave up her career to move for her husband's job in medical academia) and Daniel (renowned MD who loves his daughter but is consumed by his work) and daughter Jane were going through an at times acrimonious divorce in the fictitious New England state of Narragansett. Due to circumstances at her law firm, young lawyer Sophie took on Mia's case even though she normally defended criminals. Office politics were part of the plot, and the reader saw the back and forth of negotiations, official memos, and court documents. There were also personal letters and emails concerning the characters' families and private lives. The characters are richly drawn and the plot tooled along smoothly and plausibly. I might have liked to see some shock value, melodrama, or twists, but this is not a big minus.
I was surprised to see that the author is married to movie critic David Denby (who is briefly mentioned when the characters are discussing films), as I thought his wife was novelist Cathleen Schine. Subsequent research showed they split a while ago, and furthermore that the author's ex is Peter Pouncey who was Columbia College dean when I was at Barnard. Wow, impressive connections. I'm also a sucker for all things Columbia and everyone in this paragraph is an alum or admin or faculty of some division of the university (the fictional husband is also a College alum).
So this book was in my wheelhouse, even though I think law is intrinsically boring (all that nit-picking precision and argument is not for me). It's a story about people, told in an unusual, eye-catching way.
The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls - In her memoir The Glass Castle, Walls describes her harrowing childhood of poverty and parental neglect. In this novel, physical conditions for teens Liz and Bean are a little better, but their mother is somewhat flighty and their fathers deceased. When Mom takes a break from her responsibilities, the girls find their way to their uncle back east. Life in the mill town formerly run by the family has its ups and downs, and heroes and villains. The plot moves at a leisurely pace, but I was never bored and would love to meet these characters again. Come to think of it, Jeannette is another Barnard grad, class of '84. Lots of writers in the ranks.
|Monday, December 2nd, 2013|
|Lame Cyber Monday
I hate to shop. On Black Friday, I took advantage of an offer to renew MoMA membership and get an extra 6 months, but that was it. I really need new computers (my desktop and laptop are 10 years old and limping along), have no cell phone of any kind (but do love my iPad), my TiVo and non-HD TV are also about 10 years old, my winter coat has a weird rip and missing buttons, my shoes are falling apart, and I need boots.
I did attempt to get boots a few months ago, but learned once again that I have to try on clothing. I had some Totes bought for Sundance in 2006 that had developed holes, so what could be simpler than ordering the same thing? That exact model was discontinued but I found something similar
, in my usual size 7M. It was warm when they arrived, so I didn't try them immediately. Unfortunately, when I did, I discovered they were too small. My feet were killing me after a few brief errands. Back home, I placed them next to the old boots and indeed they were a tiny bit shorter. Yeesh! By then it was too late to return them. Does anyone want them (free)? Seriously; just worn once.
So here it is, Cyber Monday, the perfect time to get much needed items. But I couldn't deal with heavy duty shopping and instead (at least so far) have just bought assorted crap. Mostly practical crap, but still... This reminds me of someone who shall go nameless, who registered for very practical items in their wedding registry. Who needs fancy decanters? They wanted things they would actually use. One of their guests reported that when they went to the store, the salesperson said, Oh yeah, those were the people who registered for all that junk (paraphrased). Hey, it was useful junk. They still got multiple decanters.
So, ignoring the large things I need, I looked through my lists (I keep a lot of lists). Drugstore stuff is saved for tomorrow, when Duane Reade has their monthly Senior Savings Day. Not once have they asked for ID (the limit is 50 or 55, depending on if you use the DR Balance Rewards card or AARP ID). Humph.
And here's what I got (from Office Max, eBay, Overstock and Tanga):
Pens - I like medium point Paper Mate Write Bros. but I've used them all up and am down to random pens from hotel rooms or promotional giveaways.
Pencils - I'm going to try the Pentel twist erase .9mm that everyone loves for crosswords. It could turn out I prefer one of the other size leads, as was argued at Lollapuzzoola.
Blue painters tape - I'm still working on a roll the building gave me during the window installation (exactly 2 years ago! Maybe it's time to move back the furniture and piles of magazines that are still bunched away from the windows), but figured I could use more (and needed another item to make the free shipping amount). It's most recently come in handy for sealing the top of the kitchen faucet where water is spraying out. I really need to call maintenance, and also have them re-unclog the kitchen sink drain that's still sluggish. The guy used a plunger a few weeks ago, and probably should have tried a snake.
Umbrella stand and wastebasket - They match, but won't be going in the same room. The umbrellas, including the famous broken Wordplay one, are gathering dust under a chair. And one of my wastebaskets is dented and rusty. I was going to insert an image, but multiple methods didn't work (either it's the iPad's fault or I'm technically challenged).
Sleep mask - I constantly fall asleep with the light on. Even though I have no trouble sleeping, I put "sleep mask" on my list just last night when I noticed I was putting my arm over my face to block out the light. I found a mask with an audio input so I can listen to music while dozing off.
Neck pillow - I sit up and read a lot, and the neck can get achy. Not sure how much effect this pillow has, and the reviews were mixed, but it was cheap.
Memory foam slippers - One can always use slippers. I might be able to get away with wearing these outside; they are black, so won't look as weird as the hot pink quilted slippers I'm sometimes seen in. My family pretended they didn't know me when my feet started hurting while walking around UChicago, and I had to put them on. Chicago students are supposedly quirky, but I admit I didn't see any other pink-slippered feet.
Ben Tausig's new book - http://www.amazon.com/The-Curious-History-Crossword-Puzzles/dp/1937994457
. While on Overstock to get the furniture, I wondered if they had this and they did.
FlipFold laundry folder - I came upon their video
while researching something else. This may not be easier than just folding laundry normally, but it looks like fun. I did the wash on Thanksgiving Day and it's still unfolded.
Cyber Monday is not over, so who knows, I could have a new computer by the end of the day. Or another questionable gadget. I'm pretty sure I won't be buying any decanters.
|Saturday, October 5th, 2013|
|Books on the iPad
I got an iPad a little over a year ago and it's changed my life. I doodle around on it all day until it needs to be recharged, and then I go do other things until it's charged and ready to repeat the cycle. I still need to get a separate keyboard; typing onscreen is not ideal for a speed typist.
Before getting the iPad, I was wondering whether to get a Kindle or Nook. Now I essentially have both, using their iPad apps. An actual Kindle would allow more benefits on Amazon Prime (which I don't subscribe to), but other than that, this is the best of both worlds. I also have iBooks, Overdrive, Bluefire Reader, and BAM Reader to accommodate various books I acquired.
I've always loved the public library, and the NYPL allows you to borrow electronically. I took a free course on how to do this, which maybe I didn't need, but it didn't hurt and the price was right. I also took a free course on basic iPad at the Upper West Side Apple store, which also wasn't mind-blowing, but I might go back for more when I figure out what I need help in.
The library allows you to take out books for 3 weeks, and you can't renew. Somehow I usually manage to be too busy, and don't finish in 3 weeks. If the book doesn't have a waiting list, though, I just take it out again the next day.
I'll review some nonfiction I read through the library (and one from NetGalley):
Waking Sleep Beauty Freak by Nina Lora - I don't know if there was something wrong with my copy from NetGalley, but the narrative did not seem to go in cohesive order and most of the time I had no idea what was going on. The author has a very freewheeling, stream of consciousness style, reflecting on her relationships (including marriage to the wrong guy), family, and travel experiences. Maybe I just couldn't relate.
I Feel Bad about my Neck by Nora Ephron - This was the first iPad library book I finished. Like most New York women of a certain age, I feel like Nora and I would have gotten along, had we ever met. That's no longer possible now that she's gone, and may not have been possible in real life. In any case, her writings remain. These essays on urban life, including aging, food, and apartments, were witty and engaging. I could not bring myself to read the last one about dying, as it was too close to her actual demise.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling - While Mindy Kaling is of a younger generation, I think we'd get along as well. When I read this, I had only seen a few episodes of The Office. Now, thanks to Netflix on the iPad, I've watched 8 seasons. I still haven't watched her new show. The book is smart and funny, and I root for her continued success.
Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang by Chelsea Handler - Chelsea and I would never be best buds. She's way too much of a party girl for this nerd. It was amusing to read about her exploits, but oy. Kinda wild.
Life As I Blow It: Tales of Love, Life & Sex . . . Not Necessarily in That Order by Sarah Colonna - Sarah and Chelsea are good friends (she writes for the show) and have a similar lifestyle. Lots of drinking and wild times that I couldn't relate to.
The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts by Tom Farley Jr. - Another wild one, gone too soon. Chris's brother compiled this oral history of reminiscences by the comedian's friends and family. Chris comes across as talented, sweet, family-oriented and earnest. He was able to sober up at times, but in the end his addictions won.
Chalked Up: Inside Elite Gymnastics' Merciless Coaching, Overzealous Parents, Eating Disorders, and Elusive Olympic Dreams by Jennifer Sey - I was not familiar with the author, a former national gymnastics champ. Gymnastics sounds like anything but fun, if these stories of supercritical coaches, constant starving, and working despite injuries are to be believed.
Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey From Homeless to Harvard by Liz Murray - I saw the 2003 TV movie where Thora Birch played the author, and this is her own story. Murray's Bronx childhood with druggy parents was harrowing, but she survived and thrived.
My Formerly Hot Life: Dispatches from Just the Other Side of Young by Stephanie Dolgoff - Liz Murray's book was deep and affecting. This was the opposite. Boo hoo, the author is now over 40 and guys are no longer falling at her feet (she's married with kids, and judging from pictures, still looks pretty good). Having never been hot, I couldn't relate. She had an annoying way of generalizing about her fellow "Formerly" women.
|Sunday, August 4th, 2013|
Before my windows were replaced almost 2 years ago Thanksgiving, I sorted the books I needed to review into neat piles (loved, just OK, didn't finish, nonfiction, Library Thing early reviewers, etc.) which then got messed up when I had to move everything away from the window area. The books sat in my living room randomly piled, until the windows were done and I moved them back to the bedroom, still random. There are two tall piles, and while they aren't in danger of hitting the ceiling (yet), I need to get moving. Besides catching up on blog backlog, this will allow me to give away books. Unfortunately, between the giveaway shelf at the Times and exchange shelf in my laundry room, I acquire more than I give away. We won't even talk about the books that find their way to my iPad apps, but at least those are just taking up cyberspace.
The books I'm willing to give away are listed here
(if the status is set by someone else, I no longer have the book), if anyone wants anything. I list the book trading site I'm using, or I can mail or delivery personally to friends. I like books to find a good home.
Hugs & Kisses (You Deserve Lots of Them) by Bruce Davis and Genny Wright - This is a cute little illustrated book, with sayings like "Sometimes you just use your little finger to kiss a hurt" (with a picture of a woman touching a lump on a boy's head) - just like my mother used to kiss the booboo to make it better. My (used) copy is inscribed "Especially for C., In admiration, J." Whoever they are, I wish them well, and I'll pass the book on to spread love in this mean old world (not really... but I don't see a need to keep the book, and will make it available).
Falling For Me: How I Hung Curtains, Learned to Cook, Traveled to Seville, and Fell in Love
by Anna David - I loved this author's fiction book Bought, but her real-life memoir did not grab me. Using Helen Gurley Brown as her mentor, David traveled both literally and figuratively to enrich her life.
The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything by Charlotte Hilton Andersen - I probably should not have requested this book from Library Thing Early Reviewers, since my idea of fitness is joining the health club in my building's basement and then never going. My exercise consists of walking in the city, and taking the stairs to the second floor. So this book (where the author tries various fitness regimes) didn't hold my interest and I skimmed most of it. I did like the chapters on Jillian Michaels and Skinny Bitch.
The Case for Falling in Love by Mari Ruti - Another one I shouldn't have requested from Library Thing, since I'm kind of retired from this venue and didn't really want to read about it. So I skimmed and didn't absorb much. My fault; it could be a wonderful and useful book, for all I know.
Between You and Me by Emma McLoughlin and Nicola Kraus - I was excited to get this from Netgalley. I loved The Nanny Diaries (I own but have not yet read the sequel), though some of the authors' later works weren't as good. I almost met one of the authors (her then-fiancee, now-husband worked in the same office where I had a short-term assignment; I saw them having dinner in our kitchen area and he later told me who she was - and that they liked Wordplay), so there's a bit of a connection. In this book, a Britney Spears-like character (former child star still not very grown up, dysfunctional family, acting out, bad choices - but no lip synching) hires her estranged cousin. The past is slowly revealed as we follow them on tour. These are not likable characters, and I found it hard to root for anyone.
More Like Her by Liza Palmer - There is an underlying sadness about this book, which deals with a shooting at a private school of the seemingly perfect principal by her crazed husband. The teachers deal with this tragedy as well as their own love lives. Maybe I like my chick lit more frothy.
Here, Home, Hope by Kaira Rouda - Kelly's life is basically OK, but while the kids are at camp she feels a midlife malaise. Making a conscious effort to improve, she starts a real estate staging business, helps take care of a friend's daughter, and checks off items on a to-do list. This wasn't a bad book, but I couldn't fully get into it.
Blind Man's Alley by Justin Peacock - It's probably not a good sign that I don't remember much about this book, which I read less than 3 years ago. OK, I've read a lot of books since then, but this is a thick book (465 pages) so I must have spent some time on it. I gather it's about rich people, lawyers, real estate, community activists, and politicians in New York City so it's the sort of thing I like (I like to stay close to home, even in my fiction) ... but I just can't remember much.
Heart Conditions by Sara Lewis - Alice finds herself barefoot and pregnant, or at least unmarried and pregnant, and decides to keep the baby. At the same time, she moves in with her eccentric former Hollywood starlet grandmother. Like some of those around her, I felt she wasn't ready for motherhood, but what do I know?
Starfishing by Nicola Monaghan - London's equivalent of Wall Street is one crazy place, especially for young women. Frankie tries to break in as a trader and deals with the accompanying sex, drugs and rock and roll (well, everything except the rock and roll). It's decadent and exhausting. I have no personal experience with that world, but I don't think I could survive.
College Girl by Patricia Weitz - Natalie transfers into U Conn and has to grow up fast. I would hate her life, and probably would not have made the same choices. This was basically a downer, but does capture post-adolescent angst.
|More puzzle books
This past year, I've been negligent about blogging and only reported what puzzle books were completed. With Lollapuzzoola coming next weekend, now's a good time to list some more:
Ray Hamel, Scratch & Solve Encyclopaedia Britannica Arts & Science Trivia - multiple choice general trivia. The questions were solid, though the silver shavings were annoying (just brushed one off the iPad). 5000 points makes you a trivia expert, and I squeaked by with 5060 (the book sat there done for months before I got around to adding the score).
Frank Longo, Ninja Sudoku 2 - I don't mind sudoku (never do KenKen) even though I don't know what I'm doing. This book was given to me when I was visiting Sterling a while ago, and it's actually the French edition. It was sitting on my dining room table and took a while to get finished.
I adore kakuro (cross sums), but there is not much to say about it. I could probably do the same puzzles over and over and not notice. I keep track of my books on Library Thing, so do know what I've done before. I finished:
Alastair Chisholm, The Kakuro Challenge 1 - smallish and easyish
Alastair Chisholm, The Kakuro Challenge 2 - more of the same
Conceptis, Absolutely Nasty® Kakuro Level One - I devoured this book!
Conceptis, Absolutely Nasty® Kakuro Level Two - a little more difficult than level one.
Conceptis, Absolutely Nasty® Kakuro Level Three - now they're getting nasty.
Ben Tausig (ed.), Twenty Under Thirty - not technically a book, but a set of 20 puzzles from the younger generation. I don't know or care why most of the constructors are guys. High quality, check it out at /http://www.20under30.com/
Henry Hook (ed.), Wordsmith Crosswords 1 - Apparently this was the only volume in the series, which is too bad since this is a great collection with puzzles by Hook and other quality constructors. It's now going for high prices, so I'm glad I bought it in 1987.
Matt Gaffney, The Brain Works 20-Minute On-the-Road Traveling Crossword Puzzles - quick and easy
John Samson (ed.), Simon & Schuster Mega Crossword Puzzle Book #6
John Samson (ed.), Simon & Schuster Mega Crossword Puzzle Book #7 - plowing through these slowly. I don't see anything
past #13, but I still have 3 more volumes to do.
Tyler Hinman, Winner's Circle Crosswords: Puzzles From a Five-Time Champion - Tyler solves AND constructs. These 13x13 puzzles were mostly from his school publications (so new to most of us), and were a nice workout. The tricky puzzle on page 63 looks like a war zone; not a good idea to do it in pen.
Peter Gordon (ed.), 100 Years, 100 Crosswords: Celebrating the Crossword's Centennial - The crossword was born a few days after my father in December, 1913. My father made it to exactly 90 (died on his birthday!) and crosswords are still going strong. This collection contains all-new puzzles related to each era. Very nice.
|Wednesday, February 13th, 2013|
I have a lot of old puzzle books I've picked up here and there. Going through them, I find there's some overlap and reprints. For example, I have series 90 of the Margaret Farrar-edited Crossword Puzzle Book (1963). Puzzles from this book are also part of Crossword Treasury series 10 and 11, which I also own. I went through, crossing out duplicates, but ended up not completing everything because the pages were too brittle (and the puzzles were... old).
Moving into the Maleska era, I did NY Times Sunday crosswords, vol. 15 and 18. These were more modern though still not what we're used to today. Eugene T. Maleska's Crossword Book of Quotations was going smoothly, until I noticed that the book was part of a crossquotes omnibus I already did. In this pre-computer era, typography was inconsistent (varying lengths of blanks) and one puzzle even had messed up numbering. The quotes were highlighted in yellow, and the full quotation was given in the answers.
I had the 60th anniversary S&S collection (1924-84), series 133, co-edited by Farrar and Maleska. Then we skip to series 146, edited by Maleska and John Samson. I had several puzzles with 1 or 2 squares wrong, because the material was obscure. Much better were series 258 (2007), Mega 5 and Mega 6 (ed. by John Samson). I like the Mega books (I've found errors, but there seem to be fewer with time), but wonder if I'll ever catch up.
Editor Mel Rosen chose the puzzles in RH Editor's Choice. I did volume 1 and did not see any other volumes, so ordered a compilation. Even if I once did them, I'll never remember by now. I also did Mel's Casual Crosswords, vol. 5. I hesitate to call puzzles "too easy" but with hints and tags for multiple words, maybe this series is not geared for me.
Just before the 2011 tournament, I ordered The Wrath of Klahn and Patricks' Puzzle Pandemonium. B&N delivered astonishingly fast. I might have done these before in other venues, but I never remember puzzles and figured they'd be good practice.
I'm a completist, so I got the enhanced edition of Crasswords (ed. Francis Heaney) even though I did the original. The intro helpfully pointed out which were the new puzzles, so I solved those and will give away the book. Words in Blankety-Blank SCRABBLE Crosswords by Frank Longo had the constraint of being Scrabble-legal.
I'm not an opera fan but David Kahn's The Metropolitan Opera: Crosswords for Opera Lovers is a lovely little book. So is Jeffrey Harris's Sit & Solve Pop Music Crosswords, and I am a pop music fan. Another small-size book is Patrick Blindauer's Hip Pocket Crosswords which probably does fit in a pocket, though I kept it on the dining room table. Last of the smallish (but high quality) books I solved was The Penguin Classics Crossword Puzzles, ed. by Ben Tausig.
Almost done! It helps that I have almost nothing to say about the puzzles themselves (how do crossword bloggers do it?). I am not above reading People Magazine, and also not above doing their puzzles (except for find the difference in the pictures. No thanks). Celebrity Puzzler Holiday Special doesn't have the best puzzles in the world, but they're OK and good for testing pop culture.
Lastly, I just finished a whole book of Triple-Stack Crosswords by Martin Ashwood-Smith. That is my idea of fun.
I haven't blogged in months. It would be nice to clear away the pile of puzzle books, and there isn't much to say about them, so I'll do those. Non-crossword puzzles first:
I proofread the following for Conceptis/Puzzlewright. Sometimes I was asked just to do a sample, but I went back and finished later because I love this type of puzzle: Kooky Kakuro Puzzles; Second-Degree White Belt, Green Belt, Brown Belt and Black Belt Kakuro. I liked those so much I bought all four regular (color) belt kakuro books and finished those, too.
Every so often I succumb to the lure of a sharpened pencil and do sudokus. I learn techniques, only to forget them again. Basically, I don't know what I'm doing, but these can be relaxing. There's always a nagging feeling I'm wasting my time and then I put sudokus aside for another long period. I solved:
The Original Sudoku Book 2 (Nikoli) - This was on my dining room table and eventually, I managed to do them all.
Xaq Pitkow, Sudoku 2: Medium to Hard - After the mediums were done, the hards were just too hard and I gave up and gave the book away.
Frank Longo, Third-Degree Brown Belt Sudoku - gotta support my friends. Also, these were the right level of difficulty.
Will Shortz, Sweet Dreams Sudoku: 150 Fast, Fun Puzzles; Devious Sudoku: 200 Very Hard Puzzles (don't think I listed these before) - I won these and got around to doing them.
Thomas Snyder, The Art of Sudoku - These are expertly hand-crafted. While some of the artistry went right by me, I did notice cool shapes and patterns.
Les Foeldessy, Next-Generation Crosswords - Did all 100 puzzles in one sitting. LOVED these crossword variations, also known as gryptics
. I do not know the author; this is unbiased puzzle love.
Patrick Merrell and Helene Hovanec, Coffee Time - cute little book with facts about coffee interspersed with puzzles. I hardly ever drink the stuff, so the rapture was lost on me.
Puzzability, Sit & Solve, Crazy Phrazies and Crazier Phrazies - My pals at Puzzability always keep the artistry and amusement level high. These picture puzzles aren't my strong suit, and I peeked at the answer sometimes to move things along.
Patrick Merrell, AHA!: 125 Original & Amusing Word Puzzles - Quick fill in the blank puzzles with clever clues.
Most people I know from the National Puzzlers' League adore cryptics, but I'm not a huge fan. Too much work and thought. Yes, I'm shallow. I can appreciate good work, though, and while I won't slog through culturally alien British cryptics, I do American ones now and then.
Henry Hook is an absolute master of these puzzles. His Hooked on Puzzles series (Simon & Schuster) from about 20 years ago included cryptics, as well as regular crosswords (which I solved a long time ago, saving the best for first), acrostics, rebuses, trivia, logic, number puzzles, and a few that defy description. I finished volumes 1-4. I also did S&S Hooked on Cryptics, series 1.
S&S also put out the Book of Cryptic Crossword Puzzles, edited by Eugene T. Maleska. These are by assorted authors and while not Hook quality (except for the ones actually by Henry), are OK. I finished series 1, 4 and 5 (1980-7).
|Saturday, July 7th, 2012|
|Time Warner cable TV on the iPad - NOT
I was passing by Time Warner cable and saw a sign about an iPad app that lets subscribers watch TV. Researching it when I got home, it seemed less useful since you have to access with your home wifi on and can't use it anywhere else. I loaded the app, and could sign in, but it said I had to be connected to my home network, which I was.
So I did a live chat with customer service who said the network needed to be Time Warner's Road Runner, even though their FAQ said it didn't matter what wireless network was used. I have Verizon Internet. After getting cut off and getting a new chat rep after being 18th in the queue I was told they could install a Road Runner Internet gateway (not free to install, no charge after that). But why would I want a second wireless network (which might interfere with the other one, for all I know) just to occasionally watch TV on a small iPad in the other room? Oh well. I deleted the app and sent a Contact Us form saying they needed to change their FAQ.
It might be just as well. Reviews in the app store were not favorable.
|Saturday, June 23rd, 2012|
|I never forget a grudge
I've been reading the NY Times a lot more on my new iPad than I ever did on the Web, and caught an article on obits
that brought back an old resentment: the Times did not find my father noteworthy enough to merit an obit. I wrote about it here
|Friday, May 4th, 2012|
I'm very late to the party, but finally saw "Rent" (at New World Stages, in the same exact theater that housed "Toxic Avenger") Sunday night. The play itself was OK, but I really loved the score. Had only previously heard "Seasons of Love." I went home and stayed up until dawn listening to the soundtrack 3 times in a row (on Rhapsody - twice from the Broadway show, once from the movie; prefer the show). I'm listening to it again now. Want to get the piano book, but need to compare the show and movie versions and check out the arrangements.
As with "Toxic Avenger," I'll surely see "Rent" again, now that I'm familiar with the music.
|Monday, March 19th, 2012|
57 Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights was where my parents lived when they were first married (my father's old bachelor apartment), and I lived as an infant. I realized while lying awake Friday night just steps away at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott, that this also must be where I was conceived in July of 1951. Surreal!
during lunch break at the tournament, 2008
infant En in 1952
|Thursday, March 15th, 2012|
|Resting puzzle hands with music
I never got around to blogging the last 2 ACPTs in detail (world's worst blogger!), and here we are on the eve of another one. I'm always a nervous wreck. My skills have eroded a bit with age (I have a big birthday next month), but with a few top people not coming this year, who knows what's possible? I encourage all A's and B's not to compete so victory can again be mine <evil grin>.
I always have some puzzle books going around the house (have completed several books I also need to blog about. Yeesh), but hadn't downloaded any online puzzles since last spring (oops). I learned that the Merl Reagle and Boston Globe puzzles now keep only one month of archives. So does the LA Times, but I can get those from uClick (paid subscription). I downloaded what I could but won't have time to do them all. I should be solving on paper, but I've done so many puzzles my hands hurt. Even the online puzzles hurt my hands (sucks to get old), and I'm wearing one of those wrist gloves. So I need a break.
My escape drug of choice has always been music, so I hit Rhapsody. I was thinking about my favorite female singer, Patti Austin, who was on Quincy Jones' wonderful "The Dude" album, so played that. I suddenly remembered hearing Patti singing "I.G.Y." on an obscure late-night show with David Sanborn, and Googling found the clip
(1988). Then I found this great live version of "Razzmatazz"
. Oh, and there she is more recently at Quincy's 75th birthday concert
. Why isn't this woman more famous? I always felt she could sing rings around Whitney
(still sad about Whitney's death; such lost potential).
I was supposed to see Patti live at the Nokia a year or so ago, but she canceled due to illness. Turns out she's singing Friday at Carnegie Hall
. Darn! Very tempting, but I already made tournament plans.
One of the Brothers Johnson was in the band on the "Razzmatazz" clip, so after the Patti festival, I listened to their greatest hits album (which I also own on CD). Love them! I always use "Stomp" to test speakers, headphones, etc.
I have more music-related bloggery (on the eve of Whitney's funeral, I saw Aretha live at Radio City!) but this entry is long enough so that'll have to wait.
|Thursday, February 23rd, 2012|
|Books I never finished reading
I need to remember that it's OK to abandon a book. I tend to read on and on, hoping (usually in vain) it will get better. Recently, I didn't finish the following books:
"Circles" by Abigail McCarthy - The wife of Senator Eugene wrote this 1977 novel about Washington. The language seemed stiff, and I gave up after 32 pages.
"Ask Again Later" by Jill A. Davis - This may be a perfectly good book, but when the narrator's mother got sick, I had to stop reading (my mother died last year).
"Hollywood Savage" by Kristin McCloy - Usually I like novels about Hollywood, but couldn't get into this one. The pace was slow and the diary format, with clipped language, was off-putting. Miles is stranded in Hollywood working on a script, thinking his wife back in New York is having an affair. He meets a woman who seems intriguing, but I don't know (or care) what happened because I stopped on p. 44.
"Person of Interest" by Theresa Schwegel - I haven't watched the TV show of the same name, but based on its description, don't think it's related to this book. I wasn't riveted by this story of an undercover Chicago cop, his wife and teenage daughter, and stopped after 70 pages.
"The Rhinestone Sisterhood" by David Valdes Greenwood - I read 172 pages of this nonfiction look at beauty queens in small-town Louisiana, but just wasn't invested in these people or their activities. As an urban nerd, maybe I'm not the best audience for this book.
"Great Books" by David Denby - Film critic David Denby re-takes the Columbia College core courses 30 years later. I did finish this book, but skimmed over the discussion of the actual literature, which was just too intellectual for me. Yeah, I'm shallow. Since I went to Barnard, I did enjoy the glimpses of life at Columbia. I'm giving this book to my nephew, who is bound for U. of Chicago which has a similar core.
|Friday, January 13th, 2012|
|Might as well finish the old diary
The entries in the childhood diary got very sparse. Sometimes I wrote "Dear Diary" at the top with no entry, and there are lots of blank pages.
4/1/60: Today is April Fools day. I April fooled mommy. I told her her dress was torn. Evelyn [housekeeper] April fooled me. She called me up. I made some magazines. They were the "Calling All's." Like, "Calling All Linda's."
4/4: We had our carpet delivered.
4/5: Our carpet was put down. Nana came back from her cruise. She went to Nassau, Kingston, Jamacia, and Curaco.
4/29: I went to brownies today. We're doing a play called the Seven Plea's. It's done in pantomime. Then we went outside. My friends and I wanted to get some balls so we went inside but the door to the place where the balls were was locked, but B found a secret entrance so we got the balls and went outside, but then our brownie leader told us to put our balls back because the costodian found out. [what a sentence!] But then some boys bothered us and they almost saw B's underpants.
4/30: We took our bikes outside for the first time.
5/5: I got a haircut.
6/23: Today is the day before the last day of school. Today I brought home my folder, my crayons, and my notebook.
10/22: Today I had a piano lesson. The songs I had were [songs]. Linda and I thougt we saw a kidnapper, but now I doubt it [!!]. A and her friends tried to capture us, but we got away. I played Chienese Jump Rope with S and I got up to Frontsy. We were going to make Halloween pictures, but we didn't make them, because we couldn't find paint.
10/23: S came over today. We played Chienese [same wrong spelling as above] Jump Rope and Hopscotch and Star Reporter and Dear Diary. You played that with a ball and bounce it.
10/24: I have a cold so I can't go to school today. I'm watching T.V. now and I'm watching a show called Fun at One. I think it's a very babyish show, but there's nothing else good on so I have to watch it.
11/17: Mommy came to school today to see me work. She saw Spelling Test, Book Reports, Newstime Reports, Music, Gym, and that's all. Then I went to a birthday party. It was L's party. Her Aunt Cookie was there. She is a stage entertainer. She taught us how to Cha-Cha. Then, everybody had to speak or sing alone into the microphone. I told a joke. We had spagetti & meatballs for dinner. The present I gave her was "Foto Fun." Her Aunt Cookie did the Cha-Cha and the Mambo for us.
12/31: Tonight Felice is sleeping over at our house, by the way Linda and I are on a diet. We have one speical treat day a week.
1/31/61: Today was my brownie (59!) troops talent show. I played the piano. I played Theme from No. 3 and J announced it "Theme from Loberstreen." I also played A little polish dance. The piano was a little out of tune.
2/1: There is a terrible snowstorm going on now. It was 2 below zero yesterday at dawn. I am sick right now.
2/23: Today we're having our winter vacation and went to see a movie called 101 Dalmations. It was in color. We came back at 9:30. I had matzoh and orange juice for a snack. Right now it's 10 to 10. I had dinner in a diner called The Frontier [in Glen Cove]. I had roast beef, peas, spinach leaves, and red jellow. Daddy & Mommy didn't want their peas, so I ate their peas. Linda & Daddy had hamburgers (charcoal broiled), Mommy had pork chops in tomato sauce. Linda and mommy had cheese cake for dessert. We all had salad with a good dressing on it. The movie was in the Cove. It took place in London.
3/7: Today I didn't go to school. I went to the lab on Middle Neck Rd. to get a blood test. It was a different kind of needle that looked like tinfoil. Since I didn't talk or scream when I had the test so mommy gave me the choice of a Barby Game or a charge account game. Daddy left both games in his car but he came home at 5:00. I chose the Barby Game. I will get the charge account game for my birthday. Both games were supposed to be for my birthday.
12/1: Today we went to the photographers to have our picture taken. His name is Henri Millaire. Today we had music. We didn't have assembly because the 6th graders are rehearsing for the Christmas Program. [I think this is the picture:]
12/2: Today S came over. We rehearsed book club reports. We also made posters. I started Maida's Little Shop for about the 20th time, it seems. We all saw Huckleberry Finn on T.V. today. Right now it is 10:00 P.M. and Dance Party was just over. For our snacks we had frozen vanilla Metrical.
12/3: Right now Mommy & Daddy are at a formal. The Formal is at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. It is for the hospital. Right now it is 9:20 P.M. We are watching the Groucho Marks show. There is a man there who weighs 387 pounds. He comes from Sweden and Groucho keeps thinking he is from Japan. The real estate section was not very good today. [I used to cut out house plans for "Fingertown"] Today we found out that the Herald Tribune comics are in black and white. The secret word on Groucho Marks show is "Chair." No one has said it yet. For snack I had Vanilla Cherry, Lemon Chiffon, and Chocolate. Linda had the same snack as me, except instead of lemon she had Coffee. [Metricals?]
5/1/62: Today we had our big cleanup for our room. L lent me more comic books. I don't really think it is fair or honest, but it isn't too illegal. [Huh? Did I think everyone should buy their own comic books?] We had language in the Iowa tests today. P.S. I got a new American Girl [magazine] today (May, 1962).
12/27: I had a piano lesson today. [lists songs] Christmas was Tuesday. I got Golferino, a bike, a sweater, a beauty parlor doll, "pjs" (pajamas), a toilet paper holder, $4, and a perfume kit. I gave Aunt Pauline & Uncle Mack My son, the folk singer. Mommy, a ribbon basket for candy, Daddy, a pencil holder. Nana, a tray. Papa, a pen & pencil set (pink!). Linda, two Barbie dresses, and Evelyn, a powder jar. It is 3:00.
|Thursday, January 12th, 2012|
|More from Little En, 1960
2/1/60: We got sterio
2/4: Mommy went to a concert
2/5: N came over today.
2/10: I went to M's house for lunch.
2/11: I went to the dentist and to M's for lunch.
2/16: L came over.
2/19: Mommy had a dance lesson in our house.
2/26: L slept over tonight. She made a fortune teller for us.
2/27: Felice (our cousin) slept over.
2/28: I ate dinner at Nana's house today.
2/29: I went to the eye docter. I have to wear glasses. And I went to have them fitted.
3/1: I ate lunch at I's house.
3/2: We went to M's house.
3/3: We had a bad snow storm. [research shows NYC got 14.5"]
3/4: I got glasses
3/6: I ate lunch out.
3/7: I had library today. I only took out one book. It was called Henry Huggins.
3/8: Today I went to S's house.
3/9: Linda can be a brownie.
3/10: I went to get more glasses.
3/13: I ate dinner at Nana's house.
3/14: The light's blew out for a hour and a half.
3/15: I saw a movie in school
3/16: I had half a day in school
3/17: A lady from the girl scout house called and said I could be a brownie in troop 59. Meetings are on Friday.
3/18: I had brownies today. We made tamborines. Brownie dues are 10 cents.
3/20: I went to J's birthday party today.
3/23: Mommy had a conference with Miss Salami, the speech teacher.
3/24: Mommy had a conference with my teacher, Miss McCann. P.S. I got a good report.
3/25: Nana went on a cruise today. We went to see her off, that is we see the ship. It was a lot of fun. The ship was called "Nieuw (New) Amsterdam."
3/28: I went to E's birthday party today. A lot of my friends were there. [this is my next-door neighbor E]
3/29: It's my Aunt Pauline and my cousin Felice's birthday. Felice is twelve years old. I don't know how old Aunt Pauline is.
3/31: I got the chickenpox today.
[omitted more piano lessons and library]
I have a "Math Notebook" from 7th grade where not much math was getting done. I loved Mr. Grosso's class and did well, but much of the notebook is devoted to doodles (I was not a great artist and could only draw girls' heads) and Beatlemania.
In case you can't see, within their faces it says "I Love Paul," "George is Eh," "I like Ringo" and "I hate John." Sorry, George and John. Note "Love to Lovey" in the Paul section, an homage to the alleged autograph
I also wrote a composition about Paul, just for myself and not for school. Given recent behavior around Paul, there's still a lot of the silly 12-year-old in me.
|Sunday, January 8th, 2012|
|He didn't really write "Love to Lovey"?
Update on some Paul McCartney memorabilia
I always wondered if the Beatles autographs my British pen pal Joan sent were real. Joan said in a letter dated 2/8/64 that she'd gone to the airport and gotten autographs. The Beatles actually were at the London airport on 2/5 (coming back from Paris) and 2/7 (going to the U.S.). It's possible she was there, but the signatures looked too neat to have been scrawled in an airport with hundreds of screaming fans. It did look a bit like their handwriting, but also a bit like Joan's handwriting.
I recently found the autograph book and decided to get it checked out, as all four Beatles signatures on one page is now worth quite a bit (and probably more if anyone else dies). I found a service that evaluates autographs based on a scan, for $7. They have experience with Beatles. To get a certificate of authenticity would cost $70 + certified postage, so I just did the scan. The result:
The Beatles signatures (all Four) in autograph book::
Not likely to be genuine: Our authenticators believe that the item, if physically submitted for examination, would likely not receive our certificate of authenticity.
**Please note this based upon a scan. The only way to truly examine and authenticate an autograph is to physically examine the signature, the ink and the item that has been signed.
* * *
I'm impressed that they didn't say it looked real, thus encouraging me to pay more to send it in and get the certificate.
As contrast, here's an authentic (according to the Web) set of Beatles autographs:
The little square of sheet that Paul allegedly slept on did come with a letter of authenticity; at least, he was in the hotel at that time.
|Saturday, January 7th, 2012|
|The Way-Way-Way-Back Machine
diary was not the first one I ever kept. I found a shiny gold diary from 1960-62. It's mostly January-April 1960 when I was 7-8 years old, so it's pretty simple. Mostly, I went to the library and took out x books, or had a piano lesson and studied y pieces. The entries all say "Dear Diary" and "Love, Ellen" and are in pencil, usually printed but sometimes in script. Here are some excerpts (will initial most names, did not correct spelling) [current comments in brackets]:
1/1: I had a very Happy New Year. A lot of our relatives came over, and on Christmas we got bikes and we're riding them today. [We were Jewish but usually exchanged presents on Christmas, since it was easier to get the family together.]
1/4: School vacation is over and I went back to school. I had fun at school. I had Library today and I took out [books]. I got a haircut.
1/5: I went to school again today and my class saw a movie called Air Around Us. I do have a lot of enemies, their names are [9 boys and 1 girl], That Boy and that's all. Linda is partly an enemy [Oy. Sorry, sis!]. My class did some air experiments, here is one of them. You take a glass, put a tissue in it so it won't fall out. Then turn it upside down and put it in water, then when you take it out it'll be dry.
1/6: I did something funny today, but after a while I thought I shouldn't have done that. I took some of Kathy's things (Kathy is a girl in my class). I took her dictionary work and her pencil. [Sorry, Kathy, what was I thinking?!] In class we learned some script letters, they were a & n. I had speech and gym today. We played a game called Kick It and Run in gym. I made a home run.
1/7: Kathy found out about the dictionary papers but not about the pencil. I saw a movie called Air is All Around Us [different than Air Around Us?]. It was very good. I watched a lot of good programs on telivision. I ate lunch at school today and I sat next to B and L at table number four.
1/8: I had an exciting day today. In school I learned two more letters in script, they were c & m. Kathy found out about the pencil. I signed my name in Kathy's brownie autograph book.
[I found this note, which I must have not sent:]
1/9/60: Today is Nana's birthday. Nana went on Dance Party last night. Dance Party is a show on channel 13. M came over.
1/10: I played house up in the playing room. I went to Nana's house and ate dinner there.
1/11: Mommy went to the Girl Scout House today to register us as brownies. Linda might be one, but they don't know about me. I went bicycle riding today. I watched Telivision too.
1/14: I had Music in school today. At night, I went out to dinner. I saw a movie too. It was called Gigi. After that, I went to Steffens and had a snack.
1/15: I made (my class made) a telephone and my class got their first call today. [no idea how we did this]
1/16: I ate dinner at a friend's house. Her name was M. Then I went to sleep over with my sister Linda at Nana's house. Nana is our grandmother. I had a good time.
1/17: I went to my Aunt Marion's house. I watched my cousin Arthur play his French horn while my Aunt Rhoda played the piano to his song.
1/19: I had a very big splinter. Daddy didn't take it out yet.
1/21: I went over to L's (a girl in my class) house. We played house and she was playing with her doll while I read her brownie handbook.
1/22: S (a girl in my class) came over. We watched T.V.
1/24: I went ice skating with Daddy and Linda. Aunt Helen came.
1/26: L came. We played with dolls.
1/27: I went ice skating with D. I had fun.
1/29: I went to R's birthday party. [R was one of the boys listed as an enemy above.]
1/30: Nana Birdie came here. I had a piano lesson. The names of the songs were [songs].
1/31: Nothing special happened today. [There were increasingly more entries like this, to the point I just wrote "N.H." for nothing happened.]
* * *
That's enough for now. I omitted a few more library trips and piano lessons.
|Wednesday, December 28th, 2011|
|Identity theft apparently did not exist in 1969
I found a spiral-bound notebook from freshman year of college where I recorded assignments, reminders, etc. I carried this everywhere. Inside the front cover were listed:
Home address and phone
School address and phone
Mailbox number and combination
Gym locker number and combination
Bank account number
Social Security number
Yeesh. Good thing it wasn't stolen.