Category Archives: Words

10K

Photo credit:  Sebastian Pena Lambarri

Last week Chris mentioned that we were closing in on 10,000 followers.  If the rate that someone new clicks on Follow keeps up, we will hit that number this weekend.  As I’m typing this on Friday night, we are at 9,996.  This is for just the Trail – if you look at our WordPress account, it also adds in Blevins and Kitchen Congress, so the number looks a little higher than 10K.

I’m not big on social media optics, so I’m not sure what this really says about us.  Obviously from looking at the stats, we don’t have thousands of folks looking at the Trail every day; we average between 150 and 200 views most days.  And of course, I find it fascinating that not everybody is always looking at the same post as we are.  For example, yesterday 2 people viewed Why I Don’t Eat the Coleslaw from August 2015 and The Magnolia Steakhouse from November 2010, among other pages.

Although the overwhelming number of readers hale from the U.S., we have a worldwide viewership.  Yesterday we also had folks from Canada, Australia, Finland, Kenya, Cameroon, Germany, Nigeria, France, India, New Zealand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Georgia and Benin visit.

We are all over the board in terms of comments… some days we are chattier than others.  I used to worry that we didn’t have more folks commenting, but then I think about all the other blogs that I read on a regular basis.  They have way more followers than we do, but fewer comments.  I also don’t see the kind of community that we have in the comment section of most blogs.  And I can’t speak for anybody else, but I almost never comment on any blog except ours (unless there is a possible prize in it for me).

So all in all, as we’ve hit our decade anniversary and 10K followers, I’m still feeling like we’re just a small fish in a big pond and I like it that way.  Hope the Trail is meeting your needs these days.

Not sure about a question for this data – did you ever imagine, in your wildest dreams, that we’d come this far?

Up Late

With the possible exception of the folks who are directing the decisions about library services for Hennepin County, I’m not sure if anybody else is paying as much attention to the library situation as I am.  I’m checking the website every day or so, massaging my hold list, checking the status of anything coming available to me and just generally watching the news.

So I know that I don’t have to rush through anything – nothing that has been checked out since March 14 is due yet and won’t be due until a minimum of three weeks after libraries begin to open back up (no date on that yet).  I’ve actually read all but one of the physical books that I have checked out (just picked one up yesterday from curbside pick-up) and I only have two audiobooks that aren’t finished.

That knowledge did not keep me from staying up late on Sunday night however.  I was reading The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King, one of my favorite series and the clock was advancing towards my usual bedtime, about 10.  Normally I say to myself, “keep reading until you fall asleep” and this works pretty well but the book was good and I wasn’t getting tired.  I just kept going.  11 o’clock, midnight…. one… two…   I felt like I was a kid reading under the covers, doing something illicit and I had to remind myself that I can stay up as late as I want.  It’s not like I have anything specific that I have to be out of bed for in the mornings.

Finished at 2:45 a.m.  Enjoyed it thoroughly and although I was a little droopy on Tuesday, it was worth it.  I went to bed at 8 that night.

What’s the last book you remember staying up late to finish?

What To Read Right Now

Today’s post comes from Barbara in Rivertown.

When Toni Morrison died on August 5th last summer, I was amazed to realize I’d never read anything by this Pulitzer (and Nobel!) Prize winning author. Then I watched, on CBS Sunday Morning, and excerpt from an NPR interview, and promptly read three of her books to get a sampling of her writing. They were not an easy read.

What I’ve realized in the past few weeks is that, while I’ve heard myself say I love to read about women’s lives (and lately some men’s, too), I’ve read precious few books about black women’s lives, most by Morrison, Maya Angelou, and Alice Walker – either fiction or memoirs. There have been tons of posts on FB, etc., about what it is like to be African-American in this country (not to mention Native, Hispanic, Asian) – stories that try to explain what the term “white privilege” means, and I think I’m just beginning to understand.

Something  PJ said the other day on the Trail spoke to me:  “At the moment I’m immersed in learning more about American history, race relations, politics, and the changing vocabulary and strategies that have been used over time to divide us along racial, economic, and political lines. I’d much rather be doing something else, but it feels as if it’s my civic duty to be as informed as I can be so I can better understand what’s going on all around us.”

To that end, I’ve ordered James Baldwin’s Collected Essays, after hearing a conversation about him with MPR’s Angela Davis. I came upon this “Anti-Racist Lit. Starter Kit.”

It can be argued that we need to do much more than try to fix it by “throwing a book at it”. But like PJ, educating myself is what I can do right now.

Do you have any recommendations for books we could read right now, to further understand what needs to change in our culture?

Bloomsday

Happy June 16th, Baboons!  It is Bloomsday, the day that Ulysses was set. I have to admit I read that book several decades ago and couldn’t  make sense of it. I am tempted to reread it now, as I think I have some added maturity to “get” what Joyce was trying to say.  We will have to see about that. It may be as incomprehensible as it was the first time I tried to read it in my 20’s. I have really enjoyed hearing recitations of Ulysses on Bloomsday, as it seems to be more accessible when it is read aloud.

What are your experiences with James Joyce’s works? What do you reread?

Irises!

It’s been cold the last couple of mornings.  The sweatpants are back and for those morning walks with Guinevere, I’ve even reverted to adding a sweatshirt to my sweatpants/t-shirt ensemble.  And socks – quelle sacrilege!  It’s almost like we need a word for this transition season… not quite summer yet, although it should be.  Maybe “sprummer”?

Anyway, even if it’s cold, the walks are glorious because my favorite flower is starting to bloom, not just in my yard but all over the neighborhood – the irises have arrived!  I’m not sure why the iris is my favorite.  My mom wasn’t an iris fan, but I do remember going to the Missouri Botanical Garden growing up and seeing bed after bed of glorious blooms.  In my yard I have pretty much every color, including an orange variety called “orange crush”, although not all the colors have bloomed yet.

This morning looking at a garden full of pale yellow beauties in a yard around the corner, it made me think of a pretty haiku I found a few years ago by a Japanese woman who lived in the 17th century:

Waking from my dream:

what a color

were the iris flowers

Shushiki

Do you have a favorite flower?  Or a favorite haiku about a flower?

Where in the World is VS?

William and Kate say the kids are out of control.  Kurt and Goldie are fighting in public and have called off the wedding.  Mutant wasps have arrived in the country via Washington – the same as Covid-19.  Hillary has just six months to live.  Ted Cruz’s father linked to JFK assassination.

Where was I?

Reading in Place

For years I’ve had way more library books checked out than even I can read before they are due; I spend way too much time (at least what most people think is way too much time) curating what I have checked out, what’s on hold, what’s in transit.  I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned that I have my 16-digit library card number memorized.  I never thought any of this would ever come in handy – looks like covid-19 is making me re-think this assumption.

By the end of last night, I am caught up.  I have read ALL the library books that I had checked out at the time the libraries closed up, plus a couple more that have arrived since my local library started allowing curbside pick-up.  I’m not in any danger of running out of things to read… plenty of online stuff and a good number of books that I’ve accumulated over the years but never read.  But it’s a nice feeling to be all caught up with the library.  I’m pretty sure that as soon as shelter-in-place is over, I’ll be back to my old habits!

Here are a few that I’ve read:

His Majesty’s Dragon (Naomi Novik).  5 stars.  Read this (again) for Blevins.  Bit of revisionist history of the era of the Napoleanic wars with dragons thrown into the mix.  First of the Temeraire series.

The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls (Julie Schumacher)  5 stars.  This is the same author who wrote Dear Committee Members and The Shakespeare Requirements.  It’s a young-adult fiction but a good read and very well written.  Four girls thrown together over the summer to discuss their school required reading list.

Natural History of Dragons (Marie Brennan).  5 stars.  Bit of very fun fiction from the viewpoint of a female “dragonologist” at a time when women were supposed to be staying home and knitting.

Murder on the Orient Express (Agatha Christie).  5 stars.  Read this again (read all of AC in high school) to refresh my memory on which of the two movies was the most loyal to the book.  Although I am normally irritated by mystery writers who don’t give you all the clues, since I already know who the murderers are in all her books, I was able to let it go and just enjoy her writing.  (And the 1972 movie was much closer to the book!)

The Crypt Thief (Mark Pryor).  4 stars.  Found this when I was looking up the video on the French cemetery that was discussed on the Trail in February.  Murder mystery involving the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

I know you’re worried that I’m going to review every book I’ve read in the last 2 months, but I’ll stop here (except to say no need to read Fooled by Randomness (Taleb) or Wreck the Halls (Graves).  Only 2 stars each.

What’s the latest book you’ve finished “in place”?

Nobody Loses All The Time

I thought last month when the water pipe burst in the wall of my best friend’s apartment, soaking much of the  the flooring, that she was one of the most unlucky persons I knew. The burst pipe was one in a long string of unfortunate events in her life.  Her issues pale in comparison with another friend of mine who, since Easter,  was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, had surgery that permanently damaged her vocal cords,  and then got the terrible news that her only son, who she had placed for adoption forty years ago and reconnected with last year, had died of the Covid-19 virus.  She writes that her life has turned out like a country western song full of bad luck and disaster.  She has supportive family and friends, but how on earth do you get beyond these sorts of tragedies?

I don’t know why but  I couldn’t help thinking about e e cummings poem, nobody loses all the time after hearing about my friends’ terrible luck.

It isn’t exactly a comforting poem, and I suppose it cold be construed as pretty irreverent, but I think it sums up a need to find hope in the darkest of times.

What gives you hope?  Share some hopeful poetry. 

 

Your Private Hell

Husband declared the other day  that his private Hell consisted of dealing with paper (he has neuropathy in his fingertips from diabetes and can’t sort or easily manipulate papers or feel his fingers on a keyboard), keeping organized the cords for our various computers,  phones, and tech instruments,  and the internal combustion engine. He is in Heaven, on the other hand turning a phrase or writing a psychological evaluation.

What would constitute your private Hell?  

Tolkien Reading Day

Photo credit: bernswaelz

Turns out yesterday was Tolkien Reading Day.  The Tolkien Society organized the first Tolkien Reading Day back in 2003.  If you’re a really big fan, you’ll know that March 25 was the day that the Black Tower was destroyed and Sauron, the Dark Lord was defeated.

Tolkien was a fascinating man.  Born in the late 19th century, he served in WWI, studied with honors at Oxford and then returned there as a professor.  He wrote many books and articles during his years of teaching, publishing The Hobbit when he was 45 and finishing the Lord of the Rings when he was close to his retirement.

I read The Hobbit the summer of 1973 while I was living in Northfield and working at The Ole Piper Inn.  All my Carlton friends were scattered for the summer months and my boyfriend was doing an internship in the Twin Cities; except for the weekends, I had a lot of time on my hands.  I had never read any fantasy prior to this, in fact didn’t really understand that there WAS fantasy.  It was still a subset of science fiction, and I hadn’t read much of that either.  After all these years, I don’t remember exactly why I decided to read The Hobbit, but within pages I was hooked.  I was not scheduled at the restaurant that night, and I just kept reading and reading.  I finished it the next morning, having not slept a wink.

The Hobbit turned out to be the door into the fantasy genre for me.  I immediately followed up with the entire Lord of the Rings triology, Piers Anthony, Terry Pratchett, Terry Brooks and on and on.  Then I found Ursula LeGuin and Anne McCaffrey who gave me the beginnings of my dragon fixation.  To this day, while I probably read more straight-up fiction, the fantasy genre is still my favorite.  And if I need “comfort” reading, that’s right where I go.

Tell me about a book that opened a door for you.