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Monday, January 30, 2017

We Walk

My constant companion, Maggie, aka Dumb Dog, walk every day.  That is nothing new.  I have been walking dogs every day since I was a teenager.  The difference is now I have much more time.

We try to average an hour a day.  Sometimes it is more--sometimes less, but we seek our average of an hour.  We walk in the West Creek Reservation, but you won't see us too often.  Maggie is so bad when we see other dogs, that I try to avoid the more populated paths.

Weather permitting, I bring a book to read.  It actually encourages me to walk farther and I don't get frustrated when she spends too much time sniffing things.

Of course, walking is tougher this time of year, but I have still maintained our schedule.  Today, with all the snow, I didn't really feel like it, but as soon as I got outside, I felt invigorated.  We did our hour with no problem.  It was a little slower, but we did it.

Saturday, January 28, 2017


I am such a nerd.  I love math--always did from about 10 years of age.  In high school, I went up to Calculus and got As.  I never took any math at Community College because I didn't have to.  I did get a job where I used math every day--printing estimator.  I even solved word problems all the time.  If I came up with something out of the ordinary, I would just turn it into a formula.

Since I have been retired, I don't have an outlet for my math skills, and I found I missed it.  I have been playing around with the idea of relearning all the stuff I forgot from lack of use.  I heard about the Kahn Academy, and I finally looked into it.

It is free on-line courses of the high school level.  I tried out a lesson, and I realized that this kind of learning would work well for me.

I started Algebra I.  As I go through it, I remember a lot of it, and for the most part, I am finding it easy.  I have the same old usual problem I always had in high school--forgetting to bring down my negative signs!

One of the reasons for starting from the beginning is that I don't remember the terminology.  Without that, it may be hard to understand the explanations on the harder math

Since this is fun, I believe I will keep going with it at least through this course for now.  It would be awesome to get as far as Calculus, but it could take a few years to get that far.  I am sure it won't remain so easy as I climb out the early courses.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Book Review: "Free Air" by Sinclair Lewis

Sinclair Lewis is one of my favorite authors.  With all the talk about "It Can't Happen Here," he has been on my mind.  I thought I would see what other books of his were available on Project Gutenberg.

I decided to try "Free Air."  It was serialized in "The Saturday Evening Post" in 1919.  A daughter decides to take her father on a road trip for the betterment of his health.  Now imagine the conditions and the types of cars back in pre-WWI.  That was what attracted me to the story, initially.  What I found was a love story between a well off young lady and a working class young man.  They learn about each other's world as they learn about love.  They also have a few adventures on the way.

I liked this book a lot, as I have liked all the Sinclair Lewis novels.  He is another somewhat forgotten novelist, and I really hope that the attention that has been drawn to "It Can't Happen Here" will revive interest in his other awesome novels.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Book Review: "North and South" by Elizabeth Gaskell 1854

Book Review: "North and South" by Elizabeth Gaskell 1854

This is another book recommended by my niece.  It was very different than the first Gaskell book I read.  

When an American thinks of north and south, we think of our own country and the Civil war.  This takes place in England.  The south that the author is referring to is a very rural area and the north is an industrial region.

Our heroine, Margaret, is from the south and finds herself living in the north.  As she learns about her new world, so do we.  Her new home is in fictionalized Milton which is based on Manchester.  Margaret befriends a working family as well as an owner of a cotton mill.  Being exposed to the contrasting friendships gives he a view of both sides.

The book deals with labor problems, bad working conditions, strikes and death--lots of death.  My niece seems to like books with sadness.  There is also some romance, but it is minor compared to the other themes.  Once again, the characters are well rounded and interesting.

The book is wonderful.  Score another one for my niece.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Book Review: "Lonesome Dove" by Larry McMurtry

Book Review: "Lonesome Dove" by Larry McMurtry

Long time ago, I guess in the 80s, this was an award-winning mini series.  I didn't get to see it except in bits and pieces because my life was very busy.  My family saw it, though, and they loved it.  My mom and Ellen read the book, but it never crossed my path.

A couple years ago, Ellen gave me the sequel, "Streets of Laredo" and I really enjoyed it.  Last year, she saw the mini series at the Goodwill Store in video cassette.  I still have a working VCR, so she bought it for me for about a dollar or so.  It was really, really good.

I picked up the book to read.  The story was fresh in my mind, so I didn't have any surprises when I read it.  I wish I had read it, first.  The book was awesome.

It is a western about a couple retired Texas Rangers that decide to take a herd of cattle up to Montana, basically on a whim, because they were restless.  On the way, they run into many problems, and I have never known an author so willing to kill off main characters.  The trip was a disaster.  Basically, just about nothing worked out the way it was planned.

It was also very sad, and by the last hundred pages, I couldn't wait for it to end.

All the horse parts of the book were very accurate.  The horses played an important part of the story, and the author seemed to have a great appreciation for them.

I do think it cleared up one thing.  My sister, Ellen, has issues with crossing rivers.  They had one terrible river crossing and many difficult ones.  The cowboys dreaded river crossings throughout the book.  I think exposure to the mini series and the book may have traumatized her for life.  Maybe it is good that I didn't read the book until now.  That first river crossing is tragic, and they portray it so well on the mini series.

If you like westerns, cowboys, horses and adventure--this is the book for you.  Just be prepared to like most of the characters and willing to watch them die.

Book Review: "Wives and Daughters" by Elizabeth Gaskell

Book Review: "Wives and Daughters" by Elizabeth Gaskell

This is a book that was recommended by my niece, Sarah, who prefers to read books by dead authors.  Published in 1865, the story takes place in England.  It is a book of relationships, manners and some romance.  The characters were so real, I can't help but wonder if the author patterned them off of people she knew.  They were all flawed, but not badly flawed--and they all had very good qualities, too--much like real life.

Our main character, Molly, lost her mother at a young age.  Now, as a young lady, her father decides to get married.  His new wife brings her daughter into the picture, and she brings in the drama.

Molly's father is a doctor, and illness is an undercurrent throughout.  We really don't always know what is wrong with his patients, and that must have been common back then.  A person could be failing, and it might be a lingering infection (no antibiotics back then) or untreated diabetes or leukemia.  Doctors didn't have the abilities to diagnose or treat like they do now, of course, and it made a very different world.

Having recently watched the entire series of "Downton Abbey," I was very prepared for this book.  "Downton Abbey" was the end of the era that this book takes place in.  Molly is solidly middle class, and the book is excellent for its portrayal of the differences in the classes and how they view each other.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to people who like books by dead authors.