Tuesday, September 23, 2014

GHOST MONTH


Ghost MonthGhost Month by Ed Lin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jing-nan sets out during an inauspicious month--August, when the dead return to the land of the living--to find out who murdered his childhood sweetheart. What you really get when you read this book is a glimpse of Taiwanese culture--the tension between the aboriginals, the old settlers from south China and the Chinese who came after WW II. Then there's the gods, the gangs, housing, corruption, entrepreneurs, the CIA, music and the immoveable feast at Taipei's night market. Who knew such a vibrant culture existed on this small island that is home to 23 million?


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Monday, September 8, 2014

Silly Dilly


Her formal name is Dilberta Chase, but we call her "Dilly." We bought her the day after Labor Day from an Amish farmer. Although the Amish are notorious for running puppy mills, this is no puppy-mill pooch. The farmer had just two mixed-breed farm dogs, a male and female. He said he did not know who Dilly's father was, only that his dog could not be her daddy. She didn't look like him or any of the other puppies. 

"How old is she?" I asked.

"Gee, I dunno. So much goes on around here. I think maybe 4 months," he said.

This farm is where we buy eggs when we're at our cabin in Knox County, OH. When Phil had gone to get eggs on Saturday, he was smitten by a small, brown puppy. He told me about him when he got home, mentioning that he had a larger, white littermate. I said, "I don't really like white dogs."

"Why not?" asked Phil's sister.

"I don't know. I just don't. I don't like white horses or white cats either."

"That's weird," said Phil's sister.

Tuesday morning when we were getting ready to return to MD, Phil said, "I keep thinking about that little brown dog."  We both agreed that now was not the time to get a dog. We have an ailing cat and Phil is looking at knee replacement surgery before Christmas.

"We can stop at the farm on the way home to see if he's still there, " I said.

Up the gravel drive we went. Six horses stood outside the red barn, watching. A pair of Holsteins paid us no mind. The little brown dog ran out to greet us.

"We're kind of thinking we'd like to keep the brown dog," the Amish man said.

"Where's the white dog?" asked Phil.

"Sophie's usually here with Stan," he replied. "I don't know where she is now"

We called. He called. No Sophie. After a few minutes, we decided to leave, when suddenly she appeared. She was cute. Her head was black and she had a black spot above her tail. "I guess it's OK if she's mostly white, " I said. 

The Amish man told us she'd had a "Seven-way shot."

"Oh, did the vet come by?"

"No, I gave it to her myself."

"How much do you want for her?" asked Phil.

"Oh, you can have her."

"How about $20.00?"

"OK."

So "Sophie" was ours. The two of us sat in the backseat, as Phil headed east on Route 62 toward Millersburg. Before long, "Sophie" began going "ack-ack-ack." She vomited up her entire Amish farm- dog breakfast plus something else all over my capris. A bird?  A mouse?  A  vole? This was why she'd briefly gone missing. She'd been scouting for "field greens," but in her case, it wasn't delicate vegetation she wanted. Instead, she'd searched the fields for this delicacy, which was green because it was dead. She vomited again and again. And again. I screamed.  Phil pulled abruptly off the road.  He snapped on a leash and whisked the puppy out of the car. We happened to have  stopped by a bubbling spring. Before we could stop her, she waded right into the water that pooled beneath the spring. 

Using half a roll of paper towels, I mopped vomit off  the quilt, the cooler and the silvery folded-up sunshade. Then I fished a pair of grubby capris out of the "dirty-clothes" bag. I changed into them between two open car doors while milk trucks whizzed by.

As soon as we were on the road again, Sophie settled down for a long nap. We agreed that we couldn't call her Sophie. Close relatives had had a beloved dog named Sophie and she had died.  Our puppy needed a name before her first visit to the vet, which would happen the next day if at all  possible.

Heidi?  No.  
                          Daisy?  No.
                                                  How about Dilly?
                                                  Yes, she looks like a "Dilly."
                                                   Dilly it is.

                                                   She's going to be a wonderful pet.




Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal


A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great BetrayalA Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben Macintyre
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, was this book GOOD! Humans are so hard to figure out, and Kim Philby--"the greatest spy in history"--was no exception. He was loved and idolized by friends and colleagues in Britain's counterintelligence unit during a career that spanned 30 years. From the time he began working at M16, he led a double life as a spy for the Soviet Union. Philby was a man who seemed perfectly comfortable with the wealth and position he inherited. Yet while at Cambridge University, he became a communist. He was never, it seems, a true believer. So why did he risk losing friends, family, country for a cause he scarcely believed in?  The author confesses that he does not know, but he suggests, among other reasons, that Philby was addicted to the game of espionage. One of the more entertaining chapters in this page-turner is Chapter Four, "Boo, Boo, Baby, I'm a Spy," in which Macintyre describes what it was like to be a spy in wild and wacky Istanbul during WW II. Whatever you do, don't miss Chapter Four.


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Sunday, August 10, 2014

What Shamu Taught Me about Life Love and Marriage


What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love, and Marriage: Lessons for People from Animals and Their TrainersWhat Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love, and Marriage: Lessons for People from Animals and Their Trainers by Amy Sutherland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am interested in the subject of "animal training," especially when the primates I have in mind happen to be members of my own family. I hope that what I've learned about positive reinforcement and ignoring behavior I don't like will do the trick. I know that, in the past, I have inadvertently reinforced unwelcome behavior by nagging, advising, commenting or overreacting. We'll see if I can change my behavior and if my changed behavior results in more fun and fewer arguments. The author has a pithy style, laced with humor. I enjoyed the book very much.


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