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14 December 2011

A Book Review on my books blog - The Polish Officer by Alan Furst

(Copy of a post on Deborama's Book Reviews and Store) Well, it's not often I review and blog a book I have only read one chapter of. In fact, it's not often I review and blog books at all anymore. And maybe I am more jetlagged and culture-shocked than I thought I was, or maybe it really was that good. I just read the first chapter of The Polish Officer by Alan Furst, entitled The Pilawa Local. I was in tears. It made me wish I was Polish. And to all my Polish friends, my God, you come from a noble people, and I am heartily sorry if ever in my careless youth I retold or even laughed at a Polack joke, no matter how good-natured.

17 November 2011

How to save the economy

I predicted way back in 2008 that the recession soon to follow what was then just a "credit crisis" would last 15 years. Everybody said I was crazy. Now when I remind them, they just tell me to shut up. I was going to indulge my inner economics genius and post a blog about how and why this would occur, but of course, my inner trailer trash layabout kept me from doing it. And then I got laid off (American) or made redundant (British), and my life became so complex I didn't have the energy to even consider it. In the last couple of weeks, like a dam breaking but in reverse, my life has got a lot simpler. I now know (more or less) what I am going to do and when. So to the blog... But wait! I am not going to do the 15-year recession blog (now only 13 years of it left, of course.) The time for that has passed. The moving finger writes and having writ, moves on. Instead...
I didn't think Paul Krugman could ever become more of a hero to me than he already was. But he has. He has a cunning plan to save the US economy, and of course, it's based a bit more on history than on pure economics. If you have closely studied the 1929 stock market crash and ensuing 10-year depression, you will know that it was more due to an outbreak of war in Europe than to government or Fed policies that America began to be productive again around 1939-40. And you will know that there have been quite a few vague historical echoes in our current fiasco as well. So Krugman's idea is that the government should give up on economy-tittivating, which they are frankly no good at anyway, and fake an alien invasion.

18 October 2011

Marie Haff - a dear friend gone

Marie Haff, my friend since 1984 when I first moved to the Twin Cities along with her son, passed away last week. We had drifted apart geographically, especially when I moved to England, but then she started trading in antiques after her official retirement, and was making periodic trips to Lincolnshire to buy British antiques. So we were able to reconnect, and my husband and I even managed to meet up with her in Horncastle one day several years ago. I took this picture of her a little over a month ago at a family gathering in rural Minnesota. I am so sad that when I finally manage to make my move back to Minneapolis, there will be no more meetings or chats with Marie. She was a very special woman.

06 October 2011

Steve Jobs, 1955 - 2011

Back to obituary blogging, an increasing number of the subjects of which are nowadays my own generation. Jobs, yeah, he was younger than I am. But what a massive impact he has had on the way this century looks and feels. And the way we communicate and live our lives. A ten page obituary in the NYT, you have to admit, the boy done good! Most of the articles, both recent ones on his illnes and early retirement, and corporate ones showcasing his recent accomplishments, show a contemporary Jobs with his grey hair, his black turtleneck and his visionary gaze into the future he knows he won't be here to share. I have chosen an innocent shot with his proud creations of 1984. The boy is the father of the man.

14 September 2011

Minneapolis in retrospect

I arrived back in the UK on the 6th of September, very jet-lagged, and then promptly fell ill. Apologies for the big delay in updating my blog, but then most of my activity, as I have mentioned before, is documented on Facebook. But the archive-index is a lot better here.

I was not successful in finding a job in the Twin Cities, but then that would have been almost miraculous, so I wasn't really expecting to. I was not as successful as I would have liked in laying the groundwork for finding a job, which was disappointing, but largely due to two facts - 1) I did open a credit union account and (I think) buy a condo, but it took a lot more time and energy than I was expecting, and 2) the social scene also took up more time than I was planning for. One of the big surprises of the trip was that my old comrades in the DSA and some new friends who have joined while I was away were so incredibly welcoming and positive about my imminent return to their company. KB, now holding my old post of "only permanent female member" became an instant friend and we discovered loads of common interests, and the old stalwarts really touched me with their insistence that they had missed me terribly and were thrilled to have me back.
Other social events included meeting up with old friends Janet and her daughter Michael, and seeing Michael's three children who I had known only as online photos, seeing Krista and Ben's "new" baby Oskar, along with of course Krista and Ben, and coffee with Loren, with catching up and a little discussion about my possible career choices. I found to my sorrow and distress that Marie, whom I love very much, is suffering a very severe form of cancer, and was able to spend a few hours with her, and also with her son Doug, an ex-bf now married with adult son. My dear friend Lou, whose world is a chaotic whirl completely outwith her control, nevertheless ferried me around, introduced me to Savers, accompanied Dianne and me on a few condo visits and lent me a smartphone for the duration, all of which made my trip a lot easier. I visited Walker Church and caught up with friends too numerous to mention. And finally I must give thanks and more thanks to both Steve S. and KC B., who picked me up and dropped me off respectively at the airport and housed me in their homes for eight and seven days respectively.
No hotel reviews this trip, but I will do some foodie reviews and others on Qype, Yelp, Trip Advisor and Deborama's Kitchen. I also read a really good book or two, which I want to review on Deborama's Book Reviews and Store.

23 August 2011


I'm in Minneapolis, takin' care of some business. I was going to post a blog from Keflavik airport on my way here, but their darned wifi was not connected to the internet for some reason. That was my first public wifi blog some years ago and I thought it would be cool to do a repeat.

10 August 2011

Another little birdie passed away

Holly passed away last night, suddenly, as budgies do. Holly is the one on the left above; the one on the right, Pearl, passed some time ago. I think Holly was between 5 and 7 years old. He has some offspring out there somewhere, thanks to a little breeding holiday he took care of Cindy, our friend who used to live near here. Here is our current roll call of birds and other critters:

  • Toby, a white, totally deaf English bull terrier / Jack Russell cross, male, neutered, drama queen, thinks he's a cat
  • Max and Chewy, a pair of gorgeous Blue&Gold Macaws
  • Fred, a cockatoo
  • Leslie and Freddy, a pair of Amazons
  • Four! Hahn's macaws (we now have more Hahn's macaws than budgies) : Han, Vernie, Kermie and Harry (we think they are all males)
  • Three budgies : Bill-or-Ben, Little Bob (who is female, and she made babies with Holly) and Nelson (also female)
We are also temporarily boarding a pair of parrotlets, whom I have provisionally named Oscar and Lucinda. Of course, in truth, all these critters are Lewis's, although I do contribute a bit to their care. Quite a lot to Toby's, almost none at all to Fred, who would rip my hand off if I tried to handle him.
Lewis has been making some forays into the world of web design on behalf of the charity he is an officer of, Soft Landing.

The problem with social media

Well, I am on Google+, have been there a while. Definitely still on Facebook, where truthfully most of my online "activity" occurs. My problem with social media vs. old-fashioned blogging (funny that something becomes really old-fashioned in about 7 years) is one I have not heard expressed a lot. I really took to blogging, because it's sort of like being a self-published author and sort of like being an amateur journalist and sort of like keeping a diary. Social media, even if you post frequently and participate enthusiastically, is nothing like that.

Here's the thing. I just last week submitted my (£900!) application for naturalization as a British citizen. I had to recreate my travel journal for the last 5 years for the proof of residency section. Now obviously the passport is the first place to check. But as an American, I didn't always get a stamp on entering the US, and amongst my UK stamps and one Spain stamp and two Ireland stamps, they are not all that legible. So back when I was posting regularly here, I had a record of my travels, all nicely dated and indexed. But as I lazily moved over to Facebook, well it might be there somewhere, but it's almost impossible to look up and the only way to access it is to page backward literally forever (or however long FB keeps them, and frankly, my paging finger got tired.)
Here's another little gripe that may be almost unique to me: I am on this app for sharing blogs on FB, so this post will go there automatically (I think; of course, FB does keep changing stuff.) But to cross-post to Google+ is a major hassle, and you do wonder if it's worth it.
Blogger and mainly this blog is now an aide memoire for me, and also a memory lane trip, having recorded a lot of major events in my life, like Thanksgivings spent with family, death of most of our pets, birthdays I got to celebrate with Savannah, especially nice meals I cooked or books I read. But from about 2007 onwards, I just haven't been posting enough, and there are gaps in the record. Of course, it's a cop-out for me to blame FB, let alone Google. I just need to proper-blog more.

25 June 2011

Peter Falk Obituary

Yesterday, actor Peter Falk passed away. Columbo may not have been the greatest detective show of all time, but it's amazing how Falk's brilliant character study has influenced future TV and film detectives, especially, I think, in British crime drama. And of course, I will always remember and love Peter Falk especially for his role as "Grand-dad" in The Princess Bride, one of the best cult movies of all time. He also starred in several serious films, including Husbands and A Woman Under the Influence by his friend, director John Cassavetes. And he had a great reputation as an actor on the New York stage as well.

05 April 2011


This blog seems to be more and more about obituaries these days. I don't know if it's a sign of my age, or just the fact that it's so easy to post on Facebook that I only post here when I have something personal to say.

Manning Marable, 1950 - 2011

I was sad to learn of the relatively early passing of Manning Marable, a leading light of the DSA and a great historian, essayist and academic. Tragically, he died just three days before the ultimate culmination of his life's work, the publication of his eagerly awaited biography of Malcolm X. Although Marable had published several other non-academic works of history or political philosophy, the Malcolm X biography will probably establish his name with the public in a way these more obscure books could not. But to democratic socialists, students of African-American studies and the culturally aware, Marable was already in the highest ranks. He will be sorely missed.

27 March 2011

Geraldine Ferraro

Feminist icon Geraldine Ferraro, pictured in 2007, the first female vice-presidential candidate to run on a major political ticket, died Saturday 26 March from lung cancer.

25 March 2011

Remember the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire - 100 years today

On this day in 1911, 146 sweatshop workers died in a horrible fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory. Some of the workers were as young as 14, most were immigrants and many were young women and girls. Read about the fire. Don't mourn, organize.


... you don't see any posts for weeks, and then three come along at once!

Farewell to Liz

The New York Times has this great Elizabeth Taylor timeline.

And when I heard that she was interred already, I thought that might mean that she had stayed faithful to Judaism all these decades after conversion, and so it did. I am glad. And while we're on the subject, there is something kind of grisly about our modern western "Christian" predilection for funerals days and even weeks after the death. The Muslims and the Jews are much more seemly in this respect.

15 March 2011

RIP: Owsley "Bear" Stanley

Owsley Stanley, known to Deadheads as simply "Bear", has died following a traffic accident at the age of 76. He was also known as a pioneer of the psychedelic drug culture and the producer of the highest quality LSD ever made, as a one-time financial backer and early sound engineer to the Grateful Dead and as the first of the "tapers", a community of music activists / deadheads who carefully chronicled virtually every note of every Grateful Dead concert on a myriad of private audio tapes that were always swapped or given away free.

03 January 2011

Things that make me crazy

I was watching a comedy (show or film, don't remember, probably British rather than American) where a comedy bigoted character said about immigrants (paraphrase) : they are lazy, they don't want to work and they come over here and take our jobs. He said this all in one sentence, oblivious to the irony (or something) of what he was saying, and even when a more level-headed character pointed out that they were either lazy OR job-stealing, but obviously not both, he didn't get it. So this was comedy, right?

A few days later, today, I was watching a supposedly serious show about "benefit fraud" on a supposedly serious BBC channel. They featured a story about a woman who came from Ghana to the UK, illegally forged a new identity based on a stolen British passport with her photo substituted and a faked birth certificate and faked educational credentials. she then got a job with the NHS which she had for several years (I am guessing from the earnings cited below seven to ten years.) Most of the fraud involved here was pretty ham-fisted; her birth certificate said Lutterworth, which is in Leicestershire, but then said County of Surrey (hundreds of miles away.) (For Americans, this is sort of like saying Sacramento, Illinois, only even more impossible.) Also, some documents implied she had never left the UK after being born here, but her fake diplomas were from Ghana. And implausibly had a photo on them. The same photo as on her stolen passport. So, look here, I am not saying she is a hero, or not a fraudster, or not a criminal. I am not defending her. But this is how the BBC summed up the story. This woman was said to have earned £230,000 plus a £40,000 "bursary" (not sure what that is, but I am guessing some kind of grant for either work or education.) So they claimed her fraud had COST British taxpayers (which includes me) £270,000, or "over a quarter of a million". But wait a minute, this woman was also a British taxpayer. And she didn't COST the country £230K of that, since presumably they got at least nearly that much value from her in service to the NHS. Oh, but here's the real kicker, just as ignorant in its way as that "lazy and steal our jobs" line: the woman is now in prison for many years! So she is "paying back that debt to society." No, she is now costing the British taxpayers (including me) probably about 10 times as much per annum to support in a prison, doing nothing of worth, as she was paying in taxes while committing her crime. Is it just me, or is this FREAKING INSANE?

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