31 October 2011

Reading Monday - a very old book...

Happy Hallow's Eve, all you ghouls and bhoys! Like my fellow Burrowers, I love this time of the year. Something about exploring the dark side is infinitely appealing to me. I grew up on a steady diet of fairy tales, such so that it is an odd day that one of them doesn't spring to mind. Many of them have stories about what trouble or glory people get into by either offering or denying hospitality to strangers at their door. Woe betide the errant youth who mocks an elderly woman - she is sure to show up later and give him back his karmic due. The message is clear - the elderly, the lame, animals, and strangers are all dependent on the good will of those whose threshold they find themselves. If the householder is churlish, mean, or stingy, then the very fabric of society is imperilled.
For the Potter fans among you - Harry is an orphan - both without parents and without ability to make his own way when he is cast upon his fate - the wickedly mean Dursley family. Their counters - the Weasley family are open to any stranger, sometimes to their detriment but nonetheless, they believe in giving the benefit of the doubt to those who come to their doorway seeking refuge.
The book I'm reading right now is an old one of mine. I found it on the bookshelf for my step-dot, who professes an interest in anthropology. I knew it was there, I've moved it probably 26 times since I got it - it is Margaret Mead's Coming of Age in Samoa. The step-dot didn't pick it up fast enough and I was between good reads so I've been devouring it -as I once did when I was my step-dot's age - 16. As it focusses on adolescent girls it is endlessly fascinating to me. And for those of you looking for the thread to what I've been on about - here it is! Samoans believe in ghosts. They believe that there are scary things out there in the  archipelago paradise they call home. And they believe it is of upmost importance to be hospitable to strangers or visitors from other villages. I highly recommend that you read this book if you haven't, or re-read it if, like me, it has been many years since you dipped into it. You will find much of interest - the sexual customs of other cultures are riveting, both in their similarities and their differences - the day to day life of a culture, which I'm sure no longer exists (it was threatened in Mead's time and that was half a century ago) and the fragile nature of all of us on the archipelago we call Earth, makes it a relevant read.
Our libraries aren't open on Mondays, here in Nova Scotia, but tomorrow I'm going to search out the memoir Mead wrote -  Blackberry Winter. What are you all reading?
In the meantime I'm going to get some candy together and get ready to welcome strangers to my hearth.

28 October 2011

???? Friday: Halloween!!!


My favorite time of year.  The pumpkins with brilliant candles against a dark, unlit window.  Bright orange lights hanging from the rafters of houses and lacing apartment windows.  Leaves swirling in little, mini cyclones across the sidewalk.  Children in costumes varying from the most hideous monsters to the most adorable television characters.  Masks, makeup and wigs abound. Teenagers egging unsuspecting victims.  Rebels toilet papering trees and houses.  Music and candy is abundant throughout the neighborhood.  Children in sugar-induced hyperactivity, only to crash into sugar-depleted comas.  Parents exhausted from a night of worry over their trick or treaters.

I love Halloween!!!!

Drabble- a story told in exactly 100 words.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

27 October 2011

Delusional Co-workers.

You already know I'm delusional, but did you know that the people that I work with are delusional too? So delusional, in fact, that we have created another person. *nods*

This is Eric Spartan. To you he may be just a balloon with a blue wig, but to us he is Eric, zombie hunter extraordinaire. Okay, so the zombie part may be down to me *shifty*, but it was a friend who actually created Eric one night at work, while it was another friend who suggested zombies for one of my blogs and therefore gave me the idea to combine zombies and a blue-haired balloon into a fully fledged character.

He reads.

And he likes a drink or two.

Most important of all, he hunts zombies with one of my kitchen knives.

He's a good bloke, our Eric. And he fits in really well with me and my delusional friends.

26 October 2011


I don't know what it is about the bookstore where I work, but odd coincidences seem to pop up in the strangest places. Connections you could never have imagined when the event in question first occurred, but which hit you in the face years later with a resounding SPLAT! (The one before the one I'm about to discuss was discovering that one of my coworkers lived in an apartment literally across the street from mine back when we were in college, if you're wondering.)

This week's, though, came about as follows:
1) Bumble into work (exhausted as usual) and get told I have to train a newbie.
2) Teach newbie various bookstore survival skills (including the necessity of reading Not Always Right and making sure that the new books go in the right places so I don't have a hissy fit when I find them in the WRONG place again).
3) Make conversation with newbie (who is, thankfully, intelligent and able to carry on a conversation, 'cause this would all get really boring if she weren't).
4) Discover that newbie attended the school where a friend of mine is the librarian
5) And now the weird bit - she is the very student said friend brought up in a conversation over tea and knitting about writing Harry Potter fan-fiction as a way of breaking in and warming up that writing muscle.

I know, I know, that's a lot of steps, but considering how many of my fellow Burrowers really got going in the fan-fiction arena, it's totally relevant, right? ;-) So I guess my point today is two-fold (which means I get to make a list again, yay!):

(Okay, so it's not that list, but so what?)

1) Whatever the hell you need to write to get writing, WRITE IT. "Even" fan-fiction.
2) Weird coincidences really DO happen, so don't be afraid to write one (as long as it's not the crucial clue in your mystery, of course. Readers don't like that. ;-) ).

25 October 2011

In search of the 'Magic pill'

When a friend posted the Nike “Girl Effect” video on Facebook, one of his friends commented – “I challenge you to prove to me that staying in school = job, … and that by being educated she isn't also ostracized from the social network that can help her survive if she isn't excessively exploited…….Yes, I know "stop prostitution, build schools" is more compelling, but I'm unconvinced …[education]….is a solution.

Had it been one of my own friends, I would probably have taken her down in a tackle and punched her on the nose a couple of times, but this was a friend of a friend, and I didn’t want to engage in a fight on someone else’s wall. And I am glad I stopped to take a breath before reacting, because when I thought about it, I realized she was right. 
As a proponent of educating girls and women, the last thing I want is for someone to question the effectiveness of education in solving a social problem that has existed for generations, but when you really think about it, the lady was right.

Girls’ Education is NOT a magic pill that you can force down the throat of an unwilling society, and expect it to cure centuries of oppression and neglect. Education alone does not make any difference to the status of women in either the household or the community. Education does not necessarily lead to financial independence, and financial independence does not imply social justice.

Though it pains me to say so, educating girls and women is not ‘The Solution’.

Let us for a moment forget the female foetuses that are killed in the womb, the female babies that are abandoned soon after birth, and the girls that are allowed to die due to malnutrition and neglect. Let us think only of the girls who are lucky enough to be allowed to reach their fifth birthdays.

Let us think about Arthi who is grudgingly allowed to go to the local government school, provided she milks the goats first thing in the morning, and fetches water from a well 5 miles away after she gets back home from school. While her male classmates are playing cricket, she’s busy helping her mother cook dinner, and long after everyone retires for the night, she tries to finish her homework in the light of a flickering lamp. Arthi still manages to keep up with her studies, but the day her mother falls ill after delivering a male child, she is expected to drop out of school and mind her baby brother. She is seven, but her life is all but over. No more dreaming of becoming a doctor and serving humanity.

She knows that she will be kept at home to mind a succession of younger siblings, and be married off to a much older man soon after she attains puberty.
She might remember her dreams, and try to ensure her daughters get an education, but dreams are not always something you can afford when you are trying desperately to keep a family together on a meagre income.

Building a school would not have made any difference to Arthi’s life, because her family decided they were better off using her as a full-time unpaid help.

Let us think about Urmila who managed to stay in school long enough to graduate. The nearest college is in a city 100 miles away, and even if they could afford it, her parents would not allow her to leave home for fear of the stigma that would attach itself to a girl who lived “alone in an alien city”. Her high school graduation certificate is of no use in helping her get a job in her village, and she is eventually left with no choice but to allow her family to marry her off to the first man who will have her.
Her husband grudges her the independence of thought that an education has given her, and works hard to stamp out her spirit. To survive, she leans to curb her tongue and accede to whatever is demanded of her. She does her best to encourage other girls to study and dream big, and when the time comes, she will move to the city herself so her daughter can go to college.
But a high school education did not leave Urmila any better off than she would have been if she had dropped out of school after primary school.

Let us think about Sukriti who studied and became a teacher in the local village school. She earns more than any of her brothers, but is expected to hand over her entire earnings to her father. Few men are willing to even consider marrying her, and her father deters the few that are because he doesn’t want to give up on a reliable source of money. She has no say in any of the decisions that the family makes, she is excluded from social activities because of her unmarried status, and though she loves teaching young girls, she wonders if this is the life she expected when she fought society to be allowed to realize her dreams.
Sukriti is educated and has a good job, but financial earnings have not translated into social or economic independence for her.

Building schools has not made too much of a difference to Arthi, Urmila or Sukriti. Clearly education is NOT a magic pill. It is not a magic-pill, because the problem is not a simple one. The status of women is linked to poverty and to the rural-urban divide. It is the product of generations of oppression in the household, and centuries of being denied their rightful place in society.
When the problem is as deep rooted in tradition and poverty as the condition of women in some parts of the world, the solution cannot be a simple one. Society needs to accept women as useful citizens and not merely as breeding machines; families need to move from a patriarchal mode to a more equitable one; communities need to train themselves to hear the voice of women. None of that can happen in a day, a month, a decade or even a generation.

Change has to be gradual. Change has to start somewhere. And Education is as good a place to start as any other. Girls who go to school learn to look beyond the constraints a patriarchal society has placed on them. They look at a future beyond the traditional "female" occupations which ultimately boil down to pleasing men in some way, and start thinking for themselves.

And that is definitely the first step towards a change which may well take more than one generation to manifest itself in.

Education of girls and women is not a magic pill, but it is the logical place to start. And we owe it to Her to start.


All photographs taken by the writer, and not to be used without prior written permission.

24 October 2011

A History of (My) Reading

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good mind, must be in want of a good book to read. 

I try to read, I really do. Or at least I really try to think I try to read. I go to the library, for instance, and I walk down the aisles there, smelling the books, thinking that the sheer amount of pages and sentences and paragraphs in that place is pure heaven. I even borrow some books, occasionally. Renew them repeatedly, hoping that I’ll get around to open them. Return them, unread, slightly past the final due date.

But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and this book is the sun!

I used to be an avid reader. I learned to read at an early age, and from then on I devoured books like other kids devoured – whatever they devoured. Computer games? Stuff like that. I used to turn the light back on after my parents went to bed, and read into the wee hours. I used to fall asleep mid-book, dreaming up new storylines that frequently were better than the ones I found on the pages. My family used to make jokes that I might as well read the phone book, as it seemed not to matter to me what it was I read. They don’t print the phone book anymore, which is good for the environment, but bad for friendly jokes to taunt children who read a lot.

One Book to rule them all, One Book to find them, One Book to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

University was a major turning point. The sheer amount of non-fiction I was supposed to read put a strain of the amount of fiction I managed to read. Besides, the attraction of relaxing with a good book after having read course material all day was limited. Instead I did… What did I do? I didn’t have a TV. I didn’t have internet for the first year. I must have spent time with actual flesh-and-blood friends, or some other such weird activity. Plus I think I visited my parents a lot. I even kept my job – in the local bookshop – in my hometown that entire year. I remember that my recommendations got outdated, though. I never read anything new, just kept using the same old favourites over and over. Regular customers probably re-read a lot of books that year.

It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him; and that, not because he's handsome, Nelly, but because I have to read this book.

Genre-wise there was also a shift. I almost became a book snob. I had gone from children’s books to young adult to whatever adult books I could get my hands on, with a small lapse back into children’s and YA once I was old enough to actually read the adult books. But then I started thinking about quality. Quality as defined by others. I had a Nobel Literature Prize phase. It was short. Then I had a Booker Prize phase. It lasted a little longer. I read classics; new, inventive works; and bestsellers only if they were given some award or other.

All animals are equal. But some animals read more books than others.

It didn’t last. My dry spell for fiction during that first year of university was also a setback for my snobbishness. I needed lighter reads, less complexity, to put me back on track. These days I don’t consider the genre so much. If I like the look and feel of the book, if the back cover description is appealing to me, if the book has an “x-factor” that makes me want to read it, I will. Or rather, I will plan to. I buy it, or borrow it from the library. Put it in the TBR-pile, physically or on Goodreads. And there it stays, along with hundreds of other books I once planned to read. I never lose faith, though, in my future ability to catch up with every book I once wanted to read. Just you wait and see!

Why is a raven like a reading-desk? 

All quotes in this post are from the first drafts of the famous books they were later to become. True story. 

21 October 2011


Am I meant to be blogging today? (Hart here) Forgive me. I am disorganized in the best of times, and so while I KNEW I had to blog as of Wednesday, yesterday I had some excitement and it went right out of my head. Want to see?

See? Wouldn't YOU have gotten distracted? Wait... you don't know about Alyse...

You see... I'M ALYSE! My Cozy Mystery series with Berkley Prime Crime is under the pen name Alyse Carlson-- Alyse was one grandma, Carlson the other... They wanted a pen name, and because my other stuff is darker, it seemed smart from a branding perspective, too.

Well YESTERDAY, I got my first ever 'headed to the shelf' book cover, and THAT is why I forgot about blogging. So I thought I would give you a little odd trivia and a few funnies.

Trivia #1: I ALWAYS put on sock shoe sock shoe (erm... when I am forced to put on ANYTHING, I mean)--You see, I am a little like the princess and the pea... if there is ANYTHING in my shoe besides my foot and my sock, I am MISERABLE (it is the same philosophy that caused me to give up pajamas, actually—wrinkles, lumps, things going different directions? It all makes me NUTS. And if I put my socked foot back on the ground, I might just pick up one of those passengers that makes me nuts—and somehow the sock STICKS to stuff more than the foot, so it is more likely to make the transfer.

I am completely convinced this one has a true story behind it. Can you imagine? I mean even if it was your wine-drinking girl friends, and not the tea-drinking little old ladies... though probably it would just be a tears of laughter, never-let-you-live-it-down if it was those wine drinkers.

Trivia #2: I may be overweight, but my cholesterol level ROCKS. I just got it back this week from my annual check up (for which I am still avoiding the mammogram) and it is 1.8. A number under 2 means my GOOD cholesterol is HIGHER than my bad—an unusual state of things as I understand it. There are only 3 ways you can increase that good cholesterol... exercise regularly, eat the less normal kind of fiber (the kind found in oatmeal... I can't keep straight soluble versus insoluble, but oatmeal is one of the few sources of one of those) and drink red wine... I do all three of those nearly every day.

This totally cracked me up--Planking is a funny little amusement... not that I do it, but it isn't unlike some things I've done to get a laugh, but this is just hysterical...

Drat! And I've run out of time! HA! So I suppose I will post and call it good... or maybe I will add little surprises later... the gift that keeps on giving...

20 October 2011

Delusional Thursday: An Alien Abduction

For some reason, I thought Thursday fell on Friday. An easy mistake to make, right?

So, running a bit late, I'm going to post a raw transcript of my most recent alien abduction experience. I'd originally planned to edit this and write it up as a more interesting story, but at least this way you can read all of the sordid details uncensored.

SUBJECT 147: Oohh... my head. [moaning, something unintelligible] Are you going to hurt me?

CAPTAIN MAL: Z`ww apa^a kho ypsin o'h''ll nd configure the translator. Please restate.

SUBJECT 147: Are you going to hurt me?

CAPTAIN MAL: Not intentionally.

SUBJECT 147: Where am I?

CAPTAIN MAL: [muffled hum in the background] One moment. [clicking noise] What do you think?

SUBJECT 147: I think you're, um, an alien.

CAPTAIN MAL: Not, perhaps, a demon?

SUBJECT 147: Uh, no. What-- why would I think that?

CAPTAIN MAL: [scratching noise] Excellent. We may assume your planet has at least nominal technology. Tell me about your species.

SUBJECT 147: You don't... am I the first one you abducted?

CAPTAIN MAL: I'm asking the questions, here. Please make no assumptions and answer to the best of your ability.

SUBJECT 147: Um, okay. We're, uh... a peaceful people.

CAPTAIN MAL: Bullshit.

SUBJECT 147: What?

CAPTAIN MAL: A truly peaceful species, lacking the concept of war, would not think to say such a thing.

SUBJECT 147: Um, we're mostly-- we try to be peaceful.

CAPTAIN MAL: Really? My species is quite warlike. And yet, with your allegedly peaceful nature freeing up more resources for development, we've surpassed you to the extent that I am the abductor and you are the abductee. How do you explain that?

SUBJECT 147: I don't-- um, maybe you're older. You know, your sun and stuff, and your planet formed before ours did.

CAPTAIN MAL: Are you seriously blaming your sun for your developmental ineptitude?

SUBJECT 147: [mumbling]

CAPTAIN MAL: Tell me, if we were to invade, where on your planet would be most vulnerable to a preemptive orbital bombing strike?

SUBJECT 147: Um... please don't---

CAPTAIN MAL: Hah! I'm joking. Location is irrelevant, as a mere fraction of our arsenal could bomb your entire planet into a state of uninhabitability.

SUBJECT 147: My God, that's sick!

CAPTAIN MAL: Yes. Moving on, then, let's try some word association. I'm going to say a word, and then I want you to say the first word that comes to mind, whatever it is, without hesitation. Understand?

SUBJECT 147: Um, yes.

SUBJECT 147: Feet.

SUBJECT 147: Love.

CAPTAIN MAL: Copulation--
SUBJECT 147: Um, sex.

SUBJECT 147: Feet.

CAPTAIN MAL: Fornication--
SUBJECT 147: Sex.

SUBJECT 147: Feet.

CAPTAIN MAL: Intercourse--
SUBJECT 147: Um, copulation.

CAPTAIN MAL: [scratching noise] You've got quite the fetish, my friend.

SUBJECT 147: I don't-- no, I don't.

CAPTAIN MAL: Let's proceed with the physical examination. [buzzing noise, dripping liquid]

SUBJECT 147: [long pause] Please don't probe my anus.

CAPTAIN MAL: Oh fer-- I did that one time! I mistook it for the nourishment entrance.

SUBJECT 147: I'm not hungry!

CAPTAIN MAL: Try to relax. I'm going to move into the light, now. Don't be alarmed by my appearance.

SUBJECT 147: [gulps] You're so... hairless. Except the top of your, um, head.

CAPTAIN MAL: We evolved away from excessive hair because it harbored parasites. But if you think about it, we're actually quite similar.

SUBJECT 147: What's that triangle thingy above your mouth?

CAPTAIN MAL: An external olfactory organ. Now, be quiet and hold still.

SUBJECT 147: [whimpers] Please...

CAPTAIN MAL: Chill out. I'm already finished. [scratching noise] What is your given name among your kind?

SUBJECT 147: Miklazg. Miklazg Gwivver.

CAPTAIN MAL: Well, Miklazg-miklazg-gwivver, my name is "Jason". Can you pronounce that?

SUBJECT 147: [garbled]

CAPTAIN MAL: Our session is nearly finished. Now I will allow you to ask one question of me.

SUBJECT 147: Oh, wow. Um, let me think. [pause] How many-- no, wait. [long pause] How can we make contact with an intelligent species? Beyond our own planet?

CAPTAIN MAL: Interesting. [scratching noise, muffled beep]

SUBJECT 147: Well? How can we do it?

CAPTAIN MAL: I said nothing about providing an answer. Please lay back while I anaesthetize you for the return journey.

SUBJECT 147: Are you going to, um, erase my memories?

CAPTAIN MAL: Ah, that! No, we have a simple, new technique that ensures our security and anonymity whilst addressing all of our concerns about your mental well-being.

SUBJECT 147: What's that? The techinque?

CAPTAIN MAL: We do nothing. No one of intelligence will believe you.

SUBJECT 147: Oh. Right. And my, um, mental well-being...?

CAPTAIN MAL: --does not concern us at all.

I enjoyed my visit with Miklazg-miklazg-gwivver, but I had to let the poor bastard go before completing the full routine. Sometimes they're just too tense about the anal probe. But I'll get the next one.


19 October 2011

Writing Wednesday Weeding Whimsy

Do you weed? I hate weeding. But I'm trying to challenge myself on that mind-set. I've challenged myself on lots and lots of mind-sets over the past few years. I now know that I can read and follow directions (I knit lace!! I bake complicated tortes!!); I have discipline (I sit everyday! I write most days!), I don't lose things - I never did but my family thought I did and so I thought I did.
This weeding thing is related to another mind-set I've had - that I like the beginnings of things but rarely finish them. That is absolutely not true of me any more. I finished the Dublin Marathon 9 years ago - hmmm...the date was the 27th I think of this month. I have finished three novels. Beginnings, middles, and ends. I have had successful gardens, though not this year, and I've finished lots and lots of other things too. I've got an old dog! I never thought that would happen but it has. I've lived in a house longer than I thought possible, and longer than I've lived anywhere. My guy and I have been together, as of this year, longer than any other relationship with a guy-type that I've had.

Back to weeding. I hate weeding in my garden and I hate weeding in my writing. Or I did. Now I'm changing, as I said. (am I stressing that too much do you think? does it mean I doth protest too vociferously? don't you love that word?) Even more than weeding, I have challenges with thinning - as in thinning out this row of carrots. A couple of years ago I tricked my gardening self by buying seed tapes of carrots - voila! Pre-thinned. It worked a treat. But I can't do that with my writing. I can't imagine what the equivalent of seed tapes for writing would be. I suppose an editor that looked at your messy manuscript every day and just weeded out all the little shoots that weren't going to go anywhere, or were but had to be cut back because EVERY idea can't be in one book.
That is the problem, right there! Why can't every idea be in the book? Well, because it wouldn't be a story, it would be an encyclopaedia or a rainy day book or a pillow book or a terrible Roman a clef but it wouldn't be a real novel.
And it goes to the same part of my heart that asks me - why can't I go down every road? Why can't I have every possible job that I want? Why can't I live everywhere but still have best friends, old dogs, long-term relationships and so forth?
I'm an experience slut. Yep. I am. And in some essential way that is why I like writing. I can pretend that I'm every character with zillions of different jobs and husbands and dogs and boobs and problems and babies and, well, experiences.
Why not?
Back to weeding - I used to not be a good weeder - see - that right there is bull-pucky. Of course, I was a good enough weeder - there isn't anything hard about it. It's like my first husband used to say "oh honey, you make the best popcorn!" Can you see anything wrong with that statement? Of course you can but it sucked me in for awhile. So - I could weed - I just didn't like it. I would say that I couldn't tell the weeds from the perennials. Why shouldn't weeds live? What makes them less lovely than the flowers? But now, I'm liking it. I'm liking thinning and weeding and supplementing the earth with lovely compost and seeing the crop through to harvest.
Every day that I revise (and that is most days of the week including holidays) I'm enjoying the discipline. The more I weed and thin, the more I want to do. I'll have a bloody poem soon!
So dear readers, if you have some mind-set that you believe about yourself (I'm no good at plots and structure - I hate dialogue - themes evade me) dig into those weedy mental roots and get them outta there!

Here is a glorious wild weed photo for you all.

18 October 2011

Topical Tuesday: Light up the Darkness

Light up the Darkness

When I was a little girl, the world seemed bright with endless possibilities. I didn't comprehend the magnitude of living in the 1980's South Bronx .  Then during my teen years, the storm clouds rolled in, the days turned to gray and the nights became tumultuous.  From my father's drug abuse to my mother's mental illness, the uncertainty of my future was unbearable.  Living in poverty did not help much either.  However, it allowed me to keep in perspective what I value most: love from family, friends, a role model who cared and most of all, learning to love myself unconditionally.   

Drabble- a story told in exactly 100 words.
The image above can be found at Wikimedia Commons.

17 October 2011

Over To You

So it's reading Monday, and I have a confession to make. I haven't had time to read anything more than a few paragraphs at a time lately, never mind a whole book, and I'm suffering withdrawals. I'm planning on making some 'Me Time' this week, and have only one book lined up to read. A friend suggested the Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters, but my local library is pants and only had one of the books in stock - and book eight at that. I had a quick glance at the first chapter, and it looks like it's going to be easy reading. I'm a fast reader and I reckon I can get it finished in one sitting. I have a feeling I'll enjoy it (I trust my friend's judgement), and I also have a feeling that I'll be bitten by the Reading Bug when I've read it.

The Reading Bug strikes several times a year, and when I get bitten, I devour anything and everything in sight. My problem is, I have read all the books in my house at least three times, so I need something new. I want that buzz that you can only get when reading a book for the very first time. Seeing as my local library doesn't have a lot of choice, and I have to wait for my order of Cadfael books to arrive (they may have almost nothing in stock, but they will order stuff if you ask them nicely), I could do with some suggestions.

This is where you guys come in. Rather than me give you some recommendations, how about you give me some instead? Just one book. Your favourite book, the book that made you think, the book that got you wanting to write your own.

One book. No more, no less. What's YOUR recommendation?

Image from amazon.com.

14 October 2011

Say what?

There's not really a PC way to say this, so I might as well lay it out straight - folks, I am WEIRD. A total oddball, non-conformist, nutjob-type person. And I'm fine with that. Apparently, some people find great amusement in the exceedingly bizarre things I say from time to time, despite the fact that they usually have a perfectly logical explanation. Like this gem that a coworker walked into without hearing the preceding conversation:

"And then some goat-man blew $%^&*^% GLITTER on me!"

(Erm, no. Not this goatman. I wish...)

Now, this sentence has a totally reasonable backstory - but it would be absolutely NO FUN at all if I just told you what happened. So I was thinking, hey, you know what, it has really been forever since we've had a drabble challenge around here. And seeing as 1) it's Friday and therefore you have the whole weekend and 2) I have no idea whatsoever what to write about today anyway, your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to construct a drabble around the above bit of wackiness. You can quote it outright, you can simply use it as a starting point, you can end with it, whatever, as long as it's 100 words long (no more, no fewer!), and posted in the comments. I'll pop on here sometime Sunday to declare a winner (provided someone takes me up on it).

What are you waiting for?

Image from... erm... I forget, but whatever, it's James McAvoy, okay?

13 October 2011

Delusional, what?

When you look at the lady in this picture what do you think she is?

Writer; Academician; Professor; you guess. You'd be right.

Thirty-five year old Dr. Elizabeth Hawker is a polar oceanographer who has worked with the British Antarctic Survey, and was the consultant author of the Oxford University course-book which accompanied the BBC's Frozen Planet series.

So it is one of those rare cases of the photograph describing the person.

Not really! While she is all of that, Lizzy Hawker's claim to fame is something quite different. Quite simply put, Lizzy Hawker is Britain's Top Endurance Athlete.

Three weeks ago, she set out into the unknown in her first 24-hour race, and proceeded to cover a world record distance of 247km, over 3 kms ahead of her closest (male) competitor.

And now, she is off to the Kanchenjung Base Camp, from where she will set off on a run of move than 1,600 kms on the Great Himalayan Trail- a journey, which she expects to be spiritual more than anything else.

So, apart from the fact that a photograph didn't tell the whole story, what's so delusional about it? Nothing really, except the fact that forget the general populace, even among long distance runners, she is almost totally unknown. While the Paula Radcliffes continue to gather media attention, she cannot even lay claim to being forgotten- you first need to be known, before you can be forgotten, and she is totally unknown.

Her's is not the only case of mis-proportionate media attention. When Steve Jobs passed away, bankers, writers, students and consultants all changed their face book profile picture to the white apple on a black background. Newspapers are still full of random people paying tribute to him, and making him out to be some kind of a demi-god.

And when Dennis Ritchie passes away, it is almost a case of "Dennis Who?". His work revolutionalized program coding as we know it, and yet, few are even aware of his passing. Not for him status update tributes like, "Growing up, I hated apples, but you taught me to love Apple. RIP Steve".

There is so much information floating around these days. Why then do we still know so little about things that should really matter? Delusional anyone?

12 October 2011

Write Like Picasso, Wrong Like Picasso

You all know Picasso, right? Stupid question. Assuming that every person in the world has heard of at least five painters (which isn’t necessarily the case, I know),Picasso is probably going to be one of them. The reason he is so famous is because of his inventiveness within his genre. Take one quick look at anyone of his famous paintings, and you immediately know who the painter is. The geometric shapes, the misplaced human limbs, the almost childlike absurdity to it all.

Here’s something that is perhaps more surprising than any of the information offered in the paragraph above: I’m not all that fond of Picasso’s famous paintings. I used to really dislike them, actually. Mostly because they were not “pretty”. And because they looked like something I could make myself.

This is where I was wrong.

When I was eighteen I took an extra year of French in school – not because I loved learning the language, per se, but because I really didn’t want to take the alternative course (which was “Law”, and I hated the teacher). Also, I imagined that I would go to Paris and live there someday (which in theory still might happen,but certainly not because I speak the language, because I don’t, anymore).

As a result of the extra year of French in high school, though, I had the chance to visit Paris that spring. We were four students, free of any commitments, sent thereto learn how to speak French (which we did, sort of, at least temporarily). We met some great people, saw some great sights, and my desire for living in Paris didn’t diminish. One of the things we did was to visit the Picasso museum. I wasn’t overly thrilled, but I tagged along.

I am glad I did.

The visit to that museum taught me something about rules, and how to break them.

How simple, and yet efficient - with a few lines in black ink, Picasso portrayed an action scene

Let there be no doubt, Picasso was a great artist. The tour around that museum showed the progress of Picasso as an artist, and I was forced to rethink my view of him. From simple sketches as life-like as anything you can capture with your iPhone, through blue and rose periods, to cubism and the experimental stuff we all know. Picasso knew all the rules, and because he did, he could break them. That is what makes him special. I couldn’t have done that. I couldn’t have painted even the really simple works of his. They too demand skill.

The same thing goes for writing. There will always be a set of “rules” you’re supposed to know about before you can allow yourself to not use them. Certain no-no’s when you write can be allowed if you are aware of why you’re breaking them, and the purpose it serves. Like broken sentences. If you have an abundance of them, it is just annoying. But if you have one here and one there, it might actually work. Some people are even so aware of the rules that they are allowed to break them ALL the time. For instance, José Saramago. Or Irvine Welsh. They are so familiar with the rules that it practically looks as though they aren’t aware there are rules at all! Not unlike Picasso.

11 October 2011

Do I Smell Revolution?

WE. ARE. THE. 99%!

You know, I don't always know much about what's going on. I tend to move in and out of politics, mostly because my feelings are so strong, that sometimes I just can't face reality. But there is something that is giving me hope... evidence that some of the current activities in the US are working...

The real agenda, straight from congress...
Here is an article about the response of some congress people in the US. What I like is the evidence they are scared. They are claiming the protesters might bring about a change in policy. I say bring it on. A policy change is exactly what's needed.

Or there is this by Paul Krugman at the New York Times (who, in his defense, has been saying the right stuff the whole time), but he sums up this response well.

A valid question, eh?
The dialog has really changed. I think some people glommed onto the Tea Party because they were frustrated, but the tea party is actually a 'small government, no-reality' movement—they don't understand that real people are hurting and to STOP hurting, they need jobs, and the only way to create jobs is to get money into the hands of the people who SPEND their money—the poor and middle class—the wealthy are already spending what they would spend... their money is largely saved. Yes, much is invested, but in the decade since they got their tax cuts, these investments have NOT created jobs. Jobs come when people demand more goods and services... and won't millions of people with more money demand more goods and services than dozens with more that already don't spend what they have?

Hello, common sense.

Real people, actual opinions... (this from 'Occupy New Brunswick')
I love how this process is snow-balling. When the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement first started, they were ignored by most of the press—resounding silence and a refusal by 'forces of power' to acknowledge that anything was happening... but then that refusal to discuss them got press in itself...

The dialog has changed. The facebook stream has changed... People who couldn't agree on raising taxes on the rich, CAN agree on ineffective bailouts, and the rights of the masses to protest... The uniting We Are The 99% is too true... The people with aspirations of being in the top 5-10%, worried about their future taxes when they 'make it' still believe that once you are top 1%, you maybe shouldn't get a tax cut for it...

I love the faces of the new, rational voice making their claims. I love the old quotes being dusted off and shared. Here are a couple of those quotes I've loved:

"You're not to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it." ~MalcolmX (1925-1965)

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”~John F. Kennedy (1917-1963)

I guess to me, though, the BIG thing is the tone has changed. It doesn't feel NEARLY so much like the people commenting are divided exactly in half. It is far more like a few embarrassed defenders of bad behavior are trying to act like 'it's nothing'. 'It's disorganized' 'It will go nowhere.' But Congressman King up there PROVES they are actually afraid... This ISN'T nothing... this is AT LAST Democracy. People who GET IT finally outnumber robots who are chanting what they're told against their own self-interest. FINALLY, reason is getting through.

It's the first time in a long time I've felt hopeful that there are enough intelligent people in the US electorate to make a difference.

My buddy Hannah also blogged about this today, but gives far more specifics as to what Occupy Wallstreet does and doesn't want. it's worth a read (she always is).

10 October 2011

Alternative Uses for Ordinary Things

If necessity is invention's mother, then screwing around with stuff is its father.

For example, when the supply of rubber was a concern during World War II, B.F. Goodrich developed a synthetic. That's mom at work. Then folks like Ruth Fallgatter and Peter Hodgson played around with failed versions of the synthetic and came up with Silly Putty. That's dad.

This process, in fact, predates mankind by millions of years. Birds invented wings because they needed to fly through the air, but that didn't stop some prehistoric avian from screwing around with them in the water and inventing penguins.

So, for your infotainmnet, here are a few more ideas:

Standard Use:
shedding on the furniture and keeping your ego in check
Alternative Use:
Ever have trouble killing a fly? You've got that fantastic flyswatter and a good reach, but once the fly passes in front of a dark background, it turns invisible. Meanwhile, your cat has no trouble seeing the bug, but judging from his/her frustrated little mews, the cat can't reach it.

The obvious solution is to place the flyswatter in your good hand and mount the cat on the opposite shoulder. Then simply follow his/her eyes and turn yourselves into a super-efficient, two-headed fly killing machine.

Not all cats enjoy riding on shoulders, of course. But if you do have such a feline, I'm totally serious about this working. Max and I killed dozens using this technique.

Bamboo Shoots
Standard Use:
placed underneath a subject's fingernails during an interview to stimulate conversation
Alternative Use:
If it's information you crave, and you don't have the stomach for such heavy-handed interrogation techniques, try using the bamboo to hire a spy ring of panda bears. Nobody suspects a panda of being a spy.

On the down side, though, you will need to teach the pandas how to talk.

Standard Use:
spying on neighbors
Alternative Use:
Go outside at night and find the brightest thing that looks like a star. Point the binoculars at it and hold them very steady (prop the binoculars on a tree branch or your deck railing, if necessary).

That "star" is actually Jupiter, and with ordinary binoculars you can see it as a disc. Even cooler, you should be able to spot 2-4 very tiny and very sharp points of light hovering around it-- those are the Galilean Moons (Io, Ganymede, Callisto, Europa).

Standard Use:
balancing equations for beta decay
Alternative Use:
Actually, while we're on the topic, let's talk about the primary function. Roughly speaking, beta decay happens when a neutron decays into a proton and an electron. But that process doesn't quite conserve momentum, angular momentum, and energy. The difference is so small that most people wouldn't really care, but it annoys the Cosmic Accountant, so some kind of neutrino (or antineutrino) is thrown in to make change. Simply put, neutrinos are the pennies of elementary particles.

So my first suggestion: Use neutrinos to replace actual pennies. Let's set some kind of exchange rate-- it can be a million neutrinos to a penny, or a billion trillion neutrinos to a penny, or whatever. Seriously, there are plenty of neutrinos. Then whenever a transaction requires something smaller than a nickel, we can inform the person who doesn't get his pennies that he's been credited with the appropriate number of neutrinos, and said neutrinos are passing through his body at this very instant and he's free to collect them if he likes.

My second suggestion is inspired by the recent anomolous measurements from CERN suggesting that neutrinos can travel faster than light. The most practical application is what I call "neutrino messaging." Sending a message faster than light violates causality, so this would be the ideal tool if a friend is complaining that you failed to send them a text. If you have neutrino messaging, you can rightly claim that they are at fault because they need to receive the message before you can send it. Q.E.D.

Penguin Wings
Standard Use:
Alternative Use:
asserting dominance


07 October 2011

Who Am I - where did I come from?

In the morning I sit on my cushion and meditate. For months and months I have been contemplating the emptiness of such notions as 'self'. It is a very tricky thing to contemplate such a thing, and then to write about my supposed, unreal and empty self on this blog -well...dangerous.
I thought I might as well write about where I came from. Often, in this neck of the woods, that is how people relate to you - who's your mother? where'd ya spring from? It is hard, in small town Nova Scotia, to have an identity if you weren't born here, or really if your folks and your folks' folks weren't born here too. I came to Nova Scotia when I was in my mid-twenties. I moved here from Ottawa, Ontario - our nation's capital. Before Ottawa (I lived there two different times in my life), I lived in Oakville, Ontario, before that, Colorado Springs, before that Ottawa, Osgoode (both Ontario), Edmonton, Alberta, Rivers, Manitoba, and Medicine Hat, Alberta, where I was born. My dad was in the air force, so we lived a vagabond life. We used to go to Lake Metigoshe most summers, at our cottage 'Ups & Downs'. It was in southern Manitoba - both my parents were from small towns in Manitoba, so we had folks there. My Aunt Grace and Uncle Cliff's farm was a big deal for us kids too. We knew its every nook and cranny (every crook and nanny!).
Really, if you asked me to say what place felt most like home to me - where my mind wanders when I think of home - it would be our big old station-wagon, a box on the roof with camping supplies or moving stuff, the back (wagon part) covered in an old satin comforter - blue on one side and gold on the other - covered in a flower sprigged cotton cover. There would be a couple of dolls and a few matchbox cars, when I was younger, and as we grew older (my sis, bro and I) these morphed into comic books. In the front seat there would be a plaid cooler bag, full of sandwiches and cookies. Beside it would be a plaid thermos with coffee. My dad would usually drive and he would definitely be smoking, as would my mum. She'd have the maps out, telling him which route to take. We'd be piled into that car before we were awake in the morning - my dad standing by the station-wagon, going over every detail. It hadn't been that long since he'd made sure his bomber crew on the Lancaster he flew in the war, had its contents checked off - so he was very serious about  
checking that list. We'd sleep in the back for the first couple of hours, until the sun woke us up - all sticky in our pj's and hungry. My mum would make sure we found a good restaurant for breakfast - the only meal we'd eat in restaurants. At lunch, we'd have the sandwiches she'd prepared the night before, and at night, we'd either be camping or staying in cabins with tiny little kitchens. We'd drive for ever - sometimes five hundred miles in a day. And this was when the speed limit was much lower.
I loved that time - the songs we'd sing, the craziness we kids would get up to, reading love comics with my feet pressed against the warm glass of the back window.
That's where I sprung from.

06 October 2011

Delusional Thursday: Progress

So today's post is somewhat late.  I sincerely apologize.  However, please know that I am not goofing around.  I have made progress!  Progress in what you ask.  Well, I'll tell you.

First, I have made progress in my profession as an educator.  I am a unit coordinator at a high school in Manhattan.  I am teaching Geometry, Chemistry and Resource (for my students with learning disabilities). Recently, I was offered a position as a facilitator for the school's monthly professional development meetings.  What does this mean?  I get to teach my fellow pedagogues strategies on differentiated instruction and how to support the needs of ALL students.  Awesome, right!

Furthermore, I have been house-hunting for some time.  I've looked at many different homes, both at open houses and on the internet, and have decided that I want a three bedroom/ two bath condominium on Staten Island.  The interest rates on thirty year mortgages has just fallen and it seems like now- is the perfect time to buy!

I have also made progress in my writing.  It's been a long time since I've written anything substantial.  Just last week, I made myself sit down at the computer, with the door to my bedroom closed and I actually wrote about two thousand words. I was flabbergasted!  All it takes is just sitting down and doing it!  Who knew?

My children at home have also made progress.  My son, Justin, is seventeen years old and a senior in high school.  Yes, he actually attends the high school which I teach.  Long story.  But, he is coming along nicely with his advanced placement classes and looking at colleges.  My daughter, Ayanna, is also in high school (different one), is passing all of her classes and  involved in various extracurricular activities.  My little one, Zionne, is now third grade and this is a major year for her with all the exams she must take.  It's a shame that this is what education has come to- teaching to the standardized exams.  I'll save that topic for my "Topical Tuesday" post.

How is this post "delusional" you ask?  Well, even though I have made progress, it's not the amount of progress I had hoped to achieve by this time of year.  I should have finished at least one of my works in progress.  I should already have owned my own property.  I should have gone back to school and become an assistant principal.  So many should have's. . .

1. Image taken from Wikimedia Commons.
2. Image taken from Wikimedia Commons.
3. Image taken from Wikimedia Commons.

05 October 2011



I have to apologise for being late with today's post - I'm really sorry! Honest, I am! I thought I wasn't due to post until next Wednesday for some reason...

The thing is, I think part of the reason my brain screwed the weeks up is because, after quite a long break, I am posting daily on my own blog again, and it being NaBloWriMo, and with me being me (scatty at the best of times), I have requested, er, requests for the duration of the challenge. In other words, I have thirty topics to ramble about, with most, if not all, of them being things I have no clue about. My reader friends are a good bunch, but I have to admit, with topics ranging from dung beetles to rubber ducks, I'm a wee bit preoccupied with what the heck I'm going to write about. I covered Air Sex yesterday. No really, I did.

You may ask why I got myself into this pickle, but in all honesty, although I'm pretty much bricking it (sorry for the crudeness), I actually enjoy the challenge. Most of the posts will be pants, granted, but the exercise that my brain will get trying to put together posts on the most bizarre subjects on the planet (chemical toilets, anyone?) is really beneficial. For a procrastinator who also suffers with fluctuating confidence on the writing front, these blogathons are really, really great.

So I guess that's my little (very little - not only am I late posting, but I'm pushed for time too *shifty*) bit of writing advice for today. If you're in a slump, or just can't think of the Next Big Idea for your new writing project, ask for some suggestions from friends. Ask for a few key words to get your brain juices flowing. Write up a blog post, a short story, or whatever takes your fancy. It doesn't matter if it's the pantsiest thing you've ever written, it will get your brain working again, and that's what matters, right?

As for me, I'm off to write up today's post for my blog. Heck knows what it'll be about today, but that's half the fun!

Original image location.

04 October 2011


So there are definitely plenty of newsworthy events that I could blog about today. Amanda Knox, free to go? Occupy Wall Street? Which-hurricane-are-we-on-anyway? But you know, other people are doing WAY better jobs with those than I would anyway (including our own Tart, who nailed down the salient points of the Wall Street protest just yesterday). However, there is one reasonably topical topic that I CAN talk about...

For anyone who's got Harry Potter on their radar, it was pretty hard to miss all the fuss earlier this year when JKR announced her new project, Pottermore. (Especially for Tami, since it was announced on her birthday. ;-) ) And the news that 1 million fans would be able to enter early, to "help shape the experience" - yup. We got pretty excited. Solve clues? No problem. Find the Magic Quill? Yeah, we can handle that. Chances every day for an entire week? Sure thing.

Day 1 - well, I overslept, but since the clue went up at 4 AM in my time zone, I probably would've missed it anyway. Day 2 - I was determined to stay awake, but crashed about 20 minutes before the clue went live. D'oh! Day 3 - I was going to get it this time or die trying, so I set my alarm for 5 minutes before 6 AM, and sure enough, after hitting reload a few times, there it was! (Okay, so I needed a little help from my friend Leah - on Day 3 you had to levitate the quill, and I for one have no brains at all at 6 AM, so was trying stupid things like "swish and flick!" with the mouse {in my defense, that IS the wand movement for the levitation spell in the books}. Turned out you just had to waggle the pointer underneath the quill. Ugh.) The site generated a handful of possible usernames to choose from, so of COURSE I picked the one with a newt in it (I love newts...). And then... the waiting.

And waiting.


Something I am NOT good at, may I add.

But finally, finally, I got my welcome email and signed on for the first time. And you know, while I'm not going to go completely gaga over it and say it's the best thing ever, it's pretty fun. Some of it is a little random - is there a point to "collecting" Harry's alarm clock or some slimy seaweed? Some of it is amazingly awesome - wand shopping and trying on the finally-for-real-JKR-official Sorting Hat (and yes, of course I'm in Ravenclaw...). The artwork is beautiful, the new information (on topics as wide-ranging as McGonagall's backstory and three linked Ollivander essays) is, for a dedicated digressionist like most of us around here, engrossing and worthy of some great discussions (Quirrell liked to press wild flowers, did he? Did he also put on women's clothing and hang around in bars? *snort*), and the discovery that the house cup rivalry, at least so far, is between Slytherin and Ravenclaw (not Gryffindor - they're WAY behind, and the poor Hufflepuffs can't catch a break) is quite interesting too - we've been neck and neck for weeks.

There are also some major glitches. Dueling, which was how some people who got in on the first day racked up massive scores, has also been "down for maintenance" since day 1. Potion making, the only remaining way to earn house points, can be mindbogglingly infuriating when you've waited 95 minutes for something to "brew", only to lose it in a Flash-crash or similar. And there's the PSOD - Purple Screen of Death, the dreaded "Sorry, we're busy, call back later" which tells you that, once again, the servers are overloaded RIGHT when you need to finish your Forgetfulness Potion.

As for those of you who are still waiting for the site to open to the general public - well, you might be waiting a while. And the release of the (supposedly long-awaited) ebooks is delayed until next year (frankly, I was so disappointed that JKR finally gave in on the ebook thing that I almost didn't do the quill challenge... ALMOST). And since we're only permitted to play around in the first book right now, there may be all kinds of goodies waiting as subsequent volumes open up. Will we discover our Patronuses? Fight off dementors? Solve the Triwizard Maze? Who knows... oops, gotta run, my potion is ready!

03 October 2011

Books that have gone to hospital with me

If you were hoping for Part 2 of my review of books set in India and/ or by Indian authors, you have to wait a few more months. Life got in the way, and I didn't want to churn out a post that did not do justice to the books I wanted to write about.

So, continuing from Chary's post of last week, here is a random collection of books, each of which has something in common- they were the books I was reading during each of my hospital stays. Strangely, though I intended reading all of them again, I've never quite got down to doing so- guess they are too closely associated with the sterile smell of a hospital for me to want to read them in a more congenial environment.

The first time I was admitted to hospital during my adult life was almost eight years back, when I was expecting my first child. My contractions had been rather strong when I was admitted into the labour ward, so I was pretty sure I would finish the book I had taken with me only after I got back home with the baby. The book was Colleen McCullough’s 'The Thorn Birds’, and my labour dragged on so long that not only did I finish the book, I had even to make the hubby get me another book to see me through the second day. You might think 'The Thorn Birds', with its story of unwanted pregnancies, of babies conceived and born in hate and deceit is not the right book to read when you are in labour, but the book suited the mood perfectly. My frustration with a labour not progressing in the manner in which I wanted it to perfectly mirrored the frustrations that form the bedrock of the book, and I perhaps enjoyed  the book more than I would have had I read it in a different context. Whether that's the reason I have not gone back to the book or not, I am not sure about.

When I was done with 'The Thornbirds', the book my husband, in his eternal wisdom brought for me was Sophie’s  World – “I don’t know how the book is , but it is think, so you will not be bothering me again for awhile”. I read all my favourite parts in hospital, and strangely, haven’t returned to that book since. But I am not sure if the book counts as a ‘hospital book’, because I had read it more than once before and did not finish it in hospital.

My second child popped out as soon as I got myself admitted into the nursing home, so my next hospital stint was five years later, when I was admitted to hospital because of my falling platelet levels. I knew I had only to last out my malaria, for the levels to pick up, but since the doctor insisted I be admitted, I was. Two books went to hospital with me – Joane Harris’ ‘Five Quarters of the Orange’ and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s ‘Sister of my Heart’.

The first I liked a lot. It was a stage in my life when I was feeling quite dissatisfied with the way my life was proceeding, and anything that involved human drama was bound to appeal. And the tragic tale of the woman not in control of herself was one that in some way resonated with me. Since I liked the book then, I picked it up again more than once, but I have just not succeeded in re-reading the book. Maybe I have outgrown that phase- instead of struggling to fill my day with activities with some semblence of meaning, I now find that 24 hours are not enough. And Joanne Harris can never hold my imagination in a situation such as this.

The Banerjee Divakaruni left me strangely dissatisfied. The book had everything that should have gripped me – a setting I knew and loved, characters and situations that I could relate to, and enough reasonable twists and turns to keep one happy – but it never quite lived up to the potential it showed. The closest metaphor I can think of is of a marathoner starting a race in a sprint, promising to deliver a world best timing, and giving up after 13 miles, and walking the rest of the distance. Perhaps that is the reason 'Sister of my Hearth' remains the only one of Banerjee Divakaruni's books that I have ever read.

When I was admitted to hospital for a hysterectomy a little over two years back, I took along Nandan Nilakeni’s ‘Imagining India’. It was just the kind of book I would avoid if I could think of an excuse to do so, which is why I put myself in a situation where I had no choice but to read the book. The book gripped me from the first page, and by the evening of my first day in hospital, I had finished the book- all 600 plus pages of it. The book remains the best account of contemporary India that I have read- a book that gives you the reality without suger-coating it, and yet, holds out the promise of a future much brighter than the past. A book that I would declare a must-read for anyone wanting to understand the India of the Today.

The second day that I was in hospital, I galloped through ‘Motorcycle Diaries’ and Malcom Gladwell's ‘The Tipping Point’, and liked both of them. Strangely, though, I do not remember too much of either book, which may be because I read both books in the shadow of a book that shone with such brilliance, it dulled everything else. Maybe I should read both those books again to see if I can recall why I liked them, despite not taking in too much of them, or maybe it is better to just leave them alone.

So there you are- an assorted collection of books; the list couldn't really have been more random.

Do you have any books that you associate with particular periods of your life? Or am I the only nutcase, who can see the background in which she read a book for many of the books that she's read.