Sunday, December 30, 2012

Shades of Not So Clever

I tend to break or loose sunglasses so I go with the cheap kind I buy for $2 at the not really a dollar store. They usually have some cool sunglasses to choose from so I stock up knowing I will need them eventually.

Raybans, which are really quite nice, go for $120, which equals 60 pairs from the not really a dollar store. While I could afford to buy a pair of Raybans, I couldn't afford to replace them several times a year. $120 is about 12 years of $2 sunglasses for me.

Somehow I wound up at and bought a couple pairs of $10 sunglasses. A selling point for  one pair came was that it comes with a protective pouch. That pair arrived the other day and today I got to try them out.

Pretty sweet. They look cool. They cut glare without making things dark. I am a satisfied consumer.

The "protective pouch" which appears to have cost 2 cents and offers no crunch protection. No biggie, as Maureen pointed out it will protect them from getting scratched. Whatever I'm easy.

I took a closer a look at the pouch; it has a slogan on it: "A shade above the rest". At first this seems  clever, "shade", sunglasses, etc. But insistently you realize that a single shade ain't much of a difference. Being marginally above your competition sure ain't a real selling point. Yet somehow this insipid slogan is now permanently attached to their product as long as I own it or until I lose the pouch (odds are the pouch gets lost in a week or less). At least it doesn't a registered trademark icon attached to slogan, which is a huge point in their favor.

It constantly amazes me how many badly named businesses I see (CollisionMaxx for example - any sane person would want minimize the collision to the point of it no longer existing - RestoreMaxx or RepairMaxx is what you'd want. Ditto any business with "concepts" in their name that sell anything that is not just an intangible idea), and businesses with idiotic slogans. I offer my services for free. If you don't know what to name your business or it if you have slightest doubt that your slogan isn't really all that clever, just email me. I'm here to help. I'm a  giver.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Model World and Other Stories by Michael Chabon

I usually have some idea where the books of my shelf came from.  I have three Michael Chabon books on my shelf. Mysteries of Pittsburgh, which I bought on clearance for a dollar or two from Encore Books, The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which was a gift from my brother, and this one. I have no idea where or when I picked up this hardback book.
I enjoy Michael Chabon's work. I even remember seeing him briefly on Charlie Rose at some point in the 90s when I walked into a room somewhere. I had read my clearance priced copy of Mysteries of Pittsburgh some time before that, and was a little surprised that he had become a big deal.

Here is my review of this book from

This book of short stories is split into two parts. A Model World and The Lost World. 

The first part contains unrelated stories, including the title story. These stories are good but somehow fall short of greatness. Each story feels like it should be part of a larger story. The stories are not only unrelated but different from each other that grouping them together feels forced. 

The second part is much more successful. Actually it's great and of the quality that I have come to expect from Michael Chabon. All of the stories in this section are related and together are part of a greater whole. 

That's not to say the first half is bad; it's not. Worth a read. 

I haven't decided if I am going to liberate these three books or not. Since I'm undecided, I think I have made up my mind. They will stay.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Living Less in the Material World

So I started buying books in my teens to one day have a cool book lined library. And not just books to fill space, but all books that I wanted to read eventually.

I eventually got there. But the book lined room was sort of like being gifted an elephant, big and impressive but not very practical, especially when I lived in that tiny rowhome. It should be noted that books, unlike elephants, do not leave giant mounds of pooh. Now that just about all reference information is available on line 24/7 and constantly updated, books are no longer the best storehouses of information. And on-line info is equally pooh-free.

My read-all-the-books-we-own project has become a read-all-the-books-we-own-and-get-rid -of-them project. Or as I like to call it "book liberation".

The top shelf below, like the ones below it, was full of books a few months ago. Eventually all of the shelves will have the same fate.

Of the section I have completely read (most of the top shelf), I have kept some books that I might want to re-read someday or that have sentimental value. But many have been given away or will be given away when I run into the people I want to give them to. A big chunk that consisted of the read-all-of-Agatha-Christie's-books-in-a-row project has been condensed into two beer boxes (stacked). I'm not really sure what I will do with those. Sitting condensed in two boxes works for me for now.

The book-liberation project is also a me-liberation project. It's nice to live in a moment in time to be able live with less physical stuff but still have all the access to it and to have the ability to take advantage of that.

I am still a lover of reading, but of books... not so much.

What this means for authors or bookstores, I don't know.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Santa Wants to Love you To Death

Found on the jitney in Rehobeth Delaware.  
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Friday, September 28, 2012

The Magic of Oz (Oz #13) by L. Frank Baum

It's interesting that the two Baum books that I own are The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which is the first Oz book, and this one, which is one of the last.

Many characters that I never heard of (the Tin Solder, Tick Tock, The Glass Cat, The Pink Kitten, Trot, The Wooden Saw Horse and more) were introduced in the books in between and all make an appearance here. This isn't a real issue but is a little like when they have all the Dr. Who's in a special episode. It tends to clutter up the action.

Overall the story and the methods the heroes use to overcome their obstacles and enemies are creative and fun. The birthday party in last chapter is the exception and can easily be skimmed over.

Frank Baum's writing is interesting in that can be alternately be very good and rather mediocre. It feels that once he wrote something once, he never went back to tighten it up. He could very insightful about human nature and also totally naive or at very least simplistic.

Overall I quite liked it.

My two Oz books will be set free, going to my sister for my niece and nephew.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Camus Part Deux

I wrote about reading Camus a few posts ago.

I have been inching through The Plague for about a week now. I'm on page 95 of 245. It's time to give up. Nothing much has happened nor do expect anything interesting to actually happen.

Reading this book seems pointless and it's tedious. If this was a 145 page book, like The Stranger, I would have gone on, but this with 150 pages to day, this journey is going to end 2/5s of the way through.

I am going to liberate all three Camus books that I own. I've already decided I'm not going to read The Myth of Sisyphus and other Essays. My brother will get first crack at them. Any he doesn't want will get donated to the Free Library's used book sale. I just found and downloaded a PDF of The Stranger to my hard drive. So the one I liked, I still have, but sitting dustlessly on my hard drive rather than taking up space in my office.

Next up, an old friend Robert Campbell. I read a lot of  Campbell's stuff in the early 90s. He had two series of books. One based in Chicago and was rather light hearted mystery fun. The other was more hard broiled and set in Los Angeles, aka La La Land. I have one of each that I haven't read yet.

The Penguin Who Knew Too Much by Donna Andrews

Another solid one from Donna Andrews. Very entertaining, amusing, with well developed characters. Once again the murder, while plausible, comes out of left field.

This book I bought for Maureen as an Xmas present, so it is not mine to set free.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


I am almost finished with the first section of bookshelf. 44 fiction books written by authors with last names beginning with A through Ce. I had probably read over 1/2 the books already so I didn't have to re-read them.

After criss-crossing through the shelf, I am now reading straight through alphabetically. I will likely criss-cross again when the mood hits. I mention this because I am now reading Albert Camus's The Plague. BTW the smart way to pronounce his name is Al-bear Kah-moo.

Many people have read Camus. Most because it was assigned to them. I am quite aware that almost nobody reads Camus if they don't have to. I am only reading Camus now because I bought this used copy eons ago. It's on the shelf so I have to read it.

I bought this book because I was young and I wanted to be smart and read smart things and Camus was a "smart" author. This book probably cost me less than a dollar so it didn't really cost me anything to put it on the shelves with my other books.

I ask myself now, would I ever have picked this off the shelf if I didn't have to? Am I a snob for even having it on my shelf in the first place?

The only rule of this project besides reading all of our books is that if I don't like it after the first chapter, I don't have to finish reading it. That said I am enjoying this book. Despite the premise being a downer and it not being an easy read, I am making strong progress through it.

Thinking back now I have memories of voluntarily reading Camus's The Stranger when I was younger and enjoying it. So maybe I'm not a snob.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Due to mis-shelving on my part, I read this book as part of the A to Ce trek.

This is one of Maureen's books.

The Time Travelers Wife (not to be confused with a movie of the same name) is a well written easy read. A unique and well executed premise with well thought out consequences, fully drawn characters - this book has it all.

The premise is original and the author does a great job of thinking out all of the mechanics of it and finds several very interesting scenes from it. The writing is so breezy that it is an enjoyable journey through time. The novel progresses almost totally linearly in calendar time which isn't totally linear for the characters. This creates a Pulp Fiction type out sequence story line which keeps things extra interesting.

My only complaint that it is a little too long. It could be wound a little tighter.

I may always recall reading this book on the beach at Rehobeth Beach Delaware.

Far Flung: Stories by Peter Cameron

Peter Cameron prose doesn't bowl you over. He is stealthier than that. The stories, much like Hemingway's, might not hit you at the moment, but have a way of creeping back into your brain. That's when I know I've read something good.

The stories here mostly all deal with travel or distance, usually both geographically and inter-personally.  Cameron is a great short story writer. The characters and story develop fully in a short time. This was a good read.

This book was published in 1991. It's amazing how far technologically we have come in that time. These stories exist in a time before the World Wide Web and the ubiquity of cell phones. I am more used to reading of the present or of the far past (Dickins, Christie). For me at 47, reading of the stories from the near past was a little strange, but not in a bad way.

My copy cost $4 and was bought new on clearance from some book store. This book is out of print. New copies start at $99 on Amazon. Crazy. Mine, which is in great shape and a first edition, might be worth $20 if anyone decides they want it.

Lately as I have been reading a book, I have been decided whether to set it free. Many of them have been in my possession for too long. This one is going to be listed on Amazon.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Naked Sun (Asimov's Robot #3) by Isaac Asimov

I must of picked this up at a thrift store or similar cheap place for used books. Who knows how many years this has been in my possession.

The Naked Sun (Asimov's Robot #3) by Isaac Asimov

A really nice thing about my read every book we own project is that I get to discover masterpieces hiding in place daylight on our book shelves. And The Naked Sun is a masterpiece.

My first time reading an Isaac Asimov novel and wow!... what a writer! Asimov invented the sci-fi mystery sub-genre after hearing it couldn't be done.

There seems to be confusion as to whether this the 2nd or 3rd in Asimov's Robot series. Goodreads says it's number 3; Wikipedia says it's number 2.

It does appear to be second of three novels featuring Elijah Baley and R. Daneel Olivaw. Baley is a NYC detective in his 40s. Olivaw is a robot that he has been partnered with once previously. 

Set 3000 years in the future, they are sent to one of the colonized planets to investigate a murder. The colonized planets have become much wealthier and more powerful than Earth and look down upon the inhabitants of Earth as inferior.

A totally masterful work. I liked the subplots and how Asimov shown a light on them. Asimov knew his readers were reading for leisure. When a character or subplot comes back around, he reminds us of what we read earlier. Much nicer than having to constantly page back looking for what I've forgotten. 

The story, the plot, the characters, and the settings are all excellently constructed and presented. As I was reading it, I was blown away by how good this book is.

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

My read every book we own project continues with one of Maureen's books.

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

I read this because we had it on our shelf. It's very much a women's book; men can enjoy it too, but probably no where near as much.

 ** spoiler alert **

It ends with a big Sixth Sense kind of twist. I'm not too sure how I feel about that. We really don't get "I see dead people" like clues so it seems a bit unfair.

The ending did solve 1/2 of the mystery of who is/are Towner and Beezer's father(s)?

It is well written and executed and I did enjoy the journey. It made me really want to see Salem and the rest of New England.

As I say, this book leaves me with mixed feelings. And if anything can make you feel something, then the artist has done their job.

Monday, September 10, 2012

No Nest for the Wicket by Donna Andrews

My read every book we own project continues. There is no mystery as to where this book came from. I bought this and another Donna Andrews book as an Xmas present for Maureen a few Xmas ago.

No Nest for the Wicket by Donna Andrews

If you like the Stephie Plum books (and I do), you'll like Meg Langslow stories too. The same easy, breezy writing style with interesting and likeable characters and lightly humorous situations.

Long story short, a female blacksmith and her professor fiance buy a small farm in a town filled with eccentric people. Most of the town is engaged in an Xtreme Croquet tournament when the narrator literally falls over a body.

There didn't seem to be a lot of clues to ponder to figure out who the killer was, so as a murder mystery, I don't know if it holds up, but it was a very pleasant journey.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Book of Illusions and In the Country of Last Things by Paul Auster

The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster
After being left disappointed by the conclusion of The Music of Chance,  I am happy to say that  this is a very solid one from Paul Auster. 
The story, which is really quite epic, held together well. A college professor loses his wife and children in a plane crash. After dwelling in misery and depression, the narrator finds himself laughing for the first time in a long time. The cause of this laughter is Hector Mann, an obscure, long forgotten silent movie comedian. The narrator then travels the world to various film archives where copies of Mann's movies have mysteriously resurfaced. The story continues from there.
I enjoyed the unfolding of the tale and where it led. Auster pulls together a lot of different things, such as French writers, and finds interesting interconnections. 
One complaint is that this book might be a bit overlong. Not a lot, just a bit.

In the Country of Last Things by Paul Auster

I love Paul Aster and wanted to love this one. I gave up after the first chapter. Reading about a post-apocalyptic world doesn't interest me. If that interests you, I'm sure you will dig it as Auster is a great writer. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Torturer's Apprentice: Stories by John Biguenet

The Torturer's Apprentice: Stories by John Biguenet

There is no mystery how this came to be in my possession. This was an Xmas present from my brother who was living in New Orleans at the time.  My copy is even signed by the author, which I didn't notice when he gave it to me years ago.

This is a book of very well written stories with shades of Kafka. The writing is concise yet full. An easy read but deep and fulfilling. Great stuff. The stories are only as long as they need to be, some of dozens of pages, some only two.

I put off reading this one because of the gory title, I shouldn't have. The title story is actually near the end and not really all that gory.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Oz, #1) by L. Frank Baum

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Oz, #1) by L. Frank Baum 

I read this as part of my project to read every book we own. I'm going shelf by shelf, which are arranged alphabetically by author. I put off reading it because it's a children's book and I'm an adult. While it reads like a first novel, it is great fun for all ages.

My copy has great illustrations, which definitely added to the experience.

I haven't seen the movie in decades. It will be interesting to re-watch it soon and see how it was changed for the big screen. There definitely are differences.

We have one other Oz book, The Magic of Oz. I look forward to reading that one and I won't be putting it off.

Dancers in Mourning by Margery Allingham

The Read Everyone of the 1000s of Books We Own Project continues.

Dancers in Mourning by Margery Allingham

This book was a tough read. The story kept my interest but the writing could have been done with a lighter touch. Nobody wants to read a book filled with simple sentences, but conversely trudging through paragraph length sentence after paragraph length sentence is a slog. You need to mix it up a little. Based on just this novel which isn't fair, Allingham was a good writer but no Steinbeck or Hemingway.

A nice thing about being alive right now is through social media, you can share what you are reading with your friends. I have been using Goodreads to keep track of the books I have been reading. My friend Joanne Countryman noticed I was reading this one. She loves the Campion books, which inspired me to keep reading to the end.

Arriving at seems to be around the middle of the Campion books, I have some curiosity regarding the story arc of Albert Campion, but I have a 100s of other books on the shelves to finish before I go looking for more.

There is a little bit of a mystery of where this book came from. Maureen tells me this book isn't her's. Normally there are clues as to how a book came into my possession. There is no price tag nor a used book store stamp on it, so I have to assume it was bought new. Since I never heard of Margery Allingham or Campion before reading this book, I find it unlikely I bought this book for myself or as a gift for Maureen. Maybe it was a gift (my brother perhaps?).

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Jane Austin

The read every book we own project has taken me to Jane Austen.

Up until today, I have never read any Jane Austen stuff despite having various paperbacks in my collection since my teens. Those paperbacks got donated to the library's used book sale when Maureen bought The Complete Jane Austin Novels.

Austen, Jane is one few of our A and B authors that I haven't finished reading yet. I put off reading her til the end of this segment because I didn't have any enthusiasm to get started with her stuff. Maureen had already warned me I wouldn't like it. Plus being a compilation of all her novels, the book is very large and rather heavy.

I've seen various Masterpiece Theaters and movies based on Jane Austen books and I didn't really hate those, so how bad could it be?

As usual Maureen was right. I read a page and a half and found it very wooden, even for the late 1700s. To be fair, knowing that some stories take a while to get going, I jumped to the middle and read a random page. Didn't like that either.

I honestly couldn't care about young women finding wealthy husbands so they wouldn't have to work. I grew to dislike the parasitic English gentry while reading all the Agatha Christie novels. I don't really want to spend any more time with them. Even Agatha got sick of writing about them. 

For this project, I do not have to finish every book we own, but I have to give them all try. Jane Austen the Compete Novels (or whatever it is called) is one of only three books so far that I gave up on before finishing.

Also on our shelf for this segment is The Darceys & the Bingleys by Marsha Altman. This sequel to Pride and Prejudice is a book Maureen bought. Since I won't be reading the original, it makes no sense for me to read this one either.

Two books in the project down in a manner of minutes. Now that's what I call progress! Not the best kind, but progress none the less.

Shadowchase by Martin Blank

I continue on my quest to read every book that Maureen and I own. This project will take me many decades.

Next up was Shadowchase by Martin Blank. On the cover is a sticker "Encore Books  14.95 Discount Price 2.98". So I must have picked this up from the clearance rack at Encore. Published in 1989, I suspect I bought this book shortly before moving out of my parents' house in July 1990, which was near the only Encore Books I recall shopping at. If so, I have owned this book for 22 years and it has moved with me four times. Thanks to this project I have finally read it.

And I'm very glad I did. I loved reading it so much I decided to look up other Martin Blank books. The Googles surprisingly had little to offer me. It took some searching to discover that this was the only book Martin Blank ever wrote.

After a successful career as a businessman, then as the head of his local Chamber of Commerce, Blank released this book and then retired to supposedly pursue writing. I found a article from 1990, announcing his retirement from the Chamber. He had a very successful run there, greatly increasing membership and expanding the Chamber's scope of operations. I say "supposedly" above due to the other article I found.

The other article was his obituary from 1998. He died after suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease for many years. If you are only going to get to have one novel to your credit, you couldn't do much better than Shadowchase.

I won't spoil it by giving too much detail. Great characters, great story, funny, smart, time well spent. 

With shades of David Goodis, there supposedly was a French movie made from the book. I say supposedly again since despite heavy googling, I can't find any evidence of any such movie.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

New Project: Reading Every One of Our Books - Part 2

Part 1 of this project is here. You might want to read that first if you haven't already. 

I have decided to do this project one shelf at a time. I have our fiction books shelved alphabetically by author.  The first shelf is Adams, Douglas to Campbell, Robert.

I pushed forward the books I haven't read yet. All of the Adams, Douglas books stayed where they were. Some of the Auster, Paul books moved forward. All of the Austin, Jane books moved forward.

The Rules
I have also decided to concurrently read a non-fiction book.  These are shelved by category, not by author. I have not set any pattern to reading the non-fiction books.

As I mentioned I am reading the fiction one shelf at a time. I can jump around the shelf alternating authors and type of fiction but I have to finish the shelf before moving onto another. I have not decided if I have to keep going forward alphabetically or I can jump around.

These are the books I have read so far.

A Morning for Flamingos by James Lee Burke

One of the miscellaneous books moved forward was A Morning for Flamingos, by Burke, James Lee. A stamp on the inside cover shows it passed through The Book Swap in Horsham PA at some point; I expect it had another stop between The Book Swap and me, though I have no idea what that might have been. Not being familiar with Burke, James Lee, I doubt I bought purposefully. I suspect it was probably part of a 4 books for $5 or similar deal somewhere.

Judging the book by the cover, I think it's a mystery that takes place in Florida. After a few rather "heavy" books, this sounds like it might be a little bit lighter. After marking it as Currently Reading on, I noticed it has been rated 4 out of 5 stars. I suspect it will prove to be a good pick.

James Lee Burke, still writing, has written many books set in New Orleans and other areas of Louisiana. My brother lived in NOLA for about 13 years and I got to visit him a couple of times. Like many people I fell hard for NOLA.

Flamingos is the fourth in the Dave Robicheaux series. Robicheaux (Ro-beh-show) is/was a New Orleans cop. Written and set in the late 1980s, this book takes place in a pre-Internet, pre-cellphone New Orleans and Louisiana Bayou (not Florida). It was a great read. I wished I had read the other three Robicheaux books first. Burke is still writing Robicheaux books. 

I enjoyed it greatly and then gave it to my brother. Dave was familiar with James Lee Burke, all of his books were reviewed in the New Orleans paper when they came out, but had yet to read one.

Hell by Robert Olen Butler
One of Maureen's books. I gave up on this one after about 30 pages in.

It's set in hell a few years in the future since some living people are there. There's a whole lot of set up (actually way too much) and a lot of imagination went into this one. And there is some very good comedy. This book would make a great live action TV series.

After reading some other reviews, I realized that I would find it a slog to get through this and reading fiction is supposed to be enjoyable.

As several seasons of 30 minute TV episodes, I would LOVE this. It would probably be one my favorite shows. But as a book, I found it laborious. 

Bogie by Joe Hyms
I got to talking about Humphrey Bogart with a Grey Lodge customer. He brought this book in for me to read. 

Lots of antidotes about Bogie. The writer was a friend but that doesn't get in the way. If you are curious about Bogart's life, this is worth a good skim. If you are really interested, it is probably worth a full read. I gave it a hard skim. 

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooke 
Another one of Maureen's books. 

Not a book I would have picked up if it wasn't already on bookshelf. I'm glad I picked it up. Very fascinating fictionalized account of the history of Jewish prayer book. Combines extremely well done research with an several very interesting personal stories set in various points in time. 

Taste of China by Deh-Ta Hsiung
A Chinese cookbook that I bought off the clearance shelf at Borders sometime in the 1990s. 

This is a great book. Many of the recipes are easy to make. Most of involve deep frying and the addition of sugar, so there aren't too many healthy recipes in there.

At the beginning there is a description with pictures of ingredients and cooking tools.

 I cooked many of the recipes. Maureen really liked Red and White Prawns. 

The Music of Chance by Paul Auster 
I have read all but two of the Paul Auster books on my shelf. This was another great one by Auster. I read this mostly in the garden just as the weather got nice.

Very well written and it hums along. I tore through this book surprisingly fast. Well it was a very pleasant weekend with very little work, but even so. This book is breezy but deep. The characters are well drawn.

The whole thing builds and builds then just.... ends. Ends with finality but few answers. On the whole a bit disappointing after such a great ride. 

At Death's Door by Robert Barnard
I liked this one a lot. It took me a while to read though. It was like eating a really rich dessert; small bits are best.

The characters were really well developed. It was very masterful how he did that.

I figured out the main mystery very quickly. Some clues were a little too obvious. But that didn't affect my enjoyment of this book at all. 

One of those classic books that is easy to find cheaply due to its ubiquity. 

What a very strange book. Written in French by a Frenchman who seems very smitten with the English. It's about English POWs and English special forces in Thailand during WWII. Sufficiently suspenseful. I have yet to see the iconic movie. If I had, I suspect it would have ruined the book for me.

Another book that I probably bought years ago because it was on a discount shelf somewhere. 

A very good read. The characters are well drawn and the mystery was interesting. I'm not sure that the mystery was solvable by the reader, but very enjoyable none the less. 

Street of No Return by David Goodis 

Another very typical Goodis work. Typical yet unique. Being a lifelong resident of Philadelphia, I find the settings of places now very changed, especially interesting. If you love Goodis, you'll love this one. 

A very enjoyable read. Luckily, I noticed the notes in the back before I got too far in. I wish I read the other books in the series first. None the less, it was a great read. Great characters and a great glimpse at life in Sicily

Pyscho by Robert Bloch 
What can I say? If you saw the movie, and who hasn't, you pretty much know what you are in for. That said it holds up and is a great read. It must have been amazing if you had read it before knowing about the movie.

New Project: Reading Every One of Our Books - Part 1

I have been collecting books since I was a teenager. I wanted a book lined library some day (I sort of have it). It just seemed so cool and so classy. This was well before the Web with just about anything you want to know being just a click away, making many printed books obsolescent.

Book Collector
If you wanted a book lined library, you needed books (obviously). So planning ahead, I started collecting books when I was young,.. young and really poor. I got a lot of great books from thrift stores, library sales, used book stores, and from the clearance racks of new book stores. 30some years of collecting books. Between my wife and I, we have 100s and 100s of books.

Not like Foreigner at All - No Urgency
The problem with collecting books is there is no urgency to read them. Most are bought cheaply which further removes any urgency since they didn't really cost anything. They are bought to be read someday.

With ebooks and mp3s, you no longer need to collect physical objects like books or CDs. I now have no desire for physical items. Kindle software on a tablet is fine with me. But I still have a lot of books from the old days.

Book Ex-Collector
With my transition to ex-collector, I have become a reader. Someday is now. I want to read all of our books and then probably get rid of them.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

20 Year Old Resin Adirondak Chair

I was sitting outside enjoying my garden when I realized the resin Adirondack chair I was sitting on is 20 years old. I was hit with "wow this chair is really old". And then with "and I'm even older".
Outdoor furniture is an adult item that you buy when you are out your own with no intentions of moving back in with your parents. Many of us find it difficult to picture ourselves as real adults. It's strange to be old enough to own such an adult item for so long. I have been an adult for a long time. Weird. 
I bought these two chairs in 1990 or 1991. I got them at Carrefore, which is the Walmart of France. In the late 1980s, they attempted to colonize US retail, using the Philadelphia area as their entry point.
Carrefores are giant stores which supposed sell everything. Everything except for umbrellas for some reason. In effect Carrefore, was a super market with lousy selection, combined with a discount department store with lousy selection, all contained within a gigantic building. The employees wore roller skates to get around the store. Customers were forced to walk the whole thing. 

Carrefore gave up when the leases were up on the two stores. They are long gone from the USA, but I still have the chairs. 
I paid about $20 each in 1990 dollars for them. You can now buy resin Adirondack chairs for  $15 in 2012 dollars. Economics is a strange thing. Either way, I definitely got my money's worth.

I was really wowed with these chairs when I bought them. I placed them the back yard of my rowhouse in Frankford. Back in the early 90s, I even wrote a little song about my then contentment, which included owning resin Adirondack chairs. (I will have to find that). 
Eventually they moved to a small roof outside a window in my apartment above the Grey Lodge. That set-up looked really cool and urban, but in reality it was a pain to get out the kitchen window and onto the roof. Also black tar roofs are not very pleasant places.

Then they moved to house on Passmore Street, where for whatever reason I didn't sit outside much. Part of the reason was the chairs had become chalky. 
Finally these resin chairs have been here at ranch for the last 5 years, where they now get as much use as the ever did. 

While at Passmore Street, I bought two cheap wooden Adirondack chairs that were supposed to replace the plastic ones, as they were 1) chalky, 2) plastic. The wood chairs sat in the garage unassembled for several years. When I bought the ranch, I finally had the inclination to put the wood chairs together. I primed and painted the wood chairs to help them last. While I was painting the wood chairs,  I decided to put a coat of exterior paint on resin ones while I was at it. I thought if it didn't work,  I wasn't out much. I only painted the exposed sides, so it went very quickly. The effect of only painting the exposed sides worked out too; you don't notice. They take paint surprisingly well.

So there you have it, a lot more words than I would have thought possible for two $20 plastic chairs.

As to the wood chairs, they lasted two years after which they rotted out and had to get tossed.

Cozy Reading Knook, Net Cost: Zero

I greatly enjoy reading outside in the garden in my resin Adirondack chair. I was disappointed that I didn't have an equally cozy place to read indoors when the weather was cold and/or rainy.
 I have a reclining leather(ish) wing chair in my living room, which would be the ideal reading chair. But somehow the living room didn't feel like a cozy place to read. I thought it would probably take money to make a cozy place to read.

For the last 5 years, since we moved in, the chair has been perpendicular to the window bay, parallel with the two sofas. 

I turned the chair diagonal to the window bay, giving views of outside, also creating its own sort of space. It is now very cozy while also still being a potentially social part of the living room. 

Maureen and I now both find this a great place to read. 

Cost to turn the chair, zero. 


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Reading Along

I finished my project to read all 79 novel length Agatha Christie books back in January. I still need to write about that. But not today.

After 2.3 years reading one author, I wanted to catch up on a some books by local authors who I have had the pleasure to meet.

First up was Severance Package by Duane Swierczynski . Duane's first novel, The Wheelman, is one of my favorite books. (I loaned it to someone, I forget who, who never gave it back :-(  If you have my copy, could you return it?). Duane is a really great writer. His prose is very concise, every word counts. He's also extremely funny and masterful story teller. Severance Package was too graphically bloody for my tastes in a few parts, but overall it was another great read.

Next up was Dope Thief by Dennis Tafoya. Dennis is one the authors who had a book selling/signing with us at the Grey Lodge. I ran into him after the very cool Retreat to Goodisville trek. I keep all my Philadelphia themed books in a separate bookcase. I try not read them all at once, leaving a few for new discoveries. Seeing Dennis reminded me I hadn't read either of his books, so I started off with his first. Dope Thief takes a few pages to set itself up, but then explodes into greatness. The farmhouse scene is really brilliant. I wound up enjoying it very much.

After reading two local books, I returned to our general fiction collection. Third up was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. This is sort of a mystery narrated in the first person by an autistic English teenager. It does a great job of putting you into the mind of an autistic teenager. It is so well written that I found myself thinking like the narrator, which may not be the best thing. I loved it at the beginning but found it a bit boring and repetitive after the mystery was solved half way through. Well worth a read.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

6 Days a Week

Six days a week, I get to start the day off from my home office, where I catch up on email, RSS feeds, and world, local and personal news online. I am usually up a little, sometimes a lot, before dawn.

I always keep the lights off and open the blinds. The computer screen and the street lights outside are the only illumination. As dawn breaks the room gets gradually brighter until it is full daylight.

Buses, cars, and pedestrians pass by outside, rushing to where they have to go. That's not me. Well that's me one day a week, but not today.

My day will have me out and about, doing things, working. This time right now is a nice bit of me time. Four days a week, usually just before I fix myself some breakfast, my wife comes in for a kiss before she heads off to work.

It's 6:22am. It's still dark, but that will change. It always does. It is about ninety minutes to a kiss. The kiss doesn't change.

Time to catch up on some news.

Monday, January 23, 2012


Brains!... it's what's for dinner.

I went to Bells Market (link includes reviews from crazy people), a really great Russian super market here in Northeast Philadelphia, for their really great prepared salads and some produce. It's not too much of a detour when I'm driving home from Hop Angel.

Walking in, I noticed a big weekly special sign in the window advertising ground pork. The sign was quite effective in that I wound up buying ground pork, something that wasn't on my list. Score one for old school marketing. Take that Twitter!

It took me a few days to decide what to do the ground pork or maybe just to remember that I had it in the frig. I remembered that I liked making stuffed peppers, which usually use ground beef. This meant going to another closer by produce store to get some bell peppers.

I had some crazy wild rice that was in pantry for a couple of years, using that in place of white rice, which I don't keep in the house anyway. It cooked up black. That rice worked out really great in the peppers, adding a nice added texture to the meat stuffing. Next time I might try black beans instead of rice.

The nice thing about a popular dish like Stuffed Peppers is that there is no end of different recipes on line. I looked at quite a few, taking things I liked from each, such as cooking up onions with the ground meat.

I remembered how much I liked the cheese on top, but how it just putting it on top limited the amount of cheesy goodness for each pepper. I mixed a little cheese into the stuffing mixture. It was the right amount.

I paired it with some Brussels sprouts, that were cooked using a proven winning recipe. A very nice and hopefully healthy meal.

Idea for a New Website

I'm thinking of creating a new social media Website. The deal is we'll get insane people to review businesses. We won't pay them and consider the reviews our intellectual property.


"They had other customers there. "

And the hook is you really have a screw (or more) loose to do reviews.

Update: Someone told this site already exists. It's called Yelf or something like that.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Today's 3six5

The3six5 is a blog I have been following almost since it started. Basically it's 365 days, as told by 365 different people in less than 365 words each. This is only third year, so I don't know yet if they are skipping a day this year. We will have to wait until 28 Feb and see.

Anyway... I wrote today's post.

Marty and I were hanging out in the MGMT Bunker last night as I was finishing the post up, so I had him proofread it. He laughed once which was a good sign (I'll take all laughs whether with me or at me). Later after it was submitted and we were sitting at the bar, I showed the final published version to him on my phone. He told me that I shouldn't be angry at those people that ask me that question. Great timing buddy! The point I should have made better is that nobody who asks me that knows how I feel, since I always smile, appreciate the kind thoughts behind the question, and answer politely and sincerely.