Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Action


John Grisham is a novelist who is a Christian, but, with a few rare exceptions, it is not evident in his books. I suspect that Mark Young, a former cop and author of "Off The Grid", is the same.
The story is about a US Marine who returns home from Afghanistan when his parents are killed in a car bombing. He then joins the Seattle police force, a decision that he thinks will help him better investigate that crime.
His investigations leads him to a sinister plot, by some very powerful people, to heist the information from computers around the world in order to create a new world order. It is what I would call low key James Bond stuff. The action is continuous and the multiple characters are a little difficult to keep straight. The underlying tension in the story is "who do you trust".
The reason I think that the author is a Christian is because a few of his characters are. They talk about their faith and changed lives and all in a good and positive light. But it is by no means a 'Christian novel'.
I would give this book a three star rating.  

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Glitz and Glam


I am not proud to say that I watched a bit of the Oscar Award Ceremonies on Sunday night. Who really admits to doing that. In my defence, I had not watched this annual tribute to narcissism for at least twenty years or more. Also, I was very under the weather and had no energy to do anything but sit in front of the TV, an extreme rarity for me.
I think in my far distant past, I remember Billy Crystal emceeing  the show and there he was again on Sunday. I have not seen this man in many years and my first impression is that he was bit slow on the uptake and his face lift only worked on the top half. Having said that, he did make me laugh at least twice.
There was an unending parade of behind the scenes types who tried so hard to act surprised when their name was called. I know almost nothing about all the films that were nominated so it was kind of dull, to say the least. I thought the one bright light was Canadian Christopher Plummer who did finally win an award. He was a class act from start to finish, and he was not long winded or dull, almost a prerequisite this year.
The best thing, for me, was catching a movie called "Shooter" on another Channel during commercial breaks. It was based on a Lee Swager novel by Stephen Hunter called "Point of Impact", which I remember as being an excellent read. Matt Damon as the lead character makes it even better.
I love movies, but not the inevitable award ceremonies that they spawn.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Writing as Art


I was browsing in the Kindle store and came across this book that I thought might be for women only (or at least preferentially) until I read the reviews. There I discovered that not only did everyone give it a 5 star rating, but many of them were men. Being the open minded fellow that I am, I bought it, and believe me, I do not have a single regret.
After the first chapter, I knew I had discovered a rare treasure and from then on, savoured every paragraph right, to the end. My immediate impressions were that I was reading something similar to what John Steinbeck or even Mark Twain would write. And then I was reminded of a favourite John Grisham novel, The Painted House, which somehow brought me back to my own childhood.
From the opening sentences, I got the strong sense that the author was a true artist, using words and imagery so beautifully as to involve all five of my senses. Her depiction of a young girl growing up in Mississippi in the 1930s is remarkable in that even though I did not grow up in the era or that part of the world, I now feel like I have been there, in that time and in that place, and moreover, I know little Millie like my own child. 
The reader absolutely sees the world through this child's eyes, lives her fears, anxieties, emotions, and struggles on every page. 
Her struggles with the tragedies that are thrown her way over the ten years of this story may not be familiar to our own experience, but her struggles with faith and her ever changing concept of God is something most of us can identify with. 
I do not want to give even one element of the story away here, so it will not spoil your own experience with this book. The rich characters and ever evolving plot will keep your interest into the wee hours of the morning. Your present life will fade as you absorb yourself into Millie's world. You will be satisfied at the end of the book, but with enough questions that you will be glad to know that there is a sequel coming. Not soon enough I say. And, like all the other reviewers, I too give this book a 5 star rating.  
I just wish I could write like this.   

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Following Through


The last book I reviewed was titled "Sons of the Great Satan", with Satan referring to the USA. So I thought I would do a little follow-up on the theme and try to discover what Satan has to do with America. I picked the right book for sure.
"Unlocking the Mysteries of Satan" is a book intended for Christians because the reader needs a lot of background information on the Christian faith and culture and the Bible. In this regard, it is an excellent book. It explores the origins of Satan and most interestingly how Satan was duped when he had a hand in the betrayal and crucifixion of Christ. Satan's intents and purposes are laid out carefully in the following chapters and all done with numerous Scriptural references. 
Last, and best of all, it explores the best lies of the "Father of Lies" and how all of us, Christians and non-Christians alike, fall for  them. This was a rather convicting book for me. It pointed out what I already knew, but in such a way as to make me sit up and take more notice. I believe that what he says in this book is true because it all lines up with a final authority, the Bible itself. The author ends with a bleak picture of the ineffectiveness of the Evangelical Christian church in today's culture and climate and after reading the book, the reasons are quite apparent. 
This is a book not so much about the scary entity we know as Satan, as it is a book about how most of us are falling for lies with eternal consequences, how the lies work, and how to free ourselves from them. 
If you want to be challenged in your Christian walk, I highly recommend this short but insightful book.    


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Joy


Most grandparents love to talk about their grand kids. Get over it, it's normal. We use a common phrase that goes like this: "My grand kids bring me such joy!"
Here is a sample of what that looks like. The adults were sitting around the table discussing some heavy issues when Liam comes up to me and says, "I want to tell you something in you ear".

I give him focused attention whenever I can so I bent over and he put his little mouth close to my ear and whispered, "I want you to tell me something in my ear".

So, I asked him quietly, like it was our own little secret, "What would you like me to tell you?"
"Something about grandson", he replied.

There was only one thing to say, so I said, "You are my sweet little grandson and I love you so very much."

He was good with that and turned away to resume playing with his alphabet train.
When I say "joy", that's what I'm talking about.

And that's how I got the noodles in my ear.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Don't Bother


While shopping in the Kindle store, a title caught my attention and, on impulse, I bought the book. Iran is in the news daily as tensions increase. I remember well in the late seventies the turmoil that went on in that country and I thought it would be interesting to educate myself a bit more on some of the more recent history of that country. The author, Anthony Roberts, grew up in Iran during the last days of the Shah, when Americans were welcome and were indeed manipulating the country for their own purposes. It was a westernized nation, but seething beneath the surface was Islamic fanaticism led by the Ayatollah Khomeini  and a national pride that wanted to see America, the great Satan, ousted.

The book reads like it was written by two different authors. When talking about the country and its people, the story takes on an elegance and respect that is interesting and rewarding. When it gets into the characters and their shenanigans, it takes on a dirty and profane tone and is over the top. Oh, that one could rip out pages on a Kindle download!
The story is about a teen aged boy who spent his final high school years in Iran and became best friends with his next door neighbour, the son of the head of the Iranian secret police, a cruel defender of the Shah's regime, but a wonderful, loving family man also. Life in Tehran deteriorates and each family eventually meets their own fate when, in 1979, the revolution succeeded in ousting the Shah.  

What I came away with was a better understanding of what I set out to find, the background to the turmoil in Iran. As it turned out, it could have been done nicely without the added characters and plot that made me cringe a little too often.
Don't bother reading it.   


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Apples


We do not play as many games as we used to, so it was with a bit of hesitation that we accepted an invitation from some friends to join them in an evening of appies and apples. Perhaps as we age we are reluctant to expose our inadequacies of intellect, knowledge, and memory, things that are required in so many games.
The green card is held and read by the 'judge' while the rest of the players, who each have seven red cards, determine which of their cards best describe the word on the green card. Green cards have adjectives or adverbs on them, red cards have names of people, places, things, or situations on them. Example: Green card will read "Awkward". Red cards may read "Tom Cruise", "Strawberry short cake", "Plane crash", "My first kiss", "Power tools", "Honeymoon", or "Life Insurance".
After all the selections from all the players are collected, the judge reads the cards, and then according to what he determines, a winner is announced. The winner gets the green card and the player with the most green cards at the end of the game wins.
Now, I hope you all go out and purchase one of these games as I just bought a whack of shares the company. (Just kidding). There were ten of us and we had a great time with a lot of belly laughs, and great relief on all our parts that we did not have to use any intellect, knowledge or memory to have a fun games night.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Nostalgia


My oldest cousin sent me 35 old photos a few weeks ago. We have a family website on which we post news, photos, and other items of interest to the extended family on my father's side. The photos all came from her mother, my dad's oldest sister, who is 95 years old and still doing just fine. She would have taken this photo 58 years ago when we all still lived in a small dusty prairie town. The grinning kid with the suspenders and tweed pants is me. The others are cousins from two other familys and a sister.

I have strong and fond memories of those days and a photo like this totaly brings me back to those days, the sights, the sounds, the smells, and the wonderful experiences. As time went on, I grew more distant from some of my cousins, but especially the ones in this photo. The little guy in the front, in the heavy sweater, eating the apple, is no longer with us as he had a fatal heart attack two years ago. I had not seen him since these early days and feel a great loss because of it.
Today, with our digital cameras and cell phone cameras, we snap away and have tens of photos for every single occassion we ever attend. As we over record the moment, we take it for granted and even years later wonder why we took so many photos. Back then, photography was rare and to capture a moment like the one above becomes a rare gem with great value. However, one day, as someone looks through the digital archives of the family website, or my hardrive, they will look at this photo and wonder who on earth that was and why were they wearing those funny clothes. The photo will have lost its value. I know, because I have some old photos with people on them who are total strangers to me and certainly nobody in the future will know them either.
Nostalgia is in the eye of the beholder and is a fleeting thing.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Art Walk

                  
Sunday afternoon was not a great time for a walk as the wind was bitterly cold and the dark clouds were a constant threat of rain. But, we packed on the layers, grabbed an umbrella and set out. Half way through the walk, we needed to duck in somewhere to get our blood flowing once again. Because busylizzy only orders hot water at the coffee shops, they do not like us there so we surreptitiously entered the local Art Gallery. We do this occasionally in order to see where our hard earned tax dollars are being spent. We are usually disappointed and this time was no exception. There were several displays depicting local themes, such as a Police display with photos and uniforms from the old days, some painted furniture, some ink jet prints of various scenes from the Fraser Valley, and China (?) and a bunch of plaster of paris fish and plastic boats hanging from the ceiling. We saved the 'big attraction' for last, a gallery of Goya sketches, and I quote:

"This exhibition features Francisco de Goya's famous print suites: Los Caprichos(1799) and The Disasters of War(1810-1820) which document the brutality of the Peninsular War and the atrocities that mankind inflicts upon itself."

There were 80 3"x5" sketches in rather larger frames all depicting very gruesome scenes of famine, death and war. The single image at the top of this post is a scene glorifying the brave women of
Spain defending themselves against Napoleon's soldiers. Note the mother holding a baby in one hand while spearing her attacker with the other. All the other images were just as uplifting.

 As a depiction of a period of time in history, these are, no doubt, important images. They did not do photography back then. But as someone who appreciates beauty in art, this display was not something I expected in the art gallery. Fine for those who like this kind of thing, but I was glad to get back out into the brisk air and continue our walk.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Conversation


Ravi Zacharias is an internationally renowned speaker and expert on comparative religions. I have heard him in person and he is a very compelling, articulate, and intelligent speaker. In this book, Jesus and Buddha have a conversation in the presence of a very broken and dying person. The conversation is respectful, deep, and very revealing. What can each of them offer this dying woman in her shame and brokenness. She is dying from AIDS as a result of a life of prostitution and degradation.
The narrative is full of nuggets of insight and wisdom, as well as being a helpful guide to the comparisons of the two religions, where they are similar and where they diverge.

"When you mix falsehood with truth, you create a more destructive lie." This is how we are often deceived, when falsehood is disguised in a mixture of truth and lies. 
Another destructive tool of deceit is "when you try to reconstitute reality by changing the language". If it sounds wonderful and is mixed with what we deem as truth, it must all be good. It is a deceit that is common in our culture today, and sadly, in our churches also. 

This book is a short read, but if you stop and ponder the implications of what is written, you will not breeze through it quickly, but will read and re-read to catch the nuances. It is worth it.     

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Help


Help!! My memories of Mexico are fading.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Leadership


When I think of leadership, the most recent example that comes to mind is that of Julius Caesar. I read four historical novels about his life, in December and January, so I cannot help but think of him and his amazing leadership skills. I found it quite amazing that in spite of his stature and importance, he still led his men in battle. This is what Roman Generals did. It gained tremendous respect from their men and inspired them to greatness also. The ordinary foot soldier would gladly die for his general when fighting side by side on the battle field.
There is an issue before our Canadian parliament at the moment that calls for leadership. Who will step forward? There is a proposal to cut parliament's budget by 10%, not salaries or pensions, mind you, but day to day expenses of the MPs. For example, that would mean 54 flights home to constituents instead of 60. Spending $90.00 on lunch instead of $100.00  But what is this? All parties, all MPs, are balking at this austerity measure. "How will we keep in touch with their electorate?" they cry. The measure would save the taxpayers more than $58 million but the privileged politicos will have none of it. Yet only days ago there was strong talk of taking away two years worth of old age security for the retired folks of our country.

I am the first one to say that yes, we definitely need to cut back, cut back large, but should this not start at the top? The ruling class always loses touch with reality when in power, but I think this time, for their own political longevity, they better start with themselves when it comes to tightening the belt. I for one will then follow my leaders as they actually lead.  

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Forks


Many of my favourite quotes are from Yogi Berra. You know, the guy who said, "That restaurant is so busy nobody goes there anymore", or, "A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore", or, "Always go to other people's funerals or they wont go to yours". Probably his most famous quote is  "When you come to a fork in the path (road), take it."

We all come to forks in the road, throughout our lives. There are two ways to approach a decision that is a 'fork in the road'. We can look at the path before us and see which one is most navigable, most attractive, and maybe easiest or most fun. Many people do this and wonder later in life what happened.
Then there is the approach that is well illustrated in the above photo. We look beyond the fork. Sometimes what is beyond is evident, but mostly it is something that has to be reasoned out. As you can see in the paths above, there are more forks beyond, and each leads to a different destination. Some people are able to see the destination better than others. Some do not even care, but only want what is immediate, the broad and well travelled path that at the time looks to be the one that will make them happy for the moment.
If important decisions crop up at age 13, and I think they do, then I have now had 50 years in which to assess the choices I made and the paths I took. It often amazes me that what were seen at the time as insignificant choices, were indeed life altering. Some paths are re-traceable, but not many. Usually, there is only a forward arrow, not a 'Return to Go' as in the game of Monopoly.
We do not need Yogi's advice, we will take the fork, even if it means stalling at the junction for a time. What we do need guidance on is which path to follow and an ability to see beyond the junction.   

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lunch Box Nazis


Nanny State, Police State, Big Brother, call it what you will. Some incidents just make it so obvious that government wants to control us from the cradle to the grave.

Take the Hoke County preschooler in Raeford N.C. whose lunch box was inspected in the school cafeteria. Was it drugs or weapons that they were searching for? No, it was USDA guidelines that had to be adhered to so that every kid was fed proper nutritional elements for lunch. This may have some merit in some rare cases but think of the government waste in employing a food Nazi in every school in America!
Back to the story. The little girl had a pretty good lunch that day consisting of a turkey and cheese sandwich, a banana, apple juice and potato chips. OK, the chips may have been a little greasy. The Nazi marched her right over to the counter in the cafeteria and forced her to eat ...... chicken nuggets. Naturally, the girl returned home that afternoon with an invoice for the extra 'food'.

No doubt, we will soon have to clear it with the government to take our next breath. "Not to much exhalation now, you want to keep your carbon dioxide emissions to a minimum."

Monday, February 13, 2012

Greek Tradgedy


What will become of those poor Greeks? Yet again, there was another bailout proposed for the beleaguered country of Greece on the weekend. In return, certain austerity measures were demanded by their creditors. It is too little too late, but what will happen, and hence all the riots, is that the minimum wage will be reduced and the civil service will be cut back dramatically. 

All this pain, and for what. Only two things can possibly happen with debt. It can be paid, or it can be defaulted on. A bankrupt entity will eventually go bankrupt and Greece was bankrupt many years ago. When will they own up to it? If they do, then other countries such as Italy, Ireland, Spain, and Portugal will have to follow suit and this is the definition for 'a house of falling cards'. The European Economic Community will fall, as will its unifier, the Euro. With all of Europe on the brink of disaster, can the US be far behind? Its debt to GDP ratio is similar. How long will  they be able to print money to avoid the inevitable? 

The cost of the riots will only add to the Greek deficit so why does not everyone just go home, relax, and take their punishment like a man. After all, they are just paying for a few generations of lax productivity and over indulgence. Who, in the end, did they think would pay for them and their profligate ways. It is too late for austerity. That should have started many years ago when the first deficit budget was introduced in their parliament. 
And that goes for all of us.     

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Lasting a Lifetime


On Friday night busylizzy and I, together with some friends, attended a Valentine's Dessert night at our church. The room was  packed out and we just got there at the last minute because yours truly forgot the tickets and had to go back home to get them. The tables were nicely presented with a cheese and cracker platter, fruit platter, and a dessert plate. Flavoured coffees, teas, juice, and even lattes were available.  
There was special music, some video interviews of a few of the pastors and their wives telling their 'how we met stories' and some live interviews of several couples. Of course, the topic was marriage and how to make it lasting and vibrant. The best interview was of a couple who had been married for 58 years. It was both insightful and hilarious. Anyone who can joke after being married that long must have a good marriage!  

Saturday, February 11, 2012

On The Dole


"Investment Business Daily" had some interesting things to say this week:
The American public's dependence on the federal government shot up 23% in just two years under president Obama, with 67 million now relying on some federal program. Housing subsidies, expansion to Medicaid and welfare, along with a sharp rise in the use of food stamps is to blame.
"Dependence programs" now account for more that 70% of the federal budget. In 1962 it was only 25% of the federal budget.

At the same time, fewer Americans pay income tax. 49.5% did not pay any income taxes in 2009. Back in the 60's only 12% of Americans escaped any income tax burden.

Here is the big one. In 2010, for the first time ever, average spending on dependence programs per recipient exceeded the country's per capita disposable income!  Government cheque recipients are now getting more money than wage earners and millions of those wage earners are working for the government in non-productive so-called jobs or are on the payroll of some industry that is dependent on federal spending, like health, education, or military.
That leaves the hard working earner or the productive business owner in the minority.
The problem is, everyone gets a vote. So who will vote to cut back on any kind of spending? And yet that is the only thing that will get America out of the red.
Having said that, the numbers are probably not that different for Canada.   



Friday, February 10, 2012

Connect the Dots


Racket : "Traditionally, the word racket is used to describe a business (or syndicate) .... that is engaged in the sale of a solution to a problem that the institution itself creates or perpetuates, with the intent to engender continual patronage."

Does anyone know what US interests are being protected by the war in Afghanistan? Has anyone been able to define what 'winning' would look like? What has the point been?
Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis is calling out the US military and is being called a 'whistle blower'. He claims that after touring the country and war extensively, he sees no sign of 'progress' anywhere.  
Mit Romney says," I will insist on a military so powerful that no one would ever think of challenging it."
The US has been waging a  "War on Terror" since 2001. They have, in the process, inflicted more terror on the world than any 9/11 event ever did, including the terror of its own citizens when confronted with Homeland Security.
The FBI and CIA have a website where you can download information on how to be an informant when you see 'suspicious' behaviour.
President Obama has just announced the freezing of Iranian assets held in US banks or banks on US soil. 

Let's connect the dots. The USA is in a perilous economic situation where they will have to cut spending by the billions or face catastrophic consequences. The biggest expenditure is the military. The pentagon and its contractors have the most successful lobbyists in Washington. How do you convince the US government to keep the cash flowing to the military? Well, how about by convincing everyone that there is an enemy? It has worked so far and will continue as long as there are red-necked gullible people out there who vote. The Christan 'right' are supporting war mongers who are running for the Republican nomination for the run for the presidency. Shame on them. Ron Paul is the only candidate who is anti-war. With his defeat, the obscene amounts of money being transferred to the military will continue, as will the decline and fall of the US Empire.    


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pandemic


The memory of the Bird Flu epidemic was refreshed in my mind as I read this book. At the time, there was vigilance regarding the transference of the virus from the birds to humans. It never happened, but in the book "Sector C" the unthinkable happens. A 'Mad Cow Disease' sort of epidemic is triggered by some scientists who have managed to clone some extinct Ice Age beasts. In the process of replicating a Sabre Toothed Tiger, they also brought to life the mutant prion or protein that supposedly brought on the extinction of the large Woolly Rhinoceros and Mammoth. The science is interesting as is the process of determining that there is a problem in the first place as the incidence of stroke like symptoms escalated in the hospitals near the infected area of the US mid-west.

It has been a while since I have read any science fiction and regardless of the good reviews that this book has received, I did not care for it much. It is written by a person with veterinarian background and as such is a die-hard animal lover and her philosophy of animal love above all else comes through a little too strongly. She presents her arguments at the most inopportune moments in the story. An example is when the two heroes of the story have just escaped the antagonist and his attempts to let them perish in a fire, they have had no food or water for more than a day in the hot mid-west summer, the woman is suffering from the onset of the disease and has tremors, and a Saber Toothed Tiger is stalking them as they sit in the high branches of tree fearing for their lives. At this moment they choose to have a 10 page dialogue on the eventual extinction of the human race and how we always get what we deserve.
'Nuff said. Don't bother to spend the 99 cents in the Kindle store. You get what you pay for.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Why?


There was a time in our lives when we had a large mortgage, some other debt, very little work, and we (read "I") were worried. Out of necessity, we cut our expenditures by eating more cheaply, not going out for dinner or movies, wearing the same clothes forever, and driving an old vehicle. This was normal and was really the only solution. This is no longer the norm.
Today, a debt problem is ignored, or if, rarely, acknowledged, is met with indifference. Borrowing more to cover existing debt is thought to be a solution, when, in fact, it only makes the problem worse in the long run. The Queen's Diamond Jubilee is a case in point.
I am not an anti-monarchist but would state my opinion as more a mild indifference than anything else. Like a 60th birthday, 60 is just a number, not much change from 59 or 61. Why then, in a time of debt crisis, would we as a nation spend more than $8 million 'celebrating'? What does it really accomplish when we have special flags made and flown, commemorative medals for prominent civic workers, stained glass windows in the parliament buildings, and an anti-climactic visit from Prince Charles and his woman.
In the grand scheme of things, this is not a large amount of money for a country our size, but when considered together with hundreds of other little $8 million items that are trivial, we are soon looking at a large amount of money that need not have been borrowed. 
The committee that was struck two years ago to oversee the Jubilee Year say that this is not new money but funds that have been in the various ministries for just this occasion. This is pure nonsense.
If you have to make a mortgage payment with your last $800, but in your other pocket you have $800 that you put away a year ago for a little vacation, just how wise is it to still go on that vacation? I don't know about you, but I would forget the vacation and go buy some groceries.  

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Emporer


I first discovered Conn Iggulden, the author, when I read the second book in his series on the Khan Dynasties. I immediately read the other two that were available at the time and was hooked. A friend mentioned that if I like the Genghis series, I would love the Emperor series. I loaded all four of these historical novels onto my Kindle at Christmas and I finished the last of them on the plane home from Mexico late in January.




If you are looking for absolute historical accuracy, these books will not fit the bill, but rather the stories are in the historical context of the day and the details are filled in with character development and plot that is absolutely riveting.


We all have a sketchy knowledge of Julius Caesar but these books follow his life from a young boy to his assassination. The author admits that there is so much written by and about Julius that he could easily fill many more volumes, and yet the times that these stories do cover give a sense that this was a truly great man in terms of courage, leadership. intelligence, ambition, and accomplishment. Rome thrived and grew to greatness under his military guidance and due to his political prowess.
Reading these books gives one a keen sense of what it was like to live in those times, especially as a Roman Legionnaire. There is more than enough intrigue, action, romance, plotting, friendship, jealousy, gladiatorial fighting, and politics to keep anyone entertained for many days. I finished one and immediately started the next and was only satisfied to be done when Julius was dead, on the last pages of the last volume. (If that was a spoiler for you, you do not know history or Shakespeare)  




Something that the books did for me was to prompt me to do some research after I was done reading. For hours I studied about the life of Julius to see just how much of it lined up with actual historical record. I did indeed discover that there were events and accomplishment in his life that were not even mentioned in the four volume series.
Certainly my knowledge and perspective of that era have been enhanced and enlightened. I can easily overlook the liberties that the author took with sequencing and character enhancements. To learn history while being thoroughly entertained is wonderful. I recommend these books.

Monday, February 6, 2012

1500 Posts

A Mexican beach villa.

I was once asked what my hobbies were and in my list, I included writing. The response was "Are you a published writer?" I was not sure how to answer. I have many letters published in periodicals and newspapers and on many websites, but am not sure if that counts. Since I started this blog, most of my writing has ended up here. Just before we left for our little vacation, I 'published' my 1500th post. That is a lot of writing and a lot of photography! If sheer volume is a qualifier, I am a published writer.
The writing I do apart from my blog may or may not ever get published, but sits in my computer files waiting for further instruction. There are memoirs, journals, and a book of legacy for my grandsons that is already in book form. I am also working on a manual for a consulting business idea I have been toying with. If you have been reading my 'stuff' for a while, you know I am also a numbers guy with a keen interest in the economy and investments, but my first love is words.  

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Secret Holocaust Diaries


When searching for a title in the Kindle store, I depend on subject matter and reviews if it is a book written by an unfamiliar author. This book caught my eye and I have just finished reading it.
Nonna was a very young girl when she first started writing her diaries. Her father taught her five different languages and she wrote in most of them. She kept them to herself, all the stories of her childhood, growing up after the Russian Revolution, her experiences during and after WWII, and only started translating them after she came to the USA in the late forties. Forty years after her marriage, she told her husband that it was time for him to know what she had written and why she had hidden herself away in the attic so often over the years. The stories and poems are what make up this remarkable book.

The book opens with an incident on a train that was transporting people like cattle. A young Jewish mother, emaciated from starvation, throws her baby at the feet of Nonna's mother and out of a deep compassion, she takes care of the baby for the next 36 hours, hoping to not be detected. It was an act of courage and bravery that would later come back to haunt both of them.

The story then goes back to Nonna's childhood where she paints an idyllic picture of life in the Ukraine, even during the first years of the Russian Revolution. The mood and circumstances are firmly set in the readers mind so that the contrasts later on have greater impact. It is effective.
 Stories of war atrocities are familiar to all, but each one has its own personal touch. Nonna's story is very personal and her insights and struggles are well documented and tear at the heart of the reader. But, underneath all the pain and loss is a current of optimism and hope. These stories must be told, however, and each generation must become familiar with them. The heartless inhumanity must be exposed in the hope that it will prevent it from happening again.
Nonna was the only one left from her very large family and extended family. We cannot fathom the loss, but only grieve with her, but also rejoice with her that she survived and was able to keep the record and memories of her family alive.   

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Breakfast in the Sun


I am not big on taking photos of food. If I had a pocket camera it would be a different story, but lugging around a big Nikon DSLR in a restaurant is a recipe for theft or a sticky camera. On this particular morning, we were just back from a walk and were so famished we went straight to breakfast instead of stopping in at our room first. I took a photo of what was my typical breakfast in paradise.
I could write a very long blog on the food at this place, but I will control myself.
First of all, the coffee has improved vastly over the years at this resort. It actually tastes like coffee now and it is piping hot. I would ask the waiter for coffee and orange juice and by the time I was back with a plate full of sustenance, it was there. The waiter had to do something to earn his tip, but really, I could have got my own orange juice. Oh, the orange juice! Simply the best. Then, if I did not order a custom omelet, with cheese, tomatoes, onions, and mushrooms, or order two large eggs over easy, I would cruise the buffet to see how the eggs were done there. On this morning, they were scrambled with huge mushrooms so I dished out some of those. I also have on my plate two potato croquettes (with a cheese ingredient) a small spinach puff pastry, some very crisp bacon, large slabs of Papaya, a piece of Honey Dew, and a fresh from the oven raisin cinnamon roll.
Compare this to my usual breakfast at home which, on a work day, would be a half bowl of mini-wheats, a glass of milk to wash down all the vitamins, and a small cup of coffee.
Sure, I gained some weight, but I was on holidays. Like my tan, most of it is gone already. Good thing looking at the photo is not fattening because I look at it a lot.  

Friday, February 3, 2012

Windows and Doors of Mexico


I have always enjoyed photographing windows, doors, and park benches.


Some cultures, more than others, enjoy making a statement with their house openings. I wish we saw more of it here in Canada.


Old or new, the home looks more inviting with a bit of creativity either with colour, ornamental iron, or flowers.





After peering through the cracks of this door, I discovered that it was an entry not to a house, but to a beautiful courtyard.



Both shade and beauty are offered with these trailing vines and flowers.


Even when the windows are totally fake, they look great. You never know what you will find when you go tramping through the back streets.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Mexico Theme Night


Each of the two large Buffet Restaurants had a different menu theme each night but on Mexican night, the whole resort was turned into a Mexican extravaganza. Tortillas, enchiladas, tacos, nachos, burritos, beans, rice, and of course, churros. There are brightly coloured banners, blankets, sombreros, and urns everywhere. There are two troops of Mariachi bands and dancers roaming the grounds getting everyone into the mood.  


This was the 'white band' and, of course, there was a 'black band'. These guys are fun to watch, and they play the old traditional Mexican style with violins, guitars of varying sizes, and trumpets.




This is Pancho, generally acting stupid and getting big laughs and many smiles.


The lovely ladies of the dance and entertainment troupe pull out all the stops as they interact with the dinner crowd. This is going on all around us as we are having our dinner. After a while they move on to another restaurant.





Outside, the festivities continue with all sorts of games and contests where one can earn 'play pesos' that can be used in an auction later in the evening. The reward is 1000 Pesos for sitting on the bull or having one's photo taken as below.


The courtyards are full of Mexican vendors where one can browse and purchase any manner of Mexican Junk (this is what the locals call the art work and handi-crafts).
At 9:30 pm. the show starts and it is a very colourful and authentic display of Mexican dancing, Mariachi bands (again) and cowboy rope tricks. If you did not feel like you were in Mexico before Mexico night, you certainly did later as your head hit the pillow, dancing with dreams of Hat Dances and Churros.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sunrise/Sunset


We awoke to spectacular sunrises every morning. Few days were completely clear and it is the clouds in the sky that reflect the colours. We would step out of our door to head for our walk and were greeted by scenes like this.



In two weeks there were only three sunsets of any note. The fog banks in the west were so heavy that they blocked any light at the end of the day.




We shared our holiday with this delightful couple, Henry and Heidi.


And they shared their holiday with this delightful couple, one of whom is slightly sun burnt.