OH! So… THAT’s why sitting on your ass watching TV while having delivery of all the comfort foods you could possibly want brought to your door — for a year and a half –isn’t good for you… she says facetiously

I have failed my blood test BIG TIME … my liver numbers (remember the fatty liver I got under control before covid?) are now so high that they couldn’t even do the test to see if I had cirrhosis because the machine would have given a false positive… AND my blood’s glucose levels doubled… for years they’ve sort of wiggled around type 2 diabetes sometimes edging up to pre-diabetic, sometimes back down in healthy level levels… well since Covid started, they’ve actually DOUBLED and are solidly in diabetic range … between the liver number and the diabetes… guess who’s in diet mode again…

Granted I was fully aware of the fact that I’d pretty much “outgrown” what had been my fat clothes and was now living in sweat pants and X-large Tshirts….AND back to my top weight (same as in 2015 when I discovered my weight by standing on a scale outside a grocery store — 200 lb) … but even considering all that … till I saw the blood numbers I was living in a sort of denial that things hadn’t gotten THAT bad. I hadn’t caught Covid … so I “still had my health”

HA HA HA HA

Well that’s over… I’ve been in diet mode all week, and combining it with the modified fasting I had been doing last time I lost weight without even realizing I was doing it (16 hours a day of no food — last eating anything is 6pm then breakfast at about 10am — every day) … hopefully between that and the working out 3 times a week with a trainer, I’ll have lost enough in the next 3 months that the liver doctor can do the cirrhosis test without having to put in paperwork to my insurance company asking for permission to do an MRI

Time flies while you’re NOT in lockdown

Was fully vaccinated by the end of April, yay team Pfizer, and May has flown by in a blink. For most of it just going to gym two to three times a week (my physical trainer is very proud of me even though I’ve not lost a single pound) was about as much excitement as I could bare. Got a flat tire fixed, and had my car’s starlink system updated (the satellite system that allows the car to automatically call for help in case the airbags get activated, irrelevant of if there’s cell coverage or if I’m conscious)… which was a major pain in the ass… TWO WHOLE DAYS of sitting in the dealership with them saying, any time now….

Other than that, nothing exciting has happened… life is slowly returning to normal, and mask mandates have been lifted for those of us who have had the jab.

Friends and I are starting to talk about some group travel. Now that they’ve been wholled up a full year, some people have reached out to me asking if they can join me once I decide it’s safe to get back on a plane. Till then I’ve suggested we turn our attention from travel away from home to staycation … My intention is start checking out things around the Chicago area and writing about that… as well as catching up on the about 125 location posts from when I was traveling that I THOUGHT I’d writing about during lock down but couldn’t bring myself to do… preferring instead to watch infinite amounts of television….

Am fully vaccinated!!!

Hello from Chicago! It’s been a good 4 months since my last post.

Today I am officially good to go! It’s been exactly two weeks since my 2nd jab and I am now fully vaccinated — according to the experts at the CDC (at least for the next 6 months based on current data). I celebrated this momentous fact by doing what before covid would have been the utterly mundane… I signed up with a personal trainer for a session in a gym to try to get back some of the muscle tone lost over the past year of barely moving…. without hurting myself. It was GLORIOUS! I was smiling uncontrollably for two hours after the half hour session was over… and then topped it off by making an appointment with the dentist to get my teeth cleaned. The prosaic has never been so exciting.

Got my first covid shot (Pfizer) on March 18th at a local walgreens. Signing up for it was a bit of a challenge. I had registered with my city but a few weeks had passed and they had not emailed me back with a when, so I started looking around and discovered the city where I lived was actually WAY behind the local pharmacies in handing the stuff out…. so that even though my obesity and other issues qualified me with my state to be getting a jab, the city was still only trying to finish vaccinating the older than 65 year olds. A friend suggested bypassing the public efforts and to go private instead, and suggested signing up for it online at midnight, and then again at 6am with a pharmacy, saying “if you wait till 12:15 am or 6:15 am they’ll be all gone.”

First thing I did was I compiled a list of all the local pharmacies in my area (ones with outlets within a 1 hour commute) that were offering vaccinations — some of which were via grocery stores, and included the hyperlinks direct to their various sign up pages. This was to not waste time navigating through to those pages during the aforementioned 15 minute window of opportunity. For a few days I tried it repeatedly, but with no wins. Then on about the 3rd day I decided to try again at 8am… after a complete fail at both midnight and six, to discover the Walgreens pharmacy chain was offering a handful of appointments that were scattered around the state … 1 here, 3 there… And as I was refreshing the page trying to find a time and location would work for me including the possibility of having to drive an hour to and from the location (my body clock being pretty screwed up at the point, so that I was falling asleep at noon and waking at 9pm). Then, suddenly at about 8:15am, 22 appointments suddenly appeared at a walgreens not 15 minutes away from my home — I shit you not! I tried to grab the first appointment of the day but between clicks someone beat me to that one, and had to settle for the 2nd appointment — I checked back and by 8:30 almost all of the 22 openings had been filled.

A word to the wise, I now know having discussed it with the pharmacist that they arrive in the morning, find out what shipments they’re due, and then leisurely upload appointments into the system, based on how many staffers they have who can give jabs and work schedules …  According to him this can happen anytime between 6am and about 8:45am… and I just got dead lucky having refreshed by screen at about 8:10, because once they go up they do tend to be snatched up within about 15 minutes to a half hour — to his experience.

Now here’s a thing, Walgreens, the pharmacy chain I used told me the 2nd shot instead of being 3 weeks after the first, would be administered a whole month later. I called them up and asked, as it seemed wrong, and they said it was perfectly ok and that the 2nd shot could be done as late as 6 weeks after the first with no negative affects. So I waited. On my third week the American CDC (Center for Disease Control) bitch slapped the company and told them in no uncertain terms this was NOT ok. According to a New York times article that I read, they were doing it because it made it simpler for THEM to schedule the appointments using pre-existing software, and that it had nothing to do with supply and trying to get as many first shots into as many people as possible as quickly as possible (which was the explanation they gave me when I asked). Once this happened, I called them to see if I could get it rescheduled to the next few days they said NO, because there were no openings. SO my 2nd shot was a whole month after the first making the process from first shot to full immunization last tedious 6 weeks of waiting, for as we all know a watched clock runs slow.

But it’s over now … at least for the next 6 months…  I have marked my calendar for mid September to remind myself just in case a booster is required at that time. Granted we still need to take the same precautions, but here’s the thing. Till now any time I went out to a grocery store or some such (which I did rarely) it was stressful as all hell. Invariably some idiot was either not wearing a mask, or wearing it with their nose hanging out, or worse on their chin. Even among those with masks, a good third were NOT wearing effective ones. There was no shortage of people with bandanas over their faces… or wearing masks made of materials that did nothing, or worse actually broke up the moisture they breathed out into smaller droplets that made them MORE likely to stay suspended in the air, and for longer… which increased the risk of spreading the disease.

Having lived in Asia for a while, there they understand basic science and know you wear a mask because it is not only rude but inhumane to infect the people around you with whatever germs you might be carrying. As a result they will as a matter of course wear masks even if they feel ok, but know they’ve been in direct contact with someone who was sick. Masks in Asia are so common place that I many years ago picked up a few child sized ones while visiting Tokyo Disneyland. Americans however can’t seem to grasp this concept, and think the mask they are wearing will protect them for other people who are not wearing masks. THIS meme which was making the rounds a while ago was probably the BEST explanation of how masks work

Why wearing masks is important: the Urine Test.

But here’s the problem… Americans are not exactly known for their politeness, especially if it means inconveniencing themselves. They’ll wear a mask to protect themselves, but they don’t really care about others… and if they don’t believe the mask will protect them (on top of not believing covid is a real thing) then they won’t wear one, or if forced to will sometimes INTENTIONALLY wear something that obeys the letter of the law but is actually a fuck you to the people forcing them to wear a mask because they know full well its NOT the right kind of mask.

As such, leaving the house would FREAK ME OUT, and I would return from quick trips to the shop completely stressed. Today I was able to go to the gym, and afterwards to pick up food from Macdonalds, with NO stress because I now believe (fingers cross, no evil eye) that even if I should become infected with covid, the statistical likelihood of it killing me has dropped significantly. Where the Spanish flue we know in retrospect had a mortality rate of 2.7% of the population, with the highest mortality rates among children and young adults, we know that Covid kind of flips that… the mortality rate for covid is about healthy young people is only about 0.9% (but that varies with age, health conditions, and how well prepared and or equipped the local hospitals are to deal with being overwhelmed with patients). For someone my age with my health conditions… and my obesity… the death rate is about 10% … TEN PERCENT!!!!

And even among those who don’t die, another 30% might end up as long haulers with permanent damage to their heart, lungs, etc., and most frighteningly … their BRAINS. The medical community has just started documenting a massive uptick in psychiatric issues among people who had mild cases that they were able to overcome without hospital assistance.

How scary is that!!!

So yes, going out today fully immunized knowing that my risk of any of that has dropped to about the likelihood of being hit by lightning … something I don’t go around worrying about … and being able to actually ENJOY being around other people (even with the precautions of masks and social distancing — which is not unlike taking normal precautions during a thunderstorm) was just WONDERFUL!

Still Alive and well and hanging out in Illinois

Happy belated Hanukkah and an early Merry Xmas to anyone reading this. Believe it or not I’m STILL not completely moved into the new apartment I bought right at the start of the pandemic. I have yet to finish setting up the spare bedroom and I don’t have a dining room table … but it’s not like I’ll be hosting any dinners anytime soon, and I tend to eat while sitting in front of the TV.

I WAS getting various repairs done around the new place, emphasis on the was. Shortly after moving in while having only half way unpacked the clothing that had been in storage in my friend’s attic the closets hardware, which had struck me as pretty shoddy when I bought the place, collapsed. As in the weight of the clothing caused the hardware to rip right out of the drywall it had been attached to… Happily my real estate lady had a closet company that is located in downstate IL that is happy to do jobs up here (a good 2 hour drive from their factory), that was really affordable. I got four closets redone for $2,250, which included custom cutting a pressed board frame that was installed into the closets that the hardware was then hung from (who in the heck thought drywall would support it I don’t know) with a smart design that doubled the closets’ storage capacity.

In addition to the closet, I was having furniture repaired, and other odd jobs done around the place that are yet to be completed. I found an upholster through a friend to redo an old but beautiful chair I’d inherited. They allowed me to source the material myself (I didn’t have to buy it through them) — found a source online via Etsy that was MUCH cheaper than what they or local stores were selling — and my guy said it was good quality when he inspected it. And then they only charged me $300 for the job, HALF what other guys were asking for the labor part of the job (I shopped around), and the final result is BEAUTIFUL. I also found a fully insured handyman through a gig economy (like uber) company for handymen called Andy on Call, that tests their workers skill sets, provides them with insurance and secured payment systems … but you still get to choose among their guys. And these guys (insured and you can pay with a credit card) were charging the same per hour as other independents that were referred to me that did were NOT insured and wanted to be paid in cash.

We got about half way through the various tasks I needed the repair man and the upholsterer to do, when the midwest’s infection numbers started to spike right before Thanksgiving, so we all agreed to delay completion till the numbers came back down to under 5K new cases a day…. happily (fingers crossed) the Illinois numbers dropped to JUST below that today… but Xmas is in a few days so I expect people to be stupid again… and then there’s new years. SO, I’ll wait till mid January to restart the work.

I also purchased something for the apartment I’d not intended to ever have, a highly rated treadmill that was on sale at Amazon during their black friday sale for 50% off. Took forever to arrive, but happily UPS brought it upstairs to right outside my apartment door — I was terrified they’d leave it downstairs by the mailroom in which case I’d been S.O.L. because I could never have safety gotten it to my apartment alone. It was heavy, about 80 lb, but I was able to maneuver it the short distance from the hallway into the apartment — not easy — and out of it’s box (I have almost no upper body strength and still have issues with dizziness)… It’s a collapsable treadmill designed to go under a desk for people who like to work while standing/walking slowly (the upper arm can be either up, or down and behind). It’s not great for runners — too short/narrow and no cushioning, but I have no intention of using it for that. It’s short enough that was able to fit it between my bookshelf and behind my couch, facing the TV — if I move the couch to the minimum viewing distance. So it’s a bit of crunch in terms of space. But I can watch TV while walking. Since it doesn’t really have side handles for me to hold on to I put a heavy high backed chair that was on my patio (heavy metal) to one side that I can rest my hand on it in order to steady myself when walking (otherwise I start to drift which could be dangerous).

That said, it is doing the trick and I’ve been able to get my movement rings on my apple watched closed daily, ireleant of the weather conditions outside. I do it while watch normal TV, but have also found Youtube channels devoted to videos people have shot that give you the false sensation of walking outdoors, through some of the most touristy places in the world… I’m personally loving the the ones shot in London in neighborhoods I’ve already visited. But of course on nice days I’ve been exploring my new neighborhood, which has some really nice walking areas just a few blocks away from my place.

Lake Michigan, adjacent to the Northwestern University Campus

I’ve also been perusing Facebook’s new marketplace, and found someone in my neighborhood who was selling a nice 100% oak cabinet for my living room, that was small and light enough that he could get it into his car and deliver it for me, for $50 cash (it’s now storing of my fancy dishes). So, at this point rather than buying more Ikea crap — I’ve already purchased 14 items from them, mostly bookcases, bedside tables and dressers, and since shopping at used stores or house sales would normally be my modus operandi for buying furniture, I’ve decided to try to find more used real wood items that same way. Real wood furniture used versus new Ikea crap for about the same price, kind of a no brainer. Like I said, I still need a dining room table and chairs, not to mention some more cabinets with drawers, etc. I think the last thing I MIGHT buy from Ikea is a twin daybed that converts to a double for the guest room… but again no rush unless a friend calls up wanting to stay here with me rather than finish lockdowns alone.

Alive and well in Illinois….

It’s now mid June, and while the pandemic numbers in the state have been dropping (in fact we currently boast the best job in the country at bringing those numbers down) this sucker is FAR from over. That said, it’s amazing how fast time has passed doing lock down. I’ve played an infinite number of hours of World of Warcraft and watched a load of Netflix, Amazon prime, Hulu, etc. What I haven’t done much of is listen to books on tape/Audible. OR for that matter written up the backlog of 150 posts about my travels … just can’t bring myself to be that productive.

The most exciting events of the past three months are…

  1. I am now the proud owner of my own apartment. I bought pretty much without really seeing it. Initially it was because I was in Florida (this was PRE Pandemic) and then it was because of the lock down. The walk through you’re supposed to do before finalizing the sale was my first time being physically in the space… it was all done remotely with the real estate agent walking through while I watched via FaceTime (we both own iPhones) and asked her to focus the camera on this or that. So all of that got done remotely. Its AN apartment but not THE apartment, the location rocks, and it was the most affordable I could find… but it’s sort of depressing little place — the intention when I first picked the place (pre pandemic) was to have someplace to retreat to in the neighborhood where my doctor and preferred hospital is (and one that was becoming increasingly difficult to find an Airbnb within), but to not really spend that much time there overall as I’d be traveling at least 7 months of the year if not more … HA HA HA HA HA
  2. Once the purchasing process was over, moving in during a pandemic was “interesting.” I had assumed I could just go to Ikea and get what I needed,  HA HA HA HA… I can’t even get delivery, and even if I did they’d drop it off in the building garage and not help me get it upstairs to the apartment. That said, I did manage to get the professional movers to unload my storage locker and bring the contents to my place… so I have a mattress and box spring (about 20 years old, my old bed from my dad’s place — I vacuumed it well).
  3. Over the course of the past few months there was a MASSIVE hail storm that took out my back window. Hail the size of golf balls.
    5D31955A-0E67-4F0D-BFAB-E07AF19CEDF7_1_201_a.jpeg
    Getting the glass replaced and the car cleaned out of glass was also a challenge, because of the pandemic. Happily I was able to get it replaced by one of those companies that drive out to where are and do it. There was a bit of delay because they didn’t have my glass in stock, but it was done in a few days. HOWEVER… the rain wasn’t done between the damage and the repair, so we had to cover the car with a massive tarp the Airbnb owner lent me, and the fist time we closed a car door the back window IMPLODED (so glad the tarp was on by then and kept the glass from flying out and hitting me or the family members who were helping me out).
    AF534339-CF1B-4410-B1DD-43E78D15C2A4_1_201_a.jpeg
    Ultimately in order to get it cleaned out, I took it to the dealership and they helped me because car detailers were not considered necessary businesses. They cleaned it as well as they could, spent a good two hours doing it, and then I went in with the Airbnb owner’s hvac and we found places their guys had missed… and in spite of that I’m still finding bits of broken glass weeks later… I pick it out, and next time I drive, there’s more… especially in the trunk space.

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bits of glass found in the trunk a good two weeks after the cleaning, in spite of it being spotless when they were done

All that said, I’m splitting my time between the Airbnb and the new apartment. I’ve extended my stay but am spending nights at the apartment. Sounds nutty I know, but I basically have a deal with the owner, if I get sick she’ll make sure I don’t starve to death during the high fever and hallucinations part of the illness (assuming I don’t get so sick as to need hospitalization … knock on wood!)

 

Hello from Lock down!

What a time we live in! I was spending my summer down at Disney World, yet again, when Coronavirus started up in China. At the Airbnb I was at, as luck would have it, we all came down with some sort of nasty upper respiratory infection that had the side effect of extreme exhaustion, so rather than going to the parks I ended up staying home for the most part. And then, the virus started to spread, but wasn’t in Florida yet, when I was scheduled to change Airbnb’s to a second location (what is it with Brazilians and their love of Donald Trump? Both locations hosted by Brazilians, both of them in love with the man and believe his every word) this time with a hostess who refused to believe the pandemic was going to be a real thing (just as the first Florida infections, from cruise ships, started showing up) and was out partying while I was huddled in my room and thinking, “going to Disney World probably NOT the best choice right now.” I.e., saw relatively little of the Mouse this year in spite of having purchased a one year pass.

The more this hostess refused to honor what was coming the more nervous I got about staying at her home. That and while I wasn’t so much worried about it killing me, if I got sick enough to NEED medical assistance I wanted to be ‘in network’ (as my health insurance doesn’t cover Florida) so being sick didn’t also result in going broke. SO, I  shortened my trip to leave the following week (instead a month hence)… and the following day Disney World decided to close up shop in 4 days.

EEK! Shit done got real! Disney doesn’t even close for Hurricanes!!

So I told her I was leaving the next morning (didn’t want to be stuck on the highway with all the tourists heading north), threw my stuff into my suitcases, loaded up the car and left. Believe it or not this hostesses’ response to the park closing was to bundle her four year up daughter and head to the parks “for their last two days in a while”… her comment being “the parks will be half empty, and I don’t believe this illness is going to anything worse than the flue. People are silly.”

Along the path up north I stopped for gas and food, and that was it. Totally not how I usually road trip, and my inner child was going, ‘but mom, we could stop here, or go there” and my neurotic adult voice saying, “shut up and be quiet, we’re not stopping!”

Along the way I could tell distinguish republicans from democrats based on how they washed their hands. Suddenly most folks (who bothered to wash at all) were doing it mostly as instructed in all the videos that were floating around the internet last week, which was never how folks had washed their hands till then… with a few folks still doing the 5 second throw water on your hands and leave. I assumed those folks were the republicans.

The room I had rented in Chicago was supposed to be from Mid April to June, but the guests who were booked into that space for the days before my arrival had just cancelled and headed home, so I was able to begin my booking in early March instead (a BIG house on Chicago’s north shore with a family I’d lived with previously), almost a full month earlier than expected.

On the 13th of March (while I was in Southern Georgia) I had gone to Costco’s website to order a delivery of groceries to arrive on the 16 (I got in late on the 15th but had thought I might get there on the 16th if traffic or weather was bad, etc.), but it never arrived even though my credit card had been charged. I emailed the company that night, they didn’t respond to the email till Friday the 20th. I tried calling customer service multiple times before that but didn’t manage to get through till Wed., the 18th — and that required over two hours on hold — at which point I cancelled the order because the guy said, “well we can try to get your order to you in 5 hours from now, but it if it doesn’t show up again you’ll have to call us again!” No grocery deliveries for me… and TODAY the Governor of IL who had allowed restaurants do continue to do delivery and take out, but not sit in, has put the entire state on lock down.

We live in interesting times.

I fell down and went boom yet again…

Back on September 22, a day before I was supposed to leave to go to Reykjavík in Iceland I fell down and went boom on the streets of London, yet again!

At the time I was staying in the Kensington neighborhood directly adjacent to Harrods (a world famous department store, now owned by the family of the guy that Princess Diana was in the car with when she died) and had been spending the morning walking around and exploring the museum district where the Victoria and Albert Museum is, while listening to an audible recording of a book. Yes I was very distracted and putting a lot of stress on my brain, which was still dealing with post concussive syndrome. I had already become aware of the fact that I was starting to mentally fatigue and had contemplated staying in place and finding a cab to take me home, but had rejected the notion thinking I shouldn’t be such a ninny, my body was still fine and I needed the exercise.

Suffice it to say that was the wrong decision.

One of the problems I’ve had ever since the major concussion (back in Australia about two years ago) is that when I start to tire the balls of my feet begin to drag.  this is a problem that I’m still dealing with today. Initially they had been doing it all the time, so that it felt like the sidewalk was reaching up to grab my feet as I walked; but after identifying the problem and some self implemented physical therapy — who knew that my childhood ballet lessons would ever serve some sort of practical use in adulthood; I basically made a practice (for a few months) of focusing my attention on what my feet were doing, and that solved the problem by 95%. That said, anytime my brain starts to fatigue my feet go right back to dragging.

Anyway I suddenly caught my foot on a not completely level piece of sidewalk, tripped and started to fall … But I guess because I was mentally fatigued my hands didn’t do what they’re supposed to do, which is to Jut-out in front of me to break the impact and keep my head from hitting the ground. As a result I landed pretty much square on my forehead.

The picture in the upper left-hand corner is what I looked like shortly after hitting the ground. I lay there immobile in a state of shock, but some very nice girls whose names I didn’t get stopped and helped me. Once they gotten me up off the ground they escorted me down the street to a local pharmacy which turned out to not be a real pharmacy. They then took me from there even further down the street to a branch of the Boots pharmacy chain, where there was a minute clinic type set up. 

The pharmacist was busy talking to some other customers when I waddled up and asked for help, with blood trickling down my face. First she said “please stand in line and wait your turn.”, and then looked up at me and said, “apparently you take priority!” The people she’s been talking to were not particularly thrilled with this until they turned around and took one look at me and agreed that in fact I did. She took me into the clinic area and cleaned up my forehead and put a bandage on it and then took me out to the street and put me into a cab and directed it towards the nearest hospital with an emergency room, namely the Chelsea and Westminster hospital.

I then got to experience yet another example of how by comparison to other industrialized countries the US health system is seriously fucked up. I went into the waiting room, had to wait for more serious patients to go ahead of me – – keep in mind my forehead had already been cleaned up and bandaged by the woman at the pharmacy. When they finally saw me — The room has been pretty full when I arrived and I had a wait of maybe an hour, they cleaned my wond up a little bit more and put surgical super glue over the cuts to help them heal (and keep more blood from escaping– as we all know head wounds are heavy bleeder’s). when I asked how much it was going to cost me, this visit to the emergency room … keep in mind that in the United States if I even step foot into an emergency room I am hit with a bill for $1000, and that’s before seeing the doctor. When I was in Australia they charged me $134 to walk into the room, $134 to see the doctor, $134 for the CAT scan, etc.… So at the very least I was expecting some sort of fee of a few hundred dollars. To my shock and awe they informed me I owed them NOTHING!!!

The second picture on the upper left top row is what I look like when I woke up the next morning. The day started out with a small black eye swelling in my inner tear ducts adjacent to my nose, and progressed rapidly over the course of the day, most of which was spent at the airport or on a plane heading to Reykjavík. The third picture starting from the left in the second row is what I look like the next morning waking up in Reykjavík, and from that point on every photograph was taken once a day over the ensuing days. By the time I left Reykjavík the bottom right picture all I had left were lines that made me look like a football player.

What was kind of funny is that in spite of the fact that my eyes were deep purple almost nobody said anything to me about them, other than my best friend who flew in from Chicago to spend that week with me. There was one exception, one elderly man who I met in the waiting area for the flight to Reykjavík said to me, “I have a bet with my wife, she thinks you’re just doing some sort of weird make up thing, but I said that you had fallen and hit your forehead and that you have black eyes as a result.” Apparently the same thing that happened to him as a kid.

What I was most impressed by, and my Best friend felt the same, was just how impressively balanced the swelling was. It really did look like eyeshadow I had applied to my eyes, So I can’t fault people for thinking that that was what it was.

Continue reading “I fell down and went boom yet again…”

Technology struggles

So my reliable mid 2015 15″ MacBook Pro started to break down a few weeks ago. First I noticed that the case was not closing completely, which seemed a little weird. But then I remembered that this might be because the battery was starting to swell-up. I took a good look at the curvature of the keyboard and sure enough it wasn’t flat. However because I completely lacked any sort of back up computer (my old one refused to bootup a few months ago)  I was putting off taking it in for repairs becausethe thought of being a couple of days without a computer terrified me; I’m currently on the road in Florida. But then, after a few days, the fan started to sound like there was a butterfly caught inside my machine, and it was a very unhappy butterfly… 

Last night I realized that if I didn’t do something soon I might find myself without a computer entirely, so I got on Facebook and asked my friends what I should do. The general consensus was rather than buying a new computer I should, since I did not currently own one, buy an iPad. Apparently with the new Mac operating system iPads now function as a second screen while using the MacBook. (Till now I haven’t had one because it’s far as I was concerned it was just an iPhone with out phone capability, and a much larger screen.) Also as a friend of mine pointed out to me I’ve been having problems dealing with legal documents while on the road because I don’t have a way to print them out, then sign them, then scan them and send them back to whoever sent them to me. she said that with an iPad and it’s electronic pencil I would be able to sign the document on the iPad and send it back very easily. Those two functions seemed worth it, and it might be able to act as a back up computer for when I need to take my computer in to be fixed without being simultaneously redundant. So I got online I purchased an iPad and had it waiting for me at the Apple store when I went to drop off my computer to be repaired.

The repair, thanks to the fact that my Apple care warranty was still up-to-date (just barely), is completely free but will require about 10 days for the turnaround. so I am for the first time in my life trying to do a blog post on the iPad. It’s a learning experience. I had thought that I could spend these 10 days catching up on blog posts. My first thought was that I would only be able to do the writing part and not the photos but actually the inputting of media on this application seems pretty intuitive. Not being able to have multiple windows open at the same time is kind of a pain in the ass but otherwise it’s pretty easy. So that’s the plan because I’m not gonna be able to play World of Warcraft on this Thing that’s for sure!

What I can’t seem to figure out how to do on the app is how to tag and categorize the blog posts.

Hello from Disney World!! Yet, AGAIN…

For anyone who reads me regularly (I have no idea if that animal exists) I’m still taking a vacation from my vacation. BUT, as I don’t actually own a home I have to be somewhere, and since it’s winter, I’m once again in Florida doing the snow bird/Disney World thing. I have rented a master suite in an apartment in the amusement park capitol of the world in the home of an Airbnb host I’ve gotten quite friendly with during previous stays (so it’s a bit like being at a friend’s home, but not quite), bought myself the obligatory yearly Disney pass (which makes economic sense after day 10) WITH the photo pass option, and have been going to the parks pretty much nightly. Regarding the pass, got talking with some other folks who I noticed were taking advantage of EVERY photographer in the park, and the father said he did the math and you need to have 8K photos taken before the extra cost of the photo option makes sense… I’m not sure I agree as most of my friends can’t take a decent photo and you don’t get the photoshopped in extras at home without a lot of work.

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I’m liking my new Hawaiian style ears, the flowers look surprisingly realistic up close

Regarding Why go to Disney YET again, particularly since when I left here two years ago it was with a case of extreme boredom. Well… After all my recent falls, I don’t feel safe walking most places anymore. My right foot seems to start dragging whenever I get fatigued, and if the walkways aren’t level, which most city streets are not, I run the risk of tripping. The past 3 months I’ve been staying in places that were pretty suburban and I’ve barely gotten ANY exercise… and put on more than few pounds as a result.

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Disney walking areas are VERY level, as in you could be inside a mall while outdoors, level. And just walking from parking (I tend to arrive in the evenings so I park at the back of the lot) to the park and one rotation around the park itself gets me 1 hour aerobic exercise according to my apple watch, and about 10K steps… takes me about 3 hours to pull that off, but it happens. I haven’t stepped on a scale but my belt has gone from the last hole to the 2nd one… so I think I may be loosing some of what I gained.

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The line, top right, is for Jungle Cruise (a 5 minute wait), but you get the idea, as that queue is normally 45 minutes to an hour long

Got here about Jan 7 and for most of the week the parks were still pretty packed, but just this past weekend there was a visible drop in attendance which should continue till about Spring break (early April) … at which point I’ll head back north. So in otherwords the first few days didn’t get on any rides because I’m no fan of standing in line for more than 10 minutes … but just this weekend I was able to walk right onto (with no standing and waiting at all) It’s a Small world, The Haunted Mansion, and Spaceship Earth over at Epcot (all of this done at or around 7pm +, i.e., after the tourists have gone to dinner or home, or were watching the fireworks show).

That said, my mornings are still spent playing World of Warcraft while listening to books on tape, just like in the last post. The newest books include:

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States
By: Sarah Vowell

Sarah Vowell, whose voice on this audible book you may recognize if you were a fan of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (because Jon was a fan of hers), is a historian/comedian who with her squeaky/nerdy voice imparts a lot of wit, sarcasm and comments that had me full out laughing into her work that you might miss if you read it instead of listened to it. This is the sort of book where I want to now, having heard it, buy a paper copy, and listen again while underlining and highlighting the text — because she says some really insightful things about our history that at 55 and having been a history major I’ve never heard before and went, “DUH! that makes so much sense… why haven’t I heard that before?”

In the Shadow of the Sword: The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire, By: Tom Holland

Was originally assigned this book for a class on Israel and the Arab nations, or some such, which I ended up dropping during the first week (could already tell the professor and I would be at loggerheads and I had over enrolled anyway … but a few years later decided that since the book was on Audible I’d get it and listen… I vaguely remember our professor had only assigned various chapters telling us the book goes WAY off topic, and boy does it. It almost feels like the writer knew a lot about Christian and Jewish civilizations of the period around the time of Muhammad, and wanted to throw all that in since what we actually about about the development of the nations under the umbrella of Islam is kind of sketchy other than there’s actual secondary independent historical evidence that the guy actually existed, which is more than you can say for Jesus or pretty much anyone in the old testament, let alone Moses. So, in short the book is hard to follow, and harder to remember because there’s so many details and no central storyline.

Jane Austen at Home: A Biography
By: Lucy Worsley

Fascinating book. I’m an Austen fan, have read most of the books, seen all the movies (and different versions of… including the modern retellings)… and have even watched any number of documentaries about the lady… and MOST of what was in this book was eye opening for me. For any serious fan of the lady and her work, this is a must read. That said, I listened, not read… and the reader is VERY good…. Worsley does the intro and the little extra bit at the end, and sad to say her writing is easier to take in when not read by her.

That said… am currently working my way through:

This book focuses on the British fascination with murder. Apparently once public hangings and the ability to trounce all over active murder investigation scenes was denied the British public, this morbid need was replaced with murder mysteries. Or at least that’s Worsley’s theory. She then goes through a history of famous murders and talks about how they worked their way into English Literature. Apparently for instance, readers of Dickens’ time would have known Oliver Twist was a crime novel based on the title, as a twist was slang of the time for someone who hung from a noose; and Austen’s Northanger Abbey wasn’t a romance so much as a sendup of the popular horror novels of her age (the heroine is a young girl who’s read too much of them goes to the abbey expecting ghosts and horror — as the world Abbey would be another keyword in a title that would communicate to readers of the time that this would be a horror book, only to discover more realistically disturbing issues, such as how many rich people of Austen’s time owed their wealth to slavery… something the Austen Biography I read just before this had also discussed). …. but like I said I’m not done with this book yet.

Travels of the mind… or what I’ve been doing the last 3 months (30+ book reviews)

So… this has been a very busy year travel wise. I was out of the country for pretty much nine full months: four months in Australia, a few weeks in New Zealand, a few months in Israel, two weeks in the French Alps in a town outside of Geneva (which I think I haven’t posted anything about yet — sorry), over three months in London, and a week in Iceland. Actually according to Google I was in 8 countries (USA, England, Iceland, Israel, France, Switzerland (mostly as a transit point), Australia, New Zealand) and 43+ cities this year…

When I got back I wanted a vacation from my vacation. After 5 years of pretty much non stop traveling all I wanted to do was curl up in bed and not move; I in fact wanted to play World of Warcraft (WOW) while listening to some of my huge backlog of audible books that I’ve purchased over the past 5 years but not listened to — I’ve got over 500 at this point.

(Didn’t even want to even think about the 150 or so blog posts about travel places I went to which I still have to write about — those will come later.)

WOW is a game I used to play obsessively, maybe 10 years ago (?) but stopped because I realized it was eating up my life and actually making me depressed. But, I realized I’ve been missing it and decided to start playing again; blew my mind, but when I contacted the company and when I mentioned that I had USED to play it 10 years ago, they asked me a few questions to confirm my identity, and they STILL had all my avatars on file on their servers and were able to reactivate them!!! And… yes, these are two things I do simultaneously (listen to books while playing video games). Let’s face it World of Warcraft doesn’t really require focused attention most of the time, and I avoid the parts  of the game that do anyway … I just need/wanted something to do while listening to my books other than driving (I fell down and went boom again, this time in London, while trying to walk and listen to books at the same time, so apparently I can no longer do that safely).

So in this blog post I’m going to now list every one of the 30+ books I’ve listened to since early October — in the order that I read/listened to them… and my book reviews of the same:

The first book I “read” was:

Anansi Boys By: Neil Gaiman

I’m a huge Gaiman fan… started this book while in Israel, but then stopped reading it in order to read some stuff about Iceland, and didn’t get around to finishing it till I’d returned to the USA. It’s in the same vein as American gods (possibly my favorite Gaiman book) and some consider these two to go hand in hand … but this time he delves into the world of African gods, with the Anansi (spider) and Tiger stories and the competition between these two archetypal gods… only like in American Gods they’re not dead, and Anansi has two sons (or are they) whose story this is

The Vikings in Iceland: The History of the Norse Expeditions and Settlements across Iceland

Finished reading this one on October 13th… and while it’s probably a book I should have read BEFORE going to Iceland, well … better late than never. It was pretty good and explained some of what I had seen that the tour guides hadn’t explained all that well. There’s really not that many books in Audible that you can listen to about Iceland, but this was pretty good and worth the time. So, interesting book, short and informative for those of us wanting some background on icelandic culture before traveling there, shame about the narrator, who could probably put you to sleep no matter what he was reading

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English  by John McWhorter

Did the audible version, read by the author who’s a pretty well known linguistics professor. This guy reads his own work as well as Neil Gaiman does — which is gloriously well. The story is both utterly fascinating and impressively boring, as he goes over points of grammar and word usage in order to argue that the generally accepted ideas about how English evolved just don’t hold water in the light of new evidence (some of it genetic) which forces us to look again and consider other options… such as welsh and celtic which tend to be neglected because none of the academics studying the topic ever bothered to learn those two …. and other facts..

Crystal Singer By: Anne McCaffrey

This series is one of my favorite books. I’ve been reading it over and over again for over 20 years… so was thrilled to see it on audible, and then very sad to discover it’s abridged. All the major story points are there, but all the lovely details have been removed. The narrator talks FASTER than pretty much every other narrator on audible, but once I got used to it I realized it was at the same speed I read, and as a result I found it easier to drop into that film in your head sensation I get from reading that is usually missing on audible.

Killashandra: book 2 of the Crystal singer trilogy, again by: Anne McCaffrey

So like I said, this series is one of my favorite ones … so was thrilled to see it on audible, and then very sad to discover it’s abridged. Same issues as last time. That said, the SOUND quality on this recording borders on unbearable… there’s like a scratchiness to it, it’s embarrassing

Crystal Line (book 3 of the trilogy)

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE someone get the right from McCaffrey to re-record these things unabridged this time… and with better sound quality

Norse Mythology  by Neil Gaiman

Granted, I’d heard of the norse gods via comic books, vague remembrances of things I learned in grade school and from friends of mine who actually still practice that religion (or think they do), but my personal knowledge of the myths was limited, and having JUST returned from Iceland where there’s a lot of mention of these myths, I kind of felt it was time to brush up on it… and Gaiman, who I LOVE just released this book, so… that said: Loki totally isn’t who I thought he was, and Oden can be a bit silly, and Thor well… again not what I assumed based on Marvel comics … so it was good to learn more about them and of course no one reads Gaiman like Gaiman, so in general try to get audibles of his books that are read by him.

Peter Pan By: J. M. Barrie

Read this as a kid, decided to re-read it based on all the pop culture references (other than Disney) that comment on how Peter is NOT QUITE how Disney interpreted the story but having no memory of that from when I read it as a kid … That said,  it’s pretty much the same as the Disney cartoon in the broad brush strokes, but it’s the small details that are oh so different… Barrie makes comments about what’s going on … he doesn’t dwell on it and doesn’t emphasis it, but as an adult you’ll find your “well THAT’s NOT RIGHT!” antenna getting tweaked. Peter’s character really is pretty dysfunctional, and even for a little boy, he’s a fairly nasty piece of work…

Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook by: Christina Henry

I followed up listening to Peter Pan with a listen to this modern (totally different author) prequel of the history between Peter and Hook… a telling which is NOT appropriate for children by the way, this book was intense. Won’t spoil it for you but wow…. You’ll never look at either character the same way again… Henry takes all the subtle inferences from the Barrie classic and runes with them

Animal Farm By: George Orwell

Sure I read this back in high school … but that was 30 years ago. Time for a re-read so… Aimed squarely at Communist Russia, and other totalitarian governments etc, Animal Farm UNFORTUNATELY never ceases to be a disturbingly relevant book. Well performed, good sound quality

I’m someone who only ever gets the unabridged versions of things… but after slogging my way through this… well, of the 25 hours and 30 minutes of listening time, there’s maybe 8 hours that could have been edited out. In the first 5 hours you learn ALL about her family’s history and the founding of Pasadena. If the young Julia fell down while riding her bicycle it’s probably in there… I now know about every failed romance and part time job she ever had… and then … as you start to get to the end of the book … well you know that scene in in the movie “Julie & Julia” where the young cook whose been blogging about working her way through every recipe in Julia’s seminal work, The Art of French Cooking finds out that Julia knew about her blog didn’t like what she’d been doing it and the poor girl breaks down into tears… well lets just say the book makes it pretty clear that Julia in her 80’s could be quite the B*&ch and her response to Julie’s blog was consistent with that… and to be honest as someone who grew up watching Julia Child on PBS with my mother, I’m not sure I wanted to know that…

As to the performance, by the END of the book the reader had figured out how to bring some of Julia’s distinctive voice into the reading of her words, but it was only by about hour 18 that she started to do it… in the early chapters it was totally not there, distractingly not there… in fact this reader lacked ANY ability to bring distinctive voices to the characters whose ‘quotes’ she was reading… so there’s that

The Atrocity Archives: A Laundry Files Novel By: Charles Stross

Friend of mine started up a monthly Sci Fi book club, and since I was going to be in town for a few months I decided to attend, this was the book for October. Quite funny story… it’s a toss up of what’s more terrifying, lovecraft influenced monsters from parallel universes that want to invade our reality and kill us, or the mundane bureaucracy of office life. Reader did a real good job creating distinct voices, accents and personalities for all the different characters.

Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid’s Memoir That Inspired ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ and ‘Downton Abbey’ By: Margaret Powell

Delightful listen, I listened to the audible version and it was JUST so well read and fun. If you love those shows, you’ll want to read this book

A Game of Thrones  (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1) By: George R. R. Martin

Having LOVED the TV show I figured it was time to tuck into the original books as most of my friends had read them BEFORE the series came out on HBO. With regards to the audiobook… Honestly I don’t know what the reader was thinking!!! And it was borderline offensive… Tyrion has an irish accent, like a leprechaun!! NONE Of the other Lannisters have an Irish accent. One gets the feeling the guy didn’t actually read the book before narrating it… because as the book progresses he drops the sing song of it, maybe as he realized how smart the character was… not sure. But early on some of his best lines, some of which have gone on to be on Tshirts and the like, such as “all dwarves are bastards in their father’s eyes” get muddled and lost. That and it makes you appreciate how much Dinklage did with that character… Other than that the book’s great

A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 2) By: George R. R. Martin

Happy to announce that Tyrion lannister’s character no longer sounds like a leprechaun, as he did in the first novel… which improves the reading immensely. I am convinced the reader didn’t bother to actually READ the book before recording it… and then realized just how stupid he’d been at the outset. Also there’s all sort of stuff in this book that wasn’t in the TV show

A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 3) By: George R. R. Martin

so book 3… and while Tyrion no longer sounds like a leprechaun, like in book 1, the reader seems to keep losing track of what voices he’s assigned to what characters (which makes it very confusing) … and the lannister father sounds like churchill… and let’s keep in mind each of these books has been about 30+ hours of listening EACH…

A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 4) By: George R. R. Martin

Still a lot of overlap with the TV show, but this is where it diverges and things happen to some of our favorite characters that you won’t be prepared for and made me very sad. That said, I’m still NOT a fan of the reader, as I’ve made plain in my other reviews of the previous books. He doesn’t have a broad range of voices, nor can he keep straight which voice he used for whom. Considering what a massive hit the show was I wish they’d hire a full cast to re-do the recording… or at least a few people with more versatility

Hyperion By: Dan Simmons

Remember the book club? Well this was their November selection. Happily it was a book that was already on my to read list (I discovered it on some reading list somewhere of SciFi books you should read). It’s essentially Canterbury tales meets Alien (the movie) I suppose… well performed with a different performer doing each tale, with a woman playing the woman — like Game of Thrones SHOULD have been, very interesting, well written… what more can a girl ask for… but be prepared for an ending that leaves you hanging… guess I have to read book 2

Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders (a collection of short stories and poems) by Neil Gaiman

I love Gaiman’s work, and some of the stories and poems in this themeless collection are great, some no so much. It’s kind of like he had all of these short stories and an obligation to his publisher and just kind of threw them together. There’s really no central core to thing… but that said, there’s some really good stuff in there. I listened to audible version, read by him… and…. there’s no pause between stories. One ends the next begins and there’s no clear end (like an audible que… I listened to one audiobook that putt a sheep bahhhh sound at the end of every chapter) or pause so that if your not paying attention, well it can get very confusing.

A Moveable Feast By: Ernest Hemingway

I KNOW this is supposed to be one of the best books by one of the best authors EVER… but sorry, I don’t get it. Its one of those ones I had never gotten around to and figured I should…  Is it a book about fitzgerald or paris? So confused.

A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 5) By: George R. R. Martin

So I took a break from the series because I had to read that book for the book club, and then read a few other things before I could lug myself back to the last (so far published) book in the Game of Thrones series. Again, the previous ones were over 90 hours of listening… I needed a break! There’s some crucial differences between the books and the show… just saying. My complaints about this production is what I’ve been saying all along, the reader kind of sucks rocks. He seems to love doing Winston Churchill impersonations, and the voices for characters are inconsistent and his female voice are like fingers on a chalkboard… Am hoping that once the last book gets written, IF it gets written … they’ll redo the series with maybe a few different readers… or someone with more aptitude for voices

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

The actress Annette Bening give a well done performance of this classic novel. Mrs Dalloway was part of the modern movement in literature. It is one day in the life of the title character, a sort of shallow upper class london housewife, and a second wife, a woman who’s husband has come back from WWI a hero, with a severe case of PTSD. There’s no “story” as such, nothing really happens, but rather it’s stream of consciousness as the individuals go through their day — which for the most part is how Woolf liked to write

The Hours by Michael Cunningham

This is Prize winning book of those literary exercises writers like to do. Before you read this book I STRONGLY suggest you read — or as I did, re-read Virginia Woolf’s classic, Mrs. Dalloway FIRST. This modern book is based entirely on that classic one and you won’t really get what’s going on if you don’t know that book fairly well. There are 3 characters in this book, Virginia Woolf — it starts off talking about her suicide when she finally gave up on her life long struggle (her first breakdown was at age 13) with what is generally recognized today as having been bipolar disease. The other two characters are spread out over time, one in the 1950’s the third around 2000, during the height of the AIDS epidemic. All the stories are either about Woolf writing Mrs Dalloway and what she was trying to do in the book, or are lives that echo the book. This audiobook was read by the author (Cunningham) who does a fairly decent job of it — not all authors do.

Orlando By: Virginia Woolf

And finishing off my Virginia Woolf week, Orlando is one of my very favorite books. I was first assigned it in a freshman year in college literature class. I’ve since re-read it a couple of times and took the opportunity while in the UK (back in my 20’s) to go to the house that it’s about (it’s a day trip from London). That said, I recently decided to listen to it (don’t think I’ve read it in 15 years, and wanted a refresher). It’s very confusing and might be considered a fantasy until you realize that Woolf was talking in the abstract about the legal laws of inheritance in the UK; Orlando isn’t a person that never dies, but rather represents the title as granted by queen Elizabeth and passed down through the generations. In this case it’s Woolf’s girlfriend … which is why rather than doing her normal stream of consciousness the book’s got an actual story. The book is essentially a protest against the unfair laws of inheritance which bias towards the first born male and essentially disinherit women of their birthrights. . A fairly radical piece of feminist literature for it’s time. That said, the performance is good

Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam Trilogy, #1)  by  Margaret Atwood

Atwood sure does have a bleak view of our futures doesn’t she? From the author of A Handmaid’s tale, this dystopia is one where we’ve essentially bioengineered ourselves into extinction… really well written and fascinating, but oh so bleak. I listened to the Audible version, well performed. There’s a debate as to which of the books in this series to read first as Atwood jumped around in her timeline… but this is the book she published first, and it’s the one she wants you to read first. In fact other readers have commented that if you don’t, her next book doesn’t explain stuff you need to know because she assumes THIS was the first book you read — and here it is explained.

The Courtiers: Splendor and Intrigue in the Georgian Court at Kensington Palace
by Lucy Worsley

10 hours of nothing but court gossip, who slept with whom, nasty divorces (before people could get divorced), and people using sex and intrigue to get access to the king. That said, I prefer this sort of history to the boring old fashioned battles and politics focus. The Reader is very good and is skillful at different accents.

If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home by Lucy Worsley

A history of the British home, how it changed over time (the idea of dedicated rooms for instance) and varied by place in society. She talks about how social norms regarding the little things, bathing, eating, cost of manual labor, etc., impacted if and when technologies were accepted into the home (like is bathing a good thing? And should it be done with cold water or hot?) so that things we assume a house should have may or may not have shown up irrelevant of had someone invented the tech to allow it. Breakfast for instance was NOT a normal meal the 20th century apparently… brunch was. It makes sense if you think about the time and effort required to get a fire going and food prepared from scratch… and demanding food before then was considered immature… people stopped eating before the sun went down until electric lighting was developed., etc. I “listened” the audiobook version of this. At first I had a hard time with the reader’s accent (sounds a bit like Barbara Walters on a bad day) and she tends to drown on so that it’s easy for your mind to wander.

The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer

The sequel to Mortimer’s equally good guide to Medieval England, this history book is written as though Time Machines are a real thing, and you need, while getting ready to travel in one, a guide book to prepare you for your visit. It goes into all the little survival things you’ll need to know that were different back then, down to how to wipe your backside and what kind of things can get you in trouble with the authorities… as well as what years you might want to show up if you want to see this amazing play performed by the actors it was written for, or see that architectural wonder before it’s pulled down, not to mention avoid that plague, or horrible harvest. It’s a fascinating way to look at history, that includes not just the famous, but the everyday. I ‘listened’ rather than read it, and the performance is VERY good.

Evelina: Or, the History of a Young Lady’s Entrance Into the World by Frances Burney

If you’re a Jane Austen fan than you MUST read Evalina by Frances Burney (1778), which Jane declared to be her favorite book. In fact Burney is the creator of the sort of social commentary genre, that focuses particularly of women teetering on the edge of the British upper classes for whom a good marriage or a source of their own money was imperative. As a result these stories all include romance, but aren’t actually about them. Just like Austen, this book is VERY funny (in fact funnier and good bit sillier… but, I STRONGLY recommend it, and the book totally holds value 200+ years later (in fact it feels more modern than Austen in spite of being older), so I seriously wonder why it was never assigned to me in a literature class — especially considering the author was a woman! (One of my best friends who I’ve been telling about the book was a literature major and she’s scratching her head about that too, as she’d never heard of it.) That said, while it’s pretty clear that Austen’s Pride and prejudice (1813) was influenced by this book — you hear echos of it throughout, although this story crosses the line into soap opera and has some of the laugh out loud silliness later seen in Oscar Wilde’s “The importance of being Earnest” (1895). The titular character is beyond bland and its doubtful her story would be interesting except for she’s suppose to be quite the stunner and men fall over themselves as a result (I think that’s part of the author’s point in terms of how society values women) but is surrounded by some amazing characters. I “listened” to the audiobook version of this, the performances were wonderful.

The Astronaut Wives Club by  Lily Koppel

Kind of an interesting perspective on the space race from the point of view of of the wives of the astronauts. These women became very tight knit as they supported themselves not only through the obvious stress and strains of husbands who have dangerous jobs, but also the press obsession with them and how they had to present themselves as the perfect 1950’s housewives or their husbands wouldn’t be allowed to go. It’s a quick read, and I think worth it. I listened to the audible version and it was a good performance.