Friday, August 28, 2015

The Wine Dark Sea to the Snotgreen Sea

"The author of the Iliad is either Homer, or if not Homer, somebody else of the same name."
--Aldous Huxley

Here he is, the blind storyteller, author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, the man we call Homer. Scholars have been unable to confirm his existence, but they are nearly all in agreement that if he lived and wrote the greatest epic poetry of Western civilization, he did it sometime in the ninth or eighth centuries B.C. in what we now call Asia Minor.

I share Homer's two great works with 34 of the 52 authors I follow on LibraryThing. One of the first "grown up" books I read was the Odyssey. Perhaps my interest was peaked by the movie Ulysses starring Kirk Douglas. It came out in the U.S. in 1955 but I most likely saw it a few years later at our local theater. I still love the movie to this day! You can read about it here: Ulysses

It was probably when I was 12 or 13 that I read the Odyssey.  Although I knew the story from the movie, it was a frustrating experience because I did not fully understand what I was reading. The stilted (to me) language, the Trojan War, Greece and Troy, and "when did all of this happen?". I finished it but have always had the uneasy feeling I might have skipped over a lot. Many years later I tackled the Iliad, and I managed to read the entire thing even though I admit it was a struggle, again with the language.

"In Western literature, Homer's epics occupy a central place. Because of their detailed genealogies at one time they served as points of reference for the oldest and most respected families in the Mediterranean world. As literary masterpieces in ancient times, they were read and discussed by schoolboys, including Alexander the Great, who is said to have memorized all the passages that refer to his hero, Achilles. Homer's emphasis on humanistic values--honor, truth, compassion, loyalty, devotion to family and gods--gives his works religious and ethical significance as guidebooks to moral behavior. To historians and archaeologists, Homer's works offer valuable information about life in the Bronze Age, such as burial customs, tribal organization, class distinctions, and warfare. As sources of enlightenment and entertainment, the Iliad and the Odyssey have influenced major writers, philosophers, sculptors, and painters since the eighth century B.C., including twentieth-century filmmakers."--Cliffs Notes on Greek Classics

Honestly, I am a bit surprised that 18 of my authors do NOT have Homer in their libraries. I like to think they must have read him, but for whatever reason did not keep copies. One of my authors did keep Homer's Odyssey--James Joyce. He kept it, he studied it, he transformed it into one of, if not THE great literary works of the 20th century, the book Ulysses.

And that, dear reader, is our next Legacy Library route. Leaving M.F.K. Fisher behind, we are going to begin The Ulysses Project. We will climb "Mt. Ulysses" together. Have no fear, you will not be required to actually read the book, just follow along with me. I do not have much background in the formal study of literature so do not expect an expert critique.  I will rely on others for that! I have my amateur climbing tools at the ready and we start NOW.

The best climbing tool I will use is this Frank Delaney podcast: Re: Joyce

Delaney has just posted Episode 274, so there is a treasure trove of material for the reader to draw on.

I have a confession--this is probably the 4th or 5th time I have attempted to read Ulysses. I do not feel ashamed or anything because I think most readers who are not serious scholars have started and given up on this book many times too! It is just downright daunting, not only in its size but in its scope. The Delaney podcast is a tremendous aid in the "scope" department. Thank you, Frank Delaney!

And so, here we go! I called Ulysses a mountain for good reason. It is a chunk! My 1961 Vintage edition has 784 pages. I love the way it is typeset. The first letter of a new chapter looks like this:

Here are some more pictures of the book and of Frank Delaney's guide to Joyce's Dublin.  Funny, I did not realize this book was by the Frank Delaney of the podcast when I bought it way back when (during one of my previous failed attempts to climb the mountain).

I told you it is a chunk!

Finally, I am on page 10 of the mountain Ulysses and I have to say with the help of Frank Delaney and at a very low elevation, I have met a giant. His name is James Joyce.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Ruwenzori - Mountains of the Moon Part I

"Around this bay the Anthropophagi Aethiopians dwell, and from there towards the west are the Mountains of the Moon from which the lakes of the Nile receive snow water."
--Ptolemy (90 AD-168 AD) Book 4, chap. viii

"Here the silence was the voice"

Let's take a journey to Africa, shall we?

In an old car named Boanerges we haul ourselves from Kampala, Uganda to the foothills of the Ruwenzori  or the "Mountains of the Moon". It is December, 1934 and we are part of a "...British Museum Expedition to East Africa organized for the purpose of studying the flora and fauna of the equatorial mountains in relation to their peculiar environment." We are hoping to investigate two "hitherto almost unknown valleys ascending from the south and the southeast", the Nyamgasani and the Namwamba. We know there is a string of eight lakes near the top of the range, discovered by air a few years earlier.

 Ruwenzori "Mountains of the Moon" due west from Kampala

We have turned south at Fort Portal and are nearing the southern tip of the Ruwenzori. We are hoping to locate our base camp at the farm of a Captain Chapman. After many hours of unloading and loading our supply lorry and vehicles so we can cross the flimsiest of bridges, we continue until the road ends.  At this point, traveling by foot, our porters hired in Kampala carrying our supplies, we hike into the foothills to Captain Chapman's farm.

On the way to Captain Chapman's farm

At the farm, Captain Chapman has agreed to let us use a logging camp up the hill from his house as our base camp. He will also manage the base camp for us, sending up supplies in relays throughout our stay. At the farm we hire more porters. "They were Bakonjo, pleasant and friendly fellows, but much less civilized than the majority of the Uganda peoples...They are an ancient race, since they have been little affected by the Hamitic waves from the north and north-east, merely retiring before them, like the Celts, to the mountains, where they have preserved their old language."

One of the porters is a "rain man". We are here during the dry season in Uganda but expect bad weather anyway based on reports from previous expeditions.  Luckily for us, when dark clouds roll in as we trek up the mountain, the rain man climbs the nearest small hill, stands at the top with a flute-like whistle and blows a few blasts to keep the rain away.  "An uncanny success seemed to attend his efforts...and we ourselves almost began to believe in the power of the whistle."

As Captain Chapman has warned us, we have to cut a trail through the thick undergrowth and bamboo. "It was all unknown ground. There was no track. We had to cut a path all the way. We soon got used to the routine. We cut generally for two or three days; then all the porters were massed for moving camp. The next day we started cutting again. One of us would...go ahead with the porters. Somerville (our artist) would draw...while I would gather plants and take photographs."

Continuing on this way up, up the mountain we come and finally reach higher elevations where the going is easier and the plants become giant specimens of common plants found in our more temperate zones. 15-foot tall flowering lobelias, 50-foot tall heather "trees". Think of the pretty blue lobelias we plant in the spring, only with huge flower spikes, and normally one-foot tall heather bushes turned into trees 50 feet high.

As we continue to gather specimens and photograph strange new plants and mosses, we see very little signs of animal life. There are Colobus and "blue" monkeys at the lower elevations. Also large purple slugs on the bamboo. Higher up we see "hyrax", a small rodent-like animal used for meat and fur by the porters. We see little blue "sunbirds" (African hummingbirds) work the blue flower spikes of the giant lobelias. Very little else except for crows and birds resembling starlings.

Ruwenzori Close-Up

As we finally approach the highest elevations, the porters become skittish about the mountains and lakes. They are very superstitious and will not camp near any lake. We find rock outcroppings for their shelter and set up camp "proper" near a large lake, one of the eight discovered by air. "We were standing almost on the Equator, yet it was as cold as a really cold winter's day in England, and a little ahead there was permanent snow and ice."

Two of us set out to climb to the top of the highest peak above our camp, Weismann Peak. All the snow peaks, Mt. Stanley, Mt. Speke, and Mt. Baker are visible from the top. On the south side of Weismann Peak is a glacier, one of those feeding the high mountain lakes, and eventually, the Nile River. As we take in the long view, we see a strange cloud next to our camp down below. We realize it is smoke, and rush down as fast as we can, only to find a burnt out campsite. Moving down to the rock shelter, we find our colleague and the porters are safe. A gust of wind blew flames from the campfire beyond the safety zone and set dry moss and brush on fire as well as our tent and sleeping gear. No samples were lost, thank goodness! But, it means an early departure down the mountain.

As we descend, we gather more plant samples, and laugh at our strange outfits -- remnants of burnt clothes, and tent flaps! When we reach the lower elevations, we have to cut our trail again, although not as time consuming as when we climbed up the mountain.

Back at base camp, we take a long relaxed rest. Smoke from intentional grass fires has cut visibility and our mountains are lost in the haze. A huge swarm of locusts comes through the area turning the sky even darker as they pass over. A very strange thing happens. A stork falls out of a tree, nearly unconscious. It is determined he has gorged himself on locusts. After several hours he recovers but is too weak to fly. He stays for several days and enjoys the attention, allowing us to scratch his chin! Finally, he flies away, headed to one of the large lakes in the area.

We hear news of our other group, back from their northern approach to the mountain. They have also had a successful trip. Our southern approach is not the easiest way to reach the high elevations, but we think it must be the most beautiful. Feeling satisfied with the results of our journey thus far, we settle in to label and pack specimens and reflect on Ruwenzori.

And now, it is time to make plans for the next stage of our journey--a plant safari on Mount Elgon.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Cookbooks Cookbooks Cookbooks!

I have been busy logging books into LibraryThing and am nearly finished with the books in my study. It so happens that cookbooks upon cookbooks are stored in here for lack of shelf space in the kitchen. I have a lovely walk-in pantry full of shelves, but they are mostly taken up with food, not books! I keep a dozen or so cookbooks in there for quick access, and change them out quite often as the calendar seasons change and as my internal seasons change. Except there are three books that never leave the kitchen.

The first is this one, a wedding present from my mother in, ahem, 1968. I rarely use it these days but it does not feel right for it to be hidden away on a dusty shelf in the corner of my study.  A well-worn, well-loved old-fashioned cookbook.

The next two books are not "loggable" into LibraryThing because they are my own kitchen notebooks. See the beautiful cookbook holder "Lonestar" (my husband) made for me? He is quite clever that way. The red notebook is for recipes we use all the time. Lonestar especially likes the recipe for waffles and biscuits because he is the breakfast chef around here!

The sunflower notebook is for menus and menu ideas. It is organized by calendar seasons. Summer is full of outdoor dining menus, with lots of Provencal-style meals. I began this notebook after returning from a summer visit to Provence so it is a kind of love letter to my favorite place on the planet (after home, of course!).

However, you might notice some poetry on the inside cover pages. I tend to copy down poetry in random places (like this notebook) and leave little notes such as I found in the Summer section:

"Lavender is the fragrance of half-forgotten things." Yes, it is!

So, if you are at all interested, here are the rest of the cookbooks I have logged in today.

Plats du Jour is a real fragile first edition, published in 1957. The Chamberlain Calendar of French Cooking is another fragile oldie.  It is for 1958!  Every so often the current calendar coincides with 1958 and I keep it out and follow along through the year with wonderful pictures of old France and make some of the suggested seasonal recipes. Very fun! I bought this one at a garage sale in Sierra Madre, California, a small hill town overlooking the LA basin. I suspect this was a gift to someone in Hollywood because the first few weeks of the calendar have notations for appointments with agents and photographers in the LA area. Wish I knew who it was...

I just love it when books provide their own custom bookmarks! This last one is a very special cookbook. I bought it in a bookstore in Uzes, a small town in the south of France near Nimes and the Pont du Gard. It is written in Provencal, the old language of the area. I had the bright idea to use a French-to-English dictionary to translate it! I still think it is possible because Provencal and French are very similar, but I gave up on the project after a few pages. Hmmm...maybe I could do it one recipe at a time?  What do you think?

That about does it for cookbooks.  I still have books about wine and gardening to log in, but those can wait for another post.  We will continue on the real Reading Road Map journey next week.  I am excited to tell you about our trip to Africa to see The Mountains of the Moon.

Finally, I really love comments.  If you visit, please let me know you stopped by.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Arctic Dreams Revisited

A Well-Thumbed "Arctic Dreams"

My boss at the research institute where I used to work has a bumper sticker on the wall of his office.  It says "Nature Bats Last".  My thoughts exactly.  I finished Arctic Dreams several weeks ago, and have since left the Arctic far behind so re-visiting it has been a pleasure and has made me think about its future. Barry Lopez wrote his masterpiece nearly 30 years ago.  I wonder what he thinks about the Arctic now?

Does he remember the vast ice floes and "ivu's"?  Ivu is the Eskimo word for a strange phenomenon that occurs in the coastal ice. "Suddenly in the middle of winter and without warning a huge piece of sea ice surges hundreds of feet inland, like something alive."  Does he wonder how the ice is doing now as global warming takes its toll?  Could he "...stand at the edge of this four-foot-thick ice find yourself in a rich biological crease.  Species of algae grow on the bottom of sea ice, turning it golden brown with a patchwork of life. These tiny diatoms feed zooplankton moving through the upper layers of water in vast clouds -- underwater galaxies of copepods, amphipods, and mysids. These in turn feed the streaming schools of cod.  The cod feed the birds.  And the narwhals.  And the ringed seal, which feeds the polar bear, and eventually the fox...It is the ice...that holds this life together...For ice-associated seals, vulnerable on a beach, it is a place offshore to rest, directly over their feeding grounds.  It provides algae with a surface to grow on.  It shelters arctic cod from hunting seabirds and herds of narwhals, and it shelters the narwhal from the predatory orca.  It is the bear's highway over the sea.  And it gives me a place to stand on the ocean, and wonder."

Sea Ice

Does he wonder if many polar bears are having to do this as they travel their ice highway?

As I wonder about the Arctic, I cannot help but fear that with the melting of the sea ice, a cascade of calamities awaits the entire planet.  Without letting this post become too political, I will just say that science is science and opinion is opinion.  Let oil companies drill offshore in Arctic waters and we will see what happens.  The Arctic environment is rapidly changing due to global warming. We are drilling for more carbon-based energy resources in this pristine environment, an exercise fraught with its own dangers, AND the extraction of said resources contributing to more global warming.  Very, very disheartening. As an adult in the modern world, I use these extracted resources every day and cannot discount my own role in our dysfunctional relationship with nature. So, I hope with all my heart that alternative energy sources are made readily available as soon as possible!

Back to the book...Lopez has cast a spell on me.  I have fallen in love with narwhals, musk oxen, polar bears, ringed seals, dwarf willow and birch forests, more species of land and seabirds than I can remember, the aurora borealis, and the sea ice with all of its quirks and dangers.  I am fascinated by the indigenous people of the Arctic. Lopez refers to them as "Eskimos", the old generic term "...from the French Esquimaux, possibly from eskipot, an Algonquian word meaning 'an eater of raw flesh'.  Some Eskimos feel this attribution puts them in a poor light with modern audiences and so use other terms for themselves."  "Inuit" in the Canadian Arctic, "Yup'ik" in the Bering Sea region, "Inupiat" in the North Slope of Alaska area, and "Inuvialuit" in the Mackenzie Delta.


Before modern day "Eskimos" were the Thule peoples, thought to have had contact with the Vikings in the eastern Arctic.  Their scrimshaw carvings are sometimes beyond strange and are thought to reflect the tricks played on the mind by numbing cold and darkness.

The nature writer Robert Macfarlane writes "Arctic Dreams is filled with stories of people whose expectations are confounded by the polar environment, sometimes fatally.  A hunter, his perception of scale confused by the tundra's monotony, spends an hour stalking a grizzly, which turns out to be a marmot.  A polar bear grows wings and flies off as a party approaches:  they have been following a snowy owl.  Then there is the fata morgana, a mirage of ice and light that simulates a serrated mountainous coastline, and occasionally cost the lives of the 19th-century explorers who approached it, hoping for a landfall." He continues, "Science, for Lopez, finesses the real into a greater marvellousness. Arctic mirages were once thought to be the work of angels; they are now known to be the work of angles.  For Lopez, the two are never far apart. Throughout his writings, Lopez returns to the idea that natural landscapes are capable of bestowing a grace upon those who pass through them."

Grace.  Wonder.  Honor.  What we must, as human beings, remember when we are up to bat because "Nature Bats Last".

Musk Oxen


Ringed Seal

Aurora Borealis

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Reading Rest Area

We have grand kids this weekend, siblings from around the world in town, and a birthday party, so lots going on here at Reading Road Map Headquarters. What is NOT going on much is reading, as in reading for long stretches of time without interruption. Are there ever any such "stretches of time"?

Given the state of things here, this is what is going on right now on the Reading Road Map journey:

Finished "Arctic Dreams" and a post to come soon.

Reading Colette short stories, as well as "Earthly Paradise", an autobiography of sorts comprised of short pieces written by Colette.

Another M.F.K. Fisher book, "Two Towns in Provence".

Listening to "Five Red Herrings" by Dorothy L. Sayers, a free audio book download from my local library. I like this production because it is done as a radio play rather than a narrator reading the book.

Just barely beginning "The Mountains of the Moon", a trip to central Africa in the early part of the 20th century.  I pulled out one of our beautiful old 1950's map books to follow along with the British Museum Herbarium expedition to Ruwenzori, 'the mountains of the moon'.  The map book takes up almost half of the dining room table when opened out so I suspect it will not get to live there long.  This journey will go on hold until later this month.  The map books will be the subject of more than one post. They are close to the top of my list of favorite things.

Kenya and Uganda


I am also strolling through cookbooks as I plan the weekly menu.  What I am NOT doing, is going to book-related blogs to read reviews of new books, ordering new books, and moving them to the bookshelf to sit unread for who knows how long.  So far, so good!

Looking at the above list, one might think a bit of  "reading ADD" has returned. It looks like a scatterbrain list, but really, it does not feel like it in real life.

There might be a beautiful picture book about Leonard and Virginia Woolf's garden at Monk's House coming my way, but it will be a gift, so it does not count.  Right?

I Cannot Wait!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Provence, 1970

Well, I finished  Provence, 1970 by MFK Fisher's nephew, Luke Barr.  It is a satisfying "easy" stroll through a bit of food writing history.  I introduced this book here:  Friday in Provence.

Coincidentally food writers MFK Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, Simone Beck, Richard Olney and the editor Judith Jones found themselves in the south of France in December, 1970.  They were all known to each other, and in some cases were good friends and collaborators on various projects.

The very American Julia Child and the very French Simone Beck ("Simca") met in Paris in 1949.  Over many years they worked together and co-authored Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vols. I and II. The wonderful 2009 movie Julie and Julia tells part of this story.  Each had country houses in Provence, near Cannes.  Child's "La Pitchoune" was located on Beck's estate. They were both there with their husbands for the holidays in December, 1970.  Fisher, Beard, Jones, and Olney were also in the area.  Olney lived year around near Toulon, about two hours west of Cannes.

La Pitchoune

From the back cover blurb:

Provence, 1970 is about a singular historic moment when six iconic culinary figures -- including Julia Child, James Beard, and M.F.K. Fisher -- found themselves together in the South of France.  They cooked and ate and talked late into the night about the future of food in America, the meaning of taste, and the limits of snobbery.  Drawing in large part from M.F.K. Fisher's detailed journals and letters, her grandnephew Luke Barr has recreated what was in retrospect a key turning point -- when the democratization of cooking and taste became part of the national conversation in America.  His dramatic retelling of those weeks in the scenic hills above the Cote d'Azur traces the beginnings of a modern American food culture and how, without quite realizing it, these players changed the course of culinary history to reshape the way we eat now."

Soon after, a new figure in American food culture appeared, Alice Waters.

"...Waters and her generation of cooks had found a new idiom, an entirely original continuation of the legacy of the winter of 1970, a modern art of American eating.

It made a certain, perfect sense that Waters had embraced both Olney and M.F., as different as they were.  For Waters, avatar of the new American cooking, was rooted both immediately as a cook in Olney's bohemian purism, and culturally in M.F.'s groundbreaking literary sensuality.  Cooking was for Waters about more than food, it was a philosophy..."

And, as we all know, the rest is history.  Fresh organic produce from local farmer's markets, home cooking from scratch, growing our own food and making our own bread have become the norm for many many
Americans.  What started as a glimmer in the eye of those six Americans in Provence in 1970 has become a new way of life all over this country.

Thank you very much.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

TRUTH, Travel and Food

I have finished M.F.K. Fisher's "As They Were", a collection of autobiographical essays, short stories, and a feature article.  The pieces are mostly about TRUTH, but also about travel, food, remembering, and looking forward.

Good Book!

I wrote here about the exceptional short story, "The Flame and The Ash Thereof".

Following on are memoir pieces about a childhood visit to an elegant restaurant, her first such dining experience; two rustic kitchens in Provence and how she managed to keep herself and her daughters in provisions; a trip to Dijon to see for herself a hotel with running taps of red and white wine piped into some of the rooms.  She also writes about the lonely winter trip to Arles and Avignon after leaving the 1970 food writers gathering as well as several fascinating accounts of trips to Europe by freighter from San Francisco. One beautiful piece pays homage to the Gare de Lyon, the iconic Paris train station for Mediterranean-bound travelers.

Gare de Lyon

The final essay is about MFK's decision to build "Last House" and remain in California rather than retire to France as she always thought she would do. She says she is grateful for the chance to CHOOSE where to live out her days.

All of the stories collected here are very fine, but for me, two memoir/fiction pieces stand out.  I have already mentioned and written about "The Flame and the Ash Thereof".  The other piece, "The Wind Chill Factor: A Problem of Mind and Matter", is a powerful meditation on keeping one's sanity.

"Mrs. Thayer" is staying in a friend's cabin in the dunes at the tip of Long Island when a Nor'easter hits and blizzard conditions keep her housebound for six days and nights, alone. She wills herself to stay sane as the doors ice shut and the cabin walls groan through the onslaught of wind and driven snow.

"The wind had become different.  Its steady pressure of sound had changed to a spasmodic violence. Snow was stinging against the northern and western storm windows, and Mrs. Thayer knew that the doors on those sides were frozen shut. It did not matter. A door to the outside place where people changed bathing suits in the summer began to bang hard, in irregular patterns. It is unhinged, she said with a sly grin. It did not matter either. The whole thing she must work on was to keep herself inside her own skin, and she was the only one there to do it, and with real sweat she did."

I have a personal connection to someone who went through a similar ordeal, alone, in a major hurricane. Her description of the experience came to mind as I read  Mrs. Thayer's account.  Very compelling writing.

Finally, this collection of stories weaves a tale of a woman, mostly on her own, moving through life observing the world, and telling us how things REALLY are. And, in the end, isn't what is TRUE the most important thing?

Monday, August 3, 2015

Busy Week Ahead

Lots of appointments and travel to the "city" for me this week so posts here will be a bit sporadic.  When I can fit it in, I will be reading to finish "Provence, 1970" and "As They Were".  I am in the last few pages of both.  And here is what is coming up for more M.F.K. Fisher reading:

Two Towns in Provence
Serve it Forth
A Life in Letters

See you here off and on this week.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Cooling Trend

Finally, a break in the weather.  The rain clouds are just flirting with us this morning, but it is cool.  The possibility of something under 90 degrees in the kitchen inspired me to take a look at Richard Olney's well-regarded cookbook, Simple French Food.

Good Recipes Inside

In Provence, 1970, Luke Barr writes about the meal Richard Olney served to M.F.K. Fisher and friends in November, 1970 at his home in Provence.  Oh my.

He sat at the kitchen table with a small, pointy knife, painstakingly piercing each large piece of beef stew meat and inserting small strips of pork fat into the incisions.  The strips of pork belly had been covered with a paste of chopped parsley and garlic, and would add flavor to the meat from the inside out.  He put the larded meat in a bowl, poured a bit of olive oil and cognac and then a bottle of dry white wine over it, and left it all to marinate.

This was the beginning of his 'daube a la provencale'...

It was late November and raining outside.  He was alone in the kitchen.  He was happiest at moments like this."

Although Barr gives the impression that M.F.K. Fisher grew to consider some of Olney's attitudes to French cooking and wine with disdain, she had a very good time as his guest on that cold wet November night.

Richard Olney was an American ex-pat who lived in the south of France, in an old farmhouse on a steep hill overlooking the Provencal countryside.  He refurbished the house, hand-dug a wine cave into the hillside, and made Provence his home for nearly forty years.   Much has been written about Olney and I will have more to write as I learn more about him.  His connection to M.F.K. Fisher is how we ended up talking about him here.

And that is why I am taking a stroll through Simple French Food today.  There will be no  'daube a la provencale' for dinner tonight, but there will be one in a few months, perhaps on a cold wet November evening.

Saturday, August 1, 2015


We are on our way to another 100+ degree day here.  This will be day 5 or 6 or 7 of temps above 90.  For our neck of the woods, this is unusual and uncomfortable.  We have one small window AC unit.  With strategic placing of fans, we can distribute cool air to parts of the house.  By 6 pm, we have lost the battle. Then begins a frantic comparing of thermometers.  When inside is within a few degrees of outside, we open up the house and let fans and what little breeze there is take over.

Today's heat is compounded by smoky skies from large forest fires burning to the south of us.  Not good.

So, my first distraction is the heat.  Second, third, and fourth (not necessarily in that order) are these:


Confession -- I love cosy mysteries, especially British cosies.  Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, M.C. Beaton, Ngaio Marsh, you get the idea.  My local library is affiliated with the Oregon Digital Library Consortium.  I download free cosy mystery audio books onto my old iPod.  Too easy and too much fun!  A definite distraction from serious reading.

I justify the audio books because I like to listen while I knit.  Another distraction!  I just started (and re-started several times -- grrrrr) a new project.  Over the Sea to Skye Shawl. I am not happy with the yarn color.  In the above picture the yarn shows a slight shade of purple, as it did in the online catalog at Wool Warehouse.  In the real world, there is no purple, it is more of a muddy putty color.  Oh well, it will make a fine sturdy winter lacy shawl anyway.

The August 13, 2015 issue of  The New York Review of Books arrived two days ago.  I have not opened it, but I see it every time I walk into my study.  My eyes seek it out.  Just looking at the cover I see three articles I will probably not read and I think, "so it is not like you will read it cover to cover".  No, but there are at least four other articles I WILL read.  Exponential Distraction!  For me, the problem with reading The New York Review of Books is that I invariably find books I want to buy and read.  Books I do not need to buy.  I already own sooooo many unread books (thus the purpose of this blog!).  For now, I am keeping clear of the current issue.  I might sneak it into the car to read on an upcoming road trip.  The trick is not to have pen and paper at hand to jot down those titles I just cannot live without!

So, for today, this is my story and I am sticking to it.  Heat, cosy mysteries, knitting, and The New York Review of Books.  My distractions.  Uh-oh, I forgot to mention Sudoku puzzles.