Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Being married almost 32 years sometimes leads to interesting situations. Sometimes we spend an evening in almost-silence, but a comfortable kind of silence. Other times we boil over with conversation, much as we used to do when we were dating. This afternoon we both arrived home within minutes of each other and drove into the double garage. Today began cold and warmed up to air conditioner weather, often the case in our climate, so vehicle windows were down. After fifteen minutes or so, we realized we were each sitting in our own vehicle--my SUV, his pickup--talking excitedly back-and-forth across the open middle of the garage. Weird, but nice at the same time.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


New socks for ME from some sock yarn in my stash. The yarn is Elann Puzzle. I got it really cheap a few years ago in a mixed bag sale. I love the way it worked up, and the socks are really comfy.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Everything Austen Challenge

Last weekend, my DH and I watched this movie of Persuasion. I have seen a version that I liked better, but I was unable to find it on Netflix. I had a little trouble getting into this one, but it was a real pleasure watching my husband enjoy Jane Austen. In fact, our watching was interrupted, and he immediately asked me to start the film again because he wanted to see the rest of it.

Lost in The Lost Symbol

I just finished listening to the audio book of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, a book that readers seem to either love or hate. I found my own reaction to be somewhere in the middle. However, I want to write a more in-depth review than I usually post on Shelfari—so here goes.

First of all, because of much of the criticism I have read, I think I need to begin with a disclaimer. I read books like the Dan Brown books for entertainment purposes. I teach literature. I read good literature, both classic and modern. I also read for escape. Brown’s novels fall into the escape category. Other escape writers that do something along the same lines are Tom Clancy and Clive Cussler, both of whom I consider to be better writers than Brown. However, even those men are not literary giants. The fact that for me Brown is escape reading means that I am not really interested in his style or sentence structure or perhaps even the minute details of plot. In fact, part of the fun is looking up some of the places just to check him out. I had a wonderful romp through Rome with Angels and Demons. And the question that continues to bug me after The Da Vinci Code is that after investigating some of the places on line, I came upon information about that church with the sculptures of the knights in the floor—the ones that look like dead bodies. It turns out that according to the web site, it is a big honor to be married in that church—the bride or groom has to be “connected” with a member of the Temple. I suppose that limits the weddings to families of solicitors, barristers, and perhaps judges. I just can’t help wondering how one decorates THAT building for a wedding?

Let me give some of my negative reaction to The Lost Symbol first. I did not find this book as suspenseful as the first two. The part set in the Library of Congress was anticlimactic. Frankly, everyone knows about fictional or perhaps nonfictional ways in or out of that building. It’s been done recently on screen in National Treasure and in any number of mystery and suspense novels before that. I did notice tht the people chasing Langdon, however, obviously don’t read or go to the movies. And they were supposed to be the CIA. If Langdon needed to hide and escape from a building in that vicinity, why not the Supreme Court or even the Folger Shakespeare Library? There’s even a stairway in the Supreme Court building that is modeled on one in the Vatican. Surely that could have been room for some kind of interesting plot twist. People also generally know about the basement private offices in the Capitol. I have read, however, in some books about the Capitol about some archaeological discoveries—a Civil War era bakery?—that could have made for some interesting settings. And, goodness knows, we could have romped through places like Mount Vernon or those rooms under the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington, or something under whatever that building is in the middle of the courtyard at the Pentagon. Instead, we have all that dreary business about that Smithsonian warehouse. The Syfy show Warehouse 13 does that so much better. Surely, the Smithsonian would have a better security and cataloguing system for artifact storage. Furthermore, Brown falls far short of the suspense that Preston and Child achieve with Relic and Reliquary and the other Pendergast novels set in the New York museum of Natural History. In short, I felt this story would have been much more entertaining if it had moved, literally, through more settings that were not so overused.

Another criticism I had was the insertion of long passages of technical data about search engines and computer equipment. I do not necessarily object to long and technical, even if I’m not entirely sure the author knows his stuff. I still feel fairly confident of my abilities to construct a silencer and navigate a submarine thanks to Mr. Clancy’s detailed writing, but that information is worked into his narratives in a way that is utterly convincing. The reader needs the information, and Clancy gives it in great detail. The technical information in Brown’s book is just sort of tossed in there, complete with brand names. Did you notice that when the recession hit the auto makers so hard, television programs sponsored by car makers cut commercial time but always made sure to mention the model of the car or show a logo closeup whenever a car was being used in the show? Some of the technical information in this book had that sort of feel to it. I also feel that at least one character dies unnecessarily because that technical thread is no longer needed and writing the character out of the situation would therefore be just too much trouble.

What did I like about the book? I found that even though it began with the Masonic Conspiracy idea that has been so overused lately in fiction, the unraveling of this plot line is refreshing. This plot line also provides the only setting in the novel which has not been recently overused. I would write more about that, but I don’t want to be a spoiler.

I found this novel to be acceptable escape reading, but I did not find that I had the same “I can’t wait to turn the page” feeling that I had with the other novels. In fact, there was entirely too much of a feeling of “Aren’t we ever going to get out of this room?” Or in one case, "Aren't we ever going to get to this room?"

Thursday, October 08, 2009

No Knitting, No Photos

I'm listening to the audio book of Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol. Yes, I have read all the bad reviews--deserved and undeserved. No, I do not believe he is a literary giant. Yes, everyone should read the classics. I do. I recognize good well-written literature. As a matter of fact, I read good literature every day. Sometimes I just want plot or fluff or even nonsense. Brown is a good entertainment read. And, just occasionally, you may come across a gem like this one:

Google is not a synonym for "research."

Right now, I'm working with some students on their freshman comp research papers. I would like to tattoo this quotation on the backs of their hands so they can see it when they are at the keyboard. Even though they've been introduced to solid library-based databases, they are out there surfing and not checking the validity of the sources they find.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Is this irony?

The new hand sanitizer dispenser was installed in my classroom today. We've had the bottles for a few years in an effort to cut down on handborne illnesses. The students are really good about using the sanitizer after blowing noses. I suppose the H1N1 issue prompted the dispenser installation. Today also just happened to be the day I spent three periods talking about the Black Plague in connection with "The Pardoner's Tale."

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Still Knitting, Among other Things

I will post soon. Actually, this is a post, but I mean a real post with knitting content. I have been busy with some things at our business--bookkeeping--and with some other administrative tasks at school. I have a final observation tomorrow morning, and then most of those things will be over, and I can just spend the rest of the year teaching. Yippee!