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Reviews posted this week

Once Upon Stilettos and Damsel Under Stress by Shanna Swendson

Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth-Century to Modern Times by Lucy Lethbridge

Reading this week

Who Fears DeathWho Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

In a far future, post-nuclear-holocaust Africa, genocide plagues one region. The aggressors, the Nuru, have decided to follow the Great Book and exterminate the Okeke. But when the only surviving member of a slain Okeke village is brutally raped, she manages to escape, wandering farther into the desert. She gives birth to a baby girl with hair and skin the color of sand and instinctively knows that her daughter is different. She names her daughter Onyesonwu, which means “Who Fears Death?” in an ancient African tongue.

Reared under the tutelage of a mysterious and traditional shaman, Onyesonwu discovers her magical destiny-to end the genocide of her people. The journey to fulfill her destiny will force her to grapple with nature, tradition, history, true love, the spiritual mysteries of her culture-and eventually death itself. (from Goodreads)

Listening to this week

Diamonds, Gold, and War: The Making of South AfricaDiamonds, Gold, and War: The Making of South Africa by Martin Meredith

Southern Africa was once regarded as a worthless jumble of British colonies, Boer republics, and African chiefdoms, a troublesome region of little interest to the outside world. But then prospectors chanced first upon the world’s richest deposits of diamonds, and then upon its richest deposits of gold. What followed was a titanic struggle between the British and the Boers for control of the land, culminating in the costliest, bloodiest, and most humiliating war that Britain had waged in nearly a century, and in the devastation of the Boer republics. (from Goodreads)

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Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth-Century to Modern TimesServants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth-Century to Modern Times by Lucy Lethbridge

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Audio nonfiction 12 hours and 43 minutes

For centuries the way of life that is imagined as so typically upper class English was made possible entirely by vast staffs of servants.  This book looks at the roles of the various servants throughout history and at the changes in society that led to the loss of servants in English life. 

For most of history the poor people near a large country estate didn’t have much hope for a better life than getting in at the big house.  At least there you’d eat better than they did at home.  The social mores of the servants of the great houses were as complex as the social structures of the people they served.  The butlers and lady’s maids certainly didn’t mix with the scullery maid.

Things started to change around World War I.  Many new jobs opened in the military factories that offered more freedom.  Women could get these higher paying jobs that didn’t require them to be deferential to a lady of the house.  They also didn’t live in a house they worked in so weren’t required to obey all the rules of the house.  Once women started to have this freedom there was no going back.

Changes in the English tax code around this time also made it harder for families to keep the large houses so many servants were let go.

In the decade between wars servants were at a premium.  The could dictate their terms and leave and find another job at will.  “The Servant Problem” was written about extensively.  People were getting uppity and not respecting their betters.  For aristocrats who had been brought up to never have to do any domestic work themselves, this was absolutely confounding.  They could not understand why people weren’t happy to be their servants.  Many attempts were made to convince English girls especially that domestic service was a noble career choice.  It didn’t work.

Because of the lack of biddable English servants, foreign workers were brought in.  Many German and Austrian Jews were allowed into England before World War II only if they agreed to be servants.  Because they had to have connections to get the visas, many of them were upper class themselves.  They were horrified at the living conditions of the British.  Most British upper class homes had shunned all labor saving devices because after all, you wouldn’t want the maid getting lazy, would you?  For Central Europeans used to modern conveniences, homes that refused central heating or running hot water or electrical appliances were a throwback to times they had never known.

At the same time homes for working class people were getting modern.  For a while it was not uncommon for servants to live in modern homes and go to work in fancy houses that didn’t have any of the modern conveniences that they had.

Traditional service today is mostly limited to the super rich and fine hotels but may be living on in companies that provide services such as custom meals.

 

 

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Fitness Tuesday

Tuesday

I found this site called Hiit Mamas. She posts a high intensity interval training workout most every day. I subscribed in Bloglovin’ so I see it on my reader every morning.  I’ve been adapting the workouts to fit what equipment I have at home and my interests.  For example, today’s workout was:

3 rounds for time of:

  • Run 300 meters
  • 20 Wall ball shots
  • 10 Push-ups

I did:

  • Speed walk 400 meters – because I have a landmark outside for that distance
  • 20 thrusters – dumbells or bar to shoulders and then squat, stand up and press the bar overhead, return to bar at shoulders
  • 10 push ups

Thursday

  • 400 meter walk
  • 50 sit ups
  • 800 meter walk
  • 30 sit ups
  • 1 mile walk
  • 20 sit ups

I started out the walks working on technique again.  By the end of the 400 I was convinced that I was just uncoordinated and would never get the hang of race walking.  But early in the 1 mile I sort of fell into it.  Now, I’m not sure that I have proper form but I figure I’m never planning on entering a judged race walking event so as long as it works for me who cares.  I’m not sure how fast I was going but it felt about the same as jogging.  Admittedly that’s not very fast for me but it is a little faster than normal walking.  The gait feels like you are just about to break into a run if you move just the tiniest bit faster.

Friday

I started with a warm up of easy walking on the track at the gym.  Every few laps I’d do 15 step ups onto a machine by the track.  Then I did 3 sets of 15 leg extensions.

3 sets of:

  • 15 leg curls
  • 15 plie squats while holding a 15 lb kettle bell.  That needed to be a heavier weight

3 sets of:

  • 10 deadlifts with just 100 lbs
  • 15 walking lunges

I kept this workout short because I knew I’d be coming back to the gym to swim that night with the husband.

I had a bit of a mental breakthrough on this day.  When I was doing the deadlifts I was facing a mirror head on.  I was wearing clothes that actually fit well instead of being a bit baggy like I tend to wear.  It occurred to me that I actually look tough.  Usually I go with “fat” as my adjective of choice so “tough” was an improvement.  I stepped on the fancy scale that also measures body fat percentage.  If this scale is anywhere to the evaluation I had about a year ago then yes, I’ve gained 15 lbs but 8 lbs of that is muscle.

I’ve been having some hand problems so I spend part of Friday at the doctor and then on Saturday morning I had to get a special splint made for my right hand.  The therapist asked if I had any hobbies that hand pain might affect.  I answered, “Weightlifting and quilting.”  They laughed.  But then she was feeling my forearm and mentioned that I was really muscular.  I was so excited.  It was hard to play it cool and not be like, “Really???  You like my muscles??”

Sunday

Brief walk for a warm up

3 sets of:

  • 15 hammer curls with 12.5 lbs
  • 10 dips on the machine

3 sets of:

  • 15 bicep curls
  • 15 tricep extensions

This was frustrating.  By this point I was having a hard time hanging onto the dumb bells with my right hand so I had to lower the weight to 10 lbs in that hand.

3 sets of:

  • 15 concentration curls
  • 15 tricep kickbacks

I finished with 3 sets of 15 tricep pulldowns.  Then I walked for another 20 minutes.  After that we went swimming.  I was getting was too blissed out in the pool.  I was just taking it easy and sometimes realized I was just floating and not swimming.  I got out and went to the therapy pool and floated and meditated until the husband was done.

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Once Upon Stilettos (Enchanted, Inc., #2)Once Upon Stilettos by Shanna Swendson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Urban fantasy chick-lit? I guess that’s the best description.

In the first book of the series Katie Chandler found out that she is a magical immune. That means that she sees through magical spells. That’s a rare ability and makes her valuable to her magical employers. She is able to verify that no one is magically cheating during business deals.

Now in the second book of the series Katie’s parents are coming to visit from Texas. It turns out that her mother is also immune and is seeing all the weird things that Katie sees in New York like fairies and live garden gnomes. She has to hide the truth about magic from her too-perceptive mother. Just as this visit is coming to a close Katie starts to realize that her mother is seeing things that Katie doesn’t. Katie is losing her immunity which may mean losing her job.

This is where this book almost lost me. She doesn’t tell anyone about it even though she has previously been on the receiving end of some foul-play by competitors of her company. This is a plot device that makes me crazy. I hate the whole “I have a problem that I should take to a person who could help me clear it up but I will keep it to myself until it causes ten times more problems than it needs to” trope. Luckily this doesn’t last long and she does the smart thing and fesses up and it all gets fixed.

I forgive this book because I liked the ending. It mixed things up a bit for the next books in the series. I like to see series developing their characters instead of keeping them in the same static emotional state for a long time.

Damsel Under Stress (Enchanted, Inc., #3)Damsel Under Stress by Shanna Swendson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Katie has a long history of dating disasters but now she is dating a man that she likes.  So why does her fairy godmother decide to show up now?

It doesn’t help that her fairy godmother is incompetent either.  No matter how many times Katie tells her that she is fine by herself she manufactures disasters for Katie’s Prince Charming to rescue her from.  How are they supposed to get to know each other when every date is an emergency situation?

This series is a cute, quick, light read.  I’m looking forward to reading the rest.

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Reviews posted this week

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

 

The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy, #3)The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fiction

This is the last book of the All Souls Trilogy.  (Some spoilers for the first two books). I have reread the first two books several times so I had this one pre-ordered.

In book 1, A Discovery of Witches, Harkness lays out a world where witches, vampires, and daemons secretly live alongside humans.  There are ancient rules governing their behavior because if too many of them gather together humans start to notice.  Diana Bishop is a witch but she never developed any powers.  She studied the history of alchemy instead. One day when she is researching in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, she is magically presented with a damaged and unreadable book that has been missing for years.  She doesn’t know what it is and sends to back but the power unleashed by the opening of the book does not go unnoticed.  Now she has the attention of all kinds of magical creatures who think she knows the secrets of the book that witches and vampires think describe their origins.

She meets vampire Matthew Clairmont and as they are drawn together the powers of the non-human species are alarmed.  Diana finds out that she is actually a very powerful witch who has been magically altered so her powers did not develop.  With some of her powers starting to develop she is able to time walk to 1590s London with Matthew to try to find out from some of the most powerful witches in English history who she is.

Book 2 is called Shadow of Night.  Matthew and Diana are in 1590s London with two purposes.  Diana needs to study with powerful witches to find out why witches in the present are losing so much ability.  They also want to find the magical book before it is damaged to see what it says about the origins of their species.  While there, Diana becomes pregnant.  Cross-species mating should be impossible which adds another mystery.

Now in book 3, The Book of Life, it is time for answers.  Diana and Matthew are back in the present.  Pages are collected from the book for analysis of the origins of all the species.  There is a lot of political maneuvering in the vampire families to determine whether to protect or to kill the offspring of a witch and a vampire.

It is hard for me to say why I’ve liked this series so much.  I think it is the small details of the worlds of the witches, vampires, and daemons.  The daemons are hyper, smart, but easily distracted geniuses.  The vampires are long lived and control empires both political and business.  They are also alpha predators and very, very possessive.  The witches want to find out why their powers are fading when they used to be so powerful.  Mixing these creatures up and making them deal with each other makes a volatile mix.
Reading this week

Ink (Paper Gods, #1)Ink by Amanda Sun

On the heels of a family tragedy, the last thing Katie Greene wants to do is move halfway across the world. Stuck with her aunt in Shizuoka, Japan, Katie feels lost. Alone. She doesn’t know the language, she can barely hold a pair of chopsticks, and she can’t seem to get the hang of taking her shoes off whenever she enters a building.

Then there’s gorgeous but aloof Tomohiro, star of the school’s kendo team. How did he really get the scar on his arm? Katie isn’t prepared for the answer. But when she sees the things he draws start moving, there’s no denying the truth: Tomo has a connection to the ancient gods of Japan, and being near Katie is causing his abilities to spiral out of control. If the wrong people notice, they’ll both be targets. (Goodreads)

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The Miseducation of Cameron PostThe Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

YA Fiction

When 12 year old Cameron Post is told that her parents have died suddenly, her first feeling is relief.  Now they won’t know that just hours earlier she had kissed a girl.  But Cameron’s life changes radically when her very religious Aunt Ruth comes to live with Cameron and her grandmother in their small Montana town.

The first part of this book focuses on Cameron’s life as she explores her developing sexuality while trying to keep it secret.  Honestly, I had put the book aside at this point.  Most of the main characters’ time and energy is focused on getting drunk and high.   There was such a feeling of inertia in this book.  These were high school students who never seemed to pay any attention to what was going to happen next.   I was a rural kid in high school and these characters seem so stereotypical of people’s opinions of what kids in rural communities do.  It annoyed me.  I don’t have any patience for people or characters who don’t invest any effort in improving their situation in life.

But then I read that the book had been taken off a summer reading list recently, so I picked it back up.  Let that be a lesson to book banners.  I wouldn’t have finished this book if you hadn’t tried to stop people from reading it.

The second part of the book was more interesting to me.  Aunt Ruth finds out that Cameron is gay and sends her to a facility to be fixed.  The kids in the facility come in two types:

  1. They believe that being homosexual is wrong and they want to change.  When change is not happening despite their best efforts, they get depressed.
  2. They know that nothing is going to change the fact that they are homosexual so they are pretending to go along with the program is hopes of being released.

Reading about forced conversion therapy is very sad.  These kids were locked up and told repeatedly how damaged they were.  They needed to address the causes of their supposed brokenness and place blame on family and friends.  Seeing how people survive in that environment made me want to keep reading this book.

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Fitness Tuesday

I spent most of the week doing some light swimming and nursing my ankle back to health. I did work on seeing what my max weight was for the overhead press one day. I did 80 lbs on a push press. I know I’m stronger on a split jerk where you jump a bit to get more momentum to get the bar overhead but I wasn’t up for jumping on my leg yet.

Friday

I went out and got new new shoes. I have new running shoes and they are straight from the Devil’s workshop. They feel fine for the first mile or so and then they rub on the bottom of my left heel. The last straw for them was the 5 mile walk where I had strategically placed band-aids over the heel rub and so they rubbed the top of both my feet. Of course, they were super expensive. Money wasted. Ugh.

I decided to try race walking technique for the first time. I set a timer in my garage and decided to go out for a mile. My mental dialogue went something like, “Ok, heel strike and knee straight. Roll the foot….. Ok, I think this might be right. It probably isn’t right. I’ll just go half a mile. Ow, ow. New muscles working. Oh my god, I’m going to have to work up to this. Why am I panting? Right, turn around here and do a 1/4 mile. That’s good for a first time.”

I was so uncoordinated. I have no idea if I was doing it right or not. It didn’t feel like I was going fast at all but I was breathing hard. The timer said 2:46. That’s a sub-12 minute per mile pace. Interesting.

Then I did my real workout.

  • 10 lat pull downs with 60 lbs on the bar
  • 100 meter walking lunges
  • 50 bench dips – I did these in 5 sets of 10 with a few seconds rest in between.
  • 100 meter walking lunges
  • 10 lat pull downs

Saturday

I am SO SORE from the walking lunges.  I did them up and down my driveway so there was a slight uphill and downhill to them too.  I concentrated and went slow so I got full range of motion.  I must have done that right because everything hurts.

I swam laps.  I never count.  I lose track too quickly.  It is around 20 laps because that’s what the husband does and I swim for as long as he does.

Sunday

Still crippled from lunges.  More swimming.  I did one length backstroke and one length breaststroke for about 20 laps.

 

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Reviews Posted This Week

Waking Up White by Debby Irving


The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

Reading Now

The Miseducation of Cameron PostThe Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they’ll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.

But that relief doesn’t last, and Cam is soon forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and leaving well enough alone (as her grandmother might say), and Cam becomes an expert at both.

Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful, pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. She and Cam forge an unexpected and intense friendship–one that seems to leave room for something more to emerge. But just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, ultrareligious Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to “fix” her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self–even if she’s not exactly sure who that is.  (From Goodreads)

I had started reading this and was going to put it aside because it was slow moving but then I heard that it had been banned from a summer reading list in one school district.  Interestingly, the objection to the book was that there was profanity in it, not that it is about teenage lesbianism.  Is this progress in a warped way?

Still Listening To:

Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth-Century to Modern TimesServants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth-Century to Modern Times by Lucy Lethbridge

I’m at the part in this book where (SPOILER ALERT) women are getting uppity and don’t want to go into service for their betters anymore.  It is such a tragedy.  How will the aristocracy survive?

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The White Queen (The Cousins' War, #1)The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Historical Fiction

It is the War of the Roses. Cousins are fighting cousins as the Houses of the Lancasters and the Yorks squabble over England. Elizabeth Woodville is the daughter and widow of Lancaster men. As a punishment for their rebellion her lands have been seized by the new regime of the York King, Edward. Elizabeth has two sons to protect and she has a plan. She is a beautiful woman and the new king is known to have a weakness for women.

Elizabeth catches the King’s eye. She gets him to promise to have her lands returned to her and then she makes him fall in love. They marry in secret but soon she is declared Queen of England.

Elizabeth’s mother was a powerful lady under the Lancasters and Elizabeth has learned her lessons well. She arranges appointments and marriages to put her family firmly in control. But, constant warfare wears down her King and her family and soon even cunning and witchcraft may not be enough to save them all.

edward-family-tree1 Image from here.

It helps to have a family tree handy at times when reading these stories because everyone is related to everyone else and they are all either named Edward, Richard, George, or Henry.

I know from doing some genealogical research on my mother’s family that the main bad guy in this book is the nephew of a many, many times great-grandfather of mine.  He was probably just misunderstood.  Of course, it appears that he cheated my relative out of one of his deserved titles so maybe he was just a nasty fella.

See on the timeline above where it said that Edward IV had lots of bastards.  They talk about that a lot in the book.   I’m a fan of monogamy.  Actually, I don’t care what you do as long as it is fair and equable for everyone involved.  Whenever the discussion came around in the book to one of Edward’s other women, I would feel my blood pressure rising.  It wasn’t fair to Elizabeth.  She was a politically savvy woman in a time when that kind of thing had to be kept secret.

Linking up to British Isles Friday.

 

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Fitness Tuesday

Saturday

I did a 5 mile race with my father and his running buddy. It was a spur of the moment thing but I did better than I expected. I wrote up a whole race report about it here – Findley Lake.

There were super walkers there.  One guy did it at an 8 mile an hour pace.  That’s way faster than I can run.  That’s faster than my father runs.  So of course I’ve been researching race walking technique to learn how to beat him.  I don’t have to get to 8 mph.  Over a long course 10 mph would do it.  Don’t judge me until you read the race report and see the kind of loving and supportive relationship we have.  We are just a bit competitive.  Actually, when I left his house on Saturday he all but ordered me to train for a race that is happening the next time I’m up to visit them.  Practicing would just be being obedient to my father, right?

Here’s a video of a woman’s one mile walking race. The winner did it in 6:39. I don’t know many people who could run it in that. I think a 10 minute mile might eventually be possible for me.

I’ve watched videos and read a book while lying in bed on Sunday.  Why while lying in bed, you ask?  Because after successfully and fairly quickly walking 5 miles on  Saturday morning, I went to a movie.  I fell off a step in the movie theater and sprained my ankle because I am the absolute embodiment of grace.  Last time I did this I was immediately set upon by muscular guys who took off my shoe and massaged my ankle.  This time my sister-in-law stood over me and yelled, “OhMyGodOhMyGodOhMyGod” while trying to help in such a way that impeded me getting up.  I guess that’s the difference between getting hurt in gym versus getting hurt out in public.

Sunday

We went swimming for a little bit.  I was pretty stiff after Saturday and wanted to see if I could limber up some.  I did some slow laps.  Breast stroke was easier on my leg than back stroke.

I did practice the race walking stride in the pool with my good foot.  You land on the heel with your knee straight and then roll from our heel to your toe.  I can’t wait to be able to walk again to really practice it.

Tuesday

I’m planning on going to the gym tonight and working upper body.  I’m thinking curls, presses, pull ups, and dips.  I can do those one foot.  After that we’ll try the swimming again.  My ankle is feeling pretty good so I think I may be able to do more tonight.

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Waking Up White: And Finding Myself in the Story of RaceWaking Up White: And Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Memoir

Debby Irving grew up in a white upper middle class family in Massachusetts.  As an adult she wanted to help people from the inner city but couldn’t figure out why her efforts so often didn’t produce the results she was looking for.  She decided to take a college course about race. 

I expected the course to teach me about “other” races and cultures so I could better help students of color. I supposed I thought I’d get some tips, some do’s and don’ts that would keep me from offending students and parents. Much to my surprise, however, the course asked me to turn the lens on myself. I had never thought to look within for solutions to a problem I imagined as outside of myself, and what I found shocked me.

One quote that resonated with me was this one:

It turns out, stumbling block number 1 was that I didn’t think I had a race

Don’t get me wrong—if you put a census form in my hand, I would know to check “white” or “Caucasian.” it’s more that I thought all those other categories, like Asian, African American, American Indian, and Latino, were the real races. I thought white was the raceless race—just plain, normal, the one against which all others were measured.

I’ve never thought of myself as having a race either.  I’ve just described myself as a boring white person.  I think that for most white people, if they think about it at all, thinking about our race immediately brings to mind white supremacy and the KKK.  Not something you dwell on.

The author goes on to examine ways that white privilege has shaped her life.  Her father was able to become a lawyer on the GI Bill while many veterans of other races were denied the benefits.

She goes on to tell about situations where her cluelessness about race has gotten her into trouble.  One example is when she stands up in seminar for professionals who are people of color to critique a movie that was shown and manages to insult everyone with her comments.

I tend to be clueless about race too.  The husband is Italian and apparently is dark skinned.  I don’t see it.  Intellectually I know that he is because he’s told me and he is darker than a few of our black friends but I just don’t see it.  I look at him and see generic white guy.  His skin color sets him apart in the world though.  The best example is customs.  He can’t get through customs.  We were in the Virgin Islands and I got waved through.  He didn’t get through for a long time.  When he finally showed up he said that his new passport wasn’t signed.  I looked at mine and it wasn’t signed either but it wasn’t a problem for me.  In Amsterdam I told the officer that we needed to go through customs to get our new tickets on the other side (true story).  I got through.  He went to the same officer right after me and told the same story.  He was getting questioned until he pointed at me and said loudly, “I’m with her!”  I waved at the officer and he let him go.  We drove to Canada recently and the border guy accused him of gun running for some reason.  (We didn’t have any guns.) We are going on an international plane trip soon for the first time since being married.  Now we have to go through customs together.  That ought to be exciting.

The book gets into the discussion of whether or not it is appropriate to tell the story of someone of a different race.  I have mixed feelings on this.  I imagined what it would be like to have men suddenly discover something that women have known forever and have them decide to talk about it like it is a new thing.  I can see that it would be annoying but if it is topic that needs to be brought to the attention of the wider world, I don’t care who tells the story as long as it is told.  I guess I’m just pragmatic.

This book helped me to look at the world in a different way. I notice the ways that race shapes my perceptions more now.

I was given a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours in exchange for a review.

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My father is a runner. He doesn’t understand why I’m not. He always wants to me go to races with him. He offers to run at my pace. I explain that he could run backwards in a circle around me and I’d still be too slow for him.

This weekend I decided to go to a race with him. I decided at a stupid time though. I declined the 5K on July 4 and ended up at a 5 miler on July 5.

I just walked it. I went with my father and one of his friends that he car pools to races with. I got all kinds of advice like if I saw someone with grey hair I was supposed to trip them since this race only had a 60 and over age group instead of 60-64 and 65-70 etc and they wanted to win.

From Dad’s friend, “Now we want to you boogie out there. No strolling.”

From Dad, “Ok, so when we finish we’ll go get a leisurely breakfast and then we’ll be back to see you cross the finish line.” Have I ever mentioned how loving and encouraging my family is?

I went to the back of the pack and set out at a good pace. I decided to try to beat the lady wearing pyjamas and support hose. That seemed like a doable goal. But she was fast! I had a hard time keeping up. There were four of us and a dog in front of the walking pack. Eventually she grabbed my arm even though I was wearing ear buds. She asked if I was local. I said no and that I was visiting my family. That led to a discussion of how everyone in her family had died and her sister-in-law had breast cancer again. No one has ever talked to me when I was running a race. Too busy trying to survive. Then she grabbed my arm and asked if my family was right with the Lord. Ok, time to move on. I eventually pulled away from her.

The race was around a lake. Around mile 4 the dog decided to get in the lake. Seemed reasonable and he was quite put out that his man wanted him to get out and keep walking.

Every time I saw a car like my dad drives coming toward me I was fairly certain it was them coming to see what was taking me so long.

I ended up in the front of the pack. I thought I was the first walker in. I finished the 5 miles in 1:12:22. That’s just over a 14 minute per mile pace. I was happy. I was hoping to be able to keep a 15 minute mile pace. Turns out though that there were super walkers there. The first place person did an 8 minute mile. How is that even possible?

I ended up being the 3rd female walker overall. No awards for walkers though. :( Now I’m researching how to racewalk so I can be fast like the 8 minute mile guy. Ok, probably not that fast. But my goal is to be able to eventually do a 10 minute mile.

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Review posted this week:

Enchanted, Inc by Shanna Swendson

When Katie announced her intention to move from small time Texas to New York City, everyone warned her that it was a weird place. Katie was determined not to gawk at every unusual thing she saw. So she’s spent the last year making a point not to stare at the college girls wearing wings or at the gargoyles that occasionally move around on the buildings. After all, real New Yorkers don’t bat an eye.

Reading Now

The White Queen (The Cousins' War, #1)The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

The White Queen tells the story of a woman of extraordinary beauty and ambition who, catching the eye of the newly crowned boy king, marries him in secret and ascends to royalty. While Elizabeth rises to the demands of her exalted position and fights for the success of her family, her two sons become central figures in a mystery that has confounded historians for centuries: the missing princes in the Tower of London whose fate is still unknown. (Goodreads)

 

Listening to now

Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth-Century to Modern TimesServants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth-Century to Modern Times by Lucy Lethbridge

From the immense staff running a lavish Edwardian estate and the lonely maid-of-all-work cooking in a cramped middle-class house to the poor child doing chores in a slightly less poor household, servants were essential to the British way of life. They were hired not only for their skills but also to demonstrate the social standing of their employers—even as they were required to tread softly and blend into the background. More than simply the laboring class serving the upper crust—as popular culture would have us believe—they were a diverse group that shaped and witnessed major changes in the modern home, family, and social order. (Goodreads)

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Dreaming of France Meme Eiffel

Please join this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you’re in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us.

We are going to Nice in October.  I’m trying to remember some French.  I had two years of French in high school and I got all As.  What can I tell you in French?  I can insult you because one day my English teacher had us memorize a naughty sentence and go tell it to our French teacher.  That’s what I remember.

I’m working with Duolingo to regain some skills.  I’m using the app on my iPad but there are other formats.  It works like a game to help you learn a language.  If you make too many mistakes you have to take that lesson over.

Right now I’m able to make some sentences.  I don’t think they are particularly useful sentences.  I know I had tone when I had to repeat sentences about how I was eating meat and beef is good meat.  Not useful for vegetarians going to France.  LOL.

I hope I see lots of red apples.  Une pomme rouge has been a popular phrase in this game if I don’t get to use it I will be very sad.  Actually, I will probably get so excited that I’ll totally forget the words.

I figure that right now I sound like a dimwitted two year old.  When the husband was peeling sweet potatoes I announced, “L’homme est cuisine!”  (The man is cooking.)  I was proud.  He was mildly concerned.

Duolingo isn’t just for French.  You can pick all kinds of languages to learn. So try it if you want to see how much you forgot about whatever your high school language was.

 

 

 

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Enchanted, Inc. (Enchanted, Inc., #1)Enchanted, Inc. by Shanna Swendson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fiction

When Katie announced her intention to move from small time Texas to New York City, everyone warned her that it was a weird place. Katie was determined not to gawk at every unusual thing she saw. So she’s spent the last year making a point not to stare at the college girls wearing wings or at the gargoyles that occasionally move around on the buildings. After all, real New Yorkers don’t bat an eye.

When Katie is aggressively head hunted for a new job she starts to realize that she is unique. She is an Immune – a person with absolutely no magical talent at all. Because of that she can see through the glamours that magical beings use to conceal themselves. The firm of Magic, Spells, and Illusions, Inc values Immunes. They can see magically hidden clauses in contracts and can tell if competitors are up to magical shenanigans.

Suddenly Katie has gone from being an abused personal assistant to the executive assistant of a powerful wizard.

This is the first book in a series. It is a quick, fun read about a magical world from the perspective of a total outsider. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

I liked Katie. She uses her common sense and small town manners to try to make her way in the big city. She makes cinnamon rolls for the early morning drive to magical duel. That’s a useful person!

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Time:  3 AM this morning

Freckles wakes me up.  She is panicky.  She needs-to-go-outside-RIGHT-NOW!  I open the door for her, she goes and does whatever, and then comes back.

I’m just drifting back to sleep when I hear her whimpering.  I can’t see her.  I just hear soft little whimpers.  I find her on the floor.  That’s weird since she always sleeps on the bed.

I get up and go over to her.  I whisper, “What’s wrong?”  She looks up at me and whimpers.  I don’t want to wake up the husband so I motion for her to follow me.  We go to the guest room.

She jumps up on the bed.  She isn’t gushing blood or anything obvious like that.  I pet her.  Soft whine.  I ask if she just needs a cuddle.  My delicate little puppy sometimes has nightmares that only cuddles fix.  If you don’t cuddle, she keeps crying in her sleep.  I tell her I’ll lay down with her and cuddle.

The second I lay down she shoots out of the bedroom at 90 miles an hour.

“What the hell?” I whisper.  I get up to go see where she went.

I find her sprawled out on my (now empty) side of the bed.

“No.  Just no.” I wag a finger at her.  She looks up at my with a look of perfect innocence like, “Oh, hi!  I thought you were sleeping in the other room tonight.”

“Move it.”  She obligingly moves down to her normal sleeping position without any fuss like she had figured it probably wouldn’t work anyway but it was worth a try.

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Fitness Tuesday

I’ve been lazy this week. I’ve only done one weight lifting workout.

Sunday

Warm up – 1/4 mile walk, 1/2 mile run, 1/4 mile walk

Workout #1 – 3 rounds

  • 8 reverse curls
  • 10 tricep kickbacks
  • 8 bicep curls
  • 10 dips

I used 12.5 lb weights for the curls and kickbacks.  Since I was at the gym I used their assisted dip machine.  It offsets your weight so you aren’t lifting your whole body weight for dips or pull ups.  I set it so I was lifting 100 lbs on the dips.  I was pretty proud of being able to do 30 of those with good range of motion.

Workout #2

  • 5 cleans every minute on the minute for 8 minutes

The clean is the lift that goes from the floor to under your chin.  I was doing hang cleans so I started with the bar at my thighs.  I did 75 lbs.  I think I did 75 lbs.  The bar I was using wasn’t labelled.  It felt like a 35 lb bar but the reps were easier than I expected so I started second guessing myself and thinking that maybe it was a light bar.  Why do we do that instead of thinking that we’ve gotten stronger?  I had the husband look at the bar and he thought it felt like 35 lbs too.  I think I need to take a day and go and figure out what my max is on that lift now.  I know I was stuck at 95 for a long time.

 

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Reviews this week:

Skin Game by Jim Butcher

Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free by Charles P. Pierce

 

Recently finished:
All Fall DownAll Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fiction

 Allison is living what seems to be an ideal life as a stay at home mother in the suburbs with a burgeoning blogging career.  But her daughter is difficult, her mother is unable to care for her father with Alzheimer’s, and her husband is getting farther and farther away from her.  To keep it together Allison is taking a few pills.  They aren’t dangerous.  They came from the doctor after all.  And if after a while she needs to work harder to remember which doctor she can safely call for a refill this time, it doesn’t mean that she has a problem.

This is the story of an upper middle class woman’s descent into drug abuse.  It isn’t the first story that people think of when they hear “addict.”  That’s part of the reason why Allison doesn’t think the word applies to her.  In rehab she gets to know women who were using drugs the numb the pain of years of abuse.  They are dismissive of her as a privileged white woman who for some reason couldn’t cope with her life.

This book was most interesting before and after rehab.  In rehab she just comes off as whiny.

This isn’t the laugh out loud funny book that most people expect from this author due to the subject matter but it is an interesting look at an aspect of addiction that most people don’t recognize.

 

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Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the FreeIdiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free by Charles P. Pierce

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Nonfiction, audio

When did being an expert on a subject turn into a liability in public debate?  Why are Americans more likely to listen to a political pundit or a television show host than a person who has made it her life work to study the matter up for discussion?  How is this dumbing down of America and Americans affecting our public policies?

  1. Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units.
  2. Anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough.
  3. Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it.

Charles P. Pierce doesn’t like a culture that considers experts to be elitists and is more concerned about who you’d rather have a beer with than who has a firm grasp on the issues.   He states that America has always been a good place for people who see things a bit strangely but it has never been so easy to make a living at it.

“The United States is an easy country to love because you can take it on faith that at some point in every waking hour of the day there is among your fellow citizens a vast exultation of opinions that test the outer boundary of the crazoid….

…. Let us be clear.  This is still the best country ever in which to peddle complete public lunacy.”

 

He starts with a visit to the Creation Museum.  I’ve been there and wrote about my sadness over the whole thing here.  Pierce was there about two years before me and describes the entry to the museum that must have been changed before I got there or I’d have probably passed out.  There was a dinosaur with a saddle on it.

“It was an English saddle, hornless and battered.  Apparently this was a dinosaur that performed in dressage competitions and stakes races.  Any dinosaur accustomed to the rigors of ranch work and herding other dinosaurs along the dusty trail almost certainly would have worn a sturdy western saddle.  This, obviously, was very much a show dinosaur.”

That might just be my favorite book quote of all time.

The book moves on to discuss the impact on a small town that became the center of a debate about teaching creationism.

He discusses the prolonged death of Terry Schiavo, which was debated all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.  She was even ordered to appear and testify before Congress because no one believed the people treating her when they said that she had been brain dead for years. Doctors are experts elitist, after all.

He discusses climate change deniers in the context of a small Alaskan town that is melting into the sea and then moves into the War on Terror.

A good companion to this book would be The Science of Fear.  It also discusses why we believe outrageous things if they “feel true” enough.

To sum up Idiot America we can quote Pastor Ray Mummert defending the Dover, PA school board’s attempt to get “intelligent design” taught in high school biology classes –

We’ve been attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of our culture.

 

 

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Skin Game by Jim Butcher

Skin Game (The Dresden Files, #15)Skin Game by Jim Butcher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Urban fantasy, audio

Wizard Harry Dresden has been in some rough spots in his life.  The roughest was an attempt to save his daughter from death where he was critically injured.  In order to be magically healed in time to save her, he accepted a job with the Queen of the Winter Fae, Mab.  Now he is her reluctant knight.  Reluctant because Mab is pretty evil and Harry does want to think of himself that way.  He’s worried that working for her may turn him whether he likes it or not.

Now Mab wants him to work with a group of very evil people headed by Nicodemus Archleone, one of Harry’s most despised people.  They are going to break into a vault belonging to Hades.  If that wasn’t suicidal enough, Mab wants Harry to double cross Nicodemus as soon at a particular point in the heist and Harry is sure that Nicodemus is planning to kill  him as soon as possible too. 

What I love about this series is the character development.  No one in these books is in the same place that they were when the series started.  Bad decisions are made and then there are consequences.  No one gets a magical “Get out of jail free” card so the character can slip back into the role that they filled previously.

If you are a fan of urban fantasy at all, you need to read these books.  There are 15 now but don’t let that stop you.  I didn’t start until around book 10 or so and I was immediately hooked. I read them all in a few months.   Start at the beginning.  Let yourself fall in love with these characters to the point that they are totally real to you.  I’ve had to walk away from reading a few times because I knew if they killed the character that was in peril in the scene I was reading that I would totally lose it.

I listen to these on audio now both to extend the enjoyment and because they are narrated by James Marsters.  He’s amazing.  There is a large cast in this world and all of the voices are believable and appropriate for the character.  The pacing is good and the essential smartassedness of the books comes through.  My only caveat is that I wish I had a paper copy of these because there are some passages that I’d like to go back and reread after I knew the ending.  That’s not so easy with 15 hours of audio.

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