Books: A Simpler Way

November 15, 2014

I read this book because it was recommended in a class I took in September on “The Role of the Supervisor.” Most of my reading lately has been fiction, and it had been a very long time (probably not since I finished my MBA studies in 1996) that I had read a book on organizational behavior. And I was intrigued by the instructor’s brief description of the authors’ viewpoints about organizations as organisms.

I won’t try to sum up the book’s points, because this review does that better than I probably could. If I had enjoyed reading the book, perhaps I would enjoy waxing eloquent about the ideas expressed in it. But frankly, I really struggled to finish the book before I had to return it to the library.

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Books: People of the Book

October 11, 2014

I looked at this audiobook on at least two other occasions before finally deciding to check it out from the library. I’m not sure what made me hesitate – perhaps the phrase “intimate emotional intensity” on the back of the case.

There different kinds of intimacy and different kinds of emotional intensity, some much more pleasant to read about than others. Some books get too intimate, and even with those that are a level – and kind – of intimacy that I would want to read about, sometimes I shy away from because I want to enjoy my commute, not find myself drawn into the wrenching emotional upheavals of someone else’s life.

But I enjoy historical fiction, and I enjoy books about books. I liked the idea of a mystery surrounding a beautifully illuminated Hebrew manuscript, and the different places in Europe where the book had traveled during its long history. I decided People of the Book was worth checking out.

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Books: The Nine Tailors

September 30, 2014

Having enjoyed Dorothy Sayers’ Murder Must Advertise, I eagerly read some of her other mysteries featuring Lord Peter Wimsey. Since I like to read books in order, I started with Whose Body? and Clouds of Witness. About all I can say about them is that I’m glad I started with one of the later books, after she had developed more as a writer. If I had started with one of those first two, I would have wondered why she was considered such a great writer and looked around for another author to enjoy.

Next I read Gaudy Night, which I enjoyed very much, but I found it odd that the story was told from the point of view of someone else rather than Peter Wimsey. Indeed, he comes into the story very little until late in the book. But of course now I want to know more about what happens to both characters.

First, however, I wanted to check out The Nine Tailors, which came between Murder Must Advertise and Gaudy Night. Unlike several books I have read recently that were more or less enjoyable but about which I could find little to say (hence the dearth of my blog posts recently), The Nine Tailors got me interested in learning about something I had never heard of before: change ringing.

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I want an ideatriever

May 2, 2014

I always like seeing the entries in Google’s annual Doodle 4 Google contest. This year my attention was drawn to the contest by a facebook post about the entry chosen by the guest judges as the winner for Iowa.

Usually I choose not to participate in online public voting for a favorite – whether it’s helping a student win an art contest or a charity win money. Using social media to attract votes – especially where you can vote over and over – seems to make the contest less about the merit of whatever is being voted for and more of a popularity contest. Even if I like something, I prefer not to participate in that kind of voting.

But I do like to vote for these Doodles, and I would have done it without the facebook post if I had come across a link to the contest elsewhere. (In past years I’ve found it on Google’s search page, but I didn’t notice it this year when public voting started two days ago.)

And I like the Ideatriever Doodle. I like the artwork, and I like the idea behind it, better than the other entries in this age group. I like ideas, and I really like the idea of being about to retrieve ideas that have escaped me. I’ve come up with lots of ideas of things I’d like to write – whether for a story, a blog post, or a speech for Toastmasters, but then by the time I have a chance to write the ideas down I’ve forgotten what seemed like the best of them.

Have fun looking at the different Doodles. And sure, go ahead and vote. Nothing wrong with public voting, if you vote for what you think is best rather than whatever your friends urged you to vote for.

Kitsch or art?

April 5, 2014

I enjoyed reading in the American Profile insert in today’s paper about the sculptures of Seward Johnson. I didn’t even notice, as I was reading, that the very first example is located in Hamilton, New Jersey, where we lived for eight years. Only later, as I was searching online to find out where more of his work is located, did I remember the sculptures outside the public library in Hamilton.

I also realized, as I surfed the web, how much opinions differ about Johnson’s work. The article in American Profile had mentioned that “art critics called his work kitschy and unoriginal,” but that sounded merely dismissive. If something is kitschy, it seems to me that the artist or art critic can simply ignore it.

But I guess art critics are bothered by how much ordinary people like Johnson’s work. Is it because that means less money – and perhaps prestige – will go to those the critics consider true artists? Do they think the public will be less likely to recognize the merits of what they (the critics) consider good art?

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Singing shape notes

March 29, 2014

I have occasionally seen songbooks containing shape notes, and wondered what was the purpose of the oddly shaped notes. They’re positioned on the lines and spaces of a staff the same as the musical notation most of us are familiar with, and they have the same characteristics in terms of what distinguishes whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, and so on. That much tells me the pitch and length of a note. So what could the shape represent?

I got to find out today at a shape note singing event held at a nearby church. The program was led by a group called Prairie Harmony, who meet weekly to sing this kind of music. After a brief introduction, we started singing, and spend most of the next three hours singing, one hymn after another. No accompaniment, just our voices singing four-part harmony.

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Leprechaun trap

March 17, 2014

For Toastmasters this evening, members had been invited to bring stories, jokes, etc. related to St. Patrick’s Day or Ireland in general. Pam, the director of the library where our club meets, brought in this unusually decorated cake.

leprechaun trapShe explained that it was a leprechaun trap. I’d never heard of this tradition, but apparently it has become very popular in recent years. (I can’t help suspecting that, like most of our St. Patrick’s Day traditions, it is far more American than Irish. But so what?)

Leprechaun traps, she explained, can take any number of forms. Hers is a cake decorated to look like a tree stump, with a hidden hole in the middle for the leprechaun to fall into when he follows the trail of the gold coins.

It makes me wish my boys were young enough to want to try to make one. I’ve always loved arts and crafts, and I was always glad when Al showed an interest in making stuff because I could work on it with him. (Our older son rarely did crafts except when a school project required it.)

Leprechaun traps can be virtual too – i.e. computer programs. I’m sure Al would like it if I could create a computer game to trap a leprechaun, but my programming skills do not include the expertise in graphics that are integral to today’s computer games.

I enjoy looking at some of the ideas other people have come up with, though. Another cute cake idea – similar in concept but quite different in appearance – has a rainbow hidden inside.

I suppose someday I’ll probably have grandchildren. Maybe one of them will inherit my love of crafts and want to trap leprechauns with me.