The Summer Garden

It’s peak Summer garden time, and I took some photos Sunday. Our Lilies are especially magnificent this year. Lots of pictures for you. Click to see larger image.

Posted in At Home in Portland | 10 Comments

Current Reading: Foster, Moyes, Sandford

I finished Icerigger by Alan Dean Foster, which I first became aware of through a blog review, though I don’t recall which blog. I enjoyed it. It’s nothing literate or thought-provoking, just a fun SF novel about a group of people who get stranded on an ice world, and their struggles to survive, get along, and find a way to somewhere civilized enough to allow them to get off the world and back to their lives. Good characterization, good world-building and nice doses of action and humor. It turns out to be the first in a series, though it could be read as a stand-alone. I’ve found a used copy of the second book.

I then felt in the mood for a British mystery, and spotted a Chief Inspector Henry Tibbit novel in my TBR stack, so I snapped it up. I love Patricia Moyes books, and it’s always a pleasure to come across one I haven’t read. This one is A Six-Letter Word For Death and, at the halfway point, I’m enjoying it very much.

Barbara just finished John Sandford’s current Prey series novel, Golden Prey. She’s not sure what she’s going to read next, she’ll see what’s on hold or pause at the library.

So how about you?
What have you been reading?

By the way, I’ll be posting some garden pictures Wednesday, for those who may be interested.

Posted in current reading, Mystery, Science Fiction | 21 Comments


Having a bad day – the old devil migraine.

Posted in At Home in Portland | 13 Comments

Current Reading: Edwards, Heywood, Foster, Sandford

Two books read this time, in addition to the Civil War book I reviewed for my FFB.

Miraculous Mysteries, edited by Martin Edwards, is a collection of “locked-room murders and impossible crimes”. An anthology of 16 stories, published recently by British Library Crime Classics (Poisoned Pen Press in the U.S.) these are mostly well-known classics of the type. I’m always eager to buy and read new books in the BLCC series, but in this case I should have been more careful. I’d read three-quarters of these stories in the Otto Penzler edited Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries just over a year ago. I re-read them anyway, and enjoyed them, as I did the few stories that were new to me, but there was a great deal of overlap.

The other book was Hard Ground by Joseph Heywood. Heywood writes two series, one is the Woods Cop series featuring Conservation Officer Grady Service, who works in the farthest reaches of Michigan’s remote Upper Peninsula, the other  – with a 1913 historical setting – features Lute Bapcat, a former Rough Rider turned Michigan Game Warden. Hard Ground is a story collection set in the same area as the Woods Cop series, though only one of the stories features Service, all of the stories are very good indeed. I really enjoyed this one. Thanks to Jeff Meyerson for recommending Joseph Heywood’s books!

I’m currently reading, in addition to more Civil War non-fiction, Icerigger by Alan Dean Foster, which I first became aware of through a blog review, though I don’t recall which blog. So I thought I’d try it, and so far, so good.

Barbara got about a third way into The Thirst, the latest Harry Hole novel by Jo Nesbo and gave it up, at least for now. As much as she loves the character and series, she was finding this one more than usually disturbing, and since there were over 135 people in the library waiting list for the book, back it went. She may get back on the list for it at some time in the future, but not right away.

So now she’s begun John Sandford’s current Prey series novel, Golden Prey.

So how about you?
What have you been reading?

Posted in Adventure, Books & Reading, current reading, Mystery | 24 Comments

Friday Forgotten: The Coming Fury by Bruce Catton

this is the 262nd in my series of forgotten or seldom read books

The Coming Fury – Centennial History of the Civil War, Volume I, by Bruce Catton, Doubleday hardcover (1961) 565 pages – Winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.

In light of a new documentary by Ken Burns on Viet Nam coming this Fall, we were talking about his many other fine documentaries. We decided we wanted to watch The Civil War again, and got it from the library. It’s on 6 DVDs, and we watched it over a couple of weeks. We’d forgotten a lot of the content and details, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

I then decided I wanted to read more and was going to read Shelby Foote’s The Civil War, A Narritive in three volumes. However I remembered I had the Centennial History of the Civil War, by Bruce Catton, also in three volumes, on the shelf, unread for more than forty years. So this, the first volume, is what I decided to read.

The Coming Fury describes the event and forces leading up to secession, as well as the beginnings of the combat, and then leading to failure of political processes from Ft. Sumptor to Bull Run, and those battles. Though Ft. Sumpter wasn’t really a battle, just the marking point of the beginning of armed hostilities.

Yes, this is somewhat dated compared to the Foote trilogy, which has a more modern tone. But it’s also less oriented toward a every-sentence-everyone-said-counts approach. I found it quite readable and sufficiently detailed. Note that the first shot at Ft. Sumpter is described on page 313, so much has gone on before that April morning.

Catton was and is a superb historian, as he seemed so many decades ago. A fine piece of scholarship neatly presented. If you’d like to learn more about the Civil War, perhaps the defining time of our nation, this isn’t a bad place to start. After a break for some other reading, I’ll come back for the second volume, The Terrible Swift Sword.

Posted in Books & Reading, Non-fiction | 8 Comments

Computer Adventures

Okay, I bought the new iMac. It’s 27-inch with the Retina display. It has a quad‑core 3.3GHz Core i5 processor, a 2TB Fusion Drive, and a 2GB AMD Radeon R9 M395 graphics processor.  I upgraded the RAM at the point of purchase to 32GB. I improved the multi-core performance by opting for the 4.0GHz Core i7 upgrade. So all the bells and whistles. I expect this will be the last large desktop computer I’ll buy. By the time this is out of date, it will be enough to just have a laptop. It might have been enough this time, but I’m  kind of hard-nosed about a big monitor and full keyboard (which is extra).

New…shiny…fast…lots of storage…

So then there is the setup. Man, I hate setting up a new computer. Here’s why.

  1. Everything looks different. What used to be here is now there. Why developers feel obligated to move stuff around and make changes to the placement of objects is something I don’t understand. but it’s a fact to be dealt with.
  2. Setting up a network should be easy, but it never is. I spent 2 hours trying to get the laptop to print remotely to the printer that’s hooked up to the new iMac. No luck so far, even though that function was just fine on the old computer. It’s something we use a lot, and it needs to be solved. Gaah!
  3. Different physical design. The old iMac (hereafter OM) had an optical drive for CDs and DVDs, a slot in the right side. Worked great, very convenient. New iMac (NM) doesn’t have it. Would I rather have “Oh, how sleek!” or “Oh, how useful!”. I’ll bet you can guess. I had to buy an optical drive (called an Apple SuperDrive or some such silly name).
  4. Different connectors. The Old Mac had several USB ports plus Firewire 400 and 800 receptors and an Ethernet port. The New Mac has the USB ports and 2 Thunderbolt slots. So where the hell am I supposed to plug in my backup hard drive (needed to use the backups to load all my files and stuff onto the new machine)? That drive uses the Firewire 800 cable. Solution: a return trip to Apple Store, steam coming from my ears, to point out that I asked this very question when I bought the NM, and they said adapters would be included. Nope! At least they gave me half off on the ones I had to buy – and they were NOT cheap.
  5. The new, “better” programs (the new kids like to call them apps, short for applications, but they are in fact programs in my opinion). Whatever, these “improvements” make all my stuff look, feel and act differently than before. My music is in iTunes, and the face of the program has been changed a lot. It may look more zingy and cool to Millenials and under, but I value function over style. Lots of adjusting default views and such.
  6. More of the same with the Photos app. I liked the way iPhoto was set up, easy to find and organize what I had and wanted to see. Now it’s Photo, and all zingy. “Hey, we’ve found all the pictures with a specific face in them!” “Hey, look at all the ones with a mountain, or taken at the beach, or…” NO, NO, NO! I want them grouped into events by date, like before. No such luck.
  7. Someone decided that everyone has great eyesight and so small text is just the ticket. I’ve been two days going through the programs trying to find a way to increase default font size. I’ve been successful about half the time so far.

Oh, I’ll get this all sorted out, and get used to the changes, and it will be great. But for a few days, what a pain in the neck!

Update: I’m all set up now (July 4) including a 4 terabyte secondary hard drive used for backups and extra photo storage. Niiice.

Posted in At Home in Portland | 7 Comments

Current Reading: Krueger, O’Brien, Nesbø

While having computer problems and ultimately buying a new one, then doing all the setup and organizing required to have a working system and LAN, I did less reading, but finished a couple of things.

I decided to get current on William Kent Krueger’s Cork O’Connor series prior to the new one coming in August, so I read Manitou Canyon. As always with Krueger, I liked it a lot, and am eager for the next book.

I also read Silver Chief, Dog of the North by Jack O’Brien (illustrated by Kurt Wiese). A couple of years ago I picked up several O’Brien dog books on ABE, and have been reading one now and then as the mood strikes. Silver Chief  is the son of a husky and a wolf, born in the wild. He is extremely mistrustful of humans, but is captured, tamed with kindness and love by Jim Thorne of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

On assignment to bring in a killer, Silver Chief saves his master’s life and brings the assignment to a successful conclusion.  I enjoyed this one quite a bit, and though there are some grim moments all turns out well in the end.

Barbara is finished All the President’s Men and has started The Thirst by Jo Nesbo, a Harry Hole novel.

So how about you?
What have you been reading?

Posted in Adventure, Books & Reading, current reading, Mystery | 23 Comments

Friday review: Sidney Chambers and The Shadow of Death by James Runcie

This is the 261st in my series of forgotten or seldom read books

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie, Bloomsbury Publishing 2012 trade paperback, the first volume in the series of The Grantchester Mysteries


I first became aware of this author, book, and series through an article in Mystery Scene magazine, and then borrowed the book from the library.

The Grantchester Mysteries is a series of books by British author James Runcie, set during the 1950s in Grantchester, a village near Cambridge in England. The books feature the clergyman-detective Canon Sidney Chambers.

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, is comprised of six short standalone mysteries. This is a short story collection in all but name. The “stories” are just chapters, but each is a separate story. However there is no table of contents showing them and no separate title for each.

The first chapter/story is about a suicide that has a close friend certain it must have been murder. The vicar, Canon Sidney Chambers, decides to poke about and uncovers some interesting discrepancies. The second story involves a missing engagement ring, one that disappeared during a New Years Eve celebration in the home of a popular MP.

I won’t go through all of them, but I think you get the idea. The are gentle, character-driven mysteries with a solution solvable by the man who is able to ask questions and get to the bottom of things. You wouldn’t be far off the mark if you thought of Aird, Allingham or Christie short stories but without the golden age twists in the plot. I was also reminded, in some cases, of the stories of H.R.F. Keating

I enjoyed the book. The character is appealing, I liked the reference to jazz, an important element in one of the stories, and the portrayl of village life. Though it’s a bit lighter than my usual fare, this went quickly and was a nice diversion.

The books were turned in the ITV detective drama Grantchester in the same time and setting  as the books. They feature Anglican vicar Sidney Chambers (James Norton), who develops a sideline in sleuthing with the help of Detective Inspector Geordie Keating (Robson Green). The first series was based on the six stories from the first book, Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death. A second series was commissioned in late 2014 and broadcast in March and April 2016 and a third series is airing in 2017.

I’ve seen Season 1 and enjoyed it quite a bit. We’re watching Season 2 now.

The books in the series include:

  1. Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death (2012)
  2. Sidney Chambers and The Perils of the Night (2013)
  3. Sidney Chambers and The Problem of Evil (2014)
  4. Sidney Chambers and The Forgiveness of Sins (2015)
  5. Sidney Chambers and The Dangers of Temptation (2016)

A total of six books are planned. The series was inspired by James Runcie’s father, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie.

note: Some of the foregoing information was found on Wikipedia.

Posted in Books & Reading, Mystery, Short Stories | 12 Comments

the Apple Store, and then…

It was cooler Monday, we even had some sprinkles this morning. Blessed relief from the heat! So it seemed a good day to take a drive down to the local Apple Store.

I had all the technical information on my present iMac with me, and the first thing I did was show it to the employee there and discuss my options for upgrading. As I expected, the ten-year-old computer was beyond upgrading. It turns out that it would have cost almost as much to upgrade it so it could run the current Mac OS (Sierra) as buy a new iMac.

So I looked at the new iMac, 27-inch Retina display (an ultra high-resolution display) with plenty of RAM, big hard drive and so forth. Woo-hoo!

A lot of questions were asked, mostly answered, though it’s obvious there will be a great deal of setup, reconfiguring (especially Word, as I customize it a lot) and a learning curve on the new operating system, since I’ll be four or five generations behind.

Apparently “most users” upgrade every 3 years.

I also had to buy an optical (CD/DVD/ROM) drive, as iMacs no longer come with them, as my old one did. Oh, and the connections on the back have changed a lot, so there may be a need for adaptors for my older auxiliary drives and other peripherals.

So it was ordered, paid for and the first packages arrived the next day. The iMac itself will be here today. Meanwhile I have a lot of file clearing and backing up and so forth to do.

Posted in Books & Reading, Fiction, Mystery, New Arrivals | 8 Comments

Just Arrived!

Just arrived yesterday from Illustrated Press is The Life and Art of Bernie Fuchs by David Apatoff.

Fuchs has long been a favorite artist, I first encountered his work in various magazines, most memorably in Sports Illustrated.

If you love illustration art, you’ll want to take a look at this fine volume. The book is in full color and features over 300 illustrations. It is 240 pages long and is filled with Bernie’s beautiful artwork reproduced from the original paintings and drawings, as well as rarely seen tear sheets from vintage magazines, photographs, color studies, and more.

There is an on-line preview of the book HERE

As always with books from Illustrator’s Press, this book is top quality. Highly recommended.

Posted in Books & Reading, Non-fiction | 7 Comments