28 April 2016

Little Pitchers Have Big Ears

A friend saw that I'd been reading Georgette Heyer, and thought that I might like a set of mysteries set in Victorian England. So she sent me a stack of five paperbacks, three of which I've finished and mailed off to my sister-in-law. The high-falutin' series name is The Robin Paige Victorian-Edwardian Mysteries - such a mouthful! They are fun, though, and very undemanding, which is what one wants once in a while.

I was distinctly amused to open the second book, Death at Gallows Green, and find a bright pink post-it with a "necessary spoiler":

Okay, thanks! When the girl finally turned up missing, I remembered that she was not going to be hurt or killed and that therefore, she had to be found. And she was!

More amusingly, to me anyway, was finding the word "pitcher" scratched out on page 55, and replaced with "jug".

On page 56, "pitcher" was unassaulted.

And on page 58, it was again struck out!

The great mystery is why a jug and not a pitcher. Why? British vs. American usage. The book - though set in England - was written by a pair of Americans.

My favorite part? Adding my own annotations to those the book came to me with.

Do you write in your books?

26 March 2016


It used to be that I never wrote in books. Then I decided that if it was my book, it was okay to write in. But library books? They shouldn't be written in, even if there are errors that ought to be edited. Right?

Imagine my amusement at finding that someone perceived there to be a typo in a library copy of Georgette Heyer's The Toll-Gate: fractionally.

Clearly, the reader thought fractionally was wrong, and so crossed it out and wrote in franctically.

In fact, fractionally is correct, because the whole sentence is "Fractionally, as they struggled together, shifting this way and that over the damp, uneven rock-floor, John was moving his grip nearer and nearer to Coate's wrist." That is, John was moving his grip fractionally, not that they were struggling frantically or frenetically.

But it's the misspelling in the correction that slayed me.

20 March 2016

Another Reason Why I Blog

Every couple of years, I sit down and dump my blog to one of the printing services, so that if (when) the internet blows up, I have a copy. Recently, I printed the last four years, from 2012 to 2015.

The books were sitting on the coffee table, because I hadn't put them away yet, and the girl picked one up. She proceeded to read all the entries about her, in all four of the books.

"I did this?" "I said that?"

And in that moment I realized that it really does act as a sort of baby book. No first words, but her height's in there at least once, and there's a haircut, and the first day of kindergarten, and the first day of middle school, and various and sundry other milestones.

And it makes me happy that I now have printed, bound volumes from 2006 to 2015.


Because a number of people have asked, the service I use is Blog 2 Print. It is not perfect, but it is fast and reasonably easy, and there's not a lot of futzing required. It supports Blogger, Wordpress, Typepad and Tumblr. You provide the URL for your blog and select some parameters (like date range, whether or not to include comments, whether each post is on its own page). You get to write a little dedication, you choose from a bunch of preformatted covers, and you're able to choose (or upload) a picture for the front and back covers. Because I'm cheap, I go for the most compact layout (because it's fewer pages), but it does mean that the photos aren't necessarily where they had been in the original post. Also, I found a handful of places where the wrong photo got sucked in - I think in every case it was an instance where the photo had been hosted elsewhere, like a book cover image from Amazon. And it doesn't play nicely with Instagram - a photo inserted using the Instagram embed code comes through as just the widget code. While I'd rather the final product had been perfect, I'm not concerned enough to spend a lot of time going back and making it perfect (and paying for a reprint). In short, it got the job done.

(PS Blog 2 Print didn't pay me to write anything, and didn't ask me to do this.)

24 February 2016

He Named Me Malala

I confess that I never go to the movies. Or maybe once a year - which is awfully close to never. It means that by the time the Oscars roll around, I've rarely seen any of the nominated films. One movie that I missed when it came out - though it didn't get an Oscar nomination - is He Named Me Malala. I'm pretty happy that it's going to be on television next week, and at a reasonable hour so my twelve year old daughter can watch with me, and on a commercial-free channel so we don't have to DVR it to watch later.

If you'd wanted to see it too, it's on on Monday February 29 on the National Geographic channel at 8:00pm (Eastern).

17 February 2016

Would you like some freshly ground wood shavings?

Today's entertaining/appalling news story is that "The Parmesan Cheese You Sprinkle on Your Penne Could Be Wood".

Now, they aren't talking about fancy aged Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated with your super sharp Microplane. No, they mean those cardboard cans of cheese dust:

According to the FDA’s report on Castle, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, “no parmesan cheese was used to manufacture” ... [snip] ... Instead, there was a mixture of Swiss, mozzarella, white cheddar and cellulose, according to the FDA.

However, I am reminded of my childhood. In the pantry, screwed onto a shelf, there lived a cheese grater. It was sturdy metal, with a wooden handled crank, and a knobbed wood block to force the cheese down towards the grating cylinder.

On spaghetti dinner nights, one of us children would be deputized to cheese grating duty. Moky would hand us a lump of cheese and a bowl, and staring idly out the window onto the driveway, we'd grate enough for a few plates of pasta. Sometimes, she'd be more ambitious, and we'd have to grate enough to fill up an old blue quart-sized Mason jar. That Mason jar, with a zinc lid, lived in the door of the refrigerator, cheek by jowl with a Mason jar full of sweetened grated coconut. Once, I was sick, confined to my bed on a spaghetti night. My mother decided that I could have pasta with butter & cheese for dinner, no red sauce. One of my siblings brought up my dinner; it was pasta with butter & coconut. The blue Mason jars of grated white stuff were unmarked. Happily, it wasn't as awful as it could have been: no red sauce.

I digress.

The wood block pusher was shaped at the grater end - rounded to conform to the shape of the cylinder. One day, I was doing the grating, and I put that wood block pusher in wrong - it was rotated 90° and therefore no longer conforming to the cylinder.

Yes, Virginia, there were wood shavings in the parmesan that night. And the wood block was never the same.

18 January 2016

We Shall Overcome

Me, heathen atheist, I only set foot in churches for weddings, funerals, and sightseeing. Yesterday morning, though, found me in pew 12 on the far left aisle, trying to be inconspicuous. The girl joined a youth choir earlier in the year, and it rehearses at a nearby Presbyterian church, and as a "thank you" the choir sings at a service once in a while. So I went, as designated driver and good sport.

Anyway, as I told the girl, part of knowing how to be a human is learning things about what other people do, like worship, especially if you yourself are not a worshipper. Going to church is a chance to experience the physicality of standing and sitting (and maybe kneeling), and to hear the susurrus of the "trespass against us", and to think about the call & response so often embedded in services. I secretly love singing hymns - it's a chance to exercise my sight singing chops. And yesterday there was a Ghanaian folk song included - so I got to think about the subtly non-Western rhythm and melody of that particular hymn.

But mostly what I was thinking about, in pew 12 on the left aisle, was Christianity. The people in that church yesterday were good, right-minded people, people with a social conscience, working on homeless outreach, looking for a new leader of the LGBT committee, praising the Iranian accord and that it resulted from diplomacy, not war. The sermon was given by a visitor, a white man who spoke well on white privilege, and on the slippery slope from complaisance to complicity. I was genuinely interested in what he had to say. And it made me wonder about the general state of American Christians. Is that church I was in yesterday something far on the lefty fringe? Because to me, we'd be a lot better off if there were more church-goers of that ilk. But what I hear about, the Christians who are making waves, are the bible thumping haters, the abortion foes, the Muslim demonizers and the refugee rejectors, Kim Davis and Jerry Falwell and their fellow close-minded mean-spirited right-wing-nuts.

I can't begin to unpack this. But like I told my kid, the more you know, the better able you are to understand where someone else is coming from. Right? So I googled "christians in america" and ended up reading an interesting piece called "Are We Finally Witnessing The Death Of Christianity In America?".

The state of America is dismaying. But even so, the glass-half-full part of me wants to think that sanity will prevail and that we shall overcome.

Let's work together, let's have peace one day.

15 January 2016

People Watching, N.Y.C.

​Big props to the young man getting off the subway with The Power Broker tucked under his arm. Excellent book. Ought to be required reading for anyone who lives in New York.

To the guy on a bike in the white helmet in the rain in the dark: I'm sorry. I didn't look. It was my fault. Thank you for not yelling at me when you bumped into me because it really was my fault. I'm glad neither of us got hurt, but if you'd yelled at me I probably would have burst into tears.

I want to apologize to the mother with a baby strapped to her chest. She was crossing the street, at a crosswalk, with the light, and my cabdriver yelled at her, complete with unnecessary profanity. I gave him a 28¢ tip, intending 20¢ but my finger missed the zero on the key pad. I also gave him a piece of my mind.

Morning commuter train to NYC. Pin-striped suit, snappy tie, braided leather suspenders ... and an unzipped fly. Yes, I told him. It was ruining his look.

Dude! I have to salute the guy with no elbows (or forearms or hands) and no knees (or lower legs or feet) riding a skateboard down Broadway, propelling himself with one leg and talking on a cellphone held to his ear with an arm.

I love that her scarf *almost* matches her laptop.

A photo posted by @magpiemusing on

Good looking guy with salt & pepper hair and beard, on the train in black sneakers, skinny black jeans, a black hoodie, and a snappy black motorcycle jacket. But the myriad zippered pockets weren't all zipped and they gapped unappealingly otherwise, ruining his look.

I'm waiting for the cross town bus on a blustery cold day and a guy arcs around the corner upright on a straight handlebarred bike, hands jammed in his jacket pockets. I wonder if it's the same guy I saw last spring.