Wednesday, February 20, 2019

I'm a Stranger Here Myself by Bill Bryson

I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After Twenty Years AwayI'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After Twenty Years Away by Bill Bryson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved most of this book. Some of it I found boring or flippant. However, it captured my imagination.

First of all, this book was published in 1999 and I am reading in 2018, 20 years later. Things have changed and I was motivated to find out how. Here are some of my research and comments: (Titles of applicable chapter is in parenthesis.)

1. 9/11 had not happened.
2. The Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 2016. 
(Take Me Out to the Ball Game)
3. Airlines don't serve food any more. (Room Service)
4. We now shop by E-tail. (Consuming Pleasures)
5. National Debt is not 22+ trillion it was 4.7 trillon in 1999 
(The Numbers Game)
6. # of registered vehicles  2018-276 million 1999-121 million 
(The Cupholder Revolution)
7. # of people in prison Now 2.3 million 1999 1.6 million
(The War on Drugs)
8. Amtrak has a train that stops in eastern and middle New Hampshire on its way to Boston from Maine and back again.
(The Waste Generation)
9. Global Temperature has increased 1.33 degrees since 1999
It was predicted in 1999 that would increase in a half a century
by 4 degrees and everything would burn up. ((The Waste Generation)
10. Toy 'R Us went bankrupt last year and closed all of their stores. They are now trying to figure out how they can reopen some of the stores. (Shopping Madness)
11. Libraries no longer shelve video tapes. DVD's only. (Our Town)
12. Walmart annual sales 1999 $120 billion 2019 $496 billion
(Our Town)
13. Opryland Amusement Park closed in 1997, but Hotel still is triving. (The Great Indoors)
14. Everyone likes free stuff. 1999-book matches 2019 ball point pens.
(How to Have Fun at Home)
15. The trend was enclosed malls. 2019 trend has reversed and shoppers want open malls where they can drive to the particular store and not have to get out and walk through the mall to get to it.
(The Great Indoors)

I read this book for my Book Club. I was ready to share my findings when I discovered I had a conflict and couldn't be there. I shared with another member and she is going to share if she finds it appropriate.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

LONDON, A Historical Novel

LondonLondon by Edward Rutherfurd
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wish they had taught history in high school like this. Mr. Rutherford takes the people and their stories through time. The stories are fiction, but the history is real. After I read Sarum I wanted to go North and read London. He moves the reader through different time periods, updating the families with stories of the descendants of the original families. A ancestral chart is included along with maps from the different eras. The chart was of the fictional families. I wish he had included a chart of the different kings and queens during each era*. If you are interested in English history from a personal perspective, I highly recommend London.

*As I read the book, I made my own chart of Kings and Queens that appeared in the book  and some events that occurred in each era by chapter. An accurate list can be found at this link: 
Kings and Queens of England & Britain.

The River: BC 54 
Druids, Celts, Caesar/Rome King Canute
Londinium AD 251
The Rood 604
Christian Church planned. Rome/Pope
Anglo Saxon
The Conqueror 1066
King Edward, the Confessor
The Tower 1078
King William I
The Saint 1170
Henry I. Henry II. St. Thomas Becket. Plantagenet's
The Mayor 1189
King Richard I, The Lionheart. Crusades. Knights Templar. Magna Carta
his Son, John ruled, but died. Then, his baby son and the Council lead by The Mayor ruled.
The Whore House 1295
Henry III. His son, Edward I, Edward II
London Bridge 1357
Edward III. Richard II (10 year old son)/Guardian, John of Gaunt. 
First Bible in English. Geoffrey Chaucer. Henry IV, Henry V,
Civil War of the Roses (two Houses of the Plantagenet's): 
    Red-House of  Lancaster  and  White-House of York (Tudor)
Hampton Court 1533
Henry VIII-Anne Boleyn-Elizabeth
                      Catherine Parr-Mary Seymour 
Printing Press, Lutherans,Protestants-Cranmer 
The Globe 1597 (Theatre)
Elizabeth I
Agri Economy, Spanish Armada, Protestant Church, 
70 years since Columbus discovered America,
Drake and Raleigh, English explorers
God's Fire 1603
King James/Scotland-Oliver Cromwell-Richard Cromwell-Charles I 
Mayflower, Idea of Government Debt introduced
Virginia, Massachusetts, Harvard
London's Fire 1665
Charles II
London burns, The Plague, Restoration of House of Commons and Lords 
St. Paul's 1675 (Christopher Wren)
Charles II, James II, William III of Orange/Mary Anne
Tories and Whigs,  London Rebuilt after the fire, Bank of London
Astronomy, Greenwich Mean Time, 
Gin Lane 1750
George I, George II
Bonnie Prince Charles/Jacobite cause died, Catholic
Bow Street, house numbered for 1st time. Hanovers/Protestant
Lavender Hill 1819
George III, Prince Regent/George IV, William IV
Buckingham Palace, Industrial Revolution (Coal-Fog)
Bank of England, Options trading/Stock Exchange
Small Private banks.
The Crystal Palace 1851
Queen Victoria
The Great Exhibition, Steam, Railroads, Passenger Trains,
Crimean War-Florence Nightingale
The Cutty Sark 1889
Queen Victoria
Telephone, Electricity, Jack the Ripper
The Suffragette 1908
Queen Victoria, Edward VII, Edward VIII, George V
Selfridge's Dept. Store, Halley's Comet, Motor Car
The Tube (Subway)
The Blitz 1940
George VI, Elizabeth II
WWI, Russian Revolution, Gone With the Wind
Women to vote.
The River 1997
Elizabeth II
Clean River Thames, Tate Gallery
Museum of London, Huguenots

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Friday, December 7, 2018

One Thousand White Women

One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd (One Thousand White Women, #1)One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd 
by Jim Fergus
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the story of May Dodd and a colorful assembly of pioneer women who, under the auspices of the U.S. government, travel to the western prairies in 1875 to intermarry among the Cheyenne Indians. The covert and controversial "Brides for Indians" program, launched by the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, is intended to help assimilate the Indians into the white man's world. Toward that end May and her friends embark upon the adventure of their lifetime.

This story was so well written I felt like it was a fictional account on a real event in history. It is not, but all of the events and characters are so well portrayed that I wanted to make it real. I knew when I was reading it that no good would come at the end. However, I loved the the story up until the end. I will admit that I skipped most of the end because I knew it would be too sad. Luckily, there was a 'Codicil' so I found out the rest of the story. 

A couple of quotes from the book that spoke to me:

"It is the one lesson I learned well at the asylum-to live each day as it comes, day by day, and to dwell neither on regrets of the past nor worries about the future-both of which are beyond my powers to influence." Spoken by May Dodd after she arrived as the Cheyenne camp. page 89

"Furthermore,..."is it possible that if a warrior believes in his 'medicine', he can make it come true? A fascinating concept, is it not? And one that lies at the very core of 'pagan religion."

"And perhaps of our own," I pointed out, "for now you speak of faith, Helen." 

Quite!", said Helen,..."That is to say, faith in the power of God, in the power of Art, in the power of medicine men and medicine animals-it's all one, finally, don't you agree, May?"
Conversation between Helen and May while Helen was painting birds on the Cheyenne warriors to protect them from bullets. page 137

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Friday, November 30, 2018

Signing Their Lives Away

Signing Their Lives AwaySigning Their Lives Away 
by Denise Kiernan and Josephy D'Agnese
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book. It is written in a style that made the signers of The Declaration of Independence become human. It gives a glimpse into the personal lives of each signer as well as what part they each played in the quest for independence from England. It is not a book that you can read cover to cover. It is not a page turner. I decided to read it in small bites reading just a couple of entries each day. It was the non-fiction read for our book club this year. We each took a minor signer and reported on him at our meeting. I chose Lewis Morris*, New York. However, as I read I found some fun tidbits about the different signers.
(See my 'Notes' below) 

The authors chose a loose writing style that makes this an easy and enjoyable read. They also included The Declaration and a time line of events leading up to the signing and a Time Line from the beginning of the process until George Washington was inaugurated. There is also a Miscellany of independence; such as, who and how many signed which documents.

Highly recommend! It will answer some questions and motivate you, is so inclined, to make a deeper study of the beginning of our Republic.

John Adams: Signed the Alien and Sedition Act, which as the U.S. government's first attempt to hassle immigrants and political opponents. (After deterioration in Franco-American relations.) Page 29

Eldridge Gerry: Ninth Governor. Once in office he backed a plan to creatively redraw the state senate voting districts to favor his party. "Gerrymandering" Page 36

Samuel Huntington: The first President of the United States. 1781-title changed from 'President of the Continental Congress" to "President of the United States in Congress Assembled". Nine other men served in that role. That would make George Washington the 11th President. Pages 55 and 56

Roger Sherman:
Contributed what is called the 'Great Compromise". When the smaller states were worried that a population-determined form of representation would leave them little voice, he suggested a dual legislative system: the lower house, The House of Representatives, would be determined by proportion of population, and the upper house, the Senate, would consist of two seats in each state. Page 59

New York
Francis Lewis: Shortly after the signing of the Declaration of Independence on August 2, 1776, a British battleship fired on his home. One soldier ripped the gold buckles off his wife's shoes only to find out they were fake. She snapped back "All the glitters is not gold". His house was destroyed and his 60 year old wife was dragged off and put in a New York prison. She was denied a bed, change of clothing, and decent food for weeks. Finally, a slave tracked her down and slipped her food and clothing. She was swapped for two women, wives of prominent Philadelphia Tories. She was still under house arrest and couldn't leave New York City. She died at age 64 about two years after her release. Page 77

*Lewis Morris was one of four representatives from New York. New York was the only colony to abstain from signing the first draft on July 2. They were not receiving any direction from their colony and were not willing to decide one way or the other. Lewis Morris helped lead his delegation to approve the Declaration of Independence making the Declaration unanimous. Page 80

New Jersey
Francis Hopkinson: In March 1780, he took job as Treasurer of Loans in the Treasury Department. He was on one of the committees tasked with designing the Great Seal of the United States. He cranked out pencil sketches of the seals for the Treasury, designs for U.S. Currency, a naval flag and even a United State flag. He presented a bill for his services and it was declined because it was a part of his job. It wasn't until he died that he got credit for designed the U.S. flag. The plaque on his grave reads, "Designer of the American Flag". Pages 91 and 92

James Wilson: When Parliament closed the port of Boston, he argued that because colonists didn't have a say in Parliament, this resolution was absolutely unconstitutional. He was ahead of his time. By presuming to judge whether a piece of legislation was correct, Wilson implied that judges could, and should, second-guess legislators. This concept of 'judicial review" would later become a central tenet of the U.S. Constitution. Page 113

Robert Morris: He was a natural born fund raiser. He went on to be a superintendent of finance under the Articles of Confederation and later played a instrumental role in establishing both the Pennsylvania Bank and the Bank of North America, the country's first government-incorporated bank, which helped collect funds for the ongoing war effort. 
Page 119

George Ross: (He was the uncle to John Rose, husband of Betsy.) He died of a severe gout attack in 1779, reportedly remarking on his deathbed that he was about to take a "long journey to a cool place where there would be most excellent wines". Page 126

Benjamin Rush: He had a knack for describing a scene as evidenced by this account of the experience of waiting to sign the Declaration in a letter to John Adams: "Do you recollect the pensive and awful silence which pervaded the house when we were called up one after another, to the table of the President of Congress to subscribe what was believed by many at that time to be our own death warrants?" Page 128

Charles Carroll: He ended his very long life in the same manner in which it had begun-as perhaps the richest man in America. He was the child of a wealthy tobacco planters. He was Catholic and was sent to France for his education. He danced, he fenced, he spoke French, and he had 10,000 acres all his own-he really was quite a catch. He married his cousin, Mary Darnall and had seven children. Page 151

Samuel 'Old Bacon Face' Chase: He had an abrasive personality and always managed to say something that rubbed people the wrong way. He had a gift for oratory that allowed him to crush an opponent with just the right turn of phrase.  He was unafraid to speak his mind even when he was picking on the most powerful people in the land. (This was where the 'Bacon Face' name originated, thanks to his reddish-brown complexion.) Pages 155 and 156

Richard Henry Lee: His most notable act was the one that got the nutty ball of independence rolling: He put forth in Congress the legendary resolution for separation  from Great Britain, which led to the creation of the Declaration of Independence. Page 180

North Carolina
Joseph Hewes: John Adams wrote about Hewes and his role in turning the tide toward independence on several occasions: "Mr. Hewes, who had hitherto constantly voted against it, started upright, and lifting up both hands to Heaven...cried out, 'It is done! and I will abide by it.'" Adams later said, "The unanimity of the States finally depended upon the vote of Joseph Hewes, and was finally determined by him." Page 197
South Carolina
Arthur Middleton: Part of the 'fancy foursome' (as the authors called them) from South Carolina*. He notably refused to serve on the committee of accounts because he said he didn't understand them and didn't like business. John Adams on Middleton-"He had little information and less argument: in rudeness and sarcasm his forte lay, and he played off his artillery without reserve." Page 210
*Thomas Lynch, Edward Rutledge, and Thomas Heyward, Jr.

Edward Rutledge: He was an active speaker and effectual speaker in Congress and one of the leading voices responsible for postponing until July the vote on Lee's June 7 resolution for independence. In a sense, we have him to thank for our ability to celebrate independence during a time of year that's perfect for baseball, hot dogs, apple pies, and ice cream.

He is often credited with playing a pivotal role in getting the anti-slavery language removed. So the slavery debate was left, in part at least, for another day and another war, one in which South Carolina would again assume great importance.

Saturday, September 29, 2018


Try to remember the kind of September

When life was slow and oh, so mellow

Try to remember the kind of September

When grass was green and grain was yellow

Try to remember the kind of September
When you were a tender and callow fellow
Try to remember and if you remember then follow

Try to remember when life was so tender
That no one wept except the willow
Try to remember when life was so tender
And dreams were kept beside your pillow
Try to remember when life was so tender
And love was an ember about to billow
Try to remember and if you remember then follow follow follow

Deep in December it's nice to remember
Although you know snow will follow
Deep in December it's nice to remember
Without a hurt the heart is hollow
Deep in December it's nice to remember
The fire of September that made us mellow
Deep in December it's nice to remember and follow

Monday, September 3, 2018

Side Trip Butterfly Pavilion Westminster Colorado

While on our 'Road Trip Destination Colorado', I took a morning out to visit the Butterfly Pavilion. It was a quick drive from our hotel. It was early on a Friday so it was me and a couple of bus loads of kids on a field trip. It was really fun watching them interact with the bugs, sea creatures, and butterflies. That's the kids you hear on both of the videos.

The first room was the 'bug room'. Most of the kids lined up for a chance to have Rosie, the tarantula, crawl on their arm. I passed the opportunity. (No, I didn't get a picture of Rosie.) There was also a bee hive in glass. I looked for the queen, but she was hiding that day. Most of the bugs were in hiding so I ventured to the sea creatures exhibit. 

Then, on to the butterflies. Everyone has to enter one door into a waiting area. Then, when everyone is in and that door is closed, the door to the butterfly area can be opened. It is almost like a rain forest with butterflies everywhere. Some are posing; some are flying; and some are hiding. Some were even feeding. Who knew that butterflies could be aggressive? (Check out the video at the end of the photos.)

Brown Butterfly
When brown butterfly opens,
it is blue.

Then, hit the gift shop and purchased a few things-a garden solar butterfly light and a butterfly for my printer's tray. Fun morning on my own!