Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Message on My VoiceMail

Voicemail Lady: You have one new message. To listen to your message, press one.

Me: [presses one]

Voicemail Lady: First new message received at...1:30...p.m. [Beeeeep]

Messenger: Hello, Stephanie. This is R----- at the South County Library Volunteer Bookstore. I'm just calling to tell you that we have received some more Reader's Digest Condensed Books and we're holding them for you. You can give us a call at 713-23......uh wait, that's not right.......

You can call us at's your number.........What's my number?......I don't even know my number.

Well, Stephanie, that's just the kind of day we're having around here. So anyway we have some books for you. You know where we are. They'll be waiting for you.

We look forward to seeing you. Good-bye.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Book Review: The Mysterious Affair at Styles

Title: The Mysterious Affair at Styles
Author: Agatha Christie
Format: Kindle & Audiobook (Whispersync)
Reading Dates: Sep 9 - Sep 26, 2012
Rating: *** 1/2

My first experience with Whispersync, the new bookmark-in-the-cloud service from Amazon and Audible, is complete and my official reaction is -- not bad! The Mysterious Affair at Styles is one of 20 Kindle/Audible combinations that Amazon is giving away for free, so I snapped it up a few weeks ago. I decided to read this one first, because it was only 5 1/2 hours long on Audible. I could read on my Kindle and then turn on Audible when I got in my car and it would ask me if I wanted to go to my furthest read point. I had a little trouble at first getting Audible to sync reliably--sometimes it would ask me to sync and sometimes it wouldn't, but eventually it seemed to get better. Kindle always seemed to be able to keep my place no matter if the last place I read was on Kindle or on Audible. 

But even if you don't want to do the Whispersync thing, you should download both versions just to get the Audible version. David Suchet, the actor known for playing Hercule Poirot, narrates Agatha Christie's first Poirot mystery and he does an outstanding job, not just with Poirot's voice, but with all the voices--male and female. This was a really, really well narrated book.

The mystery itself was intriguing, if typical Christie. A houseful of guests are together at Styles, the country home of Mrs.Emily Inglethorpe, when she is found dead. Several of the house guests, including her much younger husband, her stepsons who stand to inherit her fortune, her daughter-in-law, and the mysterious Dr Bauerstein, all have reasons to want her dead, so Poirot is called in to find the murderer. The solution to the mystery is a bit contrived, but satisfying nevertheless. Poirot's uncanny ability to sift through the clues and combine them in ways that mere mortals don't seem able to is always entertaining. A quick, fun read! 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Give Me an O! Give Me a C! Give Me a D! Give Me an Umlaut!

I got a message on my phone from the Library Lady the other day. She said they had more RDCBs for me if I wanted them.
I resisted as long as I could--which ended up being two days--which ended up being one day longer than usual when I get that call. So progress.
But then I got out to the parking lot and faced the truth. And you have all seen what the truth looks like.

And that's what the truth looked like before I put the new books in there. I got out my shoehorn and somehow made everything fit. Thank goodness for backseats.
When I got home I went upstairs to scout a place for the new books.. And once again I faced the truth. And you have all seen what the truth looks like:
My OCD was starting to kick in. I needed more room and I needed some organization and I needed it before Captain America got home. An hour later I had lugged many boxes of books upstairs and I had this. (Happy sigh)
The top shelf  holds all the books with fancy covers, like this one...
...or this one, which I think is my favorite because it matches my living room.
The bottom shelf is filled with plain colored books like this purple one.
I have more purple plain covers than any other color. (Happy sigh.)
I grouped all the books on both shelves by color. On the left are the red ones like this...
...and then comes the orange ones
...on to the blue ones...
...all the way to green ones on the other end.
The best part of leaving boxes of books in your car for several months is finding books you forgot about, like these German RDCBs, or Reader's Digest Auswahlbϋcher. Now there's a word that needs condensed!
Their covers are fancier than the plain covers, but more subtle than the American fancy covers.
And the end papers...well subtle doesn't quite describe them.
 But add a little scrapbook paper (happy sigh) and my favorite German word--well, ok, the only German word I know besides Auswahlbϋcher and you get...

a present for my favorite parents, who both had birthdays this week. In honor of passing on the OCD gene to me, this one's for you, Mama and Daddy!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

An Artiste's Perogative

We all know what spiders look like, right? They look like this.
Or this.
Or do they? Maybe I can change my mind. I am an artiste, now, right? Maybe they look like this.
 Upside-down looks a little more
All those creepy legs...
Well, this guy looks a little less creepy than the other guy.
A little less creepy in a Sebastian sort of way.
And he's definitely rocking a blond flat-top now.
Kinda like my dad back in 1962.
...only with darker eyes.
This is what a dead spider looks like.
Or maybe it's this.
Or maybe that's a reindeer.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Spider's Tale

This is a true story and an old story. Those of you who are my Facebook friends, which I'm guessing is probably everyone reading this except the Russian spammers who pump up my page view count every day, may have read it already. It took place two years ago, but in the spirit of a really good Dateline episode, it has been re-enacted and now has pictures! Enjoy! --S.P. Sep 2012
The other night I pulled into the garage and started to be-bop into my house when I happened to look down and see a HUGE spider between me and my back door.

I jumped back toward my car. The spider was big, black, as big as a cotton ball---and it wasn’t moving.

My first thought was to call for Captain America. Wasn’t it he who promised 26 years ago to love, honor, obey, take out the trash, and kill spiders and bugs? But as usual when the trash was full or giant arachnids stood in my way, he was at 35,000 feet.

OK, I thought, I’ll step on it. I looked down at my shoes. I was wearing very flimsy sandals. I started to imagine drawing close to the spider and having it jump up onto my shoe and then up my leg. I let out a slight scream at the thought. No, stepping on it wouldn’t work. I needed something bigger.

I know, I thought. I’ll run over it with my car. I LOVE my Prius and it loves me back. It reads out directions when I’m trying to find my way, it shows me what’s behind me when I back up, it won’t let me lock the keys in the car, it gets 48 miles per gallon. Now, I thought, it will come to my rescue and kill the giant spider that won’t let me in my house.

I jumped back into the Prius and started it up. I backed it up just a couple of feet, cranked the steering as far to the right as I could and then creeped forward. I pumped the brakes as I tried to get as close to the garage cabinets as I could without hitting them. Surely that spider is just an oily spot on the garage floor, I thought, as I backed the car up again, turned it off, and got out.

The spider, completely intact, looked back at me from the same place I left it. It hadn’t budged an inch.

Dang it!

Now I started to panic, because I was pretty sure I hadn’t put a key to the new house in my purse yet and the only way into the house was being guarded by that big, hairy spider.

I looked around for another weapon. On the other side of the garage I spotted a broom that the last owners had left. I grabbed it and turned back to the spider, who still hadn’t moved. I stood there for a minute to gather my courage and then jabbed at the spider with the broom. The spider jumped, finally aware that I had no good intentions toward it, and hunched down like a Duke guard in a full court press.

I took another deep breath, my heart pumping so hard my shirt was moving. I brought the broom back behind my head like a 7 iron, and with a great scream of “Get out of my garage!!”, I swung it down.

It was a direct hit and the spider went tumbling across the floor toward the garage door—SPEWING A MILLION SPIDER BABIES AS IT WENT!!!!!

The floor was swarming with the Mama spider and her progeny as I stood there in my very flimsy sandals.

I went completely ballistic, frantically sweeping at the babies who crawled into every nook and cranny of the garage and swatting at their mother, who spewed out another million spider babies every time I hit her.

I screamed at the top of my lungs, “How dare you get in my garage! Get out of my garage! Don’t you go behind that box! Get out of my garage!” all the time swinging the broom like a cross between a whirling dervish and Dick Van Dyke singing “Chim Chim Cheree” in Mary Poppins.

The baby spiders continued to elude,

but I finally swept Mama spider outside the garage door. I was so full of adrenaline and vengeance that I turned the broom flat and pounded her to a pulp, screaming at each smash, “Don’t…you…ever…come…into…my …garage…again!”


I turned back around to face the baby spiders, and while many of them still scurried here and there,

 most of them had crawled back into the deep dark recesses of the garage, biding their time until they come out to avenge the awful circumstances of their birth and the terrible thing I did to their mother. 
A special thanks to #1 son and his bride for their help with photography and props to make this re-enactment possible.
In Memoriam: Mama Spider 2010-2010 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Book Review: 11/22/63

Title: 11/22/63
Author: Stephen King
Format: Audiobook
Reading Dates: July 14 - Sep 11, 2012
Rating: **** 1/2

It was May 1981. School had been out only a couple of days, but I had already left for the bustling metropolis of Hydro, Oklahoma, population a smidge under 1000 or about the size of the Psychology 1103 class I had just finished in Norman. My roommate that summer was Debra, an old schoolmate who had let me bunk at her house the summer before while we both worked at the local bank presidented by a mutual family friend and who had agreed to the same arrangements this particular summer.

The first summer we were together we shared a teeny-tiny house in Weatherford, but only a few weeks before I moved back to town, Debra had purchased a new mobile home right off the I-40 in Hydro and life was going to be good. We each had our own bedroom, a spacious living room, and a full kitchen. The week that I moved in, however, Debra was on vacation, so she left me a key, instructions about which bedroom was mine, and word that she would be back in a week.

The house was so new that she was still furnishing it and while it had a great couch and a working fridge, there was no TV yet, so I had to find something to entertain myself each evening after work. I decided, of course, to read. And my book of choice that week was The Shining by Stephen King. It was one of the stupidist things I ever decided to do. Each night I would read a few chapters, then lay the book on my chest for 30 minutes while I got up the nerve to turn off the reading lamp, get up off the couch, and make the ten-step beeline in the dark to my bedroom door. I was so petrified that I haven't read Stephen King since.

Until now.

I decided to give 11/22/63 a shot because it was getting really good press over on, and I'm glad I did. 11/22/63 is definitely a page-turner--scratch that--a drive-maker, because I would find myself taking the long way home just so I could listen a little longer. Stephen King writes stories that sound good out loud.

In the novel protaganist Jake Epping is introduced to a wormhole through time by Al Templeton, the owner of a local diner. The wormhole takes anyone who goes through it to Sept 9, 1958 and no matter how long they stay there, when they come back only 2 minutes have passed. Al convinces Jake that he should go through the wormhole and stay until 11/22/63 and prevent the Kennedy assassination. Al tells Jake that he tried to do it himself, but now has cancer and knew he would die before being able to complete the task, and so now he's asking Jake to take over.

Jake reluctantly agrees to do it after realizing that he might be able to change not only Kennedy's fate, but also that of others he knows who suffered tragedy during that same time, and so off he goes for a 5-year stint in the past.

But the past doesn't want to be changed.

This was a long book, and most of the sub-plots could have been novellas of their own, but the story kept my attention throughout and as I said above I couldn't wait to find out what would happen next or how King was going to bring all the time-travelling threads together in the end.

Kudos also to Craig Wasson, the narrator, whose myriad voices kept the audio entertaining and easy to follow. Ironically, I thought he sounded too old to be Jake, but all the other voices were spot on--even the Bill Clinton and Jimmy Stewart sound-alikes.

I'm taking away a half star for the length which I think could have been pared down a bit with no real impact to the story, but this is a rip-roaring yarn that left me in tears at the end. Highly recommended!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Scary Boo Boos

You learn from your mistakes, right? Well, I ought to be really smart by now. Here are some of my latest screw-ups and what I learned, or as I like to think of it, the good twin/bad twin post.

Case in point, the first bad twin.

It's getting close to Halloween and I decided I wanted to make a jack-o-lantern, so I found a cute stencil online, made myself a pattern, started folding and ended up with...... this hot mess.

Egad! Not at all what I was expecting. My cute little jack-o-lantern turned out like something from Friday the 13th only with a couple more teeth.

Hmmm...maybe, I thought, it would look more like a cute jack-o-lantern if I folded all the "non-face" parts away.

Well, that didn't work. What if I folded the extra pages into a circle of points instead, sorta like the outline of a pumpkin around the face?

Yikes, no! 

and so now he sits on a shelf in my attic looking something like this--Reader's Digest meets Frankenstein's monster meets the Lion King. (If someone makes that into a real movie, I call dibs on the royalties!)

I would feel sorry for him, if he weren't so darn...

I regrouped. Folding books, I told myself, is sorta like making an ice sculpture. You just chip/fold away the parts that don't look like your subject.

Aha! I suddenly realized that I had made the pumpkin face backward. It was as if I cut away all the pumpkin and just left orange where the eyes, nose and mouth were supposed to be. So I tried it again, only backwards this time, and got the good twin.

Now that's a little better. Next time I think I'll add a stem and then he'll be just about perfect.

And now... Bad twin #2 starring in I've got a case of the boos.

I decided that I hadn't made a word with really big letters in awhile, so I decided to go with Boo! I picked a font and started folding and got all the way to the end...

and the exclamation point was way to skinny to be seen, so I just tore it out. Now it's just Boo. I added ravens to the end papers to make it more scary because no one is going to be startled by just Boo. The bogeyman could come out from under the bed and say Boo Boo Boo as many time as he wanted and we would all just laugh, because we know exclamation points are important!!!!

Maybe I should just redo it with Mardi Gras paper for all my Louisiana friends.
"I love you, boo."
"I love you, too, boo."

But good twin to the rescue. I folded another and this time made the exclamation point nice and big and it turned out like this:

Scared you, didn't I! 
And then for good measure I picked a smaller, different font and did it again.

Sorry! I hope your heart can handle all this terror! (Oops, I just said terror on the Internet. Now I'm probably on the no-fly list.)

I can't decide which one is my favorite. The big letters are much deeper and you can see the dark text inside them which goes well with the glittery, black witches of the end papers. I think they give this Boo! a really ominous feeling, perfect for Halloween.

The smaller letters aren't folded as deep, so this Boo! has a much lighter, "five-year-olds trick-or-treating" vibe going on. 

So which one do you like best, boo?

#1                           or                         #2