Friday, January 17, 2020

So where is it?

We decided to linger in Springfield, Illinois for another day to avoid driving through freezing rain that was predicted for the St. Louis area and southeast Missouri. It's supposed to hit here, too, but so far all that's happening is it's gotten windier and grayer. Theoretically, the freezing rain hits here this afternoon, early evening, and then turns into just rain. Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and above freezing so by the time we get our shit together and head out driving conditions should be fine. I hope. The older I get the more of a wimp I become.
The cow pilot my friend Teresa gave me  almost 20 years ago is still traveling with me. Think she's on her third dashboard.  
We're now into Day 4 of the Road Trip. We're convoying because we never got around to replacing the tow dolly that fell apart in Kansas three years ago. Allow me to say that I am not particularly enthusiastic about staring at the back end of the Guppy for 2,000 miles. That view gets old -- although the two legs had some potential excitement. There was still snow on the roof when we pulled into Springfield. Every so often a chunk of it would fly off. I was hanging back just in case a really big piece became air-borne but it never happened. No ice to speak of either, which surprised me. And, yes, we know that roof should have been cleaned off, but good luck doing that on an RV that's been sitting outside uncovered for multiple months.

Stop before getting to the highway so the S.O could check fluid levels. The snow on the bumper hung on until we were almost to Madison, Wisconsin, about 300 miles from home. There was still snow on the roof when we got to Springfield, about 575 miles. Which isn't bad. A few years ago there was still snow on the Guppy when we got to Farmington, Missouri, over an hour south of St. Louis.  
Got a late start on Tuesday, thanks to the combination of one final dental appointment and the inability to put anything that might be damaged by freezing into the Guppy too far in advance. I think when we were loading the Guppy the temperature in it was in the mid-20s. I had pre-packed all the canned goods, but even so . . . we had a lot more stuff than I would have believed before we started packing it all up. We did not get far the first day; wound up in a motel in Rhinelander feeling exhausted and vowing to never start a trip in mid-winter again.

Pulled into the Illinois State Fair grounds Wednesday evening. This is probably a pretty busy "campground" in warmer months: it's a convenient location and it's cheap. Right now it's rather dead. The fair grounds do extended stays so there are some RVs parked here that have obviously been sitting here for awhile. The folks to the north of us have skirting in place and enough dust-covered clutter around that it's clear they haven't moved  in a while.

I don't think I'd want to do extended stay here. The campground is fine as a transient, but considering it's basically a series of large paved parking lots it wouldn't be real pleasant for more more than a few days at a shot. The sites are full hook-up in the summer (right now they're electric only) but there isn't much space between them. I can see where when it's really busy here (like during state fair week) the "campground" would bear a strong resemblance to a RV dealer's sales lot. The people with slides would have a hard time extending them. It is also huge -- 300 total sites, most of which are full hook-ups in warmer weather.
S.O. in a typical vacation pose. 

On the positive side, the showerhouse is super clean, water pressure is excellent, and there's plenty of hot water. The fairgrounds do have security, and the grounds are fenced with limited access. It's also fairly cheap. We'd stay here again if the timing was right.

It is kind of neat seeing the fairgrounds. Really nifty old exhibit buildings and barns. It's an interesting site -- definitely not level, not at all the sort of topography where one would expect a fairgrounds to be built. It has an over-sized statue of a young Abe Lincoln, a sculpture that bears a strong resemblance to a muffler man but thinner. Muffler men are rather muscular; beardless ax-wielding Abe Lincoln is definitely lean. No photo because it's just too damn cold -- one thing I was not expecting was that central Illinois would be more frigid than the U.P.

We did play tourist yesterday and visited Lincoln Home National Historic Site. It was a gorgeous sunny day -- colder than the proverbial witch's tit but totally clear with an amazing blue sky -- but will do a separate post with photos. We skipped going to gawk at Lincoln's Tomb. I've seen it before and the S.O. wasn't interested. We also skipped the Frank Lloyd Wright house (the Dana-Thomas house). I've always thought Wright is overrated -- what's the point of designing eye candy if it's impossible to maintain and really hard to live in? -- and the S.O. has never been as keen on architecture in general as I am.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Speaking of Finnish music

Okay, so no one was actually speaking of Finnish music, but Ol' Buzzard stumbled across a Finnish bluegrass band so I'm reciprocating with my personal favorite. Nightwish. Symphonic metal at its finest. My  younger Finnish friends think it's a little weird for a little old lady to be into Nightwish, but, hey, I liked Black Sabbath back in the day and they weren't nearly as good as these guys. 
A couple things are true about Finland. One is that you can find any genre of music being cranked out by various groups, everything from traditional folk to symphonic metal. Lots and lots of bands, musicians, and singers for a rather small country. The other truism is that whatever the genre the music will be played well. Music is an integral part of the school curriculum so odds are you'll never hear a Finn hit a sour note.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Tired of winning yet?

A few months ago the S.O. decided to try applying for assistance from the local Community Action Agency. He was hoping for heating assistance or maybe weatherization, but turns out the waiting list for weatherization is remarkably long unless your circumstances are dire, and heating is now processed through Michigan's state social services department. Our circumstances aren't dire and we have no interest in ever dealing with DHS. Our combined income isn't much, but we do fall above the official poverty line. We are, however, sufficiently low income to qualify for the semi-regular Community Action food bank distributions.

We debated whether or not we should do it. We're not exactly starving; we'd been managing just fine without standing in line on Donald Day (it was known as Obama Day under the previous administration, and no doubt was W. Day before that). But what the heck -- we qualified, we might as well go pick up our lifetime supplies of lentils and kidney beans. Who knows. Maybe it would turn into a trip down Nostalgia Lane and there'd be buffalo meat (aka canned beef) or a few blocks of processed cheese food. Anyone who ever lived in a household where there was commodity cheese 30 or 40 years ago tends to wax nostalgic about it. It was really good cheese. But I digress.

We have not made it to every food pantry distribution day, but we did get to one yesterday. The Baraga-Houghton-Keweenaw Community Action Agency uses an old supermarket building in Houghton as a warehouse and for the distribution they do there. Remember, you don't have to fall below the poverty line for this one. The cutoff is something like 200% of poverty using a sliding scale (the same one the government does) based on family size. Income that puts people under the poverty line if you have a family of 4, for example, is a higher cut off than for a family of 2. Not that family size matters at the actual distribution: everyone goes down the line with a container (we use a laundry basket) and gets the same stuff placed in the basket.

CAA does two other food pantry distributions. One is held once every 3 months and is also one where you can be slightly above poverty to qualify; the other is monthly and for low-income (as in really low income) senior citizens only. For that one they use a truck to go to the different senior citizen housing complexes in the 3-county area.

Every time we've gone there have been literally hundreds of people lining up to get their laundry basket of whatever. Yesterday was no exception. Temperatures were down in the teens, it was snowing like the proverbial son of a bitch, roads were treacherous (we were having second thoughts, but we also needed to go to Auto Zone to get a core charge refund), wind was blowing, and there were still hundreds of people queuing up in the parking lot, boxes and baskets in hand. Looking at the crowd, it was like a cross section of American society. Young, old, dressed extremely well and dressed in thoroughly worn and faded clothing. Relatively homogeneous ethnically because this is the U.P. (translation: close to 100% white, although not totally).

And because people are prone to chat a bit, even notoriously taciturn Yoopers will engage in some small talk to pass the time. A favorite topic, of course, was if the economy is doing so well, the stock market is booming, and everything is going as good as The Donald claims, why are we all standing in line hoping that this time we'll get some peanut butter? Somehow hundreds of people risking frostbite to wait patiently to fill a basket with random groceries doesn't look much like winning.

Because inquiring minds no doubt want to know just what type of wonderful free stuff the poors are being given, here's the inventory for yesterday. Sadly, there was no peanut butter.
  1. Three 15 ounce cans Royal unsweetened applesauce
  2. Four 10.75 ounce cans Prima Qualita low sodium tomato soup
  3. One 15 ounce can Mission Pride unpeeled apricot halves
  4. Three 22 ounce cartons Granby Farms reduced sodium Cream of Chicken soup
  5. Three 15 ounce cans Hart Brand low sodium mixed vegetables
  6. Three 16 ounce bags Kings unsalted roasted peanuts
  7. Four 7.25 ounces boxes Pasta USA macaroni & cheese dinner
  8. One 12.8 ounce bag of Mountain Maid powdered milk (makes 4 quarts)
  9. One 16 ounce bag Betty Baker extra wide egg noodles
  10. One 16 ounce box Lil Dutch Maid unsalted Saltines (aren't unsalted Saltines theoretically impossible? How can any cracker be a Saltine with no salt on it?)
  11. One 16 ounce Basic American Foods instant mashed potato flakes
  12. Two 24 ounce bags Market Street Premium beef stew 
  13. One 10.5 ounce can Venice Maid vegetarian vegetable soup
  14. Three 8 ounce boxes Gosner Farms liquid 1% milk 
  15. One 5 pound of The Stafford County Flour Mills Co. bleached all-purpose flour
  16. One 24 ounce can Crider fully cooked ground pork with juices (I am, quite frankly, a little afraid of what I'm going to find when I open this can, although I'm thinking that it might be edible as sloppy joes)
  17. One 64-ounce bottle Fruit Patch apple juice
  18. Two 18-ounce boxes Malto Meal corn flakes
  19. One 15-ounce Del Monte lite sliced pears
  20. One 64-ounce bottle tomato juice
  21. Two pounds Dinner Bell Creamery salted butter
  22. Two packages frozen cooked pork patties (they look like hamburger but are ground pork), no visible brand name labeling on package, 12 patties in a package 
  23. Two frozen shrink-wrapped packages of mystery meat, possibly ham, each weighing about 2 pounds. 
  24. One 5 pound bag of potatoes
  25. One 3 pound bag of oranges
Offered and rejected: two large boxes of Kellogg's S'more flavored Pop Tarts. Made the mistake of accepting them a couple months ago. Never touching that nasty crap again. 

There is some good stuff on the list, like the butter. There's also some weird stuff, e.g., the ground pork. There is stuff we're not too enthusiastic about (unsalted peanuts?) but every thing in the basket is something we'll eventually eat. The FEMA meals (stew in bags) can't be any worse than Dinty Moore, and we used to eat that. Other than the fact the brand names are ones you're more likely to see at Dollar General than at Safeway, it wasn't a bad mix. No lifetime supply of dried beans (just what do people do with kidney beans besides use them in chili a couple times annually?), no truly strange stuff.

Now all I have to do is figure out where to stash it all in the Guppy.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Adventures in gastronomy

Hardee's has a buy one, get one free deal going for the Beyond Meat Thickburger so the S.O. and I tried it today. It's been a while since my last trip to a Hardee's, but I'd swear the faux meat tasted better than what they claimed in the past was the real thing. Then again, there is a reason it had been quite awhile since our last visit to a Hardee's.

They're doing a sausage patty with faux meat, too, but I have no desire to ever try that. I figure one fake meat patty in the interest of research is enough not just for now but indefinitely.

The S.O. said that to him the Beyond Meat patty was rather flavorless. I didn't see the problem. So are the real beef ones Hardee's serves so flavor is kind of irrelevant. I was more interested in texture and how close the patty came to masquerading as a regular fast food burger. It passed that test, but considering just how bad the typical fast food burger is that's not saying much. Damned with faint praise?

In the good news part of the experience, the fries were better than I remembered.

Monday, December 30, 2019

A minor rant in which I reaffirm my dislike of intercessory prayer


Why do people always say "prayers worked" when someone recovers after an infection or surgery or some other medical problem? Why is the first move always to thank God for answering your prayers instead of thanking the doctors, nurses, and other personnel who worked 24/7 to save your loved one? Or thanking the scientists who invented the antibiotics that killed the bacterial infection? And if someone dies from cancer or the flu or complications of surgery, does that mean that person was somehow unworthy? Their friends' prayers weren't good enough? If you survive an illness but a friend doesn't, does that somehow make you more special or deserving than the person who died?

One of the ironies about intercessory prayer is the longest, most thorough scientific study about the efficacy of prayer showed it doesn't work. The people who knew they were being prayed for (prayed over?) were more likely to have serious complications than the ones who weren't on the receiving end of prayers. As for why this might be true is a mystery. Researchers speculated that it might be the effect of added stress. The patients who knew people were praying for them experienced performance anxiety. You know, what if they died? It would cast doubt on the faith of the people who prayed for them. Someone whispers in their ear that the entire congregation is praying for their recovery and, holy wah, the patient is now responsible for making sure other people's faith isn't in vain. 

No such stress for the people doing the praying, of course. They're not the ones who will be toes up when the prayers don't work.

For what it's worth, if a person is a believer I can see thanking God for good stuff, but to assume God functions like a waitress at Denny's listening to you order a Moon Over My Hammy breakfast? Pure human ego.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Really hope this isn't my last post of the year

I recently read that one of the networks, probably ESPN, was going to air a documentary on the competitive world of dog grooming. Competitive dog grooming? Could there actually be such a thing?

So I asked my niece who happens to be a professional dog groomer. She confirmed that there are indeed grooming competitions. She's witnessed them at dog grooming conventions. Another thing I have trouble envisioning, but then again every profession holds conventions. Exterminators, people who make a living offing cockroaches, have conventions so why not dog groomers?

She sent me a few images of work groomers had done as part of these competitions: clipping a dog's coat and then applying color so the beast looked like a camel or a zebra or some other definitely not a dog creature. My immediate reaction was that some people should not be allowed to own dogs.

I can understand, more or less, the standard cuts that get used on dogs. Although, to be honest, how the conventional trim for poodles evolved to what it now is confounds me. I mean, what's the point of the giant fluffy ball of fur around the chest and the naked ass on the other end? But turning a dog into a fake camel? That has to cross some ethical line.

In any case, yesterday she followed up with a link to something even more bizarre. Glitter balls. You got it. Glitter. On the dog's scrotum. A few years ago I thought it was pretty damn weird that there are people who will pay to have fake testicles implanted when they have a male dog neutered. Why it would be important to any dog owner that his or her dog look like it still has functioning testicles once they've been removed is another mystery, one that kind of begs for some Freudian analysis. I mean, just how much of a dog owner's masculinity is wrapped up in whether his dog still looks like it has balls?

Glitter, though, is truly mind boggling. Just what is the point? I did a little Googling, and apparently this first started showing up about a year ago. The testicles are painted with a syrup and edible glitter gets dusted on. Not technically difficult, but definitely weird. The dog will lick it off, of course, making for some colorful poop, but supposedly it doesn't do any actual harm to the beast. What it does to other people's opinion of the owner is different matter.

Who first thought it up? Just how much alcohol had been consumed? And the poor dogs. . .  they already get to suffer the humiliation of being stuffed into strange sweaters and dresses (I see pictures of sad little drop kick dogs all the time being made to wear ruffled outfits that their demented owners believe are "cute") and now their balls are being bedazzled?

I really hope I'm inspired to do at least one more blog post in the next 48 hours. I'd hate to end the year with glitter balls.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

The countdown has begun

We moved the new mini-fridge into the Guppy yesterday, and the S.O. completed what he hopes is the last mechanical repair. If all goes as currently planned, two weeks from now we'll be somewhere considerably farther south and west.

The Original Plan had been to hit the road right after Thanksgiving, but a dental appointment I cannot miss got pushed back to January 3, which kind of meant we're here until then. I wasn't happy about the appointment not happening until after the holidays, but there was nothing I could do about it.

The change in plans does mean slightly less ambling -- we had planned to start off going southeast into Kentucky and Alabama before swinging west. Now we're going to just aim for Texas and the southwest. Not sure just what all we'll do in Texas, but I do want to cross Guadalupe Mountains National Park off the list of parks I haven't been to yet. For sure we'll stop in New Mexico at White Sands National Park (newest one to get the NP designation in the system; it was upgraded from a National Monument about a week ago). I want to go to Lincoln, New Mexico, too, and visit the grave of Smokey Bear, but the S.O. may feel that's a side trip that's just a little too weird for him.

The final mechanical repair was to replace the calipers for the brakes on one front wheel. The S.O. noticed the brake shoes were hanging up as we were coming back from Pictured Rocks on September 30. He'd tried a couple things to see if that would make a difference, but finally bit the bullet, bought new calipers, and replaced them yesterday. We need to get stuff secured in the house part of the Guppy before he can do a test run to make sure the fix worked, but we need to secure stuff in any case.

The Plan for today is for him to get the doors back on the mini-fridge and for me to do Other Stuff, like securing various things that might bounce in ways we don't want them to bounce if they're not secured. I will start moving some clothes into the bedroom closet and drawers, too. I certainly will not be wearing my high water pants or sandals around here in the next two weeks. We may try to get some Reflectix cut to fit the windshield and other windows in the cab, too, while we're thinking about it.

We already did Reflectix on two windows in the bedroom. It turns the space into a cave, but it'll come off easy when we get to a place where it's warm enough that we don't have to worry as much about either keeping things warm or preventing condensation.

As for the mini-fridge, it's electric only so obviously we can only use it when we're parked were there's electricity. If we boondock it's basically just a pantry. It's a just-in-case fridge. My niece and her family spent a few weeks living in the Guppy when they relocated to the U.P.  in May. The original equipment refrigerator, which is now 30 years old, was in continuous operation for about a month and decided it didn't like it. First, it apparently began tripping a breaker when it was running on electricity. So we switched it over to propane. It worked okay for awhile, and then it did the same thing: decided it was time to quit. Given the age of the appliance, we figured it had reached the end of its useful life. We bought a mini-fridge and set it up in the Woman Cave so Bonnie would have a place to keep milk and other perishables instead of having to mess with a cooler.

We had experienced problems with the refrigerator while we were at Pictured Rocks in 2018. We were running it on propane and after about two weeks it quit. We got ice and used it like a cooler. It deciding to quit again this summer was not a huge surprise. We had been debating getting a small refrigerator, something bigger than a dorm fridge but not a real residential model. You know, something like the refrigerators you find in hotel rooms. The S.O. measured the space where the built-in refrigerator is and we looked for a small refrigerator that could go into that same space if that's what we wanted to do. We did not seriously consider purchasing an actual dual-power (gas or alternating current) RV refrigerator. We only paid $3,000 for the Guppy. We're not putting anything into it where the price includes a comma. We're old. Realistically, we don't have too many more years left of doing things like campground hosting or long road trips. [How much does one of those dual power refrigerators cost, you ask? The Old Fat Man described replacing one in his travel trailer recently. It ran about $1,800.]

The built-in fridge actually worked better at Pictured Rocks this year. It ran fine on propane most of the time. Every so often we'd notice that the temperature in it seemed to be climbing when it shouldn't so we'd turn it off. We'd let it rest for awhile, and then turn it back on and it would work again. Odd, and definitely a clue it's going to quit for good soon.

In any case, the new refrigerator is big enough that it has a separate freezer compartment. We know from it being used this summer that the freezer really works and it is big enough to hold frozen pizzas and the 1.5 quart size cartons of ice cream. Its overall capacity is less than what the original equipment fridge would hold, but it's more than big enough for just the two of us. I've never understood the point of having humongous refrigerators that hold enough provisions for a small army. All that happens is things migrate to the back of shelves and turn into science experiments and mold farms.

For now the new fridge is in a corner in the "living room" where we had a storage box. It fits into the space nicely, actually has a slightly smaller footprint than the box did, so it's not eating up much square footage. It's going to start out functioning more as a pantry; the old fridge is currently stocked with frozen water bottles so that's going to be where I stick whatever perishable food we have when we hit the road. Next summer we'll deal with the issue of what to do with the old refrigerator: leave it in place and turn into a full-time definitely mouse-proof pantry, pull it and put the new fridge into that space, or pull it and turn the space into storage.

I know there are people who will wonder how I can talk so openly about us disappearing over the horizon for a few months. "Isn't that an open invitation to burglars?" Well, no. Not if it snows -- and it will. Thieves are lazy. They're not going to bother a place that's at the end of a 600 foot unplowed driveway. And even if they do? Doomed to disappointment. I don't think we own a thing that would be worth stealing.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Healthcare system or pharmaceutical sales network?

I'm supposed to go in for some blood work this week. Actually, I was supposed to go in last week (or maybe it was the week before) but it's supposed to be fasting blood work and I have a real hard time remembering to not eat or drink anything other than water when I first wake up. Turning on the coffee pot and then inhaling a rather syrupy mix of coffee, sugar, and milk is an autonomic function. I don't think about it. It just happens. Thinking doesn't kick in until sometime during the second cup.

The blood work is allegedly to check potassium levels, but I know what's going to actually happen. Because the test ordered is a metabolic panel, my current primary care physician will fasten with laser-like precision on the fact that my blood glucose number puts me into the dreaded "pre-diabetic" category and my total cholesterol is 4 or 5 points higher than the high end of the normal reference range, I'm going to be treated to a sales pitch for Metformin and Lipitor. The fact the numbers haven't changed in decades is irrelevant. So apparently is the fact my medical records clearly state I cannot take statins; the one time I did they tried to destroy my liver. I will listen to the sales pitch and then ignore any prescriptions for either of those two particular drugs that the PCP insists on writing.

As for the potassium issue, because my blood pressure was reading high when I went in for my annual wellness exam last June, my PCP wrote a prescription. I tried the drug for a few months but all it did was make me sleepy. I had no energy. We have multiple sphygmomanometers in the house; I did self-monitoring and the numbers weren't changing. Still getting higher than desirable readings but with the added benefit of having all the ambition of the proverbial wet noodle. So I went back to the doctor, told him the medication wasn't doing jack shit, or words to that effect. He switched me to something else. The something else does seem to be effective, but it does have a well-known risk of leaching potassium from one's system. Losing potassium is not good. If potassium levels drop too much the deficiency can trigger what medical personnel euphemistically refer to as a "cardiac event." Otherwise known as "Holy shit, she had a heart attack." So, yes, sucking out the blood to look at potassium makes sense.

Nonetheless, having watched American medicine in action for many years, I can safely predict when the lab results are back, the number that will get the most attention is the one least likely to kill me. There will be obsessing over a blood glucose of 119 while ignoring a remarkably high red cell count. I'm guessing this phenomenon is triggered by the fact the glucose number is easy to change -- just give her Metformin; let's switch from slightly too much sugar to inducing hypoglycemia and chronic diarrhea instead -- while the red cell count presents a mystery. Is it a signal for something ominous? Will her insurance cover the $900 blood test that checks for cancer markers? Do we need to force feed her rat poison Warfarin or another thinner? How much time is this going to eat up when the clinic needs to process the largest number of patients in the shortest amount of minutes as possible?

The high red cell count is fairly obviously a major factor in the high blood pressure. Thick blood is harder to pump. Thus, there is an easy answer to both the thick blood and the high blood pressure that inevitably tags along with it. It's an answer that involves no drugs, no money to Big Pharma, although it does involve some minor pain to me. Phlebotomy. You know. Blood letting. Drop the total volume and the pressure drops right along with it. Leeches, cupping, maybe the Red Cross blood donation van?

Oddly enough, if the doctor were to order straight-forward phlebotomy, just have the hospital lab drain off a pint every so often, that blood would be considered a bio-hazard and discarded. They can't bank it just in case they need some O+ any time soon. If I let the Red Cross do the same thing it's a welcome donation because other than being thick it's perfectly good blood. It's so good, in fact, my platelet count is on the high side right along with the erythrocytes. Every time the Red Cross sees me they give me a pep talk about scheduling a platelet donation (which is sort of like going through dialysis but for a shorter time period; they suck the platelets out but return the rest of the blood to you as part of the process). If the dropping a pint is done at the hospital I'd end up paying for it; if the Red Cross does it I'm not out any money but I also am not overly fond of the Red Cross as an organization.

Maybe I'll look into ordering some medical leeches. Not a cheap option -- Leeches USA sells them for about $18 each -- but definitely the natural solution. They'd be easy to maintain, maybe, given that all they ask for is to have the water in their container changed on a regular basis. They prefer cold water when not on the prowl for a warm dinner so you can keep your leeches jar in the back of the fridge.

On the other hand, you're not supposed to re-use them. The wee beasties (or not so wee -- medical leeches are fairly large as leeches go) get to chow down on you one time and then it's into the rubbing alcohol jar to be euthanized. I don't get that part. If they've already dined on you once, why would repeat performances hurt them?

The size of medical leeches does, however, answer a question I've had ever since I learned they were once a popular option for treating hemorrhoids. Physicians placed silk leashes on the leeches so they could control how far the blood suckers traveled. I always wondered how you could get a leash on a leech because the live ones I've personally encountered (usually between my toes after wading in a fresh water lake or stream) weren't very big. After doing a search for images and seeing the leech in the photo above it is clear that lassoing one might not be difficult after all.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

A recommendation

Looking for a fairly new book to read? Margaret Atwood's The Testaments came out in September. It's the sequel to The Handmaid's Tale

I plucked it off the New Books shelf at the library last week. I was prepared to be depressed or to have trouble reading it. I know from experience Atwood's books can be a tad unsettling. My mild apprehension was not helped by the fact the other book I checked out, Ruins of War, featured a psychopathic serial killer terrorizing post-war Munich right after World War II ended.

I decided to tackle Ruins of War first. I'd deal with a nightmarish past before delving into a dystopian future. Last night the serial killer met with a satisfying demise, it was still early in the evening, and so I reached for The Testaments. One-hundred-seventy pages later I dimly realized the Packer game had ended and the S.O. had retired for the night. I had a hard time putting the book down, but common sense prevailed.

Holy wah. Atwood can write. I could have easily done a marathon cover-to-cover night, read it in one sitting even if it meant being awake until dawn. Only the knowledge the result would be a totally wasted day today as I stumbled around in a sleep deprived brain dead fog turned off the "just one more page" impulse.

At this point, I'm at slightly less than the halfway point. Atwood is following three women: a girl raised as the daughter of an elite Gilead family, a girl raised in Canada, and an older woman who is the most powerful Aunt in Gilead. I have no idea where Atwood is going with these narrative threads, but the impression I get is that sooner or later these three people are going to meet. Maybe. With Atwood nothing is ever really predictable.