Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Local food

In the past few years local food has become more and more of a thing. Restaurants promote menus that feature produce or meats from local farms, supermarkets highlight items that haven't been shipped halfway around the world before hitting the shelves, and of course farmers' markets are becoming more popular. This particular product, however, was a first for me:
Sugar. Sugar that is "pure Michigan." I knew there had been sugar refineries in Michigan in the past, but I did not know there were any still operating. When I think sugar refineries that process sugar beets (because this far north that's obviously what they're dealing with) what always comes to mind is the sugar packaged in the GW bags, the Great Western sugar cooperative in Colorado. I knew farmers grew sugar beets in Michigan -- there are always mountains of them available for deer bait in the fall -- but I didn't know any of it was actually being used for making sugar. 

So I googled Pioneer Sugar. Turned out the company is huge, the third largest sugar producer in the country, and has been around since 1906. It is now a cooperative collectively owned by the farmers who grow the sugar beets. It operates six refineries. So why am I just now seeing what is definitely a Michigan product being sold in the U.P.? I don't know. I do know it's now the cheapest brand at Larry's so regardless of why it's just now showing up on the shelves, as long as it's there it's probably what I'm going to buy. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Gullibility, naivete, or flat out stupid?


Ol' Buzzard has a post up musing on humans and how gullible we can be. This isn't exactly a news flash -- look at what gullible people managed to put in the White House -- but it did remind me again of a conversation I overheard on a public bus years ago.

Back when I was finishing up my dissertation, during my last semester on campus at VaTech, I was totally dependent on public transportation. I took the bus to campus, I took the bus home. The studio apartment I had was out at the very end of the bus line, which meant morning or evening there were never many people on it that far from campus.

So one morning I get on the bus. As usual I'm the only passenger. Another person gets on at the next stop, but the bus is still basically empty. The second passenger sits right behind the driver and strikes up a conversation. He's all enthused about something he had seen on television the night before. I can't help but hear -- the dude is loud, he's enthusiastic.

Turns out he'd watched an episode of "The X Files." He's super excited about it. And then it hits me. It becomes clear that he thought that what he saw was real. He did not realize David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson were actors; he believed they were real FBI agents. It was on television, ergo, it had to be fact.

At the time I was amused. Today, not so much. I realize now that what I saw was the equivalent of "if it's on the Internet, it has to be true."

Anyone else want to bet that if that dude voted in 2016, it was for Trump?

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Words (almost) fail me

Loyal readers (all two of you) may recall I volunteer at the local historical society museum. As part of my volunteer duties, I let myself get suckered into serving as the Secretary. That in turn means I get to tote around the museum's Tracfone. Don't recall if I ever mentioned it before, but the museum got rid of its land line a few years ago when we realized that (a) most of the time that phone would be ringing in an empty building (when open hours add up to barely 8 hours a week you know there's not going to be anyone there to answer it), (b) even when we were there if it did ring it was basically a personal call for whichever volunteer happened to be on that day or a telemarketer, and (c) it was costing almost $1,000 annually. Granted, the phone service did include Internet but we almost never used it.

We did the math and figured out that if we invested in the best smart phone Shopko had in stock for Tracfone at the time we could cut the phone expenses by at least 75 percent annually, maybe more. Then we learned we could transfer the landline number to a mobile, and that was that. Changing the phone number had been the one thing making us hesitate. So back in 2016 we made the switch. When the museum is open the cell phone stays at the museum for the use of whichever volunteer is there. When it's not, it lives with the Secretary. Me.

Minor digression. One of the advantages of the cell phone is we were able to get a Square so now we can take plastic for payments. No more listening to visitors say "I'd love to buy this book but I don't have enough cash." Not a problem, we say, and people either whip out the Mastercard or start to stammer. Fun for us either way.

Anyway, I do tend to check the cell phone daily. It has the EBay and Amazon Seller apps so I can see at a glance if the museum has sold anything (we sell stuff that doesn't fit into the museum's mission on EBay and new and used books through Amazon). I can also see if anyone has left a voice mail.

So yesterday the phone said new voice mail. It was midday, more or less. What do I hear? Someone asking for a special tour, one by appointment, for her group. They had just gotten into town, were here only for the weekend, and were wondering if someone could meet them at the museum basically ASAP. What the. . .?? On our website we do say "by appointment." We also say it on the sign on the door. The sign on the door says "seven days advance notice." The website isn't quite as specific, but what do people think "by appointment" means? You don't call a doctor's office and say you'd like an appointment for five minutes from now.

I am kind of wondering just who she thought was going to answer the phone when the museum was closed. But that's a different issue.

I am happy the phone was turned off when the person actually called. Otherwise the caller might have gotten to hear "Are you fucking kidding me? It's a gorgeous sunny Saturday in July and you expect one of our volunteers to drop everything immediately? Hell no."

Would I have tried to set something up for them if  there had been more than a few minutes notice? Maybe. I've been kind of losing patience with the public recently so it's a toss-up. I'm still liking doing the cataloging, but for sure my tolerance for humans is dropping rapidly.

Monday, July 15, 2019

I should have known better

On my most recent trip to the library, I made the mistake of checking out To America, a collection of essays by Stephen Ambrose.  I should have known better. I have written before about being disappointed by Ambrose. This book annoyed me even more.

To America is as I expected a collection of essays in which Ambrose muses on his life in general, how he decided to major in history at the University of Wisconsin back when dinosaurs roamed the earth (the 1950's), and how he stumbled into military history and succumbed to being a proponent of the Great Man Theory. Well, he doesn't actually come right out and say he deliberately decided to become an acolyte at the altar of the Great Man Theory, the if it wasn't for heroes like Eisenhower/Lincoln/whoever we'd all be screwed explanation for everything, but in essence that's what happened. He's also a huge believer in Destiny and the inevitably of progress.

This in itself would not be a terrible thing. Lots of people think that because things turned out a certain way, that's the only way things could have gone. You know, certain things were meant to be, there was no alternative. These people have not read enough Harry Turtledove books. Or, for that matter, any other alternative history. Nothing is inevitable. History is full of "what ifs?" There's a reason people talk about "turning points" in history -- those are the obvious times and events when things could have gone in a different direction. That doesn't mean they had to go in the direction they did; we just think it was inevitable because it's the result we've been living with.

Small digression: one minor example of an event that would have easily changed history as we know it. By coincidence, I am currently reading a biography of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. He was the second son, not even really eyed as a spare by his father. What if his older brother, Joseph P. Kennedy jr, hadn't died in action during World War II? Would JFK have bothered with politics?

No, what makes the belief in inevitability a Terrible Thing is Ambrose uses this sense of predestination, of it was meant to be, of (dare we say it?) Manifest Destiny to do a lot of jingoistic we are the best, the brightest, the greatest country on the planet because we inadvertently killed off the indigenous population, defeated evil doers like Hitler, and did our best to contain the Communist menace in Vietnam. After all, when Europeans came to the Americas, the natives weren't really civilized; they needed to be colonized and/or eliminated so the United States could be the great shining beacon of hope the rest of the world reveres today. He even manages to claim that the Europeans never practiced genocide, that all the indigenous deaths were the tragic but inevitable result of accidental exposure to disease.

And then there are the bloopers, like describing Tet as a "religious holiday." What the fuck, dude, it's the lunar New Year in Vietnam. How much research would it have taken for this supposedly great historian to have found out it's the first word in the Vietnamese phrase "tet nguyen dan," or feast of the first morning on the first day of the new year. It's celebrated by everyone -- Catholics, Buddhists, animists, whatever -- in Vietnam. It is not a specifically religious holiday any more than New Year's Day is any place else on the planet. I've been hearing Tet described as the lunar new year since Americans first got to hear the word back in 1968. Surely somewhere there's video of American newscasters talking about the Vietnamese launching surprise attacks during the New Year holiday?

His view on Vietnam, incidentally, is that if we'd just turned the generals loose and let them do their jobs the U.S. would have won that war. Right. More likely it would be like Afghanistan is now -- stuck there forever and reading more and more like a bad copy of a Joe Haldeman novel.

Bottom line: I'm avoiding Stephen Ambrose books in the future. Part of me has been thinking for years that I should read Undaunted Courage, but given that I already know quite a bit about the Lewis & Clark expedition I'm thinking now that wouldn't be a good idea. If I'm catching weirdness in the Ambrose books on topics where my knowledge is relatively superficial, I shudder to think what I'd find in a book where I'm already fairly well-read.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Speaking of weirdness

Given that it's been a number of years since the last Harry Potter movie was released, I am a tad surprised there's apparently still an active market for this item, especially when said item costs $199.99. 

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Medical weirdness

Back when we lived in Omaha, my primary care physician, Michael Sitorius, a wonderful doctor who was also department head for Family Medicine at the University of Nebraska College of Medicine, used to tell me that he always wished he had a student along on the days I wound up at the Family Practice clinic. I seemed to have a knack for coming in with stuff that fell into a weird category of common enough to pop up on a regular basis but not so common he could count on having examples for students to see.

None of it was ever truly serious, just annoying. Like a Bible cyst, i.e., a ganglion cyst that's pretty common in people who do tasks that involve a lot of repetitive motion, like keyboarding. A blocked salivary gland. Trochanteric bursitis, better known as a pain in the ass (it's bursitis that hits your hip). Nothing dramatic, nothing life threatening, but nonetheless stuff doctors get to deal with regularly but students often miss seeing while doing their clinical rotations.

Small digression: I got lucky in getting Dr. Sitorious as my PCP. When I called the clinic the first time to make an appointment, I was told I'd get whoever was next in line, which was fine with me. I figured that when the clinic was part of the university medical system, anyone working there had to be qualified. Turned out he was a great doctor, one of the best I've ever encountered.

Anyway, I was thinking about Dr. Sitorius this summer because I've had two things pop up fairly close together, both of which are pretty common but no one ever really talks about: BPPV and pincer toe. If they did get talked about, I probably would have heard about them before I acquired any personal experience with either.

First, BPPV = benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. It's an inner ear problem. Calcium crystals that form in the canals of the inner ear shift position and trigger vertigo. You move in a way that was never a problem before (roll over in bed, sit up, whatever), the rocks in your head migrate and things start spinning. BPPV is most common in older people but can occur at any age. It is a leading cause of falls. Based on consultations with Dr. Google, I figured out that was most likely what was troubling me.

Google was also full of links to instructions for the simple exercises a person can do to fix (at least temporarily) the problem. Being blessed with decent insurance, however, I decided to ignore the DIY methods and get a confirmed diagnosis from an ear, nose, and throat specialist. Having lost a friend last year to brain cancer influenced me, too. Her cancer caused annoying but not apparently serious systems. By the time she mentioned them to her doctor and he ordered scans, she was Stage IV. A few months later she was dead. Bottom line: if there are symptoms that might be neurological, don't procrastinate.

Anyway, turned out it was BPPV. Took one simple maneuver to reset the rocks. That was a couple weeks ago and I haven't had a dizzy spell since. I do find myself wondering how many older people have BPPV and don't realize it. They just put an increasing problem with dizziness down to getting older, assume they're stuck with it, and start restricting their activities because they're afraid of falling.

Anyway, BPPV solved. Which brings me to the toe. Awhile back I noticed one of my toe nails was starting to grow in a rather odd way. It seemed to want to form itself into a talon. It started off normal enough at the base but then the sides started migrating toward each other. It didn't hurt, but it was definitely odd looking. It got pointier and pointier. Trimming it was becoming trickier and trickier. I started wondering if I was going to have to get out the nail clippers we used on the last dog we had. You know, people aren't supposed to grow talons. We have no need to grip telephone lines or, if we felt like channeling raptors, eviscerate prey with our feet.

Once again, because I'm blessed with decent insurance, I decided to bring in an expert. I made an appointment with my podiatrist. I'm not sure just what I was expecting when I saw him, but for sure it wasn't that he was going to reach for the stainless steel pliers.

Okay, he didn't reach for the pliers as soon as he saw the toe nail. First he asked if I wanted it gone. Turns out removing funky toenails is the most common procedure he does. Apparently the number of feet that come ambling in with disgusting toenails is mind boggling. You go off to podiatry school and learn all sorts of stuff involving bones and tendons and nerves and have visions of doing really interesting medical things with feet and what pays the clinic rent? Ripping off toenails and treating plantar's warts. My podiatrist said he used to track the number of toenail removals but quit counting at 50,000 (he's been in practice for a good number of years now).

And, yes, removal does consist of literally grabbing the nail with the pliers and ripping. Fortunately, it also includes the use of a local anesthetic so you have the strange experience of seeing it yanked off without feeling a thing. It is a permanent removal. There are supposedly things you can do to correct the nail but they tend to be futile -- once it's decided it wants to be a pincer, the nail does not want to change its mind.

Anyway, he said the type of toenail I had is called a pincer nail and is remarkably common. He said sometimes people will have it happen to every toe so end up having all ten nails removed. (At this point I toyed with the idea of inserting an image, but thank me, Gentle Reader, the photos I found were all too gross even for me) That got me to thinking. Why is it so common? And why did it wait until I was older than dirt to start happening to me?

Once again, Google was my friend. Several reputable web sites (e.g., Mayo Clinic) supplied answers. There are a bunch of things that can do it, but the one that stood out for me was the correlation with certain medications like beta blockers. Guess who took a beta blocker for years? You know, I'm pretty conscientious about reading the prescribing information on drugs, all that fine print that usually concludes the list of side effects with "and death," but I don't ever recall reading that my blood pressure meds would make my toenails go weird.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Fantasy gardening

It's that time of year again. The S.O. tilled the garden space, I have starter plants and seeds, and of course I'm fantasizing about mega harvests.

What's actually going to happen, of course, is I'll be relatively ambitious for about two weeks. I'll get things planted, and then the weeds will arrive. And I'll weed, sort of, until I start noticing the damage from the chipmunks. That's when the lamb's quarter will overshadow everything else and if we're lucky I'll harvest half a dozen tomatoes sometime in late August. If we relied on the garden for survival, we'd be dead fairly quickly.

One thing that's probably going to happen is I'll have to fall back on Econo Foods again this year for tomatillos. I have a recipe for a salsa verde made with tomatillos so I decided to start some plants from seed. Not sure if I killed them through overwatering or if the wind has destroyed them when I have them outside during the day to harden. Whatever the cause, out of 16 seedlings, there's maybe only half a dozen left that might survive. Then again, tomatillos were never meant to be grown here on the tundra. They have a long growing season and need temperatures in the 70s just to germinate.

I've tried with tomatillos before. I think they're becoming my white whale of gardening. The S.O.'s fantasy used to be to grow watermelons from seed. He succeeded a few years ago. I did have some success with tomatillos when I bought starter plants from Shopko several summers ago. That was the one and only time I saw tomatillo plants for sale in the U.P. Since then I've been trying with seeds and failing. Maybe I'll get lucky this year, the six surviving plants will hang in there, and I'll get enough to produce one batch (six pints) of salsa.

The more likely scenario, however, is that the tomatillo plants will survive, they'll set fruit, and right about the time the tomatillos are ready to pick the chipmunks will discover that they, too, like salsa verde.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Where have all the volunteers gone?

I spent a good chunk of yesterday at the Spring meeting of the Northland Historical Consortium. The Consortium is a loose organization of local historical societies and museums located in the western half of the Upper Peninsula and along the Wisconsin border. The membership includes county historical societies and special interest groups, e.g., the Painesdale Mine and Shaft, dedicated to preserving the history and physical structure of a particular site.

Champion Mine Shaft No. 4, Painesdale, Michigan
I was, for what its worth, moderately amused to hear the Painesdale representative describing their mission as "preserving the shaft." Strikes me as a simple task if you take her literally: just don't let anyone fill in the hole. What she meant, of course, was preserving the shafthouse, a building I don't recall ever seeing in the flesh, but obviously it exists. Also for what it's worth, every time I encounter folks who have dedicated themselves to preserving something like a shaft house, I find myself breathing figurative sighs of relief that the Baraga County Historical Society isn't the proud owner of a similar money pit.

The focus of yesterday's meeting was digitization. The archives at Northern Michigan University received a grant to help set up a collaborative network that would include members of the consortium and potentially other heritage organizations. The goal is to get us all started on digitizing our collections and making them available through the Internet. The project would allow people all over the world to access materials that at the moment they may not know even exist and would also serve as a bit of an advertisement for our individual institutions. You know, you go searching for a particular topic on the Internet, find that a copy of a photograph or a document relating to that topic is part of a collection at the Covington Township Historical Society, and become curious about what else that organization might have stashed in its filing cabinets.

Michigan is apparently a bit behind some other states in setting up this type of collaboration. North Carolina has an impressive program up and running; so do a number of others. I personally think it's a neat idea. At this point all it would cost our local historical society is a little bit of time so I can't think of a logical reason to refuse to participate. I know our museum has materials academic researchers would love to look at if they knew they existed, so I see the project as a Good Thing.

But the digital project isn't what was actually on my mind when I started typing this morning. It was Volunteers, or the lack thereof. I've been going to these consortium meetings since September 2012. I don't make it to every one -- as a group we do try to spread representation out a little -- but I've been to enough that I'm starting to recognize people. You know what?  I see mostly the same faces at every meeting. They're not getting any younger. Everyone has the same problem. Membership numbers are shrinking, people are aging out (it's hard to volunteer once you're in the nursing home) or dying, and everyone is having trouble recruiting new volunteers. The woman who is the computer geek for one group mentioned that she's now 85 years old. Quite a few of the representatives from other groups looked like they weren't much younger, if at all.

So where have all the younger potential volunteers gone? As usual, there was a fair amount of carping about how useless and self-centered the younger generations have become. Pshaw.

As a social scientist (or a retired social scientist), I'm inclined to give it a structural and economic explanation. I can recall being a Girl Scout leader back in the '70s. At the time I began volunteering, I didn't have a job. I didn't need one. The S.O. was employed full-time; he made enough money that I could enjoy the (remarkably boring) life of a Stay-At-Home mom. Most of my fellow leaders were in the same position: spouse worked, wives had plenty of free time for volunteering at church or with youth groups like 4-H and Scouting. The women who did work had good jobs with predictable hours. A few taught school, a job that wasn't nearly as soul-sucking and stressful as it is now (it was before the insanity over testing swung into full force and schools still had budgets that allowed teachers to make sure classrooms had the supplies they needed). No one was doing the juggling two or three part-time positions in the hopes of coming close to having the equivalent of a 40-hour work week. It's hard to volunteer for anything when you're dealing with truly bizarre work schedules.

Then when you toss in the unintended consequences of raising a couple of generations of kids, people who are adults now, who were told they HAD to volunteer. Two words that do not belong together: volunteer and mandatory. But that's what schools have done in a truly misguided attempt to get students engaged with the community. Forced students to volunteer. If you're a member of National Honor Society, you MUST volunteer. It's not volunteering if you're told you have to do it. But if you're a member of various other organizations (football team, DECA, whatever) you will be told you have to volunteer.

I do not doubt there are some kids who enjoy their volunteer assignments, but for a whole bunch of others "volunteer" has become associated in their minds with picking up trash along the highways or some other task they did not particularly want to do. If I'm talking to someone who is, let us say, in their 30s and I see them visibly cringe at the term "volunteer" I know that person was coerced into doing something unpleasant in order to satisfy a criterion for retaining their Honor Society eligibility.

So where have the volunteers gone? Between an economy where wages have been stagnant since Jimmy Carter was in the White House and an educational system that turned volunteering into a punishment detail, it's not much of a mystery. At this point, the more relevant question may be who's going to turn off the lights at our museums when the last of the geezers takes the dirt nap?

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Sneetches, elites, and other tribal weirdness

I've been thinking about the bizarre tendency people have to separate themselves into groups, Us vs. Them. I saw a strange example recently in the RV group I'm part of on Facebook. People's minds can do some weird contortions in their efforts to differentiate themselves (the good guys, the elite, the people worth knowing) from the riff raff, the hoi polloi who aren't worthy of being associated with.

I already knew that the RV-ing world is full of ridiculous amounts of elitism and tribalism. The people with the high dollar Class As (the motor homes that resemble buses) are perceived as snobs by some other campers. I'm not sure why, other than the fact that it seems that many of the folks who buy brand new Class As tend to prefer camping at privately owned RV resorts rather than hanging out in state parks or doing dispersed camping in National Forests. But that's definitely not true for all of them -- when we've been campground hosts, there were always a few Class As around. Granted, most were not brand new Leviathans, but they were Class As.

There's also kind of a split in the Class C world between the folks who have the brand new equipment and obsess about keeping it looking like it just rolled off the dealer's lot ("OMG. My decals are fading!! What can I do?") and those folks who have older equipment and stopped worrying about waxing a long time ago. I cannot begin to fathom why anyone would want to wax an RV. . . but then I don't wax my car, and it's only a Focus.

There's the split between the RV owners who obsess about the interiors -- must make sure the flooring is perfect, have to cover the ugly wallpaper in the bathroom with glass tiles, must acquire lots of RV-themed knickknacks to clutter up the place and/or bounce off the walls when we hit some rough pavement -- and those owners who figure as long as it's clean and comfortable it doesn't need to look like a spread from House Beautiful.  They spend tons of time obsessing about decorating, finally hit the road, and then we're treated to posts about an alternator failing or tires blowing out.  Maybe if they thought less about how pretty the inside was and spent more time thinking about mechanical stuff, they wouldn't end up sitting by the side of the road waiting for a wrecker.

There are the RV owners who absolutely have to have full hookups (electric, water, sewer) before they'll "camp" anywhere and there are those who are sure it's not camping unless they're on a dispersed site in the middle of nowhere in a National Forest or on Bureau of Land Management land. You name it, and you've got one group that's totally for it and another group that thinks the opposite.

The weirdest example I've seen lately, though, of someone drawing a line between Us and Them was a dude who advised someone who was new to RV-ing to join an organization that operates RV "resorts" around the country. You pay for your membership and you get to camp at the properties that are affiliated with the organization/parent company/whatever. He laid it on thick about how by staying at these "exclusive" RV resorts you know you're safe because the riff raff like you find at state and national parks are kept out. You know, the resorts are gated and have private security. WTF?

The first bizarre part, of course, is that business of riff raff in state and national parks. If you're staying at a state-owned campground, you've paid for the privilege, and, depending on the campground, it may not have been a particularly cheap privilege. You're also limited as to how long you can linger in those campgrounds. No one in a state park is squatting there indefinitely. It's not an environment that is riff raff friendly. (FWIW, I am interpreting "riff raff" as low income, poor, possibly homeless.)

As for security, you know what you have at the privately owned resorts? Rent-a-cops, security guards whose training may have consisted solely of "drive around once an hour so visitors think we're doing something." I've known people who worked as security guards. The basic requirement for being hired was that they were still breathing and could stand upright. In contrast, if you stay at a public campground -- state or federal -- you're going to see commissioned law enforcement officers coming through on a regular basis. Real cops, not pretend ones, men and women who have had extensive training and actually know what they're doing.  When we camp hosted at a national park, we'd see a law enforcement ranger come through several times a day. They were a highly visible presence and a whole lot more intimidating than a rent-a-cop would have been. Why would anyone willingly delude themselves into believing that they were safer under the watchful eye of a mall cop when they could camp where there's real police?

Pulitzer Project: Lonesome Dove

How can a book that's so huge (800+ pages), reasonably well-written, and packed with action and Western cliches (cattle drives, cattle thieves, bad guys in general, love triangles, hooker with a heart of gold) be so boring? Lonesome Dove was a hard slog for me. Individual paragraphs were gems, but it really felt like the book overall went on and on and on and on without much of anything seeming to happen. It is not a good sign when I'm reading a book and keep falling asleep before I get through more than a couple pages.

Lonesome Dove was a best seller when it was published in 1985. It didn't take long for it to be optioned and turned into a hugely popular mini series on television.  According to Wikipedia (not always the most reliable source, but what the heck, I'll believe them this time) Lonesome Dove first saw life as a screenplay developed by McMurtry and director Peter Bogdanovich (they also collaborated on the film The Last Picture Show) in the 1970's. At the time, McMurtry saw Lonesome Dove as a John Wayne film. Wayne wasn't interested, time passed, McMurtry turned the screenplay into a massive novel, and a decade later it aired as a mini-series starring Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones.

In any case, I am totally mystified as to why Lonesome Dove turned out to be a snorer. McMurtry can write, there were individual paragraphs and pages that were great, but it was also one of the most soporific books I have ever read. Better than Valium. I'd pick it up, start reading, and pretty quickly I'd be falling asleep with the book in my hand. Really strange.

So where would I place it on the usual zero to 10 scale? Somewhere in the middle of the pack, I guess. The writing is good, the storyline reasonably interesting. Would I recommend it to other readers? I don't know. Something that served as a great sleeping aid for me could be gripping and dramatic for someone else. I do know that if anyone decides to read the book they need to block out a fair amount of time. The sucker is fat enough to serve either as a doorstop or a footrest.

Next up on the list: A Summons to Memphis by Peter Taylor. Once again, it's a book I've never heard of despite it being published in 1986, a mere 33 years ago. Never heard of the author either. This could be a very good thing -- some of the best Pulitzer winners I've read were by authors who were apparently one hit wonders. Or maybe not. In any case, unless I stumble across a cheap copy at Goodwill it's not getting read until Fall. It is now late enough in the school year that Interlibrary Loan is not an option.