• A mystery writer I forgot about, but I can recommend.

    Catherine Aird, who writes the Inspector C. D. Sloan books, set in England.  She doesn't do the puzzle as well as, or to the extent of, classic mystery writers, but I still had a good time figuring out some aspects of the solution.  The one I finished was "Losing Ground," and what I think is rather cool is it is simply a mystery...not a murder mystery.  I enjoy a lack of bodies occasionally.  And there is no bad language in Aird's books, either, which is always appreciated.  Not to mention, they're written in third person, not that tiresome first person!

    Thinking about it, dollars to donuts it's the prevalence of first-person which has led to more and more mysteries being walk-alongs instead of puzzles.  Yes, Rex Stout managed the feat, but then the first-person voice was Archie Goodwin, assistant to Nero Wolfe, who solved the puzzle.  And Christie's Captain Hastings was helper to Hercule Poirot.  When the actual detective is the first-person voice, how the deuce is the reader supposed to notice clues the detective must have missed and put them together?

    Oh, and the book I checked out from the library today is "Evanly Choirs" by Rhys Bowen, a Constable Evan Evans mystery, set in North Wales.  Also third person, and also with no foul language.

    You know what is odd, though?  Rhys Bowen writes two other series, but I've never been able to get into them.  For one thing, one of 'em at least is first-person, which I generally avoid.  It likely wouldn't make much difference, as roughly half the time I don't care for more than one series by an author.  I like the Hamish MacBeth books by M. C. Beaton, but cannot stand that awful Agatha Raisin.  I will read the Laura Childs' scrapbooking mysteries (although the language leaves a good bit to be desired, and they are definitely walk-alongs), but not her Tea Shop books.  Used to read the Alpine series by Mary Daheim (though it's first person), yet didn't care for the same author's bed-and-breakfast series.

  • An open letter to the buyers of large-size women's apparel...

    (I've always insisted I'd never do the "open letter" thing, but have obviously changed my mind.)

    What is up with my going to the department featuring plus-sized clothing to be met with surprisingly few items in my size, due to the ridiculously high number of 18W's and 1X's?

    Let me clue you in to something:  a size 18 can be found in the regular size departments.  Women who can fit into clothes in the regular size departments, do so.  They don't shop in the large-size department unless it's necessary.

    Multiple times today I found a blouse or dress that I thought I might like, only to discover that of the six or so available, every single solitary one of 'em was a 1X or 18W!  Anything larger was hard to find.

    This is backwards, y'all.  Stock up on the larger sizes, and only purchase a minimal number of the 1X's and 18W's.  

    Both your customer base and your profits will thank you for it.

  • What happened to the mystery genre?

    It has come to my attention that most so-called "mysteries" are not truly worthy of the name, as the author hasn't even made an attempt to scatter clues throughout the book, so that the reader could deduce the identity of the killer if only the puzzle pieces were assembled properly.

    You know, like Agatha Christie was skilled at doing, allowing one to experience the bittersweet feeling of "DANG!  I should have SEEN that!" when Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple revealed the solution.

    Rex Stout was good at creating puzzles.  Emma Lathen, especially in her (actually, "their," as that was the name used by a writing duo) earlier works, was pretty good.

    A few days ago I finished a Laura Childs' book, "Skeleton Letters," and it struck me that I wasn't intended to decipher clues and guess whodunnit.  The reader simply discovers the identity of the villain when the main character does so.  Mulling it over, it dawned on me that most "mysteries" nowadays are essentially suspense novels, not actual mysteries.  

    Does anyone know of a current author who takes the trouble to create a puzzle for the reader to unravel?  confused



  • Shamelessly filched from a friend's blog...

    ...who filched it from one of her friend's blogs, and so it goes, from the "kids say the darndest things" file:  


    You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like, if you like
    sports, she should like it that you like sports, and she should keep
    the chips and dip coming.-- Alan, age 10
    No person really decides before they grow up who they're going to
    marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later
    who you're stuck with.-- Kristen, age 10

    Twenty-three is the best age because you know the person FOREVER by then..
    -- Camille, age 10

    You might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at
    the same kids.-- Derrick, age 8

    Both don't want any more kids.-- Lori, age 8

    Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to know
    each other. Even boys have something to say if you listen long enough.
    -- Lynnette, age 8

    On the first date, they just tell each other lies and that usually
    gets them interested enough to go for a second date.-- Martin, age 10

    When they're rich.-- Pam, age 7

    The law says you have to be eighteen, so I wouldn't want to mess with that.
    - - Curt, age 7

    The rule goes like this: If you kiss someone, then you should marry
    them and have kids with them. It's the right thing to do.- - Howard, age 8

    It's better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need someone
    to clean up after them.-- Anita, age 9

    There sure would be a lot of kids to explain, wouldn't there?-- Kelvin, age 8

    And the #1 Favorite is .......
    Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a dump truck.
    -- Ricky, age 10


    Alan is already such a guy, and it's a pleasure to see Kristen's understanding of the sovereignty of God over all His creation; Curt clearly has a sensible soul, and anyone with a young daughter should try to snap up Howard now...there aren't many like him in the world; Ricky possesses wisdom beyond his years.  

  • Three years ago today my Donald was scooped up to glory.

    In some ways the three years have trudged by, while in other ways it seems as if Donald ought to be pulling up into his traditional parking spot on the street.  Time is a rum thing, isn't it?

    This is true, however:  I was bountifully blessed back then and am just as bountifully blessed today.  Thanks be to God, in and through His only Son, our Savior, Christ Jesus the Lord.

  • Odds and ends...

    As Dmitry and I were driving home from Elaine's on Thanksgiving, this festive light display caught my eye:

    Now that's a light display I'd love to have in MY yard!  ;^)  

    On Sunday evening the choir met for cantata practice and again, my eye was caught by unexpected lights:


    That's on the second floor of the church's new Link building.  Electricity!  Lights!  It's really beginning to come together and we should be in it, um, pretty shortly.  Meaning, I'm not sure of the precise date but in early spring, anyway.  Of course, the big deal to those of us in the various music areas of the church are eagerly waiting for the new music building.  That is going to be sweet.  

    The following is Zeus, our ancient-of-days (17 years or thereabouts) cat who was getting hungry and wondering where on earth was I, the provider of cat food and cleaner of litter boxes? 

    She's not crazy about hopping through the pet door into my bedroom, but will do so occasionally.  

    Yesterday I was at Wal-Mart and there was a fire truck pulled up in one of the aisles, next to a brownish Buick sedan with its hood up, and two or three firemen standing around it.  Later, while shopping, I heard the following announcement:  "Will the owner of a brown Buick please return to your car."  Those are not words one wants to hear, and hoo boy, was the owner going to be unhappy when he - or she - got there.  Speaking of announcements at Wal-Mart, is there a reason they are consistently made in the most monotonal, disinterested voices possible?  Actually, not so much disinterested as vaguely annoyed.  Doesn't matter what the announcement concerns - and there were multiple yesterday afternoon - the slightly aggrieved, flat voice is the same.  Granted, one doesn't necessarily want the voice to be perky (especially when a shopper is being instructed to return to his automobile in the parking lot), but surely there is a happy medium?

  • People don't pay attention to what one tells them.

    At any rate, professional marketing people don't.  Presumably they are paid to exhibit that dauntless Pollyanna spirit that makes the rest of us want to hit 'em with a hammer.

    I'd written a stern email to the Nabisco company regarding their sad tampering with that delicious snackable stand-by, Wheat Thins.  For years now, one knows where one is with Wheat Thins.  Until the recent box I purchased, which contain not what I would deem Wheat Thins, but small, smooth, dark tan squares suitable for tiling bathroom walls (though admittedly one would need to use a lot of shellacking).

    This afternoon I received a personal response:

    Thanks for getting in touch with us about WHEAT THINS Crackers.

    We recently made some changes to the formula for our WHEAT THINS Original and WHEAT THINS Reduced Fat Crackers to make them more delicious - and a healthier snack!

    We added whole grain - going from 5g per serving to 11g per serving.  We also removed the high fructose corn sweetener, and decreased fat and sodium levels slightly.

    If you haven't done so already, please add our site to your favorites and visit us again soon!

    Kim McMiller
    Associate Director, Consumer Relations

    Hmmm....which part of "I hate what you've done to Wheat Thins!" did Ms. McMiller not understand?  I daresay the new recipe might conceivably have made them healthier, but I can say without hesitation they are definitely not "more delicious."  They are awful.  

    Still, she confirmed my fear, which is that Nabisco has, indeed, tampered and tinkered with its recipe for Wheat Thins.

    Let the mourning commence.

  • Tell you what, the Google turkey is amusing.

    And as a service to those who might not know how to get to it:  http://g.co/doodle/ry4a7b

    BION, that includes me as I use iGoogle as my home page.  Google won't let me see that turkey for nuthin' unless I sneak around the back door by using a different browser and don't sign in.  Isn't that the pits?  Of course, I daresay if I didn't use a theme I might be able to see the Google doodles properly.  Ought to check that out.

    I have, to my surprise, become fond of the foodie show "Chopped."  Not crazy about the negativity inherent in it, but no fooling, watching the chefs open baskets containing insane ingredients and have to come up with something not only creative and unique but edible, too, just fascinates me.  This evening was cool as the chefs were what are generally known as "lunch ladies," but they are clearly chefs indeed.  Where were this type of lunch lady when I was in school, eh?  Though I was awfully fond of hot dogs in barbeque sauce, a Stripling Jr. High specialtie du maison.

    If the judges want to give the chefs a real shockeroo when the baskets are opened, they should visit a local liquor emporium and purchase bottles of - I am NOT making this up; there's a photo I took! - Alaska Smoked Salmon vodka. What do you think?  Pair it with canned peas, crunchy peanut butter, and ground sirloin, and you've got...well, you've got....um, okay, you've got an unholy mess, that's what you've got.  The woman at the check-out stand, upon my mentioning the horror lurking down the vodka aisle, shuddered and said she had actually sampled it during a demo tasting the previous week, and the stuff was nasty.  

    Gee. Do you tell me so?  Smoked salmon flavored vodka is nasty?  Who'd o' thought it?

    The other flavor is Birch Syrup flavored vodka, which is probably more palatable.  Could scarcely be less, could it?

  • I wish companies would not fiddle with how they make their stuff.

    I bought a box of Original (as opposed to tomato-and-basil or reduced-fat or multigrain or any of a myriad variations) Wheat Thins and was distressed to discover the recipe had clearly been altered.  I do not like them nearly as much.  Why must companies tinker?  Such tinkerings rarely improve the comestible.

    Opened a loaf of Mrs. Baird's bread (the Large) and it's different, too, and also not in a good way.

    When I made a mental note to compose this blog post I was able to think of a couple of other examples but naturally I'm blanking on them now.  Still, they are out there.

    Personally, it would be my preference that the size of the item shrink a bit - leaving the price the same - if it would mean keeping the original recipe for stuff.  

    Bring back the original Original Wheat Thins!  

  • IMO "tender crisp" is oxymoronic when it applied to vegetables.

    A proper illustration of "tender crisp" food is a perfect French fry, i.e. a crispy, thin outer layer protecting a fluffy, tender inside.  One could also make a case for fresh, hot, delicious tortilla chips qualifying...those at El Fenix leap to mind...as they are firm to the touch yet immediately shatter upon being munched.

    A steamed or boiled green bean or asparagus stalk or broccoli is deucedly difficult to serve "tender crisp," though restaurants make extravagant promises about them.

    Mostly they're just plain undercooked.  An undercooked green bean is not "tender crisp," it is tough and chewy.  No one boasts of "tough and chewy" vegetables, but a depressingly large number of them are dished up.  Every now and again I will chance upon a vegetable that was pulled from the water or steamer within the tiny window of opportunity (about 15 seconds, based upon my experience in the kitchen) and by golly, it is as advertised:  fork-tender, yet with a slight resistance on the outside, while not mushy on the inside.  A delight to the tooth, tongue, and taste buds!

    Unfortunately, this is unusual, and one needs both a fork and a knife to have any hope of cutting the vegetable to a bite-sized proportion.  Considering how knives are made of sterner stuff than teeth, it is obvious that much effort is required to chew the vegetable to the point of swallowability.  I just made that word up, BTW.

    Personally, I wish the cooks would err on the side of leaving the vegetables in their cooking environment a little longer.  Not that I am fond of mushy veggies, but I prefer a slightly-overcooked vegetable to a newly-picked-from-the-garden degree of doneness (unless, naturally, it is supposed to be raw).  

    If the tines of my fork cannot easily pierce the vegetable's skin, it's for sure my tooth isn't going to.