Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving/Happy Thursday

To those of you in the US or elsewhere in the world celebrating today, I wish you a happy Thanksgiving. To everyone else, happy Thursday! Although it's a regular Thursday here in our adopted country, this is the one US holiday we still observe, because it's always a good day to consciously express gratitude.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Right Place, Right Time

We had a couple of errands to do this morning, one of which took us right by the charity shop, so we popped in. I made a beeline to the book room, starting on the right side as I usually do. As I was scanning the shelves, one of the volunteers came in with several books and was sticking them wherever she could find a spot. She was behind me and Bill was next to her, looking at the books on that side. I heard him say, 'There's an Agatha Christie.' As I was turning around, I was replying that I probably already had it on my e-reader. Then I saw that I was wrong. There was one of her novels that I do already have, but the book that had just been placed on the shelf was this one:
I wasted no time grabbing the book off of the shelf, where it had rested for a mere 30 seconds or so. 😀 I'd heard of this book when it was published a decade ago--somehow I was offered a free e-book that was an excerpt or a preview or something. I had it on my e-reader for a while before I read that and I knew that there was a more in-depth book out there, but never remembered to request it from the library. I'm glad to have it--I've loved Agatha Christie since I was a teenager. As Bill said, 'It's a keeper.'

We kept on browsing and the volunteer came in with more books, commenting on how many they have and how they have trouble finding space for them. I told her that we try to come in regularly to help out by making room on the shelves. She laughed, but she actually was sticking books into the space I had just created. One of the books was this one:
I think the last time I read Chekov, other than a short story or two, was in my very first year of college, when I took a World Lit class. That was over 30 years ago, but I do remember liking him, so I was happy to find this one, too.

One of the books Bill picked up was also one that she was putting on the shelf as we stood there. Clearly we were in the right place at the right time today.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Christmas and Critters

One of the charity shops we frequent helps to fund Animals in Need Donegal, an organisation which helps all kinds of animals. They have an especially big task when it comes to caring for cats. There are a lot of cats who need help. People don't spay and neuter as much as they should, so cats have kittens and the kittens are often dumped. Animals in Need rescues as many as they have room for, gets them medical care when needed, and places them in foster homes until the are ready to be adopted. We donate to them at various times of the year and always pop into the charity shop when we're in Donegal Town and have time. We like to support them, so when I was looking at a cross-stitch magazine several weeks ago, and came across some cute critter-themed charts, they popped into my head. I got stitching, turned the finished motifs into ornaments and dropped them off today. I thought they could sell them and raise a few euro for the cause.
cotton thread on aida cloth--kumihimo cord on left, crocheted cord on right, felt backing
cloth sewn onto scrap paper with watercoloured background (left) and scrap card stock made from 100% recycled paper (right), crocheted cords

felt backing, crocheted cord
Next time we go, we'll get some cat food and treats and drop that off at the shop. We want all the animals to have a happy Christmas, too 😀

Monday, November 25, 2019

Monday Monochrome: Under the 'Tree'

On our way home this afternoon, we walked by The Diamond (town square) and under the Christmas 'tree.' I looked up and liked the lines.
The Christmas light switch-on is Sunday evening. Last year the lights on land went on an hour or so before some of the big boats switched theirs on. Some sailboats at the pier had lights, too. Pretty!

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Poem: November

I get a Poem-a-Day email from This is the one I got today:

November by Lucy Larcom (originally published in Wild Roses of Cape Ann and Other Poems in 1881)

Who said November’s face was grim?
    Who said her voice was harsh and sad?
I heard her sing in wood paths dim,
   I met her on the shore, so glad,
So smiling, I could kiss her feet!
There never was a month so sweet.

October’s splendid robes, that hid
   The beauty of the white-limbed trees,
Have dropped in tatters; yet amid
   Those perfect forms the gazer sees
A proud wood-monarch here and there
Garments of wine-dipped crimson wear.

In precious flakes the autumnal gold
    Is clinging to the forest’s fringe:
Yon bare twig to the sun will hold
   Each separate leaf, to show the tinge
Of glorious rose-light reddening through
Its jewels, beautiful as few.

Where short-lived wild-flowers bloomed and died
   The slanting sunbeams fall across
Vine-broideries, woven from side to side
   Above mosaics of tinted moss.
So does the Eternal Artist’s skill
Hide beauty under beauty still.

And, if no note of bee or bird
   Through the rapt stillness of the woods
Or the sea’s murmurous trance be heard,
    A Presence in these solitudes
Upon the spirit seems to press
The dew of God’s dear silences.

Who said November’s face was grim?
    Who said her voice was harsh and sad?
I heard her sing in wood paths dim,
   I met her on the shore, so glad,
So smiling, I could kiss her feet!
There never was a month so sweet.

October’s splendid robes, that hid
   The beauty of the white-limbed trees,
Have dropped in tatters; yet amid
   Those perfect forms the gazer sees
A proud wood-monarch here and there
Garments of wine-dipped crimson wear.

In precious flakes the autumnal gold
    Is clinging to the forest’s fringe:
Yon bare twig to the sun will hold
   Each separate leaf, to show the tinge
Of glorious rose-light reddening through
Its jewels, beautiful as few.

Where short-lived wild-flowers bloomed and died
   The slanting sunbeams fall across
Vine-broideries, woven from side to side
   Above mosaics of tinted moss.
So does the Eternal Artist’s skill
Hide beauty under beauty still.

And, if no note of bee or bird
   Through the rapt stillness of the woods
Or the sea’s murmurous trance be heard,
    A Presence in these solitudes
Upon the spirit seems to press
The dew of God’s dear silences.

And if, out of some inner heaven,
    With soft relenting comes a day
Whereto the heart of June is given, —
   All subtle scents and spicery
Through forest crypts and arches steal,
With power unnumbered hurts to heal.

Through yonder rended veil of green,
   That used to shut the sky from me,
New glimpses of vast blue are seen;
    I never guessed that so much sea
Bordered my little plot of ground,
And held me clasped so close around.

This is the month of sunrise skies
      Intense with molten mist and flame;
Out of the purple deeps arrive
      Colors no painter yet could name:
Gold-lilies and the cardinal-flower
Were pale against this gorgeous hour.

Still lovelier when athwart the east
      The level beam of sunset falls:
The tints of wild-flowers long deceased
       Glow then upon the horizon walls;
Shades of the rose and violet
Close to their dear world lingering yet.

What idleness, to moan and fret
       For any season fair, gone by!
Life’s secret is not guessed at yet;
       Veil under veil its wonders lie.
Through grief and loss made glorious
The soul of past joy lives in us.

More welcome than voluptous gales
       This keen, crisp air, as conscience clear:
November breathes no flattering tales;—
       The plain truth-teller of the year,
Who wins her heart, and he alone,
Knows she has sweetness all her own.

Lucy Larcom was born in 1824 and grew up in Beverly, Massachusetts. She is the author of several poetry collections, including A New England Girlhood (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1889) and An Idyl of Work (James R. Osgood and Company, 1875). She taught at Wheaton Seminary from 1854 to 1862, and died in 1893.

I hope you're having a lovely November day!

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Following Up

Yesterday, I posted some thoughts about buying used books, after watching a video on the topic that got me thinking. I realised that my thinking about the ethics of buying used books fits in with my larger ethical stance on avoiding waste and trying to use fewer resources. This is not only an ethical thought pattern for me, it is how I live. At this point, it is the only way I feel comfortable living, even though it gets in the way of some other things I sometimes think about doing. In everyone's life, there are situations where our ideals are in conflict with one another and we all have to find ways of working through these issues. Each of us will prioritise different things. What is right for me is not going to be right for everyone and I am not suggesting it should be. But as we continue further down the climate crisis road, we all need to take stock of what we can do in our everyday lives to do a better job of caring for our one true home--we have no other. This is especially the case in wealthy countries, like the one I lived in for the first part of my life and my adopted country.

A short time ago, I read this article about attempts to combat waste and minimise what goes into landfill in a major US city. Here's one statistic from the article:
'The U.S. produces more than 250 million tons of waste per year—30 percent of the world’s waste, though it makes up only 4 percent of the Earth’s population. Sixty-five percent of that waste ends up in landfills or incinerators. '

I don't know what the stats are for Ireland, but I am sure there is too much waste here, too.

My attitude towards waste and avoiding it has been a foundational part of my life for many years now. I have sometimes thought about my grandmother and her impact on me in this regard as well as in many areas of my life. I can remember once in a class or something when I was a small child, being asked about someone who I admired most. My answer was that my Nana was that person. Even now, several decades on, I am reminded of how her example shaped my attitudes about many things. Avoiding waste is one of them. I saw how she did this just as a matter of course. It was how she lived. She used things up, reused things that were no longer fit for purpose, found ways of making what she needed without rushing off to a store to buy things. At an earlier time in her life, living this way was a necessity. By the time I knew her, it no longer was, but it was how she felt comfortable being in this world. It is also how I feel comfortable.

So the used book thing ties into that. It's also how I create. I am not comfortable buying a bunch of new stuff, even to create with. I am happiest when I am using someone's unwanted stuff, whether it's scraps and odd balls of yarn, broken or unwanted jewellery, old clothes, scraps of aida cloth or roving, etc. If I get new yarn or other stuff, it is almost always a gift from someone.

Which brings me to the conflict I sometimes have. I have sold my work in the past in various places--online, in a museum gift shop, in art shows--and I have done commissions. I am pretty comfortable with commissions, because someone comes to me with a request and I fill it. I feel like I am meeting a need. I am putting new stuff into the world, but it's functional and is exactly what the person wanted. When I make something to follow through on an idea or push a technique or whatever, it may serve a purpose if it's a functional item--say a hat or sweater or shawl. Or I might end up with a pretty thing. Making it served the purpose of feeding my curiosity, and I may well have learned something in the process, and it is a pretty thing, at least in my opinion (if it isn't, I take it apart and reuse the materials in another way). But somehow, I have trouble with feeling that having a pretty thing that isn't 'useful' is enough and that makes it harder to put it out there in the world for someone to buy, because no matter how much I might like the end result, in the end, it is stuff. And there is so, so much stuff already. I mean, I would rather see less stuff that is mass produced and more stuff that is carefully, skillfully, and lovingly made. To me the latter is far more valuable than the former, whether I make it or someone else does. There's value in the making and the skills, and the learning that goes into it all, whether it's a hat, a painting, a book, a sculpture, or a piece of jewellery. We are a creative species. But I guess for me, function plays a role. And so does the problem of a world full of too much stuff. This is one reason I try to only make new stuff out of old. I'm most comfortable when that new stuff will serve a useful purpose though. I am not sure why it is that something pretty that makes people smile doesn't seem to be purposeful enough, but I think this is all tied together with my aversion to too much stuff. In short, does the world really need another pretty thing? I know that I have some need to make the things, but sometimes, I feel weird about it--often uncomfortable enough to stop me from following through on the ideas that jostle around in my head.

And then there is the bombardment of advertising. Websites with videos that start playing whether you want them to or not and flashing ads along top, bottom, and both sides, blogs with ads crammed all over the place, and so many people hustling to make a living. I am more understanding of the latter and although I never click on ads and pay as little attention to them as possible, I let them play out on youtube if it's an indie person who is trying to make a few cents by providing content. I know they get a few cents if I let them run, so I do, although I sometimes go and do something else while they're playing--I've had 15-minute ads come up! I must admit though, that I do get tired of constantly seeing ads for this, that, and the other thing. Everyone wants us to buy, buy, buy and yet we are drowning in stuff. At the same time more and more people are trying to make it in a creative/gig economy that is often about buying and selling stuff, we need to be making serious moves to consume less stuff, due to the environmental damage we are doing. I don't have an answer, really. It's just something I think about and have to find a way to work with/around as a creative woman who makes stuff.

And with that, I will bring this post full of 'stuff' to a close! I hope it's a good day in your part of the world! 😀

Friday, November 22, 2019

The Ethics of Buying Used Books

I woke up yesterday morning with a headache and a slightly queasy stomach. I thought it might be a lost day, but I ate some porridge, had some coffee, and drank some water, which left me feeling better, if not 'right.' I was able to function well enough, though, so we went to do some errands, stopping in the charity shop while we were out.

The shelves in our local charity shop are groaning under the weight of the books that are stuffed in every available space. They don't have room for more, so are not accepting book donations at this time. We were able to find a few to take home, thus creating a wee bit more space for them. As we were browsing, I was thinking about a booktube video I recently watched on the Spinster's Library channel regarding the ethics of used book buying. In the video, Claudia, who has talked about buying used books before, said that some people had commented to her that perhaps buying used books is unethical. This caused her to consider whether or not she agreed with this idea. I largely agreed with her conclusions in this regard, but there were one or two things that I was thinking about while watching that she didn't talk about.

She talked about an author named Philip Pullman, who I think is fairly popular, but not someone who writes books I'm interested in, so I cannot comment on his work. In the video, she said that he has said that whenever someone buys a book in a charity shop, he is deprived of royalties. I suppose that, on a purely factual level, he is correct--he is not getting any royalties from a book sold in a charity shop. But he did get the royalties when the original owner bought the book and if that person no longer wants the book, it will have to be disposed of somehow. Is it better to put it in a charity shop, where it can find a new home, stay out of a landfill, and provide funds to help people or would he rather have someone toss it in the trash? Either way, he's not getting his royalties and it seems to me that reuse is a more ethical choice.

His argument is overly simplistic. I can only speak to how Bill and I buy books in a charity shop, but it seems to me that if anyone is going into a charity shop looking for a particular author, they will usually come out disappointed. It may be that charity shops in his part of the world (wherever that is) are different than they are here or than the ones I experienced when I was in the US, but when I browse the bookshelves in a charity/thrift shop, I am never looking for a particular thing, I am prepared to be happily surprised, but also prepared to walk out empty-handed. We get a lot of books at charity shops, none of which are books we went in to look for and most of which we had never even heard of before we picked them up. It's not a matter of deciding to buy a particular book and then opting for the charity shop instead of a bookshop, thus depriving an author of her/his royalties. That's not the choice. The choice is, 'Oh, here's this book that I never knew about until this very minute. Do I want to give it a chance or not?'

This leads to another issue. I read 150ish books every year. I would not have room to buy and keep all those books. It is true that a large proportion of that consists of books written by people who are no longer alive, but even setting those aside, I would have a large number of books to attempt to house. And I have no desire to keep every book I read. I almost never re-read fiction, so I have no interest in keeping those books. I either put myself in the queue at the library, or I come across books in wee free libraries or charity shops that I buy knowing that I will pass them on when I'm done. Sometimes I give a book a try, knowing that if I don't like it, I can pass it on and not worry about the money I've spent on it. The books we keep are, with few exceptions, nonfiction. If we know we want to keep a book, we buy it new. We avoid Amazon for ethical reasons and buy from Kenny's in Galway--an indie bookseller which offers free worldwide shipping. Sometimes I do find books in charity shops that I know I will keep, but they are never books I went in looking for and are always books I did not know about, so I would not have been able to go into a bookshop or online to buy one new anyway. And there is a cost factor. I read fairly quickly and depending on the novel, I can be done with a book in a few hours. It does not seem like a good use of resources to buy an object that I am going to use for a few hours and then have to dispose of. Those are the kinds of books that I get from the library and return or a charity shop and pass on. Here again, it's a not a simple choice between acquiring a new copy of the book or getting it elsewhere--if I could not get such books at the library or in charity shops, I wouldn't buy them new. I simply wouldn't buy them.

I am not unsympathetic to authors who feel they are getting ripped off.  Like all artists, I think that they should be paid for their work. But I do think there's a difference between someone distributing a bootleg digital copy of a book, for example, and someone buying a book and then passing it on to a charity shop. In the video, Claudia also makes the distinction, which I thought was a good one, between buying used books at a charity shop and buying them at a for-profit business. There are a lot of ethical considerations here.

In thinking about this, I was reminded of artwork we've had over the last 15 years. We were heavily involved in a local art community in one particular place we lived, both as artists and as people who were collecting life stories to do projects about artists. In appreciation, some of the artists gave us pieces of their work. I bought a painting or two as well. When we moved, I could not take the paintings I bought, so I returned them to the artist without asking for, expecting, or receiving a refund. Some of the other art was such that we could take it with us. But when we were coming to Ireland, we had to pass most of that along, too. We were thousands of miles away from the artists and we'd lost touch with some of them anyway, so returning was not an option. We sold some and donated some. Books are the same. When someone buys a book, it's theirs to do with what they will. People here buy a lot of books, new and used. I was told by a librarian a few years ago that people will do a book clear-out just before or just after Christmas to make room for the new books they're going to get or have gotten. It seems to me to be a good thing to dispose of these objects ethically. If no one takes them from wee free libraries or buys them from charity shops, they'll go into landfill, which is wasteful (thus unethical). Even if this happened, I think it's a stretch to assume that royalties for authors would suddenly increase as a result. Again, I can only go by my own experience, but buying a book in a charity shop does not mean that I would have otherwise bought it new. It just means I likely would never have even known it existed. And it's entirely possible that someone might discover an author in a charity shop, buy a book they're not sure about because it's only a euro, fall in love, and then buy more of that author's work new, thus providing royalties to the author.

Anyway, it was an interesting thought experiment, listening to the video and thinking about how the topic relates to my own life. And now, I'm off to read. 😀

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Wednesday Words of Wisdom

'Objects don't seem incongruous if they've been there forever, doings don't seem ridiculous if they've always been done that way.
  Why is it only now that I can see how many ordinary things are actually grotesque?'
--Sara Baume on page 12 of the e-book version of A Line Made by Walking

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

First Chapter, First Paragraph: The Outrun

I'm linking up with 'First Chapter, First Paragraph' hosted by Vicki at I'd Rather Be at the Beach. Each Tuesday, people post the first paragraph or two of a book they are reading or plan to read soon. Today, I present the first couple of chapters of The Outrun by Amy Liptrot. I found this book last week in a charity shop and in a weird coincidence, the author was on the BBC Radio 4 show/podcast A Good Read the same day.

  Under whirring helicopter blades, a young woman holds her newborn baby as she is pushed in a wheelchair along the runway of the island airport to meet a man in a straitjacket being pushed in a wheelchair from the other direction.
   That day, the two twenty-eight-year-olds had been treated at the small hospital nearby. The woman was helped to deliver her first child. The man, shouting and out of control, was restrained and sedated.

Note to readers with Wordpress blogs:
Thank you to everyone who has added links to their Tuesday books! I have read each post. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, Wordpress will not allow me to comment on the blogs on their site. I have had this problem for a long time and have given up with them. I have tried again today, but the problem remains. So if I do not leave a comment, it's not because I haven't read the post, but simply because Wordpress doesn't let me comment!

Monday, November 18, 2019

Several Months Later...

Last autumn, a friend/neighbour returned from a trip bringing me a bunch of goodies she'd picked up at a thrift store. Included in this haul were 6 balls of yarn made of silk and cashmere. It is so soft and squishy! I had 4 balls of a grey-blue, one in cream, and a brown. Ideas went around and around in my head as I considered what to make. Did I want to use it all in one project or use the grey-blue separately? I started and ripped out a few times. Finally, in late spring, I decided to use the cream and brown together in this neutral colourblock cowl/neckwarmer.
I started with the brown and made a rectangle that was half as wide as I wanted the neckwarmer to be. I did Tunisian crochet, alternating knit and reverse stitches, until I was almost out of yarn. Then I turned that rectangle sideways, and with the cream, picked up stitches along the edge and did the same stitch until I had the width I wanted. I slip stitched the working end of the cream rectangle to the other side of the brown rectangle and then crocheted around the top and bottom edges.

I loved it from the start, but given the time of year, it was too warm to wear then, so I left it out and looked at it for a few days, before putting it away to await a better time of year. That happy time has arrived and it's cool enough for me to wear it today. Yay!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Wednesday Words of Wisdom

I got this quote in a Pace e Bene quote-of-the-day email the other day.

"When anyone steps out of the system and tells the truth, lives the truth, that person enables everyone else to peer behind the curtain too. That person has shown everyone that it is possible to live within the truth . . . ‘Living within the lie can constitute the system only if it is universal.’ Anyone who steps out of line therefore ‘denies it in principle and threatens it in its entirety.’"
—Vaclav Havel

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Four Out, Four In

We went to Donegal Town today to drop off and pick up books at the library. It was a relief to get off the bus and into the fresh air! The driver had the heat on full blast--he was sitting there in his short shirtsleeves. Everyone else had on hats and coats or jackets, because it was alternately lashing down rain, drizzling, or just grey with a cool breeze.

On our arrival in Donegal Town, our first stop was the Animals in Need charity shop, where we dropped off four books and a few other small things. There was a couple that arrived at the same time we did. They were carrying a large bin bag each full of clothes. They placed it in front of the counter with the many other bags. It looks like they have a whole lot of donations coming into the shop, which is great. After we handed over our donations, we went over to the bookshelves. I picked up a vegetarian cookbook, which may or may not be useful, but even if it doesn't spark any good ideas, by buying it, I cleared off a bit of space and made a donation to critter care, so what's not to love? Then I saw this book:
I love, love, love the cover! I'd seen it before, but on my computer screen. It's new to the e-audiobook section of the library website and the picture of the cover there induced me to click on it to see what it's about. It sounds quite good--a 30-year-old woman is having addiction issues and goes back to Orkney, where nature helps to heal her in various ways. It's a memoir. It also sounds vaguely familiar. I don't think I read the book, but I'm wondering if I read an excerpt of it at one time or whether it just sounds similar to something else. I did not borrow the audiobook, because I have a lot of stuff to listen to at the moment, but I thought I'd go ahead and get it a couple of months from now. When I saw the book in the charity shop, I did not hesitate. I had to pull it out from the middle of a rather precarious pile on the floor and then rearrange the pile, because it was about to fall down. This is the second time that I have been in that particular charity shop and found a book that I was planning to borrow in e-audiobook format.

Bill also found a couple of books, so in spite of the fact that we are attempting to take a library break for a while so we can make a dent in our own book piles, we ended up coming home with 4 books to replace the 4 we'd donated, so we're even. Oh well. The book piles might not be any smaller, but it's not any bigger, either. At least until we next visit a charity shop.😉😁

Friday, November 8, 2019

Goodbye Facebook! Yay!

A little while ago, I deleted my Facebook account. I know that it will take 30 days for it to be truly gone, but I'm done and I'm so, so glad.

The last straw for me came earlier this week, when I read two articles about various shenanigans undertaken by the odious Mark Zuckerberg and all of the unethical practices of the company. Nothing in it was particularly new and it's not like I didn't know it before. But something about that particular moment caused my mind to come into sharp focus and I thought, 'It's time to go.' I'd been growing increasingly uneasy about being on the site, knowing that I was monetised and that my presence was supporting the unethical business practices and greed of those at the top and causing harm in everyday people's lives all around the world. I'd considered leaving before, but for various reasons, I didn't do so. But this time, I was thinking about the fact that while it is true that we live in an imperfect world and often have to make imperfect choices, it's all the more important to make choices that align perfectly with our own ethical standards when we can. This is one such situation for me (it's also one reason why I do not even have an Amazon account). I know that google also has issues, but given that I need an email address to function in daily life, for example, I can't just dump that. Facebook was an easy one to get rid of. Once I made the decision to leave, I felt happy and relieved. I'd been finding it a hassle for a long time now and not just because of the ethical shortcomings of the company.and its founder.

It used to be OK for various things. I could keep in touch with people who were far away, if they were on the site, although still today almost all of the people I keep in contact with on more than a superficial level are not even on Facebook. I joined a few groups, liked art and cute animal pages, and used it to collect news in one place. I would click on the 'most recent' setting so I could see posts that way. It always reverted back to 'top stories' because that was better for their bottom line, but I always clicked it back. I never used the site as they hope people will. I did not click on ads, I did not send out friend requests or even accept them from most people. I did not last long in groups, because I never found anything in them worth interacting with and they were only cluttering up my page. I left all of them. I never used chat and kept it turned off. I rarely used Messenger.

Then they decided they were going to focus on groups and started trying to push me into them. Then the 'most recent' setting stopped working. It was still there, but I would click on it and see a post from 2 minutes ago next to a post from 3 days earlier. I sent a message about this a couple of times and each time, it worked for a while, but then stopped working. I'd end up seeing a lot of sponsored content or suggested pages and not see posts from pages I wanted to see. I'd see that so-and-so made a comment on some post that had nothing to do with me. And the memes and the virtue-signalling post sharing started to grate on my nerves. Some memes were funny the first time I saw them, but honestly, after the gazillionth share of the same meme, I was no longer laughing! Recently, I was scrolling through my timeline and two or three people had shared the same meme from different pages, so it was just there three times in a row.

So there I was scrolling through repetitive memes posted days before with the occasional old news story thrown in just to break things up. Not much point trying to follow news if it's days old so I stopped using the page for news and went to websites instead. I started subscribing to art blogs via email and seeing them that way instead of on my FB feed. Cute animal videos abound on youtube. In short, I simply spent less time on the site.

At the same time, I was thinking about how with Facebook, 'relationships' that would otherwise run their natural course and end, could sort of drag on long past their benefit to either person. There were some people on my page that I was either friends with at one time when I lived in the US, that I used to work with, or that I was acquainted with and maybe only saw once or twice in person. I still enjoyed seeing the pictures and other things some of these people would post, but for others, it wasn't that way. It's not that I thought these were bad people or that I actively disliked them, but rather that whatever interests we had in common when we met were no longer at the forefront of our lives. We'd grown in different directions, as people do. Not all relationships are meant to last a long time. But with Facebook, there we were. I unfollowed people. I snoozed people. But I always felt hypocritical, because if I don't want to see what someone is posting, then why continue the pretence of being 'friends.' I would not want to see them in real life or meet for coffee or anything like that, so why pretend online? By the time I saw the articles that made me decide to leave, I was thinking about how I could broach the subject of unfriending with these people. I felt awkward about it, because I know people have a tendency to take things personally, but part of me thought that maybe they would be relieved to get rid of me, too. When I removed people from my page because of their racist. misogynist, or homophobic views/posts, it was not a problem and I was perfectly comfortable telling them why we were not compatible. I didn't care what they thought about it. But this is different. These are perfectly nice people and I wish them well. I just didn't want to hang around with them anymore, even online, but I didn't want to hurt their feelings, either.

So all of that left me avoiding the page for days at a time. I would not go there and I would ignore notifications. I found that I enjoyed not being on the site. I had more free time. When I would force myself back on to respond to a message or something, I would scroll through my timeline and think, 'Well that was a waste of time.' Maybe that's why reading those articles earlier this week served as a catalyst. I was ready anyway and when I was reminded of the harm the company is doing all around the world I asked myself, 'Why are you supporting this by your presence when not only do you dislike being there, but you have been actively trying to avoid it? Delete, already!' So I did.

I told people I was going to leave and left things for a few days, because I wasn't sure whether the posts would be visible once I went through the steps to delete. I know it won't be truly deleted for 30 days, but I wasn't sure if things stayed up during that time. I wanted to say good-bye to a few people who I won't be in contact with anymore and I exchanged email addresses with some others so we could stay in touch in a different way. I was a bit surprised at the number of people who told me that they also actively dislike Facebook and are uncomfortable still using the site, but they have reasons for staying on. Some people love social media in general and Facebook in particular. That's cool and I hope they all continue to be happy. I'm not a very social person in real life and apparently that is also the case online. I don't have (or want) a smartphone, so anything I do online is on a computer. Facebook was my only social media account and now that's gone. I briefly tried Twitter years ago, but it was just a spamfest. I was on Pinterest for about 5 minutes when I realised that it would only be a waste of my time, so I got off of that as fast as I could. I don't even get on with Ravelry, which is a social media for yarn people. Nope, not for me. I have the radio, my podcasts, books and art/craft supplies. And now I have more time to enjoy them. Yay!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

That Letter Again

The postman just came, leaving our annual letter stating that there is no TV Licence on file for our premises. The fee for this is 160 euro per year and it funds the public broadcaster (TV and radio). Many people do not pay this and many people watch TV on a device other than a TV, so the public broadcaster is in financial difficulty. Most rentals here come fully furnished, right down to kitchenware and teaspoons, so we only have a TV if it's part of the furnishings. In spite of the fact that we wouldn't own the TV, it's the responsibility of the occupier to buy the licence (this is how it's spelled here). A couple of places we've lived in haven't had a TV, so we wouldn't have to pay the fee in that case. This place had one, but we asked for it to be removed before we moved in--not because of the fee, but because it's a small place and we're not TV people (we do listen to the radio a lot), so it was taking up space that we could use for something else. The thing is, whether we have a TV or not, at a certain age, people get a free licence and Bill qualifies--our licence is upstairs, so we're covered, whether we have a TV or not. The licence moves with the person and is not tied to the dwelling. They do send inspectors around sometimes to ask to see the licence and people can be fined up to 1000 euro if they have a TV but no licence. We've never had a person call to the door, but every year we get the letter. Every year, I email the address they provide to tell them we either don't have a TV, have the licence, or both. They've always been really friendly and prompt in their replies. They check, find out that I'm telling the truth and thank me for letting them know. I am not sure why it doesn't come up before they send out the letter, but it could be because they have the address formatted in a weird way on the letter, which is different than how it appears on the licence--all the parts are there, but in strange places. In any case, I've sent off the email, so that should be done for another year. 😊

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Library Story: Sheep and a Serpent

When we were in Letterkenny yesterday, we called in at the library. As soon as we walked in the door, we spotted the library cart with some books for sale. These had been pulled from the library system. I was looking at one side and Bill was looking at the other. When he got to the last book, he called it to my attention, because it had a sheep on the cover. I looked at it, laughed and said, 'I can't possibly leave this here.' Turns out it's a mystery in which the sheep are the detectives and the smartest sheep is Miss Maple. This Jane Marple fan was intrigued.
When I looked inside the book, I saw that it was translated by Anthea Bell, but it didn't say what language the book was originally written in. When I got home, I did a search and discovered it was German. I'm looking forward to reading this one.

Moving on into the library, I went to the art/craft section to look for the tapestry weaving book I'd seen on the website. I found it and a felt one that I did not know about. As I was walking by the fiction, I saw Sarah Perry and remembered her latest book. I'd started listening to the audiobook but didn't care for the reader, so decided to read the book at some point instead. I;d read her previous book and really liked it. Now, in my defence, I had to get up a few hours earlier than I usually do and that always throws me off, so my mind was not functioning as well as it should have. I grabbed the book and put it on the pile. I paid for the mystery and checked out the others. It is always roasting in the library, so when we got outside, we busied ourselves with removing jackets and stuffing things into backpacks. We walked to a bench, where we sat and had our sandwiches. As I was chewing, it dawned on me that the Sarah Perry book I picked up (The Essex Serpent) might not be the one I wanted. I pulled it out of my backpack, turned it over and immediately saw that it was one I'd already read. I could not remember name of the book I actually thought I was borrowing. Bill suggested that we go back to the library so I could return the one I had and not have to carry it home. After finishing our lunch and going to see a photography exhibit, we did that. I walked in, gave the book to the guy behind the desk and rather sheepishly said, 'I accidentally took the wrong book. I already read this one.' He laughed and said, 'No bother. I'll check it back in for you.' And so he did. Later, I remembered that the book I wanted is Melmouth. I'll get it eventually.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019


Yesterday, we went to our local grocery store. Along the way, I was admiring the bright autumn colours.
Then we stepped into the grocery store and were immediately presented with shelves of Christmas candy, including these:
They're chocolate and white chocolate 'mini-pints' with a beer-flavoured creamy centre. Um, no thanks.

Today we spent the day in Letterkenny to see a photography exhibition. Things are really autumnas-y there!
The Christmas lights are strung across Main Street.
This hotel wasn't sure what to focus on, so covered their bases by having an autumnal display in the bottom window and a Christmas tree on the two floors above that.
When we got back to the bus station to catch the bus home, we saw that they're getting ready at the shopping centre, too.
They're putting the lights up on the roof--Merry Christmas from Letterkenny Shopping Centre. And you can just see a decoration hanging off the side of the lamp post on the right.

Might as well get it all up while they have the weather for it!

I know a lot of people don't like 'Christmas creep,' but I do. We don't do Christmas in the usual way anyway, and it's always been a season for me, not a day, so I'm already listening to certain kinds of Christmas music and enjoying the last quarter of the year--my happy time.
Happy Autumnas!

Monday, November 4, 2019

October Books: Words and Weather

Words, weather, and a couple of unexpected finds close out my October book list.
The Little Book of Lost Words: Collywobbles, Snollygosters, and 86 Other Surprisingly Useful Terms Worth Resurrecting by Joe Gillard
This e-book was new to the library website. It’s a fun book, full of old words, their part of speech, where they come from, definitions, examples of sentences using the words, and artwork. Some fun words are:
ataraxia—from ancient Greek, meaning a state of peaceful serenity, calmness, and bliss

blatteroon-- 18th century English, meaning a person who talks or boasts incessantly and constantly

eyeservant—16th century English, meaning a person who works only when someone is watching

fopdoodle—18th century English, meaning an insignificant fool or buffoon

 The Rose Tree by Mary Walkin Keane
I found this book on the ‘leave a book, take a book’ shelf upstairs in the building the library is in. I’d not heard of the author, but saw she was born in Co Donegal and that the story takes place in a small Irish town, so I took it. I wasn’t sure I’d like it based on the blurb on the back, but I decided to give it a try and simply put it back unread if I didn’t. The following day, Bill had an appointment, so I stuck that book in my bag to read while I waited, since it was at the top of the pile and was smallish. I sat in a waiting room with a TV set to some UK shopping channel. We aren’t TV people, so I am not familiar with what sorts of channels people here get. There was a TV in our current home and free access via some satellite the landlord had installed, but we asked for the TV to be removed. This is a small place and we could use the space for something else, rather than a TV that would sit there unplugged and unused. In any case, the only TV I’ve seen is what I see in waiting rooms and that always seems to be crap from the UK. In this case, I was treated to exhortations about an inflatable bed (with an inflatable headboard—whatever purpose would that serve?), a music player, an apparently magnificent mattress (this was played twice), and finally, a ‘classic’ music collection. The appointment turned out longer than expected. In spite of the fact that I was tired, I was able to mostly tune out the blather from the TV and read. I read almost half the book. To be honest, had I not been in that particular situation I might not have continued. The first part was pretty painful to read.
 The main character is named Roisin McGovern, a young girl who lives with her family in Duneen. She’s the youngest of three children and has a sister and brother. She doesn’t fit in anywhere—not at school and not at home. Her mother clearly finds her more of a nuisance than anything else and she does not really have many friends at school. She struggles. Eventually, after some kids play a trick on her and she is falsely accused of something, her mother decides to send her to the boarding school where a former schoolmate had been sent. This is where I ended in the waiting room and I didn’t pick the book up again for several days. I wasn’t sure I wanted to read on. But I decided to give it another shot before deciding. I picked it up and was pretty quickly involved in the story, which from then on was not relentlessly painful, although it wasn’t all sweetness and light, either.

The book opens with the adult Roisin writing to someone, although we don’t learn who until near the end. There are a few of these asides starting off chapters, but these stop for a good chunk of the book and I’d forgotten about them until the last one appeared. The book is sort of a circle, with Roisin writing her story for this unknown person and heading back to Duneen for a funeral at the beginning of the book, although we also do not learn who has died until the end. There is no wrapping up of the story, which I would have liked, I think. We know that Roisin does come to an important decision in the last sentence or two, but what the result of that decision is, we do not know. All in all, I am glad I continued with the book.
cover art by ben warner
Danger from the Dead by Elizabeth Ferrars
I discovered this book at our local charity shop. I have found several books there by authors that are not so widely known. The name of this author seemed vaguely familiar to me, but I knew I’d not read any of her work, so I brought it home with me. In looking her up, I discovered that this is a pen name and that she was very prolific. She wrote a few series, but this is a stand alone novel.

Gavin Cleavers is a teacher in the same boarding school he and his brother, Nigel, attended as children. This is not a close family—Gavin and Nigel are not particularly close and neither cares much for their two sisters, who also don’t have much to do with each other or the guys. So it seems odd to Gavin that, when his holiday plans fall through, Nigel eagerly invites him to spend his holiday in a cottage on the property he and his wife own. In spite of his misgivings, he goes, partly because Nigel’s wife’s sister, Caroline, will be there. Gavin and Caroline once had a relationship. Caroline is a well-known actress who had been in a soap opera, but had left to come help care for her sister (Nigel’s wife), Anabel, a famous and very successful writer of romance novels, who was still recovering from a stroke. But many things just seem off. And then, within a day or two of his arrival, Gavin goes to the house and discovers both Anabel and Caroline dead. What happened? And who was the balding guy in the grey Mercedes?

This was an enjoyable read and I will be keeping my eyes open for more by this author when I’m scanning the bookshelves in various charity shops. I would happily read more of her work.

 The Weather Machine: How We See Into the Future by Andrew Blum
I came across this book when scrolling through the new titles available in the e-book section of the library website. This is the blurb about it:
When Superstorm Sandy hit North America, weather scientists had predicted its arrival a full eight days beforehand, saving countless lives and astonishing us with their capability. Their skill is unprecedented in human history and draws on nearly every major invention of the last two centuries: Newtonian physics, telecommunications, spaceflight and super-computing.

In this gripping investigation, Andrew Blum takes us on a global journey to explain this awe-inspiring feat – from satellites circling the Earth, to weather stations far out in the ocean, through some of the most ingenious minds and advanced algorithms at work today. Our destination: the simulated models they have constructed of our planet, which spin faster than time, turning chaos into prediction, offering glimpses of our future with eerie precision.

This collaborative invention spans the Earth and relies on continuous co-operation between all nations – a triumph of human ingenuity and diplomacy we too often shrug off as a tool for choosing the right footwear each morning. But in this new era of extreme weather, we may come to rely on its maintenance and survival for our own.

I found this to be a very interesting book. It’s written for a general reader, so while he speaks to many meteorologists in many parts of the world, he doesn’t get so deep into jargon that the reader gets lost. The blurb doesn’t mention this, but what the first part of the book offers is a history of meteorology, which was fascinating—and sometimes amusing. He was on a remote Norwegian island and he asked the weather guy there if he felt like he really knew the weather. The guy looked at him and said, ‘I know when it’s dry and I know when it’s wet.’ Near the end of the book, he writes briefly about weather diplomacy. This idea is illustrated throughout the book as he explains how the science has evolved, but in this end section, he is more explicit about this.  

Our current weather is mild, with sun and lots of cloud. I hope it's a nice day in your part of the world!

Sunday, November 3, 2019

The Fog Is Lifting

I'm taking a break from the October book list posts for today. The first two posts are here and here and I'll post the final segment tomorrow.

I was enjoying the fog this morning. I'm not an early riser if I can help it, so I have no idea what it was like earlier in the morning, but when I got up at 10ish and looked out the bedroom window, there was just a wall of grey. A couple of hours later, I could just start to see some of the hills in the distance.
Then there were a few wispy bits.
And then, about half an hour from when the first photo was taken, the fog was gone and the water was like a mirror.
The sun came out and fell upon the bright yellow bush just outside our windows.
I never know what I will see when I look out of my windows--things change as the day goes on.

On another autumnal note, I have started another page, which is devoted to my art/craft work. I plan to showcase my work there, offer some pieces for sale, share their stories, maybe review some books, and talk about various creative topics. Today I added a brooch with an autumnal feel to a couple of others. Each is different and has its own vibe. I'll be adding posts regularly, so please check it out if you're so inclined! It's called Deburgo823. Deburgo is an Irish version of Burke. When the census guy came around a few years ago, he asked for our name. Bill told him. We were not understanding him well, so when he kept repeating, 'Liam Deburgo,' we were unsure at first what he was trying to get across. Finally, he said, Liam Deburgo. That's your Irish name.' So we've added that to our list of names--our real names, nicknames, names other people call us, Inupiaq Eskimo names, and now Irish names. My first name doesn't really translate and people often don't know how to say it (this was true in the US, too), so I'm just going with Deburgo! 😉

Here's hoping it's a lovely day in your neck of the woods!

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Booking Right Along...

with the next segment of October's reading list after the first instalment yesterday.
A Nun in the Closet by Dorothy Gilman
I found this small paperback in the local charity shop. I recognised the author’s name from reading about mystery writers from the past, but I’d never read any of her work. She wrote the Mrs Pollifax series and I have a vague memory of being taken to see a movie based on the character when I was a child, although I have no memory of the movie itself. In any case, this book, published in 1975, is not a Mrs Pollifax novel. The story revolves around a house in upstate NY, bequeathed to a convent of cloistered nuns in Pennsylvania. The convent has fallen onto hard times, so there is hope that this surprise will be a happy one for them. They choose Sister John to go to the house, scope out the situation, take inventory, etc. She chooses Sister Hyacinthe, a skilled herbalist, to accompany her, so off they go. Upon arrival, they discover that they have no water in the house, so they find the well. To their surprise, they find a suitcase of cash in the well. Back at the house, they discover a wounded man in an upstairs closet. He has been shot and is badly injured. They decide to help him, but whe strange people start showing up and asking strange questions, they decide that to protect him, he should be in disguise as Sister Ursula. There is a community of hippies camping nearby who are helping migrant workers. The sisters become friends with them and as the chaos ensues, they all help each other.
Some facets of the book were fairly predictable, but it was still a fun read. It was quite funny. I would definitely read more books by this author. I brought it with me when we went away for a few days because it was small and light. I also knew I wasn't going to keep it, so I could read it and leave it for someone else to read. It turned out to be the perfect sort of reading for the situation. I also brought my e-reader, but I like to have a ‘real’ book with me just in case.

 Death of a Dancing Footman by Ngaio Marsh

After I finished the book above, I turned to my e-reader and picked up where I’d left off a few months ago with Roderick Alleyn, Ngaio Marsh’s detective. This is Book 11 in the series and was just as good as the previous 10. This one takes place at the beginning of WWII, which is part of the plot in a peripheral sort of way. Alleyn does not even make an appearance until just over halfway through the book.

Jonathan Royal is bored. He decides to attempt what he sees as a bit of performance art by inviting a group of people to his country home for a weekend party. Some of these people are old friends of his and a few are acquaintances. Most of them know each other to varying degrees and they all have reason to dislike (or worse) others in the party. Royal also invites a playwright friend of his, telling him to come one day earlier than the others. When he arrives, he is told what the game is. Needless to say, this whole idea was a bad one and things do not go as planned. Hatreds come out into the open just as the snow starts falling and there is no way to get out.  

 The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding and Other Stories by Agatha Christie
This is a collection of short stories, all of which feature Hercule Poirot, with the exception of the final story, which is a Miss Marple. The intro says it’s a Christmas collection, but only the first story has anything to do with Christmas. Still, it’s a nice little selection of stories.

Dog Poems by the World’s Best Poets
I was scrolling through the ‘new to library’ category in the e-book section of the library website and came across this. I borrowed it and enjoyed it. Our last dog died almost 10 1/2 years ago and we spent a decade simply assuming that we would rescue another dog one day. Then in the spring, I realised that I did not want to do that, for various reasons. Bill and I talked about this and discovered we were in agreement. We still love dogs, but do not want to have the responsibilities and obligations that come with having a dog at this point in our lives. It was interesting to me how freeing it felt to look at this issue in a conscious way and move on. As for the poems, some were funny, some were sad. All in all, it's a nice collection.

I've started listening to a few 'booktubers' in addition to the various bookish podcasts I subscribe to. The focus of the episodes I've listened to so far has been Victorian literature, much of which I collect on my e-reader from Project Gutenberg. After listening to this episode last night, I went and found a copy of Gloriana, or, The Revolution of 1900, which I'd never heard of, and put it on the device. Now if I could only find a place offering more hours in a day so I could download a few and devote them to reading! 

However you choose to spend your day, I hope it's a good one!

cross stitch on scrap of window screen (screens aren't a thing here, so I can't use it as 'canvas' anymore)

Friday, November 1, 2019

New Month, New Book List

Another calendar page has been turned as we move deeper into autumn. We moved our clocks back last weekend, so I've been enjoying the earlier onset of darkness and having lots of cosy time reading, crocheting, and doing some cross stitching. I love, love, love this time of year.

Last month, I put a dent in the ever-growing charity shop book piles. Of course, I think I brought in almost the same number of books that went out, but at least I didn;t have to find more space for the new ones. Anyway, here is the first part of my October book list:
A Good House by Bonnie Burnard
I picked up this book in a local secondhand shop. It was published in 1999 and won The Giller Prize (Canadian) that year. It’s the story of the Chambers family, beginning in 1949 and ending in 1997. Bill Chambers returns to Canada after WWII having lost three fingers on his right hand. He and his wife, Sylvia, have three children, Patrick, Daphne, and Paul. Murray is a local boy who becomes like one of the family. The book is divided into chapters, sometimes with a gap of a couple of years and sometimes longer. The author does a good job of moving the story along and concisely catching the reader up on what has happened in the intervening years and occasionally, on what will happen in the future. I enjoyed this book, although I can’t really say why. I had to force myself to go to bed at 3 am instead of reading on one night. I guess I was just drawn to the characters, even though as more children were added there ended up being a lot of them—sometimes maybe too many. The book did not get really deep into any of them after the first couple of chapters, possibly because, as more people were added, depth was impossible. This did not really detract from the book for me—it was a good read and I’m glad I found it.

 Grasshopper by Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell)
Clodagh, now an electrician, is writing a narrative of events that happened 11 years previously when she went to London to attend a polytechnic and lived in a basement flat. This was not an easy thing, since she suffered from claustrophobia. She had a thing for heights as a result and, as a teenager, had been involved in an accident on a pylon in which someone died. When she meets a young man who lives in a flat on the top floor of a neighbouring house, she is introduced to the world of roof climbers. As this becomes the centre of her world, things move in unexpected ways. I picked this book up at a secondhand shop and it was without the dust jacket, so I had no idea what it was about. I generally like Rendell writing as Vine, so I bought it anyway. It didn’t grab me immediately, but it was good enough to keep going and eventually, I got into it. Good book!

Wild Ways: New Stories of Women on the Road, edited by Margo Daly and Jill Dawson
This book is about 20 years old. I found it at the library, when they were selling books they’d pulled from the system. The short story writers included are from Canada, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Jamaica. The stories are set all over the world. I found the book to be a mixed bag. A couple of them were very powerful and gave me goosebumps. I didn’t care for one or two of them. Others were in between.

 The Thin Ghost and Other Stories by MR James
About a year ago, I came across a different book of ghost stories by this author in the e-book section of the library website and checked it out. I enjoyed it and it dawned on me that I could probably find more of his work at Project Gutenberg. I checked and there he was, so I downloaded a few of the available titles. I decided to read it now for the season that’s in it. I tend to think of ghosts as a Halloween thing, but many of the older ones were meant to be read/told at Christmas. Indeed, one of the stories in this collection takes place at Christmas. It’s a nice little collection.

This afternoon, I started a new book, set in Ireland and by an Irish writer. The first chapter contains a description of the main character's home, filled with books on side tables, in alcoves, etc. He gets them at charity shops, she writes, 3 for a euro or maybe 5 for 2. I laughed. I could relate. It's especially great when I stumble across a book or an author that I've never heard of or wouldn't think to look for or an older book that's not so readily available anymore. Sometimes these are disappointing, but often they're wonderful. For a different kind of experience, Aldi has had gin and tonic crisps as well. I haven't tried the other things, but I've tried those and they're not very good. I'll stick with cheese and onion or Thai sweet chilli! 😊
Happy November!