Weird Wednesday: It’s St. Patrick’s Day – Be Sure to Don Your Blue!

Good day! We are delighted to welcome you to “Weird Wednesday,” a joint series, partnered with our friends at Layered Pages, that explores the quirky side of our universe. Presently many people across the world cannot access this fabulous place, and even in the best of times we often pass so much by in our haste to get wherever it is we may be headed. So sit down, relax a bit and allow us to bring some of our explorations to you. Here you may find things funny, outrageous, marvelous, fascinating, out of this world! Feel free to suggest topics and be sure to comment below and click to follow the blog. We’ll be having contests and lots of great content coming up, so be sure to stay tuned!

Over the years I’ve heard a lot of Irish people scorn American habits that supposedly reflect Irish ways or traditions, anywhere from corned beef cabbage to wearing o’ the green. “’Shannon,’” a Dubliner once told me, “is a name only Americans label their children with. This is not a truly Irish thing to do.” (Never mind that one of the nation’s busiest airports is called Sionainne, Irish for Shannon!) Well, did you know that even the St. Patrick’s Day celebration, which is yuuuuuuuuuge in America, is among that list of things the Irish don’t actually do? OK, they do it now, thanks to the realization that St. Patrick’s Day could be a great way to earn oodles of tourism dollars (among other reasons), but this fun and wonderful day, commemorating the life of St Patrick, is actually an invention of Ireland-loving Americans and immigrant Irish.

St. Benin’s Church, Kilbennan, County Galway, Ireland (Image courtesy Andreas F. Borchert, via Wikimedia)

Many people know these days that St. Patrick, famous for ridding Ireland of snakes and bringing Christianity to the island, wasn’t actually Irish. Additionally, the color originally associated with his day was blue, but because he utilized the shamrock, a three-leafed clover once considered a sacred plant, to teach about the Holy Trinity, the association with green caught on.

Following are some more fun facts about this special day, now beloved the world over, thanks to the Irish diaspora as well as the friendly relationship Ireland has with many nations. It’s not difficult to admire the beauty of Ireland, so it’s also not really a surprise that internationally so many people have adopted many of the traditions that grew from the American St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. On March 17, we’re all a little Irish!

  • While there seem to be some differences on the record as to when or who started St. Patrick’s Day parades, this one stands out: the 1601 celebration in St. Augustine, Florida, then a Spanish colony, was organized by an Irish cleric stationed there. Later celebrations sprang up in places such as Boston (famous today for its Irish population) and New York City, where Irish soldiers, immigrants and other ordinary Americans continued the tradition.
  • Research indicates there have never actually been snakes in Ireland: the water surrounding the island is partly responsible, as well as the last glacial period and weather too cold for such reptiles.
  • St. Paddy’s Day, as it is affectionately known in America, is widely seen the world over as a drinking holiday, but the day was once marked as a solemn one in which pubs across Ireland were closed to show respect to the saint. In the 1970s this changed, and the thing to do was attend mass in the morning and celebrate the rest of the day. If the holiday fell on Friday, the day’s non-meat restriction was lifted. Since St. Patrick’s Day falls during Lent, the days following the celebration were a return to Lenten observations.
  • The tradition of corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day is an American innovation. Back home, Irish tended toward ham and cabbage, but Irish immigrants, notably in Lower Manhattan, many of whom lived in abject poverty, purchased cheap corned beef off returning trade ships. They boiled the meat three times to remove the brine, the last go round adding the cabbage, presumably to infuse the flavor.
  • Relics of St. Patrick—the shrine of his jaw and a tooth—can be found today in the Dublin Museum, and his copy of the four gospels at the Royal Irish Academy.

More weird and wonderful facts about St. Patrick and his day, as well as history of the lovely island he made home, may be found here, here and here! It’s one of the most fun rabbit holes you may ever find yourself going down, and it may take a while, so perhaps grab a refreshment—green, if possible—and top o’ the morning to you!

St. Patrick’s Day is now celebrated in many nations across the world. Above, one of the annual celebrations held in Moscow, a parade at Old Arbat. (Image courtesy Wikimedia)

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Cover Crush: The Flower of Chivalry by Georges Duby

I first heard William Marshal’s name when I was about ten years old, though didn’t learn much about him, perhaps because our lessons at that time focused on Magna Carta, as opposed to individual figures. I wasn’t a gigantic history buff back then, though the medieval captured my attention on any day and I loved to listen to tales of jousting knights, well-dressed horses and beautiful standards that fluttered in the breeze. This sort of perspective lent very well to the cover of Georges Duby’s William Marshal: The Flower of Chivalry, which I think I first saw when I was perhaps fourteen or so. I have always liked it, this lovely cover image, registering various thoughts throughout time as to why something was placed or created as it was. Quite recently I began to put the pieces, in my head, together in a more formal, specific sense, beyond just that it is a beautifully constructed piece of art. We are so frequently told not to judge a book by its cover, though this is exactly what we do, and publishers know it. Nothing on a cover is accidental; it is created to attract particular attention, which this one does with grace and style.

Designed by Paul Gamarello with hand lettering by James Lebbad, this cover is a PR dream – the background pink and red horses are within the family of color most able to efficiently capture the human eye. Once the attention has been roped in, the clearly medieval image, Codex of 1028 A.D. from the Encyclopedia of Mauro Rabano, is one of action and pairs with the energy, passion and danger of the red horses. Lest it evoke a too-strong perception of brutality, the muted, rosy pink tempers this, with its feminine and romantic feel. Here is where the lettering also joins the duty roster, with its font evocative of a flowering vine, a visual to carry on the title’s floral theme. Its teal also contrasts remarkably with the background pink, even helping to bring out the medieval manuscript lettering of the more distant background, conjuring more of the Middle Ages that many are familiar with and even admire. The variety of lettering takes it all one step further by linking to the playfulness associated with pink and forming a smaller O in between the L and W of Flower, sort of superscripted, bestowing upon it a lively, spirited sort of feel matched only by the dot in the center of of’s O, perhaps to remind that even the serious Middle Ages had a frisky side to it. We don’t often see this in the many drawings we are shown in school, the style of which is also not quite that of this cover’s. Like many of its day, this battle drawing lacks depth, but with its round-headed horses and soldiers that appear to be of more modest stature, it doesn’t strike the eye as quite so distant. This could also be because we see their faces, unlike so many other drawings, which show helmeted knights, whose thoughts, intentions, worries and dreams—their humanity—we so often cannot look into on so many images. Here we can gaze upon their being to get a better idea that they are not quite so distant or different to us as we often are led to believe.

Book Information and Blurb:

 William Marshal: The Flower of Chivalry by Georges Duby

Published 1984 as Guillaume le Maréschal by Librairie Arthéme Fayard

Translated from the French by Richard Howard, 1985, Pantheon

Georges Duby, one of this century’s great medieval historians, has brought to life with exceptional brilliance and imagination William Marshal, adviser to the Plantagenets, knight extraordinaire, the flower of chivalry. A marvel of historical reconstruction, William Marshal is based on a biographical poem written in the thirteenth century, and offers an evocation of chivalric life—the contests and tournaments, the rites of war, the daily details of medieval existence—unlike any we have ever seen.

“Behind the silhouette of his hero, Georges Duby re-creates the whole theater of chivalry—the splendor of its rituals and its decorum, the strength of its moral code. Through this code, to which William Marshal clings with all his strength, all his immense energy, Duby tells us of the last glories before its decline, the vestiges of a world coming to an end, and we quickly understand that the best of the knights will also soon be the last.” –Le Nouvel Observateur

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I Wouldn’t Dream of It

Well, we’ve gone all week without a blog entry and here we are on Saturday morning, which is a marvelous place to be. This past week was a little more taxing than others—learning some new stuff at work (I like it), working with a teenager doing school from home (he loathes it) and trying to keep it all in order: my mind, my house, thoughts about where I might be going from one hour to the next. Friday was bookended with two different types of weariness, and all day I just wanted it to be over. It actually wasn’t a bad day—in fact, there’d been marked improvement by this last business/school day—but I was just so tired that the whole time I dreamed of going home and kicking my feet up.

Impression, Sunrise, 1872, by Claude Monet (Image courtesy Wikimedia)

As  indicated earlier, my day began with fatigue—actually a rather strong grogginess, which is rather unusual; the last time I remember opening my eyes to such a state was when I used one of my melatonin tablets, which was maybe a year or two ago. But you know, it could have been related to the really bizarre dream I had.

At around 03:00 (Thursday night-Friday morning) I woke up, which is not unusual, and I remember thinking it was such and such time, which it was. Unfortunately, it was the opposite of when you wake up and see you have glorious hours and hours of sleep ahead of you. Even then I felt a weighty sleepiness on myself, and recall sighing what now reminds me of the sort of sigh you hear people in the movies sigh when they’ve somehow been wronged and you, the movie watcher are like, “How do they just sigh? I’d be screaming and pulling hair!” But at that moment the sigh reminded me of those that ghosts emit and I recall thinking, Who cares. Not Who cares? Just Who cares. I was far too tired for such exertion.

When next I opened my eyes, they were so heavy I could barely lift them, and I was also super irritable. I had just been in a room, some room in an institutional type of setting, with three or four other people, all males whom I knew to be military types, but not because they had the obvious look, like the buzz cut or silver eyeglasses. These men all wore civilian clothing, laughed a lot, had laid back attitudes and I seemed to know them, as if we worked together, perhaps. Also: this room was in a building about ninety miles from Iran.

Someone was buzzing to be let in, and it fell to me to go do it. I was reluctant, staggering ever so slowly as my colleagues urged me on with their words, assorted ranges of laughter punctuating their prodding. It annoyed me not only that I had to go open the door for them, but that to do it I had to do something more than just make that movement. As I neared the side this door was on, I grumpily asked the men how to do it. “What the hell do I have to do to open this wretched thing?” Laughing, they explained, and it turned out there was a code phrase and it had to be spoken into an intercom. “Why do I have to say anything into a speaker? It’s not me trying to be let in. I’m already in!” My increasingly sour mood apparent, they and those wanting in laughed, not unlike the way I might too if I wasn’t so…angry. Why was I so angry?

A Dream of a Girl Before a Sunrise by Karl Bryullov (1830–1833) (Image courtesy Wikimedia)

I don’t know, maybe because, as it turned out, the phrase I had to say was something to do with an expletive and the great toe. I hissed, What? But they just kept laughing. On any other day, I might have joined in, but this one was just too much, though I really wasn’t sure why. But I was quite clear on the reality that the annoying buzzer, like those when people call and say “I’m downstairs!”, wouldn’t stop. I yelled at those outside to knock it off but they paid no heed.

Eventually I slapped at it, trying to make them stop, it stop, anything to relieve me of this infuriating, peculiar entry that seemed to be requiring such a larger effort than it really should. I found myself slapping at anything within my range until I was slapping at my phone, prone and somewhat infuriated as I looked, seeing but unseeing, directly at the phone as it lay next to me on bed, and I hissed once more. Oh my—what the—shit, shut UP!!

 As I settled back down onto the pillow and tried to absorb the utterly bizarre experience, I understood immediately where the buzzer had come from—I have memory of a childhood dream in which an unceasingly ringing telephone became my dream state’s ambulance siren—and even being so close to Iran didn’t entirely puzzle me. I am, after all, interested in that country (especially their poetry); I don’t read about it as much as I used to, but it still happens. Still, though, why? And which bordering nation were we in? Iraq? Perhaps Turkey? I have been re-reading The Chronicles of Narnia lately, having recently finished The Horse and His Boy, which has a decidedly Turkish feel to it, following on from the earlier books’ introduction to the lion Aslan—“aslan” in Turkish means “lion.” Turkish Delight, Jadis, etc. Could that be the source for “ninety miles from Iran”? And how did I know this? No one in the dream told me; it was just something I was aware of.

What  about all those people? Were they actually military, or did I just assume they were because I associated their demeanor with the military people I’ve known? Either way, where in the world did they come from? The room kind of reminded me of a smaller version of our boot camp barracks if it were bunkless, and perhaps a little more green, not quite so much of the very light, mustardy yellow I recall striping along the walls. But I saw the room before I thought of those barracks—seeing it is what brought back the memory, not the other way around. I couldn’t answer any of these questions.

The only thing I knew by the time I left the house for work was that I wanted to write a blog about this very weird dream, and as the morning went by I kept making myself think about it, then wrote down the details on my morning break. The grogginess had, for the most part, faded, but was replaced with a very static-feeling mood receptor; it went neither up nor down with slower measured beats, not even with erratic or extreme ones, like someone who can go from quite upset to very happy in just a few moments. For me, I just sort of emotionally flatlined all day. I was exhausted.

A little anticlimactic, I suppose, but what a very strange dream! Once back home, I was drawn to do a little exploring, which I found to be quite intriguing, though that isn’t a surprise as I’m pretty fascinated with the brain. Specific brain functions, working in conjunction with individual memories, experiences, awareness and so on create a combination not entirely understood by the scientists who study it. Because it is such a large topic, only a small portion of which can be presented, and it truly is so captivating, any kind of discussion on dreams deserves its own entry. Moreover, I’m late to the party again, as pandemic dreaming has already shown itself as a thing: people are dreaming more and theories abound, including those linking the bizarre dreams people have been having to lockdowns. I’m planning to look into this a little more and see what we uncover.

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The Conduit of My Record Player

If there is one thing many of us have in common this past year of staying home, it’s the new hobbies. It goes without saying that this has been a tough year for so many, but one thing that has helped me personally is to take an interest in what others are doing, in terms of new hobbies they have picked up, or perhaps made new commitments to. I’ve been doing this mostly in a more passive sense, as opposed to joining in or leaving comments and so on. It reminds me a bit of how I’ve always liked looking at décor, even if I’m not in the market for it in my own home. I love to see the different things people can come up with, stylish and cozy ways in which to create a retreat away from the world, to decorate a space of their own that reflects their personalities, interests or passions.

As for myself, I have a few projects going, but the one I love best doesn’t provide tangible results. This is because it involves the sharing of conversation with my teenage son, who has for years been a very devoted film aficionado, and recently had begun to invest in television. I’ve always said he is an old soul, and he continues to prove it with his love for shows such as Friends, Cobra Kai and Stranger Things—and that this last one’s Blu Ray case is designed to look like a VHS tape. Our shared watching experiences have provided absolutely endless conversation on too many topics for a small blog entry such as this, so suffice to say, to aim us in one direction: storytelling.

One of the stories I’m in the midst of seeing is within the visual pages of a show called Mad Men, which I never heard of until about a month ago. I agreed to give it a shot—Turtle didn’t think I’d get into it and, to be quite frank, neither did I—but there was something about it that intrigued me. Perhaps because it is set in the 1960s, an alien world of people who drink way too much and dress in a manner I wish we still did today. To be honest, I’m not a fan of the time, but I was also a little curious about getting a glimpse into the ordinary: not just the famous music festivals, protests or political shenanigans. Ordinary. What people wore; how they interacted with one another in everyday lives, not only specific occasions; products they owned or wanted to; what was perceived as good or not so good; how much things cost and so on.

Continue reading “The Conduit of My Record Player”

Bucket List Map of the World: Giant Sequoia National Monument

Today’s entry opens up a still somewhat newish series for the blog, inspired by a book called The Bucket List: 1,000 Adventures Big & Small. I know I’ll probably never make it to most of these locales, but I love to learn about them anyway. I like places, love to see them on maps and discover what they are about.

So this series doesn’t necessarily represent my bucket list, per se, hence the addition to its name as mapping out across the world, settings worth learning even a little about. One such exploration years ago brought me to this: When Russians are preparing to travel, they sit down for a few minutes in one spot. For contemplation, perhaps, prayer, maybe a little decompression before their travel whirlwind. I also like to do this: reflect on life for just a few minutes and think about where I am heading, and where might any bit of knowledge carry me.

With that said, let us embark.

The Proclamation Tree of Long Meadow Grove in Giant Sequoia National Monument, California. Image courtesy Jason Hickey via Wikimedia Commons.

Locale: Giant Sequoia National Monument, southern Sierra Nevada (mountain range), eastern central California

Hemisphere: Northern

Latitude:        36.13040N*

Longitude:     118.81790 W*

Time of Year: All year*, though roads are subject to snow closures in winter months, per the Giant Sequoia National Monument page of the USDA Forest Service website. Consult park pages for current visitation schedules and protocols.

About the Destination: Located in the Sierra Nevada, the Sequoia National Forest includes about half of the giant sequoia groves currently existing; each contains anywhere from one to tens of thousands of the trees. The giant sequoia is the largest tree in the world and grows naturally only in the western band of its mountain range home, at an elevation of 4,000-8,000 feet. To clarify, these are those trees, gigantic in diameter as well as height, you see pictures of with tiny spots at the bottom that you realize are people acting as size marker. For a few breathtaking images, click here, here and here.

Continue reading “Bucket List Map of the World: Giant Sequoia National Monument”

Weird Wednesday, An Exploration of Our Quirky World: What *ARE* You Doing?

Good day! We are delighted to welcome you to “Weird Wednesday,” a joint series, partnered with our friends at Layered Pages, that explores the quirky side of our universe. Presently many people across the world cannot access this fabulous place, and even in the best of times we often pass so much by in our haste to get wherever it is we may be headed. So sit down, relax a bit and allow us to bring some of our explorations to you. Here you may find things funny, outrageous, marvelous, out of this world! Feel free to suggest topics and be sure to comment below and click to follow the blog. We’ll be having contests and lots of great content coming up, so be sure to stay tuned!

Ever catch yourself doing something slightly odd, maybe even weird, and keep it secret? Or maybe you knew it was odd and kept it under wraps from the beginning, knowing all the time it would make you look silly? What about some of the things children do, including teenagers? Do tell! Do you do them as well?

What if you were to find out many others did the same things? Would it surprise you to know that it’s often a little more than just “talking to herself,” for example? Could you believe that your co-worker, efficient and sensible, conducts interviews between himself and major news outlets? Maybe children do some funny things, like play themselves at chess, as a tactical maneuver not only to stave off boredom, but in the process also can teach themselves winning techniques. And adults? Do adults ever play pretend?

Below are some funny things people of all ages (yes, yours too!) do that they cover up, often unaware that millions of others do the same thing—and also hide! Some may have logical explanations, but still strike us as funny. Or maybe we do them openly, none in our party finding it odd until we hear a comedian joke about it or a song’s lyrics open us up to the vagaries of human behavior. Check which ones you do, and by all means comment and add to the list!

  • Driving through a neighborhood looking for an address, and you must turn the radio down or off.
  • Wearing headphones/airpods and pretend you’re a singer on stage in front of thousands of adoring fans
  • Eat something horrible at a restaurant, express in words how absolutely terrible it is, then say, “Try this! It’s awful!!”
  • Go through your own social media page after someone friend requests you, looking to see it “through their eyes”
  • Watch people around you and make up back stories about them
  • Pretend you are being interviewed and talk about yourself and answer questions you make up
  • Are shocked by an expensive price tag, but stay in the store, even carry the item around as if you’re going to get it, then make a show of putting it back and the reason why very clear (you’re in a rush to leave, you decided on something else for the gift you seek, etc.)
  • Chew on the inside of your cheek when your mouth is numb after a visit to the dentist
  • Try closing the refrigerator door as much as possible till the light goes off just to see how it looks in there when it’s dark
  • Pick up and move something from Point A to Point B with your foot, just to see if you can, or because you’re feeling too lazy to bend down
  • Have imaginary arguments in your head – with a friend who just slighted you, a famous political pundit, etc.
  • Put your feet up on the bed so the monster beneath won’t grab your ankles
  • Do something else while waiting for the microwave, secretly aiming to finish just in time to stop the micro with one second to spare
  • Position a large hair clip around your lips and leave it there for awhile
  • Insist on looking at your phone while lying in bed, even though you’re very tired, and it falls on your face


OK, I forgot to add the WW header, but indeed our last
Weird Wednesday, Eat Bird or Die, can be found here!

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Random Pics, Newsy Chat (with Contest Reminder) and a Little Bit About TV and Book Reviews

Good evening and happy Monday, All! Finally the weekend came and I was able to catch up on some of my reading. I was pretty psyched a couple of Saturdays ago because I started Richard III (by David Baldwin) at 08:00 and finished it that night! I’d read chunky passages of the book before but never cover to cover, and it was well worth the day. I do have a Richard III tab up top—or click here—that I haven’t been keeping up with, so you will see changes to this coming in the days ahead, and I invite readers to submit links for resources you would like to share, found useful, etc. I daresay you will be hearing more from me re: Richard, with a nice surprise coming in July.

There’s another nice little thing coming up next week, and that is the announcement of winners for the contest I am holding as a way to thank people for following my little blog all these years. I deleted one of my social media accounts, which cut my followers roughly in half, and I’ve been so busy lately that I didn’t advertise this quite as much as I wanted to and should have, so any shares you can give will be much appreciated. And what are they? Well, I’m gifting two $10 Amazon cards on Valentine’s Day, so if you’d like to win one of them, click here to find out how! I probably won’t win, you say? Why would you say that? Someone has to win, why not you!? Give it a shot and see what happens!

Speaking of Amazon: One of the books I just started reading, Strong Advice, is one I actually gifted my son for Christmas (we are both interested in this book). I surely paid too much for it, but, as far as I can tell, its author, Nzube Udezue (aka Zuby, rap musician, author, podcaster and computer science graduate [Oxford]), works independent of this behemoth, which increases his own expenses, and I wanted to support his brand, through which he cares about people and their ability to do the best for their bodies and health as they can. I didn’t really interact very much with him when ordering and after, but when I did email (a couple of times), his response was very timely, cheerful and customer-service oriented.

As for the book, I have skimmed it (a bit heavily) so far, and have a date with it later this evening. A word about this small work, though, is that it’s not the sort you read cover to cover and then put on the shelf. Provided you find currency with what it advocates, you have to live it. So, once I read it all, well, I do have to return it to its owner, but I will be referring to it until what it teaches me becomes absorbed enough that I won’t need to so frequently reference it. I will say, though, that Zuby’s chosen writing style is not only accessible, but also real—as in he speaks like a real person and as if you are real, not unlike an informed casual conversation that you walk away determined to follow up on. That adds to the encouraging nature of its advice, and of what I have read thus far, I don’t feel reads like some elevated being passing down to me, but rather as I have said above, a real person who actually is in touch with the sorts of concerns I have.

Continue reading “Random Pics, Newsy Chat (with Contest Reminder) and a Little Bit About TV and Book Reviews”

My Tottering TBA: The Discoverers by Daniel J. Boorstin – Rediscovering Discoveries

The Discoverers by Daniel J. Boorstin

 An original history of man’s greatest adventure: his search to discover the world around him.  In the compendious history, Boorstin not only traces man’s insatiable need to know, but also the obstacles to discovery and the illusion that knowledge can also put in our way. Covering time, the earth and the seas, nature and society, he gathers and analyzes stories of the man’s profound quest to understand his world and the cosmos.

As readers saw in a previous post focusing on the new year’s reading challenge, I’ve got a list of 21 – to match the year – and one is actually a re-read: Daniel J. Boorstin’s The Discoverers: A History of Man’s Search to Know His World and Himself. I first read it as a teenager stuck on an international flight, having been previously drawn to the work by what might be one of the greatest covers ever, showing The Flammarion Engraving.

One of my favorite sections—if not the favorite—was that which discussed how long-ago people perceived time and the methods they used to divide it up, the work covering calendars and their evolution as well as timepieces eventually taking shape as the watches we know today. But all those stories in between, of lives within which lived obsessions, disappointment and jealously-guarded secrets—these and the people who lived all of it were such a source of fascination for me I simply couldn’t put it down and have gone back to it time and again.

Still, there is a lot I’ve forgotten, which I have learned from many others reads is often because I wasn’t quite ready for all the information at the time I first took it in. Subsequently, I hear about a particular topic, not always recalling that I’d read about it in this or that book. Then, if I am lucky enough to be able to re-read a book I loved the first time, I might happen upon that idea again, marveling at how knowledge of it had been resting in my brain, waiting for that further expansion to breathe more life into it. This doesn’t mean the long-ago read was written poorly, just that sometimes information has to be shaped like clay to take more a substantive form in my mind, to be retained and utilized.

In the case of The Discoverers, it is what my teen son might call a big boy book—the descriptor itself a big boy one, used by teenagers these days to refer to something of noticeably larger or generous size—filled to the brim with an amazing body of knowledge that I am tremendously excited to be able to read again, looking forward to the moments when I hit upon things I might call now-new—not necessarily new, but fitting into that category of information described above, buried in the recesses of my mind and that I hadn’t really exercized understanding of.

I have only vague memories of the other sections—grave-robbing medieval medical students; adventurers charting the seas and the stars; so much spanning the geography of time, beckoning us to remember and to place ourselves somewhere within these maps and how we fit in and the links to all in our past that make our places work.

For Your Information

The Discoverers: A History of Man’s Search to Know His World and Himself by Daniel J. Boorstin 

Published: January 1, 1983 by Random House | ISBN 0-394-40229-4*

Format: Hardcover | Pages: 684*

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*my copy

Top: World’s oldest Sundial, from Egypt’s Valley of the Kings (c. 1500 BC), PD-Art, Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Bottom: The Flammarion Engraving – A traveller puts his head under the edge of the firmament in the original (1888) printing of the Flammarion wood engraving. PD-Art, Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Click images for more details

Eat Bird or Die

Welcome to ~

We are delighted to meet up with you again here at WW, a new joint series, partnered with our friends at Layered Pages, that explores the quirky side of our universe. Presently many people across the world cannot access this fabulous place, and even in the best of times we often pass so much by in our haste to get wherever it is we may be headed. So sit down, relax a bit and allow us to bring some of our explorations to you. Here you may find things funny, outrageous, marvelous, out of this world! Feel free to suggest topics and be sure to comment below and click to follow the blog. We’ll be having contests coming up, so you’ll want to be sure to stay tuned!

Years ago I had a funny conversation with a friend who told me about some Russians she knew that fancied themselves master translators. They played a game to prove it: she was to whisper something in English into the ear of one, he would whisper it in Russian to the next, then that guy would whisper it to the next, and that last person would then translate it back to the group in English. So, English to Russian, then Russian down a small line, then translated back to English.

In this manner “I have to hit the sack” became “It is necessary I strike the bag.”

There were several other examples, but for some reason I recall only this one, which wasn’t even the funniest. Nevertheless, we laughed like crazy and started collecting idioms. We also liked to borrow German expressions and use them, translated literally, and say them in English for what we wanted to express. But they had to be special ones, sentences that made no sense in English. “They go like warm rolls,” when talking about something really popular, for example, wouldn’t suffice, because to an English speaker that still makes sense.

So we aimed for the wackiest ones we could come up with and used them on innocent, unsuspecting citizens. The variety of responses was hilarious, and reminds me of why there are so many reasons to love words and the millions of ways in which people use them.

Here are some literal translations and what they actually mean in English –

To be a boiled, slit ear – never miss a trick

With a monkey tooth – at breakneck speed

“Pull rope!” – “Get lost!”

To be able to steal horses with someone – to be super reliable

You’ve seen horses vomit – anything can happen

Pour one onto the lamp – drink a lot

I have a lot around my ears – I have a lot on my plate

Adopt the salami tactic – to do things in small steps

“He has hair on his teeth.” – “He’s bossy.”

To be on the wooden path – barking up the wrong tree

A stone has fallen from my heart – that’s a relief

Spoon out the soup – face the music

The last shirt has no pockets – You can’t take it with you (when you die)

Add a tooth – speed up

Milk girl calculation – naïve assessment

Vogel Drei (Meister der Spielkarten) – ein lustiger Vogel

There are loads and loads more, and a few websites even explain the etymology of some, which makes for quite fascinating reading because one can learn so much about a culture by studying their idioms. German, for example, seems to utilize a lot that give pigs much more love than most other countries do. And birds…there’s something slightly mysterious about how often Vogel shows up in German expressions. In fact, I went looking for one I could swear was something like Eat bird or die, meaning take it or leave it. I couldn’t find it anywhere, though, which made me a bit sad because I also used to have a bookmark that splashed those words across the length of it. Well, between what I could remember and those I looked up, I had to be satisfied.

But we’ll re-visit at some point, for sure. On this evening, however, we must recall that everything has an end. Only the sausage has two.

Previous WW

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Recharging and Taking Stock

A recent alternative bookshelf experiment bathed by the winter sun (see closeup image at bottom)

Well, some of you have noticed I’ve not posted a review—or  anything else—for quite a while (I got a few emails, bless your hearts), and the truth is I was burned out. I know, very starkly stated, but there you have it. Though I never posted as often as some others, or blogged for as many years as them, what I have been doing was quite enough. If I do say so myself, I strive to make my reviews of a higher caliber because I like to look at details, compare/contrast, analyze and delve a little more deeply. Plus, I’ve been writing reviews since about 2012, maybe 2013, and I’m ready for a turning point.

I’ve had so many wonderful opportunities in doing this, and I want to take this moment to thank all the authors who have submitted books for review: your wonderful tales have reached into my reader’s heart, taken me to new worlds, brought me into contact with people from the past or those roaming amongst your imaginations (sometimes a bit of both), and provided me with massive amounts of information about our own history. For me this is absolutely priceless.

Some of the books I’ve reviewed atop the uppermost shelf of one of two identical – we call them the twins.

That sounds a bit like a departure, doesn’t it?

Well, in a way it is. As I say, I’m a bit frazzled, and I don’t want to end anything on a negative note, so I’m going to chill out for a bit, take a much-needed slowdown so nothing ever comes to that. I’m looking forward to browsing the library stacks and actually reading most of what I bring home.

And in a way it isn’t: I’ll still do some reviews, but for the time being, just playing things by ear as to what I’ll be checking out and when. I also will be focusing on some other ideas I’ve been wanting to pursue, such as writing about food. I’m by no means a foodie, but I do love to cook (baking is another story) and learn about ingredients’ relationships to each other. In fact, I just learned a baking secret (to me at least) that I’ll tell you about next time in an entry I’ve already started to write.

The climbing pink roses and shape of this vase, together with its green framing the floral, really caught my attention. It didn’t exactly match the color scheme I had fallen into, but I liked the idea of an “imperfection” in the room, something that stood alone.

And you know what? I so can’t keep away from books, so you know I’ll be exploring some written works about that universal love we partake in at least once a day. Unfortunately, not everyone can say “once a day,” so I’ll be looking at that angle as well, as I’d like it too, to take me somewhere.

I’ve got some décor news, a few new photos to show, a couple more hobbies I’m trying to develop and have been immersing myself again in my very first love of the written word: poetry. In fact, I’ve finally reached out to a few people who agreed to act as beta readers to my own collection of poems, many of which were written when I was still in school. I’ve gotten some fantastic feedback, which has really psyched me up even more. A very dear social media friend persuaded me to try my hand at making a few sketches for the collection, and it’s not been so easy, but I’m trying to get on with those. One of the above-mentioned developing hobbies is something that has helped me figure out how to proceed—more to come!

I adore looking at décor and the many ideas people have for creating their spaces. The moment I saw this image in Alison Wormleighton’s Victoria: Decorating with a Personal Touch, I knew I wanted to re-create this wonderful corner (Hearst Books, 2004, click image).

I’ve also got a collection of short stories to finish writing; lots of historical nonfiction to read on various topics of fascination; my fifteen-year-old son has re-discovered the Beatles in a yuuuuuge way; full-on winter is coming and I’ve been cooking up a storm and freezing lots of it. And, of course, I’m still plugging on with the editing (more details here). My only wish for change there is that I could do it as my sole source of income. As with any pursuit worth its salt, it is rewarding: I meet (or “meet”) great people and, perhaps most important, learn from them. Sometimes they think they’re the only ones gaining new info, but that’s never true, thankfully. I have an auntie who always says, “The day I know everything I might as well just stay home.”

So who knows what the next five years may bring? I really enjoy blogging, so whatever is yet to come, I hope I’ll be still be sharing it with you wonderful people as well as reading yours, finding out more about what’s going on in your universe.

See you soon!


Closeup of top image. The plant, I was told, is impossible to kill, and that has proven to be very correct. My kind of plant! The books with the gold on their spines, by the way, are fairy tales, the truer versions of which I have taken to reading lately. The slim, green volume beneath the wartime cookery guide is a collection of poems by Christina Rossetti. Willa Cather is my all-time favorite author since elementary school, and O. Henry, master of the short story, initially wowed me way back then with “The Gift of the Magi” and “The Last Leaf.”