RAS 2: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin — Benjamin Franklin

A fair number of years ago I bought a set of books at a library sale in Minocqua, Wisconsin. I was with my sister-in-law, Jill, and she claims I paid more for the set than I thought. No matter, it was a collection of well-known dead authors and to me it was a bargain.

Not that I read any of the books which eventually found their way to the top self of the living room, then to a box in the attic. One book, however, remained on the top self. It was a pure accident.

I never expected to read Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography. I am not very much into history — especially American history — so had no interest in reading this. However, I figured I would give it a try.

Franklin was quite ambitious as a teenager and beyond. In his early adulthood he embarked on a sort of self-actualization quest trying to better himself in 12 steps (virtues):

  1. Temperance – eat not to dullness; drink not to elation.
  2. Silence – Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  3. Order – Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  4. Resolution – Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  5. Frugality – Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; that is, wast nothing.
  6. Industry – Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  7. Sincerity – Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; speak accordingly.
  8. Justice – Wrong none by doing injuries; or omitting the benefits of your duty.
  9. Moderation – Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  10. Cleanliness – Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
  11. Tranquility – Be not disturbed at trifles or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  12. Chastity – Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.

I learned a few things about American history that was otherwise elusive to me. For instance, I never quite understood who General Braddock was, even though we lived for years near one of his abandoned cannons. I knew he was a British soldier, so why would Franklin want to help him obtain horses and carts? It was the French and Indian War which was before the Revolutionary war so we were not necessarily enemies of the British at that time, although it seemed much of the colonies were a bit passive aggressive. I didn’t know that!

I was surprised that the book was as readable as it was. Benjamin Franklin was interesting and had a captivating way of writing.

That’s not to say that it was not incredibly boring in parts. Lots of parts. I basically skimmed the end of the book.

I cheated on this book. I turned every page, but did not read every word.

This 200 page book took me many weeks to read. Hopefully the next book won’t take that long.

Stats 200 or so pages. Started May 12. Finished June 14.

Categories: Reading | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Found (in Oberlin): The Place Where the Sidewalk Ends

We spent Memorial Day weekend in Oberlin for Andrew’s Graduation (more on that later) and much of the time was down-time as we waited for Andrew to do this or that. Sometimes we simply rested on the grass, other times we drove around the area. On one of our drives we drove through a new neighborhood in Oberlin, not far from Andrew’s house. In one corner of the neighborhood was a strange brick structure in the middle of a neatly mowed lot with sidewalks leading to it and floodlights pointed towards it. Dean and I discussed what it could be for (it had signs inside it that said “PRIVATE”). On the way back to the car, however, I found something more interesting. I found the place where the sidewalk ends. Right there in Oberlin*.

Where the sidewalk ends

Where the Sidewalk Ends

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends,
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.

— Shel Silverstein — 1974

* It is fitting to have found this during Andrew’s college graduation weekend. Interpretations of the poem suggest that the place where the sidewalk ends is where childhood ends and adulthood begins.

Categories: Musings, Places, Travel | Tags: , | 3 Comments

RAS 1: Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons — Lorna Landvik

I finished my first Read a Shelf (hereafter to be known as RAS) book at around 3 in the morning. I started it Friday, the day I wrote the blog post.

Angry Housewives Eating Bon bonsI bought Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons at a Barnes and Noble many years ago probably because I was angry about something and because it was about a book group. I’d been thinking about trying my hand at writing a book about a book group so I wanted to see what my competition was like. It was also 20% off, according to a big red sticker that was still on the book when I began reading it on Friday I had the book on my “to read” shelf for a long time and eventually it found itself to my, “heck, I’ll never get to that shelf” shelf. The book is so old it is browning around the edges.

I think I avoided reading it because of the word “bon bons” in the title. Also I was watching Desperate Housewives at the same time and maybe I figured too many angry and desperate housewives might make me the same. (although I was working part time — it was from home).

So about the book. It was good. I was completely caught up in the lives of Kari, Faith, Audrey, Merit and Slip. Ms Landvik fleshed out their characters very well. Not so much the males in the book; except for a neighbor, Grant, and Faith’s son Beau, males were more or less one-sided, which makes sense, in a way. And the “bon bons” made sense after one of the husbands remarked that he thought the book group was just a bunch of angry housewives sitting around eating bon bons. The women liked that so much they called themselves AHEB.

The book mentioned three places with which I am very familiar, which I found interesting and put a smile on my face.

  • One of the AHEB’s daughters attends Oberlin College (where my son goes and a place I adore).
  • At a wedding reception in Washington, DC another AHEB shares a table with a developer who claims to have built most of the houses in Bethesda (where I live).
  • Finally one of the children of a third AHEB ends up living in Eau Claire, Wisconsin (a town just south of Chetek — when we got to Eau Claire we knew we were nearly at Grandma and Grandpa’s house).

The book was predictable, but that’s okay. I don’t really mind guessing what is going to happen in a story I am reading. The only complaint I have about the book is the author’s use of clichés and slang when unnecessary. Yes, the book began in 1968 but the only slang that should have been used is in conversation, not narrative. I admit this is a pet peeve of mine — and maybe it is something I need to get over.

Stats: 404 pages (paperback). Started May 8, finished May 12, 2015.

Categories: Reading, Series | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Frankly…the best pizza I’ve ever tasted!

We try to go out for dinner once a week or so. Sometimes more often, sometimes less often. Last night was our planned night out and Dean suggested a new restaurant he’d read about in the Washington Post. A restaurant in Kensington. We rarely go to Kensington for dinner — in fact the only restaurant in that area we’ve eaten at is one of Black’s eateries: Black Market Bistro.

Dean warned me that the restaurant he’d read about served only pizza. That was fine, I like pizza. We could not find the restaurant right away, so drove around a bit found parking (free!! — Kensington is NOT Bethesda) and followed Dean’s iPhone directions to the restaurant. We’d driven right past it but didn’t see Frankly…Pizza! on the awning until we were a few yards away. We walked past about 8 tables of patrons enjoying the warm spring evening, eating pizza outside, under the awning, and headed indoors to be seated. We would have preferred to eat outdoors, but got a nice table inside the eclectically decorated, but pizza themed, restaurant. At first it seemed very loud, but either we got used to it or the noise quickly died down.

Our waiter was energetic and friendly and suggested we choose a pizza each. Dean wavered between a clam pizza or a sausage pizza, settling on the sausage pizza. I chose the clam. They also served house made sodas, wine and beer on tap. I chose a NZ sauvignon blanc and Dean chose an IPA. Dean ordered an arugula salad, which was delicious, but I was keeping my appetite for my pizza.

My pizza was delicious. I think it is the best pizza I have ever eaten. The crust was perfect — thinish but puffed up at the edges — and wonderfully chewy. The toppings, mozzarella Romano, garlic and olive oil were amazing. Together the crust and toppings were heavenly. Dean’s pizza tasted more like a regular pizza. Good, but not as good as mine.

I can’t wait to go back to Frankly…Pizza. I will definitely take my daughter who thinks the only restaurant that can make a decent white pizza is Pines of Rome. She is so wrong.

Categories: Food, Rave | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Read a Shelf

Please note: I created a page for this here. Because it is a thing. Please to to the page I created for updates.

I recently ran across a blog post in which a woman has begun to read a shelf of books in her home. She got the idea from a book called, The Shelf: From LEQ to LES: Adventures in Extreme Reading by Phyllis Rose.

I’m always saying I need to read the books I have in my house before buying another one. I took a sabbatical from my book group to do just that, but failed miserably.

We have at least 8 bookcases in the house, most filled with many unread books so I am going to see if I can read the books I have not already read that sit on the top shelf of one of my living room bookshelves. The only exceptions are books that I’d planned on throwing away, unread, anyway. Also I do not have to read non-fiction or scientific books that might have ended up on the shelves. One more exception — if a book is on the shelf and is part of a series and I have not read the book just before that book in a series, I get a pass on that one until I read the book before it. (Jasper Fforde’s Something Rotten, for instance. I read the first book in the series and thought this was the second, but it was the third. I never got around to reading the second).


The top shelf

The books are:

So, wish me luck — I will need it with Joyce, Franklin, the Lambs and Longfellow…

Categories: Reading | Tags: | 4 Comments

We went to watch Rugby but saw the Big Parade instead

Andrew graduates on Memorial Day. His final rugby game was supposed to take place yesterday, Saturday, May 2 so we planned a trip to Oberlin to watch his last game. We knew we would not be able to spend much time with him since he was also going to a banquet for the end of the Rugby season, but these days, even an hour or two is enough for us. Shortly before we were planning on leaving for Oberlin Andrew called and told Dean the game had been cancelled. Denison (the opposing team) decided that with finals coming up next week they should study and not play rugby. Dean was bummed but since we’d already paid for our hotel room we decided to go instead and only stay one night.

We arrived at Oberlin around 6 and met Andrew at Weia Teia for dinner. He brought a friend with him and they both told us about how it was lucky we were in town that weekend because the Big Parade was the next morning and the Folkfest started that evening. Among the names of folks singers for the weekend was Tom Paxton – an artist I’d never seen, but had heard of. Another name Andrew mentioned was Kimya Dawson — a name I didn’t recognize, but when I later looked her up, would have loved to have seen her live. Her highly recognizable singing voice made me smile though the movie Juno (as well as a couple of Comcast ads).

Andrew took us to see an art exhibit called Erosion. My favorite part of the show was a series of journal entries the artist’s mother wrote and the artist’s corresponding leaves or flowers captured in glass.

After the art show we went to a dance titled The Only Way (scroll down to the second entry) about the struggle for women’s rights.The dancing was amazing and the message important.

Andrew had to leave us to work on his float for the parade so Dean and I went back to our hotel.

The next morning we arrived in Oberlin shortly after 10. I spent 45 minutes shopping at my current favorite store, Bead Paradise, where I bought three shirts, a pair of sunglasses, a chain for my new sunglasses and a beautiful Hobo wallet.

The parade was a lot of fun. See this YouTube video for some highlilghts. I took photos of all the floats and groups, but wondered where Andrew’s was, only to be told by Dean that he’d already gone by. I concentrated on a friend of Andrew’s (and son of family friends) that I missed my own son walking right in front of me. The fact that he was wearing a long red dress and straw hat had nothing to do with my not recognizing him. (He’s the tall one in the image below.)

Andrew parade

After the parade we walked around Tappan Square  and finally met up with Andrew and a few of his friends. We got in line with them for a free meal. As we approached the tent where the food was being served we saw a number of men and boys with shaved heads except for a small ponytail. Yes, we were in the Hare Krishna food line. I am not sure any salt was used.

Hare Krishna food

After lunch we listened to some folk singers and lazed in the sun. We met several of Andrew’s friends — all of whom were very friendly.

I love Oberlin and the feeling of community (and Bead Paradise) and am going to probably go through a period of mourning after Andrew graduates.

Where else can you sit in a kabob restaurant and watch an Alaskan husky wearing a batman costume people watch?

Dean and husky



Categories: Travel | Tags: , | 5 Comments

Dear Rob Lowe;

I recently finished listening to your Stories I Only Tell My Friends audio book. I downloaded it from Audible about a year ago to listen to on a long car ride after hearing (and sobbing) as you read from your other book, Love Life, about sending your son off to college. I know the feeling.

If I could travel into the past and tell my younger self that I was going to read/listen to a book written by Rob Lowe, that younger self would laugh and say, “You have got to be kidding! Rob Lowe? That scumbag?”

That younger self was quite judgmental and unforgiving. That younger self had only seen you in a couple of films and wrote you off as just another pretty-boy actor. At one point that younger self grew up and realized that people make mistakes.

I first saw you on an episode of Brothers and Sisters and tuned in for more episodes. Then I saw you on Parks and Recreation and realized you could be really funny. It was not until I binge watched The West Wing that I realized I liked your acting. A lot.

So, back to your book. For the most part I found it highly entertaining and interesting. I really loved the first half of the book, especially your yearly years — before LA. But I also liked the early LA years, and the part about filming the Outsiders. The last half of the book, however, was too name-droppy for me. At one point in the book you chastised the common man/woman for objectifying you, then you write about your exploits with several women and drop famous names right and left. Now who’s objectifying?

The other problem I had with the second half of the book — more like the last quarter of the book, is that you glossed over the video-tape scandal (even made excuses, blaming the person who let the under-age woman into the club). Until I read that in your book, I’d decided you’d learned your lesson, grown up and I was on my way to becoming a fan of your acting/writing.

I am not so sure now. I still might read Love Life because of the way you so beautifully wrote of your emotions about sending your son off to college. I’ll still watch you in films and on TV, but I guess I feel a little cheated that you did not really own up to some of your mistakes. You are so brutally honest in most of the book, but when it comes to your real fuck-ups, I am not sure you were so honest.

Categories: People, Reading | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Photos of people I don’t know #4 — Grade 2, 1911, Columbia School (Elgin, Illinois)

I don’t know any of these children. I thought that possibly my Uncle Don was among the group, but he was born in 1910, so it could not have been his 2nd grade class, although he may or may not have attended Columbia Grade School in Elgin.

I will post this on the You Know You’re from Elgin if… Facebook group. Maybe someone’s grand or great grandparent is in the photo.

Class photo of about 30 children

Categories: Photographs, Series | Tags: | 1 Comment

Photos of people I don’t know #3 — children, most of whom are not looking at the camera

I know none of these children. I wonder if there were birds flying around the room or something. Only about 3 of them are actually looking at the camera. Or maybe this is the silly shot and the serious one has been lost.

A group of chkdren all looking in different directions

Categories: Series | Tags: | 6 Comments

Photos of people I don’t know #2 — a cat on a fence post

Photo of a cat sitting on a fence post.

Not a person, but I don’t know the cat in this photo so it counts. This was also in the bag of photos from Aunt Corrine.

Even 1915, the year this postcard photo was sent, people took photos of their cats.

The sender wrote this on the back:

From: 117 Hinsdale Pl.
Elgin, Ill.

To: Mrs. W. C. Youngs, Elgin, Ill. R.F.D #2

Dear Mrs. Youngs,

This is a rather funny picture, but I thought you might like one. It is “Nellie” if you can’t tell otherwise. How are you all? This is dandy weather.

With Best Wishes,
Irene Nelson.


Categories: Pets, Series | Tags: , | 3 Comments