MIDNIGHT RAIN an original poem by Shoshana Hathaway

I wake slowly

To gentle rain music;

No storm charge to raise

The neck hairs of my mind,

No bombast of artillery,

No garish blaze across the sky,

Just the soft rain falling,

Bouncing off my windows on its

Way to ground, journey’s end.

 

Neither awake nor asleep,

My body curls cat content;

Burrows softly deeper into

The warm, dry nest

My bedding has become.

 

Safe as a cave,

Comforting as fire,

I can indulge myself

In the luxury of drowsing.

 

Copyright June 30, 2014 by Shoshana Hathaway

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RIDING THE DRAGON

I had my first experience with Dragon NaturallySpeaking in 2011 when some very dear friends bought it for me because I had been seriously injured, and had lost much of the use of my left arm and suffered nerve damage in my left hand. At that point we weren’t sure whether I would ever be able to type again. While I was in the hospital, some very dear friends pooled their resources and bought me the software.

 

For any number of reasons, I was unable to use the software efficiently. For one thing, the computer. I had at the time was somewhat primitive. For another, the DVD player I had at the time would play only music DVDs and not installation disks. My neighbor copied the software to his thumb drive and installed it on my computer, but we could never register it, and it never worked right. It probably also didn’t help that I kept trying to teach it Latin.

 

I found that yes I could type and did so, and forgot all about Dragon. Recently, however QVC had an excellent sale and I decided to try it again. My computer genius friend installed it on my computer. This past Monday, and I have been playing with it ever since. I am very impressed with what this new version will do, and I am determined to make it my primary source for writing posts, and answering emails. I do find that using it relieves the pressure on my arm and hand, and makes writing more physically comfortable.

 

However, I have also learned that I have Mike fright! This is absolutely absurd! I have been a classroom teacher, given lectures, have spoken publicly, and certainly have no problems talking!!!

 

I’m not sure what the problem is, other than the fact that I am so used to composing while typing that I find it hard to talk and think at the same time. This may be harder than talking and chewing gum at the same time, which I can actually accomplish. I am trying some exercises, for example, I have an open Word document that I called Dragon chat which I used to just talk about anything. I wonder if I am distracted by hearing my own voice, and not thinking ahead, even while speaking. I should be able to do this, and I will.

 

One of the things I love about this software is that I can use it to post status updates and comments on Facebook, something with which I have always had technical difficulties. In short, I really like this software and I suspect at some point I will be as comfortable with it as I am with typing. I certainly hope so, and will do everything I can to make it so.

MYSTERY, NORWEGIAN STYLE

When the devil holds the candle DB 78065

Fossum, KarinDavid, Felicity. Reading time 8 hours, 37 minutes. Read by Barry Bernson. A production of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, the Library of Congress. Subjects: Mystery and Detective Stories Series: Inspector Sejer mystery volume: 04 Description: Provincial Norway. Inspector Sejer and his colleagues puzzle over several violent acts: a young man shoots his girlfriend, two purse snatchers accidentally injure an infant, and then one of the thieves gets an ugly comeuppance. Translated from Norwegian. Violence, strong language, and some explicit descriptions of sex. 2004.

 

Although this book is categorized as mystery and Detective one cannot really call it a mystery because we know exactly what happened as it happens. If there is suspense here it is in seeing how the police particularly two main detectives investigated the series of events and was able to resolve them. Although the subject matter deals with crime and eventual punishment, I think of this book more as a psychological study of several different characters and an examination of how they relate to their situations and to one another.

 

The characters are very well developed, and both their internal motivations and external actions are presented in careful and revealing detail. I came away from this book with an understanding of even the perpetrators of various crimes, though not necessarily with liking for or Sympathy with any of them. While I found myself liking some of the characters very much, I also found that this book has a quality that I can only call aloof.

 

Usually, when I read a book I become entirely involved in it, and interact with it on many levels. If I were to describe what happens, I would have to say that I am less than a participating character and more than a passive observer. I am more like a ghost or a wraith invisible, silent, and yet experiencing everything the characters experience.

, on all levels.   I am in fact a part of the books landscape for as long as I am reading it. The price of this involvement, of course, is that when I finish a book I must reorient myself.

 

I could not do so with this book, however, and I cannot say exactly why. Perhaps it was a quality of the narration, competent as the narration was. Perhaps it was a quality of the translation, although there was nothing in the translation that seemed out of place or incorrect. Perhaps it was a quality of the writing, which was spare and yet vivid. I do not know, but I found it distracting not to be able to react in my usual way, and that distraction made it very hard for me to thoroughly enjoy this book.

KNOWLEDGE: THE TREASURE BEYOND PRICE

The Mayan secrets: a Fargo adventure

By Clive Cussler and Perry Thomas

I have always enjoyed the Dirk Pitt novels by Clive Cussler, so I approached this Fargo novel with high expectations. It was the first Fargo adventure I had ever read, and I will have to admit I was a little disappointed; though not so much that I abandoned the book. While it is true that this book does have the typical Clive Cussler stamp, I found much of it to be redundant. There were certain scenes that I could recognize from other Pitt adventures, and because I could recognize them, it annoyed me to see them in this book. For example there is a scene in this book which involves the main characters swimming down an underground river and having to find a way out of the river and back to the surface. This scene is very close to another that I read in another Dirk Pitt adventure.

 

I found the ending of this book entirely too implausible. The idea that the hero belonged to a super secret quote cavalry quote who could come and get him out of any difficult situation was just too easy.

 

All that being said, this is an interesting mystery and an adventure that provides excitement and enjoyment. One of the things I like about Clive Cussler’s books is that there is always some very interesting information. In this case there is a discussion of the ways in which ancient artifacts can be legally stolen and sold on the black market. I did not know much of this, so I was intrigued by what I was reading.

 

One of the things I do like about the Fargo adventures is the way in which the author builds his two main characters. Both are strong capable intelligent people, and their relationship is charming. In addition, the minor characters, with one exception, were excellently drawn. The exception is a female villain of the story, and she came right out of a comic book as far as I was concerned. She was entirely too villainous, and seemed very one-dimensional to me.

 

On the other hand, the priest father Gomez, who was a reflection of the original 17th century priest, was excellently portrayed as was the doctor. All in all, this was a fun, light read, and I will probably read other Fargo adventures; though they would never appealed to me as much as the Dirk Pitt adventures written by Clive Cussler alone.

GETTING IT READ, A TRIBUTE TO SOME WONDERFUL PEOPLE

I can read a book in one of two ways. I can either read it in Braille or I can listen to it. Now there are many options that I have for listening, including the national Library service, audible.com, the Kindle, or Bookshare. Some services used human narrators and some services use synthesized speech.

 

However, when I was in high school and college, I had to use readers. My readers were either fellow students or friends and family, and although the state of Maryland paid my fellow students to read, my family volunteered their time to read to me. I well remember how in high school, I managed to recruit readers for the four college-bound students at our school for the blind. You see, at that time, our school for the blind was not accredited; so if we were planning on going to college we had to graduate from an accredited high school. Our school worked out a cooperative program with two high schools in Baltimore city. The girls went to Eastern high school, and the guys went to city College. Our school year started before the normal school year at the school for the blind. We soon realized that we were going to need readers immediately. When I asked our superintendent if he would help us find readers so that we would not get behind, he informed me that it was my responsibility to find my own readers. I knew better, but I decided not to argue with him. I had readers for all four of us within two days. My mother and grandmother both volunteered, and I got help from an organization to which I belonged at the time. Several days later, after the school year had started for the blind school, I was asked if I still needed readers. I said “yes I do, thank you”. I was asked how we’d been getting our reading done so far, and I said something like “You told me to find our own readers. I did so.”Then I was asked to provide the names of the readers I had been using. I smiled and then I refused. I informed our superintendent that those readers had volunteered to help us as a favor to me, personally, and that they were not interested in continuing to read for other students. He didn’t like my answer, but there was nothing he could do about it since it really was the responsibility of the school for the blind to find readers for us. He accepted my answer and albeit unwillingly gave me a little more respect in the future.

 

Sometimes my readers were fellow students, especially in college. We had a wonderful time if we also shared a class, and had to read the same book. Not only did I get to have a friend paid (although not much) for reading something to me that would have to be read any way, but we also had a chance to discuss what we had read and help each other prepare for tests.

 

In addition, my college roommate introduced me to some wonderful books that had nothing to do with classroom study. I admit to charging the state for those services, but justified it then and justify it now on the basis that reading those books broadened my basic knowledge of literature and life. Again, we got to enjoy a number of books to which I would not have had access. Back then, few books were produced in Braille because doing so was extremely expensive. The same was true for the talking book service although they did their best. However, a book could be released in say 1968 and we would not receive it until 1975. Therefore readers were a very significant part of my life.

 

I must admit that I owe a great deal to a great many people. Without their help I would never have been able to attend let alone graduate from college, and so I remember them with great fondness.

Both sides now, or another look at the 3rd crusade

Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade

Reston, James, Jr.

This is an excellent example of what popular history can be.  The book is extremely well researched and impeccably documented, yet reads with the engagement and excitement of the very best historical fiction.

 

As it happens, this is one of my favorite periods in history, and involves some of my favorite historical characters, so I’ve read a bit about the Plantagenets, Henry II, Eleanore, and his brood of eaglets.  While this book certainly goes into detail about Richard Lionheart, it does far, far more.  For one thing, it explains events and policies in Europe (especially Sicily, which are often glossed over in other books, and sets up the potential conflict that will occur in the Holy Land between Richard, Philip and Conrad very nicely, and in a way that makes it easy to see the roots of their discord, and why their tenuous relationship with one another eventually collapsed entirely under the pressures of battle.

 

It also goes into some detail of exactly what England in particular was suffering while Richard was off playing war games, and gives full credit to Eleanore for doing what she could to manage things, including her youngest son, John.

 

The real joy of this book, though, is that it also presents the other side’s motives, attitudes and actions with the same sensitivity, thoroughness and objectivity as it does the European side of the battle.  I learned a great deal about Saladin, his army, his officers, and his culture, and now understand exactly why the Crusades are still, even now, something that affects our relationships with Moslem countries. 

 

This book never drags or gets boring.  I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone even casually interested in this period of history, or someone who enjoys  a really good war story or political thriller.  This book is all of those things, and what it describes so well really happened!

Exploring In Two Worlds; The Centurion by Jan De Hartog

This book actually tells 2 stories simultaneously.  In the first, we meet the hero, hero Martinus Harinxma and his Australian wife.  Martinus is a retired sea captain, and he must learn first that life doesn’t end at age 75, and then … well, he becomes an explorer, albeit a usually unwilling one, who has to be dragged, kicking and screaming, through his adventures into a world of ideas he has never contemplated before. 

 

The 2nd story is about a Centurion in 4th Century Rome, the events surrounding his life, and that of his son.  Both stories are more than interesting, and both are intertwined in very surprising ways.

 

I was absolutely fascinated by the historical story, to the point that I often found the modern story distracting, and even sometimes extraneous.  It isn’t, and by the end of the book, I had fully come to realize that, but I admit that, while reading, I found myself telling Martinus to quit agonizing and just find out what happened next, for all love!  I got impatient with his “but, but” reactions to every new revelation, about the other story, about his gift for dowsing, about the idea of reincarnation …about, seemingly, everything.  The gentleman did protest too much!  I got equally tired of his wife’s prodding, though I understood the point of these segments and why they had to be included n the book.

 

All in all, this is a satisfying read, beautifully written, and both plots are handled with sensitivity and elegance.  In fact, by the time I had finished the book, I was more than a little tempted to buy or make a pendulum, but, but …