Monday, July 28, 2008

Happy Birthday to me!

Moi, one year old.
July, 28.
For my birthday, I had the joy of seeing
'Time for Alexander' number 3 in the historical
fiction bestseller list at Fictionwise! (Right after Ken Follet and before James Patterson - I'm THRILLED!)
Thank you!!!
Tomorrow I'm off to Spain!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

For a short time only...

"Time for Alexander" is on sale at Fictionwise!

Instead of the usual 5$, you can have a copy for $4.25, and even cheaper if you're already a member.

Hurry though, the sale ends next week when it's taken off the 'NEW' list!

Ashley is a one of the elite, a time-travel journalist who has fought to prove herself in a world that that believes her road in life was paved by her parents' money and her title. After winning a prestigious award she is chosen to travel through time and interview a historical figure. Choosing her childhood hero Alexander the Great, she is sent back in time for less than a day to find and interview a man whose legend has survived to the present day. He mistakes her for Persephone, goddess of the dead, and kidnaps her, stranding her in his own time. What follows, after she awakes under a pomegranate tree, is a hilarious, mind-bending tale of a modern woman immersed in the ancient throes of sex, love, quite a bit of vino, war, death, and ever so much more.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


I have a soft spot for that song, ever since my son sang it during a show at school one year. He was supposed to sing it again in the final show of the year, but suffered an asthma attack. That is what put an end to his singing career. Before that, I'd enrolled him in a choral. That lasted one day - asthma made him cough, and I made the double mistake of putting his (evil) twin in the class too. At the end of the day, the teacher informed me she didn't think the boys were quite choral material. His second grade teacher loved his voice, and because he could sing in English, coached him to sing 'Imagine' by John Lennon. It was quite touching, and I have an old film somewhere of it. So imagine my surprise when I read this:

"A Church of England school dropped John Lennon's song Imagine from a concert because it was not felt to be "an appropriate song to perform publicly", it emerged yesterday.
Pupils at St Leonard's primary school in Exeter were planning to perform Imagine at a recent concert but it was replaced by another song after a teacher expressed concern.
Headteacher Geoff Williams said: "We are a church school and we believe God is the foundation of all we do. As such we did not feel that Imagine was an appropriate song to perform publicly." The lyrics of the song begin: "Imagine there's no heaven." "

I do see their point. I suppose it's far too much to ask a believer to 'imagine' there's no heaven, (and no religion too, as the song goes). But I think it might be a good exercise. After all, why not imagine there is no heaven? It might lead to some interesting conclusions.

Imagine there's no heaven:

I must try and make my stay on earth as wonderful as possible.

I must try and keep the earth in as pristine and perfect shape as possible.

My life is what I make of it here and now. If I'm terribly good, I won't go to heaven, because there isn't a heaven, and if I'm terribly bad, I won't go to hell because there isn't a hell.

When I die, I die, and the only thing that is left will be others' memories of me. (That rather argues toward being good - it's so much nicer to have good memories of someone than bad.)

I think, that for all his posturing, Bush doesn't really believe in heaven. Anyway, the way I see it, there's no way he'd get in even if it did exist.

If there is no heaven (and therefor no hell) - then our earth is both our heaven and hell. If we see it like that, and we know that we can change our environment, we have to accept the fact that it's up to us to create paradise here on earth.

It's a lot easier to make hell. (Pollution, crime, poverty, war, Foxx News...)

It's hard to create a paradise, but if all the people who believed in heaven realized that this is what they're going to get, and there ain't no more, then maybe there'd be more of an effort to clean up the earth.

Some people would argue that not having that 'punishment slash reward' hanging over people's heads wil make them choose the dark side.

I say that's pretty pessimistic, and that people are basically good.

What do you say?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Canterbury was lovely. The trip on the tunnel was quick - 35 min. We stayed in the car. It was fine, really. Very comfortable. In Canterbury we did a lot of walking and gawking, and I took my daughter to see the Canterbury Tales exhibit.

My favorite? The Miller's Tale. My daughter's favorite? The Pardoner's Tale.

I have to admit, I'd forgotten most of the stories!

The economy's Drunk?

WASHINGTON — Unaware he was being recorded, President Bush at a Houston fundraiser last week compared Wall Street to a drunk with a hangover and cracked jokes about the ailing housing market.
"There's no question about it. Wall Street got drunk — that's one of the reasons I asked you to turn off the TV cameras — it got drunk and now it's got a hangover," Bush said at a private fundraiser for Republican congressional candidate Pete Olson. "The question is: How long will it sober up and not try to do all these fancy financial instruments?"
The president's blunt remarks were a sharp departure from the more measured tones he uses publicly to discuss the economy and national housing market collapse.
Economists in large part blame the current mortgage foreclosure crisis on complex financial instruments devised by Wall Street after Congress deregulated the banking industry a decade ago.
The jocular tone Bush used to describe a serious subject also underscores the pitfalls of being candid in an age of tiny camera phones.
News reporters were prohibited from the Olson event in River Oaks last Friday. The short video clip, apparently made by an attendee at the fundraiser, was obtained by KTRK-TV in Houston.
"And then we got a housing issue, not in Houston, and evidently, not in Dallas, because Laura was over there trying to buy a house today," Bush said, to laughter.
On the video clip, which is posted on YouTube, Facebook and the ABC affiliate's Web site, a supporter can be heard asking Bush about Crawford.
"I like Crawford," Bush said, to more laughter. "Unfortunately after eight years of asking her to sacrifice, I'm now no longer the decision maker."
Of their house hunt, Bush said amid laughter, "We've been on the government pay for 14 years now. It goes slow."
Before friendly audiences, especially in Texas, Bush tends to be more relaxed and candid than he appears at the White House.
Even so, Bush, a Harvard MBA, has been meticulous in recent months about guarding his rhetoric on the economy and the markets, and White House officials also are mindful of how their words could affect the markets.
White House spokesman Scott Stanzel, who was on the Houston trip with Bush last week, said he never heard Bush use that specific comparison before. But he said the president's overall message is consistent.

Yes, Bush the Lesser's overall message is consistant: he can't take anything seriously, and while people are losing their jobs and houses, he's joking around about buying a new house.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Artsy Elephants

Elephants paint!

For some reason, they don't look like they're having that much fun, but I suppose they like the attention.

Friday, July 18, 2008


My daughter and I have been invited to spend two days in Canterbury!

I'm thrilled - I've never been there, and the Canterbury Tales is one of my favorite stories.

We're planning on seeing the cathedral, a Canterbury Tales show, and taking a ride on the river at night!

We're driving up to Calais, putting the car in the train, and taking the tunnel.

I've never done that before, and it sounds exciting.

And here is my flower garden - I tossed a handful of mixed seeds into a bare spot, and now I have a lovely bed of different flowers, all shapes and colors!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Who killed her?

Here I am reading the Washington Post and I see this article about Chandra Levy, and it piqued my interest because there's nothing like an unsolved mystery to entertain the thoughts while you clean house.

Washing dishes - thinking about the timeline of the story.
Mopping - why didn't she take her cell phone with her?
Vacuuming - yes, it's definitely suspicious that she left her cell phone behind.

She was a naive, pretty intern in WAshington DC who fell for the womanizing congressman Condit, and vanished one evening, only to be found more than five years later in a park.
Several things were botched by the police.
They missed the opportunity to get a copy of the video surveillance from Chandra's building, which would have pinpointed what time she left and if she'd left with anyone.
The detective who screwed up her computer.
The time the police took to finally take the disappearance seriously. (They went to her apartment, found her purse, cell phone, and half packed luggage, and still had the gall to suggest she ran away?)
The search that missed her body the first time because the orders from the top were ignored ("Search at least 100 meters from the road in the park." Pretty clear to me.)
I was stunned at such ineptitude.
There are, of course, more sinister reasons for ineptitude - such as a high-placed congressman greasing palms so that clues are botched. But I don't think for one minute that Condit killed her - only that he might have had her killed. Someone killed that poor girl, and so far, they've gotten away with it. The biggest clue for me that she was not actually killed in the park is the fact she didn't take her cell phone. Would you go hiking in an unknown area without your cell phone? In this day and age?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Looking into the past

My grandfather in 1944 with his sons, and his daughter, my mother, standing behind him.

My grandfather today, with his daughter (my mother), his grandson, (my brother) and his great-grand daughter. (my niece)

History has always fascinated me. (Even though I can never keep dates straight...) And my aunt gave me a wonderful present a few years ago - a geneology record of our family. On one side, we can go back eight generations (to me it seems enormous, especially for a family of immigrants!) I know some families trace their lineage back -waaaaayyyy back to the Middle Ages (I think that is sort of a cut-off point - before then, records are hard to come by.) And we know, that ultimately, we all decended from a sort of "Eve" who lived in the region of today's Ethiopia and who founded the line of mankind. So we all have that common ancestor, and genetic studies prove it. The new DNA tracing that they can do sounds like fun (though a bit expensive), but through them you can trace your genetic lineage through your mother's side and find out which famous (or infamous) person you are related to!

Anyhow, I was just posting this as a tribute to my great, great, great, great grandmother Harriet Harte, born in 1790 in Union Grove, NY, and, on the other side of my mother's family tree, Josephine Betrus Elhage b. 18?? Baatouta, Turkey>Syria>Lebanon. It's funny to wonder how two such different families from different sides of the world came together when, three generations ago, my grandfather, a tall, dark and handsome Lebanese man, fell in love with my green-eyed grandmother, whose family fought on both sides of the US Civil war.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

This weekend

We had a fun Bastille day weekend in the village. It started with fireworks on Saturday night, and on Sunday they set up the tent in the village square and there was a buffet dinner, music and dancing all night.

We always have melon with port wine to start with - it's really good. You take a nice ripe cantaloupe melon, cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, and pour a little port wine into the center.
That's it! (How easy can you get?)
The music was very disco - there were lights strung in the tree. The next morning, we watched the parade on TV (the one on the Champs Elysee) and as always, the sight of the jet planes flying over the obelisk in the Place de la Concorde gave me the chills. Jet planes, 2000 AD - obilisk, 3000 BC - five thousand years of history encompassed in one glance.
Ingrid Bettancourt got a medal from Sarkozy, and there were speeches, picnics, and sunshine. A very lovely weekend. I think I had too much wine, (as usual, on Bastille Day, everyone is toasting something) and I definitely had too much ice-cream. I didn't need that second vanilla cone, but as my daughter's friend didn't want it, I guess someone had to eat it.
Auguste was in heaven, as we let him mingle with the crowd for a while. The next morning he jumped over the wall to 'help' the men put the tent away.
And that was it for Bastille day!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

tolerance / intolerance

Another story hit the news today - a woman here in France was denied citizenship because she was 'too extremist' in her religion, and didn't fit the criteria of a French woman - i.e. - liberated, secular, etc. The woman wore the burka because her husband ordered her to, and not because she particularly wanted to. But she wasn't about to remove it, because her husband ordered her to keep it on. The judge decided that because of that, she couldn't become a Frenchwoman.
Two diverging opinions were expressed by two different associations ( it's always the most vocal 'associations' that speak up first.) The first, from the immigration association, said it was regrettable that a secular country should be so intolerant of someone's religion. The second association, a women's rights association, claimed it was an excellent decision, and it was about time women's rights were taken into account in immigration. So there are definitely different opinions on this. I'm of the opinion that if you want to live in a theocracy, then you should move to Saudi Arabia, and if you want to live in a secular country you better leave your religion at home in private and not expect the law to uphold your religious beliefs.
I consider myself fairly tolerant. I adore my cousin, for example, even though she persists on sending me anti-Obama propaganda (I won't hide that I am planning to vote for him) and I don't lose my temper like my husband does when I'm behind a bad driver on the road. Not everyone is Alain Proust. I think everyone should be free to believe in God, the Easter Bunny, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and I believe that each political party has its good and bad sides, and that you can vote for whoever you want to, even write Micky Mouse on the ballet for all I care. It's your decision to make. But I'm serious about women's rights, and I think the judge got it right when he told the woman her beliefs simply were not compatible with French society. There is no way I would ever live in Saudi Arabia, and if my husband told me to wear a burka, I'd head straight for the divorce court. Women have fought long and hard to get the right to vote, wear what they wish, and marry who they wish. Not so long ago, we had no rights - not to property, not to say who we wanted to marry (or get out of a marriage) and rape was not a punishable crime. It behooves us to remember that, and to realize that sometimes a little intolerance is required in order to stand up for the fragile rights we have.
Good call Mr. le judge.

Friday, July 11, 2008

In support of Bobby Guidry

I'm posting this (lifted from the Guardian) in support of police sergeant Bobby Guidry, and may I just say that in my opinion, superintendent Warren Riley is an ass.

"With just 15 minutes of his final shift remaining, police sergeant Bobby Guidry was suspended and placed under investigation for wearing the wrong colour shirt on his last day at work, after 35 years on the force.

The send-off from the New Orleans police department was no joke. For wearing the blue shirt of the force's old uniform as a tribute to fallen colleagues, instead of the new black, Guidry was stripped of his commission and banned from joining the police reserve in retirement.

"He suffered the consequences of his actions," said Superintendent Warren Riley, who scrapped the traditional blue shirts soon after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, partly because many uniforms were lost during the storm and he did not want them falling into the hands of criminals.

Yesterday, a backlash was growing against Riley. Angry callers bombarded the police switchboard and Guidry's enraged colleagues and members of the public swamped the bulletin boards of the Times-Picayune newspaper.
Guidry denied Riley's claim that wearing the old shirt was an act of insubordination. "Eighteen people died in the line of duty in that powder-blue shirt while I was with the department," he said. "I went to each of those funerals. I wore that shirt on my last day, out of respect for them."

Guidry said that he was told the action would be dropped if he wrote a letter of apology to Riley. "What do I apologise for?" he said. Adding to his fury is the fact that Riley has since decided to return to blue shirts at the start of next year."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Bastille Day

In a nutshell, and lifted from good ol' Wikipedia, here is 'Bastille Day' : (*My comments in blue*)

On 5 May 1789, Louis XVI convened the Estates-General to hear their grievances. The deputies of the Third Estate representing the common people (the two others were clergy and nobility) decided to break away and form a National Assembly.
*They broke away because the other two estates, though they represented only about a fifth of the population, always voted together and made all the laws. The people's representatives were powerless and decided to take matters into their own hands.*

On 20 June the deputies of the Third Estate took the Tennis Court Oath, swearing not to separate until a constitution had been established.
*It's called the tennis court oath, (jeu de paume, in French) because they gathered in an indoor 'jeu de paume' court.*
They were gradually joined by delegates of the other estates; Louis started to recognize their validity on 27 June. The assembly re-named itself the National Constituent Assembly on 9 July, and began to function as a legislature and to draft a constitution.
In the wake of the 11 July dismissal of the royal finance minister Jacques Necker, the people of Paris, fearful that they and their representatives would be attacked by the royal military, and seeking to gain arms for the general populace, stormed the Bastille, a prison which had often held people arbitrarily jailed on the basis of lettre de cachet. *The army had slowly been gathering in Paris, and armed soldiers were starting to make the populace very nervous. They decided to arm themselves. They had the guns, but lacked the gunpowder.*

Besides holding a large cache of arms (and gunpowder), the Bastille had been known for holding political prisoners whose writings had displeased the royal government, and was thus a symbol of the absolutism of the monarchy. As it happened, at the time of the siege in July 1789 there were only seven inmates, none of great political significance.
When the crowd (legend says it was organised by descendants of Knights Templar)— eventually reinforced by mutinous gardes françaises — proved a fair match for the fort's defenders, the commander of the Bastille, Governor de Launay, capitulated and opened the gates to avoid a mutual massacre. However, possibly because of a misunderstanding, fighting resumed. Ninety-eight attackers and just one defender died in the actual fighting, but in the aftermath, De Launay and seven other defenders were killed, as was the 'prévôt des marchands' (roughly, merchant mayor) Jacques de Flesselles.
The storming of the Bastille was more important as a rallying point and symbolic act of rebellion than a practical act of defiance.
Shortly after the storming of the Bastille, on 4 August feudalism was abolished and on 26 August, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen proclaimed.

And there you have the origins of the Bastille Day celebration in France! Our village is going all out this year, and the celebrations are planned for the whole weeked. On Saturday, there will be fireworks. And on Sunday, a dinner/dance is planned for the village square!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

More Auguste

Auguste, the water bottle, and the baby chair.

Auguste is really a baby - he's just two and a half, so it's normal he has a bottle.

Actually, his favorite toy in the whole world is an empty water bottle, so when we get one, we always give it to him. He chomps it nearly flat, and carries it everywhere with him. He hides it, outside and inside. Inside, he usually shoves it under his doggie bed, then complains when Rusty (our Lab) lies down on it and he can't get it. Outside, he puts it carefully under a bush or just behind the stairs.

One night I found it in the hallway, and I picked it up and put it on a baby chair we have under the coat rack. (The chair usually has a pair of shoes on it, but that night it was empty, so I put the bottle on it.) The next morning, a frantic Auguste woke up and rushed out of the kitchen to look for his bottle. He saw it on the chair, grabbed it, and pulled. The bottle got stuck on the chair's arms and wouldn't budge off the seat. Auguste tried and tried, but the bottle was stuck. So like a baby, he sat down in front of the chair and cried. "Whooo hhoooo hoooo".

My husband and I came to see what was wrong, and to show us, Auguste grabbed the bottle again and pulled. It stayed stuck. We started to laugh. (Dogs hate when you laugh at them.) Then my husband reached down and turned the bottle so it was pointing out, and you could just see the lightbulb going off in Auguste's little skull. Now he works the bottle around so that he can pull it off the chair.

Right now he's sleeping with the water bottle tucked under his chin like a pillow.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Monday in My Town

(The dirt road that leads along the crest of the hill - photo taken last year in October.)
Well, nothing much is going on here. The weather is awful - gray and rainy. Yesterday there was a spot of sun, and I went out for a bike ride with Auguste.
This is how we do it. I take a long leash.

Auguste gets very excited.

I go get my bike from the laundry room.

Auguste is whining and jumping up and down.

I put the leash on Auguste, who is, by now, trembling with joy.

I say, "Go slowly!"

He gallops out the gate and down the street, while I wobble and try to get my balance on the bike, and the neighbors say "Don't fall!"

Auguste tears around the corner, I just manage to keep my balance, and then we're flying down the alley, out to the road, down the street and to the long dirt road that runs along the crest of the hill across from the golf course. There, Auguste really gets into his stride, and he bounds down the road, me pedalling after him.
Here is the trick - to make sure he doesn't pull on the leash. (so I have to adjust my speed to fit his). He is a smart dog, and usually runs slightly to the side and ahead of the bike. He doesn't criss-cross in front of it. He will, however, lunge to the side of the road and stop to sniff (or pee) if something smells particularly interesting, so I have to stay alert, ready to brake at any moment.
My daughter usually ties Auguste to her skooter and off they go, Auguste leaping along, my daughter right behind him. They go around the village square, in front of the church, the restaurant, and our house. And right now, that's all the excitement in our village! But Bastille day is coming up!!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Freedom of opinion

The Pied Piper - statue in Bremmen, Germany.

I just stumbled on a blog that horrified me. All right - not actually horrified. But bothered me. I won't say why or what is was, because everyone has the right to his or her own opinion.

The internet makes it easy to find information, and it connects many different people. And people are different - they have different values, beliefs, moral codes, ideas, political leanings, and even have different views on reality - after all, reality is in the eye of the beholder.

So who am I to leave a comment on a blog saying 'You're wrong', or 'You're full of crap'?

Of course, that doesn't stop me from going to the CIF column at the Guardian and commenting on articles there. Why? Because there is a difference between a blog and a newspaper. A blog is like someone's house. Yes, they're all out there for everyone to see. But most blogs are the reflections of their creators, and to go in, read it, and comment upon it is akin to going into someone's house. Polite manners dictate that we respect others. We respect them especially in their own environments, which is what we create when we make a blog. We recreate our own environment. Some blogs thrive on contreversy, while others are reflections of an artist's work, a poet's thoughts, a mother's pride, or just a sort of diary for the prolific writer. Whereas a newspaper is information tossed out by journalists, and the CIF is a column where anyone can write in and state their opinions as strongly as they like. (Very therapeutic, believe me, lol.)

But I stumbled on a blog that bothered me, and someone else had obviously been bothered as well, and the comment had started a 'flamewar' (actually I love that expression) and it probably ended with hurt feelings on both sides. So I felt sorry for both sides, and came back here and rambled a bit. Because, honestly, there is nothing wrong with expression your opinions on your blog, but there will always be someone 'out there' who feels it's his/her civic/moral duty to tell you how you should run your life, and what you should think, feel, or believe in.

I won't do that. (Except with my kids, lol.)

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The antique car show

Last weekend, I went to an antique car show in a nearby village.
My favorite was a little blue car that the French call 'un pot de yaourt' (the yoghurt pot, lol). There was also a group of Americana collectors with their jeep and army outfits. (I had lunch with them - they offered me pinaud and paté - how could I refuse?)

My friend Isobel (of the goose eggs) liked the Morgan best (red race car, had a plaque that said it won a prize at Le Mans!) And I don't know if you can make this image bigger - but can you see me?

I took a photo of the inside of this little race car, and there I am in the rearview mirror!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

New Book in print!

I've been amiss...In writing my blog.

I've been working.

In the garden, mostly.

Amazing how much time that takes up.

I'm also glued to the TV watching all about Ingrid Betancourt's release.

I hope she runs for president of Colombia. That would be interesting. But I'd be afraid for her life.

I have good friends in Colombia - their father was a polititian and considered running for president. He was assassinated. I wonder what the insurance policy for a Colombian politician looks like?

And I just found out Veiled Pleasures is available in print! It's a sci-fi space opera consisting of two books, one by 'moi', the other by the Extremely talented Tawny Taylor.