Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Review: The Billionaire Murders

The Billionaire Murders: The Mysterious Deaths of Barry and Honey ShermanThe Billionaire Murders: The Mysterious Deaths of Barry and Honey Sherman by Kevin Donovan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Interestingly unsatisfying...
A well researched and written book... but oddly unsatisfying. I knew going in that these murders have not yet been solved, but finishing the story felt unfinished. Who did it? And why? I am fascinated by the crime, so I did what the author knew (or hoped) I would do: buy it anyways. Perfect set-up for me to buy book 2 later, which I will probably do.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Review: The Turn of the Key

The Turn of the KeyThe Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hardly memorable.
I enjoyed this book when I read it (listened to it), but a month or two later, as I go to write this review, I had no memory of it. I truly drew a blank. Of course, once I read the book summary, it came back to me, and I remembered the storyline. There were surprises and twists and turns I did not see coming, so it was good in that respect, but my lack of recollection afterwards tells me that it wasn't compelling enough to engage me on a deeper level. Even for fiction, I want to be moved in some way, to be made to think, to ponder the lessons long afterward.

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Sunday, December 08, 2019

Book Club Edition Clues

If you sell or trade used books, you will want to know how to identify a "book club edition" book, as they are of lesser value. If you plan to make your fortune buting undervalued antiquarian books and reselling them (as I am*), you need to know this!

Today I found a great piece, Identifying Book Club Editions, courtesy of the International Online Booksellers Association. It has lots of example pictures, so is worth reading - and keeping handy for future reference.

* I am buying high value Picasso art books with a fantasy of knowing enough to turn a profit. While I get to enjoy them while in my custody, once I started getting duplicates, I realized I was hooked. 

Identifying Book Club Editions - International Online Booksellers Association
Can You Identify a Book Club Edition? - Biblio blog
Identifying Book Club Editions - One Girl Collecting blog

Friday, November 29, 2019

Lester Gaba's Cynthia

Loved the latest 99% Invisible podcast!

Mannequin Pixie Dream Girl, tells the story of "Cynthia", a mannequin created in 1932 by Lester Gaba, a sculptor, retail display designer and later a teacher and writer.

An unusually natural and human looking mannequin, Gaba used the attention Cynthia garnered to further anthropomorphize her.

Among her memorable moments, Cynthia:

  • Appeared on a cover of Life Magazine in 1937
  • Was invited to the wedding of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson in 1937
  • Went to see the play ‘Madame Bovary’ in New York in 1939

It's all a little bizarre and worth both a listen and Google search for pictures of Gaba and Cynthia.

Mannequin Pixie Dream Girl - 99% Invisible

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Important notes

As someone who values notetaking, I confess, I love this...

Obama White House Photographer Compares Trump’s Sharpie Notes To Obama’s Notes 

"Former White House photographer Pete Souza mocked President Trump over his now-viral handwritten notes about the impeachment inquiry, highlighting the contrast between Trump’s notes with a picture of past notes by former President Obama..." [continue reading on theguardiansofdemocracy].


Monday, November 11, 2019

So, you think you want to be a bartender?

Well, I've often thought about it.

My most recent research took me to this great resource:

Bartending School: Should You Sign Up?

There are three sub articles that are worth a read.

I've been playing with the idea for about 10 years, ever since returning from Europe, I suppose as a portable way to supplement my income. Now I find myself pondering it again, and I figure it can't hurt to take the course. Nimble Bar here in Victoria has. 4 weekend couse coming up in April... maybe I'll just do it!

Friday, November 08, 2019

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Simply brilliant: Be My Eyes

Brilliant. Simply brilliant.

That's really all I could say when I learned about the Be My Eyes app and community.

Imagine being sight impaired and not being able to tell if your socks match, or what intersection you are standing at, or what gate your flight will depart from.

Now imagine the magic that transpires when with a tap a volunteer connects using a video interface that acts like eyes, saying, "that shirt is green", "the corner of Main Street and Johnson Road", or "flight 247 to Boston is on time will depart from gate G27 at 10:25".

Brilliant. Simply brilliant.

FYI, I learned about this brilliant app while listening to episode 200 of CBC's Podcast Playlist.

Listen to the podcast
Be My Eyes Blog
Be My Eyes Podcast
Be My Eyes on Twitter

If you want the full lowdown, here's the full description from the Be My Eyes website:

Be My Eyes is a global community that connects people who are blind or have low vision with sighted volunteers or company representatives. On the app, volunteers assist blind and low-vision users through a live video connection and work together to tackle challenges and handle a wide range of tasks. With the Specialized Help feature, blind and low-vision users can connect with company representatives for accessibile customer support. The app harnesses the power of generosity, technology and human connection to help blind and low-vision people lead more independent lives. Be My Eyes is accessible in more than 150 countries worldwide and in over 180 languages. The app is free and available for both iOS and Android.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Monday, October 14, 2019

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Monday, September 30, 2019

Reflections on #CLIMATEACTION

The above is my art, inspired by the youth - click to enlarge

From Friday night, on the bus (post global #climateaction strike in downtown Victoria):

Thanks to a work colleague, I clued into bus re-routing downtown. I got my bus 1 stop earlier, got a seat, and was able to relax as the bus navigated the modified route. The bus indeed got very full, so I was feeling rather gratelful.

Have been reflecting on the news stories of some schools not 'allowing' kids to protest. What a stupid move, and a missed opportunity.

Even I could design engaging lesson plans...  
Beginning with context, as in the history of protests and activism...

Before the protest... weighing the decision to go or not to go, what do you want to say on your sign, how to stay safe at a protest even...

Debriefing afterwards... are you glad you did/didn't go, what did you learn, who did you meet, what are you now inspired to do? 

Facilitating an open dialog throughput provides an opportunity to just process all the feelings about the environment (fear, sadness, frustration, hope, inspiration, etc). 

Youth are very troubled and, in addition to the need to be heard, they need forums to share. Adults ~ in this case teachers ~ have a responsibility to facilitate.

How rich of a learning opportunity this is.

Hopefully the school's taking this stance were few and far between.

It's been cool seeing kids on the bus, post-protest, with their signs. The power of social disobedience...

Regretfully, I haven't done much protesting myself. Worth reflecting on that.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Review: Rick Mercer Final Report

Rick Mercer Final Report (Audiobook)Rick Mercer Final Report by Rick Mercer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks Rick.
Definitely worth a listen. A combination of Rick's rants/reports (in context), backstories from the show's making, and the Canadian icon's life. Overall, entertaining and well told. Jann Arden fans will not be disappointed.

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Thursday, September 19, 2019

Review: The Last Job

The Last Job: The Last Job: "The Bad Grandpas" and the Hatton Garden Heist by Dan Bilefsky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A great heist story...
I always love heist stories, fascinated by how they pulled it off... and how they got caught. I downloaded this book after hearing an interview with the author on CBC. I had just watched the movie about the old gents' crime (I'm a sucker for Michael Caine), so wondered if it would still hold my attention. It did... though funnily enough the narrator sounded a lot like Caine. Overall, very well researched and written. The only thing that turned me off ~ almost to the point of not continuing ~ was the excessive use of the 'c word' (ladies be warned). I respect that initially this was part of creating realistic characters, but it got tired very fast. I think men (in this case the author) have no idea how offensive this term is to women. I was ready to stop listening. It became gratuitous and unnecessary, and took away from an otherwise excellent book.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Review: Rules of Civility

Rules of CivilityRules of Civility by Amor Towles
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved this book!
Be ready to be transported to New York City in the 30's and 40's. An extremely well told story told from the perspective of an interesting and independent woman, not prone to convention or loveless relationships. Full of fun, adventure, heartbreak, serendipity and rich characters. Lots of insights to the publishing world. The perfect narrator for the story.

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Monday, September 16, 2019

Review: The Missing Millionaire

The Missing Millionaire: The True Story of Ambrose Small and the City Obsessed With Finding HimThe Missing Millionaire: The True Story of Ambrose Small and the City Obsessed With Finding Him by Katie Daubs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Love a true Canadian mystery...
In all honesty, the lack of a definitive answer to what happened to Small made it hard to spin a compelling tale, so I would find my mind drifting. The book was well enough written that I stayed with it, and in the end, it was worth the listen. I like that I have added to my knowledge of Canadian mysteries and history. Would probably be even more interesting to Torontonians.

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Saturday, September 14, 2019

Review: Broken Wings

Broken Wings: A Flight Attendant's JourneyBroken Wings: A Flight Attendant's Journey into PTSD by Nattanya Andersen
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I couldn't finish it...
This book started off good, and I found the heart of the story compelling, but it couldn't hold my interest. Once the accident story was told, and the PTSD recovery detailed (interesting), it fell into flight attendant tales, much like those I have heard on podcasts, but with an edge that wasn't positive and left me feeling she didn't like her passengers much. Not terrible, but not worth my credit. I returned it before finishing.

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Friday, September 13, 2019

Review: I'll Be Gone in the Dark

I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State KillerI'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A true crime reader's dream.
A fascinating look into the world of those who are driven to solve real life mysteries. Unfortunately, Michelle died before the final pieces fell into place, so thanks are extended to her friends who finished this work posthumously. Also the very interesting background to the killer caught by connecting DNA from genealogy testing (which he had never done) ~ verified by a coffee cup.

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Thursday, September 12, 2019

T'is morning...

... and I suppose I am sleepy. I was fooling myself, thinking how awake I was, when I wished someone a good day by name... and her co-worker's name came out.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

To horripilate

Today's new word, from the Audible book I am reading:


undergo horripilation, in which the hairs stand erect from the body due to cold, fear, or excitement

- Oxford Dictionary 

Cinderella stamps

When is a stamp not a stamp?

When it's a cinderella stamp it seems.

I've been curious about this category of stamps on eBay. My newest interest is art stamps, as well as architecture, myth and music stamps, so I have been getting quite familiar with how eBay organizes stamps. I finally satisfied my curiosity about the 'cinderella stamps' category I kept seeing. Here's what I discovered.

In philately, a cinderella stamp is "virtually anything resembling a postage stamp, but not issued for postal purposes by a government postal administration".

This beauty was a charity stamp for TB (tuberculosis)
In addition to stamps issued by non-recognised countries or governments, cinderella stamps include advertising stamps, charity stamps (eg. Christmas or Easter seals), commemorative stamps, purely decorative stamps, hotel stamps, local stamps, poster stamps, propaganda stamps, railway stamps, revenue stamps, telegraph stamps, and any other stamp created solely for amusement (such as labels or stickers).

While cinderella stamps tend to mimic official postage stamps, they may lack a country name (often replaced by the organization or cause) or a denomination. Sometimes a fictitious country or denomination may be used.

Following are a few examples, courtesy of WikiCommons (click to enlarge for details, especially entertaining of the mad cow stamp amuses you):

Sunday, September 01, 2019

A step back in time to La Alberca

La Alberca's Paza Mayor
Perhaps the most enchanting step back in time I took on my 2009/2010 Europe trip was the village of La Alberca in Spain. I was staying nearby while volunteering at Pueblo Ingl├ęs (from which I have many memories but have not written much, except a brief post, Consulting My Pillow in La Alberca).

In Spain, every village has its own distinct design. My friend
Lisa Ch, sporting the La Alberca village ring we both bought there
(this pic from later that year, when we reconnected in NYC)
Anyways, it was with interest that I stumbled across this enchanting post by a traveller who has been there more than once, and though that I'd share it.

"When my parents came to visit in Madrid last year, they brought with them some of my old photos, a box of a few hundred slides I’d set aside years ago. It was a random sampling of the uncounted thousands of Kodachromes and Fujichromes I have sitting in the not-so-archival environment of my parent’s damp basement in Toronto.

There are a lot of things I prefer about digital photography over film, but film has digital beat when it comes to looking at old photographs. You get to hold the actual original thing, for starters, and you can see it without having to plug anything in. Slides can’t be perfectly copied in a keystroke, they’re one of a kind. And for that same reason, you see them only once in a while. They get put into deep storage and get forgotten about until they surface sometime later, like artefacts from the past.

Photo copyright Spain by Mike Randolf
There was one slide in particular that caught me eye. I took it out of the plastic sleeve and held it up to the window. My uncle Miguel had died the year before, but in the image, taken some twenty-five years ago, he looked not much older than I am now. We were in a village called La Alberca with my aunt and an old woman we met while wandering around..." [read more on Spain by Mike Randolf].

It's a great story.

Mike also has some great photos, they are really worth a look.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019


It's Tuesday, what else can I say?
OT last night, a nice bonus, when I can get it.
Still doing the multiple-career balancing act.
One cannot do everything well, long accepted by me, though the transition remains on the tricky side. How to stay on top of things when I am not fully engaged isn't my fortay (sp?), but I keep experimenting. Biggest challenge perhaps is communication. I live by honest, timely and clear communication... no, I should say that's what I value - and when I don't get that, it really throws me for a loop. Especially when I am aware of the environment, and on the balance, I choose to stay with something that is going to let me down, surely, in the future. What can I say, if I have chosen with my eyes wide open? To negotiate or reason is futile, so the challenge for me is how to process it when it happens. I can't let others get my goat.


Now there is a doodle idea...

Friday, August 23, 2019


So much for blogging before work... it seems that the tired-er I get, the later I leave, and the less time I have before work. But a good reminder as to how much I prefer arriving super early.

Last week was a heavenly break from routine. Last Monday I 'finally' qualified to be able to take unpaid vacation at my new work, without impacting my status (it has been a long slog, but I made it!). They were kind enough to grant me my request to take the rest of the week off. I requested this only partly because I was burnt out and needed a break, but primarily due the extraordinary timing: my niece was in town, so she and my sister were out every day with the van (I had been planning to bus it all week). So......... this meant that if I was home, and they were out, I would - finally - get some stretches of time alone. So that's actually what I did.

After 30 years of living alone, it is still an enormous adjustment to have spent the last 9 years living with other people. Especially when there has been no ability to get away from each other.
I had a HEAVENLY week... perhaps made so much so because I hadn't been expecting it or even hoping for it. Suddenly, pow, there it was. What a relief!

Not that I did much (although that was the point).

I did create a new reading spot in my bedroom, so that I can be alone and not just lounge on my bed, or sit at a desk. It's a spot where I have been reading, journaling, drawing, and propping up my dinner to eat in solitude while doing puzzles. With my headphones on, listening to a podcast or book, I am in another world. It's made a world of difference.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Review: Aliens of Extraordinary Ability

Aliens of Extraordinary AbilityAliens of Extraordinary Ability by Maeve Higgins, Shaina Feinberg, Cristela Alonzo, Alysia Reiner, Cole Escola, Karim Nematt, Carlos Ib
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Transported me
What a lovely little audio drama. It felt like a docu drama. At first, it was simply entertaining, then I became aware of how the lives of these 'illegal immigrants' parallel the lives of people today. The ups and downs, the joys and the fears. Always the fears. Although set in New York City, and our treatment of immigrants is different in Canada, it gave me new compassion for those establishing new lives here. And empathy for refugees and immigrants everywhere. Listen and let Aliens of Extraordinary Abilities transport you...

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Friday, August 02, 2019

The genius of VocalID

How this escaped my radar, I'll never know, but it's brilliant.

FIRST: take a moment to think of Stephen Hawking's voice

THEN: read on...

Just after I first arrived in Korea, I was listening to NPR TED Radio Hour when I heard Rupal Patel being interviewed about her big new idea for synthetic voices. I was so inspired by the story, and I remember tearing up when I heard some of the voices that were created for people with speech disorders. The new technology blends together the speech sounds of a person who is unable to speak with sounds from a voice donor and creates a brand new, unique computerized voice for the individual... [read more on the Life in Limbo blog].

Many of those with severe speech disorders use a computerized device to communicate. Yet they choose between only a few voice options. That's why Stephen Hawking has an American accent, and why many people end up with the same voice, often to incongruous effect. Speech scientist Rupal Patel wanted to do something about this... [watch the TED Talk].

UVic linguistics associate professor Sonya Bird was listening to the CBC Radio “Spark” program in early 2014 when she first heard the voice of Rupal Patel, a Canadian researcher based in Boston who launched the VocaliD Human Voicebank in May 2014. The interview ignited Bird’s immediate interest in contributing to Patel’s mission to connect those living with a severe speech disorder (or limited speech) to their own unique vocal identities. Now, as a result of an eight-month volunteer effort by the Voice Drive Victoria group in collaboration with local speech language pathologist Gail Poole, more than 100 people in our region have donated their voices to this global effort ... [read more about UVIC's contribution].

VocalID links
About VocalID
About the VoiceBank

Related resources
Synthetic voices, as unique as fingerprints - TED Tallk by Rupal Patel
Everything you need to know about donating your voice: Why you should help The Human Voicebank Initiative - TED Blog
Lending voice to an international initiative - UVIC
Speech Donors - CBC Spark Podcast
Vocal ID: Donate Your Voice - Life in Limbo blog

Thursday, July 25, 2019


An earlier version of TGIF.... is it really Thursday already? I'm tired this week, Tour de France time, so getting as much as I can before I leave in the morning, and try to watch the rest at night, hopefully not falling asleep before the final sprint.
Still remember seeing the Tour de France in person when I was in Barcelona. Lucky duck.
I am a little fazed to realize recently that it has been 10 years since my big Europe trip. It had been so life changing for me. But how has 10 years passed?

Wednesday, July 24, 2019


I almost missed my bus this morning because I stopped to pick a few blackberries near where I park.
I hadn't noticed them before, but the previous morning I saw someone at the bushes and it dawned on me... and sure enough, when I stopped there on my way home, I had a nice little feast. This is on relatively busy little street, so I was surprised that they weren't picked over more.
It brought memories of picking blackberries at mom's place... they were so plentiful, and I had to go out in jeans and long sleeves, with gardening gloves and clippers, to cut them back, and get to the best berries just a stretch too far away. I hope I don't get silly enough to lean too far with these blackberry bushes on my commute.
It's a sign of how I am still trying to get my head above water that I didn't notice them before this week... I think blackberry season has been going for awhile now?
A good sign to slow down and take a look around me.
Happy to be downtown early, but on the sleepy side. More coffee soon, then looking forward to a good day. Love the environment here... very upbeat and free of drama. It's not so much that it feeds my soul, but it doesn't suck the life out of me. And a positive environment is something I can feed off of.
Interestingly, I'm enjoying not having to think about work after I leave work for the day. It's not the kind of work I've had before, and I am appreciating this aspect of it.
This is all post training, of course, and I am still learning.
In the lunchroom at work, and a lady behind me is pregnant and talking about her fear of delivery... yikes. TMI, but she's talking to a friend, so that's ok. The friend is reassuring her with tales of her own delivery. Gack. So totally not my world or experience. And it's thrown my train of thought. LOL.
Feels good to have my fingers on the keyboard.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Morning reflections

Goodness, how I have missed the habit of blogging. As in writing, not just posting book reviews (!). Though I no longer get frustrated or doubt myself if I am not blogging... it's just something that comes in waves in my life, something I can always come back to.
There are workstations in the lunchroom where I work. While I don't have time or the inclination to be on them during breaks, they are sitting idle first thing in the morning, and when I'm early, why not?
I leave home at 6:30 when I have an 8:00am shift, so get here around 7:20-7:30. I'm not one to relax coming in later, so this is like a bit of me time before I head to my desk. I'm usually there 20 minutes before my shift starts - to settle in and log in, to be ready to take my first call on the dot of 8:00.
Loving call centre work more than I might have imagined, and I kind of stumbled into it, and that realization. I'm good at it, and I can leave it behind when I go home.
More on that another time...
Deep into the Tour de France at the moment, watching until 6:20, noting the km left when I stop (today at 120k to go), then I pick it up at the same spot when I get home. I'm tired, but not as tired as those guys. Great race this year, interesting stuff.
OK, that's it for now.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Review: The Secret Cyclist

The Secret Cyclist: Real Life as a Rider in the Professional PelotonThe Secret Cyclist: Real Life as a Rider in the Professional Peloton by The Secret Cyclist
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Secrets without a lot of drama
A great listen, and easy to digest over a day or two of the TDF. Lots of recent relevant observations, including happenings in the 2018 Tour de France. Having read several books about professional cycling, and having followed the ups and downs of doping and scandals, not much would surprise me, and nothing here did. Instead, I got a refreshingly positive inside look at the life of a professional cyclist, one who has stayed grounded and clean over the years. But it's not bland. Our secret cyclist has strong opinions and shares them with conviction. Insights on other riders relate mainly to the stories behind and around crashes and controversies, but are respectful of others privacy. It's not a tell-all, it's a tell-some. Good choice of narrator, it sounded like it was the rider himself.

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