Saturday, March 16, 2019

Why so many book reviews?

Even casual readers of my blog will have noticed that I am posting tons of book reviews, and not much else these days.

The first big reason is that I have been listening to audiobooks, and Audible asks me to review each book when I finish it. This serves to remind me.

I'm also satisfying my curiosity, to see how many books I end up "reading" since I began listening, versus physical books. Not sure proportionately, but it is a LOT more.

I've also started commuting by bus, so I'm getting extra audiobook time. I enjoy the interlude and the bus ride passes quickly.

I'm aware I post the reviews in clusters... essentially I catch up when I can, so its a bit of a storm as these get posted. Then a lull again.

Its not easy to say why I'm not blogging about much else... just busy with life, that's all.

Review: The Au Pair

The Au PairThe Au Pair by Emma Rous
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Great distraction
The Au Pair proved to be great distraction. Told from two perspectives: a family's au pair at the time twins were born, and the quest one of those twins to untangle the truth as an adult. What were the family secrets behind this twin's story? Her father had a recent fatal accident... or was it? Her mother committed suicide on the day she was born... why? The only photo of her parents on the day she was born showed only one baby... where was the other twin? There are more twists and possibilities than one can imagine, so this novel kept my attention through to the end.

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Review: Tokyo Rose (the Iva Toguri story)

Tokyo Rose: The History and Legacy of Iva Toguri and Japan’s Most Famous Propaganda Campaign during World War IITokyo Rose: The History and Legacy of Iva Toguri and Japan’s Most Famous Propaganda Campaign during World War II by Charles River Editors
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A hero and a scapegoat
Iva Toguri was an innocent Japanese-American who got stuck in Japan in World War II. Having arrived for vacation on the last ship to sail, when she was unable to return home, she had to fend for herself for the duration of the war. Unwelcome as an American, she did her best to stay of the radar and blend in. She eventually fell into broadcasting, one of several women broadcasting in English, and all loosely referred to as "Tokyo Rose". But Toguri's broadcasts were unique: American soldiers listening to her broadcasts would hear news of attacks and anti-propaganda slipped in between the music she played and the official propaganda. Anything she could do to support the Allies and undermine the Japanese, she did. Despite these courageous acts, she was dismissed as a disloyal Japanese-American, sadly not surprising given the roundup and detention of Japanese in the USA during the war. She was furthermore treated as a scapegoat and prosecuted. Her brave efforts to support her country were lost in the process. In the end, it's a pretty sad story, and it is too bad she wasn't celebrated as a hero. I'm glad this book was written so that her story is not swept under the rug and forgotten.

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Review: Lost in My Mind

Lost in My Mind: Recovering From Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)Lost in My Mind: Recovering From Traumatic Brain Injury by Kelly Bouldin Darmofal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Courageous insights into living with a brain injury
I admire Kelly's courage and openness in telling her story. Her thoughtful and articulate account of the accident that resulted in her brain injury, her long road to recovery, and the lasting impacts on her life is told with both brutal honesty and humour. I learned so much about Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI); it was a real eye opener. What stayed with me most is how tenacious Kelly was in reaching her academic goals; she had to work SO hard! Today Kelly is a speaker and advocate for TBI, and is already making a difference in this world. Listen and be inspired.

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Review: The Threat (the McCabe book)

The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and TrumpThe Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump by Andrew G. McCabe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

More FBI insights in the age of Trump
A worthwhile listen, although I confess to tiring of reading more on Trump's antics. I chose this book, as it essentially picks up where James Comey's account left off. With Comey fired, McCabe began the acting director of the FBI, but not for long. Cruelly and vindictively fired just hours before he would have received his pension, Americans have McCabe to thank for getting Robert Meuller installed as special investigator - and ensuring he couldn't be axed. Bit of a nail biter on that front. Lots of FBI and White House insights.

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Monday, February 18, 2019

Review: Identical Strangers

Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and ReunitedIdentical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited by Paula   Bernstein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fascinating story.
Identical twins separated at birth. It sounds like a movie plot or an engrossing novel, but this is real life. Unfortunately, there was no tragic crisis that caused the two girls to be separated; rather an adoption agency sees an 'opportunity' to settle the 'nature or nurture' question by intentionally splitting up twins, then studying the results. It's appalling to realize there are people who are alive today who are still living out this reality. Elyse and Paula tell their individual stories, and their shared discoveries, with honesty and grit, with a good dose of humour thrown in. All of the things you might wonder if they thought, they share them. Very revealing, and very inspiring.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Review: A Serial Killer's Daughter

A Serial Killer's Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love, and OvercomingA Serial Killer's Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love, and Overcoming by Kerri Rawson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A courageous story.
Wow. I can't even begin to imagine the traumas that Kerri and her family experienced. Given that there are murderers and serial murderers in this world, Kerri gives insight as to the shock, trauma and distress one must feel upon discovering a loved one has committed such heinous crimes. I admire her courage in sharing her story; it will help many. In terms of relatability, the bible and God references didn't connect for me, but this is not a criticism (it's her story, afterall), and they didn't get in the way of the story. Time well spent listening.

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Monday, February 11, 2019

Review: Team of Vipers

Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White HouseTeam of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House by Cliff Sims
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A look on the other side...
Overall, a pretty good book, but I had a hard time staying engaged, partly because it was long, but also because the author reflects different political ideologies than my own. Reading about the day-to-day goings on of the Trump White House was at first interesting, but I just got bored. But I intentionally stuck with it, as I believe that if we only ever expose ourselves to those that think like we do, we don't do ourselves any favours. Plus, this book reiterated to me that most people are passionate about doing good work, and that's what I saw in this book.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Review: Agent to the Stars

Agent to the StarsAgent to the Stars by John Scalzi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I forgot to review this book when I first 'read' it (listened to it), but six months later the delight is still with me. Part science-fiction, part light mystery thriller, mostly it was a fun, funny, surprising and unfathomable adventure. I'll definitely read another John Scalzi.

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Review: The Paris Architect

The Paris ArchitectThe Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Such a complelling book!
I loved this book, all while it broke my heart, and fed my soul. As soon as the book starts, wham, you are taken immediately to the horrors of World War II in Paris, as Jews are torn from their homes. This experienced through the words and eyes of a little girl, and how she tries to save the life of her little brother in a hiding place they used for hide and seek. Fast forward 3 or 4 years, and the theme of hiding continues, as we learn the story of the architect who risked his life creating places to hide jews in Paris. Fast forward to almost modern times, and the stories that unfold as a woman and her husband get ready to move into the home that was once that of the little girl who hid her brother. Many twists and turns, compelling characters, and insights into the stories from Paris in wartime. Brilliant.

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Review: The Day That Went Missing

The Day That Went MissingThe Day That Went Missing by Richard Beard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

How a moment changed everything...
Poignant story of a little boy who drowned in the UK, told by the brother who was with him, and only just saved himself. But oddly little was said following the incident, the family went on with their lives, even finishing their summer vacation, barely speaking about what happened. As if pretending nothing happened. Rarely mentioning the absent family member caused grieving to be stunted. As an adult, the surviving brother sets out to find out what happened. Compelling and surprising - and very interesting.

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Review: L'Appart

L'Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making My Paris HomeL'Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making My Paris Home by David Lebovitz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ah, an apartment in Paris! How lovely! Or maybe not...
David Lebovitz has a way with words. Maybe it was the thought of an apartment in Paris that grabbed me, but he even had me listening to recipes, with pleasure (and I don't cook!). Equal parts appalling and amusing, follow David as he buys and renovates an old flat in Paris. OMG! This should be MANDATORY reading if you are even thinking of doing the same. I swear you will be too frightened to do it, which is probably a good thing. For someone like me, however, I learned a lot more about the quirkiness of Paris, Parisians, and the French. Nothing is as simple as you can imagine. An enjoyable light read.

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Review: The Foundling (the Paul Fronczak story)

The Foundling: The True Story of a Kidnapping, a Family Secret, and My Search for the Real MeThe Foundling: The True Story of a Kidnapping, a Family Secret, and My Search for the Real Me by Paul Joseph Fronczak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a surprising and incredible story!
At 10, a little boy learns he had been kidnapped as a newborn. Later, he learns it was a full 2 years before he was 'found' and returned 'home'. But was he the same child? And if not, who was he? And where was the kidnapped infant? Follow this journey of discovery, from the feeling 'other' and not really part of his family, to the twists and turns that his story takes as a result of today's access to DNA and sites like Ancestry. It makes me think of the thousands of skeletons in people's closets that are never, or rarely, revealed. Fascinating stuff, and a compelling story. I hope one day more of his story will be revealed.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Goodbye 2018, Welcome 2019!

Definitely a time when I am looking forward to a new year. I am blessed in many ways but, frankly, 2018 was brutal.

I've juggled the ups and downs of travel agent life by having a steady second gig on the side. It's what made it possible. In this biz, you book a client today, and you get paid when they travel, which might be a year away.

Alas, at this time last year my 7 year second gig vanished. No complaints, it was a great gig while it lasted. But I've had a heck of a time replacing it. And its been burning a hole in my jeans (aka = I'm more than broke!). It's like I've been pedalling backwards.

In November I took the bull by the horns and started looking more seriously for jobs big and small.

Mystery shopping has been interesting, not a lot of pay, but heck, I got reimbursed for a bottle of Grey Goose in an airport duty free shop this month.

And I've been ghostwriting... actually a great fit for me, with instant tangible results: write a book this week, get paid next week. My first one is done, and I'm half-way through my second one. I have missed writing! Just a couple of the oddball things I am incorporating into my income stream.

Now, in my quest to get a steady 1/2 time gig, I've ended up with a 3-month full-time contract. It comes with lots of opportunities for going forward attached. After contract #1 I'll be auxiliary, which will give me an undetermined number of as needed hours, plus the chance to bid for full-time, part-time and contract gigs with the same company. It's a good set up. I'm a bit disappointed that I'll need to do 40 hours/week to start, as it will restrict my travel work initially by only working from home (during wave/peak season!), but in the big scheme of things, it will be fine. But I am going to be one busy girl come mid January. I've got a commute into Victoria coming up, which I hope to do by bus.

It's all good, and I'll be glad to be getting steady (decent) pay. Putting cash in my jeans, vs the lack thereof burning holes in my jeans!

It'll be a fresh start, and will be nice to work on a new project with new people (and great to still have my cruise team; they are gems).

And for a girl who will turn 60 (!?!?!?!?) in less than a month, that's a good thing.


Monday, November 19, 2018

Seattle layover

My current view, just after sunrise, at SeaTac airport. I arrived here after my 5:45 am flight from Victoria. My gosh, that's early. Well, really, it's the 3:30 am taxi. I ended up not going to bed, so the only shuteye I got was a snooze on the 20 minute flight.

I awoke to the coolest view, of either Mt Baker or Mt Ranier silhouetted against the lightening sky, the oranges reaching up to meet the deep blues. It was stunning.

Then I remembered that my goal for this trip was to get to know my camera more, and get back in the habit of taking pictures. 10 years ago, I was taking hundreds a day. Now, it's rare.

So, I reached for my camera, but by then the mountain was behind us, and we didn't circle back.

So, I did the next best thing... my impression:

I like how it feels, but in actuality, the orange band was narrower.

And the mountain needs to be less like a chopped off pyramid, or an Aztec monument, and more like a dormant volcano.... maybe I'll play with it.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Whitey Bulger meets his end

Because odd things interest me...

The other night I heard the breaking news, that "former mobster, FBI informant and fugitive Whitey Bulger was brutally murdered, in custody, just one day after being transferred to a different prison...".

Hmmm.... I'd heard that name before, and am always intrigued by clandestine goings on, so went to refresh myself. It turns out I only knew part of the story. Here it is, in a nutshell:

The headline

James Joseph "Whitey" Bulger Jr., the Irish-American organized crime boss and Boston gangster, serving two life sentences after 16 years as a fugitive, was brutally murdered on Tuesday, at age 89, one day after being transferred to a federal prison in Virginia.

Bulger's Alcatraz mugshot

Early crime and punishment

Bulger first went to jail for armed robbery and truck hijacking in 1956. He spent nine years in prison, including a stint at Alcatraz.

After his release in 1965, Bulger worked as a labourer before becoming a bookmaker and loan shark under Donald Killeen, the leader of the dominant Boston mob, The Killeens.

In 1971, the FBI approached Bulger and attempted to recruit him as an informant, initially as part of their effort against the Patriarca family.

The fugitive

In December 1994, Bulger was informed by retired FBI Agent and former handler John Connolly that the FBI was set to make arrests during the Christmas season. In response, Bulger fled Boston on December 23, 1994, and began his life as a fugitive.

In 1997, while Bulger was on the run, criminal actions by federal, state, and local law enforcement officials tied to Bulger were exposed by the media, causing the FBI great embarrassment. Disgraced FBI agent, John Connolly, was convicted and jailed in 2002.


In the ensuing years, FBI agents chased down sightings, both confirmed (London) and unconfirmed (Sicily, Uruguay).

An off-duty Boston police officer spotted Bulger at a San Diego screening of The Departed, the 2006 Martin Scorsese film in which the character of Frank Costello, played by Jack Nicholson, is loosely based on Bulger, but he eluded capture.

The FBI also initiated a number searches based on Bulger's interests.

FBI agents staked out 60th anniversary Battle of Normandy ceremonies, looking for Bulger, a military history fan.

In 2010, in their pursuit of Bulger, a known book lover, the FBI visited bookstores in the Victoria (British Columbia) area. FBI agents questioned employees and distributed wanted posters.


Bulger lived as a fugitive for 16 years, spending 12 years on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. The US$2 million reward offered for information leading to Bulger's capture, was second only to Osama Bin Laden's capture reward.

Bulger was featured on America's Most Wanted more than a dozen times.

In 2011, the FBI ran a successful media campaign featuring Bulger's girlfriend, Catherine Greig, that broke the case.

The tip came from Iceland. Anna Björnsdóttir, a former model, actress, and Miss Iceland (1974), who had lived in Bulger's neighborhood in Santa Monica, recognized Greig when CNN ran a story on the campaign.

On June 22, 2011, the FBI used a ruse to lure the 81 year old Bulger, out of his apartment and arrested him, along with his girlfriend (Greig remains in prison for harbouring a fugitive).


Bulger visted Alcatraz twice: once as a prisoner, and again,
as a tourist, while he was a fugitive. He and his girlfriend
even had their photos taken "behind bars".
Following his arrest, Bulger revealed that rather than living as a recluse, he had in fact traveled quite a bit, including frequent trips to Mexico to buy heart medication.

He even returned to Alcatraz as a tourist and had the obligatory souvenir photograph taken behind bars, wearing a striped suit.


At his trial, Bulger pled not guilty to 48 charges, including 19 counts of murder, extortion, money laundering, obstruction of justice, perjury, narcotics distribution and weapons violations.

In November 2013, Bulger was convicted on 31 counts, including 11 murders, and received two life sentences, plus additional years.

Murder (aka THE END)

Bulger was moved to the Federal Penitentiary in West Virginia on October 29, 2018. Just 1 day later, on October 30th, he was killed.

Three prisoners were captured on a security camera, pushing Bulger's wheelchair out of the frame. The grisly murder, using a smuggled weapon concealed in a sock, took place shortly thereafter.

Related resources
Grim New Details About Whitey Bulger's Death Revealed - Huffington Post
Whitey Bulger’s Fatal Prison Beating: ‘He Was Unrecognizable’ - New York Times
Whitey Bulger's attackers tried to cut out his tongue, federal official says - CNN
What Inmates Are Saying About the Brutal Prison Hit on Whitey Bulger - Vice
Ex-con claims feds wanted to get rid of James Whitey Bulger - New York Post
Juror who helped send Whitey Bulger to prison is deeply saddened by killing - NY Post
This man may have waited 38 years for his revenge on Whitey Bulger - NY Post

Saturday, October 20, 2018

New reflections

The flat I stayed in when I was first in Barcelona
had this great rooftop terrace, shared by all the residents.
Rarely did anyone else ever use it, but one day I came out
to find "Sandra" drying in the hot sun, fresh from a bath.
Reflecting on pauses I am taking, and spaces I am creating in my life. Have I finally had enough of myself to start making changes? I don't know, but something is shifting.

The thing I am mostly aware of this week is how much a single day alone can mean to me. I thought I needed more. What I crave is long stretches, but I'll take what I can get. I also recognize that moving heaven and earth to get a day or two IS worth it.

But a rest was as good of a change, and having 36 hours or so alone this past week let me relax into myself.

Nothing grand, just puttering around my own home, having a nice cup of tea in the living room, and reading a book. Being home alone is gold.

The past 8 months have taught me a lot, including a reminder that I may not ever want to live with someone. I always though I might be open to a long term relationship, if I ever came across the right situation - and I probably still am - but sharing my abode? Right now I can't imagine it. What I can imagine is a long time relationship, with 2 apartments. People do it. I could.
But, really, all that is so far off my radar, just a thought.

Creating intentional time alone is something I need to take seriously as a cornerstone in my life. I have to look past the barrier of not being able to that at home.

When I was travelling, for the most part, I felt that sense of inner peace and contentment of being myself, within myself. Wherever I am, I am home. I didn't feel lost because I didn't have a "home".

I wonder how I can create some of that same sense of self, and inner solitude, when I am not living alone? I feel like I am grasping at a loose thread of a thought beyond my reach...

Reflections this week around:
  • Solitude
  • Swimming
  • Pausing
  • Nourishing
  • Writing
Sometimes I feel my brain spinning like a top. I have so much going on in there (!), that I am not able to breathe or breathe in. I need space, and I am not creating that for myself.

Now is not the time to reflect on what I don't have, or to beat myself up for not creating what's important.

Now is the time to just stop, get grounded, and find a few threads from which to weave a new way of being. Or just disentangle myself from the snags.

BTW, this is a stream of consciousness that I don't expect anyone else to read, or to follow. It's more like my blog of old. I've been writing less like this in recent years, as my blog has become more 'visible'. I've even thought of creating a new blog, just for my thoughts, but why should I? I've had this one forever. I actually doubt anyone reads it anyways, and I am not worried what people think, so I'll just carry on....

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Review: Spaceman

Spaceman: An Astronaut's Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the UniverseSpaceman: An Astronaut's Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe by Mike Massimino
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A great listen, with a view from the Hubble

I loved this book. I've read quite a few astronaut accounts and none have given me a visceral sense of what it feels like to take off in a rocket, until Spaceman. Mike Massimino has a way with words, and narrating it himself is what makes it come to life. It's brilliant.

The other lasting memory I have from this book, which I listened to more than a month ago, is the view of earth from the Hubble. Again, he takes you there. First, he makes sure you realize how unique the view is, and that only a small handful of people have seen it. He contrasts the view from the moon, from which you can only see part of the earth, with the view from the Hubble, so high that you can see the entire sphere of earth. It was an ah ha moment for me. It wasn't until the Hubble launched that we earthlings saw pictures of the 'globe', the beautiful little round ball that is our planet. From there, Massimino brilliantly describes what it was like to see it firsthand. You are there, almost seeing it with him, forcing himself to look away so that he can perform his spacewalk work, as it was so mesmerizing it was almost impossible. Wow.

This is also a great book for Canadians who will enjoy getting an understanding of how the Canada Arm really works, and what it makes possible.

DEFINITELY time well spent.

Images of Massimino are courtesy of NASA

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Saturday, October 13, 2018

15 years

Creative Commons image
markedyer on Flickr

It seems that I have been blogging for 15 years...

My first blog post - September 18, 2003

The milestone got past me, but not only just.

So many iterations and variations along the way, but remains is the ever-present desire to write...

Friday, October 05, 2018

Review: Why They Do It

Why They Do It: Inside the Mind of the White-Collar CriminalWhy They Do It: Inside the Mind of the White-Collar Criminal by Eugene Soltes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Insightful, but not so memorable...

I forgot to review this book right after finishing it, and although its only been a week or two, I barely remember it.

I guess it was ok, it kept my attention.

As I write this, a couple of stories are coming back to me...

Interesting to learn about the forks in the road when people made a poor judgement call, then couldn't (or wouldn't) go back.

I can't say I now know why they did it, because my mind never works like those described, but it was insightful.

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Thursday, October 04, 2018

Review: Citizen Coke

Citizen Coke: The Making of Coca-Cola CapitalismCitizen Coke: The Making of Coca-Cola Capitalism by Bartow J. Elmore
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Glad I stuck it out... but this wasn't a riveting read (or listen).

This definitely wasn't what I expected. Many years ago I read about the debacle when Coke changed its formula, which I found quite fascinating, but the marketing implications of this were barely mentioned in this book.

This was more like a text book, documenting the original formula, all the sugar, cocaine (yes, its true), caffeine and water wars and challenges, distribution, licensing and packaging. I faded in and out, but there were occasional bright spots, such as the interesting effort to get a cold Coke in the hands of every soldier, every day, around the world.

I found the end depressing, but informative. Would we have all the world water shortages and heaps of plastic and aluminum waste, and even recycling, if this magic black potion was never invented?

I don't know the answer, but it made me look at the Diet Coke can next to me with new eyes.

Don't read this if you're looking for marketing or amusement, but I recommend it if you are studying or working in purchasing, manufacturing and distribution. Or need your eyes opened wider than a cold Coke will do on a hot day.

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Sunday, September 23, 2018

Review: The Pierre Hotel Affair

The Pierre Hotel AffairThe Pierre Hotel Affair by Daniel Simone
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A heist from the bad guy's perspective.
I enjoy stories of real life heists, satisfying my curiosity about how they pulled it off. This book certainly gave me that! I'm equally interested in how authorities crack the case, but it was missing this key element for me. Refreshingly though, the book served up the whole story from the perspectives of the criminals. It was a new way of looking at a story, and it was interesting... up to a point. How they escaped capture evolved into how they both stuck together and double crossed each other. Meh. They didn't all live to tell the story. Overall, I'm glad I stuck with it until the end, but it doesn't leave me hankering for another crime-by-the-criminals tale.
Audible version

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Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Pierre Hotel, NYC

Adding this hotel to my 'must visit hotel bar' list for next time I am in New York. I wasn't familiar with the Pierre until I started reading about its history.

The Pierre is a luxury hotel located at 2 East 61st Street, at the intersection of that street with Fifth Avenue, in Manhattan, New York City, facing Central Park. The 525.01 foot tall building (aka 160.02 m), was designed by Schultze & Weaver, and opened in 1930. The Pierre is located within the Upper East Side Historic District, as designated in 1981 by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. It was acquired by Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces of India in 2005.

Given my interest in heists, and in NYC history, its surprising that I hadn't heard of the Pierre's story previously. The hotel was the scene of the Pierre Hotel robbery on January 2, 1972, organized by the Lucchese crime family. This robbery of $3 million ($27 million in today's dollars) would later be listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest, most successful hotel robbery in history.

You can read the general story on Wikipedia.

Or here's the Audible book I'm listening to:
The Pierre Hotel Affair: How Eight Gentleman Thieves Orchestrated the Largest Jewel Heist in History

So far, its a good story.

PS. My review

Review: Fear (the Woodward book)

Fear: Trump in the White HouseFear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I expected to be shocked, but alas, I was not.
I was surprised though.
Things have gone too far for me to be shocked anymore, but this book was full of shocking revelations. Its a good read, and I recommend it for Canadians and Americans alike.
I trust Bob Woodward, so every word is credible.
I would have liked a bit more of Bob in the book... as it is, his 'voice' shows up every few chapters.
My only disappointment was that it cut off a few months ago ~ it had to, or he's never be able publish it otherwise ~ but I hope he is hard at work on Fear 2.
If you think Trump is an idiot, your belief shall be confirmed.
If you don't think Trump is an idiot, wake up and read this.

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Saturday, September 08, 2018

Almost 10 years in review?

Well, not quite... but while I was looking for something on my blog today, I found a post I made about a month before my 50th birthday. Considering that I'll be saying hello to 60 in less than 4 months, I thought this portion of it might be worth a review.

My initial observation is that I'm not much into buckletlists, as stopped 1/2-way through my list of 50 things. But I did do some of these:

50 THINGS I STILL WANT TO DO... (from age 50)

My arrival in Rome
1.See Rome - DONE!

Little did I know when I created my list that I would spend 3 weeks in Rome in 2009. Mostly all I remember now is the good, but I did have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Rome when I was there. It probably had more to do with the heat and fatigue, and coming face-to-face with my life after a few months on the road, but it's something I mulled over in my mind for a long time. Oh, yes, I was sick too. I actually started to write a book about that... I wonder where that draft is?

My reflections from my first day:
Arrival in Rome

2.See Led Zepplin live

My first beepdoodles booth
3.Sell a piece of my art - DONE!

I sold my first in 2011. This is a pic of a little booth I had at weekly flea market affair, which I did for a few months. I actually went on to have a booth at the Moss Street Market. It was a great accomplishment, but more work than fun... and finally realized I loved doodling more than selling.

4.Visit Ottawa and our national museums

5.Visit the Artic

6.Take the train across Canada

7.Learn another language

8.Take a transatlantic crossing

I saw this and much more Gaudi
architecture in Barcelona!
9.See Gaudi architecture in Barcelona - DONE!

I saw a lot of Gaudi architecture in Barcelona, but for some reason I don't have many pictures on my blog. But it was FABULOUS!!

Here's one of my blog posts (and I really should go back and post more of my Gaudi pictures):
Barcelona is a sea of...

10.Go to the Rock of Gibralter

11.See Moscow's awesome subway stations

Me at an exclusive-access U2 concert
at Brandenburg Gate in Berlin
12.See a rock concert at Madison Square Gardens or the o2 in London (or both ;-) - DONE!

Actually, not done, but close enough. I consider my experience at the U2 concert at Brandenburg Gate in Berlin to be comparable.

I posted quite a bit about this on my blog, including how I changed my flights to be there, even though I couldn't get a ticket... then I did!:
Irony near the old Iron Curtain
U2 in Berlin: Experience my experience

13.Make a difference in this world - hmmm...

14.See the Bay of Fundy

I probably planned to write about my time in
Florence when I got to Venice, but who
would want to stay inside?
This pic is from my post on Venice bars.
15.See Michael Angelo's David - to witness what the amazing efforts in WWII to save it gave us - DONE!

I definitely did this, and it (he) was glorious. Unfortunately, I don't seem to have any pictures on my blog from Florence to even prove I was there. I guess I was out having too much fun. I did a lot there, including papermaking from one of the oldest papermakers in the city.

16.Visit Amsterdam

17.Go to the Sydney Opera House

18.Visit Normandy and the Canadian memorial

This silly train picture is from my arrival in
Paris. I suspect I was a little more travel worn
and relaxed when I boarded my overnight
train from Paris to Rome
19.Take an overnight train in Europe - lie in bed being rocked by the train... - DONE!

There was a nun in the upper berth of my cabin eating potato chips! Really. I could have written a comedy show about it, but I held the ladder for the ancient gal when she came down to use the loo!

Our pedicab driver in Central Park
20.A carriage ride around Central Park - DONE!

Actually, not done, but my friend Kelly and I took a pedicab around Central Park instead, and a much better idea anyways. I'd definitely recommend it.

A few highlights from that day in NYC and just scroll for more (I think I was there about 10 days):
In the Big Apple: Sunday in NYC

21.Have nude portraits taken - DONE!

Well, not done, but I did do several life (nude) modelling sessions for artists, so I actually consider that to be braver! Don't worry, there shall be no photos!

22.Get a tattoo of my own art

My booth at the Empress show
23.Show my art at a show or in a cafe or something - DONE!

I participated in an art show at the Empress Hotel in 2011. While I was out for coffee, a fellow from New York apparently bought one of my doodle clocks (pictured at the back), for a nice tidy price! Never met him though.

24.Go through the Chunnel

That's me in the mirror, at the
"real" Checkpoint Charlie
25.Visit Checkpoint Charlie - DONE!

And I saw the real one!

When I spent a month in Berlin, I went to the Allied Museum, where the original hut is housed - the rest of the site was fantastic, and it's a much overlooked attraction.

Read more in my blog post:
Would the real Checkpoint Charlie please stand up?

26. and here my list stopped...

Creeping up on 50...

Friday, September 07, 2018

My audience with Peter Mansbridge

So, Peter Mansbridge is coming to Sidney, and I managed to snag one of the last tickets.

I think I would always have been interested in hearing him speak, but in the context of today's fake news, attacks on the media and whistleblowers I think it will be fascinating.

Creative Commons Image thompsonrivers on Flickr
Preparing this post, I learned these things I didn't know previously:
  • Among his hobbies, Mansbridge collects small mementos from his travels around the world, including rocks, soil and other “sentimental” items from various prominent historical places. He kept pebbles from a visit to the Battle of Dieppe site in France, dirt from Vimy Ridge, and sand from the beaches at Normandy, as well as pieces of the Berlin Wall and the Great Wall of China.
  • Mansbridge had a voice cameo in the 2016 Walt Disney Animation Studios film Zootopia as "Peter Moosebridge," an anthropomorphic moose news anchor.
  • Peter Mansbridge was awarded the Order of Canada in 2008.
  • He has a cottage where he disconnects and watches NO NEWS (though he'd answer the phone if work called to say, interview Obama)
Mary Winspear Speaker Series: Peter Mansbridge, September 27 - it's the last in the series *
Why Truth Matters - My short blogpost when he accepted his lifetime achievement award
Order of Canada story
Peter Mansbridge voices moose in Disney film 'Zootopia'
Famous Canadian Cottagers: Peter Mansbridge

* darn, I missed Andrew Coyne back in May... he would have been great.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Review: Unhinged (the Omarosa book)

Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White HouseUnhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House by Omarosa Manigault Newman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am one of those curious people who not only can't fathom how Trump's brain works, but am still flabbergasted that he got into office. I though Omarosa's book might give me some insight, and it did.

I casually watched the first season of The Apprentice, so I thought her story would provide an interesting lens. And it did.

It makes me a bit sad to think that she really thought they were friends, as he seems incapable of truly caring about another person, but their time in the White House let me behind the veil. It was as frightening as expected.

I found Omarosa hard to relate to - her allegiance to Trump, ministry and experiences as an African-American woman are far removed from me - but I respect the good she was trying to do.

I can't say I loved the book, but it was ok. I enjoyed her narrating her own book. I listened on Audible.

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Monday, August 20, 2018

Review: No One Would Listen

No One Would ListenNo One Would Listen by Harry Markopolos
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Shocking really describes this book. When I began listening, I thought I would hear the story of the whistleblower who took the crook down... but no one really did listen. Only when Bernie's house of cards fell down did this story come out. Shocking that this small group of men (aka heroes) figured out the fraud and put the ponzi scheme in the security authority' hands, only to be dismissed and ignored oner and over and over again. What a sham of 'oversight'. I didn't know this part of the story, and am still shaking my head. A good listen.

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Monday, August 06, 2018

Swedish Crown Jewels Heist

I have long been fascinated by art and jewelry heists, so am tracking last week's stunner: the brazen daylight theft of Sweden's crown jewels, getaway speedboat and all!

First, a little context...

The setting: Strängnäs Cathedral sits on a hilltop is located about an hour from Stockholm by train. The brick cathedral was built in the mid-1300's in characteristic Scandinavian Brick Gothic style. It replaced the original wooden church, built on a spot where pagan rituals took place in the 12th century.

The treasure: A glass case in the cathedral holds the 17th century burial regalia once belonging to King Karl IX and his wife Queen Kristin.

The heist: On July 31,2018, a theft raid was carried out inside the church, the thieves making off with two crowns and an orb.

The idyllic setting of Strägnäs Cathedral
made it perfect for a speedboat getaway
Creative Commons image henrikj on Flickr

"From 'The Italian Job' to 'Heat', Hollywood has been obsessed with pulse-racing heist movies for decades. And for the perfect robbery flick, you need always need two crucial elements: absolutely shameless self-confidence and a killer getaway plan. Now robbers in Sweden have put together an operation that rivals anything Hollywood could come up with. According to Reuters, thieves have stolen two 17th century crowns and an orb from the Swedish royal family’s collection, before making off in a motorboat..." [read more].

A pair of brazen thieves appear to have made a clean getaway after stealing Sweden's crown jewels. [In] the daring daylight robbery... two men smashed their way into a display cabinet and grabbed two historic royal crowns and an orb. An alarm sounded, but no one in the church was able to stop the men as they hopped aboard two bicycles and made their way down to the shore of nearby Lake Malaren, where they had moored a speedboat. Police carried out a search using their own boats and a helicopter... but could find no trace of the thieves. 'By boat you can reach Malaren, Koping or Arboga in the west, or Vasteras, Eskilstuna or Stockholm if you drive east' ..." [read more].

Strängnäs Cathedral
Creative Commons image henrikj on Flickr
"Sweden's government and police force has declared a 'national alarm' following the theft of priceless crown jewels, including two crowns and a royal orb. The national alarm in used to alert police forces about a serious situation that needs extra measures, revealing the severity of the daylight robbery at Strängnäs Cathedral... The gold-plated and jewel-encrusted crowns belonged to Queen Kristina and King Karl IX respectively, and the cathedral has now been closed to closely examine the crime scene..." [read more].

"The cathedral was open to the public when the jewels were stolen from locked-up glass boxes. Karl IX was the King of Sweden from 1604 until his death in 1611. The two crowns are the burial crowns from 1611 but were later exhumed and put on display. Both crowns are made of gold and inset with pearls and other precious stones. Christofer Lundgren, dean of the cathedral, said: 'This is part of the national cultural heritage - this is a theft from Swedish society.'..." [read more].

Interesting fact: This isn't the first time an attempt has been made to steal the Swedish treasure. Thieves managed to steal part of the crown jewels in 2013, but they were recovered in a ditch following an anonymous tip.

To learn more
Thieves steal Swedish royal crowns, flee in motorboat - Reuters
Sweden declares national alarm following theft of crown jewels
Priceless Swedish Crown Jewels are STOLEN - Daily Mail
The Swedish crown jewels have been stolen in a heist straight out of Hollywood - Shortlist
Theft of Swedish crown jewels sheds light on other high-stakes robberies - CBC

Friday, July 27, 2018

Review: Deep Down Dark

Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them FreeDeep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free by Héctor Tobar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Unimaginable survival and rescue...
It's hard enough to imagine being trapped underground, but to come out alive after months is almost beyond comprehension. I did think the rescue was remarkable when it happened, but I didn't "get" how complex the rescue was until I read (listened to) the book, and looked again at the diagrams of the site. How each man survived, not just physically, but mentally, is the heart of the story. The PTSD they suffered afterwards is both heart wrenching and not surprising. The book only touches this, but it's instructive. A good book if you are intrigued by the human condition. I was reminded of the incident and was drawn to the story again recently when the schoolboys were trapped in the underground cave in Thailand recently (now rescued as well).

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