Wednesday, December 22, 2021

2021 Reading

 I am going to go ahead and post a list of the books I read this year. I am in a bit of a reading lull right now and don't think I'll finish the one I have started. If I do, I'll add a post-script to this post. I'll add comments below. 

1.    The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop by Fannie Flagg (F).

2.    When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris (NF).

3.    The World's Largest Man by Harrison Scott Key (NF). 

4.    A Time for Mercy by John Grisham (F).

5.    Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal (F).

6.   Good Apple by Elizabeth Passarella (NF). 

7.   The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michelle Richardson (F). 

8.   Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Mongham (F). 

9.    The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny (F).

10.     Nomadland by Jessica Bruder (NF). 

11.     The Tender Bar by J.R. Moeringer (NF). 

12.     Divided We Fall by David French (NF).

13.     Congratulations, Who Are You Again? by Harrison Scott Key (NF). 

14.    The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Ran Away by Jonas Jonasson (F).

15.    Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad (NF).

16.    The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (F).

17.   Sooley by John Grisham (F).

18.    West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge (F).

19.    The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave (F). 

20.    Faithful Presence by Bill Haslam (NF).

21.    Jack by Marilynne Robinson (F). 

22.    A Promised Land by Barack Obama (NF). 

23.    The Moviegoer by Walker Percy (F).

24.    The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz (F).

25.    The President's Daughter by James Patterson and Bill Clinton (F). 

26.    Reasons to Live by Matt Haig (NF).

27.    Forty Autumns by Nina Willner (NF). 

28.    The Great Blue Hills of God by Kreiss Bell (NF).

29.    The Best of Me by David Sedaris (NF).

30.    Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann (NF).

31.    My Last Name by Eric Schumaker (F). 

 I was about even with fiction and non-fiction this year, which is unusual. In years past it has been commonly about one-third non-fiction and two-thirds fiction. But as I've said before, I don't have any real goals -- I just read them as they come, and I enjoy good non-fiction as much as good fiction.

And this year I seemed to hit on some really good non-fiction. Harrison Scott Key, author of "The World's Largest Man" and "Congratulations, Who Are You Again?" is a great find. The first one, a memoir, is his first, and the second is the story of how it came about. These are two of the funniest books I have ever read and I can't recommend them enough. 

Speaking of funny, I read a couple more by David Sedaris, who never disappoints. All the other non-fictions were enjoyable, but my hands-down favorite was "Forty Autumns," recommended to me by Kelly (who also never disappoints with her recommendations), the story of a woman who escaped East Germany, told by her daughter. 

On the fiction side, John Grisham's "Sooley" was a departure from his usual legal thrillers into the world of sports (basketball) and it was another Grisham page turner. All the fiction was also good (including the other Grisham book, "A Time for Mercy"). "Jack" by Marilynne Robinson probably rose above the others. It includes characters from her previous books "Gilead," "Lila" and "Home," and the writing is, quite simply, beautiful. 

"The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop" and "The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek" would be in a tie for second in fiction for me this year. 

Happy to comment on any of the others you might be wondering about. Send an email and we can discuss. There is not a book listed here I did not like. 

It was a good reading year. As I said, here at year-end I'm in a bit of a lull, but I expect things to pick up once the holidays are behind me. The TBR stack only gets higher! 

It was also a good year on the blog, with 28 posts, the most I've had since 2011. I still enjoy reading your blogs and I'm happy to have added a couple to my regulars this year.  

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year -- and happy reading, of course -- to all of you. 

Monday, December 20, 2021

Considering risk

It will soon be two years we have been dealing with COVID. Two years! 

I'm one of the cautious ones. I still believe the best path is to follow the science (even when I might be ridiculed for saying that because it's become a buzz phrase); listen to physicians and epidemiologists who know what they're talking about because I am not trained in that field; and consider the risk. 

I work in risk assessment for a living. It involves coming up with a "risk appetite" which means deciding how much risk you're willing to take. This decision is made considering the controls in place to mitigate risk (e.g. in the case of COVID, the vaccine) and governing yourself accordingly. 

It's more complicated than that, but that's the basic formula. 

I have a fairly tolerant risk appetite at this point. I have had the two-part vaccination and the booster. Between the second vaccination and the booster, I had a "breakthrough" case which was like a mild case of the flu, the worst of which lasted two days. I got a monoclonal infusion offered by the hospital my physician's office is affiliated with. I feel fairly well protected. 

Because I'm still somewhat cautious, I wear a mask to the grocery store and hardware store. Tonight I'm going to a concert at the local symphony call, and we will be asked to wear masks. I have no problem with this. 

In small groups, I don't wear a mask. I don't wear one to church, although I might start doing so again, or choose to watch online again, if the cases in our area increase. I am not afraid of getting deathly sick should I get COVID again, but I want to think about those around me and not spread it to them.  

I don't know what is going to happen with the omicron variant. I understand it spreads faster and is more transmissible than other variants. But it seems symptoms are not as bad as they are with the others.

My company still allows folks to work from home and that is what I am choosing to do, but it's more because I would have to travel if I were to go onsite than fear of getting sick. Working from home, for me, is a matter of convenience. I have folks who work for me who are going into the office some, and they are doing fine with it. 

I don't plan to go into lockdown or semi-isolation again unless required to do so by our local governments. I could be wrong, but I don't see that happening.

Like everyone, I am tired of this. But it's what we have to live with, for now anyway, and I'll continue to assess the risk and carry on. 

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Winter in the South

Last week, leading up to Friday, we kept hearing we could be in for some bad weather Friday night and into Saturday morning. 

All day Friday, it was blustery and warm. I wore shorts all day, which is not terribly unusual. My WFH (Work From Home) attire is generally casual. But in early December, one would think, to go outside, I would change into pants. 

Not necessarily where we live in Middle Tennessee. We could easily have an early winter snow in December (unusual but not impossible), but we could also have balmy days with temps climbing into the 70s. So it was shorts, inside and out, all day Friday. 

 I'm not always a devoted student of the weather, but with the winds picking up during the day, I glanced at the weather app on my phone and joined Wife watching the evening TV weather report. 

The meteorologists were telling us to beware of bad storms and possible tornados. A line was already forming to the west of us. 

Before I went to bed about 10:30, high winds had already done extensive damage to a nursing home building in west Arkansas, near Memphis, killing three. Tragic

Wife is more of a night owl than I. She told me to go to bed. She would stay up and come get me if she thought we needed to go down to our basement, our safe place when the tornado sirens go off. 

She went to bed somewhere between 2 and 3. She told me she was aware of the storms all around us, but had decided the tornado sirens and/or weather alerts on our phones would wake us. 

At 3 a.m. we were hearing those phone alarms. 

We got up and tuned in to one of the local TV stations. The meteorologists were tracking severe thunderstorms with high winds and were detecting rotation in some places above the ground, meaning possible tornados. 

Meanwhile, we could hear the wind howling. Over the years, we have taken the precaution of going to the basement for much less. With this kind of wind, it was time to go. 

Just as we were gathering a couple of blankets (although we hardly needed them -- it was 73 degrees!), the power went out. Our phones are both equipped with flashlights and Wife grabbed another high-powered one. 

We stayed in the basement about 30 minutes. Wife was able to pull up the TV station we had been watching on her phone for a few minutes, until the signal was apparently lost. We got just enough to know when the worst was in our area and, of course, we could still hear it. 

We went back to bed about 4 when the worst seemed to have passed over us. It took me a while to go back to sleep, but after I did, I slept until almost 9. I went outside to inspect things. There were lots of limbs, big and small, in the yard. The small, decorative Christmas trees on the front porch had both fallen over, and a couple of the wreaths on the windows were blown around from one side to the other. 

Our neighbors had the same situations and many of them were already out in their yards picking up the limbs. I soon joined them. 

Our electricity was still out. We had no idea how long that would last, so Wife went to a nearby convenience store and got some ice. We filled a couple of coolers with it and transferred some food from the refrigerators, holding out enough for some lunch. We kept the freezers closed. 

We had been planning to attend a Christmas program at a nearby church at 3 p.m. I don't know why, but it had not occurred to us they might also be without power, but as we pulled up about 2:30, we were met by a church member in the parking lot who told us that was indeed the case, and the 3 p.m. concert was canceled. There was another scheduled for 6, and they would have it if power was restored. 

We certainly didn't want to go home, so I suggested a visit to my favorite craft brewery, hoping they would have power. Blessings abound, and they did! It had been steadily getting colder throughout the day (a cold front was ushered in with the storms), so it was nice to have a warm place of refuge. 

The tap room at this brewery is not like a seedy bar, but more like a cozy little enclave where people are friendly and well behaved. Wife and I sat at a table and played three games of Rummikub (typically, she beat me every single game) while I enjoyed some of the tap offerings. (Wife is not a beer drinker but is a competitive game player and thoroughly enjoyed beating me in Rummikub).

We stayed there a couple of hours. On my phone I checked the website of the church having the Christmas program and, alas, they were still without power and the 6 p.m. performance had also been canceled. 

We stayed at the brewery a couple of hours and from there went to a nearby restaurant and had dinner. We arrived home about 7:30. Still no power. The outside temperature had plunged to about 40 and the overnight low was expected to dip a couple degrees below freezing, so we were bracing ourselves for a cold night. 

We lit some candles. I grabbed my laptop, which was fully charged, so we could watch a movie. 

About 15 minutes after arriving home, however, the lights came back on. Soon the house was cozy and warm. 

It is now Sunday morning and I slept soundly last night. It's about 29 degrees, but according to the five-day forecast, it will be 68 Wednesday. That's winter around here. 

Folks to the west and north us did not fare as well and are now dealing with the destruction and devastation storms and tornados can bring. My heart breaks for them. 

Thursday, December 9, 2021


 Thanksgiving is very much in the rearview mirror now and Christmas is upon us. 

As I wrote last month, we had 19 at our Thanksgiving tables. All went well, and how Wife managed to get everything on the table all at once, and hot, is beyond me. But somehow she did. 

We don't decorate for Christmas or put up the Christmas tree Thanksgiving weekend or earlier, as so many do now. In fact, it's December 9th as I write this and while Wife has hung greenery and decorated the mantle, and I have put up some outside lights, we just got the tree today and it stands naked in the family room. 

We still get a real tree and for the second year in a row, I went to a lot, picked it out and scheduled it for delivery. They put it in a stand outside, then brought it in the house. They even "upgraded" me to a new stand, free of charge. 

I might have felt bad about that, but given the handsome amount I pay for the tree and delivery of same, I don't. I'm thinking they throw a few of those stands in the delivery truck for the people who have stands they don't think are adequate, and I'm sure they can easily absorb that cost. The stand I have, a five-prong one, seems perfectly fine to me, but if they want to throw in a new one, who am I to argue? 

We will get it decorated soon enough, probably by the end of this weekend. For the two of us empty-nesters, I ask you: what's the hurry? 


Longtime readers of this blog know our family has an international Christmas Eve. Each year we pick a different country or region, and the food and decor are centered around it. This year will be Ireland, a country Wife, Younger Son and I have visited. 

Only Christmas Eve for us will not be on December 24th. We will have Christmas Eve on the 26th and Christmas Day on the 27th. This allows the ones with children to be at their own homes Christmas morning. Younger Son and his fiance will spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with his fiance's family. 

Everyone will join us late Christmas Day or on the 26th, and that's when our Christmas observance will begin this year.  Wife and I are happy to be flexible and get everyone together when it works and we're just glad to get together. 

And I suppose it gives us more time to get the tree decorated!