Friday, December 25, 2009

The Christmas Meme

Trying to get back into blogging regularly, I'm finding it easiest to post things that don't require a lot of mental effort. Hence this latest entry, courtesy of Sidney Williams' Journal:

The Christmas Meme

Copy this entire entry and paste on a new post page. Change all the answers to apply to you. Then notify a bunch of people you know, including the person who sent it to you.

My answers:

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Gift bags all the way. If it won't fit in a gift bag, I just stick a ready-made self-adhesive bow on it. I'm all about doing things the easiest way. No Martha Stewart make-it-from-scratch for me!

2. Real tree or artificial?
Sorry, you purists...I like my little two-foot artifical tree with its built-in fiber-optic lights and interior color wheel. The ever-changing light display is lovely...and I can pack the tree away easily to store for next year.

3. When do you put up the tree?
Usually the weekend after Thanksgiving.

4. When do you take the tree down?
After Twelfth Night (Jan. 6).

5. Do you like eggnogg?
Yes--with or without added alcohol!

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
Probably a Breyer horse model, or perhaps my Barbie doll. (And that was back when Barbie was first on the market, in 1958. We got ONE Barbie doll; now every little girl seems to have at least 10 different Barbies.)

7. Hardest person to buy for?
My boss--what do you get for someone who already has, or can afford to buy, everything she wants? (Fortunately, the Boss told a few years ago that if we feel we must give her a gift, to donate in her name to a charity.) In general I no longer exchange Christmas gifts with most of my friends/family--saves money, and avoids bringing in more Stuff That Will Have to Be Discarded Someday. The exception is my new little grandson, Nicholas, for whom of course I had to buy a gift for his first Christmas.

8. Easiest person to buy for?
Baby Nicholas! Of course, bibliophile that I am, I bought him books.

9. Do you have a nativity scene?
Yes....Although I'm no longer conventionally religious, I like the whole tradition of the holiday season, including the religious references. I'm willing to go with a Pagan Winter Solstice theme, too....

10. Mail or email Christmas cards?
I buy a new box of cards every year, and every year I "don't get around to" sending them. I also resolve to send e-mail Christmas greetings, but usually miss doing those, too.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
A diet book from my sister--I think it was The South Beach Diet. Yes, I need to lose weight, but still....

12. Favorite Christmas movie(s)?
"A Christmas Story"--I watched it again on Christmas Eve this year, and loved it as much as ever. I can't decide which part is my favorite, the "triple-dog-dare" scene, the leg lamp scene, or Ralph's fantasy about routing the bad guys with his new BB gun. Others I like are "Bad Santa," and "Elf." "It's a Wonderful Life" is the greatest classic, but I'm kinda burned out on it right now. I've seen that SO many times....

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
See answer to No. 7 above.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
Not that anyone can prove without investigation and affidavits.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Turkey with cranberry sauce and cornbread dressing. Although, alas, around here most people seem to have oyster dressing, and I hate oysters.

16. Color of lights on the tree?
Multicolored fiber optics.

17. Favorite Christmas song?
"The Christmas Song," as performed by Nat King Cole.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
Stay home!

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?
Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, Blitzen (and, by the way, it is DONDER, not Donner! "Donder" is German for thunder, and "Blitzen" is German for lightning).

20. Angel on the tree top or a star?

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
See No. 7 above. Others in my family who do give/receive presents do it on Christmas morning.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?
With all the thousands of recordings of the standard Christmas songs, why must the radio stations play the same versions over and over and over?

23. Favorite ornament, theme, or color?
Don't use ornaments anymore, just the little two-foot tree with its built-in lights.

24. Favorite for Christmas Eve dinner?
My family does not do anything special for Christmas Eve, only for Christmas Day.

25. What do you want for Christmas this year?
See No. 7 above. Alternatively, to win the Powerball lottery.

26. What is your wish for Christmas?
World Peace...An End to Genocide...Universal Health Care...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Stealing Books

Interesting (and ironic) factoids from an essay that will appear in the NYT Sunday Book Review, already posted on the NYT website:
  • The book most often stolen is the Bible. (At least, most often stolen from BookPeople bookstore in Austin, Texas.) The Bible even is stolen from a Christian bookstore that will give 'em away free is people ask for one. (Maybe when they know you'll give it away, they figure they don't need to ask....)
  • St. Mark's Bookshop in Manhattan locks up the work of certain authors in a display case because they're so often stolen. ("This library of temptation includes books by Martin Amis, Charles Bukowski, William S. Burroughs, Raymond Carver, Don DeLillo and Jack Kerouac, among others.")
  • The most-stolen authors are male, apparently because book thieves are predominantly male.
  • "Only 40 percent of books that are read are paid for, and only 28 percent are purchased new, said Peter Hildick-Smith of the Codex Group, a consultant to the publishing industry. The rest are shared, borrowed, given away — or stolen."

Read the full essay, "Steal These Books," here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Miracles are happening in New Orleans. Witness this photo taken on the Mississippi River only a few days ago. For those of you who don't recognize this man on sight, it's Drew Brees, quarterback extraordinaire of the NEW ORLEANS SAINTS football team! They're now 13-0 (a true miracle for those of us who have followed the Saints over the past 40 years), division champions, and heading into the playoffs with a bye the first week and a home field advantage thereafter. Not to mention our hopes, expectations, etc., of the Saints getting into the, we won't say the word for fear of jinxing our team. They have three games left in the regular season. Regardless of the results in those last games, however, the Saints are in the playoffs! Many of us, faced with a difficult situation, now ask ourselves, "What would Breesus do?"

Saturday, October 31, 2009

It's Halloween and the Sphinx has flown back!

It's been so long since I've appeared in Blogworld, I can't resist jumping out tonight to say BOO!

I won't yada-yada-yada the story why the blog's been on hiatus for so long. I'll just say this has been a very eventful year for me.

Years ago, a very productive author gave me some good advice. Asked about plotting, he said, "What is plot? Why, it's just one damn thing after another."

If that's the test, my life this past year could be the plot of a book.

On a forward-looking note, any day now I shall become a grandmother. My daughter (Sphinx Link) will be presenting me with a grandson. I plan to call him Sphinx Inkling.
The photo has nothing to do with my lengthy blogsilence, but it's funny.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Resurfacing; or Excuses, Excuses, Excuses; or The Dunciad

I never intended my hiatus to go on this long. Since my last entry (good grief, more than 3 months ago!), I spent many weeks on a combination of sick leave and vacation time. I thought of topics for a new blog entry, but using my computer was frustrating because it had begun to run very slow and hang up a lot. I kept postponing a new entry. I enjoyed vegging-out to the max.

A couple of weeks ago I had to re-enter the real world, however: I returned to my job full-time and have been busy catching up on a backlog of work. I'm grabbing a few minutes to say I'm alive and still kicking. But disgruntled.

Very disgruntled, because a few days ago my laptop computer was stolen. That means my only Internet access now is at my office. I can arrange for a replacement computer--a friend has already found one someone wants to get rid of--but I'm mourning the loss of everything that was on the stolen computer. Everything I've written in the past year--from e-mail to business documents to personal writing--was on it.

And, alas, I hadn't backed it up. And I didn't password-protect my files.

Yes, you may sneer and tell me you don't feel sorry for me. Any experienced computer user who doesn't back up regularly is a fool. And password-protection is elementary security.

I am making a dunce cap for myself right now.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Not Quite Back from Hiatus

Well, I'm back, sort of...not having to blog from the afterlife, at least. I'm ten days post-surgery, minus tumor, also minus a kidney. (Fortunately, I have another kidney.) Will be recovering for a few more weeks, but am doing okay. Thanks to those of you who commented on my last post. Whew.

I've been contemplating how I might use this experience in my blog, and thought of recounting various details of the hospitalization/surgery/medication/recovery experience on the theory it might be useful research for someone...then I realized that idea was really just a thinly-disguised version of the recovering invalid's compulsion to talk ad infinitum about her surgery. Which is, of course, excruciatingly boring to everyone except someone else who's experienced the same thing! So I'll spare the details.

All I can say is, having gone through this with laparascopic surgery and found it difficult that way, I can only imagine how much worse it must have been in days prior to this modern method. I have a number of interesting small scars developing across my abdomen, from where various surgical instruments were inserted and removed, and a bit larger scar through which they pulled out the kidney. If not for the laparascope, however, apparently I'd have a scar about nine inches long throbbing across my side and abdomen.

Anyway, thanks to all of you (my vast crowd of readers, heh heh) for your good wishes and good thoughts. I believe they helped me get through it safely.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Brief Hiatus

I've been pretty healthy most of my life, but in the last few years some health issues have caught up with me. I had an emergency appendectomy seven weeks ago, and have to undergo more surgery tomorrow to remove a tumor on one of my kidneys. The prognosis is very good; the doctor believes I won't need further treatment and that there will be little likelihood of a recurrence. Nevertheless, this is a more involved operation than the appendectomy, and I'm a little apprehensive. The recovery will take longer than for the appendectomy, and I don't know when I'll feel up to getting back online. So let me bid my faithful readers adieu for a few days or a few weeks. Wish me luck, pray for me, or send good vibrations my way, whichever works for you.

I shall return. And, if not, perhaps I'll blog from the afterlife, whatever it may be....

(Hangs head in embarrassment) Sorry, I admit to being dramatic. Just trying to drum up sympathy!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover...Mea Culpa

This blog entry no doubt is one among thousands using the above title after last weekend.

In case you haven't yet seen/heard the amazing Susan Boyle sing, watch this video. The whole thing is about 7 minutes long, but worth the time. As an occasional viewer of American Idol--the American version of Britain's Got Talent, the British show on which Boyle appeared, I didn't expect Boyle to have talent...because of her appearance. Shame on me.

You must listen to her.

I am humbled. I shall kick myself henceforth as a reminder not to judge by appearance.

Friday, March 27, 2009

My Appendix Says Farewell

I've been pretty healthy person most of my life, with just a glitch here and there. Much to my surprise, I now speak to you as survivor of an emergency appendectomy. Yes, that scary situation, where you rush to the ER in excruciating pain, hoping against hope they won't have to cut on you, hoping it's only gas pains...only to discover that yep, the pain in the right lower quadrant of your abdomen, which has grown increasingly worse over the last 12 hours, is indeed an inflamed and already perforating appendix.

Fortunately, nowadays there is surgery by laparascope, in which you get only two or three little incisions instead of a big one; the surgeon goes in by remote control, snips away the offending vermiform remnant, suctions out the nasty pus and fluid, glues rather than sews closed any openings that shouldn't be there, then neatly withdraws and seals the tiny incisions with butterfly bandages. Tah-dah! Except for a few hours of agonizing gas pains on the day after surgery, recovery is amazingly fast and you're ready to go back to work within a couple of weeks.

Whew! I'd like to leave it all behind as among my less-favorite memories...but alas, during the presurgery testing, they discovered a problem with one of my kidneys, so I'll have to undergo another surgery in a few weeks. Sigh.

I am comforted to realize that if I'd been born fifty years earlier, I probably would have died of the appendicitis. I'm profoundly grateful to live in the world of modern medicine, with CT scans, laparoscopies, and -- last but hardly least -- really effective pain medication. Heh heh heh.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


The title of this post is both ironic and non-ironic.

I'm writing about two funerals--hardly material for celebration. Yet here in New Orleans, a funeral can be as much a celebration of life as it is mourning for the dead.

Two local celebrities died last week, both of them closely connected to the New Orleans music community.

Eaglin jazz funeral; photo by Brett Duke, The Times-Picayune

The first was Snooks Eaglin, a blind R&B guitarist known for his virtuousity, who influenced many other musicians. This excellent article about Snooks includes a YouTube video of Snooks playing at his favorite venue, Rock 'N' Bowl, and simultaneously giving a music lesson to another local musician, George Porter, Jr. The video is vintage Snooks: he treats Porter--famous as a member of The Meters and considered one of the greatest living bass guitarists--like a newbie. (Porter was one of Snooks' biggest fans and loved playing sets with Snooks.)

The second celebrity we lost was Antoinette K-Doe, widow of Ernie K-Doe, who revived Ernie's musical career and reputation in his last years, kept his memory active after his death, and helped many musicians and others in the community.

Apart from their fame on the local music scene, Snooks and Antoinette had something else in common: Their funerals were held at nightclubs.

Snooks' funeral service at The Howlin' Wolf featured tributes, both verbal and musical, by numerous stars of the New Orleans music scene, and concluded with a traditional jazz funeral escort to the cemetery.

It was the Warehouse District nightclub's first funeral.

"We've had people laid out here before," noted Howlin' Wolf owner Howie Kaplan, "but they were still breathing."

(From music writer Keith Spera's blog on the Times-Picayune website)

Antoinette's wake was held at her own club, the Mother-in-Law Lounge, which she had made into a shrine for her late husband. Her funeral service was at a church, and she too had a traditional jazz funeral escort to her interment.

K-Doe jazz funeral; Photo by Keith Spera, The Times-Picayune

All the coverage of the events shows how much the funeral guests celebrated the lives of the deceased. There was sadness, but also joy and happy memories.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Incredible Variation on the Pride & Prejudice Spinoff

Oh my. I MUST buy this book just because of the title:

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance -- Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!

As a dedicated Jane Austen fan, with Pride and Prejudice being my all-time favorite book, I must find out how much violence the book does to the original story...

Will this be Elizabeth Bennet's worst nightmare? Will Miss Bingley, Wickham and Lydia be eaten by zombies? Will Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy still get together at the end?

Could this book make my my horror-loving friend Charles Gramlich learn to like Austen?

Thanks go to Jan B. for alerting me to it.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Books Read, 2008

My friend Charles Gramlich of Razored Zen for many years has kept a list of books he's read. I wish I'd done the same thing, but better late than never. I managed to keep a list of all the books I read in 2008. Encouraged by the reading lists posted by Lisa Kenney of Eudaimonia and Tim Hallinan of The Blog Cabin, I decided to post mine here.

I averaged a little more than one per week, fewer than in any year since I can remember. I find it harder to concentrate on books nowadays--I start far more than I finish. Often they just don't pull me into the story; I set them down, meaning to continue, but end up starting another book instead.

When I put a book on the side, I usually plan to return to it eventually. Only rarely do I start one and know I'll never finish it. When that happens I give the book to a friend or donate it to charity--even if I don't like it, someone else may. (Maybe I should start keeping a list of books I've started but haven't yet finished.)

I have several books on the list that were re-reads--books by some of my favorite authors, "comfort reads." Many of the re-reads last year were novels by Georgette Heyer, one of my all-time favorite authors, who died in 1972. Most of her books have long been out of print in the U.S., but are now being reprinted by Sourcebooks in beautiful trade paperbook editions. I purchase them as they're released, and enjoy the pleasure of rereading her wonderful stories.

My favorite of the new reads last year was The Brass Verdict by Michael Connolly, second in his new Mickey Haller series. Excellent, excellent. He's become one of my favorite writers.

Sphinx Ink’s List of Books Read in 2008
Legend: F = fiction; NF = nonfiction; R = re-read; A = audio book

1. My Sweet Folly, Laura Kinsale, 1/19/08 (F; R)
2. White Night, Jim Butcher, 2/18/08 (F)
3. Psychic Eye, Victoria Laurie, 2/24/08 (F)
4. Glass Houses, Rachel Caine, 2/24/08 (F)
5. The Overlook, Michael Connelly, 3/1/08 (F)
6. Seize the Fire, Laura Kinsale, 3/8/08 (F; R)
7. On the Prowl, Anthology (Briggs, Wilks, Chance, Sunny), 3/21/08 (F)
8. High Profile, Robert B. Parker, 3/23/08 (F)
9. What the Dead Know, Laura Lippman, 3/29/08 (F)
10. Blink, Malcolm Gladwell, 3/31/08 (NF; A)
11. Wildfire, Nelson DeMille, 4/2/08 (NF; A)
12. Irresistible, Mary Balogh, 4/17/08 (F; R)
13. Never Lie to a Lady, Liz Carlyle, 4/14/08 (F)
14. A Lady’s Secret, Jo Beverley, 4/19/08 (F)
16. Mystic Horseman, Kathleen Eagle, 4/23/08 (F)
17. Staying Dead, Laurie Ann Gilman, 4/28/08 (F)
18. Jumper, Steven Gould, 4/28/08 (F)
19. The Novice’s Tale, Margaret Frazer, 5/9/08 (F)
20. From Dead to Worse, Charlaine Harris, 5/11/08 (F)
21. Bones, Jan Burke, 5/13/08 (F)
22. Dagger-Star, Elizabeth Vaughan, 5/15/08 (F)
23. Hour Game, David Baldacci, 6/7/08 (F)
24. The Tomb, F. Paul Wilson, 5/18/08 (F)
25. Dead to Me, Anton Strout, 6/15/08 (F)
26. False Colours, Georgette Heyer, 6/15/08 (F; R)
27. Spare Change, Robert B. Parker, 6/16/08 (F)
28. Goodnight, Irene, Jan Burke, 6/19/08 (F)
29. Your Scandalous Ways, Loretta Chase, 6/21/08 (F)
30. The Cotton Queen, Pamela Morsi, 6/22/08 (F)
31. Forty Words for Sorrow, Giles Blunt, 7/1/08 (F)
32. The Ideal Wife, Mary Balogh, 7/3/08 (F; R)
33. Winter Fire, Jo Beverley, 7/5/08 (F)
34. Death of a Stranger, Anne Perry, 7/7/08 (NF; A)
35. Sweet Dreams, Irene, Jan Burke, 7/10/08 (F)
36. A Nail Through the Heart, Timothy Hallinan, 7/13/08 (F)
37. Lady of Quality, Georgette Heyer, 7/15/08 (F; R)
38. Black Sheep, Georgette Heyer, 7/20/08 (F; R)
39. These Old Shades, Georgette Heyer, 7/23/08 (F; R)
40. The Sleeping Doll, Jeffery Deaver, 7/29/08 (F)
41. The Black Moth, Georgette Heyer, 8/1/08 (F; R)
42. Cry Wolf, Patricia Briggs, 8/6/08 (F)
43. Death in Bloodhound Red, Virginia Lanier, 8/14/08 (F)
44. Alone, Lisa Gardner, 8/18/08 (F)
45. Red Square, Martin Cruz Smith, 8/21/08 (F; R)
46. Stalin’s Ghost, Martin Cruz Smith, 8/22/08 (F)
47. Polar Star, Martin Cruz Smith, 8/26/08 (F)
48. All Mortal Flesh, Julia Spencer-Fleming, 8/29/08 (F)
49. The Man with the Golden Torc, Simon R. Green, 9/19/08 (F)
50. The Gallows Thief, Bernard Cornwell, 9/27/08 (F)
51. The Ruby in the Smoke, Philip Pullman, 10/2/08 (F)
52. Regency Buck, Georgette Heyer, 10/20/08 (F; R)
53. The Archangel Project, C.S. Harris, 10/20/08 (F)
54. The Butcher’s Boy, Thomas Perry, 10/23/08 (F)
55. Last Dance at Jitterbug Lounge, Pamela Morsi, 11/2/08 (F)
56. Faro’s Daughter, Georgette Heyer, 11/8/08 (F; R)
57. Once Upon a Christmas, Diane Farr, 11/11/08 (F)
58. From Dead to Worse, Charlaine Harris, 11/16/08 (F; R)
59. The Brass Verdict, Michael Connolly, 11/21/08 (F)
60. The First Quarry, Max Alan Collins, 12/1/08 (F)
61. The Outlaw Demon Wails, Kim Harrison, 12/6/08 (F)
62. The Shadow in the North, Philip Pullman, 12/7/08 (F)

For some reason Blogger isn't letting me imbed the links in the text, so here are the links to my friends' blogs:
Razored Zen --; Charles' booklist reference --
Eudaimonia -- (Lisa's past and current booklists are on her blog's sidebar)
The Blog Cabin --

Friday, January 30, 2009

Hail and Farewell

I welcome 2009 because it brought a new president, in whom I have much hope.

I shrink from 2009, however, because it brought the departure from New Orleans of Laura Joh Rowland, a good friend whom I shall miss greatly.

You know as much as I do about our new president, and the hopes of the voters who elected him. I shall focus instead on my friend, whose departure I bemoan. Laura has moved to New York due to her husband's job change.

I've known Laura since 1993, when I joined SOLA, the local chapter of RWA, a national writers' organization. Laura was already a member and she made her first book sale that year (Shinju, first in her Sano Ichiro mystery series). For a long time we were mere acquaintances, but over the last eight years we became friends. Since 2001 we've belonged to a writers group that meets once a week. Over those years I've seen Laura nearly every Monday--she was a faithful attendee and rarely missed a meeting. I had the chance to get to know her, and everything I discovered about her is admirable.

Laura is, first, a fine person, kind, loyal, honest, hardworking, and conscientious. She has a serious demeanor, but underneath an antic sense of humor and a fine wit.

She is, second, a true artist, creative in many ways. As an author, she's had 14 books published (13 in her Sano Ichiro mystery series set in 17th century Japan, one so far in her Charlotte Bronte mystery series). She's a fine writer, with a wonderful skill at taking us back into a historical setting and making us see, hear, feel, smell and taste it. Her characters live and breathe, as if in the room with us. Her plots are fiendishly clever.

Laura is generous in sharing her knowledge with fledgling authors, and encouraging them to become productive writers. She regularly gives talks to groups of writers as well as readers, and presents programs at writers' conferences. For more than 10 years she mentored a critique group in New Orleans that had been started by the noted science fiction author George Alec Effinger. She always has a fresh perspective to offer on one's work; her advice is cogent, succinct, and as valuable as gold.

Laura is a painter, too, and plans to pursue that talent with serious study at a major art school soon. She faithfully took painting classes for years while in New Orleans, and her work decorated the walls of her home in New Orleans. (I wish I'd asked her to paint one for me.) Last year the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts gave her a special award for "exceptional promise, discipline, and selfless devotion to the fine arts."

Laura now resides in one of New York's five boroughs, outside of Manhattan, in a busy neighborhood full of people speaking other languages. The population in her new neighborhood is mostly Korean immigrants. (Laura, a third-generation American of Korean and Chinese ancestry, says for the first time in her life she's part of the majority ethnicity.)

What wonderful grist for a writer's mill. I know she'll enjoy all the opportunities and excitement that New York has to offer, but oh, how we'll miss her here in New Orleans.

Ave atque vale, Obama and Rowland.