Thursday, December 31, 2009

Books Read in 2009

I got 40--who can beat that? Probably a lot of people. That's less than one a week.

Best novel (I'm slow here, playing catchup):

Yup, Kite Runner. I haven't seen the movie either. I don't know how much of this story--the culture and racism that was so well expressed in the novel--could come across in a film. But I'll get around to the movie eventually, I'm sure.

Best nonfiction would be Devil in the White City. But its only real competition was The Soloist. For some reason, other books didn't thrill me--some covered interesting topics, but the writing was pedantic; others were just dated tomes that I read as research.

Biggest disappointment: The General in His Labyrinth, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I have no problem with the author de-heroizing Simon Bolivar, but the story never grabbed me. Garcia Marquez, it seems, uses his prose to make points--like the tedium of a long marriage in Love in the Time of Cholera. I barely made it through that, but I appreciated his courage as a writer. I couldn't stay with The General in His Labyrinth past the middle, though--and it had such a beautiful cover!

Monday, December 28, 2009

One More Book for Moi!

Whoopee! Another tome to add to the pile (figuratively, of course. I can't afford to buy this book, even though I contributed to it.)

Latino History and Culture: An Encyclopedia (Sharpe Reference) contains articles that I wrote about Chavez Ravine in Los Angeles, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (which forced Mexico to cede California and the Southwest to the US, way back in the 1840s), and a charming little piece titled "Conquest of the Americas," in which I accomplish the amazing feat of describing centuries of bloodcurdling cruelty in 1500 words.

Yeah, I don't believe it either. But they rewrote it so many times to make it politically correct that all the really nasty stuff has been toned down. I almost wish they'd taken my name off it!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Coligny Calendar

Just in time for Christmas, here's a neat-o site about the Celtic Coligny Calendar!

That's the calendar at left, or a piece of it, which sits in a museum in Lyons, France. The calendar dates to about the first century, but many experts who've examined it think it reflects computations made a thousand years earlier.

According to this site, last October was the month of Ciallos. I'm just juvenile enough to point out the resemblence of that name to a certain pharmaceutical product, and I should be ashamed.

Ciallos is not a month that occurs every year. The Celtic calendar managed to reflect both the lunar and solar time periods, and it did this by adding extra months every few years to keep us all in sync.

We're in the month of Semiusonna now. According to the Caer Australis site I linked to earlier, this (the 24th) is the last day of the month. Christmas Day marks the beginning of Equos--in 2009, at least. But not all calendrical geeks agree with Caer Australis, I'm sure. In fact, some think the Celts began their months with the dark new moon, while others assume the month began with the full moon...or something in between.

Basically, the Celts divided the year into a dark and light half, the dark half (fall and winter) preceding the light half. The months had dark and light halves as well. All months had either 29 (unlucky) or 30 (lucky) days. It's all very complicated, but what I find interesting is that the big feasts do NOT correspond with the solstices or equinoxes (equinoxi?).

Or am I missing something?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Archaeology of Caesar's Gaul

Just came across this webpage in BurgundyToday, which shows the sites linked to Julius Caesar's Conquest of Gaul--the later years, anyway.  Vercingetorix, Alexia, that sort of stuff.

I learned that three sites vie for the honor of being the site of the siege of Alesia, which surprised me. My old, dog-eared copy of Caesar's writings states unequivocaly that Alise Ste. Reine stands on old Alesai. According to Burgundy Today, two other places make that claim. Chaux-de-Crotenay is one; dunno about the other.
The Battle of Alesia, pitting Caesar (with Roman Legions) against Vercingetorix (with a loose confederation of Gaulish tribes), was the defining fight of Caesar's eight-year conquest. Many huge fights occurred before it, and other rebellions and uprisings followed, but Alesia--because of Caesar's writings--is seen as the key fight, and the one that ultimately decided the fate of Gaul. presents a description of the fight, and I borrowed this picture of the Alise Ste. Reine site from their website.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Hah! I can return to this blog, because my stint as a political canvasser for an environmental group ended! Yup, you can take the writer away from verbose prose, but you can't take verbosity outta the writer!

I tried; I did. And I earned money to pay for Christmas gifts. But honestly, getting fired was a relief. I was so afraid that one of those prim matrons coming out of Trader Joe's was truly going to spit on me. They wanted to, I could tell.

I used to be rude to canvassers. Never again. I will never walk by and lie and say I'll come back when I won't (one lady did, bless her, in a month of canvassing). I will never snarl and give them the evil eye. How could I have been so nasty? Maybe this month of being a (lowly) paid canvasser was karmic payback. It is hard work.

On the plus side, you get to be outside all day. You get to meet nice people often. People tell you "Good luck" and "God bless you for doing this." (usually, they tell you this just after explaining why they can't give you any money.)

One the minus end, there are all those nasty old people who growl and want to spit at you. And there's that troublesome part about talking people out of money when they've just told you they have none, that they've been laid off and are taking care of sick parents or are nearly homeless. That's where the fired part comes in. A good canvasser never gives up--a good canvasser will talk that recently laid-off person out of their last five dollars. I wimped out. I said, "Oh, I'm so sorry. Thanks for stopping to talk to me."

I'm so glad I got fired!