Wolf Hall (Hilary Mantel)

"So now get up."

A lot happens in this book, but I got to the end feeling like nothing happened. Our protagonist is very much active: he's a mover and shaker in the court, a real schemer. But it felt like stuff just happened. It's an odd mixture of feelings to come away with.

What Kind of Pie?

When I was young, my mom used to make chess pie.

I know it's a custard pie, but my memory insists on thinking of it as a sort of cheesecake consistency with alternating black and yellow cubes. Memory is a weird thing, because I also do remember it tasting like a less-sweet pecan pie.

Anyway, when I went back to the chess board where I left the tree house, I had pie on my mind. That's the only message here.

Now, that I'm thinking of my mother's pies, the one I'm really missing is grasshopper pie.

This is another in the continuing series of wee toaty explorers, a project to keep me busy while I'm on the road. A nice summary is here. The whole set is available if you click on Wee Toaty Explorers.

The Last Full Day of Summer 2013


I try the title out on myself, out loud, as I drive in my car along California Route 20. I've got an idea for a journey of discovery as I try to decide what the future is going to bring. I am going to drive alone along the entirety of CA 20, from the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, stopping every twenty miles to take a picture. First, I have to get to the terminus of CA 20. Also, I need a title for the series of posts. How does it sound as I speak it aloud to myself?

"The Great Transept"

"What kind of a name is that?" Bertie asks from the passenger seat. When I said "alone," of course I wasn't really counting my imaginary friends. They're not real, and I don't control when they appear and disappear. I have no idea who is going to join me on this trip. I just hope we can get all the way through without my imaginary great uncle (on my sister's side) butting in. Truth be told, I only wish Annabel Lee would show up. She's been gone so long. Instead, I get Bertie.

"I'm not sure, really. I was thinking about a scientist I heard of once who walked across Africa and at every mile, he stopped and did a survey of the flora and fauna at that point."

"You'd think he'd do it in kilometers."

"Maybe it was, I don't remember. But I was thinking that he called it the transept, though I don't know what the word means."

"Actually." I look up into the mirror to see Prasad sitting in the back seat. He adjusts his tie. "A transept is an architectural feature chiefly seen in Christian churches; it's the cross-bar when the floor plan looks like a cross."

"Well, that's not it, then." I glance at Bertie. "What should I call this? You're good with names."

"I only do books," he says. Bertie has a gig reviewing books for the local radio station. His special bit is that he never reads the books, his reviews are completely based on the titles alone. He hopes someday to be invited onto Pop Culture Happy Hour.

"Well, I'm no good with names," I tell him.

"Tell me about it." Sitting next to Prasad now is the boy whose name I can never remember. The car is getting crowded.

"I have face blindness."

"You're no Oliver Sacks."

"Something with a T," I say. "Maybe it's the tesseract."

"That's the glowy thing in Avengers," says the kid with no name (that I can remember).


"That's the little window above the door in old detective movies." (Bertie)


"Geometry: a line that crosses a set of other parallel lines." (Prasad)

"Ok, this is getting nowhere. I need a name that is going to describe what we're doing here. I'm going to take a journey of self-discovery as I think about the uncertainty of my adventure ahead. I'm excited about the uncertainty. I remember when I was a kid and going to to the bookstore or library meant I might find a new book by an author I liked or in a series I enjoyed. You never knew if you had read all there had been written yet or if more were yet to come. Now, you just click on Amazon and there's no doubt. There's no real uncertainty. I want it back. I want what my colleague Jean calls 'the goo of ambiguity.'"

"That's probably not going to bring in any readers."

"True, I expect the goo to be around much longer than these 13 or so stops along CA20."

The kid whose name escapes me leans into the center of the car. "Why don't you name it like a good function. Tell us what we're doing."

"What do you suggest?"

"20 on 20"

"Ok, that's a horrible method name, but I do like it for this series."

"Are you really going to stop exactly every twenty miles? I don't know that we have the proper measuring tools to be that precise," Prasad says.

"True enough, I say. We could call it 20ish on 20."

This brings out the sound I did not want to hear: "Ish?" I look into the mirror again and it is Great Uncle Leadbelly. "Ish? No descendant of mine is going to give in to 'ish.'"

"Actually, aside from being imaginary, sir," (Prasad is always polite.) "As a great-uncle you are not really directly in his line of ascent." Great Uncle Leadbelly waves this away with both hands.

"When I went on a scientific expedition, we did everything with accuracy."

"Accuracy and precision are not the same thing," I try to say, but cannot be heard over Prasad's excited response.

"You went on a scientific expedition? Which one? Shakleton? Carter? Livingstone?"

"Sure all of them. Once I walked all the way across Africa and we stopped precisely every mile to take samples."

"You were not on that trip," I say. "You were never an explorer."

"I was."

"Who was the scientist?"

"Well, now, you can't fault me for misremembering the name of someone I knew so long ago."

"He's got you there," says the non-eponymous kid behind me.

"Then what was the journey called? Didn't he name it?"

"I don't remember."

"You're no help," I say. "No help at all."

"We might have called it 'Around the World in 80 Days'."

"Around the World in 80 Days?"

"Well," Great Uncle Leadbelly looks out the window as we pass the canal that flows uphill. "Around the World in 80ish Days."

Get Shorty (Elmore Leonard)

When Chili first came to Miami Beach twelve years ago they were having one of their off-and-on cold winters: thirty-four degrees the day he met Tommy Carlo for lunch at Vesuvio's on South Collins and had his leather jacket ripped off.

An Uncertain Place (Fred Vargas)

Le commissaire Adamsberg savait repasser les chemises, sa mère lui avait appris à aplatir l'empiècement d'épaule et à lisser le tissu autour des boutons.

I've been running around putting so much in storage in preparation for this move, and so I don't have the book at hand. I read this in its English translation, of course. I'm almost through all the Fred Vargas books that have been translated. They're all interesting, but Have Mercy on us All is still my favorite so far.

The Chalk Circle Man (Fred Vargas)

Mathilde took out her diary and wrote: 'The man sitting next to me has got one hell of a nerve.'

A Man's Tree House is His Rook

Sometimes I want to show all 47 pictures that I take of these Wee Toaty Explorers. But I must restrain myself.

This is one of those cases where several people walked by (there's a walking/biking path here), but nobody seemed curious about what I might be doing.

I thought about titling this: "A Cat is Nobody's Pawn"

I was sure I'd have a lot more chess-based puns, but my mind is blank. I think this one is making me want to take a nap:

And, of course, there's always one dorky cat who forgets to put his foot down.

This is another in the continuing series of wee toaty explorers, a project to keep me busy while I'm on the road. A nice summary is here. The whole set is available if you click on Wee Toaty Explorers.

What Makes it Real?

Well, the "For Sale" sign is up and the house is mostly empty. Now it's up to the market to push me to make a decision. Where shall I live next?

I'm used to moving around. I've not ever lived in the same home for more than five years, and I've already been feeling the highway calling for months. Leaving is easy, though, but going is hard. In the past, parents or school or work drove the decision-making for location, but I'm still in a position where my work doesn't care where I live. This might be the last time that's true, and I want to make this move count.

And if course that leaves me stuck in a kind of analysis paralysis. The perfect, they say, is the enemy of the good. And I've got a picture in my mind of perfect, but no idea what good looks like.

If I were to draw the perfect, it would be a run down place (I want to spend time making something better) perched on a cliff overlooking the sea. The wind is blowing rain into the windows (I miss the energy of storms) as I listen to the crash of the waves. The place is close enough to a major airport that I can visit customers and report in to HQ and although the house is not crowded in amongst a flock of brethren, a population center is not too far off (to provide a good cat sitter for Tubby). I'll need a safe place to walk (to keep to my mileage schedule) and access to a place to slip my kayak in should be reasonably close. I'll need access to the Internet, I suppose, and room for a guest.

Oh, and my budget is not unlimited, especially considering I'll need cash for fixing up. And for bail money, since I figure I'll have to become a PI, too.

I've started exploring the California coast, but nothing has grabbed me yet. If you have a favorite place, let me know in the comments.