Following our time in Jordan, the second part of our recent trip was focused on Cappadocia, in Central Turkey, also a place we had long wanted to visit.
Over the past decade or so, as we considered this trip, we must have seen hundreds of photographs of the strange formations which make up this magical area. Often, when that happens, the traveler is disappointed with the reality, for how can the beautiful images match the reality of what you’ll see and how you will experience it? We are happy to report that in this case we were not disappointed. Cappadocia is even more impressive than its pictures, even Ellen’s!
Kapadoky (its Turkish name) was designated in 1985 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, primarily for its dramatic landscapes, underground cities, cave churches, and houses carved in the rocks.
It’s a semi-desert region dating back as far as the Bronze age and known for its tall, cone-shaped, rock formations (“fairy chimneys”) and for its cave dwellers (“troglodytes”). It later became used as refuges by Christians.
The soft volcanic rock was shaped by erosion into towers, cones, valleys, and caves and was used throughout history (think Byzantine, Roman and Islamic eras) by inhabitants who built rock cut churches, underground tunnels, and ‘cities’. Wind erosion created exotic shapes out of the sandstone, each area different — strange, weird, mesmerizing. Ellen’s camera never stopped clicking.
We went to Cappadocia largely for its stunning landscapes and natural wonders, but we learned so much about ancient religious history. We flew from Istanbul to Kayseri and drove to the small town of Uchisar. We stayed four nights at the wonderful Museum Hotel (partially built into the caves) with its unique rooms and panoramic views of various valley and sites.
The photographs you see below and in the slide show are from the Devrent, Pasabag, Pigeon, and Zelve Valleys and the underground city of Kaymakli, the Goreme Open Air Museum, the ancient city of Sobesos, and Ortahisar.
Certainly one of the highlights was the hot air balloon flight as we floated over Cappadocia’s unforgettable landscapes. We rose at 5 AM and took our place in that tiny but tall basket below a very large hot air balloon. We rose into the air as the sun was breaking over the mountain tops around us. To say this was spectacular would be an understatement. At one point, there were well over 100 hot air balloons in the air at the same time, creating a unique sight itself. Fortunately, none of them crashed that day.
Our time in Cappadocia, along with the first part of the trip (see Thru Ellen’s Lens: Petra & Wadi Rum), certainly ranks in the top tier of our continuing explorations of the world.
As always, we recommend you view all the photos in the largest size possible (use a laptop or desktop computer). They are much sharper and much more detail than the ones above or if you only look at the opening page of the slide show.
Ellen and I recently returned from a 10-day trip to Petra (Jordan) and Cappadocia (Turkey). For many years we had wanted to visit these two treasures of civilization. Having to postpone the trip twice because of COVID restrictions, we were finally able to make this long desired trip in October.
We have divided Ellen’s photos and some brief notes about these trips into two posts, starting with our journey to and through Jordan. (The second post will appear in a week or two, focusing on Cappadocia.)
We met our wonderful guide, Riyad Shishani, who stayed with us for our five days in Jordan and proved to us once again the importance of having the right person to introduce us to and teach us about the treasures and stories of his country:
We began our trip with a drive north from Amman to the hills of Gilead and the Greco-Roman city of Jerash, an extensive area of archeological remains (Neolithic, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Umayad) where we spent a half day exploring this vast site:
Riyad then took us back to Amman where he introduced us to its Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic remains (The Citadel, The Roman Theater, The Forum) and the wonderful views over the city. We also wandered in the old part of Amman and wished we had more time to explore the markets, restaurants, and crafts there:
Our knowledgeable driver, Nabil Hamo, drove us south to Dana, Jordan’s largest nature reserve (think 200 square miles of spectacular mountains and wadis on the edge of the Great Rift Valley) and then on to Wadi Rum (Valley of the Moon). One of the two highlights of this part of our trip, we explored this desert landscape by four-wheel jeep, a four-hour, five-mile hike through the sand dunes, canyons, and sandstone mountains, and an overnight stay at the Aicha Camp. (Ask Ellen some time about locking us out of our luxurious domed ‘tent’ at 4:45 AM.):
Heading back north through more stark landscape, we stopped at Little Petra, a site that dates back to the first century and may have served as a ‘suburb’ to the larger city of Petra. Smaller and less crowded than Petra itself, Little Petra’s buildings are carved into the walls of the sandstone canyons and gave us a taste of what we were to experience over the next two days.
Petra itself covers an area of 100 square miles. It was carved into and out of rocks and canyons between 800 BC and 100 AD. It was an important city in its day as it served as a stopping point along a major caravan route. Until an earthquake in the 4th century destroyed much of the city, it thrived as the capital of the Nabataean Empire with its temples, theaters, tombs, and extensive water system. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World (2007).
For us, the 1.2 km long, narrow gorge (The Siq), leading into the city and The Treasury, was the highlight of Petra. We walked in an out of this dramatic entryway twice, once by day and once by candlelight. That walk will be forever in our memory.
We ended our road trip in Jordan with a brief stop at Mount Nebo, the biblical site where Moses was said to have viewed, but was not able to enter, the Holy Land. Despite some cloudy weather, we were able to see Jordan, the Dead Sea, and Israel.
The trip was fascinating on many levels: its ancient historical backdrop; the landscapes of the gorgeous red desert of Wadi Rum; the passageway into ancient Petra (and walking there after dark by candlelight); the delightful and knowledgeable guide; the adorable group of school girls picnicking (who insisted on phone pictures) as we walked in the Dana Reserve; learning how to open and eat a pomegranate just plucked from a tree by a local guide; and the general good will we felt as tourists. As always, we took a cooking class, and enjoyed the local cuisine, largely for its delicious hummus, pita bread, baba ganoush, and many variations of salads.
See all the photos in the largest size possible (use a laptop or desktop computer if you have access to either). They are much sharper, and the larger format presents them in much more detail than the ones above, or if you only look at the opening page of the slide show.
On August 30th, I unequivocally, but sadly, wrote that after 18 years as a full season ticket holder of the Washington Nationals, I had terminated my annual contract with the team and its owners.
Primarily, I was fed up with the Nats’ model of getting good young players and then abandoning them when they reached free agency, which, among other things, is unfair to the fans. Getting attached to players only to have them go elsewhere maybe understandable (players have every right to determine their value, and the owners have their right to their business model). But as I came of age in a time when a fan could count on their favorite player being with their favorite team year after year, I found it hard to adjust to this new reality. And so I decided I wanted to withdraw my financial support of both the owners and players.
There were also other reasons I gave up the tickets. All my season ticket partners for the 81 home games had, for a variety of reasons, gradually dropped out of the partnership, and the tickets and parking therefore had become extremely expensive. Watching the Nats go 55-107 was another reason I was unhappy with the Nats and their ownership, even for this Red Sox fan who has endured many, many years of disappointment. While I still cared about baseball, it seemed I could choose to go to a few games a year and continue to ‘register’ my protest as a fan about being part of a system that rewarded the owners and the players to care more about the money than the game.
Then, over the last month or so of the season, I attended five or six games and found that despite all the reasons listed above, I still loved being at the ballpark, watching baseball, and always looking for something I had never previously witnessed (e.g., one umpire being overridden on three consecutive missed calls at first). Above all, I enjoyed being with family and friends for an afternoon or evening of baseball and companionship.
So, while I had terminated my full season three seats and parking, and with some encouragement from Cassie Bullis, my young Nats’ account executive, I decided to return as a partial season ticket holder (two seats, 41 games, and parking). I won’t have total choice of every game I want to see, but I can swap tickets for a particular game(s). The Red Sox, for instance, are here for three games in August and only one of those is on my 2023 Plan B.
If any of you have interest in being a partner for at least five games, let me know, and we can discuss which games, costs, etc.
And I will continue to invite various family and friends to join me and so urge you to let me know if you want to attend a game together. (Added Note: if you don’t live in DC but will find yourself coming to our ‘swamp’ sometime in the next year, consider checking with me about seeing a game, either together or with a friend.)
I will also continue to pass on some tickets to various charities and friends at no cost.
Baseball will remain a part of my life even while I disapprove of many aspects of what it has become.
As the Duke of Brooklyn (Sean McLaughlin) has said, “with all its faults, it is still THE best sport.”
There were only two contests this year, and the questions required contestants to answer six questions in the first contest and five in the second. In both contests, it was difficult to declare an outright winner, but here’s what yours truly has decided:
Contest #1: Are you a ‘homer’ or do you really know your team?
If your name is NOT in the following list, consider yourself a ‘homer’:
Ed Scholl, Jesse Maniff, Matt Galati, Larry Longenecker, Brent Schultz, Nicholas Lamanna, Bill Bronwell, Zack Haile, Jim Kilby, Chris Ballard, Dawn Wilson, John Carlson.
Of these 12 who all avoided the ‘homer’ label, it was difficult to choose between the two best submissions.
Matt Galati said the Pirate’s record would be 60-102 (they were 62-100), would be last in their Division (they were), and wouldn’t make the playoffs (they obviously didn’t), and he attributed that to mismanagement, lack of offense, and a weak defense (all true).
Chris Ballard said the Astro’s record would be 97-65 (they were 106-56), said they’d win the AL West (they did), have a first round bye (true), would go to the World Series and win it (true). His eight reasons were detailed and amazingly on target.
And so Matt and Chris share the Winner title for Contest #1, and each will receive a copy of Joe Posnanski’s superb The Baseball 100.
Contest #2: Name the four teams in the LCS, what two teams will make it to the WS, how many games will the WS go, which team will win, and why.
No one shined in this Contest. Brent Schultz did pick the Phillies to make it to the LCS and the WS (where they would lose to the Twins). Pretty good.
Joe Higdon and Chris Ballard (the same guy from Contest #1) had the best overall answers, each getting one of four teams in the LCS, one of two teams in the WS, who would win it all, and pitching being the reason for the victory.
Joe wins as he picked the Astros in six, and his submission was early. Chris loses to Joe as he picked the Astros in seven and, as usual, was late in making his picks.
So Joe gets one ticket to the 2023 World Series.
*** *** ***
See you all again next year when MLB will have instituted some new rules in the hopes of making beisbol more fan friendly.
Many of you have commented over the past few years about your enjoyment of Ellen’s photos from our various trips throughout the US and abroad.
A panel of judges at Wilderness Safaris, one of our favorite outdoor travel/adventure companies, has chosen Ellen’s photo above as a finalist in one of their four contests, African Landscapes.
If you think the photo above is worthy, you can cast a vote for her photo, as the winner(s) will be chosen exclusively by visitors to Wilderness Safaris’ website.
You have to register to vote, but there is a box to check so you will not receive any future mailings from Wilderness Safaris.
Do vote in each of the four categories as there are some truly amazing photos in each. As you vote, the display will automatically move to the next category. Ellen’s photo is in the category of African Landscapes, and, as you can see above, it’s a picture of a lone rock on the vast red/orange of the Namibian desert.
Full disclosure: There is a prize for the winning photos. But when I urged Ellen (she describes it as ‘extreme coercion’) to enter the contest, we knew nothing about prizes being attached to contest. I simply felt it could be fun to see how others who do not know Ellen would judge her work.
And while it would be rewarding to be chosen as a winner, the fact that her desert rock photo has made it to the finals in this amazing collection of photos is certainly an honor in and of itself.
Ellen and I recently had the good fortune to spend 10 days in Montana, three days visiting long time friends in Bozeman, and then seven days with our elder daughter and her family in the Big Sky area . It was a thoroughly delightful time: beautiful weather — clear skies, clean air, and day-time temperatures in the mid- 70’s; a homemade fire pit, wood gathering, and s’mores; rafting, hiking, biking, horseback riding, zip lining, kayaking; a wonderful house perched some 8,000 feet in the sky; evenings of good food (even the children tried bison one night!); and all of us working together on a 1,000 piece puzzle.
Today’s post is for those of you who enjoy seeing “Thru Ellen’s Lens” — her photos from our various travels. As she said repeatedly through out the trip, “They don’t call this Big Sky country for nothing.” You’ll see that and more.
If you want to see more than the 10 photos below, you can click on the link at the end of this page to see her full 40 photos on Flickr. (Snuck in between the landscapes you’ll even find a few pictures of our three oldest grandchildren, but you’ll have to click on the link below to do so.)
If you want to see more of Ellen’s photos of Montana (and a few of the grandchildren), use this link to Ellen’s slide show: Thru Ellen’s Lens: Montana.
Today, after 18 years as a full season ticket holder of the Washington Nationals, I informed the Nats that I am terminating my annual contract with the team and its owners.
Let me explain.
I love baseball.
Ever since my wonderful grandfather took me to Fenway Park and introduced me to the game, it’s been an important part of my life, including playing it in the street in front of our house and then moving on to Little League, listening to games on the radio, then watching on TV, and of course attending as many games as I could. (I use to gather baseballs hit over the fence at Tinker Field in Orlando, FL so I could turn them in for free entrance to Minnesota Twins Spring Training games.)
I’ll spare the reader any of the many baseball related stories with which I’ve burdened my children, my wife, and my friends over the years. Suffice it to say, as my favorite T-Shirt proclaims, “Any Team Can Have a Bad Century.”
In 2005 when the Montreal Expos were relocated to DC and became the Washington Nationals, I quickly teamed up with some friends to get season tickets to RFK Stadium (where they played until moving to their new stadium in 2008). So it’s been 18 years that I’ve been attending Nats’ games – and enriching its owners – largely because I simply love what baseball offers, even if it’s not watching the Red Sox. (In fact, attending Nats’ games is sometimes more relaxing than watching the Red Sox, where I am on edge on every pitch, etc.)
So why my decision to abandon my season ticket status?
Primarily, I do not want to continue to support a franchise that consistently refuses to keep players like Bryce Harper (not my favorite guy), Anthony Rendon, Trey Turner, Max Scherzer, and Juan Soto. The ownership’s model of largely acquiring outstanding players when they are young and relatively inexpensive and getting rid of them when they are reaching free agency and have become expensive may be financially smart for the owner, but is terrible for the fans. (My Bosox did that with Mookie Betts, and while I have still not forgiven them for that, at least they have not made it a way of continually ‘doing business’ as have the Nats.)
Try explaining to my perfect three eldest grandchildren**, one who ‘loved’ Bryce Harper, one who ‘loved’ Trey Turner, and one who ‘loved’ Juan Soto, why none of these players are still playing for the Nats. Although it’s not the only reason, none of these grandchildren have kept up interest in baseball, while they continue to be fans of other sports, particularly football.
The Lerner family paid $450 million to purchase the Nats. They are now in the process of considering offers to sell them, likely for perhaps as much $2,000,000,000 or more. Yes. two billion dollars.
The team has been decimated and is “rebuilding” for the future. But not with the help of my three ticket, full season income.
I will no doubt attend a few games next year, largely because I still love baseball. I enjoy going with others for an afternoon or evening at the park, and with the new schedule of every team playing every other team starting in 2023, there is the opportunity to see any team or player in either the American or National League.
I don’t think I’m the only baseball fan that is choosing to terminate their season plan or to reduce the number of games they will attend.
Caveat Emptor – Let the Buyer (of the Nats) Beware.
**My two youngest perfect granddaughters, six and five, perhaps wisely have chosen to live 1,055 miles away from DC, and so I have only just begun to work on their full baseball indoctrination. Unfortunately, on a recent trip to Kansas City where we attended a game together, the lowly Royals creamed the Sox 13-7. But then, as I learned from experience with my own daughters, it’s probably better not to instill too high expectations concerning my Bosox heroes.
I’m going to be away for many Nats’ games in August and would be glad to pass on some tickets to those of you who (still) want to see a Nats’ game.
Here are the dates that are available, on a first come, first serve basis, with no cost to you, The seats are quite good, Section 127, Row Z, Seats 1, 2, & 3., about 20 rows off the field between the catcher and first base.
Friday, Aug. 12, 7:05 vs Padres, 7:05, three tickets
Saturday, Aug. 13, 7:05 vs Padres, 7:05, three tickets
Sunday, August, 14, 1:05 vs Padres,t hree tickets
Monday, August 15, 7:05 vs Cubs, three tickets
Wednesday, August. 17, 1:05 vs Cubs, three tickets
Friday, August 26, 7:05 vs Reds, three tickets
Saturday, August 27, 7:05 vs Reds, one ticket
Sunday, August 28, 1:05 vs Reds, three tickets
Tuesday, August 30, 7:05 vs Athletics, three tickets
Wednesday, August 31 vs Athletics, three tickets
If you are connected with an organization that could use tickets to give to staff and or students, you’re welcome to these games also.
You do need to have the MLB Ball Park App on your phone as the ‘only’ way I can forward tickets are through this AP. No more printed tickets. (In an ‘extreme situation,’ I could go to the Box Office and get a set printed out, tho I would have to do that soon as I’ll be away for most of the days above.)
Let me know if you’re interested in any of the games above. And if you only want one or two to a particular game, that’s OK as I can try to sell the remaining ones…
This summer Richard and I had a chance to spend close to a week in Los Cabos, Mexico, a place we had never been.
I was lucky to have a new camera with me, and I spent part of every morning walking along the rock covered beach. I fastened my eye on the waves as they burst on the rocks, trying to capture their force and power. I was almost equally fascinated by the rocks themselves, many of which looked as though they were just mounds of sand, some of which create almost lunar type landscapes.
It wasn’t hardship photography.
I took at least 1,000 pictures over six days. Below are four of my favorites, and I winnowed the rest down to 20. You can find those in my Flickr Album. Look at them on a big screen if you can to understand the majesty of the sea.
PS from Richard: You gotta see these in the biggest format possible. When you get to the album of 20, click on each one to enlarge it and go through them one by one.
I’m pleased to post this list of 34 titles that were particular favorites to MillersTime readers and contributors over the past few months. (Note: contributors were limited to submitting just one title for this post, and one book was cited by two different contributors). The breakdown between female and male contributors favored females (23-11).
As has been the trend over the past few years, there were slightly more non fiction (NF) than fiction (F) titles (18-16). Also, almost half of the fiction titles were historical fiction (HF).
As always, the value of the list comes from the comments each contributor makes about her or his choice of a favorite read. And even if you don’t know the individual who cited a particular book, I think there’s value in reading all of the comments.
Enjoy the list, I think you’ll find a least a few that might appeal.
As always, this type of posting can only happen because of your willingness to participate.
Thanks to all.
Recent Favorite Reads – Alphabetical by First Name of Contributor
Abigail Wiebenson – A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende (HF). I loved it.
Anita Rechler –The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson (NF). I am not the most likely person to be drawn into a book that takes a deep dive into basic science. FWIW CRSPR could have been a drawer in my refrigerator for storing lettuce. (Well, not really.) For a novice, Isaacson makes the science of gene editing accessible. What kept me engaged were the human stories of people driven by camaraderie, curiosity, competition, collaboration, capitalism. I ‘read’ the book on audible.
Barbara Friedman – American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin (NF), is a fascinating biography of the brilliant theoretical physicist, the man who made the Manhattan Project (and the bombs) happen. He was caught up in the McCarthy Trials – was he a member of the Communist Party? – and ended his career as the head of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. There were heroic as well as tragic aspects of his life. The book is very much worth a read.
Charlie Atherton – When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamin Labatut (NF), a National Book Award finalist and rated by the NYTimes as one of the ten best books of 2021. I must admit that I am usually a reader of fiction, crime fiction, but I most enjoyed the author’s combination of personal details from the lives of eminent scientists and mathematicians, many of which were undoubtedly fictitious, coupled with readable descriptions of ideas produced by the greatest minds of the modern era.
Chris Boutourline – Anxious People by Fredrik Backman (F) (author of A Man Called Ove). I read this after my wife started it and then put it down after 40 pages or so. She said that the transcripts of the police interviews of witnesses weren’t making sense and, that, overall, she just wasn’t enjoying it. Since it is an upcoming read for my book club I read it all the way through. The gist of the story is that a bank robbery goes bad, and the bank robber takes the attendees of a condo open house hostage while trying to figure out what to do next. Early on the novel does feel disjointed as the witness statements reveal more about those recounting than about the robber. Best not to say much more, other than I told my wife that I thought she’d be rewarded by picking up where she left off, and, after finishing it, she agreed. Suicide is one of the numerous themes the novel touches upon.
Cbris Rothenberger – The Four Windsby Kristen Hannah (F). This is the story of Elsa, unloved by her family, a hasty marriage, and abandonment by her family. The Dustbowl, Great Depression become the backdrop to the story of Elsa’s survival. Starvation and desperation punctuate this book. She leaves for California with her children in search of a better life and there endures the battle between the “haves” and “have nots,” a nation divided, and the rising up of migrant workers in her struggle to survive.
This book was a sad and difficult, but an illuminating read of an era that I knew little about. It puts a spotlight on the land, on love, the definition of hope and heroism, and a country in crisis. It is a very powerful story that has stayed with me and is a portrait of that time in our history as seen through Elsa’s eyes.
Chuck Tilis –Thou Shall Innovate—How Israeli IngenuityRepairs the Worldby Avi Jorisch (NF). A compendium of inspiring vignettes describing the incredible contributions “Israelis” created to improve the lives for all human-kind. Israelis in quotes as most inventions were due to the collaboration between Jews and Arabs. I liken this book as the sequel to Start Up Nation. Each story stands on its own and can be read one at a time at any pace.
Cindy Olmstead – The Personal Librarianby Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray (HF). Historical novel about JP Morgan’s personal librarian, Belle de Costa Greene, the Black American woman who hid her identity to curate a collection of rare manuscripts, books and artwork for JP Morgan’s new Pierpoint Morgan Library. This is the story of an extraordinary woman known for her intellect, style (famous for her hats), and ability to mingle in society’s upper circles to accomplish what she knew she had to do. Excellent read!
David Stang – Hair of the Dog to Paint the Town Red: The Curious Origins of Everyday Sayings and Fun Phrases by Andrew Thompson (NF), a lawyer obsessed with finding out the truth about over two hundred Idiomatic expressions and how they were derived. Thompson’s persevering scholarship traces the roots of several terms in his book as far back as the Fifteenth Century. For curious minds this book is a truly fascinating read.
Donna Pollet – Anil’s Ghostby Michael Ondaatje (HF). Given the most recent headlines about the uprising and collapse of the government in Sri Lanka, this novel written in 2000 characterizing an earlier and turbulent civil war of unrest, murder, and kidnapping will evoke interest. The writing is compelling, and the characters are multi-dimensional with absorbing back stories. Anil, a forensic pathologist called in by an international organization, teams up with Sarath, a local government official and archeologist to investigate a series of murders in violation of human rights. Their investigation leads to the discovery of an unidentified victim and becomes a mission to find justice for him and the countless other nameless murdered. It is a story of personal tragedy, individual integrity, and the spirit of human resilience.
Elizabeth Lewis – Walk with Me: A Biography of Fannie Lou Hamer by Kate Clifford Larson (NF). With its copious footnotes, this biography reads more like a thesis than a popular account of the life of a remarkable woman whose presence in and command of the Civil Rights Movement spanned much more than is popularly known. It is frightening, uplifting, and far too relevant for the faint of heart.
Elizabeth Tilis – Lily’s Promise: How I Survived Auschwitz and Found the Strength to Live by Lily Ebert (NF). The story of a Holocaust survivor from Hungary and her great-grandson Dov who used social media to track down the family of the GI who gave Lily a banknote on which he’d written “Good luck and happiness” the day she was liberated.
Ellen Kessler – Prison Minyan by Jonathan Stone (F). I recently read & enjoyed this novel. It is modeled after Otisville State Prison in Otisville, NY (Michael Cohen, personal atty for Trump before he started talking, went there). The book is very entertaining and often amusing. The rabbi conducting the minyan is one of three rabbis in prison! The characters are stereotypical in some ways, and there are some serious ideas to consider, but I enjoyed the book for the humor most of all. I have recommended it to some friends, and all of them have told me how enjoyable it is. A perfect vacation book!
Ellen Miller – The Twilight World by Werner Herzog (HF). The German filmmaker Werner Herzog’s first novel tells the story of a Japanese soldier — Hiroo Onoda — who defended a small island in the Pacific for 30 years after the end of World War II. It is an absolutely remarkable and mesmerizing story, from both how Herzog met Onoda to the long hours they spent together unraveling Onoda’s story. We learn how Onoda survived in the jungle and fought the enemy as he had been instructed by his superior officer in 1944, just as the Japanese troops began to withdraw from the island. He ignored repeated pleas to surrender throughout the years, thinking they were ‘enemy’ tricks.
Herzog brilliantly adds some details to the story, which are purely fictional, to fill in the blanks of the actual story and to keep the reader engaged. This is an unusual book, an unbelievable and unknown story brought to life by Herzong’s storytelling and literary talents.
Fran Renehan – The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles (F) who also wrote A Gentleman in Moscow, which was one of the best books I have ever read. I think his writing is superb. This story is about a young boy just released from a detention center. He finds his brother, and they set off to find their mother. However, two other boys arrive on the scene that have escaped from the same institution. The stories are twisted, and there are way too many segues for me. But I still could not put it down.
Fruzsina Harsanyi – The Grieving Brain: The Surprising Science of How We Learn from Love and Loss by Mary-Frances O’Connor (NF). This amazing book by a neuro-scientist shares groundbreaking discoveries about how our brain handles grief and provides a new paradigm for understanding love, loss, and restoration. During the past 10 months I have read a lot of fiction and non-fiction about grieving, and this is by far the most helpful.
Garland Standrod –H of H Playbookby Anne Carson (F). Anne Carson is an eccentric and quite original poet and translator of ancient Greek texts, and for her translations, she uses modern language and contexts to bring out the depth and wit of the piece involved. H of H Playbook is a facsimile edition of her translation, with illustrations, of Euripides play Herakles. Anne Carson is also well known for her translations of Sappho and of the Oresteia.
Hugh Riddleberger – Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill by Sonia Purnell (NF), author of best selling AWoman of No Importance. Well written, exploring the life of Clementine Churchill…once again confirms my belief that women are so much better in most things. Devoted to Winston, without her, most likely Britain would have fallen. His loyal advisor and critic, a complex woman. Worth a read.
Jane Bradley – Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynastyby Patrick Radden Kee (NF). This extraordinary history of the family and the marketing strategy at the heart of the opioid crisis helps you understand, and support, the movement to drop the Sackler name from the museums and galleries whose benefits so many have enjoyed.
Jeff Friedman – The Fall of Robespierreby Colin Jones (NF) provides a detailed, hour-by-hour account of the coup that ended Robespierre’s reign in 1794. The history alone is gripping, but the book also offers fascinating insights into the nature and fragility of political power.
Jesse Maniff – In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson (NF). Set in Nazi Germany in 1933 and told from the perspective of the American ambassador’s family, this book was a terrifying reminder of what can happen when fringe beliefs become normalized in the pursuit of maintaining power.
Judy White – The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman (NF). I had read this some years ago and re-read it last winter, enjoying it again. The author becomes very involved with all the players in a real-life drama involving a Hmong family, whose young child has seizures that cannot be controlled, and the doctors and social workers who try to help. She (the author) is able to understand where each of these people is coming from and convey their positions beautifully, no easy task. The author, too, plays a role even as she observes. An all-time favorite — I’ll probably read it again in a few years.
Kate Latts – Hands down the best book I have read in the past few month is The Women of Chateau Lafayette by Stephanie Dray (HF). There are three interwoven true stories about the women who were inspired by the legacy of Marquis de Lafayette and his castle in the French countryside. One of the stories set in the late 1700s chronicles Lafayette’s wife throughout their 34 year marriage and his journey to become a beloved hero. The second story is set during WWI and features the real life woman who created the Lafayette Foundation as she travels between NYC and France establishing Lafayette’s castle as an orphanage. The third story is set in WWII and focuses on a young woman who grew up the orphanage and joins the resistance movement during German occupation. The book is not short, but very good.
Kathleen Kroos –The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (F). This book has huge juicy secrets right up until the end.
Larry Maknson – Walking the Bowl: A True Story of Murder and Survival Among the Street Children of Lusaka by Christ Lockhart & Daniel Mulilo Chama (NF). An absorbing, immersive look at the lives of street children in Lusaka, Zambia. The book is a result of a multi-year anthropological study of the slum-dwelling kids, but it reads like a novel as it follows the lives of its four main characters. An absorbing read.
Marsha Harbinson – In the City of Bikes: The Story of The Amsterdam Cyclist by Pete Jordan (NF), It’s a fascinating history of cycling in Amsterdam & especially interesting to read of the cycling resistance to the Nazi occupation in WWII.
Martha Curtin – Pachinkoby Min Jin Lee, (HF). I recently read this historical fiction novel that explores life from the perspective of Koreans who emigrated to Japan during WW2. The book is presented in three parts, representing 3+ generations, but is a quick read due to it being well written. This rich time in history offers personal stories from so many perspectives… I’m hooked on historical fiction from this era.
Mike White — The Rose Code by Kate Quinn (HF). I don’t read much fiction but really enjoyed this novel, based on real events and people, about the codebreakers in England during World War II. Hard to put down; many twists and turns in the plot. Judy liked it too.
Mary L – Damon Runyan Omnibus by Damon Runyan (F). I finally finished 500 pages of Damon Runyon short stories which I’ve been sampling for four years. They are funniest when read one at a time as a pause between longer books. Available on-line in Australia: https://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks11/1100651h.html
The natural habitat of Harry the Horse and Nathan Detroit is the neighborhood of Manhattan where I was born. I even found a reference to the hospital where that occurred in one of the stories. Runyon’s stories are all in the present tense which makes them even livelier than they naturally are. I marvel that a man born in Kansas (Kansas!) could capture the ethos of 1920s/30s New York. Set aside all your modern concerns about sexism and representation and go to Guys and Dolls-land. This guy says the book can do.
Meg Gage – The Weight of Ink, Rachel Kadish (HF). A remarkable story that weaves an interconnected tale of two women: one a Jewish survivor of the Spanish Inquisition and a refuge from Amsterdam, who in London manages to become a scribe for a blind rabbi; the other a jaded and ailing London historian who has a deep personal and professional connection to Jewish history. The story and the connection of the two main characters is launched when a huge trove of 350 year old original Jewish letters and documents is found in the course of the renovation of an derilict mansion outside London. The book took Kadish over 10 years to write, which resulted in a deeply researched and poignant story with plot threads involving the likes of Shakespeare and Spinoza. Amazing details about life in London just before and during the plague — I felt like I was there! One of the most compelling books I’ve read in years.
Richard Miller – The Grieving Brain: The Surprising Science of How We Learn from Love and Loss by Mary-Francis O’Connnor (NF). Recently, I came across what has truly been the most insightful explanation of anything I’ve read in connection with the topics of loss, grieving, and grief. O’Connor writes about what happens in our brain when we experience loss and why grief and grieving are so powerful. In helping us understand what science has recently learned about these issues, she shows us a new perspective and a new way to think about these powerful issues. O’Connor writes that The Grieving Brain is in no way an ‘advice book,’ yet for me it offers so many new insights on these subjects that I will return to it many times and will certainly recommend it others.
Romana Campos – I just finished The Night Watchman (F) by Louise Erdrich and really enjoyed it. Can you fact check this, but I believe it won a Pulitzer Prize (Ed. Yup. 2021). So what did I like about it? Cultural perspective. The conversations that take place inside the homes and the workplaces of individuals and families make you feel like you’re sitting at the kitchen table with family, and you find out what’s important and relevant from the perspective of that person, that family, and that community’s lived experience.
Sam Black – Breaking the Age Code by Becca Levy (NF). Levy, a professor at Yale, develops the evidence that common American stereotypes about “senior citizens” are inaccurate and are quite different from the way society views these citizens in some other countries. Moreover, she builds the case that when society believes these things, senior citizens go along, to their detriment, and that these beliefs actually increase illness and death rates. So be warned!
*** *** ***
On a slightly different note, since there are so many books available and we have so many choices, I am curious about how each of you came to read the book you cited. If you have a few moments, please let me and others know in the Comment section of this post how you chose this particular book as well as generally how you go about picking the books you read.That may give all of us ideas of how to find good reads and not spend time on books that are not worthyof our reading time.
Following my bike trip from Belgium to the Netherlands, Ellen met me in Amsterdam where we spent four days in that vibrant city and several days in the northern part of the Netherlands. We had last been in Amsterdam more than 20 years ago.
We stayed in the Jordaan neighborhood wandering along the canals, by the cafes, restaurants, small shops and markets, and dodging the bicycles. We joined a demonstration in Dam Square in support of the people of Ukraine and visited the (former) Jewish Quarter and the stunning Holocaust Memorial.
Mostly we drank coffee (and had apple pie and scones) in various cafes and just enjoyed observing the exuberant activity in this part of Amsterdam. We did have two memorable meals (Restaurant Daalder and the Pesca Vis Seafood Restaurant).
We ventured by rented car out of the city, getting lost on numerous occasions but visited some of the small fishing villages and towns to the north. We also took a train one day to The Hague, specifically to revisit the three Vermeer’s and the Rembrandt’s at Mauritshuis.
Below you will see ten of Ellen’s favorite photos from this trip, and if you want to see more, check out the link below to her slide show.
If you want to see more of Ellen’s photos of Amsterdam and the northern part of the Netherlands, use this link to Ellen’s slide show:Thru Ellen’s Lens: Amsterdam
See all the photos in the largest size possible (use a laptop or desktop computer if you have access to either). They are much sharper, and the larger format presents them in much more detail than the ones above, or if you only look at the opening page of the slide show.
Since it’s the middle of the year, and three months since the last Call for Favorite Reads, I thought it might be valuable to continue mid-year posting of books MillersTime readers are particularly enjoying.
For this mid-year call, I’m asking that you send in just one title and your accompanying remarks about why you enjoyed that book.
As usual, give the title, author, identify the book as F or NF, and, most importantly, write a few sentences or a paragraph of what it was/is about this book that makes it into your category of particularly enjoyable or exceptional.
If you do not have anything to add at this point, you might want to check out the 3/30/22 post, Winter-Spring 2022: Best Reads. There were a number of enticing reads in that post.
I already know what book I’ll select out of the several very good ones I’ve read in the last three months.
How about you?
Deadline for Submission – July 15th
Send to Samesty84@gmail.com
(But don’t wait – I don’t plan to send a reminder)
A year ago my ‘older’ cousin and his wife (Ronald & Elizabeth) invited us to join them on a week-long VBT bike-barge trip from Bruges (Belgium) to Amsterdam (the Netherlands). Ellen, immediately, definitely, and wisely declined as she never learned to ride a bike as a child. I was intrigued, in large part because I enjoy being with Ron and Elizabeth. So, with Ellen’s encouragement, I agreed to go.
Basically, I didn’t think much about the trip until about six months ago, when I learned Ron and Elizabeth were ‘training’ for the ‘guided vacation.’ Having only ridden twice on a bike in the last four decades, I suddenly realized I’d better get serious about being prepared. So I rode on an indoor bike throughout this past winter, then borrowed an e- bike from my son–in-law two months ago so I could ride outside. Eventually, I was riding 20-30 miles a day around Washington. (The longest single day ride on the VBT trip would be 40 miles, divided between a morning and an afternoon ride. The approximate 160 miles we’d ride on the trip was on flat bike paths along canals, on country roads, and we’d have the assistance of an e-bike.) I was encouraged I could do it all.
Then, shortly before the trip was to begin June 1, sadly my cousin Elizabeth had to withdraw because of a foot injury, and Ron understandably did not want to go without her.
A dilemma for me. I’ll spare you the details, but ultimately I decided to go anyway.
On June 1 I flew to Brussels, where I was met by a VBT representative, and together with two other VBT ‘peddlers’ we were driven to Bruges. I was not happy to learn that 15 of the 18 people on the trip all knew each other and had been together for many previous bike trips. I was concerned that I was a novice at biking long distances and might be an outsider with so many people already knowing each other. But I did know one couple from a previous trip Ellen and I had made with Ron & Elizabeth.
I spent a couple of days walking around Bruges, a lovely Belgian city Ellen and I and our daughter Elizabeth had visited previously and remembered fondly. I marveled at Michelangelo’s magnificent Madonna and Child in the Church of Our Lady and climbed and descended the 366 steep steps of the
medieval Belfry Tower for a stunning view over city. Basically, however, I just wandered by myself in the city, spending much of my time sitting at the St. Joris Cafe overlooking the main square, eating apple strudel and frites, tasting various Belgian beers, listening to the tower bells, and observing a world away from Washington, DC.
It was a relaxing and lovely start in this quiet city dominated by bicycles.
Our group met one of our guides and walked with her for about an hour to the barge where we’d board, so to speak, for the next six days. Our rooms reminded me of the sleeping compartments on a train, though slightly larger. The barge, named Fiep after the captain’s daughter, had lots of common space inside and outside, space for all of our VBT provided bikes, and proved to be a comfortable home for the week.
We were immediately introduced to our e-bikes — and each other — and embarked on a 13 mile ‘get to know your bike’ ride along the Bruges-Ghent canal into the heart of Flanders, the Dutch speaking area of Belgium. As promised, the bike paths and roads were paved, flat, and well marked. Additionally, we each had a detailed GPS system installed on our smartphones which guided us with turn by turn navigation. So even though I was a novice, this warm-up ride was easy, and I had no trouble surviving my first bike excursion.
After this ride, we spent the first night on our ‘barge,’ moored near the beautiful city Ghent. Dinner aboard the Fiep was delightfully delicious as were all of the following meals on the barge. Following this very chatty and noisy dinner, we sat on the upper deck, introducing ourselves to each other. Despite my earlier fears, I found them to be an impressive group of people. I think most of the group were 70 or older and were mostly retired. (** See my apology in the COMMENT section of this post). Everyone seemed to have a special fondness for travel, for the outdoors, and obviously for biking. Everyone, except myself, had multiple experiences with biking trips in various parts of the world. Many of the group had gone to medical school together and had stayed in touch over the years. I was soon to learn that this group of 15 were warm, inclusive, and interesting fellow travelers. In addition, there were two ‘young’ women guides (in their mid 30s) and one male ‘trainee’. All three were more than just tour guides and experienced bikers as we were to discover in the days that followed. The small staff on the Fiep, including “Captain Harry Sir,” were also friendly and were important in making our time on the barge relaxing and enjoyable.
We spent part of the next day touring by a small boat through the canals of Ghent and then a few more hours wandering on foot through this enchanting town. In the afternoon, mostly in a steady rain, we biked along a river and through the countryside and a few small villages to the outskirts of Dendermonde. By the time we finished our 20 mile ride, I was soaked as I foolishly had not put on my rain pants. But I was pleased to have survived the distance and the weather without any difficulty. In the evening, our guides led us through a beer tasting session. There are 370 breweries in Belgium with more 1500 beer brands. We were limited to tasting just nine of them.
The next day we admired the charming square of the centuries-old city Dendermonde as we began our longest ride of the trip, 40 plus miles. We biked through the countryside and ferried across the Sheldt River before stopping in Basel for lunch. We continued through farmland and tiny villages and met our barge in Antwerp, Belgium’s second-largest city. I was delighted to find that I was having no issues with any aspect of the biking and realized that the superb GPS app could allow me to ride more slowly than most of the group without fear of getting lost. For the remainder of the trip, I pedaled more slowly, stopped more often, and took more time to appreciate all I was seeing.
On a non-biking day, our guide introduced us to Antwerp, the “Diamond City” and the home of Peter Paul Reubens. While I generally don’t spend much time in churches, I spent probably an hour almost mesmerized by the four Reubens (The Elevation of the Cross (triptych, 1609-1610), The Descent from the Cross (triptych, 1612), The Resurrection of Christ (triptych, 1612), and The Assumption of Mary (altarpiece, 1626) in Cathedral of Our Lady). I wandered a bit in the old city and enjoyed waffles with ice cream and chocolate sauce before returning to our barge. We spent the afternoon cruising along quiet canals and into the small town of Tholen in the Netherlands. That evening we were divided into small groups and spent several hours in the home(s) of local Dutch families.
The following day involved a 30 mile ride, at least 25 of which were in rainy, chilly weather. We rode through the town of Tholen, along small country lanes, and stopped in the village of Our-Vossemeer, the ancestral home of the Roosevelt family. I rode leisurely, stopping particularly to admire the old fashion windmills and the plethora of new wind turbines. We ended in the town of Dorderecht with its crooked church and buildings. It’s one of Holland’s oldest towns and the birthplace of the state of the Netherlands. Fortunately, I had remembered to wear my rain pants, and thus the rain was only a minor inconvenience and didn’t inhibit my enjoyment of the day.
The next day brought a 38+ mile ride in great weather. The highlight was A UNESCO World Heritage Site – the 19 windmills at Kinderdijk. The Dutch have a long history — more than 1000 years — of using windmills not only for power (e.g., grinding grain) but importantly for water management. As much of the country is below sea level, windmills were built to pump water out of the lowlands and back into the rivers beyond the dikes to deal with flooding issues. This day was particularly lovely, cycling through small towns and back roads with many dairy farms and numerous canals. We ended in the medieval town of Vianeh.
Our final day of biking was a mere 28 miles, starting in the little town of Bruekelen and across its white drawbridge, the original “Brooklyn” Bridge. We admired the large 17th-century summer mansions and country estates built by wealthy Amsterdam merchants. Following a picnic lunch next to a windmill and the River Vecht, we rode single file with the guidance of one of the trip leaders the final eight miles along the Amsterdam-Rhine canal all the way into the city of Amsterdam. That was the only portion of the entire 169 miles we cycled that presented a challenge. But we all made it without mishap.
Ellen had flown to Amsterdam a day or two before our group’s arrival there and joined us for the late afternoon and final evening dinner on the boat. We remained in and around the city for five days, and you will get the benefit of her photography of Amsterdam in another post. In the meantime, here is her photo of our group of 18 and our three guides.
My major takeaways:
Delight and pride in being able to bike comfortably long distances without difficulty, even in the rain. I might even do more biking in the coming months.
Enjoyment in exploring Belgium and the Netherlands from the perspective of a bicycle, a boat, and on foot.
Indulgence of being largely on my own without my usual need to be too concerned about others.
Stimulating conversations with the Dutch trip leaders, their backgrounds, lifestyle, and various vocations. They were far more than just guides.
Enjoyment of dinners, discussions, and riding with others of my age group who have chosen to be actively in the world. My initial concerns about being added on to an in-group of 15 were definitely unfounded.
Learning about the the people of the Netherlands (and the difference between Holland and the Netherlands), starting with the informative book Why the Dutch Are Different by Ben Coates.
In the notes I jotted down each evening, I listed 12 times I forgot something or needed help, starting with our drive to the airport when Ellen asked if I had my iPhone (I didn’t and needed to go back into the house to get it). Just some of the other assistance necessary included such things as forgetting evening pills, wallet, helmet, rain pants, backpack, getting my new earphones to work, help with getting the map app started each day, and daily reminders not to trip over the slightly raised doorstep entrance onto the barge.
VBT is terrific at all aspects of what they do – planning and executing bicycle vacations.
It was a wonderfully restorative week, and I owe thanks to Ron and Elizabeth, Hal & Rona Goodman, the other participants on the trip, the VBT organization, and particularly its guides. And certainly, Ellen’s and my sister’s encouragement was key.
Angell has helped us appreciate baseball by reaching deep into our chests and saying what we feel but cannot quite convey why we care so much about this odd and wonderful game. Joe Posnanski (Joe Blogs Baseball)
Over the past several days, many, many baseball writers have written about Roger Angell, one of baseballs best chroniclers, who died at Friday at the age of 101.
I’ve chosen to link to Posnanski’s post today as it captures why Angell stands in the very top tier of baseball’s best writers.
As I sat at Nat’s Park on Thursday, April 7th awaiting the start of the 2022 baseball season, I kept hearing the same comment all around me: “It’s so good to be back.”
And indeed it was.
No matter the rain which had delayed the game from 4:05 PM until the first pitch was finally thrown about 8:30 PM.
No matter the cold. I was wearing three layers and had a fourth, a knitted hat, and warm gloves close by.
No matter that Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer, Ryan Zimmerman, Steven Strasburg, etc., etc. were nowhere in sight.
No matter that the Nats were simply awful, except for a 425 foot ‘useless’ home run from Juan Soto.
It was simply delightful to be back at the park with the green outfield, the freshly swept infield, and enough fans to cheer for either the Nats or the Mets.
And I went again two days later.
The weather was still cold.
There were fewer fans. Probably more Mets fans than Nats’.
The Nats were even worse..
But It was baseball again.
Plus, this was not my beloved Red Sox, who were soon to lose their first two games against those thugs from NY.
Watching the Nats is more relaxing. I want them to win, but if they don’t, it’s not a big deal.
It’s still baseball.
And I think there are some changes coming that will make things better. Wunderkid Theo Epstein (Red Sox and then Cubs GM) is heading an MLB effort to collaboratively evaluate the State of the Game, to look at the rules and institute some changes. His effort is how to make the game better for fans, to restore some action, some drama by putting more balls in play and speed up the game.
*Already there’s no Designated Hitter in the National League.
*Some teams are already using the electronic system between the pitcher and catcher to signal what pitch is to be thrown.
*And there’s a lot of experimenting going on in the minor leagues to evaluate a variety of changes, and some of those will likely make it to the majors during this season.
If you have the time, I high recommend you listen to the interview with Theo where he discusses what is being considered and why:
Whether you believe that nothing should change in baseball, that somethings need to change, or you’re somewhere in the middle, I think you’ll find Theo’s thoughtful approach could just be the best thing to happen to baseball in the foreseeable future. (You can skip the first part of the link above and go to the 13 minute portion of the broadcast. The most important part begins about 23 minutes into it.)
**** **** ****
MillersTime Baseball Contest Update:
It appears that more than 30 MLB sportswriters as well as those from The Athletic have been looking at what the brilliant (?) MillersTime Baseball Contest contributors have predicted for the 2022 season.
Everyone, it seems thinks the Dodgers and the Blue Jays will face each other in the World Series, with the Dodgers the more likely winner. There were a few scattered votes for the Rays and Yankees making it and possibly winning.
But I suspect that both the professionals and the MillersTime contestants will once again be surprised come October/November.
Like last year. Who predicted the Braves would win it all?
As for the first question on the MillersTime contests, there many thoughtful and informed submissions and only a few ‘Homers’. It seems many of you know your team and follow them without blinders (not so Chris E).
But I don’t think anyone will match the brilliance/luck of what Chris Ballard was able to ‘foresee’ last year (see2021 Contest #2 results).
Baseball is back
**** **** ****
If you’re interested in joining me for a Nats’ game this year, email me and indicate if you have a particular game that interests you and/or a particular say or time that works best for you.
Also, if you’re interested in purchasing seats for a game, I have a full season plan in Section 127, Row Z, Seats 1, 2, & 3. They are terrific seats, just about 20 rows off the field, between the catcher and first base. I also have parking next to the stadium. We can negotiate a good price, especially if it is not a game that I already plan to attend (e.g., Dodgers, Orioles).