A Potpourri of Books on Plant and Animal Consciousness

by David P. Stang, May 15, 2021

[Ed. Note: Because this post was far too long to include in any of the MillersTime Favorite Reads lists, I am posting it here for those readers who have interest in this topic as well as in David’s personal experiences with telepathic communication with animals.]

Many decades ago when I first began to read ancient Buddhist texts in English translation I became quite curious about what the sage old Buddhist authors meant when they employed the term “Sentient Beings.”During my high school and college years I remember being taught that only human beings can be considered to possess consciousness. The Skinnerian Behaviorist writings asserted that the most intellectually advanced animals are capable of nothing more sophisticated than a simple reflex derived from “operant conditioning”.

Part of the reason why I became so confused about the meaning of the term “Sentient Beings” was that I got sucked into believing that B.F. Skinner knew what he was talking about. One magical and unforgettable day about a couple of decades ago I was enriched by an epiphany concerning the consciousness of animals and how we are capable of relating to and communicating with them. This sudden understanding occurred during a visit to the home of my good friend, Dan Dreyfus, who lived in McLean, Virginia. Dan was very bright, earned a Ph.D., and whose cognitive reasoning was consistently quite exceptional. Yet I discerned that neither his doctorate nor his well-honed cognitive and empirical skills constitute the energetic essence of his feeling vibrantly connected to creatures of Nature.

My friend Dan, in order to expose me to how he connects to and communicates with such lovely creatures, took me out on his patio and asked me to sit very still. Then he went inside and came out with food for the birds, squirrels and chipmunks. As he sat down in his chair the birds dropped down from the trees, perched on his arms and wrists and ate the seeds out of his hands. They also flew down to feed on those that had fallen to the patio floor next to his feet. Then the squirrels scampered down from the branches above and ate seeds out of the cup which my friend held firmly against the trunk of the tree.

After he had finished feeding the birds and the squirrels my friend noticed that a chipmunk had arrived on the scene. Dan poured some seeds into the palm of his right hand and sat down holding his hand about three inches above the patio’s red brick floor. The chipmunk headed straight for the hand holding the seeds then stopped dead in its tracks as he noticed my presence. Dan said to the chipmunk, “Don’t be afraid. He won’t hurt you. He’s just a spectator. Now come and eat your seeds.” The chipmunk trotted over to my friend, rubbed his nose against his forearm, then hopped up on my friend’s wrist and ate contentedly out of his hand. The little furry creature filled his mouth with seeds until his cheeks puffed out like little balloons. Then he hopped down and scampered over to the edge of the patio to masticate his mouth full of seeds.

Just then about seven or eight of the birds who had just previously eaten their fill re-landed on the fence at the edge of the patio chirping away as they looked down at my friend. Facing the birds Dan said, “Did you have a good feed?” He then looked at me and said, “They have returned just for the company. They do it all the time.”

He told me that several days each week a wild Fox in his neighborhood walks to the edge of his patio while he is sitting in his chair. The fox will simply stand there and look at my friend and he at the fox. Dan told me that this communion with the wild animals means a lot to him. He said, “I really feel connected to these critters and they to me. I talk to them and they understand me. You can imagine what a transformational effect my experiences with these wild creatures has had upon me.”

As I reflected upon this astounding experience it occurred to me that without a shadow of a doubt both wild and tame animals as well as humans are sentient beings.

I began to wonder if other forms of life could also be considered sentient beings. This curiosity resulted in my discovering a number of fascinating books which shed much light on my longtime quest to understand the nature of sentient beings and their diverse interconnections. I’ll discuss each publication briefly below in the form of mini-book reviews. But having read most of them over the past at least eight or ten years and begun to experiment with communicating with non-human sentient beings I became quite interested in learning more about their consciousness and our consciousness of them and the realities of how we communicate with each other.

What I discovered is that there are a number of different ways of learning about and communicating with non-human sentient beings. First, we exhibit an intensifying curiosity about them. We observe them. We read about them and we ask ourselves a number of questions concerning them. This often becomes a subject-object undertaking. By this I mean that we employ our analytical minds in the exploration of a particular object such as, for example, a dog or a cat or a horse or a cow. Then we make mental notes about what we observe as we continue our intellectual quest to learn more. Now if we become fanatically curious and therefore obsessively pursue our investigations we can spend nearly a decade earning a PhD and doing postdoctoral studies pertaining to our animals or plants of choice. There are a multitude of scientific or quasi-scientific academic disciplines of various sorts that focus on animal behavior, cognition and other faculties. There are yet comparatively few academic investigators of plant consciousness as many scientists remain persuaded that no plant possesses any kind of sensibility equivalent to an animal brain. Accordingly, they are persuaded that plants neither possess what could be called a mind or are capable of any kind of complex thought.

While some of us who are less academically inclined tend to prefer relating to animals than intellectualizing about them. Everyone who has ever had a pet of any kind quickly learned to appreciate the day-to-day experience of relating to that animal. Yet academic scientists who become fond of the animals they study usually go out of their way to prove that what they hypothesize about such animals is irrefutably empirical, avoids all subjectivity and is experimentally replicable.

Then there are psychically gifted human beings who were born with, and came to further develop, an ability to communicate telepathically with animals. They prefer to ask the animals to explain themselves telepathically rather than conduct laboratory experiments to find their answers. Beginning with the next paragraph we will briefly explore several  books written by authors devoted to all kinds of sentient beings  with a focus on the nature of the connectedness between humans and other types of living organisms.

Thru Ellen’s Lens: Close to Home – Fall & Winter in DC

As most of you know, Ellen and I love to travel, both within the US and abroad, and have been fortunate enough do so for the last 50+ years.

As we both retired from our work careers, we had the opportunity for extended trips to Western China, Greenland, Papua New Guinea, the Indonesian Islands, Australia & New Zealand as well as travel closer to home, including photo trips to observe the amazing Monarch Butterflies in Mexico and the awe inspiring Slot Canyons of the Navajo Reserves in Arizona.

With the restrictions brought about by COVID-19, we curtailed our travel and largely stayed closer to home. But we did not stop exploring, and Ellen continued to develop her skills at capturing what she sees wherever she is.

The 10 photos below as well as the 49 in the slide show (see link below) were all taken within just a few miles of our home in Washington, DC.

To see Ellen’s entire slide show (49 photos), use this link: Fall & Winter in DC.

For the best viewing, click on the little arrow at the top right of the first page of the link to start the slide show. If the slide show appears to start in the middle, scroll to the top of the page where you’ll see the little arrow in a box. Click on it.

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 10 you have seen above. They are breathtaking in that format.

MillersTime Baseball Questions Are Back !


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And the first Spring Training games are today, Feb. 28, 2021.

Opening Day is scheduled for April 1. (Hopefully that will not turn into an April Fools’ Day hoax.)

Despite some concerns about less interest in baseball this year, there seemed to be good support for continuing the MillersTime Baseball Contests.

So here we go with the four contests for this year:

2021 MillersTime Baseball Contests

Contest #1:

How will the COVID-19 virus affect the 2021 MLB season? Include some Overall Predictions as well as some Specific Ones. Creativity is encouraged. I’ll choose the five best submissions and have MillersTime baseball contestants vote on the winner.

Prize: Your choice of one of these books: The 25 Best Baseball Books of All Times.

Contest #2:

Pick your favorite MLB team (or the team you know the best) and outline how they will do in the 2021 season compared to last year. Again, include both general predictions and specific ones in your submission and your reasons for those predictions.

Prize: Join me for a Nats’ game next year, or I’ll get tickets and try to join you for a regular season game of a team of your choice anywhere you choose.

Contest #3:

Fill in the Blank:

In 2021:

  1. Which teams will have the most wins in the AL & NL__________________ ___________________
  2. Which team will be the King of New York _______________________(Tim M.)
  3. Number of hitters who will strike out more than 200 times (three did in 2018, none did that in 2019)_________________(Zach H.)
  4. Who will be the Manager of the Year in either the AL or NL (name one) _________________
  5. Which Al & NL teams will have the most improved record from 2020­­­­­­­­­­___________________ ___________________

True /False:

In 2021:

6.______Every team below the league average in payroll (currently $118,485,369) will miss the playoffs. (These teams currently are the Twins, Reds, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Royals, A’s, Rangers, Brewers, Tigers, Mariners, Rays, Marlins, Orioles, Pirates & Indians). (Zach H.)

7.______Dodgers & Padres will combine to win 200 or more games. (Dawn W.)

8.______There will be more HRs in 2021 on per game basis than in 2019 or 2018. (In 2019–6,776 home runs, all-time high for MLB. Broke previous record (2017) by 671 homers for an average of 1.39 homers per team game. (In 2018–5,585 home runs for an average of 1.15 homers per team game (Steve K.)

9.______No MLB Team will play all 162 games.

10.______No MLB pitcher will have an ERA below 2.00.

Prize: Join me for a Nats’ game next year, or if you’re not able to make it to DC, perhaps I can make it to where you live, and we’ll see a regular season game together.

Contest #4:

Assuming there is a World Series in 2021,

  1. Name the two teams who will make it into the WS
  2. Which one will win?
  3. In How many games?
  4. Explain in some detail what will be the biggest specific factor determining the winner?
  5. Tie-Breaker: AL & NL Division winners?

Prize: One ticket to the 2022 World Series or two tickets to the 2022 All Star Game in Los Angeles.

Additional Details:

  1. All winners and those whose questions were chosen for this contest get the ‘one-of-a kind,’ specially designed and updated MillersTime Baseball Winner T-Shirt.
  2. Enter as many or as few of the contests as you want.
  3. If you get a friend (or foe) to participate in these contests, and he or she wins and mentions your name in the submission, you’ll get a choice of receiving one the 25 best baseball books as your prize.
  4. Any two-generation submission that wins will get a special prize.
  5. GET YOUR PREDICTIONS IN EARLY. In case of a tie, the individual who submitted his/her prediction first will be the winner. In previous years, this has been a factor in declaring a winner.
  6. Submissions should be sent to me by email: Samesty84@gmail.com

Deadline for Submissions: Opening Day, noon (EST) April 1

Should the MillersTime Baseball Contests Continue?


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Photo by Ellen Miller

Well now that that Super Bowl thing is over, and those of us who wanted the Chiefs to win have recovered, it’s time to focus on baseball.

Pitchers and catchers are gathering this week and full Spring Training, though with restrictions, will be underway shortly.

It’s hard to imagine what the 2021 MLB season will be with the continuation of the COVID virus – how many games will actually be played; will fans be able to attend games; and if so, will they; how much enthusiasm has faded for baseball, which was already in decline in some ways; and if there is a credible season, what teams will do well; and what players will shine; and which will falter?

Let me know if you are interested in the continuation the MillersTime Baseball Contests.

If you are interested, please help on the questions. Are there totally different types of questions to ask this year and which, if any, questions from the past continue to be part of the contests (e.g., How will your favorite team do in 2021; T/F questions; WS contestants and winners)?

Please send me any thoughts you have. Use either the Comments section of this post or send them to me at Samesty84@gmail.com.

At Last: A Movie We Enjoyed


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by Richard Miller

The last two times Ellen and I posted reviews about films was in April and May of 2020, and all of those were films we had seen at home. (If you didn’t read or don’t remember either of those posts, you might find some films of interest in this link. (See: Our Movie Reviews Are Back, 4/7/2020 and Eight Films & One Guest Review, 5/9/2020). As you may recall, Ellen in particular, is not a great fan of watching movies at home.

Nevertheless, we kept trying to find films, generally ones recommended by other MillerTime readers. (See: Favorite Movies & TV Progams in These Times, 6/18/2020 and Second Rounds of Contributors Favorite Films & TV Programs, 8/25/2020). The few we did like were already well-heralded, and our recommendations would lend little to drawing your attention to them.

Last night, however, we hit on one that we both thought worthy of mentioning to others:

The Dig (Directed by Simon Stone, on Netflix)

Ellen rated it ***** and said, “it was the best thing she’d seen since the coronavirus quarantine began, and we stopped writing about films.”

I rated it **** 1/2 and agree it was the most satisfying film we’d seen in many months.

The story is adapted from a novel by John Preston and is fictional account about the 1939 excavation in Suffolk, England of an archeological site on the property of Edith Pretty, just as World War II was about to begin. (This excavation did in fact take place and has been called “one of the biggest archeological finds of the 20th Century.”) Neither Ellen nor I had read the novel nor knew about this ‘expedition’.

For us, The Dig hit on many of the factors that we like in a film: a good story that does more than entertain; one that educates and provokes; one with fine acting (particularly by the two leads Carey Milligan as Edith Pretty and Ralph Fiennes as Basil Brown, the excavator); and a film that has wonderful cinematography with images that remain in one’s mind well after seeing the film. It is visually beautiful.

Perhaps the film may be more suited to a slightly older audience, one not looking for fast moving scenes and exciting action. The director chooses to move away from the main story of this coastal England countryside dig to include some secondary characters. Fortunately, he returns to his main themes of the discovery and outcome of this dig and questions of who owns history, issues of class inequality, and portrayal of British life, all done in an understated way.

You don’t need to know any more than that, but if you’re interested in some of the background information, you can check out:

The True History Behind Netflix’s ‘The Dig’ and Sutton Hoo, Smithsonian Magazine.

Sutton HooRecreating an Archeological Discovery from the Ground Down, NYTimes.


The Best $50 I’ve Spent All Year…Even Though It’s Free


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Thanks to Hugh Riddleberger’s recommendation in December, I signed up for and began to read Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters from an American which arrives in a daily email (actually it usually seems to arrive well after I’ve gone to sleep).

Richardson is a history professor at Boston College has also taught at MIT & U of Mass, and is the author of a number of books, her most recent being How the South Won the Civil War.

It is the most informative single piece of reporting on the daily political news that I have found. She is able to put together day after day not just what is happening in our country but is able to put it in context.

During the final month and a half of the Trump administration, it was without a doubt the most comprehensive and important account of what occurred each day that I read.

It will no doubt not appeal to all readers of the MillersTime website, but for me, it is the first thing I read each morning, after having read a variety of news sources before going to sleep each night. And I always find insights that I had not discovered elsewhere.

In her own words, Heather Cox Richardson writes about her Newsletter:

About Letters from an American

Historians are fond of saying that the past doesn’t repeat itself; it rhymes.

To understand the present, we have to understand how we got here.

That’s where this newsletter comes in.

I’m a professor of American history. This is a chronicle of today’s political landscape, but because you can’t get a grip on today’s politics without an outline of America’s Constitution, and laws, and the economy, and social customs, this newsletter explores what it means, and what it has meant, to be an American.

These were the same questions a famous observer asked in a book of letters he published in 1782, the year before the Treaty of Paris ended the Revolutionary War.

Hector St. John de Crevecoeur called his book “Letters from an American Farmer.”

Like I say, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it sure rhymes.

If you want to check out a few of her daily writings, you can get access to her recent and past daily emails here.

But what about the headline of this blog post?

Letters from an American is free for simply adding your email address to her site. But I believe it is worth paying for, contributing to her for the hard work she does each day. As the sources for news and daily information are both shrinking (fewer local newspapers for example) and exploding (particularly through social media), I am pleased to support her work even though I am not at present using any of the added features the $50 a year subscription offers me.

I believe you can start receiving her daily emails by going here, where you have several options, including free access, $5 a month, or $50 year. The latter two options have added features to the daily emails.

Richardson has promised: Letters from an American will always be free, but we also have a community behind a paywall to expand on the ideas in the Letters without the help of trolls. If you’d like to join us for discussion and more thoughts from me, you’re most welcome. It’s $5 a month.

“Anything Can Happen”


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I just finished reading what will definitely be one of my Favorite Reads of 2021: Anything Can Happen by George & Helen Waite Papashvily (NF).

I know. I know. I just posted the 2020 Favorite Reads, and here I am already making a list for this new year. But there’s no doubt this wonderful, uplifting story will be at the top of my list, and I’ll reread before the end of the year and encourage others to read it too.

But first, how I came to find and read Anything Can Happen:

My father, Sam Miller, was not a person who cared about acquisitions, except for his books and his chess table. When my mother died in Florida and he subsequentially came to live in DC, the one thing he wanted to bring was his library. And of course, we readily agreed. When he died, I inherited that collection.

I always knew that Sam’s father, Tom, had frequently given him books on his birthday, and these were Sam’s most prized possessions. For years now I have been meaning to look more closely at the books Tom gave Sam, with the possible idea of reading every one.

And so with the ‘enforced’ and extended time at home, four days ago I went through Sam’s treasures. I was surprised to find there were 40 books from his father, each inscribed, including the date given.

(I was also surprised to find five volumes Sam had taken from the University of New Hampshire Library, where he had been a student for a year and a half before leaving college to go to work and also a half dozen books from the Orland Public Library, where Sam was a known offender for keeping books long overdue before, sometimes, returning them.)

There were other books in Sam’s collection that I didn’t remember ever seeing – three from Tom to me and one from my mother’s parents.

Since I wasn’t ready to commit to reading the 40, I thought I’d start with the one from Esty’s parents, Anything Can Happen, a slim volume given to her and Sam when I was just two years old.

What a pure delight.

And not just because it was from my grandparents to my parents and was now in my book collection.

Anything Can Happen (hereafter referred to as ACH) was originally published in serialized form and became a Book of the Month Club best seller in January 1945 (600,000 copies sold in the US and 1.5 million worldwide). It was also turned into a movie directed by George Seaton and starring Jose Ferrer & Kim Hunter.

ACH is the (mostly?) true story of George Papashvily, an immigrant from a village in Caucasian Georgia who came to Ellis Island in 1923 after being an apprenticed sword maker and ornamental leather worker. He was a sniper in the Russian army in WWI, and after his return to Georgia, he fought against the Red Army before fleeing to Istanbul and then on to the US.

Together with the writing assistance of his American born wife, Helen Waite, ACH tells in broken English about his life from the time he arrived here and continues through one memorable experience after another. It is told with a wonderful sense of self-deprecating humor as he discovers that his new country is not exactly a “land of milk and honey.”

It is the quintessential story of an immigrant, one who is able to find humor in situations that could easily be overwhelming and discouraging to many others. Helen helps George tell his stories, many of which are “foibles of his own making.” (see NYTimes article, March 31, 1978 upon his death).

While Anything Can Happen can stand alone because of how well these stories are told and who George happens to be – a loving, decent, creative, curious, clever, hardworking immigrant with dreams and never-ending optimism, I think it is also one of the stories of America, one that some of us may recognize, and many can appreciate.

I suspect I will not be the only MillersTime reader too have Anything Can Happen on his or her Favorite Reads list 11 months from now.

2020 Favorite Reads from MillersTime Contributors


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“A Best Friend Is Someone Who Gives Me a Book I’ve Never Read.” A. Lincoln

[Updating: I am constantly updating this list as a few readers have sent in their favorites after its initial posting. I’m putting an asterisk * adjacent to the names of those whom I’ve added. I hope readers will return to this list throughout the year for possible titles of interest, and some that may not have been here Dec. 31.]

Easily this post is my Favorite (‘Book’) of the year.

Amidst some controversy, I limited contributors to just four titles with the intent of focusing more on what readers were saying about their favorites and less emphasis on how many books were cited multiple times. Whether I achieved that or not, you will no doubt tell me. Some of you have already done so, and I look forward to hearing from others about this year’s format.

To the results:

There are 228 books listed from 68 contributors, 34 female, 34 male. Nonfiction (NF) submissions slightly outweighed Fiction (F), 52%-48%, only the second time that has occurred in the 12 years we’ve been doing this.

Seven titles received three or more citing:

  • Caste by Isabel Wilkerson (NF) (7)
  • The Splendid & the Vile by Erik Larson (NF) (5)
  • A Promised Land by Barack Obama (NF) (3)
  • Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar (F) (3)
  • The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek (F) by Kim Michele Richardson (NF) (3).
  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (F) (3)
  • Deacon King Kong by James McBride (F) (3)

Seventeen others were cited twice. Had contributors been able to submit more than four favorites, I suspect there would have been a significant increase of these and other titles cited.

I hope you will take the time not only to check out your own submissions and those of people you know but of other contributors too, readers you don’t know. For me, everyone participating is a friend (some of whom I’ve known more than 50 years), and I have interest in what they’re reading and enjoying and think you may also. Some of their choices I can assure you will be unfamiliar to you but certainly are ones worth considering.

If you’re frustrated by not being able to list more than four, you’ll see at the end of the post how you might add more of your own favorites to this year’s post. You’ll also see what others are adding.

Additionally, you’ll find links to the three 2020 mid-year posts, and for those who really have little to do, you can link to any or all of the annual lists starting in 2009.

The list below is alphabetical by first name, and any errors are solely my responsibility. Let me know if I need to make corrections.


The 2020 Favorite Reads from MillersTime Contributors

Abigail Wiebenson*:

As for what I’ve been reading, it’s yin and yang. On the one hand I have delved deeply and continuously into Caste by Isabel Wilkerson (NF) and been a part of several discussion groups about it. That woman is a genius writer — how she did all that research and then crafted the information without sounding like a rant is astounding.

On the other hand, I’ve done some lighter reading, prompted by my book group that wanted an escape. I’ve now read a couple of British writer Jojo Moyes books. That woman can write in a page-turner way. I was ready for a “happy ending/bad guys lose/good guys win” book. The two titles I consumed are The Giver of Stars (F) and One Plus One (F). 

Allan Latts:

The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance by Edmund de Waal (NF). Memoir of ceramicist Edmund de Waal, his family, the Ephrussis Family – which was a Jewish banking family in Paris/Vienna in the 19th Century.   The story is told by tracing the history of Japanese netsuke (small carved figures) which were passed down through 5 generations of the family.  Can be a little slow at times but the family’s story is very interesting.

Billion Dollar Brand Club by Lawrence Ingrassia (NF). Interesting story about all of the billion dollar internet brands including Dollar Shave Club and Warby Parker.

The Warburgs by Ron Chernow (NF). Long but amazing story about an amazing Jewish banking family

The Last Kings of Shanghai by Jonthan Kaufman (NF). Maybe my favorite of the year.  Gives the reader a great understand about how China developed its relationship with the west today told through the story of two Jewish families that emigrated to China from Iraq.

Anita Rechler:

Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar (F). I usually read books instead of listening.  This book changed my thinking about audio books. Akhtar is a story teller whose compelling voice explores family, identity, relationships, and allegiances. Though fiction, it richly borrows from Akhtar’s experiences growing up in an immigrant family in a frayed America.  This is fiction that feels like nonfiction. 

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson (NF).  If Homeland Elegies is fiction that reads like nonfiction, this is the opposite: nonfiction that reads like fiction. A portrait of leadership during a most troubled time May 1940 – May 1941, I valued reading about how a great, though flawed, statesman rescued civilization. Stark contrast to the dangerous leadership of this country’s last four years.   

The Deepest South of All by Richard Grant (NF).  (Thank you Ellen Miller for recommending this book.) It is about Natchez, MS: the eclectic, colorful locals; the city’s culture, social, class and caste systems; the legacies of its slave owner families; its struggles with its past and present racism; its future viability. If you know New Orleans and its idiosyncrasies, Natchez makes NOLA seem rather dull. The book is alternately amusing, poignant, nauseating, and cringe worthy. 

Calling for 2020 Favorite Reads: Submit Four!


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“A Best Friend Is Someone Who Gives Me a Book I’ve Never Read.” A. Lincoln

For this annual post about what books have been your most favorite reads over the past year, I’m asking that we limit our submissions to just four titles.

While this may seem restrictive to some of you, I think it will make for a somewhat different post than in previous years (our 12th year). I’m aiming for less emphasis on what books got the ‘most favorite’ label from MillersTime readers (not trying to compete with all those other year end book lists) and more emphasis on why certain books were individual’s favorites.

Thus, I urge you to write a few sentences about each of your choices, explaining what was particularly meaningful to you about a chosen favorite. Why was a particular book most enjoyable, most important, most thought provoking, the best written, the ones you may go back and read again, the ones you reread this year, and/or the ones you may have suggested to others that they might enjoy?

Additionally, please feel free to add either at the beginning or the end of your submission, a couple of sentences about your reading overall this year. For instance, did you concentrate on new books, older titles, rereads, more fiction or nonfiction than in the past, etc.? Did you read electronically or in paper, did you listen to books, and generally did you read more or less than in previous years?

To make my task of putting the list together a bit easier, please given the full title of the book, followed by the author’s name, and whether the book was F or NF. If any of the ‘books’ on your list were ones you enjoyed audibly, please indicate that.

Feel free to include any favorites that you may have submitted to any of the three earlier book posts this year:

*April 10 – Favorites Reads in a Time of Self-Isolation

*May 20 – More Favorite Reads

*Aug. 19 – Favorite Reads in the Time of COVID-19,

Don’t be concerned about whether others will have the same book(s) on their lists or that a particular book might not be a popular choice as those are not the most important aspects of this year’s list. Contributors use the list to find reading options they may not know about or have considered. Your reasons for your favorites this year are what I hope readers will find most valuable.

Please send me (Samesty84@gmail.com) your submission by Sunday, Dec. 20 so I will have enough time to collate the list and post it by the end of the month.

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To see previous years’ lists, click on any of these links: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015. 2016. 2017. 2018 Mid-Year, 2018, 2019 Mid-Year. 2019.

Thru Ellen’s Lens: Fall in the Great Smoky Mountains


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‘Practicing’ with our DJI Mavic Mini drone at The Swag in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Ellen and I have been extremely fortunate throughout this Covid-19 pandemic. Our health has been good; we’re both retired from our major life’s work (Adulthood I); our children are grown (and have children of their own), yet we have opportunities to see them and our five grandchildren; since we both are basically introverts, we’ve been able to enjoy the extended time at home with various projects. We’ve found new ways to stay in touch, and occasionally be, with friends. And we continue to enjoy the outdoors, particularly the joys of kayaking.

What about traveling, you might ask? You will see from the photos below, we have also found ways to pursue our passion for traveling.

Basically, we’ve stayed closer to home and explored near-by parks and trails as close as just two miles from our house. Additionally, we’ve take several car trips that have allowed us to discover some of our country’s treasures that had previously escaped us.

Today’s post, the 11 photos below and the linked slide show, feature Ellen’s continued fascination with her cameras and her ability to capture what her unique eye sees. (Maybe it’s her missed career?) These photos are all from a recent second trip to a small, mountaintop lodge, The Swag, near Waynesville, NC, where we were able to spend days simply wandering among the many, many trails in The Great Smoky Mountains.

To see Ellen’s entire slide show (54 photos), use this link: Thru Ellen’s Lens: Fall in the Great Smoky Mountains.

For the best viewing, click on the little arrow at the top right of the first page of the link to start the slide show.

Please, please, please see all the photos in the largest size possible (use a laptop or desktop computer if you have access to either).

What you will see is no comparison to what you see in the 11 photos above.


The Country ‘Spoke’ Again


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The country has ‘spoken’ again.

And again, we must listen.

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What I heard:

Our country chose to take a step away from the decision we made in 2016.

By reversing Donald Trump’s 2016 electoral victory, the country chose to replace this President.

While the voters selected someone quite different from President Trump, I believe the country nevertheless remains deeply divided, perhaps even more so than it was in 2016.

My hope is that we will listen to each other, we will begin to understand others’ points of view, we will be willing to reexamine our own points of view, and we will begin to find ways to bridge some of our differences.

*** *** ***

What did you hear?

For readers of MillersTime, I hope you will consider commenting on what you believe the 2020 election results have told us. (I’ve limited my answer above to that question to 100 words.)

You can post your thoughts by clicking on the Leave a Comment section above. Use your name, initials, or post anonymously, whichever you feel most comfortable in doing.

Thanking you in advance for taking the time to share with me and the readers of MillersTime what you understand to be the message(s) from the 2020 elections.

Final 2020 BB Contest Winner(s)


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Contest #IV: What will be the main takeaways from having a 60-game, or shorter, season?

Which ONE of the following five submissions, in your view, should be the main takeaway from the shortened season?

  1. NL Designated Hitter is a good idea that should be permanently adopted.
  2. Play without fans sucks/Fans matter.
  3. They should try the runner on second rule in extra innings during the 162 games season but not in the playoffs.
  4. The 2020 season will forever have an asterisk.
  5. Spouses of baseball fans will not be as aggravated as usual because the season is shorter.

MillersTime contestants who voted which of the above was the best answer chose #1 – DH a good idea that should be permanently adopted.

Four of you had predicted this would be the the main takeaway.

Winner: Ed Scholl, by virtue of having the earliest submission of this prediction – July 3 at 2:33 PM.

Runners Up: Daniel Fischberg (July 18 – 6:01 PM), Matt-Wax-Krell (July 22 – 2:30 PM) and Chris Ballard (July 23 – 10:43 AM, just 77 minutes before the Contests closed!).

Ed’s Prize is his choice of one of these books – 25 Best Baseball Books of All Time – and a MillersTime Winner T-Shirt, if he doesn’t already have one. Let me know Ed, along with your home address and t-shirt size, if applicable.

Daniel, Matt, and Chris all get T-Shirts. Please send me your T-Shirt size and your home address.

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For those of you who care about important issues:

Assuming COVID-19 issues are under control, 2021 Spring Training begins Sat., Feb. 27 (111 days from now), and the 2021 Regular Season will begin Thursday, April 1 (143 days from now) with all 30 Clubs playing their opening game on this date. And importantly, April 1 will be the date for the closing of the 2021 MillersTime Baseball Contests.

MillersTime Baseball Contest Winners and Losers: 2020*


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2020 MLB Opening Night- Nats’ Park – (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Winners and Losers of the 2020 MillersTime Baseball Contests

Question #I: Name your favorite team and predict their won-loss record for the 60 games. Will they make the playoffs? Will they make it to the WS? Will they win the WS? Tie-breaker: Name thee Division winners in the AL & NL.

This question is meant to separate the ‘Homers” from those who truly know their teams.

Although the 19 contestants below had some flaws in their assessments of their favorite team, they should not be considered “Homers” but generally good evaluators of their ‘home’ team:

Land Wayland, Jeff Friedman, Rob Higdon, Colin Wilson, Daniel Fischberg, Jimmy 2 Wires, Maury Maniff, Sean Scarlett, Nich Nyhart, Justin Barasso, Tim Malieckal, Tova Wang, Kevin Curtin, Sam Poland, Mat Wax-Krell, Robert & Lynn Shilling, Matt Galati, and Jere Smith.

On the other hand, the following 25 are found wanting in this regard, with particular egregious performances by David Price & Chris Eacho:

Ed Scholl, Joe Higdon, Larry Longenecker, Chris Boutourline, Zach Haile, Todd Endo, Monica McHugh, Elizabeth & Brooke Tilis, Nicholas Lamanna, Andrew & Noah Cate, David Meyers, Romana Campos & Drew, Brian Steinbach, Jesse Maniff, Ellen Miller, Dan Fisher, Ron Davis, Jerome Green, Jon Frank, and Chris Ballard,

Winner and Runners-Up:

Bill Barnwell and Steve Kemp were quite close on their teams’ record and playoff performances. They are declared Runner-Ups and are entitled to a MillersTime Baseball Contest ‘Winner’ T-Shirt (please send size and address).

Dawn Wilson, however, is declared the Winner as she accurately predicted her Dodgers’ record of 43-17 and ultimate WS victory.

Prize: Assuming fans can safely attend games in 2021, Dawn will join me for a Nats’ game of her choice.

Question #II: True / False:

  1. The entire 60 game season will not happen. FALSE
  2. There will be at least one hitter with at least 100 AB who will hit. 400 or higher (submitted by Zach Haile). FALSE (Highest BA was LeMahieu’s .364)
  3. There will be no starting pitcher who wins 10 games or more. TRUE (Darvis & Bieber led with eight wins)
  4. No one will hit more than 23 HRs (submitted by Rob Higdon). TRUE (Volt hit 22)
  5. At least one team in each league will win 42 or more games. FALSE (only the Dodgers who won 43, qualify. The Rays, the next closest, won 40)
  6. One or more games in each of the three Divisions will be played in front of a crowd. FALSE.
  7. Only one Division winner will make it to the World Series. FALSE (Both the Dodgers and the Rays did)
  8. At least one MLB starting pitcher will win eight games or more without a loss and at least one MLB pitcher will lose lose eight games or more without a win. FALSE
  9. Over the course of the 60-game season (or even if the season is shortened), the National League will outscore the American League for the first time in 45 seasons (submitted by Ron Davis). TRUE (NL teams scored 4227 runs, AL scored 4177)
  10. At least one of these teams (Red Sox, Angels, Giants, White Sox will make it to the playoffs. TRUE. (White Sox did)

No one got all 10 questions correct.

Zach Haile, Tom Schultz, Andrew & Noah Cate, Maury Maniff, Justin Barasso, Ron Davis, Matt Galati, Jere Smith, and Bill Barnell all got seven correct.

Ed Scholl, Land Wayland, Daniel Fischberg, Tim Malieckal, Steve Veltri, Ellen Miller, and Sam Poland got eight right.

Chris Boutourline and Doug Wang got nine.

Chris is the Winner as his submission was July 11 at 2:31 PM. Doug’s was July 22 at 11:10 AM, and he is the Runner-Up and is entitled to a MillersTime Baseball Contest ‘Winner’ T-Shirt (please send size and address).

Prize: Assuming there is a season next year, Chris and a friend can join me for a Nats’ game in 2021. If Chris is not able to make it to DC, perhaps I can make it to where he is, and we’ll see a game together.

Contest III: Assuming there is a World Series, name the two teams who will make it to the WS. Which one will win, and in how many games? Tie-Breaker: Which AL or NL Division will have the most wins? Which AL or NL Division Winner will have the least wins?

As we all know now, the World Series featured the two teams with the best 60–game ‘season’ record – Tampa Bay Rays (40-20) and the LA Dodgers (43-17).

Dem Bums (I’m still mad that they left Brooklyn), clearly the stronger team, with their ‘unfortunate’ acquisition of Mookie Betts, broke their 32-year drought of not winning the WS and won in six games.

No MillersTime contestant had both the Rays and Bums as the finalists. (most predicted the Yunkees and Dodgers would make it to the WS). One contestant did have the Rays winning it all, but unfortunately pared them with the Nats. Thirty of you did have the Dodgers as one of the two teams.

So in these circumstances, I looked at the Dodgers in six and the Tie-Breaking questions to come up with a winner. Unfortunately, a number of you either didn’t answer that question or misinterpreted it. The NL West had the most wins, 160. The NL East had the least wins, 118.

Runners-Up (Dodgers in six but lost out on the Tie-Breaker questions): Jeff Friedman, Larry Longenecker, Rob Higdon, Todd Endo, Nicholas Lamanna, Andrew & Noah Cate, Dawn Wilson, Ben Senturia, Bill Barnwell

The Winner is Nick Nyhart who had the Dodgers in six and got one of the two Tie-Breaker questions correct.

Contest #IV: What will be the main takeaways from having a 60-game, or shorter, season?

Lots of terrific submissions (see an early list of Your Predictions). I’ve promised that this Contest would be settled by crowd sourcing from Contest participants. So I’ve picked five of the more than 50 possibilities and ask that you send me your choice for the Winner.

Which ONE of the following five submissions, in your view, should be the main takeaway from the shortened season?

  1. NL Designated Hitter is a good idea that should be permanently adopted.
  2. Play without fans sucks/Fans matter.
  3. They should try the runner on second rule in extra innings during the 162 games season but not in the playoffs.
  4. The 2020 season will forever have an asterisk.
  5. Spouses of baseball fans will not be as aggravated as usual because the season is shorter.

Please send me your answer in an email: Samesty84@gmail.com or put it in the Comment section of this post by Sunday, Nov. 8., and I’ll post the Winner shortly thereafter, tho it may be hard as a number of you had similar potential take-aways.

The Qayaq Finds Its Home: Part IV


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As some of you may have read in earlier posts on this website, thirteen months ago on a trip to Greenland I purchased a 65 inch model kayak replica entitled Qayag (which is the name of the traditional Inuit sealskin hunting boat). It had been created more than 50 years ago by an artist, Jesse Thorn, who is no longer alive.

(If you missed the first Parts of this saga, and you have time on your hands, see these two posts – A Qayaq (Kayak) Saga and Continuing the Saga of the Kayak – for the details of its disputed’ purchase: Ellen had told me, “Don’t. Even.­­­­ Consider. It.” Then, it took almost seven months to get it home, unpacked, and into house.

Now, after another extended period, the Qayag has finally found its resting place.

As you will see in the picture below, it now ‘floats’ out from the wall of our living room (where we display some of the crafts gathered over the years from our many trips). It is on the wall, below one of our stained glass windows created by a friend 50 years ago.

We never thought it would take so long for the Qayag to settle on its final resting place. Actually, Ellen had warned me that we didn’t really have room for it, and it would overwhelm any place we tried to put it in our house. I had three possible places for it and several back up plans if those didn’t work.

None of my carefully considered placements made Ellen, the Qayaq, or me very happy.

So we called upon Vincent Sagart, the wonderful designer who has had such a significant influence on many rooms in our house. He immediately saw where it wanted to go and over the next month or so figured out how to get it there.

It took another two months to get it there successfully. COVID-19 caused interruptions, including time for a metal worker to fashion an 11 by 17 inch platform on which it could rest, Petr to affix it to the wall, and Vincent to be satisfied with the exact placement. He had Petr reverse the platform and then reattach it to the wall.

But as the Little Prince has taught us, “It’s the time you spend for your ‘Qayaq’ that makes your Qayaq so important.”

And I’m happy to write that Ellen and I have survived this 13-month effort and to report that Ellen readily agreed to use her photographic skills so MillersTime readers can see how happy the Qayaq is in its new home. Indeed, Ellen not only approves of its placement, she readily says she likes it.

For me, I’m beyond thrilled as every time I pass anywhere near the living room, which is easily 20 times a day, I look at it and appreciate this truly wonderful treasure.

If you’re ever in DC, and if we are allowed to be together, you are invited to come visit the Qayag.

What We Think About This 60-Game Season


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First, a thank you to Bill P., Brian S., David E., Ed S, Chris B., Elliott T., Matt W-K, Carrie T., and Anonymous for your comments on the shortened season. You can read what they said by going Here. Good stuff.

Second, I’m re-posting what MillersTime Baseball Contestants predicted at the beginning of this abnormal season started. See Baseball’s Back! Your Predictions. Again, lots to show the ‘wisdom’ and a bit of foolishness from MillersTime readers.

Third, The Athletic, the newish go to source for some of today’s best baseball (and some other sports) writing just came out with the results of a baseball survey that sums up how almost 7,000 fans felt about some of baseball’s changes and new rules. A few surprises and lots of agreement on what this year’s 60-game season has revealed.

The Athletic’s state of baseball survey results: Following up as season closes by Jason Jenks, The Athletic,

As this one-of-a-kind season winds down, The Athletic wanted to circle back to see how fans felt about some of baseball’s changes and new rules.

Nearly 7,000 people responded. Let’s get to the results.

This has gone up from our survey before the season when just 66 percent of respondents said a World Series would be legitimate.

This one was really interesting. A total of 76 percent of fans of American League teams are in favor of the universal DH; the exact same percentage from our survey before the season.

NL-centric fans have pretty significantly changed their feelings. Before the season, 56 percent of fans of NL teams were against the universal DH. But after watching the DH in action, that number dropped to 43 percent. Before the season, a whopping 80 percent of Cardinals fans were against the DH; in this most recent survey, that total dropped to 58 percent. They were one of five teams whose fans were against the DH (Nationals, Cardinals, Pirates, Diamondbacks).

In the AL, White Sox fans were really in favor of the universal DH (85 percent) after watching their team rake this year. Two other AL fans crossed the 80-percent threshold, and neither should be surprising: the Yankees (81 percent) and the Twins (80 percent).

One fan had a particularly interesting comment: “Before this crazy season, I was adamantly opposed to the universal DH. Now, although I still don’t love it, I could live with it.”

Full disclosure: I hated this rule when I first heard about it. Absolutely hated it. But when I watched it … I liked it. If nothing else, it induced drama right away.

Several fans said that while they enjoyed the rule, they think it should start in the 11th or 12th inning. “Let them have an inning or two the normal way,” one person wrote. That seems like a sensible compromise to me.

One fan who liked it wrote, “The extra inning rule has added an excitement not just to extra innings but also adds even more importance to finishing a game off in the ninth.” Another added, “The extra-inning rule has been surprisingly good. I’m here for a good time, not a long time.”

But those people were in the minority. Wrote one fan, “The extra inning rule does the most violence to the fabric of the game and fixes a nonexistent problem.” Another person compared it to college football’s overtime rules. While still another said it felt like the rule was intended just to “get it over with.”

One person who was against the minimum made this point: “I don’t care for the three-batter minimum because I don’t think it helps make things any faster, making it pointless.” Our Cliff Corcoran did the math earlier this year and figured that the minimum would save … 34 seconds per game.

Here are some other reactions:

  • “I like the three-batter rule if only because it allows the pitcher to show he’s more than a one-trick pony.”
  • “It means a bullpen has to be filled with capable pitchers, not just specialists.”
  • “Absolutely loathe the three-batter rule. LOATHE. Kills the strategy and excitement of those old games. They were like a chess match.”
  • “Three batters is a superficial attempt to solve the time issue.”

This was a lot of people’s least-favorite change (The other most common answer was the extra-inning rule). One fan wrote that it turned the sport into a “carnival act.” Another liked it because it made “starting pitching have similar value to years past.”

Here are some other responses:

  • “Seven-inning double header is solid idea. Over the course of the 162 game season you only would have a handful, and it keeps the players fresher.”
  • “I don’t necessarily love the seven-inning doubleheader’s, but I like doubleheaders, so if that’s how we have them, then I’m for that.”
  • “I liked the seven-inning double headers as long as they keep it single admission.”
  • “I liked that there were more doubleheaders, so much baseball in one day. That those games were seven-inning affairs made it possible for me to listen/watch the whole thing.”
  • “Seven-inning doubleheaders are anticlimactic every time.”
  • “Seven-inning doubleheaders are not baseball. It’s trash. I understand it for this season just to be able to get through the games. But it’s not something I’d ever want to see become the norm.”

This one was a little surprising. Before the season, 57 percent of people were against the expanded postseason. But now that it’s here, that number jumped up to almost 71 percent.

One person wrote, “I like a limited expanded playoffs, but eight teams is too many, and the seeding is random and stupid.” Another said, “I think that expanded playoffs dilute the competition, especially the regular season.” And still another person chimed in with, “I’m most against an expanded postseason that does not reward division winners. I don’t mind an expanded field, per se, but there should be a better incentive for teams to win their division beyond just three home games in the first round.”

This one really seemed to bother a lot of people:

  • “My greatest concern is growing the game. Every choice MLB makes is about short-term financial gains at the expense of future growth and engaging the next generation of fans. I mean seriously, MLB is eliminating minor-league teams, heavily attended by families and kids.”
  • “Without the minors, for me it’s like one-third of baseball, because I’m the rare fan who follows all of my team’s minor league teams.”
  • “Great that teams are playing, but fearful of the consequences of no minor leagues and impact on next generation of players.”
  • “I am sad to see what could be the implosion of the minor-league system as we know it. … While I have been to only a few major-league games in person, much of my love of baseball comes from summers at all sorts of minor-league stadiums.”
  • “Canceling minor-league baseball was bad for the players but mostly for the small towns that support the teams.”
  • “I understand why the minor leagues aren’t playing this season, but I don’t like the negative effects on player development and the possible future of the minors in general.”

Here are some responses across the spectrum:

  • “The D-backs being terrible ruined the whole thing for me, but as a league I think the season went better than expected after the ridiculous labor arguments and early COVID issues. Granted I had very low expectations early on.”
  • “Good year to experiment. I wish that they tried more things to quicken the pace of the game.”
  • “It’s a season with multiple asterisks.”
  • “Short and sweet.”
  • “Made the games more important.”
  • “I would have liked even more experimentation. It’s been tough to get overly excited by the season when 50 percent of teams will make the postseason.”
  • “This season is a joke. Players and owners alike are to blame. They fiddled around and now we’re stuck with a shortened season, ridiculous rules and accommodations to make the season ‘work.’ I’m boycotting MLB this year. I may or may not be back.”
  • “The season’s sprint to the finish really has me believing a shorter season could be more fun for all.”
  • “The shortened season has given us a chance to see what the sport might look like if we didn’t have 150 years of history telling us it was something else. Baseball needs to ask itself what it wants to be. Does it want to be more like basketball, with a shorter number of regular season games and a longer postseason? Or does it want to embrace its history and everyday nature and keep the regular season meaningful?”

I was curious if people would change their minds after watching a shortened season. They didn’t. At least not much.

Before the season, just 2.2 percent of respondents thought the ideal season consisted of fewer than 100 games. That number actually went down (slightly) to just 1.9 percent.

Not much change from the survey before the season, when 38 percent percent of fans expressed no confidence at all in Manfred and 47 percent said they weren’t very confident.

Thanks to all who participated in both surveys. Enjoy the postseason.