The Monday Book: The Mathematician’s Shiva by Stuart Rojstaczer

book-mathematiciansshiva-rojstaczer-cvr-200So if David Lodge were Jewish….

This is a comedy of errors and misfits that isn’t all that funny, but it runs through so many kinds of worlds in its multi-layered unfunniness that sometimes it is. It’s not the way he writes the book but what he writes about that kept me going. On one level it’s about a guy who doesn’t really like his mother although he’s required to love AND admire her because she’s a brilliant mathematician. On another level it’s about what humans want (yes, that broad) and what it means to be in survival mode versus conquer mode. And on another level it’s just plain mean fun about math geeks.

It wasn’t a “can’t put it down” but it was an enjoyable bedtime read. The characters are well-drawn, and we all know I’m a sucker for those. If some of the humorous antics were predictable, well, it was still funny.

The plot premise is that Rachela, the mom who dies at the beginning of the book, has solved an unsolvable math problem, but hidden her papers out of pique. Enter Three Academic Stooges trying to pry up her floorboards.

This isn’t so much dark humor as grey, and if you like math, it’s a bit weak in that department. But if you like comedies of human errors and foibles, it’s fun.

3.14159265359 stars? :]

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, book reviews, Uncategorized

Snowed Into a Bookstore

snow roadWhen the all-powerful “They” announced it would start snowing Thursday night and not stop until Saturday evening, I went into supply overdrive. Since I was in Richmond doing the annual advocacy for rural meetings, while I careened down I-81, Our Good Chef Kelley was drafted into buying:

  1. two boxes of wine (don’t knock it until you’ve tried the Malbec)
  2. Three bags grain free cat food, two 32-packs can boxes, and some tins of Ol’ Roy (yes, the dogs are hard done by)
  3. chocolate – dark for Jack, milk for me. Easier on the marriage that way

The rest we could take care of for ourselves. Jack stepped across the street to the liquor store and laid in two bottles of the cheap and one of the finest. You know, just in case company came by. (And no, we didn’t buy this house because it was across the street from the liquor store, but it’s worked out well.)

Then we started trolling the bookstore shelves. For me, eight of the new arrivals I’d not handled coming in, ranging from historic fiction to a couple of memoirs to a cheap romance and one history volume. Plus a couple of recorded books, so I could get some crocheting done.

Jack pulled Scottish politics, a couple of conspiracy theory books on assorted points in history (pick one) and – wonder of wonders – a sci fi. When I pointed that out to him, he frowned, “1663 by Dave Weber is fiction? Never mind, then.” He put it back.

Oh well.

And when we woke up Friday morning, snowpocalypse in full fall, we checked our emails, posted our Facebook cats, put on another pot of coffee, and settled in to enjoy the treasure trove.

Yes, being snowed into a bookstore is exactly what it’s cracked up to be.

Go by, mad world.

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, crafting, home improvements, humor, publishing, reading, Scotland, small town USA, VA, Wendy Welch, what's on your bedside table

Jack’s weekly guest post.

In which Jack moans about the weather –

Well – I woke up this morning to a blanket of snow, it hasn’t stopped yet and there’s more on the way. You would think that, coming from Scotland, I’d be used to it!

The trouble is that I come from the lowlands and not only that but most of my life I lived close enough to the Forth estuary to get the ‘salt water effect’, which usually kept the snow away. That changed when Wendy and I got married and moved to higher ground that was a bit further inland. Almost every year after that our village got snowed in good and proper for a couple of weeks every January or February and we weren’t a high enough priority to warrant early attention from the county snow plow; and since we lived up the only side road, when the plow eventually went through it created an even bigger bank of snow across the end of it!

That pattern seems to have followed us to Big Stone Gap and this is shaping up to be the third winter when we will replay our experiences of New Gilston.

Last year we had a series of storms every couple of days that eventually dumped nearly three feet of snow and had the whole area shut down for weeks. The town administration eventually ran out of grit and salt so their best efforts (and they were mighty) were eventually in vain.

It’s not so bad as we live below the shop, we have plenty of supplies in, the liquor store is across the street and the supermarket is within walking distance.

However, Wendy’s job required her to drive to Richmond and remain there until Friday, which is when an even bigger snowstorm is due and forecast to last through Sunday, so she is very likely to be delayed getting home.

Meanwhile I am preparing to make a big batch of Chicken Madras curry which is my comfort food of choice and will keep me happy and warm me as I watch the snow piling up outside.

curry

Y’all take care out there, dress warm and don’t drive if you don’t have to!

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized

WHEN IRIS EYES ARE SMILING

December folder 047We all know that cats taken to the shelter have a 1 in 8 chance of getting out again, but let’s not forget there are people who want to adopt them. (And get them spayed so their kittens don’t go back to the shelter later.)

In the spring, when so many cats flood in with little time to assess their medical needs, eye infections run rampant. Mostly these are a nuisance that will run its course, but in a shelter, every day counts. Eye discharge can cause a cat to miss his chance. Who wants to adopt ol’ Crusty Eyes (who looks sicker than he really is) when there’s a cute fluffball in the next cage? Except Fluffball has about 36 hours before she too has green gunk streaming from her baby blues.

Enter a chance to make a difference. There’s this medication called Terramycin, comes in a tube like toothpaste (only much smaller and considerably more expensive). It’s a wonder drug for eye infection. It would make everybody a lot more comfortable while they wait. And prettier, cuter and more adoptable.

The Administrator said if I could keep them supplied with Terramycin, then their staffer Beverly (a sweet girl who cares about the animals) and a couple of trained part-timers and rescuers legally allowed to be in the shelter (up on shots and all that sort of thing) would be happy to put Terramycin on the eyes of any kitties with crusties.

eye kittenPut simply, for about $300 per year, we can up adoptions. Not to mention make the babies and senior citizens more comfortable; they are the most likely to get lasting eye infections from other cats who just shake it off in a day or two.

If you can afford it, give Powell Valley Animal Hospital some money for the SHELTER TERRAMYCIN FUND. We guarantee all Terramycin bought with this fund will be used on shelter kitties only. PVAH is giving us a discount. Just put what you can in there. This is a one-time request for 2016, we hope. We will let you know how it went and ask again in 2017. Also, please note the following:

  • Don’t donate if it causes hardship to your family. We’re not wanting to take food off your table. If you’ve got a bit left over, great.
  • Don’t take away from other activities on behalf of animal rescue to donate. If you’re already working in rescue, formally or informally, please don’t take from that or harm yourself to try and stretch to this. We’re looking for people who can slip us a $20 without breaking stride. Thank you for all you already do, and God Bless.
  • All donations will be anonymous to PVAH, no thank yous sent, so please know HOW MUCH we appreciate this help.

Here’s how: If you don’t live in the area, you can call them to use your card at 276-524-1214, or mail a check to Powell Valley Animal Hospital, 4501 Aerial Way, Big Stone Gap, VA 24219. Donations are accepted all year long, but unless we get really stuck this summer, we won’t ask again. We APPRECIATE your help in reducing the number of cats who don’t get adopted from the shelter. And in making all of them that wee bit more comfortable as they wait.

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

Ground Control to Everyone

mt and dbI’m Major Tom (left) and that’s my brother David Bowie. We were dumped behind a store in Wise at about nine weeks old.  We’re named after David Bowie ’cause we were rescued the same day he died. He was an animal lover, so we wanna sing you one of his songs–not the one we’re named for, though.

Last year, despite the best efforts of about a dozen cat rescuers, 477 cats got killed in the Wise County Shelter. Along with 87 dogs. How many are gonna get it this year? Me and my brother won’t be among them ’cause we got rescued, but it’s gonna take more than a dozen people to make that number smaller.

LOVE SONG by David Bowie

The words I have to say
May well be simple but they’re true
Until you give your love
There’s nothing more that we can domt and db 2

Love is the opening door
Love is what we came here for
No-one can offer you more
You know what I mean
Have your eyes really seen?

Love is the key we must turn
Truth is the flame we must learn
Freedom the lesson we must learn
Do you know what I mean?
Have your eyes really seen?

Four hundred and seventy-seven cats is a lot. Can you help? Foster. Adopt. Get your family pet fixed. Don’t take unwanted cats to the shelter; get them fixed and adopted. Pay to spay someone else’s cat. Share photos. Say a prayer. And let’s see what we can do together.

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, YA fiction

The Monday Book – –

Jack’s guest Monday book post –

We Almost Lost Detroit – John G. Fuller

We get lots of older paperbacks into the store pretty regularly and I often find myself dipping into one or two when I’m looking for something to read.

This caught my eye as soon as it came in because I’ve always had pretty mixed feelings about nuclear power and, of course, it’s not so long since the Fukushima ‘incident’!

The book was written specifically about the building of the Enrico Fermi plant back in the 1950s but really goes much wider and examines the dilemma surrounding the whole subject. I should admit right away that my inclination is in favor of renewable energy – solar, wind, wave and tidal, and I’m proud that my homeland of Scotland pioneered hydro-electric power and is very close to being completely self sufficient in renewable energy. I should also say that I was born and grew up in a coal mining area and live now in another one – another piece of the dilemma!

For anyone who has followed the stories of Windscale, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima this book will prove somewhat depressing. That’s because everything that happened in these places is clearly foretold in Fuller’s book. What the book sets out very clearly is that no nuclear power plant is completely safe. They are subject to human error at every stage from design through operation and cannot be completely guarded against natural disasters or malicious attacks.

What I’m actually really surprised about is how even handed Fuller is. He is clear that he believes even the private industry leaders who were pushing forward with plans to build the plants were motivated by the best of intentions. He suggests that they also wanted to balance the fear engendered by the atom bomb with a more hopeful peaceful use for the same source of energy. But he goes on to paint a picture of government and corporations caught up in a self generating spiral involving insurance, construction and power companies as well as the usual very shady politics!

The book details many very scary episodes where mere seconds made the difference between a few deaths and thousands and involving tales of distorted metal rods and poor welds.

Finally – part of this story is about arguments over how much the public could or should be told. Some things never change – – –

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Filed under book reviews, Life reflections, Uncategorized, what's on your bedside table, writing