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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Captain Phillips

This is the true story of the attack on the Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates, and the hostage-taking of the shipmaster, Captain Richard Phillips.  It doesn't view like a docudrama, however -- it has all the suspense of a firstclass thriller, and the thrill of being reality.  It is so well done that you feel as if you are viewing the actual events as they unfold.

Tom Hanks, as Phillips, is outstanding, projecting as well as he did in the blockbuster Castaway, where he successfully carried off a virtually solo part.  Equally impressive though, is the man who plays the hostage-taker, Musa.  This is Barkad Abdi, who (like Hanks and the production team) received many Academy nominations for the film, and won the award for best supporting actor.

All four Somalis in the film play their parts brilliantly.  They look as mad and as panicked as the pirates they were playing must have seemed.  But Barkad Abdi is the one who projects the best. A high point of the film is when he is tricked on board the USS Bainbridge, and looks about, his demeanor as confused and intimated -- though trying not to betray it -- as Musa's must have been as he was led through the commotion on deck, while helicopters revolved and buzzed in the dark overhead.

Was the film true to the actual events?  Some of the Maersk Alabama crew assert that the captain was not quite as heroic as he pretended to be, but that kind of carping is easily dismissed in the face of the sheer quality of this film.  And don't forget to pay attention to the particularly excellent score.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Guinea Boat


While it features different characters and craft, The Guinea Boat can be regarded as a very satisfying sequel to Bond’s first foray into the world of freebooting during the Age of Nelson, Turn a Blind Eye. This time, his story features two likely lads who are struggling to survive in the shore-side village of Hastings, England, one firmly on the right side of the law (and bullied because of it), and the other an opportunist with his eye on profit and fortune.  The focus is a smart little fishing lugger, mortaged to a pair of roughs who demand the impossible sum of guinea a week.

In the first of several edge-of-the-seat thrills, the boys are snatched by a press gang, to be rescued by a flamboyand free-trader, whose real name is Prettyman but is known as Ugly Joe—and a rotten scoundrel of a pirate he is, indeed. And, from then on, life gets even more complicated, as he involves the boys in his nefarious doings. Excitement piles on excitement as Nat and Alex follow their different, but often converging, paths, leading up to about the best climax to a seafaring tale I have ever read. Alaric Bond is an experienced writer, and this shows, as does the deep love of the sea and sail that runs in his veins. The Guinea Boat is recommended to all lovers of tales of adventure at sea, as teenagers will enjoy it just as much as their parents and grandparents, if not even more. 

The other Joan and the sailing ship Euterpe

A nostalgia post from Joan Curry


In the old days of sailing ships there was a great to-do when crossing the equator. King Neptune, the lord of the sea, had to be appeased by anyone, passengers or crew, who had not trespassed on his domain before. The ceremony of crossing the line was a rite of passage, and could involve anything from a splashing of water to no-holds-barred. In the sailing ship Euterpe, on the voyage of 1879, almost no one escaped.

The ship’s newspaper, The Euterpe Times, stuck its tongue firmly in its cheek and declared that several of the passengers were anxious about crossing the line, not on account of any shaving by Neptune or other pranks by the sailors but the consequences to the ship and themselves. Would it, for example, cause the Euterpe to bump violently? Some expressed their determination not to sleep until the line was safely passed, for fear it should be crossed in the night and they should be pitched out of bed. Others expected to actually see the line, “something of the nature of a clothesline we presume”.

At about 9pm on 30 September Neptune was heard bellowing from under the bowsprit, demanding to come aboard. He was dressed in an old coat and long whiskers made of towed flax, and his arrival triggered “a jolly spree at water throwing.” The lifeboats had been secretly filled with water beforehand and everyone on deck, including the captain, got a soaking. “Even the ladies joined in the water fight” wrote one passenger, and only the women who were below decks escaped. A few men who tried to hide in their cabin were hauled on deck for a good wetting.

In the climax of the entertainment the sailors “shaved” three of their comrades who had not crossed the line before, by lathering their faces with tar and dirt and then scraping it off with a large wooden “razor”. If the victim opened his mouth to yell or protest (and who could help it?) he got a mouthful of tar and dirt, and buckets of water were thrown over him. All but one of the passengers were spared this treatment – Captain Phillips would not allow it – but “as for water, we were all thoroughly drenched” wrote one.

The unlucky passenger was a young man called Peck who had rashly declared that he would “fell the first one who touched him”. A diarist described how three figures emerged from behind the after hatch, seized him and threw him violently on his back, and “in less [time] than it takes to write these words he was bedaubed with a compound of molasses and dirt and dowsed with a few buckets of water.” It didn’t end there. “He had returned to the forward part of the ship and was busy cleaning the dirt off his face and neck when someone threw a pailful of tar from one of the boats right on to his head, nearly suffocating him and covering his hair with the nastiness.”

At the end of the festivities there was dancing on deck and “altogether a night of a queer sort was enjoyed very much” by crew and passengers – except possibly young Peck.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thunderbird mail

Is there anyone out there who loathes Thunderbird with the same passion that I do?

I found it incredibly slow.  Following advice on the internet, I disabled McAfee scanning -- which I didn't need, anyway, as I already had a McAfee subscription on all devices necessary.  Did it make a jot of difference?  No, it did not.  Many hours of frustration later, I got in touch with the tech guys at McAfee and a kind gentleman who probably lives in India took charge of my computer and did some tweaking.  The program was still scanning attachments, he explained.  And so the mail program was speeded up to something like normal.

But, my mail arrives with no hint of the name or address of the sender.  I find this very uncomfortable.  I like to check the sender before opening mail.  Indeed, it seems the sensible thing to do.

There have been many frustrating hours of trying to fix this.  What I am supposed to do is download an app that tacks the address or name of the sender to the mail to my hard drive, then go to tools/settings/apps and hit "the option button next to the search bar."  But is there an option button next to the search bar?

No, there is not. But there is windows mail on my old laptop. And oh dear me, when I boot up the machine and open windows mail, down the mail comes just as it should, complete with the name or address of the sender.  The relief is indescribable.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Middle-earth comes to town

Last year, Wellington mourned the closing of the indie Parson's Books, which was the best place in town for buying classical disks and DVDs.  At the same time that Parson's went, the cafe on the mezzanine went too, something else for all of us to rue.

But now that cafe has reopened, with the nostalgic name Parsonage Cafe, and with a LORD OF THE RINGS theme that was created by business owner Phil Saxby (known to cruisers as the proprietor of Sommerfields, purveyor of quality New Zealand souvenirs) and Wellington designer Karen Cubis Smith (both pictured above).

Cubis Smith calculates that she devoted one thousand hours to the project, not just designing but making artifacts as well.  She says she is particularly pleased with a model of the dragon Smaug, which veils a long pipe along the wall of the Hobbit Room.

Saxby is pleased that he was able to coax a chef from the old cafe, Helen Brice, to return.  And will she serve hobbit food?  Who knows -- and who cares, as long as the sandwiches are as absolutely fresh as they were before.  Avocado and crispy bacon was my favorite.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Cruise ship capital volunteers

It's a big season for cruise ships in Wellington this year, but the city has volunteers willing to give all those visiting cruisers help and advice.

One of the volunteers pictured was a big help to us, last year.

Two Americans were arriving for the day, and had clear emailed instructions to take the free shuttle to the shuttle stop in Brandon Street (opposite our flagship department store, the wonderful Kirkaldie and Stains), where we would meet them.  Instead, they arrived, and asked the way to the information booth, so were sent to Queen's Wharf.  We arrived, looked around, were accosted, and yes, said the volunteer, they did mention your name.

Well, great efforts were made, and two confused Americans were rounded up surprisingly fast.

These helpful people are called Wellington City Ambassadors, and have been meeting passengers for over four years.  Usual questions are how to get to the Weta Cave, Te Papa, Mount Victoria (for a panoramic view of the city), Wellington Zoo (that's easy -- the number 10 bus), Old St. Paul's -- a walk to the Beehive, and then a block north -- the Botanic Gardens, and the Cable Car.

Hop-on hop-off buses are popular, though I notice a lot of Australians are canny enough to buy a rover day ticket, and roam the city and suburbs by bus and train.  There have also been questions about how to find the best coffee (the best is a certain outlet at the airport, but never mind), the best bookshop (Unity, of course), and how to get certain broken things mended.  Though I am not one of the volunteers (yet) I have often been asked how to buy souvenir stamps. And my biggest recommendation is a walk about our beautiful waterfront, starting at Queen's Wharf.

And of course everyone comments about the infamous Wellington wind.  If it is a lovely calm day -- which often happens -- they ask what happened to our breezes.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The "Other Joan" introduces herself

I thought it was a good idea for the second "word from the other Joan" to let Joan Curry tell you about herself -- in what, as it happens, was her very first blog post.  Naturally it is an INTRODUCTION.

I'm a writer by profession and a painter for fun. As a writer my work tends to skim along under the radar; only people who read the book page of the Christchurch Press see the reviews I've written, only people who read books and discuss them in groups (in the NZ WEA Book Discussion Scheme) read the notes that I might have provided. Feature articles have appeared here and there over the years, and the occasional short story turns up in magazines. Students I've taught have been at least partly responsible for the manual that eventually arose out of the courses they attended, and many others have bought the book and followed the hints and ideas they found between its covers. I'm not, therefore, a high-profile writer of blockbuster novels but rather a bread-and-butter writer who can sometimes add jam to her toast.

Painting is something else. Sunday painters are timorous creatures, unsure of their talent, usually untrained and easily squashed. People surge back and forth in front of their pictures trying to find something to say, because they too are unsure. They are also possibly afraid that if they enthuse too much they might get given the picture, because hobby painters no longer have enough room in their houses to hang any more. Amateur painters seek the approval of amateur critics (because they are the only ones they know) so they tend to paint pictures that their friends approve of - topographically accurate landscapes (chocolate-box pretties), apples and pears that look like apples and pears, and portraits that as someone once said always have something wrong with the mouth. Bad mistake. Even if it is true that, as Edward de Bono once said, unhappiness is best defined as the difference between our talents and our expectations, it is better to paint pictures that you approve of and take the consequences. A friend once described an exhibition of modern art as being full of pictures that looked as though they had been at the bottom of a bird cage. Praise like that has so far eluded me, but I have hopes. I am having my first exhibition in March 2010 at the Christchurch Arts Centre and hope to hang several quite bold pictures as well as a few more conventional ones. Here's a sample - it's called White Water.

Sunday, February 22, 2015


The book's number one review on

5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful insight 2 Feb. 2015
Format:Kindle Edition
This is a fascinating book on many levels. Eleanor Reid's journal, compiled during an extensive voyage taken while England was still in the midst of the French Revolutionary war is, in itself, a valuable record of the period. During 1799 the Friendship, an East India Company vessel, set sail from Cork for the penal colony at Port Jackson, before continuing to more exotic calls in the South Seas. Throughout the journey Reid used her privileged position as the captain's wife to comment, not only on places visited and people met, but a vast array of associated matters. These included political changes and social etiquette as well as the more mundane minutiae of meals aboard ship and ashore.

So what we have are the writings of a young, perceptive and recently married woman (Reid was just twenty-one at the outset), that simply ooze charm. Sympathetic editing makes them slightly more acceptable to the twenty-first century reader without losing any of the original spontaneity or detail, while a contemporary commentary has been added that gives background information, explanatory notes and the mature overview we would expect from one of our leading historians. The result is truly absorbing reading; it has certainly captivated me, and I would highly recommend it to anyone with a feel for the period.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Word from the Other Joan

There is something sad about blogging.  Those whimsical thoughts and even the deep ones somehow progress to the bottom of the page, where there are two dire words, OLDER POSTS.  And then they vanish.  People pluck them out of obscurity now and then, as the hit rate demonstrates (if one bothers to look at the stats), but they are virtually invisible.

So I have decided (with her permission) to repost the occasional old post from "the other Joan," Joan Curry, whose beautifully illustrated, beautifully written, and definitely whimsical posts appear in the blog WORDS AND PICTURES, the link to which lurks at the bottom of the lefthand column.

Today, I have chosen a favorite, called  CATERPILLAR POO

Once upon a time there were four sisters, all beautiful. Their mother did her best to teach them to look after their skins and applied cream after their baths because otherwise, she said, they would end up with skin like turtles. Two of the sisters were born 18 months apart and, as children, were always close but often fought like alley cats. One of these was my aunt, the other my mother.

My aunt (pictured, at 21) clearly took her mother’s advice to heart. She had no children so she was able to spend time and money on her skin. She even took a course with a world-wide make-up and beauty company and learned how to clean and cream, massage and paint so that she would remain beautiful. By the time she was fifty her skin was beginning to wrinkle. She spent an hour or more at both ends of the day working on her face, arms and hands. She believed in the magical properties of creams and lotions and would have bought a stratospherically expensive, all natural and organic, tiny tub of caterpillar poo if anyone had thought to market it as a beauty aid.  

In her eighties my aunt was still beautiful because she had style, taste, great bone structure and the confidence of a woman who had been admired all her life. The skin – not so good. “No, no, I look like a lizard!” she’d say ruefully if someone pointed a camera at her in too strong a light. At the very end of her life I saw her without any makeup at all for several weeks. The skin had softened to a gentle bloom and, old though she was, to my mind she was more beautiful that way.  

My mother couldn’t be bothered with all that. A smudge of lipstick and a judicious pruning of wayward eyebrows was about all she did. She spent her life in different countries all over the world, busily on show beside her husband, and died at 92 with scarcely a line on her smooth and still beautiful face. It's all a mystery to me, but I'm with Mum on this. I'm a loofah and soapless soap person myself.

Friday, February 20, 2015


This is a much belated review, because it involved a leap into a series, midway.

I am a huge fan of Bond's stand-alone, TURN A BLIND EYE (and just wait for my review of his next stand-alone, THE GUINEA BOAT), so I was prepared to enjoy this book, which I did. 

The characters were unfamiliar to me, and took some getting used to, but that is the hazard of jumping into a series midway. And I particularly liked the atmospheric descriptions of St Helena, which were historically accurate, as well as evocative.  Altogether it was a fun read, and a stirring one, too.  There were parts that had me on the edge of my seat.

I can certainly see why Bond's Fighting Sail series is so successful. Note to self: make it a priority to read more.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Review of The Unfortunate Isles

Being a fan of Captain Oliver Quintrell, I expected to enjoy this book, which I did. He is a strong, memorable character, easy to empathize with, and seems to project more with every book in the series. 

This, I found, is really two books in one -- the first section deals with a gruesome discovery on a distant beach, and the seizure of Quintrell's officers by a particularly nasty pirate, along with the threat to return and take Quintrell's ship, which is currently helpless, being careened. Quintrell's reaction, and the devious plot he carries out to rescue his men and save his ship is edge-of-the-seat reading, very well done. 

This, however, is not the end of the book, even though it seems logical that it should be. Instead, Muir has more up her sleeve. 

There is a bit of a hiatus, which felt anti-climactic for a little while, but the pace and suspense soon pick up again with another bloody encounter between our hero and the pirate. The book ends with Quintrell picking up his orders from the Admiralty again, promising a great deal more action to come. Readers will be left waiting for the next book in the series with high anticipation.

Taipei International Book Expo

A massive international book fair, held in the Taipei Trade Centre. 

Taiwanese are mad about books.  The instant the doors open at ten each morning of the festival, the crowd swarms in.

 This year was special, as New Zealand was the Guest of Honor.

Two Maori carvers were a great attraction. A large slab of totara wood had been imported for them, and they spent the days of the fair turning it into the Face of Hawaiki.  Here they are with the New Zealand administrator for the Publishers Association of New Zealand, Ka Meecham.

The gorgeous kapa kaka group, Nga Kete Tuku Iho, was also guaranteed to attract a big crowd.

Here you see them performing in the New Zealand pavilion, which was marked out with three big tokotoko, or "talking sticks."

There was a constant program of panel discussions, smoothly organized, with no hitches that I could see.

Here you see me with Gray Tan, a local rights agent and moderator of this discussion, on my left, and graphic artist Ant Sang on my right, with Selina Tusitala Marsh obscured, and our lovely interpreter, Ellen, in the foreground.

Right next door to the NZ pavilion was the stand for the Council of Indigenous Peoples, which was staffed by the gorgeous girls you see here.

Just a portion of the fair from above.  The New Zealand pavilion was beneath the blue balloon.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

And the lecture

Blue Salon, Taipei International Book Expo

It was definitely strange to see my name in Chinese characters

The introduction is translated for me by my lovely interpreter, Jeff

To my left were my co-panellist, Liao Hongji, and the moderator, who was also one of the translators of the book Tupaia, Richard Chen

Mr. Liao is a Taiwanese fisherman and explorer.  He has circumnavigated Taiwan in a one-man canoe, and his next expedition is to be a drift voyage from the eastern coast of the island.  He tells me that he expects to drift north or south, according to the season.  If he had a sail, he could easily make the Philippines, but he does not expect to do that with a drift voyage.  I can't wait to learn how this modern star navigator fares.

The last slide of the lecture, where I describe how Tupaia sails off on a round-bottom European vessel with square sails and no outrigger. What an adventure for a star navigator of his time!

And finally, all the book signings.

Tupaia's canoes in bilingual fashion

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lady Castaways cover and Dreams of the Shore

This, as discussed earlier, was the image I first chose for the jacket of Lady Castaways.

So where did I find it?  In my treasured, tattered, falling-apart copy of the Girls' Own Paper annual for 1884.  My mother's grandmother worked as a cook or maid in some colonial household, and every Christmas the lady of the house gave the female "help" a copy of the annual.  There were three or four, but this is the one that was eventually handed down to me.

The woman on the rock was the illustration to a poem, called "Dreams on the Shore" by Isabella Fyvie Mayo.

She sat her down where the rocks are low
The sun made a pathway across the sea.
And she sighed, "Though the ships go to and fro
Is there ever a ship will come for me?

"There is a daily duty and daily care,
But nothing happens in glad surprise
Shall I never gain my woman's share
A beating heart and two dewy eyes?

"My mother folds her hands on her knees
And sings, "God gives to us in our sleep." 
Oh! I could wait, with a heart at ease,
Was I sure the future has aught to keep!"

So young harts chafe through the summer hours
Yet ships sail on down the golden way
Wasting their season for gathering flowers
The storms will break in the winter day!

She sits her down in the dead of night
And one star peeps through the tiny pane
Her face is worn and her hair white,
But she smiles, We shall surely meet again!

For a ship came safe o'er life's pathless sea
My heart beat high and dew filled my eyes
Why had I doubt God kept for me
All I could crave of a glad surprise?

And so when the tides of life rolled out
And took my ship to an unknown shore
I learned to trust from my ancient doubt
We shall meet again, as we met before.

There's always work while we have to wait
All ships are safe in the Master's hand
The day is short and it soon grows late
Who sails tonight for the far-off strand?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Chinese book-buying trends

E-books booming, but still a fraction of print book sales

The report shows that readers in Guangdong Province bought one sixth of the national total. Tianjin citizens buy the most children's books, while Chinese dictionaries dominate sales in Hubei Province.
The report contains two main parts: the best-seller list, and statistical facts about book sales broken-down by province, by university, and by sales in the top ten cities.
Chinese people purchased 33 million books via in 2014. The top three provinces for book consumption are Guangdong with 16.89 percent, Beijing 11.39 percent, and Jiangsu 7.01 percent. They are followed by Shanghai 6.45 percent, Shandong 6.23 percent and Zhejiang 5.71 percent.
Guangdong Province remains the largest market for books. The total sales volume in 2014 was equal to the sum total of 16 provinces in China. Beijing ranks second: its book consumption equals the total purchased by people living in Liaoning, Hunan, Hebei and Anhui provinces.
Reader's preferences differ by province. People living in Tianjin municipality account for a third of China's children's book market, while sales of dictionaries and reference books predominate in Hubei and Tibet.
If one excludes municipalities: Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Wuhan and Chengdu are the top four cities for book consumption. Capital cities buy about 40 percent of the total volume in their province, while Dongguan is the only non-capital city ranked in the top 10.
E-book consumption has increased dramatically along with the development and popularization of smart phones. The ratio of e-book sales to hardcopy sales rose from 10 percent to 30 percent in 2014. The top three sales regions are also the biggest e-book markets: Guangdong, Beijing and Jiangsu. It has become popular for readers to read and buy e-books by mobile phone. In 2014, 60 million e-books were downloaded, which is equal to 20 percent of hardcopy sales. That figure is 10 percent higher than that in 2013.
In China's universities, the Sun Yat-sen University was the dark horse, as it topped the league, followed by Wuhan University, Beijing Normal University, Renmin University, and Zhejiang University. Perhaps surprisingly, China's two leading universities, Peking University and Tsinghua University,only came in sixth and tenth place respectively.
Students' tastes at different universities vary by books category. Students from Peking University prefer finance and business books, while Tsinghua students favor books on the arts and sciences. Those who study at arts colleges tend to buy the least books.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Not just a bookstore

Eslite -- the study of a success story


Eslite offers a wide selection of titles from bestsellers to interesting, yet more obscure publications. (Photo by Chang Su-ching)
In March 1989, a small bookstore that specialized in arts and humanities opened its doors in downtown Taipei. It was named "Eslite," the medieval French form of "elite." Founder and president Wu Ching-yu had begun with a business selling kitchen equipment to hotels, but later reorganized it as a book enterprise. By the time the business moved to the present site on Taipei's Dunhua South Road in 1995, the expanded bookstore had become the headquarters of an increasing number of Eslite shops that seek to foster an artistic, stylish dimension to bookselling around Taiwan. Currently, there are more than 40 Eslite bookstores in northern, central and southern Taiwan as well as one established in the eastern region's Taitung City in 2007. There are also a couple of specialty Eslite stores solely devoted to music, children's books or stationery items. In recent years, as the enterprise has developed to include shopping complexes that house boutiques selling trendy designer goods, Eslite has garnered an average annual business volume of around NT$10 billion (US$303 million). As something of a cultural showcase in Taiwan, Eslite has found its way into many international lists of recommended tourist destinations, including a 2004 issue of Time magazine that selected Eslite's Dunhua store as a must-see in Asia for its well-designed, hospitable space welcoming readers with soothing music--24 hours a day! Many tourists, particularly those from Hong Kong, Japan and mainland China, also visit Eslite's flagship eight-floor store, the chain's largest, which opened in 2006 in the Xinyi District of eastern Taipei, the capital city's commercial hub. Liou Wei-gong, an associate professor of sociology at Soochow University in Taipei, says that even today, with international travel becoming quite common for Taiwanese people, visitors still find Eslite a unique place with its own style and feeling...

Complete Experience
"People come to Eslite not simply to buy books, but also to be immersed in an aura and a cultural environment," says Lee Hsin-ping, an author of several books on creativity and a major literary force behind a number of Eslite's promotional projects. Manager Lee Yu-hwa believes that interior arrangements such as dŽcor and book displays are a basic, "easy" part of a bookstore's management that requires only money and good designers. "The point is how our visitors and participants in our activities feel about our management style," Lee Yu-hwa says. "We seek not only to have attractive displays of books, but also to try to promote reading through related activities." Eslite provides space for reading clubs, lectures and artwork exhibitions as well as performing arts. These events bring people to Eslite stores and, more significantly, create a multi-layered cultural arena as a natural and meaningful extension of the act of reading or the pursuit of knowledge. This, Lee Yu-hwa notes, is the same underlying goal of the various Eslite activities, including the regular recommendations of books and the publication of the store's periodical The Reader.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

200th review

Well, Island of the Lost has received its two-hundredth review......

It has been a very steady seller since its release in New York in 2007 ... not that the publishers, Algonquin, seem to have noticed.  But anyway, I've been waiting for that review number to tick over from 199 to 200, and HERE IT IS!!!!

Excellent. 5starsJanuary 19, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World (Kindle Edition)
This book was written with style and compassion. I was completely engrossed in the descriptions of wildlife and flora and the day to day life of those 5 adventurers. Makes me want to go but with a good boat for escape.

Eleanor reviewed

Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Eleanor’s Odyssey: Journal of the Captain’s Wife on the East Indiaman Friendship 1799-1801 is a fascinating voyage, alternating between excerpts from Eleanor’s journal’s, and insightful and entertaining commentary by Joan Druett. The commentaries provide the background behind all the aspects of the trip which would otherwise be either meaningless or mysterious to a modern reader. From the extensive wardrobe requirements of the an East Indiaman captain’s wife; to the courses Hugh plots in an attempt to keep his rather slow ship, even by Indiaman standards, away from privateers; to the societal conventions afloat and ashore; Druett brings Eleanor’s journals to life by providing context to what Eleanor is observing. The commentaries also provide the idiosyncratic details which illuminate the lush and varied background of life aboard ship as well the exotic regions they sail through. The book is full of intriguing details such as how a modest lady might deal with severe and chronic constipation from shipboard food, or that the East India Company was still relying on “lunars” to calculate longitude decades after Harrison’s chronometer made navigation simpler and safer. Both the print book and the ebook are well illustrated, a rarity in an ebook in particular.

Eleanor’s Odyssey is a wonderful trip around the globe with two fascinating women — Eleanor Reid as narrator and Joan Druett as translator and guide. Highly recommended.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Line-up of idiots

AT&T fired President John Walter after nine months, saying he lacked intellectual leadership. He received a $26 million severance package.  Perhaps it's not Walter who's lacking intelligence.

Police in Oakland , CA spent two hours attempting to subdue a gunman who had barricaded himself inside his home. After firing ten tear gas canisters,  officers discovered that the man was standing beside them in the police line,
shouting, 'Please come out and give yourself up.'

An Illinois man, pretending to have a gun, kidnapped a motorist and forced him to drive to two different automated teller machines, wherein the kidnapper proceeded to withdraw money from his own bank accounts.

A man walked into a Topeka, Kansas Kwik Stop and asked for all the money
in the cash drawer. Apparently, the take was too small, so he tied up the
store clerk and worked the counter himself for three hours until police showed up and grabbed him.

Police in Los Angeles had good luck with a robbery suspect who just couldn't
control himself during a lineup. When detectives asked each man in the lineup
to repeat the words: 'Give me all your money or I'll shoot', the man shouted, 'that's not what I said!'

A man spoke frantically into the phone: 'My wife is pregnant and her contractions are only two minutes apart'. 'Is this her first child?' the doctor asked. 'No!' the man shouted, 'This is her husband!'

In Modesto, CA, Steven Richard King was arrested for trying to hold up a Bank of America branch without a weapon. King used a thumb and a finger to simulate a gun. Unfortunately, he failed to keep his hand in his pocket. (hellooooooo)!

Last summer, down on Lake Isabella, located in the high desert, an hour east of Bakersfield, CA, some folks, new to boating, were having a problem. No matter how hard they tried, they couldn't get their brand new 22 foot boat, going. It was very sluggish in almost every maneuver, no matter how much power they applied.  After about an hour of trying to make it go, they putted into a nearby marina, thinking someone there may be able to tell them what was wrong. A thorough topside check revealed everything in perfect working condition. The engine ran fine, the out-drive went up and down, and the propeller was the correct size and pitch. So, one of the marina guys jumped in the water to check underneath. He came up choking on water, he was laughing so hard. Under the boat, still strapped securely in place,was the trailer!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Responding to blog posts

A blog post, ideally, leads to a lively and interesting discussion, so every now and then I get frustrated when one of my posts leads to a lively and interesting discussion -- on Facebook!  What should I do?  Copy the discussion into another post? Ask the lovely people to comment on the blog instead?  I asked this question, and got a lively and interesting answer from author Margaret Muir of "Under Admiralty Orders" fame.

Why do people reply on FB but not on the blog itself?

Here is my answer:

Regarding the commenting directly on blogs: I get frustrated with some blogs that you have to log into and identify words or numbers to prove you are not a robot. Sometimes I can't even read the numbers. Then there are posts that do not appear until they are moderated by the blogger. Then you might hope for a response to your comment but never get one. Then there is the fact that probably no one other than the blogger reads your comment. In consequence, I prefer to post on FB - its quick and easy, it gets aired to other readers and often gets an instant response - albeit just a 'LIKE' from the blogger or others. It's far more satisfying and saves time.

Excellent points!  And I have to admit that I agree -- particularly when the blog is run by wordpress. Thank you, Margaret.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Wellington street life

Months and months ago, I was standing outside Farmer's Department Store on Lambton Quay waiting for a bus, when I noticed this gentleman taking photographs, apparently at random.  I was intrigued to see what caught his interest, so when someone famous came along (as happens often in Wellington, New Zealand) I said to him, "You should be taking a photo of him. He's famous." And the gentleman  replied, "But I'm not interested in famous people or iconic things.  I like to look for the quirky."  Which led to a lively and -- may I say it? -- quirky conversation, during which he gave me his card, which announced that his name was Julian Ward.  "I publish books too," he said.

And lo, I see in the DomPost that his latest book is out.  The paper calls it "Glimpses of our great city."

"A local street photographer has captured moments in the heart of Wellington in his new book, Wellington Streets," it begins.
Julian Ward, with 40 years of photography behind him, says his latest book is a collection of quirky and humorous glimpses of the inner city and its inhabitants.

"This book is uniquely Wellington. It's a celebration of Wellington and it's also a celebration of photography," Ward says.
The images were chosen from hundreds of street photos taken over a five-year period between 2009 and 2014.
Ward says he is not trying to look for photos or tell stories with his work.
"The book is really a collection of images that balance against each other. They are about the moment.
"I wait for the photos to come to me . . . it's about recognising them when they come.
"All I'm doing is photographing life in front of the camera, predicting what might happen, sometimes its funny, sometimes slightly disturbing."
Describing a photo of two dogs in Waitangi Park looking up at the same time, he says, "It was like a gift from the gods, the owners of the dogs were just standing there and there were these two dogs dressed up. I knelt down and waited and waited and then they both looked.
"When you're a photographer you're always on the look-out for these little magic moments."

I wish him luck, and will be looking out for his book.  It's a nice project, and meeting him is a nice memory.