Monday, September 28, 2015

The Lifeboat: a story of life and death and survival

The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan is a story about a life and death situation. A lifeboat adrift at sea where plots and schemes are made. It leaves one women fighting for her life and freedom as she is on trial for murder.

The year is 1914 and the ship Empress Alexandra has left Europe with many of its passengers escaping the outbreak of World War I. A fire soon breaks out board the ship. Newlywed Grace Winter makes it aboard Lifeboat number 14 with crew member John Hardie and numerous other passengers. As each day passes on the lifeboat, tensions build and tempers flare as the chance of rescue get slimmer and slimmer. Mr. Hardie, who had taken charge, seems to have lost his mind and the others mutiny resulting in his death. When they are rescued, Grace and two other women are accused of first degree murder. What really happened aboard the lifeboat? Will Grace go free or be convicted?

I checked this book out of the library but had to force myself to sit down and read it because it was due to back soon. Once I started reading, I could not put it down. I was able to finish it in a few hours. The story was intriguing. I wanted to finish to see how Grace is recused and what events led to her being accused of murder. I can’t really say anymore because it would give away main points. I enjoyed this book and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a survival story with a twist. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Nurses are my heroes in the medical field

The View, a TV talk show, which claims to be a place five women from different points of view together to discuss the headlines of the day since it began airing in 1997. Recently, the show came under fire for criticizing and mocking a Miss America contestant, Miss Colorado Kelley Johnson. Since everyone is familiar with the segment and the ongoing outrage and backlash, I will not rehash it here. However, I do want to extend my appreciation for the millions of nurses. To the nurses who were a part of the happiest moment and the devastated moments of my life. I don’t remember your names but you have left an impression on my heart and memory.

To the nurse who sat by my side while I was in labor with my daughter, Abby. The nurse who talked with us and helped pass the time as best as possible. The nurse who guided my husband as we prepared for the stage to bring our daughter into the world. And when the doctor was stitching me from the episiotomy and didn’t listen when I said I could feel the needle, the nurse who quietly gave me another dose of pain medication through my epidural. The nurse who brought my newborn daughter to us and quietly shooed my mom out of the room. The nurse who stood in the background as my husband and I marveled at the new person in our lives and stayed with us until they took me to my recovery room. It’s been almost four years since then and I still remember. Thank you for the amazing job you did that day. 

To the nurses who attended me while I was in the hospital desperate to stay pregnant with Ziva and ultimately rushed into an emergency C-section. To the nurse who held me as the anesthesiologist put in the spinal block. The nurse who let me squeeze her arm even when I left nail marks. The nurse who reassured me that she would not let me fall. To the nurse who was at my bedside when I woke up in the surgical recovery room and made sure I was as comfortable as possible. To the nurse who brought my daughter in so I could hold her for the first and last time. To the nurse who would come in and check my vitals. She always apologize for waking me up and she come in, checked and was out as quickly as possible. To the nurse who I saw in my aftercare. I was given an appointment I didn’t need but still took the time to listen to my story, cried with me, prayed with me and even recommended a great doctor.

To the nurse who sat with me in the ER exam room and made sure I was comfortable. Many people don’t know this but on August 13th of this year, I suffered a miscarriage which sent me to the ER. This nurse made sure I was comfortable and warm because, of course, I had the exam room right next to the ambulance door. The nurse who apologized for the wait and explained what the doctor was waiting for before coming in with my results. The nurse who turned down the lights so my husband and I could get as much sleep as we could while we waited.  The nurse who didn’t hesitate when she saw that we were ready to go home, got my discharge papers and sent us home with best wishes.

I’ve heard many good and bad stories about nurses. I’ve had a few bad ones too. However, the great nurses are the ones which stand out in my mind. I think I would have a hard time doing the job that they do. And for the women on the The View to openly mock a profession which they do not understand and will need throughout their lives is just plain stupid. To the millions of nurses who work tirelessly every day for patients and doctors who may or may not appreciate what you do, I say thank you. I have seen what you do and I appreciate you. To me, you are the hero of the medical field. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Shoo, Fly! You Can't Eat Here: a fun, entertaining book introducing healthy eating options

Shoo, Fly! You Can’t Eat Here by Liller Hamilton is a story of how a common housefly becomes an unwelcome guest at a school lunch table. Each children with a healthy item for their lunch, shoos the fly away until the fly gives up and leaves. The book offers the opportunity for discussion with children about healthy eating habits.

When the book arrived, my 3 year old daughter immediately wanted me to read it to her. As she knows how annoying and pesky flies can be, she laughed and imitated the children as they shooed the fly from their delicious food. Reading along and seeing the different healthy options, my daughter would put out the ones she loved (which was all of them). I recommend Shoo, Fly! You Can’t Eat Here for any family’s library or classroom library was another tool to introduce to children healthy food options.

Shoo, Fly! You Can’t Eat Here
is available
in hardback, paperback and ebook

at Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Hobbit: first published September 21, 1937

The Hobbit or There and Back again by JRR Tolkien (1892-1973) was first published September 21, 1937. A fantasy novel which has gripped the imaginations of its readers since its publication. It was nominated for the Carnegie Medal and was awarded a prize from the New York Herald Tribune for best juvenile fiction. It is the quest of home-loving Bilbo Baggins to win a share of a treasure guarded by the dragon, Smaug. He is accompanied by 13 dwarves who seek to reclaim their home under the Lonely Mountain. The book was such a success that a sequel was requested by the publisher. The Lord of the Rings was published in three parts: The Fellowship of the Ring (July 29, 1954), The Two Towers (November 11, 1954) and The Return of the King (October 20, 1955) to great success and established Tolkien’s Middle Earth in the hearts and minds of generations.

The genre of The Hobbit is the narrative models of children’s literature. It is one of a handful of children’s books to be accepted into mainstream literature. Another example would be J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Although Tolkien’s books are now shelved with adult fiction while the Harry Potter series is still found in the children’s sections of bookstores. The writing style of The Hobbit is unpretentious and straightforward narrative which provides details in a down-to-earth and causal style. This style draws in the reader into the reality of Middle Earth as events of a past long ago rather than a mystical world of another place.

Tolkien was highly influenced by William Morris’ reconstructions of early Germanic life in The House of the Wolfings (1888) and The Roots of the Mountains (1889). Character names such as "Gandolf" and the horse Silverfax were used by Tolkien as tribute to Morris. Tolkien’s The Necromancer was influenced by Samuel Rutherford Crockett’s The Black Douglas (1899), a tale about the fall of the great House of Douglas is the focus of this romance set in 15th century Scotland. George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin (1872) influenced Tolkien to create his goblins. MacDonald’s works also influenced Tolkien’s thinking on the role of fantasy with his Christian faith. Tolkien drew heavily from mythology. In particular, Norse mythology for the Dwarfish runes. Also the Old English epic poem of Beowulf, the hero of the Geats who comes to the aid of the king of the Danes to defeat the monster Grendel. Beowulf is the oldest surviving poem (8th – early 11th century) in Old English and is cited as one of the most important works of Old English literature. Tolkien was among the first to present Beowulf as literature not just history in his lecture Beowulf: the Monsters and the Critics (1936), a lecture which is still required reading in some Old English courses.

There are many themes present in The Hobbit. Some scholars believe that the book is a parable for Tolkien’s World War I experiences. The hero who is plucked from his home, thrown into a far-off war with traditional types of heroism were futile and ingenuity helps him survive.  The classic quest which tests the hero’s strength, resolve and abilities to see it though. The quest also influences the maturity and personal growth of Bilbo by the novel’s end is in contrast with the dwarves’ arrested development. Bilbo learns to survive by his wits and stands up in the face of great danger. Bilbo learns to overcome greed and selfishness in order to prevent war over greed for the treasure.

The Hobbit has never been out of print and is considered a classic among other works like The Pilgrim’s Progress, Gone with the Wind, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and many and many others. It was named the most original and best fantasy ever written by the Schools Library Association. It is geared toward boys between 11-14 years old; however, every one of all ages can enjoy Tolkien’s books. Of course, the Peter Jackson’s films have helped bring Middle Earth to broader audience. If you have never read The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, I highly recommend it. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Reading Lolita in Tehran: a memoir about the power of literature

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi is the memoir of Nafisi and her life as a literature professor during the changing times in Iran. She meets with a group of students to read and discuss books which are quickly being banned under the new regime. Through the world’s classics, she must teach against increasing oppression of thought, ideas and overall freedom.  In the twenty years that the book covers, the streets of Tehran become a war zone under the ayatollah as she calls him, “the self-proclaimed philosopher/king” who came to restore a past that he claims was stolen and women became the “figment of someone else’s dream.”

Nafisi describes life in the Islamic Republic as “capricious as the month of April, when short periods of sunshine would suddenly give way to showers and storms.” The cycles of changes and crackdown, arbitrary rules which distracted her teaching. She would eventually teaching, in secret, a group of students in order to escape the censor. They wanted to live, think and exist freely as human beings which was being suppressed by the government. She uses world classics as parallels to what is happening around them. For Lolita, she attributes Humbert as a dictator who “was interested only in his own vision of other people” and when they didn’t live up to the vision, he turns “vicious and violent.” Nafisi tells stories of the horrors some of her students suffer at the whim of the guards for, what we would call minor infractions, and received horrible treatment.  “No matter how they may be broken, the victims will not be forced into submission” she writes as it fuels their resolve to resist and live according to who they are, not who the government says they should be.

During the time when the Iranian government heated against the United States. The debate between the regime’s dictates for their lives and the outside world heats up when her class discusses The Great Gatsby. Her class discusses the novel as the government begins to use the evil of American imperialism as reasons for their oppressive rules. American become “the never-never land” a land of both Satan (to the government) and the Promise Land (to the people). She decides to have a trial to discuss the merits of the book. The student representing the prosecution uses the novel as evidence that to “kill the American dream” is to kill the American society. The defense uses the novel as an example of how people destroy themselves. She ultimately ends the trial with “Dreams are perfect ideals, complete in themselves. How can you impose them on a constantly changing, imperfect, incomplete reality? You would become a Humbert, destroying the object of your dream, or a Gatsby, destroying yourself.” Many would still be unable to see The Great Gatsby as a lesson in what not to do rather than how to live.

After she leaves the university in the spring of 1981, for refusing to teach wearing the veil, books because her own sanctuary as her husband fails to see her turmoil about the new restrictions on women. She grows increasing restless and insecure in her home that she wants to leave. She tells her husband that “living in the Islamic Republic is like having sex with a man you loathe.” She described it as making your mind bland and pretending to be somewhere else. She would finally leave on June 24, 1997. She ends her memoir with an epilogue which follows her student around the world. Some are still in Iran and some are in other countries. Some she has lost contact with and some she hears from on occasion.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I cheered with her as she defended herself, her beloved books and her freedom. I love she writes a story about resilience against tyranny and the liberating power of literature. Nafisi writes that “the best fiction always forced us to question what we took for granted. It questioned traditions and expectations when they seemed too immutable.” While many criticism of the book say it’s one sided, I find that to be the whole point. Throughout the book, she illustrates how we cannot be all of one thought, of on belief. We all have different points of view. My description of an event with different from someone who sat next to me and saw the same event. I find that her point is that through literature, we can see lessons for our lives. We can have different opinions about life, books and still live together. While I disagreed with her assessment of Jane Austen, I found her passion for literature and what it can bring to our lives as exhilarating. I recommend Reading Lolita in Tehran. It will open your eyes to new literature, a different way of life, and perhaps appreciation for what you took for granted. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Today in history: the inspiration for the Star-Spangled Banner

American history classes often skip over the War of 1812 but it is an important part of our country’s history as it was the first real war of a new nation. It would also give us our National Anthem. On this day in 1814, Fort McHenry began its defense of Baltimore Harbor from the British Navy attack in the Chesapeake Bay. On the morning of September 14th, a large garrison flag was raised to signal American victory. The sight inspired Francis Scott Key, who was aboard his ship among the British fleet, to write his poem “Defence of Fort M’Henry” which would late become “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Key was aboard the British ship in order to negotiate prisoner release. He was not allowed to return his ship to Baltimore and was forced to watch the bombardment, unable to do anything to help. At dawn, he saw the flag and reported it to the prisoners below. When he returned to Baltimore, he would write his famous poem. Many do not know or have never read the full poem.

Defence of Fort M’Henry

The annexed song was composed under the following circumstances--A gentleman had left Baltimore, in a flag of truce for the purpose of getting released from the British fleet, a friend of his who had been captured at Marlborough.--He went as far as the mouth of the Patuxent, and was not permitted to return lest the intended attack on Baltimore should be disclosed. He was therefore brought up the Bay to the mouth of the Patapsco, where the flag vessel was kept under the guns of a frigate, and he was compelled to witness the bombardment of Fort M'Henry [sic], which the Admiral had boasted that he would carry in a few hours, and that the city must fall. He watched the flag at the Fort through the whole day with an anxiety that can be better felt than described, until the night prevented him from seeing it. In the night he watched the Bomb Shells, and at early dawn his eye was again greeted by the proudly waving flag of his country.

O! say can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there —
O! say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines on the stream —
'Tis the star-spangled banner, O! long may it wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havock of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash'd out their foul foot-steps' pollution,
No refuge could save the hireling and slave,
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave;
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

O! thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their lov'd home, and the war's desolation,
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserv'd us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto — "In God is our trust!"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

The poem would be set to the tune “To Anacreon in Heaven” aka the Drinking Song. It is the official song of the Anacreontic Society, an 18th century gentleman’s club of amateur musicians in London. The society is dedicated to the Ancient Greek poet, Anacreon, who was renowned for his drinking songs and odes to love. The song was composed in 1775 and Key used the melody to compose his poem. When the poem was first published, a note cited that the poem should be song to the tune of “To Anacreon in Heaven.” Since the song was a popular British drinking song and amid anti-British sentiment at the time, the use of the song was to such a patriotic poem was equivalent to thumbing their noses at the British.

The Star-Spangled Banner became a popular song with the Union Troops during the Civil War. However, it did not become the national anthem until March 3, 1931 when Congress passed a measure to formally designate the song as the national anthem of the United States.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The namesake: family and traditions

The namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri is the story of one family’s life in America and one man’s journey to coming to understand his name. It is a story about family, tradition and change. The book was named into a film in 2006 starring Kal Penn and Irrhan Khan. 

Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli are immigrants from Calcutta in 1968. Ashoke is attending an American university pursuing his doctorate in physics. The story opens as a very pregnant Ashima tries to recreate the comforts of home in her new country. When she goes into labor, the experience is shocking for her as American hospitals are very different than she expected. After their baby boy is born, they are forced to give him a name for the birth certificate. They are accustomed to giving a child an official name years later. They name him Gogol, after a Russian author that Ashoke feels a close kinship with. With the addition of a daughter, Sonia, in 1974, the family settles in their new American life. Ashoke and Ashima are slow to assimilate with in regards to foods and clothes while their children are very much American teenagers in clothes, friends and eventually lovers. Problems begin when Gogol is 18 and he wants to legally change his name. His father refuses to tell Gogol the reason behind his name for many, many years. With his new name, Gogol begins to lead a life very different from his parents’ dreams. As Gogol seeks to become independent, his rebellion grows. It isn’t until tragedy strikes the family that Gogol realizes that he is caught between two worlds. Two worlds he didn’t know that he wanted to belong to. Remembering the story behind his name, Gogol finally begins to father’s footsteps into the past.

The namesake is more than just a story about an immigrant couple who has children who become Americanized. As I read, I see many aspects of all times of families as the younger generation questions or rejects the traditions and the parents desperate to hold on. I also see how some of the older generation hold on to traditions simply because it’s how it has always been done. Sometimes without trying, the generations comes full circle. I highly recommend The namesake as look inside the life of a family during times of changing values and traditions. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Mary, Queen of Scots: tragic hero or guilty as charged?

Today in history, nine month old Mary Stuart (also spelt Stewart) would be crowned Queen of Scotland at Stirling Castle in 1543. She would become known as Mary, Queen of Scots. She became queen at 6 days old when her father, King James, died in December 1542. She was also the great-niece of King Henry VIII of England, as her paternal grandmother of Margaret Tudor. This made her cousin to Queen Elizabeth I and a claim to the English crown. The House of Stuart gained the throne by marriage of Marjorie Bruce, daughter of Robert the Bruce to Walter Stewart, 6th High Steward of Scotland. She would be a tragic victim in the political games of the 16th century as many would see her as the only legitimate claim to the English and Scottish crowns.

Mary was born on the 8th or 9th of December at Linlithgow, Scotland. She was said to be born prematurely and was the only legitimate child to survive King James. Scotland would be ruled by regents until Mary became of age. She was first betrothed to King Henry VIII’s son, Edward, in order to untie Scotland and England. This fell through as the pro-Catholic, pro-France agenda rose to power in the Scottish regency. For her safety, Mary would grow up in her mother’s native France in King Henry II’s court. Marriage agreement would be made for Mary and King Henry II’s son, Francis. Mary was said to be vivacious, beautiful and clever. She was the favorite with everyone and was an accomplished student. She would be fluent in French, Spanish, Italian, Latin and Greek. She was tall woman at 5 feet 11 inches. She and Francis II would be married in 1558 and would remain so until his death in December 1560.

Mary would return to Scotland in 1561 where she married her first cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley in 1565. They would have one son, James, on June 19, 1566. The marriage was strained after Darnley demanded a crown equal to Mary’s and he would rule in the event of her death. She refused. Darnley would later be murdered in February 1567 when his residence was destroyed by an explosion and he was would found in the garden. Mary was rumored to have had a hand in Darnley’s murder but there was no proof. She would marry James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell in 1567, who was rumored to be the man to actually kill Darnley. Her marriage to Bothwell would be unpopular and she would be forced to abdicate her crown in favor of her one-year old son, James.

Mary would raise an army in order to fight James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray, for her throne. She had expected her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I to support her. Instead, she would be taken to Bolton Castle where she begin a series of house arrests. Evidence, known as the Casket Letters, would serve as proof of Mary’s involvement in Darnley’s murder. Eight letters, love sonnets and two marriage contracts portrayed the conspiracy. Many biographers and historians believe the letters were complete forgeries or were pieces of other letters to create incriminating passages. The letters, according to historians, were poorly written for someone of Mary’s education. On August 11, 1586, she would be arrested as her letters were confiscated and revealed a plot to assassinate Elizabeth, Mary would be convicted on October 25 and sentenced to death. However, Elizabeth would be hesitate to order her execution as killing a queen would set a dangerous precedent and she feared retaliation from Mary’s son, James. February 1, 1587, her death warrant would be signed and she would be beheaded on February 8, 1587 at the age of 44.

Mary’s son would become King James VI of Scotland and James I of England. He would inherit the throne in 1603 upon the death of Elizabeth I. James had his mother reinterred in Westminster Abbey opposite Elizabeth’s tomb. Mary would be the tragic figure who could not cope with the demands placed on her. She would be a pawn in the hands of scheming men. There is no concrete proof that she was guilty of anything she was accused of. One theory is Bothwell killed Darnley in order to marry her and did so without Mary’s knowledge. She remains a popular image of a heroic victim.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Today in History: The Reign of Terror begins

The Reign of Terror of the French Revolution ran September 5, 1793 to July 28, 1794. It was a period of violence and was incited between two rival political factions. The Girondins, a group who campaigned to end the monarchy but resisted the spiraling momentum of the revolution, and the Jacobins, who were popular with the working class, grew to be a very powerful group within government. The mass executions of “enemies of the revolution” would be done by the guillotine throughout France. The most famous victims was Queen Marie Antoinette (October 16, 1793). Her husband, King Louis XVI was executed earlier in the year on January 21, 1793.

There is some debate about the origins and cause of the radical turn during Reign of Terror. One theory is that the public was growing increasingly frustrated that the social equality and anti-poverty measures that were promised by the revolution had not yet materialized. Four years into the revolution and goals were largely unattained. A second theory is the two groups, Girondins and Jacobins, were growing apart in ideology and the idea arose to execute inciters against the revolution and provide examples for those who were considering rebellion. The idea was that terror was a response to the circumstances and was a necessary evil and natural defense. Lastly, the change in ideology played a large role. The idea was to instill free will and an enlighten government. But as ideology became more and more pervasive, violence became a significant method to deal with counter-revolutionists and any other opposition.

The mastermind behind the Reign of Terror would be Maximillien Robespierre. He would be called “The Incorruptible” because he’s ascetic dedication to his ideals. Robespierre made his entrance on the Committee of Public Safety, the de facto executive government created by the National Convention, on July 27, 1793. He would quickly become the most influential member of the Committee as it moved to more and more radical measures. Robespierre would claim in order to defend the revolution from those who destroy it, the shedding of blood was justified; therefore the ends justified the means. He would fall as quickly as he rose as public support for the executions began to turn after the execution of the Carmelite Nuns of Compiegne on July 17, 1794 when the nuns refused to give up their monastic vows. Robespierre begin to speak against the Reign that he started. He would be the Reign’s last victim as he was executed on July 28, 1794.

Everyone is familiar was the guillotine, the symbol of the Reign of Terror. Although beheading machines, like the guillotine, had been in use for centuries, the guillotine was designed by Antoine Louis and German engineer Tobias Schmidt after an October 10, 1789 proposal from French physician Joseph-Ignace Guillotin to reform capital punishment. The apparatus was a tall, upright frame with a weighted and angled blade which was raised to the top and suspended until the moment of release. The machine would be influenced by the Italian Mannaia (or Mannaja), the Scottish Maiden and the Halifax Gibbet. The guillotine would be called the National Razor and become the symbol of the cause. Approximately 16,594 people would be executed (2,629 in Paris).

The Reign of Terror quickly got out of hand as it executed anyone was suspected of an enemy to the revolution. People who were condemned by tribunals: 8% were aristocrats, 6% were clergy, 14% were working class and 72% were workers or peasants accused of hoarding, evading the draft, desertion or rebellion against the revolution. After Robespierre’s execution, the terror was officially ended as a new Committee of Public Safety was elected and its powers were reduced piece by piece.

The Reign of Terror is an example of extreme measures to handle those who may be in opposition or even rebel. It is ironic that the revolutionaries fought against the status quo would turn and terrorize those who fought against the new status quo. As historian Lord Acton said, "Power tends to corrupt and absolutely power corrupts absolutely." The power that the Committee of Safety had corrupted their ability to govern as they were elected to do. The Reign of Terror is a lesson in power of government. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Pokergeist: a ghost story in the seedy side of Las Vegas

Pokergiest by Michael Phillip Cash is story of a man who is down and out and gets help from the ghost of a poker legend. A story of life with unfinished business and a life trying to get back on its feet in the bright lights of Las Vegas.

Telly Martin is a former IT consultant who lost his job when the economy turned sour. He and his girlfriend, Gretchen, are living a hotel while they both get back on their feet. Telly is trying to make enough money by playing poker. The problem is he isn’t very good. Until he is visited by the ghost of Clutch Henderson, a poker legend who died the year before after losing in an international poker tournament. Near his breaking point and despite his doubts, Telly reluctantly agrees to ty poker one more time. With Clutch’s help, Telly is able to earn enough money to enter in the International Series of Poker (Cash’s version of the World Series of Poker which is held in Las Vegas every year). Will Telly be able to win? Will anyone believe that he sees the ghost of a poker legend?

I enjoyed Pokergeist as I have enjoyed other Michael Phillip Cash’s books. When I received the book, it came with a parental advisory note. It stated that the book is intended for mature audience because it includes strong language. I was shocked. I have never read a book before which came with an advisory. Keeping this in mind, I read the book and I didn’t see anything which would require an advisory. There was some strong audience but nothing I haven’t heard on TV. I really enjoyed the relationship between Telly and Gretchen. I also enjoyed the scenes at the poker tables. Mr. Cash really captures the tension and psychological mind games which occurs during poker games. I recommend Pokergeist to anyone who enjoys a good ghost story and the game of poker. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

On this day in 1985, Titanic wreckage was discovered

September 1, 1985 Dr. Robert Ballard, along with American and French researchers, discovered the wreckage of The RMS Titanic, 73 years after it sank. Of course, today everyone is familiar with the tragic events of the Titanic due, in large part, to James Cameron’s 1997 film, Titanic. More than 12,000 below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean lies the remains of the glamourous and reportedly “unsinkable” ship. One of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century, it remains in our hearts and our memories. The RMS Titanic hit an iceberg at 11:40 pm on April 14, 1912, 2 hours and 40 minutes later on April 15, 1912, she would lie at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

The name, Titanic, is derived from Greek mythology and with her sister ships, Britannic and Olympic, were billed as the future of ships. Conceived by the White Star line with its chairman, J. Bruce Ismay and American financier J.P. Morgan, Harland and Wolff were contracted to build the three ships. With design by naval architect, Thomas Andrews. Titanic would have the designation as a Royal Mail Ship and would be 882 ft. 9 in in length and 104 ft. in height. Building began in Belfast on March 31, 1909 and launched on May 31, 1911 and finished on April 2, 1912. Her maiden voyage began on April 10, 1912 when she left Southampton. Titanic was designed with modern amenities and technological advances which boasted her as the fastest and luxurious ship on the sea. White Star Line, so proud of their new creation, called her the unsinkable ship. 

Titanic boasted some of the wealthiest and famous people of the early 20th century. Among them were millionaire John Jacob Astor IV and his wife Madeline, businessman Benjamin Guggenheim, Isidor and Ida Straus, owner of Macy’s, and Margaret “Molly” Brown, who would earn the nickname, the Unsinkable Molly Brown. The official passenger and crew count claims 2,224 people on board the Titanic. 710 would survive including Millvina Dean, who was nine weeks ago at the time and the last living survivor. She died at the age of 97 on May 31, 2009. 1,514 people would lose their life in the sinking. 333 bodies would be recovered. Only about two-thirds would be positively identified and approximately 150 would be laid to rest in one of three Halifax, Nova Scotia cemeteries. While many were affected by this tragedy, none more than the resident of Southampton, England in which 4 out of 5 crew members were residents.

Almost immediately after the sinking, proposals were made to find the wreckage but were abandoned as the depths were too great for divers at the time. Many expeditions have been proposed and attempted without success since the sinking. Until 1985, the location of the wreckage was unknown due to conflicting coordinates reported. After a failed attempt, Dr. Robert Ballard devised new technology and search strategies in to order to find the wreckage. Using cameras instead of sonar, September 1, 1985 at 12:48 am, pieces of debris began to appear on the cameras screens, one piece being identified as a boiler. The following day, the main part of the ship was found. Titanic was discovered to be in two main pieces 370 miles (600 km) south east of Mistaken Point, Newfoundland. The discovery of two main pieces confirms some of the survivors accounts that the ship had broken in two, despite the official report claiming in sank intact.

Titanic has the legacy of man’s hubris and pride. To think that man can design anything to which nature cannot destroy. So full of confidence in their design and counting the fortune they would make, they failed to see the flaws in their design. The memory of the 1,514 lives lost is a testament that we cannot take anything for granted. We may try to build everything to last and withstand all the nature can throw at us but eventually the forces of nature will win. We must expect the unexpected. There are still many unanswered questions about Titanic but today in 1985, the one big question was answered.