Thursday, January 21, 2010

R.I.P. Robert B. Parker

Yesterday, I learnt of the passing away of Robert B. Parker. He was a brilliant author, responsible for the Spenser, and later Jesse Stone and Sunny Randall crime/mystery books. These books brought enjoyment to millions, and he was revered in his field.

I first encountered one of his books in a Thrift Store in Palm Springs, California where I lived in the mid/late 90s, and decided to have a read. As a result, I scoured every Thrift Store I could find, and I still manage to find a new book every now and again - he was publishing up to four books a year. In fact a few more are still in the pipeline.
Spenser was my favorite. The ultimate Mr. Cool. Never afraid of any one. A fine example was in his book 'Small Vices', where he meets a lady, who says,

"'Can I get you some coffee?' she said. 'Or something stronger?'

'Coffee would be fine,' I said.

She unbuttoned the last button and shrugged out of her coat. Except for the high boots, she had nothing on under it.

'Or maybe something stronger,' I said."

Brilliant writing, and much of it derived from his relationship with his wife Joan, who was Susan the psychatrist in the books and his love of dogs, especially Pearl who was his wife's dog in real life. He often said that he and Spenser were similar, except that Spenser was taller. His wry wit always showed through. I have to admit, I've often used some of his words from his books (but I've never met a lady in such a situation as described above, you understand)!

He was a very clever, well read man, and at one time became an Assistant Professor at Boston's North Eastern University. I once wrote an email to him to show my appreciation of his work. He actually responded, I was very proud of that.

I feel as if I've lost a good friend. Someone once said that a good book is similar to a good friend. I guess he was right.

R.I.P. Bob, you will be sorely missed by your 'family' around the world.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Snow Snow, Thick Thick Snow

A title reminiscent of a dance called the Foxtrot, which many clodhopping spotty youths like myself were encouraged to learn back in the late 50s. It was an all male school. The Spanish Master (note - not a 'teacher') accompanied us on the piano. The Physical Education Master and Miss Jones the School Secretary led this motley crew. Failure was not permissible, and despite my best efforts, my dance 'partner' - a strapping lad of 15 and 6 foot 2 called John Evans - and I (five foot nothing at the time) failed, miserably in fact. Detention was the only penance though. However, we both discovered that nubile young 'things' from an all girl school nearby had been drafted in to extend and improve the learning curve. John and I were not admitted to these sessions. I recall the Headmaster revoked this treat due to several of the girls going 'missing' during the dance lessons. I suspect they waltzed to other places..... One of the girls was noted to be singing 'I should have danced all night' a few months later.
Be that may, why such a title? Well, it's been snowing most of the last fortnight here in Hockley Heath. The mercury within the gauges have barely managed to creep into the positive even during the 'heat' of the day. And, at night, the mercury has been conspicous by its absence. However, today will be a warm 32F or 0C. Flurries are promised.
Sadly, the wildlife around here are suffering. I have been buying bread and seed for the critters, and it was a treat to watch nine pigeons, a robin and a pair of blue tits (they were cold) enjoying this repast. They were joined by a squirrel, who had forgotten to fly south for winter.
I was so glad to see the cold weather though. The conference on Global Warming in Copenhagen did the trick without a doubt. How can 15,000 'experts' be wrong? The response has been dramatic, it's the coldest winter for eons in most parts of the N Hemisphere, but our antipodean cousins are (not) enjoying extreme heat.
But our Government here in the UK is still adamant that CO2 must be reduced to prevent said Global Warming (BTW, it is now officially called Climate Change). Nothing to do with the taxes that they derive from punishing vehicles that produce masses of CO2, of course. This is another folly of Government. A vehicle that produces under 120gm of CO2 pays £0 a year in vehicle tax. This applies to any small vehicle that can accommodate a squirrel and a mouse. CO2 emissions attract a scale of taxes according to the amount of CO2 given off. My trusty Honda and Toyota are both 'bad', so the tax is £175 ($270) per vehicle (both engines are under 1.4 liter). An Aston Martin (8 liters) which allegedly produces a truck load of CO2 is charged at £400 (the maximum). No one in the Government (our Prime Minister cannot drive, BTW) has realized that if one can afford an Aston Martin, surely £400 a year is a mere drop in the ocean, which my £175 is a necessity as public transport around here is as rare as hen's teeth.
I also have to wonder how can one 'weigh' CO2. I know I breathe out CO2, but when I tried this on the kitchen scales, it registered nothing. Not even after 20 minutes of breathing out of a plastic bag attached to my head, but allowing me to breathe air through my nostrils, and another bag to seal the scales. I did, however, discover that this is not an exercise that should be tried by children. The exercise was limited to 20 minutes as my head became woozy, and my legs decided they could no longer support me.
One of my New Year's Resolutions is to not experiment with science. I think I'll stick to trying to grow roses, bamboo and tomatoes.
Here endeth today's lesson.