NUMUS concerts and fundraising

For a number of years (though not every year in the past 9) my wife and I have had season subscriptions to the NUMUS concerts. NUMUS showcases some of the incredible musical talent, both musicians and composers, found locally as well as from across Canada and beyond. The concerts are diverse, sometimes challenging, thought provoking, and always filled with exceptional musicians. In advance of the 2016-17 season, NUMUS has embarked on a fundraising effort through Indiegogo.

Please consider contributing to NUMUS’ future. Or even better, come out to one or all of the concerts next year. You are sure to find something breathtaking.

 

The Sifnos Chronicles – tales from a greek isle by Sharon Blomfield

Writing is a way of life, they say. I think it is good one. They also say that the life of the writer is lonely. For many writers, I’m sure that’s true. Not so much for me. I’ve been pecking away at the keyboard for some time now. But for the past five years I’ve been sharing a portion of my output on a monthly basis with a group of like-minded poets, novelists, and life writers. We read each other’s work. We offer comment and criticism. And we stoke the fire of enthusiasm.

The Sifnos Chronicles by Sharon BlomfieldThe publication of a work by one of the writers in our group is an occasion of joy. Seeing something that you’ve watched gestate, develop, and mature over the years take wing and start flying on its own—well, it feels good. I imagine the only thing that would top it would be for a book of my own to begin its life on the book store shelves. Maybe some day I’ll find out.

Sharon Blomfield has written a lovely book about her encounters on the Greek island of Sifnos. It’s the kind of place you’ll want to visit immediately and return to as often as possible. Which she has. And each time her relationship with the locals, her knowledge of the island and its history, and her love of the place expands. I’ve been watching this book take shape over the past few years and am absolutely delighted that I’ve been able to purchase it today at my local independent book store, Words Worth Books.

It’s a beautifully produced publication. I’m looking forward to enjoying it all over again.

You can find out more about the book on Sharon’s website, and while there you might also want to visit her blog where her chronicles of life on this beautiful Greek isle continue.

 

Snow Leopard to El Capitan in one easy step

My iMac is getting a bit long in the tooth. I got it in the spring of 2010. It is thus a late 2009 vintage iMac. It came with OS X Snow Leopard. And although it has done some updating of its operating system over the years, as of this morning it was still running Snow Leopard, version 10.6.8.

I’ve never had any problems with this machine.

Wait. This is closing in on six years, so maybe I’d better repeat that.

I’ve never had any problems with this machine.

Nevertheless, Snow Leopard is nearing the end of its natural life. Google Chrome will soon no longer update on it. I’m already a number of versions behind in LibreOffice. And even the program I use most, i.e. Scrivener, has been hinting that I’m well behind the times. So I thought it might be time to make a little change.

Of course OS X El Capitan has lots of cool features. Unfortunately, hardware of this vintage can’t exploit some of those. So my motivation was primarily to gain access to current and ongoing security and stability updates for my operating system. And there was also the nice carrot of potentially being able to download the latest version of LibreOffice as well.
But new(er) operating systems usually come with higher demands than whatever your computer came pre-installed with. It didn’t take much effort to learn that for a machine like mine, I would need to first upgrade my RAM. This is the main culprit in the poor performance many have experienced when they upgraded to Apple’s later OS Xs. The 4 GB of 1067 MHz DDR3 memory I had on board just wasn’t going to cut it in the brave new world I’d be entering. Perhaps for this reason Apple have provided an incredibly straightforward page for people to determine precisely what memory modules their machines can take and simple instructions on how to install them.

I was able to track down a nice 8 GB kit (2 x 4 GB modules) from Crucial. I got it at a good price as well. And it came in the post in only a few days.

Before the new RAM arrived I took the opportunity to audit the software on my machine and see how much of it would be immediately compatible with El Capitan. As noted, Scrivener was the key program and I already knew that it was El Capitan ready. I also use a program called iBank on a regular basis. It too was ready and waiting for the upgrade. So nothing was obviously holding me back.

But what about peripherals? I had come across a case of someone upgrading without adequate preparation only to discover that he could no longer access his printer after the upgrade. Well, there was probably more going on there than I knew, but better safe than sorry. Fortunately I was quickly able to discover that there were El Capitan compatible drivers for my printer. So all that was left was to wait for the postman to arrive.


Finally!

It would be churlish to describe the installation of the new RAM as easy. It was in fact idiotically easy. In less than 10 minutes I was up and running with, now, 12 GB of 1067 MHz DDR3 memory. And with that in place I quickly moved to download El Capitan from Apple’s app store.

It turns out that El Capitan is a 6.8 GB download. So that took some time. But once it was downloaded I clicked one button to initiate the installation. And then I waited. And waited. And waited. Installing El Capitan is a good time to read a book, or go grocery shopping. When you get back, you are ready to go.

I logged in to the new system and voilà. I’m good to go.

Of course I took my time going over all my programs to make sure everything actually worked. All of them did. Well, all but one. Apple has discontinued iPhoto. That was a bit of a shock since I do use that for all of our pictures. But Apple has replaced it with Photos, which after a lengthy incorporation of my photo library turns out to be just as good.

I’ve tested the printer. I’ve upgraded to LibreOffice 5.0.4.2 (I’d previously been using 3.0). And here I am writing this blog post using Scrivener. So I guess I’m done.

It was all pretty painless, really. And now I’ll see if I can keep this nearly 6-year-old iMac in shape for another few years.

 

Reading – a year in review, 2015

2015 was a good year for reading. I discovered new authors whose work I enjoyed: Willa Cather, Tom Drury, Edward St. Aubyn, and Jane Gardam. I continued my affection for authors with whom I had already been acquainted: Jane Austen, Elena Ferrante, Colm Tóibín, Richard Ford, and Elizabeth Hay. I also wrote short reviews of each book I read this past year and posted them on LibraryThing, a few of which I re-posted here on this blog. I’m already looking forward to another great year of reading ahead.

Stats from my 2015 reading list:

  • 29 were borrowed from our public library
  • 15 have Canadian authors
  • 12 were chosen due to personal recommendations from friends
  • 13 are by authors who appear more than once on the 2015 list
  • 3 were being reread
  • 1 was read aloud by my wife and me
  • 11 are non-fiction
  • 0 are ebooks

Books read in 2015 (80):

  • Birkerts, Sven. My Sky Blue Trades
  • Bausch, Richard. Peace
  • Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice: An Annotated Edition edited by Patricia Meyer Spacks
  • Koch, Herman. The Dinner
  • Snyder, Carrie. Girl Runner
  • Modiano, Patrick. Suspended Sentences
  • Ferris, Joshua. To Rise Again At A Decent Hour
  • Mandel, Emily St. John. Station Eleven
  • Smith, Ali. How to be Both
  • Herbert, Frank. Dune
  • Crummey, Michael. Sweetland
  • Bechtel, Greg. Boundary Problems
  • Modiano, Patrick. Dora Bruder
  • Howe, Gordie. Mr. Hockey: My Story
  • Tóibín, Colm. Nora Webster
  • Nabokov, Vladimir. Laughter in the Dark
  • Veronesi, Sandro. Quiet Chaos
  • Sedaris, David. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
  • Petterson, Per. Out Stealing Horses
  • Smith, Ali. There but for the
  • Ware, Chris. Building Stories
  • Li, Yiyun. Kinder Than Solitude
  • Ford, Richard. Wildlife
  • Davis, Lydia. Can’t and Won’t
  • Chast, Roz. Can’t we talk about something more Pleasant?
  • Grossman, Lev. The Magician’s Land
  • Drury, Tom. The End of Vandalism
  • Ayoade, Richard. Ayoade on Ayoade: A Cinematic Odyssey
  • McCracken, Elizabeth. Niagara Falls All Over Again
  • Franzen, Jonathan. Freedom: a novel
  • St Aubyn, Edward. Lost for Words
  • Flanagan, Richard. The Narrow Road to the Deep North
  • Gardam, Jane. Old Filth
  • Oyeyemi, Helen. The Icarus Girl
  • Modiano, Patrick. Missing Person
  • Szabó, Magda. The Door
  • Baxter, Greg. Munich Airport
  • Smith, Ali. The First Person and other stories
  • Daoud, Kamel. The Meursault Investigation
  • Grant, Rickford with Phil Bull. Ubuntu Made Easy: A Project-Based Introduction to Linux
  • Blum, Richard and Christine Bresnahan. Linux Command Line and Shell Scripting Bible
  • Bradbury, Ray. Driving Blind: Stories
  • Gibb, Camilla. The Beauty of Humanity Movement
  • King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
  • Gardam, Jane. The Man in the Wooden Hat
  • Helm, Michael. In the Place of Last Things
  • Gardam, Jane. The People on Privilege Hill
  • Gardam, Jane. Last Friends
  • Bernhard, Thomas. Correction
  • Murakami, Haruki. The Wind-up Bird Chronicle
  • Tyler, Anne. A Spool of Blue Thread
  • St. Aubyn, Edward. A Clue to the Exit
  • July, Miranda. The First Bad Man
  • Ferrante, Elena. The Story of the Lost Child
  • Eisenberg, Jesse. Bream Gives Me Hiccups and other stories
  • Cotterill, Colin. The Coroner’s Lunch
  • Oyeyemi, Helen. Mr. Fox
  • Egan, Jennifer (ed.) The Best American Short Stories 2014
  • Schofield, Anakana. Martin John
  • DeWitt, Patrick. Undermajordomo Minor
  • De Sa, Anthony (compiler), Rideout, Tanis (compiler), and Snyder, Carrie (compiler). The Journey Prize Stories 27
  • Bostridge, Ian. Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession
  • Oyeyemi, Helen. Boy, Snow, Bird
  • Wood, James. The Nearest Thing To Life
  • Rachman, Tom. The Rise and Fall of Great Powers
  • St. Aubyn, Edward. On The Edge
  • Zentner, Alexi. The Lobster Kings
  • Hay, Elizabeth. His Whole Life
  • Cather, Willa. My Ántonia
  • Drury, Tom. Hunts in Dreams
  • Cather, Willa. Death Comes for the Archbishop
  • Drury, Tom. Pacific
  • Hardcastle, Kevin. Debris
  • Bicknell, Jeanette. Philosophy of Song and Singing: An Introduction
  • Fitzgerald, Penelope. Innocence
  • Austen, Jane. Sense and Sensibility: An Annotated Edition edited by Patricia Meyer Spacks
  • Cather, Willa. The Professor’s House
  • Berger, John. A Fortunate Man: The Story of a Country Doctor

 

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Sense and Sensibility by Jane AustenOn rereading Sense and Sensibility slowly and with immense pleasure, as befits this beautiful Belknap Press annotated edition edited by Patricia Meyer Spacks, I am awestruck by Austen’s maturity and delicacy in this her first published novel. The opening two chapters which set the scene with the death of Henry Dashwood and then set the plot ticking with the magnanimous ungenerosity of the sole heir, John Dashwood, toward his step-mother and his three step-sisters are so finely polished that you might imagine Austen writing and rewriting them for years on end. Indeed, much of the first volume is near this level of concentrated effort. The second volume, less so, and the third more sprawling still. But by then the reader hardly notices being so caught up in the all too real lives of Elinor and her sister, Marianne. And the horridness of John Dashwood and his wife is equalled, or possibly surpassed, by the self-serving self-love of the faithless Willoughby.

Apart from the mixed characters of Elinor and Marianne, who partake of both sense and sensibility in different measures, the reader is struck by how generous Austen is with the less than perfect men, Edward and Colonel Brandon. These are specimens not on a par with Mr. Knightley from Emma, though clearly gentlemen. They are sad men, stunted in some ways. And it isn’t until their happiness is realized at the end of the novel that the possibility of their being more than they seem can even be considered. Or take a character like Mrs Jennings, who is comic in many respects yet in Austen’s hands becomes the very essence of generosity, kindness, and fellow feeling. These are characters who are determined to think well of and do well by others. If only the same could be said of all of us.

The lengthy opening essay in this edition by Patricia Meyer Spacks is wonderful. After an entire career teaching and writing on Austen and related authors, Meyer Spacks still writes with verve and economy and real interest. Proof, if any could be given, that Austen’s novels have enduring charm and bear repeated readings. By all means, if you are planning to reread Sense and Sensibility, do consider this lovely edition.

See also