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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Husband's Secret. Liane Moriarty doesn't care if she offends her readers. Contains Spoilers

When amateur writers seek the advice of professionals on how to write a good story they invariably are told to:

Have an attention grabbing opening to the story;
To show rather than tell; and
To pay close attention to spelling and grammar

In my opinion, there should be a fourth piece of advice … give the story a good ending.

I recently read “The Husband’s Secret” and while the story was good, the ending was so disturbing that I will never read another book of Liane Moriarty again.

In The Husband’s Secret we first meet Cecilia, model wife of Jean-Paul, mother of three girls, and perfect housekeeper, who one day finds a letter her husband has written many years ago, in which he confesses to murdering a 17-year old girl.

We also meet Tess, wife of Will, mother and successful business woman who discovers that her husband is having an affair with her best friend.

Finally, there’s Rachel, a widow and mother of the murdered girl.

While Cecilia knows of the murder, and is deeply shocked, after reading the letter, she does nothing.

Once Tess finds out of her husband’s infidelity, she takes her son and runs home to her mother. Once there she meets an old boyfriend, Connor, with whom she has mind blowing sex.

Rachel works as an administrator in a primary school where Cecilia’s daughters and Tess’ son go to school and have Connor as a PE teacher. She is convinced that Connor killed her daughter, but lacks any proof.

The story babbles on and it’s quite enjoyable until the end.

Seeing how the police refuses to arrest Connor, after Rachel presented them with a new piece of (weak) evidence, she is going to take matters into her own hands.

During an Easter Sunday drive, she spots Connor crossing the street and floors the accelerator. Only Connor gets out of the way and she hits Cecilia’s youngest daughter, whose right arm has to be amputated.

When later she learns that it was actually Cecilia’s husband who murdered her daughter she decides not to report this to the police. He strangled her daughter, while she is responsible for a girl losing her right arm, so that makes them even.

(In a sort of epilogue the author mentions that the amputee girl will never get the chance to play tennis. I guess Liane Moriarty has never heard of John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Andres Gomez who were all left handed tennis champions.)

As for Tess … she gets a visit from her husband, who states that having an affair wasn’t quite as much fun after she left the house, and he wants her back. Even though Will is a frumpy, overweight, hairy man, who is unable to satisfy her sexually, she takes him back without a second thought to Connor, the gorgeous ex-boyfriend, PE teacher, who sent her to the moon and back with orgasms.

I guess Tess has never heard the saying … once a cheater, always a cheater. Several women will tell her that, once a man has eaten the green grass on the other side, sooner or later he will go back for another nibble.

Not only that, Tess finds herself pregnant with another child. Is it Will’s or is it Connor’s … she claims she will never know. Has Liane Moriarty never heard of DNA testing?

The marriage is clearly in trouble, but Tess thinks that another baby will make Will stay put. Not only is this na├»ve, it’s irresponsible.

As for Cecilia … she knows that her husband is a murderer but she will do nothing. She loves her husband and that’s that. She will continue to keep the house clean, do the laundry, do the cooking and now busy herself with her research on arm prosthesis and will be that.

The moral of the story …

Once you’re married and have kid, your happiness is of no importance. It’s all about the kid, let the kid not lose his father because then you’ll ruin his life.

(What kind of message does this send to desperately unhappy women? You don’t matter and put up with anything and everything? What about divorced women, are they supposed to feel guilty? I would like to tell Liane Moriarty that divorcing my husband was the best decision I’ve ever made.)

It’s okay to take the law into your own hands and almost kill an innocent man while a murderer goes free, she’ll even have him over for a cup of tea.

It’s okay to stay married to a murderer. After all, in your marriage vows you promised to be there for better or for worse, so a woman’s place is by her husband, regardless of his actions. Better that than for your three daughters to lose their father, for you to lose an excellent provider and having to move out from a stately home.

And it’s also okay to be a murderer as long as you’re sorry. After all, Jean-Paul as the killer gave up rowing (his favorite past time) and a few years later he gave up sex for 6 months. Oh well, who can argue with that?

Never mind that some people get the death sentence for murder, get life in prison, or spend several years in prison for manslaughter, this guy is sorry, gave up rowing and sex for a few months so that evens it out.

I am by no means a professional, but my advice to enthusiastic writers would be … pay attention to the ending of your story. People of all walks of life, all with their own problems will read your story and hopefully forget their troubles for a while. Do you really want to be judge and jury and risk offending your readers?

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Man vs. Machine

Recently I overheard a conversation between two men involving aliens. At the end of the conversation one man asked the other “Do you believe there is intelligent life out there?” to which the other replied “Right now, I don’t believe there’s intelligent life in this room.”

Where it comes to intelligence, or lack thereof, one has to have a sense of humor. Blonds especially, as they are often the target of jokes, portraying them as dumb.

While I admit that some women’s elevator doesn’t quite go to the top, there are dumb men too. I should know, I met one the other day.

I went to the mailroom, to pick up some documents from one of four multi-purpose copiers and found a man staring at one of the machines. It was quite obvious that he had a problem.
While waiting for my documents to finish printing, I kept an eye on him.

He placed some papers in the top tray, tapped them lightly so they were nicely lined up, pushed one button and then another button and then waited. When nothing happened, he let out a long sigh and removed the papers.

He went through the process again, placing the paper in the top tray, making sure they were lined up properly, followed by a push of two buttons. When the machine remained dead still, the man’s frayed nerves got the better of him. He did what so many people do in a stressful situation … he started talking to the machine.

“What’s the matter with you, you stupid thing,” he mumbled. “The papers are there, I pushed the buttons, now start faxing!”

“Problem?” I enquired politely.

“I don’t know what this stupid thing wants,” he turned to me, while helplessly raising his arms the way a bird would flap his wings. “I’ve tried three times now and this machine just doesn’t want to fax.”

“Can you show me?” I asked. “Maybe you’re forgetting a step.”

“I feed the papers in the tray like so,” he demonstrated, placing the documents for the fourth time in the top tray, “I make sure they’re all lined up, then I hit the Fax button and then the Start button.

“Are you sure you have the right fax number?” I wondered.

“Fax number?” he said with a frown.

“The number of the recipient,” I said. “The person you’re sending the fax to.”

We both looked at the printer/scanner/fax’s computerized screen and we both knew right away what the problem was … no number had been keyed in.

If this had been a blond woman, and a man had witnessed such a mistake, she’d never hear the end of it. Fortunately for the man, I have a more discreet nature, although I must say, feeling a giggle tugging on my jaw muscles, I’ve never left the mailroom in quite such a hurry.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Is sex discrimination dead

The western world likes to pride itself on the notion that sex discrimination is a thing of the past. I would urge those people to open their eyes. Sex discrimination is alive and well.

In the newspaper today it was reported that a woman had lost control of her car and slammed into a house. This is not the first time I’ve noticed this. Several announcements of car accidents specify that the driver was a woman.

Why is it necessary to be gender specific? Why can’t an accident report merely state “The driver of the car …”
In my opinion, women are discriminated against in all kinds of situations. For instance …

I’ve been all over the Net looking for women’s sneakers. I’ve looked at Sketchers, and Sportscheck, and other places and I don’t like what I see.

Sportcheck was running a special yesterday on men’s training shoes, pricing a particular pair down from $99.99 to $49.99. In women’s training shoes they had a pair down from $189.99 to $94.99

Why are women’s shoes more expensive than men’s?
And it’s not just trainers, golf shoes, tennis shoes, etc. it’s regular shoes too. And it makes no sense. Men’s feet are bigger than women’s feet, so more leather is needed, yet women’s shoes are far more expensive than men’s shoes.
And it’s not just shoes, it’s all kinds of things.

The other day I took in two pairs of shoes for the heels to be repaired. One pair was Dieter’s, which needed a considerable patch of rubber to repair to heel, the other pair were mine, which required a tiny piece of rubber for the heel. Yet despite the fact that the rubber required for Dieter’s repair was at least ten times bigger than my repair, he only had to pay $10 while I had to pay $20. 
Now how exactly does that work?

Clothing stores are equally discriminating.
The last time I was at Zara’s, I looked at blouses and while I saw some beautiful things, they were kind of expensive. Some blouses, plain blouses, were labelled just under a $100, some over $100, others still way over my budget. The same with slacks, some hovered around the $100, some were way over that amount.

I also looked at the Zara’s men’s section and noticed some very nice shirts for just $45 and pants for $65. I was confused. More material was needed for men’s clothing, yet it was cheaper than women’s clothing.

And it doesn’t stop there. Hair stylists also discriminate.
I recently picked up a price list of a downtown hair salon.

For women

Cut and style by a creative director - $125
Cut and style by a creative manager - $95
Cut and style by new talent - $65

For men

Cut and style - $30

As for salaries, we won’t even go there. While there are probably plenty of women who get equal pay to men, there are far more who don’t. Just the other day I heard that female workers of a particular organization demanded equal pay to the male workers. The organization flat out refused, stating that it would cost them millions.

Is sex discrimination dead … not at all.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Charlotte - A Second Opinion

As many of you know, we had to take Charlotte to the emergency hospital last Sunday morning, where she was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection.

We gave her medication, she should have been noticeable better within three days, but she wasn’t. At first, she seemed fine, but in the night of Tuesday to Wednesday she started acting agitated again. Going from one litter box to another.
Around 3:00 a.m. I wondered if I should take her to the emergency hospital again, but just then she settled down and I was able to get some sleep.

Not wanting to leave things to chance, I called our regular vet the next day and got an appointment for 10:20 a.m. That was a relief.

Unfortunately, Charlotte was not very cooperative. She took one look at the cat carrier and decided to be difficult. I tried several times to get her in the carrier, but no, she wanted nothing to do with it.

I had no choice but to call in the troops. I asked my son to come home from work and he managed to get Charlotte in the carrier.

At the vet’s office, Charlotte was thoroughly examined, the urinary tract infection was confirmed, but when I showed the medication prescribed by the emergency hospital and mentioned the dosage, the vet didn’t agree. For a cat of Charlotte’s weight (6.5 kg) (14.50 lbs) she needed not 1 tablet, but 1 ½ tablets.

Now, two days later, Charlotte is really on the mend. She takes her medication twice a day and she is much, much better.

Goes to show, a second opinion, or a follow-up visit with an animal’s regular veterinarian is a good idea.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

How to give a cat a pill

Cats are notoriously difficult at taking medication, or so everyone tells you. There are exceptions though, so before you give up, give the cat and yourself a chance. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Last Sunday, Charlotte seemed particularly agitated. She sat for two minutes on a chair, moved to a cabinet, abandoned that spot for the floor, only to move to my bed. I thought she would settle there, but no, then she moved to the walk-in closet.

At first I thought it was the unusually violent wind that made Charlotte nervous, but then I noticed her going from one litter box to another, and I suspected a urinary tract infection.
I called the vet, but being Sunday, his practice was closed. We had no choice but to take Charlotte to the emergency veterinary hospital. I guess I could have waited a day, but if there was even the slightest chance that Charlotte was in pain, I rather didn’t.

The doctor confirmed my suspicion, Charlotte had indeed a urinary tract infection. He prescribed antibiotics which had to be administered twice a day.

I had hoped that he would be able to give Charlotte something, medication with a time release, but no, it had to be pills.

My request to give Charlotte the first dosage didn’t fly either, the medication should be given after a meal. The doctor recommended that we got some pill pockets if we had troubles giving Charlotte her pills. That sounded like a good idea, but unfortunately, the veterinary hospital didn’t carry such pill pockets.

Equipped with 20 tablets we returned home.

Given the fact that the pills had to be given every 12 hours, we decided to give Charlotte her first pill at 10:00 p.m. Neither of us were particularly keen, and we prepared ourselves for Charlotte wriggling out of our hands, spitting out the pill, followed by taking off at considerable speed and hiding under the bed.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Dieter got hold of Charlotte, she was petted by both of us, then I coated the pill in some butter, opened Charlotte’s mouth and dropped the pill at the back of her tongue. While I gently rubbed her throat she swallowed the pill and that was the end of that. No mess, no fuss. As a reward, Charlotte got a treat (and so did the others).

Strengthened by how easy this had been, I attempted to give Charlotte her pill the next day at 10:00 a.m. I fully expected that this was not going to work, after all, giving a cat a pill with the help of another person is not the same as giving a cat a pill on one’s own.

Charlotte surprised me though. I got the pill ready, coated it in butter, picked up Charlotte, petted her, put her on the table, got the pill, opened her mouth and dropped the pill at the back of her tongue. Once again, no mess, no fuss. Once again, she got a treat.

This goes to show that not all cats are difficult in getting medication. So, next time you have to give your cat a pill, don’t fear the worst. Your cat might surprise you.

Love, calmness and a treat, that’s the secret. Or you could say, a little butter makes the medicine go down.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Scam alert - coloring

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you must have heard of the latest craze that is gaining momentum all over the world … coloring.

Men and women of all ages and backgrounds are sitting down to coloring books, pick up pens and pencils and create art.

In the process they grow calmer, sleep better, enjoy a good appetite and feel altogether better.

Unfortunately, along with thousands of coloring enthusiasts a number of scam artists have popped up. Men and women who advertise books and coloring supplies at vastly reduced prices.

Many colorists jump at the chance of buying cheap pens and pencils, I know I was one of them.

A few months ago I noticed a post on Facebook advertising coloring books, pens and pencils at unbelievable prices. I should have known better, but in this case I threw caution to the wind. I ordered a set of pencils that were marked down from $52 to $12.

Moments later a message was posted that the seller was a scam artist, her post was taken down and she was blocked from the group. In my case the damage was done though.

Fortunately, I had paid via PayPal and when I informed them of this fraudulent purchase, they immediately put a block on the amount and two weeks later refunded me.

The scam artist was not done with me though, she had my email address and a string of insults followed.  When the insults had no effect, she tried a different tactic … trying to gain sympathy. She stated that she was an invalid, couldn’t get a job, lived of welfare, and that “selling” coloring supplies supplemented her meager income.

After her there have been other scam artists, people who advertise books and coloring supplies. Since I was bitten once, I was twice shy. I quickly learned to see the signs such as books that are too cheap or shipping costs that marked as free should be a red flag.

Just the other day I saw a Facebook post where coloring books were priced $3 and shipping was $7 regardless of how many books were ordered. This I thought was very suspicious.

The buyer could be in the United States or Canada, but just as well could be in England, France or Australia. While $7 could cover the cost of posting one book, if 5 or 10 books were ordered the mailing fee would be far more than $7.

To prevent being taken in by a scam artist there is one golden rule … if something seems to be too good to be true, it usually is.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The fish and the Visa bill - Part II

It happened again. One of the goldfish jumped out of the tank. In all the years we’ve had exotic fish and goldfish we’ve never had any incidents with them, but now it seems we have an athlete in the family.

It happened last Friday night. I suddenly heard a plonk and noticed a goldfish on the floor. Since the tank is an upright on a stand, the poor thing had fallen about four feet (120 cm). 

At first I scooped up the fish with my hands, but slimy and slippery as he was, he wiggled himself free. So once again it was the Visa bill to the rescue.

Dieter thought he would die, after all after a fall of such a height he might have sustained an injury. I couldn’t argue with that, at the very least the fish might be concussed.

Still, I deposited him back in the water, where he sank like a stone and lay on the bottom of the tank. He was not dead though, I could see his mouth opening and closing, so if he was breathing he was alive.

While the fish recuperated I went online to find out why fish jump out of their tank. Some of the reasons were listed as:

  • ·      The water being too warm
  • ·      The water being too acidy
  • ·      The water lacking oxygen

In this case the water was definitely not too warm, since the tank had just been cleaned the acid level was correct and since the other fish were swimming at mid-level and the bottom of the tank rather than the top, there seemed nothing wrong with the oxygen level.

There was another reason listed … fish tend to jump out of the tank because they are bored. If that is the reason, we’ve got problems. What am I supposed to do? Reposition the tank so the fish can watch TV?

Anyway, to prevent further accidents, Dieter covered the top of the tank with clear duct tape, leaving just enough space for fresh water to flow into the tank and for feeding.

If you like my blog, you might like my books

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Goldfinch

I first noticed “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt, three years ago. It was hard not to. While the bookstore stocked one, two or five copies of a particular book, there were at least a hundred copies of “The Goldfinch” on display. I picked up a copy, read the synopsis, but no, it was of no interest to me.

About a year later I noticed the book for the second time. I picked it up, let the synopsis refresh my memory, but no, the story still didn’t appeal to me.

The third time I picked up the book I was desperate for something to read. None of my favorite authors had anything new on the shelves and I needed a book, any book. I considered buying "The Goldfinch", but then something else caught my eye and I passed on it yet again.

A few weeks ago I noticed the book for the fourth time, one of the copies sticking out a little. I took it as a sign that I had to read this book. I was already at the till when I noticed that it was a Pulitzer Prize winner.

At first, the book was wonderful. The story was so descriptive that it was easy to picture the main character, his thoughts and surroundings in detail. I raved about this story, thought it was one of the best books I’d ever read.

Around page 300 that started to change. The detailed descriptions started to get on my nerves. I didn’t need to know everything from A to Z, I was happy with just the bare bones of a situation. Quite a few times I found myself thinking … “Alright already, I get it, move on!”

Around page 500 or so I decided to skip pages. When Tartt launched into one of her detailed descriptions I skipped first 5, then 10, and even 20 pages at a time and Tartt was still going on about this, that or the other.

Eventually I gave up. As fascinating and compelling as the book had been in the beginning, as the story went on there was just far too much info on a particular subject.

What annoyed me equally, was the amount of alcohol and drugs the main and secondary character consume. They are either drunk, high or both. On the rare occasion that they are sober, they are either sick, puking or feeling hung over. And not only are they indulging in alcohol and drugs, they are selling to school kids.

One would think that in a time when healthy living is advocated by professionals and amateurs alike, Tartt would know better than to draw attention to such unhealthy lifestyle choices.

While in the beginning I agreed that “The Goldfinch” was worthy of a Pulizer Prize, having reached page 600, I seriously wonder about the panel who decided on this prestigious award. I’ve read hundreds of books, most of them by celebrated authors with bestsellers to their name and not one of them has ever won a Pulitzer.

This makes me wonder … is this what it takes to win a Pulitzer? … advocating alcohol and drugs and whining for twenty pages about something.

Am I curious how “The Goldfinch” ends? Sure I am, but I’m not prepared to sit through another 300 pages. I’ll catch the movie.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The fish and the Visa bill

I’ve never been particularly fond of fish. After all, they swim all day in a tank of water and there is no human interaction whatsoever. They most one can expect is that they come to the surface at feeding time.

Still, when Dieter came home with a goldfish and a blue plastic pot, we welcomed the fish into our home and called him Blub.

It didn’t take long for us to realize that Blub deserved better than some cheap pot and so we went to the pet store for a proper tank.

Not only did Blub have more room to swim, he had a castle and colorful vegetation around it. Still, roomy and beautiful as his surroundings were, something was missing … company. So we got Blub a few friends.

From there on, it sort of snowballed. Fish came and went and when a friend noticed our enthusiasm for fish, he donated a tank he no longer used. Now we had two tanks. One tank for goldfish and the other tank for tropical fish.

Everything went fine until last month all fish in the goldfish died. Within 24 hours the entire group was wiped out. Cause unknown.

The tank was drained, cleaned, filled again with water and left standing for five days. Yesterday new fish were bought and deposited in the tank. Seven goldfish. I remarked to Dieter that, in addition to the seven goldies, he should have bought one white fish. Then we could have called then … Snow white and the seven dwarfs.

Just hours after depositing the fish in the tank, we had a bit of drama. After spending some time on the balcony, I came inside and noticed Gabriel, Holly and Mickey clustered around something gold and shiny near the fish tank on the floor. I wondered if I had dropped a ring or a pendent.

Upon closer inspection the something gold and shiny was a goldfish. Immediately there was pandemonium.

“Dieter! Get in here!”
“What is that?”
“What does it look like, it’s a fish.”
“Is it dead?”
“I don’t know. Get me a piece of paper or something.”
“To pick it up.”
“Can’t you pick it up with your fingers?”
“No, a fish is slippery, I can’t get a grip on it. Get me some paper! And hurry!”
Why the big rush, that fish is dead, he’s not moving. Who knows how long he’s been there.”

The fish indeed just lay three. He must have jumped out of the tank and judging by the wet spots, flapped around to where he was now, laying perfectly still.

Not one to give up without a fight, I urged Dieter again to get some paper. After quick look around he grabbed Visa bill.
Without a fight the fish allowed himself to be scooped up.

“Shall I put him in the toilet?” Dieter asked.
“NO!” I said, “put him back in the tank.”
“But he’s dead.”
“You don’t know that. Put him in the water, if he sinks you can scoop him out and get rid of him but you have to give him a chance.”

The fish was deposited in the water with a plop and … happily swam away.

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