The Ultimatum – by Nancy Moser (2004)

In the tiny Kansas town of Steadfast, a waitress named Annie leads an ordinary life with her husband Cal and daughter Avi. Annie has recently become a Christian, and Cal is none too happy about it. Her commitment to live by faith in Jesus causes a lot of friction in their marriage.

In a nearby town, a runaway named Jerod hides from his dad, finding a job washing dishes in a restaurant. His hard-working nature impresses the owner, Jinko, who offers Jerod some work on the side. What kind of work? Stealing valuables from people’s homes while they are dining in the restaurant. Jerod’s conscience bothers him at first, but the allure of easy cash is just too much to pass up.

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Aunt Jemima

Lately, Aunt Jemima pancake mix and syrup has been making the news. Quaker Oats, which now owns the brand, says it will retire the Aunt Jemima name, as it reminds customers of slavery and racism. This brand of pancakes was first sold way back in 1890, with the image of Nancy Green on its container. Ms. Green was indeed born into slavery, but was a free woman by the time her face graced the boxes of pancake mix on grocery shelves. She served pancakes to folks at the 1893 Worlds’ Columbian Exposition, and people loved her warm, friendly personality. She won an award for showmanship, and remained a spokesman for the company until her death in a car accident in 1923.

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Camino Winds – by John Grisham (2020)

Bruce Cable has found the perfect life for himself in the small town of Santa Rosa on Camino Island off the coast of Florida. His store, Bay Books, is one of the most popular places to hang out. Bruce and his wife have built close-knit friendships with the writers on the island, of which there are many. Something is always happening at the bookstore – an author visit, a book discussion, a party, or just an informal gathering. It’s an idyllic life.

But when Hurricane Leo heads toward the island, their paradise quickly becomes a dangerous place. Most of the residents flee to the mainland, but Bruce and a handful of other neighbors decide to tough it out. The hurricane strikes with terrifying force, and all power and telephone service is lost.

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How Risky Is It?

I read – with great joy – that my local public library now has re-opening dates! The first milestone will come next Monday, when they will open their outside book drops. I have three books and a music CD that I have been wanting to return for over three months, but was unable to do so. A week after that, we will be able to pick up our holds, albeit in curbside fashion. I have had a book on the hold shelf for three months now, and can’t even remember what it’s called.

In July, the ultimate will happen – we will be able to step foot in the library! It will reopen with restrictions. Probably no internet stations, story times, or sitting in cushy chairs to read for a while. Likely there will be a limit on how many people can be in the library at a time. But at this point, anything will be a gift. I realize that having a library open is considered somewhat risky because people will be handling some of the same books, CD cases and audiobook boxes. But I think we are having to accept that almost everything we do now has at least some risk to it. We just have to decide personally how much risk we are willing to take.

An online article did a great job of rating 36 common activities according to how risky they are, and why.
https://www.mlive.com/public-interest/2020/06/from-hair-salons-to-gyms-experts-rank-36-activities-by-coronavirus-risk-level.html

Here’s a summary of their take on risk:

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Dandelion Wine – by Ray Bradbury (1957)

It’s not quite summertime yet, but this is the perfect time to pull a book like “Dandelion Wine”, a novel that focuses on the joy and exhilaration that kids experience when summer first begins. Originally Ray Bradbury wrote a short story with this title in 1953 for the magazine “Gourmet”. He went on to expand it into a full-length novel in 1957, which became “Dandelion Wine” as we know it. I would like to find the original short story sometime.

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Farewell Summer – by Ray Bradbury (2006)

This book was a long time in coming. In the 1950s, Ray Bradbury presented a lengthy manuscript to his publishers. He wanted to title it: “Summer Morning, Summer Night”. The manuscript was so long that the publishers chose to select only part of it for the 1957 book “Dandelion Wine”. The rest of the story – “Farewell Summer” – was not published until 2006, just half a dozen years before the author died.

It seems quite appropriate that Mr. Bradbury published the rest of the story in his old age, as the novel is about the young and the old in society, the difficulty of being a senior citizen, and how the young and old struggle to understand each other.

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Exposure Notification from Apple and Google – May 25, 2020

It’s not often that Google and Apple work together. But since the pandemic, they have found common ground by adding a tracing feature to their cell phone operating systems that will work with government/health department apps being developed. When the apps are added to phones, people’s movements will be traced, and phones will record if you have been close enough to an infected person to become infected yourself.

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A Library’s Nightmare

The public library in Midland, Michigan has been having a rough time. Like other libraries across the country, they had to close their doors back in March when the coronavirus reached the area. About a week ago, heavy spring rains prompted a flash flood warning. Then both the Edenville Dam and and the Sandford Dam burst, sending water tumbling toward the town of Midland. Thousands of residents made an emergency evacuation.

What about the town’s library? One of the library employees stayed overnight in the library to monitor the situation. By 3:30 am, other workers joined her. Water had begun to seep into the lower level of the building, where they had about 80,000 books. They tried setting up barricades to block the flow of water but it only slowed the flooding.

Grace Dow library 2(photo credit: Midland Daily News)

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Piper In The Woods by Philip K. Dick (1953)

Piper In The Woods

If you have never read classic science fiction, but don’t want to tackle an entire novel, try reading one of Philip K. Dick’s short stories. Some call his stories surreal fantasy rather than science fiction. Whatever label you want to put on his work, the author has given us a wealth of both short stories and full novels, many of which have been utilized by Hollywood. Some of the movies/television based on his writings include “Total Recall”, “The Minority Report”, “The Man In The High Castle”, “Blade Runner” and “A Scanner Darkly”.

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Spam Calls Are Declining?

Last month I read two articles online that claimed the number of spam phone calls were going down, thanks to the coronavirus.  The articles were on websites that I would consider reputable. The first one was on USA Today:
https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2020/04/16/phone-ringing-less-study-says-spam-calls-down-due-coronavirus/5143916002/

The other article was posted in the Los Angeles Times:
https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-04-02/column-coronavirus-robocalls

I checked my phone. Hmmm, the number of unknown or “spam likely” calls was down. But over the next few weeks, I started being flooded with text messages that seem to be spam. Never had I received so many unsolicited messages! Here’s a few of the text messages sent to me:

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