Yesterday the day began with a windless, pleasant chill, overcast skies and a deep fog making the outdoors feel like a pleasant cocoon.
We headed down to Plano to the Verizon wireless store. I am not a huge fan of cell phones, but I must use them for my work, and in particular so that I may be reached when I travel. When we first moved back to Texas, I had gotten a StarTac which served me well. I like the look of a "flip phone". But after three and a half years, the buttons no longer worked well, so it was time to get a new phone.
When we first arrived at the cell phone store, worlds of folks were in being helped with their cell phone purchases.
We adjourned to BD's Mongolian Barbecue next door, which was quite good. For some reason, the Texas Mongolian barbecues do not provide the sesame fried rolls integral to that cuisine, but instead offer only flour tortillas. Still, the food was good and the atmosphere was pleasant.
We headed back to the cell phone store, which had cleared out. The choices among telephones I wanted amounted to a narrow choice among different packages of options, all for roughly the same price. Although my wife and I had laughed about the frivolity of the "camera" cell phones (which I had said I would only get if I opened an office as a detective or Secret Agent Man), the pricing was roughly the same, so I acceded when the very professional saleswoman encouraged the purchase of this product.
I'm glad to have a phone that will let me pick up e mail while on the road. I'll use this function a good bit, I suspect.
We found we were within a very short drive of the Arbor Hills Nature Preserve, which is Plano's very nice nature park. The weather had gotten colder and more windy, but we nonetheless enjoyed the hike. They've opened up more of the park for hiking, in an area in which they're removing the (water-hogging) mesquite trees and trying to regrown prairie.
We walked up to one tree in which a small hawk (perhaps a kestrel) perched. He let us get right up next to his tree before we flew away. Raptors are not often so accomodating.
I spent a lot of yesterday reading the books I got at Half-Priced Books on Friday night. I read Olivia Judson's "Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation", a quite humorous book of faux sex advice columns featuring questions by animals and in particular bugs and insects, each pointing out the vast array of idiosyncracies of nature (or rather, humorously pointing out that it is people who are truly idiosyncratic).
I'd heard public radio interviews with Olivia Judson, who seemed really fun. The book is also quite a fun read--not a "sex book" at all, really, in the stereotypic sense, but a book about the diverse way in which life happens in nature, told in a tongue in cheek format. I read an interview with Dr. Judson (who probably doesn't have sales suffer in light of the fact she's quite photogenic), in which she said she overcame writer's block by renting a cheap flat in the south of France. Paris is just across a waterway roughly 300 miles from London, so the south of France must not be much further. That all sounds very exotic, taking a place in France to write, but sometimes I must "Texas-ize" such tidbits of fact to make them comprehensible. I suppose the Allen, Texas equivalent of going across the water (in this case, the Red River) 300 miles away would be something like renting a cabin in Antlers, Oklahoma to write.
I read "The Real James Herriott" by his son, James Wight. I typically do not think that much of family-written biographies of literary or political folks, but this book was quite a good read. Graham Lord had years earlier written a serviceable biography, but one which tened to try to sensationalize the negative data about Mr. Herriott's life.
This book placed all the various blemishes into a proper context. I always find that Herriott's writing has a simple, conversational, non-literary tone. I learned something when I read that the author had to work for years to erase his former, more literary tones and adopt a simple language for his humorous stories.
I also read sections of General Omar Bradley's "A Soldier's Story". Many of the anecdotes which appear in the movie "Patton" appear in this book. I always find Patton's biography both intriguing and horrifying, because Patton is such an unvarnished, brilliant, insensitive, vainglorious soldier.
War is such an awful business, yet I find the people who play a role in it interesting. Patton did say some things with which I readily agree, such as "a good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow", "take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash",
and "if everyone is thinking alike then somebody isn't thinking". He also said "watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack".
He also said some absurd, reprehensible things which I will not quote here. Bradley writes his own war reflections as a reasonable insider, and it makes for a serviceable read.
I think that Bradley achieved a lot in his life, coming from rural Clark, Missouri, and applying to West Point as the only way to pay for a college education after his schoolteacher father died when Bradley was 14. Bradley himself said something I like, after the horrors of World War Two had ended: "The world has achieved brilliance without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants".
I've still got two Muriel Spark novels to tackle from my Friday night shopping, so I'll have more things to read this week.
We watched the AKC/Eukanuba national dog show on Animal Planet last night. After the mockumentary "Best in Show", I think that a lot of people, like myself, enjoy sometimes seeing real dog shows on television.
I like that so many dog breeds exist about which I know nothing. I have a similar feeling about tropical fish and cacti species, which are so varied and so diverse. It's funny how, in a dog show, one "knows" which dogs are really special, even though one has no training whatsoever in breed ideals or good performance. The winner dogs have an indescribable something that just stands out.
I watched a bit of John Carpenter's Vampires on the Sci Fi channel. The mythos of the vampire inspires so many movies, and now some folks even wish they were vampires. I thought the movie was fine, but I'd prefer not to be a vampire. I'd rather be a pembroke welsh corgi, I suppose.
Another cold Sunday, but it's the second half of what seems to be a grand weekend. I'm looking forward to living it. January flew by without a trace of sleet or snow. I like this mild winter, though I hope we get a trace of snow before we're done.