Oracle of Omaha

If anyone could time the market, we’d all be millionaires, right? Well we’re not, but one fairly accurate economic indicator are the words out of the mouth of Warren Buffett. He clearly knows what he’s doing.

So if you suppose you too can buy low and sell high, you don’t need to hand your wallet over to a broker in return for $20 commissions. If you’re interested in cutting your teeth, there are places where you can create small accounts with trade commissions of a few dollars. A great book to learn more is Investing Online for Dummies.

Or, an even lower up-front expense is creating a virtual account at Icarra, Zack’s Simulator, Bullpoo, Marketocracy, Hedgestop, or Investopedia to see how sharp you are with play money first. Then if there is another recession (let’s hope not) you’ll be ready.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

I’m amazed how many folks haven’t read this yet. I guarantee you will not be anything but fascinated and thoroughly entertained by Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants.

This story is about young Jacob’s interlude with the circus during the Depression and Prohibition. Fascinating are the circus days of old – truly a culture in and of itself. Entertaining are the diverse characters – from ringmasters and those in the side shows to the roustabouts and the star of the circus – Rosie the elephant. The story is reminisced by Jacob in his elder years. Gruen’s descriptions and story developments are fantastic. You can feel Jacob’s passion in youth and fearful frustration in old age. There is romance and murder; tragedy and hope. Best of all, it has a great ending.

Measure of the Heart by Mary Ellen Geist

Alzheimer’s. It’s a disease most of us would rather not think about, much less read about. Still, I’ve just finished reading a lovely book entitled Measure of the Heart: A Father’s Alzheimer’s, A Daughter’s Return by Mary Ellen Geist. Perhaps I was drawn to it because my own mother had Alzheimer’s. Perhaps the black and white photo on the cover brought back memories of me walking with my mom. Still, I approached it with a degree of ambivalence. Did I really want to read this and risk drudging up a very sad time? Well, I’m glad I did. It was not at all depressing, but rather a touching and tender tribute, reinforcing my own experience that caring for our loved ones can be both and a blessing and a privilege.

As I watch the leaves fall to the ground, it seems appropriate that November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Month. If you’re interested in learning more about this affliction, I would recommend The 36-Hour Day by Nancy Mace and Peter Rabins, currently in its 4th edition. This is a virtual bible for caregivers, and one I relied upon heavily.

Another interesting read is Voices of Alzheimer’s, The Healing Companion: Stories for Courage, Comfort and Strength, a compilation of personal anecdotes and experiences, edited by The Healing Project.

Eleventh Hour, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Month

Today is Veterans Day, a day set aside to honor military veterans. Originally called Armistice Day, it was first observed in remembrance of soldiers of the Great War (World War I) and is set on November 11, the anniversary of the armistice with Germany in 1918 (major hostilities were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month) The name of the holiday was changed in the United States to Veterans Day in 1954, and was dedicated to all veterans.

Most government offices and many businesses are closed today including the city of Davenport. However, both Davenport Library locations will be open their regular hours – Main will be open 9:30am-5:30pm and Fairmount will be open 12 noon to 8:00pm.

If you are interested in learning more about World War I than numbers and dates, I recommend that you search out Testament of Youth, Vera Brittain’s harrowing story of what happened to her, her brother, her fiance and their close friends. All of the men were thrown into the “meat grinder” of trench warfare and Vera became an Army nurse in France and Malta. Filmed as multi-part series for Masterpiece Theater, Alistair Cooke stated in his introduction that if this had been a “Hollywood movie” it would have been dismissed as unbelievable but it is in fact, all true. It is a sobering and heart wrenching look at the cost of warfare.

The Spice Merchant’s Daughter by Christina Arokiasamy

Open your kitchen and cooking to the spices of Malaysia. You’ll quickly discover that exotic flavors such as star anise, turmeric and saffron add a new level of complexity that the whole family will enjoy – and incorporating them into your meals is simple and straightforward.

In The Spice Merchant’s Daughter, Christina Arokiasamy shares her story of growing up in Kuala Lampur where her mother ran a spice stall. She also shares the secrets of her family’s spice recipes and advice on how to build flavors layer by layer. While Arokiasamy trained as a corporate chef (she currently runs a cooking school in Seattle), she also understands the daily task of cooking for a family using American ingredients.

Though many of the 100 recipes are dense with flavor (such as Braised Pork in Caramelized Soy Sauce or Rice Noodles with Seafood and Basil) they are also relatively easy to make. Arokiasamy is an excellent teacher and offers tips and guidelines, including make-ahead spice rubs, pastes and other seasonings and a discussion of essential pantry items.

What makes The Spice Merchant’s Daughter especially wonderful though is Arokiasamy’s evocative memories of growing up surrounded by the sights and smells of her native country. You’ll want to checkout this book for the recipes, but you’ll also want to read it for it’s window into another, exotic world.

Piled higher and deeper

At one time the current quandry wasn’t the transition to hi-def TV, or television at all for that matter. What’s “stereo” mean, sonny?

On the Illinois side of the river was a signal at 1230 AM, the entire run from 1946-1983 is detailed in WQUA: Moline’s hometown station. It’s a delight to read about a simpler sonic time, when the day (choppy as it may have been formatically) was filled with personalities and public service blasting out of downtown Moline with a mere 500 watts of monophonic glory. Draw your own comparisons to todays offerings.

Toward the end you’ll recognize a few names of today’s local senior statesmen of radio and television.

Marvel at this 1950’s stunt from Ed Grennan’s Problems and Solutions program…

“One time a man from the sewer department called and said he had a large quantity of human waste that had been processed into fertilizer. Evidently it was good for gardens. The city was giving it away for free, but the people had to bring their own buckets and shovels. I’m not kidding you…I had 500 people out there shoveling ****.”

Tony Hillerman

Acclaimed mystery writer Tony Hillerman passed away recently. In a series of books set in the Four Corners area (where Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico meet) of the United States, Hillerman wrote beautifully about the land and the people who lived there, as well as crafting complex, believable murder stories that would keep you guessing until the end. I don’t know of any other writer who could so completely capture the “feel” of a place – not only the physical landscape, but the atmosphere, the quality of light, the unique everyday qualities of a particular location.

Hillerman also wrote respectfully of the many peoples and cultures that live in the Southwest – Navajo, Pueblo, Mexican, white. While he won many awards including the Golden Spur Award from the Western Writers of America and the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America, he often said he took the greatest pride from his Special Friend of the Dineh award from the Navajo Tribal Council.

Although he wrote more than 30 books, Hillerman is best known for his Leaphorn-Chee series. His first novel, The Blessing Way, introduced Joe Leaphorn, an older, experienced police-officer who understood but did not follow his people’s traditional beliefs in the spirit world. People of Darkness introduced Jim Chee, a young police officer who was also training to become a Navajo shaman. Hillerman’s breakthrough novel was Skinwalkers, when he brought both characters together in the same novel (they do not always get along) Their divergent views bring depth and understanding to the conflict between cultural assimilation and the pull of the old ways.

The entire Leaphorn-Chee series is recommended for their spare, evocative writing, fascinating cultural insights and suspenseful mysteries.

  1. The Blessing Way
  2. Dance Hall of the Dead
  3. Listening Woman
  4. People of Darkness
  5. The Dark Wind
  6. The Ghostway
  7. Skinwalkers
  8. A Thief of Time
  9. Talking God
  10. Coyote Waits
  11. Sacred Clowns
  12. The Fallen Man
  13. The First Eagle
  14. Hunting Badger
  15. The Wailing Wind
  16. The Sinister Pig
  17. Skeleton Man
  18. The Shape Shifter

Shoot the Flu — Get a Shot!

I’ll confess — I usually find a very good reason NOT to get a flu shot. But this morning I actually got one! According to the American Public Health Association, October and November are the best months to get vaccinated. The shot won’t protect you from the dreaded bird flu — just the regular stuff. And of course, young children, the elderly, and those whose immune systems are compromised should definitely get their shot. Another option these days, at least for healthy individuals between 5 and 49 and who are not pregnant, is the nasal spray. The spray is a good alternative for kids or others who really don’t like needles. Either way, getting a flu shot is easy, only takes a minute, and can protect you and those you love.

Visit the Center for Disease Control for more information on the flu shot and other ways to protect yourself from the seasonal flu.

Or, if you’re interested in learning more about the avian influenza (bird flu), check out Fowl: Bird Flu: It’s Not What You Think by Sherri Tenpenny.

Election Day is Here (finally…)

It seems like it’s been going on forever (especially if you live in Iowa and have been inundated with politics since the very beginning with the first caucus) but the Presidential election is drawing to a close today. Now, after all the talk and debate, it’s time to exercise one of the basic principles of democracy – casting your vote for the candidate of your choice. It’s a right that we’ve struggled to provide to everyone in this country (most notably women and African Americans) and it’s a right that millions of people around the world still do not have. A lot of people have fought very hard for you to be able to vote today – don’t let their hard work be forgotten.

Of course, maybe you’ve already cast your vote – record numbers of people voted early this year, including here in Scott County. If you’ve already voted – good job! If you’re voting today but aren’t sure what your precinct is or where your polling place is located, visit the Scott County Auditor’s Precinct Search, a handy dandy search engine that will give you the info you need.

Now get out there and vote!

Hannah’s Dream by Diane Hammond

Everyone has a dream, even an elephant.

Hannah has been living at a tiny, second-rate zoo in Washington state since she was brought there when she was two years old. She has not seen another elephant in 40 years. And although she has received kind and loving care from her devoted zookeeper Sam, the poor conditions of the zoo is seriously affecting her health. But the arrival of Neva, a new assistant elephant keeper, begins to shake things up. Neva knows of an elephant sanctuary in California that might be able to take in Hannah, but they need to find a way to transport her, pay for her maintenance and, hardest of all, convince the hard-hearted zoo director – who sees the elephant only as a source of revenue – that moving Hannah is the right thing to do.

Fun and inspiring Hannah’s Dream will keep you on the edge of your seat as Hannah’s friends fight the odds with a little help from a legacy from the past.

Because dreams can come true. Even an elephants.

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