A lot has happened since my last post, which I am surprised to see was way back in November. I fret a lot about the holidays; what presents to get for persons who seem to have everything and of course need nothing. It always seems to me that after Thanksgiving the time goes into fast forward. And we had a lot of travel plans to make; to Cleveland for Christmas with Jen and family, to California for New Year's with our old 500 crowd of friends and to celebrate Marcia's mom's 90th birthday, plus visits to Marcia's brother and a couple of table mates we met last summer on our Baltic Cruise, to our little condo in Roanoke at the beginning of this month, including a week-long side trip to Florida to see my sons from which we just returned. We certainly have enjoyed these trips and time spent with our friends and family, but we will also be glad when in another 10 days we return to Indy and some down time.
I have decided I want to document my ancestry back to the late 1700's in book form, including some of my early life experiences. I have traced most of my ancestors back that far, but have very little information about some major events of their lives, their experiences as they came from Delaware and Virginia to Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. So I have been reading accounts of similar travels of others that are documented in books and diaries (see "what I read" at right), and find these stories very interesting. I also came across a recent sketch of the reaper perfected by Cyrus McCormick in 1884
(he had produced prototypes as early as the 1820's) and realized it is essentially the same model that was still being used in many farm communities until after WWII, except modified to be pulled by tractor instead of horses. In fact, one of my jobs as an early teen on the farm was to ride where the man is sitting in this picture and lift a lever with my foot to dump several bundles together after they had accumulated on a rack attached to the right of the machine. So I realize that many aspects of life on a small farm did not change much between the Civil War and WWII.
I am enjoying Indiana University basketball more this year than in the recent past. I watched the game with Butler with mixed feelings, for happily again the Bulldogs are having a good season. My affinity for the little guy and underdog made me not too unhappy that Butler won. Luckily during these cold winter evenings we have college basketball to stimulate our blood circulation and help keep us warm. And now March is just around the corner.
I had not read any of Charles Dickens until the holidays when I decided to do so, but probably made a poor choice by selecting Nicholas Nickleby. I was persuaded by some reviewers who thought it his best book, but I found annoying some of the overly long and redundant descriptions, such as that of Nicholas's mother, and the introduction of some extraneous characters associated with sister Katherine's employment. The success of Nicholas's romance was no surprise, but it took Dickens too long to bring it about, as well as the demise of the hateful uncle Ralph. I'm sure I should have read one of Dickens' better known novels, for this early one which established his success did not impress.
As a liberal arts student at Indiana, way back in the '50's, I needed a foreign language and for the political reasons of the time chose Russian. I have had an interest in Russian history and culture ever since and have read various Russian novels and biographies. Last fall I read Catherine The Great: Life, Sex and Power by Virginia Rounding. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and was enlightened about the political relations between Russia, England, France and other European countries during Catherine's reign. She was relentless in buying art works, especially from France, committed to improving health by introducing vaccination, and advancing Russia's status as a nation of Europe. She was a strong woman and leader who needed the company of men.