Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Mountain Reading

I only read three books on vacation, which is kind of sad. It should have been more, especially with an almost ten-hour car ride both ways, but I got bogged down with book number two and should’ve given up on it, but didn’t.

I finished Laura Lippman’s Baltimore Blues, the first in the Tess Monaghan series, in the car on the way to the Smoky Mountains (after reading some magazines on the first part of the drive that I had been stockpiling). I’ve been meaning to read this series for a long time, but the fact that my branch of the library carries all of the titles in the series except for the first one is the only plausible explanation I have for not getting into this series sooner, especially after I loved Every Secret Thing so much. This first book in the series was good, not great, but that didn’t stop me from reading #2, Charm City, after vacation (and finishing it today during lunch) and I definitely think I’ll work my way through the rest of the series. The thing I liked least about Baltimore Blues is how much Tess mocks Baltimore. As a local, I feel she should be more like the people she mocks (a Baltimore accent, eat seafood, etc.). She comes off as more of an outsider to Baltimore than someone who was born and raised there.

Vacation book #2, the one that slowed me down, was Devil’s Corner by Lisa Scottoline. I have read all of the books in her “all-female law firm” series and really enjoy this series set in Philadelphia. But for some reason, I just couldn’t get into this book at all, which is considered a standalone novel, but still features a young female lawyer, an AUSA, in Philadelphia. The story moved very slowly, after a fast-paced opening sequence, and dragged on for way too long. The romantic side-story was too convenient and unbelievable. The friendship between the two female main characters, one black and one white, was more realistic and interesting, but couldn’t carry the entire novel. I read this book every afternoon while H. was taking her nap and still didn’t make very much progress. And considering that we didn't have very many cable channels to distract me, that’s saying a lot. I finally finished it the night before we left.

That left me free to start Case of Lies by Perri O’Shaughnessy on the long ride home. This is another series that I read, the Nina Reilly series set in Lake Tahoe, and another one that I really enjoy. This is book #11 in the series and it didn’t disappoint. Based on an interview I read at, it may be a couple of years before we see Nina Reilly again, which will seem like a long wait. But Case of Lies was definitely better than Devil’s Corner, since I finished it before we made it home.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

TV Notes

The only negative about our vacation was the cable TV in the chalet we rented. I called it "less-than-basic cable." We had all of the Big 4 networks, plus UPN and the WB, but the rest of the few cable channels we did have were very random. We had both E! and Style, but no MTV or VH-1; we had The Golf Channel, but not ESPN. And we didn't have any news channels, which was very odd, so we felt more out-of-touch than we usually do on vacation.


Don't you hate it when you come home from vacation and your cable system has changed all of the channels around? Actually, they only changed four, but it doesn't seem to make a lot of sense. All 3 sports channels - Comcast SportsNet, ESPN and ESPN2 - used to be all in a row - 38, 39 & 40, very convenient. Now, ESPN and ESPN2 are 35 & 36, with Turner Classic Movies interrupting the sports flow at 37 before getting back to Comcast SportsNet. 39 & 40 are now Sci-Fi and The Cartoon Network.


Starting Monday, Lifetime will be airing reruns of The Golden Palace until September to compliment their classic reruns of The Golden Girls (which I watch all the time). I'm sure Oscar-nominee Don Cheadle is thrilled to be reminded of this acting gig. When we were in college, we actually used to watch "The Golden Palace" on Saturday nights before we would go out. (It's not as geeky as it sounds. Atleast we were going out later!)


I taped the Lifetime movie "The Dive From Clausen's Pier" last night, since I've been trying to go to bed before 11pm, but who knows when I'll get to watch it (I still need to watch the Elvis mini-series I taped back in May). I also want to watch the "Beach Girls" mini-series that's starting on Sunday. I'll decide after the first two-hour installment if I'm committed to the whole five weeks (unlike "Into the West," which I gave up on after the first hour and a half. It was a little too gory for me.).

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Greetings from Gatlinburg

We're back! We made it home from vacation around 7pm Friday night. The car ride was long both ways, but we survived and had a great time in the Smoky Mountains. More about our trip to come.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Americans: U.S. Transit Attack Inevitable

I've been saying this ever since I took the train from Baltimore to NYC back in December. I printed my ticket from one of the credit card kiosks, so no one checked my ID to see if it matched the name on my ticket. No metal detectors or X-rays for passengers or luggage. Even if you've never been there, you can imagine how crowded and busy Penn Station in New York is on any given day. And it's underneath Madison Square Garden! The explosives the bombers in London were carrying weighed less than 10lbs each. Imagine if they had all been together on the same train instead of in four different locations.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

National Park Scorecard

In searching for vacation information, I came across this article from the July/August 2005 issue of National Geographic Traveler. How sad that my two most favorite parks are ranked "Rock Bottom," while the one that's closest to us in proximity is ranked barely above that at the bottom of the "Facing Trouble" category. I wasn't surprised that GSMNP was on the endangered list, not just because of the pollution that threatens the park on a daily basis, but the gateway cities do leave something to be desired in terms of environmental protection. As much as I love visiting Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, it does bother me how the restaurants and shops in Gatlinburg go right up to the park border without any type of buffer zone.

However, I was surprised to see Shenandoah at "Rock Bottom." I think the ranking is more based on environmental conditions than the gateway cities. We've stayed in Luray (central gateway) and Waynesboro (southern gateway) and drive through Front Royal (northern gateway) on the way to Luray. The town of Luray, with a Super Walmart and other "suburban amenities" is a good five miles away from the entrance to the Park and is not overly developed, in my opinion.

Also, I disagreed with the low ranking of Mammoth Cave NP, another park we've visited. I thought it could have been higher, although water pollution is a serious issue. We were there during peak season of early August of 2000 and I felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. The day we took a 7-mile canoe ride on the river we never saw another person. The two gateway cities are very small and underdeveloped and closer to the highway exits than the park boundaries. I'm not really sure how to interpret the "trinketization" comment.

The summary at the end of the article shows how embarrassed the US should be that our parks are doing so much worse than the ones in Canada, which are better funded and do a better job of putting environmental concerns before people.