Friday, January 08, 2021

Book Review: "The Radio Operator" by Ulla Lenze


This historical novel centers on Josef Klein, a character based on a relative of the author. He came from Germany to settle in New York before World War II. He worked for a printer that did work for local Nazis, among others. His interest in radio came to their attention, and he found himself dragged into doing work for them.

The book follows Josef from his early years in New York through the war years and into his post-war life, including some romantic entanglement that doesn't really possess any passion in the pages of the book. Josef doesn't come across as the most sympathetic character. He's not necessarily someone to be disliked. Rather, he elicits a sort of emotional shrug. 

Even when it comes to the premise of his being a radio operator, a sphere that would have given another author fodder for discussions with far-flung locations during a tumultuous time in history, and allowed her to paint all sorts of interesting scenes, there was nothing there. The author referenced a few conversations with other radio operators in far off lands, but that was it. That part of the story, or a real feel for Josef's love of the radio, wasn't developed.

I don't think the author has the writing power to really develop characters so you care about them. It feels more like she just expects us to care, perhaps because this is based on someone who was a member of her family, so she and her family cared. It just didn't get there for me.  Not a bad book, but definitely not a page-turner, either.

Friday, January 01, 2021

Vaccination & a new year

So here we are, finally in 2021. I don't think anyone will miss 2020. Happily, the very end of 2020 saw Marc getting his first of two shots to immunize him against COVID-19. He got that first shot yesterday morning. By 7pm last night, he had a sore arm but that was it.

We spent about an hour on a video call starting around 7pm. That's how I remember when he had the sore arm. Our friend Keir was going to be spending his New Year's Eve alone at his place in Bristol, UK, so we decided to join him by video at midnight his time. We all had our drinks and toasted to a better year to come. Then we spent more time catching up. Always great talking to Keir. We haven't seen him in a while!

Now, about that vaccine. Marc was okay. Then he wasn't. Overnight, he got hit with dizziness, nausea and other unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects. That laid him low for much of today. Fortunately, it was easing off by this evening. He let me make him some pasta (elbow macaroni) in chicken broth with mixed vegetables. Then I made a grilled cheese that we split. He's still sore and tired, but he's definitely doing better. Best of all, he's on his way to being protected against this horrible plague that's killing thousands.

On a completely different note, I'm drafting this post on my reMarkable 2 e-ink writing tablet.

I love this thing, but I think I'll tell you more about it in its own, separate post.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Working from home & those "it figures" phone calls

Once I decided not to pursue another in-house position, the headhunter phone calls picked up. Isn't that always the way?

I just got another one about a healthcare position that actually sounded pretty interesting. But no, with the help of a loving and supportive husband, I'm doing what I want to be doing now, mediation and arbitration. Mostly mediation, really. I love how I can use my skills to facilitate discussions and bring people together, to find ways to resolve matters that work for everyone.

But isn't this the way? It feels like I always got the most attention from placement firms and companies when I don't need it. Now if I could just get those companies to talk to me about their employee relations issues and contract with me to address some of them!

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Book Review: "Come Fly the World" by Julia Cooke


Come Fly the World is a fascinating look at the world of flight attendants in a more glamorous age, although that age clearly was more challenging on a number of levels. Women took on the role of flight attendant ("stewardess" back then) for many reasons, among them the freedom to travel and see the world, personal independence, and the opportunity for freedom that wasn't easily found for women decades ago. This is an era, not so long ago, when the career options for women were limited. Female employees of the State Department, looking to build careers in diplomatic service, had to retire when they got married.

Throughout these decades, as the airline industry grew in a post-World War II world, the tough, smart women who worked for the airlines were witness to a changing world, including some of its glories and its horrors, like their participation in flights carrying soldiers to and from the Vietnam War, and the airlifts to save orphaned children as US involvement drew to a close.

Focusing primarily on Pan Am and the culture that grew with this leading international airline--with discussions of the roles of other airlines, as well--Come Fly the World immerses the reader in the experience airlines, particularly Pan Am, looked to create for travelers in a very different era from today's travel experience. The onboard announcements were part of the "showmanship," as the book quotes a publication of the day pointing out. "Our passengers are starting out on an adventure and we are helping them to get the feel of it immediately." Of course, this also was an era when there was no question about the image the airlines wanted to project in their stewardesses. Applying lipstick the right way, grooming lessons, and so on, all were part of the job. This continued and only took on a cruder tone in the "fly me" era of sexually-charged airline advertising.

While the exploitive nature of this airline-to-employee relationship is dubious, any number of these ladies also enjoyed the sexual and romantic freedom their profession offered. Happily, this book doesn't shy away from exploring this aspect of their careers, either. It's certainly not something that should bring shame. Rather, the freedom to live life as they saw fit is a great thing, and these pioneers of the professional world also helped usher in greater freedom for women in general. This is summed up well with the sharing of Helen Gurley Brown's favorite saying, "Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go everywhere."

For those of us who wish we'd been able to experience the jet age and its classier approach to travel, being reminded of the days when airlines turned out guide books with tips on how to get the most out of visiting one city or another, Come Fly the World is a slice of happy time travel. Hitting an excellent balance between the glory of that era and the realities and challenges of life for those who lived it, the author does an excellent job of letting us experience life from the perspective of some of those who were on the front lines of the age.

From the first American flights to Moscow and the stewardesses' watching out for KGB surveillance to experiencing Beirut before it was devastated, back when it was the jewel of the Mediterranean, these ladies had amazing experiences. Just reading about what they saw was an exciting trip. Pan Am is gone now, as are a number of its contemporaries, and travel looks different these days, for better or worse, but Come Fly the World is a great read, capturing that era of international travel and the experiences of women who changed not just their world but the face of society going forward.

(I had the opportunity to review an advance copy of Come Fly the World. It's scheduled to be released on March 2, 2021, and I highly recommend it.)

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Such an interesting year

Where to begin? Well, if you have lived through it, there's not much I can add about 2020. By turns, it was terrifying, hopeful, frustrating, and so many other adjectives. We've seen death on a staggering scale, and we've worried for ourselves and our loved ones. Whatever you choose, I think most of us are glad it's coming to an end. Vaccines have been produced, with the promise of bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control. (I won't even talk about politics. If you know me, you know I'm happy we're seeing the end of this administration. If I say more, I'll just go off on a rant.)

I used to work in hospital management. We dealt with disasters in my day. I was at one of NYC's major hospitals when we had the 9/11 terrorist attack. For all that, none of it had the scope of this pandemic. In my years in hospitals, we planned for all sorts of things, including potential bioterror attacks, but this is something else.

On a personal level, this bothers me more, because my husband still works in healthcare. I'd be much more comfortable in harm's way than seeing him at risk. Still, he feels a duty to his work and to his hospital, so off he goes every day. I'm hoping they'll soon have enough vaccine to give it to him. He's supposed to get his first shot pretty soon. Whatever the schedule, it can't be soon enough! I need to know he's safe.

Otherwise, life goes on. I continue to work on my mediation practice. I'm getting more exposure, now that I've built things so I'm on several court panels, including handling a variety of federal cases, and I may even have a nibble to do some ADR work for a hospital, which is a great melding of my old work and my current work.

I'm thankful for my health, my husband's health and our pups. I hope the year ahead is far better than the one about to end. Best wishes to all!

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Book Review: The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz

 The Splendid and the Vile is a great history of Winston Churchill and the key people who interacted with him during the early part of World War II in Britain. If you're even a little interested in this period of history, you'll love this book. It's well researched and tells a captivating story. Also, Erik Larson is a great storyteller, so the book flows like a good novel. Highly recommended!

Thursday, August 06, 2020

Book review: The Nearest Exit (Milo Weaver #2)

The Nearest Exit just wasn't my cup of tea. Some books in this genre follow government agents who are highly skilled and working to do their government's bidding for the greater good. Others revolve around such agents who are looking to right wrongs they did in the name of their governments, or who are on the run from their agencies who have now turned on them, while still others are about former agents who now follow their own moral code, defending the defenseless and saving those in need.

The Nearest Exit really is none of those. Milo Weaver is damaged goods. He gets caught up in terrible things, from child kidnapping and worse, to thefts to fund operations. It's quite possible this novel is closer to reality than many others, but it's neither a non-fiction work nor a historical novel. It's meant to be entertainment. For me, at least, it really wasn't. Milo is very hard to relate to or feel for. It was a hard book to finish.