Practice Makes Perfect

Have you ever taken music lessons?

Or received coaching for a sport?

What about learning to cook a favorite dish?

How to you become expert (or even moderately proficient) at any of the above?

Practice. Practice. Practice.  And then some more practice.

While natural talent and ability gives immeasurable assistance — the best in their field practice, practice, practice. It does not matter if they have a world-wide reputation for excellence. To keep that standard they practice.

My Library Shelf – X

We’re getting near the end of the English alphabet, and some of the final letters were not popular on my bookshelf. Now is a good time to admit that I have reached the first of two which I had to purchase near the beginning of this project. While not plentiful — I did find one — and it was GOOD.

XO by Jeffery Deaver

This is a thriller. One of a series featuring California Bureau of Investigation agent Kathryn Dance.

Welcome to the world of a successful pop singer who has attracted an obsessed fan who will stop at NOTHING to get what he wants. Add a manager/father living dreams through his daughter and a friend who happens to be in law enforcement. I found myself absorbed in the story, turning pages, and telling myself “one more chapter”.

Don’t neglect the less popular letters at the beginning of a title.

Libraries with a wide selection of mystery and thrillers should have this available. It may also be purchased on-line or ordered from your favorite bookstore.

A Royal Welcome

Tourists in Europe visit castles. And churches. And palaces.

A prince wants to make a good impression on his guests. Paying close attention to the entrance view and details is one way to accomplish the goal. Imagine —

You are a wealthy family from a neighboring country and you arrive in a well-appointed coach pulled by a matched team of black horses. And at the apex of the circular drive, in front of the wide steps, you are greeted with artwork.

I’m not sure about you — but I consider this grand. And I’d expect my host to be educated, cultured, and yes: WEALTHY.

Welcome to Belvedere Palace in Vienna

My Library Shelf – W

Today’s selection takes us back in time. We go all the way back to 900-1000 A.D.

West Viking

The Ancient Norse in Greenland and North America

By: Farley Mowat

First the saga. Or rather, the portion which is explored in detail in the ensuing chapter. Then we have the expounding in 20th century language.

This book was interesting on many levels. The primary one is the way in which the Norse of that century were brought alive. They were presented as brave and adventurous. And at the same time in pursuit of universal needs — land, food, other resources.

Traces of these adventurous people remain – only traces. Enough to form a picture in my mind to go along with the author’s words. A group of men gathered around a smoky fire in a long, low shelter “chewing the fat” both literally and in the more modern sense of the phrase as they recount the hunt, or the journey, or the winter storm.

Check your local library. This volume is from 1965 and may be out of print.

Sit and Enjoy

Sometimes a person needs to give their body a mini-vacation – a break. Find a place to sit and relax and get back into tempo with the world. A place like this…

Yes, a simple wooden bench. A few trees to give invitation and shelter to songbirds. Perhaps a person is taking their dog for a walk. Or guiding their child toward the playground. Or perhaps you are alone — on a fine spring morning – just you and your thoughts as you contemplate the view and let the stress of modern living slide away to be swallowed by the cool lake waters.

This happens to be Mondsee, Austria.

Can you find a spot closer to home?

My Library Shelf – V

VIETNAM : A History

The First Complete Account of Vietnam at War

By: Stanley Karnow

It’s an ambitious title. And a thick book. Well researched and written. This volume served as the basis for a multi-part PBS television series first broadcast in the late 1980’s.

As part of the generation exposed to the Vietnam War via the newspapers, evening news, and acquaintances in the military at the time of these events — I found it enlightening to find the background and history of the conflict to put the events I remembered as a young adult into perspective.

The focus of this history is on events in Vietnam and US policy responding to those events. You will need to seek another source for details on domestic affairs in the US at that time.

The Chronology and Cast of Principal Characters are two reference portions in the back of the book which I find useful to double check and dispel some of the “common knowledge” since circulated.

Check your local library or inquire about an order at your favorite bookstore.

Hard at Work In…

Austria.

I’d seen them working on a late morning walk. And they continued past my supper hour.

According to our guide on the walking tour — the city was working long hours in these year weeks of nice weather to prepare for the increase in tourist numbers due to arrive in another month.

This and other narrow streets were closed to all but authorized vehicles during the day to enable pedestrians – local and tourists – access to shops without fear of getting run over at any second.

The work in progress was changing the surface from asphalt to paving blocks. I was impressed with the equipment to handle the blocks with minimum danger of scratching the surface.

My Library Shelf – U

We’ve arrived at one of the less popular letters of the alphabet. In my paperback dictionary the letter occupies only twenty pages. And yes, it did take a bit of searching on my shelves before I spotted a suitable entry.

Utter’s Battalion

by Lt. Col. Alex Lee, USMC (Ret.)

This is a non-fiction volume, set almost exactly once century after the events in our previous volume. (Team of Rivals — Lincoln’s cabinet)

In these pages we join the 7th Marines, 2nd Battalion during preparation and operations in Vietnam. It’s a personal story, giving the detail of one specific unit’s actions. Don’t expect the broad picture, but rather the record of squads and companies as they obey orders and encounter difficulties.

As a female civilian the same age as many of the Marines putting their lives at risk — I found this the sort of record able to sift out some of the chaff comments circulated during and after this particular war.

Check out the history section to find this volume.

They Called Him “Mad”

Eccentric at the least. From the accounts I’ve heard and read — he needed some serious psychological intervention. But when it’s the King — well, it makes it all rather difficult for friends to force the issue.

While his overall decorating taste at this site was a little gaudy for my personal taste — he commissioned some beautiful individual items.

A golden sculpture in a pool outside the main entrance. It gives a peaceful view and centers the formal garden. It’s easy to imagine well dressed men and women strolling along the edges in conversation. On a fine day, it might even be a good venue to discuss affairs of state or impress a foreigner to accept your point of view.

But Ludwig II of Bavaria didn’t stop at peaceful or discreet. No, he preferred to put on a show. So the engineers obliged him.

My Library Shelf – T

Today we return to non-fiction and relatively familiar ground of history.

Team of Rivals

by Doris Kearns Goodwin

This detailed history of five tumultuous years in US history, explores the political aspects of Abraham Lincoln’s election and administration.

Lincoln’s path to the nomination, and his election, was not a clear thing at the time. Here we read of his skill in convincing the Republican party structure of his value. And his determination to put others in positions where they could use their talents for the good of the Union.

Don’t take my work for it. This volume won the Pulitzer Prize.

Available at libraries, bookstores, and on-line retailers.