renovation day two and a little reading comment


We received a bit of bad news yesterday about our renovation. It turns out that a heating duct that runs through where the new bathroom is going is wrapped in asbestos. This means that a licensed sub-contractor who specializes in removing asbestos must be hired as well as a state permit must be obtained. This will probably cost us an extra two weeks.

But that’s what it’s like working on an old home such as ours.

The workers are doing a great job so far (one day) at keeping the dust and debris  out of our living area.

The new room is sealed off with plastic right now so pictures are useless. Maybe I’ll take a few today after some of the plastic is moved so you can see how it’s progressing.

I’m about two thirds into Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. She is one of the American authors Adichie said she was reading. It’s a series of inter-related short stories. I usually don’t go for that kind of structure. I read short stories but often find them unsatisfying. It may be that the shorter form tempts writers to emphasize style and omit story. Hard to say.

Strout however seems to be constructing a very interesting story. The main character, Olive Kitteridge, is an aging flawed former math teacher who is outspoken and exhibits a lot of eccentric behavior. She is somewhere in each story and featured in several so far. Strout gets aging right. Kitteridge is not the only elderly person in the book. By elderly I mean sixties to seventies. One couple is in their seventies and they have a very interesting chapter about their relationship at this time of their life. The chapter is called “Winter Concert.” We listen in to their thoughts as well as hear their conversation as they attend a concert in a church. At first it seems they wife their life now  as idyllic but of course this is not the case. By the end of the story (Kitteridge also attends this concert with her husband, that’s one way it connects to the other stories), the reader has had a glimpse of the complexity of their unhappiness.

Another thing Strout is doing that I like is that instead of covering plots from different points of view in different stories, the stories themselves seem to be proceeding chronologically even though there is an inevitable disjunctness as the author skips around to tell stories about people who may be connected only by place and casual acquaintance.

At this point, it feels surprisingly coherent despite the lack of a centrally defined narrative one sometimes finds in novels.

1. Raw Scenes, Unspeakable Violations –

Art performance and political protest combine in Beijing.

2. A More Secular Europe, Divided by the Cross –

But not really. The defining anecdote of this article is deflated by the comment at the end that a local coin will retain religious symbols. But it is amusing to read that more Brits believe in ETs than God.

3. ‘Le Corbusier’ Exhibition Opens at Museum of Modern Art –

I learned some stuff about Le Corbusier the architect from this report.

4. In Gospel Songs of Yore, Clues to the Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. –

This sounds like some interesting scholarship about MLK.

5. N.S.A. Chief Says Surveillance Has Stopped Dozens of Plots –

Why should anyone believe this unsupported claim? I  know I don’t.

6, 7, 8. Give us back our public spaces so we can have access to all areas | Will Hutton | Comment is free | The Observer

Defenders of Public Spaces Take Inspiration From Turkish Protests –

Transportation Chief Talks of Giving the Public More Public Spaces –

Public space discussions. I am drawn to them. I remember being impressed with the public space of the trains and the Tube in Great Britain. There are some in the USA but definitely not as many as we need.

9, 10. China Dissident Says He’s Being Forced From N.Y.U. –

Full Text of Chen Guangcheng’s Statement on Leaving NYU – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Hard to tell what’s going on here.


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