One Large Attraction

Some say “Bigger is better.” Others dispute that with “The best things come in small packages.”

Today I’m going to highlight a St. Louis resident who is on the large side — by physical size and popularity. He achieved the popularity on the day he was born – 25 1/2 years ago. And while it was a large baby, it took him years to reach his current, adult stature.

His early birthday parties were celebrated in style. And popular with local TV stations as well as St. Louis children young and old.

He’s a father of four daughters now. And he appears to take it all in stride.

Meet Raja – one of several (and the largest) of the “favorite sons” at the St. Louis Zoo. Be sure to stop in and visit with him and the rest of the herd the next time your travels bring you here.

Admission is free. There is a charge to park.


My Library Shelf – Y

Today’s selection is an autobiography published a little more then three decades ago.


By General Chuck Yeager and Leo Janos

Flying. In combat. Testing new planes. Breaking the sound barrier.

This book is written in a matter-of-fact and easy to read style. General Yeager’s long career in airplanes began when he joined the Army-Air Corps in 1941. And the rest, as they say, is history.

WWII fighters. Then experimental jets. And he tells of more than the airplanes — his fellow test pilots, the support staff, their families, and the characters that live in the high desert testing grounds — all are given their due.

This modest American hero held my interest while filling in some of my knowledge gaps.

Check for this out-of-print volume at libraries and used book stores.



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…


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.