2016 – year in review

Reading:

I read 33 books or novellas in 2016; that doesn’t count the books I picked up and put back down or returned to the library unread or unfinished, since I may circle back to some of those at some point.  The two best fiction reads were Lois McMaster Bujold’s Penric novellas. Best nonfiction was Rebecca Traister’s All the Single Ladies.  Biggest disappointment was Bujold’s Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen.

Also, I read an excellent original hockey fic on AO3. I really like the writer’s voice and style…but the typos and punctuation abuse make my brain hurt.

I started Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine on 12/31 but have not finished it yet; I think it’ll be one of my favorite reads when it comes time to tally up 2017.

Watched:

  • Fox’s Pitch series (please be renewed?)
  • The Crown
  • GBBO
  • Star Wars (mostly liked it, love General Organa)
  • Jason Bourne (meh)
  • Ghostbusters (loved it)
  • Star Trek (meh)
  • Love & Friendship (loved it)

Theater, Museums, Music:

  • Jan 9 – The Critic and the Real Inspector
  • March 5 – Othello
  • March 26 – 1984
  • May 21 – The Taming of the Shrew
  • Oct 29 – Romeo and Juliet
  • Dec 3 – The Secret Garden
  • The Menil
  • The National Aviary
  • Fort Pitt Museum
  • The Andy Warhol Museum
  • The Frick – the carriages and cars in the garage are amazing, as is the house
  • The Heinz History Center, multiple visits – Toys Exhibit, Pixburgh exhibit, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, glass industry.  The exhibit on slavery is excellent and awful.  As a white person, it was ugly and shame-inducing to walk through.  I cannot imagine how painful it would be for a POC, or even tell whether it would be cathartic or just rage-inducing.
  • ROM (loved the Chihuly exhibit)
  • Casa Loma
  • Bata Shoe Museum
  • AGO
  • Textile Museum
  • Gardiner Museum of Ceramics (loved)
  • Smithsonian National Gallery of Art
  • Garth Brooks & Tricia Yearwood concert (wow, not much music this year)

Sports:

Okay, this category, now that I look at it, is a little excessive.  Sorry, not sorry.  Also, I’m sure I went to at least one more baseball game, but I can’t find the ticket stub or a note on my planner, so.

  • Feb 22 – Coyotes @ Caps
  • Feb 27 – Jets @ Penguins
  • March 11-14 – Indian Wells for the BNP Paribas tournament, love this venue.
  • March 18 – Predators @ Caps
  • March 28 – Blue Jackets @ Caps
  • April 7 – Penguins @ Caps (makeup game for blizzard), WIN!
  • April 16 – Game 2 of the 1st round of the playoffs – NYR @ Penguins, loss
  • April 23 – Game 5 of the 1st round – NYR @Penguins, won the series
  • April 28 – Game 1 of the 2nd round – Penguins @ Caps, lost in OT.
  • May 4 – Game 4 of the 2nd round – Caps @ Penguins (OT win!)
  • May 13 – Game 1 of the ECF – TBL @ Penguins – ouch, lost, Letang got boarded (and knocked out) right in front of me.  It was ugly.
  • June 1 – Game 2 of the SCF – Sharks & Penguins, OT win.  The Goal (actually all the goals) was right in front of me!
  • June 5 – NYY @ Orioles
  • Sept 14 – pre-tournament SWE-EUR
  • Sept 17-29 – World Cup of Hockey tournament; 16 games.  So. Much. Hockey.
  • October 15 – Ducks @ Penguins (win!)
  • Nov 8 – Sharks @ Caps (Sharks win!)
  • Nov 16 – Penguins @ Caps (ugly, ugly loss)
  • Nov 19 – Penguins @ Buffalo (SO loss, man, Flower was so good in the 3rd and OT).
  • Nov 20 – NWHL Pride @ Beauts (posted thoughts/opinions about this over on tumblr)
  • Dec 30 – Three Rivers Classic (consolation game and championship game)
  • Dec 31 – Canadiens at Penguins (OT win!)

Travel:

  • Houston
  • Pittsburgh
  • Buffalo
  • Beach
  • Toronto

Goals/plans for 2017:

  • Drop the Caps tickets, use the money to visit other teams’ arenas
  • Go to at least two more NWHL games this season
  • Go to either Italy, Portugal, or Spain on vacation (in February, maybe?)
  • Read 40 books
  • Make myself post more regularly
  • Find a tutor or conversational group to refresh/relearn the Russian I’ve mostly forgotten

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The Hanging Tree

This was better than the last book.  Primarily because it was set in London and was centered around the Faceless Man.

But there were still some irritating things.  First, the complete absence of direct address commas.  Where have they all gone, editors?  Second, references to events that occurred in the graphic novels.  Aaronovitch has spent a lot of time and creative energy on them, I get it, but they are a completely different media that not everyone enjoys, and it is irritating as hell to see something, and making a reference to them as canon is a way to alienate some readers. Third, a lot of the characters and events of this book felt like they’d retconned by Aaronovitch to me in some ways.  Tyburn suddenly likes Peter on a personal level?  And other stuff that would be serious spoilers.  But some of it felt really inconsistent with the world as previously established.  Unless, of course, Peter as narrator is even more unreliable that I thought.

Eh.

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A little bit of reading

Someone mentioned on social media that they had the new Bujold to read, which made me go see what she has new out.  A Penric novella!  Nice.  It was a quick read, but good, a peek into Penric and Desdemona several years down the road from the last novella.  Bujold does well in a shorter format, I think.

Other than that, the only things I’ve read lately are a re-read and the third book in K.A. Mitchell’s Ready or Not series.  Eh, not the best book of the series.  I didn’t believe either character had any real growth and didn’t believe the HEA at all.

The re-read was of the most recent Kate Daniels book.  Reading it, I’m frustrated because I like Andrews’ voice but find the world-building and character-building to be inconsistent and wobbly.  Also, there are a lot of inconsistencies if you read carefully, and it isn’t clear if it is planned and a function of tight POV via Kate or retconning.  I’d like to think it was a POV function but there are enough sloppy errors or blips in the series that assuming that seems risky.  (Ex: Doolittle has two different first names depending on which book you read; Derek will never howl again we are told, only to have him howl repeatedly; changes in the capacity for post-Shift technology; basic math and time/date/counting errors; etc.)

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I’ve watched the first two episodes of The Crown on Netflix.  Wow, so good.

Also watching Pitch, usually on demand.  Love Ginny and Amelia and the whole cast, really.

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Project-wise, the throw blanket I am working on as a gift is probably not going to be finished in time for Christmas.  I’m not sure if I’ll just give it as an other/odd day gift or wrap a couple of sections of it as a promise to be finished.

But I did finish a scarf to match my awesome new hat, and am about 40% finished with a copy of it for a colleague who admired it and asked if I could make them one.  It’s pretty easy to knock one out, easier than the throw blanket sections, which are less portable and thus less able to be worked on during my commute.

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I went to the Pens-Caps game on Wednesday.  It was a mess.  I decided after attending the San Jose game the week before that I would not be renewing my partial season ticket plan next year, and this game reinforced that decision. I hate the forced patriotism and rampant military hero worship encouraged or forced on and by the crowd.  I find the crowd to be pretty ugly in general, and it’s worse when the Penguins come to town.  Two women behind me spent the whole game saying that wanted Crosby, Malkin, Letang, et al. to be boarded or hit or knocked out of the game, often when none of them were on the ice.  (Note: these were Trump supporters who compared Crosby talking to refs during the disaster of a game with 9 penalties to “protesters” who should “shut up and go back to work”.)

I’m pretty sure they could tell how uncomfortable they were making me, because they asked which Caps player I felt similarly about, a player I hate.  It’s like they wanted me to justify their ugliness.  Here’s the thing: I don’t dislike any Caps player enough to want them to be hospitalized or their career ended by a hit the way they described.  I don’t care* enough about any Capitals player to bother.  There are players I refuse to watch play, for whom I would feel no pity if their stats fell off a cliff and they were waived or were cut (not Capitals players), but but hating professional athletes is as big a waste of time as hating a particular actor or musician.  Just change the channel.  The Capitals’ roster is only relevant to me when they are playing a team I like, which is usually only 9 or 10 times per season between the Penguins, Predators, and Sharks.

*There are players I think are overrated or overpaid or overhyped.  For example, I think Ovechkin is the best pure goal scorer of his generation, but he’s an inveterate diver and lays a lot of late hits that don’t get called.  Orpik hits like a truck but is way overpaid for being the 4th or 5th dman.  Oshie and Tom Wilson remind me (in a not flattering way) of the douchiest frat bros I knew in college.  But do I hate them?  Nah, it’s not worth the emotional energy.

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September things

According to LibraryThing, September was my best reading month this year — five books! It feels like an accomplishment, when in my reading heyday I read five books or more a week.  Still, it’s an improvement.

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I spent the last two weeks in Toronto, visiting museums, walking all over, and watching All the Hockey.  Literally, I attended sixteen World Cup of Hockey games in 13 days.  Twelve of those games were crammed into six days.  Some of them are a blur, but for some really specific plays, like Nathan MacKinnon’s OT goal; Crosby’s highway robbery of Kucherov and backhand goal; a shift by Malkin behind the net in which he seemed to have the puck on a string; McDavid to Eichel to Matthews; etc.

Non-hockey highlights:

  • the Chihuly exhibit at ROM – I could have happily plopped myself down on one of the beanbag things and stared at ‘Persians’ for hours
  • steamed pork buns at Mashion Bakery, which I found by chance, lured in by the amazing smell despite the sort of sketchy block and very plain exterior
  • people-watching at the St. Lawrence Market on Saturday morning (I chatted with a lovely lady visiting from New Jersey with her church group)
  • Stonemill Bakery’s double almond croissant
  • the Seville orange marzipan pinch at Soma Chocolate
  • my charming seat mates, the family from Woodstock and the dudes in from Banff, and the usher whose predictions were seldom accurate but always entertaining
  • everything about the Bata Shoe Museum and the Gardiner Museum (ceramics)
  • the display of antique snuff bottles at AGO

 

Other observations:  The building going on downtown is striking — there’s so much of it and it’s so beautiful.  I stayed in the St. Lawrence/Distillery neighborhood and walked pretty much everywhere, as far as Spadina and Little Italy.  Lots of green spaces, friendly people.  I noticed a lot of smokers everywhere, almost as much as in Paris, which surprised me.  And the odor of pot was especially prevalent around ACC.

And my streak continues.  Once again in a foreign country (or in any city I’m visiting, even in the US), I was asked for directions.  On multiple occasions.  I do not understand it.  I mean, I was able to answer because they were asking for a specific landmark or street that I knew, but what about my face or posture says, “Hey, she knows where you need to go?”  Because, seriously, I have a horrendous sense of direction.

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Last beach read

Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox is the last of my beach reads. It was fine as a beach read, but I don’t feel a particular urge to read the second book of the duology. I liked the idea of the plot, but the world building felt kind of weak: a sort of England/European world but clearly not…until there were pop culture references (music) that jarred me out of the fantasy world.

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As part of my partial season ticket plan (5 games), I received tickets to the two pre-tournament World Cup of Hockey games played in DC:  USA-FIN today and EUR-SWE tomorrow.  I can’t do back to back games during the work week, so I picked EUR-SWE and gave tonight’s tickets to a friend, who is having a great time.  I picked tomorrow in part because there are more Penguins on SWE than are on USA and FIN in total (only Olli Maatta, who needs umlauts on those As), but also because I am not impressed with Team USA’s roster, its head coach, his team/game philosophy, or his stance on the anthem.  (Which, lbr, is a non-issue in hockey, the whitest sport on Earth.)  I’m not sure who I’m going to cheer for; the choices are RUS (Malkin), SWE (Hagelin, Hornqvist), North America (Murray) or FIN (Maatta).

Also on a cranky note:  why, Apple?  I want to come back to you, but I’m not giving up a universal, wired earbud jack for airpods or accepting the crappy work-around Apple has planned.  First, I lose earbuds all the time; and I buy cheap ones for this reason.  No wires means it will be easy to lose the airpods.  Also, wired earbuds are a defense mechanism for me (and for many, many women); I’m not giving them up because Apple  wants to sell more proprietary peripherals.  Did Apple test these with women?  Or just ignore the opinions of half the audience in their usual arrogance?  Yeah, no, I’m not giving up my wired earbuds and if that means I’m not going back to iPhone, so be it.

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Second beach read

I’ve had Our Kind of Traitor to be read since the beginning of summer.  I meant to read it in time to see the movie, but I missed the movie in theaters and have only just finished reading the book.

It was…kind of a drudge.  I mean, it wasn’t badly written, in terms of language and narrative.  It was just dour in the way that Le Carre is.  He’s got a particular world view that is present in all of his work as far as I can tell.  (Or maybe just the few books I’ve tried?)  And I find it to be less than engaging; it seems (to me) replete with casual misogyny, classism/racism, and a sort of Cold War remnant worldview.  All of the characters in this book were cliches or stereotypes.  There was an arc of sorts but little or no resolution.  I need to remember in future that he’s not to my taste.

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Apprentice in Death by JD Robb

Why can’t I quit this series?  The story lines are stale or recycled.  The editing is sloppy.  Meh.

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Today’s beach events have me wondering if social scientists have looked at beach etiquette.  There are square miles of empty beach; why drop your umbrella two feet away from a stranger’s umbrella?  Cell phones mean you can have that conversation anywhere; but should you have a conversation about what sounds like confidential work stuff while screaming over the waves and gulls on a beach full of strangers? What is the psychology or sociology that has people do this kind of stuff?  Or smoke on the beach, or track sand on someone else’s blankets/towels, or play a radio without earbuds, etc?

One of my beachy neighbors failed to secure their umbrella today.  As the wind picked up, the umbrella took off, whacking me in the throat with the pointy end hard enough to knock me down (I was standing and didn’t see it coming until the last moment).  The underside of my chin has a huge welt, along with my cheek and the side of my neck, despite icing.  I’ve got a weird throat/ear ache and it kind of hurts to swallow.  If it still hurts in the morning, I may try to get a doctor’s appointment and head home early 😦

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ETA: I’ve finished listening to the first of five sections of Middle March.  The sections are based on size/time, not by chapter or book section.  But it’s still further than I’ve ever managed to get when attempting to read it in paper or ebook.  I like the reader’s voice, but I don’t really care about any of the characters so far.

 

 

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First beach read

Subtropical Storm Hermine largely missed Delmarva, but you’d never guess that based on how empty the beach has been.  Very high wind and rough surf are keeping the people who didn’t leave early off the beach.  I spent most of this morning sitting on the beach, wrapped in a hoodie and beach towel, reading the first of my beach books.

I’m sure I’ve read reviews of Barbara Pym before, or at least I recognized her name and associated it with English, post-war novels.  No Fond Return of Love, originally published in 1961 and reprinted in 2014, has a colorful cover that caught my eye at the UBS.

Dulcie Mainwaring is always helping others, but never looks out for herself — especially in the realm of love. Her friend Viola is besotted by the alluring Dr Aylwin Forbes, so surely it isn’t prying if Dulcie helps things along? Aylwin, however, is smitten with Dulcie’s pretty young niece. And perhaps Dulcie herself, however ridiculous it might be, is falling, just a little, for Aylwin.  Once life’s little humiliations are played out, maybe love will be returned, and fondly after all . . .

The blurb is both technically accurate and not quite right.  And it’s hugely spoilerish.

The narration head hops A LOT.

On one hand, I enjoyed the window into post-WWII suburban London; in some ways the book is sort of Austen-ish in its observation of the lives of Dulcie, Viola, and everyone in their social orbit.  On the other hand, Dulcie and Viola seemed kind of creepy and stalkerish, looking up Aylwin’s brother and estranged wife and mother.  I’m not sure how to take the ending; it felt kind of backhanded and second-best. Meh.

Beyond that, a single line in the book made me really uncomfortable because it is blatantly racist and insulting.  One character is thinking about an imaginary dog named Ni**er or Rover.  The sentence brought me to a halt reading.  Then I had to Google that as a dog’s name (there was a famous black dog by that name, apparently).  Still makes me cringe.  I’m a little surprised it wasn’t edited in the new releases/versions.

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