Category Archives: miscellanea

January reading

I finished three books in January!  There was a time when three books read in a week would have been a slow week, but at this point of my multi-year reading slump, I’m thrilled by three in a month.

  1.  The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal by KJ Charles.
  2. Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine by Sarah Lohman – really interesting look at some of the more popular spices of American cooking, which aren’t all exactly what I was expecting.
  3. City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong – new mystery series, female detective as narrator, found on the new books rack at the library.  I like the premise of the book and series, but the whodunit was given pretty short shrift in the end, all TELL TELL TELL rather than show.  It was disappointing, given all of the set up, but maybe a function of being the first in a new series.  I’d be willing to try the next book in the series.

Non-book consumer-y things lately:

  1. Graze – tried it after hearing an add on Gastropod (I think).  I like the ability to select flavors or block ingredients.  The weekly box is too much, but maybe every other week.  Or just buying certain snacks.  So far, my favorite snack is the cocoa orange bites, which come with green tea.
  2. Third Love – bras.  Not cheap, but really comfortable and well-fitting.  Also, they ship and you have 30 days to try and return, which is not something you can generally do with bras
  3. MeUndies – Xmas gift!  Love these, so comfortable.  Most of the patterns aren’t really me, but they are comfortable enough that I don’t care.

 

 

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On bubbles

I do not talk much about politics here.  But since Friday, or even earlier last week, I’ve been thinking about the political bubble I apparently live in.

I know one person who admits to voting for Trump (a woman, retired, Latina who can pass and usually does).

I know one person who wrote in Petraeus on his ballot. [Ironically, this fellow swore up and down that the Clintons are Russian spies for Putin. Hah!  And believes Chelsea Manning should rot in jail forever but that Petraeus’ leaks and the accompanying wristslap were manufactured to damage a Great Man.]

Pretty uniformly, everyone else I know well — or know well enough to be comfortable talking politics — was planning on voting against Trump.  In some cases, they weren’t necessarily thrilled with Clinton but considered her the lesser evil.

I know one person who did not vote for Trump but who is so offended by #notmypresident that he has sworn off the NBA.

I know at least a dozen people – men and women – who marched on Saturday, in DC or elsewhere, and no one at all who attended the inauguration, despite proximity and space to spare in DC.

The mood of my colleagues was pretty glum all week as we anticipated budget cuts and hiring freezes, even among the colleagues I don’t know well enough to guess at their voting choices.  And that doesn’t even touch on their concerns about healthcare, deregulation, increased militarization, etc.

Fundamentally, I don’t understand why healthcare is not considered a basic human right for all citizens.  I don’t understand why anyone thinks that more guns, bombs, and wars will do any good; certainly the last decade+ of war has done no good for anyone except for companies like KBR, Halliburton, etc.  I don’t understand how people who abhor big government can possibly believe that the government intrusion into my sex life and reproductive planning is anything other than hypocritical, patronizing, and misogynist.

Most of the people I know feel more or less the same, or at least claim to.

Which I guess means I do live in a bubble of like-minded people, which in turn explains why we were all so surprised by what happened in November.

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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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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.)

~~~

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.

~~~

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.

~~~

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.

~~~

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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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.

~~~~

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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Full Disclosure?

Scrolling through the new release post for the week over at Dear Author, I hit one contemporary titled Full Disclosure and my brain made a full stop.  I’m sure it’s a fine book and the title makes sense in the context of whatever the plot is.  But all I can think of is “full and fair disclosure”, which totally kills any kind of romance or sexy vibe that it might have been going.  [Unless maybe you work at the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance.  Which, okay, go you.  But not me.]

~~~

A new comic book and gaming shop opened late last month.  There has been a sign in the window since maybe November announcing that it would open; it took over the premises of what used to be an antiques shop.  I stopped in today to see if they had any of the Rivers of London comics in stock.  Not currently but an edition is coming out in two weeks, so they put me down for a copy.

~~~

I’m almost all the way through binge-watching The West Wing on Netflix.  Man, all the male characters are prone to pedantic asshole behavior and constant disrespect for the judgment and expertise of the female characters.  CJ Cregg is awesome, but she wibbles about men pretty regularly and is lied to and underestimated on the regular by Leo, Josh, Toby, and the president; only Charlie seems exempt.  Donna stays Josh’s secretary way too long and he punishes her professionally because she decided she was qualified to do more than take his lunch orders – after she tried repeatedly to explain to him that she wanted more out of her job/professional life but he ignored it because it was inconvenient.  Dr. Bartlett, who admittedly violated state laws, is punished far more and criticized more than her husband, the one who actually was the public official who failed to disclose his serious, life-threatening illness.  Ugh.

~~~

Afterthought:  I opened a book at random on my Kindle while on the elliptical.  It was Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews, a series whose voice/tone I like but which is riddled with continuity blips and rather poor copy editing IMO.  And a passage struck me in this book:  Evdokia mentions Kate’s mother attending her own mother’s funeral.  Except, wait for it, in the most recent book, Kate is told by her father than her maternal grandmother is alive and in Seattle.  Now, maybe he’s lying.  But the continuity blips have been bad enough through the series that I’m not willing to assume that they intentionally wrote him as lying rather than making another blip…again.

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