Category Archives: miscellanea

Why? Why would Netflix do that?

I just watched the trailer for the new Persuasion adaptation. No. Nope. Nein. Nyet. Não. Nunca. It’s not even worth watching for the costumes or the Bath setting or Henry Golding. I need brain bleach. Did the director ever actually read the book?

I need to dig out my rant from the last adaptation abomination.

I just…why?

They completely do not get the tone or theme of the book, based on the trailer.

I shall continue to pretend that the only adaptation that exists is the 1995 Root/Hinds edition.

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Get off my lawn

I read a really sweet modern AU fic for Bridgerton, and thought I’d try more, including some set in the time of the books. Uh, no, back back back. Setting aside the nails on a chalkboard screech I hear mentally whenever I see apostrophe + s to signal multiples (no, just no, the plural of Bridgerton is Bridgertons, not Bridgerton’s) and similar, the anachronistic language and utter absence of social conventions makes my brain hurt. A lady in 1814 would not tell her sister that she “had always had her back”. No, ladies and gentlemen did not address each other by first name upon introduction. Sir/Lord/other titles are not interchangeable and have different conventions based on status: squire, baronet, heir to peer, etc. Basic internet research, please?

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Was out of coffee the other day. At the neighborhood store, I saw Cafe Bustelo, which some colleagues swear by. Uh, no, absolutely not to my taste. Had to run down to the store further away for Illy. Apparently I am a coffee snob? Which I never thought would be the case.

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Read Amongst Our Weapons, the new Rivers of London. I want to do a slower re-read. I liked it, but I have questions about some of the set up.

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I have tickets to the game in Pittsburgh on 4/29. Last regular season game. And maybe the last regular season game with Crosby, Malkin, and Letang, since the conventional wisdom is that both 71 and 58 can’t be re-signed and fit under the cap. Do I want to make a sign? I’m not really a sign person. And yet.

I’m off that day. My work calendar is CLEARLY marked. And my boss still scheduled a meeting for 1pm. Can I call in? Uh, sure, but I’ll be driving, so I can listen but can’t take notes, which is always the subtext of his ask.

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On a happier note: TheBiochemist finished the Boston Marathon with one of her best marathon times. \o/ And Mom is visiting Ireland again. I visited the Azores last month; so many people I spoke to were repeat visitors, and some house hunting (hmm).

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Healthcare in the US

It’s broken. I’ve thought so for years, but recent Covid testing really just reminded me.

I have good health insurance through my employer and have generally had access to care through work-related insurance as an adult. And dental, too. But I also know that as a kid, we only went to the doctor when ill. In theory my father was supposed to provide health insurance but I don’t think he ever did. Or if he did, it was through his employer and limited to the employer’s location (out of state and thus useless).

All that to say that I am aware that I am fortunate in my relative health and insurance.

I needed a timely Covid test recently. So I arranged one that my insurance would cover, but the results were not timely, so I paid an obscene amount of money out of pocket for a rapid test.

Then I had to have another test to return to the US. It was easily arranged, cost 30 €, results in an hour.

Today the billing info for the the too late test results arrived – it’s fully covered – showing the charge of $164.

The difference in cost and timing is striking. There’s no good reason or explanation for the divergence. There is no real reason that Portuguese labs are able to promptly, efficiently, and affordably administer tests and get lab results but the US can’t. Or won’t. Because the US healthcare system is broken. Or designed to profit to the detriment of actually providing care.

Healthcare is a human right. My negative covid tests are not a big deal in the scheme of things. But I’m guessing the disparities there are visible in areas of more critical care, too.

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Short tempered

Everything is irritating me lately. Little things. Large things.

Upstairs neighbor had a leak under their tile that showed via my ceiling. Them: it’s not my problem. Me: I had a plumber cut the drywall, it absolutely is your problem. Them: crickets. It’s fixed now, but I’ve gotten no response re my ceiling repair, so I guess I’ll organize it and file a claim with my insurance, who will then pursue theirs.

I’m just done with the upstairs neighbor. Between the dog that cries whenever left alone, the refusal to comply with floor covering rules (either that or there’s an elephant living there), and the leak, I’m just…done.

At work, newish colleague is very defensive of her staff, which I get. But her staff keep breaking The Thing. I asked if they could not do X to avoid breaking The Thing. No, that’s too difficult. Okay. Then I’ll forward every complaint about how frequently The Thing does not work to her to handle.

I’m worried about a friend with family in Ukraine. Which is obviously a bigger deal for them than me, of course.

Trying a meal prep service. It’s fine? It would be cheaper to shop and prep myself but the reality is that I will not. Haven’t decided if I want to keep on with it. I like some of the recipes but the choices are odd sometimes. Ex: recipe called for two tbsp of minced onion. Obviously the can only include whole onions. But maybe include a small one, not one that yields a cup of chopped onion.

Frank Turner’s Fifty States in Fifty Days tickets went on sale this past week. Road trip in the mid Atlantic in June.

Trying to read the new Kearsley book, but I keep bouncing off.

I’m just cranky. Maybe I should take a nap.

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Random Babble

2022 has been off to a mediocre start on all fronts.

I’m not getting a lot of new reading done: I pick books up and read the same 10 pages repeatedly because very little is sinking in. I tried a newish Ann Aguirre rom-com-ish book that I saw recommended on Twitter, but the h/h irritated me, so it went back to the library. I’m reading Caste (a tangent on that later) slowly, based on the recommendation of a friend who generally gives good non-fiction recs. And I finished Noor, an Africanfuturist novel by Nnedi Okorafor: I liked it and have a lot of jumbled thoughts about it, both in terms of setting and sense of place (great) and also its themes about technology, capitalism, humanity, and othering. I’m going to check out Okorafor’s other work.

I’m about 60 pages into Caste by Isabel Wilkerson. Fair or not, I would not have picked this book up without the recommendation of a friend because the Oprah Book Club label became a giant red flag for me following James Frey’s Million Little Pieces memoir “embellishments”. Anyway, I’m…enjoying is not the right word exactly for Caste, but it is engrossing certainly. I have, as usual, had a moment early on when I struggled not to be distracted, but that’s about me rather than Wilkerson’s writing or her thesis. My tangent moment: she states that Americans don’t have grammar classes but recognize SVO rules of English and the difference between 1st and 3rd person by absorbing the information implicitly, and are much the same about caste in action; my first thought was that both of those things were explicitly taught in English classes when I was a child attending public school. Was that not common? Is it no longer the case? Regardless, it was a rhetorical device that I needed to accept as device and keep moving.

Shutterfly recently reminded me that ten years ago I was in Barcelona. I remember that trip fondly, but not the red sweater I wore for three days because my luggage was lost. I had not flipped through my photos of the Sagrada Familia (absolutely the most gorgeous and least oppressive cathedral I’ve visited) or Parc Guell in a while; time to revisit. I miss international travel. My passport is renewed. I am ready…sort of.

FTHC was released last week. I like the album but would not say that I love it unreservedly. I’d heard a few of the songs live during Frank Turner’s acoustic tour last fall, as well as what had been released bit by bit. “Farewell to My City” is really sticking with me right now, in part because I’m struggling with decisions to be made about where I am going to be for the next few years for a variety of reasons, financial, social, environmental, practical. I don’t know. I’ll figure it out. Or inertia will.

Our mandatory return to the office has been pushed back again to June. I’m a little surprised by this, in part because pre-pandemic telework was pretty rationed, and the longer we work from home the harder it will be to argue that our work cannot be done effectively from remote locations.

My at-home espresso experiment seems to be working out fine. I miss chatting with the Starbucks baristas in my neighborhood, but the home espresso machine has had a visible impact on my monthly food/eating out budget. The union-busting activities plus announced price hike in light of the 30% profit increase reported by Starbucks have made keeping my resolution easier. Do I think they have increased labor and material costs? Sure. But I also think that a lot of the inflation consumers are seeing is not inflated costs being passed on but inflated corporate profits for CEOs and shareholders. On a related note, I’m side-eyeing Amazon’s increase, along with Netflix’s, although the comparison is not entirely apples to apples.

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Oh, fandom, never change

Three Mark Donk/Buzz Flibbet works were posted to AO3 earlier this week. Fandom never ceases to delight me in unexpected ways.

Who are Mark Donk and Buzz Flibbet? Well…Courtesy of hockey Twitter

And they pop up every so often now. This year Evan Rodrigues is the Mark Donk for the Penguins. Last year it was Radim Zohorna. Who knows who’ll be the next Flibbet?

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Year in review – 2021

Well…2021 was another year.

Still working from home. It’s not mandatory, but there’s not much point going in to the office – no one is going in willingly, mostly because they have to either drive and pay to park or brave public transportation, which is a petri dish of colds and flu at the best of times. Right now, we are tentatively going back in March 2022, making two full years of working from home. [HR and senior management have pushed back that date four times now, most recently pre-Omicron variant, so I guess we’ll see.]

Resumed some normal things, pre-Omicron. Numbers are down, compared to 2019 and earlier but are an improvement over most of 2020.

Travel:

  • Road trips (2) to Western PA.
  • Week in WV, spent mostly offline. Utterly delightful.
  • Visit to Houston to cling to The BioChemist – 2020 was only the 3rd Thanksgiving I’ve ever NOT spent with her, so it was nice to resume.
  • Then on to Seattle. In part to go someplace new, and in part to check another team/venue off my hockey bucket list. Two thumbs up both to Climate Pledge Arena and Seattle generally.

Relatively few concerts or sporting events:

  • Game 5 of the PGH-NYI series in May (ugh, 2OT, what WAS that, Jarry?!?).
  • Opening night for the Penguins (sorry, not sorry, Flower)
  • The Hot Mess that was the PGH-MN game (lost in a shoot out after leading for the entire game).
  • Coyotes vs. Capitals with The BioChemist and The Chemist.
  • Penguins vs. Kraken in Seattle.
  • Frank Turner acoustic – two live shows.
  • John Oliver at the Kennedy Center.

Reading: LibraryThing says I read 37 books this year, including a few DNFs.

Once again, I was reminded that affectionate memories of books read in my younger years should probably be left as memories. Marion Chesney’s Six Sisters series has not aged well. Nora Roberts’ Waiting for Nick likewise has not aged well for me. Despite knowing better, I keep borrowing JD Robb books from the library, then having to refrain from ripping them in half in rage (since they aren’t my books) due to the horrendous criminal procedure and blatant civil rights violations.

On a happier note, I finally read the MurderBot series and loved it, it was the best fiction of the year for me, with Black Water Sister as a runner up. Best nonfiction was a toss up between Game Misconduct and The Cult of We.

Watched:

  • New season/series of The Expanse (loved)
  • Ted Lasso (I have Opinions about some of the story lines)
  • GBBO – new series and a re-watch of the older series on Netflix before the disappeared on 1/1/22. [Dear Paul Hollywood, no one from the country that reveres sticky toffee pudding and treacle tart has any room to criticize USian pies as being sickly sweet.]

Really enjoyed Seattle and would absolutely go back. Despite spending a lot of time there, I feel like there were stores and nooks at Pike Place Market that I missed. And I could have spent much more time at the Chihuly museum. Had great meals at Betty and The Pink Door. Enjoyed the underground tour of Pioneer Square. Am still trying to figure out how to afford and where to put a chandelier seen at a glassblowing collective. Did a glassblowing experience at Kobo Art Garden that has prompted me to sign up for lessons locally.

A few photos below. Sorry, but I couldn’t figure out how to do the “hide and read more if you want to” using WP’s newish UI.

Not my favorite overall as glass art but I love the reflection of the Space Needle.
Iconic. Totally worth visiting.
Results of the glassblowing experience I signed up for.
The Space Needle, taken as I climbed up Queen Anne.

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Quarterly update, I guess?

Or not quite quarterly – a couple of weeks early – but close enough.

My reading for the quarter has been…not terrible. Mostly because I finally picked up the MurderBot Diaries. Yes, years late, but still. I’ve run through the whole series, but for the newest; I’m on the wait list at the library for it. [I cannot pay $20 for a 192 page book. Sorry, authors everywhere.]

Also on the reading front, I DNF’d the latest In Death book. Well, latest to me, not sure if it is the latest. I keep checking them out when I see them at the library, driven by nostalgia, and then want to tear them in half part way through because criminal procedure and civil rights are things that I don’t want suspended, even in fiction.

Picked up The Personal Librarian, a fictionalized account of the life of Bella Da Costa Green, the personal librarian of JP Morgan. It was an interesting book and very timely, but I found Bella as narrator to be frustrating in terms of her romantic relationships. I do want to see the exhibition on her life at the Morgan Library when it opens.

I bounced off Zen Cho’s Order of the Pure Moon Reflected Under Water, but Cho’s (Zen’s? I’m not sure of name order.) Black Water Sister has started well.

Also read Bujold’s The Assassins of Thesalon. It was fine. I enjoyed the series a lot more until a fellow reader pointed out that Penric + Des = Miles and Nikys = Ekaterin.

On the travel front (!!!) I drove out to western Pennsylvania for a few days at the beginning of the month. Enjoyed visiting Kentuck Knob, which seems like the most liveable Frank Lloyd Wright house I’ve seen so far. Loved the tour and tasting at the Wigel Whiskey Distillery in Pittsburgh, although Eau de Pickle is never going to be a flavor I favor; I like pickles as garnish, not so much in my cocktails. Pizza at Iron Born was delicious (I recommend the Forager Pie), and it looks like The Strip is doing fine. It was the first travel I’ve done in a year, and it was good but also stressful. My neighborhood businesses still request that patrons wear masks unless they are sitting at a table eating. Almost everywhere in PA that I went, it was the honor system – if you are vaccinated, no need, but please wear a mask if you haven’t been. Given the number of overlap of unvaxxed and antimask in my acquaintance, it was a little concerning. But I’m back and fine, so maybe I was too worried and cautious.

Work remains almost 2X what it was 2 years ago (with fewer staff). I’m burnt out. If we do a voluntary return to the office, I am going to volunteer, because I need some physical separation between work and home. Colleague asked me today about vacation planning – I have an embarrassing amount of use or lose leave – and all I could say was I think about it but don’t have the capacity to make decisions after work. Although…I just saw that Jaleo opened a branch/restaurant in Chicago; I’ve tried Jose Andres offerings in DC, VA, and NV. The original Jaleo in Penn Quarter remains my favorite, but maybe I need to visit Chicago and try it there…for science.

Family is mostly fine.

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Recent reads

The Other Half by Jordan Castillo Price – part of the ongoing PsyCops series. This installment absolutely does not stand alone, and the plot was sort of slow to develop. I like Victor Bayne as narrator, and his voice is what kept me reading. So it was fine, but not a good starting place for anyone new to the series.

Loving Sports When They Don’t Love You Back by Jessica Luther and Kavitha Davidson. The title pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? I read this in small chunks because some of it is pretty ugly. But it is worth reading for the Serena Williams chapter alone. Would very much recommend to any sports fan.

Alone in the Wild by Kelley Armstrong. New installment of the Rockton/Yukon series. It was kind of convoluted, plot-wise. I’m kind of done with pure/strict procedurals, even when there is no big police force and everyone involved is a dubious character to begin with.

Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev. DNF. I borrowed this because it was mentioned on Twitter as a sort of modern Persuasion AU with non-White characters. I just didn’t find any of the characters particularly sympathetic or interesting, so DNF.

We Own This City by Justin Fenton. True crime narrative about Baltimore’s profoundly corrupt Gun Trace Task Force. I have a lot of tangential opinions about policing and Baltimore and qualified immunity that impact my perspective of this book. But I appreciated how Fenton laid out what was going on with the GTTF at the same time and after Freddie Gray’s death, and the epilogue from COVID times that touches on Baltimore activists’ handling of protests for Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. Also: the irony of the mention of the city’s lead prosecutor as community crime fighter back then; news broke on Friday that she and her husband (head of the city counsel) are being investigated by federal authorities related to campaign finance abuse or other financial issues.

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Last week was the anniversary of a years working from home. It was not a happy anniversary. Everyone at work is stressed out, and work is only increasing. Almost everyone is stressed at home as well.

I’ve been thinking hard about where I want to be physically in the next few years. Home wise, I mean. Because my location is convenient in a lot of ways, I love my neighborhood, and it is affordable, but I’m struggling with the community that is my building. Little things, like people not cleaning up after pets or themselves in common areas, are beginning to really wear on my patience. So do I want to stay here? If I don’t, where to I want to be? And given the general success of telework, is the location as going to be as limited as it was in the past? I don’t know yet. More to come.

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Wrapping up 2020

I’ve done a summary post of the books I read, places I visited, etc., for the last couple of years. 2020 has very little to recommend for itself looking back. The early months were pretty good, but later not so much.

Travel:

  • Terceira in February (highly recommend)
  • Pittsburgh for hockey (first week of March, just pre-lockdown)
  • Antietam/western MD for a weekend in July
  • Cape Cod for an isolated and quiet trip in September

Music:

  • Online only – several Frank Turner shows, not much else.

Movies/TV:

  • Can’t remember if I saw anything in the theater early on.
  • Signed up briefly for Disney+ in order to see Hamilton and the first season of The Mandalorian.
  • A lot of Netflix, including Schitt’s Creek (meh), Derry Girls (like it), and Bridgerton (not sure I’d bother with future seasons/series).
  • Currently watching the new season of The Expanse on Amazon. I love Chrisjen Avasarala as a character.

Reading:

I finished 33 books. The highlights were Megan Whalen Turner’s The Return of the King and Ben Aaronovitch’s False Value. There are two former autobuy authors who finally tipped over the edge for me to not even being library borrows, and a lot of ~meh~ mixed in. I tried a couple of self-published works from writers I’ve found via fandom(s); sometimes the original fic works for me and sometimes not, which is perhaps a function of the canon and backstory in fandom that requires more work to establish in original fiction. I’ve been letting myself read Obama’s memoir in bits and pieces, as a comfort, so I started in 2020 but it will finish as a 2021 read. (It’ll be a highlight, I’m pretty sure.)

Books I’m looking forward to in 2021:

  • Anna K. by Jenny Lee, a YA retelling of Anna Karenina. I haven’t read Anna Karenina since high school and my memory of it is such that I’m curious to read a YA adaptation.
  • We Own This City by Justin Fenton. Non-fiction account of the Baltimore City Police Gun Trace Task Force, whose members have been federally indicted for a variety of crimes, including racketeering, drug dealing, and illegal searches and seizures.
  • The new installment in Kelley Armstrong’s Rockton Yukon series.
  • What Abigail Did That Summer, a novella in the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch.

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