Category Archives: travel

Recent reads – February edition

Someone on Twitter recommended a hockey-set romance trilogy, and the blurb was interesting, so I one-clicked.  The writer’s voice/style worked really well for me, and I read the first book and then the second in a couple of days.  But by the time I hit the third book, I hit a wall and started noticing all of the shortcomings I’d sort of skipped over and let slide in the earlier books, in part because I did not care for the love interest at all in the third book.  (He was a selfish, judgmental jerk, and I DNF’d because I couldn’t imagine him adjusting his attitude or believe any HEA involving him with the hero without the hero reshaping himself in an unhealthy way to get his approval.)

What shortcomings, you wonder?  Well, they were little things that accumulated.  The books are set in a league that lifts all of the teams and rivalries from the NHL, but renames them, presumably for trademark reasons.  But then does things that are inconsistent with the league.  For example:  road roommates are governed by the CBA and are for players on ELCs; a seven plus year veteran would not have one, and using that as a plot point seemed really forced.  Second: moving a player from Boston to Ottawa to diminish a rivalry with Montreal is…not realistic.  Beyond that, there’s a lot of not quite right hockey.  Defensemen play in pairs, not lines.  Pure enforcers are gone from the game. And so on.  It felt sometimes like someone mainlined a lot of fan-fiction before writing these without actually watching much hockey.

Substantively, I felt like the books addressed toxic masculinity in hockey with respect to gay men in a shallow/surface way, but ignored racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and a lot of other problematic aspects of North American Hockey Culture.   An opportunity to address mental illness and addiction was more or less ignored.

The first two books weren’t terrible; if you don’t know about hockey, you may not be as irked by their missteps as I was.  But frankly, there’s a lot better gay hockey romance out there on AO3 (let me plug Superstition, original hockey fic) and from former RPF writers who now write/publish original fiction (see Taylor Fitzpatrick‘s alternate hockey universe/league, which is partially on AO3 and partially self-published).

~~~

On a happier note, I really enjoyed the new Peter Grant book, False Value.  It reads as a re-set for the series, and the beginning of a new story arc for Peter and the Folly.

~~~

I’m back from vacation.  Went to Ilha Terceira in the Azores (or Açores, more properly).  Loved it.  Planning on going back, although probably I’ll visit São Miguel or a couple of the other islands first.  Really like how neighborly everyone was.  The food was amazing – seafood, local dairy and beef, a lot of local produce thanks to micro climates that permit growth of all kinds of things ranging from coffee and bananas to pineapples and potatoes.  The landscape is gorgeous – so green – and there are a fair number of (easy) hikes and walks.  Visited Algar do Carvão, an extinct volcano chimney with a rain forest interior and lake at the bottom; it felt like a lost world.

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Year end summary for 2018

According to LibraryThing, I read 28 books.  I have two others still in progress that I started in 2018 and have stalled on a little, mostly because I haven’t had the patience to settle in to a long read since about Thanksgiving.  Several of the 28 books were the Rivers of London graphic novels, which I find to be easy/quick reads, although I don’t love the art particularly. The highest rated books were Ann Leckie’s Ancillary series, which I read all in one go, and two pieces of non-fiction: a biography of the Widow Clicquot and The Prodigal Tongue by Lynne Murphy.   The biggest disappointments (other than DNFs that I have stopped recording) were the two In Death books I tried to read: one had victim blaming and slut shaming, while the other had transphobia and showed a complete lack of knowledge/research about civil and criminal securities fraud investigation/prosecution. Stick a fork in me, I am done.

Theater and film:  Just film this past year, because I didn’t love what was scheduled for the then-upcoming theater season and so did not renew my subscription.

  • Molly’s Game
  • Phantom Thread
  • Black Panther
  • Annihilation
  • Tomb Raider
  • Love, Simon
  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • RBG
  • Ocean’s 8
  • Won’t You Be My Neighbor
  • Crazy Rich Asians
  • Widows
  • The Girl in the Spider’s Web (Lisbeth Salander)

Travel

  • Houston
  • Pittsburgh
  • Asheville
  • Rome – primarily for the food and the Italian Open 🙂
  • Spain – Granada, Sevilla, Madrid

NWHL – all the Riveters’ home games for the end of the 2017-2018, including playoffs and the Isobel Cup Final; all but one home game for the beginning of the 2018-2019 season (it was Thx weekend), as well as the neutral site game in Pittsburgh.

NHL – an embarrassing number of games, including playoffs.  But I didn’t renew my partial season ticket plan to the Capitals; in part because they jacked the prices up in a crazy way, and in part because I’m tired of being harassed and threatened at the games.  One of my colleagues swears the harassment should stop now since they’ve won the Cup, but the two individual games I went to early in the season (Toronto, VGK) did not bear that prediction out.

For baseball, there were just three games:  NYY, Marlins, and Rays, all in June and July.

Museums and cultural events…the Walters, the Heinz, so much in Rome that I need to write about.  Two Frank Turner shows.  Sunday in the country, which I went to more to be social than because I knew anything about any of the acts.

Professionally speaking, the beginning of the year was a grind.  The middle of the year and into fall were pretty good.  And then the end of the year was okay in terms of the substance of work but a nightmare because of the furlough.  (So much work is accumulating. It will take a massive effort to dig out.  And the longer it goes, the harder it will be to get current again.)

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Belated year end summary for 2017

According to LibraryThing, I read 22 books.  I probably started another 20 but I don’t count them if I don’t get past 100 pages.  The two highest rated books were non-fiction, Eight Flavors and The Woman Who Smashed Codes.  The highest rated fiction were The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal by KJ Charles and Penric’s Fox by Bujold (novella).  The biggest disappointments (other than DNFs) were Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs (I think I’m done with her books entirely) and Prisoner of Limnos by Bujold (part of the Penric series).

Theater and film:

  • King Charles III
  • The Select: The Sun Also Rises
  • Macbeth
  • School for Lies
  • Hidden Figures
  • Wonder Woman
  • Atomic Blonde
  • Marshall
  • A Bad Moms Christmas
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Travel

  • Houston
  • Pittsburgh
  • Beach
  • Portugal – Lisbon, Coimbra, Porto
  • Las Vegas

NWHL

  • February 4 – Beauts at Rivs, W
  • February 12 – NWHL All Star Game (Steadman vs Kessel, Steadman won)
  • March 12 – Pride at Rivs, W
  • March 17 – Beauts at Rivs – Isobel Cup Playoffs (Beauts won)
  • December 3 – Whale at Rivs, W
  • December 10 – Beauts at Rivs, W

NHL

  • January 3 – Leafs at Capitals, 6-5 Caps in OT
  • January 11 – Penguins at Capitals, L2-5, saw Oveckin’s 1000th point 😦
  • February 14 – Canucks at Penguins, W4-0
  • March 6 – Stars @ Caps, Stars 4-2
  • March 16 – Predators at Capitals, Preds 2-1 OT
  • March 24 – NYI at Penguins, L3-4 in SO
  • March 26 –  Flyers at Penguins, L6-2
  • April 14 – ECQF, G2, CBJ at Penguins, W4-1
  • April 27 – ECSF, G1, Penguins at Capitals, W3-2
  • May 1 – ECSF, G3, Capitals at Penguins, L3-2 in OT (ugly hit by Niskanen, amazing comeback down 0-2 in the last 3 minutes)
  • May 13 – ECF, G1, Senators at Penguins, L2-1 in OT
  • May 31 – Stanley Cup Finals, G2, Predators at Penguins, W4-1
  • October 11 – Penguins at Capitals, W3-2
  • October 17 – Leafs at Capitals, 2-0 Leafs
  • December 4 – Sharks at Capitals, L4-1
  • December 12 – Carolina at VGK, Carolina won in SO – Flower’s first game back!
  • December 14 – Penguins at VGK, L1-2, all about the goalies
  • December 23 – Ducks at Penguins, L4-0 (this was a hot mess of a game; Letang got booed because he was the biggest part of the mess)

For baseball, I know I went to at least two Orioles games, one vs NYY and one vs DET, but I cannot find the ticket stubs.

Museums and cultural events…the Walters, the Heinz, National Museum of the American Indian, and a bunch in Portugal.  Which I need to write about.  Two Frank Turner shows.

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Shoes and pants for travel

To say that I am not particularly fashionable would be an understatement.  My wardrobe isn’t small, but the section that I wear on a regular basis is.  While I joke with colleagues about how bland and uniform-like most suits are for people in our particular line of work, there’s a certain relief in knowing that there’s a uniform of sorts for days with meetings and for business casual.

But I am always keeping an eye out for clothes that travel well, are easy to mix and match, and are wash and wearable.

A few days before leaving for Portugal, I stopped by REI, looking for a pair of shoes.  They didn’t have exactly what I wanted: the particular style had been on clearance and sold out.  But I ended up buying a pair of Merrells and a pair of Mammut pants off the clearance sale rack.

The Merrells are as excellent as Merrells usually are:  the black Dassie shoe worked with pants and casual skirts and wore well for walking miles on cobblestones.  The Mammut pants wound up being better than I anticipated for traveling.  They are made of lightweight material that dries quickly when rained upon, didn’t feel binding even after 12+ hours of wear, were easily cleaned, etc.

Highly recommend both…although it looks like the pants aren’t available any longer.

Still…if you don’t want to wear sneakers as you travel but still need good support and sturdy shoes for walking, Merrell might be a brand to try.  And I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for more Mammut on the sale rack.

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Note to self

Next time, permit more time for wine tasting. Two port caves per day is really my limit, but there are so many, and I won’t have time to try them all. 😍

Also: this fascinated me. Up close, it’s a bunch of mangled car parts stuck on the corner of a building for no apparent reason. A few yards away, it is clearly an Art Installation…maybe one with a message I don’t really get. But still, it’s ingenious.


And then there is this installation across from a hipster-y coffee place. Those are car tires sticking out of or affixed to the building.


(Where I had a pastry and a latte. Yum.)

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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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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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