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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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Recently read

I haven’t read much recently.  I keep trying, but…

The only thing I’ve finished is Nora Roberts’ The Obsession, which felt kind of repetitive.  Home reno porn plus tacked on suspense, except I guessed the Bad Guy immediately because who else could it have been among the characters she’d introduced early on. [Which is generally what NR does.]

I keep trying to read Wickedly Powerful by Deborah Blake because I like the idea of the series, but I haven’t managed to get past the first chapter.

Noped out of a couple of books found via Dear Author’s daily bargain posts.

Meh.

~~~

A news magazine/website/feminist media source I subscribe to sent another blast email today.  They must raise $50,000 quickly in order to remain an independent media voice.  I think independent media is important (and dying), but I find these email blasts kind of irritating; rather than making me want to write a check, they make me wonder about how the organization, which is a non-profit, budgets.  I mean, constantly asking for dribs and drabs seems like poor cash flow management to me.  And by constantly, I mean at least every other month.  I’d be much more likely to write a single large check once a year than to send multiple payments following multiple solicitations that all proclaim *emergency*.

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So bored with this winter weather event

So I went to work on Friday, with a bag packed in case I decided to stay in DC.  There were a grand total of three people in my end of the building.  In fact, I had no idea there were as many as 100 people (out of 2,000+) in the office until 12pm, when the building closed and everyone except security was expected to leave.

In the end, I decided that I’d rather be snowed in at home, where I could be bored among my stuff for entertainment rather than in a hotel or couch-surfing.  Which is just as well, since the Pens-Caps game was postponed.  Actually, I was kind of entertained by the email that the Marc Train/MTA sent out in the afternoon (before the ANA-Caps game was postponed) that basically said, “The last train out leaves at 7:40p. We are not holding it for the Capitals game.  Be on the train or find your own way home in the snow.”  Not literally, of course, but that was the subtext as I read it.

So I took the 12:20p train home, which was PACKED.  When I boarded at 12:05, the last of the seats were being taken and by the time it left the station, the aisles were impassable in some cars and the vestibules were full, too.

Got home in time to run a couple of errands, including a run to Cafe Poupon for emergency rations.  (Seriously, croissants make being blizzard-bound so much better.)  They were closing early and were pretty much cleaned out of everything.  The only croissants left were ham and cheese (fine by me), with a few other pastries and a couple of quiches.  Lorelei said they were surprisingly busy, mostly people stocking up.  (Hah! I’m not the only person who likes to have Emergency Croissants on hand.)

Charles St in snow

Standing in the middle of Charles St., no cars to be seen.

I went out Saturday when NOTHING was moving except the snow.  I stood in the middle of Charles Street and probably could have made a snow angel without worrying about being run over.  The major streets had seen a plow (plough?) at least once but two or three inches of snow had accumulated since, and most of the cross streets hadn’t been touched.  On Sunday, I cleared the 20″ of snow that had accumulated on my balcony.  The power went out in my building; it was weird because everyone lost power to the stove and microwave and kitchen lights, but not to their hot water heaters, refrigerators, other outlets, etc.  BGE took care of it pretty promptly, which I appreciated.

snow pile

You have to walk in the street to get to the sidewalk on that side of the street. But the city said not to shovel into the street, so piles are going to appear on corners.

Today the streets are slightly better, and a fair amount of sidewalk has been cleared.  Feeling stircrazy, I walked down toward the harbor, and ended up having lunch at Cazbar (I’d highly recommend the pumpkin soup).  There are two lanes cleared on most of Charles Street.  Which would be great if people didn’t keep trying to park in a parking lane that isn’t clear yet, effectively reducing traffic to about 1.5 lanes.  There’s a giant snow pile on one corner that’s at least 9 feet tall.  Monument Street has not been cleared at all. I’m hoping that things will be closer to normal tomorrow.

Stuck

There is actually a car hiding under all that snow. It’s plowed in on the street side and shoveled in (the sidewalk was very well cleared by the business owner) on the sidewalk side. And the temperature has been high enough to cause melt, followed by freezing overnight. That’s not going to be fun to dig out. Unless maybe it gets towed, but I’m not even sure how they’d get it out to tow it.

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Getting into a reading groove?

I have read two books and a novella in the last 7-10 days, which feels kind of amazing.  Before the Years Long Reading Slump, three books a week – or more – was nothing.

“Wonderment in Death” – eh, it was fine, very focused on procedure, which I like.

Welcome to Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan – It was sort of sweet in a fairytale kind of way.  I don’t know, maybe English village life is really like that, and it isn’t a fairytale or fantasy?  The romance angle seemed kind of forced and not really believable, but I liked most of the characters and even the ex-boyfriend wasn’t terribly vilified.  (Truly, I was more irritated by how passive Rosie was with him.)  I checked LibraryThing, because Colgan’s name looked familiar; I haven’t read her before, but I feel like back when chick lit was bigger I read other similar Brit chick lit writers.

The Martian by Andy Weir.  As much as I enjoyed the movie, the book is better.  The majority of the book, like the movie, is narrated by Mark Watney, and the voice and tone are just so funny and smart, without being maudlin or pedantic, and he makes what seems to me to be complicated science* simple.  I even liked the end of the book better; there are some wrap-up/HEAish type scenes tacked onto the movie, which were fine but not really necessary.  There are a few Big Things that occur in the book that don’t occur in the movie; I’m curious to know if they were filmed but edited out for time or pacing, or if they were not in the screenplay to begin with because they felt like Too Much.  (I didn’t think they were too much as a read the book over several days, but I can see how they would feel sort of overwhelming in the 2 hour span of the movie.)  One of my favorite things is Watney’s appreciation for duct tape.  Also enjoyable are his appreciation for how ridiculous his situation is and his eye-rolling at NASA as they micromanage him from 140 million miles away.

I’m not sure what to read next – I feel like I need to jump on this trend and keep reading, for fear of relapsing into The Slump.  I’ve got a book by Shelly Laurenston and translation of Mario Vargas Llosa by Edith Grossman, both library borrows, sitting on my coffee table.  But a bunch of Patricia Veryan’s Georgian and Regency novels have been digitized; I loved them when I was a teen, and I’m curious to see if they stand up to re-read and adult perspective.

.

*Neil deGrasse Tyson says the astrophysics and other science is right, but The Biochemist says Watney’s comments about bacteria in your body being healthy is not strictly true all the time.  I’ll defer to Science People.

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Unrelated to reading, my NWHL jersey arrived today.  So excited.  I’ll wear it when watching games online after the Four Nations tournament.  And when I go to a game in February.  (Although I may have to check the schedule and get to a game sooner.)

~~~

I finished the second staggered shawl for a friend.  So sick of the pattern by the time it was finished.  But someone else asked if I could make one for them.  I think I’m going to have to say not until December or January, because I’m not ready for another identical project.  I want to try making a hat or something simple.

~~~

It was in the mid-70s today.  It felt like summer out.  And it’s apparently supposed to be similarly nice for the next couple of days.

~~~

We have a bunch of international people visiting for a conference right now.  For some reason the host didn’t organize any kind of map of the neighborhood or suggestions for lunch, just said go to the food court at Union Station.  Which, uh, would you tell guests to eat at the equivalent of a mall food court?  I would not.  I took a couple of people to Cafe Berlin; good beer and wine and the tail end of their Oktoberfest menu (so good).  Definitely going back there.

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Color me surprised…or not

It turns out that a m/m author who has long used a masculine name turns out to be a white, cis, heterosexual woman.

On one hand, it’s been made abundantly clear — in mainstream publishing — that using a masculine name will get an author vastly more attention from publishers and editors.  So a pseudonym, eh, whatever.

On the other hand, this author assumed the persona of a gay man in her social media, which is more than just using a pen name.  I’d have to hunt for it, but I’m pretty sure there are posts or comments at various venues online (perhaps gone now but for The Way Back Machine?) in which the author writes about her partner and the impact of legalizing gay marriage, etc.  This author has long been pointed to by other m/m authors and readers as a successful gay man in the m/m industry, which is largely written by and for straight women.  The author never corrected those assertions and profited from them even as LGBT readers/writers voiced frustration with appropriation by non-LGBT authors.

Basically, this boils down to disclosure for me.

If I had hard copies of any of her books, I’d be tossing them right now.  As it is, I’ll be deleting files from my laptop and Kindle, which doesn’t really give the same feeling of satisfaction.

Disclosure:  I liked the Adrien English series, but other work by this writer has been hit or miss for me, and I stopped buying her work because I thought her pricing was ridiculous.  I refuse to pay $3.99 for a 20 page story.  Beyond that, I read very little m/m any longer for a variety of reasons that I’m not sure I could articulate coherently.  So this isn’t a reader flouncing off in a huff; it’s an observer who is just grossly offended by the lack of respect an author showed for her readers and others, first in her behavior FOR YEARS and second in the way she blows people off in her “coming out” post.

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Bourbon kings?

JR Ward has a new series coming out, starting with The Bourbon Kings.  Without going to look at the blurb, my first thought was, she’s changing sub-genres completely?  Because when I see Bourbon + kings, I think of the House of Bourbon, which ruled vast swathes of Europe from the thirteen century through the early twentieth century, with domains abroad in the Americas and Africa via colonization.

Apparently Ward’s kings of bourbon are actually involved in the whiskey business.  I’m pretty much over Ward; once I was weaned off the crack, the flaws in her writing were too painful to bother continuing to read her vampire books. So I’m not going to be reading this one.  But I’m interested to see, based on the reviews of others, if she’s better at world-building in a straight contemporary than in her paranormal world, where her rules were inconsistent and she killed women characters or rendered them spineless and useless.

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Browsing at B&N

I swung by B&N after running errands downtown the other day.  It was an impulse since I was walking by. A big chunk of floor space is still devoted to Nooks and Nook accessories, which confused me since I thought B&N was stepping back from the Nook.  Or maybe I misunderstood the years of Nook-related losses in their financials.  *shrugs*  The romance section is dwindling and there was a pretty big emphasis on New Adult and 50SoG-ish books (meh).  The mystery section was also a little smaller; the only section that seems to keep growing is the YA.  And also the vinyl section — I didn’t realize B&N was moving into that, but I guess it’s a growth area.  I was sort of entertained to find a mystery author named James R. Benn; presumably not Jamie Benn, captain of the Dallas Stars, despite the similar names.  (Actually, I have no idea what Benn’s full/real name is and I’m not going looking.) (Although I’ve seen hockey RPF in which a player publishes a novel under a pseudonym, but I skipped it because it was for my nOTP so I didn’t read it.)

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