Tag Archives: in which I am cranky

Left as fond memories

While on vacation, I visited a used bookstore that specialized in paperbacks, mostly genre fiction. I picked up a half dozen older romance novels for $3.00, which was a bargain. Among them were two that I remembered fondly – Waiting for Nick by Nora Roberts (back when she still wrote for HQN/Silhouette) and Body Check by Deidre Martin (hockey-set romance).

I kind of wish I had left them on the shelf, untouched and remembered fondly. Neither has aged particularly well. Now I think Freddie is a spoiled twit and the smoking hero is a giant nope. The misogyny and profoundly selfish hero in Body Check really bothered me – not sure how I thought that was an HEA back when. [I knew a lot less about hockey when I first read that book. I have opinions about a lot of the substance and background now that I did not have then.]

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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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April reading – ‘ware spoilers

A Stranger in Town by Kelley Armstrong – the newest Rockton novel. LibraryThing’s notes are, “It was fine.” Since I can’t remember the plot less than a month out, I guess that’s the best I can say? Fine? It wasn’t memorable but also didn’t make me want to rip the book in half and shred the pages.

Her Night with the Duke by Diana Quincy. Someone on Twitter recommended this book, and I think it was $1.99 on Kindle. There was a lot of head hopping, accompanied by telling rather than showing. I didn’t actually believe the main characters *liked* each other. The hero was a brat who pouted when he didn’t get what he wanted from the heroine, especially when the heroine demonstrated independence and unwillingness to be a convenience for him. And it had a magic baby epilogue, which made me wish I could rip the book in half down the spine and shred the pages. Clicking delete in Kindle does not provide the same vindictive sense of relief.

What Abigail Did that Summer by Ben Aaronovitch. I like Abigail. I like Aaronovitch’s world building. But the narrative style of this book did not work for me. And Abigail as a character feels a little like she’s on the verge of becoming an utterly perfect Mary Sue, without flaw, unlike Toby and Peter in the series. I’ve gone back and re-read Toby’s book and Midnight Riot, because I’m conscious of race and gender dynamics at work, and wondering if I’m reading Abigail’s book unfairly; it just feels (to me) like Aaronovitch gives Peter and Toby more space to be flawed and human, while making Abigail uber everything. It seems unfair and kind of burdensome, maybe? Need to think about it more.

Anna K.: A Love Story by Jenny Lee. Saw this on a coming soon list as a New Adult or YA adaptation of Anna Karenina. I haven’t re-read Anna Karenina since high school, and I liked the idea of a Korean-American Anna. The reality of the adaption or retelling was kind of frustrating. I may have to go re-read the original, which I mostly remember just as a plot outline. None of the POV characters were particularly sympathetic: in fact, I generally thought they were spoiled morons. (I felt very get-off-my-lawn as I read.) The oblivious privilege and conspicuous consumption were kind of repellent to me as a reader: unlike the original, there was no apparent examination of the wealth, waste, inequity, etc.

Wild Sign by Patricia Briggs. Guessed the bad guy early on. A charitable reader might say that the mechanisms Briggs pulls out are a function of negative capability; sometimes they just feel like making stuff up to get out of a corner and then ret-conning until it works. Maybe it is a function of unreliable narrators. Not sure. But another magic baby in the epilogue here, too, was pretty frustrating. Way to completely obliviate Charles’ hesitations about parenthood with little discussion on the page! (Another book I would have shredded if I had a paper copy in hand.)

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Directionally impaired

I pulled The Viscount Who Loved Me off the shelf to reread in light of the Bridgerton series. I’m not sure it will age well.

But I’m also not sure I’ll get past little things. Early on Anthony is thinking (or the narrator maybe) as an aside “…since he’d left Oxford and headed west to London…”. No. London is east of Oxford. What?

I get that the family is from Kent, so if he was going from Kent to London, he would head west. But that’s not how the sentence reads. It yanked me right out of the story.

Is it pedantic of me? Yes. But I am who I am. And maps were a thing, even in 2000 when this was published. Be accurate about basics (or be precise in your language) or I’m done. Sorry not sorry.

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Recently read

Borrowed the new Nora Roberts novel, Hideaway, from the library. If I was a new NR reader, I probably would have found it engaging and original. But I’m not, having read most of her backlist and most of her romantic suspense. The plot and various elements felt repetitive of earlier books like The Search or Angels Fall or other books. I probably could have let that go – there’s comfort in knowing an author can deliver predictable enjoyment – but one scene early on soured the book for me. The local police (good guy! surfer dude!) violated the constitutional rights of the Bad Guy. Yes, he’s a Bad Guy. But that’s the whole point of constitutional rights: everyone is entitled to them, even when they’ve done bad shit. I get it: he’s not sympathetic, so I shouldn’t mind. No. That’s not okay. I do mind, and reading that casual disregard for rights and implicit approval of abuse by the police makes me side eye NR’s work more than I already do (see my previously expressed – either here or on other social media – about Eve Dallas’s casual disregard for criminal procedure).

Read NR Walker’s Throwing Hearts as well. It was kind of ~meh~. I liked the background romance of the older couple more than that of the narrators, whose conflict/issue felt really forced and unnecessary.

Signed up for Disney+ to get Hamilton; planning on canceling at the end of the month. It was worth the $6.99 for that plus The Mandalorian and some other material. Enjoyed it, particularly the staging, which of course was not evident from the soundtrack. Thought some of the editing choices were odd at times; focusing on single singers sometimes made sense and sometimes cut off the background activity that seemed relevant.

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Despite promises at the gardening store that air plants are practically unkillable, I have killed an air plant. Even though I followed the care instructions faithfully. 😦

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In theory, sports are returning to North America. Given the spikes due to premature reopening, this seems like a bad idea. One quote from an NHL player essentially said that they feel comfortable with the risks because the science says they’ll be okay since they are young, healthy athletes. Um, what science is he talking about? We have 6 months worth of data on recovery, and nothing about longer term impacts on health. The expectation that they won’t get sick because they are in good shape seems deluded to me. As a fan, I’d love for sports to be back, but as a human I want athletes to be able to live healthy lives today and well into the future, and I’m not sure the bubbles and protocols will be enough.

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Whining here – feel free to skip

I feel like tempers are fraying.  Mine certainly is.  I was ready for the weekend by Wednesday.  Our workload is going up, and everyone is scrambling to figure out childcare for the summer.  We’ve been told to expect to remain teleworking through at least July 15.

I’ve been trying to get a particular tool/license for more than a year.  I did the research.  I priced the options.  I checked out whether the provider meets security standards and if it has other similar customers/clients.  I had demos and included potential users.  I put in the funding request for the last fiscal year and this fiscal year with the primary use case and a hypothetical use case.  I updated the pricing periodically.  I’m not sure what value the “coordinator” has added, since any justification request was immediately bounced to me.  I included it in the new end of FY and next FY budget request a couple of weeks ago.  And then Coordinator, who our Director thinks is already handling this, called to ask me if I had any opinions about this tool, or if I had thought of the use case or how many licenses we might need or how it could be administered.  Why, yes, I have.  AND I GAVE YOU THIS INFORMATION IN SEPTEMBER, THEN AGAIN IN FEBRUARY, AND TWO WEEKS AGO.  But sure, I’ll give it to you again.

Thursday was…not ideal.  Stepdad’s mobility has declined a lot in the last couple of years and he’s very accident prone (falls, stumbles) and has limited range for walking and length of time standing, even with the support of a cane.  (He has rejected the idea of a walker or wheelchair to date.)  What he took to be a fall last week turns out to have been an initial stroke or mini-stroke.  He’s hospitalized and working on being stabilized, but needs surgery; the surgery may cause paralysis but doing nothing will also cause paralysis. So.  Can call and check on him, but can’t visit.

Yesterday after work I went to the grocery store, which was incredibly anxiety-inducing.  I usually go early Saturday or Sunday morning.  Friday afternoon shopping was a bad idea.  It was busier than I’m accustomed to, although the cashier told me that it would get much busier after 5pm.  No one was social distancing.  While everyone was wearing a mask nominally, most of them had them pulled aside so they could talk on their phone or drink something, or just not covering their noses.  There was toilet paper in stock!  No bleach or wipes though.  (I needed dish detergent, which was in that aisle.) The eggs looked pretty picked over, but there was plenty of milk, cheese, yogurt, and frozen foods.

I finally steeled myself and read Akim Aliu’s Player’s Tribune piece.  It was as terrible as expected.  To then read the bullshit article* published by The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa glorifying the bullying of a Bruins player, framed as “boys will be boys”, and using really tone-deaf, ugly language made me wonder again if hockey and hockey media are redeemable.  It normalizes verbal/mental abuse, and articulates a homogeneous, white, cis-het, masculine worldview that thinks anything else is Less Than and deserves persecution until conformity is achieved.  The only excuse I can think is that The Athletic doesn’t employ anyone who is not already steeped in the -isms that are hockey culture, to the detriment of both the company and the writers.

*The article’s headline and one shortish paragraph have been removed.  But the headline is still visible in the author’s Twitter feed, and the rest of the article remains pretty illustrative of oblivious, ugly, dudebro behavior at best.  The edited out piece can be seen in a screen grab in the replies to the author’s Tweet.  The comments are both excellent and awful, with readers who are horrified and readers who say that’s a normal working environment.

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Checking in again

I’m trying to recall if anything interesting or unusual happened this week.  And blanking.  We’re still getting hammered at work; most of the division is less busy due to the situation but my office’s work is up measurably.

Enjoyed a virtual happy hour via House Party app.

Feels like I did a lot of dishes this week.  Mainly because I have been cooking something for lunch and dinner most days: grilled cheese, burgers, reheating the soup/chili/pasta that I make on the weekend for consumption the rest of the week.

Due to weather, I stayed inside for two days this past week, which really isn’t good for me.  If it rains next week, I’m breaking out the waterproof boots, because I can’t do that again.

Starbucks re-opened in my neighborhood for carryout only, with limited hours.  I’m a little worried about it being premature.  My favorite independent doughnut place, which has been closed since maybe March 9th or so, is reopening for pre-ordered carryout next Friday.  I miss their Captain Chesapeake doughnut, but hope they aren’t hurrying back too soon.

I’ve been playing through Frank Turner’s discography this week as I walk.  I like something from each of his albums, but the only two* I listen all the way through without skipping any tracks at all are England Keep My Bones and No Man’s Land.  The next one closest is Tape Deck Heart, which I love dearly, but I can’t listen to “Broken Piano” on that album, the key makes me twitch.  (It’s the only song I’ve ever heard FT play live that the live performance didn’t win me over; nope, don’t like it live or recorded.)  Listening to Be More Kind leaves me feeling ambivalent:  I love “21st Century Survival Blues”, which seems apropos right now, but the admonishment to be more kind in the face of the assholery that is our political climate right now (the 2016 elections in the US/UK and Brexit were the genesis of the album) feels a lot like a random guy telling me I should smile, it’ll make me prettier/less intimidating.

*Last Minutes and Lost Evenings doesn’t count – although I listen to it from end to end, it’s a compilation.  I have the albums that are its source material and tend to skip around on them.  It feels like cheating to ignore that I didn’t like their original album placement in favor of the compilation in this context.

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Today

I’m tired already and it’s only Monday.

On a positive note, the orange crush cocktails I picked up from Taps are delicious.

On a less positive note, the project manager who doesn’t actually understand the underlying substance has another idea for a great project. Uh, no. I mean, in theory, sure. But in practice, nope because the data sources suggested are not reliable.

I need more cocktails.

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Afterthought

I have seen a few social media posts pop up in which people instruct others that they should plant a garden to help alleviate food supply issues.  That’s…not helpful, and is borderline offensive in its obliviousness.  It assumes that the audience has possession of a variety of underlying tools/resources, including:  land/space to plant; understanding of how to garden (seasonality, prep needs);  money to buy tools, plants, seeds, etc; time and physical capacity to garden.  We had a garden when I was a kid, and I weeded a lot; I don’t think that experience would make me a competent gardener today.  (In fact, I kill plants, no matter how carefully I follow care and feeding instructions.)  But as I recall, it takes time and energy.  Even a balcony pot garden takes effort and money.  Telling people who live in a food desert to just plant a garden is not helpful.

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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).

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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.

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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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