Monday, December 20, 2010

A Room of One's Own

At long last, I have an office in our house. Well, office and craft storage, and cat room, but at least it has no litter boxes in it!

Due to the marvelous efforts of The Husband, my walls are painted in shades of rosy purple (yes, it actually works) and the "A-frame" desk set we found fits perfectly. My comfy reading chair is installed (complete with cats). All I need now is a desk lamp and a reading lamp -- and, of course, to completely clean out and arrange everything. But that's minor in comparison!

We will also be getting the puppy in January, so we must make space for all those things puppy-related. I'm still working out how I feel about events so conspiring -- losing Pooty still has all the pain of losing someone you love, and no other pet will replace him. I think it is more difficult because I wasn't expecting it in the least. Ophelia I know will be passing soon-ish -- she's given us enough scares and with her diabetes and her age, I'm hardening myself to it. Pooty just...went.

Anyway, we will be adding Zeus to our household in January. He's wiggly and curly and should be an interesting addition, especially now that Caliban is just barely turning into domesticated feline (he still gets very agitated at times, very suddenly, and will bite VERY hard. This weekend, I was petting him when he looked out a window and saw a strange cat in another yard some distance away, and just LATCHED onto my hand. He was all sweet and apologetic later, but it HURT.)

Anyway, I have more books to bring up, all kinds of stuff to arrange nicely, garbage to gather, and maybe I should eat a little breakfast that doesn't involve a Christmas cookie.

Friday, December 17, 2010

So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading

So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson

Surprisingly enough, reading about someone else's adventures in reading is surprisingly interesting, involving, even addictive.

I originally picked the book by the title -- I suspect someone on Goodreads I know had it in his or her list and I grabbed it from there, or perhaps I saw it somewhere else. I can't remember. But I checked it out from the library and, while checking the first page, got hooked. While I don't have the author's job or her reading appetite (at least, not any more -- once upon a time I read to live), she and I share many habits -- the "double booking" (although I tend to keep book harems), the mood reading, the piles of books yet unread waiting for that moment I know is coming when I will want one of them, the problems of friendships and book loaning, the idea that each book is a relationship. I was surprised to read someone else putting these thoughts into words. My reading has slowed, I think, because of late my life hasn't left me with the energy and courage to start up these new relationships. It's easier to reread familiar books.

I've also compiled a new list of books I want to try reading (like I needed MORE). Whether Nelson liked the book or didn't finish it, the casual way she discusses books and book readers is so true to my own life that I have to try her recommendations.

This book has a few years on it, aging in a way that is particular to such books -- after all, she's talking about books and authors that were new to her in 2003, and 7 years is enough time to put some age on the titles she mentions. However, the ideas about reading and readers don't age. Her voice -- familiar to me, casual, honest, funny -- captured my attention and made me read when I should have slept.

Encouraged by her example, I'm dedicating 2011 to a similar task -- reading one book a week and keeping a record of it. I don't expect to get a book deal out of it (if only!) but I might reduce my "To-Read" shelf a bit. 52 books seems, at once, like a completely attainable goal and like the purist folly, but I feel inspired.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

One of my favorite comics of all time, 9 Chickweed Lane, is currently irritating me greatly. Let me explain. In the current story arc,Seth, a character who identifies as gay, is taking it upon himself to inform another character, Roger, who is married with many children, thatRoger is also gay. Family members of Roger are variously surprised that Roger hasn't figured it out for himself.

Now, this is offensive to me. I find it incredibly insulting that having a character presume to dictate to another person what that second person's sexuality should be is used for humor. The gay community has dealt with this sort of thing for...ever, actually. Many a gay person has been told they could just be straight, they really are straight, if only they'd realize it. And that's insulting. It's no less insulting when the situation is reversed. Seriously, I would not consider doing such a thing or even offering it as a joke to tell someone what their sexual identity should be. It is deeply wrong.

It offends me, too, because usually 9 Chickweed lane is perceptive, sharp, and aware. Mr. McEldowney has impressed me for years with his story lines, his sharp jokes about everything from politics to religion to cats, and yet here he seems to have a giant blind spot. That "everyone" (well, one person so far, but that character is a stand in) proclaims to know Roger's sexuality better than he does is just more mud.

Seriously, I'm of the opinion that, all other things being equal, how someone chooses to identify is his or her own damned business. If someone wants to live a life of denial, well, that is his or her right, just as it is someone's right to say "I'm gay", "I'm bi", "I'm transexual" or even "I'm straight". It's not up to anyone else to dictate, to walk over and say "Hey, you are gay."

You know, in many situations, that's considered bullying, and there's a lot of outcry about it. But, in this case, the character doing the bullying is also gay, openly and apparently happily. This gay character tried living in denial for a while but came out to himself and the world, and yay for him. It would be nice if such things were non issues, if someone's sexuality was like someone's eye color, just another factor of identity without particular judgment attached. But the particular behavior being used here is so very wrong, no matter how it's being couched for purposes of humor, that I find myself just shaking with anger about it.

However, being gay does not give one any more carte blanche to dictate sexuality to others than being straight does. It simply isn't acceptable in any case. It isn't "context appropriate". Gay people are insulted, bullied, tormented and made miserable by this very behavior and if it's wrong to try to make gay people be straight, then the reverse is also wrong. That should be obvious.

Anyway, I'm angry about it and I wish I could tell Mr. McEldowney that. I was holding out a little hope that he was going to make the very same point I am making and have Roger get up on Seth about Seth's control freak, presumptuous, bullying ways, but today's strip took that possibility off the table and made me think that Mr. McEldowney thinks that it's perfectly fine and appropriate behavior without considering the ramifications of it.

Yeah, I take my comics quite seriously.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

And we move on

Thanks, everyone. I'm not quite passed the cry-at-every-thought stage yet, but I'm working on it.

Picked up a book at the library called "So Many Books, So Little Time" in which a woman tries to read a book a week for a year, and writes about the experience. I'm already well into it quite unexpectedly, but I've bemoaned my lack of reading so much that I'm going to make a stab at it myself.

Yes, 52 books in 52 weeks. It's not impossible. Once upon a time I read that and more. I have at least two friends who manage more than that and yet still keep up with house, pets, jobs, and lives. I just have to do a little pruning of time wasters -- and I have plenty of those. Part of that will be cutting down on frivolous computer time via the power of a timer. Yes, yes, I hear you. Going to try it anyway.

Got my book list going, too, in an attempt to trim down the huge pile of books I have waiting for me to read them. I'm instituting only a few rules for myself -- I will give a book 3 chapters or 100 pages, which ever is larger, and if I don't like it I drop it into stuff for Bookmooch and move on. If I don't finish a book within the week allotted, I list it as "unfinished", stick a marker in it, and go to the next book. If I really loved it, maybe I'll finish the next book faster so I can go back to the one unfinished. If I finish a book early, I can go on to the next book. There's no guarantee on the order of reading -- I can pick any book I currently own or can check out from the library (I'm limiting -- ok, trying to limit -- what I buy for a while until I pare down what I have) and I can read whatever appeals. No rereads unless I have finished 52 books.

Sounds completely doable at this point. We shall see.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Goodbye, Pooty Prince

Petruchio, the cat we called Pooty, died tonight.

He walked up to me on the street in Mt. Dora 15 years ago. It was instant love.

I will miss him forever and ever.

Pooty

My lovely grey stripy boy is not doing well. He's 15 now, so his refusal to eat is indicative.

More as time reveals.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Book Review -- All About "All About Eve"

All About "All About Eve" by Sam Staggs

I've seen the movie All About Eve an embarrassing number of times, and I've wondered often about how this little gem of classic film came to be. All my questions are answered in Sam Staggs' book -- in fact, he answers questions that had never occurred to me.

Yes, this book is full of juicy gossip, but that's not the heart of it (just the fun part). Staggs explores everything connected to this movie, from the much debated origins of the original short story "The Wisdom of Eve" to its assorted homages and reinventions everywhere from on Broadway to in porn. He explores much of what went into making the film -- script, acting, directing, editing, costumes, set, music -- and even spends a rather involved chapter digging into assorted interpretations of the text.

Mostly, this is a fan of the movie telling all he can find out to other fans of the movie, all in a chatty, breezy, very readable style. I stayed up late reading this because it was so much fun and so interesting. While it might delve into too much minutia for a casual reader, it holds treasure for classic movie buffs.

And I shall never think of Celeste Holm in the same way again.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Book Review -- Edward R. Murrow, An American Ori

Edward R. Murrow: An American Original by Joseph Persico


I have great admiration for the movie "Good Night and Good Luck", and it made me curious about Edward R. Murrow (he started out with the moniker "Egbert", and I blame him not for dumping that one.) Joseph Persico's biography of Murrow gave me a lot more understanding not only of the man who was so instrumental in creating radio and television news, but of the period in which he lived and the influence he has still on how we perceive and receive information via broadcast media.

It has the feel of good research -- copious quotes from others who knew the man, historical background on events of the period (but not so much as to divert attention from the subject), and authorial insight and opinion that is carefully marked out as such, which gave the feel of good conversation. Far from a dry recitation of facts, Persico gives details that bring scenes to life and calls on enough people who witnessed what Murrow did and had opinions about him to give a very well rounded picture of this complex human being. The book was really enjoyable as much as informative. While Persico repeated certain items about Murrow -- his pride, his private nature, his pessimism, his conflicting drives -- each time it seemed those essential features were described interacting with a new situation and resulted in a new facet being revealed.

Although most people remember Murrow (if they recall him at all) because of the movie and the McCarthy exposing episode of "See It Now" which it featured, that particular important episode did not dominate or overshadow the book. Murrow did far more than that, and had more pivotal career moments and crucial events in his life. His work during WWII and Korea, his almost one man effort to create a true news service for CBS, his own activities to help European intellectuals excape fascism -- all of these form the bulk of the book and are equally if not more important. If not for them, the McCarthy episode would not have happened.

I can recommend this book as solid, engaging reading to those interested in either broadcast history, media history, or Murrow himself, as well as to those who'd like to round out their knowledge of the US in the first half of the 20th century.

Hair Cut

After a couple of months of dealing with the pains and trials that go along with having very long hair (aka hair that extends below the waistband of most of one's clothing), I finally cut off enough to donate to Locks of Love. Here is the pictorial evidence.


BEFORE (yes, that's 3 + feet of hair)





















Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Enter a Title Here

So, let's catch up, shall we?

I made another stab at NaNoWriMo. I got into a story, just writing to write, and by about 5000 words I was well sick of it. I fiddled with what I'd made, pushing it and pulling it, but nothing would make me like the characters I'd made, the world I'd found, or the situations I'd devised. The premise wasn't too horribly bad -- a young man with a strong belief in science and "progress" (in the 19th century sense of the word) meets up with a long existing group of people who use magic in the same way he uses technology, during a war. The world incorporated a lot of early 20th century/WWI ideas and imagery. The young man had caused the death of a child while trying to sabotage the enemy soldiers who had occupied his village during the war. The magicians, who had lost their political power during the rise of industrialism, were using the war as a way to get back into power.

And I was heartily uninterested in anything about it. Oh, I could have plotted it out and plodded through, but the characters were as flat and pasty as cold oatmeal. Bored. Bored bored bored.

So, I stopped. I figured I'd dive back into one of the unfinished stories I have -- plenty of that. Then I just wiggled around, trying to reconnect to it. Now I'm just struggling to re-establish the very practice of writing. Well, struggling isn't so much a proper word. I'm trying to re-establish the habit of it, since the driving impulse isn't there, and needs to be nurtured into existence again.

So I'm writing crap. It's like composting. You have to pile up the garbage and let it rot for a while. Then you can ladle it back into the soil, plant seeds, and see what happens. Compost takes time to make, though, and you have to keep adding to it. So, I'm composting. It smells.

It's also well and truly fall around here, with strong hints of winter every once in a while. Took forever for the trees to change, but the color is marvelous. Of course, now that everything has caught the hint, it's raining. The trees could be background for Persuasion. Anne Elliot would love them.

So, that's where I am and what's happening. Still knitting -- will have to post a few pictures, I know, to prove it. Busy at the UU. Losing weight (22 lbs down as of Sunday. 80 to go.) Holidays hurdling in. Cats being cats. The Husband still in suspense about having a job and getting into the PhD program he wants. We are still working on turning this house into a home, trying to develop a reasonable social life, and not let the laundry pile up.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Truth Universally Acknowledged

A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen -- edited by Susannah Carson

If you hate Jane Austen, this book will do little to change your mind. If you are indifferent to her, you may not be tempted further by these essays. If you love and admire her, this book will possibly bore you or irritate you after different writers either repeat what you already know or dislike what you like and like what you dislike.

However, if you are unsure about Austen or if you are curious to know what the fuss is all about, this book isn't a bad place to start.

This collection of essays that explain, praise, examine, accuse and otherwise give some kind of answer to the question implied in the title covers her 6 novels, her fragments, and her juvenilia do cover a range of opinion. Yes, most of it is positive and some of it feels a bit silly. Many of the essays were written long before the idea of the book came into being. Some are very scholarly and some are quite chatty. Some few are downright picky. Still, it does dig up quite a lot of thought about those 6 books as various authors talk about their favorite characters or novels, defend what they love most and excoriate what they despise. The novels are considered as single topics, as a group, and occasionally in comparison with more modern works.

My reaction to it was occasional surprise as someone pointed out an idea new to me, or bristly irritation as yet another author could not resist the lure to stick "It is a truth universally acknowledged" into the piece he or she wrote. On a few, I wondered why they bothered to write at all. Of course, I am an admirer of Jane Austen, so this book would do that.

But if you have read only a few of the novels, or perhaps only seen some movies based on the novels, this book could prove much more interesting and educational. It might well draw you deeper into the oddity. It might introduce you to the cult and offer you the Kool-aid. It will certainly open your eyes to, not only the novels and the woman we barely know who wrote them, but to the audience of Jane Austen and how she is regarded and has influenced our world. It could push you away or pull you in.

I already know I want to purchase a copy so I can go through with a highlighter and pen, to argue, to underline, and to explore, so that when I reread the books I can look for what these assorted authors claim is there.

I seriously doubt it will change my mind about Mansfield Park, however, but I'm going to give it a try.

I'll give this some sort of title later

Ophelia seems recovered. We are still figuring out the insulin thing, which means a morning trip to the vet for a glucose test. She's not thrilled about this, but she likes the ride in the car and the treat when she gets home. She's pretty much like she was before Saturday. She has not pooped yet, though. I am waiting in a small ball of terror for the horror she will deposit soon. I just hope I notice her waddling toward the bathroom so I can shove her into the litter box. Otherwise, I'll be scraping it off the floor and, really, I don't want to do that.

It's stormy here! It's stormy everywhere, according to the news. Last night we had several tornado warnings and watches, one after another, as squall lines marched through from the west. Once again I thought how fragile this little townhome is. I grew up in cinder block homes. It's standard construction in Florida, what with termites and hurricanes and carpenter ants. Concrete fares better. This place is stick construction, and not that good in any case (There are some distinctly curvy walls around here and we've seen how many bad nailing jobs, wrong screws, and other scary construction stuff was going on when it was built.) There is no real "safe room" except the downstairs powder room, and that's not really "safe". A tornado would rip this place up, chew it like gum, and leave a small smoking pile. This isn't a thought I much enjoy on stormy nights.

In fact, I don't feel particularly secure in this house under most circumstances. If someone wanted to break in, there's not much to stop them except, perhaps, the threat of being seen or heard (as everyone is packed in fairly tight). Because the place is so dark and we have the front screened in, I leave the front door open, depending on the screen door to disguise that fact, so as to allow light and air into the house. The lock on the screen door would take all of 30 seconds to break. Of course, both the downstairs windows could be broken with ease, and the sliding glass door does not have a lock bar (why? I don't know. I wanted one. We never got it. I should get one.)

Of course, security is something of an illusion in any house. A determined person can break in to most places. Neighbors in places like this -- transient, everyone a stranger -- tend to ignore any odd goings on. No one wants to get involved or possibly make a mistake. Still, I'd like a little more illusion. Perhaps we will put in an alarm system -- we've discussed it before.

Oh, it's autumn here. We drove up to the mountains in NC and I took pictures. Have a look.





Monday, October 25, 2010

A Weekend in Horror

Well, ok, not the WHOLE weekend. Saturday was pretty good until about 6 pm.

We spent the day driving up to NC to look at changing leaves, visit a little boutique town we like, and drive up to a mountain retreat area we'd heard about. The town was fun, the retreat was beautiful, we took many pictures and came home happy.

Upon opening the door, we saw a long trail of poop and vomit going around the living room and into the kitchen. Also, we could not find Ophelia. That's because she was laying between the wall and the refrigerator, limp, cold, and unresponsive. At first we thought she had died, but no, she was having a severe hypoglycemic seizure. We got a little Kayro syrup into her mouth, wrapped her up in some towels, and headed to the emergency vet -- a half hour drive. 10 minutes into the trip, she woke up and started screaming. She screamed with some small breaks until we got her to the vet.

Driving with a screaming cat is hard on the nerves.

So, they got her warmed and stabilized. $400 later, we do not know why her sugars bottomed out. She was fine when we left. She'd obviously eaten (judging by the food she vomited up, she'd eaten plenty). She got her normal dose of insulin. We have no idea. So, we have her home again and will be trekking to our local vet for glucose levels each day this week. She's on a super low dose of insulin.

She's eating, she's drinking, she uses the litter box. She's unstable on her paws but that's coming back (she's quite exhausted). She's also a 17 year old diabetic cat. We just want her to be comfortable for however long we have left with her. I don't want to put her to sleep. I want her to go to sleep on her own and pass that way. I don't ever want her to scream like that again.

It's been emotionally difficult, as you might guess. Nothing like contemplating life and death and losing a creature you love so much to put a sour twist on the weekend.

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We watched the new BBC Sherlock Holmes "A Study in Pink" and were impressed. I really liked the way the characters were interpreted through our current modes of understanding people who are "different". Watson's "moving wound" is explained as a psychosomatic injury (he has a lame leg although shot in the shoulder, and there's the hand tremor) and Holmes describes himself as a high functioning sociopath. Also, the hilarity of the constant comments that they might be gay lovers (including Holmes himself trying to be nice while completely misunderstanding Watson's comments) really added a lot -- good use of consciousness of other modern interpretations and literary speculation.

It doesn't hurt at all that Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Holmes, is delicious enough to spread on toast.

I see touches of both the recent Robert Downey Jr. version and my much beloved Granada Television series with Jeremy Brett, which are all used to great advantage. Really, it was a lot of fun. I can't wait to see the rest of the series. The Husband and I already agree the DVD set, when available, will be OURS.

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While typing all this, Ophelia waddled her way over to the window seat, clambered up with nary a scrabble, and has settled down on her cushion there. All seems right in her little world.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Accomplishments

I made two variations on Bourbon Walnut Apple Pie today. Totally winged it in the old fashioned, "Recipe? I don't need no stinkin' recipe!" way -- poured Jim Beam into a pot with melted butter and brown sugar, cooked that, added walnuts and home made applesauce/pie fill, cut up more apples, put it all between Pilsbury's best pie crusts, and there was pie.

And it is good.

Still knitting. Finished a big project, now working my way through smaller ones. Spent the day sorting audio books onto various mini SD cards because my MP3 player has teeny storage and also I'm OCD like that. Life is pretty good. Weather is nice.

I'm now singing in 2 groups at the UU, which is kinda cool. I feel better for having the music. Telling myself I had to give that up because (because, because, BECAUSE...) it wasn't possible for all kinds of reasons was a big mistake. Apparently, I do better when there is music. I feel better. Life is a touch easier.

It's also better that I'm supposed to be somewhere at a certain time every week. It's finally becoming clear to me. I have to have a state of dynamic tension to be creative. That is, I have to have some things I must do, things that pull me in a particular direction, in order to pull out time to write or make things or anything else creative. If I don't have the tension (not too much, just a little) then there's no energy for being creative. No energy for much of anything. Having all the time I want and nothing in particular I have to do seems a recipe to be able to do nothing. Doesn't work. Don't like it.

Which leads me up to NaNoWriMo. Yeah, it's coming up again, just a couple of weeks away. The Husband asked me (in front of someone else, the sneak) if I was going to do it. No, no, he didn't ask. He SAID I was going to do it, and after a split second of being pissed and all "Who are you to tell me what I am doing blah blah blah!" I realized, "Oh, yeah, I AM doing it."

Oh, I have some excuses piling up. I don't have a good place to sit and write (sitting for a few hours typing does require a good place to sit and a proper desk at the right height and all. Otherwise, it hurts, and if it hurts I tend to stop doing it.). The couch isn't reasonable. I've tried it, and it is just not cooperative. Theoretically we will be painting my room upstairs very soon and moving stuff around to make me some kind of writing area. I keep trying to picture it and nothing happens, but there's still time (there is also a lot of crap that needs to be sorted only it isn't MY crap, so I ain't doin' it.)

Anyway, there's that.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Silences

Once upon a time, sadness meant -- for me -- talking. Writing. Singing. I felt sad and I had to make it known. The deeper the sadness, the more I had to get it out.

Gradually, that has changed. Developing the illness of depression marks the distinct beginning of that change. The first time, right after the surgery, I stopped talking. Not completely, of course -- I kept up an earlier version of this weblog and I wrote a lot -- but I tended to not talk to people. I didn't notice this myself. It was pointed out to me by The Husband, who said people were asking him what was wrong with me, as I'd stopped talking. In social situations, others found me reserved. One friend even thought The Husband was dominating, possibly abusing, me, because he was always the one to speak while I rarely did unless he was not around.

Talking to other people became a performance. It exhausted me. I could rise to it from time to time, but afterwards I had to retreat to some quiet corner.

As the depression waxed and waned, my communication did also. Eventually I stopped writing, siting any number of reasons, but finding the words harder and harder to find. Online communication became one of the few ways I spoke to anyone, and rather than being silent around others, I simply avoided people (no reason to draw attention to myself by being the Sphinx in the room). Even making comment on web posts became difficult. I'd start to type something and the thought would come "Why say this? What good will it do? No one is going to pay attention anyway." and I would delete. This weblog also fell silent. Why post the same thing again and again? Who wanted to listen to my whining? I didn't even want to listen to it. If I was tired of it, the world had to be. Why bother?

I'm working on that.

______________________________________________________

Lately I've had moments of missing my mother, missing her in that deep down from the gut way that brings tears to my eyes. It's been a very, very long time. In a handful of years or so, I will be the same age she was when she died. I thought I'd dealt with all this -- really, her death controlled my life for such a long time that I had to work hard to put it in perspective and make it just a part of my life and not the great, central, overbearing tragedy that ruined everything. It's a common event -- many people lose one or both parents while they are young. Some lose their parents as infants, and some lose a father even before their own birth. I'm no different from all of them. I can't elevate my particular loss to some high, important point and expect the world to stare in pity and awe.

I get tired of it, too. I get tired of the ache. I get tired of this old wound trying to reopen on me.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Book Review -- Jane's Fame by Claire Harman

Jane's Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World by Claire Harman

This isn't a biography, at least not in the traditional sense -- it's the history of her fame, really. It's about how her audience(s) has thought about, reacted to, derived from, understood and misunderstood both her and her writing.

That's quite an unusual subject for a book.

What made me give it four stars? I wish I could write an intelligent, well thought out explanation for that, discussing the various strengths and weaknesses of the books, the accuracy of the research, the validity of the arguments and conclusions, but I admit I cannot. I have no idea how accurate the research is, although it is copious and well documented (at least, the last 50 or so pages of the book are endnotes, bibliography, acknowledgments, and index). I'm not sure what the stated argument was -- that Jane Austen is now known far beyond what she would or could have ever expected when she was alive? That she would be confused and amused, shocked and delighted by the forms her fame has taken? That she is rarely -- if ever -- portrayed as she was, but more often as various people wanted her to be? That the reactions to her life and her writings are a unique phenomenon? That her place in the Western Literary Canon is deserved because the surface simplicity (that, apparently, disgusts, disarms, misleads, and outright blinds many readers and critics) is a shell over depth and breadth? That she really was a writer of small things? That it is impossible for a reading audience to ever really know an author, and all readers create for themselves a Jane Austen of their own?

Those are just a few of the questions pinning down the pages of this book. Answers are less prevalent although, from the tenor of the questions, it isn't hard to imagine what Harman's opinion is.

This is, of course, a book intended for those already positively disposed, in some degree, toward the works of Jane Austen, or any of the works derived from those original novels. In fact, in some ways it is more about those derivative works and the feelings, responses, and opinions that lead to those secondary works. Why is it that Jane Austen is so important that, although there are only the 6 complete novels and some fragments, we continue to create more in the way of movies and books attempting to continue, copy, or imitate her work?

Jane's Fame really doesn't dig in to that particular question, although it certainly works hard to state it clearly and at length. Perhaps there isn't a single answer, or Harman is not willing or feels it worthwhile to proclaim a single answer. This is a book to prompt more discussion. It brings together many opinion (quoted excerpts range from those of her own siblings to somewhat snarky discussions on current Internet forums). As a collection of the varying opinions and an assessment of the current state of the "Janeites" or "Austenarians", it's very engaging, interesting, and slightly provoking. It's also worth, I think, purchasing for myself (this is a library loan) and examining more closely at some point hence.

Update again

I should have gone to visit someone this weekend. I didn't go. Between money, commitments, and an assortment of other things, it just didn't feel possible. I also have some guilt about it, because I wanted to go and said I would, and here I didn't.

I'm now almost a month into using Nutrasystem to lose weight. It's mediocre food in careful portions along with an eating guide. It makes the whole thing very brainless, which is about the level I need. I do get mad craves for real food from time to time. I've lost about 10 lbs. I've also realized just how easy it would be for me to become anorexic. Seriously, I noticed the mental process last week when I looked at my calorie count for the day, realized I was really low, and heard in my head "But when I don't eat, I'm good. It's good when I don't eat." That's kinda crazy. No, that's a LOT crazy. I'm allowed 2000 calories a day (way normal average adult level). If I eat 1500 a day, I will lose weight, and I really need to lose weight to take the pressure off my knees and hips and to lower my blood pressure. Most days I manage about 1200 calories, some days less. There's no real hunger going on, but I do lack energy. Still, I'm hauling a lot of extra 'me' around, and getting rid of some of that would be all to the good. The Husband is also doing Nutrasystem, and we are trying to be really good about the whole "portion control" part of it. Honestly, I eat pretty much what I want. I just try to eat very small amounts of it.

One side effect has been I am very self conscious eating around other people away from my house. Another is I tend to get dizzy and light headed at the drop of a hat, which is annoying. Balance. I need to work on balance. Also must start monitoring the blood pressure again, as that's a hunky part of the whole mess.

On the good side, I have eaten more vegies in the last three weeks than in the prior three months. I figure it will be about 3 months before eating smaller portions will be natural, when my eyes and stomach will "recalibrate". It takes, what, 30 days to establish a new habit, and 3 months to make it really stick? We plan to do the Nutrasystem food as the central part of our eating for 6 months, with the last 2 months being a shift to cooking and portioning food for ourselves. I might keep up the food bars a bit longer, since they make easy (and actually tasty) quick meals for breakfast or lunch.

My big goal is 100 lbs, which would put me back at the weight I was when I graduated highschool -- which is not, technically, "thin" (Disney would not hire me then for a front line position because I was too fat), but, damn, I look at pictures of me from then and wonder why all these assholes kept telling me I was too fat (along with everything else that goes with it). I will happily be that fat again. I will also ride my bicycle. However, I am staging it out -- 25 lbs first, which will be the weight I've gained since moving to SC. Then, another 40 lbs, which will be the weight I've gained since my miscarriages and assorted injuries. Everything after that will be just that much better.

The Husband and I joined a Unitarian Universalist church back in July. Since then, I've joined the chorus and started a yoga class there, and we are both getting a little more involved in regular activities there. It's actually nice. I have reasons to leave the house during the week. I'm starting to resemble a normal person. It's good to be singing again. I'm debating getting a small keyboard, since the piano simply will not fit in the house. Have to look.

I'm also knitting constantly. I really am enjoying it. I've made a ton of scarves, two hats, one shawl (and working on another), and I'm working on my first sweater. I'm surprised how much I really get into it. Each finished project is a little step up, even if it doesn't come out exactly right. I feel like I'm learning, and I'm making something.

Writing is standing still, but now I'm not so negative about it. I think that might come back, too.

Anyway, that's my life at this point. How're you guys doing?

Monday, September 06, 2010

Nightwatch: A Novel by Sergai Lukyanenko

A very Russian book, I have to say, without really knowing what that means. That is, I know it only as someone born into Middle class America in the midst of the Cold War, who has read very little Russian literature, learned only a little of the great nation's history, who has heard only a little of its music, who has only once been slightly drunk on vodka, can know it.

In short, this is a depressing book, but not deeply depressing. Resignedly depressing, I guess, describes it best. That's the point of the book, I think -- not the magic, not the epic struggles between Dark and Light which it borrows from classic high fantasy and dumps into the streets of 1990s Moscow, not the Twilight that doesn't mean teen angst and sparkly vampires.

Ok, enough pseudo-philosophy. Night Watch is a good book, I'll say, although I can't say I like it much. I fully expect I'll read the other three books in the series. I don't expect to enjoy them. I do expect to think about them, and to put a little vodka in a tiny cold glass.

Can I tell you what it is about? Not really. In part, it's because, as often happens for me when reading translated works, I feel like I'm missing some cultural understanding that would make things a little more clear. Anton, Svetlana, Olga, Boris/Gesar -- these characters are familiar but not quite real. Anton, the protagonist and voice for this tale -- told mostly in first person, although it's perfectly possible the few third person segments could be him speaking, too -- is young, learning what it is to be an Other, and mostly over his head. He himself is a minor part of the world in which he lives, yet he's at the crux of all the events that take place. He's that single grain of rice, the bit of grit, the one who doesn't really know what to do and doesn't really have the power to do much, yet is still there, the crux around which things swirl.

And it's a sad, barren. desolate world.

Hi there

I have yarn and needles and another Thing knitted, which meant I started yet another Thing this morning. I have three other Things I want to be knitting, but there's this whole lack of hands/arms/eyes problem. Can only knit one thing at a time and I have a Must Finish A Thing rule to avoid little knots of yarn with needles roaming the house and scaring the cats.

So far, everything I've knitted has been some form of Square or Rectangle. Today I am branching out with a Hat, which while knitted flat, will eventually be Round, like a head. This means Decreases. Yes, decreasing is the next skill to conquer.

Meanwhile, when I'm not knitting, I'm looking at knitting stuff online. One thing I saw was a nifty thing to hold my Hoard of Yarn. It was a hanging closet shelf thing, all cloth and nylon, that for the mere price of $50 would hold All The Yarn neatly and away from claws. I looked at it with lust for a while, then something clicked over in my head. I'd seen this before.

Then, while roaming through Lowes looking for something else (paint or bug killer or something like that) I remembered that little Click and I headed for the Organizer aisle. Yep -- for $17.99 I bought a fold down hanging sweater shelf (nylon, cloth, cardboard) which looks JUST LIKE the $50 Magic Yarn Hoard Holder (well, except for color). And it is in the downstairs closet holding my Hoard right this minute. I feel so frugal. I can buy more yarn!

In other news, Ophelia, my beloved and now elderly cat, is obviously winding down. She's 17, diabetic, and she'd getting frail. Oh, she's healthy -- good teeth, plenty of opinions, pooping and peeing, which means she's eating and drinking. But she's getting thinner, which seems to be the way cats tell you they are getting old. And she has returned to her gassy kitten ways. This is ok for her, but deadly for the rest of us. Currently, she likes to reside either under the couch (right where I sit) or in a window seat next to the couch (where I sit). As a new twist, today she's decided to lay on the throw pillow right next to me.

And she farts. Oh dear clouds in hell, she farts. It's deadly stuff, I tell you. I'm looking for a pattern to knit a gas mask.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Oh, Yeah, Blog

It's like this.

I've rediscovered knitting. Yeah, I know, it was there all along, but I'd sworn it off years ago and given away my collection of needles, books, and yarn. I'd stopped knitting. It was too hard, too useless (in Florida), took too long, etc. etc.

I'm finishing up my third knitted project right now. I'm still doing things with straight sides and no pieces, but I'm learning stitches and perfecting little things like counting rows and remembering whether I am knitting or purling. I have another project directly in line, and I'm planning my excursion into socks with a yoga sock pattern (no toes, no heels, just dealing with the 4 double pointed needles, which, trust me, is PLENTY).

I'm a yarn whore, too. The addiction, I get it. I have three plastic storage boxes full of various yarns. Lucky for me, they are all small enough to slide under the couch. Well, one of them is in use as a step for Ophelia to reach her spot at the window, because it's a bit too tall to go under the couch. But she NEEDS it sitting there.

The Husband is a yarn pimp. He finds yarn and holds it out to me, telling me how cool the color is or how nice it feels and how he wants a scarf out of it. He has one scarf so far and I think he intends I will make him enough scarves that he can wrap them around every portion of his body to walk outside. I told him that if he brings me yarn, a pattern, and the appropriate needles (if I don't have them), I'd knit what he wants. I figured that would help me with my own addiction.

I was wrong. He's learned to read the code on the labels around the skeins. I'm in trouble.

So , that's where I've been. It's hard to type and knit at the same time.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Update, short version

Stomach virus. Some OTC meds, a bland, white, starchy diet (mashed potatoes!) and lots of water are my prescription. Have eaten at last. Am waiting for headache to go away.

Catch up, short version

1) still no job. job promise. no actual contract.
2) The Husband's office is painted. Part of the hall downstairs is painted. Babysteps.
3) I am sick to my stomach. Or rather, my stomach is sick of me. Something like that. Going on 40 straight hours of near vomit, waves of pain, and assorted unpleasantness. Feels a bit like pancreatitis, but not exactly. Doctor's visit this afternoon.
4) Knitting. Purling. Knitting more. Lusting for yarn. Figuring out double pointed needles.

That is all.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Cuyahoga

Hey, didn't tell you -- The Husband and I visited teh Jammies in Ohio! Usually there's a big gather in July, but that wasn't going to work for us due to The Job situation (or the Lack of Job situation, which should resolve around the 9th, I HOPE), so we decided to make our visit early.

We didn't do a damn thing :) Well, we baked, and we ate, and we read books, and we talked a lot, and we petted dogs. The Husband took long walks with Little Miss, the Hyper Hound. I scritched Little Foot a lot. We relaxed. No big excitement, but it was relaxing. We saw Blue Herons nesting up there. The weather was pretty nice. There was little drama (well, there was a touch of drama, but it was the Technology Decides to Fail but Gets Fixed variety). In other words, a better than average vacation.

Ophelia went with us again and had a whole room to herself (instead of being tucked in the foyer with her traveling apartment. She seemed to accept it all in stride. Now she's home and back to sitting in my bathroom in front of the toilet and occasionally yelling at the wall. We do not know why.

One thing that has happened is Jammies, in her gentle way, encouraged me to take up knitting again. I gave away all my knitting stuff probably three + years ago, as I hadn't touched it in even longer. But, yeah, I stopped by the craft store, picked up a couple of basic books, some needles, and some nifty yarns. I've done up one practice swatch, unraveled it, and am starting another with a different stitch. Oooo, go me. I might even make something.

Anyway, I'm home now. We are contemplating Home Improvements -- putting in some shelving and painting the kitchen, maybe painting bathrooms, then plotting to paint more rooms as the summer creeps on. Neither of us can tolerate this beige world much longer.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Book Review - Jane Slayre

Jane Slayre -- Charlotte Bronte, Sherri Browning Erwin

This is the third of the recent group of classic romance/horror humor mash-ups I've read and it is the very best of them. It succeeds in being a fun, light read because it avoided the traps of the almost-good "Pride & Prejudice & Zombies" and the waste of paper and time that was "Sense & Sensibility & Sea-monsters". No cheap jokes, no junior high sex puns, no glaring and stupid mistakes in the additions, no missed opportunities, and no pointless, tedious grafting onto the original story. The humor is dry, understated, and dovetailed nicely with the original voice of the main character.

That Ms. Erwin not only has read Jane Eyre, but understood and appreciated it, was apparent in her handling of the original material. (I think part of that understanding and intelligence is indicated by the proper spelling of her first name). She maintained qualities of the original characters and, while indicating the humor of the new situations in which she placed them, she never ridiculed or insulted them (I particularly liked her transformation of Mr. Brocklehurst -- it was everything I could desire). I didn't have a single eye rolling moment and my curiosity about how the story would develop and end remained high until the last few pages answered all.

I've read Jane Eyre several times since my first foray in 6th grade. When I first read about this book, I speculated that the Brontes might be better suited for such a mash-up. Their writings are much more emotional, excessive, and interwoven with Byronic Romanticism and Gothic motifs. These made room for adding in the changes without overstretching credulity (not the case with the two Austen mash-ups, which required much subtler humor and, being tighter and less prone to emotional broad strokes, had less room for what was sledged into them.)

Quite a good, fun, light summer read.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Hunting Expedition

There's not much that's better in my little life than a trip to the local Barnes & Noble, unless it is a trip to Barnes & Noble with an unlimited bank account. We made a trip up for the express purpose of picking up a particular DVD and discovered they were having a buy 2, get one free sale. So, we have acquired Forbidden Kingdom, the second season of The Wild, Wild West tv series, and the Sherlock Holmes feature film collection.

Of course, once we'd finished with the DVD section, we rummaged through the books, and obviously we found some. Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor, which looks quite unique and interesting. I picked up Defining Moments in Books, which (unfortunately, in my opinion) has the iconic image from the movie Lolita on the cover. The Husband picked up a book on interviewing and another called Creative Cursing, which he expects will be useful no matter what job he gets.

But the biggest trophy of the day, the prize of the hunt, was the second volume of Bloom County, the Complete Library. The first was wonderful. I didn't know the second was out and it was almost at the end of our tour of the store when I spotted it, grabbed it, and now it's mine.

Time to sink into that.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Exciting Frontiers in Baking - The Sequel in Chocolate

Yes, I tried the rolled cake (the fancy name is "roulade") again this weekend, this time with chocolate. It takes a lousy picture (the lighting in my kitchen is not flattering) but it tasted wonderful.

The details: I have a 17 inch pan which is larger than my recipe calls for (so far I've found 3 different sizes of jelly roll pans. I don't have room for 3 pans.) so I got ambitious and increased the recipe a bit -- 6 eggs instead of 4, 1/2 cup flour instead of 1/3 -- and it seemed to work ok. The cake came out soft and spongy. Filling -- chocolate cream cheese and Nutella. I also made my first ganache to cover the cake. Ganache is EASY! It is also delicious. I must be very careful with this new knowledge.

The final touch was chopped hazelnuts.

It didn't come out too sweet, which did concern me. There's no added sugar in the ganache, just what's in the baker's chocolate and the tablespoon of cognac. I didn't get quite enough sugar in the cream cheese according to some critics, but the cake itself has a lot of sweetness, plus the Nutella is sweet, so I think maybe a few more tablespoons into the cream cheese will do the trick. It's a lovely balance of dark and light chocolates and very satisfying.

It's also a lot of beating. I'm serious. First the yolks must be beaten creamy, then the whites must be beaten stiff, then there's folding and sprinkling flour and floodling around. The ganache is all about the beating (food processor!) and the cream cheese is beaten and mixed.

The one sad occurrence in this success is the slowly encroaching decrepitude of my Cuisinart multi-mixer. The mixer bowl, cheap plastic that it is, doesn't want to stay on the mixer, which means the steel blade won't stay seated unless I press hard down on the lid. Thus resulted in one good, solid splash of half mixed chocolate across the kitchen as the processor tried to launch itself into orbit. With our limited storage space, another multi-use machine is the obvious choice, but maybe not the lowest end version . We've had this one for maybe 5 years now, and the blender pieces all work fine, but I don't think we can get replacements for the mixer parts.

Oh, The Husband and I also visited one of those lovely cookery boutique stores (not William-Sonoma, but a locally owned store) to lust for the LeCreuset pans we want and to get a new iron skillet. We don't fry food much, so I hadn't really missed our old skillet when it wandered off. Now that we are trying to cook more of what we eat, I realized I know how to make corn bread, and it's better in an iron skillet than in a Pyrex pan.

Ironic, isn't it? When we had a big kitchen, we rarely used it or what we had in it. Now that we are exploring the real joys of cooking, we are in a mini-kitchen. Where once I dreamed of travel, I now daydream about kitchens.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Mavro as Nate Ford

I'm following the adventures of Mavro in The Book Of Mavro like its is episodic TV. In some ways it is better than TV (no commercials). It reminds me a little of my favorite show, Leverage, in that it's someone scamming criminal types both because they like it and for the greater good.

I now look at the mail in my spam box with a new eye. Some of that shit is outright WEIRD.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Exciting Frontiers in Baking

I made my first jelly roll cake this week. It didn't last long enough to get a picture of it to post. However, it was yellow cake with cream cheese and strawberry jam filling. I haven't got the trick of filling and rolling quite down -- what looks like stingy filling when the cake is flat becomes OMGODTOOMUCH when you start rolling.

I'm going to try a chocolate one next, with a filling of Nutella and cream cheese (I have a recipe for chocolate cream cheese) and a ganache frosting. Ganache, according to there recipe I found on Cook's Illustrated, is disgustingly easy to make. It's so easy, in fact, I could make it all the time and just keep some in a jar with a spoon stuck in it.

That would be dangerous.

I'll try to get a picture of the next one, if I get it rolled up right.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Addiction Continues

I ordered the latest installment of Leverage DVDs last March, when they were announced. They were released May 25th, but because Barnes & Noble is a blessed place, they sent the discs out a day early so I got them on Tuesday. The rewatching -- with commentary -- finished today. There were also some sharing of episodes with others I've succeeded in addicting, which slowed down the process, but increased the pleasure.

Oh, glory be! If all television was like this show, I'd be doomed.

I'll be honest -- just like the first season, not every episode was my favorite. A couple I didn't like nearly as much, but I suspect that, with repeated watchings, just like last season, they will grow on me. They did do a marvelous job of building a new arc upon the edifice of the old, rolling with the punches. Writing, acting, directing, camera, effects -- I just don't get tired of this show.

Also, the gag reel was a long spin of incredibly funny wrongness. The Husband and I couldn't breathe for laughing.

Season 3 starts in a few weeks. I'm just able to contain my excitement. Oh please, please, let them get a good 5 seasons. I think, based on the shows so far, they can get a wonderful five seasons before they risk repeating themselves or wearing the idea thin. Depending on what happens with the meta-arcs, it's possible they could swing a 6th, but by then a lot of the Big Questions of the story should be more or less settled or even resolved -- the writers have done such an excellent job of creating characters with great depth, with demons and questions and room for growth, but at some point they have to let the growth happen. First season was Nate's "stage 1" -- his was the large arc -- and some maturing for Hardison. Second season was Sophie's growth and Nate "stage 2", as well as some set up for Parker and Elliot, and a little more for Hardison. Season 3 promises to bring some resolution for Nate, show us the results of Sophie's growth, and -- potentially -- more exploration of Elliot.

At least, that's what I'm hoping for. Waiting, waiting, waiting!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Book Review

Just finished today Nick Rennison's Sherlock Holmes: The Unauthorized Biography, which is a slightly tongue in cheek take on the famous detective that states he was in no way fictional. The author has done a fair bit of research on the political and historical goings on that the illustrious detective could have had a hand in and does a nice job of picking out supposed clues (obsfuscated, of course, by Dr. Watson) to determine what really went on.

It's a nice review of my favorite fictional detective's life and adventures, and was much more interesting to read than the biography I recently attempted on Conan Doyle (here relegated to literary agent for Watson). While revealing nothing of great surprise about the character and sticking fairly close to the canon/popular view of him while proclaiming not to, it was still an interesting game of speculation and "connect the dots".

I'm currently listening to the audio version of Laurie R. King's The Beekeeper's Apprentice, which I read several years ago and enjoyed while barely remembering a thing about it. It's such a fan fiction-y piece, complete with a Mary Sue and (eventually in the series) romantic entanglement with the detective. Despite this, it's very well written, logically constructed, backs itself up nicely with the canonical material, and is good fun. I was discussing with a friend that, as out of place and unlikely as the May-December romance is, it serves a good purpose in getting any questions about sex, propriety in the time setting, and romance tucked out of the way so the adventures can be gotten on with. Otherwise, those particular themes would have dangled like anvils around the neck of any story to come after the initial entry of the series. Further books in the series are much too good to let that stand in the way. My particular favorite is O! Jerusalem. I've just picked up last year's entry into the series (now that it is in paperback, although not in mass market...had to go with a trade, which will just mess up my shelves!) and now have to wait for this year's entry to go through its hardback cycle.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Back in Blue

Bebe Bleu, my beloved Mazda 3, is back in the driveway, looking shiny and new-ish. The awful, terrible, violence inducing VW is back at the rental agency.

I will say that, after I figured out the head rest and got used to the braking and acceleration, I hated it a little less. This is not love, it's just less virulent hatred. The whole plastic-y, tight, tiny interior, the lack of any space for human legs in the back seats, and the amazing number of blind spots in a car with so much glass were simply staggering. It is not the car for me. I never want to see the inside of one again. I'm not all that jazzed to see the outside, either.

But my Mazda runs just fine. I have new seat covers on order and I need to vacuum the interior to go with the whole "clean and shiny" theme I have going there. but it feels so good to drive my own car. Also, my knee does not bump the steering column. It's all good.

Monday, May 24, 2010

How To Build Brand Hatred

You've seen it -- I know you have -- the stupid "Punch Dub" campaign for Volkswagen. According to this, it's based on a kid's game where kids would "playfully" punch each other when they saw a VW Bug.

I think it's an excellent way to make people hate a particular car brand, unless they have severe masochistic inclinations. Seriously, if someone were to punch me because they saw a stupid car (which is exactly what kids would do because, let's face it, kids are not yet socialized nor have their brains developed completely, so they do idiotic things) I would be inclined to not only hate the person who hit me for no good reason, but the car that inspired the violence.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Talent -- I Haz It

I just sneezed twice. Being the polite sort, even when there are only cats around (and not wanting to snot all over my keyboard and monitor) I put my hand up in front of my nose and mouth. For no particular reason, I put the back of my hand toward my face.

And on the second sneeze, I bit my own hand.

Wait, it gets better. I didn't take a hunk out of my hand or anything. My head rocked from the force of the sneeze and I caught a bit of skin on the back of my hand between an upper and a lower tooth, and the sneeze forced my jaw shut.

I now have a toothmark and a tiny, painful bruise welling up.

That's not something just ANYONE can manage, you know.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Saturday, May 08, 2010

But It Seems So Real

A friend of mine -- a clever and devious sort of friend -- has a new hobby.

Book of Mavro

I can't help but think "Mavro" is a variation on "maverick", that much maligned word from which all meaning was beaten during the 2008 US Presidential elections. That's sad, because I really prefer thinking of it as a fairly fun 1950s/60s western TV show about a gambler/con man. Either way, it is fitting.

And, just in case Mavro wants someone new to play with, I suggest he check out this goodie my buddy Scott found, if only for the incredibly humor caused by the complete lack of basic scientific knowledge and application of logic. As dumb as Mavro plays to scammers, I'm not sure even he can manage to be that dumb. But, it might be a worthy challenge.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Surrender

I gave up on "The Man Who Wrote Sherlock Holmes", even though I was close to 200 pages in. Mostly, I gave up on it because it must go back to the library early -- The Husband wants to return all library books before he graduates, even though they are not due for another 3 weeks. So, there goes my planned reading on women in science fiction.

So, I may have to check it out elsewhere. I might. It was SORT of getting interesting, but it still had some big problems. For example, the author insisted on telling us every damn time A.C. Doyle played cricket, including the names of the opposing teams and often the score. I DO NOT CARE! It's nothing against cricket, really. I'd feel the same no matter what organized sport was involved. Tell me that Doyle played X sport and that he played it on and off for X years, and I know all I need. Tell me about the one or two incidents where something Very Interesting happened in association with a particular game, and that's all good. I find it hard to work up interest in the details of amateur sporting events that took place over 100 years ago.

So, there's that.

Another annoyance were the tiny, fleeting references to the Holmes stories as being derived or related to particular incidents, locations, people, or ideas. When the author actually got into explaining how X became a part of the Holmes world, I was interested. However, saying "Doyle used this name in his Holmes stories" is, again, a rank of detail filed under BORING. Seriously, I already know that authors often pull place names, character names, and even small details from the world and the people around them. This is not a big secret (if it is to you, you should get out more). I do not need a comprehensive list of every person, place, or thing Doyle crossed in his life that eventually turned up in a book. This is NOT INTERESTING, not even on a Trivial Pursuit level.

In short, the book could have benefited from a much more ruthless editor -- one with a whip as well as a red pen, perhaps.

Don't know what book I will pick up next. I have the next Stieg Larrson book on my e-Reader. I also have the pile of books on the shelves waiting for me. Since my Serious Summer Reading list is no longer available, I might just indulge in major amounts of Not Serious Reading.

Or I could pull down that bio on Edward R. Murrow...

Monday, May 03, 2010

It's White


I picked up my rental car today, a car to tide me over while Bebe Bleu is in the shop having all that body work replaced.
The rental is a new model VW Beetle, all shiny and white.

So far, I hate it.

Lemme 'splain. It looks really cute. I'll give it cute. However, it and I have some serious differences of opinion. Let's start with that head rest. No matter how I adjust the seat, the headrest hits me where most headrests hit -- right at the point that forces my chin into my chest. I do not care to sit like this, and I especially do not care to drive like this. In fact, adjusting the seat promises to be a real adventure. I spent 15 minutes trying to get it correct and even then, I have to squeeze under the steering wheel (at least until I can adjust that thing). My mother was notorious for hunching over the steering wheel when she drove (one reason she hated to drive was because her back and shoulders hurt after about 20 minutes, but she never learned to sit back and relax in the seat). I'm sitting up straight and hunched over the wheel because I can't get the seat adjusted properly. I'll spend another 1/2 hour on it tomorrow.

The first time I touched the brakes, I almost put myself through the windshield. Let's just say they are tight and touchy. There's no smooth, gradual slowing down. The thing throws out a grappling hook and an anchor.

The acceleration is...hesitant. Yes, that gas pedal insists you make a commitment to going, and it will check after you press the pedal to make sure you REALLY want to go. No, really? You don't like this spot here, in the driveway, away from all the traffic? Can't we stay here and get ice cream or something? Do you REALLY want out there? Oh....all right.

Apparently, between the problems with the seat and the position of the headrests, at my seated height, the thing is FULL of blind spots. I'm a paranoid driver. I check in every direction before I move a car because, dammit, people come out of no where and just assume you will kindly go immaterial so they can drive through. I've yet to figure out how to de- and re-materialize, so I watch for those idiots. I can't see several points on this car, which just cranks up the paranoia.

I figure I can make it to the grocery store and Pak-mail in this car. I know that if I drive it a bit, I will get used to the brakes and the acceleration, and if I fiddle with all the buttons I will eventually reach a compromise with the seat. However, that won't solve the biggest problem I have -- pure claustrophobia. Everything is too close.

Let me clarify. I drive a Mazda 3. It's not a big car. In fact, it's a small car because I really prefer smaller, more nimble cars. The VW's interior feels TEENY compared to my Mazda . It's as if everything is too close to my face and my elbows. My nose is going to hit that rear view mirror, I just know it.

Two weeks. For two weeks I will be one of those White Cars that straggles out just long enough so you can't make the right hand turn or pull into a lane. I now understand what those people are going through.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

I Need More Compasses






I haven't known which direction I'm going for about two years now.

When I lived in Florida, I knew pretty much without thinking which way was North and which way was East. Even the fact that I-4 said it went east and west didn't obscure the fact (known to every Orlandoan) that it goes North and South in the middle of the state -- yes, it starts in Daytona on the East coast and eventually ends up in Tampa on the West coast, but it wants to go to Disney, too, and detours for a long while. Anyway, I knew what I meant, as did most of my friends, highway signs notwithstanding.

Anyway, I knew the directions. I knew that when I lived in Ocoee, my bedroom window faced West, and when I lived in Orlando it faced East. The house in Eustis faced South. I knew which way to look when I heard thunder -- storms nearly always came from the West and North. The Orlando International Airport was south of Orlando, and the Altamonte Mall was on the North side. See? I knew were I was. Even when I moved and lived in a different house, I knew which way was which.

I miss that.

The townhome we now own is an end unit and has its few windows on three sides. It faces east, the patio is on the west, and the single side window downstairs is on the north side. We live in Seneca, which is west of Clemson, which is south of Greenville and North of Atlanta.

I have to check maps to know this. I never feel like I am properly oriented. My internal compass insists that all of South Carolina is upside down and facing the wrong way. Seriously, in my mind, when I sit with my back to that downstairs window (which I do often because that's how the living room is oriented) I am sitting with my back to the South. That puts the West on my left hand, which moves Seneca further east. Two years now I've looked in the cardinal directions and recited the proper name for them, but at any given moment if I'm asked what direction I'm facing, I can't remember. I con sult maps constantly if I dare go anywhere. I memorize landmarks. I drive around and get lost, then try to find my way home again, usually a fool proof method of learning my way around.

I still don't know where anything is.

It doesn't help that most of South Carolina -- or, at least, the Upstate -- is arranged, not in the traditional more-or-less grid pattern familiar to Floridians, but as a series of adjacent and occasionally overlapping triangles. I don't know how many times we've gone to a particular location from a particular location on one road, and returned on another road. It's confusing. At first I accused The Husband of trying to deliberately keep me at home so that I wouldn't use expensive gas and possibly find expensive things to do.

Now I realize it's a state wide conspiracy.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Inivisble Monsters should be Pink and Blue

The view out of my living room window is particularly lovely this year. I just rearranged the living room so I could take advantage of it. I can sit here and see all the roses, the wisteria, the azalea and rhododendron, the fuschia, the colombine, the bridal veil, and many of the herbs that survived the winter. I can see both the seed-bird feeder (which has regular visitors now) and the hummingbird feeder (as yet unvisited, but it's still a bit cool for them). The butterfly bushes are a little less visible and not yet blooming, but I should be able to see them when they finally make with the flowers.

I can also see the cheap, ugly, weathered-grey fence that marks the property line, the power pole that juts up in the midst of it, the recently killed-by-poison honeysuckle, and the back corner of the ugly little convenience store that is far too close to where I now live. Compromises, always.

Still no definitive word on a job at Clemson. Graduation is next week. The Husband's cap and gown hang on the back of the door (he didn't walk the first time, but this time he is). Mom-in-law will be here, so there are some attempts at housecleaning (which will get more frenzied as the actual date gets closer).

I feel the future moving around like the invisible monster in the old Jonny Quest show. It's looming around making noises, but I can't see it clearly at all. I wish I could throw paint at it so it would show up.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Endless Geeker

The Husband was touring our Netflix account yesterday when he happened upon this. He started to stream it, then decided I needed to know about it. So, in geeky happiness, we curled up on the mini-couch and started streaming to my laptop.




I am enthused.

Ok, let me rephrase that. I (and The Husband) are giggly, happy, geeky crazed for this lovely little indie movie about something near and dear to our hearts -- gaming, and the people who game. He and I often bemoan the loss of our old gaming group and how difficult it is to find/form a new one here in the land of the too-cool college student. Our single semi-successful attempt was low on fun, as it is very hard to meld two old-timers into a group of young gamers, especially without the GM on your side (we were, in effect, the Joanna character, only with much less success).

I recognized people I know (and still love) in these film characters. I've lived those situations. I swear the costumes were lifted from the closets of dedicated Rennies, SCAdians, and con-goers. And the endless battle between cooperating to tell a story and players vs. game master is so familiar it isn't even funny, but then it is made funny here. Even better, the fact that this is a (very good, very well done) home made film just makes the whole thing perfect. If it had been a high budget, major production, it would not have worked. This, on the other hand, is filled right to the final second after the credits have rolled with all the things the geek-at-heart love so much.

Yes, we have the DVDs on order.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Celebrating the Post-It


Anyone who knows me can attest -- I love me some office supplies. One of my very favorite office supplies is Post-it notes in all their various incarnations. And the wonderful Post-it is 30 years old now.

I have one very classy Post-it dispenser (that will one day grace a desk again) which holds both the standard Note and two colors of the Flags. I love me some flags. I have high lighters with built in flags that are indispensable when studying a book or editing a manuscript on-page (editing on the computer has its place, but for a first time, really heavy edit, paper, pen, and Post-its rule). I have huge Post-it pads and the little sticky tabs for labeling folders. I can't go through the local Staples without giving the Post-it display a once over for anything new and exciting.

I don't remember exactly when I discovered the wonder of the Post-it, but I suspect I knew about them by 1984. I don't recall having them in high school, but they were part of my college equipment. I discovered, too, that my cat, Precious, would stop laying on my books (spread across the bed, of course) and sit on a Post-it stuck to the floor. She also loved Post-its.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Book update

I'm still trying to plow my way through the Arthur Conan Doyle biography. I'm not even 100 pages in and he's just reached his early 20s and his career as a physician. Honestly, I'm kinda bored. The biographer has that typical stodgy biographer voice, reciting fact after fact and pointing out where this or that influenced the Sherlock Holmes stories. Since the title of the book is "The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes", I figured there would be a lot of linkage to Doyle's personal history, but I'd really hoped the book would start with the Holmes stories and work out from there to reveal Doyle. That would have been different and potentially interesting.

But, no. Stodgy, droning biographer drones stodgily on. I'm giving it about 50 more pages to see if things pick up (since we've already covered all the Doyle ancestors and have gotten to the point just before his penning of the Holmes stories). Then I'll decide if I want to keep spending time in this droning book.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

There's Always...

...something new for me to bitch about.

I've moved into Allergies - Stage 2, which appears to be what originally triggered our suspicions that Something Is Wrong With Sherri. This morning, while not severely congested and with little actual sinus action, I am having that ol' tightness in my chest and trouble breathing.

Yay.

I'm on the point of completely closing up the house and turning on the A/C, despite the fact it is in the 50s outside and looks like it might rain again. Yesterday's rain washed a LOT of pollen out of the air -- I saw those yellow rings around the puddles outside. But there's always a new pollen blooming out there. I don't yet know the growth cycles of the various flora to which I am allergic so I can't guess which one it is this time, but I'm betting it's one of the few that also grows in Florida, since the breathing thing started there.

The runny nose, congestion, and general ick is kinda S.C. specific -- well, outside of a cold. Allergies are a little like having a cold without the pretty colors in your snot. I'm pretty sure that, were I to run into an opportunistic virus, I'd have some sinus-eating disease by now.

Anyway, the decongestant is swallowed and I'm preparing to clean the kitchen sink so I can do the dreaded, hated, and totally disgusting sinus irrigation thing. Self inflicted near-drowning for health. Why is it all the things one should do for one's health are painful, icky, or unpleasant in some way? Whose idea was this? Those people probably gets off on enemas. I don't want to meet any of them.

*sigh* I also need to get a new filter for the vacuum and a better filter for the A/C system. You know, M. Night Shyamalam could have made The Happening by skipping the weird, behavior changing plant spoors into super potent pollen and having everyone die of sneezing and congestion. Would have freaked people right out because it's SO REAL.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tuesday Afternoon

That's one of my favorite Moody Blues songs. I'm so dazed that it seems impossible that it actually is Tuesday afternoon already. My head, it is thoroughly mucked with.

Still in the throes of Allergies, although it is raining today and I'm holding out hope that will stick more pollen to the ground so I don't have to breathe it. I'm taking a Walgreen's generic with the bizarre name of "Wal-zyr-D". Seems to be working. It's still tricky to do any thinking or to try to concentrate on any particular task.

The Husband and I are mourning our late, lovely cat, LaGuz. I remember when I realized something about death. I was no more than 3 or 4 years old and my pet Parakeet, Robin, died. I've lost many pets and I'm familiar with it, but it never loses the sharpness. If I let myself live in fear of that pain, I'll never feel brave enough to love anyone or anything.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Weekend Summary in Bullet Points




Good Things
  • Joezer coming to visit
  • The Husband made gooey brownies
  • Watched 4 episodes of Farscape -- I've never seen the show
  • Perfect weather
  • Walk around the Botanical Gardens


Bad Things
  • Car got smashed by a hit and run driver
  • LaGuz, our old lady cat, is very bad off and we have decided to let her go died Monday morning
  • Sick with allergies, constant headache, coughing, and runny nose
  • Missed a friend's birthday party because of said allergies


I'm most upset about our cat. Of course I am upset about her. There's no challenge quite equal to that of losing someone or something you love to death, except perhaps dying one's self. LaGuz is refusing food and water, even her favorite things. She can barely walk. It's time.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

This World, It Is Odd

The officer from the Highway Patrol handling our case just stopped by. The guy who hit our car hurt his leg pretty badly (we couldn't figure out how he could have gotten away without a scratch) and he panicked, drove to the hospital, and got himself patched up.

Here's the kicker. When he got home, he called and turned himself in. He admitted that he probably fell asleep on his way home from work and was going too fast. We have his insurance information.

Do you believe that? The hospital did not report is as a vehicle-related injury, so he COULD have gotten away with it. But he was decent and honest about it.

Sometimes I think this world isn't so bad. He lives around the corner from us. I kinda want to send him a get well card or something.

It Goes On

The Husband was taking LaGuz to the vet this morning. She's still limping and he's worried (as am I). On the way there, not five minutes from the house, a large Harley overshot the curve, crossed the center line, creamed the side of my car, and kept on going.

He left behind a piece of his running boards, which is why we are sure it was a Harley. He trailed bits of my car yards along the road. Highway Patrol suspects he was either messed up on chemicals or driving on a suspended license, because otherwise -- what the hell? -- he would have stopped. They are looking for him, but I'm not holding my breath.

So, the entire driver's side of my car has been pretty nicely messed up. Side mirror is gone. Wheel covers are a loss. Front bumper has a hole. All four panels are crumpled. The car is drivable, but it ain't a happy thing.

LaGuz did not make it to the vet (short hours on Sat.)

Also -- $200 deductable on my insurance.

*sigh* Ok, that's all the drama I need for the week. It can stop now.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Another Not-So-Stellar Week

Allergies are completely kicking my ass. I think I pulled a muscle in my chest sneezing. I've even run a fever, although there is no sign of infection. I feel like the Atlantic is trying to fill my head.

LaGuz, our Kitty of Perpetual Worry, is limping badly on her rear right leg. We don't know why. She's eating (as much as she ever eats), drinking water, and when she wants to go somewhere, she just gets up and goes, although it is so painful to watch her that we carry her around until we figure out what she wanted (Potty? Water? Food? A different place to lay?) We are both concerned that she's coming to the end of her life and we just aren't paying attention, but she still wants to eat treats, she still shows occasional interest in playing, she still wants to be pet and snuggled, and she enjoys looking out the window -- totally normal cat stuff. So...on we go. I have this dread of going to look for her one morning and finding a little feline corpse.

Still no word on the job, so we've done nothing to the house as yet. We talk about it and think about it, but until we know if we are staying or going, we can't act. The Husband is churning through his last few weeks of school, hovering in that limbo land -- knowing the school has him scheduled to teach two classes next fall but not having a contract, wondering how we will survive over the summer, attending department meetings like a member of the faculty without actually being a member -- it's crazy making because it could all go up in a puff of dreams in a second with the magic words "We can't offer you a contract" are said.

And what if the other two positions he's applied for don't come around either? He hasn't found a lot of other potential positions. They would all mean moving somewhere else, too.

I'm waiting for the NiQuil to kick in so I can breathe. As soon as I can breathe, I intend to pass out.