Entertainment Archives

All the musings about TV, books, and movies, etc that is fit to print post.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

What Had Happened Was - Reading Edition

Reading meme from Tumblr

There’s a reason memes are so popular (among the olds I mean. Apparently the young people are over them.) - they can ring so true. When I saw the one in the image above, I burst out laughing and had to immediately post it to Facebook because it so perfectly captured where my reading life is right now. I’ve written before about my extensive (though I still content that a mere 700 or so books isn’t a very big number of books) collection and how comforting it is to be surrounded by all those unread books, all the potential of diving in to different lives and worlds.

That said, at the rate I’ve been reading for the last, oh, probably decade now, you wouldn’t know that I enjoy reading much. I don’t think I’ve met my Goodreads reading challenge in several years. I came sort of close last year, reading 21 of the 26 books I pledged to read. I decided this would be the year that that changes and pledged to read 30 books in 2019.

So far, I’ve being doing pretty good, with 17 books already read. But things have slowed down a bit in the last month so unless I pick the pace back up I may not make it. What I’ve rediscovered is that carving out reading time isn’t so hard but I am still easily distracted by the TV or phone. I’m also having to be careful about the books I choose - right now my reading choices are still more fluff than substance. I’d like to say that the brain is ready for learning! For serious, thought provoking content! But like any muscle, it’s a bit out of practice so as much as I may want to dive full in to Sapiens or All Quiet on the Western Front or What Social Classes Owe to Each Other (all of which I have on the Kindle app on the iPhone), those are proving to be a bit too dense. But I still have hope. I mean, if moving hundreds of books across the country twice and from apartment to apartment several times isn’t about hope then what is it? Besides proof that I’m a very foolish person, I mean.

Here are the books I’ve read so far:
The Naked Sun (Robot, #2), Asimov
The Caves of Steel (Robot, #1), Asimov
Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, West
Heidi, Spyri
Bad Blood (Virgil Flowers, #4), Sanford
When Never Comes, Davis
Dark of the Moon (Virgil Flowers, #1), Sanford
This is the New Happy, Frankel
Golden Prey, (Lucas Davenport, #27), Sanford
The Jungle Book, Kipling
Halsey Street, Coster
Ninth and Nowhere, Deaver
Blood for Blood (Ziba MacKenzie, #1), Selman
Deadlock (V.I. Warshawski, #2), Paretsky
The Great Passage, Miura
Indemnity Only, Paretsky
The Tenth Island: Finding Joy, Beauty, and Unexpected Love in the Azores, Marcum

So far, my favorite would have to be The Great Passage. I can definitely see me reading that more than once. If you’re looking for a book to read, I would definitely recommend it.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Installs and Stagnation

The trouble with being a wanna-be geek is that trying to rebuild my websites is WORK. And because it’s work the motivation to get it done isn’t always there. Tonight though I had a brief spurt of “let’s get it done” and logged in.

Well, tried to log in. It’s been so many months since I last logged in that I first had to cycle through a few domains to remember where the latest installation of Expression Engine is housed. Nerd people problems, having more than one domain to keep up with. Anyway, found it, logged in and thought again how it’s about time that EE has automatic upgrades. Well, almost automatic. I still have to hit the update link; still, better than before, which is part of the reason why I’m struggling with the task. I have two very old installs still in use that I’ve neglected and which are requiring a fresh start.

An hour later and I figured out the slideshow. :D Okay, to be fair, part of that time was also spent selecting photos and getting them ready to post. Gotta say, not terribly impressed with the image functions in EE. I think there are modules one can buy but, yeah, that won’t be happening.

Whenever I jump back into the web stuff I remember why I enjoy it so much but also how frustrating it is for me. If I were better at it I probably wouldn’t let so many months go in between attempts.

I’m gonna go do a little reading now. I restarted The Brothers Karamazov. I tried to pick up where I’d left off a few years ago but was having a hard time getting back into it so back to page one I went. I’m finding the reading to be going much better this time so who knows, maybe this is the year that both that book and the websites are taken off the To Do list. Wouldn’t that be something?

Monday, June 25, 2018

Reading Requires Muscles, Too

I used to be a voracious reader. I used to run through two, three books a week. While I know there are others that read faster, for me, that was a nice clip. Although I can’t pinpoint when that habit slowed down, in my head, despite evidence to the contrary, I’m still a reader. However, right now I think I’m more of a “thinking about reading” type of person. Given my extensive collection of books - I say that but, really, I only own about 800 or so books; a number that I don’t really think merits the use of the word extensive but I have been told that I have very little perspective on the matter so I allow others to influence my vocabulary here. But back to my point, I do believe I had one. While I have all these books, these last few years they feel more like art, or a security blanket. I love the look of my books being out on the shelves. I feel better just by looking at them. Better, that is, when I push down the good amount of guilt I feel at not reading more.

2018 Reading Challenge

Every year I log into Goodreads and set my reading challenge. Every year, despite seeing the small number of books I actually read the year before, I set a goal of 20+ books. And around this time of the year I start to realize that unless I start calling in sick to work and read nonstop day and night I simply will not meet the challenge. It’s quite annoying really. So, in the last month I’ve been reminding myself that reading is brain exercise and that I need to just practice my reading habit again.

Currently Reading number

I’ve not set anything as ambitious as reading a number of pages each day but I have set a goal of not starting new books so that I can work through the 58 “currently reading” titles on my Goodreads aptly named “currently reading” virtual bookshelf. If i buckled down and simply read these books that are in various stages of completeness, reaching my goal would be a cinch.

Of all the books I have started, I decided I’d try to finish Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot - partly because I saw the movie and liked the story, partly because I read better when I’m physically holding a book and, honestly, it also just seemed like an easier read than some of the others on the list.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot book cover

WTF reading progress

I started the book in May of 2016, May 15th to be exact. You gotta love stats, right? 10% of the book was read in 2016, when I bought the book. Another 5% read in 2017. All of 2017, wow. And here I am, set to finish, finally, in 2018. You know, as bad as my memory is, it’s a good thing I have a relatively good memory for what happens in books otherwise each book would have so many restarts!

It’s a bit sad that I’m so excited about finishing a book but, hey, every little bit helps is the motto for this, and pretty much everything else in my life at the moment so I’ll take it.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Fahrenheit 451

According to Goodreads I am currently reading more than 40 books. I just can’t seem to find a reading groove. Though I suppose I shouldn’t say that as if it’s a new problem. This book, though, I think this has a decent chance of being finished. The first five pages went quick. Plus, it’s only 146 pages so how daunting could it be. If the reading muscles are out of shape it’s probably a good strategy to pick shorter books rather than the 800 page behemoths that don’t do much except cause me such silly guilt.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Who needs drugs?

Photo of book inventory app

I don’t drink, nor do I have any experience, really, with mind altering medications. I have no frame of reference, then, to speak about feeling high. I imagine it must feel a bit like the way I felt tonight (albeit amplified by a hundred degrees) when I was using my smart phone to inventory my books.

It was a matter of simply opening the scan app, pointing the camera at the bar code and waiting for the beep that let me know the code had been read correctly. Under a minute I scanned about 20 books. As a frame of reference, when I first used the Delicious Library app about a decade ago, it took me longer than a minute to look up a book online, find a link I could import into the system or do the entry manually. To say the very least, it was a tedious chore. But now, with the magic and wonder that is a paired iPhone, the work is no work at all. I can’t wait until I am able to unpack my many many books and scan them all in.

Even if my computer hadn’t died several years ago and taken my old inventory with it, I probably would have started from scratch. Between giving/selling books, misplacing them, adding new ones, sometimes it’s just better to start fresh than to cull through hundreds of listings to figure out what I have or don’t have.

There’s probably a lesson in there somewhere, isn’t there? Holding on to things can become as much a habit as anything else. As hard as it may be, perhaps it’s best to just close your eyes, open up the hand and let go. Or you could just neglect to back up your computer in a way that makes sense and just let nature run its course, letting an old drive die a natural (unexpected) death. Whichever seems the most appropriate to you.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Hodge Podge

When I revived the blog I said I was doing it because there were things that needed to be written. That remains true. Writing has always been cathartic for me, it was a way to get the swirling thoughts out of my head in a way that made me process emotions, ideas, aspirations, fears, anger, etc. Everything that happened last year should have been accompanied by heavy bouts of writing but I was so out of habit, not just with blogging, but with actual writing that I didn’t do it. As a consequence, all of these words continue to live in my head.

The problem is, I don’t want this to be the cancer blog. I don’t want to have entry after entry of just depressing content. Because, that’s the thing about writing in public, isn’t it? It isn’t just a therapeutic exercise. It’s the creation of “content”; the understanding that the words, once given life outside of myself, are going to be processed by others and that changes things. This isn’t a bad thing, this isn’t a condemnation of living our lives, part of our lives, in public spaces. It’s just a layer. How much that matters is up to each of us.

As I chafe against having every entry be about the cancer, and, hell, if I’m honest the cancer isn’t what I think about or cry over on still a very regular basis. It’s the infertility, stupid. That’s the root of the sadness. So, because I don’t want this to be entry after entry about how that has affected me, I don’t write. I don’t write despite knowing I need to write.

So, for now, I’ll just do a bit of a brain dump:

  • Thing one: I finished A Tale of Two Cities. I had a hard time finding a groove because of the style of writing. The story itself I enjoyed very much so I know I’ll go back and reread it at some point. I also greatly enjoyed having the chance to discuss the book with someone; so the mini-bookclub was a success in that regard. I realized that while I was aware of the famous first line (It was the best of times…) I wasn’t attributing another famous line to this story. When I read the last line (It is a far, far better thing that I do…) I gasped and thought, “Oh! That is from this book?!?” I know know exactly why I find that note worthy and yet I do. Next up for the mini-bookclub is Atlas Shrugged. It’s one of those books that people reference a lot (especially lately) but that I can’t speak to having never read it. From the little I know about the book the reading and discussion should be interesting.
  • I am so close to being done with the cross stitch project that I intend to give to my mother on Mother’s Day. I’m generally happy with the way it’s come out. It has been a few years since I worked on a project this big (it’s an 8x11 cross stitch) so it’s given me ample time to become aware of the short cuts I take. I imagine that may improve if I stick with the plan of stitching on a more regular basis. Though I don’t want to impose such a tight deadline on myself for anything else. Getting this done for May has meant putting aside other activities and that’s definitely not a sustainable way to live my life.

Hmm. I thought I had a third thing but maybe the beginning of this entry was thing number one. This will do for now.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

My Reading Rules

After reading a blog post on Bookriot about reading rules I started thinking about mine.

  • Never dog ear a book. I tend to not use bookmarks and if I do, it’s something thin, like a receipt or even a square of tissue.
  • Related to the above, if the book is new, I endeavor to not break the spine. For quick reads, it appeals to me to be done with a book and still have it look good as new.
  • That said, if a book requires thought and time to finish and understand, having it gently show wear also appeals to me.
  • I like to have more than one book going at the same time. They have to be of different topics so it’s easy to keep track of each book’s progress. I move between books as the moods strikes but inevitably one book will rise above the rest and compel me to devote my time to only it. I let the stories tell me how to read.
  • I’ve tried to get into reading books on the Kindle but I find that I still prefer reading paper books best. Although I’ve been reading A Tale of Two Cities on the Kindle, progress is so slow. I blame the ability to be distracted so easily. No matter how engrossed I think I am in a story, when I hear a ding or feel the buzz of the phone in my hand, I am pulled away to check emails or make a move on a game. I wish I were better able to ignore the notifications but that seems to only happen when I’m holding a paper book in my hands.
  • If it’s a series, I have to read the books in order.
  • I try to end at a chapter but that’s sometimes difficult if I’ve read long into the night and have to admit that sleep is more necessary than getting to the end of a chapter.
  • At some point in a story, I find the need to know the ending. I don’t fight this; sometimes all I need to do is read the last page, sometimes it’s the last chapter. Only once has this actually ruined a book for me. Knowing how a book ends detracts not one bit from wanting to know how it got to that ending.
  • No marginalia on quick reads. But I do make rare exceptions on school books, history/philosophy books, etc. Basically any books that I a) intend on keeping and b) require significant thought to understand.
  • Unless I am sure that I will be reading the book multiple times, I gift/donate the book so that others can enjoy it.

I think those cover my rules. Though it does feel as if I’m missing something. I’ll add to it if I remember anything. So, the question now is, do you have any reading rules?

Friday, February 26, 2016

More Hours in the Day Wouldn’t Help Me

I have memories of being an avid reader so despite the fact that my reading levels have gone down steadily for several years now, I still think of myself as being an avid reader. I still love books. I still collect them despite putting myself on a book buying ban back in 2007. It was necessary, really. It wasn’t uncommon for me to buy a dozen books a month and simply put them on the shelf, to be read later. As a consequence, I’ve built a nice diverse personal library. This I consider an accomplishment and it pains me that the bulk of my books have been in storage for three years. I yearn for the day when I am once again surrounded by my books.

When I moved in with friends and was once again living in limited space I carefully chose 30-40 books that I swore would tide me over until I would be on my own again and reunited with my library. Of course, the bulk of those 30-40 books have gone unread as I’ve purchased more books. Due to the limited living quarters, however, I have delved deeper into the e-book market (though I don’t much like it. I do it simply for the convenience. A convenience that I actually dislike and resent so go figure.)

A Tale of Two Cities cover art

I lost the point of the post immediately after the first two sentences, I believe so let’s get back to it. Despite believing myself to be an avid reader, my reading levels have gone down. So, to do something about it, I convinced a friend to read A Tale of Two Cities with me. Believing that if I had a deadline and a promise of a book discussion I would be more dedicated to the reading.

This would have been, I still contend, a solid plan had I not decided to work on a cross stitching project for Mother’s Day.

As quick background, during the last two trips to El Salvador, I have completed a small, quick cross stitching project for a favored aunt. My mother, while appreciating that I am doing something nice for someone she cares for, has also expressed mild jealousy over the fact that I’ve never done something similar for her.

Still riding the nice mellow high of completing a project, making something pretty that someone really enjoyed, when we came back from our vacation this January, I had the brilliant though of starting a new project and why not kill two birds with one stone and make something for my mother in time for the May observance. But what to stitch for her, I wondered.

I quickly considered and rejected various themes and then I realized something religious would do the trick. Thankfully, Amazon came to the rescue with a cross stitch kit of Our Lady of Guadalupe who she has tremendous appreciation of. Perfect! I though, she’s going to love this. Or so the theory goes and I certainly hope I’m right or I’m going to be ridiculously disappointed.

Lady of Guadalupe

So what does one have to do with the other you ask? Or maybe you’re not asking and you know exactly where I’m going with this.

The 8.5x11 cross stitch work has been taking up the bulk of my time and, honestly, also my interest. While I have started the book, I’m no where near close to being finished with it and the book discussion is this coming Monday. Trouble! I’m going to have to focus on the book over the weekend, a fact that leaves me wishing I didn’t have to because I want to really only focus on the cross stitch. Leading me to the title of the post, at first I found myself thinking, I wish I had more hours in the day so I could focus on different things, the reality of it is that I would probably still only focus those hours on the cross stitch project. I’m that obsessed with it right now. This is a good thing however. Because I’ve made great progress on it and I have no doubt that I’ll finish it way before the May deadline.


Because I’ve enjoyed working on this so much I’ve been thinking I should get back into the habit of doing one or two projects a year but if I do that, I’m going to need to figure out how to balance out the work because I can’t continue to ignore other things (such as focusing on exercise, reading, photography) simply to churn out cross stitching projects.

Monday, February 01, 2016

When in doubt, psychologize

postcards from the edge screen grab

I expected to like Carrie Fisher’s book, Postcards from the Edge, because I enjoyed the movie. Though I haven’t seen it in a while scenes from the movie, lines, the tone in which those lines were delivered often pop into my head. (“It twirled up!”)

To my surprise I didn’t care for the book. So much so that I felt guilty and out of touch. I’m supposed to like this, I thought. Where or when this was message was picked up by me I do not know. With trepidation I opened a Gchat window and sent a message to Miss Bliss, “is it wrong,” I asked, “that I don’t like postcards from the edge?” After explaining why - seems too self indulgent, too pithy, I didn’t care for any of the main characters etc - I decided to absolve myself from the senseless guilt and just let it be. Though this is where I perhaps express some delight in not having a library card. Ha! There’s no card to strip me off, library mafia! That is a thing, yes? Oh, why am I asking? As if anyone would admit it.

After the chat, I thought I was done thinking about the book but I was wrong. As I finished my dinner from a fast food place it hit me. The main reason why this book troubles me. In my chat with Bliss I mentioned that the description of Suzanne’s therapy sessions was the reason I chose to not become a therapist. The idea of sitting day after day listening to people analyze their lives and yet make no progress- I wasn’t built for that! How dreadful, I thought then and I still think that now.

But with the smell of the burger and fries still lingering in the air, the grease sitting heavy in my stomach, I thought, “That’s me. I’m Suzanne.” Mind you, this is no grand epiphany. I’ve had probably every thought one can have about food and dieting, fat and exercise in the oh 40-some years of living in this world as a fat person.

No, the epiphany was that I didn’t dislike the book for the writing, the unlikable characters, the overly pithy dialogue. I disliked it for something Ms. Fisher can’t control. Her book was a mirror and the reflection I saw is of something I say I want to change and yet I haven’t found the strength to do so. Much like Suzanne keeps gravitating to men who don’t fill the void she’s feeling, I keep choosing food that does nothing but leave me feeling weak, out of control and undisciplined. I’m the person on the couch, year after year, boring the therapist with my overly indulgent thoughts as to why I make these choices, rationalizing them, and still not capable of just stopping.

As a psychology major I believe we work our good and bad habits for a reason. What I can’t or won’t admit to myself is exactly what I get from staying fat. It isn’t a love of food. Oh, do I wish it were that. At least if that were the case I would have enjoyed getting this fat.

So, these are things I’m pondering. I also wonder if I should go back to Goodreads to revise the three star rating I gave the book. I’m not sure yet.

The only thing I’m sure about is that I’m feeling good that I went to the gym and did 40 minutes on the treadmill. I didn’t make great food choices today and the one gym session won’t undo all the calories I took in but it was one good decision. And for now one good decision will have to do.