Monthly Archives: June 2015

Reading, an update.

“I’ll read 50 more pages of this book,” I thought as I got into bed last night. “Just 50, and then I’ll have half the book left to read.”

Friends, I was up until I read the very last page. I consider this a two fold triumph: 1) my concentration has improved greatly. 2) I found a fantastic book.

Sadly, there’s also 3) I think I read it before.

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Wake Up, Sir! by Jonathan Ames was the book; it’s an odd mix of Wodehousian sensibility with a hero that’s a mix of Bertie Wooster and Woody Allen in every Woody Allen movie (FYI I hate Woody Allen movies, but somehow it worked) (also fyi I stole that combination from Goodreads reviews, but it seems a near universal description). It didn’t read like someone trying to write like the great P.G., more like someone who has absorbed so much Wooster that they start thinking like him. And to clarify, I don’t mean that the book is written like that, more that Alan ACTS like that. It’s pretty great.

I’ve read a lot of good books this spring & summer. I’ve started the Dark Tower series by Stephen King (on the recommendation of a coworker who has been lending me them. ‘If you can get through the first one, the rest are amazing!’ she promised, and she’s so right). I also read the first Wheel of Time book with the second in my to read pile. I liked it, but didn’t love it — it felt dry in a way I didn’t expect. There was some charm missing, somehow: it was dark and panicky and relentless. I was wishing for a few more visits to, say, a place like Rivendell. Even Bilbo had some peace now and then on his journey to Smaug.

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Where I am on my reading list: book 59 (there are some technical rereads tho)

Then there was A Wizard of Earthsea, which I remember trying to read as a kid and not liking. It’s YA, i guess, but even Le Guin says she thinks the distinction is a bit odd. It had the moments of peace I was missing in the Jordan.

There’s a lot of fantasy in the list and that’s on purpose: I need the escapism that fantasy gives. In my exhaustion and sorrow, I need to live in other worlds for a while.

In the current pile of to reads is a Dave Barry book because everyone needs some levity, the next Wheel of Time, an Agatha Christie and a Dorothy L. Sayers because a good british murder mystery is a fantastic palette cleanser, a Mercedes Lackey, Catch-22 which is a reread but is on my classics list, a Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy because I want to support Sam Maggs, the final book in the Magician’s Trilogy, Alexandra Petri’s book because I love her, Darkness at Noon which is also on my classics list, and the Just City by Jo Walton because I’m not brave enough to face the sorrow of My Real Children but I love her writing all the same. Basically, I have a lot of worlds to read — and I am so glad I’ve gotten myself to the point where I can focus in on them.
And the very best news of all is that Scarlett Thomas’ new book comes out on July 1st. God, I love her. She may be my favorite contemporary author (it would be a tight race between her and Terry Pratchett). In the past her books fell into my life at exactly at the right spot, like a puzzle piece. If I’m lucky, this one will too.

What I’m Bad At: 3s

One day I was scrolling through the app store for work, looking for something interesting to write about &  was intrigued to find Gaming 101: Learn to Play Like a Pro. I am pretty confident in my gaming ability as superior on puzzle games, good on mmos and “eh” on everything else (a little less than middle of the road, a little more than awful), but I was interested to see what their thought process was.

Game one was Threes. You know, the game that defined the genre.  “Easy-to-learn number-matching game” they said.

Well, ok, it IS. I grant you that it’s easy to learn. And it’s simple and addictive and a great game, well worth the money (there’s an ad-supported free version now too). The concept is simple: you slide numbers on a board together to double them, then double them again and again and again. Of course, with each slide you gain another number on the board, so you have to plan ahead.

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Turns out, I AM TERRIBLE at this. The game keeps track a) of your high scores and b) your highest combination. My highest score is about 3300, my highest combination is 192 (so that’s 1+2, 3+3, 6+6, 12+12, 24+24, 48+48, 92+92). I have never gotten 184, much less higher.

For the record, the current highest score is 1,378,566. That’s right, I am 1,375,000-odd points worse than the best player. JESUS CHRIST.

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I shouldn’t be surprised. I don’t like RTS which is all about thinking multiple turns ahead, so why should I be good at this? The thing that surprised me is I don’t get BETTER. Although to be fair, when I’m about three moves in I stop trying to think too far and start going on instinct, so maybe it’s not that I couldn’t get better but that I’m too lazy to.

I actually think this says something about me as a person, too. I don’t live in the future. I think, at most, two or three steps ahead.

Ugh. Learning life lessons from iOS games is the WORST.

Week in Pictures: Week Ending 6/21

Featuring the scariest newspaper ad I ever did see, the darkest 9:30 am I’ve seen, and many quiet moments in the woods.

A clean well lit place*

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It’s been a horrendous week for my brain (and actually a horrendous week for the country, so you know, bad all around). I sank in deep to the tides of sorrow, only they weren’t a gentle tug, they were a tsunami. Woke up Sunday drowning and have only really surfaced now and again until today.

It felt like I catapulted back into crisis mode. Responding to texts, emails felt like torture. (I just texted a friend I’ve been thinking about who is struggling and this knowledge made me tell her: This is not something you have to respond to. Just thinking of you. I’m here when you need me).

I don’t know that I’m out of the woods yet. But I do feel better. And on my drive to work I thought about what I wanted next. My brain can only come up with an image: a sunny, clean room in the afternoon, that golden light.  And a sense of security. That’s all I want.

Doesn’t seem like much, but on Sunday there was an article in the Cape Cod Times about our housing crisis here: housing doesn’t exist, and where it does it’s priced out of most people’s range. And I had a crisis, which kicked off the blues. It means I can’t stay here. I didn’t really want to stay here long term anyway, but with all the chaos in my life I thought one more year. And maybe this is a blessing in disguise because it’ll get me free of here, it’ll force my hand. But there’s Baxter to consider: an old dog.

A sunshiney Saturday afternoon, dust moted light, a sense of being safe.

 

*a nod to one of the few Hemingway stories I’ve ever enjoyed, A Clean Well-Lighted Place:

‘…This is a clean and pleasant cafe. It is well lighted. The light is very good and also, now, there are shadows of the leaves.’

Week in Pictures: Week ending 6/14

State of being: poor.

I have been really good about exercising lately. You can mock, but I learned from my Apple Watch that although I stand all day at work and take the dog for two walks a day, I wasn’t getting much true, heart pounding exercise. So I’ve been better about it, running and dancing and strength.

This morning, though, I woke up reluctantly. Grey sky, humid, no hope of rain (what I wouldn’t give for a two day rainstorm, washing in, washing out). I took the dog for a mosquito laden walk: I wear two layers and a hood and still get eaten alive. I dread to hear about the first case of EEE this year.

Normally in the mornings I lecture myself about not thinking right away: shut it down. Wait till I have caffeine. Don’t make judgements about the day until I’m all the way awake. I wake bleak, is what I’m saying. And usually I shake that off to an extent (it hasn’t even been 4 months since my dad passed, I’m not expecting to be tip-top) but today I haven’t shaken it off. So I didn’t exercise because I think it’s fine to skip a day here and there, and I really REALLY didn’t feel like it, but I’m wondering now if that is a big chunk of my bleakness. I can undo it: I can exercise tonight, slot it in between other plans. But I don’t want to.

I want to go home, leave work behind, crawl into bed with a pile of books, and just not come out for hours, days, a week.

I wrote an email to Ch00 earlier. “I don’t even feel like playing games,” I said. It’s true: they feel like a chore. The only things I can do, that don’t feel like chores, are reading and listening to John Finnemore’s Souvenir Program. Mostly I’m asleep at 9:30, I wake up at 5:30. It’s still vaguely light at 9, summer nights. I’m wasting them. I’m wasting a lot of time. I’ve spent hours crouched in front of cabinets, washing and rewashing to get rid of layers of grease. It shows in that the cabinets look clean, but I feel defensive because that doesn’t reflect the TIME, the frustration. It doesn’t show how I washed every pot and pan before putting them all back. It doesn’t reflect the frustration of cleaning one thing and then another and not making significant, clear progress. My aunt stopped by recently and we spent the day in the outer Cape, and she sympathized. “After hours of cleaning when it’s not perfect, you just get angry,” she said. And I do. But more, I get defensive, because I’m not really GOOD at angry. I’m great at angry at myself, but not so much at anything else.

In this humid, dry week, I just feel like a storm is gathering. Something’s going to give, somewhere.

 

Week in Photos, Week Ending 6/7

It has been a cold but lovely week in the woods. The honeysuckle has shed, the lakes have been still, perfect mirrors to the sky. Waterlilies are almost in bloom floating in the sky, nature’s an amazing gardener (check out that perfect log garden, can’t you just imagine it in some minimalist house?) and morning light can’t be beat.

There’s (not a) halo ’round the moon.

 

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Before I started up Majora’s Mask, the only thing I remembered about it was the Moon. Well, I lie: I remember the moon and the stressful countdown.

I thought about this game last night as I was falling asleep. The moonrise was haloed, creepy. “There’s a halo round the moon / so I know it’s not to blame…”

What I didn’t remember is what a trippy, drugged out fantasy that game is. There’s a popular, controversial theory that Link is dead in this game, but even without that it’s strange, unsettling. It’s not really surprising that the best Zelda creepypasta (Ben Drowned) is set in this world. The moon looms over you with a twisted, grimacing face, crying and growing closer. People seem confused, distant. They won’t let the musician practice his music, they won’t deposit money in the bank. In Clock Town, there’s not even a map (unless you buy one from Tingle who spends most of his time floating above a green field, dreaming of being a fairy). You wander from place to place, watching the time click down, always doom above and doom around.

Of course, there’s also the fact that Link is (briefly) a Deku. It’s just unsettling.

These are the formative games of my youth, so returning to them makes me feel a little funny anyway. Maybe I’m getting sick, but playing Majora’s Mask feels a bit like a fever dream. I can’t wait to fall into it again.

Week in Photos, Last Week of May

Featuring watercolored water, cheeky leaves, ghostly Baxter, frothy rosa rugosa and rhododendron, a (not actually endangered but I would never pick it anyway) lady slipper, and the perfect day.

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