Out of the Rabbit Hole

My last post was 318 days ago. What in the actual f@$# was I doing for 318 days? Desperately climbing out of this hollow place of despair also known as the rabbit hole.

The duration of my visits depends on how much I over-commit myself to people and/or projects. Managing my own mental health and the war within, trying to be a good human towards others, and striving to achieve my goals, all while trying to find my niche in this chaos so I can be a somewhat dependable being and contributing member of society, has left me wanting to nap to avoid the anxiety that comes with it all.

Alas, I pressed on and checked off many of my tasks from 30 Days of Projects. Due to certain projects changing while the rest took more days than anticipated – most notably Marie Kondo-ing the sh** out of my condo, the not-so-fun renegotiation of household bills, and putting the final touches on my office – I have been delayed on the last 10 projects on my list. Interestingly enough, my husband and I decided to sell our condo and randomly move to either Florida (and be closer to my seester Meriel but abandon seester Karo) or Baltimore to live in a high-rise overlooking the Harbor and the Ravens stadium even though I’m not a Ravens fan. Instead our second home is a cozy 1973 single-family house very much separated from our neighbors with lots of green space and much closer to seester Karo. In other words, and because I must be a glutton for punishment, I have a new set of projects. This time, however, I do not intend to return to that rabbit hole.

P.S. I did return to the dark side, or at least my hair color did.

The Silence of the Girls

The Silence of the Girls
Pat Barker

You’re off the edge of the map, mate. Here there be spoilers.


Alternate title: I Suddenly Remembered I Promised Book Reviews.

This was an interesting read. I’ve been on kind of a Greek mythology kick ever since I read Circe, so The Silence of the Girls made its way onto my reading list the minute goodreads suggested it.

The Silence of the Girls is a woman’s-eye view of the Trojan War, a first-person account narrated by Briseis, queen of Lyrnessus. Following the sack of Lyrnessus, Briseis is captured and given to Achilles as war booty. She lives in the Greek camp for about a year (I think?) before the sack of Troy, during which time she observes the people around her, forges new bonds with her fellow slaves, and tries to survive as best she can. Eventually, of course, she becomes a point of contention between Achilles and Agamemnon, and is used and abused by both men in their fight for dominance. Later in the book her narrative is interspersed with chapters narrated by Achilles, whose mental state can be described as fragile at best.

I’ve always loved Greek mythology, so I found Silence fascinating. Though it’s still a retelling of the Trojan War, it added a number of new things that I hadn’t read before: Briseis, who in other retellings is most definitely not a queen, is the wife of Mynes, son of the king of Lyrnessus; Patroclus has a girlfriend/war prize of his own, named Iphis; Hector’s body and face magically rejuvenate every night after his death, causing Achilles to drag him all over the camp in a furious attempt to obliterate him; Briseis tries to run away, but thinks better of it five minutes later; Achilles has mummy issues. (Okay, that one I kind of knew.)

One of the best things about the book is Briseis’ observant and often dry-humored narrative, which gives a face and a voice to some of the thousands of women who were enslaved and then forgotten during the course of the war. Unlike other authors, Barker doesn’t glorify the war or try to portray Achilles as heroic; though he is a nearly undefeatable demigod, he is also described as a thug, a butcher, an overgrown child who clings to Patroclus and Briseis because they remind him of his mother. She doesn’t force Briseis to fall in love with Achilles, or with any of the other Greeks. Though Briseis decides not to run away from Achilles later in the book, her decision is based on a very painful logic: even if she does succeed in running away and hiding in Troy, she knows that Troy will fall within weeks, and that she will suffer more than she already has when she is recaptured. And, though she ends up married to one of Achilles’ servants, this is also for a practical reason: Achilles, knowing that Briseis is pregnant with his child and that he only has days left, arranges the marriage and instructs her new husband to take her and her child to his (Achilles’) father’s court. There is some sliiiiiiight Stockholm Syndrome towards the end, as Briseis grows somewhat more accepting of her life with Achilles, but, given that she had by that point been badly abused by Agamemnon, I can understand her softening a bit towards Achilles and wanting to make the best of things. I went into this book wanting sweeping heroics from her, but, in retrospect, I think that’s the point Barker is trying to make: that sweeping heroics are not always possible, and that sometimes, in terrible situations like the one Briseis is forced into, the best you can do is survive. This is never made clearer than it is in this powerful passage towards the end of the book:

I do what no man before me has ever done, I kiss the hands of the man who killed my son.

Those words echoed round me, as I stood in the storage hut, surrounded on all sides by the wealth Achilles had plundered from burning cities. I thought: And I do what countless women before me have been forced to do. I spread my legs for the man who killed my husband and my brothers.

And yet, despite the horrors she has witnessed and even though escape would be pointless, Briseis still realizes that she and the other slave women have survived and will continue to survive.

There they were: battle-hardened fighters every one, listening to a slave sing a Trojan lullaby to her Greek baby. And suddenly I understood something – glimpsed, rather; I don’t think I understood it till much later. I thought: We’re going to survive – our songs, our stories. They’ll never be able to forget us. Decades after the last man who fought at Troy is dead, their sons will remember the songs their Trojan mothers sang to them. We’ll be in their dreams – and in their worst nightmares too.

In the end, Silence isn’t particularly emotionally fulfilling. It is not a revenge epic. It is not a wish fulfillment fantasy. It is the story of a woman struggling to survive and eventually making a new life for herself after her world is destroyed. The book ends with these words:

Now, my own story can begin.

Of course, it wouldn’t really be a review if I didn’t complain at least a little bit…

Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m really not sold on the writing. The book wasn’t badly written. Some of it was lovely. Unfortunately, the slang and a lot of the dialogue in general was very………..British. I had no issue with the profanity; presumably every language has its own version of fuck and all variations thereof, so it makes perfect sense that the Greeks – particularly the Greek soldiers – would’ve been singing something like this:

Why was he born so beautiful?
Why was he born at all?
He’s no fucking use to anyone!
He’s no fucking use at all!
He may be a joy to his mother,
But he’s a pain in the arsehole to me!

Other quotes made less sense.

  1. “Look at the cheeky little sods,” he kept saying. “Look at them.”
  2. Bribe him, plead with him, kiss his sodding arse if you’ve got to, but for god’s sake, make the bugger fight!
  3. “Me mam sent the midwife downstairs in the end. ‘You go and get yourself a cup of wine,’ she says. ‘I’ll stop with her.’ And the minute the midwife was out the room, she whipped the covers off and I don’t know what she did, but oh my god, the relief. Ten minutes later he was born. ‘Oh,’ the midwife says, ‘I didn’t think she was as close as that.’ Me mam just smiled.”

I realize with that last one you’re supposed to understand that the character is speaking with a different accent, but that was a peculiar way of conveying the class of a Trojan woman. The book also frequently uses the word “bloody” (okay, I guess…….I suppose ancient Greek could’ve had a comparable word) and “for god’s sake.” The Greeks worshipped many gods. Barker clearly knows this. Everyone who’s ever picked up Greek mythology knows this. To which god are the characters referring when they say “For god’s sake”? Surely they’re not referring to the Christian god whose name most of us take in vain nowadays? Was it really that fucking hard to write “For gods’ sake” instead? THIS IS KILLING ME.

The writing, for me, was the greatest obstacle in reading the book. It didn’t go quite as far as “Reader, I married him,” but the modern slang, Briseis’ internal arguments, and other minor irritants sprinkled throughout the book all added up to a very jarring, aggravating style. I was in Troy – and then I wasn’t. I was in the Greek camp on the beach, and then Myron was talking about “cheeky little sods” and suddenly I was in a pub watching the Greek army get hammered and yell about soccer. The Britishisms constantly dropped me out of the narrative, which overall walks a blurry line between beautiful, acceptable, and irritating. Barker also tries to dictate the reader’s internal pronunciation with hyphenated words that shouldn’t actually be hyphenated, such as “We-ell,” “List-en,” and “Ye-es.” Even more aggravating than the British slang and hyphenated words is Briseis’ habit of speaking to an unseen person, who seems to be her own internal interrogative voice:

Would you really have married the man who’d killed your brothers?

Well, first of all, I wouldn’t have been given a choice. But yes, probably. Yes. I was a slave, and a slave will do anything, anything at all, to stop being a thing and become a person again.

I just don’t know how you could do that.

Well, no, of course you don’t. You’ve never been a slave.

This is an extremely valid point and one that I’m glad Barker consistently made, but it’s wrapped up in such a self-righteous bit of dialogue that it didn’t have the same impact it would’ve had if she’d written it differently. Between the hand-wringing “I just don’t know how you could do that!” and the self-consciously morally superior “Well, no, of course you don’t,” I came out of this particular chapter annoyed, which is probably not how the exchange was intended. In case you missed it the first time around, Barker considerately copied it and pasted it into a later chapter:

You were trying to arrange your marriage [to Achilles]…How could you do that?…I don’t understand how you could do that.

Perhaps that’s because you’ve never been a slave.

Also, I don’t actually remember her trying to arrange a marriage to Achilles at any point after Patroclus’ death? Did I miss something, or did Barker delete the scene where Briseis tried her luck? Whatever the case, I feel like there are better ways of explaining Briseis’ decisions than forcing her to argue with the handful of clueless voices camped out in her head. The narrative as a whole leaned rather heavily on the “I Must Make It Sound As If The Character Is Speaking Directly To The Reader” method, which, rather than making it sound natural and conversational, wrecked the flow of the prose and made it more contrived. Here’s a few examples:

  1. He made love – huh! – as if he hoped the next fuck would kill me.
  2. We-ell, in a manner of speaking I’d survived.
  3. Oh, yes, I got that story too.

CliffsNotes

The story was interesting. The writing drove me crazy. I personally prefer The Song of Achilles, which didn’t use stupid words like “shlurping,” but The Silence of the Girls is still very much worth reading.

2020 Vision: Use It

It’s officially 2020.

And in honor of the saying, “Hindsight is 2020,” I have some shit to say.

  1. Whatever and whomever you left in 2019 (or even years before that) can stay back there. Not everyone is meant to stay in your life forever, and whether time has simply caused you to part ways or they’re toxic and you burned that bridge after you crossed it, recognize that it isn’t worth your time and energy trying to maintain every single relationship. In 2020 we are letting sleeping dogs lie. My personal rule is that if someone wants to walk out of my life that’s fine; I will even hold the door. But I don’t do second chances. Once someone’s gone they have to stay that way. They made their bed and they have to lie in it. Life’s too short to go in circles that are really downward spirals with people who have already told us at least once that we don’t matter to them. When people show you who they are, believe them and act accordingly. Give that time and energy to your ride or dies. They’ll always have your back, and you get better ROI from investing time and energy into those relationships that you know are solid.
  2. Diets are dead, okay? By all means, make a healthy lifestyle change but enough with the “quick fixes” and marketing schemes. I’m sick of this shit. No more fucking gummy bears or shakes or teas or wraps or whatever the fuck some Insta-famous or reality tv celeb is trying to sell you. The only thing they’re selling is you out to immoral companies that use marketing tactics instead of science to eat away at your mental, emotional, physical, and financial health while doing nothing for your actual health. Knock that shit off. Stop letting them make money off of your insecurities. Stop letting them tell you something is wrong with your or needs to be fixed and buying their bullshit. If you want real advice on your health and wellbeing consult a medical doctor or licensed registered dietitian. Not an online trainer, not a YouTube video, not an Instagram model, not anyone trying to sell you anything. You are perfect just as you are, and we aren’t listening to anything else from anyone else. Which brings me to number three…
  3. Toxic people, if you didn’t leave them behind already, they gotta go. The guy you really like who gaslights you? Boy, bye. Your relative who always has a comment on your appearance? Should learn how to shut up if they don’t have anything nice to say. Your coworker who always wants you to cover for her and defend her even when she drops the ball but she never makes an effort to NOT drop the ball? Not anymore, satan. Arguing about dumb shit with strangers online? You know you feel bad afterwards even if you’re “right” – your mental and emotional health are more important (and frankly your eyes could use a break from the screen time, no matter how cute your blue light glasses are). Feeding trolls and clowns and asshats is like getting into a zoo animal’s enclosure. In case we haven’t learned already, it’s a terrible fucking idea don’t do it (but also like, what part of the fence and the “KEEP OUT” did you miss?).
  4. Do SOMETHING new this year to take better care of yourself. I don’t know how to tell you this but all of us are only getting older and shit’s only gonna get harder (oof, what a pun). But seriously; I don’t care if it’s as simple as “drink more water,” “get more sleep,” or “move more.” If you have the financial means to get medical treatment if something goes wrong, use it instead of being stubborn or lazy and letting a small problem become a big problem. Stop eating take-out five nights a week and start meal prepping real food. Seriously, your wallet and your stomach will both thank you. The body you have is the only one you’re ever gonna have. Start acting like it.
  5. Love people louder. If there’s a hard lesson I’ve learned over and over and over again it’s that no time is promised to us or anyone else. It’s a damn miracle we all made it to today. A lot of people didn’t. Don’t miss opportunities to tell the people you love that you do. You never know when your last chance will be, and I can guarantee you that leaving things left unsaid is a special kind of aching burden to carry once someone is gone. So give that person a call, send a letter or a card, go spend an afternoon with them. Time is our most precious commodity. Spend yours wisely.
  6. Find things that set your soul on fire, and give them the time you give Netflix or whatever other non-constructive pastimes you waste untold hours on. Don’t get me wrong, I’m guilty of this, too (arguably more than anyone). But spend more time doing shit that makes you happy. Dance, write, go somewhere, go outside and do something (hike, kayak, ride a bike, whatever), cook, read a book, explore your area. Do things that make you happy and make you a better you. If for no other reason than when someone asks what you did last weekend you’ll have more to say than, “lol watched netflix.”
  7. Keep learning. I’m not saying go become a master of Kung Fu, a musical savant, a Michelin-rated chef, and learn two new languages. But maybe try to read more books, keep tabs on global news, try new cuisines, listen to different TED talks, take an art class, pick up a new hobby… make your brain work a little harder and it’ll pay you back in spades when you aren’t a mushy-brained vegetable in a few decades. You might also find it gives you more to think about and more to contribute to conversations (at work, with friends, with family, et cetera). No more awkward silences for you, friend.
  8. Stop being so damned hard on yourself. I don’t care if you didn’t get that promotion you applied for or you haven’t cleaned your place in a month or forgot your grandma’s birthday. Don’t beat yourself up. Life’s full of obstacles and distractions and even though technology can help us be organized it cannot make us infallible (besides, that’d be boring AF). We’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to forget things even if they’re important to us. We’re going to hurt someone’s feelings even when we didn’t intend to. We’re going to drop the ball, miss the mark, whatever. It’s okay. It happens to everyone all the damn time. Don’t believe the seemingly “picture perfect” life of people who are on social media posting photos of their vacay in Bali and their #blessed bullshit. Those people don’t always fit in their jeans or get to work on time, either. Don’t worry about other people, just worry about yourself. And frankly if you’re doing your best you’ve got nothing to worry about anyway.
  9. Laugh more. You can do this with videos online, sure. But I personally highly recommend getting your laughs from real life, in real time, right in front of you. This is coming from someone who laughs if she trips walking on flat, stable surface, so bear with me here, but learn to laugh about it. Find the humor in the every day. I laugh when people misspell things (at work, on signs in store windows, etc). I laugh when I leave one room and go to another and can’t remember why. I laugh when my coworker makes a face when one of our peers is being obnoxious (whose idea was open office spaces, honestly?). I laugh when my cats are being goofy (you ever seen a cat on catnip?). Life’s just a lot easier when you find the humor in it.
  10. Just fucking be a decent human and be environmentally and socially conscious, okay? Recycle, turn your lights off if you don’t really need them on, unplug shit when you’re not using it, don’t leave your heat or your AC on some ridiculous temperature if you’re home by yourself (seriously walk around naked at that point no one cares), try to reuse if possible, use fewer disposables and single-use items, don’t run half-empty loads of laundry or a half-empty dishwasher, don’t have your existential crisis in the shower and waste water, don’t waste water when you’re brushing your teeth or doing the dishes, either… you get the picture. And let’s be honest, we know that corporations are the biggest polluters, but we play a role in that. Want palm deforestation to stop happening so orangutans can keep their homes and we keep healthy forests? Me, too. So stop buying peanut butter and coffee creamer and other products with palm oil in them and find alternatives. Don’t like the climbing temperatures, over-flowing landfills and abuse of laborers? Stop buying fast fashion and fast food. Want to reduce your carbon footprint? Buy local, in-season produce and products when available (bonus points: this also supports your local growers, artisans, and economy). We aren’t getting another planet to live on, so let’s not trash this one. Waste not, want not. Just kidding, I want a planet that’s not simultaneously on fire and going underwater due to rising sea levels. Thanks, pollution-fueled climate change.

February Reading Update

If anyone is keeping track, I now have a bookshelf named tsundoku. This is specifically for books that I’ve either bought or received but haven’t read. In the spirit of Fulfilling New Year’s Resolutions, I borrowed two more books from the library, which I also so far have not read.

On the bright side, I finally organized my bookmarks. #headdesk

Before

After

Anyway…….

General Reading Update

My 2020 goal of reading 60 books got off to a rocky start when I failed to finish any books for most of the month of January, with the sole exception of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which I started reading last October and finally finished on January 2. I have literally nothing to say for myself except that it’s a fucking long-ass book and I got hit hard by the Harry Potter doldrums halfway through Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. If you’ve already read these books and you’re trying to marathon them as an adult for old times’ sake, all I can say is don’t.

Owing to the Harry Potter Fatigue (YES THAT’S A THING) and the general reading slump I’ve been in since last year, I fell about three books behind over the course of January and then quickly shot up to three books ahead by reading the first five volumes of Soul Eater in four days. I knew I’d have to pad out my reading goal with mangas, but I didn’t think I’d have to resort to them that fast. 😭

Currently Reading

I thought I’d start a New Thing here, which I’m naming Karo Reads It All. This category will be for the posts discussing my current reads*, so please do come back if you’re a dork like me and you like to stalk other people’s reading lists! KRIA is the result of a thought I literally just had like a second ago, which is that I should make a specific category for myself because I really love talking about what I’m reading to keep myself accountable and on track.

* Note: I will not be tracking mangas because I typically read those in one sitting, and I’m more concerned about my ability to finish books that don’t have pictures.


Memory of Fire: Genesis

The tsundoku quest got off to a strong start with Eduardo Galeano’s Memory of Fire: Genesis, which I started reading on the train on January 18 while on my way to see a production of The Merry Wives of Windsor (which, by the way, was excellent).

I spotted this completely by chance at my favorite secondhand bookstore and immediately knew that it had to come home with me because it’s quoted in the epigraphs in Cat’s Eye which is one of my most favoritest books EVERRRRRRRR yeah okay I’m a nerd but you knew that

When the Tukunas cut off her head, the old woman collected her own blood in her hands and blew it toward the sun.

“My soul enters you, too!” she shouted.

Since then anyone who kills receives in his body, without wanting or knowing it, the soul of his victim.

The quote came out pretty early in the book. I was excited. 🤩

Anyway, to be completely honest: I’ve been reading this book in stages because it is gorgeous, riveting, and absolutely inFUUUUUUUUUURiating. Never read this book if you’re in a bad mood because it’ll put you in a worse one and you’ll end up hoping in your heart of hearts that Columbus and Cortés and all the rest are upside down and inside out and burning somewhere in the deepest pits of hell.

I’m not saying don’t read it at all. I think this is a book that every American needs to read at some point. I can’t speak for its historical accuracy, especially as it is set during a confusing and poorly documented period of history (and even more especially as the author describes himself in the preface as “a wretched history student” and then goes on to say that he is a writer rather than a historian), but it still needs to be read because it offers a Latin American perspective on the creation of the New World. It also goes back through the history and mythology of some of the Native American tribes whose worlds were destroyed the minute Columbus set foot on American soil. Not gonna lie, some of these stories actually aren’t that nice. There seems to be a lot of kidnapping, murder, and theft. 🤣 This one is my favorite so far:

Resurrection

After five days it was the custom for the dead to return to Peru. They drank a glass of chicha and said, “Now I’m eternal.”

There were too many people in the world. Crops were sown at the bottom of precipices and on the edge of abysses, but even so, the food wouldn’t go around.

Then a man died in Huarochirí.

The whole community gathered on the fifth day to receive him. They waited for him from morning till well after nightfall. The hot dishes got cold, and sleep began closing eyelids. The dead man didn’t come.

He came the next day. Everyone was furious. The one who boiled most with indignation was his wife, who yelled, “You good-for-nothing! Always the same good-for-nothing! All the dead are punctual except you!”

The resurrected one stammered some excuse, but the woman threw a corncob at his head and left him stretched out on the floor. Then the soul left the body and flew off, a quick, buzzing insect, never to return.

Since that time no dead person has come back to mix with the living and compete for their food.

Some more quotes that stood out to me:

Sacrilege

The six are burning as a punishment and as a lesson: They have buried the images of Christ and the Virgin that Fray Ramón Pané left with them for protection and consolation. Fray Ramón taught them to pray on their knees, to say the Ave Maria and Paternoster and to invoke the name of Jesus in the face of temptation, injury, and death.

No one has asked them why they buried the images. They were hoping that the new gods would fertilize their fields of corn, cassava, boniato, and beans.

Moctezuma

Moctezuma has sent great offerings of gold to the god Quetzalcóatl, helmets filled with gold dust, golden ducks, golden dogs, golden tigers, golden necklaces, and wands and bows and arrows, but the more gold the god eats, the more he wants; and he is advancing toward Tenochtitlán, dissatisfied. He marches between the great volcanos, and behind him come other bearded gods. The hands of the invaders send forth thunder that stuns and fire that kills.

The Capital of the Aztecs

Emperor Moctezuma, who opens the gates of Tenochtitlán, will soon be finished. In a short while he will be called woman of the Spaniards, and his own people will stone him to death. Young Cuauhtémoc will take his place. He will fight.

“People Very Generous with What They Have…”

The Spaniards imagine that the Indians will cut them into pieces and throw them in the stewpot, but in the village they continue sharing with them the little food they have. As Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca will tell it, the Indians are horrified and hot with anger when they learn that, while on the beach, five Christians ate one another until only one remained, who being alone had no one to eat him.

Atahualpa

Before the iron tourniquet breaks his neck, [Atahualpa] weeps, kisses the cross, and accepts baptism with another name. Giving his name as Francisco, which is his conqueror’s name, he beats on the doors of the Paradise of the Europeans, where no place is reserved for him.

Don’t Try to Convert Me

This is one of the many, many things that’ve been making me mad while I’ve been reading Genesis, because I’ve never been down with the idea of going to another country and telling the people who live there that their religions suck and yours is the right one. While I support freedom of expression for every religion that doesn’t actively endorse harming other people, I draw the line at people who start trying to push their religion onto everyone else. It’s one thing to offer to teach someone who specifically expresses interest in your religious beliefs, but it’s another thing entirely to forcibly convert entire populations. Even just talking about it is making my headache worse so I guess this is as good a place as any to wrap up.


The Merry Wives of Windsor

As an antidote to the rage and gloom, I also started reading The Merry Wives of Windsor!

I started with the library’s copy but quickly found I didn’t care for that particular edition, which gave more room to the explanatory footnotes than it did to the play itself, so I ended up buying a different edition when I went to see the stage show.

I have to be honest: I’ve never been an avid Shakespeare scholar. It’s gotten easier to understand him as I’ve grown older, but a lot of his language and references still leave me in the dark, even if I’m able to follow the general gist of what the characters are saying. Case in point: I really struggled with the beginning of Merry Wives and wasn’t able to finish the play before I saw the show, but I’m actually really glad it worked out that way because the play is a lot easier to understand now that I have the context provided by the show. (Of course, I’m also having trouble motivating myself to finish this one because Reading Slump. Go figure.)

Buddy Reads

I tried out a handful of buddy reads for the first time last year. I’ve never tried them before and am not sure I’ll continue because one of them was successful, one of them was partially successful but later fell apart, and the rest of them turned into me reading the book/series and discussing my thoughts on the forum while everyone else read part of the book/series and then spent the rest of the time discussing the reasons they hadn’t finished it. The only buddy read I haven’t finished yet is my Harry Potter buddy read, which started with a group of us rereading the Harry Potter series and then slowly devolved to one of us reading the books and two of us offering excuses. To be clear, I am not that one because I read the entire series growing up and they’re pretty much lodged in my head. This is why it was a bad idea for me to join: I know the books too well, I’ve developed Adult Opinions about them, and I’ve found that I have a lot of problems with them, which may be a subject for a later post because I currently don’t have the energy for an in-depth analysis.

Also, to be very very clear, I still love this gorram series SO much. It formed a huge part of my childhood/teenage/young adult reading list, I know every story by heart (except maybe Order of the Phoenix cus that one was definitely my least favorite), and I find it shocking when I run across people who either haven’t read or don’t remember the series like what do you mean you haven’t memorized Goblet of Fire how do you even live with yourself 🤣

Final Thoughts

That’s all from my reading world. What’s on your nightstand?

I Went Out and Didn’t Die

恭喜發財!!!

It’s the year of the rat, and with any luck we can treat this as the official start of the year instead of January 1, because my year began well enough and then started sloping gently downhill after the first week. 2020 hasn’t been particularly convincing so far, but the year of the rat got off to a solid start with the help of one of my favorite cooking blogs. If you don’t follow them already, gtfo my blog and go take a look at them because they’re seriously amazing.

In case anyone is wondering, this was the crispy scallion ginger salmon I was planning to cook for New Year’s dinner for the better part of two weeks:

And this was the I-Really-Really-REALLY-Want-Fried-Noodles-So-I’ll-Make-Those-Too-Because-This-Is-My-Dinner-Goddammit gai see chow mein that got added to the menu at about 11 a.m. yesterday morning because I make good life decisions:

Look, I can’t help it. They were delicious. They wanted to be made. My mom loves these noodles so much that she was stealing them by the handful and eating them straight off the platter before I’d even put the sauce on them. I have a jar of homemade chili oil in the fridge that goes really well with fried noodles and needs to be eaten. I’m Cantonese. I HAVE NOTHING TO SAY FOR MYSELF.

Anyway.

I was going to call this post 2019 Social Round-Up, but I Went Out and Didn’t Die seemed like a much more appropriate title. Picspam and my 2019 social calendar are  behind the cut.

Continue reading

Planning for the Apocalypse

I am, as I’ve said, an incompetent resolution-keeper, but I’ve made a big 2020 resolution that I hope I can keep: to write on this poor lonely blog once a week, or at the very least twice a month. I’m trying not to make promises I can’t keep (e.g., “use LA Fitness membership”), so I figured I’d better not commit to a weekly posting schedule when my department is currently bracing itself for the usual springtime projectpocalypse.

Anyway. I was going to have a whole post on New Year’s day about my new 2020 planners because I’m gross but then I went off on a boondoggle about books and ended up writing too much, so the planners got pushed back. Today, though, I’m home early from work because of the first snow of the season (and also hoping that the lame Maryland weather can keep its shit together long enough to stay properly cold for the next couple of months) and I don’t have anything else to do, so here we go!

Planners of Christmas Present

BN’s stupid stickers aside, LOOK AT THESE PRECIOUS BABIES OMG (I told you I was gross 😬) The big one lives at work, but the little one gets carried around in whatever bag I happen to be using. Last year the planners all went on sale before the new year, so this year I stalked BN’s planner shelves for the better part of the last week of December and discovered that the dated planners were 50% off when I caved and went to buy the little one and it rang up at the sale price. Then I went back to the shelf and found out that the big planner I’d been keeping an eye on hadn’t been sold out like I thought; it was merely hiding behind another planner. When I went back through the line I ended up plaguing the same cashier with my dumb planner stories, because life can occasionally be cute. 🤣

idk why llamas are suddenly in vogue but I hope they stay that way because these planners are literally everything I ever needed. I’m a nut so I waited till literally New Year’s day to finally peel off the stickers BUT IT WAS SO SATISFYING. The only thing that kinda makes me sad is that my last two work planners had a nice little chart in the back that I could color-code according to how good or bad my days were and my current work planner doesn’t have that, so the studio must have discontinued it, but I suppose you can’t have everything. On the other hand it was kind of a pain to color in a little box every day (I know, I know, I’m embarrassing) and I often forgot and had to try to guess how I was feeling for several days in a row, but now I don’t have to worry about that!

Planners of Christmas Past

I arrived way late to the planner party because even though I’m a stationery geek and I loved the idea of having a planner (because I love notebooks and never seem to have enough of them), I never actually bought one until January 12, 2018. For anyone impressed with my super specific memory, I should probably mention here that I actually thought I bought it in August 2018 and literally the only reason I know that I bought it in January is that I wrote it down.

Because apparently I somehow knew – and I actually do remember this part – that I would want to know exactly when I got on the planner bandwagon. Of course, having bought the planner, I then proceeded to leave it at home the following day. As for why I finally hopped on the Organized People train, I was working at Papyrus, the planners were right across the aisle from the registers so they were literally staring me in the face, they were all 50% off, I really wanted a cute little booky thing to carry around, and the one that I picked was SO FUCKING CUTE.

I mean okay one of my friends said it looked like a Bible but even so it was absolutely perfect 😭 On a slightly less shallow note, I actually did have a good reason that I’m pretty sure I came up with after I bought the planner, which was that I was using Google Calendar to keep track of everything and it occurred to me that I was very much not okay with Google having my entire social calendar and work schedule in the palm of its algorithms. Then at the end of January 2018 I started my current job and realized I was going to need some way of keeping all my work projects straight, and gleefully trotted over to the BN next door to buy a work planner. The rest, as they say, is history.

2020 Personal Planner Goals

I will:

  • Use the planner to keep track of appointments and social events.
  • Use the planner to track my reading.

I will not:

  • Forget to use the planner and then turn it into a retroactive diary.
  • Leave the planner at home.
  • Wonder why I need a planner and give up.

358 days stand between me and the end of the year. LET’S DO THIS THING!!!

A Year of Books

I am terrible at keeping resolutions. I made an extensive list at the beginning of last year in a fit of very enthusiastic insanity, but I’m not sure why I bothered writing things like “use LA Fitness membership,” “learn gouache painting,” and “catch up on watchlist” because I didn’t do any of these things. One thing I did do, however, was finish my 2019 reading challenge, which stipulated that I would read 48 books over the course of the year. I started losing my ability to read around the same time I got an iPhone and it’s been a long hard road getting it back, but if you’re in a similar situation goodreads really works even though I’m pretty salty rn about the UI fails they seem to have introduced within the last week. I got sucked into GR in 2017 by a friend with a book list, and have participated in the reading challenge every year since I signed up.

Challenge Stats

2017
26 books read // 25 books pledged

2018
54 books read // 36 books pledged

2019
51 books read // 48 books pledged

okay so admittedly I flamed out a bit at the end of 2019 but in my defense I hit a string of really dull books and I don’t really know how I managed to do that but it’s possible okay 😖

2019 Book List

There’s no flex like a book flex, so here’s a comprehensive list of everything I read this year that fit between two covers. This does not include the couple of children’s books I reread on a whim, because I for some reason decided those didn’t count and in retrospect I’m not really sure why.

I was planning to write extensive reviews for most of these immediately after I read them but I’m lazy and my plans usually don’t jive too well with my actual internal resources so we’re going with retroactive reviews that I will write as the muse dictates (read: depending on my level of adoration or outrage). Reviewed titles will be updated with post links as the reviews are written.

Asterisk Key

*          recommended
**       highly recommended
***     my love for this book knows no bounds and YOU WILL READ IT

Assume that all the mangas are recommended, cus I haven’t bothered asterisking them.

  1. The Buried Giant – Kazuo Ishiguro
  2. Princess Jellyfish 1 – Akiko Higashimura
  3. Princess Jellyfish 2 – Akiko Higashimura
  4. Princess Jellyfish 3 – Akiko Higashimura
  5. Princess Jellyfish 4 – Akiko Higashimura
  6. Black Butler 26 – Yana Toboso
  7. Princess Jellyfish 5 – Akiko Higashimura
  8. Princess Jellyfish 6 – Akiko Higashimura
  9. Princess Jellyfish 7 – Akiko Higashimura
  10. Princess Jellyfish 8 – Akiko Higashimura
  11. Princess Jellyfish 9 – Akiko Higashimura
  12. The Black Count* – Tom Reiss
  13. The Professor and the Madman* – Simon Winchester
  14. Catch-22** – Joseph Heller
  15. Johannes Cabal the Necromancer** – Jonathan L. Howard
  16. The Ghost Bride** – Yangsze Choo
    THIS HITS NETFLIX IN 22 DAYS OMFG HOW COOL IS THAT I’M LOSING MY GORRAM MIND
  17. Book Love*** – Debbie Tung
  18. Quiet Girl in a Noisy World** – Debbie Tung
  19. The Count of Monte Cristo* – Alexandre Dumas; translated by Robin Buss
  20. Cat’s Eye*** – Margaret Atwood
  21. The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Writings* – Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  22. The Night Tiger** – Yangsze Choo
    if they want to make this one into a show too you sure as fuck won’t see me complaining
  23. The Wonder – Emma Donoghue
  24. The Hidden Power of F*cking Up* – The Try Guys
  25. The Song of Achilles*** – Madeline Miller
  26. Mortal Engines* – Philip Reeve
  27. Strange the Dreamer** – Laini Taylor
  28. Macbeth** – Jo Nesbø
  29. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone* – J.K. Rowling
  30. Muse of Nightmares** – Laini Taylor
  31. Predator’s Gold* – Philip Reeve
  32. Bartholomew and the Oobleck* – Dr. Seuss
  33. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles*** – Patricia C. Wrede
  34. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets* – J.K. Rowling
  35. Infernal Devices* – Philip Reeve
  36. The Testaments** – Margaret Atwood
  37. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban* – J.K. Rowling
  38. The Book of Three – Lloyd Alexander
  39. A Darkling Plain* – Philip Reeve
  40. The Black Cauldron – Lloyd Alexander
  41. The Castle of Llyr – Lloyd Alexander
  42. Taran Wanderer – Lloyd Alexander
  43. The High King – Lloyd Alexander
  44. The Quite Nice and Fairly Accurate Good Omens Script Book* – Neil Gaiman
  45. The Golden Compass* – Philip Pullman
  46. Neverwhere*** – Neil Gaiman
  47. Black Butler 27 – Yana Toboso
  48. The Subtle Knife – Philip Pullman
  49. The October Man – Ben Aaronovitch
  50. The Amber Spyglass – Philip Pullman
  51. Woman World – Aminder Dhaliwal

2020

The goal for this year is 60 books, and if I’m successful I’ll bump it up to 65 for next year cus I really don’t feel up to reading 72 books in one year. Of those 60 books, over a third will probably be mangas. A year may come when I don’t need to pad out my list with mangas, but it probably won’t be this year. I also suffer from a particularly severe case of tsundoku, so I’m making it a personal goal to read every book I buy, such as these.

For those not in the know (i.e., People Who Do Not Have This Problem), tsundoku is a Meiji portmanteau of tsunde-oku (piling things up for later and then leaving them there) and dokusho (reading books), and refers to the practice of acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up without actually reading them. Japanese may be, as my mother says, a very strange people, but we sure are good at coming up with super specific words, and we’ve apparently been having trouble reading our books since about 1868.

Final Thoughts

Sixty books stand between me and the biggest reading goal I’ve ever made. Wish me luck! 😀

Shame On My Ancestors (PSYCH Not Really)

A couple weeks ago I said the rubber trim on Hector’s door was coming off and I was going to get it fixed within the week or bring shame on my ancestors.

WELP I may be a little bit late in updating but I actually got him fixed last Saturday so YAAAAAAYYYYYY NO SHAME 😀 😀 😀

Saturday was also the day I found out that bread actually does come in a can. For context, I started writing a story about six years ago in which I stated that bread in a can is not A Thing:

“Is there any bread around? Does that come in a can too?”

“No, I haven’t seen canned bread before, but there’s some in the fridge,” Fire Shadow said, nudging the fridge with his foot.

WELL APPARENTLY I WAS WRONG BECAUSE I WALKED INTO SAFEWAY AND THERE IT WAS SITTING ON A SHELF LAUGHING AT ME and if you’re wondering why the dude is called Fire Shadow it’s because there were four dudes named Shadow running around and I needed some way to tell them apart and the girl he’s talking to is asking about canned bread because she comes from a world that has not yet invented canned foods or refrigerators. It’s a weird story.

and then I was on my way out the door and the Safeway got the last laugh like literally why is this my life 😂😭

Karo Dreams of Noodles

It’s been a bizarre couple of weeks. First there was the week before last, which produced the worst Wednesday I’ve ever had. Then there was last week, which was generally all right but contained an unpleasant surprise. Then there was this week, which actually was fairly normal but also made me dream about two equally delicious bowls of noodle soup with two different kinds of noodles sitting right in front of me omg why did I have to wake up from that WHYYYYY WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY 😭😭😭

Also I was sitting at my desk this afternoon completely minding my own business when I was suddenly ambushed by the realization that I don’t always remember to draw my tail? Like I thought about it for like five seconds and then completely forgot about it in the pic right above this paragraph? I have literally no idea what’s wrong with my brain sometimes #headdesk (On a brighter note, I’ve been reading about a mythical thing called a Milk Tray for years because it pops up every few months in Bridget Jones’s Diary and today I finally got to actually try a Milk Tray because my boss brought one to work to share with the design team and I am now a fan because chocolate is LIFE. And also I think I might’ve just definitively outed myself as an American, in case that wasn’t obvious already.)

Anyway. I could dwell all day on the many many dream noodle soup bowls I haven’t been allowed to eat but I don’t want to talk about it, so I thought I’d do a quick(ish) post on something happier:

I got a new car! (Translation: I am leasing a new car because I can’t buy one outright.) About three months ago I drove my ailing first car to Williamsburg instead of asking one of my friends to drive because, I don’t know, I’m crazy. She started smelling like gas on the way down, she smelled like gas while we were putt-putting around Williamsburg, and she smelled like gas the whole way back. She spent some time with my mechanic when we finally got home, and after about a week he told me I was looking at a bill of at least $1,500 – $1,800 to fix everything that was wrong with her, and that she was so old that it wasn’t worth the cost of repairing her. In the end he made her drivable again for a much lower cost and warned me not to take her on the highway, and she limped along for another month before I finally got over the whole I WILL NEVER ABANDON MY PRECIOUS BABY thing and realized I didn’t actually feel safe driving her.

Rest in peace, Veloce. You were the best little car I could ever have asked for. You stuck with me through two years of college, three years of grad school, four apartments, fourteen jobs, and a lot of violin lessons, and ferried me and my friends to all kinds of places both in and out of Maryland. I don’t know what Honda has done with you, but I’d like to think they fixed you up and placed you with a nice owner who’ll be less demanding than I was. I knew I couldn’t keep you forever, but I still miss you. 💔

On that note, it wasn’t exactly a straight path to the new car, (1) because I historically don’t do well with big changes, (2) because Veloce was the first car and quite frankly the only one I ever wanted to drive, and (3) because I was 99.99999999% convinced that I didn’t have the money to get another car. It also didn’t help that I was so accustomed to Veloce that there always seemed to be something wrong with the other cars I’ve driven over the years: The pedals were too loose. The cars felt too heavy. (Yes, that is literally A Thing with me.) The dashboard bulked weirdly behind the steering wheel and blocked my view. (That one felt slightly more legit. I am not a large person.) Between the time I took my little car to the mechanic and the time I finally said goodbye to her forever, there was a brief adventure with a rented Hyundai named Samwise, who was heavy but worked well, and about a month of window-shopping, procrastination, and denial. During the window-shopping phase I visited CarMax and FitzMall and drove a few of their cars around, but balked at both the expense and the strangeness of the different cars and ended up ghosting the sales reps because me and my little car were going to be together forever and ever and EVER. By the time I finally stumbled into the Honda dealership at the end of August, I knew I was never going to find another car I liked and I was going to be driving Veloce until her floor dropped out and she turned into a four-wheel land raft.

Then the salesman brought out Hector.

I was looking for either a Civic or a Fit, so we test drove both. In the end the Civic won because it was small enough to suit me (albeit not as small as Veloce, but nobody’s perfect) but still more powerful than the Fit, which felt like a golf cart. For anybody wondering why he’s named Hector, it’s because of this handsome SOB:

Full disclosure: I asked for a blue car because I was already thinking I wanted a blue Civic so I could name him Hector the Honda and I already knew the color was called Aegean Blue and Eric Bana is, like, the perfect Hector and the car matches the blue dresses the Trojans wear in the movie and it seemed like fate so yeah I’ve been driving Prince Hector of Troy around for almost two months now and oh gawd I know you’re judging me.

Even fuller disclosure: I usually call him Hector. Or Heck. He only gets the full title when he’s doing something naughty, like letting the rubber lining on his back passenger door flap loose. Ahem, Prince Hector.

I somehow got paired with an incredibly patient salesman, which was very lucky because I’m pretty sure I came across as borderline neurotic (read: basket case). I wasn’t originally planning to lease a car that day, given that I was still pretty stuck on my old car, but they kept lowering the price so after a few rounds I caved, handed over Veloce, and drove home with Hector. The only thing is that the change from Veloce to Hector was very abrupt, and I wish I could’ve had more time to process everything and say goodbye. If I’d known that the trip to the Honda dealer was going to be the last time I’d ever drive Veloce, I would’ve paid more attention. I was about five seconds away from becoming that weirdo who hugs their car in a public parking lot.

Some good things about Prince Hector because I’m still not sure that I did the right thing:

  • He’s goooooorgeous. I’m used to a very neutral-colored car, but I looooove the Aegean Blue. He also has little white racing stripes, which are pretty cute.
  • He has four doors!!! This is actually huge because I’m the self-proclaimed designated driver in my group, and, while I haven’t taken full advantage of these yet, it’ll be lovely to drive my friends around without having to stuff them into the backseat through the passenger’s door.
  • He’s got a huge trunk. I kinda wanna go on another road trip.
  • He doesn’t smell like gas. I’m also not constantly wondering if his bottom is going to drop out or if I should turn off his AC before he, you know, explodes or something.
  • HE HAS A STRAIGHT-UP USB PORT. I CAN LITERALLY PLUG MY IPOD STRAIGHT INTO HIM AND HE’LL CHARGE IT FOR ME WHILE PLAYING LOVELY MUSIC.
  • His parking brake is funny. I’m actually not sure how I feel about this one because his parking brake is this little switch instead of a lever but I’ve gotten used to it, so I guess we’re good?

The Not-So-Good Things

I wasn’t joking about that passenger door rubber liner thing and I’m going to have to take him back to the Honda dealer TRAGEDYYYYYYYY but I keep forgetting to set up an appointment 🙁 If I don’t come back in a week with photographic evidence that I’ve gotten my door fixed, leave me a comment telling me I’m bringing shame on my ancestors.