July Reading Summary

Holy shit that month was long. On the other hand, now we know what happens when I have a month-long involuntary vacation: I go crazy and read about four books a week. There was also a regrettable adventure obtaining an SSL certificate for this blog, but the point is it’s secure now and the logo is no longer broken. In any case I’ve been looking forward to writing this post since about two weeks ago, when I thought July should have ended, so you’re gonna get a text wall. Sorry.

July was a landmark month in a number of ways: I had the highest monthly page count I’ve seen since February; I read my first ARC; I finished my 2020 reading challenge; and I finally outread my 26-manga credit!!! More importantly than any of these, I also started using the Kindle Paperwhite I bought in May. (Fun fact: I originally wrote that I’d ordered the Kindle several months ago, but a quick fact check revealed that it hasn’t actually been as long as I thought. Also I think I must’ve bought mine just in time, because the model I chose went out of stock almost the second I ordered it. Go figure.)

At the beginning of the year I would have let myself be boiled in oil before I stooped to reading eBooks, but then the quarantine happened and after a couple of months those Kindles started looking awfully cute. I was thinking about getting the cheapest one on offer, but I read a lot and I figured “Go big or go home,” so I ended up getting the one with the most storage space and no ads. It was more expensive, but in the long run this was the right decision because I don’t plan to trade this thing in anytime within the next decade. I’m not even sure why I decided to take the plunge and order a Kindle, though it may have had something to do with my desire to (1) borrow books from the library and (2) read the Discworld series without having to buy the 50 or so books that comprise it. As of this writing I have used it for neither of these purposes, but I have read a whole book on it with no trouble, which seems like a victory. Also I’ve always been a sucker for pretty packaging and the Kindle gave me an excuse to buy a cute cover, so I can’t really complain. 🙃

If you’re looking for a super cute Kindle cover or any other kind of cover, I highly recommend Hello Journal Shop over on Etsy. The cover arrived about a month after the Kindle did (it shipped from Australia) but it’s well made, and, unlike other Kindle covers I’ve seen while browsing around Etsy, it doesn’t make you slap a velcro sticker on the back of the Kindle. To be completely fair, the velcro stickers aren’t supposed to leave a residue if you change your mind later, but I’ve never liked the idea of putting stickers on my devices, so the cover I ordered was perfect. It does have a funny smell, which I tried to blow off it with a fan, but a month later the smell is still there so it may be the material used to make the cover. It’s gotten better over time, so I’m hoping the smell will go away with repeated use of the Kindle. Either way, it’s not a huge deal. Plus the case came in this really cute package. Like I said, I’m a sucker for cute packaging.

I don’t know what I’m going to do with that little box, but it doesn’t matter. I still have it, and I’m sure I’ll find a use for it.

Just one tiny complaint…

One thing that I did not anticipate was that page numbers are not always A Thing with eBooks. I’m not sure how prevalent their use is or is not because I’ve only read one eBook so far, but this was an issue I ran into when I was reading The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True. I suspect the page numbers were missing because it was an ARC – the pages were labeled differently than I was expecting – but, since I rely on page numbers to track my reading, I ported the file into Kindle Previewer, which laid out the pages in rows of three, and counted the number of rows and multiplied them by three to come up with a rough estimate because I am a frightening little person and sooner or later I usually find a way to get what I want. Of course, it was only after I’d estimated the page count that I found out that a page count was provided on the book’s Amazon page and that my count was off by seven pages. That’s what you call ironic. #headdesk

On another note, I’ve finally remembered that I need to start using my three-month Kindle Unlimited trial membership, which came free with the Kindle and will start charging me on August 20. This seemed like a good idea when I first bought the Kindle, but I’m currently kicking myself because I’m the biggest fucking procrastinator you’ll ever meet and I’ve basically wasted two months’ worth of free books, which I am now going to try to make up for in less than a month. Wish me luck. 😭💀 (And also pray with me that the Discworld books are on Kindle Unlimited, because that would save me a lot of trouble.)


July Reading Stats

Books Finished:

  1. Heart Berries – Terese Marie Mailhot
  2. Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi
  3. Miss Iceland – Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir
  4. The Forest of Wool and Steel – Natsu Miyashita
  5. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes – Suzanne Collins
  6. Dune Messiah – Frank Herbert
  7. Monkey Beach – Eden Robinson
  8. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
  9. Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins
  10. Girl, Serpent, Thorn – Melissa Bashardoust
  11. Children of Dune – Frank Herbert
  12. God Emperor of Dune – Frank Herbert
  13. The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True – Sean Gibson
  14. Conjure Women – Afia Atakora
  15. Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  16. The Butcher’s Wife – Li Ang

Total Pages Read: 5,417

This month was more diverse than previous months have been, but it still wasn’t up to my standards because the Dune chronicles and the Hunger Games books got in the way and fucked up my diversity count. That won’t be an issue moving forward, however, because I have made the decision not to continue with Dune.

It took a while to sink in, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not a Dune fan. I’ve never been invested in the world of Arrakis at any point. I don’t care about these characters. Dune itself was a good read and it got me interested enough to read the next three books in the series, but I didn’t enjoy any of them. Dune Messiah and Children of Dune were boring and annoying, and God Emperor of Dune had one amazing chapter that the rest of the book never lived up to. I feel like this is the part where Dune zealots are going to come out of the woodwork with asinine comments along the lines of “Well, you missed the point, then!” Maybe I did, but maybe the point wasn’t made very well to begin with.

While the books were generally readable, there were definitely moments where I felt like Frank Herbert was trying too hard. This is what I mean when I say that the point wasn’t well made, because whatever points were made were often obscured by layers of oblique dialogue and rambling passages. There were nonsensical snatches of internal dialogue that seemed to use uncommon words just for the sake of using them. There were exchanges between certain characters that made no fucking sense because they were spoken in a particular tone of voice that carried a very specific subtext, which means their true significance was never actually explained. (See above: TRYING TOO HARD.) My biggest problem was Herbert’s reliance on the “Plots within plots within plots!” and the “If he knows that I know that he knows that I know” themes, which I’ve never liked. This series did not change my mind because these same themes cropped up over and over again in every book, and with every fresh plot it seemed like the House of Atreides grew less and less sympathetic.

One of my least favorite aspects of the series was the gradual loss of humanity in each successive generation of Atreides. Dune introduced Duke Leto Atreides I, the head of a Great House, who was forced into an impossible situation that ended with his death. He was survived by his children, Paul and Alia Atreides, and then by Paul’s children, Leto II and Ghanima, and eventually by Ghanima’s thousand-times-great-granddaughter, Siona. The Atreides were, if not exactly heroes, at least the primary protagonists. Duke Leto was ruthless and clever, but he wasn’t so caught up in the larger picture that he started to devalue the lives of the men who served him. Later generations of Atreides got lost in their overarching plans for the human race, and they started to make decisions that, though theoretically beneficial to humans as a whole, were detrimental to the people alive in that present moment. Duke Leto sacrificed rare equipment to save the lives of men he’d never met; some 3,500 years later, Siona sacrificed a bridge full of people, including her own father, to assassinate Leto II. I liked her at the beginning of God Emperor, but I didn’t by the end. Overall I was disappointed with the handling of the women: Dune ended with a handful of strong, promising female characters, but by the end of Children of Dune they were all dead, insane, and/or completely stripped of all agency. I realize these books were written in the ’60s and ’70s, but damn.

Moral of the story: read Dune but don’t bother with the rest of the series unless you really, really get invested in the first book because it’s a long hard slog through the rest. I have zero interest in the plot of Heretics of Dune, which just sounds like more of the same, and Chapterhouse: Dune seems to be all about the Bene Gesserit and I don’t like the Bene Gesserit so that’s definitely a no-go. I might change my mind if I get bored enough and if all the other books in the world suffer a fatal catastrophe before the movie is released, but for the time being I have discontinued the series and have no plans to pick it up again.


August Reads

I’ve been looking forward to this for a week: Now I get to pick out what I’m going to read this month! My reading slump was vanquished by my reading schedule as much as by my habit of reading 100+ pages per day, so I’ll be continuing both practices. I think I might also start reading one short, one-sitting book (e.g., 200 pages or less) on the first of each month, because I started July by reading Heart Berries in one day and it gave my motivation a solid kick in the ass. With that in mind, here’s my August must-reads, in the order in which I will most likely start them (and not including the other books I’ll probably pick up at random throughout the month):

Physical Books

Monsieur Pamplemousse on the Spot
Michael Bond
This’ll be my Day One boost-my-ego book, which I will read sometime tonight. It sounds cute and it’s only 160 pages, and that’s pretty much all I can say about it. I don’t know too much about Monsieur Pamplemousse, but he’s got a great name (pamplemousse is French for “grapefruit”) and it’s all about food, so I’m game.

The Year of the Witching
Alexis Henderson
I’m SUUUUUUUUPER excited about this one omg 🤩 It was published eleven days ago, and is about a young mixed-race woman who lives in a puritanical society but somehow meets a group of witch spirits. SIGN ME UP.

Sharks in the Time of Saviors
Kawai Strong Washburn
I’ve seen the cover for this one in the bookstore before, but I’m not sure why I didn’t pick it up the first time because it sounds amazing. This one is about a Hawaiian family facing supernatural challenges. Also it’s got an upside down shark on the cover, so how can it possibly be bad?

The Book of Night Women
Marlon James
I’ve heard good things about Marlon James and I’m always up for a good story about rebellious women, so I’m really looking forward to this one.

How Much of These Hills Is Gold
C Pam Zhang
I ordered this probably back in March or April but have not yet read it, which is a real pity because it involves history, Chinese symbolism, and a sibling story rather than a romance.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass
Melissa Bashardoust
I just read Girl, Serpent, Thorn and it made me want to read more of Bashardoust’s work, so here we are 🙃 I am slightly hesitant about this one because it sounds like it’s full of the kind of character fights that drive me nuts, but we’ll see what we see!

The African Trilogy
Chinua Achebe
Achebe has been billed as the father of modern African literature, so I couldn’t go without reading his books. The African Trilogy is a bound volume comprising Things Fall ApartArrow of God, and No Longer at Ease, and starts with the story of Okonkwo, an Igbo man who clashes with missionaries. I know it won’t end well for him, but I hope he gives ’em hell.

Mockingjay
Suzanne Collins
I’ve been doing a Hunger Games buddy reread with Lori and even though I swore on my ancestors’ graves that I would never ever ever read Mockingjay a second time no sir you must be crazy I’ve somehow gotten curious if I’ll hate it as much a second time as I did the first time around. (My money’s on yes, but I guess we’ll find out.)

Kindle Books

A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea
Masaji Ishikawa
This is one of the books I found through my dying Kindle Unlimited trial, which I will be squeezing as much as I possibly can to make up for the last two months of forgetfulness and deliberate neglect. Ishikawa is a half-Korean, half-Japanese man who moved to North Korea at 13 and escaped 36 years later. It sounds excruciating, which is why I’m reading it first.

Opium and Absinthe
Lydia Kang
Opium and Absinthe is the story of Tillie Pembroke, a bookworm and laudanum addict whose sister may or may not have been murdered by a vampire. It sounds great. 😈

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife
Meg Elison
Apparently I borrowed this one from Prime Reading a year ago? Like, literally to the day? I thought there was a mistake when it said I’d borrowed it on August 1, 2019, but whatever. It’s about post-plague survival and it sounds interesting, so I’ll give it a try.


Reading Goals

I hit my 2020 goal of 60 books when I finished Children of Dune, which by my reckoning was the only good thing about Children of Dune. With my yearly goal out of the way, I’ve set a stretch goal of 86, which will balance out the 26 mangas I used to pad out the first 60 books. (And, yes, mangas are real books, but they’re also 99% illustration and sound effects and I’m generally more concerned about my ability to read books without pictures.) I established a habit of reading a minimum of 100 pages per day during the month of July, and intend to keep it up for as long as I can. There were a couple of days where I had to stop before the 100-page mark, but, given the reading slump that’s been plaguing me since the end of last year, I’m really pleased with the amount I read in July.

That being said, I’m slightly worried about my ability to retain what I’ve read, because I’ve fallen lately into the habit of anticipating the thrill of finishing a book more than the book itself. This means I’ve been blitzing through my reads and missing some of the finer details instead of taking the time to appreciate them properly, which is something I want to work on in the coming months.


Random-Ass Book Flex

I don’t like Gilmore Girls, but I couldn’t stop myself from (1) watching a Rory Gilmore readathon vlog and then (2) taking this Buzzfeed quiz. For the record, no, I am not as well read as Rory Gilmore because I’ve only read 37 of the 339 books on the list, which apparently is still more than 67% of quiz-takers.

Of course, it would be more fair to say that I’m differently read than Rory, rather than saying that I’m not as well read. I can name 393 books that I’ve read and I know for a fact that I’m missing a lot of childhood books from that list, which is how I justify it seeming so short even though the real reason is that I spent several years hoarding but not actually reading.

I was actually mildly impressed with Rory’s list: I’d thought it would be all Western classics (again, I don’t watch the show) and I was mostly right, but there were also some hidden gems, such as Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (Dai Sijie) and Reading Lolita in Tehran (Azar Nafisi), both of which are now on my TBR.

Rory Books I’ve Read

  1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
  2. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
  3. The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank
  4. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
  5. Beloved – Toni Morrison
  6. Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
  7. Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White
  8. The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
  9. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
  10. The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R. Tolkien
  11. Gone with the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
  12. The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
  13. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  14. Hamlet – William Shakespeare
  15. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J.K. Rowling
  16. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – J.K. Rowling
  17. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
  18. How the Grinch Stole Christmas – Dr. Seuss
  19. The Iliad – Homer
  20. The Jumping Frog – Mark Twain
  21. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
  22. Macbeth – William Shakespeare
  23. Me Talk Pretty One Day – David Sedaris
  24. The Merry Wives of Windsor – William Shakespeare
  25. Night – Elie Wiesel
  26. Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen
  27. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
  28. Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood
  29. The Return of the King – J.R.R. Tolkien
  30. Romeo and Juliet – William Shakespeare
  31. The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
  32. The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
  33. The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
  34. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  35. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith
  36. Waiting for Godot – Samuel Beckett
  37. The Wizard of Oz – Frank L. Baum

A lot of these I need to reread because I barely skimmed them when I had to read them in high school but we won’t discuss that 😬


The Adventure of the SSL Certificate

I recently installed an SSL certificate on a client’s website, which made me think it’d be really swell to install such certificates on all of my own websites, including this blog. The installations went smoothly until they got to WyrdGurls, where the SSL system apparently choked on the number of installation demands I’d made of it and broke WyrdGurls for two to three days until I finally pounded on DreamHost’s door and made them fix it. I’m still not sure what happened with the certificate, but at least the connection appears to be secure now and I’m hoping it stays that way. Satan give me strength.


Checking In With the Senior Nap Manager

EDITING BECAUSE I COMPLETELY FORGOT TO ADD THESE GDI

Quarantine Day 62

I realized today that it’s been three months to the day since my quarantine began. That would explain why I no longer know what year it is.

I’ve been watching a lot of Try Guys and GoT lately and it does things to your brain, which is why I decided I needed to draw Margaery wearing Blake Lively’s 2018 Met Gala dress at like 2:30 a.m. Overall I’m pretty pleased with how she turned out, even if I did get lazy with the details. Mostly I’m pleased that I actually can draw something other than fat little people in onesies. Maybe I’ll clean her up later, though to be perfectly honest I probably won’t.

I also suffered a rather rude shock when Rusalka referred to my duck as a goose, which led to some rather hysterical googling on my part, during which I (1) concluded that the duck was a duck and (2) ran across an article about a blind, bisexual, and polyamorous goose. Go figure.

But I digress.

Lately I’ve been rolling around between numbness and irritability, which I mostly figure is the quarantine’s fault, though this hasn’t exactly been a cheerful year. At the same time, it worries me when people talk about reopening because I really don’t want us rushing into the projected second wave. On top of everything else, Maryland got hit hard by The Pollening right after the May polar vortex (???), which means itchy eyes and marathon sneezing. I hate spring.

On the slightly brighter side, things have evened out a lot work-wise since my last quarantine update, which is good because four of my projects ganged up on me and decided they all wanted to be shipped this coming week. I also finished Empress Dowager Cixi, so I finally got to start on some new books!

May has been pretty slumpy so far, but I got my second wind after finishing Cixi and celebrated by jumping into three books I’ve never read before. I haven’t gotten too far in any of them, but omg The Book of Longings is so good!!! I peeked at the first page when it arrived and liked what I saw, and later found it really hard to put down. The writing is gorgeous and I love Ana, and I can’t wait to see where this goes.

The Map of Salt and Stars is another one I’ve been looking forward to – I put it on hold at the library but then we went into quarantine, and I finally lost patience and ordered it from BN. I’m not really sure how I feel about this one yet, but I’m only 25 pages in and it’s very promising so far. I also started To Helvetica and Back, which has been sitting untouched on my shelf for years. Helvetica is my first foray into cozy mysteries, which is a genre I’m fairly certain I’ll love, and I’ve mostly been enjoying it, but I also keep getting distracted by the plethora of typos. Are cozy mysteries not usually proofread? The mistakes I keep finding in Helvetica are things that should’ve been caught, and they’re making me seriously wonder if I need to read the rest of the Dangerous Type mysteries. I really really really wanted to love Dangerous Type, but if this is a typical sample of the author’s writing I may have to pass on the rest of the series. Either way, I’m at the stage where I’m trying to finish Helvetica quickly so I can get back to the more promising books. I’m currently four books short of my goal of reading 15 books by the end of May, so I really need to get my ass in gear.

In food-related news, I’ve been eating extremely well, which is one of the bright spots amid the general quarantine gloom. This helps both me and the local restaurants, so I don’t feel too bad about going out because I want these places to still be around when we reopen.

Taiwanese popcorn chicken was one of the first things on my list:

THIS CHICKEN IS SO GOOD and now that I’m looking at this picture I’m legit thinking about hotfooting it down to the Taiwanese joint tomorrow and picking up some chicken and maybe a mango ice smoothie oh no oh no 😭 Now that I’ve said that it’s probably going to happen because I have the self-control of a five-year-old.

Mother’s Day weekend was a particularly good time, because we finally had an excuse to visit the new(ish) Choong Man Chicken in Germantown. The curry snow onion chicken was exactly as amazing as I remembered, and the nice people at CM threw in a couple of tubs of pickled daikon. I have a severe weakness for pickled daikon, and this one was particularly good. If you ever want to bribe me, feed me pickled daikon. I wish I were joking.

Not pictured: maguro sashimi from our favorite Japanese place, fried chicken wings, rice, curly fries, Japanese potato salad, and EVEN MOAR DAIKON PICKLES. It was a really good Saturday. Then on Mother’s Day proper we had homemade chili burgers and the leftover CM curly fries, because my mom happened to find a recipe for a copycat Tommy’s chili. We’re not actually sure if this is an accurate copy because Tommy’s is in LA and we don’t exactly have access to LA, but we’ve all agreed it’s amazing anyway.

Celebrations in quarantine have been pretty good so far because we can still pick up nice treats, like these cakes I got for my dad’s birthday:

And the Lindt chocolates I grabbed while I was at CVS, because I’d just read that damn Chocolat book and it really made me want chocolate:

And these adzuki donuts and mini stroopwafels, which I picked up by chance because that’s just who I am as a person. I didn’t even know stroopwafels could be that small but they’re really good so you sure as fuck won’t see me complaining 🤣

Rounding out the post with more pics of the Senior Nap Manager, because obviously I don’t photograph her enough.

Good night, world. x___x

Quarantine Day 27

Well, here we are.

It’s been 27 days since the office shut down, 21 days since my last post, 12 days since Maryland was ordered to shelter in place, and 10 days since I last wore shoes. Today it occurred to me to mark the first day of quarantine in my work planner, you know, for posterity or something.

Don’t come after me if they don’t get better, I’m just speculating.

I can’t say the quarantine has drastically altered anything that I’d normally be doing, since I have no life and weekend staycations are my jam and I’m that person who makes up excuses to avoid going out, but I do start to go slightly bats when I can’t drive off whenever I want, so I now have planned excursions every couple of weeks. This week Jennicorn and I took advantage of Krispy Kreme’s Be Sweet Saturday and went halfsies on a box of donuts, because we’re adults and we make excellent decisions.

I have no idea who needs to hear this right now, but Krispy Kreme is running a quarantine deal where if you buy a dozen glazed donuts on a Saturday you get a second box for free. Jennicorn agreed to split the cost of one box, so we each ended up with a dozen donuts for five bucks. I also got to see Jennicorn face to face when I dropped off the donuts at her house, which was really nice. As a card-carrying modern-day suburban hermit who was social distancing way before it was cool, I sometimes forget how nice it is just to hang out, even if you’re six feet apart and separated by a door.

Other than the quarantine, life has been going pretty much the same as usual. My main hurdle so far has been learning to telework, which I’ve honestly never done because I’ve never been essential enough or permanent enough to be trusted with company equpiment. I normally wouldn’t be teleworking even in this job, but in this case we had no choice, so I’ve spent the better part of the last month trying to figure out how to balance work and life without getting them tangled, and it’s been a trip. The biggest problem was that it took a while to get used to the idea of being barred from the office, because my first day of telework was an unqualified disaster. Everything in my life seems to like to stack up at once, so the week we went into quarantine was also the week I was telecommuting for the first time in my life, setting up my new work laptop, trying to figure out how to get the server to work, and shipping three difficult projects, none of which seemed to want to die a quiet death. I’d pulled all my files off the server and loaded them onto the laptop beforehand and thought I was ready, but then I actually got started and realized that between the server, the volume and complexity of the edits, and my wi-fi speed, there was no conceivable way to ship from home. This did not have a happy ending: it ended with me running to the office around noon on Monday after spending thirty minutes trying to open one file, and then staying at the office till 10 pm and getting in the cleaners’ way. Then on Tuesday I told myself I was going to stay home for the whole day, but my resolution cracked like an egg when I realized I’d completely failed to package a crucial InDesign file while I was in the office on Monday. Since I’d been allowed to go in on Monday, I sneaked back in on Tuesday afternoon and got in the cleaners’ way again. On Wednesday I finally figured out how to get around the wi-fi problem and stopped going into the office for every little emergency, which means I’ve been pretty much camped out here for the last month.

I still haven’t completely figured out the work-life thing, partly because there are currently zero degrees of separation between my bedroom and my office, but mostly because I had eight projects shipping during the first three weeks of quarantine. This past week was much more relaxed; those eight projects all got shoveled out the door, so I was able to slow down and take it easy for a bit. It’s a lot easier to balance work and life when you’re not working late every night and I get to wear sweatpants to work and have a nice lunch if I feel like it, so things aren’t too bad right now. I’ve also gotten to spend more time with my new coworker, the Senior Nap Manager.

Teleworking isn’t always the greatest, but the Senior Nap Manager keeps me on track and reminds me to take every day as it comes. As frustrating as work can be, I keep reminding myself how lucky I am to have a steady job that lets me work from home. I can’t imagine what kind of trouble I’d be in right now if I hadn’t found this job, if I’d been working at Papyrus up to the day it went bankrupt. As much as I complain, I’m still glad to be here. I’m glad to be part of a team that works hard and doesn’t mind when I prank them on the team forum, which I did last Wednesday. It took a little while for the joke to sink in, but they got it eventually. 🤣

PSA: Always check your pockets. I left my violin in my pocket on laundry day and she shrank in the wash. Worst. Day. Ever. 😭😭😭

And now, since I’ve run out of things to say and I do kinda miss going out, here’s a couple of pics from the last time (I think?) I was in a restaurant:

……….I really need to clean out my phone.

Life Goes On

Welcome to adulthood. You get excited now when you use your day off to buy a new keyboard and go to the Korean market.

That keyboard was not cheap!!! 😭💔 Unfortunately I really needed a keyboard with a number pad, which makes life a lot more pleasant, and even more unfortunately my new computer did not come with one because Apple really knows how to soak you for every penny. Of course the real tragedy here is that I decided that I needed an expanded keyboard and immediately ran off to buy one but we won’t get into that ORZZZZZZ

Anyway, the reason I ended up at the Korean market was that I’d stumbled across a recipe for ganjang guksu (Korean soy sauce noodles) and wished to try it immediately but did not have somyeon noodles. My brother was moving home from Atlanta that weekend and our parents had driven down to help him move and I had the run of the kitchen, which is a polite way of saying I should probably never be left on my own ever because shit like this happens:

It was really good.

I was also left alone with Her Imperial Majesty Empress Zuri, who was Very Displeased with the snow that showed up around the same time as her late-night walk. It was only a few flakes, but she has spindly legs and almost no fur and overall it wasn’t a good experience for her.

On the bright side (for me), I caught her using the sleeping bag I bought her for Christmas! I’m not actually sure she knows what it is or how to use it – it took her a while to get used to it when I first put it out for her, but after a couple of hours she curled up inside it and we couldn’t get her out. Since then I haven’t really seen her use it, but suspect that she uses it as a substitute for a human lap when no human laps are available (i.e., when we’re all out of the house). Since that was its intended purpose, I suppose it’s worked out.

In this case she had to resort to the sleeping bag because I ran off for a few hours in the middle of the day and didn’t return until almost dinnertime. Everything always seems to stack up on the same damn days, and on this particular weekend Heather and I had already made plans to visit Historic Savage Mills, doggie or no doggie. I was mildly concerned that I might come back to find little doggie gifts on the floor, but luckily that didn’t happen and we still managed to see a lot of fun stuff.

This trip was a definite improvement over the last time I visited Savage Mills, (1) because I had company and (2) because we saw a lot more and also got food.

If you offer me a hot sandwich with ham and melted cheese, the answer will always be yes. :3 My favorite store (after the bookstore, of course) was probably the one with these rubber stamps, which took me straight back to the 90s:

I really wanted to buy stuff at this store but I’ve always been terrible at traditional media so there wasn’t much point. We also saw this hysterical sign outside a bridal consignment shop:

and of course it wouldn’t be a shopping trip if I didn’t pick up at least a couple of new books 😬


Reading Corner

YOU GUYS I FINALLY FINISHED A BOOK FROM MY TSUNDOKU SHELF OMG /flails

To be totally honest, I love reading, but I really, really love being able to obsessively track every page online and set actually realistic goals. On Saturday I finished Memory of Fire: Genesis, and today I remembered to remove it from the tsundoku shelf. I mean I’ve already added at least five other books to the tsundoku shelf, but still. PROGRESS.

Genesis was already discussed and extensively quoted in my last reading update and doesn’t need to be reanalyzed here, but it was really, really good. I highly recommend this book, both to people living in America and people with an interest in pre-Columbian history and mythology. (And, uh, maybe don’t read it while you’re in a good mood cus it’s gonna bring you waaaaaay down.)

On a slightly less progressive note, I have now read 23 of the 60 books I’m planning to read this year. Four of them were regular adult books without pictures. The other nineteen were mangas. This is mildly embarrassing because, even though mangas are books, the long-term plan is to be able to hit my reading goal without needing to include mangas. That’s in the future, though, and in the meantime I’ve had 25 Soul Eaters sitting on my bookcase for years and years and years. I think I must’ve gotten up to book five or six before I stopped reading them, but now I’m up to nineteen and am almost done with the series. With that in mind, I thought it would be a good time to look back on the series to date and say What the fuck?

I don’t know if other Soul Eater fans feel the same way, but one thing I’m noticing is that the conflicts don’t last very long, and it’s kinda starting to bug me. There are extended story arcs and side villains and Medusa is definitely still fucking around with her black blood experiments, but most (if not all) of the arcs so far seem to have been resolved very quickly and easily. The bad guy turnover rate is ridiculous. At the beginning of the series, there are a few minor antagonists who either get defeated quickly or turn out to be DWMA teachers in charge of remedial lessons. Medusa is introduced as main villain and puppet master, but is seemingly killed during the first major battle. She and her team manage to release Asura, who seems like he’s all set to become the next main villain, but he quickly fucks off to god knows where and hasn’t come back so far. Medusa later comes back by stealing a little girl’s body, which she inhabits while we are introduced to her sister Arachne, who also seems like a good candidate for main villain. Then Arachne dies a few books later and it turns out she was only a side villain and the other major villain is in fact Noah, only then Noah dies too and now I don’t know what the fuck’s going on.

This is what I’m talking about when I say all their problems get solved way too easily, because Arachne and Noah were presented as powerful antagonists but in the end went down with hardly any fight. The battle scenes were extremely short. I loved the idea of using Soul’s music to turn Arachne’s own web against her, but Maka should not have been able to defeat her as quickly as she did. It makes slightly more sense for Noah to be defeated fairly quickly because he was up against a handful of powerful Meisters and didn’t seem to have any fighting abilities of his own, but Arachne’s defeat was incredibly anti-climactic and disappointing. It was one of those defeats that had me going “I bet she’s got some other trick it couldn’t be that easy,” but she had no other tricks and it really was that easy. I suppose I can’t really count Noah out just yet since Medusa came back and all and Noah did have access to a lot of demon stuff, but now Gopher’s run off with the Book of Eibon and I wouldn’t put it past Ohkubo to make Gopher the new villain even though he couldn’t villain his way out of a paper bag.

I feel like I should clarify here that I actually have been enjoying Soul Eater and have also been rewatching the anime, but I’m not a fan of the villain situation and I wish Arachne had had more of a role because I really liked her and all she did was wait around and work on her magic before Maka chopped her head off. It’s also not really clear to me why everyone and their mom wants to absorb Asura, or what they hope to get out of it if they succeed. What is the long-term goal here? I’ll admit I’ve been reading these really quickly because, like I said, there’s 25 of them, so it’s possible I’ve missed things, but I wouldn’t mind some more clarity with the general plot.

P.S. Justin is pissing me off and he needs to go. 🤬

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.

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