30.12.17

Year End Reading Wrap Up

378 books read - GOAL MET (goal was 300, so met and surpassed)!  Now, if you go over to the reading blog, you'll see far fewer books listed thanks to my Book Committee work, so click here to see the 2017 reads.  Here's the thing: among the unlisted are the picture books I "read" for MPOW's Mock Caldecott, while many more fell into the "you can't talk about this" category for the Book Award Committee.  Which is also, in its way, one of the reasons why I haven't blogged as much this year as in previous years.

So... here's the 2017 reading analysis (2017 numbers in parens):
number of books read in 2017: 378 (345)
best month: August with 63 (December with 52)
worst month:  Janurary 18 (tie between June and August/22)
average read per month: 31.5  (28.75)
adult fiction as percentage of total: 59 (21)
children's/YA fiction as percentage of total:  17 (35)
Advance Readers Copies: 112 (90)
e-books: 3 (0)
books read that were published this year:  325 (300)
books that will be published in the coming year: 20 (6)
five star reviews (aka "Must Read"): 9 (5)
one star reviews (aka "DNF"): 8 (11)

Thanks to Book Committee Books unread, Mt. Bookpile is at 330 and going by past experience, that means that I'll probably get it down to 346 by this time next year.  Yes, I know that's not exactly "down" but if I'm lucky I'll read more than my stated goal of 300.  The good news is that I've also been able to clear off a number of shelves (ok, ok, two entire bookcases with 36 linear feet of shelving) to only hold Mt. Bookpile.  And since I no longer keep all the books on Mt. Bookpile... well, I guess I'll have to figure out what to put on those shelves as I clear them off.

Goals for 2018?  I'll say 300 books... maybe 325.

27.11.17

Culture Vulturing at an awkward moment



Because when you're in Dublin, and the Abbey Theatre has a production, you go, right?  And so, I did.  This production, Let The Right One In, is based on the Swedish movie (which was based on a novel) and was just opening when we saw it, although it was originally seen on stage in London, New York and other places since 2013.  I mention this to give some context: this isn't a new production (except in Dublin) nor is the subject matter new.  I also mention this to tell you that there are no spoilers here because see above.

Without getting into the performances or the technical aspects (although I certainly could), there was one moment that took me aback.  Those who know me know I love me some vampires.  And I know that Eli is a vampire.  And that Haken is not her father but an old man in love with Eli, an old man who probably fell in love with her and agreed to be her protector (thrall?), helping her to cover up her killings and move from town to town when much younger.  But Haken is at the end of his life, while Eli is still "young" - and his despair at this realization and that Eli might be looking for someone new/younger is palpable.  So when Eli offers to remove her shirt, or to sleep with Haken, I know that this is actually a very old being offering comfort to a younger man but... but... the visual is of a young girl and a much older man. 

Had I seen this when it was on stage in New York (2015) or London (2014) or even two months ago, that moment wouldn't have taken me aback.  But in this post-Weinstein, post-Spacey, post-Roy Moore moment?  It did.  There have been a number of articles about how we come to grips with the artistic works of people (like Woody Allen or Richard Wagner) when we have contempt for the person.  Clearly this moment isn't about that, but it did make me wonder: how will the vampire story fare, on or off screen, given our moment of #metoo?

27.10.17

Lazy Thoughts

Reading... Jo Nesbo's The Snowman.  It's a series I've been reading out of order (not sure that matters in this case) and because of the movie it made sense to read this one now.  As mysteries go, there are enough twists and red herrings to keep me interested; as series go, Hole is compelling but he's pretty bleak as a "leading man".

Listening... to Camille O'Sullivan.  Several years ago, Thing Two gave me a CD by Camille, which led me to buy tickets to see a Camille when Thing One and I were in Edinburgh in 2007... turns out, there were two singers using the same name!  Now there's one going by Camille and one going by Camille O'Sullivan.  I've never seen the original, but have seen the "new" one three times, including last week at Irish Arts, where she did an evening of Jacques Brel.

Watching... my DVR'd list grow, while not actually watching much more than some morning news.  Too much to read, to many naps to take and far too much else going on to have the time.  Next month maybe.

Following...  this year's My Simpler Year program and beginning to plan for 2018.  I've already offloaded several "heavy weight" items from my mental and physical lives, but what hasn't gone needs work.

Uncorking... Warwick Valley's Black Dirt Red.  Because I'm out of Henry of Pelham's Baco Noir.

Looking... at leaves turning and enjoying the sights of fall.  Earlier this week I was at NELA and had the extreme pleasure of driving from Boston to Burlington and back - gorgeous.

20.10.17

Culture Vulturing: Three Times Lucky

Many years ago, as a senior in college, I had the opportunity to go to England for Spring Break (yeah, I know - spring. England. Not the warmest place in the world.). Because I'd been there before, I knew that once I got to Oxford, I'd head to the ticket booth to see what I could see during my time there and in London.  One ticket?  "Henry V" at Stratford

The visual experience was stunning.  There was one scene that took my breath away, when the French army, in gleaming gold, silver and copper colors, rises up from below/behind the ragtag English army.  Just gorgeous.  And then there was the relatively unknown lead, a guy named Kenneth Brannagh.  I returned to Oxford and told my mother that I'd seen an incredible actor, one I'm sure would go on to do amazing work.  His Hamlet, which I saw a few years later, was equally great. 

One time lucky.

On a later visit to London, Thing One and I were at loose ends and decided maybe a visit to the opera would be nice.  By complete chance, we managed to get seats to La Traviata.  Which, apparently, is considered one of the greatest productions in modern times.  Now, I hadn't seen this before and I'm certainly not enough of an opera scholar to have known this at the time.  I just knew it was a wonderful evening and that the performances were incredible.  And Angela Gheorghiu? A star was born.

Two times lucky.

Two nights ago I accompanied a friend to the Lyric Opera production of Tosca.  Why?  Her son is in a children's chorus and he'd be appearing in the first act.  Ok.  I'm up for it.  "Buzz" says that the woman portraying Tosca is gonna be big.  What do I know?  I know it was a fun evening.  The production was rather minimal in terms of set, but the performers were not minimal.  And my friend's son may have decided (at the ripe old age of 12!) to become an opera singer.

So, three times lucky.

29.9.17

Lazy Thoughts

Reading... adult books, still.  And am in need of a palate cleanser - yet most of my go-to authors either published earlier this year or aren't planning to.  Sigh. Ideas?

Listening... to whatever shows up on my iPod.  It's not that I don't care, it's that there's a lot going on and I'm using my time driving to/from work to think.  Yes, I should be more mindful or present.  Working on that, I promise.

Watching... the last season of 19-2.  I binged watched most of it last weekend, but saved the last episode for this one.

Following... The Lightning Notes.  My friend Diana pointed me to them a while ago and, well, it's a "must read" in my Feedbin lists. Example:



Uncorking... nothing, at the moment.  Lots of tea being drunk, however, thanks to finding MEM Tea's outlet nearby.  Although I will have to order some from my two fave Canadian shops soon.

Looking... at my cankles and really hoping that I can get off the Prednisone soon.  I really don't want to have to buy new shoes and clothes because of this stupid eye thing.

23.9.17

Achievement Unlocked!

I guess I wasn't paying attention a few days ago when I posted my review of The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole but... drum roll.... it was my 2000th (that's two thousandth) book review since starting the Killin' Time Reading blog in 2008.  Not every book I've read got reviewed thanks to work I have done and am currently doing on book award committees or read for professional review on SLJ's Adult Books 4 Teens blog.  Still, that's essentially one book every 1.8 days.

My name is Lazygal and I have no life outside reading.  For realz.

16.9.17

CRION over youuuuuu,...

Pardon the musical pun (but at least it's better than this one, which apparently has no relevance for the 30-ish and under crowd).

Anyway, as of this week we have a definite diagnosis for my eye.  Last week, a mere two days after stepping down on the Prednisone - and trust me, you do not ever want to go on a high-dose of that drug as the side effects are nasty - I started to relapse.  Fast.  Emergency trip to the doctor and yes, confirmation.  I have CRION.  It's something, like my lack of a gallbladder or missing cartilage in my knees or being a mere 5'4.5", that I'll be living with my entire life.  And the level of Prednisone I need to prevent further relapses is not sustainable over the long term.

It also means that starting yesterday, we (my doctor and I) will be monitoring my liver and kidney functions as my immune system won't be working due to CellCept, a drug that usually prevents donated organs from being rejected by the donee's body.  The good news is that the side effects, beyond an increased susceptibility to the average cough and sniffle, are minimal.  No more heart palpitations.  No more "post-vomit" mouth taste (one of the better Prednisone side effects!).  No more tremors.  And, with luck, no more relapses or fear that this will cross into my right eye.

Unfortunately, CellCept takes a couple of months to really take effect.  And you can't just stop Prednisone, you have to taper it off.  Plus, see above re: needing high levels to be able to prevent relapses. So I'll be taking both for a while.  Ugh.

Still, it could be so much worse.  I could be unable to work, or read, or watch tv or live a normal life.  I could live in Florida or Texas, trying to rebuild my life after Harvey or Irma.  I could have an incredibly serious disease that won't easily be controlled by taking pills daily.  I could be a Mets fan.  Or a Jets fan.

11.9.17

Notable Quotes

I'm FINE!
"Ruth Zardo" (Glass Houses by Louise Penny)

A propos of this post on Lightning Notes

8.9.17

Lazy Thoughts

Reading... a lot for the adult book award, not so much for the SF List.  And for some reason, three of my favorite mystery writers have released new books now so those are "palate cleansers" in between what's been a raft of bad books.

Listening... to Steely Dan.  Because. Switching to Alison Moyet before her concert next week.

Watching... almost obsessed with, to be honest, the news.  I shouldn't.  It's not healthy.  But I do worry about our survival as a country and as a species.

Following... this advice as school starts up again.

Uncorking... the last of the Henry of Pelham Baco Noir.  Need more.  Anyone going to Ontario and willing to bring me back a case?

Looking... at my apartment and wondering what I can weed/declutter next. Consider it Spring Cleaning, Part III

21.8.17

Notable Quotes

"I think of books in the currency of lattes," Wilcox said, pointing out students do buy fancy coffee.  "It's a three-latte book, and you have it forever and keep it on your shelf, while the latte you'll pee out in an hour.  Somehow, we value the latte and not the book."

14.8.17

Culture Vulturing, kind of ranty

Since moving two years ago, there have been a whole lot of non-work related cultural events I've attended (work related = concerts and plays that are not quite Must Attend but really kind of are).  A short list:

Dance: BoSoma Dance, Dorrance Dance, Pacific Northwest Ballet
Music: Coeur de Pirate, Cyndi Lauper/Boy George, Sybarite5, Bryan Ferry, Duran Duran, Jethro Tull Opera, Sinatra celebration, Bruno Mars
Plays: Hamilton, Elf, Once

Here's the problem: I hate audiences.  Terry has a great way to suggest to audiences that they put away their phones (which, duh) but it's not that - although seriously, people, stop.  That crappy video or photo can just wait.  Be in the moment, enjoy the show.

No, for me it's audience behavior.  Not when I'm at a show like Elf, which has a definite younger audience skew and is going to be filled with squealing children.  I accept that.  It's the older folks, the ones who should know better and who still, somehow, for some reason behave really badly.

Example?  The group of six friends (female) sitting in front of my row who did not stop talking and laughing throughout the concert.  There was no song they listened to, no moment they focused on, it was all talk and laughing all the time.  Until close to the end, when Thing One said "will you please just shut up for one song?" and they looked shocked.  Even more shocking, everyone in my row made it clear that yes, shutting up for a short while would be a very nice thing for the rest of us trying to enjoy a concert we'd paid money for.

Example?  The two women who insisted on standing and dancing during a concert, despite complaints from a wide swath of people who could not see the stage.  The ushers should have moved them but for whatever reason, they didn't (when approached, the women argued and refused to move).  By 30 minutes, everyone in that area was moving.  By intermission, it looked as though a huge number of seats hadn't been sold and people either were standing on the sides or leaving.  All because two people decided they were more important than everyone else's enjoyment.

Neither of those was a "those young'uns" moment.  They were all close to my age, if not older.

I don't have a ton of discretionary income.  But I do like going to things, I do like music and dance and theatre, and when selfish audience members interrupt that good time?  It makes me less likely to want to spend my money on those events.  It's ruining the enjoyment for younger people in addition to teaching them bad habits when in a public space.  Which, of course, feeds on itself.

14.7.17

My own private episode of House

Remember the TV show House? Some medical mystery is presented... differential diagnoses are offered... treatments proposed and tried... nothing works... then, amazingly, Dr. Gregory House has some brainwave and YAY! Healing.

ACT ONE
The morning I'm supposed to leave for a conference I wake up with a very, very sore throat, possibly strep (I work in a school, after all). My doctor takes a look, swabs my throat and comes back with "nope, you have mono". MONO??? Yes, the disease everyone else gets in junior high or high school, I've managed to get in my early 40s. Yes, I know who I was kissing. No, I still haven't forgiven OR forgotten. And, like chicken pox or other childhood diseases, getting it as an adult is worse.

The bloodwork continues to show an active disease for two years, only vanquished by Xanax, under the theory if we suppress the stress in my body maybe things could go back to normal. The problem is that I now have Epstein-Barr and will have it, along with flare-ups, for the rest of my life. I start to practice what's called ECAM, or Energy Conservation and Management.

ACT TWO
My throat - again! - feels a little swollen, and during a routine visit to my endocrinologist she suggests I see my primary care doctor to get it treated. My doctor, like so many nowadays, doesn't really pay attention and the next six months are filled with tests and potential diagnoses and nothing really works. The swollen glands seem to disappear on their own, and my endocrinologist, at my next visit, thinks it was probably a run-of-the-mill infection that healed itself. My take-away? More ECAM and be very careful because this can - and has - happen again.


ACT THREE
In early December I discovered there was something a little off with my left eye and made an appointment with an ophthalmologist. One examination later, I have a diagnosis: optic retinitis in my left eye. Now I need to see a neuro-ophthalmologist for treatment. Two days later, my eyes are being redialated and I'm doing a number of what I'll call "inner eye" exams. Yep, the optic nerve in my left eye is severely inflamed. Remedy? IV drop of steroids. Just to rule out other problems, I'm tested for MS, NMO, lupus and Lyme disease. The problem with the first three is that they usually manifest in your 20s-40s, and I'm in my mid-50s. Surely there'd be at least one other symptom before now? Of course, there's the idiopathic form of OR and that's the one I probably have. One MRI and some blood tests later, they're all ruled out.

The steroids seem to work, and by March my eyesight is 20/40 (with glasses, I'm usually 20/15 and pre-treatment that eye was 20/400). Fun fact: in Massachusetts you can drive if you have 20/40 vision. Except things in my eye weren't blurry, they were foggy. No amount of corrective lenses would fix that and most of my sight is through my right eye, with peripheral help from my left (this is mostly affecting my central vision). The six-month check up should be a breeze, right? Except... remember that episode of House? How the first treatment works, until it doesn't?  That's me.

June arrives and my vision is 20/70. My doctor is - to put it mildly - concerned and surprised because that is not how this is supposed to work. She starts to talk about possible other causes, and mentions a word that I never thought I'd hear: sarcoidosis. Yep, the House crew's go-to "this is what we think it is although it's never been that before but one day it might be" differential diagnosis disease. I could have that. Only a CT scan can tell. Annnnnd... no sarcoid (the 'in' term for sarcoidosis). CT is fine. So is a second MRI of my "orbitals" (which are eye sockets and let me tell you, when you see the results on the screen, you'll think you're related to Darth Vader!). Oh, and my first doctor is leaving so I need to see someone else. Soon.

This week was my fist appointment with the new doctor. We went over the progression of this problem and the previous testing, and then he tested my eyes. Yep. Worse. 20/100 in three weeks. As he put it, "you've lost several lines in a short time". Lines, I guess, being shorthand for "we're enlarging the lettering but if this were one of those large eye charts you'd be a few lines of text away from where you were three weeks ago". Obviously, a new differential diagnosis is required, along with new treatments and testing.

What's the differential? CRION (a chronic, remitting version of what I have). Syphallis (um, say what???). Rheumatoid arthritis. A few other relatively rare things I don't want to think about. But probably I'll be immunosuppressants for the rest of my life. Yay? Treatment right now is oral steroids, which could also lead to ulcers, bone density loss and the ever popular weight gain and 'roid rage.

ACT FOUR
Stay tuned.

18.1.17

Not Guilty, Your Honor

Terry recently posted a flashback to a post he wrote about guilty pleasures.  Thing Two once confessed that Gilmore Girls was a guilty pleasure.  Here's my problem: the word "guilty".

Perhaps when I was younger, I had guilty pleasures.  But now, as a mid-century adult?  Nope.  If it's a pleasure, I'm not going to feel guilt.



There are definite times when guilt invades my life.  For example, when I recognize I could have been kinder to someone in pain.  Or when I don't take action (through laziness, usually, or being too rushed to do it now and then forgetting) that would help someone.  There are fleeting flashes when I get one of those pleading letters or emails (or, now FB posts) asking for help that I could give, when I know it's a worthy cause but not my cause.  That's it.

I don't feel guilty if I break my diet.  I don't feel guilty when I fail to live up to my standards.  I don't feel guilty when I watch pure trash (ok, what I think of as trash) on tv rather than actually getting things done.  I don't feel guilty when I take a mental health day at work.  Rather, I might feel pleasure with a tinge or embarrassed or defensive or ashamed or sad.  But not guilty. Because I'm in my mid 50s.  And part of being an adult is admitting that something gives you pleasure and enjoying that.