Ten things I learned last week

“To be or not to be is not a question of compromise. Either you be or you don’t be.”
― Golda Meir

1.         I learned it takes three full days to recover from falling off the no-dairy wagon.  Per doctor’s orders, I have been dairy-free for seven months.  At first it seemed an impossible lifestyle change, but it’s really not so bad.  Though, I will admit pizza with cheese is so much better than pizza without.  Anyway, it was all going so smoothly.  I had adapted well, and for the most part, have had very little in the way of dairy cravings.  That is until I stepped foot in an ice cream shop with no non-dairy choices.  Then, in the blink of an eye, seven months of dairy sobriety came to a gut wrenching end.  In all honesty, I really didn’t think it would make much difference.  I mean, how much damage could one scoop of chunky chocolate peanut butter ice cream do?

A lot.

Lesson learned.

2.         I learned that my morning bagel obsession might be even more hazardous to my health than the dairy.  No, not because those chewy rounds of mouth-watering goodness are packed with carbs and calories, but because I’m wholly incapable of handling a serrated knife without jeopardizing a finger or two.   Last week I required a trip to my local urgent care clinic after my attempt to slice open a bagel for toasting turned bloody.  Let’s just say my thumb didn’t appreciate the near filleting.

3.         I learned that just off the Alabama coast, beneath the sparkling waters of the Gulf of Mexico, is a prehistoric forest dating to the Pleistocene.

How cool is that?

A very small part of me wishes I could scuba dive.  Of course, the rest of me – the part grounded in reality – knows and understand it will be a cold day in hell before that would ever happen.

4.         I learned that I don’t understand people who make a big show of announcing their impending departure from social media then never seem to go anywhere.  What’s that about?

5.         I learned that – speaking of social media – I really hate memes.  And cliché status updates.  And grumpy, negative people who complain all the time.

What are you looking at?

6.         I learned that I have a sudden itch to write a Snowden-esque character into my WIP.  I just can’t help myself.  These stories draw me like a moth to a flame.

And on a side note:  I learned that people are shocked to find out our government is spying on us.

To this I say:  duh.

I’m flabbergasted by such naivety.  I’ve been expecting the dudes in black to show up at my door for years to investigate the content of my Google searches.

7.         I learned that catching up on the backlog of blog posts in my WordPress reader is exhausting.  I love you all.  I love reading what you have to say, and viewing your beautiful photographs, but seriously, you people need to let me catch my breath.  It’s summer.  Take a break.  Go to the pool.  Drink a fruity drink.   Give me a week.  One week.   Then we can get back to business.

What do you mean it’s not all about me?

Source:  www.guardian.co.uk/BBC/Artists Studio/Steffan Hill

8.         I learned that Gillian Anderson is starring in a television show for the BBC called The Fall.  It might come as a surprise to some, but back in the day I was a huge fan of the X-Files.  Anderson’s Scully has always been one of my favorite television characters, second only to Jen Garner’s Sydney Bristow. 

I stumbled upon The Fall quite by accident while looking for something else on Netflix.  My interest was piqued when I saw Anderson’s name listed in the cast, and I couldn’t help but add it to my queue.  I spent Saturday night glued to the scant 5 episodes in the series.  The Fall is about a female cop brought in to hunt down a serial killer.  Sounds mundane and ordinary, doesn’t it?  It’s anything but.  It is dark and brutal and raw.  The acting is fabulous, the writing superb, and the pacing will leave you tingling with anticipation.  I loved every minute of it. 

Check out this review:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/tv-and-radio-reviews/10111545/The-Fall-BBC-Two-review.html

9.         I learned that a man in Brazil was killed when a cow fell through the roof of his house.  I’m perplexed by the logistics of such a thing.  Is it me or does this stink of a conspiracy involving the Chick-fil-a cow?

Check it out for yourself:  http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/07/15/19479766-reports-cow-crashes-through-roof-kills-sleeping-brazilian?lite

10.       I learned that the Twinkie is back.  I never understood the American fascination with this particular snack.  The yellow cake tastes like cardboard, the filling leaves an oily aftertaste, and the ingredient list requires a chemistry degree to understand.  I could go into a rant about the state of obesity in our country and the role processed junk food plays, but somehow I don’t think anyone is listening.

11.  This week’s awww moment is brought to you by a little garden spider who took up residence on my patio for a day or a two.

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Summer reading

I usually spend the first few weeks of summer wrapped in the warm familiarity of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.  It’s an annual tradition born out of my desire to escape the drudgery of months entrenched in academic reading, and in an effort to recharge my wilted brain with something frivolous.  What could be more frivolous than hanging out poolside, the scent of chlorinated water and sunscreen wafting through the air, a margarita in one hand and a tattered copy of Pride & Prejudice in the other?

Not much, right? 

The prospect of frolicking through Georgian England with the Bennett clan should make me feel all warm and gooey inside.  Yet, this year, it doesn’t appeal to me at all.  It seems my rebellious self is protesting our journey down that well-worn literary path and is intent on lobbying for something new.  I suppose it’s to be expected.  Eventually, even the staunchest chocolate lovers crave a little lemon meringue. 

Of course, this leads to a troubling dilemma: 

What am I going to read poolside this summer?

I toiled with the answer to this question for quite some time.  My reading list usually consists of a gentle mix of historical non-fiction, contemporary (and/or Cold War era) spy novels, and familiar classics.  Occasionally, I will throw in a current commercial bestseller or a traditional whodunit to keep things interesting.   

Of late, I have spent a great deal of time enveloped within worlds created by a few of my favorite authors:  Daniel Silva, John le Carre, and Agatha Christie.  And to be completely honest, I’m a little burned out.  Sure, Silva has a new Allon novel dropping next week, and I pre-ordered a signed copy months ago, but I doubt I will dive into this latest installment anytime soon.

After barely surviving Dan Brown’s Inferno, and given my disinterest in Pride & Prejudice, I was beginning to fear that summer would come and go, leaving me wanting.  Then on a recent lazy Saturday, the answer to my reading dilemma came to me in a burst of unfettered brilliance.  It was one of those scorching days, too hot to venture outdoors before sunset.  My daughter and I were doing what we usually do to beat the heat – watching a Netflix marathon, camped out on the couch, noshing junk food.  

Our poison of choice – Sherlock Holmes. 

We started with the BBC’s Sherlock, meandered through CBS’s alternative take, and ended with Guy Ritchie’s quirky blockbusters.  As I watched, I was struck by the complexity of these two characters (Holmes and Watson) portrayed in vastly different settings and time periods, yet seemingly interchangeable.  I wondered what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would have thought of our modern take on his iconic hero and sidekick; how would they stack up to their literary counterparts;  would I even like Conan Doyle’s Holmes and Watson after growing accustomed to the contemporary screen – big and small – versions?

I decided to find out.

Summer reading dilemma solved.

“Excellent!”…

“Elementary.”

Along came a spider…

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Embarrassment of Riches TBR: June Check-In

At the beginning of the year, I decided to participate in the Embarrassment of Riches reading challenge hosted by author Patricia Burroughs.   The goal of the challenge is to make a dent in that stack of books I have intended to read, but never got around to picking up.

Given the size of the pile I have amassed, I aim to get through 24 of them before the end of the year – a silver level accomplishment.

So what have I read this month?

The Unlikely Spy – Daniel Silva:  As I said in last month’s TBR blog entry, this is Silva’s first novel and a bit of a departure from his later work.  Set during WWII and based loosely on actual events, Unlikely chronicles a German spy’s mission to obtain intelligence regarding the anticipated Allied invasion of France (D-Day), and British efforts to thwart such an effort by leaking false information through a network of double agents.  It’s a complex story with a great many players told from numerous perspectives.  So many, in fact, it becomes very difficult to differentiate between the characters and their motivations.  The female antagonist – aka the German spy – was the most interesting character in the entire novel.  She was strong, resilient, and sympathetic.  Her motivations were clear, and even though she did kill a few innocent Brits when her back was to the wall, I found myself rooting for her success.  Then Silva killed her.  In the most blasé fashion, as if it were an afterthought, he eliminated her and moved on without a backward glance.  The story went to shit for me after that, and was topped off by an ending that was a real blow to my intelligence as a reader.  I hate that.

Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie:  I have read my fair share of Agatha Christie over the years.  My favorite, and one of my top five favorite books of all time, is Murder in Mesopotamia.  So, it’s a little shocking that Murder on the Orient Express, arguably Christie’s most notable effort, remained steadfast on my TBR list.  Until now.  As always, the queen of murder weaves a riveting story complete with an impossible crime, an eclectic cast of characters (though they have more in common than one might think), and an improbable conclusion.  And she makes it work.  Brilliantly.

Inferno – Dan BrownInferno is by far the worst book I’ve read since…well…the Lost Symbol.   It started out promising.  I like a novel that drops the reader right into the action and Brown certainly accomplished that, but once you get past the initial  flash and bang, the story becomes heavy on tell and light show.  I know what you’re thinking:  It’s a Dan Brown novel – telling is part of the equation.  I get that, but in this case it’s boring, poorly written, and redundant.  How many times does Brown recount – frame by frame, word for word – the contents of the mysterious video sent by the bad guy to the unknowing accomplice?  Four.  It’s almost as if he has no faith in the reader’s intelligence.  That pisses me off.  Do you know what else pisses me off?  Making the reader (me) believe one thing then revealing it was all an orchestrated illusion thereby voiding the entire beginning of the story – the only interesting part of the entire book.

On a side note:  Dan Brown could do with a stint in adverb rehab; and it should be a crime to use the word ubiquitous and the phrase “sea of humanity” more than once per novel.

Just a thought.

Another note:  Inferno is a new publication and doesn’t count toward my goal in this challenge.  Bummer.  Such suckage should count for something.

Progress toward goal:  11 of 24. 

What’s next?

A Study in Scarlet – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

What’s on your TBR list?