Time Has Come As We All Go Down*

Today is the day I’ve been preparing for, the day I get (shit…I don’t remember how many students I have right now…hang on…133 students)…wait, it doesn’t matter how many kids I have, because inevitably, a bunch of kids won’t hand them in, but hey! Let’s be optimistic, even though we’re a public middle school teacher in March about 4 weeks before Spring Break and 3 days before the end of the trimester and there’s very little optimism available to my brain right now, let’s say I get 133 science units turned in today! Yeah! Let’s say it! Yeah! Then I need to grade them all before, well, honestly, Monday night. Yeah! And my doctor is gonna give me shit tonight about working too many hours and not exercising enough! Yeah! And I’m gonna tell her that on the days when I do 12,000 steps AT SCHOOL before I even leave to go home, hell, there’s no steps left in me (not true…I do more because dogs). Yeah!

I do work too many hours. I don’t exercise enough. This is not the time to stress about that balance. When my grades are done, I can stress about it. If I get far enough in the grading by Sunday, I can even take time off and go to the gym. That’s my goal at the moment. It’s a few days out, so it’s still doable. Meanwhile, my lunch is made, I have a plan for the day to balance my sanity with my job (that’s a thing…and this week, that means I’m allowed one Rice Krispie treat a day. ONE, doc, ONE.), and I’m hoping to come home and (well, grade a bunch of science units, honestly) iron the last body down. Hopefully. It’s about 150 pieces, so it’s doable.

By the way, when it’s cold, apparently it’s acceptable to have a cat face up your butt…

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After dinner was eaten, while once-nightly TV show is being watched, I have been sewing on circles…I figure I will never get them done otherwise. I think I got three done.

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Then off to the ironing (I did grade before all that). See this is the part I was kind of afraid of…that’s a lot of little tiny spine pieces…

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But honestly? It was pretty easy to iron together. Because of all the metallics, I used a press sheet between iron and fabric…and I’ll need to remember to keep doing that.

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I decided the space in her back was going to be just that…SPACE. There’s definitely a space theme going on in this. I guess I’m thinking of all the potential a teenager has…and it feels like they have all the potential of SPACE. Or something like that. It’s HUGE.

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Then I laid the spine piece all ironed together on the space and put the border around it…and voila! ‘Twas awesome. Seriously. I really like it.

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Kitten is not so sure…

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I gave her some hair and finished all the finger bits, thus getting me into the 520s or so.

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One figure done. The other one does have another 150 pieces, true…but I don’t think they’re as bad as those back pieces. We’ll see tonight. Then hopefully iron down to the background on Thursday night and start stitching down? I’m not sure how these fabrics will deal with that, but let’s just assume it will work out. Yeah!

That optimism (that really isn’t optimism…it’s some sort of crazy)…is what will get me through the day. Maybe.

Oh yeah, I just finished this book…Golden Hill by Francis Spufford…

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My ex-SIL sent it to me at Christmas and I just started reading it a few weeks ago. At first, I was like…um…this is 18th-century stuff and I’m sort of a fan at times, but it’s not easy to read, but after a few pages in, I realized, OMG. No really. OMG. This book is great. It’s funny as hell sometimes and stressful at others but it was published just a few years ago by someone who generally doesn’t write fiction, but does like history. So the history is there, and it’s definitely got some accuracy going, but then he throws in this half-assed explanation of sword fighting that made me almost fall out of my chair. And he full on admits its half-assed. The ending is also awesome. So yeah, I recommend this book…and if he writes any more like this, I’m in. Totally in.

Now I have less than two weeks to finish my book club book. Yikes. Priorities.

*Kaleo, Way Down We Go (didn’t we just hear this one while writing not that long ago???)

Things Will Happen Today

My feet are cold. It’s going to be in the 80s again today, but my feet get cold and I have to wear shorts and big fluffy socks all at the same time. This weirdo winter weather in Southern California…40s at night and 80s during the day. I know, I could be back East and freezing all my parts and not just my feet. I got that. Some rain would be nice here.

I didn’t get a whole lot of useful stuff done yesterday, except for some minor purging on the kitchen counters, which is a good thing (boychild is useful for that stuff). We threw out a bunch of old pens that were dead and bagged up the rest of the pens and pencils for school. Found the address I’d been looking for and had finally emailed someone to get. Of course. Organized the boxes of sundry kitchen items that pile up because I forget I’ve already bought them. Put all my Christmas gifts away. Today I will put away Christmas stuff, I think. Maybe. In between a raptor thing (cool!) and watching that band play (another episode of Draws in Bars! By the beach! But it will be cold, because it will be dark. So I will wear socks.). I wrote a commission contract and asked my dad to look at it, because I am not a lawyer and he is.

Artwise, I didn’t do much either. I did get my slowly flattening tire fixed, but not the tire sensor. It’s annoying that they are so expensive. Obviously the tire place has not seen the last two Visa bills. They are heart-stoppening. Not a word, I know.

Walked the dogs…a good solid three miles in the full heat of the afternoon. It felt hot but good.

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The dogs were tired.

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I needed to get out and walk off some of the irritation building up. I’m kind of irritated by all these studies going on in the wildlife preserve, but if I hike far enough out, they’re gone.

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So I do that.

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Tired dogs…I said that. But they were.

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We had gaming at night. My character didn’t do much. Moved from one side of the temple to another. Dodged a flaming thing. Or a horror. Not sure which.

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Block 20 is almost done…just need to finish the sheep.

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Exciting stuff. Came home and cut out pieces. When boychild wants to go to bed, he brings me the puppy, who is fast asleep. Snuggles him up against me, where he continues to sleep.

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I cut out a bunch, but there’s a shitload of tiny little pieces in there…overlapping tree parts. This crazy thing I drew. So I’m not done. But there’s not much left to do…

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Next week starts to be full of school stuff. No, I still haven’t finished grading that thing. Ugh. I piled it up on the couch and I look at it and feel guilty. Too many little details of shit to get done in the next week. I guess it’s good I took some brainless days in there.

I finished another book, A Closed and Common Orbit, the second in a series by Becky Chambers. The first book, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, was good, but I thought this one was even better…all about AI trying to exist in our world when they aren’t allowed to do certain things. Very cool story. You don’t have to read the first one to get the second one…they are the same world. It would help with understanding, but it’s not crucial to the story. There’s a third book coming out in April.

Calli is better at brainless than I am. I was trying to get her off the couch to come to bed.

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It took some persuading. OK. Gotta get ready to go falconing. Or something. I’m gonna need sunscreen…in December. I got sunburned yesterday. Duh. I never remember in the winter. Anyway, things will happen today. Not much will get done, I predict, but things will happen. Typical Saturday.

Book Review: Bloodlight

I recently read a NetGalley book for the purposes of review, Bloodlight: The Apocalypse of Robert Goldner, by Harambee K. Grey-Sun.

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I so wanted to like this book. The cover is nice. It starts out telling the story of a boy almost 17 years old who wrestles at school and is kind of a nerd and sort of has a girlfriend, but doesn’t really fit in, and then he starts having these hallucinations and seizures. At that point, the author has asked us to understand the book not as a YA novel (which is good, because it doesn’t do well as that), but as some sort of metaphysical event, which feeds into a strange ending that reads like an X-Files episode gone bad, and not bad in that everyone dies, but bad as in Jumped the Shark bad.

On the one hand, when Grey-Sun is writing descriptions of the brain phases that the main character, Robert Goldner, goes through, his descriptions are beautiful and poetic. In fact, if he just wrote an entire book describing say how an artist views the world or a long LSD trip, he might be getting somewhere, but the story itself is beyond any sort of belief, even for someone who loves sci fi and fantasy and a wide variety of pretty out-there fiction. And the dialogue is awful. It’s so stilted, it’s hard to read it without wincing.

I wavered back and forth between a 1 and a 2 on Goodreads, and stuck with the 2, just because I was really entranced by his descriptions of the epileptic attacks, or whatever they finally were. I had to work hard to make myself finish the book. I was hoping for sense, some clarity. Sigh. No such luck.

Book Review: The Fourteenth Goldfish

I get asked to review kids’ books sometimes, because of my teacher thing, so I recently read The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm.

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It’s a cute story about a girl whose grandfather sends himself back to being a teenager. They marketed it as being about passion for science, and there is some of that in the story, but mostly it seems like coming of age. That said, it’s a little on the young side. I would market this towards elementary school, even though the characters are in high school. It’s written to that level.

This seems silly to complain about, and it’s not the author’s fault, but I was really distracted by the fish art at the beginning of each chapter, mostly because the numbers of fish kept changing, going up, then down, but they didn’t match the chapter number, which bugged me. My brain works that way, though, and the distraction became an issue. Also, the title is explained in the story, but it doesn’t really make sense. I don’t want to give away any story details, but it seemed a stretch to relate the goldfish story back to what happens in the real story. The ending also seems a little out there, unbelievable. Not that the main premise is totally believable either, but that one I can roll with.

Like I said, though, it’s a cute story, an easy read, for an elementary school kid (or language learners in the older grades), but the story is pretty simplistic and has some issues that honestly, most kids probably wouldn’t notice.

Book Review: Broken Monsters

I recently read Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes, a South African author also known for The Shining Girls. NetGalley recently offered up Broken Monsters, her newest US release.

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I started reading the book assuming it was a mystery, not having read Beukes before (she’s listed as sci fi, dystopian, urban fantasy, which this may fall under, but only by the skin of its teeth). I do think it reads well as a mystery. She had a couple different story arcs going on between the detective and her daughter, both dealing with the grittier aspects of Chicago. There’s a vlogger (by accident, I would say) who brings in an internet aspect to the story, and there’s definitely a mystery to be solved.

I really liked this book until about the last 20 pages. Then it went all nuclear on me, and I have to say, I’m a very tolerant reader. I can handle stuff that’s out there in terms of genre, and this book does mess with the mystery genre. The ending is simply not satisfying. I don’t need a happy ending (although this one attempts that). I just need one that has some sense, and if you’re going to go out there, to attempt to bring the supernatural or some such into your book in the very end, tying it to whatever is inhabiting your killer’s brain, then it needs to either BE there or not. The vague random semi-spiritual/evil/I don’t know what was at the end of this book? Eh.

That said, Beukes writes well and I will read at least The Shining Girls, but I was disappointed by the ending. It felt like it was written by a different author for a different book. Scary thriller mystery? Yes. Mostly.

Book Review: I Am the Mission

One of the things that drives me crazy about this series is the fact that every book has two titles and it’s called the Boy Nobody series, but that’s not how he’s referred to in the books, so there’s this huge disconnect. Oh, and on this one, it’s called The Unknown Assassin Book 2. DUDE. Whether it’s you or your publisher, you are shooting yourself in the foot by not making a decision about the titles and the series title. PICK ONE. OK, I Googled this mess (and this isn’t the first time I’ve done it, so apparently I typed in the right string of words this time, which is problematic already, because ALL the possible strings should give me this answer), here’s what Zadoff has to say about it, which basically distills to follow the titles with Assassin and Mission in them. Because of marketing. Or something.

That said, the series is relatively good. The books are short, and this one seemed even shorter than the last one. Which is strange, because it’s apparently 432 pages, 80 pages longer than the first one. OK, so it’s a quick read. Seriously, he does keep the action going…

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Enough that he has to start writing about the mistakes the main character, a teenage assassin who is questioning his missions and his bosses, makes because HE isn’t sleeping…because we’re not sleeping either because there’s no down time for this character. So there’s always some questionable science in these books, but it’s not enough to really throw you off, and it’s definitely written towards a YA audience, I would think male or female into assassination and rebellion and finding yourself (sort of, but not really). This one touches on terrorism and anti-government sentiments, which is interesting, because the character is supposed to be PART of the government (or IS he?). But we’re left with yet another cliffhanger so we have to read the next one.

You can’t fault Zadoff for his tense, driven writing. You can fault him for his female characters. They strip their clothes off at a moment’s notice. Mother is the closest to a normal female in the series, and she’s kind of a hardass herself, which is fine, because she doesn’t get naked on him. That would be creepy.

Sure, I’ll read the next one…in about 2 hours by the pool or at the gym on the elliptical. It’s not deep fiction, but it’s entertaining enough.

Book Review: Virgin

As you are surely aware, I read a lot. And sometimes I read for NetGalley for the purpose of reviewing books. I get lots of emails from them suggesting book titles, and when I’m totally buried in books, I often ignore them…but you know earlier this week was bad for life, so I was reading a lot. One of the suggestions sounded at least intriguing, so I read Radhika Sanghani’s Virgin.

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So. It’s short. I read it in one evening. Is it good? Eh. I did go back and read all the other reviews after I had read it, and I’m confused about what book they read, but then again, maybe it’s because I’m old. Her issues seemed really lame. I mean, I don’t doubt there are girls out there in their last year of college who are virgins and who are stressed out about it, and the bit about the waxing was amusing, and as a science teacher, my incessant need to yell out, “It’s not your fucking vagina, you dumbass…it’s your vulva!” during the whole book is probably an issue. But I just wasn’t engaged with the story or the characters or any of it honestly.

So there we are. I gave it a 2 out of 5 on Goodreads. I did finish it; it was a quick read. Maybe someone else will be more amused by its pithy girlishness than I was.

You Must Read…

So, if you were my neighbor, then just a few minutes after midnight, you saw me wandering my front yard, barefoot with a flashlight (actually, the first time I was barefoot WITHOUT a flashlight). That’s because Amazon claimed they delivered my tea (very important) and my book club selection (also important, since the library will not be coughing up a copy for a good long time) yesterday, and we hadn’t seen it…and it’s not a small box…I get 480 teabags (British) at a time…although Amazon sells them for half of what I used to pay locally. Since tearing out three tall skinny trees to put in the new septic leach field, there’s an opening to my front lawn that did not used to exist, and increasingly, delivery people believe it’s the access to my front door. I had even checked out the door from my bedroom that goes to the tiny deck off that front area, which is normally enclosed by bushes and trees and completely invisible to everyone but the gas meter guy, and I don’t think they even check that any more. Sure enough, once I had the flashlight and started checking all the available greenery, I found the damn box in the middle of nowhere, hiding behind a tree.

Yo Dad. I’m buying trees this week, if even to just put them in their pots where they will eventually be planted, because this is getting silly.

So. Yeah. Soccer. Driving. Dry wind. Hot. Hotel room. Stomach-cramping breakfast. Tired. I managed to finish yesterday’s drawing while sitting in the middle of the soccer team before the 2nd game…

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I don’t usually draw with people around because they ask questions, but my head hurt and I was tired and it was what I wanted to do, and honestly, it’s not as rated R as most of my stuff. I also stitched and read, but I was reading Stephen King, which is like a whole ‘nother issue. I think the only benign thing I did, the only thing that no one could question, was the stitching. I’ll photograph them tomorrow after the third game (and 4+ more hours of driving…I drive half, girlchild does the other half).

We could have stayed up there another night, but I needed to get stuff done here, like sanding and washing the next set of walls…we moved a piano!

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The next two walls to be painted are the one on the right, where the piano used to be (seems almost pointless to paint it when it will be 80% covered by piano and bookshelf, but whatever) and the wall with the sliding glass door and giant window. Then all we have left is the wall with the mirrors, which are coming down on Wednesday, and the one next to the fireplace, which has a mastic issue at the moment. Carpet is next on the list. Picking it this week, hopefully installing next week. I can only handle this level of chaos for a short period of time, and then I start to go a bit bonkers. (GO…ha ha ha. very funny)

So the soccer…this is the first tournament since girlchild’s back surgery in March. She didn’t do physical therapy, because she didn’t need to. They put two pins in her back and some growth hormone to persuade the bone to heal, but this is it. And it’s a joy to see her play…

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Because she was really playing, seriously kicking some people’s butts, even though she’s totally out of shape…

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And that girl jumps way higher than she does (the LA team was a little frightening in many ways)…

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But she played half the game today and is physically tired, but not hurting in a bad way, despite all the contact during the game.

This one…our player and the girlchild both hit it with their heads, but both had their eyes closed, and it basically rolled down the girlchild’s body.

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You can see the goalie behind them. If some other player had had the brains to be standing right in front of them, it would have been a goal, but no such luck. This is not really a tournament you win…it’s a college showcase, and basically girlchild has decided (quite intelligently) that she will be picking schools for their academics, and once she has her short list, she’ll start contacting the soccer coaches there. Soccer doesn’t bring the big scholarships, but I think she’d still like to play if she can.

So while we play in these, she’s not really super-bothered about who’s watching her…as she puts it, mostly it’s local schools (Southern California) and she wants to go farther than that.

So there’s one more kamikaze drive tomorrow and then we’re done for a couple of weeks, when there’s another one. Meanwhile, she communes with her friends…

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Listening to music and talking and snapchatting, all at the same time.

We saw this sign up in Pomona…

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Which reminds me, I’m making a phone call tomorrow to see if I can get a scholarship for a mindfulness class locally. It’s way too expensive otherwise. The director asked me to call, though, so we’ll see what they can do for me. Maybe nothing, but if you don’t ask? Then you don’t ever get…right? I don’t know if the Bible says that.

One of the reasons I wanted to come home tonight is because the ironing is talking to me, the talk of the artist-addict. I finished ironing this guy together…

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And then did the arm on the other side…

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It was about 100 pieces. I’m 9 1/2 hours into the ironing, a little less than halfway through the pieces at 720 or so. I found two of the missing pieces, but am now missing two more. There’s some weird universe-balancing aspect going on there…not sure I understand it. I do know I want it done and that I need to get working on the birds too.

Moodwise, spending time with the girlchild falls halfway between really nice (at dinner, at one point in the car) and absolute hell (when you can’t say anything right, it’s all wrong and I often just can’t deal with that). I know that’s normal for teens…wish I could manage my own reactions to it better, but it is what it is. It does make it hard, though…because I feel like I don’t have anyone I can check in with on weekends like this, there’s no one to commiserate with, to help talk me through it, through my emotional reaction to constantly being railed at. There’s no mood stabilizer. It’s all on me, and I don’t have it in me.

So I cry. Again. And then I get to iron for an hour or so and things get calmer, more peaceful. Note to self: less drama and teens, more artmaking. Oh, if only that were truly possible.

I finished a book this week. It took me a long time to read this…China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station

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partially because of all the work on the house and partially because it was long and DENSE (boychild’s words), but really good. What’s also interesting is googling images for the characters in the book. I think the artists have done fairly well with Lin, but I didn’t see a good Garuda, as far as I had seen Yagharek in my mind’s eye. The slake moths, yes, and the Voldyanoi…but the Cactucae? Not so much. I work really hard at visualizing a place and the characters, and I think part of what makes this level of fantasy/sci fi difficult for many readers is that it is hard to do that…Hyperion was the same way, with all the different planets and species. I will read more books by Mieville, although he apparently wanders genres like my brain wanders during staff meetings, so who knows what that will look like. Again, these literary worlds are much nicer places to live, even when filled with nasty creatures out for your brain’s emanations, than my brain is right now…so I’ll keep reading.

“You must read, you must persevere, you must sit up nights, you must inquire, and exert the utmost power of your mind. If one way does not lead to the desired meaning, take another; if obstacles arise, then still another; until, if your strength holds out, you will find that clear which at first looked dark.” 
― Giovanni Boccaccio

The Geography of You and Me

I read this in one day.

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There’s a couple of reasons for that…first of all, it’s not particularly long. Second, it’s a fast read. It grabbed me and kept me. It’s the story of two teens who meet while trapped in an elevator in New York City, but most of the book is about their not being in the same city and thinking about each other. It’s definitely YA teen romance, coming of age, all that…it’s on the light side (as I fall into summer vacation a few days early?), so good for summer reading. I’m sure it will be a movie soon. Don’t read it expecting world revelations or super-smart intellectual classic. Read it with a sense of remembering high school and what that felt like, but leaving out most of the bad nasty stuff (there is a little, just for tension), and you’ll enjoy it.

This is the first of Smith’s books that I’ve read…not sure I’m compelled to read more (I’m a little older than the expected audience I think), but I suspect the girlchild might enjoy her books.

 

I Am the Weapon/Boy Nobody Review

The book with two names…

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I recently read Allen Zadoff’s I Am the Weapon, about a teenager who was raised to be a weapon, to go in and take out certain people. He is trained to blend in, find his mark, and quickly and quietly help them die of “natural” causes. Then he meets a girl he actually likes, and the story changes. He starts to question his training and it affects his ability to do his job. The psychological aspect of his hesitation is probably the most interesting part of the book, I think more because of the mayor in the story than his daughter.

The book was originally published as Boy Nobody, but was re-released as I Am the Weapon. He does plan a series with this one, and apparently it will also be a movie.

I liked the story. It was a bit short (I like really long books though) and definitely of the Young Adult genre. It kept my attention until the end and there were some surprises in the plot, which is nice. Sometimes I think the problem with Young Adult novels is that they tend to dumb down the emotion a bit, maybe to keep the younger reader engaged, and it seems an obvious difference to an adult novel…that said, the violence is definitely there, although not over the top. I appreciate how he makes decisions about violence in a very thinking manner.

I was a little disappointed in how they handled his original story of being taken for training, and for the assumption about his father’s death. Both seemed improbable, but he was young and the memory of the young is somewhat shady.

Anyway, looking forward to the next in the series, if just to hear what dad did that was so bad…and where the heck was mom?