( the reviews )
Next up: can I finish the novellas, novelettes, and short stories before the July 15 deadline? Well, I'm going to try to read each one in a day (and the short stories in a single day), so maybe? We'll see, I guess.
So, what did that entail? For me, it meant reading Indexing: Reflections, which has been on my to-read pile for ages. I really enjoy the world that Seanan McGuire sets up. This sequel did not disappoint. I'm really hoping she decides to write more serialized stories in this world, and then bound in book form for me to buy and read.
I've colored a bit, and also binged podcasts. I'm much more open to education-related podcasts in the summer, so I've been listening through the most recent season of Tea with BVP, which is a live show that becomes a podcast by a Linguistics and Language professor who talks about second language acquisition. Given that I teach a world language, this is a perfect fit. I'm learning a lot, and learning just how much I don't know about language acquisition, by listening. I'm going to want to relisten later in the summer and take notes. For now, I'm just listening once, and getting an idea for the concepts the host, Bill Van Patten, discusses.
I've written a bit - a short character piece in my Pomegranate!verse. I'd like to improve character voice for the characters who aren't Raven or McKenzie, so I'm working my way around the cast, and let Kyle have a short piece this time. The only way to improve is to keep doing!
Watched the new episode of Doctor Who with the wife today, and she enjoyed watching me watch the episode almost as much as we both enjoyed the episode. I tend to get wrapped up in media I enjoy, and tune out everything else around me. And I have very visible emotional reactions. So she saw the moments where I figured things out about the plot, etc. No spoilers, don't worry!
We also, as the crowning achievement of the weekend, went across the street to the one Pokemon gym in the village and did a raid battle today in Pokemon Go. We took down a Vaporeon, and then both were able to catch it at its reduced CP! We tried raiding yesterday, but her phone froze, so it ended up a bust - the opposing Pokemon beat us both. But it was a lot of fun battling both times! We've been over to the gym once outside of raiding as well, and at the moment, the gym is Mystic, which is my team, so I've got a Pokemon sitting there, and have had for over 24 hours now. This is the first time I've had a Pokemon hold a gym for longer than about ten minutes!
So, yeah, nothing earth-shattering or super-productive, but we've enjoyed the time at home to just relax.
Tomorrow is Big Day #1: OBGYN appointments. By this time tomorrow, my uterus should be all burned on the inside. Ablation Day!
My French is not too bad, apart from not having a full adult vocabulary, but I still have to stop and think when hearing or speaking French numbers.
This is especially fun in the context of telephone numbers, because the French don't say telephone numbers digit by digit like American English speakers do, they divide them into groups of two. So if somebody's telephone number includes the combination 97, they will say "quatre-vingt-dix-sept," and the unsuspecting English speaker will write down 4 (quatre) and only then realize they've got it wrong, and have to go back and correct while their French interlocutor is now several numbers ahead. You can guess how I know this.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaand all this is probably interesting to no one but me, but I was happy to find a context in which German is simple and straightforward. Unlike its ten million billion pronoun forms.
This was an easy choice.
This version of the song, the best known one, is I think later than 1969 (my birth year), but I like it better so that's what you get. It's worth looking at the original 1969 video on YouTube, though, if only because both video and song version are so hilariously 1960s.
David Bowie, "Space Oddity"
( All the prompts )
Our story so far:
PEOTUS was shot and assassinated on election night. Olivia Pope is on the case! So far she has accused three (3) people of ordering the killing, and been explicitly proved wrong about two (2). Meanwhile, the Electoral College is left to decide between the horrible, self-serving, politically-soulless VPEOTUS or the horrible, self-serving, politically-soulless runner-up ticket.
Episode 6 gives us campaign-era flashbacks of Olivia's dad reconnecting with an old girlfriend, who turns out to be a lure under the control of...someone.
Different flashback: Olivia asking her dad for advice on how to handle Mellie. Hey, remember when Olivia's dad orchestrated the murder of Mellie's son? (The grief put her for months into a near-suicidal depression.) I'm sure his advice will be great.
Olivia: "She's from California. Why don't they like her?" Dad: "I can't answer that." Ooh, ooh, pick me! Because Californians hate Republican policies, and she's a Republican!
They keep talking about "calling San Benito County" as if the voting within states is calculated the same as national voting, as if you're guaranteed a certain number of points (and no more) once you win a county. Even if Mellie got every vote in San Benito (pop. 58,000), that doesn't mean she couldn't fall behind once all the ballots are counted in San Mateo (765,000), or Contra Costa (11.13 million), or, I don't know, Los Angeles (10.2 million).
Dad Pope was behind the Vargas shooting! Although not on his own initiative, it was pushed by the Someones, who had the girlfriend hostage. And then they went to far in taunting Dad Pope about his compromising attachment to her, so he shot her in front of them. Good grief.
Episode 7 finds Olivia telling Huck to kill her father. For the second time. He helpfully reminds her that the first time didn't end well.
Huck confronts Dad on a subway platform, openly aiming a gun at him, and there's a lot of yelling, which echoes beautifully. For some reason there are zero other people on the platform, and nobody is concerned about metro security cameras capturing this shouted confession of killing Vargas.
Accusations of a mole in Olivia's company lead to Huck and Quinn aiming guns at each other's faces. What a team.
Investigation by Huck leads to him threatening his current girlfriend with a syringe of something nasty, all while going "this is hard for me, but you're making me do this!" Just in case you were starting to feel sympathetic toward him.
Olivia is back for the third time to accusing her dad of Vargas' murder, but she's passionately insisting that it was all his idea, based on the admittedly reasonable evidence that he murdered the girlfriend who was being used to manipulate him. Huck counters by passionately insisting that Dad Pope has changed because he was in love and now he's in pain and...listen, buddy, both him and you are still 100% willing to be violent-to-murderous the minute you feel threatened. You haven't changed, and people, especially women, should stay away from you.
(I would say "random civilian women," but this girlfriend turns out to have been planted to shoot a witness, which she gets away with because none of these geniuses thought to frisk her, and, wow, we are never going to get any case-of-the-week episodes this season, are we.)
The Someones got to Abby. That explains why she was pushing for Cyrus to get the death penalty ASAP, huh.
In flashback she asks Cyrus "how did you know Frankie was the one, how did you know he could go all the way?" We've seen this in The West Wing -- Josh asking Leo how he knew Bartlett was his guy, because Josh had found Santos and was starting to think Santos could be his guy. But Abby isn't thinking she's found a candidate -- she's thinking she could be the candidate.
Anyway, the Someones offered her $3 million with no paper trail and no explanation beyond "we like you and want to support your eventual candidacy." And she took it! What's next, Abby, sending the money to a the next Nigerian prince in your email?
So Huck's evil girlfriend shot the witness, and then shot him, but in a weird way that seemed designed to miss all vital organs. I figured she was deliberately not-killing him for some reason. (He was flat on the floor, she had lots of spare bullets, it's not like she could miss the heart and lungs.)
Then she sticks him in the trunk of a car and pushes it into a lake. Apparently she's just incompetent.
We get a nice hallucination-sequence where Huck is back in Pope HQ, with the mental images of his team members talking him through how to escape. And he does it! Not only did she not kill him, she didn't even shoot him hard enough for the blood loss to slow him down!
...setting aside that part of my disbelief, I do actually like the bit.
Hey, was anyone worried that there hadn't been enough graphic on-screen torture this season? Well, don't sweat it. Quinn's got you covered.
Olivia gets a pep-up talk about how she's a "miracle worker," from another of these people who hasn't seen the show. And sure enough, they find Huck -- by tracking the phone of the dead witness, which murder-girlfriend wasn't smart enough to chuck in a dumpster on her way to the body disposal! That's not you working a miracle, that's your opponent being a complete moron.
Gonna wrap up this post here, purely because my head hurts from hitting this desk so hard.
This month I listened to Ed Sheeran's album, Divide. In fact, I listened to it last week when it was too hot to do anything else.
I liked that it had different styles on it. I was put off by the first one being rap, because I don't like rap - I like music to have a tune. But then there were two rap songs, there were a couple of slower ones, and generally a variety. Which was unexpected - a lot of artists have songs that all sound the same.
Otherwise, though, it was nothing special. I knew one of the songs and quite liked that. But there was nothing exciting in it - nothing that really grabbed me as having particularly interesting lyrics or a really nice tune. It was just blah and non-offensive.
I suppose being middle-of-the-road is why he's popular. But otherwise I wouldn't mind either way if I listened to him again or didn't. It's like most of the music I listen to on the radio - it's not something I love or something I hate, it's just there and it's all right, but nothing special.
I'd give it a 7/10.
Mirrored from my blog.
Anyway, let's talk about food.
Something I've cooked recently: The lavender shortbread and lemon-lavender posset I mentioned last week were a big hit at the potluck. The posset in particular is exquisite; I decided to strain out the lavender rather than leave it in, and the result was gorgeously creamy and smooth. I found the lavender shortbread a teensy bit dry--the dough was dry, but I was hoping it would be all right after baking--so next time I'll use a little less flour. I live in a very dry climate, so the recipe might work fine elsewhere. By the way, the recipe will easily serve eight, rather than the four to six that Hollywood specifies, and I say that as someone who loves rich things and usually scorns tiny portions.
Yesterday after cleaning the kitchen I did my best to dirty it again by making one of my favorites, pasta with a sausage and tomato sauce. The sauce is basically: brown some hot Italian pork sausage links in olive oil, set aside, use the oil to cook an onion chopped fairly small, when the onions are pretty well cooked add some finely chopped garlic and cook just until the garlic is fragrant. Then add a big tin of tomatoes--I usually buy tinned whole tomatoes and cut them up myself--a bay leaf and any other herbs you like, return the sausages to the pan and simmer for about half an hour. Yesterday I gussied it up a little bit by adding two diced peppers, one red and one yellow, to the onion, and adding some wine to the cooked vegetable mixture and cooking it down before adding the tomatoes. I rarely use wine in cooking because I rarely have wine around, but a couple of weeks ago I impulse-bought a bottle of wine, didn't like it enough to drink it all, and so I froze it in ice cube trays. It's a useful trick for all those annoying recipes that call for half a cup of wine.
This morning I made another loaf of beer bread because (a) I really liked the last one, and (b) I still had a couple of bottles of Smithwick's that are probably too old now to drink with pleasure but are perfectly good to cook with. I used this recipe again as a base, but altered it a lot to make cornbread. I used 2 cups of medium stoneground cornmeal from Bob's Red Mill and 1 cup of bread flour, and I added about 4 ounces of grated cheese, roughly 3/4 cup of leftover corn kernels that were cooked with green chiles and a little cream, and about three tablespoons of additional green chiles (roasted and chopped, from a jar). I reduced the salt a little because of the cheese, and as before I stirred about 3 tablespoons of the melted butter into the batter and brushed 1 tablespoon on top before popping the pan in the oven. The resulting cornbread is seriously, seriously good. It's got a beautiful moist texture and a strong corn flavor, with sweetness from the corn kernels and honey and a bit of kick from the chiles.
Something I have concrete plans to cook in the near future: For the Tuesday potluck I'm going to make a potato-and-spinach curry from Raghavan Iyer's 660 Curries--it's a nice easy one with panch phoron and coconut milk, and I'm going to buy some supermarket naan to serve it with. And I've got to buy some gin for g&t's, because I told everyone I had gin and someone else agreed to bring the mixers, and then it turned out I didn't have nearly as much gin left as I thought.
Something I vaguely intend to cook someday: No idea. The weather's supposed to turn hotter again after a blessedly cool weekend (by which I mean, high temps of about 80F/26.6C rather than 95F/35C). I don't want to cook. I want a beautiful man to bring me delicious salads and perfectly ripe fruit, and preferably to fan me while I eat them.
I'd never visited Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire before and t'interwebz assured me there was a "Heritage Trail" around the town so I came, I saw, and I flanned. Indeed, I committed June challenge flan II(c) "local council walk" twice over because the same Historic Tewkesbury leaflet also included an Alleyways Trail and as I've never done an official alley tour before I managed to fit that in too. I walked the Heritage Trail first but out of order and breaking off in the middle to extend my walk to a memorable sculpture on the outskirts of town. I then completed the Alleyways Trail backwards but failed to find one alley so I did some of the zig-zags by zagging when I should've zigged and zigging when I should've zagged. The order of the day was 1, 2, 10, 12, 13, 14, 11, 9, 8, 7, 8, [diversion to Margaret's Camp (medieval moated site named for Margaret of Anjou), The Arrivall (sculpture), Bloody Meadow (1471 War of the Roses battlefield)], 5, 6, M, L, 4, 3, K, [couldn't find J], I, H, G, F, 16, 15, E, D, C, A, and lastly B. A less casual navigator than myself could combine both trails in a single walk. The leaflet is unusually well written, with a brief paragraph for various points of interest, and made the walk much more enjoyable. My favourite discoveries were the many odd signs, some historic, some artistic, and some comedic, although it's occasionally difficult for an outsider to determine which signs belong to which categories. I was clueless about whether the several cat themed plaques in the alleys were history or art or both, and which of the Shakespeare family signs were truth or fiction, and whether a railway heritage plaque was in the correct place, but even I recognised that parts of the "history" celebrated on a Victorian obelisk varied between unlikely and impossible, lol. In conclusion: I found Tewkesbury charming, quirky, and not quite what it might seem.
Ye Olde Black Bear Inn was reputedly Gloucestershire's oldest pub... until it closed recently, although Tewkesbury has many other historic pubs in the town centre including a Wetherspoons which combines full disabled access, through the old coaching doors, with ceilings inside so low that tall men have to duck their heads.
( 10 more small images. )
The Arrivall is a monumental sculpture created to commemorate the Battle of Tewkesbury, 1471, one of the decisive battles of the Wars of the Roses, which took place nearby including on the aptly named Bloody Meadow. This half is called Vanquished.
I don't sing in public. But if I did, I might pick this song, preferably with two accomplices rather than one. (What's the word for a three-person song? Anyway, in the case of this song, "threesome" is probably as good a term as any.)
Mitch Ryder got famous doing blue-eyed soul in the 60s, then nearly tanked his solo career in 1979 when he released How I Spent My Vacation, which is mostly about his sexual and romantic relationships with other men.* He continued to release music but as far as I know it sold very badly. In 1983, he made a "comeback" album, Never Kick A Sleeping Dog, produced by John Mellencamp, which includes this song.
*A lot of Ryder's music is not really my cup of tea. He first appealed to me because of the queer element, which I learned about around the time NKASD was released; astonishingly, within a couple of months I found a vinyl copy of HISMV in a secondhand store in the very small town where my family did its shopping** and listened to it over and over again on the sly. I only loved it for its queerness, but that was enough.*** I do genuinely like much of Never Kick A Sleeping Dog, though, and especially the following.
Mitch Ryder with Marianne Faithfull and John Mellencamp, "A Thrill's A Thrill"
**We didn't live in a town. We lived in the country about 40 miles away and only came to town for shopping and other necessary things.
***A queer element was how I discovered a lot of music as a teenager. The Smiths, for example, and David Bowie (like a lot of queer boys I wanted to be Ziggy Stardust; I just happened to want it a decade too late) and the Jam (via Paul Weller's later project the Style Council and the swirling rumors, all too vehemently denied by Weller, that he and bandmate Mick Talbot were a couple).
Speaking of the Style Council, ( this ended up getting long and not fun, so it's under a cut )
Just gonna jump right into the liveblogging on this one.
Season 2 episode 2 starts with a flashback to when Mellie accepted the Republican nomination, making it even harder to ignore how unrealistic it is that the Republican party would vote for a woman to get their nomination.
Olivia yells at Fitz for sending "scrubs" to investigate a crime scene. The actual FBI Director steps out and informs her that, no, he sent her to investigate the crime scene. (This director is a black woman with giant hair. I want to like her.)
Cyrus invites Mellie to join him as VP-elect. This is all so terribly incestuous. There's no discussion of what policy would be, because of course there isn't -- I'm not sure if Scandal buys into the fallacy that the two parties are Basically The Same, or if this is just a symptom of it not caring about government except as a dramatic backdrop for sexy power struggles.
Olivia has dinner with the FBI director with the hair. It starts as piercing commentary on the way they get treated, as competent black women in positions of power...and turns into Olivia asking if the director has a thing with Fitz. Turns out no, but not because it's a terrible idea for the head of the FBI to bang the President, it's just because she was worried about disrespecting Olivia.
At the same time as this is happening, Olivia's people are stealing evidence from the FBI, and the White House is having a "confession" tortured out of a suspect who's supposed to be under the FBI's purview.
(The evidence is a hard drive, which, when recovered, has "over 5,000 hours" on it. By my back-of-the-napkin calculations, that would fill 17.6 terabytes. On a laptop drive. As of 2017, if you're willing to shell out several thousand dollars, the most Amazon can get you is 4.)
...I got real worried because Olivia's next thing is to snap at the WH that forced confessions are worthless as intelligence. Which is absolutely true -- but the show has never seemed to realize that before, and also, it's 23 minutes into the episode. (Thankfully, the next one seems to be backing her up.)
Flashback to Mellie's romance with a campaign staffer, and, oh hey, it turns out Abby knows Olivia broke up her and David! (I don't remember if we knew this already, or if this is the dramatic reveal.) Flash-forward to Mellie confronting Olivia over orchestrating her breakup with the staffer. "Why are you doing this? What is wrong with you?!" Good question!
Episode 3 retcons the video data to "300 hours of [tip-giving videographer]'s footage, 2200 hours of the security feed." That would need less than 2 TB on the hard drive, which is more believable.
Portia di Rossi's character is back! And she's amazing. Partly because I can't help seeing her as Veronica, all charmingly ridiculous, meant to be judged by comedy standards rather than real-world ones.
This episode uses flashbacks to unveil that, yep, Cyrus isn't the murderer. I was definitely expecting that to be dragged out for longer. (There's a secret video of Frankie yelling at him for being a terrible person who should be in jail, and, look, he's not wrong, but for other reasons.)
Most obvious suspect is the hitman Cyrus was secretly having an affair with, because that's the kind of show this is. Flash-forward to the present, Cyrus secretly meets with the (armed!) ex-boyfriend at night in a park, because that's totally the kind of thing PEOTUS can do. Secret Service, what Secret Service?
Vengeful hitman ex throws a wrench in the works by "admitting" to killing Frankie on Cyrus's orders. This'll be fun.
Olivia: "With Cyrus in jail, the Electoral College will have no choice but to vote for you." Orrr they could vote for the runner-up in the Democratic primary. Without knowing anything specific about these people's policies, that seems like the most moral and honest choice re: the will of the voters.
Wow, almost nothing to say about episode 4. It's all Cyrus's Adventures in Jail. The narrative woobifies him hard, to the point where in spite of everything I actually feel bad for him by the third act. (Fourth act, he gets a guard murdered. So much for that.)
And episode 5 focuses on the drama around Jake Ballard -- Olivia's ex, former agent of Olivia's dad, now Mellie's VP candidate, in a politically-orchestrated marriage with a not!Kennedy who's now going into an alcohol-fueled emotional tailspin as she slowly realizes (a) Jake doesn't like her very much and (b) he's a terrible person.
(To illustrate: he seriously considers strangling her in order to keep the angsty tailspin from damaging his career.)
Newly revealed in flashback: Jake blew up the cabin that held the laptop that held the video that came from the photographer that called in the tip that swallowed the spider to catch the fly. Don't ask me why.
Olivia wrangles Mellie to have a heart-to-heart with the not!Kennedy wife, as part of the Women Whose Husbands Like Olivia Pope Better Club. This wrangles the wife back into urging Democrats to fall in line behind Jake's ticket, based on him being a Good and Honorable Person who married someone from Massachusetts. What policies does he support that they should appreciate? Ha. Aha. Ahaha.
Then she spends the rest of the episode trying to get proof that Jake did the murdering, which of course means he didn't do that, although she lets him drive her alone without her phone to an isolated location before she figures it out.
And, whoof, that's about all the Olivia Pope always-rightness I can take in one sitting. (Still working on commissions, but I'll have to switch to some other background TV for the rest.)
The theater I went to last night almost didn't let me in, though. The boy at the counter told me they had to close the screening room because the AC had gone out, and it wasn't fit to sit in, and asked if I wanted a refund. I sadly said yes, and he went and got his manager. The boy had just turned away people asking to buy tickets, also. The manager came out and apologized, and scanned my QR code on my phone to print the tickets to start the refund process, and mentioned that there were only two screens in the theater that could stream the Fathom stuff.
Wait, I said. They were still going to show the DCI? I had a student in one of the corps, and I wanted to see them perform. He said they were, but they couldn't put the audience into the second, air-conditioned theater until 8:50, because there was another film in there already. But, you're still honoring the tickets? I can still see this? Yes, if I didn't mind the inconvenience. I did not mind at all. So, got my ticket and headed to the snack line.
I'd spoken loudly enough that the people who'd been turned away and had been off to the side talking about how they'd have to call their parents (teenagers), went back to the ticket window before the manager could walk away, and managed to purchase tickets as well. And then a group of adults got into line. I'm glad I spoke up about my desire to see the performance and asked clarifying questions. The boy at the counter had not been aware of the possibility, it seemed - it's a busy theater, and I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. He probably wasn't aware of more than the basics of the situation.
The poor theater was under-staffed last night. There was only one person behind the snack counter, and he was running back and forth between the register and the back room to fill orders. He kept smiling, kept up his good humor, and everyone who was around me in line was very patient and kind with him. It's hard being the only person at a register when you can "just" stand and ring people up - the fact that he was making food, pouring drinks, checking stock, and ringing us all up? I hope the management was kind to him.
The screening room itself wasn't as bad as the ticket counter had made it seem. There was some air flow, so we weren't hot and sticky. It was a bit stuffy, but nowhere near the oven I'd been expecting. There were a ton of teenagers there, along with parents of people in the corps, band directors, etc. Most of the group was either a middle school or high school band, based on the snippets of conversation I heard. We were moved to the AC screening room between the first and second performances (I'll talk about those in a moment), which was a convenient time, because the feed itself had some issues and had stuck at that point. We all moved quickly to the new room, and everyone did the sensible thing of go as high as you can, or as far in as you can to the row you're on. There was an empty space next to a couple of teenage girls on the end of a row, and I asked if they were holding the seat. Nope! I plopped myself down just as the second corps began its performance.
As to the performances themselves, they were very fun! This is the first of the season, as I'd said before, so not everything about each program is finalized. They've been rehearsing for about a month now. My student who's in one of the corps left school as soon as seniors were done, and missed his own graduation for training. Some of the corps were in better shape than others. The cameras also had the unfortunate luck to focus in on some of the guard just as they missed catching their batons. The programs were diverse in tone and theme, and each one was a treat for both ears and eyes. I enjoyed the commentators, who, just like sports commentators, gave some background about each of the corps performing - their world class wins, their previous season's programs, changes in leadership among the adults (there's an age range for performers - I think it's 16-23, but don't quote me on that; I know there are 18 y.o. because that's how old my student is). Unlike sports commentators, they were quiet during the performances themselves, commentating on them only after the performance had finished. They spoke with directors before each corps performed, and got an "on-the-ground" perspective after from one of the corps members who was leaving the field.
In August, there's going to be another showing in the theaters, before the DCI finals. The top 15 corps' performances will be streamed to audiences, so they can see who the contenders are for the finals. The scoring is done by a panel of judges, and is kind of complicated - though the commentators kindly broke it down with overlay graphics for the movie-going audience. The corps my student is in came in 4th out of 6 - not bad for an opening volley, especially considering how tight most of the performances already are. I hope they make it to the top 15. If they do, I'll definitely go to the other showing. If not...I still might. I really enjoyed the routines I saw, and want to see how they evolve over the season.
J, the regular barista, finished making the drink for the customer ahead of me, grinned at his new colleague, took the pen and takeaway cup off her and drew something on it. "Ohhh," she said and sneezed and wrote on the cup.
It's possible that I spend slightly too much of my life at that place but the staff are lovely :)
Engineer Oluyemisi Ojo from Nigeria, in Porthcurno, Cornwall, 1973, was the first woman engineering student at this Cable and Wireless college.
Engineering students from Vanuatu, Qatar, and Tonga, in Porthcurno, Cornwall, during the 1980s.
( One more small image, and three book reviews. )
four steps forward and three back, and yet nothing
remains the same, for the mountains are piled up
and worn down, for the rivers eat into the stone
and the fields blow away and the sea makes sand