Derik Badman's Journal

July 2019

2019-07-07 00:00

Buddy started meowing at 6am this morning. I've tried to make a point to not show any indication I notice when he does that. Don't move; don't get up; don't yell at him. If it's actually time to get up, then don't get up right away when he starts meowing. I don't want him to ever think it's because of him. Thankfully, after waking me up, he stopped, and I got to sleep a little longer.

I've been trying to ascertain if he is acting any different since Zoe died. They were never close and mostly ignored each other, but surely he should at least notice that one day we carried her out the door and she never came back. It feels like he is asking for more attention, but that might just be my perception, since I'm probably giving him more attention since it's not as divided now.

I still occasionally find myself acting like Zoe is around: expecting to see her appear, saying something about the "cats", etc. On the phone last week my mom said she still does that with the last cats she had and it's been quite a few years since they were alive. I guess it will be awhile until I'm over it.

It's another hot, humid summer day, where spending any significant time in my office is unpleasant, so I did some reading this morning on couch in the front room (the parlor?). Lately I've taken to sitting there: it's comfortable, nice light, I can look out at the bird feeder outside the window, and there's room for Buddy to sit next to me for pets, and it's much cooler than the office.

Currently reading too many things at once, so I need to try to focus a bit and get some of them done, especially since I spent the Powell's credit I got for selling them books to buy more books that will be arriving soon. I don't know what thing it is that keeps getting me to buy more books, what void it fills, or need it temporary mollifies, but it's been going on most of my life so I guess I shouldn't expect an easy answer.

Yesterday I finished Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry by B.S. Johnson. I picked it up in one of the used bookstores in Shelburne Falls when we were up there. Somehow in the time I was reading a lot of mid-century postmodern/metafictional novelists I failed to read Johnson. I knew about his "book in a box" The Unfortunates (one of the books I just ordered from Powell's) but at the time it was out of print and I never looked up any of his other work. This one jumped out at me in the used bookstore as I was scanning the fiction shelves. I read a few pages and it seemed amusing so I bought it. I ended up reading it in a day and quite enjoying it. It was smart and funny, filled with the expected metafictional asides and fourth-wall breaking, and even a bit political (not so common with that genre/period). So I'll be reading more Johnson in the near future.

Another recent read, also picked up at a bookstore up in Massachusetts was James Tiptree Jr.'s Brightness Falls From the Air. I'm not sure I've read her work before (maybe something short when I took Samuel Delany's sci-fi lit course), but as I've been reading more sci-fi and fantasy lately I thought I'd try it out. It is a really engaging novel that takes place in basically a single location over a single day. In reading it, like much sci-fi from the past, you have to suspend the disconnect between the futuristic technology in the book and our current tech, but she does a great job of creating an interesting web of characters and generating suspense. The point of view in the chapters shifts a few times in an effective way.

Spent some time today working with █████ on making floating shelf end tables for Lianne's and my bedroom. I don't know that what we will end up with will be stylish or attractive, but I at least hope they will be functional (i.e. not fall off the wall when we but stuff on them). We don't always have all the right tools or exactly know what we are doing, but it's fun to figure it out. It reminds me a lot of doing stuff with Pop in his basement workshop when I was a kid. I always wish I had spent more time learning stuff like that from him. I learned some things, but I'm sure there was plenty more. We got the basic boxes of the shelves put together today and cut out notches for power cord management before calling it a day so the glue could dry.

It's only 3pm and I'm just not sure what else I'm doing today other than waiting until it's time to make dinner. I'm tempted to just go play a video game, though it is probably hot in the office. I've been pretty good about not spending excessive amounts of time doing that lately. I can read more; I could watch a movie; I could prep for the next session of my game though that is a few weeks off still, and generally I prep best at the last minute.

2019-07-08 08:08

Spent our third night in a row at ███ and █████'s last night for dinner (veggie blts and sweet potato fries). We've been rewatching Veronica Mars season 3 in anticipation of the new season starting next month. Even on a probably third time through, I'm impressed by the plotting. The writers manage to keep a season long mystery going alongside various mysteries of the week and various interpersonal drama of the main characters. In all three seasons the pacing is well done, you don't feel like they are treading water or rushing through the main mystery. This is in rather sharp contrast to a lot of other more recent shows that seem unable to pace out a season long arc even for a shorter 13 episode season (like the various Netflix Marvel shows). It feels like (I have not read anything to confirm this), that the writers planned out the whole mystery more like a novel before they started work on the season, though I imagine, at the time, that was not how the show would have been written and filmed (I think at that time they would have been filming later season episodes as earlier ones were first being run). Even in the first episode of season three you can see some of the clues to the solution of the mystery. The season 3 mystery about college rapes feels all too contemporary, though one wishes the writers had done a better job portraying the college feminists, who especially early on, come off as a little too comedic.

I was actually awoken by my alarm this morning at 6:30, a rare occurrence as I usually wake myself up in time to keep it from going off. Odd as I didn't stay up that late. I was shuffling between three books reading in bed before sleeping. Primarily I'm trying to finish up Walden x 40 by Robert B. Ray. Like his books on film I've enjoyed (The Avant-Garde Find Andy Hardy and The ABCs of Classic Hollywood) it's composed of short essays organized alphabetically by the thematic word, but this time it's all about Thoreau's Walden. I've been enjoying reading it in small chunks over the past week or so, and like effective critical essays it's making me want to reread the object of study. It's been awhile since I reread Walden, as I've tended to get more engrossed in Thoreau's Journals than his published work.

I've also started reading a verse translation of Lucretius' On the Nature of Things which is a little slower going. It's translated into rhyming couplets and I still have trouble reading rhyming poetry in a way that doesn't put too much focus in my head on the line endings and rhymes. I find it reads smoother if I let the rhyming be de-emphasized and focus more on the more natural pauses over the enjambed lines. I don't even remember what got me again wanting to read Lucretius, but after deciding that and picking which translation I thought would be best, I ended up finding the exact one used in a bookstore in Northampton when we were up in Mass the other week.

My third read is a reread of Mark Greif's Against Everything a collection of essays that I really enjoyed when I first read it at the end of last year and as soon as I finished decided I would need to reread sooner rather than later. So far it is not disappointing with it's early essays on food, exercise, and society's sexualization of youth. Most of the essay come from n+1 one of the few magazines/journals I subscribe to in print.

It's a grey overcast sky for this Monday. I made myself an egg sandwich and watched part of an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine over coffee. After many recommendations, ███ was watching the pilot episode the other day when I went over for lunch (to get out of the house while the cleaning lady was here), and then I ended up watching more later when I was looking for something casual to watch over lunch. This is probably my... fourth? at least third time restarting the series, still my favorite of the Star Trek's and the only one I've managed to watch fully through more than once. It's attention to larger plot lines amongst all the problem of the week episodes always attracts me (yes, that is a theme in my television interest when a series is not a hyper-focused modern single plot series).

I sat down to start work in my office and decided to try writing now. I need to get myself on some kind of schedule again. It used to be I'd spend time making comics before I started work, but then as my work pressure/stress increased I started just beginning work earlier and earlier in the morning until all I was doing was getting up and working. I think over the past years (!?) I've really started to feel that in my stress and my happiness levels. I end up feeling like work is all I accomplish in a day. I'd like to be able to do other creative activities at night, but by the time I've worked, made dinner, etc. I tend to not be at my best for writing, drawing, etc. Maybe if I really try I can set aside some time in the morning each day. It's already been almost half an hour just writing these paragraphs.

Also it's Lianne's and my anniversary today: number 13.

2019-07-09 08:05

I think I had an actual nightmare last night. I don't recall the last time that happened, but I woke up from this dream in a start and was freaked out until my brain acclimated to reality. The dream was like this weird jack and the beanstalk thing where I was me but I felt like a smaller creature/person and I was hiding from some larger person/monster in what amounted to four pretty small rooms. The person/monster was mostly in the kitchen. I was sneaking around, scared to be seen but also knowing it knew I was there. I remember at the end being in the kitchen and it had a large ax and I suddenly had some kind of weapon. When it attacked me I willed myself to not be hurt and it was like I was sort of controlling the dream retroactively by visualizing effects contrary to what I was seeing. The monster and I were fighting. I awoke.

I'm not sure I'm ready to try to analyze what that's all about. Yesterday wasn't a particularly stressful day for me. Work is often stressful lately (lately being a few years now), but I managed to accomplish what I was working on yesterday without excessive hair pulling and gnashing of teeth.

I finished up Walden x 40 last night. I wish I had something to say about what I got out of it other than a desire to reread Walden, which will have to wait until I finish a few other recent acquisitions (like the two volume The Book of the Long Sun by Gene Wolfe that showed up in the mail yesterday). One thing that Ray mentions a few times in the book is how there is apparently no record of Emerson, Thoreau's mentor and the man who owned the land at Walden Pond where he had his hut, writing anything about Walden. He doesn't mention it in his voluminous journals nor in his eulogy for Thoreau. That seems like a glaring omission, and one wonders what words they might have exchanged about the book that are forever lost.

I should retract my other statement, I know what I got out of reading Ray's book: this nascent project. Reading about Thoreau and his journals again, made me decide to try this again. I've kept journals in the past at various times for various periods, many of them now destroyed. (Sidenote: I am super annoyed by the autocorrect that keeps changing one word for another as I type.) I've been wanting to take up a project and my recent attempts to revive my blog have not been as successful as I would have hoped. Partly this is due to a confusion about audience and purpose. Is my blog writing for myself? For others? (Some vague barely existent audience.) I think I've often ended in some middle ground that hasn't quite worked. I hold back some things as too personal, but also am not going fully into adding all the context someone other than me might want.

At least if I am just writing for myself I am writing and practicing putting words together and expressing thoughts. I'm also, I find, consciously considering thoughts as fodder for words during the day. And I'm not discounting putting these entries online (with some edited omissions), rather I'm most likely planning to put them online at some new subdomain and letting my old blog be statically archived.

One of those consciously considered thoughts from yesterday was about browser history as a kind of daily journal. As somehow who spends a lot of time in front of my computer, my browser history is a version of my day: news stories, rpg blog posts, articles about comics, programming problems I look for solutions to, programming documentation I used to check my memory of how a function worked, emails read, emails written, social media viewed, actors I looked up because I saw them in whatever I was watching in the evening and recognized them from some other show/movie, etc. I guess Google and Verizon already have quite the journal of my life.

A hotter, sunnier day today, but my morning walk was pleasant enough as the air is still cool from yesterday. Apparently there was a bomb scare this morning in town right in front of the bakery. A suitcase left behind on the sidewalk. It was just a suitcase. Are people getting paranoid? I don't think I'd see a suitcase on the ground and the first place I'd go is "bomb". More likely I'd assume it was accidentally dropped off a vehicle or it was purposefully dumped as litter.

2019-07-10 08:12

Had another dream where I was being attacked by some large man/monster. Not sure what to think of that. Yesterday wasn't particularly stressful and I wasn't feeling anxiety about anything (consciously at least). Not that work was all wonderful, but it's more about long term issues like planning than anything immediate. We have worked for a long time with short term planning, sometimes deciding what would be done next in our applications right before doing it ("Ok, I finished that feature, what should I do next?"). This worked to a certain extent if everything else remains flexible, though often any larger, more complicated features get pushed off indefinitely. But the more we move into structured releases, scrum methodology, and longer term goals, the more planning those goals and associated features becomes important. That's where we've really fallen apart. My team and I have been working on a large project for the whole year, but we keep having to change code we've already written because the requirements for our project keep getting changed. We are told it should work one way then weeks or months later told something different. Sometimes those changes are simple enough, but other times these changes require major refactoring and days of work to accomplish. It's frustrating because it's out of my control (I don't get to decide the big picture), but I'm the one who ends up getting most of the pressure about the effects (who long things are taking). There was also an early decision about the project that just made everything that followed from it exceedingly more complicated for what I'd argue is not worth the time and effort and potential bugs we will have.

Anyway, enough about work.

Last night, was our regular Tuesday night date night out for dinner, which pretty much always means walking down to Dettera in town and sitting at the bar for dinner and drinks. It's "Restaurant Week" in town, so it got pretty busy (we originally started going out on Tuesdays because of how quiet it is generally speaking), but they had a special prix fixe menu. The tomato mozzarella salad I had was delicious and included pureed kalamata olive that was really interesting. All the powerful flavor of the olive but in a creamy texture.

It's a hot sunny day already today, which makes me not look forward to my walk down to the co-op for dinner ingredients, nor how hot my office will probably be by late afternoon. The two baby doves in the nest on our porch (up in the corner under the rafters) have grown amazingly over the past days. We think one of the parents met an untimely fate, as it's been a couple weeks now since we saw two out there on the porch at once (and previously you'd always see them together). Somehow the one remaining parent (I keep thinking of them as a she, out of prejudice I guess) managed to hatch the eggs and is now caring for the babies. For a while it seemed like she never left the nest, but now that they've grown, I see them out there by themselves more often, and even when she does return she kind of perches next time them rather than right on top.

2019-07-11 08:03

A train of thoughts in the shower this morning lead me to a person I knew in college. Half a lifetime away I couldn't remember their last name. It was someone I was close to for awhile, but now when I think of them there are just a few flashes of scenes, barely events at all, not specifically detailed. It's strange how memory works: there are events from much longer ago that I remember more vividly. Why? Maybe some of them I've played over in my head before, more often, strengthening brain pathways, perhaps even adding on details that weren't there to begin with.

I often lament my memory. I've read hundreds of books in my lifetime, but so many of them I barely remember at all. I wanted to be one of those people who could pull quotes from a vast library in their head, but I'm not. Sometimes I can barely come up with a name.

Another hot sunny summer day.

2019-07-12 08:13

I didn't intend to write about dreams so much (though at one point years ago I kept a long running dream journal that was pretty interesting (to me)), but I keep having vivid ones that are either unusual (the nightmare the other day) or typical, like last night. I have reoccurring dream features where my vision is obscured and where my movement is difficult, walking, running. In both cases I'm really trying hard to see/walk, but I just can't seem to see or get anywhere. Last night's dream combined both in pretty rapid sequence.

I was in some kind of park walking on path with some older guy. He was a gardener or farmer or something and I think I was supposed to be there learning from him. The ground to our left was packed with tall flowers of different sorts. I was asking him about them, some of them starting out looking like vegetables but then when I looked closer their were bunches of small flowers. As we passed the flowers the path turned and there were all these people walking around in small groups. There were stalls/shops ahead of us on the path, like on a boardwalk or in the concourse of Citizens Bank park. I got distracted by a group of people approaching me looking at some girl, then when I turned to look the guy I had been walking with was ahead on the path looking back at me, but there were all these people between us. I started walking faster to try to catch up with him but people were in my way. I forgot about the guy then, and in passing this turnoff that was covered and dark but seemed to have a little stall where I thought I could get a beer and sit down (this was a lot like the ballpark concourse now), I went in and it was all men in there waiting to order, but there really weren't any seats so I decided to not get anything. At this point I was carrying something and then my vision went black and I felt something fall on top of whatever I was carrying. I struggled to get my vision to clear and then I saw the object was some kind of purse/satchel. I asked a guy sitting there next to me if he knew where it came from and he said it belonged to a guy in front of my who was on the other side of a little railing thing that demarcated the line for ordering at the stall. I was worried people would think I was trying to steal out of this guy's bag, so I quick put it down on the ground behind him and moved off. I headed out opposite from the way I came in but realized it was going to get me out of the park (I'm realizing now this dream was relying on two meanings of a park). I saw stairs going down to a subway station, but turned around to go back out. This is where I started having trouble walking. I was struggling trying to get back outside, having to grab onto the wall, all off balance and my legs like glue. At one point I was somehow on the ground and my shirt got caught on something on the floor. I think that's when I woke up.

We had a lot of heavy rain late yesterday, bad enough I got one of those load phone alerts about flash flooding. This morning outside still showed the aftermath. The sides of the street were still dark with damp. Leaves and debris strewn about on the sidewalk. Drops of water hanging off plants. Half the sky was still a grey mass of smooth clouds while the other side, to the west, showed patches of morning blue amongst whiter, puffier clouds.

I think one of the dove babies on the porch is lost. Looks like there is only one there, not sure where the other one got to. I can't imagine a predator could get to them up under the porch roof. Maybe it fell down, though I don't see it on the porch. Those poor doves, they already went through a few rounds of unhatched eggs this year (they'd build the nest and then later I'd see the eggs broken on the porch).

Played D&D with ███ and some of his colleagues, finishing up an adventure we started 2 weeks ago. It's 5e and I'm playing a Tortle Warlock, so kind of a magic using ninja turtle. Not my usual type of character choice, but everyone else is playing all these non-humans (drow, dwarf, gnome, dragonborn). One thing I like about the warlock class is I don't end up having to remember how a ton of different spells work. I have a pretty limited choice at once which I prefer. Last time in ███'s game I was playing a cleric and I had so many spells I had to keep reading the descriptions to remember the point of a lot of them. One thing I don't like about rules sets with too many characters features is you end up spending a lot of time staring at your character sheet looking for answers. But I guess everyone else seems to enjoy all the buzzes and whistles.

2019-07-13 08:25

The second baby dove that I thought was lost or eaten reappeared this morning sitting on the porch railing not far from the nest. I guess maybe he fell out of the nest and only after a couple days managed to figure out to fly enough to get back to the porch. He's fluffier and more mottled in color than the adults, perched unmoving facing the house.

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2019-07-14 08:12

The baby dove spent a long time on our porch table yesterday, for awhile hidden on one of the chairs under the table (for shade maybe while the sun was still low enough to get onto the porch). His mom spent some time with him huddled next to him as if protecting him, though she always took time to visit the other baby still up in the nest.

Later yesterday afternoon, I was watching the two babies without their mom around. They seemed to almost be syncing to each other. The one would stretch his wings, then the other would. The one would scratch his head with his foot, then the other would. The one on the table almost fell off the one time he tried to scratch.

Then the mom appeared on the railing and the little guy on the table got very excited. He took a very short hop flight from one side of the table to the other, then another over to the rail. For a split second it looked like he had landed okay, then he teetered forward, and fell. He briefly landed on the edge of the porch floor and then went over the edge. The mom quickly flew down after him.

He was not back last night and isn't this morning. When I went out earlier to fill up the bird feeder, I took a look from a distance but didn't see him down at the edge of the porch. I hope he shows up later safe and sound.

█████ and I made more progress on our end table project yesterday. Mostly we were sanding, a little wood filling, more sanding. We also figured out where to cut out for the outlet on Lianne's side of the bed and made that cut. The box/shelf/tables are actually starting to look okay now that they are sanded. I'm becoming less skeptical this won't be a total disaster.

Started reading Marlon James' A Brief History of Seven Killings the other day. I so enjoyed his recent fantasy novel, that I picked this previous novel up while in Massachusetts. It centers around Kingston, Jamaica in 1976 and the assassination attempt against Bob Marley (about which I know nothing). It's written as a series of monologues from various characters which gives the whole thing a collage feeling. James is excellent at providing varying language to the characters: some are local not well educated gangsters, and educated ones, an American journalists, a CIA station chief. The shifting chapters help keep things fresh and cause the reader to have to continuously evaluate both the broader plot events and one's knowledge of the characters, as you see what the characters say of themselves, but also what others say about them. My only concern so far is that at 700 pages (I'm about 100 in) it might get a little tedious.

Was supposed to play some RPGs with █████ ██████ █████████ ███ ███████ this weekend. ████ is teaching a class about RPGs this fall and wanted to test out some rules light games he wants the class to try. He recruited the other three to each run a different game. I volunteered myself to play, as I am super curious to see what the others are like running a game, as none of them have before. Alas, I thought it was supposed to happen on Sunday, but it was yesterday and I was already at work with █████ on our project. I felt bad about that. I'm not usually one to mess up dates and times.

Need to do yardwork today, probably my least favorite chore. Always tempted to hire someone to do it, but we already pay someone to clean the house, which itself feels like a luxury, so adding in the yardwork too seems like too much. In the end we just have a yard that is a large portion completely overgrown with plants that were there when we moved in and copious weeds that grew since.

But first to ███'s Diner for ramen and fried egg breakfast. Never tried it before, but █████ was eating it yesterday and it looked good.

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2019-07-15 08:13

Baby dove appeared later yesterday high up in the mostly cut up tree in our backyard. I guess he managed to fly well enough to get that high. There were also two adults feeding the babies yesterday. After weeks of there only being one adult around, I'm not sure if that's the mate returned from... just ignoring the babies... or if it's another adult just helping out (maybe one of the young from a previous year). Probably should do some research on doves. As the day went on the baby in the nest was moving around a lot more outside of his nest along the porch beams. This morning neither baby is to be seen on the porch.

█████ and I primed our bedside table pieces yesterday. Next weekend we can paint and maybe we can get to assembling by Sunday. That would be exciting, as Lianne is going to be away for a long weekend at a weaving class in northern PA, so it would be a nice surprise for her to return to finally having someplace to put stuff next to the bed that isn't the floor.

Last night over dinner ███ was talking about someone he knows, describing him, "the thing about x is...", and I wondered: how do other people describe me? How different is my sense of my person in comparison to the me other people see? I feel like a lot of me is internal, I'm not always super outgoing or great at conversation, and so much of what goes on in my head just ends up staying there because I don't think anyone else is interested in hearing it. Is that part of the draw of journalling?

As part of my payment for writing the essay on Crepax for The Comics Journal online the other week I got a bunch of free books from Fantagraphics that showed up on Saturday. Yesterday I read Inés Estrada's Alienation, a near future science fiction dystopia (well, depending on how you read it I guess), about ubiquitous virtual reality, transhumanism, and, kind of, the singularity. I've not read much of her work before because her art style is not stylistically what attracts me, more cartoony, often simple and flat (visually speaking). She breaks out of that fairly often in this book with landscapes, VR UIs, and some of the VR worlds/programs shown. Those slight stylistic changes help make the "real" world of the story a bit different than the virtual one, but I think that could have been played up to better effect. The whole comic is printed in a dark ballpoint pen blue that makes everything a bit drab and grey. I feel like, based on the content, that making the VR scenes somehow less drab, more realistic, would have improved the real/VR divide visually and added to the theme. All in all it is an interesting read, projecting a future world that feels believable in many ways, but it also feels like it doesn't give enough attention to some of its elements. One of the characters (the partner of the protagonist) often acted in ways I didn't understand the motivation for, and the ending seemed a little rushed.

2019-07-16 08:39

Made the mistake of looking at Slack when I sat down at my desk, before I started writing here, so now it's half an hour later and I'm already work distracted. I believe a key element for my creativity is doing things before I start working, else then a lot of my thought and energy gets taken up by work. Coding is a rather more thought intensive work than any other job I've had, given a lack of meetings or surprise issues, it can be very sustained thoughtful work without a lot of dead time.

And now I already feel too distracted to write much. {data-cat="personal meta"}}

I started playing Assassin's Creed: Odyssey again this week. I've been playing that game on and off since last year. They keep releasing new DLC and updates with missions, so every now and then I turn it on again to play some more, then I get tired of it (it can get repetitive) and turn if off for awhile until the next DLC. It's probably good in that it has kept me from really starting some other game that would take up more time. Playing video games for me is an engaging way to spend time that doesn't require me to be too thoughtful: more active than tv/movies but less so than prepping my D&D game or writing. In that respect it becomes an easy way to spend a lot of time, as I get immersed in the games and their stories (I always prefer games with stories), and then time flies by and in the end I have not really accomplished anything. But, then again, why must I accomplish something? Is there some inherent good in just getting something done, regardless of what it is? Is me making a comic anymore worthwhile than just playing a video game? Particular if almost no one will see the comic I make anyway? Not that I've made a comic in probably years now. Maybe I already decided it wasn't worthwhile.

2019-07-17 08:25

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I like the idea of being more politically active, I am certainly politically informed, but I just don't like dealing with people I don't know. I can't imagine going door-to-door, or asking people to sign petitions, or cold calling someone. I'm not even good at meetings. I went to one friends of the library meeting and then gave up because it all seemed to pointless, and now I have to deal with seeing the president of the friends around time and having him talk to me.

Lianne is going away tomorrow to take a long weekend weaving class in northern New Jersey. She'll be away from Thursday until Tuesday night. There haven't been that many times in the 13 years we've been married that we've been apart (a couple conferences (for both of us), a couple weaving classes (her), not much else), so it's always strange for me. Alone in the house. I try to think of things to do she wouldn't care for, like making food she doesn't like (puttanesca sauce) or watching movies she wouldn't care for (slow boring ones, or science fiction/fantasy). But probably I'll just end up spending a lot of time at ███ ███ █████'s.

Also our game is Saturday. I probably still need to do a little prep work, though usually I end up over prepped.

2019-07-18 08:11

After enjoying Christie Malry's Own Double-Entry by B.S. Johnson, I got a copy of his The Unfortunates. I'd heard about this one years and years ago, but at the time it was out of print and not cheap. By the time it came back into print I failed to notice. My original interest in the book was it's unusual format: it's a box of 27 unbound sections (plus, in this edition a 1 section introduction) of between 1 and about 10 pages each. There are sections labelled "First" and "Last" but otherwise they are meant to be read in any order. This is reminiscent of a book I have previously read Marc Saporta's Composition No.1 (link to my review of it) which is a novel as a book of unbound single pages.

Johnson's novel is much more coherent than Saporta's this is more stream of consciousness autofiction than nouveau roman. The novel starts out with the narrator (a Johnson stand-in) arriving in Manchester (well I read it as Manchester because of the team names) to cover a football (soccer, this is in England) game. Arriving in the city he recalls his previous visits there to see his friend Tony, who has since died of cancer. The sections then cover disorganized memories of their friendship and, primarily, Tony's illness. While the timeline of the plot is met out of order (via the shuffled sections), I believe it would be possible to order the sections so as to progress through plot sequentially. The narrator's visits around town (grocery, bar, restaurant, the game, the train home) and the progress of Tony's life and illness all have an ordering that is evident as one reads, allowing one to fit together where a particular section fits in the timeline fairly early into starting it.

Reading the introduction by Jonathan Coe (who wrote the biography of Johnson), you learn that Johnson was focused on truth in his writing and in that respect this novel is both successful and powerful. In discussing his friend's illness and associated events such as a girlfriend named Wendy who he says "betrayed" him in an unspecific way and whom he continues to hold mixed feelings for years later, Johnson (or his stand-in) do not hide thoughts and feelings that I think are less than admirable. His continuing harping on Wendy's betrayal for one, but also the ways he didn't want to deal with his friend's illness or how he was hurt when because of the illness Tony couldn't make it to Johnson's book release party, or when Tony, very ill at that point, seems uninterested in Johnson's subsequent novel. In this way the book shows the selfishness in human feelings even as it also exposes the pain in losing a loved one and the confusion in wondering a the point of a life lost at a fairly young age, all the time Tony spent getting his degrees and working his way to teaching only to then get sick and die.

I found it a very moving read. It moved along quick too, pulling out one little section after another, almost like a box of tiny zines. Johnson writes with very long sentences, one clause after another, line after line, but I think the shortness of the sections helps work against those long sentences becoming overwhelming or tedious, psychologically you can always see where there will be a break (unlike that one Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel where I started being more interested in just how many pages a sentences lasted than in what the sentence actually said).

Lianne is headed off to a weaving class today, not to return until Tuesday night. I will miss her here.

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2019-07-19 08:14

Mentioning Gabriel Garcia Marquez yesterday reminded me of the summer I read almost all his novels. After my sophomore year of college, I spent the summer working at the Temple University Ambler Campus library. My job was to check out books and shelf books that had been returned or left around the library. On a small campus in the summer there it was not frequent than any of those things were necessary, I was basically just making sure there was someone at the desk if a patron came in. My supervisors didn't care if I read while sitting at the desk (and this was before the library system computers were normal computers, they were terminals for a specialized system) so I'd go back into the stacks, find a book, read it, put it back, and find another. I probably never read so many books as I did that summer, and luckily the library had a unusually decent collection of 20th century literature. I sampled authors I decided I didn't like, and devoured authors I decided I did. I worked my way through most of the works of Garcia Marquez, John Barth, Paul Auster, Richard Brautigan, Borges, and numerous others. I'm almost definite that's when my interest (and knowledge of the existence of) metafiction and postmodernist lit and metaphysical detective fiction started, and probably other things I've now forgotten.

Along with The Unfortunates I picked up from Powells recently, one of the old Tor double novels: Houston Houston Where are You by James Tiptree, Jr. and_Souls_ by Joanna Russ. The book is a small paperback with two covers so you can start reading at the either side with both short novels ending in the middle. This is a double shot of two pioneering female science fiction authors. I read the Russ side of the book between last night and this morning. It's a historical science fiction story in that it takes place in medieval Germany at an abbey raided by vikings, but the protagonist of the story is fantastical in at first a subtle then an increasingly obvious way. The whole thing is narrated by a man looking back on the events from his childhood, so it allows for a mingling of both the child's naivety and the man's experience. In the end I'm not sure how well the ending succeeded. This is a short, limited story and I'm wondering if I missed something important, as the final lines didn't really land with me like I feel they were supposed to. It's a quick read so maybe I'll reread at some point.

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2019-07-20 08:12

Saturday morning, waiting for ███ to say the diner is open for breakfast. I've already did a little bit of painting on the bedside shelves. █████ and I should then be able to finish a second coat later today so we can install tomorrow. Also up for the day is the farmer's market and then our game.

We've been playing for more than 6 years now, though since we play approximately monthly, that only comes out to less than 70 sessions. My shifting desires for play also means we're now on our fourth campaign. After a early old school D&D game that I was completely making up, we tried a 5e D&D from one of the campaign books (well actually two since we started one and it sucked then switched to another), and then I tried another old school game set in the world of Dragon Age, and now we're playing Stars Without Number. In the end, I kind of wish I'd stuck with the first game, in retrospect I think it was my favorite cause it just... went where it was going. I started out with a map of Earthsea (I think I was rereading that at the time), picked an island to focus on, made a sort of map, and then a town and a city. I used the Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh as a starter and then went from there. I hadn't run a game in forever, so it was a lot of me figuring out what I was doing, and I think in that respect I ended up being dissatisfied with my failures. I don't even remember why I ended up ending that campaign exactly, I think I wanted to spend less time prepping. With hindsight I think I was overprepping and hadn't learned enough about making use of tools to prep less, improvise more, and surprise myself more during the game.

Our second campaign started with the 5e dragon cult adventure on which I had read good reviews, unfortunately they were people I later learned to not trust for their taste in adventures. That quickly turned boring as I realized how inflexible the adventure was, so I worked up a way to migrate the game into the Curse of Strahd adventure, which I had read better reviews of. That went better, and we did end up getting to the end of that one (though I played Strahd too easy in their final fight, just to get it over with). Strahd was a lot less prep for me and was fun, but it also felt very limiting, particularly in regards to the PCs. They were pretty disconnected from any of the events. I also find 5e's rules too involved, especially when it comes to combat. Sometimes a single combat would take up most of a session with everyone using all their special abilities and the monsters having crazy amounts of hit points.

Our last campaign started as a good idea to make use of an already created world that I was familiar with as a base for a campaign. I thought that with a world I didn't have to create and one I knew really well it would save me time and effort. Unfortunately, the players (with one exception) didn't know the world, which made it feel like I had to do too much explaining to them. I placed the campaign in an area of the Dragon Age map that was otherwise unexplained, made a map and thought up a bunch of plot ideas and locations. Why did I end up wanting to give up on it? Maybe I'm just too restless to keep a campaign going. I always get all these ideas but then the follow through on them becomes tedious.

This new campaign (today will be session three, though much of session one was character creation) is science fiction and based around the central idea that the PCs wake up and have lost their memory. My hope is that it is a concept I can take to some endpoint without it taking years and years. To that point I need to make myself actively push the threads of that idea to the foreground, not draw out the mystery, the clues need to appear early and frequently. We'll see how that goes.

As usually the game starts in a couple hours and I'm still not sure if I prepped enough. It usually ends up that I prepped too much, but I still always have the fear I will be caught off guard and... what? My friends will laugh at me? Stop playing? Think less of me? Seems unlikely.

2019-07-21 10:41

Yesterday's game was the most distracted session yet. Progress was slow and minimal, chatting, jokes, and digressions were maximal. In one sense, that's bad for the game, but just for the social aspect of our gathering it was fine. A big part of the game for all of us, I think, is just getting together. I don't see everyone in the group very often (some, really only when we play), but I really like everyone in the group, so even if we aren't focused on the game itself, it's still nice to just hang out.

I probably could have done better to keep things on track, but after a certain point I was feeling a lack of confidence in myself and my plans for the session, which made it easy to just not try to reign everyone in.

Somehow ███ and I ended up watching the first episode of Firefly last night. He's never seen it and seemed to enjoy it. Probably my fifth time, at least, seeing it, though it's been a few years. The first episode does a really effective job at both world building and character establishment. If it does have to work in some slightly awkward exposition at different points, it also establishes a lot via less explicit methods, via the set dressing, the locations, and how the characters respond to various objects and events (Kaylee pulling a strawberry out of a wooden box and then eating it in rapture says a lot about the food). At times the dialogue works too hard to reiterate information we can already infer from actions, for instance some of the characters spend too much time describing Mal's character to us, even though we can already get all that information from his actions. The ship set is also really impressive as are most of the actors (it's telling how many of them are now familiar for other more recent work). The set-up and plot are perfect sci-fi rpg fodder.

Finished up reading James Tiptree Jr's Houston, Houston, Do You Read? the other half of that double novel I got. It's a really effective feminist sci-fi story about three mostly contemporary male astronauts who end up time travelling into the future. Tiptree manages to slowly and effectively reveal the situation via focalization of one of the astronauts and exposes the misogyny of the astronauts in a pretty brutal (but in many ways positive) ending. I really need to read more of her work.

Still working my way through A Brief History of Seven Killings which seems to be regaining my attention as I read more of it.

2019-07-22 07:56

A quiet Monday morning this Lianne is still away. Made myself breakfast and watched a Deep Space Nine episode. Even after watching the whole series at least two times, I still find it enjoyable to watch, though I also appreciate I don't need to pay super close attention to it, so it can run while I'm cooking.

We should be getting a small break from the heatwave we've been having. Yesterday, even though I had to thermostat up to 79, the AC was still running almost continuously without getting the third floor to temp. Apparently in NYC the other day they were using the most power ever because of so many AC's running. I wonder if this will become the new normal.

█████ and I with help from ███ (especially in the hanging part) got the bedside table/shelves installed yesterday. There is still some finishing work to be done (spackling over screws, touch-up paint) but they look pretty good and so far seem sturdy enough. I'm partly surprised there wasn't some kind of major issue. I hope Lianne thinks they look good when she gets home. They are basically open fronted boxes to act as a table and shelf that project from the wall, attached to a tall thin piece of work that provides extra support and will also be where we mount some reading lights (once we find some reading lights). It's a no-frills design, but we painted it up to match the blue-grey trim in the bedroom and it looks pretty nice. Does look better than my little Ikea nightstand, which was starting to show its age.

Took a stab at reading at another one of my Fantagraphics payment books, Zanardi by Andrea Pazienza. I thought someone whose taste I trust had praised the book as under recognized/rated, but damn I found it to be vile and didn't finish it. It's a collection of stories from the 80's by the Italian comic artist about this character Zanardi who is in school and is a real dick. The comics are not terribly well drawn and pretty misogynistic. All the women characters (such as they are) are manipulated or abused or treated like shit. Are we supposed to like Zanardi? If we are, Pazienza failed to convince me. It's rare I don't finish a comic, but I gave up on this after a few stories and a quick skim of the rest. That's going into the sell pile, which is already way too big when it comes to comics. I need to find an easy way to sell or even give them away.

And really, I need to do something about my book buying habit. It's been out of control for decades now, and even when I feel like I'm going over board I always end up getting excited about some other book that I end up buying. I have gotten better about not buying stuff just because it's cheap. I used to order too much from various discount book places, or buy too many used books. I try to set goals like, not buying anything new until I finish reading what I already have, but I don't succeed at it. I am happy that of the books I bought while away the other week, I fully read 2, started 1 and decided it was not for me, am a third of way though another (and still reading), read the intro to the art book (still need to look at the actual art), and have 1 that I started and am undecided on whether I will finish. Not too bad. I have at least tried all of them. And I've already read both my latest acquisitions from Powells with my credit from selling books to them.

I guess I'll get a jump on work now, since I was up early. There's always too much too do, but at least if I'm working early I'll feel less bad about stopping early when my office gets hottest.

2019-07-23 08:07

A storm front moved through yesterday evening and this morning the temperature is down to a pleasant high 60s. Taking my morning walk was a pleasant respite rather than an oppressive slog.

Working yesterday, my i.d.e. kept doing this weird thing where it would stall on something I was needing to do repeatable, and I got very angry. Little things like that, that slow me down, break the flow, really start to drive me crazy when they keep happening. A small handful of times, ok, but as the repetitions build up my frustration and then anger increases until I'm cursing (not very creatively) aloud. I don't know what it is, maybe just a tipping point from my existing stress, that makes me get like that, but I've noticed it happening and tried to be more aware of it. Seems like it is directly related to how stressed I feel about work, stress that has only increased over the years, and something that I didn't have as much of when I worked at the library. At the library I was hard to feel the urgency of anything, or the direct results of my actions (beyond when you actually just helped a person with a reference question or something). Now, I know that my mistakes can damage our app, potentially cause it to crash, and then piss off a lot of customers and potentially cost us revenue, etc. I feel that, because I feel responsible for my work and the app I work on. After 9 years of working on it (for most of them by myself), it is as much mine as the company's (not in a legal sense of course), as lead developer I'm also responsible for its maintenance and continued smooth running. Stressful.

After 9 years, it's only more recently that I finally feel like I've gotten rid the imposter syndrome of thinking I'm not a real programmer or don't know what I'm doing. I came to the job very green with almost no experience, but over the years I've learned so much, that now, in doing interviews of candidates, or dealing with my colleagues, I actually realize that I am knowledgeable and skilled at this work, at least in my corner of it (javascript, html, php, primarily). I wish that made me feel less stressed out.

Lianne is coming home later today. It's been 5 days since she left, and I'll be very happy to have her back. In her not being here, it's helped that I spent a lot of time at ███ ███ ███████, especially in the evening for dinner. It's less noticeable when I'm not alone in the house at night (perhaps because I am used to being alone in the house during the day).

2019-07-24 00:00

Took a break from A Brief History of Seven Killings (will I return to it, I'm not sure yet) to start rereading Wittgenstein's Mistress for xth time (at least 4 or 5 I would think). There are some authors I seem to always be able to return to, especially Markson and Queneau. Just grab one of their books off the shelf and I know I'll have an enjoyable, interesting read for a little while (neither wrote long works). My Markson books in particular have little underlines and very brief comments in the margins that I put in on previous readings, mostly noting references and connections within and between his books. I never was very comfortable writing in books: it seems like marring them, and also after I've done it, it is often embarrassing and distracting to come back later and see what I chose to annotate. But Markson's books (especially the later ones, starting with this one, have a mysterious element to them, like there is some secret I might reveal if I read them often and close enough. I don't know that I actually believe that, but it's the feeling I get as I read.

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Lianne liked the new bedside tables, so at some point finishing will happen.

I've kept up this daily journalling for over 2 weeks now.

2019-07-25 00:00

Somedays I think of things to write here and then by the next morning have totally forgotten what they were.

Last night I had a dream about this journal and writing about other people. Someone was upset with me for writing about them, and I was explaining to a different person how I wasn't writing anything personal about other people and that I hadn't even decided if I was sharing any of the writing anyway.

I worked yesterday, I played D&D at █████ in the evening. I don't remember anything else of note that happened. Sometimes work can be very immersive in a way that the hours fly by, especially when I'm working on something that goes smoothly: I know what I'm doing and how to do it.

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2019-07-26 00:00

Another fairly innocuous day yesterday. █████ ██████ ██ ██ ███ ████████ █████ ███ ████ ███ ███ ████ ████ ███ ████ ██ ███ ██████ ███ ████ ██████ ███ ███ ██████ ████ ███████ ████ █████ ███████ ████ █████ █ ████ ███████ ████ ████ ██ ████████ ████ ███████ ██ ███ ████ ██████ ████ ███ ██████████ ███ ██ ██████ ██ ███ ███████ ██ ███ ██ ████ ███████ ████ ██ ███ ██████ ███ ██ ███ ██ ████ ████ ██ █████ ████ ███ ████ █████ ██ ██████ ███ ████ ███ ███ ██████ ███ ███ ████ ███ ███ ███████ ██████ ████ ███ ████ ██████ ████ ███ ██████ ███ ██████ █████ ████ ██ ████ █ ████████ ██████ █████ ███ ██ ████ ████ ████ ██████ ████ ███ ████ █ █████ ████ ██ ███ █████████ ████ ████ █ █████ ████ ██ ████ █ ███ ███ ██ ███ ██████ ██ ███ ████ ███ ████ █████ ████ █████ ██ ██ ██ ███ ███ ██ ████ ██ █████ ████ █ █████ ██ ██████ ██████ ██ ██████ ███ ████ ██ ██ ███ ███ ████ ████ ████████ ███ █ ██████ ████ ███ █████████ █████ ██ █████████ █ █████ ██ ███ ████ ██ ██ ██ ██████ ██████████████ ███ ██ █████ █████ ████ ██████████ ███ ███ █ ██████ █████ ███ ████ ██ ████ ██ █████ ████ ███ ███ █ ███ ████ █████ ███████

2019-07-27 00:00

Saturday morning, sitting on the couch in the parlor with Buddy sprawled out next to me waiting for more pets. He's purring softly and alternately tensing and releasing his front paws. I heard Lianne get up, so I'm now waiting for her to be showered and dressed and for ███ to text about breakfast. I seem to have a lot of little items on my todo list this weekend: looking for reading lights for our new end tables; cleaning out and getting rid of my old endtable; mowing the lawn; getting some bricks from the back yard to build a base for my rain barrel (which has been sitting on the porch waiting for installation for too many weeks); putting in a new shower curtain; and of course we'll be going down to the farmer's market for produce. Beyond that I'd like to get some reading in, probably play a little more of my video game, and maybe watch a movie (some many things on the Criterion Channel I want to get to).

I still also need to figure out a system for my new website. I'm thinking about taking my current blog and just making a static version of it so I don't have to redesign or import/export. Then I could at least remove the php and mysql elements from the site/server. Then for the new site I can just use a static site generator.

2019-07-28 00:00

Up on Sunday to mow the lawn before the heat becomes oppressive, but waiting until 8 to at least be decent to my neighbors. Got most of my other chores done yesterday, which leaves me today to do more fun things.

I started working out a way to convert my old Wordpress blog to static pages so I can shut down the php/mysql and leave the site as an archive. If I can get that resolved today, I can also start getting some new stuff up for excerpts of this (oh so exciting) journal. We'll see, sometimes it's hard to get into doing programming in my free time after spending all week doing it for work. I get ideas but then it's just so much like work, and I guess I'm just not that obsessed with programming.

Been over at ███ ███ ███████ too many nights in a row and probably drinking too much to get much reading done. Not like I stumble into bed and pass out, but that I end up only reading for a half hour or so before I start nodding off.

Just looked out the window and saw a little sparrow disappear into the side of a hedge row, just fly right into the side and then was covered over by the green. Looking back I can see a bit of movement at the bottom near the ground, probably a couple birds hidden in there.

Well that's been about 10 minutes, so I guess it's time to go outside and do some mowing.

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2019-07-29 00:00

Mowed the lawn early yesterday morning, the grass still wet with dew, sticking to my shoes and the mower. Afterwards, while trimming some of the jungle that is increasingly overrunning our property, I saw a spotted red lantern fly, a invasive insect that is apparently extremely destructive. It was bigger than I expected (more like a large horsefly) and kind of pretty with its red spotted wings. You're supposed to kill them if you see them, but alas all I had at hand were the choppers with the long handles and the small blades (for larger, thicker plants). The fly got away.

Started and stopped a comic last night that's been hanging around for a few weeks, Ferragosto Bk 1 by Jonathan David Lange (self-published and undated) which I picked up from Austin English's Domino Books. The book started out auspicious enough with a in memoriam dedication of a list of names including Sonic Youth, Eric Rohmer, and Cy Twombly (all faves of mine). And then a written introduction that talked about Jasper Johns, Basquiat, and abstraction in comics. It sounded interesting enough, though there were already clues... the same font is used throughout (even in the word balloons as you page through), the introduction had no indentation on paragraphs and tiny margins, lots of hyphenation to break words on title pages. I could tell it wasn't someone who had done this much (or had and just wasn't paying attention to design at all). It's not like a totally handmade comic, where there can be more lenience given in favor of the raw or naive or just plain d.i.y zine-ness of a publication. This is a large 250 page softcover book. And from there I was decreasingly enthused. The abstract paintings that are a large portion of the book are just not good. It's a cliche for people to say "my kid could do this" when looking at abstract art, but good abstract art is more than just a mess of paint on a rectangle. There is craft and thought that goes into abstract painting that, when it is good, came be seen/felt. The paintings in this book just seem like messes to me. The figurative painting that is also prominent is not much better, and the more traditional comics pages are... naive, but without that sort of magic when the naive becomes good. Can't find much about the author online (though I see there are apparently 6 books in this series!), but the book looks like the work of someone young, with ambition exceeding execution.

Still reading Wittgenstein's Mistress and picking up bits and pieces that feel like meta-commentary on itself or Markson's later work.

"I see now way of refuting either of those statements." (121)

The narrator was talking about a paintings and the subjects in paintings. Is the sleeping girl in a Vermeer painting asleep in Delft (where Vermeer painted) or asleep in the Met in New York (where the painting hangs)? There's an obvious relation here to language and Wittgenstein (what little I know), but this ambiguity is applicable to the general situation of the novel. Is the narrator really alone in a world where all people and animals have simply disappeared without explanation or is she just mad?

"Certain matters just come up, being connected to the subject at hand." [...] "As a matter of fact even so trivial an item as Guy de Maupassant eating his lunch every day at the Eiffel Tower is very likely connected to something, just as inevitably." (121-2).

The discussion of the interconnectedness of trivial facts seems like a key element in all Markson's later novels. But also, the ambiguity... are these things all connected? Or are they just contingent, adjacent?

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2019-07-30 08:14

On my walk down to the bakery I passed two small dead snakes within 10 feet of each other on the sidewalk.

I dreamed last night I had viney plants growing on my body, it was like I had been ignoring them or not noticed them and suddenly they were all over my arm and running down my leg. I had to pull them off, like ripping vines off the side of a wall, and there was a worm that was trying to borrow into my arm that I grabbed onto and pulled off. Not a pleasant dream to say the least.

We watched the Veronica Mars movie last night. As I recalled, it was a lot of fanservice, and not great as a standalone movie. The high school reunion premise gave them a reason to bring back as many characters as they could, and was a decent enough excuse for the related mystery, but a lot of it seemed wasted on cameo appearances, and not much getting a sense of any of the mystery's important characters (beyond Veronica herself and Logan). That show always suffered from not knowing what to do with a lot of its cast and that continued into the movie. Even the b plot involving the new sheriff and Veronica's dad seemed out of place, as if it were a set-up for the next episode or an ongoing mystery rather than part of a single story.

On one of my book buying whims awhile back I picked up a cheap copy of The Freebooters by Barry Windsor-Smith. After reading some of his old Conan stories, I was curious about his rare, more recent work in comics (though even this is from awhile ago now). It's a beautifully illustrated sword and sorcery story about a has-been hero (Conan stand-in, clearly) and company in a pseudo-arabian setting. The setting gives BWS an excuse for a certain type of decorative visuals (lots of fabrics and colors) that would be absent in a more European medieval type setting. It's a decent enough story, but nothing that isn't mostly shopworn, and the only female characters in the whole thing are all these half-naked serving girls at the tavern the hero owns, who act as a kind of twittering background noise in various scenes. Only one of them really differentiates themselves, and that for being mute and interested in the young man who shows up with a prophecy of doom for the hero.

The uncredited long text about the story, BWS, and it's original failed serialization that threads throughout the book is truly a marvel of ego stroking and fanboy praise. It makes BWS and the story into some kind of revolutionary pinnacle of comics. Strange, coming from a book from Fantagraphics, as the perspective seems very much stuck in relation to conventional superhero comics.

2019-07-31 08:13

Finished up rereading Wittgenstein's Mistress last night. I came around a little more to the "the narrator is mad" point of view by the end. That's the view the back of the book takes, that she's mad and that everyone in the world didn't really just disappear suddenly. But I like the idea of her not being mad, or of her being mad but that everyone really did just disappear. That requires a science fictional reading, but one that doesn't provide any of the normal elements you expect from science fiction, like some kind of explanation for the event, or at least a protagonist who seems interesting in the explanation for the event. The narrator of the novel doesn't really address the "everyone disappeared" problem at all. In one of his essays about science fiction and language Samuel Delany writes about the phrase "his world exploded" (I may not have that exactly right) and how in a conventional novel that is a metaphorical statement, but in a science fiction novel that can be a literal statement. Wittgenstein's Mistress straddles that divide, offering both the metaphorical and the literal reading.

I also gave up on Angola Janga: Kingdom of Runaway Slaves by Marcelo D'Salete. I got about 150 pages into its 420 pages (it's a big comic) before deciding it just wasn't working for me. I was having a lot of trouble following the narrative itself and keeping the characters straight. The proliferation of unfamiliar names mixed with a lot of terminology from both sides of the conflict (the African slaves and the colonizing slavers) made a lot of the dialogue confusing. Time seemed to jump around a lot too in ways that wasn't always clear. I also feel like a lot of the scenes were really generic, people wandering through the jungle hunting each other or trying to escape. Only a few of them really gelled as engaging.

So of the four books I got as part of my payment for the essay I wrote: I gave up on one as not interesting enough, I hated one (Zanardi), I am pretty ambivalent about one (Alienation), and I don't think I've mentioned the fourth because I plan to reread it (Bezimena by Nina Bunjevac).

I think I'm also giving up A Brief History of Seven Killings. It's been sitting on my bedside table unfinished for over a week now and I haven't had a strong desire to pick it up and read more. The stream of consciousness narration in thick dialect was really dragging me down, and I'm not just getting engaged enough by the political plot. Better to just move onto something else.