Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Books II

5. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
So I'm a little behind in reading this book, which has been out for what seems like ages. I'd heard of it, but didn't get interested until I started seeing previews for the movie this fall. Generally I like to set myself up for disappointment by reading the book before viewing the film adaptation, so that's what I did. Unfortunately, by the time I bought the book and got around to reading it, the film was out of most theaters, and it didn't really get any rave reviews or anything.
I thought the book was fine, and it actually kept me up reading far past my usual bedtime the other night. I really can't speak to its historical accuracy or anything, but Golden did manage to create an interesting world that was fascinating and foreign. The plot is basically a sort of Cinderella story, and while I did manage to see most of the plot twists coming, I still liked it. I'm a sucker for a good romance, and while this one takes its time getting there, it really is a nice love story, in its way. Sayuri was interesting, but I really found myself more intrigued by some of the supporting characters, particularly the other geisha, Mameha and Hatsumomo. Sayuri was a little too perfect and popular in some parts. Not really a Mary Sue or anything, but just so pretty and so talented and so hardworking. It was hard to sympathize with her, or even feel much of anything for her. I found Mameha a much more affecting character. Still. A fine book.

As my next project, and continuing the novel and adaptation theme here, I'm tackling Wicked. Stay tuned.

Mid-winter cleaning

So here I am again, back after another unintentional hiatus. Plenty to blog about, but little time to do it in. I've been knitting a lot, there's no shortage of work to do at work, and I'm on an as yet unsuccessful campaign to look fabulous before a friend's wedding in April.

Today was cold and rainy, but not so bad as it could be considering it's January. It's been a fairly mild winter here, all things considered, which is good, because I really hate digging my car out after a snowstorm. Work was hard, and I had a terrible time concentrating on it. That's something I really need to work on. I get distracted so easily, particularly when I'm working on things that aren't exactly fun.

As I was eating my lunch today, I was thinking about my extremely untidy house. I'm not living in filth or anything, but it is very untidy and I don't like it. There's a distinct lack of storage space in my apartment, so most efforts at cleaning up end with a slightly cleaner carpet and slightly more tidy stacks of books and papers. I'm out of bookshelves, my file system overfloweth, and I don't have a proper desk. I am, in fact, writing this entry while curled up on the sofa with my laptop on a tv tray. Maybe it's just the procrastination talking (and that seems likely here), but it seems like I might get a little more done, work and writing-wise, if I had a nice place to write. My current desk is overrun by my old creaky desktop that makes more noise than a vacuum cleaner, mysteriously opens a clip art program every time I turn it on, and has less hard drive space than my iPod mini. It's on its way out as soon as I figure how to wipe all my personal information off. Then I'll have a nice table to work on, but I'm thinking I might move the table underneath my doll house instead of the big folding table that's supporting it now and buy a real desk, with drawers and stuff, for the computer instead. Then I could write and browse, and even pay my bills in relative comfort instead of balancing all my paper, my computer, and a cat on a small tray table.

I also really need to do something about my filing system. I'm an accountant's daughter, and I save bills and receipts like nobody's business. Thanks to a clerical error which for a while resulted in my not being able to open bank accounts or acquire credit cards, I'm also really paranoid about identity theft (it's since been resolved, thank heavens.) That means I hate to throw things out, so I bought a paper shredder, but I haven't yet decided to kill a night shredding things and reducing the giant fire hazard of bills and such which hulks in the corner of my dining room. One day I'll see floor over there again, I hope.

These things are, at best, temporary fixes, but hopefully they'll make some difference in my attitude towards my apartment. I'm really unhappy with it at the moment. I'm considering moving when my lease is up in May. At least if I do that, I'll have to clean up again, if only in order to pack and get out.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Procrastination Yay!

So... Have you ever put something unpleasant off until the very last moment, and then the very last moment comes and you can't do it because now it's the last minute and you don't have enough time and what you have to do is too hard and and you're scared you can't do it right and you don't want to do it because television and the internet are easier and much more fun but you have to do it or else you'll get fired and you kind of like having a job so you're going to find a way to do it, even if you have to stay up all night but first you're going to blog about it?

No, me neither.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The books

I read several book blogs, and I'm always anxious to get good recommendations. I love reading, and I've always wondered just how much I read each year. I thought I would try to keep track of every book I read this year, to see what the grand total ends up being. I also plan to note any rereads. Books I read for work won't count, because I rarely read the whole book through in that case. Usually I just skim and check the index, but if I do read the whole thing, I'll put it down. If I start a book and then don't finish it, because I get bored or I hate it or I lose it (take that in any sense you like), I'll make a note of that too, for scientific purposes, of course. I don't know that I'll write a whole lot about each book, but I might do so as the mood takes me.

So here's how it's going so far for 2006:
1. The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
2. Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith
I'd heard lots of good things about this series, and had read and enjoyed another of Smith's books (Portuguese Irregular Verbs), so when I finally got to the Half Price Bookstore over vacation, I decided to seek them out. Luckily the store had the first two in the series. I really liked them both, particularly the first one. The characters are engaging, and the setting (Botswana) was fascinating. I really feel like reading more about the country, which I'm ashamed to say I knew very little about. But Smith really gives me a feel for the place. I don't know if the real Botswana is anything like the fictional place presented here, but this world felt real. Sometimes the political / social digressions seemed a little heavy-handed, particularly in book 2, but overall it was a thoroughly pleasant read. I'll definitely be checking out the rest of the series to follow the continuing adventures of Precious Ramotswe, one of the most charming detectives I've run across in a while.

3. Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Father by Jane Jensen
I loved this computer game and its two sequels. They were fun and challenging, and the stories were just the sort of thing I like -- mystery and supernatural suspense. It didn't hurt that the lead character was voiced by Tim Curry. Basically Gabriel Knight has to solve a series of voodoo-inspired murders while at the same time revealing the truth about his family's mysterious pass. The book, a novelization of the game, follows the plot exactly. I think much of the dialogue is the same, or at least it felt that way. You do get more insight on Gabriel's thoughts and motivations throughout the book, which really makes him less of a jerk than he came across in the game. The love story, too, is a little more fleshed out, and the dream sequences are made much more intelligible, since now we get Jensen's (the game's designer) interpretation rather than my own (I was close, but it's good to see what the author was thinking). Overall it was a fun and quick read. Since the GK franchise seems to be dead in the water, I hope she'll turn to writing -- I'd pick up one of her books if I saw it on a shelf.
On a side note, the novel and game are set in New Orleans (pre-Katrina, of course), and it was simultaneously comforting and heartbreaking to read about the city as it once was, knowing what I now know.

4. Locked Rooms by Laurie R. King
I came across the series a few years ago, based on the recommendation of a writer whose work I really enjoyed. I figured if she liked these books,they had to be pretty good. They are. The story of Sherlock Holmes and his wife Mary Russell (that's right, his wife) and their crime-solving adventures could easily turn into some kind of fanfiction nightmare. But Mary Russell is no Mary Sue, even if she is pretty, intelligent, and married to our hero. She's human, just like King's Holmes, and though she's the main character in all the books in this series, it's in this volume that we really get to delve into her past and her personality, discovering the truth about her past and the ways in which it shaped her. This volume also brings Russell and Holmes to San Francisco, a city that seems to be dear to King's heart (her other books are all set in SF or the Pacific Northwest in general), and this book gives her a chance to write about the fascinating history of this amazing place. I knew a little bit about San Francisco and it's history, particularly the 1906 earthquake and fire, and from what I can tell, King is spot-on. There's also lots of interesting information about the relationship between Chinese immigrants and the white population that I hadn't ever really thought of before. It's a good mystery and a good historical novel. I wonder, though, where the series might go next. Mary Russell's past and her issues with it informed much of the first book, and while they didn't get mentioned much in the following volumes, they really defined her personality. The revelations she has in this book would be truly life-changing, and I hope that they'll be followed through in the next book. King is good, though, and I have no doubt she'll deliver.

Friday, from the weekend

** So I meant to post this on Friday when I wrote it. Oh well. Still holds true, and I can't say that the weekend ended in more excitement than it began.

This blog thing isn't really working, is it? I decided to start this thing because I have this crazy fantasy where I become a writer. And I have plenty of ideas for plots and characters. But they just never seem to make it onto the page, or the screen, as it may be. So I thought that maybe a blog would be a good way to get writing practice, except that in order for that to actually work, I'd have to write things now and then. And as you (if indeed there are any yous out there) may have noticed, it hasn't been happening much, or on a consistent basis.
But I do want to write, and I do have good ideas, so I do need to do this. Maybe the problem is what I've been trying to write. I was aiming for pity comments on life and pop culture, or maybe insightful political essays. I don't think I've really succeeded. So maybe it's time to try a new tack.
The daily journal.
Maybe I should just talk about what happens each day. Not work stuff, though. I don't want to get fired. But there isn't much that happens to me that isn't work-related these days.
But still, I must be doing something with my time, right?
Today work went on forever. I think the clock was actually moving backwards at one point. Part of the problem was that I didn't get my coffee this morning. Ever since I started really working, I've become a coffee addict. First it was a latte here and there, then I graduated to regular coffee (one cream, one sugar). Now the first thing I do when I walk in the door each day is turn on my computer and head for the coffee maker.
But today I had to run some work-related errands first thing, and so I didn't get my customary cuppa. I had some cocoa at lunch, but by one I had this monster headache. I blamed my period, the poor air circulation in the office, my nerves over a work thing I won't go into here, and a few other things. It felt like my brain was running out of my ears.
I went out later in the afternoon, hoping some fresh air would clear my head. It helped, but what really worked was my vanilla latte. Within minutes of drinking it I felt fine again. Which is good, except it made me realize --
I have a problem. A caffeine problem. Boy, even my vices are boring.
So feeling better, I headed out for happy hour with some friends. The local bar (within walking distance of my house, yay!) was packed, so we had to eat the first round of wings standing up. Let me tell you, it isn't easy. I'm messy at the best of times, and wing sauce is generally just an accident waiting to happen. Miraculously, I got out of it with no visible damage to the front of my shirt.
The conversation was nice too. I've had a hard time making friends since I got here, and it's always been difficult for me to talk to people I don't know, so I'm glad that I got to talk to someone I don't know that well. It's kind of fun to find out what your coworkers are really like when they're not in the office.
So the first work week of 2006 ended on a pleasant note at least. I can't say I was too productive, but I did take care of a few things on my to-do list. But I added a few things too, so I'm really just exactly back where I started I guess.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Happy New Year

and Hook 'em Horns!

It's 2006 and I just watched my beloved Longhorns win the National College Football Championship.

Well, to be honest, I watched most of them winning the championship. The game went on forever and I had to be at work the next morning and right around midnight I turned in. Right before the winning touchdown. That'll teach me. Still, the tower is orange tonight and I really wish I was in Austin to see it.

Good job, guys.