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On this livejournal blog I crosspost from Dreamwidth. 

A Masterlist of all my fanfiction is here. There is Harry Potter, Highlander, Torchwood and a Bible story.

Five questions about food

1. Do you mostly prepare your meals at home or do you eat out more?

I almost always eat home food. Eating out is a rare treat. Lately, on Fridays I would buy lunch and that would be one time I would eat out. Other days I bring my lunch with me. We do dinner take out usually only when we are out with friends, but because of small kids that doesn't happen a lot lately.

2. Is there a time of day when you are more likely to buy food already prepared?

Lunch on Fridays. I'm lucky to work in an area with a lot of restaurants and variety of foods. There is Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indian, Argentinian empanadas, Subway, an American diner, Irish pubs, a cookie store etc just steps from my work. So each Friday I get to pick something else.

3. What is your average weekly grocery bill (for how many people)? What is your total restaurant/fast food bill for an average week?

For two adults and two little kids and my Mom who watches the girls (but Bear is also away for half a week, eating either at free work buffets or at his parents): so we spend $50-60 on essentials, my parents bring over maybe $50 of Trader Joe organic vegetables and fruit and meat for the girls, and once a month or two we spend some money in Costco on meat.

For restaurant /fast food, I spend about $10 a week for my Friday lunch. Ocassuonally I will buy a snack of candy or something.

4. What is your favorite meal to prepare at home?

Too many to name. Meatloaf is always good. Ethiopian cabbage dish. Mostly though we stick to basics with pasta or rice or potatoes or buckwheat with lots veggies and some chicken or meat.

5. What is your favorite meal to order in a restaurant?

Can't pick one. I like to vary restaurants and dishes. I do like Thai, Indian and Chinese the most. And Japanese too. Basicall something I can't make at home. U don't like Mexican.

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Books: Leckie and Wells

Ann Leckie "Ancillary Mercy". (3rd book in the trilogy).

When I read the first book in the trilogy I was impressed with it. It took some time to figure out the worldbuilding but I thought it was incredibly clever. I thought the Hugo was well deserved. When I read the second book, I found it easier to read since I knew the world already. And the plot was simpler in some ways. I really liked that a planet wasn't homogenous. But I also wondered why this second book took place in seemingly small part of the Empire and the plot seemed like a detour.

About a third to 40% reading this third book, all the pieces started to really come together to my delight and I realized that it wasn't really 3 books but one very long one, and seeing it this way, the whole middle section fit and everything made sense. The third book is a direct continuation of the second one. And this was the point that I fell in love with these books. I wasn't just intellectually appreciating these stories but I was emotionally invested in this world and characters and was happy to spend time in this universe. And I didn't want it to end. So I'm really glad I decided to read the whole thing, all three books. I was heartily recommending it to several coworkers, I was so thrilled with it. Really seeing the whole picture made me really impressed with the author's grasp on the story and the complexity of all the threads. Everything just came together so well.

Martha Wells "All Systems Red." (Murderbot novella)

Right after finishing a trilogy about AI as the main character that really examined AI rights and personhood, with the news full of Google AI that can mimic human conversation and the creepiness of it, I read another book with AI as a main character who wanted to be its own person. Sometimes these things happen!

This novella was delightful. What's not to like about an AI who initially doesn't really care, barely does its job, is super shy around humans and just wants to watch TV all day. There were a lot of fun jokes and I like the realism and practicality of many characters. They felt like actual people. I'm very glad Tor had it as a free download.

And now after all the AI and sci-fi, I'm going to finally tackle a 1,200 page historical fiction book. I'm finally going to read Ken Follet 's "Pillars of the Earth ". The prologue was very promising, the first chapter and a half not as much, but I will give it 100 pages at least. It's starts in 12th century England, and since it's a time period I know incredibly well, having studied English Middle Ages in grad school, I tend to be picky with some details. But this book certainly has a reputation and it's time to read it. We'll see. It will certainly take some time to read, although I might break it up with other books.

Books: Druon and Le Guin

Over the last few weeks I read Maurice Druon's "The King Without a Kingdom", Book 7 (of 7) in his Accursed Kings series and Ursula Le Guin's "The Wizard of Earthsea". Both were underwhelming.

Druon: This was my least favorite of the seven books, perhaps because it feels like an afterthought and it is stylistically different. He had 6 books with one main character who died at the end of Book 6, and this book is set many years later. It feels like the series was really 6 books. The style didn't help.

This book was written in first person from the perspective of a Cardinal traveling to a meeting in the midst of 100 year war, right after Poitiers, and recounting the story of the last few years to his nephew and a few other people along the way. So basically just one big monologue with occasional sprinkling of other people's speech. This really didn't work.

There was one section about the ambush at a banquet and subsequent execution that read more like classic Druon and was very engaging but the style of the book was just irritating. I still liked the subject matter but other books were just so much better.

And I think I just realized that language and style also what was the issue with Le Guin for me.

"The Wizard of Earthsea" is the third fiction of Le Guin that I read. I first read "Left Hand of Darkness" many years ago, and then "Lavinia". I read her non-fiction last year. I appreciated her fiction books but she was never my favorite writer and with this book I figured out why. When she writes fiction, her language and style leaves me outside. It never draws me in. It is just not natural to me. When I read Novik or Bujold, just the words put me in the story. When I finished "The Wizard of Earthsea " and read her afterword, all of a sudden I was right there with her and I became much more engaged with her words. I do enjoy her non-fiction. She had such a fabulous essay about her writers retreat in her book of essays.

In the afterword, Le Guin acknowledged that in many ways her fantasy was traditional, like in limited roles for girls. That actually bugged me through the story. When that woman in the castle told Ged she knew him and he didn't know her, I knew who she was just because there weren't that many women in the book and they are very cliche when they are. I get that her fantasy was groundbreaking at the time, but it doesn't read like it now. I still want to read her "Dispossessed " but that will probably be it for me.

On to Leckie's "Ancillary Mercy". Time to finish the trilogy. So far, after one chapter, it reads well.

Heinlein and Christie

Over the last week I finished reading Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and the Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. Technically Christie is a reread because I went through a big Christie kick when I was a kid. Maybe 10 years old. But since I didn't really remember the plot of this one and the movie trailer made me want to read it again awhile ago (and after Heinlein I wanted something light and easy and this was available in the library on my wish list), it was like a new book. (Many of Christie's books I remember really well. And since in turns out that Bear never read Christie at all, I will get him a couple of really famous ones for his birthday.)

So Heinlein. Is Heinlein. Excellent world building. I can see why this book was popular and a classic and won a Hugo. From language to customs to family structure to really thinking through what less gravity would do to a body and a culture, all that was very well done. And having a culture started as a prison colony on the Moon plus a sentient computer are all cool concepts. And yet, when I read Heinlein, I always need a break or something always bugs me.

Part of it, I realized, is that I don't really want to read about politics or revolutions. I like reading about social stuff, family structures and regular people drama. Revolutions, war and especially politics are not something I want to read about.

Another part is that as the story progresses, the women characters do less. Whyoming stared out as an interesting character with her own motivations and agency but she just becomes a love interest. After the middle of the book she doesn't really do much. In one political gathering, a war cabinet of the main people in government, she is an only girl and one who literally has no opinion and just defers to men I mean, this is pretty common of 60s Sci fi, but it still bugs me. There was so much promise.

And Heinlein often wants to lecture. I recognize how good he is as a writer and I did like the book (certainly more than "Stranger in a Strange Land" which I really disliked when it descended into orgies) but after I was done with him, reading Christie felt like fresh air.

I forgot just how fun Christie is. And clever. And reading her as an adult adds a whole extra layer. She is really funny at times. All I want to do now is to rewatch the Doctor Who episode with 10 and Donna and Agatha Christie. And reread other of her books, although I remember still who the murderer is in her other two famous books even when I read them almost 30 years ago. It was a pure joy to read her.

Now I picked up the last book in Accursed King's series by Maurice Druon "The King Without a Kingdom". (And I realized that this year I plan to finish 4 series - Druon, Temeraire, Leckie and Jemisin.)

Friday Five (a week late)

Catching up to this meme from last week, from most of my flist.

1. Where did you go the last time you took an airplane ride?

Miami to New York in June 2016. We all went to Miami on vacation.

2. Are you a nervous flyer or a comfortable flyer?

I'm nervous until it's time to actually go to the airport. Once we are there and in the air I feel ok. I'm not a big fan of flying but it is a good way to get from place to place. I do get nervous on take off but once we are cruising I just distract myself.

3. Window seat or aisle seat?

Window seat. I do like to look outside and it feels roomier too. Bear likes a window seat too, so we usually trade when we fly together: I get the window one way and he gets the window coming back.

4. What is the worst experience you've had flying?

We were flying from Warsaw to Minsk in May 2001 on the very, very small plane. And there was turbulence so it was a very bumpy ride. That was the longest hour. The only thing that kept me relatively calm are the crew who were very blase.

5. What is the best experience you've had flying?

Virgin Atlantic flights to London and back. Just lots of nice options for entertainment, food was good and good atmosphere in general.

Runner up was a smallish plane I took to Kentucky for a conference - the young flight attendant was very funny and entertained us all with a lot of jokes. There was just a jovial atmosphere because of him.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

I'm sitting in Tanya's dance class right now. Good time to catch up. Both girls got my cold this week. So both had runny noses. Thankfully this one is a much milder cold than others. She was well enough to go to dance though - no more runny nose or coughing this morning.

I'm feeling better but it is lingering a bit. On Tuesday night I woke up at 1:30am with a coughing fit, and water and cough drop were not helping. I was even contemplating taking cold medicine, looking up ingredients to make sure it was ok for nursing, but then I couldn't swallow the gel tablet. So I did some more Internet searching and ended up eating two spoons of honey. And that actually helped. So that was my nightly medicine this week.

Exciting news since my last post is Olivia started crawling. And I was right there in the living room next to her. She zeroed in on a remote control so I moved it back a bit. She kept starring and started moving toward it. I moved it a bit back. She moved forward some more. And then she got it and was very happy. I was just happy that I was there to see it. She doesn't crawl much, she is much lazier than Tanya was but she's definitely on the way to standing. She pulls herself up to her knees in the crib now.

Our electric tea kettle stopped working yesterday. I texted my Dad so he stopped by Costco to get me a new one. We had to boil water in a pot for the morning. Now I have a silver one instead of my pretty red one. Tea pot is a necessity in our house so I really just wanted a new one right away and didn't want to search for another red one.

This week was pretty normal otherwise. I finished reading 'Hallucinations' by Oliver Sacks (I will do a book post on it and on 1st Expanse book), and I'm now half way through 'Crucible of Gold', 7th Temeraire book. It's a lot of fun. I'm liking it more than the last book. An intense sea adventure for the characters.

I'm also trying to catch with all my shows for the week on the weekend. Because Victoria Season 2 episodes are really long, it's taking me a while watching in it in the week evenings. I'm going to try to watch my 3 shows though. (Supernatural, Flash and Supergirl)

2017 movies

Movies I watched in 2017:

1. Star Trek Beyond (Jan 13-14)
2. Batman vs Superman: The Dawn of Justice (Jan 23-25)
3. Pride (Mar 18)
4. Moana (Apr 22-23)
5. Bad Moms (May 7)
6. Doctor Strange (May 30)
7. Logan (June 24)
8. Arrival (July 15-16)
9. Moonlight (July 29-30)
10. Frozen (Aug 6) – rewatch
11. Hidden Figures (Aug 13)
12. Lion (Aug 17)
13. Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (Sept 5-6)
14. Sing (Sept 7-8)
15. Beauty and the Beast (Sept 26, 30)
16. Before Midnight (Oct 8)
17.Nightmare Before Christmas (Oct 29-Oct 30) rewatch
18. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (Dec 16-Dec 18)

My Top 3 movies of the year were: Logan, Star Trek Beyond and Hidden Figures. Moana is very close 4th. And I did like Fantastic Beasts, mostly for the magic in it: I thought it was cute in a lot of ways.

The only movie I didn't like as much was Lion, but only the second half - I really liked the first half. I also didn't think Moonlight was the best movie ever, I've seen better. And Arrival was a little disappointing, mostly because the short story was better and there was too much hype. Batman vs Superman was ok, better than I was expecting from all the reviews. Doctor Strange had a really neat, tight story and I enjoyed it. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 was funny but while I find these movies cute, it doesn't really affect me emotionally in any way.

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Monday, January 8, 2018

This weekend was super cold so we didn't venture out. At 7F (-14C), as high, we didn't even take Tanya to her dance class. Instead it was a nice quiet weekend at home.

I made meatloaf on Saturday from ground beef. I prefer turkey but it was in my freezer and I needed to use it. Because there was 2 lb of ground beef, I used half on meatloaf on Saturday and made the rest into wontons on Sunday to put in the freezer for later meals. I also made soup for the girls on Sunday morning (we gave Olivia 1oz of that soup, with chicken in it, yesterday for the first time), and some elbow pasta in the afternoon. It was very nice to cook after so long.

Bear and I also managed to watch Wonder Woman in two evenings. I liked it. It wasn't the best movie ever but definitely best DC one. The plot was a lot tighter than many othet DC movies. Kid Diana was adorable and I liked the emotional journey the character was on. Plus, nice fighting skills.

I also watched a little Golden Globes, on and off as I did other things in the evening. Bear drove Tanya to my parents on Sunday evening for 24 hours becuase he had to take Olivia to the doctor this morning and this way my Mom wouldn't have to come out for the day. So after I put Olivia to bed there was a bit more free time and it felt pretty nice to just have the TV on.

Today at work, I had to go to a meeting with Big Boss about project delivery. Since I'm in change of updating the database for our group, I got invited. Cardan went too and we sat in the middle of the table, not realizing that Big Boss would sit right across from us. He asked us to introduce ourselves. My Boss and Assistant Boss and some other people I knew were at the meeting and we mainly talked about projects they want to register with comptroller by June 30, the end of fiscal year. One of our projects came up, the one I'm doing cost comparison for, so I talked about that project and how we will certainly prioritize it. After the meeting, Boss complimented me for doing well and later on she stopped by my desk to specifically tell me that Big Boss commented that I did well in that meeting, so that cheered me up for sure.

Olivia just woke up again. Last couple of nights she seems to have trouble sleeping. Her nose sounds a little stuffy, maybe that's bothering her. I hope she sleeps better tonight. Last night I ended up holding her after 4 40, so she could sleep some more.

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