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A Masterlist of all my fanfiction is here. There is Harry Potter, Highlander, Torchwood and a Bible story.
Becoming by Michelle Obama, 421pp

This book is the choice for Women's History Month at my work. There will be a book club meeting in Queens next Friday and I might actually make a trek up there. This book was on my radar and I was thinking of eventually reading it, so I was excited for the excuse. I borrowed it from my co-worker and read it over the first two weeks of March.

She is a really great writer. I think I was surprised but I shouldn't have been. I really like her writing style and her honesty. She doesn't seem to be holding back. I enjoyed the early parts of the book more before she gets into politics. I just like seeing her trajectory and experience from her childhood in close knit family in Chicago to Princeton to Harvard (she didn't really talk about her law school experience though) to Chicago law firm to deciding to switch careers. And of course her relationship with Barrack and her daughters. (She had both her girls at the same age as I did, so that was interesting to me to see her experience - She is a lot more social than I am though. More Mom friends and going out that I ever do). The years about politics and campaigning and dealing with fame and living in the White House held an interest too but I just like the stories of her childhood a lot.

I didn't know that much about Michele Obama, the person, despite her being in the public eye. And this book make me really like her and appreciate her and everything she tried to do for the country and community. This was a really great autobiography; I highly recommend it.

Seeing Voices by Oliver Sacks, 131pp+notes

This book was my least favorite of Sacks so far and I think it is because of lack of too many first person accounts. There were a couple of examples of people who became deaf or were born deaf and their experiences but not too many or with too many details. When I got to the section about the revolt in the Gallaudet University, it was much more interesting because there were more personal stories.

It also seems a little outdated as it is trying to convince the reader that American Sign Language (ALS) is a real language and should be used as soon as possible with babies and small children for their development. He is showing how ALS has grammar and is much better for education of the deaf, especially prelingual deaf. And to me this seems a common thing - perhaps because so many things changed since this book was written almost 30 years ago. My assumption is that if you discover the kid is deaf, you learn Sign and communicate in Sign. Maybe it is because Sign interpreters are more common now. Even some of the YouTube songs my kids watch have some ASL signs in them. And New York State does an automatic hearing test while the baby is still in the hospital.

It was interesting to think about the acquisition of language and grammar and how it builds a person and what happens to someone who doesn't grow up with language as a child. How crucial exposure to language is. I also liked the neurological studies of what learning Sign Language does in the brain and how it activates the same right hemisphere as regular aural language plus the left hemisphere visual component. So while the book was not as good as his other ones, it was still educational to me and made me think about the way we human function, which is why I like reading Sacks in the first place.


The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, [In Russian], 77pp

Before I read this book last week, I never got past the first chapter and I tried several times. I wasn't really aware of this book as a kid or as a teenager. In my last year of college I took French for two semesters. That June, right after my graduation from college, my parents and I went to Belarus for a visit. In one of the bookstores there I saw an edition of this book in French and Russian, aimed at students who study French and want a bilingual version. Since I just took French, I bought it. This was in 2001 and the book has been sitting on my shelves. At one point I lent it to Marianna, who loved this book as a child and was taking French because that's her husband's language (he is from Mali originally). She had it for a while before I took it back. Now it is sitting on my daughters' book shelf, but she isn't interested in it yet.

I decided to finally read it this year and I read it in Russian, since that is the version I had. It was cute enough and pretty weird. My favorite part was probably when the Prince was traveling and going to these small planets and meeting various characters representing the ridiculousness of humanity.

I'm not too attached to it and at times I enjoyed his mocking of the world but overall it was just ok for me.

Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells [Murderbot Diaries 3], 160pp

This series continues to be fun and I already put the last book on hold in the library (for ebook). I laughed outloud at one point and was endlessly amused as he had to turn on his TV feed for six minutes at the dramatic moment when it was human' turn to save the day - he was bored.

I caught on to one plot twist before the main character did but then again the clues were there, he is just not as adept to read human motivation at times. I did like that many characters were women where you would not expect them - like security officers. It was nice an pleasant, since the default is to assume it's men. Also Miki was pretty adorable.

I think it is easier for me to see the series as one novel split into four parts rather than separate novellas, since it does have one overarching plot. And I'm curious to where this series will end.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling, 272pp

Bear gave me this book for New Year. At the time I wasn't sure if I wanted to read it before I saw the movie. So it was just sitting on Bear's shelf and he has been unsure if he picked a good gift. He finally got the movie in the library last week so we watched it over the weekend. And since I finished my previous book on Tuesday, I figure I would just take it for my Wednesday commute with me, mostly because I didn't want to see Bear's sad face. Since it is a movie script, I was done with it this morning already.

And I really liked reading the script right after I saw the movie. I was able to understand nuances I missed when watching the movie and some emotional underpinning that the author meant to convey. And it reinforces many points. The movie stuck pretty closely to the script, although I could see some editing choices that did a great job conveying the point. I'm also glad I saw the movie so I knew what the action scenes and spells were supposed to be like. I'm not a visual person but I do remember the movie (without visualizing it) so it helps understand the scene.

March Questions Day 8-18

8 At what point of decay do you throw away your underwear?
When they develop holes. I usually use old underwear during a period but once they are too holey, out they go.

9 What do you consider the biggest waste of time from your life thus far?
Internet black hole

10 If you owned a racehorse what would you call it?
Hero

11 If an older version of you came back from the future and gave you advice about what you should do with your life would you take the advice or assume that the you from the future was evil and trying to screw you over?
Is this the plot of the finale of Star Trek Voyager - I'm still not convinced by the Admiral Janeway. I would assume I'm for real though and not trying to screw with me but I don't know if changing the future is a good idea - too many unintended consequences.

12 If you were compiling an album called Now that's what I call shit music from all the pop music ever created what 12 tracks would be on it?
There is certainly a lot of terrible music out there but even bad music is fun to someone. And I have no energy to think about a list.

13 Would you rather swing on a star or carry moonbeams home in a jar?
A star would be too hot, and moonbeams sound soothing. So I will go with moonbeams.

14 If you could make anything an Olympic sport what would your best shot at winning a gold medal be?
In high school I rocked AP Government Jeopardy game my teacher threw. So some sort of history trivia game - I would be good at that as I retain many facts.

15 If you had a tribe of Oompa-Loompas living in your house or workplace what would you make them do? Would you insist they sing songs or keep quiet?
I would make them go away. I never seen the movie but I'm aware of them enough to find them annoying. They can go sing somewhere else.

16 Does your hometown have a claim to fame?
I was born in Minsk, Belarus and live in Brooklyn, New York. Both have a long and famous history. My favorites are the Giant Mouse of Minsk from "American Tail" and mention that Hagrid visited Minsk and its vampires in Harry Potter.

17 If you could only have one or the other for the rest of your life would you have baths or showers?
Showers. I like showers. Bath take too much prep.

18 When was the last time you saw a donkey?
In Staten Island zoo a couple years ago when I visited with Tanya.

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March Questions Day 1-7

1 What's your favourite type of weather?
Summer, around 78F, warm but not humid and sunny.

2 If you could choose anyone to be your parents who would you choose?
I wouldn't trade my Dad for anyone. I wouldn't trade my Mom either even though our relationship is very difficult at times. She is still my Mom. But if I had to I would pick my Aunt Vera, as she is no nonsense and very kind.

3 Have you ever intervened heroically in any emergency situation with a complete stranger?
I don't think so. I would try to help if I could.

4 What's the most surprising thing that you can't do?
I don't really drive. I got my license 18 years ago but haven't really driven since. I don't like the idea of driving in the city and I just never drove other places.

I also can't really network effectively - the whole baffles me.

5 What colour is your toothbrush? Are you happy with that colour?
Right now it's orange and white. It was purple and white recently before I replaced it. I'm good with the color - I did pick it out.

6 Would you rather be able to channel the spirits of dead celebrities or never have to replace the light bulb in your bathroom?
This is a silly question as I don't really want to channel anyone nor do I might replacing the light bulb. I suppose I would pick not replacing the light bulb because I think channeling ghosts is silly and also kind of creepy. I don't want any other person in my head.

7 Which person do you interact with the most in your life without knowing what their name is? It's probably too late to ask now, right?
I was about to say one of the maintenance guys in our co-op because I always forget his name, but as I was typing I remembered it was Vince. One of my co-workers, I guess. He introduced himself but I can't remember it at all - I don't work with him directly - he is on our floor.

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Book Post: Abgaryan, Baldwin and Bujold

С Неба Упали Три Яблока [Three Apples Fell from the Sky] by Narine Abgaryan, [in Russian], c.200pp

[personal profile] pax_athena recommended this book about a year ago and I put it on my reading list because she described it so wonderfully and also because I do try to read at least one book in Russian per year. I got my Dad to email me the book (he has ways) and put it on my Kindle to wait its turn.

This was a beautiful book. The characters are mostly older people who live in a dying mountain village in Armenia where only the elders are left. There is a lot of tragedy in these people's lives, a lot of tough times from family to war to earthquake etc., which we learn about through their recollections, but at the same time there is so much hope and friendship and love. I felt so much for these characters and rejoiced for them when times were good. This book made me tear up several times and I'm not that usually prone to crying at fiction (I am much more emotional since my oldest was born and movies and books move me more often now but still). This book was just so wonderfully written too. I loved it very much. I also got my Dad to read it too and I highly recommend it.

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, 105pp

Our work assigned this book for Black History Month bookclub. Unfortunately I couldn't go to the book club itself because it was in the Brooklyn location, while I work in Manhattan and I wouldn't have had the time to take a train there, do the book club and get back in the lunch hour. But I did get the book from the library and read it.

This book is really two non-fiction essays that Baldwin wrote in the 60s. It is well written because he is, of course, a pretty famous writer. Some of it was interesting to see his perspective and the lives of the black men in the 60s - I was really interested in the dinner party he described with Elijah Muhammad leader of Nation of Islam. Some other part were a little too slow or too much sometimes. It really does show how different it is to grow up in black America. And I did like his overall point of learning to expand your perspective. I think I really would have liked the book club discussion as this kind of book needs to be discussed and really digested more. As it was, some sections dragged for me or made me uncomfortable, but that I think is the point and it is a good thing. I think my ideas about this book with evolve more over time.

Ethan of Athos by Lois McMaster Bujold [Vorkosigan Saga], 196pp

Every time I know it is time to read Bujold (and I'm trying to read three Vorkosigan books a year), I resist for some reason even though I always end up loving it. This time I was just unsure because this is not a Miles book. But of course I loved it.

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February Questions Day 23-28

23 Have you ever been fired? If so what for?
No. I worked a lot on contract and decided not to renew myself, once when I got pregnant with Tanya and quit teaching history at Local College, and again when I got the city job and stopped teaching at the University.

24 Would you rather be a vapour or a liquid?
Liquid.

25 Is there anything you learned at school that has any kind of practical application in real life?
Many, many things. Writing, analysis, reasoning, math, typing, Word and Excel. All those things and skills have applications.

26 How often do you replace your pillows?
I have a big giant feather pillow that I never replace. I replace pillowcases on it as I don't sleep directly on the pillow.

27 Which change in name of a popular product most annoyed you?
When Sci-fi channel because SyFy. I thought that was ridiculous.

28 If you could travel back to medieval times what single object would you take back with you that would guarantee that you would be made a king/Queen (or burned for witchcraft!)?
I don't think one object can do it but I would take antibiotics with me.

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February Questions Day 14-22

14 If you had to marry a Muppet which Muppet would you marry?
I don't know too many muppets. Maybe Gonzo.

15 What's the worst date you have ever been on?
I don't really have a worst date story. I dated two boys in high school and then I met Bear at 18 in college. I never been on a blind date, or just dated someone for only one date or used online apps - so I have no crazy stories. I'm pretty boring.

16 What's the most impulsive thing you've ever done?
I'm not impulsive by nature; I'm comfortable with thinking things through. I guess when we had to decide on the apartment purchase and just had hours to do it.

17 What's your favourite oxide?
Water

18 What's the scariest thing that has ever happened to you in a B&B?
Nothing scary ever really happened in a B&B. The creepiest one was in Norwich but it was mostly because the room was tiny.

19 Who is your favourite Steve?
Steve from "Full House" and "Fuller House" - I really like him as an adult.

20 What type of toothpaste do you use?
Crest

21 Do you see yourself as a pterodactyl or a lawnmower?
lawnmower

22 If you could quantum leap into any other person who would you leap into and what would you change in their life?
I doubt I can actually affect any change or would dare to mess with unintended consequences. I wouldn't mind leaping into someone glamorous so I can go to the Oscars or something. But I wouldn't change things in anyone's life.


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Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
I loved, loved, loved this book. The multiple narrators and all the characters and the whole plot. It just came together so well. I liked almost everything by Novik but this book was a highlight and I highly recommend it.

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How To Talk So Little Kids will Listen: A Survival Guide to Life with Children Ages 2-7 by Joanna Faber and Julie King

My mother-in-law gave me this book a while ago and a mention of it on my livejournal friend list made me finally take it to work so I can finally read it at lunch time. I spent January reading it (and sharing some points in it with interested work colleagues).

I think it was a very helpful book overall, just good suggestions. I find that often I'm calmer dealing with a tantrum and do try to diffuse it better. It doesn't always work but it helps. I also liked their suggestion on how to praise with descriptions and various tips for dealing with dinnertime. A lot of the stuff they talked about we were already doing just normally, so that was also good to know.

I was also interested in the chapter on how to lessen fighting among siblings and there was a very useful example of focusing on the kid who got hurt and not on punishing the one who did it, as that can quicken the resolution, end tattling and promote empathy. So I'm trying to use that when they squabble for toys.

Forever Man by A.J.DeWall

This book was a Glee Kurt/Blaine fanfic first and a pretty famous one called "Someone Like You." I liked that fanfic and skimmed it before a few times. When I read fic, I tend to skim more, while if I'm reading a book I never do. So I was very familiar with the story and for a while I wanted to buy the original novel based on the fic. I finally bought it last December. I haven't been reading much fic in the last few years as I shifted more focus on books and have very limited time because of small kids. So part of me is nostalgic for my fic reading decade. But I also haven't really been into a pairing since Glee ended. While occasionally a new pair sparks an interest, it doesn't really translate to more than a few fics here and there.

It was very strange to get used to new names and various changes that had to be made to make this an original work because I remembered what should be there. Ren (Kurt's character) had both parents and a brother, while Kurt had a father, dead mother, a stepmother and a stepbrother. So some of the background of the character was different. And of course the author could not use Adele or her songs, so there is a made-up singer Allegra. It was a little jarring sometimes. I think I did like the fic more as it was imbued with wider knowledge of the characters. But I think the bigger problem was that upon a more detailed reading not all the actions or ideas made sense and the writing is not always strong. It was still a nice book and I don't regret reading it but I did have better memories of the fic itself.

The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov

For the last few years I have been trying to read five Hugo winning books a year, since I like having a goal and I feel like I want to know the classics of sci-fi better than I do. (When I was in high school, I tracked down and watched all the Oscar winning movies, so this kind of goal is very me.)

For my first Hugo book this year I wanted to read something from the 70s, and I figured you can't go more classic than Asimov. As a teenager I really adored his short stories. He is one of the few writers whose short stories I always liked more than books - and I did read a few of his books too, but not this book. And in general I prefer novellas and novels to short stories. But he is just a master of them. I also really liked his autobiography.

And despite several issues like some characterizations of female characters, who while smart are also either emotional or have too much intuition, and some weird 70s dialogue patterns, I really enjoyed this novel. This felt like real sci-fi with physics and chemistry that the reader had to understand. It wasn't that hard but there is an assumption that the reader can understand the physics. I really liked the second section that takes place in the parallel universe with a very different idea of life because the fusion reaction in this universe is heavier. I liked the solution to the main problem in the book. [The moon section reminded me both of Heinlein and of the Expanse series]. It felt like Asimov really thought out the consequences of different environments. Each of the sections was very different from each other. A fun read.

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells [Murderbot Diaries 2]

Very quick and easy and enjoyable. When I finished reading it, I put the third one on hold in my library. I liked Murderbot's relationship with ART. And how it's clients were in real danger and it kept calling them out on it. It's own investigation into Ganaka Pit felt a little weird since nothing really happened other than it found out that it was sabotage. It just felt as an aside that might play a role later. As usual, I enjoyed it's internal thoughts and dialogue. I really liked how ART was all upset if something happened to humans on the TV shows and how Murderbot used the media and familiar episodes to calm down. It is learning slowly to handle interactions with people and some emotion so there is a feeling of growth. Fun novella.

February Questions Day 7-13

7 What's the most bizarre wrong number text that you've ever received?
I don't think I ever got a wrong text. I did get a weird wrong number phone call at 2am on New Year's Day once - that was just annoying.

8 Would you rather have a magic mirror in which you could see your dead relatives as if they were alive again but couldn't speak to you and could only glumly wave or a 2 for 1 voucher for any main meal at a Pizza Express (Monday to Thursday)?
Like a Harry Potter type Erised mirror? We;; since I never ate at Pizza Express or would want to, I would pick the mirror. I wouldn't mind waving at my grandmother. I could talk to her without her reply.


9 What's the most expensive thing that you've had eaten by a pet?
I never had pets. My parents did watch a neighbor's dog once and that dog chewed up my newly bought Ken doll's arm (this was soon after we can to America and I got a Barbie and Ken for my 13th birthday - and getting those dolls was a big thing at the time.) Now my girls play with those dolls and you can still see the bite marks. But nothing bigger than that.

10 If every time you farted a fairy died (in agony) would you stop farting?
You can't actually stop farting - it is sort of essential to humans. Fairies would be long extinct under these conditions.

11 What's the most benign fairground or playground ride that has properly scared you?
I don't think any playground rides ever scared me but I do get scared on the Ferris Wheel because heights make me uncomfortable, especially if there are no windows and you just hang there in a basket. I rarely go on those.

12 If you could choose to have sex with anyone, living or dead, who would you choose? (Would you choose someone who was dead? What's wrong with you?)
Bear. If he was dead, I have no idea. It would have to be someone I cared about; I don't think I would be comfortable with one-night stands. What's sounds sexy or romantic in one's head is not always good in real life.

13 Would you rather never have to clean a bathroom again or never have to do dishes again?
Doing the dishes is my favorite chore - the hot water is soothing. Although I don't really mind cleaning the bathroom. Washing the floors is what I usually try to avoid or pass on to Bear to do. So I would rather never clean the bathroom.

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February Questions Day 1-7

February
1 Is there a catchphrase from an old TV show or adverts that hardly anyone else remembers but that you still use?
The awesome IKEA commercial when we see an old lamp on the street in the rain with sad music and they go "Many of you feel bad for this lamp. That is because you are crazy. It has no feelings. And the new one is much better." It was hilarious and I use it to get rid of old stuff.

2 If you could talk to any one type of animal and they could talk back to you what animal would you choose?
Maybe dolphins because they are very intelligent.

3 If you could put a custard pie in the face of anyone in the world (with no retaliation) who would you choose to do that to?
I would eat the pie. Wasting food, especially delicious food is very silly. I can never watch TV or movie food fights. All that wasted food makes me cringe, not to mention the clean up.

4 If you won the lottery would you still buy a ticket every week? What do you think of people who win a second time?
I don't buy a ticket every week now. I only buy when there is a huge jackpot and usually as part of a work pool. But if I won a big amount I would not buy again. Let someone else have a shot.

5 Have you ever fallen down stairs?
Yes. When my parents had carpet on their stairs. Once I slid down half way on my butt. Mostly I was just startled and had a sore back for a little bit.

6 What is the worst perk you've ever received because of your job?
I don't think I ever received bad perks. Or a lot of perks in general.

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