April Reading

A lot earlier than last month, my monthly reading report.

Ongoing project:

Murasaki Shikibu and Royall Tyler (trsl.), The Tale of Genji.
I didn’t manage to read any of this in April either, but I’ve pulled myself together and got started again now, in May. So, I should have a better progress soon. I do enjoy it, so I’m not sure why I didn’t get round to this book in the last couple of months.

Poetry:

Adrienne Rich, Selected Poems 1952 – 2012.
I started and finished this book in April. I enjoyed it, but I’m sure I haven’t understood everything. If I pondered each poem I read (especially the modern ones) until I understand it completely, I’d never get ahead. I’m sure I’ll be rereading this one sometime in future and then I may get more and other things out of it that I did with this first reading.

Short Stories:

Robert L. Mack, Arabian Nights’ Entertainments.
Not really short stories, more like folk or fairy tales, but they are good. I’m making progress, night by night.

Non-Fiction:

  • Samuel Johnson and David Womersley (ed), Selected Writings.
    Essays and letters and other miscellaneous stuff. Very interesting. I finished the last half, and especially liked Rasselas (a kind of fable about finding the right way to life – it’s apparently impossible, there’s always something to complain about) and A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland – now I want to read James Boswell’s report of the same journey. It would be interesting to see how the two accounts differ. I also read some of Johnson’s short biographies from Lives of the Poets. These didn’t do much for me, because I haven’t read many of the works he discusses (Johnson gives an overview of the poets’ works), and those that I have read I’ve mostly forgotten. Except for Milton. I might reread those biographies if I ever give those poets a go. I still kind of liked the biographies because I like Johnson’s style.
  • Patrick King, The Science of Getting Started: How to Beat Procrastination, Summon Productivity, and Stop Self-Sabotage.
    This was a cheap Kindle edition that I found by chance and bought to see if it had any bright ideas on how to organize my work load more effectively. I didn’t have high hopes, but I was positively surprised. It was a quick read and had some good ideas (not all of them new to me, but also a good reminder of the things I already knew). If you want some pointers about dealing with a high workload and working productively, I recommend this book. I like that it is science-based, not just somebody’s pet ideas without any scientific backing. I always get my task at work done (if sometimes last minute), but this year there’s a lot of chaos at work and I needed some ideas to get things back under control and stop feeling overwhelmed. It’s still chaos, but I’m dealing with it and the book helped.

Novels:

  • Robert Dugoni, The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell.
    A book club read that I didn’t care much about. I wrote about it here.
  • David Weber, In Fury Born.
    This one I read one weekend in April because I needed some light space opera escapism. I wrote about it here.

April wasn’t a great reading month. Work was rather hellish and as a result, I was sometimes too tired to read. Quite annoying really. Things aren’t really looking up. I think the work situation is going to continue being a pain at least until fall. Therefore, I need to pull myself together and find a modus vivendi in which the work situation doesn’t carry over so much into my private life. I think I’m getting there, but some days are better than others.

Keep safe, world.

Wednesday Waffling

So, I had a quite stressful week before Easter, a lovely relaxed lazy Easter weekend (from Friday to Monday, as both days are public holidays in Germany), and now I’m at the end of another stressful work week. I still haven’t quite managed to optimally organize my increased workload.

The week before Easter was lovely and warm, going up to 24°C but now we’re back down to just around 2°C with snow, sleet, snow pellets and a nasty cold wind. It started on Monday; the rest of Easter was cool but sunny. Monday afternoon I was caught on my walk with Curious Dog in a shower of sleet. We got sopping wet, but CD didn’t seem to care much. I was freezing, especially my wet hands on his leash, while he was unconcernedly sniffing various clumps of grass for ages. But I let him because I am a sucker. I like for him to enjoy his time outside on our walks. Yesterday was also nasty and today our afternoon walk took place during snowfall (at least we didn’t get wet). The forecast does indicate that temperatures will go up again on Friday. I much prefer this weather to its being too warm too early in the year, though. The precipitation will be good for the woods and fields, I hope.

I had tons of things to do at work before and after Easter. I got annoyed at my manager, because in last week’s team meeting he blithely announced another task that I am supposed to be the owner of (well, actually two similar tasks). I haven’t been responsible for this particular thing for quite a number of years, but it involves new software tools and new regulations that I have to familiarize myself with. As I’m so busy, I didn’t appreciate having this new task dumped on me without warning and with the training that’s required… – I don’t mind training, but this month I’ve got tons of deadlines already and my calendar is full. I don’t know when exactly I have to start with the new responsibility, but I’ve had a rotten experience with the same thing in the past. It involved interacting with aggressive customers in escalation mode due to no fault of mine. So, I definitively don’t want to go into this without proper up-to-date training. And I will need support by other colleagues and there’s all sorts of other framing conditions that my manager doesn’t seem to have considered. I was mad as hell but haven’t had a chance to talk with them about it. Probably for the best. Now I’ve had a few days to cool down and come up with all points that need to be clarified. I’ve got my jour fixe with them tomorrow and will try to get a better understanding of what this thing entails.

This week is a short week, what with only three workdays for me. There’s a deadline that had me hounding people to improve the quality of their content for the last couple of weeks as well as a lot of other quality checks. The new schedule where we publish our documents monthly instead of every six weeks seems to make quite a difference in workload which I had underestimated. That, in addition to the new project I took on a couple of months ago, is proving a challenge. Maybe I’ll get used to it in a few more weeks.

2021_04_07

Easter was great, because of the relaxation. Nothing but cooking, eating, sleeping, reading, watching films or series, walking with Curious Dog, meditating, playing games…I’d done all the meal-planning beforehand and bought all the groceries we needed on the Wednesday before Easter (except for some odds and ends which I forgot and picked up on Thursday) thus avoiding the Easter rush. We had traditional “green sauce” with potatoes on Thursday. Green sauce consists (in our case) of soy yoghurt with a mix of chopped herbs, salt, pepper, and a bit of olive oil. A very simple but tasty meal. On Friday we had home-made pizza, with homemade cashew mozzarella. Saturday, we had mashed potatoes with glazed apple pieces, fried onions and fried smoked tofu (the non-vegan recipe calls for German blood sausage instead of tofu). Very nice although it sounds weird. It’s called “heaven and earth” (“heaven” for the apples, “earth” for the potatoes). On Sunday we had cauliflower in tomato-caper sauce with polenta and on Monday we had a carrot, leek, date, and rice curry cooked in my clay pot in the oven at 200° for 1.5 hours. Partner made a lovely poppy seed cake with a sweet soy yoghurt and berry topping for Sunday and Monday, and a sweet yeast loaf for Friday and Saturday. If I can’t think of what to cook next Easter, I’ll look up this post for inspiration.

I didn’t read any of the books I’m currently in the middle of during the Easter weekend. Somehow, I got side-tracked and picked up an 840 page space opera by David Weber: In Fury Born. I picked it up off my shelves for a reread, but I couldn’t remember a thing about it. Did I maybe not read it before? A bit mystifying. Usually I do recognize bits and pieces, even if I can’t remember everything, but with this one, I remembered almost nothing. It was a good, escapist read. Similar to all the David Weber books I’ve read, it is about a courageous elite soldier, who is disillusioned and leaves the military. Later she experiences a horrific personal tragedy and kind of teams up with an ancient Greek Fury, Tisiphone, (this is the plot element that sets the book apart from others by Weber) and an AI spaceship named Megaira. They communicate telepathically and Tisiphone inhabits her mind. I like reading about stuff like that. Otherwise, the novel is too full of military stuff, and too many people get killed. There’s also lots of politics. These are all things I don’t like that much, but somehow there are times when I enjoy David Weber’s books a lot. I’ve read most of his Honorverse novels, which are about a heroic member of a space navy, Honor Harrington. They are also full of military life, politics and terribly evil antagonists that have to be overcome, but they are very thrilling and sometimes I just feel like reading such a tale.

I did continue reading Emily Dickinson’s poetry in the mornings and at night I’ve started reading the Arabian Nights’ Entertainments instead of short stories. I’ve had this Oxford World’s Classics paperback for a long time and have never yet read all of it. I’m enjoying it a lot so far (and I remember quite a few of the stories, as I have read some of them before). My new book light is very helpful for reading books (instead of ebooks) in bed at night, as it doesn’t bother Partner as much as my bed-side lamp. It’s one of those clip-on rechargeable LED lights that you can adjust to different levels of brightness. A very useful gadget.

During the Easter weekend we watched parts two and three of Matrix, which I’m sure I didn’t watch when they came out. The plot is odd and somewhat esoteric, but it’s mostly a lot of extended action scenes. Fun, but nothing to rave about. We watched the Narnia film Voyage of the Dawn Treader on Disney+. Not exactly like the book (I don’t remember the plotline about the seven swords), but I liked it anyway. On Monday night we watched the Tatort (crime scene) episode 1162 Der Herr des Waldes (The Lord of the Woods) set in the town of Saarbrücken. Not bad, with a rather surreal scene between two psychopaths, but it suffers because all the main protagonists are not very likeable (at least, I don’t care much for them). It also ended on a bit of cliffhanger, which is a pain because Tatort episodes set in Saarbrücken only run once a year. We’ll have to wait until next year to see what happens next.

We also watched the first three episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, also on Disney+. Not bad, except for all that rubbish about needing heroes. People shouldn’t place others on pedestals and worship them as heroes. I don’t care about that aspect of the Marvel Universe at all. The new Captain America starts off as quite a nice person, but then morphs into an arse. The ones against whom the Falcon and the Winter Soldier are fighting may turn out to be not as bad as they seem. They are angry, because they have been dispossessed by the returned humans who had been missing for five years (as was told in the Avengers arc of films). An interesting plot, but the series isn’t as quirky as WandaVision.

So that’s the gist of what I’ve been doing since last I posted.

Keep safe, world.