March 2016

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March wasn’t really a bad month at all.

It was a busy month, one with a lot of things that I needed to get finished at work. But I seem to have finished those things, for the most part. I’ve exchanged them all for new things, new deadlines, but they’re not quite as deadliney as the old ones, if that makes any sense.

I read two books, like I had in February, which may not seem like much but which is double my recent monthly average. In March it was Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Mercy and Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. And both were…okay.

Whereas Leckie’s first novel, Ancillary Justice felt unique and refreshing and vital, the two follow-ups…just didn’t. They’re as well written, and have some very nice touches, but they’re a lot less compelling, particularly when taken on their own. And while Chambers’ book is very readable, with fun aliens and likable characters, it’s also so amazingly devoid of tension. There’s rarely a problem in the book that can’t be introduced and resolved in just a couple of pages, and so the whole thing can’t help feeling very low-stakes and episodic, to a fault.

In March, I also read thirty-one short stories, one every day. Favorites included:

  • “Palingenesis” by Megan Arkenberg (Shimmer)
  • “The Wolf and the Tower Unwoven” by Kelly Sandoval (Uncanny)
  • “Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station | Hours Since the Last Patient Death: 0” by Caroline Yoachim (Lightspeed)
  • “Seven Cups of Coffee” by A.C. Wise (Clarkesworld)
  • “Not by Wardrobe, Tornado, or Looking Glass” by Jeremiah Tolbert (Lightspeed)
  • “Salvage Opportunity” by Jack Skillingstead (Clarkesworld)
  • “The Shadow Collector” by Shveta Thakrar (Uncanny)
  • “Meltwater” by Benjamin C. Kinney (Meltwater)
  • “Indigo Blue” by Rachael K. Jones (Shimmer)
  • “The Name of the Forest” by Margaret Killjoy (Strange Horizons)
  • “Angel, Monster, Man” by Sam J. Miller (Nightmare)
  • “Tumbleweeds And Little Girls” by Jeff Bowles (Podcastle)
  • “Woman in the Reeds” by Esther M. Friesner (Asimov’s)
  • “Ordinary Souls” by K. M. Szpara (Glittership, reprint)
  • “The Box Wife” by Emma Osborne (Pseudopod, reprint)
  • “The Husband Stitch” by Carmen Maria Machado (Podcastle, reprint)

Everything but the last three reprints were from 2016.

I watched six movies in March:

  • Creed
  • Spy
  • 10 Cloverfield Lane
  • Grand Hotel
  • Pee-wee’s Big Holiday
  • Jurassic World

They were all pretty good, with the exception of Jurassic World, which was pretty bad. No, strike that: very bad. I don’t quite know what else to say about any of the movies beyond what I said at the time on Twitter. (You do follow me on Twitter, right?)

And finally, in March, I turned another year older. I only feel a little bad about that when I realize this is the last year of my thirties. It’s also those little mental math problems that make me feel older, more than anything else.

Anyway, let’s close out March with some music, as I’m wont to do:

February 2016

Was February a better month than January? Oh man, it would almost have to be, right?

I did only spend one day home sick from work last month, so I suppose it’s a definite step in the right direction. This time it was courtesy of a cold I think I caught from my boss — my second cold in as many months, as it happens. I’d like it to be my last one, at least for a little while.

Otherwise, it was kind of an uneventful month.

I watched four movies:

  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
  • Deadpool
  • Mortdecai
  • Less Than Zero

I mostly liked the first two, and mostly didn’t like the second two. Mockingjay suffers, I think, by being split in two, though I’ll certainly watch the second half when it’s available to stream.

Deadpool is violent and rude, and sometimes less clever than it thinks, but it’s also a lot of fun.

Mortdecai…well, isn’t. It suffers from being late into late-period Johnny Depp, this stage of his career where it’s all affectation and no acting. If it had come earlier, I don’t think it would be any less not-funny, but it wouldn’t suffer as much by comparison. It would just be a dull movie, not a symptom of the disease.

And Less Than Zero? Well, it probably seemed more impressive in 1987. There are some good performances in it, from Robert Downey, Jr., and James Spader, but too little of anything else. I mean, seeing ridiculous yuppies ruin their previously pampered lives through cocaine might have been compelling in the mid-’80s, but thirty years later it’s a little dull and trite.

I managed to read two books in February: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin and Updraft by Fran Wilde. Both books are very imaginative, creating rich and unique worlds, but Jemisin’s novel was definitely my favorite. It’s just a stunningly original fantasy.

I also read thirty short stories, continuing to read one every day. My favorites included:

  • “Charlotte Incorporated” by Rachael K. Jones (Lightspeed)
  • “Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea” by Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed)
  • “Starfish” by Karen Tidbeck (Lightspeed)
  • “Between Dragons and Their Wrath” by An Owomoyela and Rachel Swirsky (Clarkesworld)
  • “Vulcanization” by Nisi Shawl (Nightmare)
  • “A Partial List of Lists I Have Lost Over Time” by Sunil Patel (Asimov’s)
  • “And You Shall Know Her By The Trail Of Dead” by Brooke Bollander (Lightspeed)
  • “Coming of the Light” by Chen Qiufan (translated by Ken Liu) (Clarkesworld)
  • “So Much Cooking” by Naomi Kritzer (Clarkesworld)
  • “Midnight Hour” by Mary Robinette Kowal (Uncanny)
  • “Our Lady of the Open Road” by Sarah Pinsker (Asimov’s)
  • “The Zeppelin Conductors’ Society Annual Gentlemen’s Ball” by Genevieve Valentine (Lightspeed
  • “Alchemy and Ice” by Charlotte Nash (Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine)

As with last month, the first five six stories are from 2016, while the rest are from earlier, in this case mostly 2015.

And finally, like always, I listened to some music. Here’s my monthly mix:

You’ll notice there’s a song from Hamilton in there. I finally listened to the internet and listened to Hamilton. It really is quite good. Good on you, internet.

January 2016

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I don’t want to suggest that January was a terrible month, but boy howdy have I had better.

It started well enough, I suppose, the surprising celebrity deaths that started stacking up notwithstanding. But somewhere along the way, I caught a cold, which developed into two or three days of this weird lingering exhaustion I was half-convinced was pneumonia. I’d have stayed home from work if I hadn’t already been home for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

That’s right, I spent the first three-day weekend of the new year feeling sick and too tired to really do much of anything.

And then a week later my back went out.

I did spend several days home from work because of that. I managed, somehow, to get through Thursday at the office but then needed to stay home until the following Wednesday. That was the weekend of our first real blizzard, Winter 2016 arriving late to the party and desperately trying to get all the snow done at once. So at least I didn’t have to shovel, I suppose. But that was only because I could barely walk.

I’m mostly better now — I can walk again, for one thing — and while I still have aches and twinges, I’m trying to work through those with ample stretching and relaxation. I’m not lying in bed all day with the heating pad any longer, but I also haven’t put the heating pad away altogether.

A week after I went back to work, I was off from it again, however, this time for a trip to Sanibel Island, Florida. (That’s where the picture above was taken.) My father has family down there, and we were there to visit and celebrate my sister’s birthday. I stayed for a long weekend, while she and my parents stayed on for another week in the sun and sand.

Which pretty much takes us to February.

So, anyway, books and movies and stories and such I enjoyed in the first month of the year…

In January, I watched five movies, none of which I would characterize as great. They were:

  • TRON
  • In the Realm of the Senses
  • Mystic Pizza
  • The Gambler
  • Permanent Midnight

I’m just young enough to have missed out on TRON when it was in theaters. It was definitely part of the background noise as a child of the 1980s, but I’d never actually seen more than a few minutes of the movie. It’s okay, but I’m not entirely sure I was ever missing out.

In the Realm of the Senses is…well, very graphic. Mystic Pizza was very thin but has some great performances in it. The Gambler doesn’t necessarily have that, but it does have a very good soundtrack. And Permanent Midnight…well, Ben Stiller’s pretty good in it, I dunno. Nothing I’d call remarkable.

I read just one book — The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters — but I liked it a lot.

I read a bunch more short stories, though, continuing a habit I picked up last year of reading one a day. In total, that’s thirty-one short stories for January. My favorites were:

  • “That Lucky Old Sun” by Carrie Cuinn (Apex)
  • “In the Woods Behind My House” by by Nicolette Barischoff (Podcastle)
  • “The Godbeard” by Lavie Tidhar (Strange Horizons)
  • “Cat Play” by Mari Ness (Metaphorosis)
  • “Girl in Blue Dress (1881)” by Sunil Patel (Flash Fiction Online)
  • “The Cassandra Project” by Jack McDevitt (Lightspeed)
  • “Amaryllis” by Carrie Vaughn (Lightspeed)
  • “The Return of the Thin White Duke” by Neil Gaiman (Trigger Warning)
  • “Ghost Champagne” by Charlie Jane Anders (Uncanny)
  • “A Kiss With Teeth” by Max Gladstone (
  • “Toad Words” by T. Kingfisher (Red Wombat Studio)
  • “This Chance Planet” by Elizabeth Bear (
  • “Windows” by Susan Palwick (Asimov’s)
  • “The Blue Afternoon That Lasted Forever” by Daniel H. Wilson (Carbide Tipped Pens)
  • “A Call to Arms for Deceased Authors’ Rights” by Karin Tidbeck (Uncanny)
  • “The Astrakhan, the Homburg, and the Red Red Coal” by Chaz Bentley (Lightspeed)
  • “Who Binds And Looses The World With Her Hands” by Rachael K. Jones (Podcastle)

The first five are from 2016, the rest from earlier.

And finally, in January, I listed to some music:


Today marked the first time since Thursday that I went outside, wore anything but pajamas, or did anything more strenuous than watch several episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show*. After four long days of illness and convalescence, of stomach bug and fever, I finally went back to work.

Sunday was pretty miserable, though, and it’s what convinced me I needed the extra day off. I’d planned to go to the doctor yesterday, but by that morning the fever was gone — and moreover, it seemed to stay gone without any outside assistance. I was still pretty beat, and so I lay about all day, but I was feeling a lot better long before the end of it. A lot better than the day before, definitely, when I’d had to take a long break between eating the two halves of a fairly small banana.

So I went back to work today. It was pretty uneventful, except for the yearly emergency preparedness training the building makes all of the floor’s fire safety team go to. And even that’s just sitting around learning about what to do in case of a biological attack, or gas leak, or zombie outbreak. I’ve still got lots of imminent deadlines and projects that I wish were more finished than they are, but it was nice to not come back to more of them.

And it was nice to get a chance to read again, something I couldn’t really do while I was sick. On Friday I couldn’t even concentrate on television. (Though later, putting Galaxy Quest and then Goonies on in the background while I tried to sleep was actually quite a comfort. Good movies, those.) Tonight, I finished reading Octavia Butler’s novel Kindred. It’s a simple but powerful book, a reminder of Butler’s talents, and though it’s a novel written about the antebellum South and slavery from the viewpoint of 1976, it doesn’t feel the slightest bit dated. I liked it a lot.

February promises to not be entirely normal, just looking at my schedule coming up, but it was nice to get back to a little bit of normal, today, anyway.

* Seriously, why have I never really watched this show before? It’s a little dated in places, but it holds up remarkably well. It’s endearing and funny.

Sick daze

So I don’t know about you, but I had a kind of a terrible week.

There was that whole kerfuffle on Tuesday, when I missed the Broadway show I had been planning to see, but after that, I thought everything was going to go back to normal.

And then on Friday I got sick.

I woke up that morning a few hours before I normally do, and that’s when the vomiting began. I’ll spare you any more of the graphic details. It’s enough to say that I spent a long and uncomfortable day at home, lying in bed, occasionally turning to Twitter or my work e-mail when I could, trying to sleep when I couldn’t. Later that night my fever spiked at close to 103, but at least by then I was able to hold down enough water to swallow some Tylenol, which seemed to make a big difference.

I’m much better today. The fever’s not gone completely, but it’s in the much more manageable double digits, and I’m actually managing to hold down solid food. (This being toast and rice pudding, all-day-meal of champions.) I even finally took a shower, brushed my teeth, and put my glasses back on. And I’m writing this. Whatever I had isn’t completely gone, but it seems to have done most of its damage in a real hurry.

I’m not doing anything much more adventurous today than eating rice pudding. I’m still lying in bed — new clean sheets, though — and watching episodes of Scandal and Supernatural (both ridiculous in their own charming ways).

The one silver lining in all this — beyond the fact that I am feeling better — is that the team outing I missed on Friday, the lunch and museum visit with my colleagues I missed in favor of retching and sleeping, has been postponed. I was looking forward to that, and I’d have been sorry to have missed it. I’m glad they were able to reschedule it. I would have made lousy company yesterday.