Goodbye, Aruba

It’s official (if not unexpected). My Aruba trip has bit the dust. That’s actually the third trip of mine to fall victim to the corona virus. I was supposed to have just gotten back from Washington DC yesterday, having attended Computers in Libraries. Later next month, I was to go back to DC for National Library Legislative Day. But both of those trips were for work. This one was supposed to be for fun.

It’s not a disaster, since I had paid for the whole thing with points, and I’ve gotten all those points back now. It’s more just a disappointment. Though of course, the thought of going to an airport and getting on a plane with a bunch of strangers isn’t exactly the most comforting thought. (I wonder how many people are going to develop agoraphobia after all this is said and done . . .)

That said, life seems to be a series of disappointments at the moment, and they all tend to glom on to each other, one after another. I’m trying to stay chipper, and most days I succeed for at least of the day. It’s hard to feel really bad for myself when at least the big things are still going fine. I’m still employed, my family is healthy, and we’re all together and doing okay. That’s important at a time when I know that’s not the case for many others. So I’m grateful for what I’ve got, but that doesn’t mean I’m not sad for the things that are falling by the wayside, one after another.

I see them pop up on my digital calendar. Events that are vestiges from what might have been had everything gone the way the world thought they would. Tomas would be at a robotics event this weekend. Daniela would be at cello lessons right now. There were playdates and parties. Track season was supposed to be ramping up. Each of them come up as reminders, and I have to dismiss them. Part of me wants to just delete all of them, but . . . I can’t bring myself to do that either.

Who knows how long this will last. The next trip that might bite the dust is Disneyworld at the end of June. I have no idea what things will look like by then. On the one hand, I’d like to think that by then we’ve got a handle on things. On the other, I can think of few places I could go that will be more germ-y than Disneyworld . . .

Have a nice weekend, folks. I’ll catch you on Monday.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Book Review: The Great Divorce

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When it comes to titles, “The Great Divorce” leaves much to be desired. Before I first read it (which was something like 18 years ago now), I always pictured it as being some long, densely-written tome that discussed . . . I don’t know. Some abstract thought thing that would put me to sleep after about three lines. Yes, it’s by CS Lewis, but come on. “The Great Divorce”? It practically screams “Don’t read me!” right from the cover.

But I was forced to read the book as part of a class I took on CS Lewis back at BYU, and I was so glad I got shoved into the act. And while I’m stuck in-doors, I decided to revisit it, and it was just as good the second time as it was the first. I gave it a 9/10, and I really recommend it to anyone who’d like a good book that will make you think. It’s an excellent companion to his more well-known Screwtape Letters.

Why will you like it? For one thing, it’s anything but long and dry. It clocks in at 146 pages, and much of it breezes along. It tells a first person account of a supposed dream Lewis has, in which he begins in hell and travels from there to heaven. Except hell is anything but the fire pool of torment you would typically imagine. It’s a world very like our own, peopled entirely by individuals who choose to remain there, and the bulk of the book is devoted to examining the different reasons people have for staying in hell rather than going to heaven.

Basically, it’s a series of character studies, as Lewis sees one interaction after another, with each person from hell giving a different reason for why they don’t want to go to heaven. Many of them can be hit quite close to home. There are a few times when Lewis really dives into some dense thoughts, and those are the few times I think he flounders a bit to try to capture what he’s trying to say. At least, those were the time that the book felt weakest to me (though perhaps others would love them). For me, the book (and Lewis in general) is strongest when he’s talking about big thoughts in very easy to understand terms. Here are a couple of highlights from the text that stood out to me:

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.” (p59)

“That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, “No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. And of some sinful pleasure they say “Let me have but this and I’ll take the consequences”: little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of the sin. Both processes begin even before death. The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness. And that is why, at the end of all things, when the sun rises here and the twilight turns to blackness down there, the Blessed will say “We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven,” and the Lost, “We were always in Hell.” And both will speak truly.” (p54)

But there’s a ton more in there that’s really worthy of reading. So if you’re stuck inside for a while, and you’d like to raise your thinking a bit, give The Great Divorce a chance. Just don’t be too stuck on the title.

View all my reviews

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Video Game Review: Animal Crossing New Horizons

Maine officially closes down tomorrow, with the governor having issued a Stay at Home order that starts at midnight tonight. I saw the writing on the wall well in advance, and so I’ve been looking for ways for my family to not go insane while we’re in quarantine. We’ve got plenty of ways to distract ourselves, but I wanted to get in some different ways where we could do things together. If we came out of this quarantine, and everyone had just spent time doing things on their own, then that would be a failure.

That said, it’s been strange to navigate a new normal in this new environment. I’m at home each day, but I have a bunch of work to do. It’s not like I can put it all aside and just go play games with the kids. In fact, the kids all have homework they’re supposed to be doing as well. So we’re all at the house, but during the day there’s a lot of “all of us working on our own” time, and then we get back together in the late afternoon, almost as if we’re all coming back from work and school.

In any case, I’d heard a lot of good things about the new Animal Crossing game. It’s been so popular over the quarantine time that Nintendo Switches are selling out again, and have once more become hard to obtain. So if you already have a Switch, then this could be a great thing for you to check out for your family. If you don’t . . . it might be hard to play along.

The original Animal Crossing for the Gamecube is one of the few games Denisa ever really played extensively. If you’ve never encountered the game before, it’s pretty straightforward: you play a villager in a town. You do jobs around town to make money and pay for enhancements to your house. You can catch bugs, fish, interact with other villagers, and just generally play at your own speed. There’s no dying. No real competition. It’s just a laid back way to pass the time.

For the Switch version, you have couch co-op, meaning up to four players can play on the screen at the same time, as long as you have enough controllers. That was the detail that really made me decide to try it out. It’s easy to pass the main control from one player to another. (Only one player at a time can talk to villagers and buy and sell things.) It’s already been a smash hit. We’ve had hours of time when two, three, or four players are up playing at the same time. Denisa even came out of retirement last night to have a go at things again.

MC is the biggest fan of the game. She just keeps saying how it’s the “best game ever,” and loves taking as much time as we’ll give her to go around and fish and decorate her house. There’s been a bit of a to do around the game online, since for couch co-op, all progress of the town (making new buildings, for example) rests on the first person to play the game. This means only one person can have “control” over the island, potentially. For our situation, I actually think that works better. I made myself the main player, so there’s no arguing among the kids for what to do and what changes to make. Also, the whole point is to have us all play together, so I’m glad (for now, at least) that we’re not all in different save files in the game. It’s a cooperative thing, and that’s why I bought it.

Anyway. If you have a Switch and are looking for some sustained activities that can bring your family together, I definitely give the game my full endorsement. It sounds bizarre, perhaps, but it really is a lot of fun, and it’s a great way to escape from what’s a pretty grim reality facing us right now.

Give it a shot!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

When to Stop Reading or Watching

The fact that I like to consume a fair number of movies and books is a well established fact. I also tend to be a completionist. I like to finish what I start. The farther along I get, the more likely I am to want to finish something. But as I get older, I’m finding myself more and more inclined to stop reading or watching things if I’m not enjoying them.

I know that sounds like a fairly obvious thing to do, but it’s been difficult for me. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s a corollary to “finish everything on your plate.” But many times in the past, I have forced myself to finish a book or a movie or a TV show, just to say I could.

This week, in the middle of the quarantine, I have stopped reading a book and a TV show that I was in the middle of. I got to the point where I just asked myself, “Why am I reading this? Why am I watching it?” And in the end, I put them aside for different reasons.

First, the book. The Priory of the Orange Tree has gotten really good reviews. A standalone fantasy epic. I’d heard a lot of good buzz around it as well, so I bought it when it was on sale some time ago. I thought this extended time at home would be perfect to start it, and I got about . . . 140 pages into it. There was a lot to like about the book. I was intrigued by some of the characters. I got hints of the bigger plot. But actually reading it . . . just didn’t do anything for me. I found myself more eager to check the news than I did to read the book, and I was making glacial progress in it.

So last night, I stopped. I don’t think it’s a bad book by any means. I can see why people like it, but I also can acknowledge that it’s not for me, at least not for me right now. It dwells on details and world building and characterization. That’s lovely, if it’s what you’re in the market for, but right now I really am looking for escape. The world is lovely and well conceived, but I just want a gripping plot I can’t put down. Will I come back to the book? Possibly. I have a good feel for what it’s about, and I know where to find it now, but at the same time, there are so many other books out there that I could be reading. Why not just read the ones I truly love? Just because I started a book doesn’t mean I have to finish it, and since it takes a long time for me to finish books I don’t love, by finishing that one book that’s taking me forever to get through, I’m sacrificing two or three books I might really adore.

It’s okay to step away.

On the television side of things, I had started Succession a while ago. It’s a gritty show detailing the machinations of a powerful family as they jostle for position in the family owned mega business. Well written, well acted. It’s won a slew of awards, and I’d had several friends recommend it. I was 10 minutes away from the end of the 8th episode (out of a total of 10), and . . . I just stopped it. Why?

Because there was nothing there for me to love. No characters for me to admire. It was a bunch of awful people doing awful things to each other, and each episode seemed to be a contest to see what new awful things they could have the characters do. The eighth episode got progressively more and more slimy, and finally, I snapped. I no longer cared about these characters. They were making terrible decisions, and I didn’t care who won.

So why keep watching? I turned it off and watched an episode of The Office, instead.

Bottom line, I think we should all be a little more ready to put a book down or stop a movie or a TV show. What your criteria for that is going to be is going to vary from person to person. For some, it might be really about content. For others, it could be about quality. Entertainment factor. Subject matter. In the end, it doesn’t really matter why you’re not enjoying something. It doesn’t matter if everyone else loved it. You are allowed to not like things that everyone else loved. You are allowed to love your own things, instead. Sometimes I feel like pop culture has gotten to this point where people are just tribal about things. Territorial. They accost anyone who disagrees with them as if it’s some sort of terrible thing.

Watch and read what you love. Tell other people about those things. If they don’t love them as well, that doesn’t matter. It shouldn’t detract from your experience at all. But whatever you do, don’t just read or watch something out of a sense of duty.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Am I an Extroverted Introvert, or an Introverted Extrovert?

In the lead up to the quarantine and the first few days of it, I saw a lot of jokes going around about what a relief it would be for introverts to not have to worry about going outside and interacting with people for the next while. I laughed when I saw them, and I thought I’d probably be able to relate. In my head, I still tend to think of myself as an introvert, but I do wonder how much of that is due to my brain just translating “introvert” as code for “not popular in high school.” After all, if you’re not popular in high school because you’re an introvert, then there’s nothing wrong with that. You just don’t want to be popular. And in high school, being popular matters, or at least it did to me, even on a subconscious level.

But when I think back to my days in high school (and all the days since then), then I don’t think that “introvert” label really works for me. Even in high school, I was often the one calling people up, arranging group activities to go see a movie or get together someplace to hang out. And I’m still a person who likes to get together at parties. Not with too many people, mind you. A party can reach a critical mass for me where it gets to the point that I feel overwhelmed and would rather go read a book, but most of the times, I really look forward to get togethers.

Does that make me an extrovert? I don’t think I can really claim that title as well. Meeting new people and talking to strangers is something I pretty much loathe. I don’t mind it once the first bit of the conversation is over, but that lead up to initiating a conversation? Yuck. I’d rather just stay to the side and be quiet. Going to parties at conferences? I’ll be the guy standing there with a water in his hand and a brownie in the other, debating how long I need to stay until I can leave and go do something more entertaining. And after big get togethers, I need some time by myself to recharge.

But I’m discovering I also feel a real need to be around other people, especially when it comes to doing my work. So much of where I feel I’m most effective is when I’m dealing with other people. Learning about what they do and how I can help them do it better. Being connected. You’d think much of what a librarian does can be done in isolation, and that’s true for a lot of it (cataloging, remote reference help, class support, etc.) but when it comes to actually managing a library and helping students, sticking me in a room cut off from the rest of my staff and the students I help is frustrating to say the least.

Part of this is due to an unfamiliarity with how to use the distance education tools. Not by me (I’m quite good with most technology), but for the students. Internet speeds aren’t the greatest in Maine. and a lot of our students are first generation or unfamiliar with how to get the most out of tech. That would be in the best sort of scenarios, which this COVID-19 time is most definitely not. Let’s be honest: people are worried about much more than just “how do I get the most out of my college classes” right now. And even then, their concern for “how do I get the most out of my college library” is even further away from that.

Like them, I’m worried about the future. The economy. The health of my family and friends. How long this will last? What next week will look like, let alone next month.

And in the middle of all of this, I don’t have the usual connections I can draw on to get ideas and generate energy to deal with problems. Ironically, at the same time I’ve been cut off from most of my library interactions, my author interactions have been great. The remote writing group has been a fantastic success thus far, and I’ve been grateful to have those additional connections.

I’m very grateful I can be in this with my family. Yes, it’s sometimes stressful to be trying to get work done when there are so many other things happening around me, but it’s wonderful to have them here with me and be able to do things together and have support throughout it.

Anyway, this has been just a rambling way of saying “I think I’m much less of an introvert than I liked to claim before.” And why does it have to be an either/or situation? It makes more sense that people are somewhere on that spectrum, instead of one or the other. Myself, I think I’m probably . . . 65% extrovert, 35% introvert.

What about you? How are you holding up?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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