Category: personal

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.

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.

A Year of Perfect Crosswords

I started doing the New York Times crossword each day starting in May of 2018. I’ve kept the practice up since then, enjoying the time when I can just sit there and think through the puzzle and not think about anything else. It’s somehow therapeutic, in a way.

I’m also, quite frankly, hooked. The new puzzle releases at 10pm the night before each new day, and there are many (most) times when I wait up just to be able to do it as soon as it releases. Sleep? Who needs that when there’s a crossword to complete?

I also discovered that the NYT app gives you a gold star if you complete the puzzle without turning on the clue checker. If you just complete it late or with hints, you only get a blue star. Worse yet, they keep track of how many days in a row you’ve gotten the gold star. (Never mind the fact that they let subscribers peek at the answer key, so you could theoretically just copy the whole crossword every day.)

Because I’m always goal-oriented, I decided I wanted to get 365 gold stars in a row. An entire year of perfect crosswords. Today, I finally reached that goal, and (despite the fact that tomorrow’s puzzle is a Tuesday, and I’m sure I could get a gold star easily), I’ve also decided that I’m going to deliberately throw the puzzle tomorrow. That’s right: I’m going to get a blue star on purpose.

Why?

Because I don’t want to think about gold stars any more. It’s not a corona thing. I’m still planning on doing the crossword each day, but I don’t want to have to worry about gold or blue stars, and I think my low level OCD will be fine looking at my “Highest streak earned” as being “365” for the next ever.

Getting a gold star every day has not been easy, but it’s been more of a logistical challenge than a real one. I decided early on that I just don’t have the time to pound my head against each puzzle for hours on end. (Saturdays in particular can be really hard for me still.) So I often (gasp!) cheated when I needed to be done. Anything to get that gold star. Now, I’ll just turn on the auto check, and who cares about the color of the star? But beyond that, having access to the NYT crossword each day has been tough to always get. European vacation? Camping trips? Bad cellphone coverage? I came close to losing the streak all the time, and the closer I got to 365, the more I worried about it.

(Yes. I’m stupid. I worry about silly things. Just because I know it’s silly doesn’t mean I can force myself to stop worrying.)

So now, I’ve got the right number, and I can ride off into the crossword sunset. Hooray for that. (These days, even the small victories feel like big wins.)

Stay healthy, folks. And stay occupied!

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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.

Corona Beard

Church is canceled. I’m working at home. I’m not supposed to go out in public. And yesterday it occurred to me: the main reason I typically trim my beard is because I have to interact with people a lot of the time, and there are these things called “social norms” I typically try to follow. But I’ve always wondered just how far I could push my beard if I really let it go.

And you know what? I don’t have to worry about those social norms in a society where norms are more and more abnormal.

I last trimmed my beard in December, give or take. Around about the same time the Corona Virus started to spread in China. So I’ve decided to keep this beard going until the quarantine is lifted. I’m still going to take care of it and keep it up: it’s not like my plan is to turn into a walking bird’s nest. If for some reason, it turns out it’s dangerous to my health to have a beard, I suppose I’d have to cut it, but it’s going to have to be a real threat for me to do it. (There was this “cut your beard so you can use a face mask” message going around Facebook a week ago. I don’t need to use a face mask, so I won’t ditch my beard for that.)

We’ll see how long this beard gets. I personally am doubtful it will get to Gandalf levels of facial hair, but I’m not actually sure how long my beard can really get. Anyone have any guesses? Anyone else want to play along at home? Grow your own! Become a hermit! If we don’t come out of this looking like Robin Williams in Jumanji, we’re doing this quarantine all wrong, I say.

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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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