If I Am Not Fried, I Am Soggy

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I thought may be putting  a book in a ziplock bag made me strange.

Nope, not at all.

The Great Vacation Countdown Begins Again

I logged into WordPress for my usual stats check, and had a look at my site. I discovered my post title still had a the colon from the original title. I forgot to press the backspace key one more time, and had an awkward sentence later in the post. I blinked a couple of times then thought my vacation can’t come fast enough.

I will take a couple of weeks off to wake up naturally, or wake up early for some other purpose not involving taking a bus to get to work. I feel punchy, and the new academic year comes closer each day. Around August we see dazed, and slightly confused, first year students. Sprinkled in the newbies, the second years return ready to finish their programs, and head out to work. Most programs at the college, with a few exceptions, are two-year diploma programs. My library technician diploma took two years. Go in, work like a person on fire, and head out into your field. It took me until 2014 to get permanent work, and I already began with three weeks vacation. After years of switching from teaching to book retail, then going back to school for my diploma, things like stability and benefits feel like hard-won privileges.

When a library tech graduates, unless they get lucky, it’s term and contract jobs for a while. I juggled three positions twice since my 2009 graduation. Money played one role, but I really wanted skills. I wanted to apply my skills, and I wanted a few new ones. Believe it nor not, Twitter was a skill I picked up at one of my library positions. I learned about a social network, and how to tame my wordy self in the process.

Now I learn a new skill–the fine art of doing nothing. Doing nothing requires skill, and it seems easy. In fact it’s difficult as little voices come into play, urging me to be ‘productive’. Usually, they take on one, familiar voice telling me to clean my condo. I have learned to flick off the switch, turning a page in my latest read. I got better at even closing the door on my day. Once I leave work everything stays on the other side until the morning. I plan to do the same for the two-week sabbatical.

Top of the list involves something I pay for in common elements fees, but never used since I moved in 2011. I have a pool in my complex. It has lounge chairs, the sun doesn’t hit to hard, and I have a bathing suit. Most of the time, the same residents simply lay around until their skin turns a caramel colour. I get naturally darker, but I don’t want to age faster by sitting out in the sun. What happens if a person sun bathes too much?

Moisturize me!

Call it a vacation or a staycation, but I call it a brain reset; Nothing gets accomplished without it. For the record it’s six working days and counting.

Rowdy Weather and Ruined Books

soggy book

Tuesdays monsoon not only soaked my clothes, it soaked the book in my bag. Health at Every Size arrived barely a month ago, and I hoped to make it well-used by highlighting and post it flags. The cover has crinkled, some pages are still damp, and it would take a while to completely dry off the pages.

On the other hand I have an eye on this book online, may be buying another copy would be a good idea; Although not the idea I had in the first place. The book mark, the company of dwarves from The Hobbit, remained dry thanks to its glossy finish. While all this sounds boring, Tuesdays downpour served as a fever breaker for Winnipeg weather.

To re-purpose popular Tumblr tag we were ‘too hot not hot damn’. Saturday I attended a Fringe play, spending a couple of hours near the Exchange District. The humidex, the real indicator combining temperature and humidity, nearly hit 39 degrees Celsius. In American speak it’s high 90’s. It’s also not normal. Winnipeg gets hot. Last year the temperatures made it comfortable to sit outside. The scorching weather also gave Manitoba some crazy thunderstorms. I noticed the irony as Richard Armitage made his début in Hannibal, but outside looked like Into the Storm. 

How crazy did things get? Just Monday night, before the monsoon, communities in the southwest corner of Manitoba had a huge tornado touch down, a possible category 3 or 4, and it stayed on the ground longer than usual. Behold:

I went to the bus stop this morning in my light blouse, while fellow Winnipeggers wore their light jackets. After dealing with heat sticking to the skin, I wanted to feel a cool breeze, and this morning felt refreshing. I did take one precaution:

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Ruined non-fiction is one thing, but ruined fiction means not knowing what will happen next until the pages dry. I wanted to prepare for Ted Callahan’s last chapter this fall, by re-reading his last adventure. No Thor-generated thunderstorm will keep me from enjoying my books.

Music Monday: Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World byJohnny Clegg & Savuka

I’m a What? Plus Other Adventures on the Blogging 201 Second-Go-Round

board-752051_1280Like a mechanic under the hood of a car, I tinker with my blog. I signed up for Blogging 201(again) for some fine tuning. This time I feel more sure about the direction of this blog. I checked my fonts for responsive design (thank heavens for that web design class), and even thought about my brand.

That’s right my brand.

More like do I have one? What is it? Does it involve a sex tape? A reality show? What does Stacks and Ranges and her writer stand for? When I think of brands I think of Kellogg’s or Android or some other thing I use/eat/wear. When I saw the task asking me to ‘audit my brand’ my mind wondered am i crunchy? It made me remember an earlier post talking about Erma Bombeck and how much I wouldn’t mind following in her sharp-witted footsteps, except I am single and childless. I don’t have a partner to write funny stories about. (Richard Armitage or Nathan Fillion does not count!) Suddenly it hit me:

Stop comparing and just be me.

I did audit my brand for other things as well. I don’t have a design eye, but I relied on my gut to look at the layout and think this is good. My theme has remained unchanged for over a year. I wanted it to highlight my content, the words I create, and now I add a few more images. I feel braver taking photographs on my phone and post them as entries.

She Shoots! She Scores!: Goals to Shoot For

Author Chadwick Ginther publishes goals on his blog regarding upcoming projects, plus other things in his busy writing life. He also writes candidly about fulfilling those goals as life, the pesky thing, gets in the way sometimes. I already know about goal setting, heck even lectured on it, but setting them…sounds like a great idea. (She says with hesitation.)

Alright, let’s set some goals. Simple, yet attainable, goals. Writing more sentences will not the points down any faster:

  1. Visit more blogs and comment on them.
  2. Music Monday posts written and scheduled for the month of August.
  3. More pictures! In fact show off Winnipeg over my holidays in August. The city isn’t perfect, but it does have lots to offer.
  4. Unrelated to my blog: Revise my NaNo project. Tear it asunder then put it back together.
  5. Write fearlessly. Zero in on Authenticity.
  6. Post three times a week in total.
  7. Set an editorial calendar for the next 90 days
  8. Revisit these goals on September 1st

That should do it for now.

Freshen Up The Header

The inital tagline for Stacks and Ranges was ‘Browsing the Library of My Mind’. At the time I wanted to be a library blog. I still write about libraries, but expanded to more topics. A library, or simply a room full of books on a range of subjects, guides my visual identity. I like this picture:

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I did fall in love with this picture while deciding if I wanted to change up the header:

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Look at that glorious nightmare of a possible to-read pile! I see order in that chaos in spite of the signs on the doorway, the perfect metaphor for this blog from time to time. Why decide between the two if a theme comes with randomized headers? Huzzah!

Will You Be My (Blogging) Friend?

Another tip suggests teaming up with a buddy as a way to audit a blog. I tried a survey to gauge any improvement, but may be another person taking a look will help. If I can’t find a blogging buddy, how about leaving a comment below. I have looked over this site so many times, my eyes ball threaten to fall out and roll under the table.

I feel refreshed after my hiatus, and Tweeting doesn’t do it for me all the time. It’s good for short bursts from my head, but not unpacking thought, or making observations. I love reading. I especially love the exploration of ideas. I want to do both and now it’s at the point of no return.

Midweek Geekiness: Killing Mr. Thornton, or Anticipating The Great Red Dragon On Hannibal

image credit: Hannibal Twitter Page

I admit to having my qualms about Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal. Thomas Harris’ books still remained in my memory, along with their adaptations. How much more can a show do?

I watched Manhunter, the first movie to feature Hannibal Lecter, at 16 or 17. I only knew it as the one directed by the guy behind Miami Vice, plus two thumbs up on an episode of At The Movies on PBS. The idea of a FBI agent thinking like a serial killer fascinated me. Later I saw The Silence of the Lambs, and started to devour the books. I read ‘Silence’ on a road trip to Fargo, even anxious to return to the book after day-long shopping bouts. I read Red Dragon afterwards, Francis Dolarhyde taking his place along with Jamb Gum as the antagonist. I had trouble with Gum, but Francis deepened the question about what makes a killer. What makes an ordinary man commit evil acts? Mason Verger had his introduction through the audiobook for Hannibal, keeping me company on my drive to work. He’s just thoroughly despicable, with Harris himself reading his parents in that gulp-y voice. It’s the first time, after getting information about the character, I ever thought hmm..Hannibal may have done something right. The rest of the novel, especially its twist on Clarice, left me cold.

In the fall, after people recommended the show on Netflix, pneumonia finally given me the time to watch its first two seasons on Netflix. After watching Pushing Daisies, Heroes, Wonderfalls,and Dead Like Me‘s first season, the name ‘Bryan Fuller’ usually means I will go for a heck of a ride.

He did not disappoint.

I feasted on the dark comedy, the elaborate tableaus,  the equally elaborate meals prepared by Dr. Lecter, and  the relationship between Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen). In fact I would call this show fanfic of the highest order. Everything in the first two-and-a-half seasons built itself towards a retelling of the Red Dragon story line. In the back of my mind I wished the actor good luck in trying to make it his own.

Then the news Richard Armitage signed on for the role made me squeak with excitement. Most of all it will finally bury the cravat for the time being. I like period dramas like the next woman, but from time to time performers need to shed the clothing, and his case he will do that literally, and go completely nuts. Guy of Gisbourne on Robin Hood gave people a taste of a sympathetic bastard. Francis Dolarhyde goes beyond ‘sympathetic bastard’ to a character inspiring understanding while inspiring numerous gasps. I will say ‘yikes’ a lot during the course of the run.

Lurking around the net, I did notice a few people yearning for a return to period pieces. I understand the plea, and its appeal, especially as Sam Heughan and Aidan Turn storm the air waves. I look for growth. I guess as someone on a quest for growth, I hope to look at people trying to do so in their own fields. From what I saw of the trailer for the upcoming arc, the Great Red Dragon may show the Master of Marlborough Mills who really can set a scene on fire.

I am looking forward to it.

Music Monday: Turn, Turn, Turn (To Everything There is A Season)

The air still retained its heavy feeling, but the low-lying clouds blocked out the sun, trying to make up its mind about opening up its grey, bloated clouds for another thunderstorm. I went as part of a small group to an interment service for P who passed away six months ago. Her ashes would rest at a cemetery in a bedroom community 30 minutes outside of Winnipeg.

At first my group, myself and two other women from the library, wondered if we would find the gathering. We saw our first clue by the small group forming, most people simply standing, others talking in hushed voices. Then we saw a colourful array arranged around the grave site:

Prayer Flag

Always maintaining her flare after she’s gone.

They flapped in the breeze with its bright colours standing guard over the headstone and its newly dug grave, each had a heart at the end, lifting in the breeze in place for whose own hearts still felt too heavy with grief.

The same minister from the memorial presided over this service. She opened with a passage from Ecclesiastes, a beautiful part of the bible yet not one to read in a bad mood. Everyone knows how it opens with the writer wondering what’s the point of life, yet still finding a sliver of meaning in the toil. Anyone having a bad day at work would relate to it, and whomever wrote it sounded like they had a bad day at work. It’s in chapter 3 most people, even those not familiar with the bible, remember a few lines of a familiar text:

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8 (NIV)

While the minister read the passage, The Byrds classic played in my head. Most remember the song from the Forest Gump soundtrack by The Byrds. I wanted to find a new interpretation of Peter Seeger classic, and found an acoustic version by singer Sara Niemietz:

For those wanting to go back to the source without listening to The Byrds:

Catch my Breath and Fill My Brain

Book of Life by Deborah Harkness Cover Art

Image: Good Reads

The Web Development class finally had it coda in the form of my grade. I did well, better than expected, but willing to catch my breath for a little while. I had all this free time, but it came with an unexpected side effect. I didn’t want to look at a computer after getting home from work. I would happily stare at a television screen, but I want to feel a book in my hand. I picked  a copy of Book of Life by Deborah Harkness from the library, carrying the hardcover in my knapsack to read over lunch, before bed, and if I get a decent seat on the bus. Sometimes I would balance the book on my lap with all my other stuff as it jerked its way home or work. Bus rides passed faster as I read about Diana Bishop and Matthew Clairmont plus the witches, vampires, and daemons occupying their contemporary world.

The next book comes from my own to-be-read pile of purchased books: Feed by Mira Grant (aka Seanan McGuire). I miss The Walking Dead. I just saw humans chomped by dinosaurs in Jurassic World, and Hannibal isn’t doing it for me. I want my pulse-pounding survival mode, a gripping story, and hopefully something to set it a part from other books/TV dealing with the genre. I also found one of the best opening paragraphs in a long, long time:

Our story opens where countless stories have ended in the last twenty-six years: with an idiot — in this case, my brother, Shaun — deciding it would be a good idea to go out and poke a zombie with a stick to see what happens.

Image: Goodreads

Right now I am part-way through the book as I journey through a post-zombie United States held together a itty-bit better than the one in The Walking Dead. (In a zombie apocalypse the concept around ‘better’ goes out the window.) The novel kicks off the Newsflesh trilogy also introducing the post-zombie world with a more enhanced blogging role. (In this setting, traditional media failed to report fully on the zombie apocalypse while bloggers kept informing readers of the truth. Sounds vaguely family in this political climate.)

Did I mention it’s a mass-market paperback?

I miss the format and didn’t know it as I tucked the novel in my bag, and liked the feel of it in my hands. I looked around at a number of bus passengers with Kobos, Kindles, iPads, and smartphones,while the physical book still makes it presence known. I see mostly trad paperbacks, large enough for a quick scan of the current read. Alright, a quick scan and a little judgement. Saw a lot of Elon Musk on my bus route. Can someone tell me if he can survive a zombie apocalypse?

I made a conscious decision to read more fiction after completing Web Development. My brain felt cooked with words about convergence journalism, class divs in coding, and creative non-fiction; Add in also some Gifs and photo-shopped images online for further simmering. I wanted some words, some character, and a setting to carry me away. I wanted all that wrapped in a plot.

Mmmm…plot.

Reading fiction also served another important function: Writer’s block vaccination. I found myself sitting in front of my computer feeling creatively constipated. Rather than freak out, and beat myself up, I stepped away for a while to read. I noticed reading made blogging a little easier, and it will translate to something I wanted to revise from last year’s NaNoWriMo. So for now I will read, read, and read some more.

Music Monday: The Music Of Michael Giacchino

Do you remember Claire giving birth while Boone died during Lost? How about George Kirk’s last words on board the Kelvin after his wife gives birth to James T. Kirk in Star Trek? How about Carl and Elly’s montage in Up? Chances are if you cried at these moment, or at its brink, Michael Giacchino provided the soundtrack.

Giacchino provides the musical push for many movies, notably in his work with J.J. Abrams and Brad Bird. Check either film and one will notice ‘Music by’ next to his name. If John Williams has these soaring scores to go with heroic moments, Michael Giacchino seems to write music for tragic moments, or those sad moments in the story. The music feels genuinely sad for the people in the scene. They strings seem to cry as the Kelvin’s captain, and new father, will not see his son. The  horn section remembers married life, and the piano seems to grieve with Carl as he loses his wife.

In Greek plays, the Chorus serve to comment on the tragedies befalling the characters. Michael Giacchino’s music serves the same function. It not only informs, it seems to play its part in the scene in place of words for characters characters, or even moviegoers.

On a related note, check out the titles Giacchino gives his pieces. They are chock-full of puns, and allusions to pop culture, showing a musician with a cheeky sense of humour.

I can’t choose one by Michael Giacchino so I went with three:

Win One for the Reaper from Lost (2004)

Labor of Love from Star Trek (2009)

Married Life From Up (2009)