100! or, 2017 in retrospect

One of my Facebook friends did a 2017-in-retrospect post, and I decided to try imitating him.  Did mine take a fortnight longer to assemble?  Well, yes.  Surely this comes as no surprise to any of you.

In no particular order (but roughly chronological), these are the top 100 things that made my year.  Not all were necessarily happy items or events, but many were.

  1. Singing at church, either as part of the choir, a trio, or solo
  2. Learning to use Noteflight, both to create my own sheet music (!!!), and to rehearse difficult pieces without a piano
  3. Making a point of using my favorite tiny teacup
  4. Visiting George, Amanda, and their daughters throughout the year: gathering violets, eating sushi, making coasters, playing board games, sledding, reading about Wee Gillis, etc.
  5. Keeping a list of daily to-dos/accomplishments for later review at work
  6. Following proper channels to address a dangerous situation in my apartment building, with eventual results.
  7. Helping my brother with his corned beef feast fundraiser.
  8. Asserting some style with regard to luggage, aka buying a cuter duffle bag in an attempt to stop overpacking on short trips.
  9. Rediscovering audio books
  10. Visiting Hanners in VA and being able to join her other friends for her baby shower
  11. Having monthly dinners with my brother Mark,
  12. and using them to check in with each other about our goals.
  13. Attending absolutely zero weddings.
  14. Celebrating my first niece’s first birthday
  15. Reading a lot of fluffy books: Flavia de Luce, Trenton Stewart, Maryrose Wood, and (okay, less fluffy) Fredrik Backman
  16. Playing Pokemon Go – which, every once in a while, causes you to meet a 60-something-year-old professor who shows you how she’s walked 1000 kilometers playing it.
  17. Helping with a cocktail class – thus being behind the bar at The Last Word.
  18. Getting out my paint to make some pretty vibrant watercolors.
  19. Writing a whopping 14 blog posts for EC. Which is still more than anyone else *gives other muses shifty eyes*
  20. Making homemade vegan Nutella.
  21. Winning a GoodReads giveaway!  Even though I haven’t finished The Benedict Option yet.
  22. Celebrating Shrove Tuesday with folks. We were fully prepared to have a pancake-flipping race, but then it rained.
  23. Being mildly useful at my brother Mark’s house.
  24. Making Deb’s rhubarb chevron bars.
  25. Learning all manner of things from the AADL Summer Game (and going some places I wouldn’t have gone without it!)
  26. Getting some amount of vegetables, and lots of dill, from my brothers’ gardens
  27. Learning the recipe for this chickpea salad to use said dill.
  28. Getting more fish in my diet (also to use said dill, some of the time).
  29. Continuing to be a person who reads fanfiction.
  30. Experimenting with using aquafaba (both for vegan chocolate mousse, and for cocktail fizzes).
  31. Singing Missa Solemnis in Detroit and Toledo.
  32. Laughing with Em over Beer and Board Games.  Also, watching the fabulously awful Crimson Peak.  And Psycho, for the first time ever.
  33. Visiting Dad’s side of the family in June at the JAS III Memorial.
  34. Hang out with Jem and Maddie.
  35. Keeping up with various friends by going to brunch together.
  36. Buying a MacBook Pro.
  37. Combining bourbon, Carpano Antica, and Benedictine without seeing someone else do it first.  Which might mean I accidentally made a Preakness?
  38. Taking some lackluster marketing materials at my firm and improving them substantially
  39. Sharing Dorothy Sayers with more people
  40. Watching The Tempest at this year’s Shakespeare in the Arb.
  41. Encouraging others to sign up for library cards
  42. Visiting Mom’s side of the family in May and July
  43. Watching a lot of the Great British Bakeoff.
  44. Started listening to 90.9, the classical station, in order to be less heartbroken.
  45. Utilizing InfiniteLooper during work or workouts or cleaning marathons.
  46. Improving my approach to eyebrow makeup, if slightly.
  47. Going to Stratford, Canada with my friends to see Guys and Dolls (for the first time), 12thNight, and HMS Pinafore.
  48. Starting to get Mum and Dad ready to move out of Warwick
  49. Learning some Gaelic (or, well. Faking it convincingly) in honor of Bob
  50. Finally reading The Handmaid’s Tale
  51. Taking charge of preparing music for the Tolkien feast, including a book of popular pub tunes for everyone to sing
  52. Learning some fundamentals of CSS and HTML with CodeAcademy
  53. Getting into Rundle D on LearnedLeague (when I’d previously been in E) and not being immediately kicked back out
  54. Trying Blue Apron for free, so as to have Opinions about it, and actually cancelling timely
  55. Trying a jackfruit (they really are the party fruit!), passionfruit, and mirto.
  56. Celebrating St. Augustine with readings and poires St. Helene.
  57. Taking a winery tour of the Old Mission Peninsula to celebrate my roommate’s finishing grad school
  58. Hanging paper and tea towels to liven up the walls.
  59. Taking care of certain aspects of home maintenance; tightening screws on closet doors and saucepan handles is very satisfying.
  60. Starting a ketogenic diet.
  61. Catching Carbon Leaf at The Ark.
  62. Tugging a friend onto Tumblr *steeples fingers wickedly*
  63. Joining the St. Paul Young Adult Bible study (after years of frustration that every Bible study seemed to meet during the workday)
  64. Using Google Calendar more than I had been, to some effect
  65. Buying ice skates, and actually going skating with them at least once.
  66. Discovering the musical stylings of Lizzy Shell! I meant to blog about this woman for you – suffice it to say that I love her lyrics a lot.
  67. Celebrating the feast of Crispin Crispian with French food and Henry V excerpts.
  68. Figuring out an apartment-friendly Quiet Workout, and doing it somewhat regularly.
  69. Measuring self and keeping keto for two months.
  70. Utilizing Google Doc of tracking/rewards/goals to encourage myself,
  71. and checking in on a daily subreddit as well.
  72. Walking through my first corn maze!
  73. Bidding farewell to my brother from the firm we’ve both worked at since 2009.
  74. Celebrating the feast of St. Bruno at Chartreuse, which restaurant we’ve been wanting to visit for years.
  75. Losing twenty pounds and fitting into things I hadn’t fit in, and buying smaller jeans: a thing that has not happened in the past decade.
  76. Drinking tea/coffee without sugar and liking it, and similarly, doctoring my soda water with Regan’s No. 6 orange bitters and not missing potables.  For the first time ever, I’ve used an entire bottle of bitters!
  77. Adding Glitter and Gold to my list of Songs That Make Most Any Task Possible.
  78. Attempting a bodyweight fitness routine – I’ve a long way to go, but the idea of potentially being able to do a handstand eventually…it beckons.
  79. Finally reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
  80. Singing in a 300-person celebration chorus for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation
  81. Actually hitting the unsubscribe button on some things.  Doubtless I should hit it a few more times, but still.  Progress.
  82. Facilitating my roommate meeting one of my co-workers, as well as my friend Ruth.
  83. Buying new blush for the first time in a very long while.
  84. Roasting radishes and spaghetti squash, to my own enjoyment.
  85. Finally reading Macbeth.
  86. Hearing and seeing Chanticleer with friends.
  87. Singing Bernstein’s 3rd symphony with the NY Philharmonic and Jeremy Irons.
  88. Meeting my second niece, Lucy Rose.
  89. Buying winter boots that actually cover a part of my calves and fit.
  90.  Watching my nieces (while at least one parent went on a hunting trip)
  91. Celebrating my 30thbirthday with my roommate and friends
  92. Finishing Frankenstein, which has plagued my “currently reading” on GoodReads for 3 years.
  93. Joining George in a December writing challenge, even if I didn’t write much.
  94. Observing Our Lady of Guadalupe and my roommate’s explication of why tequila is a second-class relic.
  95. Watching Stranger Things (and part of ST2).
  96. Sending out Christmas cards. Have I had some of said cards since 2011?  Yes.
  97. Negotiating various new systems: new attorneys, new phones, new court sites, and so on.
  98. Receiving my first ever live Christmas tree.  Did it still have needles by Christmas?  Well, a few.
  99. Assisting my roommate with yarn (having gotten better at using the swift and having improved my detangling strategy).
  100. Hearing the Boys Choir of Ann Arbor and thus discovering a deep fondness for “Carol of the Stranger.”

What were the highlights of your past year?  Here’s hoping that 2018 includes just as much learning and growing!

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doggerel, occasioned by cocoa butter

If you aren’t brand new here, you know that I’ve got mild depression, which gets a bit less mild when the weather turns colder and the days shorter.

Thalia has long commended cocoa butter to my use, for days when ye olde brain chemicals are not leaping to attention as they should be, and promised to send me some back in September to sample.  “Maybe you won’t love it?  Maybe it won’t be worth your while, in which case you would REALLY hate spending $16-30 on a pound of it.  But maybe you’ll put it in your coffee and it will make you want to SING!”

I have been advised that this parcel is now in the mail, and shall reach me next week!

It’s certainly too early for Christmas carols, and a skosh too early for Advent hymns, but…now is the acceptable time for this silly rhyme:

Come, O long-expected cocoa,
Fashioned to aid our minds as we

bear the pangs of Eve’s transgression,
mood swings that join her legacy – 
You, O therobroma unguent,
You, O moisturizer sweet,
Come and allay our gloom and sadness,
In our coffee, or as we eat!

cocoa butter

Review: Loving Vincent

My roommate and I went to see Loving Vincent at the Michigan Theater yesternight.  I’d heard about it on Tumblr – that some enterprising folks had labored to make a movie about Vincent van Gogh where every frame of the action was a painting: 65,000 frames in all, either based directly on van Gogh’s pieces or in imitation of his style, to a rich and striking effect.

The animation of it – stroke by stroke changing, flickering, the whole scene rippling and shifting – was more remarkable than the storyline initially.  The postman’s son, Armand Roulin, is charged by his father to deliver one last letter (recently discovered, a year after Vincent’s death) to Vincent’s brother Theo.  Armand goes in reluctance, remarking on van Gogh’s peculiarities and how he wasn’t so close to the man as his father was.  He consults Père Tanguy, who informs him that Theo died shortly after Vincent, and suggests that Armand consult Vincent’s doctor – a close friend to his patient – to learn the address of Theo’s widow.

armand

Armand as painted by van Gogh, and as played by Douglas Booth

As Armand goes from his father to Tanguy, talking to Dr. Gachet’s housekeeper, to the innkeeper’s daughter, to the boatman by the river, to Dr. Gachet, and still others, he learns more and more about Vincent: his personality, his habits, the melancholy that hung over him, the brother he loved, the financial worries they shared, and the circumstances of his death.  These perspectives sometimes conflict (“You can’t trust any gossip from the Gachet household,” then “I suppose that’s what the Ravoux girl told you?” and, later, “You’ve been talking to Dr. Mazery, haven’t you”), but in Armand’s search for the truth, sifting through opinions and hearsay and unofficial reports, he finds his own appreciation of and love for Vincent.

The conflicting reports – Vincent was completely calm; he was cured; how could he experience such abrupt shifts within 6 weeks; don’t you know that melancholy can cause rapid shifts in 6 hours; suicidal people don’t shoot themselves in the stomach; normal people don’t cut off their ears; the angle indicates he received this stomach wound from someone else; well, he told me he’d shot himself – turn Armand’s errand into a bit of a crime scene investigation, but without losing sight of the human players involved.

The framing is straightforward but intriguing in its revelation of different lights on the subject: the boatman reckons van Gogh and the doctor’s daughter were close, closer than the doctor wanted.  Others thought the doctor, an aspiring artist, envious of Vincent’s skill.  Several characters refer to a huge fight between Vincent and Dr. Gachet, which preceded Vincent’s death by a couple weeks, before the doctor himself reveals what horrible thing he’d said.

These bits of exposition, or flashbacks depicting the story as the bystanders relate it, were painted in black and white, in a more realistic style, setting them apart from Armand’s journey.  When the letter finally reaches Theo’s widow, Armand receives a copy of one of Vincent’s earlier letters to encourage him on his own path.

It is a beautiful film, especially rewarding to those who recognize The Zouave, The Night Café, The Yellow House, The Sower at Sunset, Wheatfield with Crows, and the many other works used in the storyboard.  The facts of the matter – that Vincent’s youth was hallmarked by failure, that his prolific work did not sell in his lifetime, that he struggled with poverty and mental illness, that he died at 37 – are never hidden, and as presented, they made me cry a lot.  But rather than focusing solely on the blue and grey of van Gogh’s life, the movie is awash in shades of amber, saffron, and goldenrod: contemplative and hopeful at the last.

Reactions: Thor: Ragnarok

This (again) is not a review so much as a collection of reactions – in bullet point form, because there’s nothing like shooting my thoughts out into the wild.  Assume spoilers are ahead, if you’re the sort of person who fears that sort of thing.

  • For a film called Ragnarok, whose trailer had huge dramatic shots of Hela crushing Mjolnir, fire over Asgard, and lots of fighting in general, this was a colorful, light-hearted movie.  
  • Pretty 80s.  Sakaar made me think of Ready Player One for some reason, as did theGrandmaster Grandmaster, despite the fact that no egg-hunting of any sort was involved.
  • A+ use of “The Immigrant Song.”
  • Thor and Loki were both goofier than I expected.  I keep getting surprised by how effective tasers are against the god of thunder (and the god of mischief, to boot)
  • Likewise, it’s odd to me that Dr. Strange’s reflexes are fast enough to surprise them. 
  • Loki playing Odin and watching plays about himself makes perfect sense, while simultaneously confusing the part of me that expects more gravitas of him.  Maybe that is my fault for expecting the consummate Slytherin where I should be braced for the Weasley Twins.
  • On the other hand: surely the Weasley twins would never be ashamed of “Get help” if it continued to work.
  • Karl Urban and BTCC’s accents always make me laugh so hard, because what are you?  
  • Hela’s pretty one-note, but she’s more interesting than the Destroyer, Laufey, Malekith, Algrim, or Surtur.  Not as interesting as Loki, I guess.
  • I looooved Korg, who was apparently played by the director.  Something about motion capture + straightforward delivery + his voice = instant hilarity.
  • Valkryrie’s arc was very satisfying to me.  The old battles and painful defeats, the escape to a life of drudgery, the heavy drinking, the decision to face death on her feet: all this was conveyed so neatly.  
  • I cackled at the idea of Odin being left in an old folks home.  
  • I don’t like the concept of leaving actresses out just because you don’t feel like paying them…but…I was relieved Jane was gone.  Farewell, Utter Lack Of Chemistry Foster.
  • The Grandmaster is a good time.  
  • Fenris is just a big puppy?!  I couldn’t suspend my disbelief and see him as a huge wolf.  He just looked like a puppy on a tiny-scaled set.
  • Mjolnir being a mere focus of power reminded me of silent, wandless magic.  Thor going all lightning-punchy was amazing, but it reminded me of nothing so much as Pikachu.

    Thor lightning.png

    I choose you!

  • Thor swearing with Midgardian curse words struck me as…impoverished, really.  Why would you say “I want to get the hell out of here!” when you used to say things like “Know this, son of Coul” and “This mortal form has grown weak!  I need sustenance!” and “Do I look to be in a gaming mood?”  Presumably this was part of the “less grim, more fun!” action plan, but…semi-archaic verbiage IS fun.   
  • I was amused to see Tessa Thompson’s Scrapper 142/Valkyrie described as ‘Thor’s love interest’ in articles thereafter, because I didn’t get any such vibe.  But he knows her enough and respects her enough that any further development would be more believable than anything with Jane Foster, so I’m all for that.


In short: good times!  Now, if only it didn’t take 37 hours to watch all 17 of the movies involved in this universe.  

On the Reading of Books in the Bath

Back when I did that series of Why I Haven’t Read that Book YetThalia submitted that she might leave a book unfinished because she had dropped it in the bath.

I noted that my fear of getting a book wet had dissuaded me from ever trying to read a book in the bath, and for the most part, this remains the case.

However.  It would be remiss of me not to share this image with those of you who would love nothing more than to take a book and read it amid the delight and bubbles of outrageous bathtime:

Bath book trick

Joy’s Joys

Back on Dorothy’s birthday, I spent the day sharing quotations of hers on Facebook. They came from her fiction, her non-fiction, and, in at least one instance, from her letters. Among these choice bits was the beginning of “The Abominable History of the Man with Copper Fingers” – better known here as her description of the Egotists’ Club:

The Egotists’ Club is one of the most genial places in London. It is a place to which you may go when you want to tell that odd dream you had last night, or to announce what a good dentist you have discovered. You can write letters there if you like, and have the temperament of a Jane Austen, for there is no silence room, and it would be a breach of club manners to appear busy or absorbed when another member addresses you.

Somehow, the idea of announcing one’s dentist, of all things, captured my imagination the most.

In the spirit of sharing one’s humblest joys, one’s most quotidian triumphs, one’s practical delights…here are my joys of late:

– Yesterday I bought a MacBook Pro. Not without trepidation, mind, as I have always been a PC user. But after my beloved Samsung fried, and my far-less-beloved Asus came to have an inoperable wireless card and tracked poorly…well, I basically went without a home computer for a year, using my smartphone instead, and growing steadily more frustrated by my lack of keyboard.  The new model glows with promise: the promise that updates will not overwhelm me, that I need not pay a subscription to store my own documents, that I might go forth to join others in sub-creation.

– Not unrelatedly, having obtained the equipment to do it, I have started learning about the nuts and bolts of coding in HTML.  My programming brother recommended this course of action to me, and it is perhaps the closest a Muggle gets to reading a book of spells: when you assemble the necessary elements (be they ever so boilerplate) and press “Run,” behold!  These curious ciphers and characters LIVE!  If you did it properly, anyway.

– I have been getting so much delight from the Ann Arbor District Library Summer Game.  But that’s a whole other blog post, it turns out!
AADL summer game top graphic

– The people around me have reminded me of delightful things.  My flatmate reminded me of how delightful Brideshead Revisited is, by preparing a picnic for us to eat on the solstice while reading excerpts of “Et in Arcadia Ego.”  Emily reminded me about that most adorable composition tool, Written? Kitten!   Katherine and Ike, friends from Hillsdale that I hadn’t seen since 2012, drove through the UP before meeting me in Lansing for lunch and a good few hours of catching-up.

There have been other delights this summer – volunteer dill, stars-and-stripes pie for Independence Day, reading Gaudy Night aloud, brunch at Aventura, the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter coming out, revisiting The Great British Bakeoff, and watching The Tempest in the Arboretum.

Truly, these be joyful days!

2048, and other dated thoughts

In a world of hot takes and instantaneous reactions, where we’ve generally moved on from thinking about United Airlines and April the giraffe already…I keep having idle thoughts better suited to 3 years ago, when Frozen and “Pompeii” and 2048 were more freshly on our minds.

So.  Idle question the first: did Elsa control all snow or just that which she caused?  If my car is buried under a foot of snow, can she magically shift it?  Honestly, what are the limits to her powers?  How much effort would it take her to freeze an entire lake or ocean?

Second: Are there any youth pastors who got really into Bastille and did more overthinking of “Pompeii” than I did?  The line Oh, where do we begin?  The rubble or our sin? BEGS to be made into some kind of ridiculous Bible study, all “In a broken world full of distress, is it most needful to address physical needs and realities, or first see to spiritual wounds?”  Or something.  This is preposterous and I want it.

heu

Latin memes = best memes.  Yes, even in 2017.  Even when this song was overplayed so much you stopped hearing it.

Third and lastly: 2048.  When this first became a nationwide (worldwide?) phenomenon, I got really into it for a while – to the point of adding squares in my sleep, you know how it goes – until I gave it up for Pentecost.  As you do.

Lately I’ve gotten back into playing it, and thus keep ruminating on the following: 2048 is like a microcosm of relationships and personality.

You’re young.  You’re a 2.  There are so many people and ideas for you to meet with, and any 2 will combine with you.  You’re a 4, an 8, a 16.  The combinations flicker by so fast, it’s hard to keep up.  And all around you the same: 4s, 8s, 16s.  The 32s fall into line beside each other.

At first, it’s harder not to run into a match, or a fit.  Even a 64 or 128 can match up.  There’s space to maneuver, 2s and 4s are doubling up 8s and 16s all the time.  It’s quite fun, and nearly mindless, because very nearly anything will work out.

2048gif3

Until the board’s worked up to a 512 or 1024.  Suddenly you’re a 64 or 128 or 256, perfectly reasonable – there’s even another 64 and 128 and 256 on the board.

You can see it.  But you can’t reach it.  You have no idea what would have to shift to bring the two together.  Trying to calculate it – trying to predict whether 2s or 4s will appear (is there a formula?), figuring if it’s easier to reach the Largish Number on the other side of the world, or if you have the space/time to wait for a new one to double up – it all leaves you feeling overcalculating, frustrated and impotent if not outright insane, and, unsurprisingly, makes it all feel like work rather than play.

Sometimes your careful machinations work out (o frabjous day!)  Sometimes they just give you a brief reprieve from Nothing Working Out At All, Ever.  Nothing will move.  Helpless, you know that if you could only shift this thing that way, all would fall into place beautifully.

Maybe you bungled it so many moves ago that you can never arrange things as they’d need to be arranged.  Maybe you were so focused on a strategy involving one piece that you missed the opportunity to find or fashion another double elsewhere.  Maybe you forgot that most elementary of facts about how pieces connect with the first match they run into, leaving that second match alone and forgotten.

Then the regret: if only you’d flicked things up instead of left.  If only there weren’t such a plethora of skinny, pretty little 2s gumming up the works.  All the cunning manipulation you’ve got, navigating all the blasted 2s in the world doesn’t change the fact that sometimes you’re a 256 or 512, and there just isn’t a 256 or 512 in sight for you.

It might all change, and quickly!  Or you might just lose.  Again.

You find you’ve run your battery down to 9%.

You feel that you’ve wasted your time and energy even playing.

…but even so, you wonder: what must it be like, to finally achieve that elusive, shining 2048?

2048 win

Watching this is basically like going through someone else’s album of wedding photos.

Lucas

Trying to keep my hand in!  This attempt at painting Lucas the elephant (when he was about 3 years old, I think) reminded me of a few watercolor principles:
– squint at your original to determine where the core shadows are;
– use color/shade contrast to convey shape rather than outlining everything; and
– keep a sense of proportion throughout, using bigger or smaller brushes as necessary.