Alchemical Thoughts

I saw the question about finishing series you do not love over at Cornerfolds.

I have no problem dropping books I do not enjoy. Life is too short and there are too many good books out there to waste time reading something you do not like or enjoy. I firmly subscribe to the Reader’s Bill of Rights, one of which is the right to not finish a book. So I have no problem with skimming books or outright dropping them if the book is not for me. This includes series. If the series starts degenerating into a steaming pile of crap, I will drop it and consider it dead to me.

An example of this is the series The Walking Dead, both the graphic novels and the television series. I started reading the comics before it became a television spectacle, and I did enjoy the early work. However, once the series became nothing more than a paean for stand-your-ground asshole bullies with no reward in sight for the reader other than more grim pessimism, I dropped it. I do not regret that decision, and I have no intention of going back to the series no matter what fanboys or fangirls may say about it. I may check out reviews of it to see how it has progressed, but otherwise I stopped giving a shit about it. There are plenty of other horror works featuring zombies I can read instead.

I will also skip volumes in series. An example of this is The Horus Heresy, a series I generally enjoy. However, like many long term series, individual volumes can be hit or miss. Some volumes in the series have been great. The first three of the series are a good example of good volumes. Later volumes, as I said, can be hit or miss. Any volume dealing with the Dark Angels legion and their primarch, like this one,  is pretty much a disappointment. So while I am not giving up on the series, I know to skip any book in the series dealing with the Dark Angels. So, I probably will not read the complete series, but I will read enough of it to still get the basic story line and enjoy the series overall.

So no. If I am not enjoying something, I am not going to torture myself for the sake of reading a complete series. Life is just too short for that.

One reason to write about this is this post I saw a while back asking “how do you feel about audio books?” It struck me that the author of the post as well as the people who commented on the blog post were so negative and, to be honest, snobbish, about audio books. To them, listening to an audio book is not reading, which I wonder what would they say to someone who may be visually impaired, and their only or main way of reading is via having a reader read the book for them. Would they really go up to that person and just say, “you are not really reading”? Reading that felt very condescending and, as I said, snobbish.

A second reason to write about this is that I am doing an Audiobooks Reading Challenge this year. I am trying to read more books in this format, so I am trying to see how many I can get read in a year. Here is the link to my audiobook challenge page at The Itinerant Librarian (and if you are interested, this link takes you to my page listing all the reading challenges I am doing for 2016). As I wrote in my post for the audiobook challenge, I was exposed to audiobooks in library school. Back then, I took a course in Reader’s Advisory, and it included a segment on audiobooks. I dare you to tell one of those strong users of audiobooks in a library that they are not readers. Heck, I dare you to say that to librarians who do RA with audiobooks. And yes, I do get the difference between an audiobook and a radio drama, which seems to be one the commenters on that other post do not get neither (but that is another theme for another time).

As I mentioned in my challenge post, part of why I wanted to try audiobooks this year was to diversify my reading. I wanted to get some diversity in terms of format. I already read in print, which is my preferred way, and in e-book format, which has become more popular for me since I formalized being a book reviewer; I get a lot of my galleys for review as e-books. So I wanted to give audiobooks a chance. Now there are some small considerations I have when it comes to reading audiobooks:

  • I look for full unabridged versions. I want to read the book (or rather have it read to me if want to be picky), and that means I want to read it in full.
  • I tend to prefer audiobooks where the author reads the book. In some cases, this is because I may know an author from some other work, say a comedian, so I want to hear them read their own work. Now, I understand not all authors are good readers, so for them it is better to get a good narrator. I get that, and I am perfectly OK if the author does not read their work because they got a better narrator to do it. The author reading is just that: a preference. It is not written in stone.
  • I tend to prefer audiobooks on nonfiction. This is in part because I read a bit more nonfiction than I read fiction. It is also due to the fact I feel I can more easily drop or interrupt an audiobook if it is nonfiction than if it is fiction. In addition, when I am reading a nonfiction audiobook, if it engages, I am often taking reading notes and jotting down quotes and ideas from the book for my journal as well as to add content to my eventual review of the book. I think it has to do with nonfiction’s structure, which tends to be more lineal, than fiction which can be all over. Plus, last thing I want is to have to interrupt a fiction audiobook as the cliffhanger is coming. Again, this is not set in stone. If I found a good piece of fiction on audio, I would give it a chance as well.
  • Like other readers have said, I do like the ability to multitask with an audiobook. I can do something like iron clothes or fold laundry while I listen to an audiobook. Well, I can mostly do that. Last audiobook I tried it with, I did pause a couple of times in the laundry folding because I wanted to take notes. It happens.
  • A small challenge for me is that my local public library is seriously deficient in audiobook selections. I may have to give their Overdrive system a try as it has audiobooks as well (though I am not sure how easy to use or not they are. If I get to it, I will try to write about that experience).

In the end, folks, read what works for you in the format that works for you. As a librarian, I will not judge you or put you down for that.

Any other folks out there listen/read audiobooks? Feel free to comment and let me know if you do or not and what kinds of books you read in audio. Heck, if you have any suggestions for audiobooks I ought to try, let me know.

Photo from Flickr user Raider of Gin (fairerdingo). Image used under terms of Creative Commons 2.0 Generic Attribution License.

Photo from Flickr user Raider of Gin (fairerdingo). Image used under terms of Creative Commons 2.0 Generic Attribution License.

 

This is the list of books I reviewed for the month of March 2016 at The Itinerant Librarian. It’s a small list this month, btu I did review some very good selections. Feel free to check these out, especially if you missed any before. Book links go to my review of the books. As always, comments are always welcome.

  • I got to learn about some bookstores around the world with The Bookshop Book.
  • I continue to enjoy the Palmiotti and Conner run of Harley Quinn in Harley Quinn, Volume 3: Kiss Kiss Bang Stab.
  • Here is a good one for the 2016 election season. Learn more about Bernard Sanders in the graphic novel Bernie.
  • John Lequizamo tells the story of his life in the graphic novel Ghetto Klown. For me, this and Bernie were the best books I read this month.
  • And ladies, get some ideas of what to cook for your man in Food Men Love. Yes, the book does a big play on the whole go through his stomach route.

Once again, I come across once of those frugality posts at Wise Bread that makes me question if the writers either really know how the world works, or I am just so out of the loop and mellow that I did not realize women in particular were so high maintenance when it comes to dating. But even in the day when I was dating the woman who became The Better Half, I did not go about spending a fortune on her, and lucky for me, she was a modest woman who was not expecting a man to spend a fortune on her. I know I am a lucky guy. If I had to go back on the dating scene, I might as well give it up, shave my head, and become a Tibetan Buddhist monk because the odds that I will be spending freely as their post suggests is just not an option for me. So, what does the author at Wise Bread have to say on how much you ought to be spending?

“Your paycheck should govern how much you can afford. Cosmopolitan found that men spend about $80 on a first date, on average. Other sources suggest that the typical person spends between $50–$100 on date night, occurring on average once a month. However, according to Match.com, 58% of women don’t even want an expensive date.”

Well, kind of duh. You cannot eat steak on a hamburger budget as the saying goes. However, funny how you never hear of that 58% of women who do not want an expensive date. If you believe Cosmo (not that you should, but humor me) or those “other sources” then you are looking at $50 to $100 bucks easily. I guess if you do the bar scene where each cocktail costs you $8 to $10 bucks a pop plus dinner could start getting you up there. Add a movie at a movie theater, and I guess you may be up to $100 by the time you do the tickets, the popcorn and pop you will have to buy while there.

You see, when I started dating The Better Half we were college students. In other words, we were mostly broke as college students are prone to be. A decent date night was a simple dinner at a local pizza joint she liked (in large part because they used to make the best saucy pizza with pepperoni and pineapple she’s ever had), and then a movie at the second run movie theater, where if you stayed up a bit late, movies could be had for .99 cents plus a little tax. Yes, you read that right, ninety-nine cents. If I spent $20 to $25 bucks, that was good, and she was happy. In the end I am lucky because we are both pretty modest and frugal in our tastes. Bar scene was not really for us. Sure, we had been to a college bar once or twice, but it really was not our thing. $100 date night? We’d both flinch at the idea of spending that much on a single date unless we were  going out of town, and it better include a hotel stay.

“Spending freely on your first date is a great way to show your date that you are serious, but it doesn’t mean that you need to continue spending the same amount on future dates. After all, you don’t want to be too frugal on the first date, which can make you seem cheap.”

Ah yes, the eternal dating challenge. Spend too little, and she thinks you are a cheapskate. But spend too much and then you end up building that expectation. Dudes, simple solution. Find women that have reasonable expectations.

“If you decide to go on a date during one of these expensive holidays, you can expect to spend more.”

Again, duh. By now, The Better Half and I learned to have those special dates around those holidays, before, usually after. In part because our work schedules are not always compatible. She often works on days like the Hallmark Holiday (Valentine’s Day). So we have adapted and usually go out the day after or a few days later. However, the secret is this: I take care of my honey, and I do so year round. I express love and romance  year round. That way, when the Hallmark Holiday rolls around I do not have to panic like those other guys to get overpriced flowers and pray to the deities that fancy restaurant will have a last minute reservation that should have been booked months ago, not the day of the holiday.  I took care of her, and she knows it.

The article does give some tips on cheap dates, although given how they seemed to poo poo the idea of being cheap on a first date specially I honestly wonder why bother with the suggestions. Still, some of the ideas are things we have done at home:

  • “Go to a food, film, music, or art festival.” When we can, we get in the car and drive out a bit to some local festival. A nice way to be outdoors usually, see a few things, and not spend a lot.
  • “Show off your cooking skills instead of dining out.” We have done this as well. We both can cook, so it means we get to show off to each other. And hey, cooking together can be a very nice bonding experience.

However, the article did have one good line: “You should find a partner that is worth your time, not just your money. ”

Word.

Overall, the article had moments that seemed a bit contradictory. Yes, be frugal, but do not be cheap. Spend more on that first date because you need to impress her. But try not to break the bank neither. So, in the end, take it with a big grain of salt, preferably cheap salt from the grocery store and not fancy organic rock salt.

On a side note, the article also reminded me of this old Tom and Jerry cartoon. I will warn you, if you have not seen it before, it is a seriously dark one.

 

I saw this prompt over at Based on a True Story, and I decided to try it out. Picking out five books was not easy for me, and though I picked out five for this post, if you ask me again a few months or years from now, the choices might change.

  • Cien años de soledad (title in English: One Hundred Years of Solitude).  You can find various editions in WorldCat in Spanish and other languages. This is the Argos Vergara Libros DB edition that I have that my mother passed on to me telling me that I had to read it, and so I did. This novel is my all time favorite book, and it is one I tell everyone they need to read if they wish to understand a bit of the Latin American experience, especially as it relates to the United States. But the novel itself is so much more. My copy is now tattered, falling apart, and while I could replace it with a nicer edition, say the Real Academia’s academic edition, well, it was my mother’s copy, and it is one of the very few things I have of hers, and in time I may pass it on to my daughter.
  • James Alan Gardner’s novel Expendable. From the book description, “On any given planetdown mission, there’s always someone whose job it is to walk into danger and get killed. What must it be like to be him, knowing your lifespan is as short as a fruitfly’s?” The main character, Festina Ramos, an expendable member of the Explorer Corps is quite admirable and tenacious, which inspires me. In many ways, I feel like a member of an explorer corps. Plus, unlike certain so-called “rock star” librarians, I have no illusions about being expendable.
  • El Alquimista (title in English: The Alchemist). You can also find various editions of this in English and other languages in WorldCat. Paulo Coelho is Brazilian and writes in Portuguese. Personally, I prefer to read his works in Spanish translation, as that feels much closer to his original language than English. I first read this book when I was about to embark on a new adventure. I had just finished library school, on the basis of a little faith (faith in my myself and the faith of others who believed I could do it), and I was seeking my first professional librarian position. Much like the boy in the story, I was in search of my dream, and I had faith the world would come together to make it happen. I have been a librarian for over a decade now, and it has been a great joy to be a librarian.
  • Las Venas Abiertas de América Latina (English title: The Open Veins of Latin America). You can find various editions in WorldCat. One of the few books I read in college early on that was actually worth a damn. For me, one I would recommend people to who wish to understand the Latin American experience, thus help understand me a bit as well since I was shaped by a big part of that experience. In college, for me, reading and discussing this in a class on Hispanic Culture, Language, and Identity was truly eye opening, and I wish I could tell that teacher thank you for the experience, an experience that shapes me even today.
    • Tied with Galeano’s book is a recent reading, War Against All Puerto Ricans (link to my review). This is a must read to understand the Puerto Rican experience, especially as it relates to the exploitative colonial relation it has to the United States. This is the history my parents and their parents lived, and that I still lived and was influenced by.
  • The Ciaphas Cain novels (Warhammer 40,000. The first three have been collected in an omnibus edition, which I own). From the book’s description, “In the 41st Millennium, Commissar Ciaphas Cain is looking for an easy life, but fate has a habit of throwing him into the deadliest situations and luck always manages to pull him through.” I have a bit of Ciaphas Cain, looking for the easy life, but that is not always an option. Sometimes fate just has other plans for you, and you have to move onward and make things work out. Now, Cain is no coward. He is actually a very skilled fighter and swordsman; he just prefers the easy life. I’d rather have things easy at times, but hey, I’ve got to work for a living.
    • Tied with the Ciaphas Cain novels are the novels of Captain Uriel Ventris and the Ultramarines (Warhammer 40,000. The first six novels of the series are collected in an omnibus and a second omnibus, which I own). Captain Ventris of the 6th Company, like his Ultramarines brothers in arms, lives by the rules. Of the Emperor’s Space Marines, the Ultramarines take the idea of “by the book” to the extreme. So when Ventris bends the rules and succeeds in battle, what do his brethren do? Why they send him to exile to some hell hole to “redeem” himself in their eyes. Because apparently he did not kick enough ass and do it by the rules. Ventris is a guy with integrity who is also practical, honorable, and perseverant, which is why I like him so.

 

This was Holy Week for Christians, and the work week ended on a sad note for us with the passing in her sleep of our cat Autumn in the morning hours of Thursday.

Autumn (ca. 2005- Good Thursday, March 24, 2016). She lived a good eleven years with us, adopted as a tortie kitten from a pet shelter in Houston along with the kitten who would be her sister, (the mighty) Isis, who survives her. Autumn was a strong-willed cat that filled our lives with love, happiness, and wonder. And she was playful and affectionate all the way to the last night before we all went to sleep for the night. She adopted me as her human and taught me to love cats. She will be missed, but I as we celebrate her life want to express my gratitude for all the happiness and love he brought to our lives. I hope your spirit is somewhere nice playing with other cats and friends.

“All things pass. None of us can manage to hold on to anything. In that way we live our lives.” — Haruki Murakami.

This was also a short work week with a three-day weekend as the college, including the library, closed down for Good Friday, a small perk for a heathen who works at a Christian college.

 

Cards drawn:

  • Monday, March 21: Queen of Pentacles
  • Tuesday, March 22: The Empress
  • Wednesday, March 23: Three of Cups
  • Thursday, March 24: Nine of Cups
  • Friday, March 25: Page of Cups

I need to note that I did a redraw on Friday. Initially, I drew The Empress again. I was not sure if should have kept it or not. In retrospect, the nurturing Empress seemed needed given our mourning. However, at the time, drawing a card twice in one week did not seem right, so I drew a different card, which turned out to be the Page of Cups. I have read in a place or two that one should not do redraws in reading Tarot cards. I am not sure how I feel about that though I get that the idea is to learn to confront and study the card even if the card is not an easy one. And if I was doing spreads, I would not be likely to do redraws, but for a daily drawing two in a week of the same seemed odd. Anyhow, I will reflect on this and if it happens again, we’ll see. Any Tarot readers out there who read this and want to weigh in, feel free to send some insights my way.

The latter part of the week was dominated by cups. There was a lot of emotion, and tears, at the end of the week. Despite our loss, the week was otherwise fairly calm. The concerns for Monday did get settled, for now at least, and the week moved on. With the Queen of Pentacles, I started the week looking at material concerns. I felt it was a reminder to be mindful of money. We are not dirt poor but we are not in great shape neither. We are making a living and both working hard. As the card also indicates some desire to acquire nice things, I figured a small treat would be nice, which the Better Half and I did on Friday on our short Kentucky wineries trip (I may write a post on that small trip later).

Tuesday continued the female energy with The Empress. She brings some structure but also growth and nurturing. It was a good time to get things done, and I did have a productive day and week at work. In fact, I did a lot on Tuesday, so much I jotted down in my personal journal on Wednesday morning that the previous day felt more like a Two of Pentacles day as I juggled a lot of things to make it all work. In the end, it was all good, and the Better Half even had some of her nice chili for our dinner when I got home.

The rest of the week, as I noted, was very watery with the predominance of the suit of cups. Wednesday’s Three of Cups conveying a sense of community was appropriate given my early morning meeting that day. The card turns out to be linked to The Empress, so it was further continuing the abundance and nurturing. Thursday was the Nine of Cups, which I jotted down as a cycle ending as the number 9 is the last single digit of the suit. Initially, I thought it was just the end of the work week. We later found it was also the end of our time with Autumn. But the Nine of Cups also indicates satisfaction and pleasure. It was a sad day, but work and life had to go on. It did seem like a Death card kind of day, not just for Autumn’s passing, but also changes at work as we got some new computers for the reference area for public use, though the IT guys neglected to tell us how to log them in so the public could use them. Changes came, and onward we went.

As noted above, I ended the week with the Page of Cups, the end to what turned out to be an emotional week. I did get some quality time with the Better Half as we went out of the house to visit a couple of wineries nearby; it was a spur of the moment thing as she also by sheer luck had the day off. We got some wine tasting done, and we brought some new bottles home. As a final note, the Page of Cups can indicate interest in intuitive endeavors, and for me, at this moment, it would be my study of the Tarot.

Paz y amor.

Queen of Pentacles (Marseilles)

Queen of Pentacles (Marseilles)

The Empress (Marseilles)

The Empress (Marseilles)

Three of Cups (Marseilles)

Three of Cups (Marseilles)

Nine of Cups (Marseilles Tarot)

Nine of Cups (Marseilles Tarot)

Page of Cups (Marseilles)

Page of Cups (Marseilles)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I did not quite make it to posting this last Saturday. It was a bit of a rough week this week, so I was not able to post this as soon as I wished. I will keep working on getting it to post on Saturday or Sunday. I continue to use my trusty Marseilles Tarot deck as I work further on learning the meanings and how to read the cards.

Cards drawn:

  • Monday, March 14: Seven of Wands.
  • Tuesday, March 15: Two of Pentacles.
  • Wednesday, March 16: Ace of Wands.
  • Thursday, March 17: Queen of Wands.
  • Friday, March 18: The Sun

As I look over the week, I see the week was dominated by the fiery wands. The Sun at the end just seems to cap that fiery nature. The middle of the week was a bit hectic in terms of what now seem minor scheduling conflicts at work, but in the end, with a little perseverance and flexibility, we got things to work out and turn out well. It was briefly frustrating, but in the end it was all about finding a solution, and we did.

For me, so far the fiery wands can be a positive for enthusiasm, passion, and movement, being dynamic. Starting with the Seven of Wands was good, as it also had the lucky number seven. This is a card that also reminds us that what must go up must come down, and if my two readers recall, last week we ended the week drawing the Wheel of Fortune. So I saw it as a reminder to be cautious and not rest on my laurels.

The theme of juggling things really began with the Two of Pentacles on Tuesday. It was very accurate that day given the last minute class we ended up doing. On Wednesday, when I drew the Ace of Wands, I thought initially someone needed beating with a big stick. I even thought of Teddy Roosevelt’s saying of speaking softly and carrying a big stick. What can I say? I can be a bit literal sometimes when I read my Tarot cards. However, humor aside, even without looking up the card, I felt positivity and a good vibe for enthusiasm and creativity. It was also a continuation of Tuesday’s Two of Pentacles and the theme of balance. The Ace of Wands did turn out pretty accurate. In part because someone, who shall remain nameless to protect the not to innocent, did need a beating over the head, but in the end, things worked out around the obstacle.

Thursday’s Queen of Wands seemed to reinforce things in terms of keeping up good energy to move forward. Getting The Sun on Friday was a good way to wrap up this week. It made me smile as I would end the week on a nice, warm note. It also helped that the Friday was indeed a sunny day.

 

Marseilles Seven of Wands

Seven of Wands (Marseilles)

Marseilles Two of Pentacles

Two of Pentacles (Marseilles)

Marseilles Ace of Wands

Ace of Wands (Marseilles)

Marseilles Queen of Wands

Queen of Wands (Marseilles)

Marseilles The Sun

The Sun (Marseilles)

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