Archive for December, 2019

Holiday Countdown

I’m now in the most annoying phase of illness, when I mostly feel pretty good, but I get tired easily, and when I get tired the coughing starts. So I start out with energy, eager to get things done. But then I get tired and start coughing.

I was able to sing enough to run through my choir music. I’ve got a voice, and I can even stay on pitch. But as I got later into the day, I started getting tired and started coughing, so I didn’t try to go to choir practice last night. I figured rest would be better for me. And it must have been. I woke up without the usual morning coughing fit, and at about my usual time, with some energy. If I keep resting and improving, I might be up to singing on Christmas Eve night. That’s what I’m aiming for.

In the meantime, there’s Star Wars. I have a ticket for an early matinee tomorrow. Then I’ll spend most of the weekend resting and relaxing. Maybe I’ll watch some Christmas movies.

This afternoon, I’m planning to venture out to get groceries and finish my shopping. I’m going to try something wild and crazy this year and wrap my gifts before Christmas Eve. I’m usually frantically finishing that between services on Christmas Eve night, even if I bought them weeks before.

I also need to finish this draft of the book I’m working on. I’d like to take all of next week totally off. That does mean I’m not going to meet my arbitrary goal for hours spent writing this year. However, that goal was 100 hours over what I did last year, and I’ve passed last year and am fewer than 20 hours under the goal. I think it’s more important to give myself some work/life balance than to hit some made-up number, especially since I’d be doing busy work to hit that number rather than working on a deadline.

Getting Christmas Done

I finally got my Christmas tree up and decorated. Last week, on the last day before I got really sick, I brought the tree in from the garage. It then lay in pieces on the living room floor because I was too sick to deal with it or care.

Last weekend, I realized that I either had to commit and put it up or I had to give up and take it back to the garage. I put it together as a tree, and it stayed that way for a few more days.

I’d been hesitating about putting up a tree at all this year, since it goes on the wall where they’re going to have to do repair work, but I figured that at this point in the holiday season, they’re probably not going to schedule any construction work, so I’m probably safe. So yesterday I got out the decorations and actually put up the lights and ornaments. I went fairly minimalist with the ornaments. Normally, a lot of my decor involves silk roses tied on with gold ribbon. It’s a sort of Victorian look. But that was more than I wanted to deal with, so I went more traditional, just with ornaments. I have some ribbons to put up, but I have to find them first. They weren’t in the first couple of boxes of decorations I brought down. Next time I have the energy to go upstairs, I’ll look for them.

I also haven’t put up my Nativity scene, but that’s also upstairs.

I actually feel a lot better, but now I’m very tired. I suspect my body has to recover from all the effort put into fighting the infection. I fell asleep yesterday afternoon while editing and had about an hour nap. This morning I slept really late after getting a decent night’s sleep without waking up much for coughing. I’m not sure whether or not I’ll manage to get to choir rehearsal tonight. I have a voice, but I haven’t tried singing, and I don’t know if I’ll have the energy by the end of the day. Maybe I’ll take another nap.


Looking Back at Star Wars

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been rewatching all the Star Wars movies. It’s been an interesting experience, since I hadn’t rewatched most of them in ages. I hadn’t watched the original trilogy since the prequels came out, and I hadn’t watched the prequels since their original release era. That meant I hadn’t really looked at the originals in terms of what was revealed in the prequels, and I hadn’t considered any of them in light of the newer films.

I have to say that while the first movie still holds up really well, the rest of the original trilogy doesn’t. Some of that is because Lucas undermined himself with some decisions he made in the prequels. For instance, all the “Luke is our last hope, no, wait, there’s another Skywalker” drama. Well, the Jedi were supposed to have been celibate. They weren’t allowed to marry and have families. There’s only a Skywalker bloodline because Anakin broke the rules and married. That means the Force-sensitive people who were Jedi candidates had to have just randomly appeared all along. If it was strictly a genetic trait, then making the people who had that trait be celibate would have led to it dying out. Where did the Jedi find their candidates all along? Wherever that was, couldn’t they have found those kinds of people again now? The galaxy should have been full of “hopes” who had just as much potential as the Skywalker kids, maybe even without so much Dark Side potential.

In fact, why were they waiting around for Anakin’s kid to grow up, with no effort to train him? They had twenty years to prepare. They didn’t find Force-sensitive people and get them to Dagobah? What would have happened if Jyn Erso and the Rogue One crew hadn’t defied orders to get the Death Star plans, which led to the droids ending up on Tatooine and bringing Luke into the fray?

I know a lot of people were really distressed by the revelation in The Last Jedi that Rey was nobody, that her parents were nobody. While I’m not sure I believe that, since Kylo Ren was trying to manipulate her at the time, where did they think the Jedi came from during the glory days? They were all nobodies. There was no noble line of Jedi families because the Jedi were celibate.

The Empire Strikes Back is often considered the best movie in the series, but I’ve never liked it that much. Some of that was because nothing could have lived up to the anticipation, some because I was so thoroughly spoiled from reading the novelization so many times before I saw it that I had the movie memorized before I saw it. But analyzing it from a story perspective, I think it’s pretty weak, mostly because the stakes are actually pretty low. After the opening battle and escape from Hoth, the Rebellion no longer matters. Everything becomes entirely personal — will Han and Leia manage to escape, will Luke be able to train as a Jedi, will Darth Vader catch Luke. Personal stakes aren’t necessarily bad, but in something that’s supposed to be epic, you need a bigger story question than “will they repair the ship?” And we have more undermining from the prequels — there, becoming a Jedi is a lifetime thing, with children taken away from their parents at an early age, then going through an extensive program of training, followed by apprenticeship. Luke can’t have been on Dagobah more than a few days, and yet he’s declared fully a Jedi. I guess the other Jedi wasted a lot of time. And how did he learn to build his own lightsaber? Did he find a YouTube video?

The Last Jedi follows a similar story arc and pattern to The Empire Strikes Back, but the stakes are much higher — the survival of the Resistance. It’s not just whether one ship can escape, but whether any of them can. Rey isn’t meant to have had a full Jedi training while with Luke. She gets a crash course in connecting with the Force, but there’s no “you’re a full Jedi now, I have nothing more to teach you.” The bit about Rey already having everything contained in the sacred Jedi texts wasn’t because she’d learned it all but because she’d already stolen the texts.

I found the newer movies a lot more engaging than everything but the first one. I have a lot more thoughts about the views of heroism and all that, but this is getting long and I need to think more.

When Christmas Attacks

I’ve reached the annoying phase of illness in which I’m well enough to be frustrated with not being 100 percent. I’m close, but not quite there yet. Fortunately, today is cold and gray, so I have no urge to go outside and do stuff. That gives me another day of rest, which should get me closer to being well. My voice seems to be more or less back. I haven’t tried singing and I haven’t tried talking much, but at least I’m not rasping and I can get above a whisper without pain.

Now I’m really ready to be well and to get back to normal. I have things I want to do!

I tried watching some Christmas movies this weekend, and either I chose badly or I’m not really in the mood for these things. There seems to be a whole subgenre about meeting someone in an elevator. In the first one, there was an elevator mishap that got two people stuck and led to one of those “we’re going to die” moments, which led to a kiss. Which kind of works as a meet-cute. But then there was another one that seemed to be a sequel of sorts — it’s in the same office building — and in that one, the guy just randomly kissed the girl in the elevator because she was wearing a sexy Mrs. Claus outfit and he figured that made her slutty so that was okay. And this was the hero of the movie. I thought that since she pretended her neighbor/best friend was her boyfriend to fend this guy off that she’d end up with the friend. After all, if you pretend someone is your significant other in one of these movies, you either realize or develop feelings for them. But no, the elevator rapist guy was the hero.

And then there was another that could have been cute, but that guy ended up with red flags, too, where he got furious when she wouldn’t instantly commit to him the moment he brought up the idea of them getting together, even though she just broke up with someone. That’s actually on the “he has abuser potential” list, if he demands a fast commitment.

I’m almost done with my Star Wars rewatch, so maybe I’ll get to more Christmas movies soon. I don’t really have plans for the weekend and should probably take it easy and finish recovering, so that may be my plan. Though I do need to do some shopping at some point, I guess. As usual, Christmas sneaks up on me. I go straight from “it’s too early!” to “it’s here!” I need to pace myself better, but getting sick threw off my schedule.


Bad Research

While I haven’t been feeling like doing much else, I’ve been doing research reading for preliminary input for some worldbuilding I want to do. In other words, reading history and calling it “work.” I guess I’ve steeped myself in the subject pretty well, since I was reading a book, thought its assertions sounded off, looked it up online, and found that historians were screaming about this book and how wrong it was.

The book is A World Lit Only By Fire by William Manchester, and it’s a pretty inaccurate depiction of the medieval era. I have no problem with “pop” history — written for ordinary people rather than academics — but this is just bad. He’s using secondary sources (when he even cites a source), and they’re outdated Victorian sources that have been debunked. He’s looking at things from an era in which they thought the “classical” world (ancient Greece and Rome) were the pinnacle of civilization, with the conceit that the current (Victorian) era was a revival of that. But this book was published in in the 1990s.

Here’s the bit that had me jumping online to look it up: he asserts that medieval peasants had no sense of time, I guess because they didn’t have watches. But as historians have pointed out, that doesn’t mean there was no sense of time. The churches rang their bells for the offices of the day, and just about everyone would have lived in earshot of a church since they’d have to be in walking distance. They’d have had more awareness of time than a modern person who doesn’t wear a watch.

Not to mention, in an agrarian society they’d have been tending to animals, and anyone who’s ever dealt with animals knows that animals are very routine-oriented. You don’t have to have a watch for your animals to let you know that it’s time to eat, time to return home, or time to sleep.

It seems this author got all his info about how peasants lived from writings by noblemen who were trying to justify treating their peasants like animals.

From a history standpoint, I want to throw the book against the wall, but since I’m getting ideas for creating a fictional world, I may as well read his fictional version of the world. It’s basically a fantasy world. Fortunately, I bought it used, so I didn’t send any money to this bad research.

Another Silent Day

I still have no voice at all. This shouldn’t bother me, as I have no reason to talk, but it does. I don’t like knowing I can’t talk. Also, it’s sunny and pretty outside, which makes it a bad day for a sick day. When I feel like this, there should be clouds at least, preferably some rain. You know, a day for staying in pajamas, snuggling under a blanket with a cup of tea and a good book.

I missed choir practice last night, which gave me a chance to catch up on my Star Wars rewatch in preparation for the new movie. I’m trying to get through all the films. So far, I’ve done the prequels and the interstitials and am heading into the original trilogy. I think I’m going to skip the first one since it’s way more familiar and I watched it earlier this year. But I don’t think I’ve watched The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi since the special editions were in the theater.

I’ve been live Tweeting these rewatches, so if you want to see my immediate thoughts on these films, check out my Twitter feed.

And now it’s time to get back under the blankets and rest a bit. It may not be cloudy, but tea and rest are still pretty much what I need.

Quiet Day

I seem to be getting this cold one symptom at a time. Monday was the day of sniffling and sneezing. Yesterday was the stuffy head. Today is the sore throat, and I’ve just about lost my voice. It is possible that I didn’t have much of a voice yesterday, since I didn’t have to talk to anyone, but this morning I had my annual furnace checkup, so I had to talk to the technician, and the more I talked to him, the less voice I had, so that by the time he left, I was down to a whisper. I don’t feel so bad, just tired, as long as I don’t try to talk.

I never did get around to watching Christmas movies yesterday. I ended up reading and napping and even did some work. I just wasn’t in the mood for watching anything. Maybe I’ll watch something today. There may be more napping, since I had to get up early this morning.

One of my bits of work yesterday was to finish re-reading the book I just wrote so I can figure out what to do with it in revisions, and I noticed that several characters changed names midway through. They were similar names, so I must have mixed them up while I was writing quickly. I had a master list of character names as a quick reference panel, but I guess I didn’t refer to it. One character switched names with another character in mid-scene (the other character wasn’t in the scene). Another got a different, but similar, last name. Another took on a different first name that had most of the same letters in it. I tried to fix them as I noticed them, but I’ll have to be particularly alert as I do revisions.

Today I think I’ll focus on research for another project because I’m a bit too foggy for critical thinking and planning, which I’ll need for figuring out what to fix in revisions.

Sick Day

Yeah, it’s definitely a cold, not just allergies, and I seem to be on the upswing, with most of the cold symptoms fading, but now left just feeling tired, weak, and foggy. So it’s the perfect day for that lie on the sofa and watch Christmas movies plan, which I’ll be getting to after lunch.

For now, I’m snuggled on the bed with some books and my computer. I may or may not manage to do something work-related. I have three chapters to review, but I don’t know how well I can focus. If I had to be sick, this was good timing.


Post-Crazy Time

I survived my crazy weekend and promptly came down with either bad allergies or a mild cold. If getting sick could ever be considered “good,” this was good timing, as I won’t miss any obligations and I suspect I need the rest. It’ll be perfect for tomorrow’s forecast cold weather and wintry mix, a good day for lying under a blanket and watching Christmas movies all day.

I’ve also got a good supply of library books, some work-related, some just for fun.

I was complaining about having everything happening in one weekend, but the nice thing about that is that it’s now over and I can mostly just relax and enjoy the season. I also, for once, don’t have a deadline around or soon after the holidays. I want to keep up my work habits, but I can also take time off without worrying about being late for something.

But for now, I think I need a nap to recover from my library and grocery run.


Last Christmas

I took a day off yesterday for a Grand Day Out. I did some Christmas shopping, got groceries, ran some errands, then went to the mall, did some me shopping (some things I should have bought ages ago but didn’t want to deal with the mall), and saw Last Christmas. I was glad it was still in theaters because I wanted to see it, but they released it in early November, when I was so not in the mood for Christmas stuff.

I’d heard that the marketing was misleading and that it isn’t the romantic comedy it looks like, and I think it helped knowing that going in. I might have still figured it out at about the 3/4 mark. I actually didn’t mind that it wasn’t really a romance. It’s nice to see that a romantic relationship isn’t the only kind of happy ending. I enjoyed the movie a lot. It’s fun and fluffy but also has some depth to it. You can tell Emma Thompson wrote the screenplay because the dialogue is very sharp and witty. I laughed a bit and had a good cry, so it was just what I was looking for. I don’t know if this is the sort of thing that I want to get on DVD and make an annual tradition out of watching, but it makes for a good antidote to the bland, cookie-cutter Hallmark movie if you want something that feels seasonal and very Christmassy without being the same old thing.

The ads make it look like one of those TV Christmas movies, and it very much isn’t. I’d say it’s kind of like the Kate Winslet side of The Holiday (more focused on personal growth than on romance) crossed with something like It’s a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Carol, but done as though it was one of the story threads from Love Actually (London at Christmas).

Now I have to buckle down for the crazy weekend. I need to bake cookies today for the church cookie sale. Tomorrow I have a big choir rehearsal, then a party tomorrow night, then my children’s choir is singing Sunday morning, and I’ve got two Christmas concerts on Sunday that I’m singing in. I also have a party Monday night, but I hope to get some rest on Monday. Tuesday is supposed to be cold and rainy, and I’m planning a day in my pajamas, watching Christmas movies.