Adventure! Stress! No writing whatsoever!

That’s life lately. Adventures included a Purim celebration (I went as Maid Marian), successfully cutting my boyfriend’s hair (if you define success as not drawing blood, which I do), lunch with a friend at the Manhattan Café, discovering a shop that sells exclusively olive oil and balsamic vinegar (I’d never seen a wall of vinegar kegs before, but now I have), and a much-needed movie night watching an Alfred Hitchcock movie with my young man.

Stress included helping to run a 1,000-1,000 attendee conference in Raleigh, planning a 180-attendee conference in Richmond, and running a 250-attendee luncheon in Brier Creek. I don’t ever want to see a name badge again. I’ve learned a lot of important lessons, though. For example, check where your fancy lanyards are made, because if they’re made in China and the factory shuts down for a week for the Chinese New Year, that may throw a wrench in your event planning. Always check the height of the vehicles you rent to make sure they will actually fit in the parking garage you’re attempting to enter (or exit), and bear in mind that while the vehicle might have fit under the bar when fully loaded with a lot of heavy stuff, that may not be the case after you’ve unloaded the heavy stuff. And working 27 hours in two days will make you fully appreciate a boyfriend who not only cooks for you, but also gives you foot massages.

Books:
In yet another foray into comics, I read Superman: Blood of My Ancestors by Steven Grant. I’ll try to keep this non-spoilery: the story draws heavily from a particular Bible story, as you’ll quickly discover, but it does so very skillfully and enjoyably. It’s one of my favorite Superman stories that I’ve read to date.

I read The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, one of the most widely acclaimed historical novels out there and, according to Joss Whedon, one of the inspirations for Firefly. Both facts make perfect sense to me. The book was superbly done–the characters fascinating, the history well-researched, and the battle of Gettysburg itself tragic and a tiny bit beautiful. The characters I empathized most with were Joshua Chamberlain (of the Union side) and James Longstreet (of the Confederate side), but by the end of the book, I was rooting for practically everyone. Almost every character was relatable in some way, and Shaara did an excellent job of conveying the humanity of each person, even the weak ones we would be tempted to condemn for their decisions or lack thereof. Making every character so human really hammered home one of his themes: this was a war between friends and brothers, and many of the leaders who had gone to Westpoint together or had served together in earlier battles now found themselves fighting each other. The reader feels a taste of the same ambivalence, reveling in the exultation of one side only to realize it means the despair of the other side, both equally beloved characters by that point. Very well done.

Several people had recommended Portuguese Irregular Verbs by Alexander McCall Smith over the years, and I finally read it. I had enjoyed the author’s book No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, but I admit, Irregular Verbs didn’t thrill me. Each chapter is basically a short story and could stand by itself. I’ve seen this work really well in other books, but here it slumped. The effect was to make the book feel choppy, disjointed, and pointless. It meandered to an end, ish, and I know there are other books in the series that might give more resolution, but I wasn’t inspired enough to check them out, in spite of the occasionally enjoyable comedic moments.

Working on The Winter of Our Discontent right now. I do love me some Steinbeck.

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