Monthly Archives: August 2007

What I Read This August

New Amsterdam by Elizabeth Bear
Nurtured by Love by Shinichi Suzuki
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Nodame Cantabile vol. 10 by Tomoko Ninomiya
The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland
Falling Angels by Tracey Chevalier
The Prioress’ Tale by Margaret Frazer
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
The Glamour by Christopher Priest
Kushiel’s Scion by Jaqueline Carey
The Players by Stephanie Cowell
Ability Development From Age Zero by Shinichi Suzuki
The Bass Book: A Complete Illustrated History of Bass Guitars by Tony Bacon & Barry Moorhouse
First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde
Ex Libris by Ross King
Midnight Hour Encores by Bruce Brooks (reread)
Author, Author by David Lodge
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (reread)

Random notes:

Is there no genre Elizabeth Bear cannot write well? (I love you with much love, eBear.) New Amsterdam is a linked series of long short stories (oh, probably novelettes, I am tired, okay?) set in an alternate turn-of-the-20th century, featuring good old-fashioned mystery-solving, intrigue, politics, and sharp interpersonal shtuff as well as awesome characters.

Eat Pray Love: Lots of interesting stuff in this that reminded me of the spiritual upheaval and hard work to resettle everything I went through fiveish years ago. Elizabeth Gilbert’s first-person narration of her experience also reminded me that it’s easy to be spiritual when you’re in an environment focused on spirituality, not as easy to keep it up when you’re back in everyday life.

Ability Development From Age Zero by Shinichi Suzuki was pretty much a rehash of the original Nurtured By Love, It was essentially written to convince American mothers of the 1950s that yes, spending time with their children was actually the right way to raise them, and demonstrating that you love music is the plainest way instil a love of music in them. Some of it is dated, some of it sounds a bit condescending, but it’s a translation and also fifty years old. I can see what it’s meant to communicate, but I am not its target audience and didn’t need to be convinced, so other than a couple of interesting statements about how children learn it was useless to me. Nurtured by Love was more interesting to me from a philosophical standpoint, although I didn’t agree with all of it.

The Bass Book was essentially a waste of my time; it gave me a history of electric bass guitars, not the actual development of the instrument from its origins and how it was constructed. There was a lot of focus on Fender and Ampeg (some of the early Ampeg stuff is really interesting), but essentially it’s a highlight of the second half of the twentieth century and the electric bass business, along with the input of certain players that changed the development of the design and so forth. Not uninteresting, just not what I wanted. I won’t ever need to read it again. Pretty pictures, though, and gatefolds of some very lovely basses.

Christopher Priest’s The Glamour was good, but not as good as his The Extremes.

Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora was excellent, but took me a long time to settle into. The style of storytelling wasn’t exactly easy to go with as a reader, but the story itself and the characters were interesting enough that I stuck with it to accustom myself to the style. Once I had, it was enjoyable enough that I found myself chuckling now and again.

This was an insane month for reading, I see. Some of that had to do with periods of insomnia, some with the brevity of the books, some with the un-put-downable-ness of various titles.

Reviving Vivaldi

I am so very glad I delivered the file yesterday; I am terribly sick today with a dreadful head cold. It’s the kind of sick where you’re shivery (I’m bundled in socks and a sweater today), achy and stiff, have zero strength in your limbs, and are generally out of it as well as having all the common oh-so-enjoyable cold bonuses like the sore throat and runny nose and miserable sinuses and the headache. I’m thirsty all the time no matter how much I drink, and when I swallow my ears pop.

I spent the morning reading through the 110 pages I’ve got of Il Maestro e le Figlie di Coro, and it’s not bad. As I read through it though, I could see again what had to happen next, and I still don’t think I’m ready to write it. Come to that, after what comes next the story can go one of two ways, and I still don’t know which way it should go. As I read I tidied some things up, corrected punctuation and phrasing, and made notes to myself in the margins to add information or go back and check things.

Evidently last fall when I wrote this Vivaldi was on the brain of the collective consciousness, because when I did a bit of online research I found two new resources that hadn’t existed in November: the Schola Pietatis Antonio Vivaldi, who together with the BBC filmed a programme called ‘Vivaldi’s Women’ on life in the Ospedale della Pieta that aired in March of 2007, and a novel by Barbara Quick called Vivaldi’s Virgins, published a couple of months ago, which at first alarmed me as possibly being like this YA book I’m almost finished writing but it thankfully it really isn’t. (What is it with this trend of referring to the girls of the Ospedale as belonging to Vivaldi?)

And now somehow it’s one o’clock.

We’re doing a birthday dinner with HRH’s dad tonight when we go to pick up the boy. I hope I’m well enough to enjoy myself.


Finished, finished, finished! The file has been sent back. I invoice for the month’s work tomorrow.

I’m slightly dazed: the summer appears to be over. I saw children in uniform waiting on street corners for buses with new backpacks and lunchbags on our way out to drop the boy off the morning. It’s Labour Day this weekend. I missed the general energy of gearing up for school somehow, did not pick up on the subtle desire for new pens and binders and schoolbags that I usually develop ’round this time of year.

I have a cold. All three of us seemed to develop it roughly simultaneously. I seem to be the worst off, with what feels like a golf ball stuck in my soft palate, blocked ears, and a rapidly degenerating throat. HRH burned through it yesterday as per usual; the boy seems to have a bit of a runny nose and that’s it.

I have half an hour or so before it’s time to go pick up the boy. I think I’ll crack open New Amsterdam.

Weekend Roundup

I’ll be glad when I’ve finished this project; it’s hurting my brain. These three files have been so similar that I can only assume there is some reason why there are tiny differences in phrasing instead of using the same script for all three applications. More pronounced differences would make more sense, but then, I am not the architect of this particular project, and as it’s being adapted the company has to work with the original and existing structure. Whatever the reason, the similarities lull me into a kind of vague trance-like state as I compare the current document against the previous two, making it hard to focus on those tiny differences when I do come across them. And there are times where those differences are as basic as a single cell of text in one file has been split into three separate cells in another file, without a word changed or out of place. But someone has to do the reduction of the translated script, and it might as well be me.

Saturday’s fund-raising BBQ was delightful in that the weather cleared and the humidity broke, we spent time with good friends, and had good food. In fact, I saw people I hadn’t seen in well over a year (some who I hadn’t seen in more than two, as well), as well as meeting at least one new person who seems very interesting and is an ex-viola player (not by choice exactly, but because she moved away from the instrument she used to borrow). I also finally paid Kino Kid for her lovely, lovely desk that I have been using for a year and a half, and completely failed to accurately communicate why I enjoy Miseri‘s writing.

Sunday morning we finally resumed our brunch date with the neighbours, after something like five weeks off due to people out of town or otherwise unavailable. Liam romped with their cats until we suggested he do something quiet, like read a book. “Otay,” he said, turning to one of the several bookcases and reaching forward, “I find a book to read.” We all leapt forward because in his enthusiasm he could very well have damaged one of many hard-to-replace books on religious study that Scarlet owns. We found him a board book instead. It made such a wonderful image, though, the two-year-old turning quite naturally to the cases of academic study on Daoism and Shinto and various Abrahamic faiths mixed in with Celtic spirituality and modern religions, to ‘find a book to read’.

He asked for oatmeal for lunch, then Sunday afternoon after his nap Liam helped HRH with the vacuuming, thus ending a two-year moratorium on vacuuming if the boy was in the house. (Up till now he used to cry when it was turned on, no matter how we tried to get him used to it. This time? “Look — Dada, it has wheels!”, and that was that, he was off and bogganing. We’ve shown him the wheels before, of course, not that they made a difference.) Then we headed out to the ADZO family ranch where we had an excellent afternoon relaxing, eating hummus, drinking wine, and consuming delicious burgers and corn and home-grown veggies.


We’re all stretched a little thin here. HRH has injured his right wrist somehow and can’t lift things or grab things; he was sent home from work on Friday. The humidity, courtesy of a lovely rain/stormy thing that has happened on and off for the past 36 hours, makes everyone feel like they’re suffocating. Sparky is all right for a while then turns all Toddler Jekyll on us without warning. I have hit the phase I hit every couple of years where I absolutely cannot stand my house and must change it in some way. I feel as if there’s nowhere I can go to relax in my own home, which is problematic. The living room and bedroom make me tense, and my office is a workspace with no room for any other furniture, otherwise I’d try to put a reading chair in it. We can’t afford a new living room sofa and chair, of course, but these ones are now past well-used in a colour that has never thrilled me, and HRH and I can’t agree on slipcovers. (Come to think of it, the boy is the only one who has new furniture in his room. The only new pieces of furniture we’ve ever bought are bookcases, the fridge, the living room carpet, and the kitchen table.) The television is having major issues with the visual display on the screen and it appears to be dying, another costly problem we’re reminded of every time it’s turned on for a movie or to watch the news. I live and work at home, and if I don’t like being there, well, it creates tension in my brain and body. Not a good thing. It’s odd that I can put up with objects that I don’t enjoy for a long time, then suddenly, as if a switch is thrown, I’ve had enough and things have to change or I will go mad.

Also, no matter how many times I wash the kitchen floor, it remains sticky. Little things like this are dangerous to my temper.

But there is freshly baked bread as of an hour ago, of which I have eaten a quarter-loaf already.

I put the new strings on the viola Thursday night (I so want to say ‘I restrang the viola’), and I think the previous set of strings were violin strings. (Whoever owned this before I picked it up knew nothing about stringed instruments.) My trip to the easily-reached luthier reaffirmed that I don’t like them much; no matter who talks to me they seem to think I know nothing about the instruments I play or consider any of the research I’ve done ahead of time of use or import. Telling me you’re giving me forty percent off the list price of strings and making it seem like a huge favour when I know every luthier does it impresses me not a bit, and in fact makes me think you’re condescending to me. Also, if I wanted to spend a hundred dollars on a bow, it would be put towards one for me and not one for my son to mess around with. I’ll be going back to Archambault to pick up one of the cheap-quality ones for $37, thanks.

(Note to self: just stop trying to like them, okay? Give up. Use your regular luthier, even if it’s further out of the way via public transport and has no parking, and be thankful.)

We went out this morning to Valois, where I made a quick stop into the Bramble House for dolly mixture and Walnut Whips. HRH and Liam hung out at the train station and watched four long freight trains go by, up close and very loud. This thrilled Liam beyond belief because we took him to the Montreal train museum last Sunday and he has asked to go see “the big trains” every day since. I poked about the secondhand bookstore in Valois while HRH and the boy relaxed on the back bumper of the car with the hatch up at the station. It was a nice morning out.

The second batch of ratatouille on Thursday wasn’t as good as the first. I baked the first for a half-hour longer than the recipe indicated, which mellowed the vegetables out more, I think. The second batch was cooked for exactly the specified time, and the veggies were crunchy but not as sweet.

Read Christopher Priest’s The Glamour in its entirety on Thursday. Good, but not as good as his Extremes. I finally finished Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora which was good, but took me a long time to settle into. The style of storytelling wasn’t exactly easy, but the story was interesting enough that I stuck with it to accustom myself to the style. Once I had, it was enjoyable enough that I found myself chuckling now and again.

The boy just woke up early from his nap, crying as he does sometimes when he wakes up and wants to still be asleep. I slipped into his room and wrapped him in his blanket, picked him up, and carried him to the chair where we snuggled for about five minutes until he fell asleep again. I sat there in the dark with his long rangy preschool-like body across my lap, his head on my shoulder and his eyes closed, his breathing a bit snuffly, and I wondered where the past two years had gone. I have sat with him in that chair so often, more so when he was younger. There is a certain peace that descends when you hold your sleeping child. Part of my mind frantically tells me to make the most of this time by putting him down and getting stuff done, while the rest (thankfully) ignores it and rests in the moment, feeling that peace, the weight of the warm body, the soft damp curls on the head, the fists that twitch randomly in sleep, that snuffly post-cry breathing, the legs that dangle off the side of my lap. I’m having trouble with life in general these days, so moments like this give me the still time I need for both my mind and my spirit.

Once he’s awake (again, and at the proper time), we’re off to a barbecue with friends this afternoon. I’m looking forward to it.