Books: 2015 Reading Challenge Status

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Typically I just read whatever I come across. These are usually staff picks from local bookstores, recommendations from friends, books I see on the shelf at the library, or just titles I hear about in passing. There’s not really a rhyme or a reason. So when I saw that Pop Sugar and Book Riot were offering Reading Challenges for this year, I thought I’d give it a shot. I like the idea of broadening what I read and reading “outside my comfort zone.” Especially with formats, like audiobooks. I’ve never listened to one!

I’ll try to keep this updated throughout the year. I am not making a list of books ahead of time to fit each category. My plan is for the most part, to just read what I normally do and see where those fall into the categories. Ideally, I would have a unique book for each category (no duplicates) but will see how things look at the end of the year.

We’ll see how this goes!

Reading Challenge List

A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25
A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65
A collection of short stories (either by one person or an anthology by many people)
A book published by an indie press
A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ
A book by a person whose gender is different from your own
A book that takes place in Asia
A book by an author from Africa
A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture (Native Americans,Aboriginals, etc.)
A microhistory
A YA novel
A sci-fi novel
A romance novel
A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade
A book that is a retelling of a classic story (fairytale, Shakespearian play, classic novel, etc.)
An audiobook
A collection of poetry
A book that someone else has recommended to you
A book that was originally published in another language
A graphic novel, a graphic memoir, comics
A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure
A book published before 1850
A book published this year
A self-improvement book (can be traditionally or non-traditionally considered “self-improvement”)

A book with more than 500 pages
A classic romance
A book that became a movie
A book published this year
A book with a number in the title
A book written by someone under 30
A book with nonhuman characters
A funny book
A book by a female author
A mystery or thriller
A book with a one-word title
A book of short stories
A book set in a different country
A nonfiction book
A popular author’s first book
A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet
A book a friend recommended
A Pulitzer-Prize Winning book
A book based on a true story
A book at the bottom of your to-read list
A book your mom loves
A book that scares you
A book more than 100 years old
A book based entirely on its cover
A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t
A memoir
A book you can finish in a day
A book with antonyms in the title
A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit
A book that came out the year you were born
A book with bad reviews
A trilogy
A book from your childhood
A book with a love triangle
A book set in the future
A book set in high school
A book with a color in the title
A book that made you cry
A book with magic
A graphic novel
A book by an author you’ve never read before
A book you own but have never read
A book that takes place in your hometown
A book that was originally written in a different language
A book set during Christmas
A book written by an author with your same initials
A play
A banned book
A book based on or turned into a TV show
A book you started but never finished

Updated 1.29.15 – 8/74 completed

The Book of Mormon Lottery & Standing Room Tickets

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The Book of Mormon Lottery

There are several Broadway shows in nyc that offer a lottery of both cheaper seat tickets and first-come-first-served cheaper standing room only tickets. Since The Book of Mormon is always sold out and tickets start around $200, they offer both types of cheap tickets day-of before each show.

I haven’t actually been super excited about seeing this musical but have only heard good things about it. So, on a Saturday where I didn’t have any other plans, I decided to try my hand at the lottery and stand in line for standing room tickets. I was mainly killing time in my day but luckily snagged standing room only tickets! The show was great, especially for under $50!

There seems to be some confusion of how the lottery and standing room only tickets work, so here’s a breakdown from what I saw.

Waiting to hear my name called as a winner at Book of Mormon Lottery

@lotterydude announcing winners for the Book of Mormon Lottery in front of the Eugene O’Neill Theater

Book of Mormon Lottery Tickets

The ticket lottery is a different process than standing room only so I’m going to talk about them separately.

There is not a line for the lottery!

To enter the lottery, just show up any time in the 30 minute window that’s 2.5 hours before the show. You will see a bunch of people in front of the theater. Then a theater employee standing next to a table that has a clear box in it. You will see paper entries in the box. Ask the employee for a entry. Then write your name, state, country, # of tickets, and email address on the entry. And put it in the box. That’s it!

I attempted the lottery for the 2p Saturday show, assuming there would be less demand than the later 8p show. Also, I went in January on a rainy/snowy/cold day. I did implement a bit of strategy there.

For the 2p show, you can enter the lottery any time between 11:30a-noon. Any time in that window. You don’t have to stand in line at all for the lottery. Just show up at 11:50a and fill out your ticket. They start calling winners right at noon. So, really, this process can take you no more than 15 minutes if you time it right. This is definitely not an all day ordeal.

Getting earlier to the lottery does not better your chances. It is a random drawing.

Book of Mormon Lottery Slip

Bring a pen! You have 30-min window to enter the ticket lottery for front row seats for $40.

The lottery announcer guy is very cheerful and good at what he does. He made hearing the winners a pretty fun experience like… “From New York! (everyone cheers)” and “From New Jersey… (everyone boos)”. It is very efficient as clearly they do this every day.

If you live here and can easily get to the theater district, I definitely recommend just trying for the lottery as often as you can. It doesn’t take that long at all.

What do you actually win in the lottery? There were about 18 tickets available for seats in the first two rows center. And a few more tickets available for box seats on the sides with a partial obstructed view. Both of these must be purchased at the time you win the lottery and cost $38/ticket.

You have to have a photo ID (to prevent people putting in fake names) and can pay with cash or credit card. Each person can purchase up to 2 tickets.

Book of Mormon Stage at the Eugene O'Neill Theater in nyc standing room only tickets

Book of Mormon Stage at the Eugene O’Neill Theater in nyc

Book of Mormon Standing Room Only Tickets

Purchasing standing room only tickets for The Book of Mormon is a very different process. Although you can do both at the same time (it’s just a little confusing).

You must wait in line at the ticket window for standing room only ‘seats’. These are first come first served. These tickets are not a part of the lottery. There is no lottery for standing room. You just have to get there early.

The time frame is the same as the lottery, which is why it’s sort of confusing. For the 2p show, you can start lining up at 11:30a in front of the ticket window. I’m not sure if you can line up before then. Now, this is an actual line. Your spot in the line does matter.

Book of Mormon offers 20-30 standing room only tickets and sells them until they run out. If you’re in the back of a long line, chances are you won’t make it.

If you want to try for standing room only tickets, get there as soon as you can (11:30a for the 2p show. 5:30p for the 8p show. 4:30p for the 7p show).

Do not leave the line! If you want to also enter the lottery, a theater employee will bring lottery slips to you as you stand in line.

I went by myself, so this was a little tricky, but the people near me were nice enough to hold my place in line. Since I did need to leave the line to put in my lottery ticket and to go up to the drawing to see if my name was called (it wasn’t). The ticket line and lottery drawing are both in front of the theater but it is hard to hear the drawing from most of the standing room only line. It would have been helpful to be with someone else who could hold the spot. But it all worked out anyway.

After the lottery drawing, they opened the window for standing room only tickets soon after. Maybe within 15 minutes. It didn’t take long. The standing room only tickets are assigned ‘seats’, standing spots at a railing, directly behind the last row in the orchestra section. You can purchase up to 2 tickets for $27 each.

Since these are assigned ‘seats’, as soon as you make your purchase, you can go get something to eat or sit somewhere (give your feet a break!) until just before the show starts. I walked into the theater about 5 minutes before just so I’d have a chance to use the bathroom. Since you’re standing at the back of the theater, it is very nice to have easy access to the bathrooms/bar/exit before the rush.

Spooky Mormon Hell Dream! at book of mormon on broadway

Spooky Mormon Hell Dream!

You can lean on a railing the whole time, which actually wasn’t uncomfortable at all. The view is great! Directly in front of you are the last row of orchestra seats. Seats people paid at least $200/ticket for. You’re right behind them! The theater is small so there is no problem seeing all of the stage from the standing ‘seats’.

And it ended up being a good thing I went alone because I got a pretty good single spot on the end of the center orchestra section. I noticed some groups of 2 who were actually in front of me in the ticket line, had spots off to the side.

The only minor downside to the standing spots was that there were some small distractions from the back of the theater. Lights going on and off, employees talking and walking around. That type of thing. But, again, we paid $30 for a show that typically cost over $200! Really can’t complain!

Hello! Book of Mormon


The Show Itself

This sounds silly, but I didn’t know anything about the show going into it. I wasn’t super excited to see it or anything. (Sorry!) But I heard good things and figured ‘why not?’ So, with few expectations going into it, almost expecting that it wouldn’t live up to it’s hype…. it turns out I loved it!

The amount of satire, irony, and offensiveness is a perfect balance. And there is a sort of moral in the end. Kind of. It totally works! I loved all the songs and it never took itself too seriously. I’m not sure it lived up to the actual hype ($200/ticket is a lot!) but I certainly got my $30 worth. And I absolutely recommend going!

If you can afford the tickets, just go now! If you can’t but are a local, do what you can to attempt the lottery or standing ticket line. It really is worth it!

The show is about 2.5 hours long with a 15 min intermission. I’ve stood for longer many many times, so the standing ticket really wasn’t so bad!

Use a Timer to Know How Long Chores Last

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Use a timer for cleaning motivation

Cleaning has always been a huge chore to me. I hated it as a teenager and I still hate it now. Living alone, in the context of cleaning, certainly has it’s advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, no one else lives here to complain about me leaving dishes in the sink for days. On the down side, no one else lives here to complain about me leaving dishes in the sink for days.

My favorite excuse for why I can’t clean is because I don’t have the time. It takes too long. I’m too busy. I don’t have time on the weekends. I’m too tired after work. etc etc. From the sound of my whining you’d think I was cleaning a mansion, not a 600 sq ft apt. Figuring out exactly how much time it took to do each cleaning chore really helped quell the excuses.

Get Motivated by Disproving Excuses

Obviously our brains aren’t that good with time estimates. We’ll tell someone we sat at the red light for 10 minutes. Or slept for a billion hours. Both are unlikely. When it came to cleaning, washing dishes was my most dreaded task. For whatever reason, I always estimated that it would take me half an hour to do the dishes.

Logically, this doesn’t make sense. I’m cleaning up dishes after just me. Even after a few days, there’s no more than 4 plates, a pot & pan, 1 glass, and some silverware. But the sink fills up fast and when it overflows all I see is that I have to spend my entire day washing dishes.

There is a common lifehack to help motivate yourself to clean: You set a timer for 15-minutes and start cleaning. Then when the timer goes off, stop. That’s it. The idea is that even if you clean for only 15-minutes, that will still be an improvement over not cleaning at all. Plus, once you start cleaning, you are likely to continue even after the timer ends. So, I decided to try this. Of course I assumed that I would only be half-way through with the dishes in this time.

How Long Do Cleaning Tasks Really Take?

So I set the timer for 15-minutes and started washing the dishes. Then I finished washing the dishes and was surprised the timer hadn’t beeped. When I looked over at the clock, it said I had 10-minutes remaining. 10-minutes! It took barely 5-minutes to wash the dishes! I was puzzled.

Letting the timer continue, I cleaned junk mail off the entry table, wiped down the kitchen table, and even swept the floors. I had moved on to scrubbing the bathroom sink when the timer went off. My brain was so confused how these time-consuming tasks, rationally, didn’t take that long at all. There went all of my excuses out the window.

It sounds silly in recanting but it really was a break-through for me. After that point, I could no longer tell myself that I was too tired or it would take too long to do the dishes before bed. Even when there’s “a lot” of dishes, it never takes more than a few minutes. After all, it is just me eating here.

Having a more realistic sense of time also helps me fit cleaning in when before I said I didn’t have the time. If I have a few minutes to kill while waiting to leave before the next bus, I will sweep the floors. Or wipe down a table. Since I now know these things take about a minute.

But using a timer meant there was solid proof for the length of time that passed. You cannot trust your brain to estimate these types of things!

Get Motivated, Instead of Overwhelmed

On a slight tangent, I want to tie this all in with my “better person” post from last week. Because cleaning is something that I used to get really stressed out about. In my last relationship, I would spend several week days with my significant other, which meant I wasn’t home cleaning. By Friday, I would look at my dirty apartment and freak out. I would blame my SO for taking up all my time then tell him I couldn’t hang out over the weekend because I had to spend all day Saturday cleaning my apartment.

Saturday rolls around and I finish cleaning everything by early afternoon. Then when I find out my SO already made plans for the day, I’d get upset. I’d be upset! And of course I would take this out on the person I cared about. Blame them for why I had to spend Saturday night alone.

And this happened many times over. Ugh.

Sometimes our brains need hard-logic to drop excuses and get ourselves motivated. Timing chores and other dreaded activities can help get us started.

Book Review: Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson

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fourth of july creek by smith henderson

Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson is a modern-western fiction novel taking place in Montana. It is a story of an anti-hero, Pete, who is a social worker with a family as fucked-up as his cases. The prose is beautiful and interesting, though the story is dark with lots of characters. I definitely recommend the novel but it slowly grew on me and might not be for everyone.

This is not a page-turner with action around every corner. This is not a coming of age story for anyone involved. No one learns their lesson. There is little self-awareness. There is no deep character growth or change. And you know what, because that’s how life is sometimes. Sometimes, we don’t change after major life experiences.

This is a book about characters, not plot. Despite the characters not learning about themselves, you do learn about them.

Then there is the prose. The writing is gritty and beautiful at the same time, a bit similar to Cormac McCarthy but with a little less flourish. Through the dialogue you can easily see that everyone is on the same page here. The dialect and grammar never felt forced or that it was making fun of anyone.

The protagonist, Pete, isn’t better off than anyone else.Even as a social worker he fully admits that his family is as bad as the ones he works with. He is definitely an anti-hero in the story. I am a sucker for anti-heros. It makes sense too, since this is a modern western.

Since the story does not have a straight-forward plot, and is only about the life of one character, it doesn’t have a straight-forward ending. I don’t mind this as our lives don’t always have a concrete resolution to problems either. But if you are looking for the story to be fully resolved at the end and tied with a bow, you’ll be disappointed. The story is dark from start to finish – no happy endings here.

If you enjoy well-written fiction, dark stories, or westerns, I definitely recommend this one. This is Henderson’s debut novel and it makes me look forward to see what he can write out next. I give this one 4 out of 5.

Life Updates: College Football + Jury Duty

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Ohio State University NCAAF B1G

College Football National Championship

The Ohio State Buckeyes beat the University of Oregon Ducks in the first ever College Football National Championship game. Go Buckeyes! Go B1G!

I wish OSU would stop calling themselves THE Ohio State University but oh well. They are part of the Big Ten (B1G) conference as is MSU. As a graduate of MSU, I love them and bleed green! So, a national champion in the conference is a win for all of us.

The game was great even though everything was decided by the middle of the third quarter. OSU was strong! I really missed out not watching many of their games this past season. The control they had over the Ducks was incredible. This was the first time we’ve seen Mariota melt since their loss to Arizona. And, OSU gave up the ball four times to Oregon yet still won by three touchdowns. I’m excited to see how them play next season. Oregon is losing Mariota so it’ll be interesting to see a new team dynamic there too.

And that marks the end of the college football 2014-2015 season. There’s still a few months before March Madness starts. I’ve been watching a few NCAAM games so far. MSU is in a transition year after losing great players last year. This means, I may actually be able to enjoy the tournament this year! I love watching sports and all but geez it is so stressful.

Juror summons kings county

Jury Duty

Last week I was summoned to jurty duty for the first time. After a whole lot of waiting around, my name was called for selection. Then after more waiting around and answering some questions, I was selected as a juror! The case starts in two weeks. Obviously I can’t talk about it but I’m quite interested to see the process.

In the selection room we were asked questions mainly about the type of case it was, but there was one opinion question: “Where do you get your news?” Interesting question that actually can tell you a whole lot about a person.

After the trial I’ll write up a whole post about it because it seems the process varies a lot depending on the type of case, court, etc. Fortunately, I do get paid by my employer for every day I am on Jury Duty as though it were a regular work day. And although missing a week of work will definitely set me back, I am looking forward to doing my judicial duties.

Books:The Girl From The Well by Rin Chupeco

Recently I read The Girl From the Well by Rin Chupeco for a book club. This is not a book I would read on my own, mainly because it’s YA. And it’s definitely written as YA. I read the book over the course of two evenings. Oddly enough, the plot in this story was very similar to the plot in O’Malley’s Seconds which I had just finished reading.

The Girl From The Well is a YA horror story about a teenage boy being posessed by evil spirits much to Japanese folklore. The main characters are the boy, his father, and his female cousin who’s 18 year-old. The best thing the story had going for it is there was no romance. Although, at times there were some awkward scenes between the boy and his cousin where I was starting to wonder just what kind of book this was. But, no romance. That definitely saved the book from getting into cliche territory.

The story kept my attention but the writing definitely needs improvement. There were many contradictory statements where the Author used words that I don’t think she knew the actual meanings of. Because words mean things! For example, the boy is depicted as an angsty teenager who changes schools often, hates everyone, and tries to be invisible because he hates attention. At one point the author says, the boy is uncharacteristically trying to avoid the spotlight of concern. I was confused how that was uncharacteristic of him. There were a lot of those types of poor word choices that disrupted the flow of the book for me.

Obviously this is a book for the YA reader, I am not it’s intended audience. Even with that said, I still give it a 3 since it kept my attention and wasn’t a cliche love triangle YA story.

Best Of Internet: Jenny Trout

The post Let It Go by author Jenny Trout was written back in April but needs to be read by everyone. The more voices speaking out about mental illness, the better. I sometimes fear that I am “going crazy” or will “sound crazy” when talking about my experiences with depression. It’s refreshing that Jenny addresses this directly then takes control of that notion by, essentially, making it sound so silly that it takes the fear out of it:

I was scared to write this post. It makes me sound like a legit crazy person. Because I am. I am super duper full time wacky pants. And I always will be; there’s no cure for mental illness. But the good news is, it’s getting better.

I have read that over and over and over. The phrase “super duper full time wacky pants” makes me laugh and is helpful for me to realize that some of these fears related with depression are driven by depression. Jenny wrote this whole post in a way that most of us struggle to put into words. This is a must-read for anyone deal with mental illnesses (which, honestly, is a whole lot of us).

Let It Go – Jenny Trout

Spend Your Money Where You Spend Your Time

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Spend Your Money Where You Spend Your Time

Spend Your Money Where You Spend Your Time is a common mantra but I recently heard it again from An Exacting Life, who is following this philosophy this year to keep her spending on track. I can’t think of a better gauge.

For starters, asking yourself “Is this how I spend my time?” when making a purchase is a good idea. When you say “How often will I wear this?” you are asking your present self a question about your future self. And we all know how that goes. We can justify anything to ourselves. But when you ask “Do I already wear/use things like this?” you are asking your present self about your past self. That is a more accurate gauge of your time and priorities.

An argument against this if you’re trying something new. Well, in that case, do not buy something exciting. Do not buy a whole lot of things. You can still buy things where you don’t spend a lot of time, but it should not be large investment. It should not be the majority.

You can spend a little bit of money where you spend a little bit of time. Then spend a lot of money where you spend a lot of time.

Looking at this philosophy against my current time/spending habits is helpful to know what I should think about purchasing this year. It also helps me feel less guilty when I do buy things. That’s a big one for me.

I spend a lot of time… Running

Although I have decided to do less races this year, I still plan to run at least 3 times a week. It is something I enjoy. It is a benefit to my physical/mental health. And it takes a good chunk of my time.

With that context, it makes sense for me to buy another pair of good running shoes and more quality running clothes. These are expensive so I often hesitate making these purchases. Or else I buy lower quality items. I’m still using some of these and have been for years. They work. But for the amount of time I put into running, spending some money here is acceptable.

I spend a lot of time… Reading

Thankfully, one of my most time-consuming hobbies, reading, costs me nothing. Thank you library. However, it makes me realize that if I do decide I want to purchase an eReader for real, this would make sense. It is something that I would use every single day.

On the other hand, since I read so often, I spend a lot of time reading overall but not a lot of time reading any one book. With a reading rate of a book a week, I am not spending a lot of time on each book. So purchasing individual books does not make sense. Which is why the library is so helpful in this case.

I spend a lot of time… Writing

Between this site and my own fiction, I write every single day. That is a lot of time spent writing. I did pull the trigger purchasing Scrivener last year and it was one of the best decisions. Not only do i use Scrivener for my fiction writing but also for every blog post. Including this one, right now.

One of my tasks for this year was to think about taking a writing course. Of course, in the past, money has been a cause for hesitation. But, thinking of it in this context, spending a few hundred dollars on an activity & skill that I do every single day and would like to continue doing every single day, definitely makes sense.

I spend a lot of time… Cooking/Baking

Four nights a week I cook at home and at least twice a month I bake. That’s a lot of time spent in the kitchen now that I think about it. Plus, I enjoy it. Baking is a hobby for me. Yet, I find myself hesitating when it comes to investing in quality bakeware. I feel guilty buying a new pan or baking dish. Yet these are things that I am using every single day. Baking, especially, is something I enjoy doing for other people. So I definitely want premium baking pans that will last me a long time.

I don’t spend a lot of time… playing MTG

Magic: The Gathering has been one of my hobbies for several years now. Then after discovering the EDH format two years ago, I began playing more often. It can be a very expensive hobby and I definitely have spent a fair bit even just on my non-competitive decks.

However, now that I’m no longer dating someone who plays, I really don’t play all that often. I only play with friends and never with strangers. So that’s about once or twice a month. With such little time spent, I cannot justify building a new deck, buying expensive cards, or any other accessories.

I don’t spend a lot of time… Using Domain Names I Buy

I am making a silent pledge to myself to not purchase any domain names in 2015. I own 15 domains. Only two of those have any content on them.

Of course what happens is I come up with this great idea, this great name, and I purchase it with the intention that future me will do something with it. Then I never do. Also, the initial cost is low at $10-$15/year. I have been renewing some of these for years, still doing nothing with them.

Instead, I should create an entire concept full-out, imagery, and even some content before investing anything else into it. I should spend some actual time on this idea before spending money on it.

I suggest taking a step back and determining just how you spend your time. What activities do you do every day? Several times a week? Then think about the activities you do once a month or less than that? Are you spending your money for those activities in the same way?

Book Review: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer

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whiskey tango foxtrot by david shafer

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, David Shafer’s debut novel, is a well-written story of conspiracies, world travel, action/adventure, multiple storylines, and unsympathetic characters. All in good ways!

Now, I hadn’t heard anything about this book when I picked it up. I saw it on a list, then saw it at the library. I didn’t read any reviews or see any hype about it. However, after I read it (and enjoyed it) then I looked up reviews. A lot of them are complaining about the book being 1) overhyped and 2) not ending.

Here’s the thing with the ending. I love that it ends exactly where it needs to. You know everything you need to know. Look, the good guys are going to win, okay. I don’t need to read 50+ pages on how exactly they win. I know they’re going to. That stuff is actually boring. So this book ends when you learn that certain people have joined the good guys. Then the good guy group outlines their entire plan anyway. As a reader, we can only assume that the good guys will win. This is what we want. We do not need to see it being executed. It will not further character development. And the only way to keep that type of thing interesting, is by making it predictable.

So, I am completely fine with the book as a whole and do recommend it. 4 out of 5 from me.

Life Updates: Carnegie Hall, Chocolate Tour, and Nook

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Patton Oswalt at Carnegie Hall 1/9/2015

The Carnegie Hall

Patton Oswalt at Carnegie Hall

I accepted an invite to see Patton Oswalt perform stand-up at Carnegie Hall mainly because I just wanted to go to Carnegie Hall. It was absolutely worth it. The building is beautiful! And it is huge! It was awesome being a part of so much history. Just thinking about all the people that had performed there. The tickets were affordable at $50, so I am definitely glad I went.

Patton Oswalt was good too. I don’t know his material very well so I was hearing most of it for the first time. I definitely was cracking up at some parts, silent at other parts, but overall it was good. He was pretty adorable as it seemed he was fully self-aware that he was performing at The Carnegie Hall. Always good to see someone trying to live in the moment and appreciate an opportunity.

Cat afraid to go to vet

Scaredy cat Scarface not excited about his vet appointment

Scarface & The Vet

This time last year, Scarface cat had to go in for an expensive teeth cleaning. Last week, we went back to the vet to check on his teeth. Unfortunately they’re not much better.

I am regularly brushing his teeth, which isn’t fun for either of us. But the vet says he has Stomatitis, which won’t just go away on it’s own. Right now, Scarface is still eating, albeit slowly, so I’m not going to take action yet. He’s 3 years old and is 7lbs, which is right at the edge of a healthy weight. So I have to keep an eye on that.

The worst case scenario here is to remove all of his teeth, since the real problem is his gums are having a reaction to the teeth enamel. Apparently, without teeth, his gums will no longer be sore and he will be a happier cat. Yes, cats can still eat without teeth. He had a few teeth removed last year and it hasn’t seemed to bother him much.

Raaka Chocolate where the building has no heat.

Various cocoa beans at Raaka Chocolate Factory in Red Hook. Don’t be jealous, the building was freezing.

Raaka Chocolate in Red Hook, Brooklyn

My friends and I signed up for a tour to visit a small chocolate manufacturer, Raaka, who has a small factory in Red Hook, Brooklyn. This is their second year at the factory in Red Hook. Their signature taste is produced because they do not roast the beans. And of course it is all organic small-scale ethically-sourced so-brooklyn etc.

Unfortunately the tour was not enjoyable because the entire building did not have heat.

It is January. Single digits outside. And this building doesn’t have heat. The employees said that their contractor never put it in and they are tied up with legal issues in trying to get it now. Obviously this was something they knew about but failed to tell us when we bought tickets for January. I absolutely cannot recommend purchasing tickets for a tour to Raaka in the winter months. It was freezing inside the building so we were very uncomfortable. Who cares about chocolate when your teeth are chattering?


eReading with the Nook SimpleTouch

I received a hand-me-down Nook SimpleTouch from a friend. I’ve been wanting to try out eBooks mainly for easier reading on a crowded subway. I’ve read one eBook so far, a Young Adult short novel that didn’t come in any other format from the library. It seems I read very quickly looking at the digital screen. And I did find it useful that holding the small device was easier than a full book.

Unfortunately, I am not sold on eReaders and definitely cannot recommend the Nook SimpleTouch. The device cannot be recognized by my Windows 8 laptop. It doesn’t connect at all! The only way I even transferred a book to the Nook was by using my work laptop (Win 7). On that computer, it connected perfectly and I was able to just drag and drop. Piece of cake. But the Nook shows up as a corrupted drive on my home laptop. This is frustrating because it means I can only transfer books at work. And if it weren’t for the work pc, I couldn’t use the Nook at all.

Not having to worry about device conflicts is a huge advantage of real books. So, for now, I’m sticking with that.

G train stops at opto S sign

ProTip: This yellow sign designates where the G train will stop at each platform

Books: The Sixth Extinction & Fourth of July Creek

eReader or not, I certainly do most of my reading on the train or while waiting for the train.

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History is non-fiction from Elizabeth Kolbert. It didn’t hold my interest as much as I had hoped. But some of the discussion about extinction and ecological changes was interesting. The writing is easy to read and understand. I just wasn’t all that interested in the content.

Fourth of July Creek slowly grew on me. This piece of literary fiction by Smith Henderson takes place in Montana and all the dialogue sounds like it. The main character is not one to root for. You soon learn the irony of this social worker who helps other families while his is in the shitter (as he would say). Beautiful prose and interesting, though dark story with lots of characters. I recommend but it took me a bit to get into it, so it’s not for everyone.

What I Mean When I Say I Want To Be A Better Person

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[Trigger Warning: Domestic Violence/Abuse]

I wrote last month that I was going to re-assess in January about my next steps for dating. Well, it is now January and I have decided I’m still not ready to be proactive about dating. I really would like to be as close to being the person I want to date as possible. I want to “be a better person.” Really, I want to be able to meet my own three requirements before I meet someone else who does.

Those ‘requirements’ are:
Someone who I have a physical/emotional connection with
Someone who respects me
Someone who respects others

I’ve come to realize, I don’t always treat people with respect (to put it lightly). How can I expect to find someone who respects me, when I can’t respect them?

This behavior, alone, wouldn’t mean so much to me, but it comes with a lot of negative emotional weight.

I'm not worthless

Can You Ever Truly Escape Childhood Abuse?

I spent my teenage years living with an abusive alcoholic step-father who regularly called me names, pushed me around, and manipulated my emotions. I lived in fear of making him angry. Everything he said was hurtful and was to make him feel powerful. Calling a teenage girl names and shoving her around – that’s some power. But he definitely held power over me and that was all he wanted. He tore me down verbally and emotionally. Instilled so much fear in me, I kept everything a secret. Telling lies just because I didn’t know what would set him off.

Growing up, I learned “when you love someone, you hurt them.”

While I did manage to escape living in that abusive environment by going off to college; that lesson remained instilled in me. Post-college I began dating a guy who was emotionally & verbally abusive right from the beginning.

My boyfriend hurt me and that was how I knew he loved me. We dated for three years.

Overtime, this “it’s not so bad” abuse escalated to physical incidents. After the second major one, I found the strength to leave. Then immediately put myself into therapy. I saw the pattern. I saw what was happening. I thought about raising children who would see their father hit their mother. I thought about what if he were to hit our children? That was the thought that gave me the strength to end it.

From my perspective, I needed therapy to make sure I did not date another abuser. And through therapy, I have been able to learn what I deserve and don’t deserve. I don’t deserve to be hurt by someone who is supposed to care about me. I deserve to be treated with respect.

Among all this, what I hadn’t realized, is not only was I dating someone who hurt me because that felt “comfortable.” But I also had been exhibiting these same negative behaviors to those I love.

I hurt people because I love them. Because it is a “comfortable” behavior.

It’s not uncommon for me to get angry on a dime and yell viciously at a significant other. When I am angry like this, I feel like I’m a different person. Like, I can’t control anything and my mind is somewhere else. I say extremely mean & hurtful things. I am, to put it lightly, very disrespectful to the person who I sincerely love and care about.

And I hate it. I hate knowing that this residual toxin from my childhood still remains. Despite my leaving home, ending a relationship, and going to therapy, old habits are still there.

I cannot comfortably enter another relationship, expecting a connection and respect, until I know that I will be able to return the same. I have been working hard at becoming “a better person” since I left home at 18. I do want and deserve to be happy. I do want and deserve a loving relationship.

I realize I can’t say “I’m not ready” forever. I will never “be ready.” We are works-in-progress. But I do not want to bring this type of negativity into another relationship. I never want to hurt someone I love, in this fucked up power-trip way, because of some “comfortable” behavior I picked-up from an abusive alcoholic as a teenager.

Sometimes, it truly feels like I can’t escape the environment I grew up in. No matter what I do, there is still something there holding me back. But then another feeling is stronger. The feeling of knowing that I’ve come this far – things have gotten better. I have gotten better. I am closer and closer to becoming “a better person.”

Book Review: Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley

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Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Seconds is the first graphic novel from Bryan Lee O’Malley since he finished the Scott Pilgrim series. And it is a fantastic follow-up. The illustrations are cartoonish but unique. They are still obvious in a lot of places but his style is his style. The characters are around the same age and stuck in a weird mix of immature behaviors while having mature real-life positions. Not completely unrealistic. Then some sci-fi/folklore/timetravel/string theory things happen which, although a little confusing, really makes the story interesting.

The story’s main character is Katie. Katie owns a restaurant and is a chef. She is dealing with a bad break-up and is trying to open a second restaurant. She pretty much only dates guys at work. Then becomes obsessed with befriends one of the waitstaff, Hazel, and they develop an odd sort of friendship. Most of the story takes place at Katie’s current restaurant, which is named, Seconds.

Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley artwork

I really loved the coming together of the story here but it seemed like there were really two different stories. One of them doesn’t have a resolution but the one clearly does.

First, there’s the plot line that she gets second chances. Katie can write down a “mistake” in a notebook, eat a mushroom, and go to sleep. Then in the morning it will have been like that mistake never happened. The only rule is that the mistake occurred on the premises of the restaurant. Well, Katie lives in a dumpy apartment right above the restaurant, so that caveat doesn’t affect too much.

As one would expect, Katie gets greedy and starts changing her whole life around. But other things get mixed up in the midst. Things don’t end all happy even when they should be. She goes back too far, erases too much. Then there is a whole string theory bit. That every revision is an entire different world. That part is interesting though far from a new concept. O’Malley’s illustrates the erasures and new revisions in an identifiable way. Through his illustrations we’re able to see more subtle differences within each “revision”, which helps to show just how much is being changed.

Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley inside of comic

Then there is another story-line that isn’t related to her erasing mistakes at all. This storyline involves common folklore about “house spirits”. Katie brings home a clay pot from an abandoned building, which unfortunately contains that building’s house spirit. Of course, her apartment already has a house spirit. So then there is this creepy sort of conflict/battle between the ‘evil’ house spirit and the good one. The evil one is obviously trying to take over. The illustrations are creepy, the atmosphere set is creepy. O’Malley tells all of this very well. It also wasn’t predictable, which made it even more interesting.

In the end, she is able to help the ‘good’ house spirit. And in turn receives help, that resets her world back before she erased anything. (This isn’t a spoiler because it’s exactly as you would expect). So then she truly is given a second chance to do things the right way from that point forward.

I give the book a 4 out of 5 as it was enjoyable and the illustrations worked well with the story. Although you do have to like O’Malley’s drawing style to like the book.

While I was reading this, I couldn’t help but think of another graphic novel I read a few years ago NonNonBa by Shigeru Mizuki. This is a graphic memoir that tells of the Yokai, similar type of house spirits as part of Japanese folk lore. If that part of the story interested you, this is definitely another good read.