Because the world kind of sucks.

Are you, like me, a privileged white person looking for something you can do to make a difference? Are you, like me, a Karen, looking for a way to make amends for all the idiot Karens out there?

I won’t say “look no further”. In face, look further. Look much further. But here’s a place to start. There is a LOT to consume, and with that in mind, I recommend picking a few things you can honestly commit to doing, and then building from there. As for me, I will commit to donating money to BLM, every other book I read will be from an anti-racism reading list for at least the next year or 12 books (whichever comes last) and I will actively look for POC-owned businesses to support.

This is a small list to start – I will keep updating it as I find more.

Anti-racism resources

Vancouver Resources & businesses to support

A White Woman’s Guide

A White Guyde

Resources supporting BLM

Heartbreaking videos you need to watch

  • How to teach your children how not to be murdered by the police:

https://www.facebook.com/rahmatallahi/videos/3091903507537223

  • Trevor Noah’s moving message:

 https://www.theloop.ca/trevor-noah-delivers-powerful-daily-show-monologue-about-george-floyd-protests/

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Peak Performance

Peak Performance; Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success. By Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness

I started this self-help book a long time ago (a long, long, loooonnnnnnng time ago in today’s world). I was pleasantly surprised to find it chock full of practical and useful advice (unlike most self-help books) on how to get the most out of your daily life.

Then, just as I was about to start getting more out of *my* daily life, along came COVID-19 and of my precious waking hours I now spend about 95% of them on my phone, looking at the same damn reports and advice over and over again. Thus, in an attempt to break that terrible habit, I give you what I learned from Peak Performance, or tips for living your best life.

Tip #1: Multitasking is not a thing.

Don’t believe me? The science says so. Multitasking is actually just singletasking with really fast gear-changing. There are two problems with this. One is that changing gears to refocus on a different task wastes valuable and potentially productive energy. Another is that you are not allowing yourself to fully concentrate on one task, which maximizes your productivity. It’s a hard habit to break, but seems like it might be worth it.

(Put your phone away … the COVID news will still be there in an hour)

Tip #2: Singletask in time blocks of less than 2 hours each.

Turns out a lot of studies show that we can’t maintain peak concentration on a single task for more than about 90 mins. Two hours, tops. So plan on taking a nice break for 15 or 20 minutes if you successfully focus for this long on a task. These days, I’m pretty happy if I stay focused for 9 mins, let along 90, but this just gives me a stretch goal to strive for.

(Don’t check your phone for COVID news on your 15 min break. Take an actual break.)

Tip #3: Distractions steal energy.

Not very surprisingly, your phone is a distraction (a BIG one these days). More surprisingly, setting your phone off to the side is still a distraction if it’s still visible to you. And it takes energy to ignore distractions while you are trying to concentrate on an important task.  I personally used this helpful tip by hiding my Tardis candy jar at work when I was cutting out desserts and chocolate for a month. Hiding the candy is better than having it sit out in plain sight, but actually it turns out your brain still knows it’s there, so best is to either toss it out (NEVER!) or have someone else take it away for as long as needed.

(Seriously. Put your phone away.)

Tip #4: MEDITATE.

Blah Blah Blah. EVERY self-improvement and personal health book recommends that you meditate. It’s like a conspiracy! Unless they are actually all onto something ….

(MEDITATE)

Tip #5: Get enough sleep.

Totally do this! It’s not a badge of honour to brag about how little sleep you are getting because of your “hard work” or your “active lifestyle”. You may be doing a lot of things, but you’re not really doing a lot things efficiently or effectively. Again, there’s tons of science here. Plus, there are lots of benefits to getting enough sleep that people spend lots of waking hours trying to achieve – weight loss, improved health, increased mental acuity, increased energy. Honestly, is there anything easier than just going to bed?

(STAY HOME. That’s also easy!)

Tip #6: Minimize extraneous decisions.

This tip is not for me, but apparently many extremely successful people (men) have elected to wear the exact same outfit every day (Jobs, Zuckerberg) in order to reduce the number of decisions they have to make per day. Seems extreme. That said, when I’m really, really tired I can attest that making decisions seems like a lot of unnecessary energy. Decisions like “where should we go for dinner” or “do you want to watch reruns of Friends or The Big Band Theory tonight”? Maybe making decisions does take more energy than I thought!

(Wash your hands all the time. And STAY HOME.)

Tip #7: Transcend your “self”

This tip, the book argues, will help you to create core values and a purpose that are more motivating and that will allow you to break through self-imposed limits set to protect your ego. I suppoooossse that’s possible.

(Self-isolate! Help other people by staying away from them!)

There are LOTS of other tips in this book that are actually useful and helpful. Surprisingly, I liked and would recommend this one.

Rating: Buy it from Kindle, or wait until we can safely move about and then pick up a copy from a local bookstore who is surely suffering by now.

Posted in Books, Nonfiction | Comments Off on Peak Performance

Humble Pi

Humble Pi, by Matt Parker

Matt Parker is a ginormous* math nerd who has compiled together a collection of entertaining accounts of Math Gone Wrong. Stories of mathematical mistakes range from fuel-depleted airplanes to computer memory leaks, and for the most part, nobody gets hurt. But, to be fair, it’s pretty much impossible not to suffer a few losses when bridges and buildings collapse, so a few tragedies manage to slip on the back of more sombre cautionary tales about the dangerous of treading close to limits of our current body of knowledge.

What follows are a few of my favourite anecdotes for your personal enjoyment!

Y2K, The Sequel

Calendars create all sorts of opportunities for mathematical anomalies and mistakes. When Britain adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752, they had to move forward 11 days to align correctly with the other Gregorian countries (British calendars that year jumped from Sept 2 to Sept 14 overnight!). A more contemporary concern with calendars was the “Y2K Bug”, which was actually a computer problem at heart. Simply put, before the year 2000 it was common to shortcut year numbers to their last two digits: we went to the moon in ’69, I was born in ’65, the Challenger disaster was in ’86 and so on (Prince broke the pattern when he partied like it was 1999.) Computers were similarly programmed to shortcut the years as 2 digit numbers, either because programming space was precious in those days or because programmers are lazy. The concern was that when the date/time clicked over on New Years Eve of 1999, computer clocks would roll over from ’99 to ’00 (the 2 digit version of 100) and world-wide disasters would unfold. Of course, this never happened, mostly due to the extremely under-appreciate effort of thousands of programmers hired to fix the problem before it occurred.

However, a lessor-known but equally as disastrous computer deficiency still lurks out there. This deficiency is due to detonate on January 19, 2038 at exactly 3:14:07 am. This computer bomb lives in Unix operating systems and has to do with how these systems keep track of time. For unknown reasons (and I say unknown because I’m too lazy to look them up – see the above reference to programmer apathy), Unix programmers decided to keep track of time by “counting” the number of seconds that have passed since a common start time, and they initiated this counter on January 1, 1970. Seems arbitrary, yet safe enough! However, Unix computers use 32 “bits” to store binary numbers, which are long strings of ones and zeros, and on Jan 19, 2038 3:14:07, exactly 2,147,483,647 will have passed. This very big number looks like this in binary:  1111111111111111111111111111111.**  The bomb goes off when the computer tries to add one more second, at which point the number changes to 10000000000000000000000000000000. The leading 1 in this case exceeds the available space and pushes into the adjacent spot in the computer’s memory. Writing numbers to random spots in computer memory is, generally speaking, something you want to avoid, and we really have no idea what the results of this will be. The bad news is that a lot of transportation and communication systems use a Unix operating system. The good news is that there is lots of time to make the necessary fixes. Let’s hope we do!

The Wobbly Bridge

Bridge mistakes have been a favourite of mine since my first year engineering professor treated us to this video of the Tacoma Narrows bridge collapsing (skip ahead to 1:38). The bridge was built across the (surprise) Tacoma Narrows and on the fateful day, wind blowing down the narrows caused the bridge to flutter, and a subsequent feedback loop amplified this wind+flutter effect. Eventually the excessive flutter caused the bridge to collapse spectacularly.

Another bridge in London, known as the Millennium Bridge, was built with cutting-edge, side-suspension  technology. Unfortunately, this design had a resonant frequency of about 1 Hz, very similar to the walking gate of an average person. The result was that, with enough pedestrian traffic walking synchronously (which happened more often than you might think), the bridge would start to sway side to side, earning it the illustrious nickname of “The Wobbly Bridge”. The wobble has since been fixed through dampening, but the nickname has stuck to this day.

A Tale of Two Monties

Coincidentally, there are two fascinating mathematical mistakes in statistics and probability which, respectively, are known as the Monte Carlo fallacy and the Monty Hall Problem. The first, the Monte Carlo fallacy, is based on the mistaken belief that a series of independent events somehow influence the outcome of the next event in the sequence. The tossing of coins provides a common example. If a coin is tossed 9 times in a row and lands heads every time, it is a common mistake to believe that there is a greater chance that the 10th toss will result in tails because it is very unlikely that heads would turn up 10 times in a row (in other words, tails is “due”). In fact, the 10th toss is unaffected by any prior tosses, and the chance of the coin landing as tails is 50%, as it is with every other toss. (Note that it is possible to calculate the probability of tossing a coin to heads 10 times in a row, and this probability is absolutely different than the probability of a tenth toss being heads or tails. Not at all confusing!)

The Monty Hall problem is named after the host of the 1960’s popular game show Let’s Make a Deal. In this situation, you are asked to pick between three doors, one of which contains a grand prize. Spoiler alert – at this point you have a 1 in 3, or 33.3%, chance of picking the correct door. Things change, however, when the game master opens one of the remaining two doors to show you that it does not contain the prize, and then gives you the option to stick with your original selection or to switch to the other remaining closed door. Should you stick, or should you switch? In fact, switching doors increases your probability of winning from 33.3 % to 66.7%. The internet lost its collective mind when presented with this mathematical nugget, but it’s absolutely true, and there are explanations galore if you care to google it. Math works in mysterious ways!

The Office Space Gambit

Rounding is a mathematical trick that allows you to get rid of excess decimals in a number. For example, if you and your friend want to split a treat that costs $2.25, you would each have to pay exactly $1.125. But since there is no such thing as 0.125 of a dollar, you can round the $1.125 up to $1.13 or down to $1.12 (when you and your friend share the cost of this treat, one of you is getting hosed for a penny). A fun idea is figuring out how to exploit the concept of rounding to your financial benefit. Consider the treat-splitting calculation another way – if I were the one selling the treat, I could tell you that half the cost was $1.13 (rounded up from $1.125) and then tell your friend that her share of the cost was also $1.13 (rounded up from $1.125). Unless you and your friend compared notes, neither of you has any real reason to suspect a problem with my math, and I can collect $2.26 and conveniently pocket $0.01. If I did this to 100 people in a day, I would make a cool one dollar. Not exactly enough to retire to that villa in Tuscany, but what if I could apply this trick to the millions of transactions that a bank or an investment firm makes every day? Would that be enough? In fact, this is the plot of the delightful 1999 (’99) movie Office Space, where a group of cubicle-hating employees exploit this very loophole hoping to make a few bucks off the company they despise and miscalculate their proceeds by a factor of about 100,000. Math is important in crime!

Conversion Matters

The Gimli Glider is one of my favourite stories of all time. It’s a Canadian bad math story where crazy good luck wins out in the end. In 1983 (’83), Canada was making the switch from the Imperial system of measurement (yuck) to Metric (yay!). The pilots and maintenance crew of an Air Canada 767 made a series of bad mistakes that included miscalculating the conversion from pounds to kilograms of fuel and inadvertently ended up with half the fuel they needed to fly from Montreal to Edmonton. As a result, the plane ran out of fuel over Manitoba, just about halfway to it’s destination. At this point, a series of good luck events intervened and the pilot was was able to miraculously glide the plane to a safe landing at an abandoned air field in Gimli, Manitoba. This story is so magnificent that I strongly recommend you read about it in full here. It turns out you can buy luggage tags made from the fuselage of the airplane, for good luck. It’s up to you what kind of luck you choose to believe that running out of fuel at 41,000 feet counts as!

The Statistics of Large Numbers

The last thing I’ll say in reference to this book is that if you have enough data points, even the most unlikely-seeming event is likely to happen. So the next time someone tells you how amazing it is that just as they were thinking of a specific person, that person suddenly called them out of the blue, remember this. In a world of 7.8 billion people, even if the odds were a million to one that the person you are thinking of suddenly calls you in that exact same moment, this would still happen 7,800 times!

Rating: Buy this book, it’s sooo good!

* It’s a perfectly cromulent word

** If you took the time to count, you probably noticed this is only 31 ones, and this is because the 32nd bit is reserved to indicate +/- sign.

Posted in Books, Nonfiction | 2 Comments

Reminiscing about The Far Side

The Complete Far Side, by Gary Larsen

The weighty collection

The Complete Far Side was a Christmas gift from my nephew, perhaps the highest weight-to-size ratio of any gift ever! I secretly believe this was to get me back for my giving him Neil Stephenson’s Reamde a few years ago.

This amazingly huge collection contains every Far Side cartoon that was ever syndicated, with few bonus panels at the end, which I can only assume are a reward for making it that far.

By way of introduction, in case you aren’t the huge fan that I am, the cartoon below is perhaps one of the most famous, and is also, conveniently, generally representative of his work.

hahahaha 🙂

I read The Far Side religiously when it was being published, and would cut out my favourites to post on my office door (alongside the best Dilbert and Calvin & Hobbes, of course). Despite the near impossible nature of the task, I have managed to select what I consider to be some of the best Far Side cartoons to share with you here.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Dogs v Cats

Each cartoon of this pair is, frankly, only mildly funny, and neither on their own, would have bubbled up to my relatively small list of faves. But together they are hilarious. Comedy genius! I’m not wrong!!

  

God v Satan

A classic Larson move is to present God or Satan in an everyday situation. For example, God killing it on Jeopardy, or Satan getting irritated by a Hell-bound nerd asking “hot enough for you?” God making the snake makes me laugh out loud every time. Maybe it’s how he calls it a “cinch”. And I just love this Hell cartoon – the expression on Satan’s face as he realizes his mom (his MOM!!!) is giving treats to the accursed … brilliant!

   

Dogs v Dogs

Larson is a huge fan of cows. A HUGE fan. But I am partial to his dog cartoons. Trouble Brewing happens to be a favourite because I read it not long after seeing the movie “A Dingo Ate My Baby” (okay, okay, that wasn’t the actual name of the movie … but I challenge you to come up with the real title.) Meanwhile, Life Raft Dog embodies all of the brilliance of The Far Side in one panel – hilarious animal facial expression, naive humans, and a subtle reference to the actual joke. But really, it’s just the look on that dog’s face.

   

Exploration v Exploitation

Sometimes it’s just the wording of a minor expression in the overall text of the comic. “God, I hate him”. Hahahahaha!!!! “As usual” on the other hand … stingingly on point.

   

Aliens v People

Last, but definitely not least, I leave you with my absolute favourite Far Side of all time! I refuse to spoil it by explaining why.

Rating: I can’t believe you don’t already have this on your bookshelf!

 

Posted in Books, Humour | 1 Comment

Eifelheim Ancient Aliens

Eifelheim, by Michael Flynn (not to be confused with retired United States Army Lieutenant General and convicted felon Michael Flynn)

On the surface, this would seem like a book that’s right up my alley. An alien ship crash-lands in 14th century rural Germany, while in the current-day 21st century a new kind of multi-dimensional physics is discovered. Ooooh, fun!

Except the book seems to get everything wrong.

The 21st century discoverer of the new physics is dating a 21st century student of ancient civilizations who is studying, of course, the 14th century community where the aliens crash landed. Although these two are dating, they don’t seem to like each other very much. This is probably because neither of them is very likeable.  She doesn’t know why he keeps talking to her in German (actually, neither do I) and he doesn’t know why she isn’t more excited about his ancient German village.  Therapy would not be wasted on these two.

We also spend WAAAYYYYYY too much time learning about the minutia of life styles and religious rituals of 1348. I admit to skimming through a lot of this detail because !!ugh!! and also, I wanted to get back to 2009 to see what was up even though I didn’t really like the 2009 characters. By contrast, the modern story raced along and was very light on details (in hindsight, this was probably for the best).

A key element of what sparked interest in the study of the ancient village was a gap in an expected evolutionary pattern of modern day village settlements. Interesting! This sounds like a super-fun idea! Was it because the ancient site was cursed by an invasion of stranded aliens? Did the area somehow get flagged as taboo? Did an evil tiki idol place a curse anyone who tried to settle there? The most interesting question raised at the beginning of the book is actually never answered! Disappointing! Unless, of course, I skimmed over that part…..

Just a final note. I borrowed this from a friend of mine – we’ll call him John Waterunder – and I dread him asking me how I liked it. Just another reason not to borrow beloved books from friends!!

Rating: skip it (although “John” would tell you to buy it immediately and read it multiple times)

Posted in Books, SciFi | Comments Off on Eifelheim Ancient Aliens

Better Late Than Never – 2019 un fait accompli

2019 was not a stellar year for reading. It was, however, a good year for learning about reading. Or, should I say, learning about not reading. Here are a few of my 2019 insights if I really want to read more in 2020:

  1. Take a break from other people’s recommendations. This includes book clubs, which are designed to maximize your time spent reading other people’s book choices. It also includes friend recommendations that you are told you “absolutely have to read”. Also business books, which I would almost never pick out of a lineup as something I really want to read. And most definitely books about “happiness”.  Goal for 2020: look for a few neglected authors and series from the past few years and pick them back up.
  2. Overworking is not sustainable. Due to a high-profile project on a very tight timeline, and my role as lead project manager, I spent more than half the year working 10-11 hour days and then would spend the evening in a state of exhaustion watching reruns of Seinfeld (this is true). Any books I read during this time were likely on airplanes if I wasn’t clearing out my email.  Goal for 2020: regular work hours. That is all. As a corollary, regular work hours are set to Pacific Time.
  3. Social media kills! It kills time. It kills creativity. It kills motivation. It kills conversation. I spent WAY too much time skulking around on Facebook and Twitter in 2019. However, here’s my dilemma in terms of a goal for 2020. My extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins are all on Facebook. My local friends are primarily on Instagram. My carefully curated follows designed to maximize my enjoyment and happiness is on Twitter. What is the best way to reduce my social media time? Set a social-media-free day per week? Limit each day to under 3o mins? Limit apps to days of the week, i.e. Twitter Tuesdays, Facebook Fridays, and so on? Ack!!

So that’s what 2020 is going to look like. We’ll see what kind of impact it has on the reading list. Meanwhile, here is my somewhat lacklustre 2019:

  1. in a dark, dark wood, by Ruth Ware
  2. A Briefer History of Time, by Stephen Hawking
  3. Essentialism, by Greg McKeown
  4. The Disappeared, by Kim Echlin
  5. Leave me, by Gayle Forman
  6. A Brightness Long Ago, Guy Gavriel Kay *
  7. To Heaven and Back, Mary C. Neal, MD
  8. The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware
  9. Conversations with Friends, Sally Rooney
  10. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
  11. The Other Einstein, by Marie Benedict
  12. The Difference, by Marina Endicott *
  13. Haunted Ground, by Erin Hart

 * My two favourite books of 2019

Posted in Books | 3 Comments

Procrastination Nation

My commitment to 2020 is to be more diligent with both reading and writing about reading. I have procrastinated the crap out of 2019, and in the interest of getting a fresh start, here is a quick wrap on the books I read but didn’t get around to posting.

To Heaven and Back, Mary C. Neal, MD

  • This is a difficult book to write about, and is partially responsible for my procrastination. Mary C. Neal had a Near Death Experience (NDE) while white-water kayaking (totally relatable!) and wrote this book to share with the world her proof that Heaven exists and to help people find their way “back” to God. Not a book for me, I’m afraid. In addition to her NDE, she also lost her son in an accident, and this is what inspired me to read it. I was hoping to find some insight into what my friends have been going through since they, too, lost their son in an ATV accident. Truthfully, I don’t think it’s possible to understand their loss, but I am going to continue to try to get closer. Rating: Not for me.

The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware

  • A more fantastical mystery than Ruth Ware’s in a dark dark wood, but not without some entertainment value. I like it enough to read more of her books, but only because I’m hopeful that this is not her best work. Rating: Maybe borrow  it?

Conversations with Friends, Sally Rooney

  • I didn’t love this book, and I didn’t hate it. I’m not even sure how to describe it. Two young college women who used to date now spend their days engaged in philosophical discussions with an older journalist, while one of the girls has an affair with said journalists husband, which is a secret to no one.  They all just seem misguided and selfish, moving strangely through life and trying to find some kind of meaning within the naive philosophising of youth. Rating: I wish I had skipped this one.

Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

  • Once upon a time, I watched a delightful and charming movie called Stardust. I was equally delighted to find out that this movie was based on a book of the same name by Neil Gaiman! So I bought this book immediately and read it on a flight. The book is not exactly how I remember the movie, but it was wonderful all the same. A young man sets off to find a fallen star to present to his true love as a matrimonial gift. Once he finds the star, which turns out to be in the form of a young women, he and the star travel together back to his home, and, well, adventure ensues! Rating: watch the movie for sure.

The Other Einstein, by Marie Benedict

  • In an emerging new genre, this book is written from the perspective of the first wife of Albert Einstein, who was a gifted physicist in her own right. She was accepted into a university physics program at a time when women were rare at university and virtually non-existent in advanced sciences. If the book is to be believed, Einstein was originally attracted to her intelligence but over the course of time was, at best, not a nice person, and at worst, abusive. He may even have claimed contributions that she made to his theory of relativity as his own ideas. Men taking credit for the work of women, a story as old as time. Rating: Read it, develop a healthy dislike for Albert Einstein.

The Difference, by Marina Endicott

  • Marina Endicott comes through again with a simply magnificent book about two sisters on a sailing adventure around the world in 1912. The elder sister is married to the captain of a merchant ship, and  the younger sister accompanies them on the trip in an attempt to calm her inner demons. The book elegantly weaves stories of Canadian residential schools (our great national shame), cultural relations, and the true story of the purchase of a young Polynesian boy from his father as the main characters seek to calibrate their own moral compasses. Marina’s writing is just beautiful … I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Rating: BUY IT.

Haunted Ground, by Erin Hart

  • Grandfathered into the right to dig the Irish peat bog, a family comes across the grisly remains of a red-headed Irish woman who appears to have been beheaded a century ago.  As archaeologists search for clues to the woman’s identity, a modern-day missing person’s case is also underway to locate a mother and young son from the same community.  I didn’t love it. Rating: Skip it.

That completes my book list – I’ll publish a full (short) list of my 2019 books as well, which you are more than welcome to skip.

 

 

Posted in Books | 1 Comment

It’s a strange strange strange strange strange world

Strange Planet, by Nathan W Pyle

After months and months of reading nothing but email (it’s a work story, I won’t bore you), I finally found my way back to books. In this case, via a gateway book called Strange Planet. It’s a 150-page cartoon strip that delightfully imagines our world through the eyes of a community of adorable alien visitors. The aliens don’t know the correct human English names for things, of course. And really, why would we expect them to? Instead, the aliens use descriptive names that seem sensible:

  • Tiny trash = confetti
  • Star damage = sunburn
  • Death cylinder = flower vase

Perhaps the alien words are actually more sensible than ours …

By way of example, this is one of my favourites:

It’s worthwhile to follow Nathan on twitter @nathanwpyle or on instagram at nathanwpyle.

Fully disclosing that he is a christian and therefore holds some traditional christian views that may not be in alignment with your personal values. However, his comic is not used as a platform to espouse these views, it’s just a sweet look at everyday life. There is some pressure online to boycott him, which I think is frankly kind of silly, and you’d be missing out on a feel-good part of the internet, of which there are fewer and fewer these days.

Rating: Buy it! Or at least give the guy a follow.

Posted in Books, Humour | 1 Comment

Sir Paul McCartney

I love music, especially songs I can sing very loudly to (in my car. by myself.) and I am good at recognizing songs I’ve heard before. I am very bad, however, at remembering song names and differently bad at knowing song lyrics. With names, I simply never really bother to learn them. With lyrics, I cherry pick a few easy-to-hear words and then fill in everything else with words that seem to make sensible-sounding sentences. Case in point: for most of my life I though the lyric was “knocking me out with those American eyes.” My husband would still be shaming me for this if there weren’t SO many other examples to choose from.

Armed with theses musical talents, I headed off to the Paul McCartney concert (a HUGE shout out to my friend Andi who came up with an extra ticket and offered it to me). Because there was only one ticket, I decided to take notes on his set list, which is something my husband would be inclined to find interesting. The result was a mash-up of limited song name & lyric skills, typos, and blatant ignorance. I present this list below exactly as recorded, and leave it to you to guess which effects were in play.

  1. Hard day’s night
  2. All my loving
  3. I think I’d let you go
  4. Who cares I do
  5. Go to get you into my life
  6. New one from carpool Karaoke I come on to you?
  7. Let me roller it?
  8. I’ve got a feeling … Oh yeah
  9. Someone’s knocking at the door
  10. My valentine?
  11. Wings
  12. Baby I’m amazed
  13. Falling (Simon and Garfunkel?)
  14. Quarrymen song – anything you want me to
  15. If there anything that you need …
  16. Everybody dance tonight
  17. Love me do
  18. Blackbird
  19. If you were here today
  20. ??? Lots of stars on video *
  21. Lady Madonna
  22. Eleanor Rigby
  23. Something new – I just wan to??
  24. Weird St pepper song
  25. Something in the way she moves ukelee
  26. Desmond
  27. If o ever get out of here
  28. Band on the run
  29. Back in the ussr
  30. Let it be
  31. Live and let die
  32. Hey Jude

Encore:

  1. It’s your birthday
  2. St pepper
  3. Hwlter skelter
  4. Carry back ways

In case you want to see the actual set list, you can find it here.

Ultimately, it was a really great show. It wasn’t pandering, avoiding the potential pitfall of being a greatest hits show, and really showcased songs from across his entire music career. There was some story-telling, a huge variety of instruments including the above-mentioned ukulele, and in one case, some pretty sweet pyrotechnics that made me thankful I’m not epileptic.

* Turns out this was Queenie Eye, and he may have been showing the actual video for the song. 

Posted in Music | 2 Comments

Brightness, Here and Now

A Brightness Long Ago, by Guy Gavriel Kay

I’m not going to try to write about Guy Gavriel Kay’s new book, because his writing is SO beautiful and it intimidates me to the point of incapacity to even think about this blog. Instead, I’m going to write about reading his books, a failed experiment, and one special Tweet by Miranda1452 (who is me). Not necessarily in that order.

First, the experiment. Typically, when I read GGK, I am so absorbed and entranced by his books that I binge-read until I’m done. This time, however, I decided to go with a savouring approach and limit myself to one chapter per day. Here’s why. Once, at a GGK book reading, Guy asked my friend if he liked the book and my friend replied that he read it in about 4 hours straight because he couldn’t put it down, and the look of dismay on Guy’s face was so astonishing! I figured, here’s a man who took years of his life to create this beautiful, poetic work of are, and we turn around and consume it in a few hours. So my decision was an attempt to extend, and more fully appreciate, his writing. The unexpected side effect, however, was that I didn’t get drawn into his story like I usually do, because I so frequently took myself out of it. And I have to say, not only did I miss the feeling of being immersed, I felt like I was less able to fully appreciated his work.

Which brings me to the Special Tweet. I always struggle to describe the feeling of losing myself in a GGK story, so imagine my surprise when he, himself, describes it perfectly in Brightness:

We want to sink into the tale, leave our own lives behind, find lives to encounter, even to enter for a time. We can resist being reminded of the artificer, the craft. We want to be immersed, lost, not remember what it is we are doing, having done to us, as we turn pages, look at a painting, hear a song, watch a dance.

Still, that is what is being done to us. It is.

Even so … we do turn the page, and can be lost again. And in that deep engagement we may find ourselves, or be changed, because the stories we are told become so much of what we are, how we understand our own days.

This is what I tweeted about. And … Guy Gavriel Kay liked it! And me – did I uphold a sense of dignity and self-respect, or did I fan-girl all over that shit? Oh, I think you can guess the answer to that …

The Tweet

The Like

Lastly, on reading GGK books. Many of his books take place in the same fantasy universe, and in case you have always been wondering about the relative timelines and relationships between his books to date, I give you the following.

Fionavar & Ysabel

The Fionavar Tapestry takes place in our world, in “present day” Toronto as well as in the fantasy realm of Fionavar (time unknown). Ysabel takes place in our world maybe 20-30 years later with some fun references to Fionavar.

Arbonne & Tigana

These could both potentially be shoe-horned into the same universe as the Sarantine world books, but in fact I think they are intended to be independent, both from the other books and from each other. However, regardless of that intent, they appear to mirror events from ~1200 AD  (Medieval Spain) and ~1500 AD (Renaissance Italy) respectively.

Under Heaven & River of Stars

These books take place about 300 years apart in the sequence published, in a world that resembles the ancient Chinese dynasties of Tang and Song.

The remaining books are all of the Sarantium world (for lack of a better reference, as the actual world in which they take place is unnamed). For these, I have drawn up a nerdy little timeline presented below. I’ve included Under Heaven and River of Stars for good measure, since it’s possible they occur within the same world:

And with that, I settle in for the very long wait until the next GGK book is released. I. Can’t. Wait.

Rating: Buy it and add it to your GGK collection, which you should already own.

Posted in Books, Fantasy | 3 Comments