Sunday, September 19, 2021

Weekly Goals 20-9-21

I'm not entirely sure why I still do this weekly goals post.  I'm still not writing, so I don't have any writing goals.  I keep expecting a story idea to attack me and demand to be told, but so far, there hasn't been anything like that.  I have read through a lot of my unfinished and almost-finished novels and keep waiting for some inspiration to strike, but again.... nothing.

Maybe one day it will come back.  Maybe not.  This is certainly the longest I've ever gone without writing anything new.  I keep hoping something might come before November so I can do NaNo.  But I'm not going to sign up if I don't have a story I need to tell.  I'm not wasting my precious holiday days to write if there's nothing there to write.

So instead my goal this week is to book my bike in for a service. Daylight savings starts next weekend so I'll be able to ride to work again from next week, but my bike is in desperate need of some professional attention.

What are your goals this week?

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 17-9-21


It's the end of the week, so it's time to Celebrate the Small things...

What am I celebrating this week?

My older son's birthday and finding it hard to believe he's 17!  How did that happen?

It's the weekend and my partner is working right through it so I will have the house, at least the parts that aren't the kids' rooms, to myself.  Which will be nice.

The gym has re-opened, so I will attempt to do a weights class for the first time in weeks.  I imagine it's going to hurt.

A group of friends have plans to go to an art exhibition, but we're not sure exactly what the rules might be around that at this stage, so I'm not entirely sure we will be going.

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Books I've Loved: The Way the Crow Flies


I finished all my library books the first weekend of our latest lockdown and was forced to trawl my bookshelves at home for things to read.  Since the same thing happened during last year's lockdown, I found there wasn't much there I hadn't read recently.  

Then I came upon this book and decided to give it a whirl.

Basically it is a family saga spanning twenty-years in the McCarthy family.  But at the same time it's a mystery and a thoughtful examination of Canada's part in the Cold War.

The McCarthys are an Air Force family.  The book opens as they are driving to the Air Force base in the middle of nowhere that will be their new home after their most recent posting in Germany.  Father, Jack, is excited to be returning to Centralia where he did his training.  He has happy memories of the base, despite it being the site of the plane crash that scuppered his flying career just as the War was ramping up.

The living quarters at Centralia create a picture-perfect suburbia.  There is ample space for the kids to play, but they are rarely out of sight from one or more attentive mother.  It doesn't take long for Madeline, the younger of the McCarthy's two children, to make friends within the community.

Wife, Mimi, beautiful, exotic and still very much in love with her husband, Jack, is so used to re-settling, it takes no time at all to get the house looking and feeling like a home.  She quickly befriends the other wives and is easily accepted into their social groups.

Jack has a little more trouble settling in.  He has things on his mind.  Secret things.  He has been asked by an old acquaintance to be part of a top secret mission.  Initially, it doesn't seem hard, but as the demands on him become greater, he finds himself in the difficult position of having to lie to his wife to protect his secrets.

And when a local girl, a girl in his beloved Madeline's class, is murdered, he finds himself in a position where his loyalties are torn.  Unable to reconcile the secret with the public and his own role in the events spiraling out of control, he gives his daughter advice that will echo through the next twenty years of  their lives.

I loved this book.  The Cold War setting gave even the most idyllic moments a sense of disquiet and unease.  Madeline is a very real child, dealing with questions and moral ambiguity beyond her ability to understand.  The supporting characters are also really well drawn, particularly the slightly odd German neighbors who Jack quickly befriends.

It is a long book, and I feel like there are definitely parts that could have been edited down, or cut out, but it is very enjoyable and will keep you guessing right until the very last pages.

Definitely recommended!

But don't just listen to me.  Here's the blurb:

The optimism of the early sixties, infused with the excitement of the space race and the menace of the Cold War, is filtered through the rich imagination of high-spirited, eight-year-old Madeleine, who welcomes her family's posting to a quiet Air Force base near the Canadian border. Secure in the love of her beautiful mother, she is unaware that her father, Jack, is caught up in a web of secrets. When a very local murder intersects with global forces, Jack must decide where his loyalties lie, and Madeleine will be forced to learn a lesson about the ambiguity of human morality -- one she will only begin to understand when she carries her quest for the truth, and the killer, into adulthood twenty years later.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Weekly Goals 13-9-21

 I'm afraid I don't really have any goals this week.  I haven't thought of any, and since I didn't really fulfill any of last week's, it seems a little pointless to set any for this week.

The gym has re-opened, so I'm very keen to get back into my regular routine there again.  I hate to think how low my weights are going to need to be this weekend, after a month or so of not lifting.  And just when I'd managed to build up to a decent level again too!

But that's about it for goals.  I'm not even going to say I'll write this week because it's pretty clear that I'm not going to write.  There's nothing there, as much as I want there to be.

What are your goals this week?

Friday, September 10, 2021

Celebrate the Small Things 10-9-21


It's the end of the week, so it's time to Celebrate the Small things...

What am I celebrating this week?

The beginning of a return to normality, really.  Auckland is still in lockdown, but the rest of the country has moved into Level 2 which means things are beginning to go back to normal.  It's a little different than last time we were here because Delta is so much more transmissible so the government is being much more cautious.  

I went back to the office on Thursday and it is just so much nicer working form there than on my own at home.  Most people were still working from home so it was super quiet, but most of my team were there.

My cat, Lola, went missing last Friday afternoon.  She's done this before, so I wasn't too worried about her until she still hadn't shown up on Monday.  When she was still missing on Tuesday, I started doing all those things you do for lost pets - listing her on the missing pet websites, community message boards etc and registering her microchip as being a missing cat.  I printed flyers and put them in all the neighbors' letter-boxes.  

Still no sign of Lola.

Then yesterday afternoon my partner sent me a video text of her just wandering casually into the dining room as if she hadn't been away for a full week.  What a relief!  I have no idea where she has been, and probably won't ever find out, but she doesn't look any worse for wear, just a little skinnier than she was when she left.  My partner says he thought she smelled like old lady when she came home, which makes me wonder if she decided to move in with the 103-year-old woman who lives behind us for a few days...

What are you celebrating this week?

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Books I've Read: Outside Looking In


I seem to have picked up a few of T.C. Boyle's books recently, after not having read anything by him for a number of years.  Not really on purpose either, just because they looked interesting.

This one is set at Harvard in the 1960s.  Fitz is a graduate student, married with a child and a little older than most of the other grad students in his psych class.  Yet still young enough to be as much in the thrall of of his charismatic professor as any of the other students. 

Tim is experimenting on the cutting edge of psychology, using LSD, a drug first synthesised in Germany during WWII, to explore the possibilities of the human mind.  It is a course requirement that all the students partake and Tim hosts regular Saturday night gatherings for his acolytes.  Fitz is initially wary, but wants to remain in the course and does not want to be isolated from Tim.

When he and Joanie join their first gathering, the drug blows both their minds.  Everything is better, heightened by LSD.

Before long, what began as clinical trials starts spinning out of control.  Tim's core group spends a summer away from the university, living and tripping as a new community in Mexico.  Lines and loyalties blur as this enlightened community searches for God and the meaning of existence while on increasingly large doses of hallucinogens.

When their lifestyle experiments lead to expulsion from Harvard, they move into an empty rural mansion to continue their search for enlightenment.  But as time goes on, financial considerations, loyalties and the shifting group dynamics make what once seemed like paradise into a living hell.

I kind of enjoyed this book, even though all the characters - and there were a lot of them - really irritated me.  It felt very real and exactly what I imagine commune living to be like.  There is a reason why I don't live on a commune...

Weirdly, it never occurred to me that the Tim in the book was supposed to be Timothy Leary!  Guess I should have read the blurb before I started reading.  I might have read him differently if I had figured that out.  Although I doubt he would have been any less irritating.

If you're interested in the '60s counterculture, this is a good introduction that doesn't gloss over the downsides of living a perpetually high life.  I'd recommend it, but with the caveat that the characters are kind of losers and difficult to like.

But don't just listen to me. Here's the blurb:

A provocative new novel from bestselling author T.C. Boyle exploring the first scientific and recreational forays into LSD and its mind-altering possibilities

In this stirring and insightful novel, T.C. Boyle takes us back to the 1960s and to the early days of a drug whose effects have reverberated widely throughout our culture: LSD.

In 1943, LSD is synthesized in Basel. Two decades later, a coterie of grad students at Harvard are gradually drawn into the inner circle of renowned psychologist and psychedelic drug enthusiast Timothy Leary. Fitzhugh Loney, a psychology Ph.D. student and his wife, Joanie, become entranced by the drug’s possibilities such that their “research” becomes less a matter of clinical trials and academic papers and instead turns into a free-wheeling exploration of mind expansion, group dynamics, and communal living. With his trademark humor and pathos, Boyle moves us through the Loneys’ initiation at one of Leary’s parties to his notorious summer seminars in Zihuatanejo until the Loneys’ eventual expulsion from Harvard and their introduction to a communal arrangement of thirty devotees—students, wives, and children—living together in a sixty-four room mansion and devoting themselves to all kinds of experimentation and questioning.

Is LSD a belief system? Does it allow you to see God? Can the Loneys’ marriage—or any marriage, for that matter—survive the chaotic and sometimes orgiastic use of psychedelic drugs? Wry, witty, and wise, Outside Looking In is an ideal subject for this American master, and highlights Boyle’s acrobatic prose, detailed plots, and big ideas. It’s an utterly engaging and occasionally trippy look at the nature of reality, identity, and consciousness, as well as our seemingly infinite capacities for creativity, re-invention, and self-discovery.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Weekly Goals 6-9-21

 Heading into week three in lockdown...  The government are making an announcement this afternoon that will likely change the alert levels sometime this week.  Fingers crossed we go down to a level where we can leave home again.

The weather has been gorgeous all weekend, if a little windy, so fingers crossed that lasts.  If we have to stay home, at least the weather could co-operate and allow us to get out for a walk.

My goals this week are pretty simple.  Keep querying.  Try to write something, anything, it doesn't matter. I just need to exercise that muscle again before it atrophies completely.

Keep exercising daily to keep myself sane.

What are your goals this week?