It’s Italian!

Or, it will be in another hour.

Now, for an explanation of that title. “It’s Italian!” was the name of the Italian restaurant at the old State Street Marshall Field’s store. It always sounded like the title of a Monty Python skit. Maybe a racist one. Maybe something excruciatingly erudite about Dante or Renaissance art. Maybe both.

At any rate, I’ve finished my two months of German and am moving on to my two months of Italian. I’m also working part-time on Vietnamese, because I’ve decided once and for all that that will be my fifth non-English language. I changed “foreign” to “non-English” because, well, Hawaiian* is definitely on my list and I’d love to learn Cherokee, at the very least, since I love visiting the Smoky Mountains and there is a sizeable community of Cherokee people there.

I have my Italian book lined up. Or, well, books, since it’s the entire Kane Chronicles trilogy** by Rick Ri0rdan. I’m going to change my phone over to Italian before I go to bed (which will be any minute now), since I’m so close to June now.

Should I try the NaNoWriMo 50,000 word goal for June? I guess I’ll see when I get there. In 48 minutes.

*I know there’s an apostrophe in “Hawai’i.” Is that apostrophe also there in “Hawaiian”?

**Amazon Link!

Dream Journal, 5/27/2021

I know, it’s taken me a while to write this down. I told it to a coworker, though, so I would remember it enough to journal about it, though.

In this dream I had the very eerie experience in my dream of being both a character in a book and the reader of that book.

The dream starts when I’m talking to a group of Native American young adults. I’ve done some kind of service for their community and they’ve awarded me a certificate that says that if I learn Ojibwe, their tribe will basically adopt me.

I was very touched and kind of puddled up over it.

Later I was talking with one of them and he admitted that they made the offer because I wasn’t connected with Native American culture, and they saw my DNA results, which indicated that I’m 97% Native American.* I remembered that DNA test, in my dream, which said that I was in fact 0.97% Native American.

So I debated with myself over which would be worse, to own up to not being Native American or to go along with it and hope no one ever realized that I was a Czech-American lady.

I opted to own up to it and told him that there was, in fact, a decimal point before that 97. He was shocked but said that he’d talk to the others about it and they’d decide what to do about this situation.

Then I found myself looking down onto a table where two men were doing something — counting money? — and I noticed that my viewpoint should be a lot lower than it was. That’s when I realized that I was actually reading a book about what was going on in my life and whatever these men were doing was the “B” plot.

I didn’t have any interest in this part of the story, so I skipped ahead. When I found my storyline next, I’d taken the Native American guy’s words to heart and decided to get in touch with my actual ancestry, which is Czech.

I was at some kind of festival, where they were cooking, like daily foods for average historical Czech people. There was a lot of what my dad refers to as “ooky” food — weird cream cheese looking things and kind of disturbing looking sausages and things. Someone was giving a performance or a lecture or something, too.

I was glad that I was getting in touch with my actual ancestry, but I continued flipping ahead looking for the resolution to the Ojibwe storyline. I never found it, so I will never know how it worked out.

When I woke up, though, I realized that the best solution would be for me just not to learn Ojibwe because that would save face all around. I find it interesting that it never occurred to waking-hours me that they might decide to go ahead with adopting me.

*In real life, I’m 0% Native American. According to 23 and Me’s latest data, I’m 1.5% Ashkenazi Jewish, 0.5% Northern Western Asian, 0.2% Undetermined, 0.1%** Northern African, and the rest is basically Central European, Northern European, and from the British Isles.

**0.1% is effectively no ancestry, but they say that it’s more reliable if traces like this show up in other relatives’ ancestries. If it’s for real, it comes from my father’s mother’s side or my mother’s father’s side, because I don’t have any relatives on those sides on 23 and Me.

Dream Journal (4/30/21)

I actually had two different dreams, both of travel, at different times and of different locations.

Overnight I dreamed that I was in Houston at some hotel, possibly for a science fiction convention of some sort. I had friends who were already there and were showing me around.

I’d been told that the top floor of the hotel was only for celebrities and so when they took me up in the elevator and showed me the view from up there, it never occurred to me that that was the top floor.

I enjoyed the view, and Alex (who was apparently with me) and I found an empty room and sat down for a minute, admiring how airy and spacious the room was. We walked down the hall and found a sort of banquet/conference room that was also very airy and had kind of golden-brown trim.

We bumped into a member of housekeeping who was shocked to see us there because we weren’t celebrities. You see, we were actually on the top floor.

So we went back downstairs and found our actual room, which it turned out we were sharing with two strangers. The celebrity rooms were airy and spacious. The rest of the rooms weren’t anything like that.

I kind of know where the celebrity rooms on the top floor came from. I’ve stayed in the Reliant/Medical Center/NRG Crowne Plaza Hotel, which used to be the AstroWorld Hotel, and which once had the most expensive hotel room in the . . . world? I think?

The room is still there, but no one stays in it any more. I considered seeing if I could use this blog as a way to get up there and see it, but I chickened out. I’m bound to go back to Houston some day. Maybe I’ll have more courage then.

I got up and had breakfast, but was still sleepy, so I went back and took a nap for another couple of hours. During this nap, I had the second dream, this one set in Philadelphia.

Now, I kind of know where this came from. I was a combination of President Biden having gone to Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Amtrak, the cypress trees along Harwood Street outside of the Dallas Museum of Art, and my own disappointment that Alex decided not to go into the Boy Scouts*.

In this dream, I was somehow involved with a Boy Scout troop (though they were wearing blue Cub Scout uniforms) in Philadelphia that for some reason was having trouble finding somewhere to meet.

We went to the central library, which looked nothing like the real central library, of course, which was surrounded by trees, and I suggested that the troop could plant more trees around the building, staggered with the trees that were already there, and we could use that as our meeting place. I don’t know if we decided to do it or not.

For our Gratuitous Amazon Link, today’s book is The Authenticity Project, by Clare Pooley. Monica, who owns a coffee shop, finds a composition book left behind by an artist, Julian. In this book, which he left behind intentionally, Julian challenges the people who find it to write their truths in it and leave it for others to find. She does so, and the people who find it, then find each other, and honesty and drama, and maybe a few happy-ever-afters result. I think this was one of my BookBub purchases that I enjoyed most of all. I may even read it again at some point.

*I’ve always told him that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, and that getting into some level of the upper echelons of the Boy Scouts would let him know a lot of people who could help him, even if he didn’t get all the way to Eagle Scout, even being a Life Scout would’ve been a help.**

** I would’ve loved to have been a Boy Scout. I certainly was unhappy with my Cadet Girl Scout troop’s desire to go to Six Flags with all of our money instead of having outings that were useful. Of course, if I’d’ve been (a) aware that the Girl Scout Gold Medal exists, and (b) able to see the future and known that the senior troop that my cadet troop fed into did the service projects and skill learning (I seem to recall that they learned how to sail at one point), I might’ve put up with cadets for another year so that I could get into that senior troop. But I digress.

Book Series I’ve Loved: Nancy Drew

No Gratuitous Amazon Links today, kids. I’m going to link to each of the books I mention instead.

I was thinking that the Chronicles of Narnia were my first book series, but really, my first book series was Nancy Drew.

I don’t even really remember how or when I discovered Nancy Drew, but my dad bought me one book a month for several years, and that ended when I was maybe 11, so I was probably nine when I started buying them.

My dad was very good about providing me with good female role models, and Nancy was a great one. Apparently the 1930s Nancy was even more independent than the 1960s one (which were the books available in the 1970s), but 1960s/1970s Nancy was good enough for me.

It took me a while to really think of Nancy Drew as a series in the same way as, say Harry Potter, because there wasn’t a tremendous amount of continuity there. The books were self-contained and didn’t support a larger narrative.

There was some continuity, though. Nancy’s friend in the first few books was Helen Corning Archer. Helen goes through engagement and into marriage in the books from The Secret of the Old Clock to The Mystery at Lilac Inn. Helen shows up or is mentioned in later books, but she is for all intents and purposes replaced by George Fayne and Bess Marvin starting with The Secret of Shadow Ranch.

We also get some progression in the relationship between Nancy and her boyfriend Ned Nickerson. Despite a small continuity error mentioning him in The Secret of Shadow Ranch, Ned is officially introduced in The Clue in the Diary. They start out as friends and end up as good friends who go on dates, and eventually end up “going steady,” as it were.

I really blame/credit the Nancy Drew books for making me a fan of series of books.

Dream Journal, April . . . 18? 19? 2021

I actually had a dream with a semblance of some kind of throughline last night, but I cannot for the life of me remember what it was.

So instead, I’m going to share some snippets of the previous nights’ dreams.

I can remember trying to tell someone something about Shirley MacLaine, but couldn’t remember her name. I described her as an older actress with red hair and that she used to be a dancer. Her name didn’t occur to me until I was awake, and if “Shirley MacLaine” wasn’t the first thought I had when I woke up, it was pretty darned close.

Another one was something about taking a boat from Los Angeles to New York City. In this dream, Los Angeles was roughly where Miami is in real life, but it was definitely Los Angeles. I knew where things were, like I do in Los Angeles, but don’t know about Miami.

Anyway, the boat wasn’t transportation, it was just a sightseeing thing that in real life would take 20 days, but in my dream it was going to take an afternoon.

I got lost getting to the port and I think I ended up at the airport. I also think I may have stood in line for a long time at the airport before realizing I was in the wrong place, but maybe not.

The boat was really small — just a small seating area and like a kitchen/snack bar kind of place. There were other people there besides myself but I really only saw one person clearly. He was a good-looking younger man. Maybe he looked like a young John Travolta, maybe.

Anyhow, we never went out into the open sea (thank God) and somehow the authorities ended up sinking the boat because they thought we were harboring some kind of fugitive or something.

The young man and I were the last people on the boat, and so we had time to wrap our phones in plastic slide-closure bags to protect them from the water and . . . .

Well, I assume that I ended up in the water, but I don’t know for sure.

Gratuitous Amazon Link: Today’s book, Catherine House, by Elisabeth Thomas, is a good one, and also a really creepy one. Catherine House is, well, it takes the place of college/university, but the director insists that it is neither a college nor a university. Room and board for Catherine House is free, but the students who attend the school give up three years of their lives. They cannot bring things from home, and will have no contact with the world outside of Catherine House until graduation. Our protagonist, Ines Murillo, has never really fit in anywhere, and she feels that Catherine House may be her chance to become something. It wouldn’t be a creepy book if everything went smoothly, though, and it doesn’t go smoothly. And it is awesome. And creepy. And Ines “majors” in art history and I immediately thought “why didn’t anyone tell me that art history was an option when I was picking my major?”

Series I’ve Read: Philip Jose Farmer’s The Dungeon

Oh. Wow. While going through my memory for books that I’ve read, I just remembered The Dungeon.

The Dungeon is about a group of adventurers traveling through, well a dungeon that’s somewhere undefined. It may have been underground or in a pocket universe or wherever.

Our original point-of-view character is Clive Folliot, who is looking for his missing brother, Neville. Along the way he teams up with a giant spider, a cyborg, and his own granddaughter (great-granddaughter? great-great granddaughter?) They have adventures with public domain fictional characters, figures from mythology, and so forth.

Here’s the kicker, though. The Dungeon is a six-part series where the first and last books were written by one writer, and the middle four were written by three different writers.

And for the most part, the three writers play well together and the story holds together really well. Until the last book, that is, when apparently the original writer didn’t like where the middle four books had gone and wrenched it in another direction entirely without any rationale for it at all.

Obviously, Richard Lupoff, the writer of the first and sixth books, has never done a round robin story. Unless you set out where you want to go ahead of time, you’ll never go where you want to.

I have one particularly, well, I don’t know if “fond” is the word. “Schadenfreude-full,” maybe, of me saying at the beginning of a round robin story that we should plan it out ahead of time and one writer in particular vetoing it because it’s “more fun” if it’s full of surprises for the writers. So, when it came my turn, I gave that writer a surprise. I could see where they were heading and when my turn came, I interpreted what they had said in a completely different way and headed the story off in a different direction.

They threw a fit about how they were heading for resolution X and I just said, “You wanted surprises. I gave you a surprise.”

So, let’s hear it for our three middle writers — Bruce Coville, Charles de Lint, and Robin Wayne Bailey, for doing a great job on those middle books. I’ve never read anything else by any of those authors, I don’t think. I’ll have to look into it.

Today’s Gratuitous Amazon Link is the March 2020 Fantastic Strangelings Book Club pick — We Ride Upon Sticks, by Quan Barry. This was my favorite book club pick until July’s Mexican Gothic, which we’ll do later. We Ride Upon Sticks is set in Danvers, Massachusetts, which is where the original accusations of the Salem Witch Trials took place. The 1989 Danvers Falcons girls’ field hockey team is the worst in their district (in the book, in real life they actually were an excellent team). Then they sell their souls to Emilio Estevez and suddenly things start to improve for their team. Is it teamwork and friendship, or is it witchcraft?

Dream Journal 4/16/21

I’m journaling my dreams (a) for content and (b) because I want to get back into writing fiction some day and maybe writing about my dreams will spark a short story, novella, or even maybe a novel.

Short stories. That really never occurred to me. I bet that the little plot bunnies I’ve been toying with and that never seem to pan out could be reworked into short stories. I’d maybe also get experience submitting them to fiction sites and working with editors to see if I could do that professionally at all.

I have a lot of performance anxiety regarding my writing. I think it’s to do with how what self-esteem I have is based on my ability to do things well, rather than my value as a human being. I write and write and when I hit a roadblock I tend to throw my hands up in frustration and quit.

If I restructured the part that I’m working on as a standalone though . . . . I think I might be on to something here.

I don’t know if there was a real throughline in last night’s dream, but let’s see.

It started out on a beach with a bunch of people who had dogs. I took a liking to one of their dogs and asked if I could pick her up. She was cute, but kind of strange looking, with a long body, like a dachsund or something, and also longer legs than you’d expect.

The dog’s owner just up and disappeared, leaving me with a dog I didn’t expect to have to take care of. I went home and my home was a smaller place with this tiny spiral staircase in the corner. It looked more like a set of shelves than a staircase, but there was a door at the top.

At some point, while still trying to figure out where the dog’s owner went, I squeezed myself up those stairs and discovered that the upstairs was way roomier than the downstairs and had a laundry room and things. Alex was up there and I had thought he’d said that he didn’t go up there, but he’d been hanging around up there for a while (this is probably about him moving out six months ago).

At some point, I met a rock and roll singer who was in some kind of mobility scooter thing and we went to a church with a group of people (I’m not sure where they came from). The church was having communion and the bread looked like it had sprinkles baked into it, like a confetti cake.

We didn’t go into the sanctuary but hung out in the narthex (the area just outside the sanctuary doors). Some kind of shipping container arrived and it turned out that the rest of the singer’s band was in the container. They gave a concert then, and I accidentally groped the other lead performer in the band while trying to reach the volume control to turn it up.

The crowd for the impromptu concert was really large so I guess the people inside the sanctuary joined us.

I never did find the dog’s owner, though.

Today’s Gratuitous Amazon Link is by one of my favorite YA/kidlit authors (I suspect I’ve said this before, because I really do love her books!), Ally Carter: Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor, the first book in the, well, Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor series. I had to redo that post, because I totally forgot to actually copy the Amazon Associates link and instead pasted my last post there. Augh! Anyway, Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor is about April, who has been bounced around from foster home to foster home. Miraculously, she has a note from her mom promising to return and a key. Events conspire to her living in the house that the key comes from and that begins her search for the mysteries of the Winterborn family. The second book has been out for a while and I really have to read that one. As soon as I finish the other dozen books on my TBR list.

Dream Journal

Last night’s dream was a doozy. As a bit of background, my dad’s family was never really close. We saw family members maybe once a year, once every two years, things like that.

My uncle died in December. The first we heard of that was when a . . . what’s the probate version of an ambulance chaser? Basically, it’s a company that will get money from the probate court for you, but will take 33% of whatever you inherit.

My dad thought it was a scam of some sort, but eventually he was able to ascertain that my uncle had, in fact, died. Now my dad is trying to figure out how much my uncle left. My uncle was childless and died intestate. By our calculations, my dad stands to inherit 1/3 of it, then my aunt’s kids will get 1/6, and my other uncle’s kids will each get 1/9. That may be nothing or it may be quite a bit of money for each of his surviving relatives.

So. Dream.

I dreamed that I had two friends over for dinner and was making steaks. I don’t really “speak” steak, so my brain was, like, “steak?” and threw in something that looks like halibut steaks made from beef. I mean, they’re . . . steaks, right?

Sometime before I started dinner, my dad, who had been out of town, came home and brought my recently-deceased uncle with him. Now, my uncle didn’t look like my uncle looked in real life, and I even acknowledged that in my dream. He looked like my dad looked 15, 20 years ago.

I’m putting dinner on and I realized that I only had four steaks and that I’d need a steak for my uncle. I head to the store.

When I get there, one of my coworkers walks through the door right behind me. I get stopped by the manager, who tells me that my shoes aren’t acceptable for their store. I may have been wearing open-toed sandals, I may have been barefoot. I think it changed back and forth.

I told him that I just wanted to buy one steak and I’d be out of there and he said that he would turn a blind eye to the state of my feet as long as I would buy a pair of shoes in the store and so I went to the shoe department, which had all of the shoes hanging from a kind of a rack, I think, and grabbed a pair of ankle-high slippers. Not wanting to take any more time than necessary, I took the tags off and put them in my pocket, so that I could pay for the slippers with the steak.

I never made it to the butcher’s department, though, because then the head of store security stopped me to tell me that my footwear still wasn’t appropriate and then she demanded to see my back under my shirt. I turned around and lifted my shirt so she could see it and she did something. Touched it? Rubbed something on it? And said that she thought I was okay, but that I couldn’t come back into the store until I got a clean bill of health from my doctor, and then they escorted me from the store.

I texted my coworker to see if she was still in the store, but didn’t get an answer, and finally decided that we’d just order a pizza.

Oh, and as I walked back to my car, I put my hand in my pocket and felt the tags in there. I knew that I’d have to get a clean bill of health, because, even though I hadn’t been given much choice, I felt guilty about “stealing” the slippers.

Today’s Gratuitous Amazon Link is Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi. There’s a lot to like here, though it wasn’t perfect (like, how come no matter how fast they traveled, they couldn’t get any kind of lead on Inan?). I’m still working on the next book in the Legacy of OrĂ¯sha series, Children of Virtue and Vengeance, which, for some reason, is nearly not as interesting to me.

Harry Potter, Part 1

I need words for Camp NaNoWriMo and so I guess I’ll free-associate for a while about Harry Potter.

I loved that series. I mean, loved it. Until Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. That’s about when I started to come out from under Rowling’s spell. Actually, that’s not really true.

I found Half-Blood Prince to be underwhelming but I still loved the series. A group of us got together to “spork” it. I’m not sure where the term “spork” in this context came from. The original “spork” is actually pretty much a runcible spoon, which is a spoon with pointy bits on the end of the bowl of the spoon. The biggest difference, apparently, is that a runcible spoon is fork, spoon, and knife. The original runcible spoons had a sharp edge for cutting.

Anyway, somehow the term “spork” came to mean. Never mind, I found a possible explanation on The term comes from the expression “It was so bad it made me want to gouge my eyes out with a spork.”

I really thought that HBP would be the low point in the series, but then Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out and, ope. Somehow, the last two books threw the weaknesses of the series as a whole into sharper relief.

I’m going to hopefully dig up a couple of thousand words on what made me love the series in the first place and probably eventually go into why HBP and DH were such a letdown for me.

Wow. Why *did* I love Harry Potter so much?

I found Harry to be a very sympathetic character in the first few books. An orphan living with abusive relatives certainly had a British kids’ book feel to it, and I felt very sorry for Harry.

He also made an excellent point-of-view character for the audience. We also knew nothing about the wizarding world and seeing it all through the eyes of an abused child was emotionally gratifying.

I could see why Harry took an instant dislike to Draco. I am an adult, though, and I have missed out on what would have been good friendships because they rubbed me the wrong way the first time I met them.

I used to write Harry Potter fanfiction and I’ve used this meeting a couple of times. Full disclosure: I also used to write Harry/Draco relationship fic. Nothing sexy though — just hand-holding and first kisses and things. They’re kids and I’m ace. I had one story where our Harry switched timelines with a Harry who accepted Draco’s offer of friendship and things were very different.

But I digress.

Well, not really a digression, come to think of it. I had a lot of friends in the Harry Potter fandom and that probably made me more devoted to it. My Harry Potter friends were also my real friends. I knew that they had my backs and I hope they knew that I had theirs.

We’d talk about our Harry Potter Houses like it was a real thing. I’m a Hufflepuff, thank you very much. And even though I don’t love the series as much as I did 20 years ago, I still have a lot of fondness for it, and wear a Hufflepuff necklace that Alex got me in 2019 to work nearly every day.

The first few books were full of wonder and magic and had just enough disappointing things or confusing things or plot holes to hang fanfiction on. When I’m happy with canon, I have a harder time coming up with what we referred to as “plot bunnies.”

There were engaging characters starting with Ron and Hermione and going on to include Luna, Neville, Fred and George, and so on.

One of the other things that made Harry Potter appealing to me is the translations. Harry Potter is such a phenomenon that there are something like 100 translations of it, official and unofficial. As a wannabe polyglot, that is very appealing. I’ve read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in Mandarin, and understood quite a bit of it. I also have it in Italian in hard copy and in German as an audiobook. My original plan was to get all of the books in all of the languages. This plan ended, being replaced by all of Rick Riordan’s mythology books in all of the languages.

This is not exactly a ringing endorsement, but it is quite a few words, so I’m going to set this up to post later and will come back and start a new Harry Potter post later. Maybe tomorrow, maybe after I’ve reread a couple of books so I can try to pinpoint exactly what the magic was.

Augh! I Need to Go Somewhere!

I have a three-day weekend coming up, and Deimos has a vet appointment on Friday afternoon, but that still gives me two days to go . . . somewhere.

Maybe I’ll go state parking again. Choke Canyon State Park supposedly has 9,999 reservation slots. I highly doubt that, but I’m very curious. Maybe I’ll go out there. It’s not like they’ll run out of reservation slots.

Or maybe I’ll just do what I’ve done most weekends and hide in my house.

In Gratuitous Amazon Link news, we’ve finally hit 2020. I know this because today’s link is the first book in Jenny Lawson’s Fantastic Strangelings book club, Follow Me to Ground, by Sue Rainsford. This was a creepy one, but obviously one I’d recommend, based on the fact that I’m including it as a Gratuitous Amazon Link. Neither Ada nor her father are human. They were constructed from twigs and branches and placed in the Ground, a patch of dirt with healing properties. Ada’s father is training her to use the Ground to heal, plans that suffer a major setback (to say the least) when Ada falls in love with one of the local humans, whom she and her father refer to as “Cures,” because almost all of their contact with them is when the humans come to them to be cured of an illness or injury. Apparently this book is magical realism, but I saw it more as something post-apocalyptic. To each their own, you know?