Thursday, January 26, 2012

Total Request Thursday

If you have a book you read and loved when you were a kid--it can be a kid's book, or some forbidden and fun grown up book, or anything at all--request it here.  If I can find it, I'll read it, and post my impressions in an upcoming TTR.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Off-Topic Tuesday: When is fun no longer fun?

For me, it's when it starts feeling too much like work, or when the hassles outweigh the rewards/entertainment value/other benefits.

For the past year, I followed a blog involving old CRPGs (computer roleplaying games) called The CRPG Addict. He started off strong, and having played many of the games he blogged about (the Might and Magic,  SSI Gold Box series, and Wasteland being particular favorites of mine) I found it entertaining and engaging.

Since this August, however, his posts became slower, with more time in between.  Life gets in the way, I can understand that, but whenever he did post, he sounded almost put-upon, if not downright snippy.  I had chalked it up to life, work etc. but I also couldn't help but notice he wasn't having as much fun with it anymore.  Finally, last week, he'd called it quits.

Was I disappointed?  Sure I was.  I loved reading his playthroughs and reviews of games.  some of them were old favorites, some I'd never finished, and some I'd never even heard of.  It was a glimpse into a past that I'd never experienced, and a chance to relive some special moments of my own.  But in the end, it wasn't fun, nor enjoyable for him, and it was really coming across in his posts.  I think he did the right thing.

Last night, Dianne (my partner) and I made the decision to stop playing World of Warcraft, and MMORPGs altogether.  The whole thing just became a chore.  We're casual players, we play for fun.  Raiding is fun, but it wasn't our do-all and be all of the game.  Dungeons were fun, but only when the other players weren't being anal orifices.  Unfortunately, finding nice players who weren't hidebound into a particular style of play (and hounding you about it when you dared to do something different) was becoming akin to finding an epic drop on a level 10 Kobold.  And when we weren't getting hassled, we saw it happening to other players.

Blizzard, alas, doesn't care about this sort of thing.  They're too busy banning people over stupid things, instead of banning the level 85 jerk who's griefing noobs in a level 20 area.  Which makes no sense to me, because either way, they're losing a player, so why not ban the jerk making other players miserable?

Bottom line, it and other online games stopped being fun.  I work in customer service; I can get screamed at for a living.  The last thing I want is to be doing something that is ostensibly fun and getting screamed at there, too.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Two posts in one day!

I'm wanting to have a semi-regular schedule for posting--at least once a week--and it occurred to me that a good way to make this happen is to have an idea of what I am posting and when.

Book posts fitting the overall scope of the blog will be on any day of the week that I get around to posting them up.  Along with that, I think to have a day where I post comments about more modern books.  I'm thinking of calling it "Thoroughly Modern Mondays".

Tuesdays, of course, will still be "Off Topic Tuesdays" where i talk about anything I feel like, and I'm thinking of adding a "Special Request Saturday" where I will read a reader requested book (I just know someone will request Twilight to be a smart-ass) and post my comments on it.  This way I can keep content flowing while reading the blog-centric books.

It's Like This, Cat--Finished

Overall Grade:  B+

So, I actually finished up with it last week, but hadn't gotten around to posting about it.   The things I'd initially commented on (slightly flat characters, etc.) evened out, and they became more lively as the story went on.  Dave's dad was still a grump, but a grump with a heart.  He's a lawyer, and eventually helps out Dave's friend Tom.  Dave's mom moves beyond her asthma to show some quiet strength and a kindly heart.

Dave and his friend Nick have a falling out  over a double date gone wrong, which brings Tom and Mary, Dave's future girlfriend, into his life.  Mary is a nice girl, with interesting parents:  her dad is a philosophy professor, and her mom, Nina, is a Beatnik.  (I think if this were written today, she'd be called a Hipster).

Tom is described in the book's blurb as "troubled", and I suppose that by 1964's standards, Tom is a troubled lad, but  I didn't find him so much troubled as just flailing around trying to find his footing after parental abandonment.His father was rather an ass to him, which leads to him getting kicked out of college (he's several years older than Dave) and trying to make it on his own.  When Dave first meets Tom, Tom is trying to break into a storage area of Dave's apartment building, just to show that he can on a dare.  The two eventually become friends.

Cat is a constant presence in Dave's life.   When Cat gets bashed up in a fight, Dave takes him to the vet to be fixed up--and at the vet's insistence--fixed.  This doesn't wholly cure Cat of the urge to fight and roam, but it does illustrate Dave's genuine love for his pet, which pleased me. 

The book ends on a positive note, with Tom (who eventually found himself a good job and with the help of Dave's father, found his way back into school) and his girlfriend announcing their engagement.  That bit had seemed a little sudden to me, since Tom's relationship with her is very much in the background.  Also, it was a different time then: young people right out of school often did marry and start families.  Everyone praises Cat, because had he not been skulking about in the storage area, leading Dave to meet Tom, things might have happened out very differently.

I gave the book an end rating of B+.  Except for a few flaws here and there, it was engaging and interesting, and offered a view of life from 45 years ago (who knew there were kid's sections in the movie theaters?  Not me!) that I found interesting.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Still With It

Promise.  I keep trying to carve out time to read "It's Like This, Cat" but it's slow going. Those games keep pulling me away from my reading.  In the meantime, however, I'll offer details from Wikipedia, and my own commentary on what I've read so far, and my memories of reading it when I was twelve.

It's Like This, Cat is a novel written by Emily Cheney Neville that won the Newbery Medal for excellence in American children's literature in 1964.

Plot summary

The protagonist is Dave Mitchell, a 14-year-old who is growing up in mid-20th century New York City. His mother is asthmatic, her attacks worsened by the stress she feels when Dave and his father have their frequent arguments. Dave's refuge after a clash with his father is with Kate, an elderly neighbor whose apartment is filled with the stray cats she loves. Dave adopts one of the cats, names it "Cat", and takes it home. "Cat" brings both joy and adventure into his life.

Cat's presence brings Dave into contact with several new people, including Tom, a troubled college-aged boy, and Mary, his first girlfriend. While documenting Tom's growing maturity, the book also provides glimpses of several of New York's neighborhoods and attractions, from the Fulton Fish Market to the Bronx Zoo and Coney Island.

Direct link:,_Cat

I like the protagonist, Dave, a lot so far.  He's a good kid, but not a goody two-shoes.  He's mildly rebellious, in the way that good kids his age have.  The other characters are little on the One Note Johnny side so far (His mom so far is only defined by her asthma, his dad is a grumpy bear, and "Aunt" Kate is a crazy cat lady.) but I think that as I keep reading, more will be revealed of who they are.

Cat isn't the focus of the story--Dave has a life outside of his new friend--but it's obvious that they share a bond. The prose is simple and declarative--no run on sentences, and the author does a good job thus far of showing and not telling.

Although it's rather dated (it's set in the 1960s) I would recommend this book for kids between the ages of 11-13, with one warning.  Towards the end of the book, a kitten is mortally injured, and "Aunt" Kate puts it out of its misery.  Though not terribly graphic, this scene was pretty upsetting to me as a young cat lover.  It was also the only scene that stood out in my memory, almost 35 years later.

I'll keep working on reading it.  It's a good one, and one that despite the one heartbreaking scene, is one I was always fond of.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Off-Topic Tuesday

Off-Topic Tuesday

Every Tuesday is Prince Spaghetti—I mean, Off-Topic Tuesday.  I got the idea from a friend of mine on Livejournal, and he always has something interesting to say on his Off Topic Thursday.  I know it's kind of odd to start a brand new blog with something off-topic, but until I finish re-reading “It's Like This, Cat” I won't have much to say!

So this week, we'll talk about unfinished projects.  Hopefully, this blog won't be one of those things that falls by the wayside.

I have so many ideas, concepts, half-finished, half-started, and abandoned before they even started projects it would make your head spin.  If there were an Unfinished Project Graveyard, it would be right here, in my mind.  Partly, I blame my (undiagnosed) ADD.  I get an idea, it sounds cool for a week (or a few days, or five minutes) then I decide that I'd rather use what little free time I have playing Fallout 3 or World of Warcraft.  Before I know it, the creative urge has fled, and I'm back at square one.

Mostly, however, it's because I have never mastered the art of Doing It For Myself.  There's something in me that yearns for approval and attention.  I want to know that my work—and by extension, myself—is worthy.  Of course, we all know that this doesn't really work.  You have to find yourself and your efforts worthy before anyone else will.  I have an entire libraries worth of stories, half finished stories, and ideas that will never see the light of day because of this.

Several times, I've thought to take drawing lessons and improve my skills and become an awesome artist who can do her own fan art.  Then I think of all the hard work and practice and (probably years worth) of sucky early attempts and I feel overwhelmed and give up before I get started.

It's ever been thus with me, for reasons I've never quite understood.  I expect a lot of it is impatience, that feeling of “But I don't want to go throw a stage where my art looks like my cat ate colored pencils then barfed on the page!  I want to be awesome now!”  It's frustrating, because I tried teaching myself to draw 5 years ago, made the mistake of putting my efforts on Livejournal, couldn't take critique, and stopped.  If I'd have kept going, I would have 5 years of practice, and be so much better with it.

What things could you be better at doing, had you not given up too soon?  What holds you back from getting better?  What unfinished projects do you have lurking around?

Monday, January 9, 2012


So this is Exactly What it Says on the Tin.  I realize though that it needs a bit more than that.  this is a blog dedicated to the books I read and loved most growing up. 

I started reading when I was 4 and a half.  I knew the alphabet, and knew words pretty well, and I was pretty much self-taught.  Needless to say, when we started reading in school, I was not at all interested in the tame adventures of Dick, Jane, and Spot!

Sure, I read  kids books--tons of them--but at a higher comprehension level than normal.  I also devoured books about science and nature, especially anything to do with human anatomy, dinosaurs, and  history.  I was a huge fan of the How and Why books, and my grandmother had sent me an almost entire set of the Time Life Nature and Science Library books.

Some of the stuff I read as a kid will be familiar to those of you who grew up in the Seventies and early Eighties: The Boxcar Children, Little House on the Prairie, the How and Why books.  Some titles you may not recall.  And some will make you go "Holy crap, she read THAT when she was a kid?"

I plan to re-read the books that stood out to me as a kid, and comment on them here in the blog, and do a mini-review.  Also, I invite you to post suggestions of books you read as a kid, and I'll give them a good go, provided I can find them!