A-Z, my likes and dislikes: letter “D”

Themis-Athena has started this project, and I’m joining her – an alphabetical list of what I like and don’t like.  Some fun, some not.

Like:  Democracy

I was struggling with a “D” like, until events of last week.  I’m not going to use this post – or any other – to advocate political agendas.  My politics are my business.  But last week was appalling; seditious acts and an insurrection in the nation’s Capital building.  Nobody’s grievances are so just that they justify the actions of last week.

But one truly wonderful thing did happen in the midst of that lowest point in US history:  Congress stood up and got on with the business of putting the nation first and upheld the constitution.  And not just the Democrats who will be dining out on this for ages, but the die-hard Republicans too.  Mitch McConnell and Mike Pence, both of whom I often find problematic, made me proud last week.  They had nothing to gain and a lot to lose, and still they did their job with dignity; they upheld the Constitution.


Dislike: Disco.

As a child of the 70’s I should look back with nostalgia on those halcyon days when disco was king, right?  Er, no.

The thing is, I have never liked disco.  All the lights swimming around, and too many men singing in falsetto registers, about absolutely nothing to music that me feel like a needle was skipping inside my brain.  The women musicians that fall into the disco category at least had song lyrics I could get behind, but again, the music grated on my young brain.   I have no memory of ever wanting to see Saturday Night Fever as a kid, cementing my belief that disco was never meant to be for me.


A-Z, my likes and dislikes: letter “C”

Themis-Athena has started this project, and I’m joining her – an alphabetical list of what I like and don’t like.  Some fun, some not.

Like:  Cascades

Waterfalls are a definite ‘like’ too, but for my money, cascades are a lot more fun.  Their rambling style lends itself to a multitude of picturesque nooks and crannies, pools, and small spots of white water.  Best of all, as far as I’m concerned, you can clamber about on them, letting the inner-kid out to roam and climb, discovering all those nooks and crannies close up.

Australia’s terrain lends itself to cascades, and MT and I have let the inner-kids out on a few of them over the years:

We’ve discovered all sorts of interesting bits at each of the cascades we’ve been to so far, from weird crayfish and dragonflies and tadpoles to wallabies, water dragons and whirligig beetles.


Dislike: Cockroaches.

Some people have a real, pathological problem with spiders, or snakes or rats.  Me, it’s cockroaches, to the extent that I struggle to even type the word.

In Florida, they’re called Palmetto Bugs.  They’re large, growing to just over 1.5 inches or 40mm, they have wings and they know how to use them.  I can’t prove it, but I’m certain they chase you.  When I was a kid, I had a particularly large specimen fly across the room to land on my face.  A katsaridaphobic was born in that moment.  Even here in southern AU where the specimens are a great deal smaller and wingless, I can’t handle them.  MT says he always knows when I’ve stumbled across one by the sound I make, a sort of inhaled scream; the sound of my psyche imploding.

I’d post a picture but you can believe if I can’t type the word there’s no way in hell I can deal with posting a picture.  Google “Palmetto Bug” if you’ve never run across these minions of satan and you’re curious.  Given the choice, I’ll take spiders any day.


A-Z, my likes and dislikes: letter “B”

Themis-Athena has started this project, and I’m joining her – an alphabetical list of what I like and don’t like.  Some fun, some not.

Like:  Bloom County Comic Strips

There were some contenders for B; boating was almost a shoe-in, until I looked up and saw my favorite Bloom County strip hanging on the wall.

Bloom County is an American comic strip that started in 1980 and featured a cast of characters with Opus the penguin the star (though I’d argue secondary characters Hodge-Podge and Portney got some of the best lines).  The author, Berkeley Breathed, burned out on deadlines and censors in 1989 and quit, but not before winning a Pulitzer for his work.  In the one good thing Facebook was ever good for, Breathed brought back Bloom County on the site in 2015, bringing much joy to unsuspecting fans.

Bloom County is one of the few – the rare few, unfortunately – forms of entertainment that make me laugh until tears fall.   Here’s a random sample of one of his strips; I tried to choose one that might resonate with any international readers (Breathed is known for his political strips, which can sometimes rely on cultural ‘in-jokes’).


Dislike: Bitter … anything.

There are five universally accepted basic tastes perceived by our taste buds: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami.  I can’t tolerate bitter.

Coffee, really dark chocolate, beer, marmalade, many of the leafy greens (ie chicory/witlof).  None of these are anything but the equivalent of chewing aspirin for me.  With the exception of cocoa, I can’t even tolerate them as flavourings – coffee flavoured anything is just … aspirin.  (I know how awful aspirin are because as a kid I thought they all tasted like Bayer’s children’s aspirin, only to eat one and find out differently.) Whether this can be attributed to lack of exposure, or training, or special snowflake taste buds, I don’t know but the result is the same.  I avoid bitter foods the way I avoid bitter people.


A-Z, my likes and dislikes: letter “A”

Themis-Athena has started this project, and I’m joining her – an alphabetical list of what I like and don’t like.  Some fun, some not.

Like:  Aquamarine

The color, that is.  Based on my skin/hair/eyes, most people assume my favorite color is red, because it compliments me.  But while I do own a lot of red, it’s not my favorite color.  My favorite color has always been aquamarine. That impossible to describe color of some oceans, at just the right depth, in just the right light.  Not always exactly the same, but yet always aquamarine.

A couple of examples:

Dislike: Atheists; sub-type: anti-religion, vocal

Well, I changed gears in a hurry.  Now, notice I didn’t say Atheism.  I strive to avoid being judgemental in my life and in today’s age of information, I believe anyone who chooses to believe in the absence of God has made their choice of their own free will.  I don’t have to agree with that choice (and I don’t), but I should (and do) respect it.

The sticking point is that last sentence works both ways: They don’t have to agree with my choice, but they should respect it.  For those that don’t, I’m free not to put up with their need to tell me I’m crazy, or that “God-lovers” like me are to blame for everything in the world today.  Organised religion certainly has a lot to answer for, and quite a few of those organisations have strayed, or chosen a path that relies on a more esoteric interpretation of their religious texts.  But if this type of atheist is as “smart” as they think they are, they’d recognise the difference between faith and religion.  And either way, they’d be respectful of individuals with beliefs different from their own.

I’ve sat to dinner with people nominally my family (by marriage) and been the only person at the table who believed in God, and the only person at the table not throwing judgements around like they were party favours.  How these people cannot see they are acting out in the exact same manner that they purport to hate in the religious confounds me.

Believe, or not, in what you will, but be a good person, and if you can’t say something nice to someone who has done you no wrong, then just shut up.

Bookhype.com: It’s no BookLikes, but it’s better than GoodReads even in beta.

UPDATE: The developer has just added a search function for your personal library!  Yay!

While stalking the developer of my WP plug-ins, I discovered she was getting ready to launch a new book tracking website.  So by sheer luck I was one of the first people to join Bookhype.com.  It was basic, but it had potential right out of the gate for some interesting features, so I uploaded my data and started playing.

That was back in the beginning of September, and the site’s feature set has grown enough that it seemed now was as good a time as any to update friends who have not yet joined, about the site’s progress.

The most important thing to remember is that the site is still in beta.  So while a lot of features are missing, I don’t know if they’re missing because they haven’t been added yet, or because they’re never going to be added.  If I do know, I’ll mention that below.

What the site has that’s working for me:

A pretty easy to use interface; the UI is easy on the eyes and for the most part extremely easy to use.  You can log multiple reads and multiple editions (including purchasing information), but your shelves only display one edition, which can get confusing until you get the hang of it.

Some pretty good reading stats – with charts! – that include things like genres and page counts, as well as books acquired over time.

Series tracking:  It’s pretty slick.  You can follow series, and if you opt in, new titles added to those series will be automatically added to your shelves, and also as an opt in, you can get an email notification.  The back end of the site has some nice logic built in, so series that have changed names mid-way through can alias the old/new name, and the librarian functions allow merging/deleting series, avoiding potential bloating.  What could be better:  it would be nice to be able to nominate how new titles are added to your shelves.

Librarian functions:  One of the first “big” features that were added after launch, and of course, I applied.  Because I guess I need more databases in my life.  The features are pretty well thought out and robust, though I’d still love to see the ability to bulk combine titles and bulk merge authors, something I hate to admit GoodReads got right.  What could be better:  while the site handles pseudonyms pretty well, there’s no cross-referencing of pseudonyms on the author pages themselves.  Also, there seems to be no plans for handling multiple covers other than adding more additions.  This is going to cause wicked edition bloat, and at the moment, there seems to be no way to merge duplicate listings, though that may change.

What I think really needs addressing:

Personal library:  this is the part where I’m most critical.  At the moment there’s only one way to view it and that’s cover mode.  Which looks nice, but doesn’t make my heart sing because I want to see the data, preferably in list view with the ability to sort by ALL the columns.  At this time you also can’t search your books, which is HUGELY problematic. (Update:  now you can search!)  You can filter by Read, Reviewed, Currently Reading, Wishlist but you can’t just search out a specific title, and you can’t see all the books on your shelves by author.  I’ve emailed the developer about this and I know she’s thinking about it, but I don’t know what her plans are, if any, for improving the ability to manipulate your own shelves.  I’ve also asked about creating personal shelves, which she’s nixed, as she’s going the tag route.  When I mentioned they weren’t that easy to use, she immediately went about making them MUCH easier.  Now I’m hoping she’ll move their location on the page to make them easier to access on the fly.

Social aspects – there aren’t any.  You can follow people, but the lack of notification when someone likes or comments makes the following a moot point.  I’m guessing this is still something that’s in development and as such I’m REALLY hoping she’ll make the activity page one that’s interactive, with the ability to comment on posts, and respond to other comments, directly from the activity page.

Generally the site has a lot of potential and seems to have a very dedicated developer intent on creating a book site that is completely independent of Amazon.  It’s got a lot of nice touches, and with a few more could be a much better alternative to GoodReads.  Fingers crossed.

MbD’s state of mind: Still hate GoodReads, WordPress not far behind

TTthhhppphhttt. How’s that for a state of mind?

Life has been busy – mostly not in any enjoyable way; we’re still covid free here but other factors of real life have kept us hopping, forcing me to pretty much check out of all my online activities save the bare minimum.  The bare minimum has been logging my books and in quiet moments at work, building up my super-spreadsheet of All The Books and Their Reviews.  I’ve also been working on some things at the new beta site, Bookhype.com (more on that in a different post).

I’m trying with the blog, I really am.  But it’s a pain in the ass.  Even with the classic editor, or whatever the hell they call it, I can’t just whip off a post.  If it’s about books, I have to make sure the book data is entered, I have to chase down the cover, I have to link 800 things and click on several pages.  Pain. in. the. ass.  And trying to follow comments and other people’s posts is damn near impossible – the WordPress app only notifies me about random comments and shows me only about, I suspect, a third of the posts of those I’m following.

I’ve also been trying with GoodReads groups, but that’s working even less well.  Too many threads to read and keep up with; my soul shrivels every time I open the groups and see all the unread messages.  And I hate the site anyway.

All of which to say, while I’m still not going to give up on this blog, I’m sticking with BookLikes.  Pressing performance issues aside (which haven’t been that bad for me the last several weeks), the site is perfectly designed for me as a reader and book tracker.  I’ll safeguard my data so I don’t get left in the lurch if things finally go belly up, but until then, I’m hanging on.

Mini Book Haul

My resolve broke a few weeks ago and I went on a small ordering spree, which has been slowly trickling in here and there.  Today though I got 3 books at all once, and one of them a special edition I’m excited about.

Oops.  I meant to crop that.  Anyway, that Pride and Prejudice is the new Chronicle Books edition, which includes the 19 letters as actually letters, hand written and folded, each inserted into a glycine envelope bound in with the text block where the letter is relevant.

The folding freaked me out a bit as they’re definitely hand folded in a complicated tucked-into-itself fashion that had me a little stressed about unfolding them without damaging anything.  Once you get the hand of it, it’s easy, and they’re so well done with postmarks and scratch outs.

Now, I want to read Pride and Prejudice again.  After Halloween Bingo.

How I Read tag

URL Phantomhive posted this first, reminding me of a time when these had a bit of a vogue on BookLikes.  They were a lot of fun, and so without further ado:

Do you have a certain place at home for reading?

Although I’ll read anywhere, I do have a certain place for reading.  We just completed a ‘renovation’ of sorts of the room we call a library, and it has one of those huge bean bags, with a bean bag arm rest and a bean bag footstool, snugged into a corner.  It’s a really small room, and the bean bag is what fits – and it’s pretty comfy too.

With spring on its way here in Australia, I’ll also do a fair amount of reading outside in the garden.

Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter/ a certain amount of pages?

I really, really want to stop at the end of a chapter.  If I really can’t make it until the next chapter for whatever reason, I’ll stop at the end of a scene.  Failing that, I’ll absolutely insist on finishing the paragraph.

Bookmark or random piece of paper?
I will use just about anything for a bookmark (that doesn’t damage the book, of course), although I have accumulated a shocking number of bookstore bookmarks over the years.  As you can see, I have a bag on the wall of my library filled with all the bookmarks I currently have on hand (that aren’t floating around the house, or in a book).  Before this accumulation, when I traveled full time for work, my bookmarks were all boarding passes and subway/train/bus tickets.  It’s fun to come across one still stuck in the books on my shelves.
Multitasking: Music or TV while reading?

I’ve heard tell of this magic called multitasking, but I’ve never experienced it myself.  I’m pathologically unable to focus on more than one thing at a time, with a very limited exceptions:  I can read while classical music is playing, or if MT is watching sports – and only then when the announcers are dull as dishwater.  If they are of the inane variety, my concentration is shot, and I must mock their stupidity with a passion that probably doesn’t enhance MT’s enjoyment of the game much.

So, really, no.  No music or TV.

Do you eat or drink while reading?

I always, always have iced tea within arms reach.  It’s a cultural DNA thing.  I will snack while reading if it’s something that I can snack on that won’t risk staining my book, but eating a meal?  No – see “I can’t multitask”, above.

Reading at home or everywhere?

Everywhere, anywhere.  MT stopped inviting me to soccer matches after I tried to bring a book.  Because even though I can’t multitask at all, I am the gold medal champion of tuning out the world* when focused on something – especially a good book.

*this would seem to be contradictory to my inability to listen to music, but close as I can figure, it’s because the music is (with the exception of classical) a repetitious thing, both in melody and lyrics and my brain seems to latch on, and get stuck to, the repetition.

One book at a time or several at once?

Generally, I prefer to have one fiction and one non-fiction read going at the same time.  I’m a mood reader, but my lack of multi-tasking makes it hard to jump story trains; when I need a break from whatever fiction I’m reading, the non-fiction is just the thing.  When the world was different and we were allowed to actually leave our house, I’d also have an audiobook on the go.

Reading out loud or silently in your head?

Silently – definitely silently.  Unless it’s an excellent non-fiction read and I’m compelled to read parts out loud to MT, who’d really rather I didn’t.  I don’t really read aloud very well to be honest.  I lack any performing flair.

Also, I do actually read inside my head – there’s a definite internal narrator.  I mention this because someone on BookLikes – I don’t remember who – mentioned that they don’t ‘hear’ the book in their head when they read it.  When I mentioned this to MT, he said he doesn’t either.  He just sees the words; there’s no corresponding internal ‘voice’ that says them.  I don’t know how this works, I can’t wrap my head around it.  But it explains why MT reads stupidly fast yet still manages to retain it.  Which I try not to hold against him, because I think I’d miss that internal voice if it disappeared.

Do you read ahead or even skip pages?

Only if the book is stressing me out.  Knowing the ending won’t ruin the story, and in fact, if I can relieve the anxiety I’m experiencing, I’ll enjoy the story even more.  I will also happily skip swaths of expository dialog that I think are extraneous or irritating.

Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?

While I love old books and love that they look well-read, I read new books with every effort to make it look like they’ve never been opened.  I’ve been known to cry out in existential pain when I see MT crack open a new paperback, pressing the cover open.

Saying that, my favorite book is an old paperback that is held together with a rubber band.

Do you write in your books?

I don’t judge those that do  coughBrokenTune*cough, and I’ve been known to get giddy about marginalia when I stumble upon it, but me, myself? Oh hell no.  If I can’t crack a spine can you imagine me trying to write in a book?

A few years ago, I found a book at the library for sale for $1 – all the worlds birds in one giant, bound checklist.  It was a completely unmarked copy, and I love it.  And it’s designed to be written in – you check off the birds you’ve seen and enter in the date and location of where you saw it.  I manage it, but I do it in pencil.  Lightly.  Because it’s a book.

If you feel like sharing some of your reading habits, consider yourself tagged or let me know in the comments!

Non-book post: Spring is here!

Yesterday was our first nice weather day, with a high of 21C (70F) and full sunshine.  We’re still in total lockdown, but the government amended the rules a few weeks ago to allow us to drive to our exercise, as long as it’s within 5km, so I dragged MT out to a new-to-us park known as Willsmere Park or Kew Billabong.  For those who may not know, a billabong is a backwater or stagnant pool, made by water flowing from a main stream or river during a flood. We had no idea it was there until recently, and it’s lovely.  We got there ‘early’ by MT’s standards, a bit later than I wanted to, but in time to have the park to ourselves for about 45 minutes, before everyone else in a 5km radius descended.

I didn’t get a lot of pictures, mostly because we were busy checking out the lay of the land at first, and then, well… people.  But we did chat (at a distance) with a lovely woman for whom the park was obviously her ‘local’, and she pointed out a pair of Tawny Frogmouths sleeping off the day, though one woke up long enough to shuffle his feathers and sun himself for a moment before dozing back off.

She also pointed out a nesting box for a pair of sugar gliders and told us if we were there at dusk we’d have half a chance of seeing them depart the box.  Guess where we’ll be at dusk sooner rather than later?  (Sugar gliders, if you’re unfamiliar with them, are the cutest damn tiny possums that fit in the palm of your hand.)

We’re only allowed to be out a couple of hours a day, and by the time I’d done the circuit there were hoards of people socially distancing, and cyclists trying their hardest to thin the herds (a major bike path goes through the park), so we headed back to the lot in time to see that it wasn’t only the humans enjoying the sunshine and cavorting in the spring weather:

I suspect, if you asked the neighborhood dogs, they’d say that water bowl was for them, but I doubt any of them would try to tell the cockatoos that.