seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
The weather hasn't calmed down, but it's cooled down- we've had a series of pretty dramatic summer thunderstorms that have dropped temperatures from the 90s into the 80s and very occasionally into the 70s. I've taken advantage of a few of the lulls in the thunderstorms to get back in the biking thing. Sunday I rode over to the river and then through a riverside park... Google maps says the total trip was about 8 miles, which is a lot for me. I sort of tricked myself into the distance- the trip out to the river is mostly downhill, and the ride along the river was mostly flat, so I kept pushing further out because I wasn't feeling winded, but I struggled on some of the uphill parts heading back. There was one hill in particular that I might've been able to climb at the beginning of the ride, but certainly couldn't at the end, and ended up walking my bike up the hill. But it was a good ride, really pleasant, and my legs were a lot less sore the day than they were after my first bike ride of the summer when I only went half the distance I did yesterday, so maybe my body's adjusting. I always found that to be the case when I was somewhat serious about frisbee in college- I'd come back after winter break of not doing any fitness stuff and the first practice would kill me, and then I'd be fine after that. But my body is not eighteen anymore and it's been a lot longer since I was in shape, so I suspect it'll take longer this time around.

Suburbia makes fitness hard. You basically have to drive everywhere to get to anything useful, so any exercise has to be unpurposeful, done just for its own sake. When I lived in New York City, I didn't need to do exercise because I got several miles of walking done every day, and more on good days. Where I was living for the past ten years, I just didn't have much interest in unpurposeful exercise. I'd get home from work after wrestling with traffic for an hour and be exhausted and grumpy and not want to move. My only exercise of the week came on Shabbos with walking to and from shul. My new town, well, the new township I've technically moved into is even more spaced out than my old one, but I'm two blocks from the border of a town that is much more tightly packed together and has interesting things to walk and bike to. And I have this extra energy that comes of the shorter commute and I'm glad I've been able to burn some of that energy by moving my body.

I also did some stuff in the kitchen Sunday. I baked challah for Vividcon, which is in less than two weeks and I'm very excited about it. I'm hosting a Shabbos dinner at the con, which should be nice. The only problem with VVC is that Saturday night into Sunday is Tisha B'Av, which is a weird semi-holiday that I'm going to have to figure out my comfort level with doing con stuff around. Going straight from Club Vivid to reading Eichah seems weird. On the other hand, I don't want to skip Club Vivid, since I'm premiering a vid there. Eh, I'll figure it out.

Notes on politics I have resisted posting on Facebook:

-My father said when I saw him on Sunday "The liberals keep falling into Trump's traps."

I think in a lot of cases he's right. The baffling case of Donald Trump, Russian agent is a perfect example. The DNC was hacked and their emails released by Wikileaks. It is not clear who the hackers were or what their motivation was. Wikileaks' motivation is general chaos by way of radical information transparency, which is to say, Wikileaks believes that no information should be secret.

The information in the emails included information that was embarrassing to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. In order to deflect attention, Clinton and her advisors suggested that the Russian government might be behind the hacks. They made this suggestion despite their being no evidence of Russian involvement beyond speculation. The FBI was asked and they said something like "Sure, it could be the Russians, we don't know." On this basis the idea that the Russians, with or without the direct collusion of Donald Trump, had hacked the DNC started to be spread by the media as a rumor.

So Donald Trump, confronted with the ridiculous and unfounded accusation that the Russian government is propping up his campaign, made the sarcastic remark that if he could control who the Russians hacked, he would have instead directed them to recover the missing emails Clinton and her legal team deleted from her private email server- emails that she claims were personal but which a lot of people suspect included sensitive political exchanges, emails which she hid using a private server to step around the Freedom of Information Act's requirements for reasonable transparency, even when it meant mishandling sensitive information.

And the Democrats took this- a clear joke, and a barbed one- and started raving about how Donald Trump had committed the treasonous act of calling for a foreign government to hack an American national's server. When Trump has done nothing wrong except suffer the unverified accusations of liberal hacks.

When conservatives- the kind of conservatives like me who fear Trump- see this kind of nonsense game, it makes it harder and harder to take Hillary Clinton seriously as an alternative to Trump. It makes it easier and easier to say "Okay, Trump is a disaster, but voting for Clinton is courting a different kind of disaster. Hillary Clinton doesn't take democracy seriously, either." Easier and easier to say "If Trump is president, he'll only be able to pass the laws that Paul Ryan sends to him, so Congress will act as all the check on his power we'll need."

And Donald Trump knows this. He knows that if he acts like Donald Trump, outrageous and sloppy and insulting, the Democrats will in their outrage and their distorted worldview fall all over themselves making ludicrous accusations against him. And every time they do, it'll bring the people who know better than to swallow these credulous media narratives more securely into his camp. Every time liberals snicker about how reality has a liberal bias, it helps Trump. Reality doesn't have a liberal bias, the media does. And every time a nonsense story like this is spread by the liberal media- and this one was immediately followed up two days later by the nonsense story of how Donald Trump had leaked information about a secret US base in Saudi Arabia from a classified security briefing he hadn't even received!!!!- every time a story like this is spread, people like me say "Well, Trump is a disaster, but I suppose he'll only be able to pass the laws that Paul Ryan sends to him. Maybe Paul Ryan will be able to act as a brake on his lunacy."

-Except that's the problem. For whatever reason- and I admire Paul Ryan, and to a certain degree I admire the way he's trying to maintain his integrity while struggling to keep the Republican Party he was reluctantly entrusted with in one piece, just as I admired John Boehner's ultimately futile efforts toward the same end, Paul Ryan has not upheld his end of the bargain with his conservative base. Paul Ryan was supposed to have emerged from his meetings with Trump, after Trump had effectively become the presumptive nominee, having extracted meaningful concessions from Trump. Meaningful concessions meaning that Trump would stop acting like a racist authoritarian monster and start presenting himself as a President who could actually lead America, all of America.

Paul Ryan has been struggling hard to maintain his integrity, to draw lines in the sand and to call out Trump when Trump crosses those lines. It's astonishing to imagine that the House Majority Leader has called his own party's presidential candidate a racist, but it's happened! More than once in the past two months! That's actually happened! But it's clear that no meaningful deal was arranged. It's clear that Ryan has nothing Trump wants and no power to control what Trump does, and given that this is the case, it's hard to see the Republican Congress, the clusterfuck that has been this Republican Congress, serving as any kind of break on Trump's megalomania.

And so I'm still voting for Hillary Clinton, because it's possible- actually, the more I think on it, plausible- that the combination of Hillary Clinton, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell will result in the most legislatively productive Congress since the late Clinton/early Bush era. And that productivity could be beautifully tempered by the spirit of compromise.

Emma by Jane Austen

The third Austen novel I've read, and the first which didn't advertise its themes in its title. I enjoyed it greatly, obviously, as it is a great novel. Nobody- nobody!- drops one-liners as brilliantly as Austen. And the whole cast of characters, but particularly Emma Woodhouse herself, are so sharply and complicatedly drawn. There were moments in the later third of the book where I realized that we were still unfolding yet further layers of depth to Emma's personality, new layers that I couldn't have predicted or expected yet which I found completely integrated into my overall sense of who Emma was.

Mr. Knightley is a little hard to like and I think the romantic endgame was a little too neat for me, but I liked basically everything else. I think I particularly like the sense that even when Emma is not behaving well, Austen is rooting for her. There's a really powerful honesty in Austen's writing, and from that honesty emerges love. I am now poking at Northanger Abbey

The Long Lavender Look by John D. MacDonald

Do people know Travis McGee? I think I first learned of McGee from Spider Robinson's Callahan books, as Robinson and Jake are both big fans of MacDonald's work. I've read three or four of them over the years- I haven't particularly been looking for them, but they don't seem to turn up that often. You never see big displays of MacDonald's writing in bookstores or libraries, you rarely turn up the books at used bookstores, but there's about twenty of them and each that I've read so far has been a brilliant mystery novel and also an epitome of that curious genre, the Florida Novel. MacDonald's characters put Hiaasen's to shame. (I also just tried to read a Hiaasen novel, but it didn't take. Sometimes I like Hiaasen, but too often he sounds like reheated Elmore Leonard, like he's trying too hard.) The Long Lavender Look starts off with a pile of cliches- McGeee in jail for a crime he didn't commit, in a secretive rural county with a sheriff who has an unclear backstory- and then MacDonald eases off them one by and the book goes in so many surprising- and moving- directions. The book is funny, but bleak, entertaining but meditative, picaresque but realistic. It's leavened with just the right amount of all the ingredients that flavor life.
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It has been brutally hot this whole past week, except when it is torrentially raining. My brilliant plan to bike ride a few times a week for exercise and local area exploration has been tabled until the weather calms down a little.

I am doing a bit of exploration by car, though. I went to my new local library the other day to get a card and discovered that both my old library and my new one are part of a library consortium with a shared card catalog. So I don't actually need a new card, my old one will work at least until it expires, and I can return books borrowed from either library at either library. This is kind of amazing. Apparently it will also work in the library in the town I work, where I have for years stopped in a few times a week on my lunch break to read without ever checking books out. Yay libraries!

And tomorrow I'll be having Shabbos lunch guests, my first guests in the new apartment! It turns out the sister of one of my college friends now lives two blocks away from me, and my college friend is visiting her sister and her sister's husband for Shabbos, so I'm having them over. This is a friend who hosted me a number of times for Shabbos lunch when we were in school, so it feels really good to return the favor.

I cleaned and reorganized furniture last night in anticipation. My living room is still not totally furnished, I still need to acquire a couch, but set up for Shabbos lunch is easy- I moved my kitchen table to the living room and unfolded the side tabs and put a tablecloth on and it's just the right size. And then I moved all the leftover cardboard from moving into the closet. I was happily moving around the apartment all night afterward enjoying the setup. It's the first time the apartment has been set up for the convenience of anyone but me and it felt nice and balabatishe.
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
I moved into my new apartment a few weeks ago. So far everything has been going pretty well. The move was smooth and straightforward- since a bad experience a decade ago with moving out of a fifth story walkup, I have been a firm believer in lightweight furniture and especially plastic furniture. I can move any piece of furniture in my apartment myself, which is a great convenience even when you're fortunate enough to be able to ask your family for help with the move.

The biggest headache so far has been an incessant and mysterious stream of dead moths in my bathroom. They have thus far thankfully seemed unable to escape the bathroom to the kitchen, but every day I'd clear away several dead moths and then the next day I'd find a few more on the shower floor, in the sink, on the bathroom floor. A few live ones, too, but those were easily dispatched. I think I have finally resolved this problem, though, with a combination of insect spray and plugging up a hole in a windowsill. No new moths in the past four days!

I still need to figure out how to furnish my living room. I guess my decision is really about how often I intend to entertain. I can design my living room as a place comfortable for a group of people to hang out, or I can design it as a place comfortable for me to retreat to. There is some overlap, of course, but it plays into decisions like whether I want to fill all the walls with bookshelves or whether I want to get more couch space. At the moment the room just has a couple of folding chairs and a light fixture, while I deliberate.

[personal profile] morbane asked, when I posted about moving to my new apartment, about where I was moving from. I don't talk about it much, since it feels like a thing most people in my generation aren't very proud of even though it's very common, but since I graduated college almost a decade ago, I have been living back in my parents' home, as a fairly prototypical boomerang kid. I graduated in 2007 at the heart of the financial meltdown. There were very few jobs available in my field and nobody was biting on my resume. Most of my classmates had decided to go on for extra schooling to wait out the disaster, but I was way too burnt out on college to contemplate that. I spent the summer of '07 on my parent's couch watching all of the West Wing on DVD, and then in the fall I finally worked through my burnout and got to job hunting in earnest. I got a job in October '07 about six months after I graduated, but it was a contract work, temp-to-perm promised in six months, and it was only about a half hour drive from home, so it seemed to make sense to stay at home because of the financial uncertainty. Well, eight years passed, the job got more secure the more experience I got and the more I proved myself useful, and I was still living at home. It was time to move out. So I did.

I get along quite well with my parents, and we've gotten pretty good at maintaining neutral corners when we need space. I've owned my own car, too, so I have the freedom and mobility to leave and find additional space when I needed to get away, too. So basically living at home worked well for me and I haven't been itching to leave for the sake of independence, as was the case for some friends who don't get on with their parents as well. My mother's been subtly pressuring me to move out for the past couple of years, though, not because my being at home was disruptive to her, but because she felt like my progression to some envisioned adulthood was being slowed by my continuing to live at home. I'm not entirely sure this was a reasonable fear, though I sympathize with her worry. And my parents, though they did not live at home into their thirties, lived in an apartment building owned by my grandmother until their early thirties, so my mother's comments always felt a little unfair on those grounds.

But it's true that living at home partially exempted me from some chores and rites of adulthood, though only partially. I was mostly not responsible for cooking, as my mother got home from work three hours before I did and was generally responsible for preparing dinner. But I'm capable of cooking, and have picked up the chore at various times when my mother was unable, including a monthlong stretch after my mother had leg surgery. And I haven't paid a rent bill or mortgage payment, but I have paid various other monthly bills, including credit card bills and car insurance payments. I've handled all my own finances for quite a while. And the best part of living with my parents, unquestionably, is the amount of money I've been able to save from rent. I have the resources to buy a reasonably nice house now, and the plan at the moment is treat this year of living in an apartment as buying myself the time and opportunity to scope out the new town I've moved into for possible homes to buy. Or to decide I want to go in an entirely different direction, who knows?

I am managing these new burdens fine. I like cooking! I never really felt all that comfortable cooking in my mother's kitchen, because a kitchen is in some senses a really personal space that you customize to the way you cook, and because my impulse to learn new things by experimentation never really worked well with the kinds of cooking one is asked to do as a member of a family. And also because I'm bad at not making a mess while cooking. On the occasions when I was left at home alone, I'd take over the kitchen and try new things and my mother always teased me on her return upon finding evidence of my experiments. But I have my own kitchen now and I get to try things without feeling judged! I'm mostly still doing familiar recipes, but with tweaks here and there. I tried a new sauce with the chicken I made a few nights ago, and it was good. I baked challahs to freeze for Shabbas today, and they came out pretty well. It's not the first time I've made challah by myself, but the number of times I've done it is probably in the high single digits. But I'm looking to do it more often. Home baked challah adds something to the Shabbas experience.

Getting the portions right for cooking for one is something I'm re-adjusting to, but mostly I just cook too much and end up with leftovers, and that's been convenient too for the nights when I'm not prepared to cook. This is the first time I've ever been fully responsible for stocking a kitchen- in college I always had roommates to share the burden- so I've been doing food shopping in a little-bit-every-day fashion as I keep discovering kitchen staples that I haven't thought to get yet. I started out with a very limited set of spices, for example, and as new recipes call for new ones I'm adding to my collection. I'm spending a little more on food shopping than I'd anticipated, but I think it's mostly because of these upfront kitchen stocking costs. Once I have that out of the way I should be closer on track.

The new town I moved to has a larger observant Jewish community than the one I moved from. My hometown has a single Orthodox shul- this one has four, plus various shtiebls and so on. I'm going through them giving each a tryout, trying to figure out where I'll fit in. So far I haven't really met too many people in the Jewish community, but I have strategies for meeting people, I think this will turn out okay. I just joined a Facebook group for young Jewish professionals in town. And I still have involvement and obligations in the community I left, which is only about a twenty minute drive away.

And the biggest thing improvement in my life is the commute. My commute was on the order of 35-40 minutes each way, sometimes worse when traffic was bad. My commute is now 15-20 minutes. And it's not just getting an additional forty minutes into my day, it's that those forty minutes were the most unpleasant part of my day, with me having to be continuously alert of darting cars in dense traffic. My commute now is almost joyous. I get home less angry and exhausted and am able to be more productive on non-work things, though mostly that productivity has been channeled towards apartment setup stuff. I look forward to being able to channel it in other directions.

I brought my bike over yesterday and filled up the tires. I took a nice bike ride around town today, exploring the environs. The area I'm in now is smaller and less sprawly than the town I moved from- it's pretty nice to be in biking distance of things I might want to bike to. I biked about four miles and then my legs sort of stiffened up... I need to work on my fitness. I think I'm going to try a late afternoon ride after work a few times a week, if I'm up to it. In the Jersey suburbs everything is driving distances and I've gotten out of the habit of regular exercise, Shabbat walking excepted. Being on my own, setting my own schedule completely, I have an opportunity to build better habits.

One of my friends was saying how living alone is a thing he's not really comfortable with. He's always had roommates, and he's also the sort who's always inviting people into his home. I'm an introvert and I definitely need to at least create space where I can just spend time by myself, but I suppose I do need to keep an eye out that I don't turn my apartment into a retreat I never leave and never make space for other people in. That seems unlikely, though. I figure I'll be able to figure out a balance. (and my mother, who's been nudging me out for a while, is now worried she'll never see me again. Which seems unlikely. The past three weekends I have had family obligations- father's day, my grandfather's headstone unveiling, and going home for Shabbos. I'm wondering when I'll actually get a weekend without seeing my family, now that I've officially moved out. You know, I moved a whole twenty minutes.)

But yeah, I'm in the new place and I'm pretty happy at the moment!


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September 2017

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