A quote from Changes Book 12 of the Dresden Files written by Jim Butcher.
Susan smiled at me giving Molly the female once over, a process by which one woman creates a detailed profile of another woman based on about a million subtle details of clothing, jewelry, makeup, body type and then decides how much of a social threat she might be.
Men have a parallel process, but it’s binary. Does he have beer? If yes, will he share with me?
I’ve been struggling the last couple of months with writing; I just can’t find the focus and creativity to articulate my thoughts. I get bursts of ideas and they seem to fizzle in my mind rather than provoke a train of thought. And now I’m doing the most cliche thing,in that I’m writing about not being able to write. Perhaps it’s more interesting to write about how I think I can solve the problem, and that’s finding a muse.
Repetition is the death of creativity. When you repeat the same tasks day after day, travel the same routes, eat the same foods, have the same discussions about the same topics, it’s easy to get into a rut. Where does creativity come from? It’s a question that perhaps will never be answered sufficiently. There is a mystery in the art of creation that I’m not sure will ever go away; part of the allure of art is that it’s seemingly formed out of nothing. It’s that magical feeling you felt when you first saw your favorite movie, or heard your favorite song. I once heard someone write that if they could be given one wish, it’d be to see their favorite movie again for the first time. No matter how much you love something, that first experience with something new is unique. This is what drives romantic comedies. The power of love at first sight, and first kisses, are powerful and captivating emotions. So where does that magic come from, and when you’re struggling to find any, what do you do?
Certainly, you write about not being able to write. I’d wager 99%, or more, of blogs that touch on anything of a personal nature have a post somewhere that laments the author’s struggles with the creative process. I’ve been thinking I need to get outside of the house to write, to get away from the same walls and the same desk I do everything else at. Clear my head of all the clutter and daily tasks that invite themselves into my brain when I’m in the familiar surroundings and focus on what I want to be doing. One day I hope to have a dedicated area, and computer, for writing. No bills waiting to be paid, or amazon.com gifts waiting to be cashed. In the meantime, on my way to and from the kitchen to refill my coffee cup today I remember I needed to add eggs to the grocery list, put some groceries away that were sitting on the table, checked to see if any of the plants needed watering, and noted that I needed to clean the litter box. By the time I returned to my computer, my train of thought had gone off in a billion different directions, which caused me to think to check Facebook and Twitter rather than returning directly to the post I was writing.
I find outside stimulates me more, but as much as I enjoy cold weather it’s not comfortable to sit outside in it for the period of time needed to write anything useful. So this week I’m going to take the netbook out to a Starbucks or a food court and try to focus on writing without distraction. It’s not my usual computer so perhaps I can avoid checking Twitter and other time-wasting activities and concentrate. Perhaps the flow of strangers and activity around me will break me from my rut and provoke that creative spark. Hopefully it’ll put me in the path of new experiences and new thoughts that will then flow out of my brain and into cohesive sentences. Wish me luck!
You see those silly stickers, the white ovals with the black writing, all over the place. There is a marathon one, simply saying 26.2. I mocked up this 25.6 one, which is a common size for a bottle of beer. It is also the amount of ounces in a fifth, or fifth of a gallon. This was a common size for liquor in the United States, until regulations changed it over to metric fifths; 750 milliliter bottles, which are 7 ml smaller.
Beer is not subject to the same sort of regulations as distilled alcohol, which is perhaps why breweries occasionally make fifths of beer. Between this and pints, beer has retained much of the English system of measurement. One day the world will be fully metric and my proposed 25.6 sticker will be a quaint bit of nostalgia.
Without any spoilers..
It’s been years in the making, but the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (With much help from Brandon Sanderson) finally came to an end this month with the final book, A Memory Of Light. I enjoyed the book a lot, and initially read it slowly letting my mind process and enjoy it. However, once I got to the Last Battle and the final conclusions we’d all been waiting for for decades, I couldn’t put it down and read the final 300 or so pages at once, until 1:30 in the morning. Luckily there is a lot of action and plot development in this book, something that’s not as present in other books of the series.
This actually has the effect of making the book feel rushed. Robert Jordan created such an expansive world that he kept taking us down new branches of story, to the point that it was difficult to see the end coming. Certainly this make people disgruntled, even though I often wish my favorite books didn’t have to end. It’s often about the journey more than the destination. So when Robert Jordan died, despite promising he would get to the point, it took Sanderson three books to wrap it up, and he probably needed more. There were a lot of interesting story lines that I felt could’ve been expanded on, but perhaps I’m just used to it taking multiple books for things to play out.
I’d love to see more from Sanderson, or even another author, in this world. There are plenty of untold stories along the way like a prequel based on Tam’s journey, and there are plenty of adventures that could be expected to take place after. Even knowing what’s coming, a couple of books on the world leading up to the sealing of the Dark One in his prison and the Breaking of the world could be a good read. I know Brandon Sanderson is not Robert Jordan, but I think he did an admiral job with the three final books. It’s a tricky thing to do, but I arrived at the end of the book satisfied with it. There were sad moments and triumphant ones, expected conclusions and some interesting twists. (At least if you hadn’t endlessly nitpicked every sentence of the previous 13 books already) Ultimately, I felt it a believable ending even if it’s not exactly how I would’ve expected it to go.
Without revealing anything, I felt the ending/epilogue was a little short. The book tries to touch on each and every character in some way, but there is a lot left unresolved and it feels like there was a little too much lingering on one or two secondary/minor characters than others. I understand the idea of wanting to leave the world very open ended, I just felt like there was a thread or two that needed to be tended to.
Overall, it was bittersweet to see the series finally come to an end. I enjoyed it immensely, even the meandering books in the middle. Thank you Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, and now bring on the next epic fantasy series! I welcome suggestions on what to read next. I’m up to date on the Dresden Files, and The Song of Ice and Fire. Who’s the next Robert Jordan?
These past two Sundays, you’ve been able to shop in New Jersey. This includes Paramus, despite additional town bans on Sunday shopping. They tried to fight the temporary lifting of the blue laws, but were denied. Kudos to County Executive Kathleen A. Donovan for requesting the lifting of the ban, Governor Christie for agreeing and for being a supporter of businesses open on Sunday, and for Judge Menelaos Toskos for denying Paramus’ aim to appeal it.
Now it’s time to make it permanent. There is some evidence that Christie has wanted to do so, and the number $65 million has been floated as additional sales tax revenue. In addition to the tax revenue is the work hours required to man shops on Sunday. With the economy and unemployment rates what they are, this would be a much needed boon.
The country is moving forward, and it’s time for anti-capitalist laws like the Bergen County blue laws to be repealed permanently. It only hurts local businesses, as in the 21st century shopping is not difficult. People can purchase pretty much anything online, or drive outside of the county to a different one, or to New York. This means extra unnecessary driving which is bad for the environment, bad for people that want to run a quick errand and bad in times of gas shortages. It means less revenue for New Jersey as a whole, and I could see where if the state and county made more money, tax-hikes could be avoided. It does create less traffic in Paramus and major routes through the county on Sunday, but that’s not much boon to travelers who have nowhere to go with everything closed. It also worsens crowds on Saturdays, when everyone that needs to shop is forced to do so. Supermarkets and other essential businesses that are allowed to open on Sundays are more crowded because shoppers do what they have to Saturday, leaving what they can do Sunday for Sunday. Opening businesses would create more total shoppers and cars and travelers, but it would spread it out over a longer period and across more shop as well. It’s also unfair to residents who work Monday through Friday and follow the Jewish Sabbath on Saturdays.
I do feel for residents that live right next to the malls and busy shopping areas, but if you were really looking for a peaceful area one day a week isn’t doing it for you. It’s time to stop getting in the way of businesses and their freedom to operate in this county.
With Hurricane Sandy forcing many towns in the northeast to postpone Halloween, it seems worth pondering a permanent change. Halloween’s connection to All Saints’ Day or a particular religious event is really only academic. Functionally, the holiday would make a lot more sense for everyone if it occurred on Saturday.
I’d suggest the last Saturday in October would be the best time to celebrate, although timing it with the first Saturday in November and the changing of the clocks could work too. Many parties and celebrations take place on the weekend anyway so why not do the same with the whole holiday? Parents that work either have to take off or take their children trick or treating after they get home from work when it’s already dark out in most of the country. More people would be home to give out candy as well, and if families prefer a different celebration, organizing or attending a party is much easier on a Saturday afternoon.
The human mind fascinates me. It has the ability to string together trains of thought in order to connect things that are seemingly completely unrelated and in no way similar. Due to external stimuli an innocent phrase can stimulate memories and senses that haven’t been thought about or experienced in decades.
Try walking back into your high school or another spot you spent a lot of time when you were younger. The memories that flood back are things you probably haven’t even though about since you were there. A billboard may remind you of a paper you wrote for English class that got hung up in praise, reminding you of the work and effort you put into it. A bank of lockers may remind you of a girl or guy you had a crush on and even though you can’t remember their last name you remember the color of their eyes and the way they wore their hair 20 years ago.
Those are ordinary, visual, connections. Today I sloshed some coffee out of my cup as I was retrieving it from the cup holder as I got out of the car. The scalding liquid splashed a little on my hand, burning me, and I muttered “of course” to myself in a woe-is-me belief that misfortune was coming for me and of course I burned myself on my coffee. My next thought was immediately, “no one can talk to a horse of course. That is, of course, unless the horse is the famous Mr. Ed.” This song was complete with the lyrics and melody and a faint memory of the black and white TV show intro that I used to watch when I was little on Nick at Nite but probably haven’t seen in 10 years.
I probably say ‘of course’, or hear it said, multiple times every day and it doesn’t trigger this memory. So what was so special about this one time that my mind formed this instant connection from a phrase muttered off-hand to myself to a TV show that was seemingly the furthest thing from my mind? I’ve got a couple of ideas. Earlier in the day I had cause to come up with a random word, and the word I chose was zebra. The horse on Mr. Ed was actually a zebra due to training issues with the original horse cast to play the role. This seems like a tenuous connection at best, but was the random phrase enough to bump Mr. Ed higher up in my consciousness in order to latch onto the “of course” I uttered later? Perhaps. Another possibility could be that horses were on my mind due to a mention of cavalry in battle in the audio book I was listening to that morning. They were actually faerie horses, but horses are horses after all. Perhaps that’s what bridged the connection.
I’m always fascinated by these “Where’d that come from?!” moments our brains toss our way. This one in particular had me smirking in amusement, and now I have the urge to watch an episode of a 1960s television show.
Our second day in Amsterdam started with a hop-on, hop-off Museum line canal cruise. We rode the canal boat to the Van Gogh museum, enjoying the view and the automated audio guide along the way. Between the hotel and the boat pick-up location we picked up coffee and liege waffles to eat. This was our first encounter with the reluctance Europe has with the eat on the run mentality that’s so prevalent in New York. We saw a shop with a display case of baked goods and figured that’d work, but the waiter seemed like he kept expecting us to sit and relax and kick our feet up. Awkwardly, we departed with our goods.
There are many terrific places to drink beer in Amsterdam, and I was barely there long enough to sample very many of them, but one of the ones that really stood out was Arendsnest. This is a beer ‘bar’ (they’re called cafes in Amsterdam) on a quiet street specializing in Dutch beers. As of this posting Google maps is suggesting it’s closed, but I promise that’s not the case.
Arendsnest has quite a selection of beers written on chalkboards on the walls. It seemed they had a decent bottle selection as well, and some of them looked liked they might be extremely local, sporting simple white paper labels that looked like the product of a small outfit, but alas there was no bottle list.
Now, it would’ve been helpful to have some styles listed next to the beers. I’ve taken for granted how much I know about US beer sometimes, and being able to recognize beers and styles. In Amsterdam I was barely able to pronounce most of the beers on this beer list. I had three.
First I had an Ongelovige Thomas by Jopen. It looks like that means Pagan, or unbeliever. It’s listed as an American Strong Ale and at 10% ABV. It struck me by the way it was listed as a limited release type beer, so I selected it. It was good but not great, a little too strong on that intense alcohol taste for me.
For my second beer I selected an Xtreem Centennial by Bierbrouwerij De Eeem. Much like I did at Brouwerij ‘t IJ I was drawn in by the hops name that I recognized. This one was clearly an IPA. This was probably the best beer I had in Amsterdam, although I’m clearly partial to India Pale Ales. It had just the right amount of spicy bitterness and was a very well executed beer.
Shortly after I ordered that one, the guy next to me asked the bartender for advice and he happened to mention a rye ale. I tend to really like rye beers, so I resolved to get a third beer, and for it to be the Den Dorstige Tijger by Ramses Bier. It’s a cool name for a beer anyway, which translates to the thirsty tiger. Of course, both untappd and ratebeer list it as an IPA, with no mention of rye so I must’ve have misunderstood. I was particularly disappointed by this one anyway, which tasted pretty watery and weak to me with a sort of blah bitterness to it.
So that was Arendsnest, a very cool cafe in Amsterdam specializing in local beers. In retrospect I could’ve chosen a better subset of beers, but I’m still glad to have checked the place out and recommend it for any beer fans heading to The Netherlands.
We arrived in Amsterdam on Friday afternoon, after taking a Red Eye from New York. First impression: Yowzah that’s a lot of bikes!
Amsterdam is a pretty cool city. We started the afternoon after checking in by walking around the place and checking out the canals. It was a little quiet at first, once we walked away from the transit hub at Centraal Station near where we were staying. Friday afternoon is not a place you expect to be bustling with people necessarily, but when you’re used to New York City quiet streets in the middle of the day are odd.