Refilling the Well

So, this week, unlike a good chunk of Texas, I had heat, power, light, water… and Kung Flu.

You know, I can’t really complain; it could have been a lot more miserable. I know what off-grid living is like, and have no desire to be without hot running water ever again. Cheerfully addicted to it, to a degree that chocolate doesn’t even compare, and unashamed to admit that fact!

As it was, somewhere between the meds and the misery going on in my head and chest, I just can’t word well enough to write fiction. And stuck at home in the house all day, not feeling up to much in the way of cooking or cleaning, I was left with farting around on the internet, and… reading. So I got a lot of reading done.

Okay, and petting the cats. And sleeping, lots of sleeping. But that’s boring to talk about; let’s talk about books!

On the light and fluffy end, I’m nearly finished with Vodka: How a Colorless, Odorless, Flavorless Spirit Conquered America by Victorino Matus. It’s an enjoyable light read on a random subject, with a pull quote by PJ O’Rourke on the cover. Why not?

For enjoyable fiction, I finished Alma Boykin’s latest, Learnedly Familiar. Which made me giggle aloud in several parts.

Delving into more serious and much more attention-demanding reads, the kindle version dropped before the print edition, so I’ve been reading Arsenal of Hope: Tactics for Taking on PTSD, Together by Jen Satterly. Which is an extremely thoughtful, optimistic, raw, and realistic look at the effect of PTSD on the rest of the family, and on a variety of methods to tackle it and work together on getting better… for everyone involved. I’m going to have to re-read this when healthy, because it’s pretty dense, and there are some concepts in there I want more brainpower to chew over than Kung Flu brain had available.

And once I’d read that, then I went back and read All Secure: A Special Operations Soldier’s Fight to Survive on the Battlefield and the Homefront by Tom Satterly, because these two books are… they stand on their own just fine. But when you put them together, they really flesh out and reinforce each other, to the point it’s almost like reading a completely different book from the first time through.

I’m normally pretty price-sensitive, like any voracious reader. I will say, though, that those two were worth every penny I paid for ’em, and I don’t begrudge the higher price than indies are comfortable charging.

And for something completely different, I finished The Barbizon Diaries: A Meditation on Will, Purpose, and the Value Of Stories by James A Owen. James is a fantastic artist who’s had some truly terrible luck in the world, including a car accident that shattered his drawing hand. His first book, Drawing Out the Dragons: A Meditation on Art, Destiny, and the Power of Choice, recounted the tale, and how he managed to overcome fear, loathing, self-doubt, low expectations, and a whole lot of physical therapy. I read it years ago, and it provided an extraordinarily valuable piece of advice wrapped in a story that saved me a lot of heartache. No, not some “you can do anything you set your mind to” aphorism. It was that physical therapists will try to get you back to “normal” for the “average” person. If you want to be better than “average”, you have to provide them with very clear, specific goals that tell them what you want to accomplish by the time you’re done.

Man, that advice made things so, so much better on my next round of physical therapy. Not only did I have clear goals – so did the therapists. And with that in mind, therapy sucked five time harder, and accomplished ten times as much!

Anyway, once I realized he had a sequel out, I picked it up for a opportune moment to read… and this was my opportunity. The Barbizon Diaries continues on in the same vein, with another incident, but it really is best if you’ve read Drawing out the Dragons first.

Barely begun and still to finish this weekend is The World We Have Lost, by Peter Laslett. This one is another that takes more brainpower, as I dredge up the old memories of what I learned for my degree and compare it with his findings, then check out the footnotes and pause, saying “Self, how deep do we want to go down this rabbit hole?” Because it’s about English society pre-Industrial Revolution, how it used to be, culturally, and how it changed in response to industry. The past is a foreign country; they did things very differently there.

Of the stack, none are currently slated to help with this immediate work in progress, though Jen Satterly’s book did provide some interesting insights into Things My Calmer Half Thought I Already Knew. *facepalm* Communication! Still working on it, ten years later. Probably will be until death do us part… but along with the rest, you never know when it’ll come back out in a work of fiction. Things do all the time!

What have you read lately that was interesting?

20 comments

  1. — I know what off-grid living is like, and have no desire to be without hot running water ever again. —

    One of the most under-appreciated movies of recent years, Deliverance, ends with the three surviving protagonists being ministered to in a modern clinic. While his minor bruises and scrapes are being treated, character Ed, played by Jon Voight, murmurs “Nice.”
    “What?” says the nurse.
    “Chromium,” Ed says. “Hot water. Paper towels.”

    As the song says, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone…though I doubt the songwriter was thinking about hot water as he wrote it.

    1. Once upon a time, many years ago, a customer who I’d worked with several times leaned across the counter and dropped his voice. “Do you have your commercial? If you do, I’ll hire you right out from under (boss)’s nose, for flying customers out to the lodge. I don’t care if you don’t have your float rating; I’m gonna have to teach you to fly Beavers anyway, so it’ll mean you don’t come with bad habits.”

      I grinned at him, and said, “No, not yet. And… I’m afraid I have a severe addiction to hot, running water.”

      He blew out a breath, and ran a hand through his hair. “Damnit. That’s what my wife says, too, which is why she won’t stay out at the lodge the whole season, either. Hey, you get your commercial and you ever change your mind, you let me know. Pilots with Alaska time and common sense are thin on the ground, much less lady pilots.”

      …I sometimes strongly regret not taking him up on his offer, back when I was young enough and unbroken enough that it would have been a grand adventure. On the other hand… hot, running water. HVAC heat. The ability to get out of bed without immediately putting on DEET. Eh. *waggles hand*

      1. Funny how we get used to stuff like that, isn’t it? Time was, I was something of an outdoorsman. Hiking, cliff-climbing, backpacking and camping in all sorts of places. Today, my idea of roughing it is a stay in a three-star hotel in a large city. Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis, don’t we just?

    2. “And what are the best things in life?”
      “Hot water, good dentishtry and shoft lavatory paper.”
      – Cohen the Barbarian

  2. I read _Dress Codes_ by Richard Ford. It looks at the “laws” of clothing, both in the formal legal sense (sumptuary laws, decency laws) and the unspoken-but-understood rules that allow groups to differentiate themselves from others. In the final chapters, I kept thinking about the line, “It takes a lot of money to look that bad,” which is true. I’ve got a few other things on the list, including Andy Ngo’s book about everyone’s least-favorite reenactment group.

  3. ” I just can’t word well enough….” YES! I often experience this but had no name for it. And this simple observation destroys theories (eg. Sapir-Whorf) proposing that thought = language. Those of us who have shared Dorothy’s Struggle know that there is much more to it!

    1. Sapir-Whorf had ahold of the edge of a concept that is true – that the structure of a language builds a mental architecture for understanding the world, and different languages do automatically place more and less emphasis on certain concepts. However, they then failed to understand that language is not the driver of culture – culture is the driver of language. As the culture changes, the language changes, because it is the vehicle by which we communicate with others, not the straitjacket that holds us to a worldview.

      Look, fashion is a language (see Alma’s book reference above.) And fashion shapes how we interact with the world, as well as is shaped by it. But no one who’s looked at more than 200 years of fashion across multiple cultures could say with a straight face that fashion is the driving force of how we think and interact with the world, and what concepts we have. Although, let me say that pants were a really great invention. The invention of the stirrup really was what drove the spread of pants, not the other way around, and anyone who mixes that up… is likely to also fall for the elegance of Sapir-Whorf, without ever checking that Whorf got his primary source wrong and didn’t understand the Hopi, and…

      …oh, excuse me, where did that soapbox come from? I need more coffee, less ranting. Sorry!

      1. A simple example for why the Sapir-Whorf “followers” get things wrong IMO.

        The word “pork” comes from the French language and there was no Anglo-Saxon word “meaning” pork.

        Does that mean that the Anglo-Saxons didn’t have the concept of “pork”?

        Nope, the Anglo-Saxons called it “pig meat”. šŸ˜€

        1. As I recall, the dichotomy arose because the Anglo-Saxons looked after the animals, and their Norman overlords ate the meat. Both groups used their name for the animal for both the animal and the meat thereof.

          When the Normans finally decided to speak English (after falling out with the French) certain Norman French terms came with them, including their words for cows, pigs and sheep for the meat of these animals. Because they had never looked after the animals in the fields the Normans didn’t much care what they were called there, so the Anglo-Saxon terms were retained.

      1. Piper’s work is almost all in the public domain (I’m talking here about the US — copyright laws vary by country).

        Note that I am not a lawyer, and this isn’t legal advice about copyright.

        When Piper committed suicide in November 1964, Ace Books (his then publisher) bought the copyrights from the estate. However, they didn’t file for the extension (works published before Jan 1, 1964 had a 28 year copyright, and you could file for an extension when the copyright term ended). So almost everything he wrote became public domain, so Project Gutenberg could make the works available.

        The main exception was the book published as Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen, which incorporated “Down Styphon” and “Gunpowder God”, both of which appeared in Analog (Nov 1964 and Nov 1965) after the cutoff for filing an extension. So they automatically get (with subsequent changes in copyright law) a 95 year term, so the book won’t go public domain for a long time.

        This applies only to the US; I’m not commenting on copyright laws in other countries, or guessing when those works will go PD there.

    1. “Police Operation” is still my favorite Piper story. Enough that I have a chambering reamer and loading dies for .235 Ultraspeed-Express, which was a fictional cartridge until now…

      Though given current politics, “Lone Star Planet” has moved up in the list.

  4. The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich A. Hayek — the classic

    Quiet Pine Trees by T.R. Darling — his twitter handle — they are, in fact, flash fiction twitter style

  5. “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must remain silent” seems to be Wittgenstein saying that language is the realm of logic and that many things can only be shown. The cost being that showing is not susceptible to proof.
    Not sure what this says about Sapir-Whorf, but it suggests that he would have derided their theory (even though his aphorism sounds quite similar).

  6. Rod Dreher’s new book, “Live Not By Lies”. However, I shouldn’t have been picking it up and putting it down as I took care of my elderly parents but it was what I had handy. By the end of the day, I was too tired to read.

  7. How to Deal With Narcissists by Michael Trust has been a fascinating read.

    I’ve been rereading all the Dick Francis books with the Daughter Product. From the mid 60s to the early 2000s Mr. Francis deft characterisation of place and time has been eye-opening. Lots of things we now are horrified by got their start in all kinds of odd corners that no-one really took seriously. Also the we needs more books with ponies in.

    For Us the Living back-to-back with the Pankera book was… Eyes opening. Those who want to use stories to change culture could do worse than study how Mr. Heinlein pulled it off. Maybe it’s a good thing that the Wokerati have chained progressive storytellers so tightly they find it hard to write anything but grey goo.

    Dean King’s Rackam Files. Sorry I missed them the first go-round.

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