Tag Archives: I Should Be Working

The price of a free e-book

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NameoftheWindBefore I left for Florence, Christmas happened. On my Christmas list was “e-reader,” so I could carry a library with me while I was abroad and it wouldn’t crush my shoulders and ruin my back. My Nook has served me quite well this past year and I’m very glad of it. I can fit Anathem (Neal Stephenson; 1008 pages), The Count of Monte Cristo — in French (Alexandre Dumas, northward of 1000 pages), The Name of the Wind (Patrick Rothfuss, 722 pages) and its sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear (1120 pages)… and a few more! all onto one nice little e-reader.

Everything was shiny, excellent, hunky-dory, and all-around great all the way to Florence and back; across 7 planes, over 40 hours of train rides, and with many hours of airport and train station waiting time. It was when I got home and discovered BookBub that I had a problem.

You see, BookBub trawls the internet hunting for cheap or free e-books in the format(s) you request. It then sends you an email with your BookBub deals, according to whichever update schedule you choose. (Mine is daily.) These cheap/free books are typically priced as such in order to promote them. More often than not, if it’s under $2, it’s the first in a series and they’re out to get you hooked. What I didn’t realise was that this cheap/free promotional system is effectively a replacement for the penny dreadful.

If you, like me, are always on the lookout for new books to read, BookBub sounds like heaven. So several weeks of updates come and go and I find myself downloading the few free (or $0.99) e-books whose descriptions catch my eye as “possibly quite interesting.” I never read them, though — I hadn’t the time.

At least, until I went to go visit some friends in a distant city, and made use of commercial air travel to do so. Armed with nothing but my Nook for reading material, I embarked upon a trip which took me nearly 12 hours longer than it should have to complete. This wouldn’t have been a bad thing if I hadn’t already read nearly all the good things I had loaded onto it, and all much too recently to justify re-reading. Plus, I had all those bargain books. They were worth a shot, right?

Hours and hours of tedious, dreary reading later, I realised that, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, they’re all terrible. Unless you KNOW you’re embarking upon a marvellous fictitious journey and it’s worth every penny and then some (The Name of the Wind was on sale for $1.99 when I bought it), you’ll be trudging through unedited (or poorly-edited) e-ink pages and wishing you had something more substantial to read. Reading the drivel which is out for free reminded me why I now primarily stick to classics, harder sci-fi, or established fantasy: because I need something to chew on, mentally. After twelve hours of air travel — not to mention an enormous amount of waiting time — over my weekend, I felt as though someone had been actively undermining my ability to appreciate good literature by poisoning my mind with trash. And the worst part was that the “someone” was me. I put my Nook away and hit the library. I needed something MUCH better to read.

If you, my dear readers, will allow me a moment of dramatic flair: the price of a free e-book is your mind. Most of the time, you really do get what you pay for. My advice? Keep the promotional info, but only buy things which will definitely be worth your while. (I highly recommend both Rothfuss and Sanderson as authors.) Otherwise, save that money for used paperbacks at places like Goodwill, your local library, or a used bookstore.

New Lent, New Goals

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A blessed and holy Lenten season to however few readers I have left!

This year, I’ve not been keeping up on the Catholic blogosphere nearly as much as I have in the past. Nonetheless, I do still religiously read two blogs, and one of them linked to Simcha Fisher’s Lenten Guide. I’m really grateful for this guide because she covers Lent as categories as opposed to particular disciplines, and I actually set out to do that this year.

In past years, I’ve treated Lent as a discipline, where I pick one thing to either give up or focus on. That makes it easy and pithy to tell someone else what I’m doing (“Oh, I gave up chocolate this year”) but it doesn’t necessarily remind me of why I’m doing it (“why did I choose to give up chocolate in Italy??”). So this year, I’m treating Lent as the chance to make myself a better person. Instead of one key thing, I’m using a series of small goals to help shape me into — hopefully — a holier person.

Anyone who knows me in real life knows that I have this archetypical-eldest-child complex of wanting to save the world and everyone in it. (Or rule it, depending on the day.) I also really like to do everything all at once. The biggest issue I’ve run into with this compound-complex is that, often, I don’t take the time to take care of myself properly. I don’t sleep very much, which causes my performance to suffer, which in turn takes a toll on my motivation and self-confidence because frankly an inordinate amount of my self-image is wrapped up in the work I do. This makes me a negative influence on the people around me. So this year, I’m going to take care of myself so that I can better serve other people. Semi-decent bedtime, Vespers daily, and working on my ongoing personal projects are all included in my list of small Lenten goals. (Side note: because this blog is one of my ongoing projects, of sorts, it may find itself being updated more frequently in the future. I’m considering renewing my presence on the Catholic blog scene.)

And so begins Lent, with an Ink trying to develop the ever-elusive discipline of time-management. A delightful fruit of my failure (I found it on tumblr) is below, just in case anyone ever needs it.

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The Halloween Countdown

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I may be busy and I may be crazed but Halloween is coming up and I am absolutely determined to have a really good costume this year. It is, after all, my absolute favourite holiday.

…yes, my dear Catholic readers, my favourite holiday is Halloween. Not Easter. Not Christmas. Halloween. Now before you go calling me a pagan, let me quickly point out that the respectable Leah Libresco ALSO loves Halloween and seems to be getting on just fine as a newly minted Catholic. There’s my obligatory finger-pointing taken care of; now for some of my actual justification.

This time of year, there is always a debate going on in the Catholic world. To celebrate Halloween or not? and if we celebrate it, do we make the kids dress up as saints and traipse through the neighbourhood in their robes and crowns with their super-symbolic candy buckets?

As a former witch (of every variation), flower child, ragdoll-Sally, bat, princess (of several flavours), galaxy, Ariel, and Mom-only-knows what else,* I object wholeheartedly to this proposal. Halloween is the day to dress up and pretend to be someone or something else. While I have not repeated a costume in my entire life (and I don’t plan to start any time soon!), my sister was a cat for at least four years running. And she was an adorable cat, too. But being a cat has nothing to do with saints or All Hallows Eve or souls. It does, however, have to do with the fact that on one day a year, we have a chance to put on a mask and costume and transform ourselves.

So, with 29 days left until Halloween, I’m hoping to write up a series of short posts about the holiday and why it’s not terrible to celebrate it.

*Mom made a lot of my costumes for a long time.

Temporary Discalcement

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I feel like “temporary discalcement” could be a band name. But that’s not the point of this post.

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My trusty sandals. Still wet from my morning walk to studio.

As I may have mentioned in passing, I’m spending my summer living between two houses, spending almost exactly half the week at each place. One is home-home. The other is just a house where I’m renting a room for the summer. I travel every week, and I’m always back at my house for the weekends, so I’m constantly figuring out ways to pack lighter and faster and tighter. The first thing I did was to ditch the idea of packing shoes. If I decided I were going to pack shoes, I’d have to actually choose which shoes I was going to pack, and I’m way too fond of my shoes to have to decide. So I just wear my sandals everywhere–they’re flat and comfortable and got me through a week’s worth of walking in Italy three years ago.

It has rained almost non-stop for the past two weeks. The first week I was living like this, it was sunny and hot. I don’t like hot, so I am happy about the coolness and the opportunity to wear sweaters and long sleeves, but man… my feet are SOAKED. ALL THE TIME.

This whole situation is giving me a lot of respect for the discalced religious orders. I really, really hate having wet feet. (Wet, icky feet are even worse–and sandals let in a lot of crud, so that happens way too often.) But I’m learning to deal with it and offer it up. Now my joke is that I’m a third-order discalced, even though I’m neither a religious nor a third-order and I’m fairly sure a discalced third-order doesn’t exist. It’s still fun to think about though.

And so, on this cold and grey and rainy day, I close with a picture of my umbrella which I took because it looked pretty darned awesome.DSCF4053

Exercising Patience

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I’m taking a summer studio class. (This is important because it means my entire summer is full of formal architecture training.)

For this class, I’m analyzing a building (at least to start) to understand its context, history, typology, etc. And holy cow, Stuttgart is one heck of a confusing city–I can’t tell if it’s because I can’t read German (and it’s kind of an intimidating language to my Romance-language-trained eyes) or because it’s just a confusing city.

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My Google Earth screencap of Stuttgart.

Lead and Follow

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Most architecture schools have a Beaux-Arts Ball every year.  This comes from the tradition of L’Ecole de Beaux Arts, the famous Parisian/classical school of architecture, which had a Ball de Quatr’Arts every year (the Four Arts Ball)–a fancy masquerade event where all the students and professors got together and partied.

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(For the sake of the author’s wish to remain as anonymous as possible, if you recognize this place, please don’t mention it and instead simply observe the beauty)

My school’s Beaux-Arts Ball was this past weekend, and it was at an undisclosed very beautiful location.  I believe it was built around the turn of the 20th century (I could be wrong) and is ornamented so intricately it’s gorgeous.  The ball was held in this location last year as well, and the first thing everyone did upon walking in was go “OOOOH!” and start photographing the inside.  Monumental staircases, balconies, alcoves, and the most delightful gilt detailing–all done in a sort of Indian style, with bodhisattva and elephants all over.  It is funny to me that everyone finds this place so beautiful because my school tends to lean in the Adolf Loos direction: ornament is crime and structural rationalism is pure and elegant.  It is also proof to me that beauty is not dead and still has an effect on the soul.

However, the discussion of the gorgeous location is not the point.  The point I am trying to discuss is the loss of actual dancing.  I am in the swing club at my school and learned quickly that you can do West Coast Swing to most pop songs.  But not most “house music” because it doesn’t really have a rhythm that can be danced to.  You can sway from side to side and step on alternate feet and move your arms and call it “dancing,” but there’s no actual technique or lead-and-follow or footwork involved.  What has been lost is the beauty of the partnered dance, where there is a clear lead and a clear follow and the leader’s job is to make the follower look beautiful.  The follower’s job is to do whatever the leader tells her and make sure she doesn’t go too far from him.  I spent the entire night counting the time of the “music” in my head, trying to find one that could have West Coast danced to it.  The selections were few, far-between, and not very good, so I was glad to find one once in a while.  But only one of my guy friends actually knows how to dance West Coast and he was elsewhere… so I tried to do it on my own.  It’s really, really hard–that particular dance is a slot dance, and I require momentum and control: in short, I need a leader.

When I looked out at the dance floor, I saw what looked like a writhing orgy of black and skin (architects always wear black; I stood out in blue).  The style of “dance” was what is called “grinding,” and it is pretty much obscene… not to mention that very few people show up to Beaux-Arts sober (being in the sober contingency is a little frustrating sometimes).  The whole thing made me sad.  What has been lost is an appreciation for culture and beauty, as well as any skill in dancing whatsoever.  Most dances which would qualify as “ballroom” dances are inherently gendered: the lead and follow is built in.  It requires sacrifice and submission on both parts; the leader is in charge of making all the decisions, whether he wants to or not, and the follower has to obey, whether she wants to or not.  Otherwise, they’ll go nowhere and probably run into each other.  And I really like that; it means that “Do you want to dance?” becomes a question which doesn’t involve some guy trying to rub himself all over you with music so loud you can’t hear yourself think and instead an opportunity for humour as you try to learn his leader-signals (each leader has his own little quirks) and follow what he tells you to do, while sometimes (or often) having to stop and say “wait, WHAT?” if his signals don’t translate to actions well.  It requires genuine attention on the part of both parties, making the social aspect more apparent as you can actually talk to each other.

Everyone should know some kind of real dance, even if just a little.  Gentlemen, learn to dance; especially if you are actively looking for a nice young lady.  I can virtually guarantee that she will be quite impressed if you know how to dance properly.

Give the world a soap box…

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Yep, it’s called Facebook.  It’s horrifically annoying.  It’s almost even more annoying when it makes its way into the real world.

I have a number of issues with Facebook, yet I continue to use it for reasons of communication; and believe me, as soon as I finish college, I am getting rid of it and forcing everyone to e-mail, call, or *gasp!* visit me.  Nonetheless, I’m still there right now, and am therefore subject to whatever my friends want to announce to the world.  And sometimes my classmates decide to get into a heated debate on Facebook and yell about it in the middle of studio time (so it’s not like I can even just leave).

Dear world,

Facebook might be your soap box, but this is mine.  Here, nobody knows who I am; and if you do, you’re a friend.  Which means that most people who comment are more comfortable saying things–at least in my opinion.  You don’t know me… you have a right to a screenname, so I wouldn’t know you, either, unless you wanted me to.  Not a bad deal; the internet at its finest.

If Facebook is your soap box, please do me an enormous favour and stop expecting everyone to be completely okay with the flooding of our newsfeeds with political stuff.  Seeing the same stuff over and over again gets old; to be honest, I got really tired of all the pope stuff, too, and I do love Pope Francis.  If I want something, I’ll go find it myself.  I am tired of all the stupid red equals signs as profile pictures.  You seriously think that just by changing your profile picture to something political, you’ll make a difference to anyone, aside from annoying them slightly?  That suggests that if I changed my profile picture to something from an anime, people who don’t watch anime will start to care about it.  The answer is no, they won’t, and they’ll probably just roll their eyes at me for it.

You can’t change the world through Facebook.  You can’t change it through a blog, either, but at least I’m not forcing you to read this by nature of you being my “friend.”  If you read this, you came to read it.  Some part of you went out of your way to check my blog.  If I go to Facebook to stalk pictures from my school’s Beaux-Arts Ball, I am inundated with political commentary, whether I want to or not.  So much for everyone getting along and living and letting live.

I disagree with you, red-equals-sign-posters.  I disagree with you on the basis of natural law and the fact that marriage is about children.  I also disagree with you for even jumping on that bandwagon; you can’t come up with something more creative?  Honestly?  I’m rather disappointed.  If you’re excited about the legislation, post something, don’t just change your photo, and be prepared to back up your position.  Unless, of course, you live in the magical world where everyone agrees with you and nothing bad ever happens.

Irritatedly (but still in Christ),

Ink