Not surprisingly, February was another quite month of riding out both winter and the pandemic. As with everyone, Holly and I are looking forward to nicer weather and to eventually getting vaccinated. Things seem to be progressing particularly slowly in Pennsylvania, but managing the time between now and then will be more bearable once the weather starts getting better. We were already able to take a couple nice walks toward the end of the month. We even went out on a short walk after work with a friend we hadn’t seen all winter.
The big event of the month was my birthday. Holly and I took a long weekend to celebrate. Although we weren’t able to do some of our usual birthday outings, like going out to dinner or to the movies, we had a nice time together.
One night we cooked “together” with my brother over Facetime. We all prepared the same meal and chatted while we did so. Certainly not the same as being physically together, but we take what we can get these days.
I wrote more about our eating and drinking on SimpleGoodness.us, the food blog Holly and I irregularly post to.
For most of February, the weather was the usual dismal winter mix, but we did get some more pleasant days toward the end. Having some daylight remaining after we get done work is a big relief even on days when it’s too cold to go out.
We did have a few snowstorms. We had a couple sunny days after one of the snowy days, and we tried going for a walk along the Schuylkill River one Sunday, but there wasn’t as much melting and clearing as we had hoped.
I did bring along my Olympus TG-5 and took some pictures of the less than ideal walking conditions.
We also had one pretty nice day over our long birthday weekend. I brought along both my Minolta XE and my Minolta Hi-Matic 11. I finished my roll in the former but haven’t gotten it developed yet. I usually wait until I have a few rolls done before dropping them off to be developed.
Drawing and Graphic Design
I already posted about my last Procreate drawing project. I also worked a little more on the pen tool sections of the of Illustrator 2020 One-on-One: Fundamentals Lynda.com course.
I continued my good pace posting here with 5 posts in February. I still am surprised at the fair amount of traffic I get considering I don’t do any real promotion. I send some of my photo posts to Twitter once in a while but don’t do anything other than that. I had 300 visits this month compared to 183 last February.
I continued working on some short story revisions, finishing 3 stories and starting working on another one. The longer story I mentioned last month is on hiatus as I turned my attention to those other shorter pieces. I also resumed sending stories out for consideration.
As I mentioned above, Holly and I have a food blog which I posted to for the first time in 2 years. I spent some time during the month making some tweaks to get it ready.
I read a couple of stories of note in February, both from The New Yorker: Casting Shadows by Jhumpa Lahiri and Good-Looking by Souvankham Thammavongsa. I knew that Lahiri had starting writing in Italian, and this was the first of her translated works I read. Although I read Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake, I’m not well-versed enough in her work to say anything about any differences between her English stories and this one Italian one. I was curious enough about her decision to write in Italian that I read In Other Words which is her book about her process of adopting Italian.
I had read on of Thammavongsa’s stories last year, Edge of the World, which appeared in The Atlantic. I liked that story as well.
Short Stories Read in 2021
So far in 2021, I’ve read 5 stories that I enjoyed.
- The Rivals, Andrea Lee (New Yorker)
- A Challenge You Have Overcome, Allegra Goodman (New Yorker)
- The Wind, Lauren Groff (New Yorker)
- Casting Shadows, Jhumpa Lahiri (New Yorker)
- Good-Looking, Souvankham Thammavongsa (New Yorker)
February was a busy reading month. Although I have always been a reader, I think the pandemic has taken my interest to another level. It’s one of the things that has helped me stay sane during our self-isolation.
I finished 5 books in February.
I had started reading Barack Obama’s A Promised Land back in November. It’s a long book and fairly dense in parts so it took me a while to get through it. Overall, I found it fascinating despite the dense parts where he gets a little too into the political weeds for my interest level.
I somewhat impulsively downloaded 2 books from Amazon’s First Reads program that is part of Prime. For a while, I had routinely gotten books through that in order to read books outside of my usual tastes and genres. Not surprisingly, it was a little hit and miss but it was interesting to read books I normally wouldn’t.
When I first started with it in 2014, I pretty routinely selected something every month, After a while, I just got books that sounded interesting. And then stopped altogether. The last First Reads book I read, back in 2017, was In Farleigh Field, by Rhys Bowen which I recall liking.
In January, they had a special deal offering 2 free books so I decided to jump back in, picking up The Shadow Box by Luanne Rice and The Ardent Swarm by Yamen Manai.
I’m so out of touch with popular books that I didn’t realize until after I read The Shadow Box that Rice is a quite famous, best-selling author. I also didn’t realize until after I read The Shadow Box that somewhere along the way, I also got Last Day by her.
The Shadow Box was a quick and compelling read, although most of the characters were not very fleshed out and the plot would buckle if I thought about it any harder than I have. The main character is an artist who is attacked and believed to be dead. She tries to figure out what lead to her attack and who her attacker was. There’s no real mystery to either of those things so I guess it’s more of a thriller? I’m not up on my genre definitions. It was enjoyable while I was reading it but didn’t really stick with me.
I got a lot more out of The Ardent Swarm. Manai is Tunisian writer and the novel takes place in a small, North African village. The main character is a beekeeper whose hives are attacked and nearly destroyed. As he tries to discover the cause of the attack, the small village undergoes a change as the residents are influenced by a fundamentalist politician. I also found this to be a quick and compelling read but the characters and situations were interested and engaging.
Despite enjoyed The Shadow Box and really liking The Ardent Swarm, I am a little on the fence about getting a First Reads book in February. I did get After Alice Fell, by Kim Taylor Blakemore but haven’t decided if I am going to read it. Although I have felt rewarded on occasion by reading books off my radar, I also have so many books I intentionally want to read that it’s hard to commit.
Since my birthday was at the end of the month, I decided to re-read E.M. Cioran’s The Trouble with Being Born. This was my 3rd time reading it. I also read it in 2015 and 2018 so I guess the urge comes upon me every 3 years. The entire books is just a series of aphorisms most of them bleak and some so over-the-top bleak that they’re borderline funny.
“What do you do from morning to night?”
“I endure myself.”
As I mentioned in the short story section, I also read Jhumpa Lahiri’s In Other Words which is her fascinating account of learning Italian and the complex reasons why she decided to go down that path.
Books Read in 2021
So far in 2021, I have read 12 books:
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare
- Spritz: Italy’s Most Iconic Aperitivo Cocktail, with Recipes, Talia Baiocchi and Leslie Pariseau
- To Be a Man, Nicole Krauss
- Richard II, William Shakespeare
- Henry IV, Part 1, William Shakespeare
- Henry IV, Part 2, William Shakespeare
- Henry V, William Shakespeare
- A Promised Land, Barack Obama
- The Shadow Box, Luanne Rice (Kindle)
- The Ardent Swarm, Yamen Manai (Kindle)
- The Trouble with Being Born, E.M. Cioran
- In Other Words, Jhumpa Lahiri (Kindle)
This Creative Midlife Posts in 2021
- December 2020 Update
- Canon AE-1 with Kodak Tri-X
- Minolta XE with Arista EDU Ultra
- New Photo Light Box
- Favorite Photos from the 2nd Half of 2020
- January 2021 Update
- Snow, the West, and Old Digital Cameras
- Testing My New Replacement Cameras
- Another Wine Label Tracing Project in Procreate
- One More Roll from 2020
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