In January…

Yawn... (Photo:

Yawn… (Photo:

… I made a good attempt at hibernating!

I undertook a new challenge at work. I am now on the collective bargaining team – on the management side! The whole thing is a new experience to me. Our contract expired 10 months ago but there seems to be no urgency about settling it. The process may take months. We have been meeting two full days a week. It is quite a change from spending time in the office and in the library.

I am pleased to say I cleaned up my act when it comes to eating and exercise. It got away from me back in November when my elliptical machine conked out and I went to endless holiday food events. This led to a long stretch of saying What the Heck. You know how it goes – New Year, New Diet. I have now been working out 5 days a week for 3 weeks – mostly on the now-fixed elliptical, but also skating once a week. I can’t believe how much better I am feeling. It also helps to counteract those long days of collective bargaining, cooped up in the board room. With lunches on an expense account! Walking to work and snow shovelling help, too.  I have even given up snacking with the exception of fruit and yogurt. Oh, and the Super Bowl exception 🙂 (Doesn’t that sound like a title for an episode of Big Bang Theory?)

Tons of volunteer work was done and as a result I feel on top of it right now. This involved 8 meetings and events throughout the month!

As you know, I tidied up my old laptop and got my new computer on stream, which makes everything I do a little happier!

Rom and I didn’t spend a cent of our entertainment budget, not even on tickets for future events. On the 31st we spent a day on grocery shopping and errands. That was it for outings! However, we did get a great start on our little goal of listening through all the Beatles albums. We have 7 in the house right now and I have listened to some of them multiple times. Having an actual snow day helped! The library closes on especially nasty winter days, but it’s beyond rare for Rom’s private-sector office to shut down.

Apart from a routine dentist visit, that was January!

What this means is: I spend eons of time reading, and even watching DVDs! It has been ages since I’ve watched anything. I saw:

CBGB (2013)

CBGB (2013)

CBGB, starring Alan Rickman as Hilly Kristal, was better than I expected. It was a fictionalized account of the early 70s NYC punk and art rock scene, featuring the original music, but actors playing all the musicians. I started off skeptical, but it won me over. If you have any interest in Blondie, Television, the Ramones, etc, I recommend it. It complemented the book I read in December, From the Velvets to the Voidoids.

Quadrophenia (1979)

Quadrophenia (1979)

On a trip to the UK, I bought a DVD copy of Quadrophenia. The original film came out when I was in school and too young to see it at the theatre! Although I didn’t find the lead character entirely sympathetic (I am too old now for that), I loved that it was set in Croyden and Brighton, and the settings were so realistic. Being a rock music fan in general, I enjoyed it tremendously.

Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Rom and I watched Grand Budapest Hotel on Netflix. Very stylized; I liked it.

Happy (2011)

Happy (2011)

On Gam Kau’s recommendation, we saw the wonderful documentary Happy, a series of vignettes about unusual people who are happier than average. I found it very thought-provoking and it affected me deeply, especially the story of the debutante.

The Maid (La Nana) (2009)

The Maid (La Nana) (2009)

Finally I watched The Maid. It was hard to commit to seeing the whole movie because the lead character was so unlikeable, but I am so glad I stuck with it. Memorable!

Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine

Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine

I spent the whole month reading whatever I liked, ignoring my book club selection. At year-end I was just finishing Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine. Ultimately it is a book of brain science, but quite accessible. The author warns that brain research does not support gendered education. I was amazed at the number of popularly-accepted studies that the author was able to refute.

I went on to three easy-to-read books.

A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy - Sarah Lazarovic

A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy – Sarah Lazarovic

How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are

How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are

A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy was an artist’s interpretation of a Buy Nothing challenge. She actually made beautiful paintings of clothes she wanted to buy online – and then didn’t buy them! The text was rather slight, but I admired the project. By contrast, I was disappointed with How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are. If you think women love gossip and flirting and cattiness, this one’s for you! I shouldn’t have picked it up because it traded in stereotypes, whereas I thought it would try to get behind the stereotypes. Oh well. I also read a manga that teens at my library like, called Black Butler. It has some creepy content but lots of appeal, too. I wasn’t into it enough to continue to Volume 2. I will have to try out the anime version on Netflix.

Black Butler by Yana Toboso

Black Butler by Yana Toboso

The Blondes by Emily Schultz

The Blondes by Emily Schultz

Then back to novels again. I read The Blondes, which I had thought was a zombie novel, but was actually a dystopian pandemic novel. It had lots of good concepts:  I really liked that it had a women’s studies subplot and that it was mostly about women’s interactions with each other. An interesting undercurrent was a fear of older, more powerful women. It would make a great movie. I also caught up on the Sue Grafton series by reading W is for Wasted. I was so glad that this one got back to Kinsey’s family and love life. Some of the recent books just felt like place holders. Now it seems like the series is back on track in time for its last 3 volumes.

W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton

W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton

The Boy in the Moon by Ian Brown

The Boy in the Moon by Ian Brown

Finally I read The Boy in the Moon by Ian Brown. It’s a memoir about life with his son, who has profound disabilities and requires 24-hour care. He loves his son, but struggled to find meaning in their experiences. He used his connections as a journalist and as a parent to interview others who spend time with people who have intellectual, physical and communication challenges as well as great medical needs. Ultimately he was asking – what is the meaning of life? And what is the meaning of these lives? I like pondering the big questions so this was my kind of book.

Incidentally, it included a lot of brain science and genetics information. This must be my theme for the month because I am now reading The Organized Mind!

I am super-happy with January. I needed that!


  1. Fiona

    Wow – that’s a lot of reading and viewing! And a lot work on the torture machine (er…elliptical thingamabob!) It does make such a difference to how you feel. My walks are really giving me energy.

    I think my husband would love CBGB. I am intrigued by the sound of ‘Delusions of Gender.’ As you know, I work in a gender-split school and the idea has slowly grown on me after initial reservations. That book is now a must-read for me!

    Congrats on the new work role – it sounds very delicate and with much diplomacy needed. You will do a great job!

    • Thanks. I will caution you that the author of Delusions of Gender lays out all the arguments but then barely applies them, so you have to draw the education conclusions yourself. Here’s how I see it. The usual reason given for separate education is that boys are active and need a more hands-on approach, while girls work better socially or doing book-work. Let’s say that 70% of boys and girls are well-served by this approach (although personally, I doubt it). That means 30% of boys, girls and other kids are not well-served and perhaps even harmed. I think all kids benefit from a variety of styles and approaches. Let’s say that all kids are expected to spend 10% of their time on silent reading and journalling. Sure there will be kids who do not fare well and will need extra support. But that’s still better than having 30% fail (or feel like misfits). Just my non-professional opinion, and I could go on all day!

      The collective bargaining is very different from my preconceptions about it since all the negotiating is done through team leaders and in-causus, in-camera meetings of the two sides, with brief across-the-table exchanges!

  2. there are a couple of the books that I may look into further. Interesting catching up with you and what you did in January. Rather you than me with collective bargaining. One of our condo board members did that as a job with the school board in Mississauga (I think there) really nice guy. Think that was why he got elected as I reckon you need the patience of a saint dealing with the union and now in this guys case, people in our condo phase!!!

  3. That eas certainly a very different January to mine – me thinks I’d better pull my finger out if I intend to finish my G/reads challenge lol. No travel for me at the moment so i’m feeding that habit by reading The Jewel in the Crown – bygone India with all its problems. Lots of words needing lots of concentration but fascinating.
    Are you having to fit in the other. Responsibilty and run it alongside your day to day duties at the library or do you have a deputy to cover you when time at the table is needed?

    • The Jewel in the Crown would be good reading for either summer or winter! I leave my library to run itself for the two days a week I’m away 🙂 Other staff are in charge.

  4. Jo

    The Grand Budapest Hotel was one of my favourite movies this year. We were half way through when my daughter realised it must be written and directed by the same person who did Fantastic Mr Fox, one of my other favourite movies. Very similar music and styling, even though FMF is all puppets.Both have a cameo appearance by Owen Wilson.. I loved the grown-up fable feel to GBH.

  5. I also wanted to clean up my act with food and exercise and in order to do that I stepped away from the Internet a lot in January. It worked out. I feel much better and ready to face whatever 2015 brings (although I’m very behind on my blog reading!)

    I’m glad January was good to you Dar 🙂

  6. If you’re on the management side, how do you bargain for your own pay rise?

    I really enjoyed the Grand Budapest. Quite sad!

    • I didn’t expect the sad bit so that threw me for a loop!

      At our workplace, the management gets the same pay raise (in percentages) as the rest of the staff, so I guess it’s in our own interests to let it go high 🙂

  7. Is CBGB more like “This is Spinal Tap” or more like Monty Python’s “The Ruttles?” Seeing Alan Rickman now, it is hard to fathom him as a punk rocker. Glad you are working out again. All the best, BTG

    • Haven’t seen The Ruttles but now I will! CBGB wasn’t a comedy; in fact there wasn’t much humour in it except for the dog! Alan Rickman plays Hilly Kristal, the owner of CBGB, and not a punk per se.

  8. jamielredmond

    I spent my summer doing an extra subject at uni, and it was a bit full on (I did the subject out of the recommended order because I was so excited to do it, but I paid the price….Well, I guess we will need to wait for my marks to see if I paid the price. But it was a hard summer!)

    I’m looking forward to a few weeks of catching up on books and movies, so I’ve really enjoyed reading your thoughts on things. I’m looking forward to watching CBGB and Happy. I keep hearing about Grand Budapest. The ads at the time didn’t appeal to me, but I’ve started to think I must watch it.

    The gender book sounds interesting. I’m glad I got to read your reply above to Fiona. And The Blondes sounds like one I will look up. My 11yo daughter has started to notice the dystopian and other themes in a lot of YA novels and commented on it yesterday. An Australian-written, dystopian YA series we enjoyed reading together was The Phoenix Files.

    I’m glad you mentioned the Parisian book wasn’t very good. I have a whole shelf of books related to France and Paris, so would have been tempted by that, but I’m tired of reading bad ones, so am grateful for this post! My favourites are Almost French by Sarah Turnbull, A Family in Paris by Jane Paech, Paris Letters by Janice MacLean and Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard. And my husband and I enjoyed reading Stephen Clarke’s Merde series for fun and laughs!

    • I didn’t know you were a student, Jamie! You must be busy! I am a fan of dystopian/apocalyptic books but I haven’t kept up on the teen series. Thanks so much for all the Paris titles! I have only read a few but I liked Paris in Love by Eloisa James, and Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman. Enjoy your time off, and happy reading!

      • jamielredmond

        I nearly wrote down Paris in Love, as I have that one, too. And I have French Children Don’t Throw Food, which I think might be a different edition of Bringing Up Bebe??

      • Just checked; yes it is a different edition of the same book. I really liked it!

  9. I haven’t read as much as usual as I am still trying to fall in love with ebooks. It’s good to hear Sue Grafton got back to Kinsey’s story, I just put this down on my wish list along with The Blondes which you have me intrigued to read. That one isn’t available here until April so it will be awhile before I have the chance to read it.

    Btw, I did hibernate through January. 🙂

    • The Blondes was the author’s first novel and it still had a “creative writing class” mentality but lots of great ideas, so I enjoyed it. I am looking forward to Sue Grafton’s X, Y and Z!

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