*I'm just now wrapping up a month of staying off Facebook and other online social forums (or "fora" for those of you in a Roman mood), and I've got to say it was a good idea. In addition to lowering my blood pressure by ignoring online arguments and allowing myself more time for such things as grading papers, I also gave myself more time to read books, which came in handy (see below). I'm starting to believe I have an addictive personality, but I'm not physically capable of getting addicted to the few drugs I've tried--I just don't enjoy vomiting all that much, frankly--while I'm perfectly capable of falling into a pattern of reading/writing online. And because I am a voracious reader, a teacher of rhetoric, an experienced debate coach, a pretty fair typist, and an unrepentant know-it-all, I can easily find myself spending a LOT of time arguing on the web. I suspect, therefore, that periodic sabbaticals from FB and its ilk are going to become necessary for me, especially when I need to get something written.

*Speaking of written things, I've got a short story in the slush pile (or its electronic equivalent) at a magazine and a query (for my maybe'it's-YA/maybe-it's-not novel) on an editor's desk. Prayers, good vibes, and crossed fingers are, as always, entirely welcome.

*I'd forgotten about a further complication to this year's NBA playoffs: the Celtics have acquired former Duke center Shelden Williams, who gets playing time only rarely, but who would earn a ring if the C's were to win the title. Thus, if the Magic or Celtics win, the UNC grad's ring would be matched by a Dookie's ring; if the Suns win, Dookie Grant Hill would earn a ring, but at least he's the Duke grad I hate the least; and if the Lakers win, only L.A. general manager Mitch Kupchak (UNC '76) gets a ring, but I haven't been counting executives in my totals.

*That extra time I gave myself with my moratorium on online social networking was largely filled with reading books, and the books themselves were both large and filled. Back in March, when I was out in Texas with Ian and Dad, the former finished the only book he had with him, and I felt his pain. Ian reads really fast; he started outpacing me when he was about 12, and he was reading faster than Kelly within a year or two after that (and reading faster than Kelly is an accomplishment, let me tell you.) When the fifth Harry Potter book came out, he plowed through the entire thing in something like 36 hours (without bothering to sleep, of course), so I was well aware of his ability to whip through a thick book when he had a plane ride or a long stretch of downtime in a hotel room, both of which he was facing during our last days of vacation. Luckily, we found a Barnes and Noble in Midland and I grabbed a big, thick book for him: A Game of Thrones, the first volume of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. He dove in, and I'm happy to report that the book's 800+ pages (not including the appendices) lasted him well past our landing at Dulles. He took it off to VCU, where he finished it in short order, and he returned it to me when he came home for a weekend soon after.

So there I was in early April, having wrapped up Ian McEwan's Saturday, looking for a new reading project, and I flipped open the Martin and was immediately sucked in. There are some things about the series I'm not happy about, mind you. The names, in particular, are often too prosaic for a fantasy world where magic and dragons and decade-long seasons exist; with such enormous differences in geography, physics, climatology, religion, etc., it's a little off-putting to meet characters with mundane names like Jon, Robert, Ned, Catelyn, Jaime, and Brandon. Tolkien managed it with "Sam," but that was the ONLY name he tried to slip into what was otherwise a linguistically consistent universe. Still, the plot is gripping, the created universe intriguing, and the conflicts between characters numerous and engaging.

This is good, because now that I've finished the fourth book, I've discovered to my horror that I was wrong: it's not a five-volume series whose fifth volume is coming out any day now. It's a SEVEN-volume series, and readers have been waiting for the fifth volume since 2005.  And since HBO just bought the rights to the series and is doing the first book (with Sean Bean, Peter Dinklage, and Stargate: Atlantis's Jason Momoa), I worry that GRRM may be a little too busy with television details to devote the necessary time to finishing the next three books. Worse, the fourth book ends with several nasty cliffhangers, so I've set myself up to be drumming my fingers impatiently for some time.


*The year's first Wood Thrush popped up today, following the arrival of the year's first Blue Grosbeak a week or so back, and the year's first Red-eyed Vireo a few days after that. Now if one of the Indigo Buntings singing out back will show his face at my feeder, it'll really feel like summer.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on May 16, 2010 9:20 PM.

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