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Posted on Monday 3 March 2014 at 10:44 am

Epic Posts: Real Life and Read

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I wrote you an epic post of everything! Then I decided it was a bit too epic, so I'm breaking into two. Part 1 (this one) is a bit of Real Life stuff and what I've been reading lately. Part 2 is what I've watched recently, mostly National Theatre play broadcasts. See what happens when it is Spring Break so I don't have to go to campus to deal with undergrads and am procrastinating working on my dissertation at home? Now I think I shall go make cinnamon waffles for brunch.

Real Life: Weather, Spring Break, Dissertation, and Birthday Cake Truffles or Balls

The weather here has been crazy, constantly up and down. This isn't all that unusual for here, but the downs have been lower than normal this year. Saturday was cool and cloudy then got a bit warmer and sunnier so highs in the upper 40s or so. Yesterday was low 70s, sunny and warm and gorgeous. I spent all day outside, raking leaves that I never did in the fall because of a broken toe and going for a hike, which made me very happy. Today it is supposed to ice, sleet, and snow in various amounts and at various times depending on what weather forecasting agency you check. Currently it is freezing rain / sleet with the snow expected in a couple of hours. These massive shifts are the kind of thing that always make me sick, so hopefully that won't happen.

This week is Spring Break for my university (Spring Break with snow sounds reasonable, right?). So no undergrads to bother me from working on my dissertation for a week! Hooray! My kiddies had their midterm on Monday but I pushed through grading those in two days at the end of last week so I wouldn't have to worry about them at all this week. Good plan, I think.

On the dissertation front, I've got three things I want to do this week: read a bunch of articles on one last body of literature that I need for the entire project and the first chapter in particular; add some detail to my roughed out chapter plan then go through my databases of primary and secondary sources and mark everything based on what chapters I think I need 'em for (e.g. big book that I'll probably need for everything; specific article that I'll only need to reference in chapter 3; primary source collection that only covers the years for the last two chapters; etc.); detail an outline for chapter 1. The middle thing, once I add some detail to the current rough outline, is something that can be done while watching stuff on TV because it involves very little brain work but lots of time. I'll probably try to do items one and three in the mornings / early afternoons and item two in the later afternoons / evenings when I'm more brain dead.

This upcoming Saturday is my birthday. I'm planning to make myself cake truffles and have friends over to help me eat them and play board games. Cake truffles are also sometimes called cake balls, but there is something else also called cake balls so I prefer cake truffles as less confusing. Anyway, you bake a cake then crumble it into little pieces and let it cool completely, preferably in the fridge overnight. Then you mix a container or so of frosting into the crumbled cake and roll the now sticky, gooey mess into balls and stick the balls in the freezer, preferably overnight. When the balls are frozen solid, you dip them in melted chocolate, freeze again to harden the chocolate, and then defrost and enjoy. The more popular thing called cake balls is just cake baked into a ball form and dipped in chocolate with no frosting mixed in so much drier and less yummy, in my opinion. I've got spice cake with caramel frosting that I'll dip in white chocolate and orange cake with cream cheese frosting that I'll dip in milk chocolate. I can't wait!

Read: Early African American SciFi and Related Works and the Louvre Museums Graphic Novels

I read a book in January called Afrofuturism. It is a non-fiction look at science fiction coming out of the Black community, mostly but not exclusively African American, and playing with African heritage and cultures. It looks not just at novels and short stories but music, art, style, philosophy, etc. The book itself is a fairly basic primer to the topic and necessarily limited and simplistic in some ways, but it is OK for a starting point and let me add a few titles to my To Read list. Reading that combined with march being Black History Month in the US prompted me to read a lot of African American or related science fiction recently. I've mostly been reading stuff from the 1890s to 1920s or so. My favorite was probably Imperium in Imperio, a book written by a black man in 1899 about a secret African American government planning an uprising against the racist white government and society. I'm playing with an idea for the next time I teach the second half of American History basic survey class and I'm hoping to be able to use this in my class. We'll see if I can pull it off. I also really enjoyed The Freedom Maze, which I just read yesterday. This one fits in the "related" category for my early Black scifi reading as it was written by a white woman and published in 2011. It is about an 1960s racist white girl who travels in time to 1860 where she is mistaken for a fair-skinned slave. It has a few problems, but it a good young adult read on the topic. I wrote a paragraph or so review of it last night, so I'll just link to that for anyone interested.

I recently discovered that the Louvre publishes a series of graphic novels that play around with the museum's collections. I got my hands on four of the six books published so far. I very much enjoy the series and all the books are so different. The first book, and probably my favorite, is Glacial Period. It is set hundreds of years in the future, after humanity has been decimated and dislocated due to Global Warming and the planet has begun cooling into an ice age again. An expedition is exploring land known to have previously been inhabited but largely forgotten in hopes of finding archeological ruins to explore. They find the Louvre. There are two elements to the story inside the museum, one is the humans trying to recreate history without realizing that they are looking at works of art from hundreds of years and the other is statues and paintings talking to a dog/pig/genetically modified thing, filling him in on reality. The framing is a bit silly but fun and the use of various items from the Louvre to tell the story is great. I also really like The Museum Vaults, which is basically the Louvre recreated as a massive warehouse, floor plan designed by M. C. Escher and bureaucracy run by the blokes in charge in Kafka's Trial or Castle. The other two, On the Odd Hours featuring a deaf guard bringing the works of art to life at night and The Sky Over the Louvre about the French Revolution and the beginnings of the Louvre, were OK but I didn't enjoy them as much. On the Odd Hours felt rushed and Sky Over the Louvre was just too straight-forward and not as odd or entertaining in comparison to the others.

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