It’s a pleasure to report that I am writing this update from a much better place than I did the last one. 2023 has not only been mostly quiet, but it’s also been mostly positive with a few notable exceptions.
I did start titration for ADHD medication with mixed results; I am miles better during the day but I crash pretty hard during the evening which stops me doing some things I want to do.
At the time same, my partner has been told by medical professionals that she may have an autoimmune condition and we’ve been learning about that. She has lost some of the vision in her right eye, which is a scary telltale sign of Multiple Sclerosis.
Despite these challenges we are mostly feeling positive. We’ve been outside in nature a lot, really strengthened our relationship, and done a lot of healing from 2022. We’ve finally finished decorating a room in the house after dealing with some dependancy hell and some stressful decision-making, which has made us feel a lot more at home.
I hope that my next update continues this trend.
- 2023-01 – I begin ADHD medication
- 2023-02 – my fiancée, A, starts to lose vision in her right eye
- 2023-03 – A starts to receive consultations around a potential autoimmune diagnosis pathway, the words “optic neuritis” and Multiple Sclerosis are mentioned
… and that’s really about it! Despite those being big scary things, it’s odd that we’ve only had two or three of them this year. Usually it’s around every three weeks. It’s meant that we’ve had time to catch our breath, but the trade-off is that 2023 has flown by so far, compared with the hellstorm that was 2022.
Fairly stable here with nothing too much to report except the new addition of Archery to the list of active hobbies.
Following the loss of our early pregnancy in December, my plans for 2023 were thrown up in the air. In order to give myself something to look forward to, I got in touch with both local Sailing and Archery clubs.
I’ve been sailing before (and even failed at owning a boat), but I’ve always wanted to try archery. The organiser of the beginner courses got straight back in touch with me and put me on the waiting list. While I did visit the local Sailing Club for an initial visit, I realised that I was sort of holding out hope for archery and decided to wait for that to come through since it would represent a schedule clash.
I eventually began the beginner’s course in May under some great tutelage, fell in love with the sport, and am pleased to say that I passed and have joined the Cleadon Archers as a member. I’ve not done any shooting in the month of June as it’s a little ambiguous as to whether my membership has been processed. This is because the membership year ticks over in July, but I had a verbal agreement to pay in June and it would be OK for me to go down once I had written confirmation that the membership was approved. I paid, but haven’t received written confirmation yet so I’ve avoided treading on toes.
I plan to shoot by myself or with one of the club coaches whenever they’re available and willing, until I get asked or prodded to join in with others. Cleadon Archers benefits from 24/7 access to their shooting range, and I plan to make good use of the facilities.
Not too much movement on the Creative Writing front. I’ve worked on my outlines a lot but finding the energy and headspace to actually get some prose down is a little tough.
I’ve had some writing group sessions with my friend J, though, and we’re planning on sitting down and actually using the next one to write some prose when we get a moment.
What more is there to say at this point? Esperanto continues to be a daily part of my life. I have built a fairly decent IRL friendship with my Esperanto pen-pal, M, and have enjoyed speaking with her semi-regularly.
I journal in Esperanto daily, or near to daily, and I’ve read another Esperanto novel; La ŝtona urbo by Anna Löwenstein. It was really good! My reading was definitely rusty until I committed to reading it solidly for a day and was rewarded instantly with my brain picking up sentences faster, and with a great story. At over 300 pages, La ŝtona urbo represents my longest Esperanto reading to date. The trouble is… I’m not sure where to go next!
Overall, a really good half year for exercise. My focus has shifted from running back towards strength training and I’m approaching each of my strength exercises with renewed vigour.
I won’t post my numbers this time, because I’m working out where I’m going with a few things. There are, however, a few things to note.
I’ve had to start keeping my push-ups at around 15 reps, rather than progressing these to about 20. If I go much past these, my left shoulder begins flaring up again. Further to this, I’ve also developed a knee injury in my right knee. I went for a run one morning and then followed it up with a short 7km hike, but then my leg gave way when I was scrambling up my stairs at home and it’s not been the same since. I’m monitoring it, before going to the GP if it refuses to improve.
My pull-ups are progressing very nicely. I opted for a wide-grip when I began retraining them, largely due to experiencing acute shoulder pain when attempting a regular grip. I’ve never done wide-grip before, but found it OK from August to December last year. Throughout the first half of 2023, I’ve really loved the wide-grip because I can actually feel my back working and my arms only take over for the second half of the movement. This has been a major achievement for me and I feel stronger and healthier. My physique has evened out somewhat but I’m still a little pec-heavy. I hope that by the time I can shed the assistance bands, my shoulders are in balance and are stronger/healthier than ever.
My runs have been mostly on maintenance mode while I devote energy — both mental and caloric — to progressing my strength work. This has suited me, however. It’s difficult to run a perfect 5K route where I’m located at the moment, but a 10K is pretty achievable as a single loop.
As a result of these factors my running routine has shifted from running a 5K and a 10K each week to a somewhat bi-weekly rhythm. In a given two week period I want to have ran at least one 10K but I don’t push myself to do it weekly. I usually do a shortish ~3.6K run on a Sunday and then do either a ~6.5K or a full 10K on a Wednesday.
I did discover that I love “trail running”, when I went for a run with my colleague D at a work meeting near Sheffield. We didn’t know the area so just ran along a known trail and then back when we ran out of time. I followed this up a while later with the longest run yet, down the cliffs from South Shields to Sunderland; a total of 14 kilometres. I was very pleased with this.
I’ve also started logging my runs using the wonderful Open Tracks on my phone. I’ll use that to keep track of how many kilometres I’m running on average, but won’t be posting any of my regular routes because they’re too close to home for me to comfortably share my location.
We’ve had a really solid half a year hiking. We took a little time after losing the pregnancy, but eventually got back out to walking. Since then we’ve basically been out nearly every fortnight at the least, with some bonus walks thrown in.
We did our traditional set of “a week of walks” for each the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice and loved them both. During this summer week we achieved two firsts: opening with our longest ever 22km walk on Monday and then closing on the Saturday with the first time climbing a mountain together (The Cheviot) with our friend J. A great holiday.
Very recently, I’ve taken to logging the walks as GPX files, again via Open Tracks. In future updates I may reference them, and I’ve toyed with the idea of setting up a subdomain for logging the walks somehow.
A bit spotty in places but I managed to listen to 75 unique albums this half of the year. Anyone reading these logs will notice some staples reoccurring. As always, I made use of DeDupeList to generate the logs below, removing re-listens.
In terms of new listening, I ended my main foray into psychedelic rock with the amazing Surrealistic Pillow by Jefferson Airplane, and somehow discovered Gary Numan really late. He’s a bit of a Tory, so I won’t pretend I’m a fan of the man himself but Savage was incredible and got me properly back into some industrial/electronic for a bit.
A definite trend of exploring Pop Punk emerged in the first half of the year. Other than owning American Idiot since my childhood, I’ve never really given Pop Punk a decent listen despite the fact that some of my university-era club anthems were obviously Pop Punk. I started with A Day To Remember, moved on to some Sum 41 and then The Offspring, Bowling For Soup, and finally Blink-182. Of these, I probably most seriously explored The Offspring as they’re just incredible. Blink’s earlier stuff didn’t always hit the mark for me but I enjoyed it. Bowling For Soup’s albums are all great but I feel had fewer “oh my gods” moments in than those by The Offspring. I need to go back and explore Sum 41’s catalogue more, as I really just stuck with the amazing All Killer, No Filler which was utterly delightful.
Spurred on by the Pop Punk stuff, I reminisced about my childhood when the British Pop Rock scene was dominated by Busted and McFly. I was a Busted fan, so dusted off an old hard drive with some Busted albums still on there and gave them a good listen. It was fun, but as an adult now I felt the lyrics were a little creepy at times.
- Surrealistic Pillow by Jefferson Airplane
- The Blues and the Abstract Truth by Oliver Nelson
- XIII by Mushroomhead
- Keep Your Silence by Cyferdyne
- Mezmerize by System Of A Down
- Heart Full of Wine by Angus and Julia Stone
- Take To The Skies by Enter Shikari
- Fallen by Evanescence
- The Poison by Bullet For My Valentine
- Fever by Bullet For My Valentine
- Save Rock And Roll by Fall Out Boy
- Savage (Songs From A Broken World) by Gary Numan
- What the F*ck is Wrong With You People by Combichrist
- Furiosity by Monster Truck
- Hoitovirhe by Turmion Kätilöt
- Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind) by Gary Numan
- Duke Ellington and John Coltrane by Duke Ellington and John Coltrane
- Soilbleed Redux by Grendel
- Blue Train by John Coltrane
- Intruder by Gary Numan
- Bind, Torture, Kill by Suicide Commando
- Pastel Blues by Nina Simone
- Collision Course by Linkin Park and Jay Z
- Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles
- Giant Steps by John Coltrane
- Night Train by The Oscar Peterson Trio
- Kind Of Blue by Miles Davis
- Sketches Of Spain by Miles Davis
- First Take by Roberta Flack
- Riot! by Paramore
- The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd
- This Was by Jethro Tull
- Hergest Ridge by Mike Oldfield
- Bleed American by Jimmy Eat World
- Drif by Heilung
- Appeal To Reason by Rise Against
- Reroute To Remain by In Flames
- After Bathing At Baxter’s by Jefferson Airplane
- Dookie by Green Day
- Homesick by A Day To Remember
- Attack Of The Killer B-Sides by A Day To Remember
- What Separates Me From You by A Day To Remember
- Something Real by Meg & Dia
- Disraeli Gears by Cream
- All Killer No Filler by Sum 41
- Americana by The Offspring
- Thick As A Brick by Jethro Tull
- A Hangover You Don’t Deserve by Bowling For Soup
- Drunk Enough To Dance by Bowling For Soup
- Conspiracy Of One by The Offspring
- Portrait In Jazz by Bill Evans Trio
- Busted by Busted
- A Present For Everyone by Busted
- Rise And Fall, Rage And Grace by The Offspring
- The End So Far by Slipknot
- Ellington At Newport by Duke Ellington
- Infest by Papa Roach
- Mugzy’s Move by Royal Crown Revue
- All I Was by Tremonti
- Smash by The Offspring
- Cauterize by Tremonti
- Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of The Sith OST by John Williams
- Enema Of The State by Blink-182
- Ixnay On The Hombre by The Offspring
- Splinter by The Offspring
- Rise And Fall Rage And Grace by The Offspring
- Days Go By by The Offspring
- What The Fuck Is Wrong With You People by Combichrist
- Reise Reise by Rammstein
- Cheshire Cat by Blink-182
- Dude Ranch by Blink-182
- Take Off Your Pants And Jacket by Blink-182
- Blink-182 by Blink-182
- Bowling For Soup by Bowling For Soup
- Rock On Honorable Ones!!! by Bowling For Soup
Total Albums (unique): 75
My reading in this half of the year has been affected dramatically by the fact that my ADHD medication burns out when I finish work, and my brain is left a bit scooped-out. This means I struggle to read in the evenings. My partner and I have also slowed down our reading together, partly to put less pressure on our evenings and partly because she’s started doing more of her own reading.
This said, I’ve enjoyed this half of a year of books. I thoroughly enjoyed The Warlord Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell, and absolutely drank up the Red Rising trilogy by Pierce Brown afterwards. I interspersed the two trilogies with The Kite Runner, as I never finished it when I was in school. It was OK, but a little anti-communist in places.
Legends and Lattes has left a lasting impression on me and I will forever be chasing that high of reading it. It was the perfect little novel to properly start the healing process from the miscarriage.
Reading what I term “corp books”, ie tie-in fiction, is somewhat of a guilty pleasure as you might be able to tell from the number of Star Wars novels I consume. When I discovered that Firefly novels existed I got very excited. The first one was a little meh, but apparently they get better so I might slot another one into rotation soon.
I dipped back into the world of The Witcher and mostly enjoyed Blood of Elves although not as much as the short story collections that came before it. It’s likely I’ll hold off on another Witcher book for a little while. I followed this with Skyward by Brandon Sanderson which was actually incredible. I really loved it. The follow-up books didn’t quite hit the spot for me in terms of the world or the plots, but Brandon’s prose and character work are really solid and I’m happy to commit to purchasing the final book when it is released.
A big shock for me was just how utterly bad The Dresden Files are. A lot of people wax lyrical about how amazing it is, and I’ve had a few of them on the backlog for a while. The first one got my hackles up due to Jim Butcher’s apparent misogyny and just the “look at how edgy and cool Harry Dresden is”. I needed to recover with some Becky Chambers as an antidote. I returned to Fool Moon, the second Dresden book, and was immediately disappointed again. More of the same misogyny, chauvinism, and teenage edginess. I don’t have nostalgia for the series as they passed me by, so I don’t feel I can continue. Reading some Goodreads reviews and some old Reddit threads about Butcher’s other works, it appears that it’s a problem with him. I’ve heard the Dresden books get better in terms of story-telling, but I can’t get into a series so laced with chauvinism.
I managed to get my hands on Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon and I thoroughly enjoyed it, however I feel there’s been a turning point in the Cosmere novels lately that has started to feel a little Marvel-Cinematic-Universey. I liked Tress and believe it stands on its own, but there’s clearly a lot going on Cosmere-wise in the novel and I feel I would’ve enjoyed it more had it been a little bit less dependant on that. This said, Brandon has done consistently amazing work re Cosmere things and given that this is a “bonus novel”, I can definitely forgive/defend it by saying it’s a piece designed to slot in on the periphery and start tying together some Cosmere threads.
After years of thinking about it, I delved back into Ilium/Olympos by Dan Simmons. I remember thoroughly loving this when I read it about ten years ago; sci-fi, Olympic Gods on Mars, Odysseus fighting Caliban! I enjoyed Ilium although something felt a little off this time. Halfway through Olympos I spotted it. Dan Simmons just totally lost the plot, quite literally. He did a u-turn on some clearly important plot elements just to have a moan about Muslims. Oh no. I pushed through and finally finished it (it took a while and put me off reading for a bit), and then did some research. Turns out that Dan Simmons devolved into a right-wing nutjob. All of a sudden the entire of Ilium/Olympos was re-contextualised; Simmons moaning about feminism, women, the lack of classical masculinity in the West, the rise of Islam etc. The second novel didn’t stand up as a novel, ruined the series, and then exposed a lot of the undercurrent. I’ll never read these again, and I think I’ll struggle to read Hyperion again to be honest. A shame. Go check out this video and its follow-up for a good discussion about the duology, and dip into the entire series if you want to follow Simmons' downfall into right-wing weirdo.
I cured my Simmons-induced woes with some T. Kingfisher (always a good go-to, and I actually save her stuff for when I emotionally need it). A Wizard’s Guide To Defensive Baking was utterly magical and I loved every second of it. World-building was great, characters were solid, plot was amazing, and the narrative voice was the same T. Kingfisher that I’ve come to love from their short fiction.
Recovering from the Simmons-slog, I wanted a few “cheat” books to clock up and dipped into my nostalgia archives. Some trashy Goosebumps built my momentum, but I surprised myself by falling deeply into Animorphs by K. A. Applegate. I’ve always enjoyed them, but never finished them as a kid. I read through a few kilos of them in quick succession and now have reached a point where I want to save them as palette-cleansers for between longer novels / series.
I took the plunge into reading my longest Esperanto-language novel to date, La ŝtona urbo by Anna Löwenstein. This was tough initially as my reading speed is much slower in my second language, but after a week or two I just fully committed myself and couldn’t put the thing down. It was definitely more literary than I had expected but it was a wonderful travelogue through Celtic Britain and Ancient Rome. As a pagan, I appreciated the exploration of different pagan theologies, and the character of Bivana was incredibly compelling. I really liked this book, and I may actually purchase another copy in English to see if I get anything else out of it.
I re-read American Gods by Neil Gaiman and actually appreciated it much more the second time around. I originally read it about five or six years ago, and I’m not sure if it’s that my attention span has gotten better or whether I knew what to expect but I could follow things and enjoy them much more this time.
Recently, I picked up New Spring by Robert Jordan as a quick “go-to” read. I’ve read the first ten books of The Wheel of Time and have always meant to read the prequel, and thought this was a safe toe-dip back into that incredible world. I didn’t realise I’d forgotten just how clear and consumable Jordan’s prose is, though. I inhaled the book, and it’s got me seriously considering revisiting the main series. I’ve been turned off giant series and doorstop novels by Simmons and my attempts at cracking Malazan, but I may commit to reading The Eye Of The World at a later date and see how it goes.
Finally, I’ve just finished Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks. It was always one of my favourite Culture novels but I’ve only ever read it through once. I started this just before my Solstice holiday, so it was interrupted a bit, but again I’d forgotten how clearly Banks writes and once I got a chance I devoured the rest of it in two evenings.
Going into the next half of the year, I started Never Deal With A Dragon, which is some corp-fantasy but oddly appropriate as it’s based in the world of Shadowrun. I got these books from a friend and I’ve actually read this one before, but I wanted to try it out as an alternative palette-cleanser.
With my partner, we’ve chewed through a few Terry Pratchett novels but not at our usual pace. We’ll continue to read through them when we can.
- The Enemy of God by Bernard Cornwell
- Excalibur by Bernard Cornwell
- The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
- Red Rising by Pierce Brown
- Golden Son by Pierce Brown
- Morning Star by Pierce Brown
- Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree
- Firefly: Big Damn Hero by James Lovegrove and Nancy Holder
- Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett
- Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski
- Skyward by Brandon Sanderson
- Starsight by Brandon Sanderson
- Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson
- Storm Front by Jim Butcher
- A Psalm For The Wild-Built by Becky Chambers
- Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
- A Prayer For The Crown-Shy by Becky Chambers
- To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers
- Tress Of The Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson
- Ilium by Dan Simmons
- The Maid by Nita Prose
- Olympos by Dan Simmons
- A Wizard’s Guide To Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher
- The Ghost Next Door by R. L. Stine
- Haunted Mask by R. L. Stine
- Blade Of Secrets by Tricia Levenseller
- The Encounter by K. A. Applegate
- The Message by K. A. Applegate
- Master Of Iron by Tricia Levenseller
- Star Wars: Cloak Of Deception by James Luceno
- The Shadow Of The Gods by John Gwynne
- The Predator by K. A. Applegate
- Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett
- The Capture by K. A. Applegate
- The Stranger by K. A. Applegate
- The Alien by K. A. Applegate
- The Secret by K. A. Applegate
- The Android by K. A. Applegate
- The Andalite’s Gift by K. A. Applegate
- The Forgotten by K. A. Applegate
- The Reaction by K. A. Applegate
- The Change by K. A. Applegate
- The Unknown by K. A. Applegate
- The Escape by K. A. Applegate
- The Warning by K. A. Applegate
- La ŝtona urbo by Anna Löwenstein
- The Underground by K. A. Applegate
- The Decision by K. A. Applegate
- American Gods by Neil Gaiman
- New Spring by Robert Jordan
- Use Of Weapons by Iain M. Banks
Total Books: 51
Currently Reading: Never Deal With A Dragon by Robert N. Charette (solo), Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett (with my partner)
I surprised myself here and it turns out that I’ve watched about double the number of movies than the last Solstice update! The main driver for this has been the fact that I mostly get Friday nights to myself now while my partner alternates between a Yoga night and then seeing her mother. I often use the time to make some fancy food and watch a movie.
Looking at this, there’s a good selection of trash. I needed a bit of mindlessness after the miscarriage and to calm down my brain during ADHD-medication crashes.
This said, there’s also some gems. The Menu was an absolute delight and a wonderful take on Class Consciousness. I could analyse that film forever. I also really enjoyed The Art of Self Defence as an illustrative take on how toxic masculinity perpetuates, and my partner and I were very pleasantly surprised by how good Palm Springs turned out to be. I also enjoyed showing my partner and our friend J The Handmaiden, which I think they liked.
Another high point for me was Slash Back. It felt like some classic 80s-era sci-fi (which I’m not really familiar with) but with some astonishing visuals of the far north. The young actors were all incredible, and the exploration of some First Nation identity was interesting to me as someone who has only read about some atrocities in books and blogs, but never viewed any art about it.
Some final high points were Fried Green Tomatoes and Mystic Pizza which were lovely little slices of life and character-driven stories which was a nice change of pace. Triangle of Sadness was great but I didn’t enjoy it as much as The Menu, although it definitely sits up there in the same echelon. I also finally watched Back To The Future and its sequels all the way through – previously these movies existed in a state of me permanently catching the first or final half hours.
In terms of sheer disappointment, Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel probably clinches it. It promised a lot in its trailer, and while the movie itself wasn’t awful, it just wasn’t exactly what I went in for and I came out feeling unfulfilled.
- KickAss 2
- The Menu
- Werewolves Within
- Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
- The Art Of Self Defense
- Behind The Curve
- Napoleon Dynamite
- Palm Springs
- The Handmaiden
- Fried Green Tomatoes
- Star Wars: Rogue One
- Slash Back
- Dawn of the Planet of The Apes
- Everything Everywhere All At Once
- Underworld: Evolution
- Get Him To The Greek
- Mystic Pizza
- One Day
- Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel
- Dead Poets Society
- Underworld: Rise of the Lycans
- Office Space
- Triangle Of Sadness
- Back To The Future
- Back To The Future Part II
- Back To The Future Part III
- Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
- Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
- City Slickers
Total Movies: 40