Books. Tea. Cats. Scribbling.

Category: Thoughts Page 1 of 11

Odds and Sods, Bits and Bobs

Don’t worry; I’m still here. The fact that I haven’t updated since getting Covid-19 in January is an artifact of laziness/inertia rather than a result of severe illness.

I was ill. But luckily, more than 6 weeks out, I seem to have encountered minimal after-effects. That’s not to say I’m completely out of the woods for long covid: I know that many people start experiencing long-covid-ish symptoms months after exposure and initial recovery. But right now, I’m physically ok.

A few random life things, just so you know what I’ve been up to:


I saw Hamilton in the theatre last night! I originally had plans to see it on March 18th, 2020…but you can guess how that went.

The thing I’m still dealing with is that I’ve had the voices of the original cast recording in my head for years, so while watching it last night, I was constantly comparing the live performers in front of me to the original cast. I think if I had gone in completely ignorant of the actual music, I would have enjoyed it more. As it is, the whole was greater than the sum of its parts, with only a few standout parts matching or exceeding those of the originals – the performers behind Burr, Jefferson, and Mulligan in particular. Unfortunately, I found the performer for Hamilton himself to be underwhelming: a nice-enough voice reciting the lines with very little of the wit or acidity that the role requires.

Pi Day

Pi Day was two days ago, and I am a long-time devotee.This year’s pies were a mix of new (tamale pie) and traditional (Dutch apple). The tamale pie was particularly risky, because I’ve never made one before and I just flew by the seat of my pants rather than follow a particular recipe. Going into the oven, there didn’t appear to be near enough cornbread topping, but it ended up spreading out nicely.

A slice of homemade Dutch apple pie.

The Dutch apple pie has also turned out wonderfully, but my god, I spent so much time in the kitchen on Tuesday. I had to do my prep in stages to have any hope of pulling things off.


I’m still practicing on the Rav Vast. And in fact, like I threatened in my first post about this new hobby, I did get a second drum after all. I found a person in BC willing to sell the scale I was most interested in, and I got it right before Christmas. This new drum is in the B Rus tuning, which I think sounds really bright and cheerful.

The bonus is that it’s an older model with a different finish, made using a different thickness of steel; the Rav afficionados say the older models have better tone/sustain, and I’m inclined to believe them. The even bigger bonus is that since the seller was Canadian, I didn’t have to worry about currency conversion or import fees, so this second drum cost significantly less than the first.

I’ve finished the beginner’s course on Master the Handpan. Now I’m making my way through the new course with Malte Marten, and I’m (slowly!) getting a grip on basic polyrhythms.

Unfortunately, I think I’ve been bitten by the drumming bug even harder, and now I want a third drum! I’m looking at the wares from Nova Drum, because they make drums with smaller diameters. As someone with small hands and stubby fingers, I approve.


The friend I’ve been sharing my community garden plot with for the past 2 years has decided to bow out from gardening this year due to other commitments. I’m not sure how I feel about doing it alone. I have a tray to start seedlings, and plenty of seeds, but I still need to get off my butt and actually start sowing. I should do that soon, or else it will be too late.

Pop culture/entertainment

Technically I’m still watching Deep Space 9, but I’ve stalled on the fifth season for about a year. Right now I’m slowly making my way through Columbo instead. The show is both a very satisfying skewering of rich assholes and an intriguing time capsule into 70s-era California – the architecture, the landscapes, the clothing.

My other current pop-culture rabbithole is Australian prog/psychedelic rock band King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. I first started by listening to Flying Microtonal Banana because of this Youtube video about microtonal music. Then I branched out into Nonagon Infinity, Fishing for Fishies, and Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms and Lava. In fact, I’m listening to “Ice V” as I type this.

A bolt of cloth sitting on a bedspread. The cloth is crimson and navy blue, and covered in multicoloured flowers.

This Is How We Love Each Other

So, fun news: I have Covid-19. It took nearly 3 years and a few lucky misses, but this time I finally got hit by the dodgeball.

I first started feeling a sore, raspy throat on Monday. I took a test then: negative. Then, right after I woke up, I took another test on Tuesday: negative again. Despite the second negative test, I felt poorly enough to take a sick day off work, which I spent resting and napping. It was only Wednesday, yesterday morning, after 2 days of a sore throat and one day of major fatigue and body aches, that the test finally came back positive.

The past day or so has been a mental whirlwind since: determining isolation protocols, moving items around the house, taking medicine, talking to the doctor, informing friends and family about the news, etc.

When I was first feeling sick on Monday, I visited some friends at their place while wearing a mask. When I told them I tested positive yesterday, instead of showing anger, they showed grace — they even offered to let Mr. BooksandTea stay with them to give me a chance to isolate. We cat-sit for each other and play Pokemon Go regularly. I’ve known the husband of this couple since high school, and it means a lot to have people so close who care so much.

Today, my mom came by with some groceries I requested and included a few extras, including some homemade soup and turkey pot pie. I had bought her a tub of feta cheese last month because it was on sale at the Asian grocery near me. Despite the fact that I had bought her the feta last month, the surplus groceries and food felt like too much. But as I was ferrying stuff from the doorway to the freezer, it struck me: this reciprocity, this adding of little extras to show we care – this is how we love each other.

I kept on repeating that phrase to myself.

My sister gets sick with covid over the Christmas break, so I order groceries online to be delivered to her door. I toss a bottle of vitamin D pills into the order. This is how we love each other.

Our friends open their home to my husband so he has a place to sleep while I’m isolating, despite the fact that I’ve potentially exposed them to covid. This is how we love each other.

My mother and I buy groceries for each other. She makes me soup and pot pie. This is how we love each other.

And then, of course, there was this, which arrived in my home not two hours ago, to reinforce the message.

I have a lovely friend that I talk to every Sunday, that I sometimes watch Netflix with, that I’ve been role-playing with for years — and she just sent me a Christmas present out of the blue. I opened it while sitting on my sickbed to reveal a stunning round of cloth in crimson and navy blue with multi-coloured flowers. The package also contained scented soaps and body washes, and a pristine, empty address book. What a beautiful surprise when you’re sick! This is how we love each other.

It feels so good and so humbling to be loved so much.

Last week, when I was trying to plan out how 2023 was going to go, I wasn’t sure what my guiding principle for the year would be. What word, what goal, what mantra would I try to live by? I think I’ve found my answer.

My Favourite Books of 2022

Another year has started, and another shelf has been added to my Goodreads account to track my reading. However, in 2022, I did something a bit different: I consciously did not set a goal for the annual Goodreads reading challenge.

I’ve learned by now that these sorts of things — reading X books per year, writing Y words per day, etc — is a source of stress for me. Goals like that assume some sort of consistent, linear progress, and my habits are much more jagged. I can go without finishing a book for 2 months, then read 5 in a month.

The nice thing was that I still read 30 books in 2022! Some of them were for work, and some were non-fiction, but roughly 1/3 of the books I finished fit under the spec-fic umbrella. Here’s a look at a few of the books I really liked last year:

The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield

The cover of The Embroidered Book by Kate Heartfield.

I often compare my reading habits to being like a python: if the right book grabs me at the right time, I will swallow the thing whole. It may be a while before I come across another book I inhale, but I’ll sit there and digest what I’ve read in the interim.

The Embroidered Book is this year’s classic example of a python book: I read all 600+ pages in just over 2 days. Having read Heartfield’s Armed in Her Fashion a few years ago, I was unsurprised to see her continued nuanced portrayal of multiple female characters, or her deft incorporation of trans characters into the narrative. But the real beating heart of the book is the relationship between Antoine and her sister Charlotte, and how their rivalling paths on opposite sides of a magical conflict curdles, but doesn’t entirely destroy, their affection for each other. The final chapters (where Antoine meets her fate and Charlotte makes a very particular magical sacrifice) are heartbreaking.

Bonus: if you listen to the Revolutions podcast by Mike Duncan, you’ll get an extra kick out of seeing how the real events of the French Revolution intertwine with the magical events of the book.

The Language of Power by Rosemary Kirstein

The cover of The Language of Power by Rosemary Kirstein

I have spilled many words on here about the Steerswoman books by Rosemary Kirstein. And I even wrote an entire post about how The Language of Power illustrates the power of social contracts. So yes, this was one of my favourite books of the year, and I highly recommend the series. It even got a small reference in a recent XKCD comic!

The Centaur’s Wife by Amanda Leduc

The cover of The Centaur's Wife by Amanda Leduc

This was a weird one for me. I read it in less than 24 hours, but both loved it and was emotionally exhausted by it in the end. It felt laser-targeted to me, in a painful way, like Leduc wrote it specifically for me at this point in my life. I read it when I was 37, the same age as the main character. And the main character’s experience of giving birth right before a cataclysmic, world-ending event is one of my own greatest fears. On top of that, the main character’s father died when she was 12, and I was a similar age when mine died. And on top of that, I read it immediately after watching the DS9 episode “Doctor Bashir, I Presume”, in which it’s revealed that Julian Bashir’s parents did a medical intervention on him as a child without his consent in order to remove a perceived disability. Something very similar happens to the main character in the book and is a major source of trauma for her, so the parallels were hard to ignore.

The Centaur’s Wife felt like a pile of salt rubbed into my own personal wounds, but I can’t hate it; it’s so densely layered and thoughtfully constructed of multiple overlapping narratives. And the author herself, Amanda Leduc, is a compelling reader — I first learned about the book when she read the opening as part of the Ephemera reading series.

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett

The cover of The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett

A friend of mine teaches a course on children’s literature at Toronto Metro University, and The Amazing Maurice is part of the reading list. Any book by Terry Pratchett is worth your time, but I hadn’t read this one yet.

I went in expecting something fun but anodyne, sanded down to meet the needs of children. But that was my mistake: Pratchett rarely pulls any punches, even (or perhaps especially) in books written for kids.

The logo for the Productivity Alchemy podcast hosted by Kevin Sonney

Guest Appearance on the Productivity Alchemy Podcast

Happy December, everyone! I’m starting off the month with some fun news: a few months ago I was interviewed by Kevin Sonney for his podcast Productivity Alchemy, and it went live yesterday. You can listen to it here!

Kevin is married to Ursula Vernon, whose fiction I have greatly enjoyed for the past few years. I reviewed her kids book Harriet the Invincible a few years back, but she’s also well known for writing the Hugo-award-winning webcomic Digger (of which I have a first-edition omnibus copy!), and for writing various novels and short stories under the pen name T. Kingfisher.

Being a guest on this particular podcast means a lot to me because Ursula Vernon’s openness on social media about her experiences with ADHD was a significant factor behind me pursuing my own diagnosis. Her posts about it were so relatable that I realized that I probably had it too.

In the episode, I talk about how I stay organized and productive both in my role as a content designer and in my home life. We also talk about cats, music, the perils of Jira and Confluence, ADHD, Pokemon Go, and the value of having a creative outlet.

At the beginning of each episode, Kevin normally goes over a list of content warnings discussed during the interview, and then there’s a little pre-amble where he talks about his past week. The actual interview starts about 4-5 minutes in. At the end, he always asks his guests for a charity that his listeners can support, and since we recorded it a few days before the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, I recommended the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund.

I had so much fun talking to him about my work and my hobbies, and it was such a jolt to see my interview show up in yesterday’s feed. So take a listen!

Productivity Alchemy episode 278.

New Spaces, New Hobbies

It’s a week into the new month. Let’s celebrate with some random brain vomit.

Twitter and Alternatives

So. That Guy now owns Twitter. I’m still using it for now, but I’m investigating other options in case things continue circling the drain. Currently, I’m experimenting with Mastodon — catch me through @cvasilevski@Wandering.Shop. Wandering.Shop is home to a lot of SF/F people and Annalee Flower-Horne is one of the admins, so I feel fairly confident about its code of conduct and moderation policies.

Still, this whole thing sucks. Twitter was my most-used social network. I made friends through it. I got my (admittedly small) toehold in the SF/F community because of it. It helped me find jobs. I honestly think I learned more about feminism and activism and intersectionality through it than I did through getting my entire goddamned BA in Women’s Studies.

Plus, Twitter is the only platform that really prioritized text over everything else. It allowed weird, happy collisions between different disciplines. It kept me on top of the latest news around Covid-19 when the mass media decided that we should all “return to normal”. I really don’t know exactly what’s going to fill the void that it leaves.

Part of me wonders whether Twitter’s takeover will lead to a resurgence of blogs and RSS feeds. I kind of hope so! I mean, I’m still using the self-hosted RSS tracker I installed on my other domain in 2013 to keep track of blogs. (Speaking of which: yes, I have an RSS feed here! Please feel free to use it!)

Drumming and My Magpie Brain

A Rav Vast drum. It's round, made of steel, and coated with a blue coating and finished off with a rim made of brass. It's shaped kind of like a lentil or flying saucer. It's resting on a snare drum stand, most of which is obscured by the drum itself.
My new Rav Vast drum in the A Marmara scale.

I’ve found a new ADHD hyperfocus: playing steel tongue drums. In particular, I’m teaching myself how to play the Rav Vast. I bought a pre-owned drum in September, and now I’m slowly making my way through the Rav Beginners course on Master the Handpan.

I’m deep in the “Learn All The Things Phase” of this interest, and now I’m at the point where I want a second drum in a different scale. The thing is, these drums cost a lot. It’s going to take me months to save up for a second one. So I’m trying to tell myself to be patient and learn how to play well on the one I already have.

What’s really interesting is that now I’m listening to music — not just other Rav Vast players, but all music — in a new way. I’m thinking about the amount of effort all the musicians I listen to have put into their craft, and that there’s a huge gulf between imagining a melody and actually working out the kinks.

I think this is hitting me so hard because it’s the first time in a while that I’ve tried to learn something genuinely new. I’ve been an editor for so long that working with words and fixing grammar has become second nature for me. I’ve worked in the corporate world for so long that I’ve forgotten what it felt like to be unskilled at something, to feel all the bumps and potholes in the road. Well, learning the drum is bump city.

I suck, but right now I’m giving myself permission to suck. I’m giving myself permission to take things slowly. In other words, I’m trying to be ok with not being perfect. This is a huge development for me, because I’m so used to trying to be The Best At Things, and because my line of work prioritizes accuracy and speed.

Ontario Politics

Have I mentioned that Mr. BooksandTea is a member of CUPE? Well, he’s a member of CUPE, which went on strike last week to protest the Ontario government’s new legislation stripping him and his fellow educational assistants of their right to strike.

Premier Ford seems to have underestimated the amount of backlash Bill 28 would provoke among the public. Earlier today it was announced that he would repeal the legislation. This is good news, but I’m still skeptical. He’s shown in the past that he’s willing to backtrack on his own promises, like what’s going with developing the greenbelt.

For now, Mr. BooksandTea goes back to work. But negotiating a new contract for the entire union is still underway.

Page 1 of 11

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén