Going to the chapel…

…and we’re gonna watch two people get married.

Kim and I are leaving tomorrow for a wedding on Saturday of a relative of hers, and by extension of mine. The wedding is in Ohio, just west of Cleveland, late Saturday afternoon – and actually is taking place in a chapel with the reception in an old school building on the same site.

As a result, we won’t be back until late Sunday and my normal blogging schedule is being put on hold until Monday when I will do my monthly Library Checkout post.

In the meantime, though, you can follow our adventures on Instagram with the hashtag #bryanandkimgetthehelloutofdodge, our new hashtag when we leave town. There will be no tags or photos of the bride and groom.

See y’all back here on Monday.

When everything on hold comes in at once

Okay, not everything came in, but virtually everything I had on hold came in at once this week, to wit, two books I had had on hold for several months on ebook at The Free Library of Philadelphia:

  1. Wonder Valley by Ivy Pochoda
  2. Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

AND…another one that had just come in earlier in the week, on ebook from my home library: American by Day by Derek B. Miller.

Then at the end of the week, just to make things even more interesting, I checked out a physical book, The Lonely Witness by William Boyle, that a patron had said was pretty good.

So come Friday night, I was faced with choosing one of the four for my weekend read, which really would be Friday night and Saturday since I was/am going to visit my father for Father’s Day. Since I already had started American by Day Thursday night and was enjoying it even in the early going, I decided to stick with it, read a little Friday night, finished half of the book by noon on Saturday and then the other half later in the afternoon.

I don’t know if I realized that Miller had another book coming out until a blogger (I can’t remember who) recently mentioned this one. I previously had read Norwegian by Night, which was published in 2012, and which was one of my favorite books from that year, and American by Day is a sequel of sorts. Why I say of sorts is that this one features Sigrid Ødegård, a Norwegian cop, who from what I remember wasn’t a major character in the first one.

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The story picks up from where the previous story left off, but I don’t think it’s necessary to read Norwegian by Night to understand this second one. Here, Sigrid is sent to America by her father to find his son/her brother Marcus. Of course, it isn’t that simple as Marcus is suspected of the murder of his girlfriend. As serious as the story sounds, and at times is, Miller also injects a fair amount of humor into the novel, especially with the interplay between Sigrid and Irving Wylie, the county sheriff who is looking for Marcus. The story also is absurd at times (no spoilers, but if you read it, you’ll see what I mean), but I went with it because I was enjoying the book so much at that point.

Next up: I should read Pochoda’s book since I think I had the book on hold since February, but we’ll see. I have enjoyed Locke’s books in the past, so I might just go with that. I’ll keep you posted.

What did you read this past week? Anything good, anything worth recommending? What is on your radar for this coming week or the next couple of weeks?

What We’re Watching | Hulu

Each Wednesday either my wife or I share what we are watching (either together or separately) in terms of movies and TV each week in a feature called “What We’re Watching Wednesday.” This week, it’s the streaming service Hulu.

A couple of years ago, my sister got us a gift of Hulu for a year, but we decided that it wasn’t worth it for only two or three shows, at the time, the original CSI for me and Brooklyn Nine-Nine for both of us so we canceled it so she wasn’t paying for it and also because we didn’t want to continue it. However, earlier this year, when I learned from Kim of the blog Sophisticated Dorkiness that Hulu had “gotten” the complete ER, I was very tempted. I used to have several episodes of the series, especially the early years, recorded on VHS, and always wanted to rewatch the series, especially those first few seasons with Anthony Edwards and George Clooney.

Fast forward to last week: I was thinking about getting MHz Choice through Amazon Channels because we had watched an episode of Inspector Montalbano based on the brilliant Italian book series by Andrea Camilleri that we had borrowed via Hoopla from the Free Library of Philadelphia. I thought about getting the channel, but wanted to see what else they had. Unfortunately, I didn’t recognize any of the other titles and one of the shows we wanted to finish watching (the third season), Borgen, isn’t available for streaming. So I decided that wasn’t worth it and then I remembered Hulu. Maybe it was time to give them a second look…

…and I’m glad I did. This time around, the streaming service had more shows than just CSI and Brooklyn Nine-Nine that we wanted to watch. For example, we had been watching Bob’s Burgers on Netflix, but then it was abruptly taken off. We’ve been wanting to get back to the show and now we can. A few other shows we are looking forward to: Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue, The Shield (which we never did see the end of), The Bridge (both the original and the American remake), Spiral, Raising Hope (which I have seen multiple times, but want to see again…and again…and…), CSI: Miami (which I want to finish), My Name Is Earl (another one I have seen multiple times, but want to see again..and again…and…), Wayward Pines (since I recently just read the first book of the series), and Good Behavior (also written by Blake Crouch, who wrote Wayward Pines).

Yes, they also are movies, but not as many as Netflix or Amazon Prime that we are interested in seeing, but there is this one that we want to see again:

Do you use Hulu? If so, what do you recommend watching? If not, what have you been watching lately that you would recommend, either TV or movies?

25 Things Before I Turn 50

Today, I turn 49. As I approach half a century of life, here are 25 things I want to do before that milestone:

  1. Lose 40 pounds.
  2. Walk.
  3. Walk to work at least once a week during summer, fall, and spring.
  4. Run in one 5K.
  5. No food after 9 p.m.
  6. Go to bed by 11:30 p.m. each night.
  7. Wake by 8 a.m. each day.
  8. Alcohol only once a month.
  9. No soda except when having alcohol once a month.
  10. Read a book a week.
  11. Read 10 nonfiction books.
  12. Continue to play Solitaire and listen to chill music before going to bed.
  13. Sleeping with Bread daily.
  14. Along with SWB, photo a day of what most grateful for that day.
  15. Go to church once a month.
  16. Go on day trip once a month.
  17. Date night every pay week with Kim.
  18. Visit parents/sister once a month.
  19. Keep to blog schedule. Wednesday. Friday. Saturday. Sunday.
  20. Practice what you preach.
  21. Be quick to listen.
  22. Slow to speak.
  23. Slow to anger.
  24. Talk less.
  25. Smile more.

A few explanations:

Sleeping with Bread is a book by Dennis, Sheila and Matthew Linn. It starts with this story:

During the bombing raids of WWII, thousands of children were orphaned and left to starve. The fortunate ones were rescued and placed in refugee camps where they received food and good care. But many of these children who had lost so much could not sleep at night. They feared waking up to find themselves once again homeless and without food. Nothing seemed to reassure them. Finally, someone hit upon the idea of giving each child a piece of bread to hold at bedtime. Holding their bread, these children could finally sleep in peace. All through the night the bread reminded them, “Today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow.”

From there, the Linns show how to set up a way of using The Examen from St. Ignatius each night by asking two simple questions: For what am I most grateful? For what am I least grateful? Those questions can be worded in other ways too, but the idea is each day to examine your day.

The “quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger” is inspired by my mother who often quotes this from the Book of James in the Bible, Chapter 1, Verse 19:

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,

The “talk less, smile more” is from the song “Aaron Burr, Sir” from the musical Hamilton:

Pushing Forward Back May/June 2018

If you are reading this in a feed, please go to my blog to see my featured image of the highlights from May 2018.

Back at May

Like April, the month began and ended with similar weather, but instead of snow, it was late summer-like weather for Pennsylvania with highs in the 80s, almost 90 degrees Fahrenheit. In between, we had a visit from my ex-college roommate, I visited my mother for Mother’s Day, we went to see Avengers: Infinity War. I ended the month by going to a fly-in breakfast with neighbors, and then we celebrated Memorial Day with a picnic with the same neighbors.

I read three books:

  1. Pago Pago Tango by John Enright
  2. Pines, the first in the Wayward Pines series, by Blake Crouch
  3. Still Life, the first Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, by Louise Penny.

The best of the lot was Pines, which also was a TV show that was just canceled this past month. I’m already looking forward to the next two books in the series, which I already bought on ebook.

Kim and I watched a lot of this and that this past month, some of which can be found on our What We’re Watching Wednesday posts. The highlight TV-wise, far and away, was this:

Movie-wise, and no, I’m not kidding, the highlight for me was this (as suggested by my sister):

You don’t have to see the first one either. It was okay, but this second one was classic, and again, no, I’m not kidding.

On the music front, this was my favorite album from May:

Forward to June

June has a lot happening, including my 49th birthday on June 9 and one of Kim’s sister’s is getting married June 23 in Ohio and we’re going. In between is Father’s Day, and my sister and I are planning to take my father to a car museum that isn’t far from where he lives and to a diner in the same town. I live about an hour and a half from my parents, and the museum is about another hour away.

Books? As I mentioned in my last Library Checkout post, I have several books on hold and actually since that post, I’ve discovered at least three others on hold at another library (our home library where I work). TV and movies? We’re looking forward to the second seasons of Glow and Luke Cage on Netflix; the movie Lady Bird on Amazon Prime, which we already have seen but would like to see again. Music? Yesterday, already were a few big releases with Father John Misty (Joshua Tillman), Kanye West, and Oneohtrix Point Never (Daniel Lopatin) all dropping new albums. So far, I’ve heard Father John Misty’s album and liked it on a first listen, but want to hear Ye’s and Lopatin’s album. I am no fan of West’s politics, but I loved Yeezus, because it was unlike anything I had heard up until then and am willing to give anything he puts out a listen.

Along with my birthday, I’ll be doing some special posts, of course, including a “bucket list” of things I want to do before I turn 50. So stay tuned for those in the next month too.

So how was your month of May? Read any good books, seen any good movies and/or TV shows, listened to any good music? What was the highlight of your month? What are you looking forward to in June? Share in the comments.

Here is the caption for the photo in the featured image: From top left, and then clockwise to right, my neighbor Mike at the grill on Memorial Day; Kim, my ex-college roommate Joe, and I play a card game; I grab Deadpool’s butt; Blake Crouch’s Pines was my favorite book of the month; my sister’s family’s new dog Zooma, whom I got to see on Mother’s Day at my parent’s; and Paddington 2, my favorite movie of the month, as recommended by my sister.

My Library Checkout for May 2018

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Have you been using your library over the past month? What did you read? What didn’t you read? What are you waiting on? These are the questions of a meme called Library Checkout, led by Rebecca Foster of the blog Bookish Beck. I’m joining in for this past month of May.

Read

  1. Pago Pago Tango by John Enright
  2. Pines, the first in the Wayward Pines series, by Blake Crouch
  3. Still Life, the first Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, by Louise Penny.

The first two were from Amazon: Pago Pago Tango, a Prime read, and Pines, a Kindle Daily Deal.

Returned Unread

  1. The Sinner by Petra Hammesfehr
  2. Inspector Maigret Omnibus, Volume 1: Pietr the Latvian; The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien; The Carter of ‘La Providence’; The Grand Banks Cafe by Georges Simenon
  3. The Gunners by Rebecca Kauffman

DNF

  1. Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama
  2. Dove Season by Johnny Shaw
  3. The Echo Killing by Christi Daugherty
  4. A Rage in Harlem by Chester Himes

With Six Four, I got bogged down with Yokoyama’s focus on the bureaucracy within Japanese police departments. With Dove Season, the story didn’t develop quick enough for my tastes, and with The Echo Killing, I couldn’t get past the premise of a small-town newspaper having extra staff to assign to one story. I worked for weekly newspapers for more than 15 years and I know that staffing is always being cut, even at larger dailies, with usually one person ending up doing several jobs so I just didn’t find that aspect of the story believable.

Currently Out

  1. Death at La Fenice, the first Commissario Brunetti mystery, by Donna Leon

On Hold

  1. Inspector Maigret Omnibus, Volume 1: Pietr the Latvian; The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien; The Carter of ‘La Providence’; The Grand Banks Cafe by Georges Simenon
  2. The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce
  3. Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers: A retirement and aging roadmap for single adults and childless adults by Sarah Geber
  4. Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
  5. Wonder Valley by Ivy Pochoda

Many of these haven’t changed from last month, but I hope by next month to say that I have gotten a few of them.

What did you check out from the library this past month, put on hold, return unread, did not finish? Or if you don’t use the library, what was the best book you read from this past month? Share in the comments.

To see what I have been up to this weekend, check out The Four-Day Memorial Day Weekend Post 2.

The Four-Day Memorial Day Weekend Post 2

So instead of doing several posts today, tomorrow, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, I’m incorporating all into one post. It will be kind of like a readathon post, with updates throughout the weekend. I will start with the plans, and then update with the reality. – This is exactly what I said last Memorial Day Weekend and what I am saying again this Memorial Day Weekend, hence the 2.

Speaking of reading, I plan on reading one book a day, each the start of a different series either that I’ve been wanting to read or that I’ve recently discovered. I’ll mention each one on the day that I plan on reading it.

Friday night

Tonight, the plan is simple: eat burgers, drink booze, listen to music, and watch whatever the hell tickles our fancy. Kim won’t be drinking because she has to work tonight at midnight, but she will be eating burgers, listening to music and watching whatever the hell tickles our fancy.

Two minutes later: We’re watching Season 2 of Riverdale on Netflix. We really enjoyed Season 1 and are hoping the second season is just as good.

riverdale

Update: We watched only the first episode of the second season. We didn’t stop because it wasn’t good, but because we were listening to music.

Saturday

No. 1 on the agenda is reading. The first book up is A Rage in Harlem by Chester Himes, the first of the Harlem Cycle. I’ve heard of Chester Himes mainly because of Luke Cage and thought I’d give him a try.

My sister told me that I need to see Paddington 2, because it’s “for all ages,” so I borrowed it from the library, and even though I don’t know if I need to see it, I’m going to watch the first one, which is available on Netflix. I’ll be watching on my own because Kim said she isn’t interested in watching, plus she’ll be sleeping as she has a 12-hour shift Saturday into Sunday and then Sunday into Monday.

Update: Sadly, A Rage in Harlem is yet another DNF for me, but I did watch both Paddington movies, with the second one being the better of the two. Even Kim watched some of the second and liked it. It actually made me cry. No kidding.

Sunday

Again, and this is going to be a theme here, No. 1 on the agenda is reading. The second book is The Rosary Girls by Richard Montanari, the first in the Jessica Balzano & Kevin Byrne series. To be honest, I never had heard of these, but it is set in Philadelphia and I picked it up on ebook via the Free Library of Philadelphia.

The other “big event” for the day is the annual fly-in breakfast at our local airport, which I’ll be going to with our neighbors, Mike and Kathy. Kim might go along, depending on how her Saturday night at work goes (she’s a 911 dispatcher, so some nights are rough and she doesn’t want to go anywhere but to bed).

I plan on drafting a post for Library Checkout, a monthly meme the last Monday of each month where we talk about what we have checked out from the library, and then publishing it on Monday.

I also might watch the Coca-Cola 600, a rare night race, with Mike — in his “ManCave” – a garage complete with classic car and big screen TV that is behind their house.

Update Sunday morning: I went to the fly-in breakfast with the neighbors. Kim didn’t go because as usual with a holiday weekend, it was busy. Now, time to kick back with some music and play a little Solitaire, and then later some reading.

Update Sunday night: I did get a little reading in, starting Still Life by Louise Penny, which is good so far. I completely forgot about the Montanari book, to be honest. Ooops. Maybe I’ll try it another time. I then went to watch the Coca-Cola 600 with Mike. We made it to about lap 380 before Mike had to go to bed. I’ll probably listen to rest on the radio.

Monday

Yep. Reading again. The third book is Still Life, the first in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series, by Louise Penny. This one, I have had on hold for—ever at FLP, but this past week, I found a copy in our library bookstore, so I picked it up. I have no idea why this is so popular (the hold at FLP is several months long), but I guess I’m going to find out.

In the afternoon, we are going to a picnic at our neighbors. Kim’s making deviled eggs and we’re bringing potato chips. Of course, there should be burgers and hot dogs too.

We were looking forward the fifth season of Arrested Development, but after recent…well…developments, we’ve decided…

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Update Tuesday morning: I finished Still Life and we did go to the picnic at the neighbors, which was good. Late last night, we started watching The Americans as recommended by Michelle of the blog That’s What She Read. We like/liked it and will watch more, but not sure when. Maybe today, we’ll see.

Picnic at the neighbors.

A post shared by Bryan G. Robinson (@stillunfinished) on

Tuesday

Hmmm. I guess, reading will be at the top of the agenda. Shocker! The final book of the weekend is one I think I’ve tried before but didn’t finish for some reason, Death at La Fenice, the first Commissario Brunetti mystery, by Donna Leon.

Watching? I don’t know yet, but with Kim off, maybe it will be something we both want to watch.

How about you? Do you have any time off this weekend? What are you planning to do this weekend?

What We’re Watching Wednesday | Documentaries

Each Wednesday I share what my wife Kim and I are watching in terms of movies and TV each week in a feature called “What We’re Watching Wednesday.” This week, though, it’s Kim who is sharing…only what she is watching by herself: documentaries.

I am that person. The one who tries to get you to watch a documentary.
When we first got cable, I discovered my love for watching the obscure stories, little independent documentaries about unfamiliar subjects. I have always liked to learn about people whose life experience was vastly different from my own.

And I love a well told story, slowly unfolded. They affect me. I try to spread my enthusiasm and I can tell straightaway if I have chosen my audience correctly. If you are not one whose eyes glaze over as someone bangs on about social issues, history, or the best restaurant in Berlin, read on.

All three of these series are available on Netflix.

Chef’s Table

You may think you are utterly disinterested in cooking, or assume this series bears some resemblance to the cooking competition shows that fill the offerings on Netflix and elsewhere. If you will indulge me, watch one episode. Watch Season 3, Episode 1. And tell me if you aren’t hooked. Then go back to the beginning.

Each episode of Chef’s Table stands alone and tells the story of one chef, what inspires them, how they got started, what they serve in their restaurants. Whether cooking is your thing or not, their stories are fascinating. Part biography, part travel show, a feast for the eyes and the soul. The chefs themselves are at times holy, other times profane, deeply connected to the food they serve, deeply connected to the places they live, and their life experiences are the flavors they bring to the plate. I have learned so much that inspires my own cooking and that confirms my suspicion that if I worked in a professional kitchen I would hide in the bathroom and cry a lot.

Wild Wild Country

We have seen and enjoyed a couple of Mark and Jay Duplass’ films, most notably Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) and The Skeleton Twins (2014) but their documentaries are another thing entirely and I hope they produce more.

Wild Wild Country concerns the establishment of Rajneeshpuram, a commune of followers of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh established in Wasco County, Oregon in the early 80s. In the first episode, one of the interviewees notes that if you wrote a book with all of the elements of this story in it, it would be dismissed as “too ridiculous.” Indeed, the rise and fall of this community and all the things that happened are a strange, fascinating tale. I found myself looking up articles and interviews seeking answers to the questions I was left with.

Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist

Many of us remember the footage on the news of pizza delivery man Brian Wells, handcuffed and seated on the ground in front of a state police cruiser with a bomb around his neck that would later take his life, having robbed the PNC Bank on Peach Street in Erie. The Pizza Bomber, they called him. I must admit once it rotated out of the news cycle I forgot about it. I live in Pennsylvania but at the time we were about as far from Erie as we could be while still being in the same state. I was not aware that the investigation, and the mystery, took years to solve. In some ways, this short documentary reminded me of the first (and still, most affecting and compelling) podcast I ever listened to, S-Town.

Have you seen any of these? What did you think? If not, do you like documentaries? Any ones you can recommend?

A blog post about reading – finally!

If there is one thing that I have learned in all my years of blogging, it is this:

It’s hard to write a blog post about reading when you haven’t been reading.

That is part of the reason why you didn’t see a Sunday Salon post last Sunday from me. I also went to visit my mother for Mother’s Day. Now this past week, I finally read something, so I can write a Sunday Salon post.

18799734The book I read, yesterday, was Pago Pago Tango by John Enright. It is the first in a series called the Jungle Beat Mysteries, featuring a police officer named Apelu Soifua, in American Samoa. I picked it up for free from Prime Reading, and while it was fairly good, I don’t think I’ll be rushing to buy the others in the series. What made it good was Enright’s knowledge of Samoan culture since he lived there for 26 years. The mystery wasn’t great, but I still would like to read more in the series…eventually.

To be fair, I have been reading, but this is the first book I have finished this month. I DNF-ed three others: Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama, Dove Season by Johnny Shaw, and The Echo Killing by Christi Daugherty. I checked out the first and third on ebooks from libraries and tried the second for free via Prime Reading.

With Six Four, I got bogged down with Yokoyama’s focus on the bureaucracy within Japanese police departments. With Dove Season, the story didn’t develop quick enough for my tastes, and with The Echo Killing, I couldn’t get past the premise of a small-town newspaper having extra staff to assign to one story. I worked for weekly newspapers for more than 15 years and I know that staffing is always being cut, even at larger dailies, with usually one person ending up doing several jobs so I just didn’t find that aspect of the story believable.

Altogether this year I have DNF-Ed five books, with the other two being Don Quixote and IQ by Joe Ide. On the flip side, I have finished 11 books, including The Lord of The Rings trilogy. I won’t lie; I am finding it hard to find what I want to read, plus I allow myself to get distracted by shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime. I am hoping June is a better month for reading for me.

How is your year in reading going? Reading anything good this year so far? From this past month?