Pushing Forward Back: August/September 2017

The month began with a bang, with my wife having to stay at the hospital for two days for atrial fibrillation. Plans then went sideways for a while, not only because of that, but also because of other extenuating circumstances, such as car troubles. Now here at month’s end, the ship has been somewhat righted with my wife getting the treatment she needs and we now know we have to get a new used car by the end of the year.

Reading: I finished three books:

  • Dark Water, the sixth in the Makanna Investigation series, by Parker Bilal, the pseudonym of Jamal Mahjoub, a British-Sudanese author
  • Absolutely Truly, the first in the Pumpkin Falls mystery series, by Heather Vogel Frederick
  • Murder is Binding, the first in the Booktown Mystery series, by Lorna Barrett.

And that was about the order in how good they were, in my opinion: very good, good, and fair to middling.

Watching: We didn’t watch as much as we usually do, but the highlights were all superheroes: The Defenders on Netflix, The Tick on Amazon Prime, and Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (rented) on Amazon Video. My favorite of the lot was, and is, The Tick, if only short six episodes with the second part of the first season to come next year.

My favorite is the villain Overkill and his sidekick (?) Dangerboat:

Listening: Only a few new releases caught my ear this month with the highlight probably The War on Drugs’ latest album, A Deeper Understanding.

Life besides A-fib: Kim’s mom visited for a week during which we watched Crocodile Dundee with our neighbors in their backyard, on a projector on the back of their garage. The library where I work also held an open house in celebration of its 100th anniversary.

Pushing Forward

September starts with a bang too, but this time hopefully in a good way as I have a four-day Labor Day Weekend as I tacked on Tuesday as a vacation day. I plan on catching up on some reading. I hope to share more on Instagram as the weekend goes. The only thing I won’t be doing is sharing what I’m reading until I’m done with each book.

Mid-month, Kim and I are going on a wine bus trip to Seneca Lake, one of the Finger Lakes in New York. The trip is part of our library’s Centennial Celebration, includes three wine tastings, and a lobster festival at another winery, with a rhythm and blues band from Rochester performing.

Other than that, I don’t know…well, beyond a community multidiagnostic blood analysis since our insurance doesn’t cover bloodwork and a one-day work conference in Williamsport. Books, TV, movies and music? Nothing I can think of that I’m looking for forward to…oh, Wonder Woman coming from out on DVD since we missed it in the theater.

How was your month of August? Favorite book read, /TV show/series watched, album listened to? What was the highlight for you? What are you looking forward to in September?

Currently: On Hold

This weekend, I had planned on catching up on some reading on my own and cutting down some brush in our backyard with my father. My wife had planned on just catching her breath, pretty much literally, after being in the hospital for atrial fibrillation and attempting to adjust to her medications. Then Thursday night, one of my college roommates, who is going through a difficult divorce, called to ask if he could come up for the weekend. As we knew he needed to get away and that he had to be back Sunday night, we couldn’t refuse his request.

So currently, as of this writing, life is on hold, and here’s where I am, and where we are, with “things.”

Reading: I’m in the middle of reading The Rubber Band, the third Nero Wolfe mystery, by Rex Stout, and am enjoying it so far. I have a few others checked out on ebook from the Free Library of Philadelphia and in print from our hometown library where I work. However, since I’m not sure if I’ll get to any of them, I’m not going to mention them yet.

Watching: My wife and I finished The Defenders, and we thought it was pretty good. I liked the first season of Daredevil the best; she, Luke Cage. My roommate and I also watched a few episodes of the first season of Mr. Robot, which he had been wanting to see. It was interesting, but I don’t think it’s something I feel compelled to watch.

Listening: On Friday, The War on Drugs released its latest album, its major label debut, A Deeper Understanding, and while I’ve only heard a few songs so far, based on those, I’m looking forward to listening to more of the album, maybe later this afternoon.

Anticipating (September and beyond): My wife and I are finally going on a wine trip mid-month to wineries on Seneca Lake in New York after one being canceled earlier this year and this one almost being canceled. It is being sponsored by the library where I work in celebration of its 100th anniversary. 

Two weeks ago, we learned that our 17-year-old car is finally on its last wheels and so by the end of the year, specifically November when it’s inspection runs out, we have to get a new (used) car. 

Last but not least, my wife is continuing with tests this week and beyond for her atrial fibrillation to see what her next steps will be. All of this is also making me think about my own health, and “taking care of myself” too, something I have put on the back burner for too long. 

Before I ask my usual questions, I’ll leave you with this earworm (NSFW) my roommate left me with earlier this weekend:

Whatchya reading, watching, listening to, doing, anticipating? Share in the comments. 

Truly reading, truly life this past week

Thanks to Sarah Sammis of the blog Puss Reboots, I have read another book this month: Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick (Sarah’s review). Sarah recommended the series, the Pumpkin Falls mysteries, of which this is the first one, in the comments of my blog post from last Sunday. I then picked the first one up Thursday, and I read it Friday. It was just what I needed after some recent books that jumped around with different point-of-views and switched from first to third person narration. This one just gave the story straight, from the point of view of 12-year-old Truly Lovejoy as she and her friends try to unravel a mystery, and it was a pretty good story to boot.

Sarah also recommended another series, the Booktown Mysteries by Lorna Barrett, of which Murder is Binding (Sarah’s review) is the first. I also picked this one up Thursday, but have yet to read it, and another one, The Rubber Band, the third Nero Wolfe mystery, by Rex Stout came in from being on hold on Friday. I’ll probably be reading one of them this afternoon.

As for life other than reading, this past week:

  • My wife was on vacation and her mother has been visiting. They went to a brass ensemble concert Wednesday night and visited my parents Thursday during the day while I was at work. Kim’s mom leaves tomorrow, but tonight we are going to the neighbors for a “backyard movie night” with our neighbor Mike using a projector to put movies on a screen on the back of his garage. Tonight’s movie is Crocodile Dundee.
  • My wife and I weren’t going to be able to go to a wine trip in mid-September, sponsored by the library where I work, because of having to buy new brakes earlier this week. Then we were able to go, thanks to the generosity of an anonymous patron, who left the money in an envelope in the library’s book drop. We think we know who it is and will attempt to repay him.
  • Kim and I have been watching some Netflix comedy specials to counteract all the negativity in the news,which I shared in a blog post on Wednesday.

Als to counteract the negativity, I’ll leave you with this, which I heard first on The True Jazzchild on Mixcloud:

Whatchya reading, listening to, watching, doing that’s good this week? Share in the comments.

Sometimes you just have to laugh… 

…so you don’t cry. 

Although we didn’t plan it, over the last few weeks Kim and I have been watching a series of comedy specials on Netflix that run counter to the racism being displayed in our country, especially this past week:

  • Iranian-American Maz Jobrani’s Immigrant
  • Indians Vir Das and Aditi Mittal’s specials Abroad Understanding and Things They Wouldn’t Let Me Say, respectively
  • Indian-American’s Hasan Minhaj’s Homecoming King
  • and Filipino-American Jo Koy’s Live from Seattle.

        All were good, but especially good was Minhaj’s special because of his poignant stories about his growing up Muslim in southern California. Also worth noting is Das and Mittal’s addressing India’s anti-homosexuality laws. Das does his special in Delhi in a stadium and New York in a small comedy club, highlighting not only the differences, but also the commonalities of cultures. 

        Instead of leaving you with trailers from all of them, I’ll leave you with this clip from Minhaj:

        Sometimes things don’t go as planned, Part 2…

        This week, I learned again that sometimes things don’t go as planned

        While I did read and finish Dark Water, the sixth in the Makanna Investigation series, by Parker Bilal, the pseudonym of Jamal Mahjoub, a British-Sudanese author, other plans fell through:

        • A trip to Corning on Aug. 18 with family, which has been delayed yet again, but this time because of a series of circumstances too complicated to explain here.
        • My dad, who lives about an hour and half away, was coming over this Friday to help me cut down some bamboo-like weed in our yard that keeps sprouting every few years and has to be cut back. But then it rained.
        • Instead, I started to read a book on Friday, but then after getting about halfway through, I decided to abandon it because I realized it just wasn’t that good.

        The first two things will be rescheduled for a later date, but I don’t plan on returning to that book or any books, specifically mysteries, by authors new to me. While on the phone last night with a friend with whom I talk every month or so, usually about our reading too, I decided I need to return to reading Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series. I need narrative that doesn’t bounce around from first person subjective to third person omniscient and back again, like some of the mysteries I’ve been trying to read. I need the straight story and nothing but the straight story, although I don’t mind twists and turns, as long as it’s not in who’s telling that story. 

        I guess what I am saying is that I like structure. It might be why I prefer the liturgical churches to the shall we say less liturgical churches, the more “charismatic” churches.  Or why I have a daily routine of playing Solitaire and listening to music before I go to work and before I go to bed. 

        That is not to say plans don’t go awry, as has happened these past few weeks, or even this past week. However, I continue to aim for a more structured life even still. That is always my target. 

        Addendum: My wife, who was in the hospital a couple of days last week, for atrial fibrillation is doing better. She is adjusting to her medications and has an appointment with a cardiologist next week. She is on vacation this week, as her mother is visiting us.

        Sometimes things don’t go as planned…

        Sometimes things don’t go as planned, but that’s alright because some things are more important.

        That was this past week’s lesson as my plans were thrown for a loop. I had planned to do some reading after work on Thursday afternoon when I got home from work, and then was going to my parents on Friday. From there, we were going to the Corning Museum of Glass, as a birthday present to my mother, who celebrated her birthday Thursday. My father, sister, and her two children were to join us.However, as I was getting ready to come home from work, my wife Kim texted me that she had set up a doctor’s appointment because she had been having what she thought was symptoms of asthma all week. Less than an hour later, she had to be taken to the emergency room of the local hospital, where it was determined she had atrial fibrillation. Cut to the chase: Her heart is back in rhythm, she came home yesterday, and she now is on medications to control the A-fib.

        Sooooo, as a result…

        …like last week, I am still reading Dark Water, the sixth in the Makanna Investigation series, by Parker Bilal, the pseudonym of Jamal Mahjoub, a British-Sudanese author. It has been slow going, but not surprisingly, in light of that other news, it has been hard to concentrate. I mostly have been watching silly TV, CSI Miami specifically, because I can’t focus on much else.

        A silver lining to all this is that the trip to Corning now has been moved to the following Friday: Aug. 18, with Kim and her mom, who is visiting that week, joining all of us. This coming Friday, my dad is coming over (lives about an hour and half away) to help me cut down some bamboo-like weed that keeps sprouting every few years and has to be cut back. He has a pickup truck so we can haul off the weeds to our town’s compost pile. 

        Today? Maybe read, but mostly rest, especially for Kim. Later today, I’ll be going over to my neighbor Mike’s to watch NASCAR. Oh, and probably more CSI Miami

        Pushing Forward Back: July/August 2017

        June 2017 was the month of 48 as I turned 48 on June 9 and celebrated accordingly as I mentioned last month. This past month, July 2017, I celebrated the Fourth of July with family and neighbors and then neglected reading and this blog despite signing up for the 24in48 Readathon. I did have high hopes for the readathon, but they were dashed when my wife and I started watching an Icelandic series on Amazon:

        As of this morning, as I’m drafting this, I have finished zero books for this month, but I am reading one: Dark Water, the sixth in the Makanna Investigation series, by Parker Bilal, the pseudonym of Jamal Mahjoub, a British-Sudanese author. I have read the other five and it is one of the few series that I actually purchase a copy of the ebook each time. This latest one, so far, is just as good as the others.

        The obvious choice for album of the month should be Jay-Z’s 4:44, released early in the month, but it hasn’t caught my ears, at least not yet. Instead, two new electronic albums have been buzzing in my ears:

        The highlight of the month was, as mentioned above:

        'Twas a happy Fourth this weekend, from one picnic on Sunday to another today.

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

        Another highlight, a close second, was seeing my wife in a series of radio plays put on by a local theater troupe (sadly, not pictured).

        Forward to August

        This coming month starts off with a trip to the Corning Museum of Glass with my mother this Friday. Her birthday is Thursday. My father, sister, and her two children are joining us.

        Reading-wise, I just hope to read something…anything. As has been my custom when I take out too many books from the library and don’t read any of them, I am returning all of them and starting fresh: choosing and reading one by one.

        Expected highlights from the rest of the month include our library holding an open house Sunday, Aug. 13 for its centennial and my having only to work one Friday for August. I am taking a vacation day this Friday and then the next two Fridays I’m not working because I’m working those Saturdays. Our director doesn’t like me working for six days straight so she gives me a day off before I work Saturdays, which is OK with me, because for some odd reason (don’t know exactly why) I am not a fan of Fridays at our library.

        Last but not least I’m looking forward to this, dropping on Netflix on August 18, one of the Fridays I’m off:

        How was your month of July? Favorite book read, movie/TV show/series watched, album listened to? What was the highlight for you? What are you looking forward to in August?

        #24in48: High Hopes

        readathon1When I last left you, I had signed up for the 24in48 Readathon, which started yesterday and ends today. I had high hopes. I even had one book that had been on hold for months that I believed would be available by this weekend: Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones.

        It became available that next week. However, I read about a hundred pages and decided that I had gotten the gist so I returned it. I then was left with a vacuum that I only filled this week with the following books on my Kindle:

        1. The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths
        2. The Dark Water by Parker Bilal
        3. The Deep Blue Good-by by John D. McDonald
        4. Friday the Rabbi Slept Late by Harry Kemelman
        5. The League of Frightened Men by Nero Wolfe
        6. The Rubber Band by Nero Wolfe

        I also got two more, in print from the library:

        1. Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon
        2. The Infidel Stain by M.J Carter

        And one other ebook that only was available in a pub format, Ratking by Michael Dibdin, that I downloaded to my phone.

        So with all those choices, how have I been doing?

        Well…

        Ahem….

        I’m….

        Um, yeah…

        At zero.

        I got sidetracked by an Icelandic murder mystery, Trapped, now available on Amazon Prime, and originally on BBC 4. But hey, it does have subtitles so I have been reading and still will be if when I watch more later today.

        Unfortunately, much of my morning has been taken up by writing this blog post (thanks to a laptop with outdated software –  Vista – which is extremely slow and missing letters on the keyboard) and not unfortunately, but fortunately this afternoon, my wife is in a couple of radio plays with a local theater troupe that I will be going to see (and hear).

        ManofbronzebamaThe actors stand in front of microphones and recite the lines, just as they would in “Radio Days.” Altogether, there are 33 episodes, from old shows like The Shadow to a few locally directed and written originals, and run this weekend and next weekend. I went to the first night, Friday, too and enjoyed the episodes then, especially The Shadow and Doc Savage, the latter of which I read some in novel form as a teenager.

        So all that to say, it is unlikely that I’ll be moving that rubber tree plant (the readathon) today. At least, though, I have plenty of choices for my next read, which hopefully I’ll start later this week, maybe even as early as tomorrow.

        How about you? Are you participating in this weekend’s readathon? If so, how are you doing? Best book? If not, reading anything good? Listening to anything good? Watching anything good? Let me (and the rest of my readers) know in the comments.

        Signed up for # 24in48 

        readathon1I haven’t read a book yet this month, but I did sign up for the 24in48 Readathon, coming up in a couple of weeks, July 22 and 23. So there is hope for my reading yet.

        Perhaps helping the cause is yesterday a book that has been on my hold list since April finally became available for me: Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones. I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, but since this year I haven’t read a lot period, there is hope here too. The book arrives on the heels of a local onslaught of heroin overdoses because of a “bad batch” within recent weeks. Aside: my wife wrote a blog post on the subject, from her perspective as a 911 dispatcher that is well worth the read.

        Not helping the cause is Netflix binge-watching, from ongoing shows like NCIS and Criminal Minds, both of which dropped their most recent seasons earlier than expected, to new shows to us, such as a French crime drama Witnesses. That one had been in and out of my queue for months, but then yesterday on a whim, I decided to give it a try. I enjoyed the first episode so much that I watched it again with my wife so she could watch with me.

        Also not helping my reading is my usual genre of crime fiction isn’t holding my attention for some reason. I’m not sure why, except maybe I’m choosing different series that just aren’t as well written or engaging as some of the more established writers and series I often read. However, like with my Netflix watching, I always want to discover things new to me. It’s just that a few of the Netflix finds have been better than my book finds.

        Here’s hoping that the upcoming readathon will spur my reading on…

        So reading anything good? Watching anything good? Listening to anything good? Share in the comments.

        Pushing Forward Back: June/July 2017

        48June was the month of 48 as I turned 48 on June 9. I celebrated with burgers, fries, and booze on the day of, with a drinkalong movie the next night (Hunt for The Wilderpeople) with a group of friends online, and then with three special blog posts throughout the rest of the month:

        1. My 48 Favorite Books For The 48 Years Of My Life
        2. My 48 Favorite Movies For The 48 Years Of My Life
        3. My 48 Favorite Albums For The 48 Years Of My Life

        As for the rest of the month, the breakdown is as follows:

        • I read two books: Midnight Sun by Jo Nesbø  and Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane, with both being good, if not great. That brings me to 25 books read for the year, which puts me on target to read 50 for the year, which has been about my average for the last few years.
        • Kim and I watched a few new shows, with the highlights being the first seasons of Santa Clarita Diet and GLOW, both on Netflix. The documentary on GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) also was very good. Mostly on my own, I watched a show from the Ukraine called The Sniffer, which while it sounds ridiculous, a detective who sniffs out clues, is actually surprisingly good and not without a sense of humor either.
        • I listened to a lot of new music during the month of June as usual, with two albums especially catching my ear: the self-titled debut of Colter Wall, a Canadian country musician, and Dust by Laurel Halo, an American-born, Berlin-based musician. I haven’t listened to Halo’s album too much yet, but so far, what I have heard, I have loved.

        The highlight of the month was meeting Richard Petty:

        The lowlight of the month was the limited rerelease of a classic:

        Tonight's beverage of choice. Thanks @therelentlessreader for reminding us of this.

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

        Thanks, Jenn, for letting me know of this, but unfortunately, it just gave me heartburn and wasn’t as tasty as I remembered.

        Forward to July

        This coming month starts off with a bang, with a four-day Fourth of July Weekend as the library is closed Tuesday and I took a vacation day Monday (Kim is off Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday as well). Starting tonight, every other day will involve grilling:

        1. Tonight, with steak wrapped in bacon on our own grill from a box of Omaha Steaks we got from our landlord for finding a tenant in another one of his properties in our town.
        2. Sunday, with burgers and chicken at my parent’s.
        3. Tuesday, with burgers and hot dogs with our neighbors Mike and Kathy with members of their family and other neighbors.

        On Saturday night, I plan on catching some, if not all, of the Coke Zero 400, the first part probably with Mike and the second part probably by myself as Mike goes to bed early and probably won’t make it until the end. Also later Saturday night, Kim and I will be joining our usual drinkalong gang for this week’s movie: Addams Family Values. On Monday night, after getting back from my parents, we are going to watch the 300th episode of NCIS on Netflix. We probably will celebrate with club sandwiches as Kim seems to remember that is what Gibbs orders when he goes to the diner.

        Reading? Hmmm. Maybe Saturday during the day and Tuesday if I’m lucky. And no, I don’t know what I’ll be reading if I do. I’ll find something on Overdrive probably from the Free Library of Philadelphia.

        Expected highlights from the rest of the month include having a new schedule at the library that gives me one less night to work, thanks to a new coworker, and a series of radio plays that my wife is in the last two weekends of the month. My sister mentioned that her husband’s vacation is in mid-July too so they might come over to visit with their two children, my nephew and niece.

        How was your month of June? Favorite book read, movie/TV show/series watched, album listened to? What was the highlight for you? What are you looking forward to in July?