bad husband! bad!

I know, I start this blog with Beckie and then I don’t blog. I had a weird thing a few weeks ago where I meant to write a chirpy post over here about how I was going to be blogging more, but I messed up the WordPress account, and accidentally posted over on my sociology blog, where I hadn’t posted in over a year and thought I was done. But, for whatever reason, this caused me to actually start blogging over there, and I’ve been on a kick of trying to work myself out of occupational exile.

So I have been blogging but not here. I’m not sure how I’m going to do it going forward, but: I do love Beckie’s photos, so I hope they keep coming up. And we should still be able to find time for the 42-word book reviews!

Jeremy reads The Last Dead Girl by Harry Dolan

Why did you read this book? I really liked this guy’s first book, Bad Things Happen. I didn’t like his follow-up so much, but still decided to give this a go.

Has Beckie read it? No, she’s not into crime stuff so much unless it’s Kate Atkinson or car reading.

42 word review: Guy’s girlfriend gets murdered. Turns out she was investigating another murder herself for university’s Innocence Project, and of course everything ends up connected. Twisty plot with more good twists than bad — but some are bad — and good-humored, better-than-pulp-but-not-that-much-better writing.

Selected quotes:

  • He glared at me. “You’ve dodged a bullet. Stop trying to get back in front of it.”
  • She put it back on the shelf and took down the empty pill bottle.
    “Ambien,” she said. “Is this another clue?”
    “It might be. It’s a kind of sleeping pill, isn’t it?”
    She nodded. “A strong one. It can cause sleepwalking. Blackouts. Memory loss. It’s nothing you want to mess around with.”

Overall rating: 3 discarded popsicle sticks (out of 5)

Unnamed feature #2: “plus tax” vs. “tax included”

Let’s get another easy one out of the way as long as we haven’t even named this feature yet. In Australia, the price on a menu or price list is the actual price that something costs. In the United States, without even getting into tipping yet, the sales tax is added onto the listed price.

In the US, you end up reflexively adding X%–the amount varies from state-to-state–and still you stand at the register and think, “Gee, with tax that added up to more than I thought.” It’s so much more convenient to just have the price you see be the price you pay that it even takes some getting used to when buying more expensive items. That is, I realized it’s a regular part of my routine when buying something to think, “OK, but what does it cost really?” that it takes some doing to recognize that what you see is what it is.

Jeremy’s winner: Continue reading

Jeremy reads The Antidote by Oliver Burkeman

Why did you read this book? This was Book #3 in my resolution to read 24 books related to personal growth in 2014. I chose this after reading The Happiness Project, as I thought something about the downside of pursuing happiness might be a useful juxtaposition.

Has Beckie read it? No.

42 word review: Basic premise: focusing on happiness and positive thinking often makes people angsty and miserable in short-run, or bad decisions that provoke extra hardship in long-run. Yay, melancholia! All the good ideas toward the front; last half either filler or redundant.

Useful quotes:

  • The worst thing about any event, Ellis liked to say, ‘is usually your exaggerated belief in its horror’.
  • Taking a non-attached stance towards procrastination, by contrast, starts from a different question: Who says you need to wait until you ‘feel like’ doing something in order to start doing it? The problem, from this perspective, isn’t that you don’t feel motivated; it’s that you imagine you need to feel motivated.
  • ‘The truth that many people never understand’, he wrote , ‘is that the more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt.’

Overall rating: 3 out of 5 imps of the perverse.

Unnamed feature #1: Greenbacks vs. monopoly money

Time to get real here on the blog. I’ve written a bunch of Vernacular Spectacular posts that have compared different ways that Australia and the US say things. But there’s also all the differences between life in Oz and America that aren’t just a matter of words. I don’t know what to call this feature yet. Probably some play on whether, compared to the US, the country Oz is more like the utopic Judy-Garland Oz or like the HBO-series prison Oz.

Let’s start with the money. Or at least the bills, coins maybe deserve their own posts. Australia is like Europe where every denomination is a different color. It’s also a different length, to help the blind, although I didn’t notice that until somebody pointed it out. American money is not as uniform as it used to be, as a result of various efforts to dissuade counterfeiters, but it’s still far from Rainbow In Your Wallet.

This one is pretty easy. If the US already had colored money, no way would they switch to a system where the bills looked so much alike. There would be news stories about how people accidentally thought gave somebody $50 thinking it was a $5, and on and on. I would predict that it’s only a matter of time before the US moves to colored money, but of course it’s really just a matter of time before everywhere goes cashless.

Jeremy’s winner: Continue reading

Vernacular Spectacular #24: “gas” vs. “petrol”

“Petrol” has the unique-word advantage: if it’s usage as short for petroleum went away, then that’s it. Whereas “gas” has various uses, including one that is rather confusing given that gas-short-for-gasoline is a liquid. Also, I tend not to like one syllable short-a words, for if a word is only going to have one vowel-sound it’s the harshest one to have. But gasoline is also a simple and very common thing, so having a very simple word as its everyday form makes sense, especially since it ends up getting combined into a lot of short phrases (“step on the gas”, “gas station”, “gas guzzler”).

Jeremy’s winner: Continue reading

Jeremy reads Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Why did you read this book? We recently read Eleanor & Park by the same author.

Has Beckie read it? Yes, before we started these book reviews. She gave it 5 stars on Goodreads.

42 word review: Harry-Potter-style fanfic author’s freshman year at college. Her identical twin and former co-author wants to be wild YOLO college girl, while protagonist retreats into her fantasy world. Protagonist gets perhaps-too-good-to-read-true boyfriend, and after much angst, mushy bits ensue.

Selected quotes:

  • “You’re a sad little hermit, and it creeps me out. So get dressed.
    We’re going bowling.” Cath laughed. “Bowling?”
    “Oh, right,” Reagan said. “Like bowling is more pathetic than everything else you do.”
  • “How can the fact that your identical twin sister is super hot be offensive to you?”
    “Because,” Cath said, “It makes me feel like the Ugly One.”
    “You’re not the ugly one.” Levi grinned. “You’re just the Clark Kent.”

Rating: 4 of 5 dorm-room makeout sessions

Special extra on Rainbow Rowell in general: Continue reading

Vernacular Spectacular #22: “license plate” vs. “number plate”

This marks a special moment in the Vernacular Spectacular series. This pair is up for comparison because, for the first time, I was having an exchange with someone in America and I used the Australian phrase instead of the American because I’ve come to like the ring of the Aussie phrase more.

But, we should think about this. Maybe I’m just infatuated with “number plate.” I do like -mber/-mper endings, which makes me worry all the more that I was simply hasty with my previous pick of “dodgem cars” over “bumper cars.” And, the two soft s’s in “license” don’t go that well with a simply and stately word like “plate.”

On the other hand, “number plate” isn’t exactly an accurate term, since here and elsewhere the plates have both letters and numbers on them. We’re talking about an item people are legally compelled to attach to their cars, so accuracy is not a trivial concern.

Jeremy’s winner: Continue reading