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text 2018-09-22 02:39
It Can Never Go Right The First Time...

This is a little lengthy, but it's worth it.  Or maybe it's not.  You decide.


So hubby upgraded our phones as a Mother's Day gift.  We went from the Galaxy S8+ to the Note8.  The old phones were paid off and ours to do with as we wished.  So they sat in the boxes until hubby's friend mentioned that he was in need of a phone, but didn't want to pay a mint for a new one.  Hubby offered our old phones, which we hadn't even used for a full year, so they were in nearly perfect condition.


I called Sprint to have the phones unlocked because his friend uses TMobile.  On Monday, I spoke to no less than three people (one transfer, and one call-back due to disconnection).  I clarified that I wanted the two not-in-use S8+ unlocked, not the two currently-in-use Note8.  Because 1) you can't unlock your phone unless it's paid-in-full, and 2) I gave them the IMEI numbers from the S8+.  I was told everything was taken care of and it would take a maximum of 48 hours for the phones to be unlocked.  So that was Monday.


On Tuesday I had to go to Best Buy to get the geeksquad to order a new phone for my kid who had cracked the screen when she dropped it at just the right angle.  She could have lived with the crack, but the drop must have damaged the phone because it started getting hot and it wouldn't keep a charge.  And can I say I soooo miss the days of the $50 deductible for replacement phones.  And of course the reason the deductibles are so high now is because immoral people were scamming the phone companies by selling the original on craigslist, calling the company and saying their phone was lost or stolen, and getting a new one through the insurance for $50, pocketing the profit while screwing both the insurance and the poor sod that bought the other phone, because of course the phones are flagged once they're reported lost or stolen.  But I've gone on my usual tangent.  Okay, back on track.


On Wednesday, the new phone arrived--which was super shockingly quick. I had to call Sprint to get it activated, because even though they say you can do it yourself following the instructions online, it's never that easy, is it?  That call took a transfer to the tech team to get resolved, so another very long conversation with Sprint.


Thursday I felt like garbage, which I mentioned in another blog post.  Many of you wished me well, and I thank you all.


Friday, I felt 100% better.  I got to have a nice morning at the Farmer's Market with my hubby.  We had some breakfast, bought large quantities of honey because this is the time of year the family switches from drinking coffee to tea. Got some candles, found something for my swap box, and a few things for the kiddles,.  We also had 15-minute massages!  It was a good day.  Except for the part where both the local post office and UPS gave me the runaround about where my missing package could be.  As far as the tracking info is concerned, the package is in limbo and everyone keeps passing the buck.  Now I've already received a replacement order from the company; however, I want to know what happened to that original package.  Did it fall off the back of the truck?  Or is the staff at my local post office too lazy to actually search for it?  Sorry, went on a tangent again.


Anyway, later this afternoon, we met hubby's friend, handed over the phones and told him to call us if there was any problem.


You know he called, right?  Because of course he did!


After a ridiculously long time on hold with Sprint because of high call volume, because apparently many people were bad at their jobs this week, I finally got a person, who then said a lot of dumb words that all lead back to, "I have to transfer you to the accounts department, but they will tell you the same thing I have just told you."  Well, Sharell, transfer me to the mutha fuckin' accounts department.  (I swear I did not say that, all though I really, really wanted to.  I try my very best not to abuse customer series reps unless they really, really are asking for it.  And while Sharell was a tad condescending and made it sound as if I had no idea what I was talking about and that my issue wouldn't be resolved by another department, I was still very polite.)


After another long hold, I got Greg, who, unlike Sharell, was an absolute delight!  He was a customer service demi-god and should be praised by all.  He did not tell me the same thing Sharell told me.  He explained that the morons nice people I spoke to on Monday were trying to unlock the wrong phones...using the wrong IMEI numbers........ *sigh*  So Greg then went through the painstaking task of getting the correct information for the correct phones (thank goodness I wrote everything down because the phones are no longer in my possession) and verified each phone one at a time to make sure everything was correct.  Also, he said they gave me incorrect information as the process can take anywhere from 24-72 hours to be complete and that I will receive a confirmation email once the phones are officially unlocked.  So hubby's friend has to wait a bit longer and I have had to speak to people at Sprint more in one week than any person should ever have to talk to the customer service of their phone provider.  But, at least Greg was pleasant and made the process bearable.  He was very apologetic about the inconvenience we had been put through.


All of that was just to say, it can never go right the first time, can it?  At this point (and thanks to Greg's disposition) it was annoying, but amusing.  How can three people all get the same thing wrong, even after confirming multiple times that you're both talking about the same thing?!  And normally I have no such problems with Sprint.  Their customer service is normally tip-top.  We are among their longest loyal customers, so we tend to get a little special treatment when we mention how long we've been with them.  Someone once told hubby that there was a person who had been with them longer than us, be we are among the top of their oldest customers.  I guess there is something to be said for loyalty.


Anyway, thanks for taking the trip through my week with me.  Believe it or not, that's the condensed version.  Hope it was worth it!

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review 2018-07-22 23:11
E.M. Forster: A New Life
E.M. Forster: A New Life - Wendy Moffat

Before judging my reading experience of this book based on my star rating, let me say this:


This was not a bad book and there are aspects of this biography that provide a valuable insight into Forster's life and work. However, this biography really follows Forster's life from one angle only, depending on what you expect from a biography, mileage on this may vary.


Moffat starts the book with an explanation of her approach, which in turn is based on something Christopher Isherwood said when looking at a stack of biographies about Forster:

"Of course all those books have got to be re-written," he said. "Unless you start with the fact that he was homosexual, nothing's any good."

That is, Moffat is quoting from an Isherwood biography by John Lehmann here, and whether this is a true account or was written as a dramatic embellishment, I could not say. 

It does, however, go straight to the heart of Moffat's biography ... and also to one of the criticisms I have.


Moffat does an excellent job presenting Forster in the context of his sexuality, or more precisely his initial struggles with it and the immense pressure he felt of not being able to live openly for fear of persecution and, indeed, prosecution. Being a young man at the start of the 20th century, Forster would have only been too aware of the trials of Oscar Wilde and would himself witness the arrest of friends and acquaintances over the decades. 


His resentment over not being able to tell the stories he really wanted to tell and over having to work within the expectations of societal conventions lead to Forster stopping to write major works of fiction after A Passage to India (1924). That is, he did write another major novel, Maurice, but insisted that it should not be published until after his death as the story tells of the relationship between two men and he feared the repercussions. (Btw, Maurice apparently includes a game-keeper scene that may have inspired D.H. Lawrence - one of the few people who were aware of the manuscript - to mock it in Lady Chatterley's Lover)   


Moffat explores Forster's diaries - including his "locked" diaries, which he also only allowed access after his death - in detail and we do get a clear picture of the anxieties and of the passions Forster had, and Moffat does well to connect Forster's diary entries with the lives of his friends, peers, and with perception of homosexuality in society through the decades. 


However, this is also the main point where this book fell down for me. Moffat goes into a lot of detail. Salacious detail. Lots and lots of it. At times, I felt like whole chapters were focusing about who bedded whom more so than Forster's life and work. Rather than developing an argument, it felt like some of the descriptions merely served to provide a sensationalist hook. 


I really should have liked this more than I did, but the meandering descriptions of relationships (not just Forster's but also of his friends and acquaintances) made me skim over quite a few paragraphs. There was little point to most of them.


The other criticism I have is with Moffat's writing style. It did not work for me. Her narrative sounded dramatised in a way that made the book read more like fiction than non-fiction and some of the descriptions, as a result of the narrations, did not sound factual even tho they may have been. This was not helped by the way that references were not clearly marked in the text. They were there, of course, but I should not have to check the reference section in the book to see if a certain line on a page is actually backed up with a source of research. 


All in all, this was interesting, but I would not recommend the book without some hesitation.

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text 2018-07-20 23:07
Back to the Forster Project
Morgan: A Biography of E. M. Forster - Nicola Beauman
E.M. Forster: A New Life - Wendy Moffat
A Passage To India - E.M. Forster

It's been a while since I finished The Longest Journey (still need to write a review) and now that tennis plans are on ice for a bit (because of a pulled muscle) and that work has, not slowed down, but has at least moved past the frantic phase, I feel might get the right time and head-space again to enjoy the next read in my Forster project. 


I only have two novels left, the short stories, and Aspects of the Novel.


But, I have also found two biographies at the library that looked really good:


Morgan is the one which I am really excited about because it was written by Nicola Beauman. She's now head of Persephone Books who publish the most marvellous forgotten women writers of the early 20th century. I'm subscribed to their newsletter and it is the only newsletter I actually look forward to receiving. 
So, I can't wait to read what she has to say about Forster. 
The other one, by Wendy Moffat, seems to focus more on just one aspect of his life and how it affected his writing. At least, this is what I got from several reviews about the book and which seemed to shelf it under "gender studies" a lot. 


So, without further delay, I am off on A Passage to India


(Taken on a trip to Simla a few years ago. The book is not set there, but this is what I picture when reading the book.)

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text 2018-07-18 22:10
Reading progress update: I've read 47%.
The Silk Road: A New History - Valerie Hansen

Here we go again, the book stops at around 67% with the rest being notes and references.


Do I keep reading and finish the book or do I want to get a good night's sleep?


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text 2018-07-08 16:46
The Sunday Post: Macbeth Country, well more of it... sort of.

Stay, you imperfect speakers, tell me more.

By Sinel’s death I know I am Thane of Glamis;

But how of Cawdor? The Thane of Cawdor lives,

A prosperous gentleman; and to be King

 Stands not within the prospect of belief,

No more than to be Cawdor. Say from whence

You owe this strange intelligence, or why

Upon this blasted heath you stop our way

With such prophetic greeting? Speak, I charge you.


- William Shakespeare - Macbeth (Act I, Scene III)


 “I wish the Bard had never written his damned play!

- John Campbell, 5th Earl Cawdor 

It's been a stressful and rather frustrating week at BT HQ last which started with some-Brexit induced admin nightmare, which needed me to seek out the an appointment at Glasgow City Council on Monday because none of the council offices closer to home, i.e. on the other side of the country, were able to offer the required services. This was pretty stressful in itself (had to take a day off work on short notice and nearly panicked when sitting down for getting paperwork checked etc. it looked like I might have misplaced a bit of it ... it did re-appear in a different pile ... but that was one long minute of near panic) but a few days after I received a call from the council officer whose only task in this whole process was to take copies: the copies had turned out blurry and could I "pop in" for another round?


Erm, ... no.


So, several calls with people on withheld numbers and the local Chief Registrar later, we got another plan of action.

As it turns out, if I had submitted my paperwork a few days later, there would have been no need to trek to Glasgow because my local council will start offering the same admin service on Monday. Monday as in from tomorrow. And by local I mean the council office that is is a 10 minute walk away. But of course this was not announced anywhere least of all on the relevant government websites... GAAAAAHH!!!!


Tuesday brought with it a minor surgery - nothing serious, but it needed to be done - which went very well apart from some slight discomfort and the weird experience of asking the consultant to stop telling me in detail what he was about to do. I'm not exaggerating when I tell people that I can't read gory horror stories or thrillers... The descriptions really make me queasy. And as I found out, being at the receiving end of even a minor surgical procedure while being told the descriptions and wherefores of incisions etc. does not make me feel any comfortable at all.

Apparently, my request that the consultant stop the narration and get on with the procedure was unusual and a lot of people want to know the details. Well, each to their own. I now know that I'd rather know the plan step-by-step beforehand but not during.


The rest of this week was a bit of a mess really, but not being one for moping about in fine weather (even if I wasn't allowed to play tennis - because sutures...), I figured it was a fine day for exploring a castle that I had not been to, yet.


Cawdor Castle, near Nairn in the north of Scotland had been on my list for a long, long time. As some of you may know, I have a bit of a thing for Macbeth - both Shakespeare's version and the historical figure - and one of my other favourite castles to spend time at is Glamis (near Forfar), but I just had not had a chance to make the trip to Cawdor (about 3 hours of leisurely driving in good weather). 


It was a fabulous decision. I mean just look at this beauty of a castle:


And the inside of it was just so ... let me show you because they had no problems with people taking plenty of photos of the amazing place:



Just look at them BOOKS! It's a lived in castle. The Dowager Countess does still live there and as one lady-in-a-hurry told me in passing, she does do most of the administration of the castle herself.


Also, there was a maze ... with a minotaur. :D



The castle was built in the late 14th, early 15th century. As the official guide book says:

"A new higher, harder site was chosen (traditionally by a donkey rather than by an architect - creatures with much in common), and as this rocky position was water-bearing yet firm, it could provide both a drinking-well and a strong foundation.

The tall, plain rectangular tower-house consisted of four storeys and a garret, served by a turnpike stair, and with one entrance to the outside world set at upper first floor level: the perfect design to keep out tourists."

So, what's the connection with Shakespeare? 


Well, Macbeth (1005 - 1057) was real, but he was not a Thane of Cawdor (nor of Glamis btw.). King Duncan was killed, but he was killed in outright battle by Macbeth's troops, not in his sleep while being a guest under Macbeth's roof. 


And as for the roof itself: The play was written in 1606 but not printed until 1632, i.e. after Shakespeare's death. However, the places described in the play were apparently added quite late in the play's publication history. So, can we really know whether the locations in the published versions are the ones Shakespeare intended? 


Even if so, Cawdor was not one of them. The play notes Macbeth's castle near Inverness, but this could just as well have meant the original Inverness Castle or another castle in the area - there are several - or it could have just all been invented. After all, it's a play! 


Most of all, of course, the possibility of the Cawdor Castle being the location of that gruesome midnight murder that lost King Duncan his life, Macbeth his sleep, and Lady Macbeth her mind, blows up in a puff of smoke when you look at the dates: the castle wasn't built until the 1400s and the previous castle near Nairn (about 5 miles away) was also built over a hundred years after Kind Duncan's death.  


So, I get that the Campbells, the owners of the castle, get a bit touchy every time some fan of the play takes Shakespeare's play as historical fact. There should be space enough in people's heads to hold both versions and people should have the critical thinking skills to be able to make the distinction between fact and fiction. Otherwise, we are letting entertainment and propaganda form our opinions and write our history books. 


Oh, hang on, ... that's already happened, ... and is still happening.

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