Quick Work

The escalator at Capitol Hill Station was open and working this morning, with no sign that it had ever been under repair.

Riding down to the platform, I just missed a southbound train. There was a northbound train at the station.

I stepped onto the platform. The southbound train was gone, and the northbound train was still there.

The northbound train sat there for a while. I heard an announcement inside the train saying “…we apologize for the delay…” but I couldn’t make out the rest of it.

After a while, the train operator made an announcement, asking everyone to leave the train. The train’s display changed to “OUT OF SERVICE.” Security personnel told the exiting passengers that there was another train right behind it.

A southbound train arrived a couple of minutes later. I boarded the train, and so did a couple of women who’d exited the northbound train. I wondered if they realized they were on the wrong train.

Between Capitol Hill and Westlake, we passed a northbound train, which was waiting for us to pass. I knew that Sound Transit would be switching trains over to the opposite track to get around the disabled train. That was quick work!

As we approached Westlake Station, the two women realized their mistake and exited at Westlake.

When I got to my desk, there was a text alert: “Link service is temporarily not serving the northbound platform at Capitol Hill Station. Use the southbound platform.”

Two hours later: “Link light rail has resumed operation at all stations. Any delays should subside shortly.”

The State Of Things, December 2020

Even though I’ve decided against continuing with Popsugar’s Reading Challenge (only because I feel like it no longer serves the need I once had), I’ve still been curious about what they would come up with for the 2021 Reading Challenge. However, I’d started to believe that Popsugar had also abandoned its Reading Challenge. I may be misremembering this, but they usually publish it in mid-November. I’d do searches, and it wasn’t there.

Then, last night, I searched again, and Popsugar had just published its 2021 Reading Challenge earlier that day. There are some interesting things in it – the entire Advanced section is made up of TBR books. There’s an “ugly cover” category – my all-time least-favorite category. (It’s too negative, and a little rude.) There’s a category for Afrofuturism – Of One Blood would have been perfect for the category, but I’ve recently read the book. There’s a category for “A book that has the same title as a song” – You Should See Me in a Crown would have been a great fit, but, again, I’ve recently read the book.

These days my book recommendations mainly come from the YouTube channels I subscribe to: Coffee Books and Bullet Journals, Boston Reads Books, That’s So Poe, and Roger’s Reads.

I’m finally getting into the band Young Fathers. Some of my favorite music obsessions start off with me kind of liking a song, followed by me loving that song a lot but nothing else by the band, followed by me kind of liking other songs by that band, and finally loving the band. I think Young Fathers may become a music obsession.

Pioneer Square Station is falling apart. The escalator at the north end of the station has been out of service forever – it seems like months, anyway. The nearby elevator has been out for almost as long. They’re keeping place clean, however. There have been a few evenings when the stairway was being washed with power sprayers – which is nice, but inconvenient when I’m trying to get home and the escalator and elevator are out, and the stairs are being spray-washed.

Is this the part of those post-apocalypse movies they never show? Before the city becomes a set of empty, half-demolished buildings, do they just stop repairing things?

It seems to be only Pioneer Square Station, however – at least in my four-station commute. One of the escalators at Capitol Hill Station is currently under repair, and it wasn’t out of service for long. And, I’ve seen repair work started and completed at Westlake Station.

Alphabet Mystery: Noose

“N” Is for Noose, by Sue Grafton, was published in 1998.

For the record, my last name is Millhone, first name Kinsey. I’m female, twice divorced, seven weeks shy of thirty-six, and reasonably fit. I’m a licensed private detective, currently residing in Santa Teresa, California, to which I’m attached like a tetherball on a very short cord. Occasionally, business will swing me out to other parts of the country, but I’m basically a small-town shamus and likely to remain so for life.

(Kinsey Millhone was born in 1950, so that sets this story in 1986.)

Kinsey is caring for her friend, former bodyguard, and occasional love interest, Robert Dietz, before and after his knee surgery. (I loved this part: While Dietz is in the hospital, Kinsey actively snoops through his condominium, just for the fun of it. She doesn’t feel guilty about it, because she knows without a doubt that he’s snooped through her apartment. They have a special relationship.) Kinsey stays with Dietz, helping him recover, for as long as she can stand being around him, then she leaves.

Dietz has a client named Selma Newquist, who lives in the small town of Nota Lake, California. He’s unable to continue the case, because of his surgery, so Kinsey takes over for him.

There was nothing suspicious about the recent death of Selma’s husband, Tom. He was out on the road and apparently felt a heart attack coming on. He’d pulled over to the side of the road, put the emergency flashers on, and died. His body was found by a friend in the California Highway Patrol. Tom was a detective with the county sheriff’s office. Before he died, Tom had been troubled by something he wouldn’t share with Selma. That’s why Selma had hired Robert Dietz: To find out what had been troubling Tom.

Kinsey doesn’t want to take the case. She doesn’t understand what Selma wants her to do. It doesn’t seem like much of a case. But Kinsey doesn’t tell Selma that. She takes the case for Dietz’s sake.

Nota Lake is close to Dietz’s hometown of Carson City, Nevada, but a six-hour drive from Santa Teresa. So, Selma arranges a cabin for Kinsey in Nota Lake Cabins, owned and operated by Tom’s widowed sister. It’s too rustic for Kinsey’s city-girl taste, but since Selma’s paying for it, she won’t complain.

All Kinsey Millhone has to do is figure out what Tom Newquist had been doing during the last weeks of his life. She feels like she’s needlessly taking money that Tom had worked hard to earn.

Kinsey learns, through interviews with several Nota Lake citizens, that Tom Newquist was a respected man, a church-goer, a nice guy, and friendly but a little distant. The only negative things that Kinsey hears are about Selma.

While sorting through Tom’s disorganized desk, searching desperately for clues, Kinsey examines the blotter on his desk. There are case numbers, phone numbers, and doodles all over it, including several doodles of a noose.

Then Kinsey Millhone is attacked.

Kinsey Millhone is, as always, a competent P.I. (Although Selma Newquist might disagree.) She works hard as a detective, using payphones, index cards, and a typewriter as her tools.

The thing I enjoy about this series is that it hasn’t, so far, followed a formula. The book I read before this one, “R” Is for Ricochet, was as much a romance as it was a mystery, while this one sets Kinsey Millhone in an unfamiliar setting, showing her weaknesses, feeling alone and vulnerable.

As for my theory that the letter of the book will be the same as the first letter of the main family name: Newquist begins with “N”, and so does Nota Lake.

I loved this book.

I Read Otaku Blue, Volume 1

Otaku Blue, Volume 1: Tokyo Underground, written by Richard Marazano and illustrated by Malo Kerfriden, was published in 2019. It was originally published in French, in 2012.

I found it while browsing graphic novels on Hoopla. I didn’t know anything about it. I was intrigued by the cover.

It’s the Akihabara district of Tokyo, present day.

A murdered prostitute is found with her feet amputated. Police find other mutilated prostitutes later. Is the killer collecting body parts?

Asami is a sociology student, working on a thesis on otaku. She’s decided that the best way to research the subject is to go underground, and pretend to be a member of various groups and subcultures.

Asami’s boyfriend, Kotaro, is annoyed by the amount of time she’s spending on this research. He wants her to spend more time with him and his interest in film making. Their relationship is strained.

Asami meets a cosplayer named Maiko, who goes by the username “Gothic Lolita912.” Maiko becomes a sort of mentor, guiding Asami deeper into her research.

Maiko tells Asami about a person named Buntaro – “one of the most famous otaku, the living memory of Akihabara.” If Asami wants to complete her thesis, says Maiko, she’ll have to meet Buntaro. The problem will be finding him. No one has seen him in public for years. He may be just an urban legend.

Asami adopts the username “Punk Lolita 1938.” Maiko posts photos of Asami online. Maybe these will attract Buntaro’s attention.

The story follows two alternating plot lines: the detectives hunting for a serial killer, and Asami searching for Buntaro.

Volume 2 of Otaku Blue is out, and it’s available on Hoopla. I probably won’t read it. But if I do read it, it will be strictly out of curiosity. The story in Volume 1 didn’t grab me. I though it was too predictable. It wasn’t bad, however.

Volume 1 was a short read.

The artwork is good. At first, I thought is was too busy, too cluttered. With few exceptions, every panel is crammed full of meticulous detail, containing at least one text bubble. There are multiple small panels on every page. Then, on second thought, I realized that the story takes place in Akihabara, a very populated area, with people and buildings everywhere, and I decided that the artwork fit the story very well.

Dad’s New Friend

“Who’s that lady Dad’s been hanging around with so much?”

“Her name’s Ann Nesbitt. She lives over in Wakaba. You know, over by the train station.”

“Is she going to be our new mom?”

“No, of course not. They’re just friends.”

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely.”

(But Dad has been coming home late a lot. Could Tobe be right about him and Ms. Nesbitt?)

“No, Honey. Ann and I are just friends. We have a lot in common. She’s a writer. I’m a writer.”

“No, Apple. Your Dad and I are friends. We enjoy each other’s company. He has his life, and I have mine.”

(Well, that’s a relief. Life’s gross enough without Dad dating anyone.)

“Kids, your father and I have something to tell you…”

I Read: The Girl From The Other Side 2-6

You can read about the first volume here.

The Girl From the Other Side: Siúil, a Rún is a 10-part manga. It’s the story of a girl named Shiva, a beast who Shiva calls “Teacher”, and Auntie.

It’s the story of the kingdom of light, ruled by a deity named Father.

It’s the story of the kingdom of darkness, ruled by an entity named Mother.

The story has a very Christian/Pagan feel, I think.

Father believes there is something special about Shiva.

Mother believes there is something special about Teacher.

Auntie isn’t what she appears to be.

Teacher loves Shiva very much, and wants to protect her. It’s difficult when he doesn’t fully understand his own existence. Teacher doesn’t know who, or what, he’s protecting Shiva from.

I am enjoying this series a lot. It’s beautiful and frightening and puzzling.

Nine volumes of The Girl From the Other Side: Siúil, a Rún have been translated into English. The tenth volume will be published in 2021.

I’ve read volumes 1 through 6. That’s all the King County Library System has at the moment. The Seattle Public Library doesn’t have any of the volumes, and neither does the Sno-Isle Libraries, and neither does Hoopla.

My next step may be to either buy the set, find a new library, or ask for it as a present.

A 3-Alarm Morning

On a normal weekday morning, the bedroom alarm wakes me up.

Then I get up, boot up the computer, boot up my phone, and go take a shower.

My phone has three alarms set to go off Monday through Friday.

The first alarm tells me that it’s time to wake Phillip up – if he’s taking the bus to work.

The second alarm tells me that it’s time to wake Phillip up – if he’s driving to work.

The third alarm tells me that it’s time for me to walk out the door and head to work.

Why am I up so early? I prefer a slow commute. It’s the meaning of this blog’s title.

I haven’t had a normal weekday morning in a long time. I’ve been working overtime, starting a half-hour early and leaving a half-hour late, for several months.

When I get up in the morning these days, I switch off that third alarm and walk out the door when the second alarm sounds. I have 2-alarm mornings.

When Phillip rides the bus to work these days, he typically leaves right about the time the second alarm sounds. So, we get to walk up the hill together. That’s a nice benefit to all that overtime.

But I’m not working overtime this week. Next week, it’s back to 9-hour days.

It took me far too long to realize that the reason for no overtime this week is that it’s Thanksgiving. It’s a three-day week with 8-hour days.

I didn’t switch off that third alarm this morning. It was a 3-alarm morning.

Phillip drove to work this morning. I woke him up at the second alarm.

Phillip was almost ready to leave when the third alarm went off. He offered me a ride up to Capitol Hill Station. I accepted.

It was the closest I’ve been to a car commute in years.

I wore my new coat and my new shoes to work today.

I Read: Exit Strategy

Exit Strategy, by Martha Wells, is the fourth novella in the “Murderbot Diaries” series. It was published in 2018.

I downloaded it from the Sno-Isle Libraries.

Murderbot is on a transport ship heading to HaveRatton Station. It intends to deliver the evidence against the GrayCris corporation to Dr. Mensah in a hardcopy form that can’t be intercepted in a feed.

Murderbot learns that Dr. Mensah is at TranRollinHyfa Station. What it doesn’t know is whether Dr. Mensah went there to negotiate with GrayCris or whether she’s being held against her will.

The news feeds are saying that Dr. Mensah sent a SecUnit (Murderbot) to Milu to attack GrayCris. She didn’t. Murderbot acted on its own.

Murderbot embarks on a plan it designates “Operation Not Actually A Completely Terrible Plan.”

Things are about to get dangerous, and Murderbot’s risk assessment module is “wonky.”

As much as I enjoyed this series, it also began to feel a little formulaic. Murderbot is on an automated transport to a new destination. Murderbot adopts a disguise. Murderbot is confused by the realization that humans don’t act like they do in episodes of The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon. Murderbot meets new characters. Things go wrong. There’s a shootout or two. Murderbot saves almost everyone. Murderbot says goodbye to those new characters and moves on.

But, I did enjoy this series.

I especially enjoyed this bit: Murderbot goes to a store to buy new clothes. Humans (and murderbots) rarely shop in physical stores anymore, so when a customer enters a shop, that shop’s feed immediately sends the customer to an “interactive instruction module.” Also, when Murderbot buys new clothes, it receives a discount for putting its old clothes in the shop’s recycler.

I also liked this: “I had been running possible scenarios, partly to drown out the sound of humans making stupid suggestions. (Not that I don’t like that sound; it’s sort of comforting and familiar, in an annoying way.)

The SecUnit calling itself Murderbot continues to be a fascinating protagonist. It’s a sarcastic organic/mechanical construct that wants to understand humans, but doesn’t want to be one. It’s programmed to kill, but it would rather watch “entertainment serials.” With its hacked governor module, it doesn’t have to help humans, and yet it helps them because it wants to.

Possibly I was overthinking this. I do that; it’s the anxiety that comes with being a part-organic murderbot. The upside was paranoid attention to detail. The downside was also paranoid attention to detail.

I loved this book.

I didn’t know whether to write about “The Murderbot Diaries” in the past tense or present tense. I don’t know what happens after this book. It felt very much like a satisfying conclusion to a story arc that spanned four novellas, published a few months apart in 2017 and 2018. (And Wikipedia confirms that it is the conclusion of the story arc.) But there is a fifth “Murderbot” book – a novel – that was published this year. Exit Strategy concluded without completely ending. Is there a new story, or a new story arc? And then there is a sixth book scheduled for next year.

Murderbot lives on.

Coat Shopping

Phillip and I went Downtown this afternoon, so I could buy a new coat.

I have a light jacket that really needs to be replaced. It’s literally falling apart. But as the weather in Seattle gets colder, that need has lessened.

But there was also a heavy coat that should be replaced. It always fit a little too snug. (I think I bought it when I wasn’t wearing a sweater.) This season, that coat was fitting even more too snug.

I wanted to try to find a coat at either Old Navy or The Gap. (Yes, I know they’re the same company.) Both stores are conveniently located across the street from Westlake Station.

Before we left our apartment, I made sure to wear a bulky sweater.

We walked to Olive Way. OneBusAway told us that we had a 25 minute wait for the next 10 bus. So we continued up the hill to Capitol Hill Station.

I hadn’t bothered to check to see if either Old Navy or The Gap were currently open. I figured that if they weren’t, it would mean either shopping at Nordstrom, or a nice trip out of the apartment.

Old Navy was open, but The Gap was closed – permanently, as in the sign was removed from the building.

Old Navy didn’t have a big selection of coats, but I found one I liked.

I also bought a pair of shoes. I didn’t know Old Navy sold shoes. I was in desperate need of a new pair of shoes.

I’ve become disenchanted with Oliberte shoes, ever since they moved their manufacturing from Ethiopia to Canada. I still buy from Toms occasionally, but I’ve been looking around for a more sturdy shoe brand I can get behind. (Doc Martins, maybe?) The Old Navy shoes should suit me for now.

We couldn’t think of anything else we wanted to do, or could do, Downtown, so we rode Link light rail back up to Capitol Hill.

Phillip gave me the idea of putting a “Free Coat!” tag on my old coat and leaving it out in the neighborhood for someone who wants it.

I’ve Started Playing: Florence

I recently read a review of a computer game named Florence in Games magazine.

(Footnote: I still subscribe to a printed-on-paper magazine that arrives in our mailbox every month!)

I found Florence on Steam for around five dollars. I bought it, downloaded it, and now I’ve started playing it.

Florence began as a smart phone game app, and then it was released as a computer game. So, it’s not very big – around 160 megs. I don’t expect it’ll take me long to play though it. But I’m enjoying it while it lasts.

It’s a puzzle game, sort of. The puzzles are not very challenging. The game is liner, with not many choices to be made along the way. But none of this matters. It’s an interactive story to be read and enjoyed.

The illustrations are beautiful, and the music is lovely. The game interface is minimal. It’s a relaxing story.

We’re introduced to 25-year-old Florence Yeoh. She goes about her day. She receives phone calls from her mother. She works in an office.

We get a flashback to Florence’s childhood. One of the puzzles involves finding the right answers to simple addition problems.

Back in the present, Florence is listening to music on her phone.

Her phone’s battery dies. She removes her headphones, and hears even better music. She follows the music. (There’s a lovely part where you guide Florence through the air as she glides along the sound waves.) The music is coming from a busker with a cello.

Later, Florence and the cello player meet by accident (literally). The cello player’s name is Krish.

I’m in the chapter where Florence and Krish are having their first date.

I love this part: Florence and Krish are having their first conversation. It’s represented by wordless speech bubbles. (There is very little actual dialog in this game.) Florence’s half of the conversation is presented by puzzle pieces that you have to assemble. You are literally piecing together a conversation. Then, as the date progresses, the puzzles become easier, until it’s just two pieces. The conversation is literally becoming easier. I think that’s brilliant.

I’m drawing this game out as much as possible, playing a chapter at a time. I’m enjoying it too much to rush through it.

I don’t know how this story will end. Will Florence and Krish have a happy ending? I don’t want to know until I get there. I’m along for the ride.