Tuesday, 31 January 2017

The Awesome Ladies project 3 - Helena of Egypt

Helena of Egypt is my first artist in my awesome ladies series and – just like Sahakdukht and Merit-Ptah, there's not much known about her.

Her works have been lost to history, except a mosaic copy found in the ruins of Pompeii.

The work in question is a scene of Alexander defeating the Persian ruler, Darius III at the battle of Issus in Asia Minor.

There is a picture of the mosaic, which I found on theriveriawoman.com.

This post: https://arthistorygrrrls.com/tag/helena-of-egypt/ says that Helena lived and worked in Egypt in the 4th century BC. Her father Timon was also an artist and an instructor.

This is a very short post, and it's a shame that there's so little information on these awesome ladies.  

Next up is the first author of the group – Hypatia. :)

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Sunday post 55; It's Monday, What are you reading 40

The Sunday Post is a chance for a chatter and catch-up with other bloggers. It's hosted by Kimba, here: http://caffeinatedbookreviewer.com/ It's Monday! What are you reading? is hosted by Kathryn, here: http://bookdate.blogspot.co.nz/

Let's see ... I'm still battling through paperwork for my course - for the loans and allowances, which like all paperwork is about as much fun as you would expect. I also have not one but TWO appointments with Winz this week for the allegedly "seamless" transition of my benefit to a student allowance. I also have this lovely bridge that I'd like to offer at a bargain price.

So I grit my teeth and tell myself one step at a time.

I had a disastrous phone interview on Friday, but the less said about that one the better.

I'm picking away at the spreadsheeting work, and waiting till spawn goes back to school on Wednesday.

I had a moment last week, and I was going to do a separate blog post about it but I forgot - lol.

Anyways. You know how sometimes - I don't know - God, the Universe, weird coincidence - shows you something? And it can be the littlest, silliest something? That was me.

I went to the library on Friday, and I needed to sit at a table for a bit in order to write something down. So I did that, and happened to look at the books around me.

I'd sat down in the travel section. Now, I've never travelled beyond Melbourne, but it's been a long-held dream of mine to go to Paris. One of the first books I saw was called Lunch in Paris. And maybe it's silly, but it helped. I don't know how I'm going to pay my rent this week, but that book (that I borrowed), and browsing the travel section, helped me to realise I need to hang on somehow. By the shredded remains of my fingernails, but I need to hang on.

So that one day - when these hard and awful and scary times are behind me - I can get on a plane (providing the world hasn't imploded) and have my own lunch in Paris. Whether it's a sign or not, I'm taking it as one. :)

I blogged last week - I wrote a quick review of the film Valentine's Day. I need to go through what I have to watch/review something this week. I meant to do a post on Helena of Egypt - my next awesome lady - but that'll have to be this week as well.

I read Foreign Affairs by Patricia Scanlan and What Would Mary Berry Do by Claire Sandy, so there'll be reviews of those this week as well.

I'm still picking away at Return of the King, and I'm hoping to finish it this week, I'll have to see how I go.

What about you? How's your week? What are you reading?

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Valentine's Day - review

I have to admit, I'm not a huge rom-com film watcher these days. I used to enjoy them, back in the 90s, when they all seemed to star Tom Hanks and also there were dinosaurs. (I may be confusing my genres).

Anyway. I was trawling Netflix, looking for something to watch, and for some reason the ensemble piece Valentine's Day caught my eye, so I hit the little play triangle button.

It follows the fates of a loosely connected group of people on Valentine's Day as they explore love, life and like ... dinner.

The thing is, the movie isn't terrible. The characters are mostly nice, rather than awful, and it's perfectly watchable. It's like ... chicken soup out of a can. You know it's not as good or as satisfying as home-made (though I've only made chicken soup once and I accidently drained the broth down the sink), but it's edible enough.

Valentine's Day is like that – it's edible enough.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Sunday post 54, It's Monday, what are you reading? 39

The Sunday Post is a chance for bloggers to have a chat and a catch-up. It's hosted by Kimba, over here: http://caffeinatedbookreviewer.com/ It's Monday! What are you reading? is now hosted by Kathryn over here: http://bookdate.blogspot.co.nz/

Let's see .... I got the course information for the Certificate in Business, so as of mid-February, I'll be a student again after .... a while - lol. But it feels good to have something to work towards. I just need to sort out the student loans/allowances part of the whole thing.

Otherwise life chips on, as it does. I'm still doing the spreadsheet work, spawn is still on holiday, and the weather is STILL awful. Other than that ... I have nothing - lol.

I blogged last week - one book review and my second Awesome Ladies post, on Merit-Ptah, thought to be the first named female physician, and one of the world's earliest female scientists. This week's post will be on the artist Helena of Egypt. I also wrote  a short review on

I also watched Valentine's Day on netflix, and since I"m trying to keep myself honest with watching and reviewing weekly movies, I'll do a review of that this week as well. I thought I had published a review of the HBO film Bessie starring Queen Latifah, but clearly not.

As for reading ... I'm admitting defeat for now on the Alexander Hamilton biography. It's good, and interesting, but I don't think I'm in the right headspace for it. I'm still reading Return of the King, and I also read a really cute M/M novel called How to Repair a Mechanical Heart. I'll review that this week too, hopefully.

How about you? What are you reading? How's your week?

Friday, 20 January 2017

The Awesome Ladies project 2 - Merit-Ptah - scientist and physician

For my second awesome lady, I'm delving into the first scientist on my list – Merit-Ptah, named as the first female physician in ancient Egypt, and possibly one of the world's first named female scientists.

According to the blog post here: https://rebelwomenembroidery.wordpress.com/2015/03/11/merit-ptah-c-2700-bce-memphis-egypt/ Merit-Ptah practiced medicine more than 5000 years ago, and is identified as "chief physician" in a hieroglyphic carving near the pyramid of Saqqara, in the old Egyptian kingdom's capital of Memphis.

According to this post https://www.ancient.eu/article/49/ the study of medicine was considered a worthy occupation for men and women alike, and combined prayer and natural healing methods along with study and practice.

In my internet chicken-scratchings, I can't find what discipline Merit-Ptah particularly studied, though, from my scratchings it seems that female physicians in ancient Egypt often focused on gynaecology and obstetrics. A later physician, Cleopatra (no relation to the queen as far as I can tell) wrote texts on childbirth, women's health and pregnancy that were studied for over 1000 years.

Also, according to Wikipedia, an impact crater on Venus was named Merit-Ptah in her honour.

This blog entry is a bit sparse, but I think I might do a bit more research on this one than just picking away at internet links. So I'll put this post up for now to keep myself honest, and move on to the next awesome lady.

Awesome lady three will be an artist – Helena of Egypt. Stay tuned. :)

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Review - St Nacho's by Z. A. Maxfield

Cooper is a drifter. He has his motorbike, his violin, and doesn't stay in one place long enough for people to start asking awkward questions. He's running from a tragic accident in his past; an accident that has shaped the person he is now.

He lands in St Ignacio – affectionately called St Nacho's by the locals – and only intends to stay for a few days. He takes a job at a bar, and finds the idea of setting down some roots not as awful as he's always thought. Of course, Shawn – the pretty college boy who's got Cooper in his sights might have something to do with Cooper's decision to stay ...

Shawn is deaf, and Cooper communicates most easily through his music but the two of them find a way, and Cooper starts to think that maybe this whole relationship thing isn't so bad after all.

Then he gets a phone call from his past, and everything is turned on its head.

Cooper has a somewhat messed up idea of what his obligations are, but he follows through on them, leading to a bit of a tangle for everyone.

St Nacho's was a good, easy read. Cooper and Shawn are great characters and their relationship grows realistically, even with Cooper's personal demons along for the ride. Shawn is determined, stubborn and refuses to let Cooper get away with shit. For his part, Cooper is a loner yes, but not the ~mysterious loner~ type that I find so annoying. He sees it as self-preservation rather than as a way to bring all the boys to the yard.

The side characters – especially those in St Nacho's – are great; fun and fleshed out really well. The only character I had trouble with was Cooper's childhood friend and first boyfriend, Jordan. I felt their relationship wasn't fleshed out enough for me to understand why Cooper reacted the way he did when Jordan kind of fell back into his life.

But that's a minor quibble for a novel of moving on, finding love and found families (ask my what my weakness is. Go on. [It's found families]).  

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Sunday post 53; It's Monday, what are you reading? 38

The Sunday Post is a chance for a chatter and catch-up with other bloggers and is hosted by Kimba, here: http://caffeinatedbookreviewer.com/ and It's Monday! What are you reading? is now hosted by Kathryn over here: http://bookdate.blogspot.co.nz/

Let's see ... I've been doing a little bit of work which is going to take me through to mid-February, which is good. It's more spreadsheeting, but work is work and money is money. The school holidays grind on, and I'm discovering just how difficult it is working from home with spawn around. The weather's been bad, so he can't even really go outside. It's a delicate balance, but I'm working on it.

I'm applying for jobs, applying for jobs, applying for - you get the idea. Nothing on the horizon so far. The polytech is having an open evening to meet tutors next Tuesday, so I'm going to go along to that, see where my application is at.

This week is more of the same - more spreadsheeting, more negotiating terms of time with spawn, more job applications. Hopefully more blogging. I did all right last week, I think - I joined Back to the Classics reading challenge, and blogged about that, and also started a blogging project I've been kicking around for a couple of years.

I've called it the Awesome Ladies Project, the idea being to sort of profile five different awesome ladies from five different disciplines - composers, scientists, artists, authors and film-makers. I started last week with 8th century Armenian composer Sahakdukht, and this week is the first scientist - Merit-Ptah, believed to be the first named physician in ancient Egypt.

I decided to finally start the project instead of just staring at it in google docs as part of my world expansion pack. Which is also why I've signed up for Back to the Classics. I'm having trouble at the moment with focus, and I think it's partly because I've let my brain become lazy over the past few months. I need to find ways to sharpen that focus, especially when I'm working - most especially when I'm working from home which is chock full of distractions.

I also have a couple of reviews to write up this week - the HBO film Bessie, a biopic of Bessie Smith, starring Queen Latifah, and St Nacho's, an M/M romance novel by Z. A. Maxfield. I have a goal this year of trying to watch a movie a week - I love movies but somehow that's slipped by the wayside, and I want to pick up on it again.

I'm still pecking away at the Alexander Hamilton biography - I'm not going to get it finished before it's due back at the library, but I'll read as much as I can before then and then just get it out again, I think.

I'm also winding through Return of the King as part of the slowest re-read of Lord of the Rings ever. I think I started Fellowship two or three years ago - lol. Up next, I think might be Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor, or possibly The Count of Monte Cristo, as that's one of my challenge novels and I have a handy ebook of it. :)

How about you? How's your week? What are you reading?

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

The Awesome Ladies project 1 - Sahakdukht - Composer

This blog project is something I have had in mind to do for a couple of years. It originally started, in my mind, as a project for classical composers - I don’t listen to a lot of classical music, and thought “hey, maybe I should change that.” Then my brain saw a squirrel. SQUIRREL!

Anyway, I was kicking the idea around again, and thought, why not expand it because more ladies is always better? So I wittered some more (SQUIRREL) and finally decided on the categories, which are:
  • Composers
  • Scientists
  • Artists
  • Authors
  • Film-makers
Five ladies in each category, spanning (I hope) a wide range of human history and diversity.

So this is the first awesome ladies post, and I’m starting in 8th century Armenia.

Shall we? :)

Sahakdukht: Armenian composer; 8th century.

I started out by googling women composers, and Sahakdukht is, chronologically, the first on my list.

According to the very short Wikipedia entry, Sahakdukht lived in a cave in the Garni Valley, near present-day Yerevan. She composed ecclesiastical poems as well as liturgical chants. The only remaining work of hers is Srbuhi Mariam (St Mary), a nine-stanza acrostic poem, dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

I dug around, but the only versions I could find came from this blog post: https://coloraturaconsulting.com/2014/06/16/composer-biography-byzantine-women-composers-8th-and-9th-century/ which links a couple of YouTube performances of, presumably, the work in Armenian.

Sahakdukht was the sister of music theorist Stepannos Syunetsi.

According to this blog post, https://armenianwomen.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/sahaktukht-8th-century-4-2/ Sahakdukht fell into a deep grief when her brother was assassinated, which is when she retired to live in  a cave in the Garni valley.

However, others followed her in her retreat, and she played music and taught from behind a curtain in her cave. She played her lyre to help those suffering from nervous disorders, and this is believed to be the start of music therapy. Her fame was so great that, after she died, people still made their way to her cave on pilgrimage.

Admittedly my scrapings around the internet yielded little beyond what I’ve linked to here, but I find Sahakdukht fascinating nonetheless. Her grief at the loss of her brother drove her to seek retreat, but she still composed music, and is believed to be one of the forerunners of hymnal writing as well as the first music therapist. She also reached out through her music to others who were suffering, and I can imagine she gave many people a sense of peace and hope.

I'm hoping to do one awesome lady a week. Next week, the first scientist of the series – Merit-Ptah, a physician in Ancient Egypt and, apparently, the first woman physician known by name.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Reading challenge - Back to the Classics Challenge

When I first started blogging over at http://justaddbooks.blogspot.co.nz/ it was because I had set myself a challenge of reading 12 classic novels in a year. I think I managed about seven, ultimately.

But the unintended consequence of that idea was that my teeny wings stretched slightly and I started books blogging semi-regularly.

As part of my quest to embiggen my world this year, I went poking for reading challenges, and found the one above, hosted over here at https://karensbooksandchocolate.blogspot.co.nz/ and my brain went "a ha!" here is a place to start!

So I read over the rules and categories, and I'm aiming for 12 reads. Here they are, with their attendant categories:

1.  A 19th century classic - any book published between 1800 and 1899.
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas.

2.  A 20th century classic - any book published between 1900 and 1967.
Howard’s End by E M Forster

3.  A classic by a woman author.
Middlemarch by George Eliot

4.  A classic in translation.
The Blind Owl by Sadegh Hedayat

5.  A classic published before 1800. Plays and epic poems are acceptable in this category.
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

6.  A romance classic.
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

7.  A Gothic or horror classic.
The Woman in White by Wilke Collins

8.  A classic with a number in the title.
Fahrenheit 451

9.  A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title.
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

10. A classic set in a place you'd like to visit. It can be real or imaginary:
Down and out in Paris and London by George Orwell

11. An award-winning classic.
The Wanderer by Fritz Leiber (Hugo winner, 1965)

12. A Russian classic. 2017 will be the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, so read a classic by any Russian author.
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

That's ... a list of books! See how I go, anyway. :)

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Sunday post 52; It's Monday, what are you reading? 37

The Sunday Post is a chance for a chat and catch-up with other bloggers. It's hosted by Kimba here:
http://caffeinatedbookreviewer.com/ and It's Monday! What are you reading? is now hosted by Kathryn over here: http://bookdate.blogspot.co.nz/

Let's see ... last week was more of the same, I think. Summer holidays grind on for spawn, and unfortunately the weather isn't playing along - we've mostly  had windy, wet days. I think we're all suffering a bit of cabin fever and hoping for better weather so we can at least get out of the house and enjoy some sunshine.

 My first reading finish of the year was Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl, which I enjoyed a lot. Right now I'm making my way (slowly) through the Alexander Hamilton biography by Ron Chernow (and listening to the Hamilton soundtrack right now). I don't read a lot of non-fiction and find I have to shift my brain's gears to do it, but my brain has become lazy, so this mental workout will be good for it.

I also posted a short post asking how people expand their worlds - mine is feeling particularly small at the moment - so I'll pose the question here again - how do you make  your world bigger?

Tomorrow I start working on the spreadsheet I've been contracted to do, and I'm hoping I'll hear from the polytech pretty soon as well, so I can make some plans. If I know I'm going to be studying for sure, then I can suspend the ever soul-destroying job search for a bit. For now, however, I remain in limbo.

I rearranged my TBR bookcase yesterday, and though I know I won't get through all of these this year, having it so much tidier is nice. Here's a before and after shot, so you can all see it :)

(Just ... ignore the mess around it - lol.)

How about you? How do you make your world bigger? How's your week? What are you reading?

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Review - Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl

I love novels like this. Novels that have built-in characters that I recognise, that I can just check out, read, and enjoy.

I tend to go to Star Trek novels when I'm feeling that way, but Black Widow: Forever Red sits in that nice pretty nicely.

 Ava is rescued from Ivan the Strange at the age of eight. She meets a woman with vivid red hair, who promises Ava that she'll look out for her.

After a few years of enjoying SHIELD's somewhat dubious hospitality, Ava escapes. She's never seen the red-headed woman again, and as could be expected, her trust issues have trust issues.

However, fate, SHIELD and the red-headed woman (aka Natasha Romanoff) are not done with Ava yet. Ava and her friend Oksana attend a fencing tournament where Ava sees Alex, a boy she feels a strange connection with...

Next thing, Alex, Ava AND Natasha are on the run from everyone ever, and Ava and Natasha try to sort out their weird connection. Most of that part went over my head, honestly .... something, something Quantam Entanglement. It means that Ava can tap into Natasha's thoughts and abilities, and is a "gift" from Ivan the Strange.

There's cameos from Coulson and Tony Stark, and references to the Avengers. See? Familiarity breeds content. :D

Black Widow: Forever Red is an easy, exciting read that can be gobbled up very quickly.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

It's a small world ...

Well, at the moment MY world feels rather small. It's something I've been thinking about lately - I spend a lot of time at home -  more so now that it's the summer holidays, and my world feels like it's shrinking exponentially (if that's the word I want).

With the new year upon us, and with the possibility of studying again after more than 20 years looming on the horizon, I need to figure out how to expand my world again, beyond my home, and beyond spawn.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet, but I wanted to get the idea down on paper, so to speak, to give me a jumping-off point.

How do you expand your world?