Unread Shelf: January 31, 2021

This is Christmas Amazon money gone completely wild. Hopefully this is as nuts as my unread shelf is going to look this year.

Reviewlets and updates

There’s a whole lot of Opinions rattling around in my head right now, and if it’s okay with everybody (LOL, it’s not up to you) I’m going to dump all of them into one post. Woo-hoo reviewlet city let’s goooooooo!

I read a fair amount of YA, but until now I’ve not really dipped my toes into middle grade novels, which is a genre I haven’t really touched since I was a Language Arts teacher back in Chicago. The honest truth is that I picked up Matt Wallace’s Bump less because I was interested in it specifically than because I like Matt’s other work a lot and want to support him as an author. And it worked out, as these sorts of reading decisions often do: Bump is about a third young-girl-coming-of-age story, a third of a nonfiction book about professional wrestling, and a third honest-to-goodness Scooby-Doo episode without the supernatural bent, right down to the villain literally having a mask torn off in one of the final scenes.

And it’s delightful. It’s a touch more predictable than I want from my books, but I’m going to let that slide since it’s middle grade and a touch of what comes off as predictability to adults is actually helpful with young readers, and it’s very clear that Matt has kind of been bursting at the scenes to tell a story about wrestling and wrestlers, but I’ve yet to find a book that I thought was hurt by the author’s enthusiasm. This is a much sweeter, more grounded story than anything I’ve ever seen from him before– not a trace of the magic or swords or demons or alternate planes of existence that are all over his other work– and I’m really glad I grabbed it. There’s a lot of Spanish in it but it’s well-contextualized, and I may put it in my son’s hands and see what he does with it.

Plus, that cover. C’mon. How can you see that cover and not want to read this?

I have now read three of Akwaeke Emezi’s books, and I am pretty certain that their The Death of Vivek Oji is their best book yet, although it’s one of those books that is really difficult to talk about very much without spoiling details that ought not to be spoiled. I can say this much: it’s a family story set, as all of Emezi’s books have been, in Nigeria (and how much do I love that I have multiple books by Nigerian authors on my shelf right now? Nigerian literature is the shit right now, y’all, get in on this) and the title character is already dead as the book begins, and the whole story is centered upon finding out what happened to Vivek and learning about his life. Emezi’s writing is as beautiful as it ever was. I had spent most of January thinking that it was going to turn out to be a bit below-par in terms of the quality of the books I was reading, so I’m glad to finish off strong with this and Bump.

The chair continues to work out quite well. I have precisely two gripes about it and they’re both very minor: one, that because the armrests are so adjustable (they can be moved up and down, inward and outward, and can also be set at angles) they tend to feel a little loose, and while the fabric that the chair is upholstered in feels great to the touch and looks like it’s going to be durable (and doesn’t seem to attract cat hair, which I was a bit worried about) I’m used to a slidier leather seat, and I find myself not as able to quickly reposition myself as I was in a leather chair when I feel the need to do that.

Yeah, that’s the bet I’ve got on gripes: the armrests are a little wobbly and my fat ass doesn’t slide across the seat the way I’m used to. It’s a good chair. I’m glad I bought it.

These are the last six albums I’ve purchased, and I’m not sure what it says about me:

I have discovered that I didn’t give the Black Crowes enough credit when I was in high school. That album is magnificent.

The boy is deeply into Greek mythology right now, and we bought him Immortals: Fenyx Rising for the PS5 for Christmas. He ended up not being terribly enthralled with it, but I’ve picked it up recently and … well, I’m having fun with it, I suppose, but it’s going to end up being a 7/10 game or so, and it’s mostly because Ubisoft is such a terrible Goddamned publisher. The game is clearly ported from the PC and still retains tons of PC-centric UI and interface decisions, which is annoying, and Ubisoft has slathered all of their usual “Hey! Want to spend more money?” microtransaction bullshit all over the game, as well as their stupid membership thing that I refuse to sign up for. They do this with every one of their games and I think I’m done buying stuff with their logo on it, because they always manage to make their games shittier in the exact same way. I didn’t spend sixty or seventy bucks on your game so that you can ask me to spend more money every time I turn around.

Also, and this isn’t the game’s fault, it’s a PS5 thing: the damn touchpad in the middle is too sensitive and is too close to the square button. Hitting the touchpad in this game brings up the menus, and because it and the square button are so close together I am constantly bringing up the damn menu in the middle of tense fights, because the square button is dodge and that button tends to come up a bit in combat. Now the good news is that this does pause the action, so it’s not getting me killed, but it’s insanely annoying and now that I think about it I probably can blame the game because there has to be a programming way around this and I can’t believe it didn’t come up in play testing. I kept accidentally throwing myself into photo mode, too, which requires clicking the thumbsticks– never ever map anything that can fuck up combat to clicking the thumbsticks, game— and nah never mind I can totally blame the programmers for this. Photo mode, at least, can be turned off, and the thumbstick thing has been the bane of my existence for years, but I can’t be the only guy with fingers big enough that they’re scraping the edge of the touchpad when hitting square.

I feel like I had something else when I started this, so if I remember what it was I’ll put it here.

In which I did not

I appear to have hit some sort of “sitting at your desk too damn long” wall today, because my everything hurts, and I don’t think I can blame the new chair, which indeed I am growing to like quite a lot, although I’ll never be able to recline in the motherfucker.

…and, yeah, I’ve been staring at an empty screen for ten minutes trying to get back whatever idea I had this morning, where I thought I had a quick and easy idea for a post (along the general theme of “I am dumb,” which is my favorite subgenre and I’m sure yours as well) and I cannot recall it to save my life.

Oh well. Y’all are going to have to find a way to forgive me.

In which that was fun

I dunno if you’ve been following this GameStop thing or not.

I decided to start fucking around with the stock market a couple of weeks ago, partially out of boredom and partially because I actually do have a small amount of discretionary income right now and who knows it’s not impossible that I’ll live long enough to consider retirement. Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not dumb enough to believe that dropping $25 a week into stocks is going to magically make me rich or anything, but getting my feet wet and gaining a basic understanding of how this shit works seemed like a good idea.

And … well. Then the GameStop thing happened. Well, is still happening, technically. I think. An explanation, if you haven’t been following this: Reddit discovered that a particular hedge fund held (don’t ask me how this is possible, it’s on the long list of things I don’t understand) more short sales in GameStop than there were actual shares available for the company. A short sale is when you borrow a stock at a certain price, sell them at that price, wait for the price to drop, then buy them and return the shares you bought to the entity you borrowed the shares you sold from. Since you bought them at a lower price than you sold them at, you make money. If this seems somewhat counterintuitive and also a little unethical to be making money off of some other company doing poorly, that means you understand the process correctly.

So Reddit started buying up shares of GameStop. Lots and lots of shares of GameStop. To the point where it was trading at like $4 a share earlier this year and earlier today was up to $500 a share. In the process they blew up that hedge fund, which apparently has gone bankrupt, so it’s good news for everyone.

I went ahead and got in for $100 when the stock was at around $270. This morning when I woke up and it was damn near $500, so if I’d sold instantly I’d have made about seventy bucks. (To be clear, other people have made millions in the last few days.)

I did not sell instantly, and by the time I got out of the shower this morning the app that nearly all of these folks have been using to buy up the stock had decided that they were not only not going to allow further buying of GameStop stock, they even disabled looking it up, making it impossible to do anything but sell. In the course of a ten-minute shower, the value of the stock plummeted nearly a hundred and fifty dollars a share. As of right now, according to the Stocks app on my computer, it’s down to $132.

There’s been lots of dark muttering lately about how what the Redditors did (and those of us who aren’t Redditors but heard about it) should be illegal, because … reasons, and I’m unclear as to what those are, since this is literally some folks on a message board who decided to act as a group. I have heard no dark muttering about how what Robinhood, the app in question, did ought to be illegal, and I feel like arbitrarily deciding it’s okay for them to cause small investors to lose money is okay while small investors causing big hedge funds to blow up is … well, sadly typical is probably how I think that feels, actually.

One way or another, I’ve closed everything out with that app. I ended up breaking about even on GameStop, selling at the wrong time to make money but the right time to avoid losing any, and ended up making maybe $15 over the course of those two weeks. I feel like– and this is no surprise– unless I want to make this a Big Hobby, I’m almost certainly better off putting more money into the withdrawals my job already takes and ignoring that money, because I was spending way too much time watching the rich folks feelings charts tick up and down over the last few weeks. I haven’t been stressing about it, but it’s occupied more of my attention than I need it to.

I will enjoy watching those same Redditors burn Robinhood to the ground over the next few weeks, though.

I got nothing tonight

I keep wondering why I’m so tired, and then remembering that I had to be at a doctor’s appointment this morning at a time before I’m normally even out of bed, and then they took some of my blood away, and it’s my understanding that that can be tiring.