Change of course

Beagle and Two Corgis

Now that I have your attention:

It’s time to retire VacuousMinx. She’s been very, very enjoyable, but her time is up.

I started this blog in February 2011. I’d been reviewing at a major blog for a year, I was active on Twitter, and I was thoroughly enmeshed in the romance reading community.

Four years later I’m still reading and reviewing in the same place, but I’m not on Twitter at all, and I find I have less and less to say about romanceland, let alone within it. I want to keep reviewing and I want to keep blogging; I considered quitting blogging entirely, but I like the writing outlet and the conversation. But I need a new space, one with a name that isn’t linked to romanceland and which has a broader scope. So I’ve moved. You are welcome to follow me there, but if you don’t I’ll understand. It’s not you, it’s me.

Thank you for making me feel so welcome when I made the blog public again, and thank you for reading VacuousMinx, whether you found it last week or have been here from the beginning. You’ve all helped me in so many ways, more than you can possibly know.

 

Link to the new blog

Extravagant consumption: on buying v. reading

Robin has a couple of really interesting opinion pieces at Dear Author on buying, reading, and book prices. The second post, on the culture of buying v. the culture of reading, particularly hit a nerve for me. Until I talked to her about the subject and then read and digested the post, I hadn’t realized how much my buying patterns had changed, and how much my buying patterns have become disconnected from my reading patterns. I encourage you to go read the whole post as well as the comments it inspired, because I think together they provide an important window onto the larger issue of how our approach to consumption has changed over time, at least in affluent societies. And these changes affect not only the affluent, but also the less privileged within affluent societies and everyone in less affluent societies as well.

I’ve been a steady, even voracious reader for as long as I can remember. When I was a little girl in India books weren’t that easy to come by, but there were private lending libraries as well as friends who brought books from the UK and the US. Money wasn’t an issue for us but availability was. When we moved to the State the situation flipped, so that we didn’t have much money but books were plentiful. We bought books, after a fair amount of thought, from book clubs like Book of the Month and from Scholastic Books (via school programs).

And I borrowed a lot of books from the library. I’d estimate that the vast majority of books I read were from the public library in the medium-sized town I lived in. In retrospect, they had a terrific selection. Lots of general fiction and classics, but also all the children’s books that would be familiar to you, and all the well-loved authors that romance readers cut their teeth on: Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, Helen MacInnes, Georgette Heyer, the usual suspects were all there. I would go through the stacks, pulling books off shelves and if they looked interesting from the blurb, I’d take them home. My parents didn’t stint on buying books, especially as money became less tight, but with the library it didn’t seem necessary to buy what I read. The idea of a keeper wasn’t meaningful (I could always borrow it again), and I used my limited funds to buy records, since I knew I’d play them over and over again.

When I went to college I started buying academic books, and I discovered the joys of used book stores. I slowly started buying fiction, although rarely in hardback. But any literary or genre fiction that I thought I’d want to own and that was available in paperback made its way into my home. Moving (which I did several times in college) mostly required scavenging lots of book boxes, and by the time I finished my MA I had a pretty decent collection of fiction and nonfiction. Going to India every year during my PhD years and after added to my library because while books are expensive by Indian standards, the exchange rate made them reasonable even for poor graduate students. My baggage weight allotment was usually a third to a half taken up by books.

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RECIPE: Tomato and (Poached) Egg Curry

egg curry

Egg curries are a popular dish in Indian cooking. You won’t usually find them in restaurants, but everyone I know who eats eggs has a version. I’d been craving one for a while, and the end of a long week when we needed to go to the grocery seemed like the perfect time to make it. I basically make two kinds, a coconut-milk based curry and a tomato curry. The usual way to prepare the eggs is to hard-boil them and then pierce them so that when you add them to the curry its flavors can infuse the whites.

This time I decided to do something different. I’d seen Janine and Robin talking about Shakshuka on Twitter, and when I looked up some recipes I realized it was very similar to my curries but with the eggs poached in the tomato sauce rather than boiled in advance. So I made the curry with my spice combination and then poached the eggs.

It was amazing. TheHusband wants to have it again very soon and he insisted I write down the recipe so that I wouldn’t forget it. Where better than at a blog where I already post recipes? So here it is.

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Blog adjustments

Clip art of open lock on green background

I took this blog private in mid-December 2014. It was a tough decision, because while I don’t have a huge number of readers, I have a lot of repeat visitors and a great community of commenters. In addition, there are some pretty faithful lurkers, which makes me very happy (I started on the internet as a Major Lurker and still do that in several venues).

I’ve tried to give access to just about everyone who asked, but except for a handful of cases I didn’t initiate contact with readers. It seemed weird to me to send an email to someone saying, “here, let me enable you to read my blog!” TheHusband pointed out that some people wouldn’t feel comfortable asking, and I tried to anticipate who might want an invite, but I still erred on the side of non-solicitation.

My stats plummeted when I went private, of course, but we have had some excellent discussions and that is what matters most to me, so the numbers weren’t a big deal. I didn’t have to worry about drive-by commenters on blog posts that were primarily me musing about things of interest, or having those posts picked up and whacked about in other venues. That was a relief.

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Life without Twitter

It’s been a busy February here at Casa VM. Lots of teaching and admin, lots of snow-filled travel (with extra time in airports and unexpected stopovers), and lots and lots of cold and snow. Not Boston or New England levels of snow, mind you. But the deal we expect here in the upper South, in return for putting up with a sauna every summer, is a mild-ish winter. January kept that deal, but February has reneged big time. We’re all telling ourselves here that it can’t last much into March, right? Right?

We’re a week away from spring break, and I’m two months past when I nuked my Twitter account. I got back on for one day in January in order to download my tweet archive (I have a bunch of work-related tweets I want to preserve), but after that I stayed off, and @sunita_p is no more, or at least is not me anymore.

At first it was disorienting. Twitter had become such a part of my online life and such a habit that not being on it left a big hole. Unlike the two other times I quit, though, I was pretty confident I wasn’t coming back, or not in the same way. The first time I quit I was off for a month, the second time for a few months. Both of those times I never really entertained the idea that I would stay away permanently. But quite apart from the specific circumstances that led to my departure last December, I found that social media participation had taken more of a toll than I’d realized. When I went back and looked at my blog posts, I discovered that I’d been complaining about social media in general and Twitter in particular for months.

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