Wanted: Blog Recommendations

Hear ye, hear ye, dear readers. I have a request for all of you. In short, I need recommendations of good blogs to read. My reading list has been a bit sparse recently. The bloggers I read now don’t blog every day, so there are some days when zero posts show up in my reader.

I used to read a lot more blogs, but slowly I pruned my list. It wasn’t because I had too many on the list; it was because I didn’t enjoy reading those blogs anymore. For example, I stopped reading Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn blog. I like Joanna and I think she’s a nice person. I read her blog for years. In fact, I started reading it when I was in college and only stopped reading it early this year or late last year (I can’t remember which). As I said, I don’t bear any ill will towards her. It’s just that as time went on, it changed from being less of a writing advice and writing craft blog to more of a “Look at me and my BRAND and my publishing and marketing strategies and yes, let’s talk about BRAND again.” Thanks, but no thanks.

Anyway, hers isn’t the only blog I’ve stopped reading. I dumped a lot of people from my reader. Therefore, my list is a bit thin. And that’s where you come in! Please, dear readers, give me some blog recommendations. I only read English and Russian, so I’d appreciate it if you limit it to those two languages. If you’re reading my blog, you probably know what my interests are, but just in case, here’s some things I like, in no particular order. (You don’t have to limit your recommendations to these, of course. It’s just a starting point.)

  • Russian history, language, and literature
  • History in general
  • Classical music, especially anything violin-related
  • Crafts, especially knitting and crocheting
  • Writing fiction
  • Reading books

Yep… that’s basically me in a nutshell. Bring on the recommendations! 🙂

Wednesday Music: Beethoven’s Wind Octet in E-Flat Major

I found this delightful piece—Beethoven’s Wind Octet in E-flat major, Op. 103—while looking for study music on YouTube. (Hey, I had to have something to listen to while going over all those study units for my recent exam.) I passed the exam, so maybe that means this piece is good luck? Who knows. 😀 Anyway, this piece is very beautiful and we haven’t had Beethoven in a while, so here’s a bit about it.

  • The piece is written for two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, and two horns. It has four movements.
  • Beethoven wrote it in 1792 while he was living in Bonn, prior to moving to Vienna. He later reworked and expanded it as his first String Quintet, Op. 4.
  • However, the Wind Octet wasn’t published until about ten years after his death (it was published in either 1834 or 1837; I found both dates while researching), hence its high opus number.


Or click here to listen on YouTube.

Horatio Hornblower

Back in the day—circa 2003—I discovered a book series by Patrick O’Brian. It is called the Aubrey-Maturin series, named after the main character, a British Navy captain in the Napoleonic era and his good friend, the ship’s doctor. I first became aware of said series after seeing an excellent movie based on these novels. The movie is Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World and if you haven’t seen it, I urge you to do so. It’s so much better than the drivel they pass off as movies nowadays (but that is a subject for another blog post).

Anyway, I spent about two years reading all twenty of the Aubrey-Matruin novels (I never did get a chance to read the unfinished twenty-first book, sadly enough). They weren’t easy to get through, as the writing can be dense and confusing, but I persevered. By the time I finished, I was a bit tired of Patrick O’Brian’s writing style, but I had developed a lifelong love of the Napoleonic era.

The whole time I was reading the Patrick O’Brian books, I kept seeing reference to a series by C.S. Forester about a character named Horatio Hornblower, also a Royal Navy captain during the Napoleonic Wars. Forester’s books were written before O’Brian’s and were allegedly the inspiration for the Aubrey-Maturin saga. Alas, I took a long break from fiction about the Napoleonic era and didn’t get a chance to check out C.S. Forester’s books—until now.

Dear readers, these books are fantastic! I really love them. I’ve devoured four of them already. The one I just finished today, Commodore Hornblower, even has the advantage of taking place in Russia for most of the book, which is great. And this is the Russian Empire, which as you may know, is basically my favorite thing ever. Forester’s writing is a lot less turgid than O’Brian’s, which makes the whole experience a lot more enjoyable. I like the character development and all the nautical descriptions and historical delights and all the other goodies present in this series. Seriously, these books are great fun to read.

After I schedule this post to be published, I think I’m going to go start on the next book in the series. See you in a little while—I’ll be traveling at sea (vicariously) as I read!


All I have to say today is TGIF—thank goodness it’s Friday. Even though I was off on Monday, this week was just one of those weeks that seemed interminably long. Rain, bad traffic due to accidents, and general work stuff contrived to make this week not so great. I planned to write a longer post today, but I’m just too tired. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll write something more substantial. 🙂

Wednesday Music: Felix Godin’s ‘Valse Septembre’

Today’s piece is a bit different than what I usually post. It’s Felix Godin’s Valse Septembre. Here’s a bit about it.

  • Felix Godin is actually the pseudonym of an English composer named Henry Albert Brown. He wrote a lot of light music, which is like classical but less, you know, intense.
  • This piece was written in 1909 and is the one Godin/Brown is best known for writing. It is a light waltz in four movements and was quite popular at the beginning of the twentieth century.
  • The piece had a resurgence in popularity because it was featured in the 1997 film Titanic. (As an aside, I think there’s a lot of good music in that movie. Don’t laugh—it’s true!) If you’ve seen the movie, you may recognize the piece since snippets of it are playing in the movie.

Enjoy! And if you don’t like twentieth century music, never fear. I’ll return to my usual eighteenth and nineteenth century pieces in coming weeks.

Or click here to see on YouTube.

A Century After the Russian Revolution, Will Putin Bury Lenin?

So reads the headline of an article published at Royal Russia last week. Here are some choice excerpts:

The embalmed corpse of Vladimir Lenin, whose seizure of power following the Bolshevik Revolution sealed the fate of the Romanov dynasty and ushered in more than 70 years of communist rule, lies on view in a squat stone mausoleum just outside the Kremlin walls.

Amid intermittent calls from Russians to put Lenin in the ground, Putin — who is often described as pragmatic — may have been weighing the possibility for years. And 2017, the centenary of the revolution, would seem like the time to do it.

For one thing, burying Lenin could drive home the message that revolution is bad.

He criticized Lenin last January, accusing him of planting a “time bomb” beneath the state and sharply denouncing brutal repressions by the Bolshevik government. Putin went further when he denounced Lenin and his government for brutally executing Russia’s last Emperor along with all his family and servants. “Why did they kill Dr. Botkin, why did they kill the servants, people of proletarian origin by and large? What for? Just for the sake of concealing a crime,” Putin said during a meeting with pro-Kremlin activists.

Others have gone further. Natalia Poklonskaya, a Russian lawmaker and former prosecutor in the Russian-imposed government of Crimea, lumped Lenin together with Hitler and Mao Zedong as “monsters” of the 20th century. And ultranationalist Zhirinovsky has called for Moscow’s Leninsky Prospekt — Lenin Avenue — to be renamed after Ivan the Terrible.

In a reference to the Bolshevik Revolution during his state-of-the-nation address on December 1, Putin said that coups invariably lead to “the loss of human life, casualties, economic decline, and misery.” He warned against “speculating on tragedies that occurred in nearly every Russian family” as a result of the revolution — a warning, at least in part, not to try anything like it again.

There’s more to the article, so you can go read it if you want. Also note that the reference of Natalia Poklonskaya lumping Lenin with Hitler and Mao was discussed on this very blog last year.

As for my personal opinion, Lenin’s burial is long overdue. I’ve despised the man for years. They should cremate him and scatter his ashes in an undisclosed location as was done to Hitler’s body after his suicide in 1945. If that was good enough for Hitler’s remains, it’s good enough for Lenin’s.

(Do I think this is going to happen? Honestly, no. But I can hope!)

I Passed My Exam!

Dear readers, I am back. I hadn’t intended to take a week off from blogging, but something came up. I registered to take part two (out of three) of a professional certification exam back in August. The registration is valid for six months, during which time you have to schedule and take the exam, or else forfeit the exam fee.

I’d been putting off studying, but at the end of last year, I finally started on it since I realized my registration window was running out. After I started getting most of the questions right, I knew I had to register.

So I logged into the testing system to schedule my time and saw there weren’t many good slots left. There were some very late ones this week and some decent ones in mid-February, but I didn’t want to wait until then. On Wednesday night, I registered for the one remaining Thursday slot. I think that’s the most last-minute planning ever. Since our department at work really wants all of us to get this certification, I was allowed to take a day off to study and take the exam on Thursday. And I passed! Seriously, I was a bit surprised. I had studied, but some of the questions were really hard. There were quite a few that I could narrow the answer choices down to two possible answers, but I wasn’t sure which was correct.

Anyway, I didn’t do much writing (either on this blog or my fiction) last week. I was too busy studying and then feeling relieved that I passed. I spent the weekend reading and watching a movie and crocheting. It was quite nice. Especially since we have unseasonably good weather right now. Unfortunately, it’s back to the usual grind tomorrow. At least I squeezed in some decent writing time today!