Reading Challenges

Canadian Books 7
July - June 2014




 

 


Girl Who Played GoThe Girl Who Played Go: 01/31/07

The Girl Who Played Go by Shan Sa has a story laid out like a game of go. Each chapter is like a new move. Song of the Night, a young Manchurian girl plays the black side while the Japanese soldier takes the white. Anyone familiar with the game or with the history of Japan's invasion of China will know that this book won't be a happy one.

As with a game of go, the two characters don't meet or interact until half way through the book (page 127). As pieces are laid at opposite corners the soldier and the student seem to have very separate lives save for their shared interest in go. Once they meet in the middle the book's disjointed plot finally comes together and the story goes from a false sense of light-heartedness towards a tragic confrontation at breakneck speed. The second half can be read in half the time .

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ShoesA Long Day: 01/31/07

I had originally planned to post about how much I love slings and about my plans to make a Maya wrap style sling for myself and Harriet but I really feel the need to vent about today. The sling post will just have to wait for another day.

First of all there were some unexpected technical difficulties with work. One of the potential problems with working remotely is that I'm directly connected with my client's LAN nor I am I using one of my client's machines that is set up to automatically update itself with whatever the IT department makes changes or posts software updates. While most of the time working remotely on the laptop I have doesn't cause any problems with work but when problems do arise it isn't always easy to see if the problem is related to my non-standard set up or to something happening at my client's end.

Today I had to spend an hour trying to figure out why my VPN client's DNS settings were no longer working. It ultimately came down to downloading a couple new components and rebooting but it was still frustrating for me and worrying for my client. Fortunately it didn't get in the way of any time critical deadlines.

Then it was time to get Sean from school. Harriet had fallen asleep in the car so Ian went in alone. He comes out carrying a sobbing Sean. Sean is minus his new shoes. One of the other students had worn his new shoes home! So before we could do anything we had to go back to the store and find a duplicate pair of shoes. Is it too much to expect my child to come home wearing all of his clothes at the end of the day? What do I have to do, LoJack his shoes?

On the way home traffic suddenly got really had at the bridge across the freeway that separates Hayward from Castro Valley. Twenty minutes of inching forward we finally hear the traffic report on the radio. There was "police activity" at the intersection leading into the Hayward hills. We do a U-turn and try to take a different road home but can't get into the left lane because of the back up in traffic.

So we decide to give up on having dinner at home. We go to Baker's Square instead. Before we can have dinner I have to change Harriet's diaper. As the restaurant doesn't have a changing table I have do it in the car. It's cold outside but she had pooped was uncomfortable.

We managed to have a nice dinner and decide just in case we should take the long way home through down town Hayward. Our street is also swarming with sheriff cars but we're able to get home. Later we learned there had a been a shooting.

An hour and a half late I finally got Harriet bathed, changed for bed, fed and in bed. Sean went to bed shortly there after. While looking for a Sharpie to write Sean's name on his newest pair of new shoes I had my foot smashed (run over) by one of the couch's feet. My foot still hurts but it isn't broken.

At the end of everything, I burst into tears: something I don't often do.

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Steps: 7000


Cork BoatCork Boat: 01/30/07

The summer that Sean was born John Pollack and a crew of friends sailed a self built cork boat up a river in Portugal. Some of the event was covered on NPR but I completely missed it. I came across the story through BookCrossing when the memoir of the ship's construction was offered up at one of last year's meetings.

The book is an interesting glimpse at the way things were in the 1990s and early 2000s. Now by 2007 things have already so changed since the time that Pollack decided to finally follow his childhood dream and actually build Cork Boat. He started it while Clinton was in office (and worked for him as a speech writer in his second term). Like so many young professionals then he tried to break free of the traditional job scene to do his own thing (in this case, building a ship). Companies were willing to sponsor just about anything and Pollack found a willing sponsor (and provider of corks) with Cork Supply USA.

The ship was finished in the wake of the destruction of the World Trade Center and Bush's presidency (which continues to stagnate). The ship was finished with grim determination and without the naivety under which it was started.

It's only until near the end of the book that any diagrams are included to explain how the cork boat was built. Most of the book covers the collection process of the project and his other side jobs (like working for Clinton). I know that it wasn't until late in the process did he and his friends have a schematic for building Cork Boat but the book could have provided more illustration in the form of photographs or maps or perhaps even diagrams of the different types of corks.

I enjoyed reading the book. It was nonfiction fluff and a nice mental vacation from the classics I've been reading.

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Harriet spoonAnother All Nighter: 01/30/07

Ian has noticed that Harriet pulls all nighters just before she accomplishes another milestone. Last night she was woken up by Sean when he had a nightmare and thought it was great fun to be awake.

In the interest of being awake for work this morning, I tried going to bed at half past midnight while Ian tried to get Harriet settled for sleep upstairs in her bouncy chair. I couldn't get to sleep and neither could Harriet (or Sean). So at one thirty I came up stairs to nurse Harriet. I was too cold fall asleep while nursing her so I just shivered while she ate and Ian slept on the couch.

At two thirty Ian sent me back to bed because I was getting irrational. I slept until six thirty at which point I got up to feed Harriet. Ian then slunk downstairs for a quick power nap while I did my morning publish for work and to brew a pot of tea. Oh thank goodness for P.G. Tips!

For breakfast Sean ended up having a granola bar while Ian and I later had Trader Joe's lemon and pumpkin bread. We just couldn't pull it together enough to have a family breakfast. Ian got Sean to school and came back with our breakfast. He and I ate the bread while I fed Harriet her rice cereal (with carrots).

Anyway, later in the day Harriet was able to sit on the floor without support for about five minutes. She eventually slumped over while she was trying to lean forward to pet Caligula.

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Steps: 7000


Mr. FunnyMr. Funny: 01/29/07

While cleaning up the house the other day I found Sean's collection of Mr. Men books. Most of them he received as a baby from Ian's parents. Mr. Funny is one of those books. He received it back in 2002 when he was just a newborn.

Mr. Funny is one of the more surreal of the Mr. Men books. Mr. Funny lives a very odd life. His house is a tea pot. He drinks toast for breakfast and drives around town in a shoe. As with many of the Mr. Men books, the story follows Mr. Funny through the course of a day, starting with breakfast and going through the course of a day, usually with a trip into town.

Mr. Funny goes to the zoo where he is called into service to entertain a bunch of animals suffering from colds. Here is where the book falls apart. Mr. Funny is apparently a very entertaining fellow, although from his antics, I'd qualify him more as just funny in the head. He entertains the animals by pulling faces which are apparently so funny that everyone ends up laughing themselves silly. Unfortunately neither the text nor the illustrations are able to capture whatever it is about his face that is funny enough to cause spontaneous laughter but's apparently just what the elephant, lion, bear and giraffe all needed to cheer up.

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BroomFreecycle: 01/29/07

At the start of the month I set a goal for myself to freecycle one item each month this year that we are no longer using. I have done much better than that already and have found homes for lots of things. It feels good to free up well needed space with items we don't need or can't use.

So far I've found homes for:

  • Harriet's newborn sling.
  • Some old baby clothes that both children have outgrown.
  • Clothes that Ian no longer wears
  • Clothes I no longer wear
  • A cat bed Caligula doesn't sleep in
  • Two vases
  • An old coat
  • Some hats
  • A table cloth
  • Some computer software
  • Our old wireless phones
  • An answering machine
  • A silverware organizer

I feel like I've forgotten some things on my list. I have more things to freecycle as I get organized. My goal is to get the kitchen better sorted. We have a lot of things we used when we were first married that just don't make sense now that we're a family of four.

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Steps: 5500


Our Lady of DarknessOur Lady of Darkness: 01/28/07

Written originally in 1978 after fighting depression and alcoholism after the death of his wife, the second of the two books in Dark Ladies is a much darker view of magic in the modern world. Whereas The Conjure Wife could take place in any college town, Our Lady of Darkness is set specifically in San Francisco.

The novel supposes that modern magic, specifically black magic is tied to the building of large cities. San Francisco with its hills, history of earthquakes and of course the Transamerica pyramid is a 20th century necropolis.

Take then a skeptic who finds a copy of Megapolisomancy: A New Science of Cities and his undying curiosity. Add in his friends who egg him on, some believing and some not and soon the protagonist is in the middle of a supernatural mystery involving a curse and a long forgotten building. What is 607 Rhodes?

While I preferred the quirky charm of The Conjure Wife more than the dark mystery set in San Francisco I still enjoyed the story. I like horror stories that center around old architecture, especially old cities. I figured out the solution to the story much sooner than the protagonist did and the story felt like inspiration for a Charmed episode (or perhaps the entire series) but it was still a fun read and a good compliment to The Conjure Wife.

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BreadDerrick For Dinner: 01/28/07

It's official. Derrick is now a bay area resident. He starts his new job tomorrow and we celebrated with our old tradition of "hunk of meat." We had prime rib (much nicer than what we used get), mashed potatoes, mushroom fondue and homemade chocolate pudding (the one thing I made).

While Ian took care of the cooking, I took care of the cleaning. We had straightened up a lot of the living room yesterday there was still room for improvement. I had made things a little worse by cleaning out under the couch last night to find a missing DVD case. Today I had to put away all that "hidden treasure."

I also took care of putting away a lot of Sean's toys and some of our toys (like the telescope) and of course cleaning off the dining room table. Like my grandmother, I have a dining room table that just collects crap all by itself.

Sean was a big help. He ran things downstairs for me. He also threw trash away and took other things to the kitchen. Sometimes he helped by keeping Harriet entertained. He's very good at making her laugh.

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Steps: 3500


-->London: The BiographyLondon: The Biography: 01/27/07

London has about a two thousand year history and has survived numerous fires, plagues, wars, over crowding and so forth. It's no wonder then that Peter Acronym's biography of the city is 801 pages long. While book is heavy enough to make a nice door stop it is written in a way that makes it feel like a light and easy read.

It slowly progresses from earliest history to modern history, though not in a linear timeline as most history books do. Instead it divides the city's biography into themes. There are chapters on the numerous fires, the city's love of the color red, the wall and where it still travels through the city (London continues to grow outwards), a brief history of Cockney and so forth. There are 79 chapters (each chapter being no more than about 10 pages) so it would take too long to list every single theme.

I really enjoyed this book. I like history that is categorized rather than just being a long list of dates and facts. I bought this book over the Christmas holiday based on the 501 book list that N8an posted on his LiveJournal. As I do plan to visit London some day, I plan on keeping this book to reread in greater detail many times.

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RainIndoor Picnic: 01/27/07

I think watering my garden has the same effect as washing my car. After being told on the news that we were way below normal for rain fall and not to expect any rain until well into February, the heavens opened up and its been raining since yesterday at noon. It hasn't be a consistent rain but frequent enough to stop us from going to Lake Chabot for our picnic.

Yesterday's lunch time news cast was funny to watch because the meteorologist seemed completely surprised by the rain. Just an hour before she had told us it would be clear and cold until next weekend. Then she had to come back and say that her report was obviously incorrect because it was now raining. The current prediction has it raining through Monday.

Rather than give up completely on the picnic idea, we spread our blanket on the floor in our living room and at our sandwiches inside. Harriet thought it was the funniest thing seeing her entire family sitting on the floor with her while she was in her bouncy seat. She entertained us by playing peakaboo with her burp cloth.

While it wasn't a trip to the lake, it was fun. It was good and silly fun.

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Steps: 3500


Tipping the VelvetTipping the Velvet: 01/26/07

I had meant to write my review for Tipping the Velvet last night but I completely forgot; that's how unimpressed I was with the book. Sarah Waters appears to be a one note writer. Sure, she changes the setting and the time period but her cardboard cutout characters are the same. There is always the naive young woman who falls for the more worldly but jaded woman and learns of the forbidden love only to scare her new soul mate straight! There you go, that's the twist to every one of Waters's books that I've read so you might as well save yourself the time and read something better.

Also in Tipping the Velvet you might learn something about oysters and where the best ones are apparently harvested. You can learn how to prepare oysters and how to eat them. All this information is in the first chapter. It is by far the most interesting chapter of the entire novel.

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CarrotsWhat's Up Doc? 01/26/07

Harriet loves eating solids. Every time I put her in her high chair she smiles and giggles. Of all the fruits and vegetables she's tried so far (carrots, beans, peas, prunes, sweet potatoes, squash and apple sauce) carrots are her favorite. If she could, she'd eat carrots with every meal. She likes them in her rice cereal and she likes them by themselves. She even likes them with curry (I added some today because she was eying the curry I'd made myself for lunch).

She gets impatient if I take to long between spoonfuls or step away from the table to cook my own lunch. Today she grabbed her bowl from me and started to feed herself. First she tried with a spoon and managed to get four scoops from the bowl to her mouth. Then she lost track of her mouth and scoop number five went into her eye instead. After that she decided to use her hands instead to feed herself.

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Steps: 4000


Fighting AngelFighting Angel: 01/25/07

Pearl S. Buck was the daughter of a Southern Presbyterian missionary. Though she was born in the United States, she grew up in China. Fighting Angel is her biography and memoir of her father Absalom Sydenstricker (or Andrew as he's called in the book). The book is written with Buck's usual straightforward approach of weaving simple words together into fully realized worlds.

Her memoir though is written without warmth. Though she refers to herself sometimes in the first person, she calls her parents by their first names (Carie and Andrew). I don't know if these names were their actual nicknames or if she altered them slightly on purpose. She also sometimes refers to herself as Comfort (her middle name) making it seem as if she is speaking of a different person.

The portrait she paints of her father isn't complimentary. She focuses on his religious zeal for saving souls but repeated notes that he only believed a certain subset of humankind had souls worth saving (namely men of certain means). She goes on to describe how her father hated women, hated the rich, hated fat people, hated most of his family and so forth. Yet somehow she seems to expect her readers to respect this man that was her father!

While I enjoyed her style of writing I came away not feeling I knew her any better and knowing that if I had met her father I'd have to restrain myself from punching him in the nose. I am glad I read the book but it isn't a book I would want to reread.

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I Need Sleep

I went to bed past my bedtime last night. The temperature dropped and I spent an hour or so shivering. Just as I had fallen asleep (though not comfortably) Ian woke me up to say that Harriet was crying. He also told me that Sean had been up earlier with a nightmare. Anyway, I knew I wouldn't be getting back to sleep. Once Harriet is up, she's up for good.

So Harriet and I went upstairs and settled into my chair under a pair of blankets. She nursed and I dozed until about five in the morning. At six after having been with Harriet for three hours, I took her downstairs to switch off with Ian. I needed to get some real sleep for an hour and twenty minutes before I had to log in for my morning publishing for work.

By three in the afternoon Harriet started to act understandably tired. By three thirty I started her bed time routine hoping she'd go down for the night. She loved the idea of taking a bath (but then she loves bathing) and of getting into her jammies. She even fell asleep in my arms while nursing but as soon as I put her in her crib she started to scream.

We brought her upstairs for a bottle and more nursing. She stayed up for another hour and a half and fell asleep again as the sun started to set. Again I put her in her crib and again she cried. She eventually cried herself to sleep (something we don't normally do with her) but when Sean went to bed at nine, she was apparently wide awake.

Please send sleepy vibes her way!

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Steps: 3500


Stormy WeatherStormy Weather: 01/24/07

The aftermath of Hurricane Andrew inspired Carl Hiaasen to write Stormy Weather. This dark comedy pokes fun at the lowlifes and bad behavior that surface after a natural disaster. The book follows about a dozen characters and their interactions with each other as they try to screw each other over.

The problem is there are just too many characters and too much action for a book that's only 380 pages long. The scenes jump around from one absurd set of circumstances to another without time for good character development.

Of these characters I was most interested in Bonnie Brooks (the wife of kidnapped Max Lamb) and Ira Jackson who was looking for retribution for the death of his mother due to shoddy construction of the trailer park. Unfortunately their stories are watered down by stupid stuff like the ex-governor turned recluse and kidnapper and the on again and off again relationship between the two state troopers.

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We Need a Baby Gate

It's official; Harriet is a roller. She's been able to roll from back to front since she was about a day old and now she can roll back to front as well. In fact she can roll in circles when she wants. Her ability to roll has opened a new world to her: our living room floor.

I keep a pillow for her on the floor between my chair and the couch. Around the pillow I put Harriet's favorite toys (her rattle, her purple sheep, and some "unowns"). Today she also rolled over to Sean's "floopy owl" and dragged him back to chew on. I'm not quite sure how she managed to drag the owl as it's almost as large as she is (though very light).

After about fifteen minutes of rolling and scooting on her bottom, she usually tires of playing and starts to whine until I pick her up. Although she hasn't managed to go more than a foot or two away from her home base pillow, we plan to get a baby gate to lock off the stairs heading down to the front door.

I have to admit that I'm shocked we need a gate so soon. Sean never really rolled or crawled which kept him immobile for eight months. Then at eight months he started to learn how to walk. By ten months he was running! I can only guess what Harriet has in store for us.

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Steps: 4000


Uncle Tom's CabinUncle Tom's Cabin: 01/23/07

My third read for the "Winter Challenge" was harder than the second. I normally like Harriet Beecher Stowe's style of writing but the other stories I've read were written for fun. She made a comfortable living as a writer of boys adventure novels (under the pen name "Christopher Crowfield") and was a neighbor and mentor of Mark Twain. Uncle Tom's Cabin had a definite political agenda and while it proved to be a significant and influential story (as well as a best seller) it is a flawed story.

Harriet Beecher Stowe was inspired to write Uncle Tom's Cabin after one of her servants admitted to being a run away slave. Then later she witnessed a desperate mother cross an icy river to save her son from being sold. These along with her heart felt anti-slavery views compelled her to write a story outlining the evils of slavery. (Harriet Beecher Stowe Center)

The book was originally serialized abolitionist newspaper, The National Era. Like Dickens' many serialized novels, the style changes significantly between each chapter. These changes aren't as apparent when the chapters are divided up by days, weeks or months between publication dates but when they sit next to each other in bound form and can be read one after the other the changes can be very jarring and off putting.

As Uncle Tom's Cabin is meant to illustrate all the evils of slavery, all the different aspects of society are represented through a large cast of characters. A lot of these characters get in the way of the central characters: Eliza, George, Harry and "Uncle" Tom. Eliza, George and Harry are the examples of the good that can come at the end of slavery and Tom is the martyr to the status quo.

Read the reviews at My Own Little Reading Room, Kimmie's Krap, Ready When You Are, C.B..

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More Harriet Updates

I don't know if it's the warmer nights or just part of Harriet growing, but the last couple of nights she has slept in until seven in the morning. In fact, I've had to get her out of bed in time for me to nurse her before I have to start work. She's been awake but hasn't been crying. She just sort of looks around the room waiting for me to pick her up. Then she gives me a huge grin when she sees me.

Regardless of what has caused her to sleep in, I am grateful for the extra sleep. It's nice to get up when it is light out (more or less). That extra hour of sleep has been wonderful. It probably won't last as she is only 4 months old but I sure have enjoyed it.

On the solids front, Harriet continues to love eating breakfast and lunch with us. She goes to bed before dinner time. She much prefers vegetables to fruit, although she does like tart apple sauce and strawberry jam. By far though her favorites are pureed peas and pureed carrots. She'll actually say "yum yum yum" while eating her carrot smoosh.

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Steps: 3500


The Floppy Friends Go to the BeachThe Floppy Friends Go to the Beach: 01/22/07

The floppy friends must have been one of those attempts to make cartoons and books based on a toy line. In this case, the "floppy friends" are overly cute stuffed animals. Apparently they are all friends and everything is peachy.

The first in the series was apparently The Floppy Friends Go to Camp and this beach story is the second. In this story, the protagonist bear is upset because he has learned that he'll be moving to a new school in fall. He's afraid of saying good-bye to all his friends and of being the "new kid" at the school.

The book then goes on a saccharine tangent about a trip to the beach where the friends have lunch, go swimming and go to the boardwalk. After all these adventures, the protagonist realizes that he won't be the "new kid" after all because all his friends from camp actually attend this new school. Of course they couldn't just tell him this; they had to surprise him and scare him half to death in the process.

It's no wonder that these books are no longer in print. The story is flawed and boring (an amazing thing to pull off for only 40 some pages). The illustrations are cute enough to cause a gag reflex.

New Shoes for Sean

Sean's shoes didn't survive the washing machine after the exploding toilet experience on Friday. Today after school we got Sean a pair of new shoes. He's up to a size 11 from a 10 1/2. We've been saving his old shoes for Harriet (or to donate if she can't fit in them) but these are just too thrashed to be wearable any longer.

Sean originally wanted red shoes but the only red shoes they had were laced basket ball shoes. They didn't feel right when he walked in them and he felt put off at the though of having to learn how to tie his own shoes. If Harriet were older I would be willing to put in the extra time to help him learn to tie his shoes but right now that extra time is going to her needs as an infant. I'm perfectly happy to put off the lacing lessons for a few more months!

Instead we found a sporting pair of shoes "Champion" shoes with velcro ties. They're silver and black with blue trim and very handsome. Sean tried them on and said they were very comfortable.

Of course now with 20/20 hindsight, I think Sean's leg cramps were caused in part by his shoes being too small. How many times am I going to be surprised by his feet growing?

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Steps: 5000


Not Before SundownNot Before Sundown: 01/21/07

Ennen päivänlaskua ei voi is a Finish urban fantasy retelling of the fairy and the troll, where the "fairy" in this case is a gay photographer specializing in advertising. His current gig is to help create an advertising campaign for "Stalker" Jeans and he chooses the perfect model for them, a young troll he's named Pessi.

Not Before Sundown (aka Troll: A Love Story in later translations) isn't a typical fantasy. There aren't lengthy sections of description or discussions of the nature of magic. In fact, there are no traditional chapters. Most scenes are no more than a paragraph or two. Every few pages, the book includes a tidbit on trolls: either a piece of lore, a bit about the biology, or a piece about sightings of the elusive troll.

Trolls as described in this book remind me a great deal of a cross between a bouvier des flanders and Stitch from Lilo and Stitch. Trolls are both aluring and dangerous. What started as a good deed, the taking in of an orphaned and injured troll, completely changes the protagonist's life.

Over all I enjoyed the book, though reading it wasn't always pleasurable. There are some scenes bordering on bestiality and there is one graphic death scene.

Another "Rest-a-day"

Sean ended up sleeping thirteen hours. He never got up to change out of his clothes until this morning when he changed into fresh clothes. He hasn't slept this many hours for a long time. He's either gearing up for a growth spurt or he's fighting off a bug.

At first he was disappointed at missing last night's "pick-up dinner" as he likes having a selection of foods to chose from but we decided to have a "pick-up" lunch today to make up for the meal he missed last night.

So we spent a lot of today taking turns playing video games. We also did chores like laundry and dishes. Sean helped sweep the kitchen floor and helped me do the laundry.

Harriet meanwhile practiced sitting up from lying on her back. She's inspired by Sean and always wants to see what he's doing. She has also taken to scolding me with ululation. She sounds like Xena Warrior baby when she does it.

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Steps: 3500


But Not the HippopotamusBut Not the Hippopotamus: 01/20/07

But Not the Hippopotamus is one of three Sandra Boynton books Sean received as a Hanukah present back in 2005. Now that Sean is beginning to read, these books have come back into his rotation of "current reads."

But Not the Hippopotamus rings true to anyone who has felt excluded. On each page a pair of friends are doing something fun while the hippopotamus looks on. The story is told in verse with the title of the book ending each stanza. For this hippopotamus, he does eventually join the group of friends but not the armadillo.

The illustrations are cute and poignant. Boynton captures the growing sadness of the hippopotamus perfectly. Each page his frown gets a little longer and his eyes a little sadder. When at last the punchline comes the eyes pop open first to surprise and then to glee.

No Picnic Today

We didn't stick with our original plan of having a picnic at Lake Chabot. Sean and Ian both were very tired and in need of a "rest-a-day." Sean explained to me over lunch that he'd had three nightmares the night before. I know one of the nightmares involved Superman and Harle Quinn (while Batman and the Joker were "off doing something else"). He didn't tell me what the other two nightmares were.

Ian meanwhile had been awake until two because of his cough. He has the same cold I had last April. It has a lingering cough that for me lasted a month. I remember thinking I had some horrible combination of asthma, emphysema and whooping cough and then suddenly the coughing stopped.

So rather than have a picnic we mostly stayed home and took turns playing video games. We did head out for lunch and some grocery shopping in the afternoon but otherwise we took it easy. During this time, Sean stayed curled up on the couch.

Later while I was getting Harriet ready for bed, Sean started to misbehave, something he only does while overly tired. Tired of hearing Ian and Sean getting on each others' nerves, I shouted for Sean to go to his room. Sean did. In fact he tucked himself into bed and was asleep before Harriet!

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Steps: 7000


McTeague: A Story of San FranciscoMcTeague: 01/19/07

Frank Norris's 1899 novel, McTeague: A Story of San Francisco was the inspiration for the Erich von Stroheim film Greed. Greed is probably best known for being the film that was nine hours long until the studio forced Stroheim to edit it down to something manageable (either 2 hours or 4 hours; there are two extant versions). I used to think that the 9 hour version must have been wonderful before it was butchered but now I'm not so sure having read the book that inspired the film.

McTeague is a book filled with fundamentally broken characters who have little or no redeeming qualities. The one vice they all seem to share is (surprise!) greed. Their ideal little world begins to fall apart just as everything appears to be going well at the winning of the lottery and a prize of five thousand dollars.

The greed theme is laid on too thick throughout the book. McTeague wants to live off his wife's winnings rather than work. Trina fears losing their nest egg and turns miserly. Old time friend Marcus covets both the money and Trina (Mrs. McTeague).

Since so much time and energy is spent on this one theme, little is left for character development. McTeague remains a dull, lazy, stupid and somewhat infantile character. He somehow transforms from gentle and bashful giant to a violent drunk. Meanwhile Trina devolves from being an industrious (albeit somewhat dishonest) toy maker to a wretch who does nothing but count her hidden earnings. The only reason given for these sudden changes of character is money and that alone isn't enough to carry a book through twenty-two chapters.

HarrietWhen Toilets Attack

When we picked up Sean today, a large bag of fowl smelling clothes was hanging on his peg. It's been almost a year since I've had to take home a bag like this and I could believe for a moment that he'd had an accident.

We asked Sean what had happened. We couldn't see him but he explained as he was picking up his toys that the "potty had come unplugged." That didn't sound good, I thought.

One of the teachers brought Sean around where we could see that he was dressed in borrowed clothes and was barefoot. Apparently the bathroom toilets had gotten clogged and had overflowed (or worse from the sound of things) while Sean was in the bathroom. He got the worst of it and had to be completely changed out of his clothes. He was sent home in a set of spare clothes Sithy keeps on hand and was wearing a pull-up diaper because even his underwear was soaked.

As it was dropping into the 40s outside, Ian carried him to the car and the into the house when we got home. Harriet and I carried his bag of nasty smelling clothes and his owl backpack which had his nap time sheet. While Ian bathed Sean, Harriet and I got the laundry started. All I can say is eeeeeewwwww!

Sean had cleaned up really well at school but he was understandably feeling really grossed out by the experience. The laundry was also pretty clean too but it still was wet and smelly, though not as bad as it could have been. Remarkably though, Sean maintained his sense of humor through all of this (far better than I would have).

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Rubaiyat of Omar KhayyamRubaiyat: 01/18/07

A rubaiyat is a quatrain or four line poem. Omar Khayyam was a poet, astronomer, algebraist and former tentmaker. Each rubaiyat reads like a haiku and though short often time requires contemplation. Put together they form a 444 line examination of the human condition in terms of love, life and death, nature and science.

The most famous translation of the Rubaiyat was done by Edward Fitzgerald in 1852. He apparently took quite a few liberties with the translation, turning vague poetry into gay poetry. Although the version I read still shows Fitzgerald as the translator, the text is very different (and I suspect cleaned up) from Project Gutenberg has online. The copy I read was a "book club" edition and I suspect the publisher didn't want to insult the sensibilities of its readers (pity).

Although the text I read was cleaned up, I did enjoy the spirit of the poems. Someday though I would like to own an older edition, one that hasn't been cleansed.

Harriet at Play

Harriet loves the color purple. Her two favorite blankets are purple (one dark and one a light lavender). One of her favorite toys is a purple elephant. It is easy for her to hold and its ears crinkle. She likes to chew on the trunk.

When she's not enjoying the color purple, she likes to play with her "unowns" as Sean calls them. They are a group of alphabet letters in colorful and textured plastic that can be hooked together in a chain. We chain a few of the letters together, usually no more than two or three. Her "breakfast" chain spells "bog" or "gob" depending on which way around the letters are hooked. She has a "VZ" chain in her bathtub. She likes them because they are easy to hold onto and narrow enough to fit in her mouth (a good thing since she's teething).

Harriet still hates tummy time (unless she's on top of me) as did Sean at this age. She likes to roll around (something Sean was never did much) and she still likes to practice standing either while "dancing" with Ian or playing the "up/down" game with me.

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The Conjure WifeThe Conjure Wife: 01/17/07

Ian enjoys Fritz Leiber's fantasy novels so we own a good number of them. I think he started buying them back in 2003 or 2004 but so far I haven't read an of Leiber's work. I've been swamped under my own "to be read" pile and BookCrossing commitments to spend time on one of my least favorite genres. However, when I saw a copy of Dark Ladies, a two book volume of what now-a-days would be classified as "paranormal fiction" by Fritz Leiber, I had to grab the book and give it a read.

So far I've flown through the first of the two stories, The Conjure Wife, a novel originally published in 1937. This story of a young and up and coming professor and his liberal minded wife reminded me of what would happen if Christopher Moore decided to rewrite The Witches of Eastwick (John Updike) and The Stepford Wives (Ira Levin) as one novel. Save for the mention of some outdated technology (like phonograph needles) the novel reads like a modern paranormal fiction.

I absolutely loved this story and managed to tear through it in a couple of hours. It is part romance, part satire, part mystery and part horror. All these pieces work together beautifully to tell the story of a skeptical husband learning that magic is real and his wife suffering the recoil of magic for personal gain.

More School News:

Yesterday Sean got a 100% on a math assignment. His teacher asked me if we had been spending a lot of time studying addition. I replied that we've done some but mostly we were just playing with addition. We weren't treating it as home work. She replied that she only had to show Sean once and that he remembered over the long the weekend all the addition she had taught the class last week. He has trouble writing his answers but not in knowing what the answers were. We're so proud of him!

Tomorrow is Sean's first Mandarin class. It will be a full class of six students from the preschool. Sean sounds a little reluctant but I think once he gets started he'll enjoy the class. He's always a little shy about trying new things for about the first five or ten minutes. I hope he learns enough to teach us a thing or two.

He's also still doing "nastics" (gymnastics) at school. The new session starts next week. He's learning how to walk on the balance beam, do summersaults and do cartwheels along with some "cooperative play." He really enjoys these classes offered through the school.

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Ghost GirlGhost Girl: 01/16/07

I'm not sure what to make of Ghost Girl. This memoir of a year teaching an elective mute and her three classmates is simultaneously charming and horrifying. The book uses horror genre conventions: a mater of fact tone, cliffhangered surprises at the end of chapters and the combination of graphic sexual description with the occult. There's just problem: the events described are based on reality.

The book is a memoir but other than it being presented in the first person it doesn't read like a memoir. It reads like fiction. Other than one's prior knowledge of Torey Hayden's work as a teacher and therapist and note below the copyright that says the names were changed to protect the privacy of those involved there is nothing in the text to suggest or remind one that the story is non-fiction. There are no footnotes and no bibliography. Both would have been helpful as Hayden refers to her previous work or to something she has read on a subject without providing enough information to look up what she is mentioning.

Another Reason Why I Like Working From Home

Today was the first day back to school after a three-day weekend for Sean. In the excitement to get back to school, Sean forgot his owl backpack with his Spiderman blanket (for nap time) that I had packed. I had placed the backpack on the front door knob to make remembering it easy but Sean had taken it up stairs to put on after he put his shoes on. He had put it down next to my purse, put his shoes on and then forgotten to grab it.

When I was talking to Ian to see if he was coming home for lunch (he wasn't) he mentioned that Sean had forgotten his backpack at home and had been very upset about it. I knew it was still before nap time at school so Harriet and I grabbed the backpack and made the five minute drive over to school to deliver it.

Sean was outside playing when we got there but one of his teachers was glad to see us arrive with it. He had apparently been "having a heart attack over forgetting" the backpack. Had I still been working on site the backpack would have stayed at home and Sean would have had to borrow a blanket for nap (something he hates to do). I'm glad I was able to drop off his backpack before he needed it.

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-->The Secret Science Project That Almost Ate the SchoolThe Secret Science Project That Almost Ate the School: 01/15/07

Sean has received a wonderful selection of books from his grandmother Judy. Her latest find is The Secret Science Project That Almost Ate the School by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Stephen Gammell. Through verse, Judy Sierra tells the classic story of hubris and nemesis, this time in the third grade.

The main character, afraid of losing in the science fair decides to cheat. In the quest for an easy win, she unleashes a green hungry blob who soon has devoured her cat, father, and class. Can she stop her monster before it is too late?

Gammell's illustrations bring to life to Sierra's humorous verse. The paintings are watercolors and the colors bleed together just as the monster oozes from scene to scene. It's the perfect blending of talents.

Nothing But Raspberries

Yesterday Harriet began to blow raspberries (another milestone) and covered me in mushy peas. She's since then been trying them on and off, especially when Sean is around because he is the king of funny sounds in this household and someone she aspires to surpass or at least equal.

Today in the car while we were running errands, Harriet began to blow her raspberries again. Sean started to laugh and then blew some raspberries back at her. Then she laughed and blew some more. Soon all us were laughing while the kids were taking turns making all sorts of silly noises. Sean won for being the loudest, yuckiest and quickest with the noises. Ian thinks this must have been their first time really playing together.

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-->KimKim: 01/14/07

When I was cramming to learn as much about one of the earliest cultures in human history and followed the development of sanskrit as a language down the Indus river and the later political division of India and Pakistan for my 2006 Nanowrimo I figured I was pretty much done with what I had learned once I had finished my novel and November ended. Then I started reading Kim and Rudyard Kipling's story made all that late night reading come to life for me. The book does include a map of all the places visited but it was nice not to need it because the story flowed so well that I wouldn't have wanted to disrupt it to follow a map.

Where Mogli, Kipling's jungle savvy boy is an exploration of man's relationship with nature, Kim the street urchin is his vehicle for reexamining the tenuous relationship between Britain and its then colonial subjects. Kim's story brings together a wide array of cultures: British, Tibetan, Muslim and Hindu. Unsure of his own origins at first, Kim picks and chooses the pieces he likes from all these different cultures. As a very clever child, the adults around him take advantage of him for their own cross purposes.

Of all the different relationships in the book it was Kim's role as a chela to the Tibetan lama that interested me the most. It seemed that the countryside was the most open to them when they traveled together and I liked being along for the ride. The next most interesting character is the horse trader Mahbub who used Kim to gather information and pass along secrets encoded in non-sense horse trading information. The most poignant piece should have been Kim's dead soldier father but those details seemed the most forced and unnatural of all the other pieces of the story.

Regardless of the few minor quibbles I have with Kim, I enjoyed the book thoroughly.

Read the review at My Own Little Reading Room.

3AM Wake-up Call

Last night was the coldest night we've ever had at this home. Since our place is a split level, our bedrooms are downstairs and it is always a good ten to twenty degrees colder downstairs from whatever it is upstairs. So on a night when it's in the mid 50s upstairs, it's probably the high 30s downstairs. In other words, it was too cold to sleep, even with two people huddled together. So Ian gave up and went upstairs to turn on the heater.

Harriet, though, associates the heater with morning. The sound of it coming on is like revelry to her. She started to sing and talk and finally cry. Ian who had decided to stay upstairs because the cold was making him snore, came downstairs to get Harriet. He had hoped a diaper change and a bottle would settle her down so that she would sleep a little longer. It didn't work. She was awake and grumpy.

Ian finally gave up and woke me up at 5:30. By then I had gotten maybe an hour of sleep having finally gotten warm enough. Ian looked terrible and Harriet looked desperate. So up I got and the three of us went upstairs. Ian fell asleep on the couch and I nursed Harriet (while dozing myself) for three hours until Sean came upstairs at 8:30.

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-->Invasion of the Body Snatchers(Invasion of) The Body Snatchers: 01/13/07

The original title when published in 1955 was The Body Snatchers but the 1956 film forever changed the name in the mind of popular culture to Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The version of I read (for a BookCrossing bookray) was retooled in the 1978 and flushed out from a novella to a full length novel and has the movie title. It also has the ugliest cover art for a science fiction cover I've seen in a long time (but Sean thought the missing noses and mouths were funny).

This updated version also brings the story forward to the mid 1970s (noted mostly in the models of cars described in the books). These little changed details are minor annoyances in an otherwise fascinating tale of domino effect style invasion that ultimately ends in total ecologic destruction. The book uses science fiction and horror elements to question broader themes of culture, immigration and xenophobia.

Best of all, the story takes place in the Bay Area (Mill Valley and Marin mostly). Often times when the Bay Area is used as a setting, geographical areas get moved around or mushed together either for plot reasons or just laziness. Thankfully Sausalito this time is on the correct side of the Golden Gate bridge. This added realism made the story all the more enjoyable (and scary).

While the movie versions are fun, the book is better. It is more coherent and the characters are more believable.

Spring Freecycle

One of my goals for 2007 is to Freecycle one unused item every month. So far this month I've managed to find homes for three things (of the dozen I've offered). Those three things are: a green robe, a silverware sorting box, and a table cloth.

Today we had further incentive to do some winter cleaning (and keep warm by bustling around the house) because Derrick came to dinner. Sean was a huge help in picking up trash and putting his toys away in his room. Sean's help really made the house cleaning possible because Ian and I had to take turns bouncing (or feeding or changing) Harriet. She was not in a "sit in a bouncy chair" mood and preferred to be in someone's arms; I think her teeth are still bothering her.

For dinner Ian did a beef fondue. Sean elected to have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich but did enjoy sitting with us at the table. The fondue was fun and tasty. Ian used a recipe from his new cook book (thanks Mom!) and he's been having fun reading through to plan future meals.

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Moo Baa La La LaMoo, Baa, La La La: 01/12/07

Sean received Moo, Baa, La La La! as a Hannukah gift two years ago. It is a cute non-sense book that takes the typical animal themed board book and turns it on end. It starts out in a straight forward manner with cows saying moo and sheep saying baa, but then the pigs aren't saying oink. Instead, they are sining "La la la!"

After the initial gag that explains the title, the book wanders on to more exotic animals and what they might say. These last few pages lack the rhytmn and humor of the first half, which is a shame for such a short book.

My new "boss"

Harriet really enjoys sitting in the high chair. Besides getting to eat two meals a day from the chair, she also can supervise me while I work. She is actually easier to handle if I keep her now in the high chair than if I leave her in her bouncy seat.

When I'm at the table now doing an update I will bring Harriet along and put her back in her seat (if she isn't already there).Then I will put on some music (usually iTunes) and get back to work. Today she danced in her seat to the music and sometimes when I was concentrating on work more than on her, she would make a very silly face to get my attention. She would cross her eyes and stick out her tongue until I would notice and laugh. Then she'd smile and go back to dancing.

Meanwhile, Harriet's big accomplishment is the eating of solids. She started eating solids at the start of December but since returning home from the holidays she has really made eating solids part of her daily routine. Earlier this week Ian and I set up Sean's old high chair and now Harriet can join us for breakfast and lunch. She goes to bed too early to join us for dinner. For breakfast (after her dawn nursing session) she has rice cereal mixed together with water and some sort of puree. So far her favorites are sweat potatoes, squash, peas and apple sauce. For lunch she has just a few spoonfuls as she's usually full from nursing but she still likes to participate in the meal.

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Bad CatBad Cat: 01/11/07

Any regular reader of this site will know that I am a cat person. Caligula, my cat for the last eleven years has her rebellious moments and can nap on anything in any position. Bad Cat, the book version of the My Cat Hates Me website celebrates felines at their worst, their least photogenic, their clumsiest and goofiest moments.

The book has 244 full color photographs, each one with a caption, the cat's name, age and hobby (if any). The photographs were done by amateurs and are often times low quality. Many are staged but it's the captions that make the book so funny. There are enough funny photographs to have me laughing out loud every few pages.

Read the Review by Dewey

Spelling and Eating

Sean has been learning how to write and spell some words at school. That daily work plus the exercises we've been doing at home are really paying off. Today Sean proudly showed us his school work where he had written a bunch of words including: cat, web, bug and a few others I can't recall right now. On our refrigerator Sean has been practicing making words and names. He likes to spell out his own name. He has also spelled out "magazine" (with Ian's help), ow, eat, tea and others.

Meanwhile, Harriet's big accomplishment is the eating of solids. She started eating solids at the start of December but since returning home from the holidays she has really made eating solids part of her daily routine. Earlier this week Ian and I set up Sean's old high chair and now Harriet can join us for breakfast and lunch. She goes to bed too early to join us for dinner. For breakfast (after her dawn nursing session) she has rice cereal mixed together with water and some sort of puree. So far her favorites are sweat potatoes, squash, peas and apple sauce. For lunch she has just a few spoonfuls as she's usually full from nursing but she still likes to participate in the meal.

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The Wilcox QuiltsThe Wilcox Quilts: 01/10/07

Some of my favorites books come my way with help from serendipity; The Wilcox Quilts in Hawaii is one of those books. It is a history of the Wilcox family and their influence over the years in Kauai. It is also a pictorial catalogue of the family's quilts, sewn and collected over the last hundred or so years until the museum's opening in 1985 after the death of the last surviving Wilcox.

The Wilcox family came to Hawaii from the midwest as missionaries and ended up becoming one of the founding families of modern day Hawaii. The Wilcox name is still a part of many institutions, especially on Kauai. It is on schools, hospitals, and all sorts of other businesses. The Wilcox family is to Kauai what the Sammis family is to Huntington Long Island.

I am not a quilter but I enjoy the art of quilting. The Wilcox Quilts in Hawaii explains the different techniques in making what would be considered a quilt: applique, patchwork and quilting. Before reading the book I knew the words but never thought about them as they applied to the actual process. The traditional Hawaiian quilt is a combination of applique and quilting in contrast to what would be considered the traditional American quilt of patchwork and quilting.

The Hawaiian quilts for the most part resemble snowflakes of circular patterns except that the shapes radiating from the center are mostly floral patterns. Bread fruit and pineapples and other foliage. A couple of the more colorful quilts are made up of the Hawaiian flag and coat of arms.

Time to Bundle Up

This winter has been a weird one so far. We've not gotten the rain we should and it has either been hotter or colder than it should. We're going now from it being more like spring to it feeling like it wants to snow. Over the next couple of nights the temperature is supposed to drop into the thirties and on Friday night as low as the mid twenties.

Tonight I've "double bagged" Harriet, meaning I've put her in footed pajamas and then into her blanket sleeper. She also has her blankets as well but Sean and her room gets really cold at night. I've just noticed that Sean left two of his blankets upstairs so I'll have to sneak them downstairs when we go to bed. Caligula will be okay upstairs as it's naturally warmer upstairs than down in our bedrooms. Ian and I will cuddle together.

The balcony garden will just have to fend for itself. We don't have the room for brining every pot inside. I'm hoping that they are close enough to the heat of the upstairs and protected a bit by the over hang. So far the only plant that hasn't liked the cold nights was the pumpkin.

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Sagittarius is BleedingSagittarius is Bleeding: 01/09/07

Sagittarius is Bleeding falls in the timeline of Battlestar Galactica season 2 episodes of "Black Market" and "Scar." Unlike The Cylons' Secret, all of the current characters make an appearance and it reads more like an episode (or perhaps miniseries) than book number 2. Of these two most recently published books, Sagittarius is Bleeding is more faithful to the series but The Cylons' Secret is the more interesting of the two because it dares to stray from canon.

It takes a while for the book to get started. The first two or three chapters are rather sloppily written and come off as being big budget fan-fiction. The meat of the story doesn't start until about chapter seven.

The book's weakest point is its inclusion of Boxey (who is given two different first names: Andrew and Alexander). He was probably chosen to be one of the main characters to avoid interference with any future story arc because Boxey hasn't been a part of the series beyond the initial miniseries (thank goodness!) Boxey is by far the series' weakest character. The Boxey in this book read like a strange amalgam of the original Boxey and the one from the miniseries. He cycles between asking naive questions ala "Saga of a Starworld" and while being an angst ridden teenager.

Having Boxey accused of being a Cylon was fun but the book should have gone one step further and have Boxey found to be a Cylon agent just to write him out of any future books. Of course with the series premise that there are only twelve models for the Cylon spies it isn't likely that Boxey could be one. Those twelve slots are probably reserved for more important characters.

Beyond the silliness of Boxey being one of the protagonists of the story and getting to interact with all the major characters there are two interesting mysteries: how did the latest hyperspace jump end up almost putting the fleet into a sun and why is the president having visions? Neither of the flogged possible answers ends up being true, making for a fun mystery tucked in amongst the characters making sure they speak their standard lines and perform their standard actions.

This book could have been a lot better than it is. It suffers from fan-boy dialogue, poor editing (note Boxey's changing name), and some laughably bad descriptive paragraphs early on. With all of its flaws, it is still good enough that I ultimately enjoyed the story and would probably read future books in the series.

BookCrossing with Sean

Tonight I took Sean along for the monthly BookCrossing meeting. It was a busier than usual meeting and the parking lot was completely full. After sharking for about ten minutes I gave up and parked the car by the bowling alley and we walked back to the Starbuck's. We had about twice the usual attendance including a couple of new people. It is always awkward showing up late especially when there is nowhere to sit.

Deb helped find an extra seat and I got Sean settled with a cookie and some orange juice. Unfortunately for Sean his friend Connor didn't come to the meeting. Connor's mom says he'll probably come in February so I'll see if Sean wants to go again.

Sean loves the idea of having a couple hours a month with just me but the actual meetings bore him a little. It's hard at his age to sit while a bunch of grown ups talk about grown up books. He does his best to sit quietly, eat his cookie, drink his juice and not be too loud. Today I gave him the honor of doing our wild releases (meaning putting the leftover books on the Dublin library shelf).

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How Long Has This Been Going On?How Long Has This Been Going On?: 01/08/07

What Lassie? Timmy's trapped down the well and he's gay? That's what it felt like to read How Long Has This Been Going On? It is supposedly a well written epic of modern American gay history but it certainly has high reviews on Amazon.com but I found it annoying at worst and laughable at best.

The book covers from the end of World War Two through the mid 1990s. A lot happened in that time but I spent so much time rolling my eyes at the characters that I couldn't take the important parts seriously. The story is told in two main ways: in the form of dialogue between a naive character and a his (or her) older lover who has to stop and explain everything.

The second way the story is told is through the overly chatty omniscient narrator. I wanted to slap some duct tape on the narrator's mouth to get him to shut up long enough for the story to actually get somewhere. Some authors can pull off this sort of chit-chat approach to story telling (Christopher Moore and Armistad Maupin for example): Mordden can't. My four-year-old is better at telling this style of story, for goodness sakes!

Harriet Talks Too Much

After a couple nights without sleep, Ian and I were in serious need of a full night's sleep. We ended up sleeping until the clock radio went off at 6:50 (the first time in ages we've slept so long). When the alarm went off we heard Harriet "talking" as she does in the morning. We quickly got her up, changed and taken upstairs to nurse but Sean's glower suggested that Harriet had been up at her usual time and we just hadn't heard her.

Sean complained that Harriet had been up "talking since the middle of the night" and that she "talks too loud." He also said that Harriet should either "sleep upstairs or in Mama and Daddy's room" so that Sean could sleep without her waking up. We politely told him "no" but did give him the option of coming into our room to wake us up the next time we sleep through Harriet's early morning talking.

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Mr. SmallMr. Small: 01/07/07

Ian's parents have a large collection of Mr. Men books and when we visit, Sean likes to read them. Over the recent holiday I read three ones I've haven't read before: Mr. Bounce, Mr. Noisy, and Mr. Small.

My favorite of the three Mr. Men books that I read on new year's day is Mr. Small because it brings together world of the Mr. Men and the human world. Mr. Small is probably the smallest of the Mr. Men and his size provides a unique series of challenges. Ultimately though Mr. Small's biggest problem is boredom. He wants something to do in his life and he decides the best way to do that is by getting a job.

It is through the job search the the two worlds collide. Mr. Small goes to work for a variety of human employers. Over and over again Mr. Small finds himself too small to perform physical labor. At last though the perfect job lands in his lap. What is it? Ask Roger.

Telling Jokes

On the way home from the grocery store Harriet began to babble in the car. Sean started to laugh and I asked him why he was laughing. He replied, "Harriet told a funny joke." Sean then began to babble back to her, mimicking her sounds. It really started to sound like a conversation in baby talk. Every so often Harriet would giggle at Sean's baby talk. Then Sean would laugh and then Ian and I would laugh. It was truly infectious.

I'm glad that Sean has taken so naturally to being a big brother. Of course there are still rocky bits. It seems when one child needs a hug, both children suddenly do. Sean has also taught Harriet how to whine; she even mimics his facial expression. Sean, inspired by his sister's talent, has started whining more than he ever used to.

Ian's cold is dragging just like my cold of last April did. His coughing kept us both up last night so today neither of us were in our right minds. Our lack of sleep didn't affect our children's sleep schedule and they were up bright and early as always. After breakfast out and then going grocery shopping, we took turns taking naps. I napped first and Ian watched the kids. Then Ian napped and I made lunch. After lunch I took Sean and Harriet to get some art supplies at Michaels.

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Mr. NoisyMr. Noisy: 01/06/07

Ian's parents have a large collection of Mr. Men books and when we visit, Sean likes to read them. Over the recent holiday I read three ones I've haven't read before: Mr. Bounce, Mr. Noisy, and Mr. Small.

Mr. Noisy might as well be Sean. Like my son, he is loud from sun-up until sun-down. He is so loud that a town has been named for him (in a way). The town is called Wobbletown because everything wobbles when Mr. Noisy comes to town.

Mr. Noisy likes to stomp. He likes to shout. He also likes to do his shopping daily. Unfortunately the shopkeepers of Wobbletown wish he'd stay home or learn how to be quiet. Can a little reverse psychology do the trick?

Accomplishment

Now that the first week of January is coming to a close I realized I had to finish building my book tracking database. I had the "books in" table built (although it did need some tweaking) but to track the difference of books in and out of the house, I had to create the "books out" table. I have the two tables linked together via their BookCrossing IDs as the BCID is a unique number and makes keeping track of my BookCrossing transactions easier.

Now just comes the job of data entry. I will prioritize by recently released, then by reserved (these are ones I plan to read soon to then give to another member) and then the dreaded to be read pile. I also need to build a search page to make running the queries easier and prettier but that is another day's project.

While working on the mysql database, I realized what I was doing wrong with code to include tags on my livejournal sidebar. So after I got my database configured I had one more go at the tag problem. Today the problem was a lot easier to solve after having a good night's sleep. My livejournal site now has tags!

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Mr. BounceMr. Bounce: 01/05/07

Ian's parents have a large collection of Mr. Men books and when we visit, Sean likes to read them. Over the recent holiday I read three ones I've haven't read before: Mr. Bounce, Mr. Noisy, and Mr. Small.

Mr. Bounce as the cover art suggests is the size and color of a tennis ball. He also bounces like a tennis ball. In fact, he bounces so much that it's interfering with his quality of life. What does a little yellow man who is too bouncy do? He goes to his doctor of course.

Sean likes this particular Mr. Men story because Mr. Bounce is a ball and later he's a ball with big heavy shoes. Sean knows of another ball with shoes, namely, Kirby. When playing Melee and Air Ride, yellow is one of the options for Kirby. So it makes perfect sense to Sean that Mr. Bounce is actually a yellow Kirby.

A Day Wasted

I had really wanted to use my down time at work to read. Instead I foolishly decided to try again at adding a tag list to my livejournal. Unfortunately the documentation for the process (especially for the layout I chose to use) is minimal to just outright crap. A lovely LJ member has been helping me with the process but I think pretty soon my inability to figure this out will put me in the "idiots" corner with dunce hat.

Modifying code like this makes me frustrated to irate. I can do it eventually but I hate, loath, despise the process. It always leaves me bloodshot, angry and often times suffering from a migraine. I worked on it for 12 hours and only managed to get a place holder in my sidebar that says: "Someday my tags will go here."

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The Museum at PurgatoryThe Museum at Purgatory: 01/04/07

People define themselves by the things they collect in life and in the afterlife: that is the idea behind The Museum at Purgatory by Nick Bantock. Those who know themselves and are comfortable with what they've become can move on to one o the utopian or dystopian worlds. Those who can't come to terms with themselves (for good or bad) or those who don't know themselves must stay in Purgatory, the holding pen for the afterlife.

The narrator of The Museum at Purgatory is Non, curator of the museum. He came to the afterlife with amnesia, a rare but not unheard of condition. As he can't know himself, he is stuck in Purgatory. The hope is that he can jog his memory by cataloguing the items others have brought with themselves to the afterlife.

Any good museum book must have examples of its collections and Nick Bantock provides the illustrations but as drawings (as he does for the Griffin and Sabine books) and as photographs of what I assume are sculptures he produced for the book. The artwork isn't as big a player in the story as it is in the Griffin and Sabine books and the book suffers a bit for it. He's a better artist than he is a writer.

Well Baby

Tomorrow at noon Harriet will be four months old. Today she had her well baby check up. As Ian is on vacation, he came along.

Although Harriet has put on the classic rolls of baby fat, she is on the low end of the weight curve for a child her age. She weighs in at 12 pounds, 6 ounces (a pound heavier than Sean was at this age). She's gained a pound in two months but I really thought it would be more. My worry was that we'd be chastised for feeding her too much (after being told we weren't feeding Sean enough at this age) but Harriet's doctor thinks she's just fine.

Harriet held steady on her head circumference. Her head is 16.25 cm putting her at the 60% for her age. Her head is also still nice and round. She doesn't have either the flat spot or bald spot that many kids develop by this age.

Where Harriet excelled was in the growth department. She is now 25 1/4 inches tall, meaning she grew 4 inches in the last two months. No wonder she has out grown her smallest clothing and is most comfortable now in sizes 6 to 9 months old! She's gone from being in the 25% for height to the 95% in height.

Best of all, the doctor complimented us again on our parenting skills. She was pleased at how well Harriet looks and how happy she acts.

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Steps: 7000


Bimbos of the Death SunBimbos of the Death Sun: 01/03/07

Parody is hard to write and yet lots of people try their hands at it. Bimbos of the Death Sun purports to be a murder-mystery parody of a sci-fi/fantasy convention. All the stereotypes are there: the obese and desperate women, the pimply geeky fan-boys who forget to eat, the gamers who can't face reality and of course the obnoxious author who is appalling and yet loved by all. In a word: boring!

At the heart of the story is the newly published engineering professor who is too embarrassed by his success to admit it. He's so unlike any science professor I've ever met to be a complete distraction and detraction from the book. He's supposed to be the likeable character in the book but he's so two-dimensional and so far removed from reality that I didn't care what he did, said, thought or felt.

Finally at just past the halfway point of this train wreck of a book there is a murder. It comes so late in the book that there isn't any time to give it a good investigation or to even make it a coherent piece of the plot. There is more time spent on the description of the role playing game at the end of the book than to the resolution of the mystery. If I want to read transcribed games, I'll suffer through Weis and Hickman!

Winter Weather

Our first two nights home have been very cold. Monday night I shivered in bed until sometime after two in the morning when I finally warmed up enough to sleep.

Last night I took as hot a shower as I could to warm up before heading to bed. The shower helped a great deal and I was able to fall asleep quickly (after enjoying a few pages of Kim by Rudyard Kipling). Ian stayed up later than I did to take a hot bath. In between the time I fell asleep and Ian came to bed, Caligula did her part by crawling under the sheets. She stayed with us the for the entire night.

Over the course of today the temperature has warmed up and clouds have moved in. As the pressure dropped Ian and I (and probably Harriet guessing from her frowns) got horrible sinus headaches. Ian has the added problem of a cold he caught over the holidays. He's so congested.

After sunset it started to rain. It's been raining on and off since then.

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Steps: 5000


The Carrot SeedThe Carrot Seed: 01/02/07

My in-laws have a very old copy of The Carrot Seed among their collection of children's books. As I am a fan of Crockett Johnson's Harold and the Purple Crayon books, I had to read this book while visiting for New Year's.

The Carrot seed is one of Crockett Johnson's many collaborations. In this case, Ruth Krauss tells the story of an optimistic and patient boy who plants a single carrot seed even though he's repeated told "it won't come up."

According to Crockett's website The Carrot Seed is the first American picture book. It is certainly the oldest example of a classic picture book I've ever read. It follows the now standard method of story telling for the youngest of readers: a bold illustration which takes up most of the page and a few sparse words (a sentence at most) to counterpoint the drawing.

A Stretch of the Legs

Today Ian ran two important errands on the peninsula: picking up my pay check (because of the Federal holiday) and getting Caligula home from Shamrock Ranch. Caligula didn't want to come home as she was enjoying her nap outside on the shelf over her door. She howled all the way home but is now purring behind my head as I update this blog.

Meanwhile I was working from home. Harriet at first was enjoying her time home in familiar surroundings. She babbled for most of the morning, including singing something that sounded exactly like: "Hello; how are you" in tone. She can also say things that sound like: "mama", "uh-oh", and "I want more."

Near the end of the afternoon when I was pretty much done with work (and Harriet knew it), she made it plain that she was bored with being cooped up and wanted to go out. While it was too early to stray too far from my work computer, I did have time to take her on a walk around the complex. It was her first time seeing the entire Montevista complex and I think she enjoyed the walk. We didn't see any wild life except for one nondescript bird. Nonetheless it was a good quick stretch of the legs for me and a break from being inside for Harriet.

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Steps: 10000


The Cyclons' SecretThe Cylons' Secret: 01/01/07

Last month I was one of a lucky few to be given two books based on the new Battlestar Galactica series. In order of publication, The Cylons' Secret is the second book. While the cover art may sport "Number Six" looking both beautiful and menacing, she has nothing (thank goodness!) to do with the plot.

In fact, there are only three characters from the series in this book, the rest are new characters as this is a prequel right in the middle of that time listed as "The Cylons Send No One" in the opening credits of season one. Save for the invention of four ships larger than the Battlestars, the tries to connect the dots left in the flash backs of Tigh, Adama and Zarek's lives. While the story itself may not be canonical (good novelizations rarely are) it does offer interesting interpretations of these three characters that adds something to their characterization in the series.

The story itself reminded me a bit of Alan Dean Foster's interpretation of The Black Hole (1979) as it is told from the perspective of a group of outsiders trying to find the truth behind a station long since forgotten and apparently populated both by humans and Cylons. I liked how Gardener explores the tension between the four humans and the companions. Also some of the choices that the Cylons make for how the treat humans in this book provide some possible explanations for why the future Cylons "evolved" as they have.

Trader Joe's FloatHappiness is Watching the Rose Parade for New Year's Day

Another year has ended and a new one begun. Last night we had a subdued party. Ian and I tried to work on the traditional jigsaw puzzle but with his cold and my fatigue we didn't get anything beyond the outlining edge. Most years we actually finish the puzzle. This year we just weren't up to the task.

Ian's cold contributed to a lot of loud snoring. Since we had a long drive today and I wasn't sure I would be able to sleep (I just felt awake), I went back downstairs to sleep on the couch. While I didn't sleep well, I did actually sleep. Ian and Harriet woke me up at just past seven and I had to think for a moment before I knew where I was!

Harriet and I had a nice snuggle under the blankets while she ate. Together we watched the pre show for the Tournament of Roses Parade. By the time that the parade was ready to start, Sean had come down stairs too with his duvet and the three of us snuggled together on the couch.

After the parade we packed (Ian did an excellent job!) and had our traditional bagels and lox for brunch. By noon we were packed and on the road. Traffic was light but Harriet needed a number of stops for diaper changes and nursing. Each stop ate up half an hour and we finally stopped just outside of Tracy for dinner. A trip that could have taken five hours ended up taking more like eight or nine because of the extra time we needed. At least the drive was relatively easy and stress free.

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Steps: 3500