Reviews

If you actually care what I think about movies, music, or books, this is where to look.

Readings

I haven’t done this in a while. I used to do it fairly frequently.

Generally, I split my attention between five books or so. I can categorize them by context / purpose:

  • Work reading: Something work / skill related, that I read at some reasonable pace, which takes precedence for reading starting Monday until I finish the week’s quota. Currently I’m reading Design Patterns, and my weekly chunks are “read one pattern” which only takes about 30 minutes and makes a nice cognitive segment.
  • Personal chore reading: Something that I always mean to read, but never gets started unless I make a point of it. Currently it’s the entire collection of Edgar Allan Poe. Right now, each time I finish a personal pleasure book, I read 5% of this collection (minimum — keep reading until 5% is reached and I hit the end of a story or other natural break). After I realized how long this was, I wasn’t willing to follow my normal pattern of alternating between chore and pleasure reading.
  • Personal pleasure reading: These are the things I would read naturally — usually science fiction or fantasy. I try to vary between the two, and vary between older and modern. Currently it’s the Broken Sword.
  • Commute listening: Now that the kids aren’t in the car with me, I don’t need to worry about whether they’re sufficiently entertained during my commute. So, I started listening to audio books, since I get a minimum of one hour per work day to do it. Currently it’s Lord of Chaos, book 6 of the Wheel of Time. This is an attempt to get through the entirety of this series in a relatively unbroken chain and relatively short amount of time (which will probably be more than a year).
  • Home paper reading: All the reading above is digital. Mostly I read on my phone. And I have a huge queue of digital reading already. And I rarely have paper books with me, unless I’m at home. So, paper books just don’t get read if I don’t make a point of it, and I can’t reasonably just stop other reading when I start a paper book, because I would have it with me so rarely. Therefore, on the weekends at home, I read a paper book. Currently, it’s How Music Works. I might get through 10-20 pages a weekend, so it moves slowly.

Every once in a while, I get a specific reading assignment at work, which I have to dedicate time to in order to finish — over Christmas break I read Winning with Accountability for a discussion among managers at work early this year. A smaller subset of managers and I are going to start going through The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, which should take roughly one hour a week.

The last batch of Poe stories (Lionizing, Devil in the Belfry, Three Sundays in a Week, King Pest) have been boring or ridiculous in ways that I think could be made more interesting. A lot of his writing is over the top in a way I don’t find very appealing. I’m really not a huge fan of most of his writing. It seems to be a good bet that if the story’s name is a woman’s name, I won’t like it. I actually started reading Poe because someone told me that Lovecraft mostly wrote Poe fanfic. Maybe for some particular Poe stories, I suppose.

I’m not going to be able to differentiate between what happened in Wheel of Time book 5 (last finished) and 6 (currently listening) — but it’s right in the murky middle of the series where all of the female characters are the same unbearably annoying character, and where Jordan seemed to have lost focus on actually getting anywhere with the damn story. The book could probably be cut in half pretty easily without really losing much.

Provenance by Ann Leckie was not a bad book, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I hoped. I got this because I loved the Ancillary trilogy. This was clearly in the same universe, and wasn’t a bad story — but maybe it focused too much on the main character’s experience simply exerting self-control and weathering self-doubt and fear.

Posted by snaotheus in Reviews, 4 comments

Mounting Excitement

I was thinking about going and figuring out the bash command for mounting a disk named “Excitement” and using that for a title, but no one besides Monocular Ben or Phoenix would get it, and I don’t think they look at this site. So it’s not worth it. I think the command is something like “mount -sv -L Excitement”

Anyway, it’s December 5th, and Chilkat is scheduled for February 13th. That’s essentially nine weeks away, and I’m typing this with ceiling particles (drywall dust and insulation) up to my elbows because I’m trying to install a support for the ceiling fan we want in the nursery. KrisDi and D are out shopping. I won’t be surprised if they come back with paint and decorations for the nursery.

As this post’s title suggests, I’m becoming more and more excited, and I’m also becoming more and more scared (and anxious). I think KrisDi’s going to be a fabulous mom — at least until the kid reaches a not so cute phase or stops letting her play dress up (no, I don’t really think these things will impact KrisDi’s momming, it’s just funny to pretend it will). There are certain things about me that I know are problems (my temper, my extremely low tolerance for minor annoyances, long list of other things…) that I need to control. I think as long as I stay aware of these things, I’ll be a good dad. I hope so. I intend to be. One of my co-workers (my old boss) told me something no one else has told me about parenting, which rings of truth: You will find out things you don’t like about yourself, because you’ll see it in your children. I suspect that I will also discover things that I do like about myself through the same route.

I’ve read a couple interesting books lately. Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman is a book about life in Owl, a fictional small town in North Dakota. This book has three main characters and basically no story — just day to day life in small town North Dakota with one main event: A serious blizzard. One character is a high school student, one is an old man, and one is a 20-something girl from Milwaukee who just moved to Owl to teach. I thought the dialog sucked. Some of the things in the small town environment were pretty well spot on, some were way off (a cop is simply referred to as a cop — in small town ND, everyone is known by name). The part that made me think was that I had never really considered what it’s like to actually be an adult living in North Dakota — especially in the same small town where you were raised with all of the same people who were raised with you.

I also read A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller. I thought this was a really good, really interesting book. The premise is nuclear war mostly destroys civilization, and then humans finish it off by blaming the “intelligentsia” for the nuclear war and systematically ridding the world of teachers, engineers, scientists, technicians, burning books, and embracing “simpleton” as a positive title. A Catholic order is started by an electronics technician named Leibowitz with the purpose of preserving books and publications until such time as human culture could use them again. The book divides into three sections. First, about 600 years after the nuclear war; there is basically no scientific knowledge at this point. This is a sort of sad and silly section. Then, several centuries after that, people are just becoming knowledgeable enough to make use of the Leibowitzian documents; scientific progress is on the order of basic physics and math. This section is sort of sad and bitter tasting. Then, several centuries after that, technology has surpassed the pre-nuclear war period. This section is bitter tasting and painful.

I’m discovering that my brain is much better at multiplexing. To me, this means having many things going on simultaneously and being able to switch quickly and effectively between them. Primarily, this is at work. I find myself doing this with books now: I’m currently reading Starship Troopers at work on breaks, A People’s History of the United States at home as a chore book, The Gathering Storm as a fun book at home but interspersing chapters from The Simple Guide to Having a Baby at KrisDi’s request, and The Prince and the Pauper on my phone when I find myself stuck somewhere with nothing to do. I don’t think I would have been able to maintain all these story lines very easily a few years ago. It’s kind of neat.

I’ll try to post again in a couple days and put up some pictures. I’ve been pretty bad about it. Work has been crazy, we’ve had visitors and holidays and “snow emergencies” (although I dutifully scoff at the conditions that this area considers an emergency). I’ve been taking a C++ programming class at night (finished last Thursday).

Posted by snaotheus, 5 comments

Book Reviews by Northwood

A couple months ago, when Northwood visited us, we lent him a few books to read. I got them back a couple days ago, with a sticky-note review on each one. I was amused by them, and I wanted to share. “WTF” is usually a positive review for me, unless it’s extreme. And for me, extreme WTF is…well…extreme.

Slaughterhouse Five (Kurt Vonnegut): WTF? Made no sense.

I Am Legend and some other short stories (Richard Matheson): Actually interesting. Weird short stories.

The Stupidest Angel (Christopher Moore): Good, but WTF!

Bloodsucking Fiends (Christopher Moore): 7/10

Posted by snaotheus in Reviews, 2 comments

Hello again

Once again, I’m not posting for any particular reason. I also haven’t taken the time to prepare more pictures for your viewing pleasure. I’ll give you some options, though.

(1) Fremont Oktoberfest
(2) Jenga (we bought and played Jenga — it was fun!)
(3) GirlAndi and her daughter LaRyantrelle (I only have one picture)
(4) Pictures from Dad and Peggy visiting (this was a while ago, but we’ve been busy, you know?)

I’ve also been thinking about posting about things I think instead of things we did or saw. This would be a big change for me, sharing my thoughts and opinions openly is a pretty foreign idea. Anything you want to hear about? Politics? Religion? American culture? Education? Or I could just make stuff up, which I’ve kinda wanted to do for a while. Or I could think back and write about some of the things I remember about my past, which are sadly spotty unless something triggers a memory.

I’ve read a lot of books and watched a lot of movies since the last time I wrote anything to put under the “Reviews” section. I don’t even have the interest to go back and list each of them, so I’ll just start picking it up again as I watch or read more stuff. I read a short story, The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth by Roger Zelazny, which I enjoyed. This is at the recommendation of a 65 year old PhD I work with — it turns out we have a lot of books in common. There’s several other good short stories in there, and a couple duds. But they’re short, so you don’t lose much. I’m currently reading another book at his recommendation (Downward to the Earth) which I’m enjoying more than I thought I would.

I also started reading Shibumi at Wilmbo’s recommendation, which wavers between ridiculous fantasy and creepy believability (more time on the ridiculous fantasy), but it’s a good read so far.

Last night, Mr. & Mrs. Pope and we went to listen to Neil Gaiman read from his new kids’ book, The Graveyard Book, about a kid who is raised by the dead after his parents are assassinated. The reading was fun, it was neat to see him, and it was good to eat Thai and play Scrabble with the Popes.

KrisDi and I have begun our pre-Cana classes, which have been good so far. KrisDi’s doing a good job of vilifying me, so I’m proud of her for that.

Now we’re watching baseball and sitting around, which is good. I like sitting around. I haven’t gotten to do much of that for a while. White Sox are in the post season (although they’re only a loss away from not being in the post season anymore — we’ll find out tomorrow). I’m running out of beer, but I’ll get more soon. LagunitasImperial Red Ale is supposed to be out again now — I love that one.

I was looking up stats on North Dakota population today because I’m a nerd. Wikipedia’s “Population Density” stat of 9.3 people/square mile for the state is wrong — 639,715 people over 70,762 square miles = 9.040374777 people/square mile. Fargo’s “metropolitan” area contains 174,367 people, 27.26% of the state’s population. I figured out that without Fargo (not metro, just Fargo the city), the state’s population density drops to 7.76 people/square mile (yes, I was dorky enough to remove not only the people, but the area of Fargo). 14.16% of North Dakota’s population reportedly lives within Fargo proper, which is 0.05% of the state’s area.

Posted by snaotheus, 6 comments

Anticipation

Yes, the rumors are true. Mom rear-ended me. It’s not so much that she rear-ended me, it’s more that she rear-ended me, tried to act like it wasn’t a big deal (“Oh, did I bump you? My car probably has more damage than yours does.”), and I don’t think she even apologized (I think she was too quickly on the defensive to think of it). If she was a stranger, I would be livid. Since she’s Mom, I’m just annoyed and amused at the never-ending opportunity to torment her about it. I forgot to call her the day after and say things like, “Gee, Ma, our necks really hurt. What are the symptoms of whiplash?”

Anyway, this occurred on the way to Plum Delicious, which was okay (and no better), and definitely a restaurant for retirees and the walking dead. Mom gave us presents (a pretty green hand-made sweater for KrisDi, a t-shirt that says “Descended from Pirates” for me, books, Fat Bastard wine. The seat tried to eat KrisDi’s book, but with some disassembly and grunting, I was able to retrieve it (and a pair of reading glasses).

That was on the day of our final walkthrough, where our ‘concierge’ showed us all the features of the house that we’ve seen about a million times (speaking of which, here are some more pictures after touch up and the beginning of landscaping) and we pointed out things they missed and asked for little changes. We’re supposed to get keys on Thursday (the 31st), and we hope to be sleeping there on Friday. We’ll get a moving truck on Saturday to do all the big stuff. Luckily, this is one of those short moves where we can take a million trips with our cars full of little boxes, and so have nothing but big stuff to put in the truck, which isn’t too bad at all.

I had an interesting lunch at work on Tuesday. Me and two co-workers (the newest Test Engineer and the oldest Test Engineer, both Chinese, both shy and quiet) took out three of our Japanese counterparts (two with limited English, one with a heavy accent). The meal was filled with uncomfortable silences. It turns out that the one with better English is from a smaller town close to Sasebo, where I’ve spent a lot of time, which was neat, and displaced the last few minutes of uncomfortable silence on the drive back to work.

KrisDi made some crazy new chipotle beef and butternut squash concoction, which was excellent and fed us royally for two meals. She claims it’s easy enough that I could make it (I always take such statements with a grain of salt). We also saw this huge bird outside our apartment. I took a couple pictures. Any guesses as to what kind of bird he is?

———– Book and a Movie ———–

Waitress. This was a depressing movie. So much pie, and I didn’t get to eat any of it. That makes me sad.

Lord of the Flies, by William Golding. Yes, it’s the first time I’ve read it. I enjoyed it, but talk about depressing.

Posted by snaotheus, 3 comments