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Random neat stuff from RSS feeds – Fri Oct 28, 2011
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Random neat stuff from RSS feeds – Fri Oct 21, 2011
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On the shortness of life

Quotation of the Day for April 12, 2009

“You will hear many men saying: “After my fiftieth year I shall retire into leisure, my sixtieth year shall release me from public duties.” And what guarantee, pray, have you that your life will last longer? Who will suffer your course to be just as you plan it? Are you not ashamed to reserve for yourself only the remnant of life, and to set apart for wisdom only that time which cannot be devoted to any business? How late it is to begin to live just when we must cease to live! What foolish forgetfulness of mortality to postpone wholesome plans to the fiftieth and sixtieth year, and to intend to begin life at a point to which few have attained!”

Lucius Annaeus Seneca, from On the Shortness of Life

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In Which I Read Stuff: Fiction

While I love them, physical books have a few practical issues for me at the moment.

One, it’s trivially out of my way to pick them up at the library. It’s only a few blocks but it has to be either on my way to work (unlikely, since the library doesn’t open until 9, and I leave to take M to school rather before then) or on my way home (which means I can’t use a transfer and take the bus, or which means I add 2km to my bike commute) – both awkward.

Two, I have to physically carry them around. My purse is big but once it’s full of Purse Stuff, lunch, coffee thermos, keys, iPod, etc. there’s not a lot of room for a book. Plus if the subway is crammed — and it always seems to be crammed these days — there’s not a lot of room to wave around a large book.

Three, if I buy them, they don’t go away when they’re finished. I rarely re-read books so more and more I enjoy reading something and then giving it back to the library so it takes up their shelf space, not mine. I know it’s there if I ever need it so the whole library concept seems pretty ideal really.

Four, aside from subway time, I mostly have time to read late in the evening after the dinner/child-putting-to-bed fuss is over, which means I’m tired and have trouble keeping my eyes open.

I haven’t yet committed to an ebook reader / iPhone type of object, so unless I read on my computer (and I sometimes do) my commuting/bedtime salvation is found in audiobooks.

Hurray, audiobooks! An especial hurray for unabridged (abridged books are an abomination) audiobooks read by authors or readers who are good at reading. A huge, monster-size hurray for ones I can borrow from the library. (Granted, borrowing most audiobooks from the library usually means I have to have a Windows computer “read” them to my Mac in real time and re-record them before I can actually listen to them, but whatever.)

So lately, my audiobooks:

Katie MacAlister – lots of fluffy but entertaining quasi-romances about dragons and whatnot. In the first couple months of this year I was working insane hours and wanted pure fluff to distract me as I fell into bed, and this fit that niche to a T.

Neil Gaiman – I had some short stories on my iPod as well as Coraline (kids book) and The Graveyard Book (YA-ish). He reads his own books, and well. They’re very good. I’ve read all his other stuff on paper, as it came out.

“I can believe things that are true and things that aren’t true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they’re true or not.

I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Beatles and Marilyn Monroe and Elvis and Mister Ed. Listen – I believe that people are perfectable, that knowledge is infinite, that the world is run by secret banking cartels and is visited by aliens on a regular basis, nice ones that look like wrinkled lemurs and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women.

I believe that the future sucks and I believe that the future rocks and I believe that one day White Buffalo Woman is going to come back and kick everyone’s ass. I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline in good sex in America is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theaters from state to state.

I believe that all politicians are unprincipled crooks and I still believe that they are better than the alternative. I believe that California is going to sink into the sea when the big one comes, while Florida is going to dissolve into madness and alligators and toxic waste.

I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance to dirt and disease so that one day we’ll all be wiped out by the common cold like martians in War of the Worlds.

I believe that the greatest poets of the last century were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis, that jade is dried dragon sperm, and that thousands of years ago in a former life I was a one-armed Siberian shaman.

I believe that mankind’s destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it’s aerodynamically impossible for a bumble bee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there’s a cat in a box somewhere who’s alive and dead at the same time (although if they don’t ever open the box to feed it it’ll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself.

I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn’t even know that I’m alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of causal chaos, background noise, and sheer blind luck.

I believe that anyone who says sex is overrated just hasn’t done it properly. I believe that anyone who claims to know what’s going on will lie about the little things too.

I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies. I believe in a woman’s right to choose, a baby’s right to live, that while all human life is sacred there’s nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system.

I believe that life is a game, that life is a cruel joke, and that life is what happens when you’re alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it.”
Neil Gaiman, American Gods

Patrick O’Brian – a wonderful, wonderful friend loaned me the entire 20-volume Aubrey-Maturin series in paper when I was pregnant with M and hopelessly sick and bed-bound. They’re fabulous books. “But I don’t care about 18th-century naval battles and spycraft,” you say. Yes you do. Trust me. Read them. Or get the audiobooks — the first one is read badly, much too slowly and ponderously and with no sense of fun, but the rest are excellent.

As actual physical books:

Ian (M.) Banks – I have a couple of these on my nighttable, waiting to be read. He never disappoints. But they are heavy, and I am tired, and once I read them they’ll be read and I won’t be able to look forward to them anymore. So they’ve sat for a while.

Jasper Fforde – recently I finished pretty much all of his oeuvre by finishing off the last two Thursday Next books (not quite as clever as the first couple in the series), the Nursery Crime books (fun but more ponderous, somehow) as well as Shades of Grey. They’re all well worth a read. I somehow came across Shades of Grey as an audiobook after I’d read it in paper, and I liked it rather more as an audiobook. Not sure why. It was very well read, anyway.

Charles Yu, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe. I wasn’t crazy about this one; I think his reach exceeded his grasp somewhat. Great universe, great concepts, but the plot and characters didn’t do much for me. The supposed cleverness overreached the actual content, IMO.

Anyway, there’s a brief overview of my recent fictional explorations.

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Random neat stuff from RSS feeds – Fri Oct 14, 2011
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Random neat stuff from RSS feeds – Fri Oct 07, 2011
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Random neat stuff from RSS feeds – Fri Sep 30, 2011
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Random neat stuff from RSS feeds – Fri Sep 23, 2011
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Random neat stuff from RSS feeds – Thu Sep 15, 2011
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Honest, if not quiet

M: I have a new book for school — Anne of Green Gables.

Me: Oh, that’s a good one. I like that book.

M: That girl talks way too much. She’s like [friend’s name] when she’s tired, all talk talk talk talk talk talk blah blah blah.

Me: Well, hon, you have been known to talk rather a lot yourself, you know.

M: Well, when I’m complaining, yes.

Random neat stuff from RSS feeds – Thu Sep 08, 2011
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Random neat stuff from RSS feeds – Wed Aug 31, 2011
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Random neat stuff from RSS feeds – Wed Aug 24, 2011
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Tomatoes, at long last

Tomatoes, at long last

Originally uploaded by morecoffeeplease.

They’ve been sitting there greenly for several weeks now and I was starting to lose hope that they’d ever turn red. Of course, they’re finally doing so at a very inopportune time.

They’re so pretty! I wish I liked them. I’ll enjoy feeding them to the rest of the family, though.

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Random neat stuff from RSS feeds – Wed Aug 17, 2011
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Random neat stuff from RSS feeds – Wed Aug 10, 2011
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The news, it burns

(Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal)

Quotation of the Day for August 7, 2011

“A study of history shows that civilizations that abandon the quest for knowledge are doomed to disintegration.”

– Bernard Lovell

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Random neat stuff from RSS feeds – Wed Aug 03, 2011
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Random neat stuff from RSS feeds – Wed Jul 27, 2011
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Once upon a time I was staffing a camp bus and there was this one little boy of about eight who DID NOT want to go to camp. He clung and clung to his mother who, in a moment of extreme madness, had actually got on the bus* to say goodbye to him.

Two of us pried the kid off the mom, one finger at a time. Finally Mom was detached (and firmly directed off the bus) but then the kid latched firmly on to the handrail on the bus stairs and couldn’t be budged. The bus couldn’t legally leave with him there in front of the white line, of course, and the mom stood three feet away from the open door, continuing to feed the drama.

Five minutes of soothing conversation with the shrieking kid got us absolutely nowhere and was making my head pound — I was, shall we say, not at my best after a long night out — and the mom was looking like she was about to lose her wits entirely and come back on the bus so finally I looked at a friend of mine and kind of hopelessly said “Help. DO SOMETHING.” He reached over and very quickly and neatly flipped the kid up over the rail into the front seat of the bus before the kid even knew what was happening. The bus driver slammed the doors closed and we were off.

The kid didn’t stop shrieking for a good long time — Barrie, IIRC.**

That kid? That kid has nothing in common with my kid.

Off to camp!

A mere 60 hours after her arriving home from her usual summer adventures in Western Canada, today was Camp Day for M. We got to the bus departure zone today and she found her friends, ran around with them doing some excited shrill squeaking, then got on the bus for three weeks of camp without a backwards glance.

“Do you think she’ll come off again and say goodbye?” D asked, and we each gave it about 50% odds. She did, in the end. Then she got on the bus and we smiled and waved as it left, and I remembered That Kid and felt glad that my own kid chooses other forms of drama.

Maybe we’ll get a letter from her this year. I’d give that about 50% odds, too.

* Rule for parents at camp buses: no matter how upset your kid is (or you are) it’s best to deploy the Madagascar penguin solution: smile and wave, boys; smile and wave.

** Once he was at camp he was fine. They all are.
I did make sure to send his cabin on their canoe trip with someone other than me, though, because it was really loud shrieking.

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