Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Books of March 2010

March 2010 Book Total
19 Books
6996 pages

Again I'm a little surprised at so many.  Though a lot of them were 'fluff' books... popular fiction that can be read in an afternoon without much thought or effort.

Laws of the Game 2008/2009
ISBN none
133 pages
March 31

Another soccer season approaches.  I like to reread the Laws before every season.  OSA is having technical difficulties so I haven't been able to register and get my 09/10 laws yet.  Only 4 small changes anyway, and of those, only 1 is what I would consider a change rather than clarification or semantics.

A Short History of World War I
James L. Stokesbury
ISBN 0-688-00129-7
336 pages
March 30

Interesting read.  It seems like the reasons for going to war were bogus, mostly it was about imperialism, regular guys died while war profiteers became rich, and the military leadership blindly repeated failing tactics and strategies, and in the end, nothing was solved - the whole thing had to be done again i in this case two decades later.  Sound familiar?  Sounds like every war.  Funny, as I finished this during morning nap time, CBC radio was doing a piece on the Soviet Union's war in Afghanistan and the similarities and projected similar result of the USA's war in Afghanistan.  The arrogance of not heeding the wisdom of those who came before...

One Shot
Lee Child
ISBN 978-0-440-24102-7
466 pages
March 25

Also from Bookmooch, also a nice quick read.

Nothing to Lose
Lee Child
ISBN 978-0-440-24367-0
531 pages
March 24

Another Bookmooch find.  Looked it up online to see if it was one I had read & was a little surprised to see it had some pretty bad reviews.  I think because it is the first Reacher novel to insert some uncomfortable political opinions.  Nothing truly overt or thumping, but the bad guys happen to be fundamentalist christians, injured Iraq veterans are given the shaft, there are army deserters, and there is a great line about Canada being smart enough to stay out of the attack on Iraq.  As usual for Lee Child, a nice quick read.

The Darwin Awards 2
Wendy Northcutt
ISBN 0-452-28401-5
221 pages
March 22

Shorter and suckier than the first one.  Not worth the 50 cents I paid for it.

Black Echo
Stephen Hunter
ISBN 0-385-48042-3
395 pages
March 21

Another 'Swagger' novel.  Also a quick and enjoyable read.  I think I've read all of the series now.

Echo Burning
Lee Child
ISBN 0-515-13331-0
420 pages
March 20

Another 'Reacher' novel.  Quick and enjoyable read.  I think I've read about half the series now, but not in order.

The Darwin Awards
Wendy Northcutt
ISBN 0-452-28344-2
312 pages
March 19

Only a relative few of these are actually hilarious.   My favourite remains the guy who kept a loaded .38 beside his bed and shot himself in the head one night while 'answering the phone'.  When I want my fix of watching people do stupid things, I much prefer watching the video on liveleak.

The Scarecrow
Michael Connelly
ISBN 044640120X
576 pages
March 16

Many moons ago, when I still used the library, I started going through alphabetically.  Not reading every book, but started at the A's looking for books to read rather than just scanning randomly.  When I made to to the C's I discovered Michael Connelly & have been reading his stuff ever since.  Leaf found this at a thrift store, a nice find, since it only recently came out in paperback.  I've mostly stopped reading crime genre, but always make an exception for Connelly.  By no means his best novel, but a quick enjoyable read.

The Education of Little Tree
Forrest Carter
ISBN 0-8263-0879-1
216 pages
March 15

I really liked this book.  Second time reading.  Short and sweet but moving as well.  Looking it up just now discovered there is some controversy surrounding it.  I can separate the book from the author.  Oprah could not... she apparently removed it from her recommended reading list.  You like a book... then you find out something about the author... then you don't like the book.  Yet the book hasn't changed.  As far as I'm concerned, it remains a book to be read.

D.G. Compton
ISBN 0-441-03088-2
224 pages
March 14

A strange one, that is barely sci-fi.  A story more about insurance fraud - getting a death benefit paid out after an alien abduction.  "Forty thousand in the bank... the reality of it slowly sank in.  He was rich."  That made me laugh.

The Genesis Machine
James P. Hogan
ISBN 0-7434-3597-4
338 pages
March 10

I learned a new word.  Not necessarily astounding, but surprising that it is one I've never, ever seen before.  I'm reasonably literate too.  "Persiflage".  A noun - 1. light, bantering talk or writing.
2. a frivolous or flippant style of treating a subject.

Heirs of Empire
David Weber
ISBN 0-671-87707-0
544 pages
March 9

Third of the trilogy.  Basically the same as Weber's Safehold series I read last month, except shorter.  I'm guessing this was the genesis for the idea.  "Technologically advanced person stranded or marooned with a more primitive society."  Religion is used to suppress technology.
I liked the trilogy.

The Armageddon Inheritance
David Weber
ISBN 0-671-72197-6
344 pages
March 8

Second of the trilogy.  Reattaining former technology and defending against alien incursion.  I find it interesting how many takes there are on alien species, from friendly to xenocidal.  Logical  arguments can be presented for either.  Xenocidal in this book, but I wonder if reality falls somewhere in between.

Mutineer's Moon
David Weber
ISBN 0-671-72085-6
315 pages
March 8

First of the trilogy.  Human beings are actually descendants of an spacecraft that arrived 50,000 years ago and disguised itself as the moon.

The Apocalypse Troll
David Weber
ISBN 0-671-57845-6
398 pages
March 7

Kind of like The Terminator.  Alien comes back in time to destroy humans because interstellar war goes badly.  Human also comes back to prevent said event happening.  Another of the 'technologically advanced in primitive society' sci-fi themes that David Weber writes so much of.

The Blooding of Jack Absolute
C. C. Humphreys
ISBN 1-55278-453-3
307 pages
March 7

Historical novel - I rarely read them - but this looked interesting & had a Canadian connection.  Nothing spectacular, but an enjoyable read.

Die Trying
Lee Child
ISBN 0-515-12502-4
422 pages
March 6

A good book for a sick afternoon.  I like the 'Reacher' novels.

Dead Headers
James H Jackson
ISBN 0-7472-5771-X
498 pages
March 5

Convoluted at times, confusing at others.  A slightly more modern Tom Clancy - the big bad soviet boogieman being no more, the evil Arab terrorists take their place.  Not my first choice to read, but Mars woke up from a nap while I was in the basement looking for a good book, so I just grabbed this one instead.  There was one line I particularly liked:  "Terrify the flock and the sheep gather around the shepherd."

Stop or Disable the Google Fade in

If you use google, you've probably noticed the extremely irritating fade in of their home page. 

If I wanted to wait for something to be displayed on a web page, I'd go back to dial-up.

There are several fixes available for Firefox.  If you use Explorer, you must first get a real browser.

I used Greasemonkey, a Firefox Add-on.  It allows you to customize how webpages display using javascript.  You download user written scripts - such as the one to stop the google fade in.   Loads of other scripts available, including ones that automatically delete ads, enable you to download youtube videos, or "enhance" various popular web pages - usually by deleting ads and unimportant crap.  If you're into stupid facebook games, there are also loads of autoplay scripts.  An interesting side note, two of the top four facebook scripts are to find out who 'unfriended' you.  Which, to me, says a lot about how stupid facebook has become.

Other option is an add-on called "No Fade In Google".  I haven't tried it since I like that  Greasemonkey is multi-function, but it would be a quicker and easier solution.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The first Robin of spring

In like a lion and out like a lamb.  We had snow yesterday after a week of warming weather, but back to warm this week.  Unshaded snow is all gone, but the river is only up to three steps so far.  I'm sure it will go up when all the shaded snow melts, but right now it is at least six feet lower than the last two years.  I think in large part due to having less snow this year.

Mars spotted a Robin this morning.  Very exciting, the first time we've seen him this year.  I would guess one from the pair that make our yard home each year.  Two years ago they nested in the cedar right beside the front door, last year somewhere down by the creek.  He's been running around the disaster that is our lawn looking for grubs and worms.

I put out and filled up the feeders last week.  We have one full of sunflower seeds suction cupped to the window, a nyjer seed feeder close to the window, and a regular bird seed feeder that I moved to the edge of the deck this year.  Also a suet feeder for the occasional visit from our neighbourhood downy and hairy woodpeckers.  We've left a number of snags on the property that the woodpeckers prefer, but unfortunately not as easy to see them.

Until the Robin, we've only had the local chickadees.  They overwinter, but I don't leave seed out, so they tend to drift down to the creek or across the river.  I expect our Purple Finches will show up soon.  A Northern Flicker also calls the back yard part of his range.  Common Redpolls, Sparrows (my mum can tell the different kinds apart - I can't), Pine Siskins, Yellow Warblers, Ruby Throated Hummingbirds, Blue Jays, Dark Eyed Juncos, and Crows commonly visit the yard or feeders.  Three years ago we had a Great Blue Heron living in the creek, he's since moved down the river about 500 metres.

I keep meaning to build a duck box to entice some ducks to stick around the creek for more than a few days.  I always think about it in the spring, but it would need to be placed in the fall when the water is low enough.  Keep hoping to see some cooler migratory birds.  We used to get Rose Breasted and Evening Grosbeaks at our old house, but none so far here.  Hopefully this year.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Joy of Vomiting

Never used to barf much.  I had an iron stomach... only food poisoning could get me, and that was a fight.  My grandmother's food got me once when I was younger - note that storing bags of potato chips in the freezer and opened 'keep refrigerated after opening' salad dressing in the cupboard are warning signs that maybe grandma's food may not be safe any more.

Eight or ten years later some bad takeout in the middle of northern Ontario took me out.  It was on the cross Canada bike trip.  Had to get out of the tent for copious vomiting only to be devoured by a million mosquitoes.

Four or five years later was the infamous puke fest at a bar in Vancouver.  I maintain food poisoning, since friend Karla was also sick later that night & we had both eaten the same food.  Served by Doug.  Who denies, denies, denies.  I just wanted to put my head down to feel better, but the bar staff thought I was drunk.  Irony since I'm a non-drinker.  I would have been fine if I could have rested a few minutes, but they insisted I sit up or get out.  So I spewed all over, then got out.  Take that, unsympathetic meanies...

Its not that there weren't other times that I needed to throw up.  I just put an enormous amount of effort into resisting it.  Not throwing up was hard work.  My body was sometimes desperate, but I had such an aversion to heaving that I would spend hours blocking it.  Deep breathing... distraction... lying very still...  I had loads of techniques.  But I would spend hours sweating and shaking, feeling disgustingly nauseous, all the while desperately trying not to spew.  Usually I wouldn't, but the suffering went on and on.

Lately I've changed my tune though.  I still have a mental block when it comes to regurgitation.  I still hate barf in the beard, chunks coming through the nose, the horrible smell, and the nasty aftertaste.  However, I've found that 30 seconds of extreme discomfort sure beats hours and hours of feeling like crap in order to avoid it.  Its not that I exactly welcome spewing, but I don't resist the way I used to.

Hence vomiting more in the last five years than in the previous 30 combined.  Including last night.  I knew it was coming so had restricted myself to fluids.  It was nice and runny.  I hate chunky most.  Felt better almost immediately and had a pleasant sleep.  So much better than up half the night fighting it. 

P.S.  We've been watching Goonies recently.  Should have saved the barf to throw over the balcony at a movie theatre....

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Guns for kids, yes or no? Poll

We don't have any toy guns in the house.  I don't think it was a conscious decision.  Having no toy guns hasn't prevented Mars from playing guns.  Basically, anything that has a 90 degree bend and can be held in the hand becomes a "zappy".  The straws from juice boxes are particularly popular.  "Zappy" because his only gun reference has been the blasters in Star Wars.  He loves the movies, the animated series, and used to watch me play Star Wars Battlefront on the computer.  Lots of "pshew, pshew, pshewing" followed by the bad guy (me) getting "zappied" and surrendering to the "powerful Jedi" Mars.


I know my sister doesn't allow my nephew Jovin to have toy guns.  I also know that last time he visited, he was very taken with the foam airplane launcher, which was somewhat 'gun shaped' and had a trigger.  There seems to be something about guns that appeals to little boys.  My brother and I used to play endlessly.  We'd run around the neighbourhood yelling "bang bang" and "you missed", "no I didn't", "did too".  I think we turned out OK.  At the same time,  I also see the argument against violence and that kids pretending to shoot each other just seems wrong.


Anyway, sticking with the Star Wars theme, I've been wondering about buying the boys a brightly coloured blaster that makes "authentic movie sounds".  I know Mars and soon Odin would love running around the yard, just like my brother and I did (although our favourite was replica Uzi - no red tips or blue guns when we were kids!).  Physical play, reenacting Star Wars (I'm so proud of that by the way), is it harmless fun?  Or does it show the violence inherent in the system?  Poll below, please vote and help me decide.


Should kids have toy guns?


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I should have gone to the Emergency Room...

It did feel like someone had stabbed me in the ear with an ice pick.  It was late Friday night though... I hate hospitals... I hate waiting around in emergency rooms..  and I had googled my symptoms...  I guess hindsight is 20/20.  As popular as internet self-diagnosis is, turns out I was incorrect.  I thought it was a blocked Eustachian tube which google told me would go away in a few days and decongestants would help.  They did enough to finally let me get to sleep, but it got worse over the weekend.  Saw the doctor Monday, its an ear infection.

Leaf and the boys had headed down to visit her family for the weekend while I stayed behind since I had been feeling so crappy all week.  They all ended up coming back early.  Two very grumpy boys - Mars also has an ear infection.  Not sure about Odin, but he has a regular appointment Tuesday for updating his shots, so I'm sure he'll get checked too.  Mars and I are both on antibiotics.  Unfortunately, it will take a few days for the ear infection to clear up, so an extra few days of excruciating pain and suffering since I didn't try emergency on Friday.  Serves me right.

I feel bad for Mars.  His infection isn't as bad as mine, but much tougher on him.  Ear infections are pretty uncommon with adults, I think we forget how awful it can be.  Not just the pain and the headache, but not being able to hear right must be unnerving for him.  He is actually in the midst of a morning nap right now, and I can't remember the last time he had one of those.

Friday, March 5, 2010


I've been thinking about garbage recently.  Its the smell.  I forgot garbage day last week and had a bag of garbage sitting in the recycling closet waiting.  We used to have a two bag limit in town.  We'd get special fluorescent stickers to put on bags of garbage.  No sticker... no garbage removal.  This year, garbage stickers have been abolished as a cost saving measure.  Hand delivering a package of stickers to every household apparently became more expensive than dumping costs.  There was even a public meeting to debate options...  I didn't care much, seeing as we never used our allotted stickers with our family of either four or five.

There is also a bylaw that all garbage had to be put out in clear bags, theory being that this would encourage recycling.  I haven't exactly grown up with the idea of recycling, but we're young enough to still have been adaptable.  Many people aren't.  It always shocked me when taking big items to the dump how many easy recyclables - that had a weekly pickup - still got dumped.  Paper, tin cans, and pop cans.

Anyway, waste wise, in a typical week (there is more garbage when we have a foster kid.  We have yet to have one who understood the concept of recycling!) we dispose of:
  • One full 35 litre kitchen garbage can - bitty things, non compostable food waste, dumpings from the vacuum canister, plastic, styrofoam, whatever else.
  • Between half and two thirds of a 12 litre step on garbage can - mostly diapers and wipes.  We used to be 100% cloth diaper, but Leaf had a hard time keeping up with laundry when the septic froze last winter & I was away at school.  Getting better again, but still use disposable 10-15% of the time, most often when carrying bags of wet and smelly cloth diapers is not practical.
  • Between half and two thirds of a 50 litre blue box with aluminum, steel, glass, and plastic
  • Between half and two thirds of a 50 litre grey box with cardboard and paper
  • Three 2 litre ice cream containers of compost (this goes into our own compost pile)

I've managed to improve my recycling skills.  The kitchen garbage would get overfilled by one or two days before garbage pickup.  The lid wouldn't close, it would smell bad, the bag would get pushed down into the container and make a mess...  I started being pickier about what got recycled instead and managed to cut it down by enough that  we now fill, rather than overfill, in the course of the week.

I feel bad about the amount of food we waste, but that is inevitable with two young kids.  Other than that, I think we do a pretty good job without going overboard or being inconvenienced in any way.