ciroccoj: (books)
Have to give Land of Painted Caves back to the library, which is too bad as I haven't finished it and I can't renew it because 60 people have it on hold. It's really quite a marvellous textbook. Very interesting descriptions of hunting, foraging, cooking, building, travel, art and society in the Stone Age. I've learned all sorts of stuff about the flora, fauna and weather of that time too. I would highly recommend assigning sections of this text to students learning about herbs, or evolutionary biology, or wilderness survival.

Wait - you mean it's not supposed to be a textbook?

How could it not be a textbook? I'm 489 pages in and so far there has been no hint of plot. Or character development. Or anything other than travelling around looking at caves, discussing cave paintings, eating near caves, singing in caves, peeing in caves, caves caves caves. Oh and repeating everyone's names and affiliations, and introducing people to domesticated animals, crossbows, and foreign accents, and singing the blessed Mother Song.

Anyway, I'm putting the book on hold so I can finish it when it's next available. I really am enjoying it, in a history-geeky, totally not-holding-out-for-a-story kind of way.

Misc

Nov. 2nd, 2011 09:28 am
ciroccoj: (black stripe tae kwon dos)
  1. Just finished The Hunger Games trilogy.

    :O :O :O

    Wow.

    Daniel's not quite finished. We've been racing through the books together, making comments (OMG could you believe Haymitch?!) and I keep being reminded of my mom and how we used to do that too.

    Wow.

  2. By contrast, Land of Painted Caves is going slowly. But it's really not as bad as everyone said, IMHO. I know I have astonishingly low standards, but I'm not disgusted by it yet. Of course I'm on page 200 and nothing has actually, you know, happened, but it's still pretty interesting in a travelogue/Paleolithic history book kind of way.

    It also helps that I'd been warned that the introductions became endless and that every. single. person noticed Ayla's unusual accent and that the Mother Song has not yet been sung.

    I am also grateful that it took over a hundred pages for them to get it on, and that there have been no passages of animals mating. That mammoth tryst in the second book still has me traumatized, twenty years after first reading it o_0

  3. I can't wait for Sunday. Or even Saturday afternoon. We've been eating, sleeping and breathing TKD for so long I'm beginning to forget we've ever done anything else.

  4. Daniel's gonna need to shave soon.
ciroccoj: (books)
  • Our tomatoes grew very well this year, though not as abundantly as previous summers. We also now have a plethora of green tomatoes. As we've done every few years, we made fried green tomatoes with milk gravy (recipe courtesy of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe). This year there were two differences in the tradition: (1) we also made cornbread and creamed corn (also from the book) and (2) the boys loved it. Fully expecting them to turn their noses up at it, I hadn't made enough for everyone to have seconds. Boo.

    OTOH, we still have a lot of green tomatoes. Think we'll try some of the other recipes next week. Okra and hominy grits, anyone?

  • I am reading Justin Fried Green Tomatoes. He loves it. Am pleased.

  • Yesterday's "OMG how can we get rid of Justin's lethal hot peppers" meal was Turkey Chilli, a huge success. We omitted the paprika and chilli sauce. Still scorching.

  • Today's was Craig's Mystic Wings. Another huge success, though we used only 1/4 of the chilies the recipe called for. We'll be making it again, absolutely.

  • Black belt physical this Saturday. I can't wait for it to be over. I know I won't pass, and won't be able to do the test itself next Saturday, but I just want it over with, and I want Justin to not have to worry about it any more. And I want home schooling to not involve massive memorization of patterns and kicks and definitions and lists and all that fun stuff.

  • I'm not just saying I don't think I'll pass the physical out of false modesty. I can do all the skipping, 250 pushups, 250 situps, etc etc, but the 3.2K has defeated me. Justin shaved enough time off his 3.2 to make it. I shaved off almost three minutes. It just wasn't enough. Boo.

    Oh well. By the time I do the test with Chris next May I'm sure I'll succeed. I just wish I hadn't trained five times a week for the last four weeks only to fail anyway :(

  • Turns out it isn't my imagination: Daniel has been feeling a lot better about school recently. He says so too. He's settled into a groove, I think, which is good, because the Land of Stress he was inhabiting didn't look very pleasant. We'd been warned, and we'd expected it, but it was still not fun for any of us to deal with. Happily, armed with his psycho-educational assessment, I had a very productive meeting with his guidance counsellors and ::crossing fingers:: he's got stuff in place to help him deal with the adjustment to high school/IB.

    Supposedly in November progress reports come out and half the IB kids freak right out. We'll see how he does.

  • Daniel and I are both reading The Hunger Games. Both thinking, "So that's what everyone was talking about when they said it was like the best YA books ever."

    Wow. Just. Wow.

  • I'm finally reading Land of Painted Caves. I'm wondering if I actually managed to lower my expectations to the point where no book could possibly fall lower. Then I remember all the bad, bad, baaaad fic I've read and am not so sure. Could it be that the book isn't as bad as everyone said it was?

    Of course, I'm only 30 pages in. Reserving judgement.
ciroccoj: (Books)
Books read in the last... um... many months. Wow. I really did let a while go by without one of these, didn't I?

  • Me:
    • The Heathen's Guide to World Religions, by William Hopper. It's irreverent and hilarious and quite informative. The author is a former Queen's University divinity student who, I dunno, went a little psycho and veered into anti-religiousness rather spectacularly. Although he does treat a lot of the original teachings with respect (well... other than calling Jesus "Josh" and Buddha "Sid"); he mostly reserves his snark for religious institutions.
    • Surviving Hitler, by Andrea Warren. Kids' book. Well written. Now overdue. Eeep.
    • Borrowed Children, by George Ella Lyon. Another kids' book. Also overdue.
    • Antarctica, by Kim Stanley Robinson. Had already read it, but it's worth going back to. I always feel like my IQ has either gone up a few notches after I've read a bit of it, or that it's gone down several notches while I'm reading. Robinson is distressingly smart. He confuses me.


  • Daniel:
    • Read quite a few books for the MS Readathon. Let's see... there were the Tales from the Midnight Library: Blood and Sand, Voices, End Game, by Damien Graves; a Magic Treehouse book, Vacation Under the Volcano; the first book of the Prydain Chronicles (The Book of Three, by Lloyd Alexander, which he loved; he told Justin at one point "If you were Fflewdur Fflam, every string in your harp would be breaking right now!" If you've read Prydain, you'll get the meaning of that one ;); The Little Broomstick, by Mary Stewart, and The Day of the Triffids, by John Wyndham.
    • Then the Readathon was over and he continued reading the Prydain books. He's gone through The Black Cauldron, The Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer (his favourite so far) and today began the last one, The High King.

      How did his childhood go by so quickly and get him to this place where he's reading books I remember reading at his age?


  • Chris and the Boys:
    Finished Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in September, started The Order of the Phoenix, and finished it in December, I think. They then started reading The Half-Blood Prince, the first time Chris or Justin have ever read a Harry Potter book where they have no idea what will happen because they have not seen the movie. Justin doesn't even know that spoiler ) dies. And I don't think Chris knows the identity of the Half-Blood Prince. Other than the fact that it is not Voldemort's little brother, Skippy.

  • Justin:
    Read a hell of a lot for the home schooling MS Readathon too (which raised over $750, BTW!). Among his books: Get Well, Good Knight; Arthur's New Baby; Poppleton and Friends; In a Dark, Dark Room; Fox In Socks; Ghosts and Other Scary Stories and Pie Rats Ahoy!

    We are now reading through Little House in the Big Woods together. And again, I'm not sure how he got so big so fast. I remember reading the Little House Books. It wasn't that long ago, was it?

  • Chris:
    Read Hot Air: Meeting Canada's Climate Change Challenge, by Jeffrey Simpson , Mark Jaccard and Nic Rivers. Interesting. Depressing. Will have to read it myself, as I only got little tidbits from Chris' reading.
ciroccoj: (Books)
  • Me: Am still slogging through Starfarers, by Poul Anderson. I think I should've paid more attention at the beginning when the ten major characters were introduced, because I'm confused about some motivations and backgrounds and some of the initial romantic pairings, so I think I'm missing out on some of the more significant personal development going on.

    Hm... what else am I reading? Really can't remember. Ah, yes, Fifty Degrees Below. Still slogging there as well.

  • Chris: "For pleasure? Nothing. Read about half a dozen journal articles."
    "Does a computer software manual count?"
    "Does it count that some of the journal articles are really long? Or boring?"
    "Are you writing what I'm saying?"

  • Daniel: Same old, D&D books. Now that the new school year has started, I'm going to see if he wants to read any of my old young reader books. A Wrinkle in Time is one idea.

  • Justin: We are almost all done Farmer Boy. He likes it, he really likes it! I think it's all the food and food-growing.

  • Chris and the Boys: Are more than halfway through Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I think he felt self-conscious that I called him lame for taking six months each to read the first three books in the series. That, and the Order of the Phoenix movie and Daniel continually pulling me aside to discuss plot points in the last book - away from Justin - got Justin very enthused about the books, where before he'd been kind of meh. At this rate they'll be done in about a month. Colour me impressed.
  • ciroccoj: (Books)
    Wow, haven't done one of these in a while.

    • Me: Let's see... there was Time Storm, by Gordon Dickson, which I don't have much to say about other than it's kinda neat but got a bit too weird for me by the end. It's about a fracturing of the space/time continuum in the universe, which manifests itself as walls of mist rolling across planets and changing the era where they pass, so that for example Texas in 1980 becomes Texas in the 1880s, or Kansas turns into the Kansas Ocean that existed in prehistoric times, or New York suddenly has floating taxis. Being a history buff, that's the part that intrigues me the most, but the book itself concentrates more on the main character's struggle to stabilize the mistwalls. Which is very cool and very well-written, but not what drew me to the book in the first place.

      ::shrug:: Still, it's my second time reading it. It's good enough (IMHO) to read twice.

      Also re-read The Chrysalids, by John Wyndham, for about the twentieth time. I think I first read it at Daniel's age. Brilliant book. I've practically memorized it by now. Am not sure Daniel's old enough to read it yet. He's a bit less mature than I was at his age. Then again, he's a boy, so that shouldn't be a surprise.

      Also am struggling through Starfarers, by Poul Anderson. I've been plugging away at this for a while now. It's going slowly.

      Am also slowly, slowly making my way through Fifty Degrees Below, by Kim Stanley Robinson. I have a huge huge HUGE geekcrush on KSR, and love this book, but for the first time I'm finding myself a bit bogged down and even sometimes a tad bored with one of his books. It's the sequel to Forty Days of Rain, set in the near future where global warming has caused extensive flooding everywhere (eg, small island nations have disappeared and Washington DC had to be evacuated as the waters reached up to the Lincoln Memorial's mid-knee). In Fifty Degrees, the North Atlantic current it showing signs that it's going to grind to a halt, plunging much of the world (especially Europe) into an ice age. A bunch of scientists, lobbyists and politicians are trying to figure out how to avert disaster. Very gripping, except I'm about a third of the way through the story and so far have mostly been reading about how one scientist has decided that rather than spend a fortune paying rent for a basement bachelor apartment that's still covered in mud and mildew (about the best one can expect in post-flood Washington DC), he's going to live in a treehouse. It's really cool, but gets a bit tedious after a while.

      Also, read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, because how could I not read it? As Chris has still not read it, I'm keeping mum on spoilers on my lj. Besides, I already reviewed it (see above link).

    • Chris: Dunno.

    • Daniel: Lots of D&D books. And Deathly Hallows. Which he declared to be his "favourite book of the series, except for JK Rowling's excessive bloodlust."

    • Justin: We have started reading Farmer Boy together. It's got history, told from a boy's point of view, it's got farming & gardening, and, most importantly, it has a whooooole lot of food.

    • Chris and the Boys: Finished Danny the Champion of the World, by Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake (Chris' fourth time reading it to Daniel, and third time reading it to Justin), and started Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I'd forgotten how much I like that book. Am actually sitting in on a few of the bedtime readings :)
    ciroccoj: (family)
    We've been married 11 years today. Go us!

    It's freaking hot.

    • Me: Picked up Starfarers, by Poul Anderson. I have the weirdest feeling that I've read it before, but I know I haven't. It's about a civilization where they never have warp drive, and people have to travel at slightly lower than light-speed. One of the plotlines follows the people who do interplanetary travel and who develop a community where they and their families live in a way that adapts to the fact that members of the community often leave for ten, fifty, a hundred years, then come back having aged only three years.

      Also picked up Time Storm, by Gordon Dickson, as a re-read. Earth is plagued by walls of mist that roll over the land and change time. So one minute you're in 1980s Manhattan, and then a mistwall goes over and you're in 1640s New Amsterdam. Very trippy and bizarre, but very cool.

    • Chris: Hm... dunno. Should ask.

    • Daniel: Nothing of note, but in a couple weeks I think I'll give him his very first Star Trek novel. Ishmael, Old Series. He's very curious about it, but I told him he'd have to watch a couple more episodes of the old series or it wouldn't make sense. He doesn't seem to mind ;)

    • Justin: Finished SpongeBob Readers!!! There is little I can say to express my joy at this. [livejournal.com profile] neonnurse, I hope Michael likes them. They're good books for learning to read - though the plots are a bit on the thin side (hey, Tolstoy it ain't) and the "tailoring to the sound being taught" could be done better - in that the reader (at least in Justin's case) actually enjoys reading them. The person helping them learn to read may be a different story ;)

    • Chris and the Boys: Finished Prisoner of Azkaban! I'll have to go back to see how long it took them to read it ::going back:: A-ha! They started in January, so five months. They're taking a break from the Potterworld right now, and are reading Danny, the Champion of the World, by Roald Dahl. It was the first long book we read to Daniel, for obvious reasons, way back when we lived in London in ohgod 2000. I think this is the third time Daniel's hearing it.


    Going to bed, where there will be Chateau Wogga-wogga to drink and X-Men III to watch.
    ciroccoj: (Books)

    • Me: This was re-read month for me, I guess. I re-read two of my favourite books in the world, plus one other one that was pretty good on first read, and showed up at the used bookstore.

      • The pretty good one was Humans, by Robert Sawyer. Liked it the first time. Saw it for cheap. Bought & re-read it. It's funnier the second time around, I guess because the first time I was reading for plot and missed a lot of the little Canadianisms here and there. Brief plot summary: window between universes opens up, and a person from a parallel Earth, where Neanderthals never died out but homo sapiens did, drops into our Earth through the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory, and thus into Ontario, Canada. The writer's also Canadian, and it shows. Lots of little in-jokes and cultural tidbits - Tim Horton's doughnuts (extra letters thrown in free of charge), the CBC, the brain drain to the US, etc. It's pretty funny. It also had a lot more atheist content than I remembered (the parallel planet's Neanderthals are all atheist), which was... interesting.

      • The two other re-reads were The Gate to Women's Country, by Sheri S. Tepper, and The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett. They're such awesome books. And the other books I've read by those authors are so... godawfully bad.

        Follet's Whiteout is interesting, plot-wise, but the vocabulary and sentence structure is most reminiscent of Justin's Step Two Readers. "Bob went here. Then he went there. He was happy. Then he was sad. Poor Bob."

        In Pillars of the Earth, I can see now that yeah, his vocab isn't extensive and his sentence structures lean more towards simple than complex. But it works, in Pillars. The prose is simple and unobtrusive, and either fades into the background so you're caught up in the story rather than the pretty pretty words, or, in some instances, sounds incredibly touching.

        Excerpt )

        Gate to Women's Country, OMG I must have read this book about a thousand times in second year university. Bad break-up, lots of feminist angst on our campus (it was the year after the Montreal Massacre, so... yeah), and this book helped me through. It's about a post-Apocalyptic world where civilized society (Women's Country) consists of walled cities of women and children, with a garrison of warriors outside the walls, containing the brothers, lovers and sons of the city's women. Boys are given to their fathers at age five, and raised in the garrison, only visiting home twice a year. At age fifteen, they choose to either remain as warriors, or return to the city through the Gate to Women's Country.

        It's just amazing. The story weaves between three plots: the present, where the heroine's son has just chosen to remain with the warriors; a play about Troy that the heroine is rehearsing; and the past as she remembers it, showing how she got to where she is. All the parts are so incredibly well-written, coming together so well, so many little bits and pieces that fall into place so wonderfully... it's one of those "damn but I wish I could write like that!" books.

        I've read other works by Tepper. I don't know if Gate spoiled me, or if all of them are equally good but you can only read one because all the others are exactly the same, or if she got more shrill and less concerned with, you know, plot as time went on. I don't know. I just know that I was completely unimpressed. Every book had a Conspiracy Theory. Every one had Mysterious Magic. And of course, Men=Bad, Women=Good. Next!

      • Am also reading Heat, by George Monbiot. Whoa. Will have more to say once I'm done. Just... whoa.

      • Also read In the Rapids, by Ovide Mercredi, for my AbLaw paper. Very good book. Might buy it for myself.

      • Keys to Parenting a Child with Attention Deficit Disorder . Interesting. Don't have much to say on the subject right now, as we're getting Daniel tested this week, but it's nice to have something to go on in that department, instead of just feeling like I'm going in blind.


    • Chris is finishing Heat, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and The Universe in a Single Atom.

    • Daniel has been mostly reading the same old books. D&D, Bionicles, Pokemon. He also picked up a Call of Cthulhu book. Be still my beating heart.

    • Justin: SpongeBob Phonics. We're almost done. Thank god.

    • Chris and the boys: Still reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, though I believe they're almost done. Trip to Florida provided a lot of reading time, especially since my voice went and I couldn't do the bedtime story for a few nights. Although the walking 12 hours a day thing took its toll on Justin, and made the readings a bit short some nights, as he lasted about a page before conking out.

      They're so big, and yet still so small.
    ciroccoj: (Books)
    • Me: The Martian Race, by Gregory Benford. Very cool, even the second time around.

      Am currently reading French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure, by Mireille Guiliano. Interesting so far.

      Picked up Brokeback Mountain (the short story) by Annie Proulx. It was... pretty good. Actually, really good. Weird, though. Normally when you read a book that has a movie associated with it, it's either the original novel that got chopped and mutilated to make the movie, or a novelisation that fills in bits and pieces that weren't shown in the movie. So you get the visuals, sounds, and all that sensory stuff from the movie, and the emotional depth from the book.

      Not this time; the book itself is only 90 pages long, so all of it went into the movie. Then the movie added in... um, about 90 minutes more to the story, filling in blanks here there and everywhere. The story itself is written in a very spare fashion, leaving a lot to the imagination of the reader. Which would've been great, I think, had I read the story first, but having seen the movie... there was nowhere for my imagination to go. Eg, beautiful three-sentence description of Jack Twist's childhood home, that leaves the reader with an impression of bleakness and poverty of the soul? Um, yeah. Got the visuals, thanks, and it's all white clapboard. Terse description of two young ranch hands, poor boys with nowhere to go, leaving the reader to imagine frayed jean jackets, squinting eyes and stilted words? That would be Heath Ledger and Jake Gglyllennhllall(sp?), a-yup.

      The one thing I was really curious about? You know, the whole How exactly do they jump from rough camaraderie and three-word sentences to stemmin' the rose faster'n a buckin' bronco throws off a drunken rodeo clown? Nada. It's also left to the imagination. Damn.

      Sure wish I'd a read the story first, is all I'm sayin'.

      Ahem. Will dispose with the faux-cowhand lingo now.

      Read the Gospel According to Matthew and Mark (King James), and am partway through Luke. It's for this week's home schooling. We were going to do Australia, since Daniel just finished a huge all-continents geography workbook and we're now wrapping up by devoting one week to each continent, but then I realized it's almost Easter. Whoops. Sorry, Australia & Oceania. We'll pick you up next week, I swear, but this week, we're touring Bible-land :)

      Also read Six Million Paperclips: The Making Of A Children's Holocaust Memorial, by Dagmar and Peter Schroeder, about a middle school in Whitwell, Tennessee, where students learning about the Holocaust decided to try to understand the meaning of "six million Jews murdered" by gathering six million paperclips. They eventually ended up creating a Children's Holocaust Memorial (housed in a Nazi cattle car), made connections with people in Germany and all over the world, and gained a better understanding of history and humanity.

      Excerpt: The railcar was off-loaded first and put on a flatbed car from the American rail company CSX, which had offered its services to Whitwell, free of chrage. Two days later, the flatbed car was attached to a big diesel locomotive and began the final leg of its journey. The date was September 11, 2001.

      As the memorial, a symbol of tolerance, rolled slowly through the countride, terrorists struck the United States. They slammed passenger planes into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. Another hijacked plane crashed in Pennsylvania. Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives.

      The students of Whitwell Middle School mourned with the rest of the world. For three years, they had worked to fight hate and intolerance. They watched the tragedy on TV with tears in their eyes. Nobody could talk. Finally, one girl spoke up.

      "If I had not known why we are building a memorial," she said, "I would know it now."

      Here's an article about the project, published by Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.

    • Daniel: I don't think read anything but Bionicle and D&D books this month... Oh, actually, no, I'm lying, yes he did. He read (for Europe week) a National Geographic article on Paris parks (October 2006), and taught everything he learned about it to Justin.

    • Chris and the boys: Still reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I think Harry has just found out Sirius killed his parents.

    • Justin: Read four more SpongeBob phonics books. And tried to read The Cat in the Hat: Do Not Open This Crate! book by himself, and got most of the way through the first chapter. Asked me to read the rest, but I was proud of him for making the effort - and even prouder of the fact that he decided to do so on his own initiative :)
    ciroccoj: (Books)
    • Me: Actually re-picked up James Michener's Poland. Am slogging through a bit at a time.

      Re-reading The Martian Race, by Gregory Benford a pun-title book where NASA has pulled out of the human race to Mars and the governments of the world have decided to basically privatize the space race by offering a huge prize to whoever can get humans to Mars first. Endorsements, reality shows, product placement, Mars Bars, cutting safety corners, capitalism at its glorious best and mercenary worst. It's quite cool.

      Biko, by Donald Woods. Daniel and I watched Cry Freedom (based on Biko) while he was studying Africa, and I remembered that I bought Woods' book back in the dawn of prehistory but never finished reading it. I'm doing so now. It also fit in quite nicely with my choir activities during February, as we prepared for our Black History Month concert.

      Very good book. I've learned lots. Ask me about the Boer Wars, or Apartheid, or Black Consciousness.

      Go on, ask me.

      Left off reading Tesseracts7. Will probably pick it up sometime in the future.

    • Chris: Read The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality, by the Dalai Lama.
      Excerpt (regarding GMOs): We must rise to the ethical challenge as members of one human family, not as a Buddhist, a Jew, a Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim. Nor is it adequate to address these ethical challenges from the perspective of the purely secular, liberal political ideals, such as individual freedom, choice, and fairness. We need to examine the questions from the perspective of global ethics that is grounded in the recognition of fundamental human values that trascend religion and science.

      I think I'll read this one next.

    • Daniel: Read a few Bionicle books that he got for his birthday. Well... not so much "read" as "inhaled."

    • Justin: Read, all by himself, two of his SpongeBob phonics books ("In a Fix" and "Rub-a-Dub-Dub", teaching short i and short u sounds) for English for his first week of home school. He's suitably proud of himself :)

    • Chris and the Boys: Are about 1/3 of the way through Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 8, "Flight of the Fat Lady."


    ***

    Because I'm link-happy and because February was Black History Month and we got to sing two concerts with an absolutely amazing high school choir, here's a link to one of their songs, Follow The Drinking Gourd, a song slaves used to sing about the Underground Railroad. A singing road map to the Northern States/Canada.


    Edit: Arg! Carp! That's actually a link to Nkosi Sikelel'i Afrika, the pan-African anthem. Still appropriate link for Black History Month, but not the song I thought I was linking to. I'll post the other link later.
    ciroccoj: (Books)
    Somehow I haven't posted here in over a week. ::squinting at screen:: I don't see how that's possible.

    Not much in the way of news, other than yesterday I learned how to give a cat insulin shots (not my own cat) and we went skating on Friday but had to give up after only an hour because I couldn't feel my toes at all. Oh, and the kids started swimming lessons again.

    And Family Law is depressing, yo.

    Books read:

    • Me:
      • Whiteout, by Ken Follett. The plot was about terrorists and a virus. The story took place during a storm. The storm was over Christmas in Scotland. There were many characters. Some were good and some were bad. I wanted to find out the ending. The ending was good. It just wasn't worth the boredom of the stilted prose. ::yawn::

      • Aztec, finally, again, and I loved it the second time around. I'll probably read it again some day, and, in the meantime, will be on the lookout for other books on that period in history.

      • Gave up on Poland, by James Michener. It's good, I'm just not that interested in Poland, I guess. No offence to any Poles reading this. I also wasn't thrilled that, for the first few chapters anyway, it was written very much in the manner of The Source, his book on Israel, where, instead of just telling one chapter per period, it's one chapter per tragic ending of an episode of the country in question. The Jews get driven out of Israel. The Crusaders finally lose. The Arabs are driven out of Palestine. Death and mayhem and rape and pillage and utter destruction of the same bloody village, over and over and over again. Cheerful reading. Really. I was able to push through for The Source; not for Poland.

      • Tesseracts7, a bunch of short sci-fi stories by Canadian authors. Some good, some bad, one that had me actually laughing out loud with the following lines:

        Jerry 1 definitely looks a little flustered. He keeps blurting things about Posse Comitatus, anal sex, Roundup and Atlantic City.

        Yeah, Jerry's jerking and twitching, trying to do a meringue and crunchies and recite the Bhagavad Gita at the same time.


    • Daniel: Finished the Half-Blood Prince, and is now doing some wrap-up on it for English. Laughed like an idiot at a picture by [livejournal.com profile] seviet entitled Santa's Dilemma, Christmas 2006. He'd like to read some fanfic, but, um... yeah, I'll have to hop over to SugarQuill and find something suitable. The answer to the question "Couldn't I read one of the fanfics you read, Mama?" was a decided Um, no ;)

    • In the meantime, he's started on a bunch of Jackie Chan books. ::shrug:: Fluff, but enjoyable fluff. We'll have to find another series for him to read for English. I may take out my Black Cauldron books; he's definitely old enough to read them, and I think he'd really like them. I have some grammar and stuff for him to do for English, but I kinda don't want English to turn from the one subject that I hold out as a treat to the one he needs prompting to do. Math became that when he finished the Grade 4 curriculum and got into multiplication and division practice.

    • Chris and the Boys: finally finished reading Chamber of Secrets to the boys at night, and they are now fairly far along in Prisoner of Azkaban. I've got two night classes a week and choir Wednesday night this month, plus a few choir concerts, so he puts them to bed far more frequently. And Justin's a bit older, so he's able to stay awake for more of the story. They're going at a pretty good clip right now.

    • Justin: hasn't been reading much, but seeing as how he may be home schooling in the fairly close future, this may be changing soon.


    I'm freezing. All the time. I may actually go to my family doc about this, because it's getting ridiculous.
    ciroccoj: (Books)
    We're off to Ottawa! Will be sleeping in our own beds tonight :)

    ***

    Books read in December:
    • Me: no more progress on Aztec or Poland, as I left both at home and haven't been reading much anyway, but I did read The Davinci Code.

      OMG.

      Opus Dei and Vatican politics and Rosicrucians and Knights Templar and the Louvre and Davinci and Cryptography and Public Key and Paris and architecture and the Holy Grail and the Sacred Feminine and Isis and Venus and Sub-Rosa and Romans and Hebrews and Kabbalah and cathedrals and the Priory of Sion and conspiracy theory and Latin and iambic pentameter and sex rites and Sangreal and Mary Magdalene and codexes and papyrus and Constantine and alternate gospels and Dead Sea Scrolls and the Golden Ratio and Disney movies and freemasons and Grand Masters and Nicholas Flamel and Swiss banks and Francois Mitterand and the Biblioteca Atronomica and royal lines and lions and tigers and bears, oh my.

      Did I miss anything? Like, about half the topics that came up in the book?

      What a total mind-trip. So cool. It's like a fluffy and dumbed down accessible version of Foucault's Pendulum, by Umberto Eco. I'll be re-reading it soon, and will definitely rent the movie, though I have no idea how they could possibly do justice to the intricate and glorious insanity of the book.

      Am now reading Whiteout, by Ken Follett. It's... the plot is really good, and the characters interesting, but I don't think I've read more stilted sentences and unpleasant choppiness since that time when I got a challenge to re-write a story of mine using only 10-word sentences.

      Which is really really hard to do, by the way. And it really messes up the flow of the narrative. Because variable sentence length matters quite a bit, you know. You really don't know just how much till it's gone. Single length sentences are awkward to read and grate unpleasantly. It's really boring as hell to write, too, I find. If you don't believe me, count lengths in this paragraph. All sentences are all exactly ten words long, I swear. Now ask yourself if you had fun reading the paragraph.

      Anyway. I find it hard to believe it's written by the same guy who wrote The Pillars of the Earth, one of my very favourite novels ever.

    • Chris: Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning, by George Monbiot, which I gave him as a Christmas present since he's been getting more and more environmentallish in the last few months.

      I'll have to read it, and check up on many/most of the research. What I've been hearing from Chris is... disturbing, to say the least.

    • Daniel: Got about halfway through Half-Blood Prince during the flight to Calgary, then got a bunch of books for Christmas (among them the Bionicle Encyclopedia, Justin's present to him and Wizardology and Dungeon Master For Dummies), so Half-Blood Prince got derailed.

      I love having reading kids :)

    • Justin: SpongeBob, unfortunately. I loathe SpongeBob. And yet all of us are willingly supporting his unfortunate addiction by giving him SpongeBob gifts! Daniel gave him a Spongebob Squarepants: Crime and Funishment graphic novel, and we helped him buy himself a Spongebob Squarepants Phonics set with the Chapters gift certificate he got from his grandparents. He's read part of the way through the first book, featuring "short a."

      ::sigh:: At least he's learning.

    • Chris and the boys: Chris finally finished reading Chamber of Secrets to them at bedtime. Will probably start on Prisoner of Azkaban when we're back in Ottawa. Now Chamber of Secrets took... ::looking up Calendar:: at least 4 months to read, so I'm estimating a bit longer than that for Prisoner. We'll see.
    ciroccoj: (Default)
    Handed in my essay yesterday, and OMG I'm so, so glad it's over. Though I still have my books and will finish reading them before I take them back to the library. Really fascinating part of Canadian history. Depressing as hell, but fascinating nonetheless.

    I'd slept 5 hours Tuesday night, 5 hours Wednesday night, and not at all Thursday (my GOD how did I survive the first two or three years of the boys' lives when 5 hours interrupted sleep was the norm for me? ::boggles::)) And I'd been writing, editing and footnoting almost without a break since about 3PM Thursday till 3PM Friday. Chris got home shortly after we'd returned, and sent me to take a bath, called out for Greek takeout, and sent me to bed at about 9. I slept for 12 hours. Sheer unadulterated bliss.

    ***

    BTW, thanks, [livejournal.com profile] mynuet, for the paper idea!

    ***

    Realized the other day that I hadn't done my "What did we read in November" thingy. So here it is:

    • Me: Almost done Aztec for the second time around. It's much, much more fun when you know you can skip the sex and gore. Much more fun. And now I'm really fascinated with that era and area in history. The other day I found myself reading through about a dozen websites on the Toltecs & the Maya. Such a geek.

      Started James Michener's Poland. It's... OK, I guess. I'm not terribly into it yet. Weird, because I'm usually such a huge fan of European history, but there you go. Maybe it's Michener's writing style that leaves me a bit flat.

      Finally gave up on Explorer. I'll try it again some day. I think.

      A Black Mark: The Japanese-Canadians in World War II, by Mary Taylor

      Bittersweet Passage: Redress and the Japanese Canadian Experience, by Maryka Omatsu

      A Child in Prison Camp, by Shizuye Takashima

    • Daniel: Sped-read his way through Order of the Phoenix and is chomping at the bit to read Half-Blood Prince, but I'm not done the questions yet. Too bad!

    • Chris reading to boys: Chamber of Secrets. Still. I think they're getting near the end.


    ***

    Some quotey bits from the Japanese Internment books:

    • Thomas Reid, Liberal member of New Westminster: The Japanese are an unassimilable race of people who cannot in the strict sense become true Canadians.

    • Major-General Pope, the vice-chief of the General Staff: From the army point of view I cannot see that [the Japanese-Canadians] constitute the slightest menace to national security.

    • Major-General Pope: The BC delegates ... spoke of the Japanese Canadians in the way that the Nazis would have spoken of Jewish-Germans...

      (He also said that one of the politicians told him off the record that many BC leaders had been hoping for years that a war with Japan would provide them with the opportunity to "rid themselves of the Japanese-Canadian economic menace.")

    • Hugh Keenleyside: It was a cheap and needless capitulation to popular prejudice fanned by political bigotry or ambition or both. (He had argued vehemently against internment, along with Pope & the other Army reps and the RCMP reps. PM Mackenzie King gave in to the BC delegates for political reasons.)

    • Cabinet minister Ian Mackenzie: It is the government's plan to get these people out of B.C. as fast as possible. It is my personal intention, as long as I remain in public life, to see that they never come back here. Let our slogan be for British Columbia, 'No Japs from the Rockies to the seas.'

    • Dennis Murphy, Vancouver Province Editor: To those who suggest that we select one group of Canadians, deprive them of their freedom and shuttle them off to distant parts we ask, Is it for this that we are fighting?

    • PM Lester B. Pearson, 1964: That action by the Canadian government - though taken under the strains, and fears and pressures of war - was a black mark against Canada's traditional fairness and devotion to the principles of human rights. We have no reason to be proud of this episode...


    Other lovely factoids:

    In Toronto, Japanese Canadians held property valued at $1.6 million. $1.3 million worth of it was sold for approximately a 40% of its worth ($0.5 million). The owners recouped 40% of the sale price.

    About 2% of Japanese-Canadians lived in Ontario. 95% lived in BC. When they were removed from their homes, they were told they could only bring one suitcase per person. They left behind their homes, personal effects and businesses, believing they would be back in a month or so. Instead they were kept in an empty exhibition centre in the livestock buildings for several months, in overcrowded conditions, men separated from women and children and not allowed to communicate. They were then sent to abandoned villages (women and children) or work camps (men). After many months, the married men were allowed to join their families.

    Near the end of the war BC decided to sell off the property of the Japanese. They gave a lot of it to the families of Canadian servicemen, sold the rest (including all the furniture, clothing, jewellery, toys, etc.) at about 10% of its value. The Japanese were not told of the sales until a few months later. At that point, some of them received nothing for their property, some received a small portion left over after "handling fees" (cost of storing, auctioning, etc) had been deducted, and some were only charged the handling fees, which meant that after losing their homes, businesses, clothing, etc they were left with a debt to the province of British Columbia.

    Myeah.

    There's some pretty cool stuff from the October Crisis readings too, but nothing quite as awe-inspiring as the above.
    ciroccoj: (family)
    • Halloween. Daniel was a ninja, Justin was a vampire, I was an absentee. ::sigh:: Will try to have pictures at some point.

    • Handed over the house keys and got the rental contract signed for my mom's place. It's both wonderful and sad. Mostly wonderful though, as well as a huge relief.

      ...and now I just have to do something about the dozens of huge boxes cluttering up my front hall and living room, and catch up on the last several weeks of Evidence readings, to say nothing of Civil Liberties. Oh, just kill me now.

    • Speaking of reading, here's October's reading list:

      • Me: Officially still reading Explorer. No farther along than I was last month. Or the month before that. It may be time to call it quits on this series. The alien civilization is fascinating, and the plot intricate and well-crafted and thought-provoking and, um, into its sixth book by this point, and I'm going cross-eyed with the complexity and dizzy with the alien names (no longer sure who is Tatiseigi and Geigi and Nindanda and Cajeiri and Cenedi and Algini and Mieji and Fiji and Fifi) and have utterly lost the plot.

        But! I finally finished Aztec! Thank god! The Stunning Book Of Mexíca Gore & Ickysex is all done!

        ...and so I'm reading it again!

        No, really. I got really into the culture and history and decided to go back and re-read it now that I had a good idea of where the plot was going to go and which icky parts were safe to skip.

        Which, BTW, is all of them. Really; except for the dedication of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan and the Xipo Totec sacrifice, it can all be safely skimmed. And as for the litany of revolting intriguing sexual practices, it's all quite missable too.

        So I've gone back and now that I know who the Mexíca and Acolhua and Tlapolteca were, I'm really getting a lot more out of it. Really neat.

        Except for the names. Tzintzilini and Xochimininque and Tlopetotecl and Chloxliptzicliqulaxtlalcptp and god, just how much peyote did you have to ingest before you thought developing a language that would make the sixth sheik's sixth sheep's sick kids cry to try to wrap their tongues around was a really cool thing to do?

        Tried to start I, Clavdivs. Names a problem again. Tuvius Pluvius Maximus Hellenicus Flavius Effluvium, and I'll be in the atrium guzzling bitrium, thanks. Will try again next month.

      • The boys and Chris: are still reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets at bedtime.

      • Daniel finished Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. He is up to chapter 11 of Order of the Phoenix, because I keep taking the book away and insisting he do some of his other schoolwork. I also hide it. It's neat, though, watching the book through his eyes; the first book he's read where he really has no idea what's going to happen, as he hasn't seen the movie.

        I made the mistake of telling him it was my least favourite of the series, though, which got me into some trouble. He kept running in saying things like, "You thought this book was BORING?!"

        "I never said it was boring-"

        "You thought NOTHING HAPPENED for the first half?!"

        "I never said-"

        "How can you call Dementors boring??!!"

        "Sweetie! I said the actual plot didn't really get started for a while, but yes, it's all very exciting anyway!"

        "But, but you said you didn't like it-"

        "ARG!! It's a GREAT BOOK!! I didn't say I didn't like it, I said I didn't like it as much as some of the other books! DID YOU HEAR ME??!! IT'S STILL A WONDERFUL AMAZING SUPER-AWESOME BOOK!!!"

        "Jeez, Mama, you don't have to yell."

        !!!!!


    • Should probably get some reading done and then go to bed. I'm so bloody exhausted these days. Hopefully now that I won't be working on my mom's house for a few hours every other day, I can shake the tiredness.
    ciroccoj: (WTF)
    Books read:
    • Well, I just finished Hawaii. Funny, I'd totally forgotten both how much I love Michener's storytelling and how unimpressive I find his actual writing. Can't even pinpoint why that is. I just find it terribly uninspired. His characters are well done, his plots are interesting, his stories are thought-provoking and educational... but I think if it weren't for the history aspect of them, I wouldn't read his books. The words themselves are just a bit... I dunno, flat or something.

      It's the difference between "Friends, Romans, countrymen: lend my your ears!" and "Friends, Romans, countrymen: I got something I gotta tell ya."*

      I'm still working through Explorer, no farther along than I was last month. Also still plodding through Aztec. The Spaniards just arrived in Mexico. Not that the narrarator is aware of it yet; he thinks they're whales.

      I almost abandoned the book last week, actually. It's a study in gore, for a lot of it, as the author very skilfully immerses the reader into the mentality of a culture where bloody death was a wonderful part of life, and bodies were dismembered with stunning regularity. It's very skilfully done, but icky. And I think I got the whole "the Aztecs viewed death differently than we do and here's why" theme about 300 pages ago, so I kinda wish he'd lay off that particular motif.

      Likewise, the whole "unusual sex practices sell books were the norm" thing has been done, thanks. So far we've covered group sex, prostitution, incest, rape, voyeurism, copulation with statues, and pedophilia. What utter joy, I'm starting to think whenever things start to heat up, in what exciting new way will I be revolted this time? And how long will my own libido spend retching in the corner this time?

      I can see why my mom never finished the book, despite its historical draw. I don't know if I'll bother to finish it either. The writing and plot are good, and the insight into the time and place and culture of Mexico in the 1400-1500s is brilliant, but the gore and depravity kinda really kills it.

    • The boys and Chris: are still reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets at bedtime.

    • Daniel is still reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and a Bionicle book that his friend Oliver loaned him. Very happy with both.


    ***

    October Goals:
    • get taxes done and filed and $ transferred
    • house
      • personal items out of BR1, BR2, entertainment room, guest room
      • personal items out of kitchen, brown room, dining room/living room
      • personal items out of basement
      • furniture moved out
      • insurance
      • fridge & stove
      • rental agreement

    • health insurance sent in


    Daniel's goals for October:
    • English: finish reading & doing activities for Goblet of Fire
    • Spanish: -AR verbs and -IR verbs, common irregular verbs, one translation.
    • French: not decided yet
    • Math: brackets, fractions, decimals, averages
    • Science: Chris' area, not mine
    • Social Studies: finish Hawai'i work, start Antartica/Oceania
    • Art: illustrate lapbooks
    • Music: finish level 2 books, start level 3


    *: Not my line; it's from a Bob Newhart schtick about Abraham Lincoln's speechwriter.

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