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July 2006

Rating System

5 stars: Completely enjoyable or compelling
4 stars: Good but flawed
3 stars: Average
2 stars: OK
1 star: Did not finish

Reading Challenges

My Kind of Mystery Reading Challenge 2017 February - January 2017-8



 

 


Learning to SwimLearning to Swim: 07/31/06

I normally avoid memoirs of child abuse, especially when presented as poetry. With Learning to Swim I made an exception because it came in a book box and I knew that all of us who had received boxes had received at least one copy. It also was short both in overall page length and in the lines per poem.

The poetry isn't that great. None of it has made a lasting impression to be able to quote lines. All that remains is a general sense of mood and of the events that unfolded that summer.

Here's my BookCrossing Review:

Ann Turner uses poetry to help herself recover from the painful memories of being molested by her cousin, Kevin, one summer. The poetry is not some of the best I've read but it does set the scene, tell the story and develop character. Each poem is also short and to the point. While the book is over one hundred pages, the poems flow quickly and the entire book can be read in half an hour.

The book was clearly part of the healing process for Turner and it is refreshing to read a book where one can see recovery from a tramatic event. It's nice to see that there can be a "light at the end of the tunnel" and a return to normalcy. So often these books focus on reliving the experience rather than moving on from it. I will be wild releasing this book in a week and I hope other readers benefit from it.

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Steps: 3500

Coyote BlueCoyote Blue: 07/30/06

I only have two Christopher Moore books left to read: The Stupidest Angel and Biff. Coyote Blue is one of Moore's earliest books but it has all of the elements of his style that I enjoy: a recognizable small California coastal town, odd ball characters who are some how "normal" where they live, magic, gods, a mystery, and romance. As Moore himself describes it in the inscription on the front cover: "A trick of the tale of the trickster's tail. Enjoy!"

Here's my BookCrossing Review:

I LOVED this book. It has many of the gems of what makes his Pine Cove books so much fun to read. I especially loved his choice of location, Santa Barbara. It's a quirky enough city for Coyote to play his tricks.

The scenes in Las Vegas seemed out of character for Coyote. He seemed too easily baffled by gambling. I found it hard to believe that a god who has spent hundreds of years fooling people and other gods would not be able to do better in Vegas.

My favorite of Moore's books are still his Pine Cove ones: Practical Demonkeeping and The Lust Lizard of Meloncholy Cove. They are a great combination of Pine Cove (a place just above Banning) and Cambria (Moore's home).

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Steps: 3500

Forty-One Illustrations: 07/29/06

I knew that one of my fall back themes is the straight-forward illustration, or doodle as I often call these pieces. Until I finished putting together my latest themed gallery page I had no idea just how popular! In the last six years I have created 41 illustrations. Most of these were created pre-Sean when I was just too emotionally drained to do anything too complicated. It was a time of two back-to-back miscarriages.

Now when I need something "easy" to do, I instead turn to my children for inspiration. I will be building a "child inspired'' themed page too in the future. While of course most of these will be inspired by Sean, there are a couple Harriet pieces and certainly more to come after she's born.

 

 

Cleaning House, Round One:

GarbageIan, Sean and I spent the day at home, cleaning house for our house guests who are arriving next week. Derrick and Lesley will be spending a night here before they head up the coast for a wedding. Later Derrick will spend a couple more nights while he's looking for work in the area. So today was the straighten and toss out garbage (mostly recyclables). Tomorrow is more straightening and some scrubbing.

Downstairs our big accomplishment is the installation of a new "Billy" bookcase from Ikea where a secretary was. The secretary never quite worked and always had dodgy shelves. The recent heat wave warped the poor thing to the point of self collapse. We also made room in Sean's room for Harriet's crib by moving the old chair into our bedroom where I will take care of Harriet's middle of the night feeds. After she is weaned, we'll decide if we want to keep and reupholster the chair or ditch it. Upstairs I put together Harriet's new bouncy seat. While I did most of it, Ian had to help here and there.

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Steps: 3500

Big Red TequilaBig Red Tequila: 07/28/06

On Wednesday I slogged through the rest of Big Red Tequila to the point of figuring out what was going on and how the thing ended. There are times when an obvious book is fun and times when it's just painful. I found Big Red Tequila painful.

The book has a fairly standard plot: main character with a checkered past returns home after a parent dies in a mysterious way. Of course he finds himself in the middle of a number of mysteries and himself in danger. Only the life lessons he's learned while living away (in this case San Francisco) and his quirky habits (tai chi and owning a cat, for example) will help our hero out smart the bad guys, rescue those who need it and solve the mystery! Yawn.

Here's my BookCrossing review:

There's nothing to make Big Red Tequila stand out from other mysteries. The plot and characterization have been stitched together from cliches and perhaps ideas pulled from a hat to randomize elements a little. I never connected with "Tres" Navarre or any of the other characters. The ending held no surprises and felt forced.

Having read through the reviews on Amazon.com, readers seem equally split among those who love and those who hate this book. Chances are there are future readers for this copy that will enjoy it. I just happened to be one that didn't

I'm sure there will be future enjoyers of the book I'm about to release: the reviews on Amazon bear that out. Meanwhile, I will be moving onto other books.

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Sewing Again: 07/28/06

Sean had two pairs of pants that needed fixing. One pair had a hole in the knee. The other is a pair of jeans that is too tall for him. He's right between sizes where a lot of the pants for 4Ts are too short but the size 5 pants are too long in the leg.

Ian said he'd take care of both jobs but I didn't mind doing them. Sean left them on my upstairs comfy chair and Ian got the sewing box down for me. While I was between assignments this morning I fixed both pairs. I'm glad my grandmother had taught me how to hem trouser legs. I know I didn't do as even a job she would have done but they still look spiffy and I'm sure Sean will be relieved that he doesn't have to roll his cuffs up.

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Steps: 5000

Lost in a Good BookLost in a Good Book: 07/27/06

Today I finished the second of the Thursday Next books, Lost in a Good Book by Japser Fforde. I have to admit that I didn't enjoy The Eyre Affair as much as I had hoped but another BookCrosser had already sent me the sequel and I thought I should read it before passing it along to another member. I went into reading Lost in a Good Book with low expectations. I was pleasantly surprised.

The second book didn't waste as much time with setting up the alternate world of a 1985 with an on-going Crimean war, time travel, vampires and the ability to travel into books. In Lost in a Good Book the world building is set aside and the characters allowed to live their lives. Thursday Next finally develops as a character and by the end I actually liked her.

Here's my BookCrossing Review:

The second book in the series is a big improvement over the first. The plot focuses more on Thursday Next and less on her wacky co-workers and the crazy version of 1985 in which they all live. There are still a few annoyances like the characters' stupid names. I realize it's a literary tradition that includes Dickens but Fforde's choice of names are just ham-fisted.

Besides the stupid names (Jack Schitt, for instance), there is a corny ending that was frankly done much better by Douglas Adams. The big secret end of the world wasn't much of a secret to anyone who had paid attention and knew anything about junk food. Yet the book was enough of an improvement that I was to give the third in the series a try.

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NasturshumsThe Fairy Garden Reborn: 07/27/06

Back on the 5th Sean and I replanted his fairy garden with the nasturshum seeds he picked out. Sometime last week in the middle of the heat wave six of them sprouted. They are now about one inch tall and have two or more leaves for each plant. I think we planted about a dozen seeds so either more will sprout or the heat killed off half of the planted seeds. We still have may more seeds to plant so if the heat gets more of them we can start again.

The heat has also taken its toll on Sean's pumpkin plants. A lot of the early growth has died back even with regular watering. I think we've also lost one of the six berry plants we planted back in spring. Everything else seems to have survived the heat.

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Steps: 7000

Harriet's RattleUncooperative Harriet: 07/26/06

Today was my second non-stress test. After this I only have four more left unless they start making me go twice a week in August. Anyway, I go in the mornings as it's better for my work schedule. Harriet, though, is not a morning person; she's made that abundantly clear from early on in the pregnancy. I tried eating a doughnut and drinking orange juice to wake her up but by the time we were at the appointment she had decided it was time to go back to sleep.

So for the first half of the appointment all we got was a nice graph of her resting rate of around 120-135. I'd poke her a bit and she'd wake up a little to move. The nurse even had to use a buzzer on her to wake her up. After the buzzer she was mad and didn't want to cooperate at all. She arched her back and pushed herself all the way against my spine to avoid the monitors. I told the nurse that I could still feel her because she was kicking me in the lungs.

The nurse took what she had and disappeared to consult with the on staff doctor. She returned in about ten minutes (of Harriet still successfully hiding) and told me that the graph was good enough.

Then it was time for the ultrasound to check on the amniotic fluid. While she was looking for the fluid she got a great view of why we couldn't find Harriet with the heart monitor: Harriet had arched her back in the classic baby temper-tantrum with her head and chest pushed up against my spine. She had the angriest expression on her face! Unfortunately I wasn't sent home with any pictures but if you've every seen a screaming new born, you know what I'm describing.

Fortunately the amniotic fluid levels are right where they should be and even with the recent heat wave I'm still not showing any signs of pregnancy induced hypertension. Harriet and I are still in great shape and the nurse told me to keep doing what I'm doing because it's obviously working. She also told me that the heat wave has brought in a lot of women from P.I.H. and the ones already being tracked for P.I.H. are having to come in to labor and delivery for heat related problems. She was glad to see that so far I'm not one of them. Me too!

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Steps: 7000

Drive My CarGood Bye "Cow Spots": 07/25/06

Sean continues to grow up. We had planned to wait until his well child appointment in two weeks before buying a booster seat but Sean has out grown his car seat. This weekend it was clear that his old seat was no longer safe for him to sit in. He was too tall for it and the five point restraints no longer fit correctly. We went to Target and let Sean help us pick out a new seat. We decided on the Graco No Back Turbo Booster Seat.

The most important thing to keep in mind with booster seats is that all modern ones are designed to work with a shoulder and lap strap combination. According to the CHP FAQ page, put the booster seat in the front seat if there are no lap belts in the backseat.

Sean was worried at first because it doesn't have "seat belts". He's so used to the five point system that it didn't seem right that he could sit in my car with a grown up seat belt. Ultimately we were able to explain how the booster seat works with the car's seat belt but the cup holders were the deal maker.

Last night Ian and I took out the old seat which now needs to be taken apart, cleaned and reconfigured for Harriet. We have to move the straps up and put it back in the car facing backwards. Then we put in the booster seat. It was so easy compared to the car seats we have. Car seats for new borns take the most fiddling, having dozens of steps that have to be done just so for the safety of the child. The forward facing seat has about half of the newborn seat. The booster seat has only four steps: put on arm rests, tie on belt guide to back of booster seat, put red adjustment piece on car's shoulder strap, put seat in car. It felt so odd to be done in less than five minutes on the first try.

Sean had his first ride in the new seat last night. Again he asked about the "missing" restrain system and we showed him how to use the shoulder strap. It only took him once to show him and then he was getting in and out of his seat like a pro. We still help him adjust the shoulder strap but the whole process is much easier. My only worry now: how will I find my car in a parking lot before I put the cow spotted car seat back in for Harriet? My back seat looks naked without the old car seat!

Entrances:

I have been having fun sorting out my digital art by theme. The next one I've chosen to cover is "Entrances" which includes doors and other ways into buildings. I am not including interiors in this theme (those would be ways out). Given my fascination with architecture, I was expecting more than the twenty-one I have finished as of July 2006.

Most of the images cover close-ups of doors from mundane settings though there are a few castles thrown in too. The oddest entry is probably Broken Window which I did for an artistic challenge back in 2001. My favorite of the set is The Gateway a piece I did last year built almost entirely from Bryce terrains. My most popular from the set based on my logs is Red Door; it brings in about a dozen guests a day.

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: 5000


The Truman ShowThe Truman Show: 07/24/06

On Saturday it was too hot to think or to do much of anything. I might as well have been sitting inside my oven with the heat on for baking biscuits because that's what the air felt like (outside and inside). While staring outside the front door at the still air and thinking about how it was already over 95° F and it was only the morning, I came across the shooting script for the Truman Show.

This hundred page or so book with stills from the film was one of the first book relay books I had ever received, all the way back in 2003. I remember I had planned to read it quickly and release it but I quickly got overwhelmed by both relays and rings while I struggled to find a new job after being laid off from Oracle. Then in 2004 we moved and I continued to work to get the rings and relays under control. Both finally are and the little book was sitting right there saying "read me." Given that my brain was melting into pudding it seemed like the perfect book. It had the advantages of being a shooting script (meaning short pages) and a script of a film I've seen enough times to be able to play it back in my head.

Here's my BookCrossing review:

I've had this lovely book too long! Today it is 100+ degrees inside my home with no AC and it's probably 110 outside. It just seemed like the perfect day to read the shooting script because it's short and a story I know well having seen the film a dozen times.

I thoroughly enjoyed the script and was interested to find a few details edited out from the film. I don't want to include them here to spoil these gems for future readers.

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Steps: 5000

SpookSpook: 07/23/06

Yesterday it was 105° F. outside and probably just as hot inside. As there was no escaping the heat we hunkered inside and read some books. One book that captured my attention and took my mind away from the oven-like temperatures was Spook by Mary Roach. While I had enjoyed her first book, Stiff, a couple years ago, it did not keep me interested or entertained as well as Spook did yesterday. She has matured as a writer and found her way of mixing information and humor.

Here's my BookCrossing review:

I enjoyed Spook more than I enjoyed Stiff. Between books Roach has found her voice and now writes with a delighful sense of humor while still presenting the facts in interesting chapter long essays. I ended up reading the entire book in one session and was disappointed when it was finished.

It might be that the many uses for cadavers may have been too sensitive a subject for Roach whereas the spiritual world struck her fancy. Her writing style seems freer this time and she puts more of her self into each chapter. If something seems odd or funny to her, she includes us in those thoughts. I liked that chummy approach to the book.

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Birthday PartyBirthday Party: 07/23/06

Today we braved the heat to attend Adhila's birthday party. She is the daughter of the woman who runs Sean's preschool. Adhila turned four today. Her party was held at the Castro Valley Community Park on Lake Chabot road. The park has a wonderful water play area with fountains and water guns for anyone to play in. Even Ian and I splashed around in the water to cool down.

Most, perhaps all, of Sean's friends from school came to the party as did a bunch of relatives and other family friends. Most of the kids from school brought both their parents. I think there were probably fifty to sixty people at the party, though many left early because of the heat.

We stayed for lunch and later cake and the piñata. The piñata didn't require beating with a stick. This one had rigged strings that each child could pull. One of the strings was the lucky one that would open the hatch at the bottom of the box and let the candy fall out. Adhila on her second try got the special string.

Anyway, we had a fun day. We did our best to drink lots of water and to stay in the shade as much we could. We were there for two and a half hours.

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Steps: 10000

Mom, There's a Pig in My Bed!Mom, There's a Pig in My Bed: 07/22/06

A hot day requires easy reading, something not too taxing but still entertaining. On days like this I like to read books written for younger readers. There are so many that I missed when I was a kid that there's an endless supply! Mom, There's a Pig in My Bed! is a book I picked up from the January BookCrossing meeting in Dublin.

While I have to admit to being a little put off by the odd title and equally silly cover art, the first chapter had me hooked. The family was refreshingly different and not the typical either too perfect or "After School Special" disfunctional. The three children were interesting individuals and not just cut-outs placed in the story to prove a point or illustrate the "moral of the story."

Here's my BookCrossing review:

Mom, There's a Pig in My Bed was the perfect quick read for hot summer's day. It's the story of a misfit family of five trying to make a living at being entrepreneurs. The father, an inventor by heart, can't keep a steady job because he's too distracted by ideas for inventions. Having lost his current job, he and his family move to Kansas to try something new: raising seeing eye pigs for blind folks who are allergic to dogs. While the parents' story covers the financial worries of moving and making a go at being self employed, the children's story covers the problems that lying to hide embarrassment can cause: rumors travel fast in small towns.

My only complaint with the book is the family's Friday night recipe, Mishmash Surprise. I appreciate the need to use up left overs and have eaten a few caseroles that come close to Mishmash Surprise but some of the descriptions in the book are revolting.

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Under the Sea: 07/22/06

Earlier this year I finished a series of drawings covering the alphabet, one letter at a time. When I was done I created a themed gallery to bring them all together. It was so much fun to see the series on one page that I've decided to do it with other themes that have developed in the last six years. Unfortunately I've lost the artwork I created from 1997 through 2000 but there is still a lot of growth from 2001 onwards.

The first theme I'm highlighting is one I'm calling "Under the Sea." These are mostly scenes from under the water but some include top down views through the surface of the water (as long as there is something visible underneath the surface). There are fifteen images in this series so far.

I will be adding new themed galleries as time permits. Each one of these pages takes an hour or two to set up.

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Steps: 10000

Thoughts On Sushi: 07/21/06

Every so often Sean decides he wants to try sushi but so far he hasn't followed through with his plans. I think once he's actually faced with a piece of raw fish on some rice he feels compelled to change his mind.

Anyway, Sean has once again declared that he really does want to try sushi. Ian told him he'd have to wait until after Harriet was born and that lead to a dozen versions of "Why?" and "How come?" from Sean. Ian explained that I "really, really like sushi" but I "can't have any until after Harriet is born." Sean thought about this for a while and nodded. Then he added, "When you have a Harriet in your tummy, you can't have sushi. You can only eat pancakes, waffles and biscuits." So apparently I'm on the breakfast only diet and all fetuses are now named Harriet.

Underwear:

Sean has out grown his oldest pairs of underwear as he's had them for more than a year (yes, it took that long to get him interested in potty training). Last night after school Ian and I took him to Target to get some new pairs.

Sean was as always confused because we both showed up and it wasn't Friday. He was also upset because the tip of one of the velcro straps on his shoes broke off and he really likes his shoes. Either this weekend (Saturday) or next weekend, he and I will head back to Payless to get new shoes for him. Won't that be fun?

Anyway, we had no trouble finding a large selection of things for Sean to wear. He was especially happy to see the frog patterned underwear offered in a larger size. His new pairs just fit (in that they are almost too loose) and should last him until he's ready to start kindergarten next year.

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Steps: 3500

From Bauhaus to Our HouseFrom Bauhaus to Our House: 07/20/06

Let me begin by saying outright, I like the Bauhaus style of architecture and its influence on other forms of design (interior, painting, etc.) I like the function before form approach, though the "anti-bourgeois" side of things made me laugh, bringing back memories of the 1980s when my parents went on an anti-bourgeois kick.

Having read a dozen or so reviews on Amazon, I see that readers are split on this book. Some love the book for Wolfe's writing style and an equal number hate the book because it is written by someone who doesn't like the subject he's covering. I am among the lovers of the book. I found his rants against the movement amusing and yet I learned more about the subject inbetween my laughing.

Here is my BookCrossing Review:

From Bauhaus to Our House is an interesting history of the Bauhaus school and its effect on modern architecture by a man who clearly hates the style. While I don't agree with Wolfe's assessment of the movement I did find his critiques refreshing and amusing. He writes with a very engaging style and brings the subject matter to life even while ridiculing it.

After reading a number of books by people who were such fans of their topic that they gushed more about how they got involved in the topic than actually writing about it, it was so nice to read a book by someone who had criticisms for the topic and had sense enough to leave himself out of the book!

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Steps: 10000

Tears of the GiraffeTears of the Giraffe: 07/19/06

Last night I finished Tears of the Giraffe, the second of the Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency books and have now declared myself done with the series. I just can't take any more of McCall Smith's romanticizing of the simple and noble ways of Botswana. It reads like Kipling but poorly done.

Here is my BookCrossing Review:

I had hoped that the second book would concentrate more on the mystery and a less on the soap opera but I was wrong. The mystery of what happened ten years ago to an American teenager is pushed aside by the main character's engagement, her fiance's trouble with a jealous maid and the future of a pair of orphans. The other problem I have with the story is Smith's use of dialogue. He tends to have his characters repeat themselves in very stilted language so that they all come off sounding like they all have speach impediments. I suppose he's trying to capture the nuances of the language actually spoken in Botswana but it just isn't believable.

Out of curiosity, I looked up the author and found his biography on Random House's web site. He was born in Zimbabwe but educated in Scotland. He later worked in Botswana to set up a law school. He currently lives in Scotland. He has the background to write stories set in south eastern Africa but somehow that expertise doesn't come through for me. The two books I have read have seemed stilted and forced in their language and far too nostalgic in their imagry.

Good Prenatal Appointment:

This morning I had the first of six non-stress tests for this pregnancy. The nurse who ran them was very nice and managed to take care of two of us in the course of the time I was there. I was hooked up to the monitors to track three things: Harriet's heart rate, her movements and any contractions I might be having.

I hade made sure to eat a sugary breakfast (dough-nut) and drink some orange juice so that Harriet would be more awake than she normally is. She was certainly unhappy about being woken up so "early" for a ten o'clock appointment. To show her anger, she did everything the nurse wanted: she kicked, she squirmed, she punched and she wiggled. All of those movements were happily recorded on the strip of paper along with a corresponding spiking heart rate. Meanwhile I was showing no contractions. It was a perfect (and quick) non-stress test. We were finished in half the time, twenty minutes instead of forty.

After the non-stress test, we had another ultrasound to check on her position and fluid levels. The good news is that she is now head down! Her fluid levels are normal. The bad news: I wasn't sent home with any pictures.

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Steps: 10000

CarBack to the "Wheel Store": 07/18/06

Yesterday at 3 PM, Ian telephoned me at work to say he'd had his second blow out in a month (see the June 19th entry). This time he was on the 580 heading into Dublin in search of an air conditioned store to beat the heat. He's not sure if he hit something on the shoulder after he had to get out the way of a crazy driver who was driving too aggressively or if it was the heat (104° F) but something caused his right front tire to blow.

Fortunately I was done for the day and was able to leave work early to pick up Sean from day care so that the two of us could then meet Ian where ever he may have ended up. Shortly after Ian had called me and tried calling AAA (only to find they were over loaded by a bunch of cars suffering heat related problems), one of the Caltrans sponsored tow trucks stopped to help him change his tire and get him back on the road.

Ian limped his car down to Sears where Sean and I met up with him. Sean had been surprised to see me picking him up but understood immediately what was going on once I told him about Ian's flat tire. "Oh, we have to go the wheel store to get Daddy," he said and off we went. I hadn't been to the auto department at this Sears before but Sean had. I got lost in the parking lot while Sean kept pointing helpfully in the right direction. Of course, I didn't pay any attention to his directions (what in born flaw is it that makes parents ignore good advice from their children?) and had to call Ian. Ian of course pointed me in the exact direction that Sean had been trying to get me to go for the last five minutes. Sean fortunately found my inability to follow his directions very funny.

We had to wait with Ian for about ten minutes while he waited to pay. Sears was short staffed at the end of the day and there were lots of people in there with cars with heat related problems. I don't think they were expecting as much business at the end of the day that they found themselves with. Sean meanwhile gave me the grand tour of the place, showing me where the doors have the word "open" on the locks and where the different tires were.

At last Ian was paid and we were able to caravan to Carrows for dinner. Ian's car doesn't have AC and after two hours of dealing with a flat tire he was parched. Carrows is the last remaining building on a city block that had been a grotty motel and an abandoned movie theater. There is now a Target going up and some other sort of building. Carrows's parking lot has been moved to the front of the building and the manager was outside making sure we were able to find our way from the new lot to the store. Inside there was a lovely breeze of air conditioned air. Two waitresses kept us awash in ice water and we had a lovely dinner.

Work from Home Schedule:

I'm so happy! We've finally agreed on a work from home schedule for the remainder of this pregnancy and have told our client the news. Now I no longer feel like I'm sneaking around to work more comfortably from home. Starting tomorrow I'll working from home 3 of the 5 days, still coming in on Mondays and Tuesdays to train my coworkers for the two weeks when I'll be offline recovering from Harriet's birth.

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Steps: 3500


Driving Mr. AlbertDriving Mr. Albert: 07/17/06

Lately it seems we are awash in travel memoirs. Perhaps it is the apparent ease at which they write themselves. The author goes on a trip from point A to point B and jots down all the wacky stuff that happens along the way. The trip might even be a source of emotional or spiritual evolution. Travels with Charley and I & Claudius are examples of travel memoirs that work. Driving Mr. Albert is an example of what can go wrong in this genre.

A well written memoir will still have a structure to it, usually tied to the geography of the trip taken. The chapter breaks often correspond to specific regions or stop overs. Sometimes these chapters are individual essays and sometimes the book is one long narrative with an over arching structure. Driving Mr. Albert is an odd mish-mash of essay, bad poetry, reporting, essay and narrative.

Here is my BookCrossing review:

I think Paterniti was trying to write some sort of modern-day Beat generation poetry of his trip across the country with Harvey and a piece of Einstein's brain. While there are sections in the book filled with fascinating tid bits of history or local color, for the most part, the author's rambling style doesn't work. There are too many jumps in thoughts, locations and times to give the story of the drive a coherent feel. Then there is Paterniti's rather off putting fascination with touching Einstein's brain. It's a 40 year old poorly preserved chunk of biomatter: whatever is left of it probably won't be the key to universe's mysteries. Although it is a short book, I had to struggle to finish it.

Another flaw in the book is its focus. Paterniti spends far too much time speaking of himself and his history when the book is about Albert Einstein, his life, work, death and the life his brain has had since his death. I was not interested in Paterniti's home life and history. He was the chauffer and the writer, yes, but the story isn't about him no matter how hard he tries to include himself into the narrative. He is not interesting!

Up Late:

Last night the temperature didn't drop below 90° F until well after nine o'clock. Since Sean had taken a siesta during the worst of the heat we had a late dinner and decided to wait out the worst of the heat. We played Mario Party 7 and had a great time. It's one of the few games that the three of us can play together. It's also fair enough in its balance of skill and luck to give Sean the chance to win as often as either Ian or I do.

The downside of our video game playing last night is that Sean didn't get to bed until close to eleven, which on some nights is my bed time! He still wanted a bath so he got a quick one and somehow this morning he was awake when I got up for work. Ian says though that he was tired when he got to school. We'll be better parents tonight and put him to bed at a more reasonable time.

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Steps: 7000

Mr. RipleyMr. Ripley: 07/16/06

Last month I read a three in one volume of mystery/thrillers by Patricia Highsmith. The volume itself is called The Mysterious Mr. Ripley and the three books are: The Talented Mr. Ripley, Ripley Underground, and Ripley's Game. The two books I loved, finding them hard to put down. Although they are more than two hundred pages each I was finishing them in one day each. The third book though was a huge departure from the previous ones. I think Highsmith had been hoping to show what a big fish her Mr. Ripley had become in Europe and therefore set him up against the Maffia: it doesn't work.

Here are my BookCrossing reviews:

The Talented Mr. Ripley

I think I've found a new favorite author. Once I got into chapter two of the book I was hooked. I managed to read most of the book today!

The story walks a fine line between the schemes of Tom Ripley and the people who try to figure out what he has done. There are many times when his plans come close to unraveling and Tom's vulnerability comes to light. Mr. Ripley while certainly tallented is also very lucky.

Ripley Underground:

Ripley Under Ground takes place six years (give or take) after the close of the first story. In that time Tom has matured and settled down. Ideally he would love to live a comfortable life in France with his wife and forget the sins of his past. Unfortunately Ripley's talents lie in forgery and he's been adding to his fortune by selling bogus paintings of a long dead artist. Ripley also hasn't learned to control his temper and he soon finds himself having to clean up after himself again and the police once more investigating his life and his past.

Ripley's Game:

In the third of the Mr. Ripley stories, Tom and his friends take on the Mafia for no obvious reason. While Tom manages to survive because of his luck, things otherwise don't go well. The Mafia is a professionial and highly organized criminal organization. Ripley while clever is an amature. Sure, he's killed a few people and gotten away with it but none of his crimes have been as premeditated as what he attempts in this book. Therefore the story doesn't seem as plausible and it failed to hold my attention as the previous two did.

Sorry about the crappy feed:

I should clearly not trying making updates to my blog when it is too hot to think. I've made two entries with mangled code. So I'm sorry for the ugly feed you've gotten from me in the last day.

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Steps: 7000


Weekend at Bernie's: 07/15/06

Today a coworker or mine and her family threw a house warming party as they have reacently purchased their first home. We had a lovely couple of hours in their backyard enjoying a delicious barbecue and watching the various dogs run around and play. Sean also enjoyed the backyard and ran laps up and down it until he was red in the face.

Thouse house is in one of the classic older south bay neighborhoods and is just across the street from a huge park. Their daughter will enjoy it when she's older. The area reminds me of some of the places where my mom and grandparents used to live.

The summer heat cooperated enough so that it was hot but no unbearable. Under the shade of their patio roof it was actually quite pleasant.

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Steps: 7000

CyclopsCyclops: 07/14/06

The Dirk Pitt series of books by Clive Cussler are often my go-to book for when I need something easy to read but still entertaining enough to keep me interested. While Cyclops accomplished that task in certain ways, the concluding chapters were so unbelievable (and not just because they were dated) that I lost interest in everything but the sunken treasure plot.

Normally I can take what ever silliness Cussler dishes at me but he doesn't (or didn't, more accurately) do Soviet driven plots well. I suppose he was trying to do a modern-day Bay of Pigs incident except with space travel instead of missiles but he doesn't appear to know enough about space travel to make the plot believeable enough even for the whacky universe of Dirk Pitt.

Here is my BookCrossing review:

Cyclops has to be the worst Dirk Pitt adventure I've read. The plot is a hokey rip-off of Moonraker which is a hokey rip-off of Thunderball. Somehow a secret moon base and a Soviet plot to take over Cuba are tied together with a missing blimp and some sunken treasure. If that's not silly enough, there is also the space shuttle that can fly to the moon and back! I only made it through the end because I wanted to see where the sunken treasure was.

For the moment I'm taking a break from Cussler. The next book for my purse is Terminal Velocity by Bob Shaw. It is much shorter than Cyclops. Hopefully it will be better too.

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Harriet Plays "Andy Capp" During Her Ultrasound: 07/14/06

Today I had my first of two ultrasounds with the high risk specialist. It took him about forty minutes to get all the measurements because Harriet was asleep and rolled away from wand. This was my first time meeting the high risk doctor but he put me immediately at ease. He said he had gone through my charts and hadn't found anything alarming other than some high blood pressure numbers during the pre-natal visits and added that many women are the same way. He also said that while on paper I don't appear to be at a higher risk for pre-eclampsia than any other average pregnant woman given my results so far, he would be remiss if he didn't continue to monitor me, just in case.

Unlike previous ultra sounds I've been to, this room had a second monitor hung for easy viewing for the patient. I've never seen what things look like during the measurement part of the scan. It's a good thing I've learned some basic human biology so I could have at least a glimmer of a chance of understanding what I was seeing. Sometimes the doctor would stick labels up on the screen and they really helped.

He spent most of his time on her chest and head. As she was on her side with her legs folded up to her chest, it was hard for him to get the classic view of her heart. Instead what he had to work with was something that looked a little bit like a headless dancing turkey. Fortunately the dancing turkey thing was apparently normal for that view.

While he was measuring her head and brain, I had a few glimpses of just her brain and eyes. She looked just like a floating brain with eye stocks as if she were a creature from a bad science fiction movie.

Anyway, I have one last ultrasound on August 11th to check on Harriet's position. Since the worst case scenario is that she will still be transverse and I will need a c-section, I'm not that worried.

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Steps: 7000

Light on SnowLight on Snow: 07/12/06

Last night I stayed up a little late to finish Light on Snow by Anita Shreve. I don't normally stay up late for books but her's was that good. In all honestly, I'm suprised at how well I liked the book given the subject matter and my usual response to it. I normally don't like reading books where there is a dead child or an abandoned child and this book has both along with a dead mother.

I've been especially over-sensative to books like Light on Snow after suffering from two miscarriages before the birth of my son. I don't know if this second successful pregnancy in a row has cured me of my emotional excesses when reading sad books or if Shreve is just a gentle enough writer that the topic didn't leave me crying and setting the book aside unfinished.

Here is my BookCrossing review:

I wasn't sure how I'd handle the subject matter, that of a girl and her father trying to cope with the recent deaths of her mother and infant sister and the aftermath of finding an abandonded newborn in the snow. I was afraid it would be too melodramatic or too emotionally draining to read. Instead the use of the a now thirty year old narrator looking back at events that happened when she was twelve helped give the story a maturity and detachment needed to create an interesting story around such emotionally charged subjects.

The underlying theme of Light on Snow isn't the over powering feelings of grief but the importance of facing grief. She uses the events of the abandoned baby to underline the consequences of not facing up to one's responsibilities and the potential fallout from difficult turns of events.

Read the review at Reading Aventures.

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Steps: 3500


Ducky napkinBaby Shower: 07/11/06

Last night at the monthly BookCrossing meeting, the other members through a surprise baby shower for me. They brought cake, balloons and presents. Harriet received her first rattle, a teething blanket, some adorable out fits, a swaddling cloth, a gorgeous hand-knit blanket in pink, green, yellow and white, some socks, a pink bunny, and, of course, some books.

I still need to photograph the presents. I was enjoying myself so much last night that I didn't take many pictures during the actual event. I think others took photographs so if I get access to them, I'll share them.

More Harriet News:

Today seems to be the all-Harriet blog. First of all I had my monthly pre-natal check up today. I've gained back the weight I've lost, leaving me at a net-zero gain for the pregnancy. Harriet herself is measuring at 32 weeks (so roughly one week ahead) which is within normal parameters. The automatic machine read a much higher than normal blood pressure for me. The doctor laughed and did it manually and came back with a sane reading.

On Friday I have a second ultrasound to see how Harriet is doing. It is in the OB-GYN section, not downstairs in radiation. I guess they want to be sure Harriet isn't growing too big. She's just tall like her brother.

Then a week from today I have my first non-stress test appointment. That's when they will hook me up to a bunch of monitors to listen to Harriet's heart rate while we measure her kicks. I'll be sure to drink some orange juice before I go to wake her up. The appointment is in the late morning and she's usually fairly quiet then.

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Steps: 5500

Sleep Problems: 07/11/06

The recent heat wave followed now by the return of night and morning fog has made sleeping difficult. Unrelated, my sciatica seems to be back after a couple day hiatus. The change in weather though has been the main problem, keeping Ian and me awake and making us both very grumpy. If I weren't pregnant and unable to sleep on the couch comfortably, I would give Ian a break and take a night on the couch. The last two nights have been really rough on him and it doesn't seem fair that both of us should go without sleep.

The night before last when the temperature first changed Ian was restless and kept me up for an hour. I think I could have fallen asleep in that first hour if he hadn't been tossing and turning so much. After that I was just awake and stayed awake until 4 AM. Meanwhile in my thrashing around (nearly falling out bed once) I accidentally hit Ian in the back and he stomped off to the closet to try to sleep on the floor. Why he didn't chose the couch, I have no idea! Of course the closet didn't work and he came to bed again at 3. As I mentioned, I finally fell asleep briefly at 4 only to be awoken by Ian's snorning (normally if I am asleep his snorning doesn't wake me). At last I fell again at 5 AM, only to have to get up at 6:45 to get to work by 7:30 AM.

Last night we were both basket cases after Sean went to bed (at 9:30, late for him). We went to bed an hour early but again were getting on each other's nerves. Ian left the bed twice to sleep upstairs. At 3 AM a pair of noisy neighbors woke me up (through my ear plugs) because I could hear every word of their conversation through my ear plugs. I took the opportunity to get Ian back into bed. We closed the bedroom window to drown out as much of their noise as we could and managed to sleep until the alarm went off this morning.

While I think I slept better last night, I'm not so sure about Ian. I hope tonight will be better for both of us.

Learning About Live Journal:

I have many BookCrossing friends who are active posters on LiveJournal and one of them asked me if it would be possible to get my blog onto LiveJournal. For LiveJournal it ended up being a three step process. First of all I had to start an RSS feed. Then my friend had to upgrade to a sponsored account which a friend helped him with. Finally I had to create my own Live Journal account so I could monitor how well the feed was working.

Since I seem to have now become an active LiveJournal user, I decided to bite the bullet and learn how LiveJournal uses CSS to manage look and feel. So if you're reading this post via LiveJournal, stop on by my little spot (user name PussReboots) and see what I've done. Basically I've made my journal look at lot more like my actual home page here at pair networks.

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Steps: 5500

The Opal DeceptionArtemis Fowl: The Opal Deception: 07/10/06

I enjoyed the first two Artemis Fowl books a great deal and the third one was good enough to make me finish. The forth one (The Opal Deception) my husband managed to finish but I'm going to give up on it. I've come to realization that I don't like any of the characters and the world just isn't interesting enough for me to put up with annoying characters.

Harry Potter had the same effect on me. Books one through three were great. Book four had its moments but the drama of the school competition seemed forced. At book five, I gave up at the halfway point. I put the book down two years ago and haven't had the desire to open it up and finish it. My more forgiving husband went on to purchase book six and read it. I suspect he will purchase and read book seven as well.

My problem with both series is that the characters didn't grow much. Harry continues to be afraid of his aunt and uncle and put off by many of the students at school; Snape remains nasty; Draco is as cocky as ever, etc. In the fourth book some scenes were repeated within pages of themselves so that even the plot refused to move along. How many scenes of detention does one need to get that Prof. Umbrage has it in for Harry?

In the Artemis Fowl books, Artemis managed to grow some over the first three books, going from missing his father to learning about the fairies and finally knowing how to conquer them and having to decide if his obsession with the fairies is worth the effort or if he should humble himself to more mundane capers. Colfer though must have felt threatened by the potential of having Artemis and Holly working on the same side so he hit the reset button in book three and book four starts with Fowl mind-wiped and acting the same as he did in the start of the first book. So he's back to the annoying little prick that I didn't like in the first book. I really don't want to have to wait for him to go back to what he had learned over the course of three books!

Read the review at Bookworms and Tea Lovers.

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Steps: 3500


The Plot Against AmericaThe Plot Against America: 07/09/06

Today I finished reading Philip Roth's alternate history of WWII, The Plot Against America. It's the first book by this author I've read but I enjoyed his style of writing to seek out other books he has written. I have been wanting to read it since I heard the author interviewed, once on Radio 4 and a few months later on NPR.

As luck would have it, I was able to pick up a copy of the book from the January BookCrossing from a member who goes by the name kenj. He and I seem to have very similar tastes in reading so I'm often coming home with books he has registered.

Here is my BookCrossing review:

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Plot Against America even with its hokey ending. I heard Roth interviewed about a year ago and he explained that he didn't want to his alternate WWII story to upset the rest of recent history's timeline. At the end of the book therefore, he has to do some fancy footwork to get Lindbergh out of office in time for things to settle the way they way they were at the actual close of WWII. For those interested, Roth includes a timeline of actual events to compare against those described in the book.

Before reading this book I read two others that really enhanced my enjoyment of the story: Dr. Seuss Goes to War and Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. The Dr. Seuss book is a catalogue of the artist's political cartoons from WWII. The other book takes place in a re-education camp in China during the Cultural Revolution. Just as Roth uses his own family and experiences (including himself) but in a ficitonalized form, Sijie draws on his experiences in a camp to write his novel.

The reason I'm including Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress is that Kentucky as a relocation point for certain Jewish people and families is a central piece to the plot of Roth's book. First it starts with just sending the youth down there from the cities and later, entire "elite" (aka politically active against Lindbergh) families to Kentucky and other similar places. While Roth's father calls these programs American concentration camps, their goal and execution reminded me more the re-education camps. People did actually return from them and communication with them was possible as shown by Sandy Roth's time down there and Sheldon's relocation to there.

The Plot Against America takes a national view of what could have happened in the political climate at FDR's campaign for a third term and compares it against the effects a very different outcome (Lindbergh for president) would have on one family as they are ultimately torn apart by their own political differences.

One piece of the war not covered is the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the concentration camps for Japanese Americans. I don't know if Roth left them out because Pearl Harbor didn't happen in his book or if he wanted to keep the plot focused on the experiences of his Jewish characters. I have the feeling that he left it out for a combination of those two reasons.

Read the review at Random Field Notes.

Steps: 3500

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Wedding RingEleventh Wedding Anniversary: 07/08/06

Eleven years ago we were fresh out of college (at least as undergrads) and sweltering inside the South Pasadena Women's Center. We were getting married! After eighteen months of engagement it first seemed like the day would never arrive. Then it seemed like the day would never end. Now it feels like it happened a lifetime ago.

Back then I couldn't have predicted that today eleven years in the future I would be "celebrating" the day by sharing a waffle with my almost-four-year old son in a townhome we own. Nor would I have figured that I'd be only eight weeks and three days away from the birth of my second child.

Back then I hadn't even decided on the career path of being a web designer or web producer. Heck, I didn't even know those jobs existed. I had only been online myself for little over a year. Ian was still intent on getting a PhD in physics. Now he's working on a PhD in mathematics instead. At least he's finally almost done with graduate school.

One thing that is the same today as it was back then, the weather. It is 91° F inside our house and probably hotter in some places outside.

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Steps: 10000

Dr. Seuss at WarDr. Seuss Goes to War: 07/07/06

I grew up reading a lot of Dr. Seuss. A favorite of mine was (still is) One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. Between my brother and me, we had most of his children's books. Now that Sean is nearly four, he is discovering the joys of reading Dr. Seuss (and has reciting favorite lines from One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.

Although Seuss had published a pair of children's books in the 1930s his career as an author was decades away. During WWII, he worked for PM as a politcal cartoonist. Dr. Seuss Goes to War chronicles these years and provides some interesting analysis of his work.

Here is my BookCrossing review:

Dr. Seuss at War is a comprehensive history of Dr. Seuss's wartime career as a political cartoonist for PM magazine. Each section of cartoons starts with a brief history and an in depth analysis of Seuss's symbolism. The bulk of the book is made up of his cartoons (though not all of them are included).

His work at PM clearly inspired future books and animated cartoons (and these are discussed in the final chapter of the book) like Yertle the Turtle and Horton Hears a Who. Proto Yertles can be seen in a number of cartoons dealing with Hitler in Europe. Horton shows up in a few cartoons depicting the war effort in India.

I also noticed a few other potential future characters that aren't mentioned in the final chapter. Seuss often depicted Germany as a daschund and that dog looks like a sibbling of Max (the dog from the Grinch stories). As Hitler rides on the daschund and the Grinch rides on Max, I'm now seeing a similarity between the Grinch and Hitler. Unlike Hitler, though, the Grinch is redeamed at the end of the story.

The final character I see developing over the course of the cartoons is the Cat in the Hat. Here though it is mostly an evolution of style and not so much a birth of a character. He uses cats to show the infighting among the various allies and politicians and these cats over time look more and more like the cat from the Cat in the Hat (minus the hat). Put an Uncle Sam hat on him though, and there he is.

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Plumbing Problems Fixed: 07/07/06

Back on April 25th, the floater in the downstairs bathroom snapped off. Since then we've been living with having to turn the water on and off at the wall until this weekend when in the process of putting in new internal workings the pipe from the wall to the toilet ruptured and we've been down one toilet. Yesterday I worked from home to help Ian with the toilet (mostly listening and watching for water leaks and turning on and off water taps upstairs and downstairs when we had to fiddle with the water supply to the house). Ian did the bulk of the work and it took him three hours and one more trip to the hardware store for plumbers' grease. He had to cut off the old pipe connection and refit a new one and that worked well but we still had a leak from the toilet. Then just before giving up and calling a plumber, he realized what was wrong: he had put in an extra washer so that the rubber seal wasn't touching the ceramic like it should have.

Last night it was wonderful to finally be able to use the toilet without having to lean way over to turn on and off the water. It was nice to hear it shut itself off. The floor is remaining bone dry. Ian did an excellent job.

Swapping Days:

Since today will probably be busy and I might have to stay late to get things ready for Monday, we decided to do our anniversary celebration last night. I was already home, having worked from home to help with the toilet, so there wasn't any time lost to the commute.

As expected, Sean was not happy to see me at school on a day that wasn't either a Wednesday (when I pick him up solo) or a Friday (when we pick him up together). He scolded us for getting our days mixed up, counting them out on his fingers. "Today is not Friday; today is Thursday!" he told us in a stern voice.

We replied that we were pretending Thursday was Friday as I'll be very busy at work on the real Friday. He was okay with the idea as long as we went to Chevy's as planned (to celebrate our wedding anniversary: we will have been married 11 years as of Saturday).

While we had a lovely dinner, the swapping of days ended up being too much for him. On the way home we stopped to rent a pair of videos and he just lost it. He became grumpy and started acting really tired. Ian got our videos while I took Sean outside where he could vent without disrupting the customers.

By the time we got home Sean was in tears. Ian decided Sean should go to bed without a bath. Sean refused to go to "bedtime" but decided to compromise if he could call it "naptime" and not change into his jammies. Ian agreed and tucked Sean in. He stayed in bed until this morning.

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Steps: 6500

Jane of Lantern HillJane of Lantern Hill: 07/06/06

Over the Independence Day holiday I read Jane of Lantern Hill, one of the lesser known novels by L.M. Montgomery. Like many young girls, I "discovered" Montgomery's books in my early teens. I read Emily of New Moon in Jr. High and later fate introduced me to Anne of Green Gables.

Emily was a gift and I devoured the book in hours. Emily's diary writing inspired me to keep my own journals, though with the advent of the internet, I've switched to bloging.

Anne of Green Gables was my first BookCrossing experience, way before BookCrossing even existed. I was walking to my grandmother's house after high school (I was a sophomore). About at the halfway point, I spotted a paperback lying in the middle of the street. From the looks of things it had been run over a few times by passing cars but the spine was remarkably still intact and the book had all of its pages. The book was Anne of Green Gables. I picked it up and started to read it as I trudged up the remainder of the hill. I still have that battered copy.

Last year via the Book Relay site I received a copy of an L.M. Montgomery book that was new to me, Jane of Lantern Hill. I almost immediately promissed the book via the Relay site to another BookCrosser and then promptly forgot. The book has been sitting next to my bed in plain site for a year, nagging me. I finally took the time to look the book up in BookCrossing and realized my error so I sat down and read the book.

Here's my BookCrossing review:

Jane Victoria, or just Victoria to her stern and spiteful grandmother, goes from being a cloistered and pampered wealthy Toronto girl to a happy-go-lucky and overly domestic free spirit on (of course) Prince Edward Island. While living with her father she grows a well needed backbone but also suddenly feels the need to learn how to cook, clean and sew among other things. Truely keeping house is the source or all happiness in women! Blah. Jane lacks the spunk and spirit of my two favorite PEI characters: Anne and Emily.

It started out interesting enough with a divorce and life in Toronto but the story drags once Jane gets to Prince Edward Island. Jane of Lantern Hill failed to capture my imagination in the way that Emily and Anne managed to (and still do).

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Deception Point by Dan BrownDeception Point: 07/06/06

I inherrited my love of cheesy adventure novels from my step-dad. When we would go on a family car camping trip and I'd run out of things to read I would often borrow books from my parents. Mom at the time was reading historical romances (which I would also borrow) and dad was reading either biographies or cheesy adventure stories. He was the one who introduced me to Clive Cussler, though by now I think I've read far more of Cussler's books than he has. The Cussler book in question was Raise the Titanic, the second of the Dirk Pitt series.

It is my love of the ridiculous adventure plot that makes reading Dan Brown's books fun. He's not writing literature (although from listening to some of his interviews it appears he thinks he is). He's writing formulaic adventure stories that have an element of mystery to them (just as the Cussler books do).

The most recent Brown book that I finished is Deception Point which I think is his first novel. Of all of his books, Deception Point is the most like the prototypical Cussler novel. Both have governmental conspiracies that appear to point to the president (but don't), secret un-named military squads hell bent on taking out the main characters, and a plot that ultimately involves a twin hulled research vessel.

Here is my BookCrossing review:

In this book [Deception Point] Dan Brown tries for a Clive Cussler type story involving ice floes, deep ocean trenches, NASA and a presidential coverup. Corky and Mike are almost stand-ins for Al and Dirk and the Goya a rip off of one of the NUMA ships. The book for all its faults and completely silly plot (including an ending akin to Angles and Demons and Digital Fortress) I enjoyed the book. Brown though lacks the bravado and tongue-in-cheek humor that makes Cussler's books so entertaining.

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Steps: 5500


Pumpkin in BloomPumpkins in Bloom: 07/05/06

Sean's pumpkins are thriving. Each of the six plants now has had at least one flower bloom. The blossoms don't last very long. One will open around dawn and close by noon. The next day another one will open and be closed by noon. Right now each plant has at least three blossoms in the works. At the rate we're going, we may have more than twenty pumpkins by fall. Perhaps we should open our own pumpkin patch! What are we going to do with that many?

In other gardening news, Sean's fairy garden has lived out its life span but we have purchased new dirt and a package of nasturshum seeds for planting. We had meant to do the replanting this weekend but some how we just didn't get around to it. I think we were enjoying taking it easy.

 

Attention LiveJournal Users:

LiveJournal seems to be having trouble grabbing images that I include in my feeds. I think this is due to some measures I've had to take to protect bandwidth stealing from MySpace. When you add me (caligula03 on LiveJournal) to your friends list, please email me so I can give you access to the images.

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Steps: 3500

Pile of booksBooks Read in June: 07/04/06

With the television networks (and no cable by choice) now in reruns, we've been keeping our T.V. except for a rented movie, DVD or for something Sean might want to watch (often times Pokémon). This quiet time has given me lots of opportunity to read. I finished twenty-four books in June. They were a nice combination of genres and age levels. There are some children's books in there but not as many in previous months, though that will change again once Harriet is born.

Here is my list. If you want to read the full reviews, I have included links to BookCrossing.

Books read in June:

  1. 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
  2. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  3. Apocalipstick by Sue Margolis
  4. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
  5. The Cookcamp by Gary Paulsen
  6. Five Children and It by Edith Nesbit
  7. Girl Interupted by Susanna Kaysen
  8. Jumble Joan by Rosie Impey
  9. Nathan's Balloon Adventure by Lulu Delacre
  10. Obake: Ghost Stories in Hawaii by Glen Grant
  11. On the Way Home by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane
  12. The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
  13. Polly's Birdbath
  14. Ripley Under Ground by Patricia Highsmith
  15. Ripley's Game by Patricia Highsmith
  16. Rock-a-Bye Baby by Karen Anagnost
  17. Sarah's Secret by Mark Littleton
  18. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
  19. Tessa and the Magician by Sheila McCullagh
  20. This Little Piggy Went to Market by Karen Anagnost
  21. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jermome
  22. TV 2000 by Isaac Asimov, et al
  23. Uses for Mooses by Richard Thaler
  24. Weight by Jeanette Winterspoon

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Steps: 3500


Work from HomeWork from Home: 07/03/06

As today is the day before the Independence Day holiday and a Monday, I was given the chance to work from home. If our client had been closed today it would have been a paid holiday but I'll gladly take the opportunity to not commute! Although we haven't gotten the wireless connection to work, the dial up service has a local number and really isn't that much slower than what I have at work via the VPN.

As today is a holiday for Sean from preschool, he has been very interested in what I have to do. He's fascinated by the dial-up VPN connection. I've had to take the time to explain the basics of how the connection works, what I'm done once I'm connected and how it is possible to work remotely with someone in a different state.

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Travels with CharleyTravels with Charley: 07/03/06

This afternoon I finished reading John Steinbeck's memoir of a trip around the contintental United States, Travels with Charley. I have a rather conflicted view of Steinbeck. I respect him as a fellow Californian but I am not a devout fan of his books. His stories tend to get preachy or the presentation of the themes is too heavy handed.

Travels with Charley as a non-fiction allowed Steinbeck greater freedom to cover a variety of topics in a variety of styles. It was refreshing to read his thoughts on the politics and happenings during the time of his trip. He covers light hearted topics like the tacitern nature of the typical New Englander to the more serious ones like the early days of desegregation.

Here is my BookCrossing review:

Steinbeck may have been living on Long Island at the end of his life but he was still a Californian through and through. His travelogue, Travels with Charley of a trip around the continental United States in 1960, is written from a recognizable Californian perspective. Take for example his description of his custom built truck and camper shell which he dubs "Rocinante" and has the name painted in gothic lettering on the sides of the truck. Cars and trucks (especially) are still decorated with names in such a fashion.

While Steinbeck did cover most of the continental states in the course of his trip, he doesn't provide a blow-by-blow itinerary. Instead he lets the events of the trip inspire his writing. Sometimes he writes a faithful description of a place he has seen or a person he has met. Other time he writes an essay on a politics, or economics, or some other topic inspired by that point in the trip.

There are a couple chapters that focus on some medical problems that Charley the dog (a French poodle) suffered over the course of the trip. These chapters reminded me I & Claudius, a travelogue written by Clare de Vries about her trip across the United States with her cat. What is it about people traveling with their pets?

Now that I'm done, I'll be passing this book along to another BookCrosser. I owe it as a book relay offer.

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Steps: 3500

Balzac and the Little Chinese SeamstressBalzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress: 07/02/06

When I first joined BookCrossing in 2003, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress was one of the most popular books being read. I liked the title and since so many other folks were reading it I signed up for a ring. Unfortunately the ring stalled or was lost in the mail. Then last year sometime I received a copy by way of Cliff's wishlist site. Until a week or so ago the book sat on my BookCrossing shelf next to our bed. This year I've made a better effort to get books read off that shelf and then to release them. Now that I've finished the book the book and the buzz around the book has died down (at least at BookCrossing) I will be taking to the July 11th meeting to either give to another member or to wild release after the meeting concludes.

Here is my BookCrossing review:

I enjoyed the book up until the last few chapters. The bulk of the book is written with humor as it outlines the experience of two young men sent to country for "re-education." They find little ways to rebel at first: toying with an alarm clock's settings, for example. Later they read forbidden books by Balzac, Dickens, Dumas, etc. The last fifty pages or so the story turns dark as it lets Luo and the Little Chinese Seamstress speak for themselves. What had been a comedic look at a dark part of China's recent history, turns suddenly to tragedy or at least melodrama. Without better character development for Luo and the seamstress, their insights and actions at the end seem out of character.

In other words, the author seemed to get bored with his story and decided to take a wildly different narrational approach to finish the book. The last few chapters seem rushed and the characters act in ways that so far they haven't acted in. I found this tangent disorienting and unsatisifying. I rated the book 7 out of 10 stars because of the ending.

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Homeschooling on a ShoestringHomeschooling on a Shoestring: 07/02/06

Ian and I have no intention to home school our children but we like to provide as many opportunities to make learning fun and interesting. Also with Ian finishing up graduate school we've been on a tight budget. This book coveres both aspects. While I didn't agree with all the points made, I did enjoy reading the book.

Homeschooling on a Shoestring was another book relay book that I received last year that ended up sitting on my bedside shelf. Yesterday Sean was helping me organize that shelf and take some extra books down to it. In the cleaning up process we found this book and I decided it was time to read it.

Here is my BookCrossing review:

Interesting book. Save for one of us actually quiting our job to home school, we are already following many of the tips in this book. I found the chapter on the importance of books fascinating. Books are not considered clutter (a relief to most BookCrossers, I'm sure).

The "BookCrossing" chapter is called: "The Frugal Home Library and Its Many Branches." The first point this chapter makes is that books don't count as clutter. When decluttering a home, don't throw away the books! That's not to say that it is against getting rid of books but the methods suggested are right in line with BookCrossing: taking books to leave at the docotor's office, giving them to friends, giving them to shelters, etc. If this book has a new edition, I hope it includes BookCrossing by name.

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Steps: 10000


Teasing Secrets from the DeadTeasing Secrets from the Dead: 07/01/06

Last night I finished reading Teasing Secrets from the Dead by Emily Craig. She is a forensic antropologist who specializes in facial reconstruction. Her memoir covers how she entered the field and some of her more memorable cases (including helping with the aftermath of Waco, Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center).

Here is my BookCrossing review:

It was an interesting book over all and I preferred the chapters that didn't deal with her biggest cases (Waco, Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center) because they seemed more focus on the specific challenges of each case. Sometimes though she gets a little carried away in her enthusiasm and begins to sound cocky. I don't doubt her skills but it gets tiresome to be reminded every few pages just how good she is. Let the work done during the investigation speak for itself!

While I didn't always like the tone in which the book was written, the topics covered were fascinating and overall I felt the book was worth reading. I rated it an 8 out of 10 stars on BookCrossing.

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Caligula naps on my bellyHarriet and Caligula: 07/01/06

When I read at night, Caligula likes to nap on my lap. She has done this since she was a kitten. She continued to do it through my pregnancy with Sean and is now doing it while I'm pregnant with Harriet. Sean mostly ignored her when she sat on us but Harriet is a different story. She is fascinated with Caligula's purring. Whenever Caligula sits on me and starts to purr, Harriet rolls, stretches and reaches in the direction of the cat. If she can't reach, she kicks me until I reposition myself so she can better reach. Then she settles down, happily under the cat. Sometimes I can feel her moving her hands against my belly, apparently trying to pet the cat.

 

Eastbound 92Four Days without Driving!

Tuesday is Independence Day and work has given us Monday off. Actually though, I do have to a few things from home because the client I work for isn't closed on Monday but I get to do the work from home. I'm so thrilled to not have to drive to or from work on Monday. With having Tuesday off too I'll get two weeks' gas for the price of one.

Most of my commute is really easy but there are three slow bits. Heading to work, the clover leaf from the 92 to the 101 south often gets jammed by delivery trucks that have to take the curve slowly. Usually I'm early enough to avoid the trucks but not always. On the way home the traffic merging from the 101 to the 92 eastbound usually has traffic because lanes come and go. Then just at the end of the 92 where it becomes Jackson street, one lane ends and another goes only to 880 south, causing a lot of traffic. Last year the traffic at the end of the 92 wasn't that bad but since Caltrans has been working on the lane that goes to the 880 south and now things are always jammed there. I've given up on going all the way to the end and getting off at Hesperian to take surface streets either home or to Sean's preschool.

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Steps: 3500