Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Top 100 Books Update

I am still continuing with my attempt to get through 100 top books before I die, albeit slowly. I may actually make it, as I have now read 71 of the 100 books. Refer to this previous post which should take you through the history.

I've even re-read one of them. Our trip to Japan (see photos here) included Kyoto and a visit to the Gion district, which inspired me to quickly read Memoirs of a Geisha again.

This is the list of latest books read, in order with most recently read at the end.

  • Wide Sargasso Sea  Jean Rhys. I liked this in the end, but felt it came to a surprisingly quick halt.
  • Lord of the Rings  J.R.R. Tolkien. Always love reading this. I might start it again.
  • David Copperfield  Charles Dickens. Via DailyLit. As mentioned before, I hated this at school (and consequently didn't finish it) but thought it was great this time once I got into it.
  • Emma  Jane Austen. Not as good as her other one.
  • Good Omens  Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. (At the risk of not really wanting to use this word in a blog post:) Quirky.
  • The Woman in White  Wilkie Collins. Through DailyLit. Pretty good.
  • Dangerous Liaisons  Pierre Choderlos De Laclos. Yeah. I loved the way he was able to switch writing styles in order to switch character. The notes at the end of the book helped enourmously.
  • Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë. I started reading this on DailyLit and then switched to book. What is the go with this story? Am I missing something here? Isn't it supposed to be a great love story? I had trouble with some of the language as well. Are we meant to understand what Joseph is saying, or does everybody who reads this just pretend they understand that gibberish? Does anybody else despise the housekeeper telling the story? It's more a Russian tragedy than an English novel, as just about everybody dies.

DailyLit is the read-by-email service I've mentioned before. I do recommend it, with a few caveats:

  • reading on-line can be tiring. Especially if reading from your phone;
  • if you start really getting into the book, it's easier to just grab the PDF or the book rather than continually clicking on the "Get next installment now" link; 
  • there's always a "where was I yesterday?" feeling, but you get that with books as well, just not as frequently;
  • sometimes you lose emphasis in a medium that doesn't support simple things like bold and italic. Switching to HTML doesn't help, as the text that DailyLit has does not contain the bold and italic either. I found this out when a copy of Wuthering Heights turned up at my place after I'd be reading it on DailyLit; and
  • if you let the emails pile up in your in-box, it can be a trial to clear them out.

Currently I am reading Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh and Ulysses by James Joyce. The last is a little hard to get into, I've got to say. I hope it gets better, as there is 329 installments of it to go!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Mother-to-Son communications interface

Alison has had laryngitis for a few days now.

While many blokes would reckon I am sure that the peace and quiet during this time would be bliss, I can assure you that things like spousal nagging do not necessarily decrease just because she can't speak. It just takes other forms. Also since Jude is just coming up to 18 months old, and has all the energy of a New Years fireworks display, I have been expected to provide the constant verbal discipline that he needs.

And I have also assumed the role of translator between her and Jude. My wife has a new language that involves hand movement, occasional grunts or humming, and head movement amongst other things. Since I am a bit of a linguaphile, I'd like to share just a few examples of this wondrous form of communications.

Alison's non-verbal cues - My verbal response/translation

  • Pointing at her feet - "Jude. Come here and get your shoes on, mate."
  • Holding her hand in front of her mouth like a duck bill and opening and closing it - "Jude. Take the book out of your mouth, please."
  • Pointing at Jude and making a circle around her face - "Jude. Come and get your face cleaned mate."
  • Grunting and shaking her fist at her son - "Jude. Have you been a bad boy for Mummy?"
  • Holding her hand in front of her mouth like a duck bill and opening and closing it - "Jude! Sit back down and finish your dinner!"
  • Using her thumb and forefinger to make spectacles over her eyes - "Jude. Stand back from the telly please, mate."
  • Tapping her wrist and pointing her thumb over her shoulder - "Jude. Time for your bath!"
  • Miming two-finger typing - "Jude! Stop pressing buttons on the DVD player!"
  • Holding her nose - "Jude. Have you done a poo?"
  • Holding her hand in front of her mouth like a duck bill and opening and closing it - "Jude. Time for your medicine."

Obviously, you'll agree that with a few of these, the context provides the hint to the translation.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Is this a bi-definition?

I am in the middle of writing an email to colleagues advising that we have regular meetings twice a week, and I think to myself, "Should I use the word biweekly in this case?" As I'm a little unsure, I google the word, and get numerous, dictionary website entries that explain that the word biweekly, means both:

  • twice a week, and 
  • once every two weeks.

For instance see: http://encarta.msn.com/dictionary_1861590876/biweekly.html

So would someone please explain to me how it is possible to use the word biweekly without it being unclear? The only possible way I could imagine using it is something like this:

"Hi guys. Don't forget our biweekly meeting tomorrow. That is, our meeting that is held every Tuesday and every Friday, that is twice-weekly, and not every second week on Friday."
It's enough to drive a man to drink. Oh. Don't mind if I do.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Weather or not this unit is broken

For Alison's last birthday, I bought her a weather station. It has two parts to it, the indoor base unit which has its own temperature and barometric pressure sensor, and displays all the information on a LCD display, and a separate little remote outdoor sensor unit, which sends temperature and pressure readings wirelessly to the base unit.

I bought it at Jaycar Electronics in York St in the City; quite a good price and so far it seems OK. However, when we first unpacked it and turned it on, we couldn't get the remote unit to work. The little tell-tale light on the front didn't wink like it was supposed to when sending data, and the base unit did not display any data for the outside.

After what followed though, I don't think it is a huge wonder that the remote sender didn't work...

On the way past Jaycar Electronics a few days later, I dropped in to see about the sensor. I was standing there at the counter waiting, when I heard from behind, "Hey, can I help you Dude?" It's just me I'm sure, but I'm probably a bit old-fashioned in thinking that it is a little unusual to be addressed this way by a sales assistant. A young fellah, thin, relaxed, long hair. I'm sure you know the type.

I explained that I'd bought (pointing to shelf) that weather station and that (indicating unit in hand and taking it out of its protective bubble-wrap pouch) this remote unit didn't seem to work. He couldn't understand why I didn't bring the whole thing in. He said, shaking his head sadly and slowly, "Well I can replace it, but they all work on the same channel." I didn't bother to show him the little switch where you can change the channel on the unit, or bother to reveal my suspicions that the lack of tell-tale light indicated that the remote unit was the bit that was broken and the base station appeared to work perfectly.

Reluctantly, he pulled another box off the shelves, removed the remote unit from that and gave it to me. "Well, look," he said, using his best explain-to-a-four-year-old voice, "you can try this one, but if it doesn't work you'll have to bring the whole thing in." Well thanks. That, at least, is good advice.

After saying that, he took my broken sender unit, placed it in the little bubble-wrap pouch, and put it into the box that he'd taken the new one out of. He then to put the box back on the shelf.

As I was leaving the store, I heard him talking to one of the other sales assistants, "Man, we had another one of these returned the other day."

Oh save me.