Archive for December, 2008|Monthly archive page

Retrospective, Pt II

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

Last year, I grabbed the first line of the first post from each month so this year I’m grabbing the first line from the last post of each month.

Before I get to the meme part, though, I wish everyone a wonderful new year full of unexpected moments of glee, good fortune and karmic belly rubs.

2008 Retrospective

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

As in 2007 and 2006, here we go:

1. What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before?
Ate duck fat and beans

2. Did you keep your New Years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Some of my intentions were achieved. Some not.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes – I have a new nephew!

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Yes, unfortunately. Uncle G and Uncle J.

5. What countries did you visit?
France with Melle. It was awesome.

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
A training budget.

7. What date from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory?
October 12th

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Some good things at work; helping JL to get (mostly) better

9. What was your biggest failure?
Not as much online activity as I wanted to do.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
More UCIs (unidentified construction injuries), but nothing major

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Some good gifts for my family

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
American voters

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Canadian politicians; Californian h8ters

14. Where did most of your money go?
Housey things again – never ends

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Stephen Hawking is coming to Waterloo!

16. What song/album will always remind you of 2008?
“Let it Rock”

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

  1. happier or sadder? same
  2. thinner or fatter? shade heavier
  3. richer or poorer? richer

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Consulting work

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Procrastinating

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
Quietly

21. Who did you spend the most time on the phone with?
Same as last year, so probably my Dad.

22. Did you fall in love in 2008?
Nico is a nice bit of toffee.

23. How many one night stands in this last year?
Nope.

24. What was your favourite TV programme?
True Blood. Absolutely.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
I don’t hate; I dismiss.

26. What was the best book(s) you read?
The Gargoyle/Andrew Davidson, Little Brother/Cory Doctorow, The God Delusion/Richard Dawkins

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

28. What did you want and get?
A healthier JL

29. What did you want and not get?
A fireplace. … STILL.

30. What were your favourite films of this year?
Once again, I can’t even remember which films I saw.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
On my 41st birthday, I celebrated with friends and family.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Winning the lottery.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?
What the hell happens to your thighs after 40? Like, flesh pantaloons or something.

34. What kept you sane?
books and the couch

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Lafayette

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Prop 8 in California; the prorogation in Canada

37. Who did you miss?
Friends I don’t get to see very often.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
Melissa is lovely.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008.
Do not eat an extra hot curry and jerk chicken in the same day.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year?
I got soul, but I’m not a soldier
I got soul, but I’m not a soldier

What is that blue thing?

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Kirk vs the Doctor – will there be platonic man-loving???

(Link courtesy of Topless Robot; awesome work from Rick Kensington)

JL in da house

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

I was cleaning up the camera and came across a few JL pics.

The usual suspect in the usual position

The usual suspect in the usual position

Amused

Amused

JL in a bag

JL in a bag

Dear Canadian Tire

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

If you are going to do a commercial with the hapless husband bragging about his new nailgun while his “can do” wife completes all kinds of chores with it, could you not show her putting brads in every 2 inches on trim??? Like a moron?!

Thought vs plot

Saturday, December 27th, 2008
Anathem by Neal Stephenson

Anathem by Neal Stephenson

The narrator of Anathem is a young man, Fraa Erasmus, who is about to enter his tenth year in one of the concents that form the segragated Avout society on the planet Arbre, separate from the “saeculer” society. The fraas and suurs hold and advance disciplines that we would call philosophy, religion, science and theoretics within boundaries that have been defined by the saecular government during three previous sacks – times when the concents were attacked and/or destroyed by suspicious marauding groups. Then one day, Erasmus’ mentor Orolo discovers something in the sky… and everything changes.

So far, it sounds like a typical Sci-Fi/Fantasy plotline, but this is Neal Stephenson we’re talking about. Anathem is as much a treatise or a didactic dialogue as it is an “end of the world” plot-twister. Some reviewers have had problems with the language, and Stephenson provides a glossary at the end of the book to help them along. For me, the language wasn’t a problem – in fact, some of his neologisms were quite clever “sideways glances” at our own English language – concents, fraas, suurs, theorics, arks, avouts, saunt, incanter, and the self-evident bullshytt. Each chapter opens with a definition from the dictionary of AR 3000, that, much like the OED, reveals the life of the word through Arbre history.

In fact, it’s the sideways glancing that is probably one of the most effective tropes of the book. It’s very easy to see Earth in Arbre but with enough distortion (typical of SF, of course) that we gain the distance and wry humour of observation.

Typical of Stephenson, there are long descriptions of clock workings, slapdash building, intricate architecture, technology and the like–some of which, like the singing trees in LOTR, are probably the parts most skipped over by the non-ubergeeks. But it’s the tangle of the philosophic dialogues where I’m sure most people drift off and/or close up the book and turn on Mythbusters instead.

The theorics of the avout are historied, and a big part of avout life involves theoric smackdowns among disciplines and generations. Though some of the thought plays a role in the main plotline–the threat to civilization as they know it–it’s also the part of the book where Stephenson’s penchant for mastubatory writing is most evident. It’s not that none would be better (though what’s left could still be a good story with more umph), but that less would be better, or perhaps more concise would be better. It’s very hard to care strongly about the characters when action is frequently slowed down while they meander painfully through basic Platonic and neo-Platonic thought, Semiotics, Saussurian linguistics, Nietzchian, quantum physics and multiverse cosmology. I guess my thinking is that if they’re that damn smart, they could do it in less than 900 pages.

It’s hard to have empathy for characters conceived in such an intellectual soup. And when Stephenson tries to get to more fleshly matters, he’s horrible at it, which doesn’t help. There’s not a lot of feeling in this book, certainly not enough to really bring the plotline to life. The final scene is like an Austen finish grafted on to Ph D thesis, borg-like.

I enjoyed the language, enjoyed the “fish out of water” experiences as the avouts move into the saecular, some of the theorics (especially when the avouts use parables), but attention to the theorics is definitely at the cost of a story that could have been really good.

Some other reviews:

Post-ho

Friday, December 26th, 2008

I trust that everyone had a nice holiday doing whatever you like to do at this time of year: an extra nap, time with friends and family, Trekmas, drinking and regret, and so on.

My brother and sister-in-law had what is probably their last quiet Xmas morning for a while since my nephew will be 14 months next year – ripe age for pulling down the tree or unceremoniously unwrapping gifts that aren’t for him I would imagine. My other nephew and niece were spoiled rotten as usual and are loving their new Wii. Parents, siblings and friends all accounted for and cheery.

Two items that made me especially happy: my team purchased a portable stove for refugees in my name, and then good friends purchased a Kiva loan and I got to choose to whom we lent the money.

I’ve had enough time to be almost finished Anathem, so I’ll tell you what I think once I get through it.

Odds, sods & awesoments

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

Old stuff, but a great way to spend some time.

Broken Record

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

Alright, Mother Nature. You rawk. We’re owned.

Went to Melle’s last night and there was maybe 10 cm already and by the time we came out there was that much again. I’ve been out shovelling before neighbour P got mad at me and made me come inside so he can play with his snowblower.

It’s a race to see if we can get a couple of feet of snow out of the way before the FREEZING RAIN comes, and then the MORE SNOW.

People make fun of me because I don’t do travel at Christmas, but who’s laughing now? I’ve got baked goods, fresh veggies, scotch, pyjamas and Buffy DVDs, so I’m good for the duration.

P does the driveway

P does the driveway

Found the sidewalk!

Found the sidewalk!

Quiet snowy neighbourhood

Quiet snowy neighbourhood

We suck

Sunday, December 21st, 2008
We don't like to look South most times

Our Dumb World, or the Onionized Google Atlas