Saturday, December 30, 2006
And here's the finished product. You'll notice from the gap in the left side of the pan that some quality control testing was carried out right after completion.
Tests proved satisfactory.
The other book was much better and had quite a few interesting and and entertaining stories including a golf story (some of Wodehouse's best stories are his golf stories), several featuring Bobbie Wickham (who also appears in the Jeeves and Wooster tales leaving chaos in her wake), and a particular favourite of mine about the man who tried to give up smoking.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
A couple of years back, I began some generalization or other by saying, “The difference between America and Canada is…” And the American I was imparting this insight to interrupted me with: “The difference between America and Canada is that Americans don’t care what the difference between America and Canada is.”
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Anyway, the story was pretty interesting though it was obvious what was going to happen at the end as early as one third of the way through. Dickens spent far too much time on his descriptions, I think and too little on keeping things moving. One chapter took about seven pages to describe the introduction of a character before getting to any dialogue or any action more significant than eating breakfast.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Sunday, December 17, 2006
The power was cut off by the recent storm in my area, of which you might have heard, and was only restored late in the morning Sunday. Since it had been out since Thursday night, that was about two and a half days without power. And that's about two days longer than I wanted. I do not complain, however, since I passed houses that were still dark on my drive into work Sunday night. Moreover, some good friends invited us to their house once they had their power restored on Saturday and the opportunity to sleep in a warm house, eat a hot meal, take a hot shower and (last but not least for me) play some Xbox was most welcome. Thanks much, Holly and Andy!
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Anyway. The books themselves are a mixed bag. Informationally, they're great. Lots of solid info, organised well and lots of suggestions on how to pursue one's inquiries further should one be so inclined. On the other hand, I can't stand this guy's writing style. Maybe it's because I blew through both books in about a week, but he describes too much. He'll describe a certain answer twice. It was crisp and matter-of-fact. He inserts descriptions of every little gesture. "I shifted in my chair" or "I turned to face him directly" or "I scratched my nose with my index finger and coughed lightly against the end of my closed fist". Okay, that last was hyperbole. But not by much. Overall, however, they are worth the time since they read easily and quickly.
So far, it's not too bad. The animation style is, as I feared, garish and silly, though they have avoided using too many or too extreme face-faults. The setting is in the distant sci-fi future yet they still have people using horse-drawn carriages and driving automobiles that would be at home in the 30's. The Count himself looks like some kind of space-alien/vampire, though it's not quite as bad as that description might seem. I don't like the fact that they essentially cut the first third of the book starting with Albert and Franz in Rome for Carnival and telling the reasons that the Count is out for revenge via flashbacks. Finally, they have played fast and loose with some of the relationships between characters and minimized certain characters and added material for others.
On the plus side, very few characters are actually missing and none of the major characters is completely AWOL to this point. They have stayed quite true to the broad outlines of the story and more of the detailed events have been kept than in the disappointing recent film adaptation. On the whole I am pleased because it was better than I expected based on the DVD case, but it still falls well short of what I would want.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
It reminded me a bit also of Sayers' Busman's Honeymoon, but that at least had the virtue of being entirely the work of the original author even if large portions of it dealt with the relationship between the detective and his new wife. In this case the relationship between Marlowe and his wife also occupied a good deal of the book, but it lacked the smooth seamlessness that Busman's Honeymoon had in weaving the characters together in a new and different relationship.
Friday, December 08, 2006
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Read this. No, seriously. Read the whole thing. You won't be sorry. It's not that long, either.
Done? Now that is a man who deserves to be honoured. It's all well and good for children to be taught about the great men in American history like Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, etc. They certainly ought to be But why on earth isn't this man someone about whom every schoolchild is told? I don't remember learning anything about him when I was in school. One billion people. Billion!
Linked from somewhere in The Corner.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Now they're coming for your doughnuts, at least in NYC. Before you know it they'll have people in your house making sure you're sitting far enough away from the TV and putting a sweater on when your mother gets cold.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
I also got in a bit of shopping for my wife, though I still have a bit left. I, as usual, will finish shopping after she does this year despite, in all likelihood being done weeks ahead of the actual holiday. I don't know that I have ever been this prepared for Christmas this soon. I shouldn't speak too quickly, however, since we're not done yet and events could intervene.
I'm looking forward to some of the Christmas, well, I guess it's baking. Traditionally, in my family, Christmas is a time to make baklava and buckeyes and I hope to be able to continue that this year despite having a 21-month old daughter and another child born any day now. The problem is that, obviously, my wife is less able and inclined than if she did not have such things with which to deal, and I am not nearly as talented in the culinary arts as she is. Ooh, and some of those spicy chocolate truffles! Yeah, we should make some of those.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
What I really wanted to say, however, is that I wish I knew who the two people were that were helping out on 80th St in Kenmore today. As I was driving to work, there's a large, fairly steep hill on 80th that I drive. A few feet up the slope was a large truck (a moving truck, around 20 ft or so) that was off the road in the ditch on the left hand side facing up the hill. The front of the truck protruded into the lane coming down the hill and a little below the truck was a car stalled out in the right hand lane. There was about enough room for a car to drive between them if you were careful, but it was one lane travel. This could, of course, led to a gigantic mess, as people tried to go up the hill and were met by cars coming down the hill. But a man was standing at the bottom before the slope began stopping people to let them know that he was co-ordinating with someone up the hill so that cars coming down and cars going up wouldn't meet were it would be impossible for someone to back up. They were essentially acting like those Stop/Slow flaggers do when construction restricts a road to one lane. Whoever these people are, they are my heroes for the week. As far as I could tell they weren't cops; they were just regular folks doing their bit to help their fellow man. My hat is off to them.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
1. The Republic by Plato
2. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
3. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
4. The Book of Lost Tales I by JRR Tolkien
5. The Odyssey by Homer
Oh, and the post title refers to this.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
On somewhat related note, I am reminded by one of the commenters on that post that I have not yet seen the movie Luther, and I'd like to. .... There, now it's on hold with my library.
I also read How to Dominate Your Fantasy Baseball League and it was disappointing too, rather more than The Farseer Trilogy. The advice wasn't terribly helpful and it really could have been condensed to a couple long articles. Or maybe a pamphlet. (Unrelated tangent: What ever happened to the pamphlet? Time was, pamphlets were published all the time. The Federalist Papers started life as a series of pamphlets, I believe, though they may have been newspaper articles. Used to be that people would write, sell and circulate pamphlets when they had some particular point, opinion or idea they wanted to convey without needing a book in which to encapsulate it. I suppose blogs have pretty well obviated any need for pamphlets any longer, but pamphlets disappeared from the scene long before the rise of the internet. Didn't they?) Mostly the book repeated the points that one should do lots of research and not quit even if it gets boring from time to time. There was some helpful information about common fantasy leagues and a sample set of league rules and what kind of league would be best for certain kinds of players, but on the whole this book was a waste of trees.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
"And what, after all, does the size of a world or a creature tell us about its 'importance' or value?—CS Lewis, Miracles, p. 83, 85
"There is no doubt that we all feel the incongruity of supposing, say, that the planet Earth might be more important than the Great Nebula in Andromeda. On the other hand, we are all equally certain that only a lunatic would think a man six-feet high necessarily more important than a man five-feet high, or a horse necessarily more important than a man, or a man's legs than his brain. In other words this supposed ratio of size to importance feels plausible only when one of the sizes involved is very great. And that betrays the true basis of this type of thought. When a relation is perceived by Reason, it is perceived to hold good universally. If our Reason told us that size was proportional to importance, then small differences in size would be accompanied by small differences in importance just as surely as great differences in size were accompanied by great differences in importance. Your six-foot man would have to be slightly more valuable than the man of five feet, and your leg slightly more important than your brain—which everyone knows to be nonsense. The conclusion is inevitable: the importance we attach to great differences in size is an affair not of reason but of emotion—of that peculiar emotion which superiorities in size begin to produce in us only after a certain point of absolute size has been reached.
"This suggests a possible answer to the question raised a few pages ago--why the size of the universe, known for centuries, should first in modern times become an argument against Christianity. Has it perhaps done so because in modern times the imagination has become more sensitive to bigness? From this point of view the argument from size might almost be regarded as a by-product of the Romantic Movement in poetry. In addition to the absolute increase of imaginative vitality on this topic, there has pretty certainly been a decline on others. Any reader of old poetry can see that brightness appealed to ancient and medieval man more than bigness, and more than it does to us. Medieval thinkers believed that the stars must be somehow superior to the Earth because they looked bright and it did not. Moderns think that the Galaxy ought to be more important than the Earth because it is bigger. Both states of mind can produce good poetry. Both can supply mental pictures which rouse very respectable emotions—emotions of awe, humility, or exhilaration. But taken as serious philosophical argument both are ridiculous. The atheist's argument from size is, in fact, an instance of just that picture thinking to which, as we shall see in a later chapter, the Christian is not committed. It is the particular mode in which picture-thinking appears in the twentieth century: for what we fondly call 'primitive' errors do not pass away. They merely change form."
Monday, November 13, 2006
I also crunched through discs five and six of the second GitS season. For some reason, I was thinking that six was the final one, but of course there are seven just like the first season. So I was watching the sixth disc marveling at how rapidly everything was going to have to be wound up and then the DVD ended but the story had stopped right in the middle of what had to be a two-part episode and it dawned on me that there was another disc. Since it was only released a little over a month ago, it's not even in my local library's collection yet and now I have to watch the catalog like a hawk so I can get my request in right away when it does show up.
Another movie note that has nothing to do with Japan, I saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind for the second time not too long ago, and it was still a great movie. Kinda like watching Run Lola Run for the second time, you pick up on things that you didn't notice the first time around while still getting caught up in the flow of the action.
Friday, November 10, 2006
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
James Robbins looks at it from a foreign policy perspective over at NRO.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Tokyo Drifter was... odd. It wasn't bad, and in fact I rather liked it despite it being so strange, but it was, truly, a strange movie. Some of that may be because it was Japanese, and there may be cultural cues I missed; that, and the fact that it's about 40 years old. Interestingly, I think the director made use of colour in the same fashion that the director of Hero did, though it was more subtle and better done in Tokyo Drifter. The movie follows a yakuza soldier through his boss' attempts to leave the crime world and go straight and deals mostly with questions about loyalty. I'd recommend it.
Incident at Blood Pass is, I think, the last movie with Toshiro Mifune playing the yojimbo character from the movie of that name. Like the other two movies I have seen with this character, Yojimbo and Sanjuro, the movie feels like a western set in Japan. This movie clearly wasn't as strong as the other two, but that's no surprise since Kurosawa wasn't directing this one. Still, Mifune turns in a strong performance and so does Shintaro Katsu of Zatoichi fame. If you've only seen Katsu in Zatoichi films, you'll hardly recognise him in this role. An entertaining film, if not an exceptional one.
Lastly, my wife and I watched Ikiru together and while I did like it more than she did, it wasn't as great as I had hoped. I suppose that's partly due to hearing it hyped up so much prior to seeing it, but it was less moving than I thought it would be and the movie ends on a rather dismal note. The story itself was told with a deft touch and the characters came to life very convincingly, which one expects of Kurosawa movies, and his choice to tell the second half of the movie in flashback worked very well. Overall, however, it seemed to lack that spark that would push it from being very good to being great.
I am quite annoyed with my library again. I had decided that it was petty of me to continue returning books to be checked in under my eyes merely to annoy the library staff. Little did I realise how necessary such a course of action was.
I checked out 5 DVDs on October 28. I returned 4 of them yesterday at about 3pm (I had already renewed the fifth from home over the internet); it was the day they were due. Imagine my surprise when I went to the library today to pick up an item I had on hold and found that my DVDs (and books, which were not due back so urgently) had not been checked back in and I was being charged a fine on each of them. I immediately spoke to a librarian about it and was told, in essence, "Tough. We'll check them in when we get around to it." What about my fines I wondered? I would still be on the hook for them. But, I protested, I had returned them on time and dropped them off 2 hours before the library closed. Sorry, they said, we've got about a dozen bins of material to be checked in and we'll get to it when we get to it. Next time, they advised me, you shouldn't use the book drop if it's due that day; you should bring your items inside to be checked in by hand. Oh, I will.
Friday, November 03, 2006
Switching gears, I pounded through Ringworld quite rapidly. I liked the concept, a world composed of a giant ring spinning around a sun, though the author falls victim to the same temptation that ruined several of the Heinlein novels I tried to read; Larry Niven has an adolescent fascination with sex. Thankfully, he doesn't indulge it to the point of describing the acts themselves, but the protagonist has a one-track mind and the author feels it necessary to make a point of the fact that he is frequently copulating. I don't think I'm going to read the rest of the series; it just wasn't that good.
Continuing in the sci-fi vein, I read Asimov's The Martian Way, which is four short stories including one which shares its title with the book itself. They were all interesting and well-written. I am always struck when I read Asimov's work at how good he was at writing. Some of his scientific notions now seem rather quaint 54 years later, but despite that his stories still engage and entertain. Each story in the book involves visits to other planets, though not necessarily by humans in every case. The only real drawback was the constant and religious deference given to Science. Science truly was Asimov's god. (And, sadly, that also seems to now be the case with John Derbyshire.)
Monday, October 30, 2006
As a result of the vacation, my reading has been close to non-existent this month. While at my in-laws I read Emma, which was pretty good. It was one of the rare instances where the main character behaves abominably and yet I enjoyed the reading and liked said character.
Later, when I was staying with my brother in VA, I picked Fool's Errand off his shelf and read it. It wasn't too bad. I'm thinking that I'll read the rest of the books in the series and maybe look for some other books by the same author. Turns out that book is the first in a trilogy, but this trilogy was written to follow up an earlier one. So I'm thinking I'll begin at the beginning. I've put the books on hold at the library, but the first one hasn't arrived yet.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
I bring this up because he is currently examining the "Ecology of Arda" in the Reading Room this week.
Consider this excerpt from this post:
9.Do the Ainur fit into any of the kingdoms of life on Earth (prokaryotes, protozoans/algae, fungi, animals, or plants)? Do they belong to their own kingdom? If you concluded that the Ainur are in fact biological and you were going to name the science of Ainur biology, would it be zoology? Botany? Or something else (what would the study of Angels be)?
The Ainur, in Tolkien's mythology, are roughly equivalent to angels, as is implied in his second parenthetical statement above.
And consider this as well from this post:
On Earth, religious and irreligious scholars have debated endlessly about whether souls exist or not. Science has been unable to answer the question definitively: science has failed to prove the existence of souls, but because science has also failed to measure the existence of the spiritual in any way at all, it also cannot disprove the existence of souls. What science has established, however, is that all of the characteristics that humans possess can be reasonably assumed to be biological in nature, including characteristics such as creativity, curiosity, problem-solving abilities, compassion, and, ultimately, morality. Thus, although science cannot disprove the existence of the soul, it can at least in the context of thought and behavior establish that the soul is at best redundant, at worst irrelevant, if it exists at all.
Nonsense on stilts, as Jonah Goldberg is wont to say. Stanislaus Bocian (who is not a native English speaker, I do not believe, which explains his odd grammatical constructions) answered him thusly here:
Science cannot even allow that two human characteristics exist at all, not to speak about explaining them: free will and reason (ability to know truth).
As the science relies on human reason, it is in quite paradoxical situation.
I suggest that if you follow that thread down (self-explanatory if you follow the link) and see that when Beren IV replies he appears to fail even to grasp the point that Bocian is making. I really can't decide whether it is purposeful or if he is so blinded by his assumptions that he can't see past the end of his nose. I'm inclined to the latter since he seems in all other ways an earnest and thoughtful young man.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Monday, October 09, 2006
Did watch a couple Jackie Chan films this past week, Gorgeous and New Police Story, the latter having nothing to do with his earlier Police Story films. Gorgeous had a bit of Jackie's slapstick humour and a couple good fights, but was mostly forgettable and NPS lacked the humour but had some neat stunts though it suffered from an utterly fantastic plot like most Hong Kong crime movies do. Have The Hidden Blade from the library and plan to watch that before the end of the week.
Blogging will probably be light to non-existent the rest of the month.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Sunday, October 01, 2006
I think that applies since I've managed to read 51 books in the last two months. More than 1/3 of my year-to-date total, in fact. It's wonderful until I realise how much more I could have done in all those other months. O! for lost Januaries and Februaries!
Saturday, September 30, 2006
Friday, September 29, 2006
It's been a wonderful 6 years and I hope to be blessed with 10 times as many to come. I couldn't be more pleased and proud of her and I thank God every day for permitting me to be her husband.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
[A]bove all his greatest creation, perhaps the most formidable, extensive, complex, subtle, and penetrating work of art ever carried to perfection, making the works of Leonardo and Michelangelo, Beethoven and Mozart, Dante and Goethe seem inferior by comparison — Hamlet.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Still, the serious tone, the quality of the animation and the stories (despite not being as good as before) and the lack of "face-faults" make this series far and away better than almost all others. (Cowboy Bebop despite the occasional face-fault, had stories, characters and especially an ending of such quality that it rose above its faults. No pun intended.) I've got DVDs 3 and 4 from the second season now and I'll watch them and comment on them later in the week. 5 and 6 are on hold at my library, but they don't even have copies available in the system yet, so I don't know how much longer it will be before I can watch them.
Monday, September 25, 2006
Sunday, September 24, 2006
But Toni Morrison's books don't suddenly become worth reading because they were banned somewhere. Maybe they aren't particularly dangerous, but they aren't particularly good either. In fact, they're bad. (Okay, I haven't read them all, but Song of Solomon was just plain awful.)
There is a world of difference too, between a private school banning a particular book and the government banning a different book. If a Catholic school thinks that The Last Temptation of Christ doesn't belong in their library because it's blasphemous, that's worlds away from the government banning a political book because it criticises current policy decisions. (Not that the latter happens.)
Thursday, September 21, 2006
The other book was fascinating. Paul Johnson (whose writings I am going to have to seek out since they seem to be so interesting) wrote a book called Intellectuals (and followed it up with Creators, which I'm reading now). It's a study of various intellectuals since Rousseau, who Johnson considered the first intellectual. A simple working definition of intellectual that Johnson uses through his book is a person that considers ideas more important than people. And he examines not only the ideas of these various people to some extent, but also investigates to see if how they lived, both publicly and privately, reflected the ideas that they wanted all of mankind to accept. To a man, they all flunk horribly. Some of the intellectuals, like Sartre, I was already pretty well aware of their lives, ideas and hypocrisy, but others, like Tolstoy, came as a surprise to me. It's quite an interesting, if somewhat depressing, book. An interesting fact that cropped up was that significant numbers of these intellectuals were filthy in a quite literal sense. Marx, Sartre and others listed rarely bathed and had disgusting habits and households. It made me wonder if there was some connection there.
Sword of the Beast is a movie about a samurai running from the vengeance of his other clan members who gets caught up in a plot to steal gold from the Shogun. There aren't too many twists, but the story is an enjoyable one and seems pretty well acted to me. It wasn't a stellar movie, but a solid period samurai movie. A few good fights, decent plot and a little bit of tragedy and comedy.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
The Case of the Foot-Loose Doll was an okay Perry Mason story. The murder itself should have been a lot more obvious to me and most of the clues were out in the open, fair and square. The premise and set-up was rather too far-fetched and detracted a bit, but still a solid entry. The Mysterious Mr Quin mixes Christie's penchant for both murder mysteries and ghost stories and most of them are interesting, though as with most Christie also rather subpar. One of the stories (I believe the last one) didn't make a whole lot of sense to me, but the book was worth reading.
Friday, September 15, 2006
Thursday, September 14, 2006
The other movie I saw recently was Brick. This was a darn good movie. It's rated R for a reason; there is a fair bit of rather bloody violence and some themes and discussion inappropriate for the younger set. But I do not recall much profanity, none of the words that will garner an R rating on their own (or used to, at any rate) unless they were whispered. (The speakers weren't very good when I watched it.) The best I can do to describe the plot is that it all takes place in a high school context and the main character is contacted by an ex-girlfriend (for whom he still carries a torch) who asks for his help. She isn't able to tell him why she needs help and so the rest of the movie is his attempt to figure out what's going on and do something about it. If I tell you more than that, I'll give too much away. Do yourself a favor and don't go looking for longer plot descriptions and spoilers elsewhere, you'll enjoy the movie so much more not knowing what's going to happen next. You'll probably be able to figure some of it out before it happens, but for me that didn't detract from the enjoyment. The movie has the snappy dialogue that I love which is reminiscent of Raymond Chandler mysteries and Bogart films. Parts of the movie are a bit corny, but it really is consistent with kids, high-schoolers, trying to act like adults. It's a bit silly, but when high school kids try to act hard boiled, that's what happens.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
On the down side, I had to re-enter all my links and my book list, and I'll have to find a way to get my Library Thing widgets back onto the blog too. The HTML code being used now exceeds my quite limited expertise and so I'm stuck using the WYSIWYG layout editor that the beta has. This was a serious pain for the book list. Each entry had to be put into the layout editor individually and each one entered went onto the top of the list. Okay, no problem right now, I just did the list backwards. But in the future, I'd have to click the button to move the entry down the list some 130 or so times to get the most recent book to the bottom of the list where it belongs. Then I figured I should just make a separate list for each month. Yeah, I thought of that after I finished entering all the books. So I just deleted September and re-did that one as a different list. I'll carry that on with October, but if anyone wonders why there's a bigger gap between August and September than between any other months, that's why.
Even with several posts today, I'm falling behind. I have a couple movies I want to mention, but I'm need to go to bed. I'll try to get to them tomorrow. Last point of note today: Blogger's spell-check finally recognises "blog" as a word. This will be your last update on that topic.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
What is Randy Johnson's problem this year? His numbers are up (or down, depending on the stat) right across the board. Higher ERA, higher WHIP, higher BB, higher BAA, lower IP, lower SO, etc.
His ERA, however is one of the few numbers dramatically out of line with his career averages. The ERA is more than 1.6 runs higher this year. WHIP is only up .08, and the BAA is up .030 and walks are going to be lower than his career average, though up from the past two years. The real key here is two-fold, I believe. This could well be the first season in 16 years (not counting injury shortened seasons) where Randy has finished under 200 strike-outs for the year. The lower strike-out total means more balls in play and, I suspect though I do not have access to the data, more sacrifices to score runs. I don't think that is the primary reason, however. I find it hard to imagine that teams are managing to sacrifice enough to score an additional 1.6 runs or so every nine innings.
A bigger reason probably has to do with the patterns and types of hits that Randy allows. There are currently about 23 pitchers who have higher WHIP but lower ERAs, some as much as one or one and a half runs lower. Because there is not a large disparity in home runs, I would speculate that for some reason Randy is giving up more multi-base hits that are not homers, or for some reason he is not spreading out the hits he allows as effectively as other pitchers for some reason.
Monday, September 04, 2006
Saturday, September 02, 2006
The most recent book I've finished is Do As I Say (Not As I Do) by Peter Schweizer. It wasn't bad, it read quickly and would probably be most useful as ammunition when debating with a leftist. It makes the very good point that though liberals profess one thing, they often do another and, differing from conservatives, usually make their lives better as a result. When conservatives stray from their principles (Rush Limbaugh addicted to OxyContin, for example) their lives take a turn for the worse. The question then is, if leftists don't believe their ideas will do them any good (since they won't practice what they preach), why do they want the rest of us to adopt them?
So I went online today prior to visiting the library to see if I could renew some DVDs that I had checked out. Instead of finding out if someone else had them on hold, I was told that my library card was "blocked". That was it, no explanation, just "blocked".
When I arrived at the library I went to the desk and inquired, politely, why my card was blocked. I was told that it was because I had never checked out two of the books I had placed on hold, though I had taken them home and so they were now "missing". I explained that I found this odd, since I most certainly had checked them out and, in fact, returned them a week earlier. The librarian then condescendingly informed me that sometimes the self-checkout at the library didn't function properly and I probably didn't notice that they hadn't been checked out. I swallowed any reply I might have made about how I am not a complete buffoon with technology and asked for the block to be removed from my card. The librarian kindly acceded.
Thinking that this mess, while annoying, was through, I wandered a bit and found some books I wanted to check out, and decided to search for a few more. A book that I thought I would like to re-read was indicated as being on the shelves at that branch. Yet it was not. I looked in several places, the sci-fi/fantasy shelves, regular fiction, etc, but it was nowhere to be found. When I inquired about it, I was told that it was probably missing and did I want to put it on hold. No interest in finding the bloody book supposedly inhabiting their library, nor in changing the status of the book from present to missing (I watched her screen as she checked and then cleared it to deal with another patron).
Right then, I'm already over my quota of incompetence for the day. I'd like to just take my books and go home. But wait! I need to see if my DVDs can be renewed. I log in to a computer, punch in my card number and PIN and... "information is invalid"? I must have mistyped something. I try again. Nothing. I get my card out (despite my confidence in having memorised the number) and carefully type it and my PIN slowly and with deliberation. Same result. So I make my way again, more with anger than with trepidation, to the front desk and inquire why my card no longer seems to exist in their computers? After some footling about the librarian (each encounter has been with a different person) discovers that in removing the block from my card, her colleague has deleted my barcode from the system. Another few minutes of messing about and I can finally check out my books and escape.
As an epilogue, I glance at a scrap of paper I am using as a bookmark when I get home and discover, lo and behold, the receipt clearly stating that I did check out the two books that got my card blocked. And since I know I returned them, whoever was supposed to have checked them in was the one guilty of gumming up the works.
Frustrating, in the extreme. But I have a plan. Both to protect myself from further aspersions on my character and competence, and as a fringe benefit, sure to annoy the self-righteous librarians who have caused such problems for me in the first place. No more self-checkout for me, oh no! Even be it only one paperback, I will wait in line and have them check it out themselves, and of greater effect in both areas of import, I will bring every item in to the desk to be checked in by hand so I can get a receipt for that too. And should they dare to complain, I will be willing, nay, eager to relate this story at length and with flourishes to emphasise my resolution in this matter.
Monday, August 28, 2006
In related news, I've set a new record (at least for this year) for both total books read in a month and new books read in a month. 25 books so far, previous best being 20 in May, (and I have another couple days to try to bump that total up a bit) and 22 of those books are ones which I had not read previously, previous best was 10, both in April and May. YTD, 116 books read in total and 69 first-time-reads.
Sense and Sensibility was pretty good, though not up to Pride and Prejudice. As Wodehouse would say, "It failed to grip". It wasn't that any part of it was particularly bad, but that none of it was particularly good. Still, Austen has proven interesting enough that I think I shall seek out the rest of her novels, Emma and Northanger Abbey and such-like.
The couple Christie mysteries were pretty forgettable and Asimov's mysteries were too, though I was once again struck by how widely talented he was. The man was brilliant. And prolific. Here's his bibliography. I've also read a couple more Ellery Queen mysteries, both of which were good enough to keep me interested in the series. By and large he (or "they", really) play fair with keeping the evidence in plain sight for the reader to find as well as the detective. I've also been reading some Perry Mason mysteries by Erle Stanley Gardner. They're rather different than how I remember the television show. My recollections of the show are rather vague, but the Della Street of the books seems rather younger to me and there's a lot more sexual tension between her and Mason. Of course, it may be that sine the few shows I saw were as a child, such tension may have gone right over my head. There is also a lot less courtroom drama than I remembered, and most of it is done before the actual trial in most books. Still, they are quick reads and some of the mysteries are rather clever. The titles get on my nerves a bit; they remind me of the McGurk mysteries I read as a child, though I'm sure the influence went the other way.
The couple Thomas Sowell books I read were both consistent with what I had read of him earlier. Each was perceptive and lucid. His memoir was particularly interesting because I knew little about him as a person prior to reading it. I suppose I still don't really know him, but the sum of my knowledge about him is much greater now than it was.
The Dragon books by Zahn were passable. Soldier, solid but not spectacular. Slave, somewhat lacking. Herdsman, better than Slave but the series began showing signs of Jordan-itis.
He Talk Like a White Boy was okay, but nothing new. A collection of essays musing on the conservative side of life. A bit of an interesting twist with the author being both black and a celebrity (albeit a minor one), but still little I had not read already elsewhere.
The two books written/edited by Hilton Kramer were okay, though Twilight of the Intellectuals was less interesting simply because I find it difficult to care about a bunch of critics whose impact on politics and thought will, I suspect, be more transient than Kramer predicts. It is a difficult thing, after all, to determine what, among the glut of writing, will survive to posterity. The Future of the European Past had the same problem as Mr Phillips' book, I had really read most of it elsewhere already, though Mark Steyn's essay was a pleasure to read, as is just about everything he writes, regardless of topic.
Finally, the Prisoner books there at the end of the list (for now) were all pretty mediocre. I was interested in them because I recently finished watching my way through the TV series with my wife. A Day in the Life wasn't awful and it was the best of the lot. Shattered Visage did little more than retell the series with different characters, right down to the confusing and unsatisfying conclusion. The Companion had some interesting tidbits of information, but these were few and far between and offset by the inaccuracies sprinkled throughout as well.
Whew. I think that about covers it. I'll try not to fall so far behind in the future.
If there is room at the end of a line for one or more syllables of a word, but not for the whole word, divide the word, unless this involves cutting off only a single letter, or cutting off only two letters of a long word. No hard and fast rule for all words can be laid down. The principles most frequently applicable are:
a. Divide the word according to its formation:
know-ledge (not knowl-edge); Shake-speare (not Shakes-peare); de-scribe (not des-cribe); atmo-sphere (not atmos-phere);
b. Divide "on the vowel:"
edi-ble (not ed-ible); propo-sition; ordi-nary; espe-cial; reli-gious; oppo-nents; regu-lar; classi-fi-ca-tion (three divisions possible); deco-rative; presi-dent;
c. Divide between double letters, unless they come at the end of the simple form of the word:
Apen-nines; Cincin-nati; refer-ring; but tell-ing.
The treatment of consonants in combination is best shown from examples:
for-tune; pic-ture; presump-tuous; illus-tration; sub-stan-tial (either division); indus-try; instruc-tion; sug-ges-tion; incen-diary.
The student will do well to examine the syllable-division in a number of pages of any carefully printed book.
Monday, August 21, 2006
Walking slowly down the road, he saw a woman accompanied by two children.
The word walking refers to the subject of the sentence, not to the woman. If the writer wishes to make it refer to the woman, he must recast the sentence:
He saw a woman, accompanied by two children, walking slowly down the road.
Participial phrases preceded by a conjunction or by a preposition, nouns in apposition, adjectives, and adjective phrases come under the same rule if they begin the sentence.
On arriving in Chicago, his friends met him at the station.
When he arrived (or, On his arrival) in Chicago, his friends met him at the station.
A soldier of proved valor, they entrusted him with the defence of the city.
A soldier of proved valor, he was entrusted with the defence of the city.
Young and inexperienced, the task seemed easy to me.
Young and inexperienced, I thought the task easy.
Without a friend to counsel him, the temptation proved irresistible.
Without a friend to counsel him, he found the temptation irresistible.
Sentences violating this rule are often ludicrous.
Being in a dilapidated condition, I was able to buy the house very cheap.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
In other words, do not use periods for commas.
I met them on a Cunard liner several years ago. Coming home from Liverpool to New York.In both these examples, the first period should be replaced by a comma, and the following word begun with a small letter.
He was an interesting talker. A man who had traveled all over the world, and lived in half a dozen countries.
It is permissible to make an emphatic word or expression serve the purpose of a sentence and to punctuate it accordingly:
Again and again he called out. No reply.The writer must, however, be certain that the emphasis is warranted, and that he will not be suspected of a mere blunder in punctuation.
Rules 3, 4, 5, and 6 cover the most important principles in the punctuation of ordinary sentences; they should be so thoroughly mastered that their application becomes second nature.
It is not just that the United Nations is useless; it is, in fact, almost entirely detrimental to the interests of the United States. The problem posed for America, and for other nations such as Israel that suffer more than they gain from the existence of the UN, is that enormous numbers of people in the United States and around the world have somehow gotten the notion that the UN alone is capable of conferring moral legitimacy on the use of force, no matter how much that force is justified by humanitarian and security concerns. The dominant force in the UN is the Security Council, whose permanent membership is a relic of World War II and does not at all represent today's political realities. In order to get the council's approval for the defense of vital American interests, it is necessary to avoid a veto by France, Russia, or China, three nations whose interests are often diametrically opposed to America's and at least one, France, that harbors deep and probably permanent anti-Americanism out of envy. Russia and China appear more likely to act out of various motives, not all of them noble, but unlike France, not out of spite. Why most of the people of the world, including Americans, suppose that the UN is essential to confer moral legitimacy on the actions of America and its numerous allies remains a mystery.
-Coercing Virtue, p. 49-50
International law is not law but politics. For that reason, it is dangerous to give the name "law", which summons up respect, to political struggles that are essentially lawless. The problem is not merely the anti-Americanism that grips foreign elites and shapes law; it is also the American intellectual class, which is largely hostile to the United States and uses alleged international law to attack the morality of its own governement and society. International law becomes one more weapon in the domestic culture war. It must be admitted, moreover, that there are serious issues of inconsistency of application of this concept: The United States has used its power to force the trials of some men who have done no worse than others with whom we do not interfere. That may or may not be justifiable, but it hardly bespeaks devotion to law.-p. 21
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
If two or more clauses, grammatically complete and not joined by a conjunction, are to form a single compound sentence, the proper mark of punctuation is a semicolon.
Stevenson's romances are entertaining; they are full of exciting adventures.It is of course equally correct to write the above as two sentences each, replacing the semicolons by periods.
It is nearly half past five; we cannot reach town before dark.
Stevenson's romances are entertaining. They are full of exciting adventures.If a conjunction is inserted, the proper mark is a comma (Rule 4).
It is nearly half past five. We cannot reach town before dark.
Stevenson's romances are entertaining, for they are full of exciting adventures.Note that if the second clause is preceded by an adverb, such as accordingly, besides, so, then, therefore, or thus, and not by a conjunction, the semicolon is still required.
It is nearly half past five, and we cannot reach town before dark.
I had never been in the place before; so I had difficulty in finding my way about.In general, however, it is best, in writing, to avoid using so in this manner; there is danger that the writer who uses it at all may use it too often. A simple correction, usually serviceable, is to omit the word so, and begin the first clause with as:
As I had never been in the place before, I had difficulty in finding my way about.If the clauses are very short, and are alike in form, a comma is usually permissible:
Man proposes, God disposes.
The gate swung apart, the bridge fell, the portcullis was drawn up.