Saturday, December 30, 2006

'Tis the Season

I haven't posted much about Christmas or holidays generally this year, and I'm not really going to post about it much now. Around Christmas my family has traditionally made certain foods that are not made during the rest of the year: fudge, buckeyes, truffles and, my personal favourite, baklava. So a couple weeks back we did make some habenero truffles and a tray of baklava. One batch of baklava is not enough, however, and so today my wife and I made more. (Well, she made more and I chopped up the almonds and walnuts for her.) Here's a picture of some of my handiwork.



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.

Perhaps the last two of the year.

New books, that is. I've read another couple books since these two, but none that I hadn't read before. These two are Full Moon and Mr Mulliner Speaking. Both are by Wodehouse and the first is a Blandings novel and the second is a collection of Mulliner stories. Full Moon was the most disappointing Blandings novel I've read yet. It was entertaining and I smiled a fair bit, but I don't think I laughed out loud even once. Wodehouse did recycle his plots quite frequently, and because of that it's often possible to see how a particular book will turn out in general. But in this one even the twists and complications were telegraphed way ahead of time and they weren't as clever as one would have expected. It's a bit surprising that this book should be so off since it wasn't one that was written at the end of his life, but was published in 1947. On the other hand, it's quite possible that the problems he had arising out of his internment during World War II were a sufficient distraction to put him off of his form.

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

Heh

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.”
~Mark Steyn

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

It was the best of books, it was the worst of books

Not really true on either count, really. I finished reading A Tale of Two Cities for the first time a couple days back and it wasn't great, but not as bad as I feared. Excepting A Christmas Carol, it was head and shoulders above what I recall of his other works. On the other hand, it may have been that his other books bored me so because I tried reading them too young.

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

Sunday, December 17, 2006

"Let there be light."

Truly, it is good. Not trying to be flip when speaking about divine personages.

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

Stem Cells

For those who support embryonic stem cell research and discount "slippery-slope" arguments, this is for you.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Making a Case

I've read a couple books by Lee Strobel recently. (You can see them at the bottom of my "Books Read in 2006" list over there on the left.) One was The Case for Faith and the other was The Case for Christ. I believe the latter was actually written first, but I didn't read it first. I'm borrowing them both from the youth minister at my church. (After taking a second to find that link, I googled his name and discovered he has a blog too. Who knew?) He loaned them to me since I agreed to teach the teens' class on Sunday mornings this quarter and he wanted me to teach on the topic of evidences. Apologetics. Or something. I forget what words he used exactly.

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.

What's Japanese for "vicomte"?

I was taking a quick glance at the DVD shelf at my local library and spotted a couple DVDs in the anime section which I had not seen there before. So I plucked one from the shelf and gave it the once-over. I almost put it back right away since the garish colours and psychedelic confusion on the cover gave it the look of something in which I would have no interest, but then the subtitle caught my eye. The anime was called Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo. The Count of Monte Cristo being one of my favourite books of all-time, I of course decided to give it a try despite the off-putting cover art. I was fortunate that the library had on hand the first two DVDs so I could give the thing a proper trial.

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.

Getting Ink Done

I read a book ("read" is a loose term since it consists almost entirely of images with captions) recently that sparked my interest again in getting a tattoo. (This desire is tempered by the fact that my mother would probably forbid me her house should I do such a thing.) The book is Body Type and is about people who have text tattooed onto themselves. Some have single words, others have quotations and some just random letters. Some people have their initials, the name of a husband or wife, some have the name of a pet; several have the alphabet. It was interesting, but the section with "geek" tattoos was rather lacking. I've seen examples on the internet of people who had rather interesting and creative ink done that related to what are generally considered geeky hobbies. An interesting book and one that can be finished in well under an hour.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Chandler/Not Chandler

I read Poodle Springs not too long ago which is the "final" Philip Marlowe novel by Raymond Chandler. Really, it is the notes for a novel fleshed out by another author after Chandler's death. It wasn't as bad as the attempt to complete the unfinished Lord Peter novel, but it certainly wasn't Chandler. There were flashes of Chandler's prose in the book, but most of the time it was flat and there were definite sections that did not read like him. I've read nothing else by Robert Parker, and nothing in Poodle Springs inclined me to seek out his other work. Devotees of the mystery genre or fans of Marlowe will read this book regardless, I'm sure, but it can be skipped by anyone else.

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

Undeserving HOFers

The Hardball Times looks at what arguments might be made this year and in years to come for certain players when they become eligible for the Hall of Fame. The explicit point of this article is that the author does NOT think any of these players deserve to get in, but all might on the basis of arguments such as these. Interesting reading and a couple sentences near the end caught my eye as being true though not immediately obvious. "Fifty, 60 years from now Canseco might become a sympathetic martyr who had a terrific career cut short by the heartless establishment. Sound ridiculous? Look at how the saga of “Shoeless Joe” Jackson has transformed over the last quarter century." How true.

Church Advertising

Advertising seems to carry within it an implication of comparison. The idea being that what is being advertised is, in some way, better than the rest and should be selected for that reason. IMonk looks at three church advertising spots (without any reference to the actual church that created them) and critiques them. I like what he has to say, but would be interested in what he would propose as the proper bases on which to advertise one's church. Worth reading, and the link is worth clicking to see the ads too.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Billion.

"Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor."

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!

Free Range! Er, Free Bird!

So it's only one study, and we all know that when it comes to science, one study is about as meaningful as the first ten games of the baseball season. It counts, but it could indicate something completely different than the final outcome. But it indicates that you ought to avoid that organic chicken in favour of that which is "battery" (is that the same as factory?) farmed. Why? Because the organic stuff just isn't very healthy. Crazy, I know.

Linked from somewhere in The Corner.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

"First they came for the cigarettes..."

"But I said nothing, because I was not a smoker."

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

Book Collecting

This was my quote of the day for today.
To be a book-collector is to combine the worst characteristics of a dope fiend with those of a miser.
- Robertson Davies

Christmas

As my wife has noted, I'm taking a few days off of work to help with various and sundry things around the house. Christmas will be here in about 3 weeks and sometime over the next month or so our second child will arrive as well. So there's plenty to be done. We bought our Christmas tree yesterday morning and decorated it yesterday afternoon. Our daughter was old enough this year to actually assist us in doing so. Though she had trouble actually hanging the ornaments on the tree, she could indicate where she thought they ought to go, so there was a bit of clumping in places.

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.