Blog-o! Notes from latte.ca

Wed, 31 Jan 2007

Since our receptionist (Oops, "Office Manager") left, and I took the opportunity to grab a copy of her entire iTunes folder, I've been listening to a lot of new music. Most of it is even actually new, and not just new to 33-year old fogeys who are stuck back in 1992. So, along with some book reviews that I'm in the middle of writing, I figured that I would write some reviews of the new tunes that I've been listening to, in the hopes that it will get me posting a little more to this weblog thing.

I promise to not review more than one thing per day, so as to not overwhelm the five of you who read this weblog. Having said that, I've been listening to more than one thing in the past couple of days, so I've got a few things for review queued up, which means that we'll probably have at least one per (week-)day for the next little while. I'm aiming for approximately 200 words per review, or more accurately somewhere near 1500 characters, because my editor (Scite) has a count of characters, but no word-count that I could find. Clearly this post isn't going to make that limit, but then again, it's not actually a review, so I don't mind.

And I've just realized that I lied. I'll probably be doing some book reviews as well, and perhaps even a review of a restaurant, if one catches my fancy. If I were younger, with more desposable income, I'ld be all over the new gadget reviews, too.

[Posted at 18:09 by Blake Winton] link
Sun, 28 Jan 2007

Cordelia has been talking for a while; her first words were about the same as Delphine's, "up" and "cat" and "Daddy!" In the last couple of weeks her vocabulary has really expanded; "stuck" and "spoon" and "Mimi", "baby", "milk", "'delia", "book", "more".

She's changed in the last few days. We make fun of Blake's parents because they always say the girls have changed, every week: "she's changed so much!" But this week Cordelia really has changed, with her words, with putting ideas together, with wanting to be read to; even her face looks less babyish.

Cordelia is very good at putting things away; she joins in when I'm putting toys in boxes, she puts books back on the shelf. She loves lining up cups on coasters; she loves order. I think she's going to be the neat one.

I've complained before about how tedious and high-maintenance babies are, and I'm not about to stop, at least not until Cordelia is past the tedious and high-maintenance stage. Babies and stairs, particularly, don't mix; if I were smarter I wouldn't have moved from a one-floor condo to a three-floor house until after Cordelia could manage stairs.

Here is what I have to do if I need to go to the bathroom when I am with Delphine:

  1. Say "Hey, Delphine, I am going to go to the bathroom".
  2. Go upstairs, do my business, and come back.

Here is what I have to do if I need to go to the bathroom when I am with Cordelia:

  1. Find Cordelia.
  2. Pick up Cordelia.
  3. Open baby gate, carry Cordelia upstairs.
  4. Go into bathroom, close door, put Cordelia down, do my business while trying to pursuade Cordelia to stay out of the trash, leave the toilet brush alone, and not unravel the entire roll of paper.
  5. Pick up Cordelia.
  6. Carry Cordelia downstairs.
  7. Lock baby gate.

It's just... ugh. It's just that little babies are so physical! So physically demanding. And prone to falling off things. Cordelia falls off things all the time; she has fallen off the step stool, off an upturned Lego container, off the couch... it's a rare day, in fact, when she doesn't fall off something.

On the other hand, there something nice about babies. Cordelia adores us; she is delighted to see us every morning, she comes to us when she is sad or hurt, she loves to cuddle and kiss and play with us endlessly. We are her life, her sun and moon and stars, in a way that we just aren't with the infinitely more complicated Delphine, who tells me I am not her friend at least once a week, who sometimes gives me the silent treatment when I pick her up from daycare, who argues about every damn thing just for the sake of it. Cordelia is still at the stage where she is our little dolly, she can safely be objectified, whereas Delphine is well on her way to being an actual person, and like any person, she on occasion objects to being scooped up and snuggled, she sometimes wants to be left alone, she frequently has desires which conflict with ours.

I'd still rather that than have to carry her everywhere, though, which is why I am still looking forward to Cordelia being a little older and little more physically autonomous. But for now I am enjoying the unadulterated baby love.

[Posted at 23:34 by Amy Brown] link
Mon, 22 Jan 2007
Crappity Crap

If I had one of those blogs with a "mood" field, I would write "bummed" and put a little sad face. I just poked around the Queens and OISE (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education) websites and found out that because I got such crappy marks in university I don't qualify to get into their teacher education programs. I have no idea what I should do about this -- do I have to get another degree? Go to someone's office and beg?

It's extra ironic because I have a three year degree, so according to Queens that means I need a B average, but if I had a four year degree they wouldn't even care what my marks are. However, the reason my marks are so bad is that I was taking Honours (four-year) courses, which are harder than the three-year program courses. If I had been taking three-year General courses I would have been getting As and Bs instead of Cs and Ds. And Fs.

Also ironic because I am smart and I would make a good teacher (I think), and university was a million years ago — since then I have worked, travelled, become a parent — and how well I did or didn't do back then is so irrelevant to how well I would do as a teacher now, ten years later, that I am frankly shocked and taken aback that it would even come up. But they don't have any options for mature students; I am bound now by bad decisions I made when I was eighteen. Still. Again.

Stupid. I guess I will have to go meet with a registrar and see if they have any bright ideas.

[Posted at 15:54 by Amy Brown] link
Fri, 19 Jan 2007
New Pictures Up
I put up a bunch of new pictures. (The December and January pictures are new.)
[Posted at 17:17 by Amy Brown] link
Wed, 10 Jan 2007
First Two Books of 2007

We have finally beaten the house into enough submission that I can sit down and read a few pages in good conscience, thank god.

Another Day in the Frontal Lobe: A Brain Surgeon Exposes Life On The Inside by Katrina Firlik is the autobiography of a neurosurgeon. It's well-written and interesting if you're like me and are fascinated by the workings of the human body and the freaky things that happen to it. Sometimes I wish I had done something more brainy in university, and that I was something more impressive now, like a Doctor or a Lawyer (not really), but this book made me glad I'm not a neurosurgeon, or really any of the emergency-oriented medical specialities. I love my easy, predictable, homey life and I would hate to work long hours and be on call all the time. Although the saving people and being really important part would be cool.

I went to Katrina Firlik's website and found these funny little drawings of neurosurgery-related objects juxtaposed with objects in nature. Also the UK title for this book, Brain Matters: Adventures of a Brain Surgeon, is a hundred times better than the North American title.

Cockeyed: A Memoir by Ryan Knighton is another autobiography, this one by a guy who started going blind in his teens and is now completely or almost completely blind. It chronicles the hijinks that ensue when you mix normal teenage stupidity with unreliable eyesight, when you get a bunch of blind people together at Blind People Camp (blind Tai Chi, anyone? Blind canoeing?), and the deep, deep badness of going to South Korea to teach English with your girlfriend and pretend you're not blind.

This book made me laugh until I wept; I could hardly tell Blake what I was laughing at. Knighton is a brilliant writer and has a real knack for describing the inherent slapstick of blindness, without making you feel like an asshole for laughing at it. He is also unflinchingly honest about his own behavour and emotions, and the effect he has on others. I think I will try and find other stuff he has written and see how he deals with other material. I hope he has children and writes about them, actually, because I bet that would be hilarious.

[Posted at 16:03 by Amy Brown] link
Thu, 04 Jan 2007
Babies Rock
Watch and laugh.
[Posted at 12:02 by Amy Brown] link
Tue, 02 Jan 2007

Since I last posted I have started making notes on the books I read in an old-fashioned paper-and-pen notebook, which is part of the reason I haven't posted about books; I feel like I've thought about the books quite enough between reading them and then making notes, I don't really want to face them again in the blog. So I am trying to decide if I should give up blogging about books at all. On the one hand I feel as if books are the only thing of substance I write about, and I sort of like putting my reading list out there and sharing the finds and the books to avoid; I know there is at least one person who gets ideas about books to read from my list. On the other hand I don't know if anyone else particularly cares what I read and what I think about it, so maybe it's not worth blogging about and I should stick to the paper book log.

Anyway, all that aside I would like to write about what I read in the rest of 2006, for completeness.

The Baby Project by Sarah Ellis is a young adult novel about a teenage girl who gets an unexpected baby sister, and how the new addition pulls the family apart and together.

SPOILER: Of course there is the obligatory tragedy which forces everyone to confront their demons and become better people. Tragedies in young adult fiction often seem to heavy-handed and morose and obvious. "We must have something terrible happen to these people to move the character development forward." As opposed to the tragedy happening because tragedies happen, which I suppose happens in life, but I feel like fiction should be a little more sensible. I don't know how an author finesses that fine line of having things happen to move the novel forward without it being obvious that this thing is happening to move the novel forward, but it's nice when they manage it. Which Ellis didn't here, but otherwise it's a good story with well-drawn characters.

Reading Series Fiction by Victor Watson seemed like a nice complement to the book about reading like a professor. It's about series fiction for children, which apparently is an under-studied genre in the world of children's literature. Watson gives a nice overview, with lots of analysis of various series, as well as effectively skewering Enid Blyton. This is a must-read for anyone who is interested in children's literature.

Confessions of an Organized Homemaker by Deniece Schofield is a book about how to get organized. I can't remember the layout or concept of this book, but I wrote down a bunch of good ideas from it, like keeping jigsaw puzzle pieces in big Ziploc baggies and getting rid of the boxes (which always fall apart, don't stack nicely and generally make life hard); keeping all dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, rice, etc) in Tupperware containers which stack neatly, rather than in the original packaging (of course I use cheap and cheerful Gladware instead). This was a useful book with lots of similar good ideas.

Johnny Kellock Died Today by Hadley Dyer is a young adult novel set in Halifax in the fifties. I don't remember much about this apart from a favourable impression and appealing characters, and another tragedy but a much more finely drawn and subtle one.

Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert is a book about what makes people happy. This is very nicely written; I enjoyed reading it not just for the content but for the author's voice. It's an interesting book about where happiness comes from, what makes us happy, how we deal with tragedy, and how to make decisions that will make us happy in the future. It's probably a good idea for everyone to read this book. Everyone who wants to be happy, anyway.

The Car and the City by Alan Thein Durning is an overview of how cars and cities work together, or rather how they don't work together, and how we can create cities which improve our lives and lessen our dependence on cars (which are pretty much synonymous in my mind). Useful book, easy to read.

The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy Boston and Autumn Term by Antonia Foster are both discussed in the aforementioned Reading Series Fiction book. Green Knowe is about a little boy who is sent to live with an ancient relative in a spooky old house, and the friends he makes there; Autumn Term is an excellent representative of the English Boarding School genre. Both are very good and I will suggest the girls read them when they are older.

I did not finish Allergy: History of a Modern Malady by Mark Jackson. I thought it would be more chatty, more lighthearted, but it turned out to be a dense discussion of the history of allergies in medicine, and I gave up after a couple of chapters.

Blue Shoes and Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith and Cold Moon by Jeffrey Deaver were good easy reading.

The March of Unreason: Science, Democracy and the New Fundamentalism by Dick Taverne is a really nice comparison of anti-scientific doctrines and beliefs with the old religious fundamentalism. Taverne discusses the role of the media and post-modernist thought in the mongering of fear of such diverse bugaboos as multinational companies, pesticide, genetic modification, and modern medicine. His arguments are sound and this book is very thought-provoking. It's also nice to think that one doesn't have to go around being scared and cynical all the time.

Kindred by Octavia Butler is an awesome book. It's about a modern (well, seventies) black woman who is sent back in time to the slavery-era South to save a white man who will become her ancestor. Imagine the best possible book with that scenario, and that's what Butler has written. I am glad to have found this author because she wrote a lot, and you know I am always running out of things to read.

I didn't read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell because I wanted to, but because every else in the world has read it and I felt left out. I'm glad I did, though, because it's interesting and Gladwell is always a pleasure to read. It's more of that same brain stuff like in Stumbling on Happiness and The Paradox of Choice, and the more I know about how the brain works the more in control I feel, and the more I understand about the world.

The Fourth Horseman by Andrew Nikiforuk was really disappointing. It's a book about plagues and pandemics, and I love a good plague. One of my favourite units in History was on the Black Death. But in my notebook I wrote "A discussion of various plagues and pandemics through the ages, fatally marred by the author's disdain for doctors, technology, and facts." It's a weird book; at one point Nikiforuk talks with disgust about how underwear was originally worn to protect more valuable outer garments from body soil. Isn't that why we wear underwear now? I mean, except Paris Hilton, for whom outerwear is underwear. He also goes into a wistful reverie about the good old days when half of children born didn't make it to age five, and old people were really respected because there weren't so many of them. He speaks with disdain about the "germ theory" of disease, the radical theory that microorganisms are the cause of many diseases. And a cornerstone of modern medicine. I think Nikiforuk is a kook in journalist's clothing; this book was a jarring contrast the The March of Unreason.

Little People: Learning to See The World Through My Daughter's Eyes by Dan Kennedy is a book by the father of a little girl born with achondroplagic dwarfism, about his journey to understand why she was born different and what that means for her future and for the world she will live in. It was an interesting book and a good read. It was also fun to read the bits about the Roloffs, because I know you watch Little People, Big World every week like I do. Or at least you should.

Break No Bones by Kathy Reichs is better than the last one — she's back to her usual formula and it's working. Although I hope she resolves this husband/boyfriend love triangle thing, it's starting to drag on.

So that was a lot of books and it took me a really long time to write about them; was it worth it? I don't know; I'm just really tired.

[Posted at 23:45 by Amy Brown] link