More Books I Have Read This Year

Okay, Cordelia is napping and Delphine is busy with Charlie and Lola and I am for once not too tired to move, so allow me to type a list of all the books I have read but not yet posted about, and perhaps even discuss one or two.

Books About Technical Stuff

Making the Most of Kitchens by Gilly Love. I read this before the reno when we were still trying to figure out what we were going to do. It wasn't really all that useful because I had pretty much made all the big decisions, and we didn't have that much flexibility in terms of layout anyway. However, if I hadn't thought about what kind of countertop I wanted or whether wood floors were a good idea, this book might have come in useful. It had lots of pictures of different kitchens for decorating inspiration.

The fact that it was an English book was a little weird at times; she tries to talk you into refrigerating things. Now there's an idea!

The Non-Designer's Design Book by Robin Williams is a very useful overview for non-designers who none-the-less find themselves having to design or judge the design of letters, newsletters, logos, business cards, posters, banners, and so on. If, like me, you know what you like but you don't know why, or (worse) you know what you don't like but don't know how to fix it, this book is a must-read.

Williams breaks design down into four simple principles (contrast, repetition, proximity, and alignment) and then explains how to apply them to make your documents more attractive and powerful while never overlooking the most important thing, communication.

If I'm ever in a position where I have to create documents I will definitely have a copy of this book on my shelf.

Vegetable Gardening From Planting to Picking: The Complete Guide to Creating a Bountiful Garden by Fern Marshall Bradley and Jane Courtier and some other, slightly thinner but equally useful vegetable gardning book which I read rather belatedly this June and July. My garden is doing, frankly, rather dismally. I just brought a foot long zucchini home from my friend Tanya's garden, while my zucchini plant has one little three-inch fruit on it. Honestly, who can't grow a zucchini? But according to these books I should have spent a lot more time and effort preparing the earth before planting, and I definitely need to water, fertilize and weed more. Maybe at all. Yes, there isn't really anything I did right this year, but the lovely thing about gardening is you can always try again next year.

The books cover everything from planning your garden (another thing I didn't really do) to harvesting and preserving your crops, as well as giving specific growing and harvesting instructions for a variety of fruit and vegetables. The only problem I had was that the books were written for all of North America, so I had to selectively ignore advice about things like okra and peanuts which will never grow in good old Zone 5. I wonder if there's a good Ontario vegetable gardening book. (I bet the library would know!)

Books for Fun

The Rabbi's Girls by Johanna Hurwitz. I picked this up off the young adult rack at the library because I am interested in juvenile literature with Jewish content, if only to know what to steer the girls towards when they get older and want some context about their own personal history. This is a novel about a family that moves around the US midwest (? I think, I can't exactly remember) as their rabbi father is shunted from community to community (parish? I'm sure that's not the word!) It was a nice light read, I can't complain.

Does Anything Eat Wasps? And 101 Other Questions by New Scientist. This is a collection of questions and answers from New Scientist's Last Word page (okay, I'm making that up, I can't remember the name of their last page) where people send in their perplexing sciency questions and other people take a stab at answering them. This was the first book I read after we came up for air after the reno, and it was a nice easy way to get back into using my brain again. There's plenty of interesting stuff in here, but of course my favourite thing was the question about why some people sound better than others when they sing.

Okay, I only have three books to go, but Delphine would like me to play with her so off I go! Maybe Blake will hurt himself again and post about it.

When will I learn?

Well, I fell again, in a rather spectacular fashion. I was crossing St. Clair on Mt. Pleasant, and had just passed a right-turning bus (on the left! I’m not dumb enough to try to pass a right-turning bus on the right!), and was signaling that I was going to go back to the right-hand side of the lane (and therefore only had one hand on the handles) when *BUMP*, I hit a large ridge in the road, which turned the tire sideways, and I went straight over the handlebars, skidding to a stop near the curb. My bike flew overtop of me, crashing into a hedge.

As I got up, I noticed that the crash had apparently turned both my front light and my bike computer around, which was quite a shock until I realized that it was actually the whole handlebars which had gotten turned around. I spun it back and then just sort of stood there for a while, catching my breath and calming down a little. A lady driving by asked me if I was okay, and if I needed a ride somewhere, but I told her I was fine, which wasn’t entirely the truth. My knees are pretty much fine, a little scrape, perhaps. My elbow is completely ripped up, and even though I cleaned it thoroughly with soap and water and a lot of scrubbing, it still looks pretty ugly, and is probably going to scab up something awful. Worse than that, my shoulder is really sore again, in the same way that it was after my last fall, which can’t be good. I really need to get that looked at sometime. The worst thing, however, is that I ripped the elbow of my cycling shirt. Yeah, I can darn it, but darn it, I liked that shirt! But with every negative, there comes a positive. The power button on my Palm TX started working again. Weird. Maybe the next time I fall, the sound will come back on.

So, in summary, signaling on a bicycle is bad! No, not really. Maybe the lesson is more that bumps in the road aren’t the greatest, especially when you don’t have your hands on the handlebars. Other than that, I don’t really think I have any takeaways from this one. That intersection of St. Clair and Mt. Pleasant is treacherous, perhaps.

Daily Deck Update 7

Stairs! The facing went on! Apparently we got fewer long planks than we needed, so Cory couldn’t finish the deck itself, so instead he put on the facing, and started building the frames for the planters. Hey, I just noticed the big long stair at the front. Neat!
Stonehenge.  Kinda. And another shot of the side stairs, with facing.

Daily Deck Update 6

Stairs! Finally, a set of stairs! I can’t tell you how excited I am about those, although I am a little curious as to why that first step is twice as long as the second… Maybe the ground moved up. Yeah, that's what I'll go with.
Stonehenge.  Kinda. This line of stones brought to you by Cordelia. It’s nice to see that she can create order as well as chaos.
A window to nowhere. And finally, a bonus picture for Andrew. Yes, that was a window you saw under our deck. I’m not sure how we’ll get light into the basement now. Perhaps with electricity. (I’m also not sure what is going to happen to the edge of the deck, so we just might still get some light from the edges.

Daily Deck Update 5

Il Pleut.It’s raining, with thunderstorms even, and so nothing’s going to happen to the deck today. Perhaps tomorrow.
(Oh, and the weather department doesn't keep historical pages active, so by the time you click on the little cloud, it might say something completely different.)

Daily Deck Update 4

Halfway done.Wow, is that ever going quickly. At least, far quicker than I would have been able to do it. The last quarter of the last board in the big group on the right isn't screwed down yet, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.

Still to do, the stairs, the planters, and the garbage bin. We might not be getting a barbeque until the end of the summer, because a friend of the family is downsizing, and might give us her’s, but either way, I plan on having a party when the deck is done, with beer and margaritas and some sort of munchie thing. And of course you’re all invited! I’ll start planning it after the deck is actually done, and post details when they’re finalized.

Daily Deck Update 3

The view out the back. Okay, I promise that I’m not going to keep on posting more and more pictures every day, if only because I don’t think I could take 14 good pictures on the 14th day… But today there were really three things I wanted to point out. The first is the view from the back door out into the garden. That’s pretty much how it’ll look every time I walk out there. Well, with a top on it, and planters and a garbage box and a barbeque, and stuff, but that’s the layout.
It’s big, from this angle. The next shot is how it will look coming in to the house (if you’re really small, like Cordelia). Amy noticed that our house looks a little ramshackle, with the door all boarded up and stuff. (Cory (see the previous entry) was nice enough to screw a few boards in so that the girls didn’t fall out.)
The Master Plan. And finally, the shot from Delphine’s room, where you can see the full-width stairs down the back (on the top of the picture); the cut-out for the stairs on the side; and, uh, well I guess that’s all you can see, but on top of the cut-out will be one of the planters, wiht a matching planter on the other side; underneath the cut-out will be the garbage-box-thing; on the lower left will be the barbeque, and the upper half will have a table and chairs for lounging.

There’s also a nice amount of space on the right for my bicycle, so I guess I should figure out a way to make that area a little smoother and nicer to bike or walk on.

Daily Deck Update 2

Y.M.C.A.!Some wood.
A bonus picture today! The nice gentleman on the left is Cory, our foreman/general contractor/construction guy. (He insisted on a re-do with the shades on. I can get behind that.) The picture on the right is where we are as of now. You can see sort of how far it goes out (except that the board at the bottom of the picture is about 5´ away from the door), and underneath the cat litter is a black sheet of plastic, to kill whatever vegetation thinks it wants to grow under there.

Daily Deck Update

Not much.I thought it might be fun to post daily pictures of what’s happening on our deck, so that later when we wonder just what’s under there, we will be able to go back and see.

We already have a picture of the first day’s “progress”, and so here’s today’s. Not a whole lot to look at, but those holes were dug by hand by an intern. With his bare hands, I tell you!

Why is this stuff so hard?

A couple of days ago, I fixed a bug by deleting the class. I don’t often get to do that, but this class was buggy, hard to use, and ill-considered in the first place. I won’t post the code, but some sample output is:

Fri Aug 27 00:00:00 EDT 1976
Julian Day: 2443017
Milliseconds since midnight: 43200000
Thu Aug 26 20:00:00 EDT 1976
Clearly that’s not right, since the top and bottom date should be the same. So, what was wrong with it? Well...
  • Julian dates use milliseconds since noon, not milliseconds since midnight.
  • The milliseconds since noon should be 57600000, because we’re in EDT, which is 4 hours behind UTC. (The cause of this particular bug.)
  • The class was implemented as a subclass of java.util.GregorianCalendar. A Calendar exists soley to link a java.util.Date and a java.util.TimeZone, but Julian dates are all relative to UTC, so should not be represented as a Calendar, much less a Gregorian Calendar.

I managed to replace almost all the occurrances with java.util.Dates, except for a couple of places where I needed to group things by day in EST. Those places I just created a new java.util.GregorianCalendar, and used it to figure out where to split my groups. The algorithm to go from the Julian days and milliseconds since noon to a java.util.Date, and back again is fairly easily derivable from the formula:

date = (julianDate - JULIAN_START) * MILLIS_PER_DAY + julianMillis - MILLIS_PER_DAY/2
Solve for any one of the three lowercase variables, using a little truncating-division, or a little modulo arithmatic to get rid of unknown terms, and you’re good to go. So please, if you’re dealing with dates or times, don’t make this mistake, at least not where I might run across it.