Amy (old posts, page 8)

My Life in Point Form

This is a nice metaphor, actually: I feel like I only have time for myself in the form of short bulleted statements.

  • I just called for an NDP sign for the balcony window.
  • I am reading books about software project management but I am concerned that my lack of programming experience will hinder me.
  • I am not losing weight as quickly as I would like, but
  • I am also not eating as healthily or getting as much exercise as I should.
  • I made and then cancelled an appointment to get my hair cut very very short.
  • Cordelia is crying and I am ignoring her because I want to post this.
  • (Okay, I got her a soother.)
  • It's warm enough (eleven degrees) that I have the windows open to air the place out. It's JANUARY!
  • My back is kind of sore and I have a chiropractor appointment and a massage booked for next week.
  • I am going to relearn how to skate so I can teach Delphine (she got bob-skates for Christmas) because I think all Canadian children should know how to skate.
  • I am looking forward to getting back to yoga because it makes my back stronger, it's relaxing and it helps me go longer without taking a breath when I sing.
  • I rejoined the choir -- I can still sing a high B-flat (or higher, but no-one writes higher than that for choirs).
  • I watch a lot of TV: The Daily Show, Miami Ink, What Not To Wear, Everybody Hates Chris, Veronica Mars, Battlestar Galactica, The Hour on CBC Newsworld, Dead Like Me, American Idol, and assorted emergency room and decorating reality shows. I don't watch Desperate Housewives, Lost, 24, or The Bachelor, so even though I watch a lot of TV I still can't talk about it with other people.
  • I like having the window open and being able to hear the city. I feel more like I'm a part of it. I will miss living on Yonge Street when we move.
  • We probably won't move for another eighteen months or so.

2005 Books Overview

(This is going to be kind of boring for anyone who isn't me. Precisely the kind of thing one shouldn't post on one's website.)

Last year I apparently read around forty-five books -- those were the ones I remembered to log, anyway, and I think I remembered just about all of them last year. I read eight of them from January until May, and the other thirty-nine from June on -- yay, first trimester fatigue. Twenty-two since Cordelia was born -- yay, breastfeeding! I read fifteen fiction and thirty-one non-fiction, and two collections of short stories. I'm really into non-fiction these days; I find non-fiction books to be more rich with ideas than novels are, and I'm very keen on thinking about the world lately. There's a lot to think about...

I'm glad I started reading again -- for a while, starting in high school, I hardly read at all, but I have learned so much in the last few years from reading books written by clever people. I shudder to think how boring and ignorant I would be if I hadn't read the books that I have read.

In short: books, good. News at eleven.

Books for the New Year

Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash by Elizabeth Royte. This is like the garbage version of the corpse book -- what happens to garbage when we throw it out. I have only two things to say: Royte is not as funny as Mary Roach, and people who deal with garbage are much less keen to talk about it than people who deal with bodies.

Long Way Round: Chasing Shadows Across the World by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman. This was pretty good -- about the authors' motorcycle trip from London to New York, overland (apart from that awkward Bering Strait bit). Perhaps not surprisingly (being that they are both actors) they seem like emotional types; I certainly wouldn't sign up to bike around the world with either of them.

Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door by Lynne Truss. Truss is a grumpy woman, and I can't say I disagree with her that people could stand to be more courteous, but I think this book makes a lot more sense in England than it does here -- Canadians are in general polite and friendly to each other, just like the stereotype suggests. Whereas the English... not so much.

Also Truss's Internet bears no relation to my Internet. She seems to conflate her technical problems with computers and her problems with the culture of the Internet. Anyway, some of my best friends are from the Internet, so there. (I had a more reasoned response to this earlier, but it's been a while since I finished the book and now I've forgotten what I was going to say. Hmph.)

Incidentally, this book references a book which is also referenced by the book I am currently reading (American Backlash by Michael Adams) which I selected independently of the Truss book. The referenced book is called Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam. Does that mean I should read it? Probably. God, this reading will be the death of me. Maybe I should give up watching TV so I have a chance in hell of keeping up with my own "to be read" list.

With One Lousy Free Packet of Seed by Lynne Truss. Funny and a little silly. Kind of Douglas Adams-ish, although that might just be because it's an English comedic novel. Also kind of Jasper Ffordish, but without the annoyingly clever literary references.

I'll be the Parent, You Be the Child by Paul Kropp. I got this from the Gender book, and I wasn't sure what to expect, whether it would be a conservative, spare-the-rod kind of thing, but to my pleasure it turned out to be by a Toronto writer who wrote for my favourite parenting magazine. It's a common-sense overview of various parenting issues, reviewing the available evidence and giving the bottom line according to Kropp. Very sensible advice. It made me think that I probably don't want to work full-time until my children are grown -- that the best thing I can give my children is my time. But since I would like to buy some new clothing before I am fifty, I will be working part-time.

And now Cordelia would like some of that time, so I can write no more.

New Year's Resolutions

1. Take more pictures. More pictures of the girls, and more pictures of the people in my life. My sister-in-law has a million pictures of her friends grinning at the camera, taken at every event she ever has or goes to, or just for the hell of it. I didn't used to see the point of having all those pictures of people, but looking back I wish I had more pictures of the people in my life, and I wish my parents had taken more pictures of their people; I have no pictures of my Aunt Delphine, and only one of my maternal grandparents, and none of my paternal.

2. Read Pere Goriot and King Lear. If I'm going to be all snotty and literary about my children's names the least I can do is read the damn books. I am such a poser.

3. Learn to read better. Oh, I'm fully literate, but the stuff I read tends to bounce out of my head soon after it goes in. That's why I have the book log, so that I am forced to think about each book at least once after I read it, and so that I can refer back to the list and remember what I have read. But I need to learn to read more deeply, to think more about what I'm reading as I read it, and to remember it better. To this end I would like to read this book. (I tried reading that How To Read and Why book but it didn't help -- it was all "why" and no "how".)

4. Learn to do the Asian Squat. I spend a LOT of time squatting, talking to Delphine, helping her with her boots and coat, feeding the cats. But I can't squat properly -- my heels lift off the ground and I am left balancing on my toes, which is very precarious. I need to learn to do a proper squat, and I don't understand why I can't. I am going to talk to my chiropractor, who is an absolute genius when it comes to anatomy, about what I need to stretch and strengthen to be able to do this. And perhaps I should watch this movie too.

5. Finish laundry the day I start. I'm pretty good at housework -- the place is generally fairly clean, the kitchen gets cleaned once a day, I vacuum weekly, I tidy up Delphine's toys every day or two, but I can't seem to get a handle on laundry. I wash and dry it in a day, but then it sits unfolded in the living room for a couple of days. I finally fold it, and then it sits, folded, in the living room for another day or two until I finally put it away, usually because I need the baskets to do more laundry. I don't think there is any trick to this, I think I just need to fold and put away the damn laundry the day I wash it. It's a matter of self-discipline. I hate that.

December Books

My list of books read but not written about is getting unwieldy:

Death Sentences: How Cliches, Weasel Words and Management-Speak are Strangling Public Language by Don Watson

I think Don Watson is just a cranky guy. I thought this would be a good book, along the lines of Eats, Shoot and Leaves, but it was mostly just Watson complaining vaguely about the way public figures speak these days.

Don't get me wrong; I hate management speak and blather and bafflegab. I wish marketers and athletes and politicians would use plain language and say what they mean. (Yesterday on TV they were interviewing the super of a building which had had flooding due to a water main break. The interviewer said "What about the possessions of the people with basement apartments, are they destroyed?" The super said "Well, there was extensive flooding in the basement area of the building and that would include the apartment areas, so the residents will experience some property damage." What would be wrong with "I'm afraid so, yes"? Don't want to cut short your fifteen minutes by being concise?

The problem with Watson's book is that he doesn't give enough examples of what he doesn't like, and suggestions for improvement. He also asserts that this kind of imprecise language leads to imprecise or even deceitful behaviour, but he doesn't give any examples or concrete basis of any kind for that assertion.

I would give this book a miss.

102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn

I felt a little bad about reading this book. I thought, "I guess it's been long enough since September 2001 that I can read about the destruction of the World Trade Center for my amusement". But this isn't all that sensational; it's a description of how various individuals coped, helped, and escaped (some of them) the attack.

The book also details how the attack and the collapse happened, with a focus on the myriad things which were done incompetently, or not done at all. Do you know when they tested the fireproofing for the steel beams in the Towers? Summer of 2004. Yeah. Although it probably all shook off from the impact of the planes, anyway. Generally it was a collosal fuckup in many ways.

The book is well- and engagingly-written and sheds light on how decent people can be in a crisis.

Who should read this book: I think Morgan might like it; normally her thing is natural disasters but the man-made kind are interesting too.

Making The Cat Laugh: One Woman's Journal of Single Life on the Margins by Lynne Truss

This is like a really well-written blog of a clever, funny, single English woman. There's not much else to say about it, but I liked it very much.

Who should read this book: my brother Dave would probably like it; in fact I tried to send him a copy but my local Indigo didn't have it. Kathryn should definitely read this book; I think she will really enjoy the humour, and the English-ness of it.

Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

This is a book about all the things that happen to human bodies after they die. Roach covers the usual stuff: burial and cremation; but she also goes into some weirder options: being rotted to study how to determine time of death, being smashed into in the name of crash-test research, being dissolved in lye or composted, being used to teach anatomy, being cut up so your organs can be used to extend the lives of others, being plastinated... being dead is almost as interesting as being alive.

Roach is a very funny writer, and I look forward to reading more of her work.

Who should read this book: I think Kate from The Usual Suspects might like it; I think she liked corpse, which is a similar sort of thing. Maybe Morgan, too.

Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know About The Emerging Science of Sex Differences by Leonard Sax

This is a book which refutes the hippy-dippy idea that boys and girls are naturally identical and any difference between their behaviour is socially constructed, a fact which anyone with small children could have told you is nonsense. In fact, it's surprising it took this long to throw that idea out the window, since there's a pretty quick refutation:

See, the hippy idea is that the kid thinks something like this:

I am a boy.
Boys play with trucks and balls.
Therefore I must play with trucks and balls.

The problem is that kids as young as eighteen months show gender differences in play, and eighteen-month-olds don't know if they're a boy or a girl. Delphine is two-and-a-half and she still asserts her boyhood sometimes.

Sax starts out with a description of what we know about the differences between boys and girls, then he gets into how to apply that knowledge when raising or teaching children. The advice seems pretty sound, although he strays pretty far from gender-based advice later in the book.

Who should read this book: Beth (thursday) because it might give her some insight into her (very boyish) boys, Kathryn because she has to deal with boys and girls every day at work, and Ellen because I know she's interested in this stuff.


Potty Training Your Baby: A Practical Guide for Easier Toilet Training by Katie Van Pelt

I didn't actually get all the way through this book. I threw it across the room on the page where she suggests you don't have your child wash their hands every time they go to the toilet because you don't want them to think that peeing and pooing and private parts are dirty. I have news for you, stupid lady: peeing and pooing and private parts are dirty. And if they aren't, your bathroom probably is. If you can't get straight in your head the difference between literal, germy dirtiness and figurative, sexual dirtiness then may I suggest you have a problem? Also, I'm not shaking hands with you.

She also suggests that there is an epidemic of adult constipation caused by parents being negative about their kids' poo in childhood. She provides no evidence, of course, but apparently if you so much as wrinkle your nose at your child's fetid diapers, you will damage them and their bowel health for life.

And last but not least, she says you can't possibly begin potty training until nine months, which directly contradicts the Trickle Treat book, which incidentally comes off as the height of reasonableness compared to this one.

Honestly, I'm almost sorry I read about potty training. I got more value out of a conversation I had with another mum at the library than I have out of these books. I have decided I am just going to switch Delphine to big girl pants in the new year, and clean up messes until she figures it out. What the hell, I launder diapers anyway, and it's not like I have expensive carpets.

Incidentally, both I and a friend with kids the same age have decided we will put our babies on the potty as soon as possible this time around. No more waiting for them to figure it out on their own. In fact, her six-month-old has already peed in the potty more times than her two and a half year old.

Men's Style: The Thinking Man's Guide to Style by Russell Smith

Russell Smith is a men's fashion columnist for the Globe and Mail, and he has written this book about men's fashion. He covers the history of modern men's fashion and gives instructions on such things as how to tie different tie knots, or what "black tie" means, as well as giving his opinion on various style options. As such this is a useful reference book and I might even buy a copy.

It's also very funny, particularly when he says "if you do such and such, you will look like a..." whatever. I already sent the book back to the library so I can't give you any quotes, you'll just have to read it yourself.

I can't agree with all his style opinions, though. I think a man in a sweater can be very attractive, and rust is a fine colour. He's right about three-piece suits, though: SEXY.

You know you're from Saskatchewan when...

I am having something delivered to my parents' house, and apparently they need the street address to deliver it. But no-one in rural Saskatchewan gets mail delivered to a street address, so I only know their PO Box number! I had to use Canada411 to look up my own parents.

You can take the girl out of math...

... but you can't take the mathie out of the girl. The Globe and Mail's review of the movie Rent ends with the phrase "a series of hand-waving production numbers."

Vague, unconvincing production numbers?

No, wait! Hand-waving production numbers! (Girl waves hands.) Now I get it!

Three More Books

Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery

I wanted to know what happened next, so I read this book despite having heard, on numerous occasions, that the other Anne books aren't as good as Anne of Green Gables. Well, they were right. This is almost comical in it's not-as-goodness. Lousy characterization, telling-not-showing, awkward dialogue. I don't know what came over LMM, but it wasn't good. I wonder if her other stuff is good, or if Anne of Green Gables was a freak occurrence.

Facts and Fallacies of Software Engineering by Robert L. Glass

Why am I reading about Software Engineering? Because I have decided when I grow up I would like to be a software manager. Not a librarian or a teacher or an opera singer or a photographer, or any of the other interesting things which have come to mind in the last, oh, ten years. No sir, I am plunging headlong back into software, with ambition, this time. Ambition to become... middle management.

How do I know it will work out for me? Because I am reading books like this. For fun! And it was fun, and interesting and edifying (since it is pretty much the first book I have read on the topic.) Fortunately Glass is not skimpy with his references, so I have a whole list of other books to look up*. Some of which I remember from the shelves of the Computer Science Club. Oh, how far I have come to be back where I started.

* Most of which the Toronto Public Library doesn't own! Argh! Do they care nothing for software engineering? I will have to see how well their "buy this book for me" system works. Also, if anyone has any recommendations on the topic, I would be glad to hear them.

Trickle Treat by Laurie Boucke

This is a book about how to potty train your baby from infancy. The theory is sound and the author gives a pretty good description of how to implement it. However, as with so many other parenting books, it is bogged down the author's sense of superiority and her disdain for those who parent any other way than hers. She even goes so far as to imply (based on a single anecdote from a friend) that diapering your child and subsequently potty training in toddlerhood will emotionally damage your child for life. I am surprised the attachment parenting folks haven't gotten ahold of this method, it's right up their alley.

Also the name makes me gag.