Category: books

Sick day

I was sick. The cat was sick. No, yesterday was not a good day. I did manage to only check Twitter and Facebook 4 times, which is less than I thought I would knowing my lack of self discipline as I do.

The high point of my day, other than taking the cat to the vet and then picking her up again, was to read a book. No TV, no Netflix, no music. It was great.

The book was Lucifer’s Hammer , written in 1977 by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, it’s #96 on NPR’s top 100 Sci-Fi/Fantasy list. Another end-of-the-world tale with the earth’s demise coming from a comet rather than a nuclear war as in the ones written in the 50’s, with the POV coming from various survivors. Think Stephen King’s The Stand. I’m glad I read it, but am also glad it’s a library book and I didn’t have to buy it.


I didn’t get much exercise in because I was feeling crappy, only a little bit in taking the cat the vet and dropping yet more revised paperwork to Second Career. Then again, I wasn’t that tempted to each much. I still went over my “limit” though. I think 1200 calories is crazy – even when I’m sick I can’t meet it. It does give me good incentive to get out there and walk around more however, so I’m leaving the settings the way they are.


Summer reading

I’m behind. I signed up for a Goodreads 2014 Reading Challenge and am 6 books behind my self-imposed schedule of one-a-week. I found myself going through old posts tagged books for inspiration when I came across my science fiction reading project post from 2012. In it I wrote of wanting to get through all of NPR’s Top 100 Science Fiction & Fantasy books.

As of right now I have read 78 on that list (Note: I count a series as read if I’ve gone through at least 2 books. Some series I will or have finished. Some I won’t). I have stalled a bit, but maybe I can put a dent in the 22 remaining this summer, which are:

38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys
40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny
41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings *
44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven *
50. Contact, by Carl Sagan.
55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
61. The Mote In God’s Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle (Kindle)
66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist
68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard
69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb
73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore
76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke (TPL)
78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin
81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson
86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher
87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe
88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn
95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson *
96. Lucifer’s Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis (TPL)
100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis (Kindle)

All are downloaded or ordered through the stellar Toronto Public Library system (TPL) and ready to go. Maybe this time I can get through The Dispossessed. Wish me luck.

* I think I’ve read these already but I could be wrong.

a year ago

I got this in the mail today:

It's a Blurb book I filled with pictures from Australia, and was absolutely free thanks to a coupon.

As I look through it, I realize that it was a year ago that Keith and I were there. Actually a year ago from today we were riding our rented motorcycle along the Great Ocean Road, seeing koalas and some amazing scenery.

It was a year ago, and the yearning to go back has not diminished one iota. I miss the ocean, I miss the outback, and I miss my friend.


7:00am: the cat meows by my ear. I ignore her. She is old, and like all old ladies she really hates it when the routine is disrupted. She does this for a few seconds, realizes me getting up is not going to happen, then turns to lay down. In so doing she flicks her tail over my face. Again and again.

7:15 am: move the cat by a series of increasingly forceful shoves. Funny how a 13 lb cat can suddenly take on the density of a small black hole. Tail no longer in my face. We both go back to sleep.

8:00 am: I should get up. I have a computer teachers conference to go to. I see the sun peeking in around the edges of the blind and decide that if it's going to be sunny, I'm going to stay home and enjoy the day. I go back to dozing.

8:45 am: Remember the two seminars that I really wanted to see at the conference, a workshop on processing.js and a session on getting more girls in computer sciences. Merde. I get up. I stagger around slowly until I see the clock and realize that I have only 45 minutes to shower, get dressed and transit down there.

9:10 am: out the door. I run for the bus, and the driver actually stops and waits for me. Realizing that there is no way I can make the opening keynote. Since I don't remember who that is, I'm not stressing over it.

9:30 am: transit luck continues; westbound subway arrives just as I get on platform

9:40 am: southbound subway arrives at St. George just as I go up the stairs. The degree of transit luck on a morning when I am late is freaking me out a little.

9:50 am: arrive at the ACSE conference just as the keynote is finishing. Still 10 minutes before the Processing ,js session, I have time for a strawberry muffin (yum) and a coffee from the urn (not so yum)

10:00-12:20: Processing.js session is plagued with technical difficulties. Bad USB keys, sketchy wireless, faulty projector cable have got the presenter slightly frazzled and most of the attendees a bit confused. Do I click here all the time? How do I find the files on the USB? I grab the files and evernote all off the links – I'll have to play with this on my own.

12:20 – 1:00 pm: lunch. I sit at a table with three men I have never met before and listen to them talk about how to get more girls interested in Computer Science classes. Kudos to them for addressing the issue, but their ideas come from a middle-aged geek guy mindset. We spend the rest of lunch talking about how to change girls' perception of CS – a girls tech club, be transparent ask them what they want to learn, use creative, open-ended & self-directed projects. I tell them what I've used successfully: Alice, Lilypad Arduino & soft circuits, game development, app development, cross-curricular projects with art & science.

1:10 – 2:10 pm: session on getting girls in CS. The statistics are good to know and I got some great links for contests and the like, but there's not much in this one I can use. I realize about 20 minutes in that I should have gone to the App Inventor workshop instead.

2:10 pm: Bailed on the last session and the closing. I'm not willing to miss the last of a sunny afternoon so I pack up and walk through the U of T campus and Kensington Market to Queen Street West. Am amused by this sign in the window of a used record store. I pop into Romni Wools on Queen Street to get more yarn for my Christmas present knitting. Guess I should really start on that.

3:30 pm: get sidetracked on way to transit by the way the sun fell in an alley off Bathurst. Spend a half hour walking along Graffiti Alley and taking photos with the crappy iPhone.

4:00 pm: apparently I used all transit luck this morning. Waited for 25 minutes for the 504 King car while I realized that perhaps bringing a scarf & mitts might have been a good idea. Was rewarded for my discomfort by a sunset view of the city as the streetcar went along Broadview past Riverdale park.

5:00 pm: Home. Stopped at the grocery store which was not a good idea as I found myself paying for a bag of Miss Vickie's chips and a container of onion dip. While my dinner did not comprise solely of chis & dip, it was pretty close. Calorie overage ensues.

5:30 – 9:30 pm: watched many episodes of Doctor Who on Netflix US while finishing a scarf for a friend. While watching the Journey's End episode, I decide that “Playthings of Davros” will be my band's name which gives me added incentive to learn the guitar since I can't get drunk enough to sing in front of people.

9:30 – 10:00 pm: bubble bath and book. Finished both books by David Wong, John Dies At The End and This Book is Full of Spiders; liked them both in a did-drugs-been-there-saw-that kind of way. Started reading Enders Game by Orson Scott Card, one of science fiction books from the list. I would have sworn I've read this before, but nothing looks familiar in the first 4 chapters.

10:00 – bedtime: bored. The cat is bad company and there are only so many times one can hit Refresh on Twitter and Facebook. Played some Rush poker on Full Tilt, netting an increase to my bankroll of about $85. ABC poker > Eurodonk stupidity.



I sometimes wish there were two of me. Not because one could play while one worked, but so that one could roller-skate while the other motorcycled, one could knit while the other read.

My roller skates are at the school (I can practice in the gym), the motorcycle is covered and waiting for spring, and my knitting is in a weird cusp between no-I-don’t-want-to-start-that-before-my-knitting-presents-are-done and I-have-lots-of-time-to-start-my-knitting-presents (I don’t, really. I am in denial for at least another week). Which leaves reading.

I’m (re)discovering that reading before bed helps me sleep better. It seems to be helping my dreaming and my waking imagination. It’s reversing the short attention span I was developing. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Go read The Shallows; What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr.

I’m glad I’ve regained the ability to immerse myself in a good book. I missed it. And I’ve been immersing myself in a few lately.

Just got the new one by Lainie Taylor, Days of Blood and Starlight. Inhaled it like it was the scent of spring on a late winter day. Now the series has gone on the List Of Sequels I Am Grumpily Waiting For, along with the next George R.R. Martin book.

Before that was Cloud Atlas. I’d bought it when it first came out on paperback, but the language of the first story did not engage me. I’ll admit that I’d forgotten about until I saw the trailer for the upcoming movie. Found that if I’d read only another 4 pages further I’d have found myself in the next section and much more engaged. Clever book, the way it enfolds back on itself and the 6 stories like nested origami boxes.

I’ve been going back through my Sandman comics on the iPad. Graphic novels, sorry. Whatever. In any case, the iPad is a good medium for going through them again. I’ve also got Black Orchid, the Gaiman/McKean collaboration that is the perfect collaboration of delicious language and visuals. Made me remember that it’s been a while since I’ve their movie collaboration, Mirror Mask. I need another me to watch movies too apparently.

And speaking of Neil Gaiman, his spot as my favourite author is not as undisputed as it was. While I didn’t like China Mieville’s Kraken all that much, Perdito Station and The Scar have changed my mind about him. His craft to create these fully-imagined surreal worlds and make them believable is stunning, and his sentences are glorious. So, yeah, I like Mr. Mieville a lot.

I finished World War Z by Brooks finally. I was not knocked out by it. I think the most pleasure I got from it was in crossing it off my list.

I’m currently reading Ursula K. Le Guin’s Dispossessed. All I can think to say about it so far is what the hell took me so long to read her work? I remember starting to read one of her novels in my 20’s and dismissed it for some reason or another. Perhaps I just wasn’t really ready for my fiction to make me think.

You don’t even want to know what’s on my queue for when I finish Dispossessed. I think I still have 20-ish books to go to finish NPR’s top 100 science fiction books, plus I’ve got a bunch of books from the SF Humble Bundle I bought a few weeks ago.

Can’t wait for the holidays…lots of time to read then. That is, if I get my knitting done.


reading project

I’ve been an avid reader since I was about 4 when my Mum taught me to read. The whole family read; we’d go to the library and pick up 40 books to last us for the three weeks until the next visit to town.

I remember my first science fiction book, The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold. It dealt with the paradoxes of time travel in a way that made my 14-year-old brain spark and fizz. I’ve loved the genre ever since and have inhaled whatever I could get my hands on, from 50’s pulp story collections to classics.

I found a copy of the Man Who Folded Himself last year; it does not hold up that well. Like watching The World of Oz as a drug-free adult, it’s not nearly as good as I remember it.


Last year, NPR created a list of the Top 100 Science Fiction & Fantasy books through nominations and votes. I saved it on Evernote, thinking to get back to it, but school started and it drifted to the bottom of the priority pile. However, I have a blissfully empty summer ahead of me so I thought it was a good time to revisit the list and fill in the missing pieces.

Out of this list of 100 books, there are 29 books that I know for sure I haven’t read. The remaining 71 contains books that I love dearly and revisit often (anything with an *), books that changed my way of thinking (Brave New World, 1984) and books that illustrated and cemented my core values. I remember getting so pissed off with Asimov’s future when I was reading the Foundation Trilogy; such rich male characters as leaders, such weak secondary female characters as teachers and wives. Why aren’t there brilliant women scientists in the future?, I thought.

There are also books that I’ve read because I’d heard that they were good and that they should be read. Lord of the Rings falls in that category; yes it was good, but a bit tedious, and I never have to go back there again. There are books noted on the list where I’ve read part of a series. I’m going to finish some of them, but there are a few series that filled me with enough meh that I have zero intention of getting the rest of the books. Wheel of Time, Sword of Truth and Shannara Trilogy will have to go on without me.

Just so you know, I am one of those people that finishes books. There are maybe 20 books that I haven’t finished and will never finish. The Road is one of them. Honestly, I was a bit surprised to find it on this list. I just didn’t think it was that good. I know everyone was going gaga over it, but frankly I’ve read better end-of-the-world stories.

And there are 7 books that I think I’ve read before but I’m not sure, and reading the synopsis didn’t trigger memories. I’m going to add them to To Be Read pile anyway. What will likely happen is I will buy/borrow it, read half of the first chapter and the rest will surface from some deep recess in my brain.

So, here’s my slightly over-ambitious project. I’m going to start with the books in red and green first, in no particular order. Then I’ll hit the blue ones, which will take me a while as I’ve only read 2 of the 16 books in the Vorkosigan Saga and 2 of 9 of the Culture series.

Which is not to say that I won’t reread American Gods or Neuromancer if the mood strikes.


  1.  The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  2. *The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
  3. Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
  4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert
  5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin
  6. *1984, by George Orwell
  7. *Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
  8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov
  9. *Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
  10. *American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
  11. *The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
  12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan
  13. *Animal Farm, by George Orwell
  14. *Neuromancer, by William Gibson
  15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore
  16.  I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov
  17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein
  18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss
  19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
  20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
  21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick
  22. *The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
  23. *The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King
  24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke
  25. *The Stand, by Stephen King
  26.  *Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
  27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury – finished July 10
  28. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
  29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman
  30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
  31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein
  32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams
  33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey
  34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein
  35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller
  36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
  37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne
  38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys
  39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells
  40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny
  41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings
  42. *The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
  43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson
  44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven: 
  45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin
  46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  47. *The Once And Future King, by T.H. White
  48. *Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
  49.  Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clarke
  50. Contact, by Carl Sagan
  51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons
  52. *Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
  53.  Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
  54. World War Z, by Max Brooks
  55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
  56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
  57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett
  58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson
  59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold
  60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett
  61. The Mote In God’s Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
  62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind
  63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
  64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
  65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson
  66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist
  67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks
  68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard
  69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb
  70. The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
  71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
  72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne
  73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore
  74. Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi
  75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson
  76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke
  77. The Kushiel’s Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey
  78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin
  79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
  80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire
  81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson
  82.  The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
  83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks
  84. *The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart
  85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
  86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher
  87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe
  88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn
  89. *The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan
  90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock
  91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury
  92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
  93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge
  94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov
  95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson
  96. Lucifer’s Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
  97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
  98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville
  99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony
  100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis
 November 16: Still to read = 29


That’s a beauty

Starting a rainy by listening to Tom Waits read Charles Bukowski.