Friday, 25 January 2008

Just Say No!

You'll see that I have a new banner at the top of the page. Please click on it. You can see some great photos and videos and easily make one yourself to send to your legislators.

Thank you.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

253 by Geoff Ryman

The book began life as an internet novel. 253 people on a Bakerloo line tube train heading toward Waterloo. 253 words describing each passenger: their outward appearance; inside information; what they are doing and thinking. The train will crash.

A clever book and well-written and I read half of it before I tired of it. It's a bit like sitting on a train, yourself, making up identities and thoughts for your fellow passengers, if you have an inventive mind. But the train should have been shorter.

Another minority report.

Eric by Terry Pratchett

Faust, uh, Eric is the Discworld's only demonology hacker. He manages to summon up Rincewind, the most incompetent wizard in the universe, along with The Luggage, the most faithful -- and scariest -- suitcase in literature. In an effort to fulfill Eric's three wishes -- to be immortal, rule the world, have the most beautiful woman in the world (the usual) -- their adventures take them on a journey through time and space.

Maybe not quite as good as some of the Discworld novels, but, in the Discworld, the adventure is not in the adventure; it's in Pratchett's knowledge of just about everything and the way he plays with it. A good ride through Faust, time travel and the big "bang." And other stuff.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Bath Time

I'm into my fifteenth year as a "dog" owner and I have only recently come to bath time. If you've been following my posts, you will know that we chose to have Chows because we didn't want a dog. One of the things that makes Chows non-dogs is that they don't have D.O.* so you don't have to bathe them.

We used to bathe Io Jima once a year at the end of the river season, but it wouldn't have been necessary if we hadn't been foolish enough to teach her to swim. Our current two Chows arrived river-ready straight from the factory, but we avoided the bath chore by occasionally taking the shampoo with us to our daily paddle.

Now it turns out that Nala has allergies. (Actually there is very little that Nala doesn't have.) First she had (has) seborrhoea. We gave her a bath with a special shampoo and started her on zinc supplements. That worked for awhile.

In the past few months, though, she has been scratching to the point where most of the fur around her shoulders and back end is gone. This is not an attractive look in a Chow. She's probably allergic to fleas, said the vet. (Like owner, like Chow.) And maybe other things.

Allergies may initially produce no reaction, but as they accumulate, they reach critical mass and the immune system can no longer cope. Allergies, seborrhoea, fleas and now system overload has given rise to a yeast infection known as elephant skin.

Malessezia Dermatitis
. (Another learning experience. Nala is our Dog University.) The skin turns thick, black and bumpy. And there are hot spots (red, itchy spots; I didn't used to know what they are, either). I didn't notice for close on a year because I am accustomed to dogs with black skin. Io Jima, who was black, had black skin. All Chows have black tongues and gums; I thought black skin came with. Not for red Chows, evidently.

So, cutting to the chase, we (I) have to bathe her twice a week for a month and then once a week after that. Nala likes going in the river. Nala does not like having a bath.

Normally I attach an old flex-lead to her collar, lock the lead, throw the handle into the car and shut the door on the lead. Then she's stuck and has to have her bath. But it's too cold for that now, so she has to be bathed inside.

Fortunately, I do weight training as it takes the power of 10 to move Nala into the shower pan and keep her there. After she, the bathroom, and I are all lathered up, I rinse me and go downstairs to rest up while she marinates for 10 minutes. Then I go back upstairs and we do the push/shove/oof routine, again, so she can be rinsed.

Then she gets half dried and can come downstairs and sit next to the fire. She gets cold and shivers. At least, I think she's cold; she could be having a dream about baths. But we got this nice blanket for Christmas, so we're not expecting pneumonia as an extra added attraction.

Chow owners are not supposed to have to put up with this sort of thing. If I'd wanted a dog, I'd have got one. Where's my drink?

* Doggy Odor

The Best American Sports Writing (2004), Ed. Richard Ben Cramer & Glenn Stout

The best sports writing is generally not about the game, but about the people, the challenge, the struggle against inside and outside forces, the context, and occasionally, the great play, Great American Sports Writing has it all.

I'm game to go for the next one.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Pardonnable Lies by Jennifer Winspear

Oh, how I wanted to love this! A friend has been trying to get me to read a Maisie Dobbs mystery for a year and I wanted to please her. Lucky me, someone started a BookCrossing ray (post the book from person to person; last person decides what to do with it) and I joined.

If you wonder how I got through since yesterday (I wrote this the day after my last review, but am trying a new system of "publishing," so it didn't show up until now), the answer is: I didn't. The story is O.K. -- for all I know it's fantastic -- but the writing is awful. Winspear needs to re-read the text book chapter on "Show, Don't Tell." And especially don't tell me things that are obvious. Plod, plod, plod.

Another minority opinion.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah

My first read of the year arrived as part of the Not So Secret Father Christmas BookCrossing Exchange. I'm not sure what I've said that would indicate that this would be a good book for me -- most of the fiction I read is crime fiction -- but it was an excellent choice.

Paradise is a story of Africa, subtly told as a coming of age novel. Yusuf is sent away from home to live with his "Uncle" Aziz near the sea and to tend his shop along with Khalil, another boy pawned to Uncle Aziz for his father's debts. As the book follows Yusuf from age 12 to late teens, he learns about the complicated relations between master and servant, trader and villager, Islam and animist religion, learns the landscape during trading journeys, sees the effects of colonisation on the Africans, watches the coming of war.

This novel is a good companion piece to Alan Moorhead's histories of early African exploration and colonisation, all of which I also loved. Here's the African side of the story.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Reading Diary for 2008

Last year I started keeping a record of the books I was reading on my home page. After a couple of months, I gave it up; I figured, "Who cares"?

As it turns out, I do. Comes the end of the year and on the particular BookCrossing Yahoo group that I belong to, everyone lists their favourite reads of the year, what challenges they met, how many books they read, and so on. But I didn't keep records, so I had a hard time participating. I'd been on a roll, too. I was reading 12+ books a month at the beginning of the year.

I did my best with my favourites. I figured if I could remember them, they must be my favourites. But, of course, that isn't true. My memory of what I ate for breakfast this morning is pretty sketchy, let alone what I read, when I read it, and did I love it.

I certainly don't know how many books I've read. Mt.Toobie (my To Be Read accumulation) continues to fill two shelves, no matter how much I read. I buy books, but I also participate in BookCrossing and BookMooch exchanges.

And I get RABCKs -- Random Acts of BookCrossing Kindness -- in the form of more books. And NSS gifts: gift exchanges organised for Christmas (NSSFC -- Father Christmas; NSSH -- Halloween; NSSSS -- Summer Solstice; and other occasions that BookCrossers are good at dreaming up. And there are the twofer and threefer or other special offers from BookMoochers that keep my shelves filled.

I signed up for the BookMooch To Be Read Support Group. You may have read some of my reviews here. Every month I am supposed to designate two books from Mt. Toobie that I promise to read and review on the blog. I have been somewhat remiss lately.

So this year I'm getting organised! I've set up a Google document entitled What I Am Reading. (One day I must really do a post on how much I love Google.) You'll find a link to the left, under Books. I plan to list each book I've read and write a capsule -- or other -- review here. Then I can then use these reviews for my BookCrossing journal entries and my posts on the BookMooch blog.

Is that organised or what?

We'll see.