Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Christmas Story

We live in a strange world. I was looking for Christmas music to play while we clean and cook... I found the entire A Christmas Story (you'll shoot your eye out!).

And here's Good King Kong, by PDQ Bach, Peter Schickele.

Monday, December 17, 2007


I hope your celebration of Beethoven's birthday was as awesome as mine: shopping madness for Christmas. It is hard to find time to get away. I stole a parking spot from a big truck (not altogether intentionally) and, in one line, sang four Radiohead songs to myself.

Sarah and I went out in the cold to see the lights in downtown Denver. It was kind of fun, kind of chilly. I miss the shopping district in Seattle for that kind of expedition. And the steel drum band. There was a dude on a recorder, though.

Where we were, there's just an outdoor mall. We had thought they lit the state capitol, but we didn't see anything when we went by. The US Mint was just red in the top tower. They were showing Miracle on 34th Street, the original, on a big screen in a park.

I've been enjoying a set of computer programming problems called Project Euler. Basically, they are math problems that would not be easy to solve without a computer. We the people can solve problems that were beyond the world's mathematicians for centuries. They are not that easy to solve with a computer either, as the design of the program is the key, but every solution program should end in under one minute.

I've been taking the opportunity to learn a programming language new to me, Python. I learned Common Lisp in grad school, so a lot of the concepts are familiar to me. Still, it's been fun to make functional little programs that can run on basically any computer. I haven't been doing math problems just for fun since high school, basically, so it's been neat to get back to those roots. I could reflect on the circle of life, the more things change, nothing new under the sun...

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Start of book reviews

I was going over my reading record in the blog, and I think I must've either missed tagging some things with "books" or not talked about all that I did read. For instance, The Stand isn't on there. There are only 34 books! On the positive side, only four were rereads, so I tried to spread my wings a little this year. If you want to go back and check them, just click on the "books" tag at the bottom of this post.

There's a lot of science fiction and fantasy, some classics, some religious stuff, some Stephen King, and other miscellany from databases to math to poker.

It should go without saying that I'm soliciting reading suggestions. And I really should get a reading group.

This probably interests about two people in the entire world, but here's the list I found for 2007 blog-posted books, earliest to latest:

Left Hand of Darkness
Bujold: Brothers in Arms, Memory, Mirror Dance
The Shining
How Much for Just the Planet?
The Knight, The Wizard
V for Vendetta
The Biggest Game in Town
Understanding Comics
From Hell
Database in Depth
How Would You Move Mount Fuji?
Aspects of the Novel
Walking On Water
Girl Meets God
A Sort of Life
What's So Amazing About Grace
Audible Neil Gaiman
Charmed Life
The Power and the Glory
Night Shift
The Gunslinger
Till We Have Faces
The Color of Magic
Starship Troopers
The Language of the Night
The Man in the High Castle
Lord of the Flies
Journey Through Genius
Fragile Things

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


I forgot to put in the last post that I've noticed myself doing something funny lately. Sarah and I go out shopping, and around the second store I start to get really exhausted by the crowds, the lights, the aggressive product placements and advertising. I hate the experience of being bought and sold in those environments. For some reason, I just cannot handle it anymore.

So I take out the iPod that is always in my coat now, and start listening to Radiohead. I've even started putting on the tunes in the grocery store.

It is like a histamine blocker.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Checking in

My reading of Lord of the Flies was somewhat tainted by knowing how it ends. It's the model UN episode of The Simpsons, so I knew the plot from start to finish. It was still a very impressive book. I had to take several breaks from reading it because it was just too depressing, but it was very good.

One thing I wondered as I read it was whether this thing was written deliberately to provide fodder for critics of various schools. It is almost impossible to avoid reading it as an allegory; I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. I used to think that true understanding of a work of fiction involved teasing out the allegory. Now, not so much.

In between Lord of the Flies sessions, I finally found Neil Gaiman's short story collection Fragile Things under a car seat and finished it off. The end of the book is a kind of post-quel to American Gods, another book I recommend highly. A story about The Matrix that was written when the movie came out. One about a society of gourmands that has eaten absolutely everything under the sun. A touching one called "How To Talk To Girls At Parties" about a shy kid who meets some very strange girls. A very funny one about a writer who lives in a gothic Halloween world who tries to overcome the stigma of writing contemporary literary fiction. All of them start out normal enough, then go a little bit crazy, magical-realism style.

I also finished Charmed Life, which was very entertaining. Today, I dove into the next one in the series, The Nine Lives of Christopher Chant.

Somehow I worked in time to "finish" Super Mario Galaxy. This is a charming game, a flagship for Nintendo. They hit every note just right. Mario is running around in the stars, visiting all kinds of planets. Some have normal gravity, some are very very strange. They have themes, like "" The plot is the Mario plot (Bowser kidnaps the princess, you go save her), but everything else was fresh and exciting. There was some great camera trickery involved, with Mario walking around on the ceiling a lot. The music was brilliant. Bee Mario is probably the cutest thing they have ever done. And beating the Robot Bowser level in Toyland felt like a real accomplishment. The first half of the game was easy enough, but the second half, which I am just starting, looks to be pretty hardcore. I say "finish" because even over the course of my rental, which was most of three evenings, I only got through half of the levels.

I got a wireless keyboard and mouse at Target this weekend. I hope to use it in conjunction with the Wii to surf the web from my couch. Stay tuned.

I've got that William Gibson book to read, and I have that end-of-year book sum-up to get to. I hope the early December days are treating you well. Sarah should have some exciting pictures up of the house decorated for Christmas soon...