Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Preservationist

The Preservationist The Preservationist by David Maine

My review

This book was a pleasant surprise. I read a recommendation for it (actually, for another book by the author) off a day-by-day calendar, picked it up at the library two days later, and had finished it two days after that.

Maine takes the story of Noah and the ark and fills in all the details. It's similar to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in that he's taking a story about which we know little and filling in all the empty bits: what were the people really like, what did the ark look like and how was it built, and where did all those animals really come from? My favorite sections were the ones exploring the daughters-in-law, who were dragged into this adventure in spite of how they felt, and their thoughts and feelings show them to be fully different characters. The book is a very quick read - about 250 pages, but I finished it in under 36 hours. I could easily see it being written as an epic, sweeping novel, but instead it is light and a relatively easy read. That's not to say it isn't serious; it is. But it's not overburdened or cumbersome.

The book also does not step around the humanity of the characters. Even Noah is portrayed as flawed, despite the fact that God saw him as a righteous man. The people are concerned about sex, and their chidren, and food. It also portrays what I suspect is a reasonably accurate depiction of ancient life in the Middle East.

I like this idea (similar to Wicked, I suppose) of taking a little event that everyone knows of and fleshing it out in a completely fictional way. The author has another book about Adam and Eve and a third about Samson. Those are now securely on my "to-read" list.

View all my reviews.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Precision mechanics

Some of you may remember a post I made several months ago telling about my project of fixing up my Papa's watch. After the Fuji climb, I decided to send my Citizen in for a cleaning. I figured being exposed to volcanic ash, essentially powdered glass, couldn't be good for it. Anyway, while the Citizen is away, I'm wearing the Bulova. I decided it would be a good time to figure out just how precise it is.

I set the watch at exactly 9:16 pm with our radio-set clock as the reference. Due to the way the watch is set, I'm not able to control the second hand. I'm not sure if this is a flaw or how the watch is designed. Either way, the watch started off being 13 seconds behind. Every morning I wound it tight and then wore it like normal during the day. After exactly three days, I referenced the watch against the clock again. The watch had gained two minutes, twelve seconds in three days. That means it's fast by 44 seconds a day, meaning it's fast by about 0.017%.

I know nothing about watches, but I'm pretty impressed that an approximately 40-year old mechanical watch can be off by 0.017%.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I'm so ashamed.

According to Glassbooth (one of those online surveys where you put in your opinions and it tells you who to vote for), the candidate that most matches my viewpoints is... is...

Ralph Nader.

I don't even know how to deal with that information. I'm so embarassed. This is like finding out my dad is Darth Vader. I hope no one I know ever finds out about this.

For the record, my second "choice" is Obama, closely followed by McCain. Apparently my political opinions are somewhat of a condundrum.

All the news that's not news...

Okay, I get it: Obama's choice for a running mate is kind of a big deal. His choice will open up a large block of otherwise inaccessible voters. (Chances are he's not going to pick a slightly overweight white videogamer, so I'm still gonna be on the fence).

But seriously, for the last several days every time I log onto one of the lead headlines has been something like: "Obama still hasn't announced a VP candidate!" That's not news! That's NON-news! Why don't we all just assume you'll tell us when he HAS announced a selection, and until then you can write another article dedicated to Michael Phelps. At least Phelps is actually DOING something. In fact, today's article literally starts off with: "The question is starting to feel a little old: Who will Barack Obama pick as his vice president?" Seriously, some day I want to be so famous that I can NOT do something and it becomes headline news for a week.

In other non-news:
-Alien life still hasn't been discovered.
-Britney Spears is weird.
-People who have iPhones are pretentious and annoying.
-Six still isn't equal to seven.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

So smart, and yet so frustrating

The Monkey knows that he's not to get out of bed until his clock says six o'clock. He's got a cute little digital clock with colored numbers that he checks when he wakes up, and if he gets out of bed too early he gets in trouble.

Unfortunately, he's been having nightmares lately. We've been trying to encourage him to stay in bed when they wake him and comfort himself. Oddly, he came wandering into our room at 2:30 am last night and said that his clock said 6:00 and that he was ready to get up! Sure enough, when Ann took him back to bed, his light was on, his books were out, and his clock was reading 6:30.

As it turns out, he'd had a bad dream and didn't want to stay in his room. So he decided to fool us and (somehow) advanced his clock to six o'clock so that it would be wakeup time. Clearly we've underestimated his intelligence, but clearly he's underestimated ours if he thought we would fall for THAT one!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

US Guys

I picked up this book thinking it would be an interesting study into how men in American think today. The author traveled all over the country, living and working with different groups of people, trying to assimilate himself into their ways of life.

Instead, this book is a freak circus. NONE of the essays were about men with whom I could identify. He worked with (I'm not joking here): a gay rodeo cowboy and his lover, a circus family of Russian immigrants, an uber-violent motorcycle gang, male models in New York city, and on and on. These were not "guys," these were parodies of male society.

LeDuff's writing is horribly self-serving and pretentious. He acts as if, after living with these people for a week, he "understands" their way of life and thinks he's one of them. He treats himself as an embedded journalist, taking on the lives of those around them. Charlie, you can't say you're living a new lifestyle after one week. Even his writing style is annoying - full of cursing and foul language, he masks his shortcomings by trying too hard to be "edgy."

But there is a lesson in this book. Easily half of the bizarre lifestyles portrayed in this book can be related to a single thing: bad family situations when they were children. The author himself describes the hideous family cicumstances he grew up in. So here's the lesson: Dad, love your kids. You don't have to be smart or athletic or necessarily even a "cool" dad. Just be with them. Talk to them. Listen to them. Cause it'll be your fault if they grow up to be a gay rodeo cowboy

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Climbing Mt. Fuji, Part 4 - The Aftermath

After being awake for 40 hours straight, and walking or hiking for about 28 of the last 36 hours, my body was completely done. My shirt had been soaked through with sweat and dried out several times over and was emitting an unholy smell. My pants were covered in ash dust, and my shoes looked horrible. I should warn you that the next few pictures are pretty gross.

After quite a bit of effort, I took off my shoes. This was particularly difficult as the repetitve motion inside my shoes during the descent had left me with a gigantic blister on the outside of each heel. I'll spare you that picture. Once I'd gotten my shoe off, I peeled off my sock and was amazed at how dirty my foot was. Keep in mind that this is what my foot looked like inside my sock, inside my shoe.

My hands weren't doing much better, but at least I'd had a chance to wash them a couple of times.

I took a shower and then a long, hot bath. One of the best baths I've ever taken.
The next day was when the true pain began. Everything hurt, some parts more than others. I had a sunburn, a problem I'd never really expected but should have given the thin air we were trekking through. My elbow hurt from using a walking stick for so long. And my legs - oh, my legs. My feet were killing me from the blisters, and every muscle in my thighs and calves hurt. Interestingly, any sort of downward incline was the worst, and stairs were pretty much unmanageable.
Over the next several days the blisters went away. I had a problem walking downhill for quite a while, but eventually got past that. Towards the end of last week my sunburn started peeling, but that's pretty much past now. I'm still finding rocks in my shoes.
In the end, the climb was worth it. One of my co-climbers figured out we'd walked 11 miles on the mountain, a half-marathon, which doesn't necessarily sound like all that much until you consider that it was all up- or down-hill. The sunrise is something I'll remember forever, and the personal challenge, while far more than I expected, was fun to overcome. My walking stick made it all the way back home with me and I plan on mounting it on the wall in my study.