Sunday, January 26, 2014

Books, Pie, and Charts in 2013!

Who doesn't love books, pie, and charts!

Chart Legend by ring: 
  1. Title
  2. Page count 
  3. My rating (1 to 5, hated it to loved it)
  4. Genre
  5. Format in which I consumed it
See comments below chart: (Warning: I have dropped all pretense of coolness.)  

Apparently I had big-book-itis (as Doc McStuffin would say) and following The Wheel of Time series I read Les Miserables.  I don't normally strive for stats in my reading but at this point I realized I had read over 6,000 pages in only 7 books, averaging 911 pages per book.  I decided to read the biggest books left in my to-read list including Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Atlas Shrugged, Cryptonomicon, and Anathem.  If I had only read these books for the year I would have averaged 969 pages over 11 books, unfortunately I had read a bunch of little stuff prior to setting my goal which pulled my average down to 746 pages per book but added another 3,500 pages to the yearly total of 14,180 pages.  (I'm well aware your nerd alert has been going off for awhile.  I did warn you.)

Comments on a few of my favorites from the year:

Wheel of Time:
“We rode on the winds of the rising storm,
We ran to the sounds of the thunder.
We danced among the lightning bolts,
and tore the world asunder.”
― Robert Jordan, The Dragon Reborn

I started the Wheel of Time series in my early teens and read each one as they came out.  After my two-year mission in Mexico I picked up the 9th book and tried to step back into the epic and complex world that Robert Jordan had created and found that I didn't have a clue what was going on . . . this was clearly going to take some commitment; a commitment I was not yet prepared to make. Last year when Brandon Sanderson finished the series that the late Robert Jordan had started I decided it was time to throw it down;  accounting for a large percentage of my speculative fiction intake.

Atlas Shrugged:
“The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me.” -Ayn Rand

One of the biggest reasons I use Goodreads is because it helps lead me to great books through the sheer number of people who have rated the books (e.g. 181,525 ratings for Atlas Shrugged).  Typically I strive to read books that have a rating of 4+.  After I read the books I like to compare my score to what everyone else thinks and usually there is a high correlation.  Atlas Shrugged was an exception to this as it has only a 3.6 average Goodreads rating.  I read it because I liked The Fountainhead and wanted to read more Ayn Rand.  While I liked the Fountainhead more I still thought Atlas Shrugged was great. I agreed with many of her philosophies and I disagreed with perhaps just as many more.  In fact, it might be that she could keep me so thoroughly entertained while sharing her controversial philosophies that led me to give this book 5 stars.

". . . a copy of Cryptonomicon has more information per unit volume than any other object in this universe. Any place that a copy of the book exists is, at that moment, the most information-rich region of space-time in the universe. If you drop a carton of Cryptonomicon paperbacks into a black hole of any size, the black hole doubles in size . . . Read this book! Your brain will swell with information. A person who has recently read Cryptonomicon is temporarily the smartest person on Earth. . . " -Charlie Jane Anders, io9

The reading of Cryptonomicon was a convergence of two goals, the aforementioned large-page-count-per-book goal and reading author's from Tor's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels of the Decade poll.  The book was great.  It was an awesome blend of computer nerdiness, code-breaking, world war II fighting, and one crazy marine.

Les Miserables:
“The book the reader has now before his eyes - from one end to the other, in its whole and in its details, whatever the omissions, the exceptions, or the faults - is the march from evil to good, from injustice to justice, from the false to the true, from night to day, from appetite to conscience, from rottenness to life, from brutality to duty, from Hell to Heaven, from nothingness to God. Starting point: matter; goal: the soul. Hydra at the beginning, angel at the end.”
― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

I've detected a bias in myself for old books.  For some reason I feel that because they were written when horse-power for a vehicle ranged from one to six that the authors are somehow less enlightened . . . aaand big surprise...the book was genius!  No, seriously, Victor Hugo is a genius.  Yes, I read the unabridged. Yes, it was amazing.  There were, however, moments when I would have preferred punching myself in the face to reading through certain sections.  The story must be the easiest book in the world to abridge as the story is riveting and the five or so lectures on sewage systems and the nature of genius are . . . less so.  As mind-numbing as they were, I'm still glad I read them.  I would have always wondered.

Who knows what treasures I will find in 2014?!  (yes, that's an interabang)  If you have some good recommendations, please let me know!  Maybe I'll even get a more balanced genre pie chart this year.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Harris Family Goes Ice Skating - Part 3

Every winter, our town sets up an ice skating rink.  We love it and go every year.  Wes especially loves the opportunity to get out there and showoff - I mean twirl around - I mean let loose on the ice.  I've blogged in the past about our previous ventures, but I'm going to include some pictures of those anyway.

Here is 2011.  This was our first time going.  Scarlett was 21 months old and she loved it immediately.
Wes is going to hate me for this pic...

Pretty adorable, right?

This is 2012, Scarlett was 2 years and 10 months.  We don't have any of Desmond from this night, but he was 7 months old and enjoyed the music and watching his Dad and sister skate.
Scarlett enjoyed it again, but still let Wes do most of the work.

She did practice standing on the edge by herself, which she was pretty proud of.

For 2013, we met up with our friends, the Valora Family and went again.  Scarlett and Adi are the same age and go to preschool with each other and really love to play with each other.   You may remember Adi from the haircut they gave one another a couple of months ago.  They also have a daughter named Marcy who's a couple of weeks older than Desmond.
Pretty cute group, huh?

Scarlett had been talking about how excited she was to go ice skating for a few days beforehand.  The day of the ice skating trip, she came down in tights and a skirt saying she was wearing that ice skating.  I told her that wasn't really practical for ice skating and she should probably wear pants.  She told me no, because she wanted to be like the little girl that taught Big Bird to ice skate (in Christmas Eve on Sesame Street) and be a dancer.  I got a little worried at this point that she was going to be disappointed when she wasn't able to go out there and twirl her little heart out the way that girl did.  So, I warned her that ice skating is really hard and it takes a lot of practice to get good.
The little girl teaching Big Bird to Ice Skate

So, we got there and Scarlett was pumped!  She was ready to skate and dance!

She got on her little walker we rented her this time and she was off and skating.

She totally loved it and was pretty steady on her feet, too.  I guess skating IS coded into her DNA.  She even tried it without the walker and did a pretty good job!  She loved for Wes to occasionally take her around really fast and twirl her.

Desmond also loved Ice Skating.  He would just go into a sort of stupor as Wes zipped all over the ice with him.  Wes kept asking me if he was smiling and what did his face look like.  I just had to laugh and say I could not even possibly describe it, he just looked like he was relaxed and completely zoned out.

See what I mean?

Wes going so fast, they're just a blur.

Look at those cute little skates!  They just strapped onto his shoes and they had double blades, so he could easily walk on them off the ice.
Despite the ridiculous facial expressions he was pulling on the ice, I know he loved it because as soon as Wes set him down he'd walk over to the ice and start trying to get back in the rink and he'd wail and lift his little arms for Wes to take him back out.  

This is a video of Scarlett trying it without her walker for the first time.  She didn't even warn us or anything.  She just decided I'm going to do this all by myself.

Here's one last video.  I posted on Facebook, too.  So, some of you may have already seen it, but I just love watching her work her way around the rink.  I also love watching Wes and Des glide all over the place.

Well there you have it!  The Harris Family ice skating adventure.  I actually did get on the ice some, but since I was the photographer, there aren't any photos of me.  Too bad we live in Texas, where Scarlett has about 0 chance of reaching her full ice skating potential.  We'll have to hit up the local roller skating rink.  Maybe she'll get into roller derby, instead!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Addendum to "Christmas 2013"

Jen has been handling the blogging lately but there were a few more pictures I wanted to post from the Harris's Christmas season.

Scarlett is totally stoked to see Santa!  Obviously Desmond is as well.

TC = Too cute.

Desmond is working the Christmas sweater.

Scarlett getting in some quality Aunt Beanie time.

If it has wheels Desmond is all about it.

This is a valuable skill, Scarlett, I highly recommend you keep working with Aunt Pooh to perfect it.

Here's a 4 Generation picture with Scarlett, Jen, Nana, and Granny.
We were going to do just the girls, but Desmond insisted on sitting in Nana's lap.

Who's afraid of a little line?  Especially on the first Brown Thursday.

Santa was nice enough to take some time out from his toy making schedule, take some pictures, and sing some songs.

All that fun comes with some travel.  We stopped in Mandeville, Louisiana for Jen to reminisce and let the kiddos have a break.

I look like I've been driving all night and smell like sunflower seeds.  Jen still looks fantastic.

I got rid of the sunflower seed taste with my first Po Boy on the balcony of Rips on the Lake overlooking the causeway.

You can see the causeway crossing the lake on the right.
It was so clear we could see the buildings of New Orleans thirty miles away.

Taking a moment.

We went and saw the million plus Zoo Lights.

I'm not sure if this was the 7th or 8th time Scarlett watched Frozen . . . 

Jen takes her tree selection very seriously.  The young ones are learning the sacred art.

So far Des is loving it.

Proud parent moment #1:  somehow we got out of the house without Scarlett's coat liner.
Um, time to go thaw her out . . . now!

We decided to have some of our friends over for graham cracker houses this year!
We prepped little ones for the kids.  This was Jen and my house creation this year.

We had a lot of fun.  Lots of Christmas creativity.

The Elder's architecture was awesome.  You might say it was inspired.

Somehow Desmond managed to pump his body full of sugar.

a LOT of sugar...

Proud parent moment #2:  Our fun night continued much longer than we had anticipated as we got up with Desmond every hour to run around the house and burn off more energy . . . the word "wired" comes to mind.

Once we took it down, this is how the playhouse looked for its Georgia to Texas trip.
I may have had some doubts about it going back together right.

The kids could not wait for us to finish! Literally.

They, of course, were an invaluable help in the construction.

This gives a sense of the action!

The seesaw is Scarlett's go to item, but Desmond snuck in for a run.

I'm thinking he likes it.

All that hard work--totally worth it!