Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Thursday, January 31, 2013

I'm Stepping Out

Each of the past two years, I spent the month of April doing a little thing called the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. (For those interested, sign-ups opened yesterday.) This basically entailed writing 26 letter-themed posts and visiting scads of other like-minded bloggers, all whilst doing my best to ignore the pleas of my family, my stomach, and my tired eyes. But this year I'm going to handle things a little differently.

This year, I'm also ignoring the Challenge.

And, I say, it's about time. Literally. They say time is on your side, but it's not.1 I never have enough time to do everything I want to do. And I'd rather spend April with The Professor, working on my novel, taking photos, and doing improv. So that's what I'm going to do. Don't worry, I'll still be visiting your blogs; I just won't be visiting a metric ton of them like the rest of the AtoZers. And I may only write a handful of posts myself.

"But Nate," you might say, "how will we survive without a daily dose of your trademark wit™ and patented footnote-heavy style (patent-pending)?" Easy. For one thing, I'll have you know every single one of my jokes is recycled. In fact, I already used the trademark thing here and the patent thing here. You see, dear readers, it's all a sham.2 So if you find yourself overcome by Natelessness in April, simply peruse the archives.3

Until then, I wish any Alphabeteers out there the best of luck. Better you than me.

1 They also say you don't always get what you want. Which, considering what I want is more time, is very true. They are very wise (and of course, by wise I mean wizened).
2 I used the sham thing here.
3 I was going to call them the Natechives, but that looks too much like I've created my own brand of seasonings. And no one's supposed to know about those until they launch in the fall.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Land of Abandoned Books

I've been feeling rather listless of late, so I thought I'd make a list.

Prior to my 20s, only once had I chosen to read a book and cast it aside before finishing it. But the older I get, the more I realize how little free time I have and how many things I still want to read. If the book doesn't grab me, I stop grabbing it.

Along with the increasing number of eBooks and book sale purchases I'm now putting aside as I really embrace this philosophy, here are my most notable abandonments, in chronological order. Some might surprise you.
  1. The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkein
    I was 14 or 15. I'd just finished The Hobbit. And then, calling my geekdom completely into question, I gave up on this tome about 40 pages in.
  2. Crime & Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    'Twas May of my senior year of high school, and I didn't have to write a paper on it. Nevertheless, I stuck it out for 4/5 of the book, more than most of the class.
  3. Star Maker, Olaf Stephenson
    The first assigned reading in my freshman-year sci-fi class. Again, no paper was required. Found it so dull I forgot the title. This might not even be the right book.
  4. Quicksilver, Neal Stephenson
    I loved his three previous works. Cryptonomicon was just as dense, and longer, yet fantastic. But I couldn't get into this. Made it 30 pages in 6 weeks. And done.
  5. Wish I Could Be There: Notes from a Phobic Life, Allen Shawn
    I had high hopes. Written by the brother of Wallace Shawn, and son of NY Times editor William Shawn. Surely he'd share some amazing stories, right? Wrong.
  6. The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster & Jules Feiffer
    Loved it as a kid. Tried re-reading as an adult and the magic was gone. Just like with M.C. Hammer and The Neverending Story (the film). You can't go back.
  7. The Drawing of the Three, Stephen King
    Book two of the Dark Tower series. Barely made it through book one. Yet I've truly enjoyed the other half-dozen King works I've read. Go figure.
  8. Watchman, Ian Rankin
    Not to be confused with the Alan Moore graphic novel. All of Rankin's other mysteries have hooked me, but this was his first, re-issued. Just not the same.
  9. Anathem, Neal Stephenson
    Furthest I've ever read before giving up (350 pages). Really liked some scenes, but had no interest in anything going on. Another 600 pages to go? Screw that.
  10. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz
    Yep, the Pulitzer prize winner. At times very witty and interesting. More often, Dominican slang and phrases hurled without context. Latter overrules former.

Of course, it goes the other way as well. I've finished some books I really shouldn't have. The Chronicles of Narnia sucked the life out of me, and I should have quit after two. I stuck through all seven out of sheer stubbornness.

I nearly lost it reading Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol (my scathing review), strained to get through The Strain by Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan (scathing review #2), and was blind as to why Jose Saramago's Blindness won the Nobel Prize. Yet I finished each one. And let me tell you, I was lucky to survive. Because whenever I came across something done poorly — and oh, there was plenty — I mentioned it to my wife. Each time, after two or three such remarks, Denise was ready to kill me. I must say she showed phenomenal restraint.

So if you ever find me bludgeoned to death with a book of dubious quality lying nearby, you know what happened. I didn't shut the book, and I didn't shut my mouth.

How about you? What's the most surprising (or acclaimed) book you've ever cast aside?

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Professor's Alphabet

The Professor turned 18 months old last week, and somehow he just keeps getting cuter.1

One of his favorite things2 is animal sounds. He knows all the standards, and then some.3 What I find interesting, however, is he identifies some animals by either name or sound (e.g. puppy, kitty, piggy, ducky, bear, owl, frog) but others only by their sound (e.g. moo, baa, neigh). He'll roar when asked about lions, tigers, and bears, but he makes a different sound for dinosaur every time I ask.4

Likewise, he's not consistent with his numbers. When he first started repeating them after us, he would say "two" after 1 and 3, but repeat the rest of the numbers as expected. He's since consolidated to solely "two" (for 1-3), "bive" (4-5), and "nine" (6-9). Unless he's subtly trying to get me to invest for his future in a 529 plan, I'm not sure what this means.

And then there's the alphabet. For this, I shall use a chart:

ABAr! Ar!5DF(silence)6Gnine7IJMeow!

After K/itty, he's completely unoriginal, although he sometimes points at himself for U and gives up entirely at W.

But enough talk. You came here for pictures. And I shall not disappoint.

1 I might be biased, but I know it's true because I've gotten independent verification from multiple external sources. For I am a scientist. By which I mean I once watched Nova.
2 Apart from shrieking so the cats flee, and eating fruit and cheese and crackers and tomatoes (which are technically fruit but you shut up) and bread and peas and holy hell we're out of food again. Son of a—
3 Including crow, donkey, monkey, and moose ("Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!")
4 Which, I suppose, isn't wrong, since I never specify which dinosaur, and we're rather short on eye witnesses from the Triassic period.
5 This is what I get for branching off to non-standard animals. Even though he's fully aware C is for Cookie — that the only song he's wanted to hear the past two weeks — for him the alphabet starts A-B-Seal.
6 He's already said F, so why should he say it again? F that.
7 He sometimes does say H, but H times out of 9 he doesn't.