Wednesday, December 28, 2005

2005: The Year in Books

I was doing some rereading of my blog and noticed that I did a pretty good job of recording all of the books I've read over the course of the year. So, I went back, made a list of them to have in one place. Here are all the novels I read this year:

A Clash of Kings

The Hot Rock

The Phoenix Guard

The Deed of Paksenarrion Book I

A Hunger Like Fire

A Storm of Swords

Petty Pewter Gods

Born to Run

A Feast for Crows

Anansi Boys

Honour of the Grave

The Prodigal Sorcerer

Chronologically, I might add.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


The keeneyed among you will notice that I've added and updated some of the links off to the right. The most important of which in the short-term is the link to a pdf of the Barber's Closet drink menu. Dan Seliger emailed me months ago and offered to host the document so others could gain access to it, so you should thank Dan for the work he's put in on it. Oh, and thank my co-worker James and his wife Margot for having the hardcopy, Seth for scanning it, and me for coordinating the whole thing. Or, just download it and enjoy your favorite drink from the good ol' days.

I'm writing this on Tuesday, so I only have a day left here before I hop the plane and get back to Seattle on Thursday. It seems like time's gone by really quickly, but it also feels like it's been forever since I've seen my apartment, my office, my friends, and Julia. It'll be good to get back.

I'm sure tomorrow will be filled with visiting my nephews and sisters one last time before I take off -- and getting to bed early, so I can get up at six o'clock in the morning. Groan. (That's four o'clock Seattle time.) I already boxed up my Christmas goodies and I'll send them off tomorrow, so they should arrive sometime next week.

I forgot to say anything the other day about what I thought of Robin's novel, Honour of the Grave. Overall I thought it was very good. It was very well-written and definitely captured the feel of the Warhammer universe incredibly well. I suppose that task was made easier because the story centered on a graverobber and her dishonored knight companion, but even so, it was very cool to read about a darker fantasy universe. My only real complaint about the book was that the main character's reasons for doing things were often unexplained and completely inobvious. I think the goal was to make her into a character similar to Dustin Hoffman's character in the movie Hero, but it wasn't quite clear. If you're not familiar with that movie, go watch it. It does a great job of creating an everyman who has no interest in being a hero, but he's compelled to do the right thing because it's the right thing to do.

Okay, maybe I'll update later if i get bored, but you may not hear from me until I'm back in Seattle.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

The Week At Home

First, Merry Christmas to all of you (or at least all of you who actually celebrate Christmas. For the rest of you, seen any good movies lately?)

Second, Dr. John asked how Anansi Boys compares to American Gods. I read the latter a couple of years ago and I remember liking it pretty well. It was clear to me that Gaiman was still getting his prose under control and really developing a style. I say this simply because I think his work in comics is so incredibly well done. He has a great sense of timing and great control over turn of phrase in that medium -- and it hasn't quite translated to his longer fiction. At least not for me. That said, I think Anansi Boys is a pretty big step forward in terms of his prose writing. The text flows well and the story holds together. The only reservation I have about the book is that it feels like Gaiman wants to write comedy, especially as you get further into the novel. In American Gods the story is pretty serious; lots of intrigue and facing of demons and people dying and coming back in literal rebirth, that sort of thing, but in Anansi Boys the story starts out with some serious overtones, but then turns into a semi-farce with a number of sit-com-esque situations that are made all the more ridiculous because of the presence of godlike powers. I definitely enjoyed it; partially because of the subject and story, and partially because I enjoy Gaiman's ideas and stories. But, don't walk into it thinking you're getting something as deep as his run on The Sandman.

Okay, the last week has been a jumble of running around and sitting around. I went to see King Kong with Jake, Mitch, and Nick (my older sister's three oldest kids). I enjoyed the movie as much as I needed to. I'd really been looking forward to this film, but it just didn't deliver for me. Maybe it was Jack Black as the promotor, but I kept thinking he was delivering his lines with a sort of post-modern mocking tone. Does that make sense? Anyway, the movie was fun. I liked how they spend some time making Kong likeable without making him completely anthropomorphized (which would have been really lame). I liked the natives. I liked the mindless action scenes -- even the over-the-top parts (except for maybe the dinosuars and vines scene). I really didn't like the addition of The Heart of Darkness theme, which seemed to be included to justify lengthening the film and to look as if it added some depth -- despite the fact that is really wasn't needed. Anyway, overall it was good. I wish I wanted to buy it when it comes out on DVD, but I don't think it makes the cut. See it at a matinee.

My little sister's kids received some eight-week-old kittens as a Christmas gift. Let's all repeat this aloud, "Pets are not good gifts. I promise not to ever give a pet as a gift." Okay, now that that's done; they're really cute kittens, but I don't know if the boys are old enough to have them. And I don't think my sister is really sold on the idea of having two cats in the house. We'll see how long they last. I could be surprised.

I made it to Madison for just over a day. I got all my Christmas shopping done, but I didn't get to see nearly as many people as I'd hoped. In some cases this was because they were busy and in others it was because we couldn't get our schedules to synch up. I still managed to get some time in with Kerry, Becca and little Henry, and Kim and John. I was supposed to meet with Phil, but he didn't get back to town in time. Hopefully I'll make another trip up there before I take off. Maybe I can still manage to see Phil, Stephanie, and Kevin.

Christmas was great fun. I had a nice, relaxing Christmas Eve with just my parents and my grandma. We went to church at four o'clock, then visited my aunt's and uncle's for their gift exchange, then came home for a nice fish dinner. And that was it.

Christmas day my grandma and my sisters and their families came over for our gift exchange and dinner. It was a fun, crazy day. The boys always get a little wound up, but they seemed pretty good throughout the day. Getting seven boys 14 and under together tends to lead to wrestling matches and real fights, but everything was great. Dinner was a very good roast beef with all the fixin's, then everyone cleared out, so I thought I'd write here for a bit.

In the downtime between happenings I finished Robin's Honour of the Grave. I've dipped into some of the Dungeon Master Guide II, but I think the next book on the list is Mark Sumner's The Prodigal Sorcerer. I really enjoyed his books The Devil's Tower and The Devil's Engine, so I'm curious about this earlier novel.

Time to read, more later.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Busy Few Days

The plane flights were what you'd normally expect; cramped but not too unbearable. The high point for me was lunch in the Minneapolis airport because I found an Einstein's bagel shop and had half of my favorite breakfast...a toasted bagel with cream cheese, capers, lox, and tomatoes. It was thoroughly enjoyable.

The last couple of days have been filled with getting way more sleep than usual and visiting with my family. Monday I had a nice lunch with my sisters while all but one of their kids was in school. I think this is the first time the three of us have done something like that since we've all been out of the house. With the both of them being married and having kids it's never been possible to just sit down and have lunch together.

They had some good stories about their kids. None of which I can remember right now; you know how it goes. I'll try to think of specific stories, but they all sort of blend together.

Jean's boys came for a visit Monday afternoon. Mostly they went sledding, but we visited for a bit before they had to go home to get ready for their evening activities, except for Jake, who went with Mom and I to Grandma's for a pizza dinner. I'm happy to report that Grandma is doing well and even drove for the first time on Tuesday. We had dinner with her again in Tuesday and she was so happy about getting in the car and hitting the road again -- even if it was just to go to the store. She hasn't driven since she broke her ankle in August. She said she had a such a sense of freedom when she got on the road again. It's so funny to hear her talk like that.

Earlier today I went to see my little sister's new house for the first time. It's very nice and she has a huge yard for the kids and the dog to play in. When it's not ten degrees out.

I suppose for those of you that aren't in this part of the world I should describe the weather. It's cold. It's been cold the entire time I've been back. Thankfully it's not any of the extreme cold this part of the world can get (I clearly recall 60 degrees below zero a few years ago. Ouch.), but it's been firmly entrenched in the single and low double digits the entire time. I had to laugh last night as I went to bed wearing a sweatshirt, sweatpants, and socks and then covered up with a sheet, woollen blanket, heavy bedspread, comforter, and then another comforter on the lower part of the bed. This compared to the t-shirt and cotton pants with a sheet and down comforter when I go to bed in Seattle. Like I said, I had to laugh.

I'm saddened to report that despite the fact that I'd brought City of Heroes and World of Warcraft home to play on the computer at my parents' place, that I won't be able to do it. The computer isn't quite powerful enough, so no games for me, despite the fact that I'd actually have some time to play later in the evenings.

Of course, what this has meant is that I've already finished Gaiman's Anansi Boys which I started on the plane ride and finished late yesterday and have started the first novel on Robin Laws' Warhammer series. I like Robin's stuff no matter what medium he's working in and I've been looking forward to finally reading this trilogy. So, I'm signing off to go dive into the first book, Honour of the Grave.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Ready to Go

This week has passed very quickly. I think that's pretty normal for the days right before a big holiday, but I've also spent a lot of my free time with Julia, which seems to make time pass faster somehow.

Tuesday evening I went with her to decorate Christmas cookies at her parents' place. I'm not one of those people who puts a ton of importance on meeting someone's parents, and so, it's never a big deal for me. We had a very good time and I think things went well -- her mom was very interested in finding out as much as she could about me, so we didn't run short on topics to talk about. The whole family seemed inordinately interested in the fact that we met online, but I suppose if you met the old fashioned way that would seem pretty weird and newfangled. Anyway, it went well and I scored a few cookies in the deal.

Otherwise, work has been filled with meetings and me trying to get ahead a bit before I vacate for the holidays next week. I'm looking forward to the trip home, but it still doesn't seem like I'm leaving as soon as I am. I'm sure it will hit me this weekend. I'm already planning to have everything ready to go on Saturday. Now I just have to figure out if I'm sending anything home before I leave. I'll get it done tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow. I'd planned to take the day off in order to do some shopping, but I think I'll only manage to take a half day so that I can meet with my boss and get a few things finalized before I leave.

Oh, for lunch today we went to the newly-opened billiards room in the new part of the Bellevue mall. It's a great bar and restaurant with a ton of tables. I really liked the food I had and it will be fun to have a place to play pool. I'm sure Seth and I will hike over there on many evenings for pool and dinner. Sounds really fun, actually.

Okay, talk to you soon. Time for bed.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Weekend Together

I spent much, rather, most of the weekend with Julia. That's her name, by the way. I don't think I mentioned it earlier.

Friday night we went to Kirkland for a drink at Hector's then dinner to Cactus for dinner, after which we met Seth, Liz, and Crabby in Bellevue to see the fourth Harry Potter movie. I'd seen it already, but none of them had, so they were keen to see it.

Saturday Julia and I ran a bunch of errands throughout the day and later in the day met Shane and Cathy for coffee (actually tea and sandwiches) at the B&O, then went to Liz's party -- her last before she leaves for Massachusetts at the end of the year. We didn't stay long, but it was good to see Liz off -- even though I'll see her at work for the next week. As we were driving out of town we decided we were kind of hungry, so Julia pointed me toward the 13 Coins restaurant. It's pricey for a 24-hour restaurant, but it has a lot of character. I hope to get some of the crew over there soon.

Sunday we met with Shane and Cathy again, this time to get comics and some lunch at one of the small cafes around Pike Place Market. We had a great time talking and wandering around, unfortunately Shane and Cathy had to take off for work, so we parted ways and headed back to Renton so I could pick up some new shoes for the gym (wow, have I needed new shoes for a while) and drop Julia off at her place.

I had a nice dinner with Seth, the came home to get some things taken care of around here. Now I've listened to all of my news podcasts and I'm really tired, so I think I may relax with some reading and get to bed.

One more thing, I can't beleive it's only a week and a half until Christmas. I need to get some shopping done for my friends in this part of the world. I wish I had a clue as to what everyone wanted. Ah, well, I have a project for this week. It should be fun to take care of.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

I Was On A Roll

I was on a roll with posting last week, but then I got all distracted by a girl. Yeah, you heard me. She's a sweetie and I think I'll keep her around for a bit. Actually, It's amazing how well we get along. I'm having a good time.

Anyway, that explains my non-posting. We met last Thursday and then got together on Sunday, Monday, and tonight (Wednesday).

Besides that, I've been doing pretty well about going to the gym. I'm actually really enjoying it, but my right knee is acting up, which is a new thing. It was particularly bad over the weekend.

Saturday night was the work Christmas party. It was held at a cool, little hall on the north edge of Lake Union. The music was entertaining and although the turnout was a little low, everyone had a very good time.

Sunday a bunch of us met over at Shana's to help her load up a U-Haul and cart her things to her new place. There were nine of us, so it went very quickly. Remember the thing I mentioned about my knee? Yeah, this was the time when it acted up, so I carried a few things out of her place and then spent the rest of my time in the back of the truck organizing all the boxes and belongings that the others set on the back of the truck. And I didn't lift with my knees, so my back was achey later in the day and on Monday (but achey in a good way). It feels better now.

Tuesday I ran the last session of my Star Wars game for a while. The whole series was a bit funky to me, so I don't know exactly how I feel about it. Although disappointed comes to mind. I'd really like one of these games to click for me, but it's just not working that way for some reason. Next, we're back to Mike's Shadowrun game. I like my character for that, so it should be fun.

Okay, that's all for now.