Posts Tagged ‘books’

Book Review: Running the Amazon

Posted: 08/07/2010 by Toby in Informative

In keeping with the impatient streak in my personality, I’m reviewing this book before I’ve even reached halfway. I absolutely recommend it to anyone. It is an adventure, a true story, well told and well written, and with good details and pacing. The book: Running the Amazon: The story of the only expedition ever to travel the full length of the Amazon river, from its source high in the Andes to its union with the Atlantic Ocean by Joe Kane.

I’m not sure if the blurb after the title is actually the subtitle or if it’s a blurb to summarise the book. It does seem like a long subtitle, I probably would have done something more like Running the Amazon: From the tip of the tail through the guts the wrong way and out the gaping mouth.

I never thought of it this way, but, in rivers slop is running from tail to mouth and in most animals slop progresses from mouth to the base of the tail. Vewwy intewesting.

Anyway the author does a great job giving enough backstory to grab us and make us wonder what will happen to them as they set out. He helps us understand the magnitude of the situation, but also makes the expedition quite real by narrating the various landscape, towns, and people they encounter.

When I was a kid, I almost never considered non-fiction. I wonder if it bordered too much on a school assignment / history book / chemistry book vibe.  Not only have I learned since then that there was a point to making us read all those facts and figures, I have also learned that those facts and figures can be interesting. I also learned that real life isn’t all that boring to read (or write for that matter) about.

This is totally off the topic:

It would be 2 days ago now, on Tuesday I was on the train, and happened to have my hearing aids going, which isn’t all that often, I’m preserving what little hearing I can wring from my cochs each day, anyway – the last leg of the trip I’m pretty sure the announcer had been assimilated.

Cloaked in Sci-Fi

Posted: 11/06/2010 by Toby in Informative
Tags: , ,

Did you know that there’s a science fiction book out there that borrows heavily from the story of Nephi in The Book of Mormon? It’s called Memory of Earth by Orson Scott Card. I picked it at random from the tray at the train station, where they set up a portable ‘library’ of sorts twice a week for commuters. I think it’s a great service, I’m always desperate for something to read as soon as I’ve finished a book. When I saw Orson Scott Card, I thought to myself, Ender’s Game wasn’t too bad, so I grabbed the book as the train was pulling up. I started reading it like any other scifi. Setting: distant planet called Harmony 40 million years into the future (a mind-boggling number..). Characters: refugees from earth and an AI orbiting the planet watching over everything This should be interesting.

Things are going swimmingly, the characters are unfolding, the main character, Nafai (did you catch that? I didn’t until much further in the book. But then again, you’re clued in from go; I already spilled the beans) is struggling to become a man, and decide what he wants to do with his life (he will probably become the greatest hero of the planet and get the girl, I’m thinking…), and the Oversoul, the AI in orbit, has to do something about itself because it is breaking down. So it’s decided that instead of (more…)


Posted: 22/03/2010 by Toby in Informative, News
Tags: , , ,

Next stop: Deaflympics

Last Thursday morning I swam for the 2nd time in years. I swam 16 lengths of the pool, 800 meters. The first lap, I couldn’t get halfway down swimming freestyle before I started to do breast stroke (frog swim) to finish one length, and I arrived at each end totally out of breath, breathing hard like I’d just done a long sprint at full speed. The trainer dude suggested that I don’t worry about getting there quickly for now, just work on my breathing. So, instead of really trying to pull myself through the water, I took it much slower, and tried to take bigger breaths, and calm down my system enough to just breathe, and, as an afterthought, to swim. After working on that for a few laps, I went further and further across, until I finally made it all the way across without stopping, and I wasn’t as much out of breath!

I am still enjoying the flippers big time, I just love the way they propel me right through the water so much faster.  I got a cramp during the second lap with the flippers, and the trainer said that was a sign of dehydration, I should have water with me at the pool.  Now this may be quite obvious to all you swimmers out there, but I didn’t realise that people sweat, even when they swim, and that they need to keep hydrated. So, note to self, remember water next time.

The good thing about the swim days, as opposed to the run and bike days is that I can get a shower after working out before I head in to work. The offices that BP Solar is in now are not as good as the old offices in Homebush, those offices had showers. Anyway, so there I am covered in cholorine.  I step into a shower stall, and push the water on.  It’s one of those handles that you push and it comes out for a while and then stops.  Then I have to pee. I figure all the drains and flushes go back to the recycle plant anyway, right? so while the water is going, I just let it on out – aimed at the drain of course so it doesn’t go everywhere.  My little swimmers are already off, and I’m rinsing them and wringing them out, and I realise the shower has stopped, but my, um, personal contribution had not quite stopped, and I realised that the sound of trickling in the drain was not being covered up by the sound of the shower running, and I quickly pushed the shower handle again.

A little sick

After swimming, went to a major shopping centre where BP Solar is planning to install 100kW of solar photo voltaics (PV). While there, I started feeling poorly.  I’m pretty sure whatever TJ had over the weekend has now been given to me. I decided to head home and get some rest rather than share the love. I’m still a little under the influence of the germ, but it’s not interfering too badly at the moment.  I can still function and do my job.

Saga’s End

I think that the saga of the rear shock is finally at an end. The new shock is now recieved through the mail, and is now installed into the bike.  Pictures later. It looks pretty darn cool. I will say though, the propedal setting is not as stiff as the previous shock, the one I rode around for a short time before taking it back out. I wonder if that has to do with the rebound adjust, which I am still fiddling with, trying to get the right balance.

Going for a ride at 4:30


So with my bike, and with a new red flashing light, I continued my training regimen of exercising in the wee hours of the morning. I decided I’m not a huge fan of riding around in the dark. Maybe once I get a headlight for the bike, or for my helmet, or cheaper yet, just tape a flashlight to one or the other or both, I’ll enjoy it more, but it’s too dark and things travel past too quickly.

I still run, I ran this morning, and even then, just going at the speed of my feet, I still run into branches, and mistake inanimate objects for rabid attacking creatures.

Missing my train stop

Here’s another shorty about my train travels. Last week I missed my train stop, I woke up just as the train was pulling from the station. I needed to get off there to change to another train. I had two courses of action at that point. Was it just easier to go around the horn and head back up the other side of the loop, or was it better to head back up and try to get back on track (so to speak). I decided on the latter, by getting out at Redfern and hopping onto the correct train from there. I imagine I probably didn’t lose that much time, although I wasn’t watching the clock.  I still got to work at about the same time.

I imagine that if there were a train going directly from Hazo to Macquarie Park, I’d make it down there in just over an hour and a half. It is the train changes and travels in the wrong direction that cost me that extra 2 hours each day.

New book: Milton

I’m reading a book about the life of John Milton. I really need to get on the computer and start reserving the books I actually want to read. I get to the library and I spend so much time thinking of titles or authors to look for, only to find they are not there. The rest of the time is spent trying to find something that won’t be a total waste of time. This book is not, exactly.

John Milton is a famous person, a poet and someone who lived in a critical time period in England’s history. I’m almost up to the part where Scotland is pissed.

I’ll admit it freely here: I’m annoyed that the author spends so much time trying to pull out homosexual tendencies in Milton’s writing and relationships, as though it were so critical that the slightest hint of a word with a vaguely sexual euphemism be pinpointed amongst all his work and brought to light multiple times. Her examples are so vague so as to make me think it must be the pressure of our modern world, one in which gays have recruited a sufficient number that history must now be carefully written with a highly tuned ear for the same existing in the past, for some reason desperate to justify the rump humping as having always been.

Also annoying is the author’s tendency to refer to John Milton as John. The rejection the scholarly form of using the last name, and the insistent demand that I bend my view in this regard brings out in me rebellion against her demand.

My third complaint is that it puts me to sleep straightaway. This was a pretty good thing this morning, I got up early and then made it to the train and needed to catch up on missed sleep. After about a page, I was off in the land of non sequiturs.

I need a new reading book ASAP, I don’t care how informative this book might be, I’ll go with someone who has written about Milton less recently.

Rand on Houses

Posted: 21/04/2008 by Toby in Informative

Gail Wynand is explaining his country house to Roark:

“I want it to be a palace–only I don’t think palaces are very luxurious. They’re so big, so promiscuously public. A small house is the true luxury.”

Rand on Love

Posted: 18/04/2008 by Toby in Informative

   “Surely you’ve seen through that particular stupidity.  I mean the one that claims the pig is the symbol of love for humanity–the creature that accepts anything.  As a matter of fact, the person who loves everybody and feels at home everywhere is the true hater of mankind.  He expects nothing of men, so no form of depravity can outrage him.”