Friday, February 17, 2012

Marley and Me

I LOVED this book!
It is definitely a solid 5 stars!

It actually surprised me quite a bit. I thought it was going to be a silly, fluffy, kids book about a goofy dog. Instead it was a deeply moving, sentimental, family memoir.  It was also definitely written for adults.

I think that just about anyone would enjoy this book, not just dog lovers.  It perfectly captures all of the personal, intimate, and serious events that a family experiences as they go through life together.

While I was reading it, I found myself so envious of the husband in the book. More than anything I want a wife who deeply loves me, and is so fun to love back. I want children that are a joy, a job that is fulfilling, and a home full of priceless memories.

I don't think I've ever read a more human book.

During the last four or five chapters, I was a wreck. I was literally sobbing through those chapters. I don't think I've ever been so moved by a book before. It brought back so many vivid memories and feelings, and it made me happy to remember.

In my opinion, Marley and Me has done something that very few stories manage to achieve. I genuinely believe that the feelings and experiences captured in this book are timeless and universal. It is because of this rare accomplishment that I feel that Marley and Me will become immortal.

Edit: I finally got around to watching the movie. It was ok, but not nearly as good as the book. The book is at least 10 times better than the movie. So if you have only seen the movie, and don't feel particularly interested in reading the book, please reconsider. The book is really a treasure, while the film is rather forgettable.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Mystery Solved!

So remember how I moved out a while ago?

Well, moving out often requires the relocating of stuff that hasn't budged in years.

Do any of you remember The Case of the Missing Mouse Carcass?

Well I am pleased to announce that the mystery has now been solved!

When I moved my large six foot tall bookcase, I saw this.


I have no idea how it got under there!

You can't tell from the photo, but in the carpet all around it is the deep imprint of the heavy bookcase.

Its base goes completely around on all four sides.

As far as I can tell, there was no gap for the mouse to squeeze through.

How did it get under there?!

Apparently that is the bigger mystery.

Don't worry. The carcass has been disposed of, and the carpets have been professionally cleaned. All traces of the dead mouse are now gone.

You may now go about the rest of your day with peace of mind.

My Sleep Cycle

Hands down the coolest and most useful app I have found for the iPhone is Sleep Cycle!

This thing is super cool, and it actually works!

You put your phone on your bed when you go to sleep, and it uses the sensors in the phone to detect how much you are moving around during the night. It uses that data to monitor how deeply asleep you are, and then when it is time to wake you up, it tries to gently wake you when you are in relatively shallow sleep, so it doesn't shock your system.

The alarm is great, and on the nights when I get good sleep I really notice how much more gentle the wake up is. It is really refreshing.

The problem though, is that I rarely get good sleep. (Which I discovered thanks to this app.)

Look at this!

This is a pretty typical night for me.

I really need to do something about this.

I am tired of being tired all the time.

Do any of you have any tips for improving the quality of my sleep?

I could really use some.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

One Year on the Job

Well folks, I have now worked at my current job for one year.

That's right, I started this job last Valentine's Day.

Overall it has been a great experience.

I like the work I get to do, I like the people I work with, I like the company, and I actually like going to work each day.

It worked out well for me.

At the moment I am not feeling ambitious enough to list out a bunch of highlights from the last year, so instead I thought I would just post pictures of how my cubicle has changed over that time.

Here are the pictures I took when I first started.

Here it is now.

It's mostly the same, but now I have a whiteboard, a second monitor, a nifty coat hanger thingy, and lots more papers and things scattered around.

For the most part it has been a good year of being employed.

I'm looking forward to the next year.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Ender's Game

Please, don't all start throwing things at once, but I didn't really like this book.

2 stars.

This review is pretty much one big rant, so if you loved this book, you might not want to read any further.

Deep breath?


My general impression of the book was that it started out with a really cool premise, but never really developed in a satisfying way. The writing was juvenile and immature, and the characters and story came across as flat and meaningless. There was absolutely no depth to it. The dialog seemed phony and contrived, and there were a lot of sentences that didn't make much sense. If you want to check, I made note that chapter 9 was particularly bad. There was just no beauty in the language, and that was disappointing.

It got super repetitive and boring during the time he was at the battle school. It was like reading a book about laser tag!  It briefly got interesting again when he moved on to the command school, but it was disappointingly predictable.  I predicted how it would end pretty early in the story. I think it was right after their first battle in the battle school.

The conclusion of the novel was extremely disappointing, very confusing, and far too long.
The book simply refused to end!

Seriously, I have never been so desperate for a book to end. The last 15 pages felt like an eternity!
I was literally in agony because I wanted the book to be over so badly. It actually felt like the last mile of a long and painful race, where you are so close, but you are in pain and just want it all to be over. Finishing this book was a miserable experience.

Part of me wishes that I had read this book when I was much much younger. Maybe then I would have liked it better. I didn't anticipate this being a problem though because so many adults seem to love this book.
I thought it was one of the worst sci-fi novels I have ever read.

Despite all of my complaining, I recognize that there was a lot of stuff in the story that would probably be fun for kids to read.
If I were the editor, I would have made two major changes to improve the book.
First, I would delete everything that had to do with Peter's plans for world domination. It was just ridiculous and didn't work.
Second, I would have ended the novel right after Ender finishes his mission and goes to sleep. Ender even suggests this very thing in the book! When Valentine is writing his life story, he tells her that he should end her account after his last battle! Orson Scott Card should have taken his own advice...
If the book had those changes, I would probably bump my rating up to 3 stars, maybe 3 and a half...

The ending was particularly unsatisfying because they reveal that the whole war was just one big misunderstanding due to lack of communication. Which makes everything a tragic waste, and makes planet earth one big colony of ignorant racists. Really disappointing.

By the way, I laughed out loud when the author threw in the phrase "holy writ". Really Orson...really?

And Then There Were None

I really enjoyed this book! It was fun to read, but also pretty scary at times. I liked almost everything about the book.

I can see why Agatha Christie is so popular; she is a great writer, and her stories are genuinely complex, mysterious, and fun!

While I was reading it, I kept thinking that I had figured out who the killer was...and then that person would suddenly die!

The only minor problem I had with the story was regarding the final explanation of how everything happened.

Don't worry, I won't give anything away.

The ending actually demonstrates one of my pet peeves from overly complicated books and films. It relies on the idea that in order for everything to work out, everyone's behavior must be totally anticipated in advance.
I don't believe that anyone can predict the behavior of a person (or ten people for that matter) so perfectly that they will be able to design specific circumstances to exploit their reactions. People just aren't that predictable. Someone is bound to do something unexpected that will mess everything up.

It is kind of the same idea behind the Deus Ex Machina; or in other words, an unexpected or improbable device or event that is able to quickly resolve all of the conflict.

In some cases I would say that this is a sign of lazy writing. I don't think this is the case with Agatha Christie, as she is clearly a very gifted writer.  However, the ending did seem a bit too contrived for my taste.

I would actually be interested in researching this specific method of resolution in mystery stories. I have seen this same trick used in lots of movies in recent years, but it makes me wonder if Agatha Christie might have been the first writer to think it up. If so, that would be amazing, and would totally cancel out my complaint!
The problem is, I don't know enough about literature and writing to know where to start!

English majors, assemble!

Seriously though, if any of you smart English majors out there know what I am talking about, I would love some input on this.

Despite my complaints about the ending, it was still a very good read.

4 stars out of 5.

I would highly recommend it to anyone.

P.S. I am told that I need to see the movie, because they "fix" the ending. I will report back when I do.

Friday, February 10, 2012

One Step Closer

Please permit me to brag for just a brief moment.

Yesterday I paid off one of my student loans!

I'm pretty happy about this.

Last year at this time, I was fresh out of school and deep in debt.
I had a car loan, two student loans, and a small balance on my credit card.

All of those are gone now, except for one little student loan.

Two thirds of my total debt has been paid, and I expect to have the final third paid in about three months.

I am really looking forward to feeling the sense of relief that this day will bring!

Once I am done with all this dirty debt business, I plan on rolling over my loan payments into savings accounts so I can build some security for the future.

I guess this is one advantage to being employed and single.

Anyway, it feels really good to achieve a fairly large goal. :)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Descendants

I liked this movie.
It was pretty funny, but also very tender in dealing with a very difficult subject.
George Clooney plays Matt King who's wife is in a boating accident and is critically injured.
While she is in a coma he discovers that she had been having an affair.
The film is about his relationship with his children as he tries to deal with the knowledge of the affair, and prepare for the possibility that his wife may die.
Probably the most interesting thing about the film is that Matt King must come to terms with the affair, and forgive his wife, without the ability to discuss any of it with her, or hear her side of the story.
The thing that impressed me most were the performances of the entire cast. Everyone was excellent, especially the children.
As I said, this was a very tender film, but I didn't find it to be very emotional. I did hear some sniffling throughout the theater though.
I wouldn't say this was one of my favorite films of the year, but it was very good.  I'm glad people are still making movies of this caliber. It was nominated for best picture, but in my opinion, it isn't one of the front runners.
I would give it 4 stars out of 5.