Friday, January 27, 2012

Book Review -- Troll Valley

Troll Valley
by Lars Walker
Kindle Format
Epub Format

I've never done a book review before, so I'm still figuring out how to do it. First of all, I'll say that I really enjoyed reading "Troll Valley". I'd call it a Christian/American Historical Fiction (turn of the 20th century)/Fantasy book, with a light dusting of horror from time to time (mostly off screen).

When I started the book, the fact that it opened with a character waking up in a strange room with no idea where he was, or how he got there, I almost burst out laughing. That set-up is almost a cliché for a bad slush entry. Fortunately, though, it didn't stop me from reading it.

I enjoyed the fact that the book was unabashedly Christian, though not always in favor of the Church, especially as shown in the narrator's mother.

Another thing that I really enjoyed about the book was the glimpses of magic seen throughout it. The narrator will be talking about some perfectly ordinary happening of the early 20th century, and then suddenly and matter-of-factly go into a vision or some other magical event. He does no magic, but has magic in his blood, which profoundly effects him and his family, even four generations later.

Portions of the book revolve around the narrator's church experience, which starts off well, and gradually deteriorates. But at the climax of the book, some of the characters stop a great evil from being done by quoting Scripture. That was a high point of the story to me.

The low point was the section shortly before that, where we watch the first person narrator gradually turning himself into a world-class jerk, and seeing all his justifications for it.

The main story ends on a sustained note of pure, undeserved grace. I enjoyed it, but it reminded me, that to the world, and on the outside, moments of grace can sometimes be confused with stupidity. It also made me wonder how Bathsheba felt.

Shout out, you stones!

Shout out, you stones!
Shout out, you rocks!
For the Lord is coming again.

Cry out, you stones!
Cry out, you rocks!
In praise sing out until then!

Every valley will be raised up,
Every mountain brought low.
The whole earth will be as a highway
For the foot of the Lord to go.

Shout out, you stones!
Shout out, you rocks!
For the Lord is coming again.

Cry out, you stones!
Cry out, you rocks!
In praise sing out until then!

Before, the sun hid his face,
Before, the light became dim,
But when He returns, the sun will shine brightly
As the whole earth worships Him.

Shout out, you stones!
Shout out, you rocks!
For the Lord is coming again.

Cry out, you stones!
Cry out, you rocks!
In praise sing out until then!

From the silence of the grave,
To the glories of Heaven above,
All the earth will be filled with His praise,
And wonders and grace and love.

Shout out, you stones!
Shout out, you rocks!
For the Lord is coming again.

Cry out, you stones!
Cry out, you rocks!
In praise sing out until then!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The dangers of re-reading too quickly

I have lots of books that I like to read, and re-read frequently. For instance, I'm in the middle of re-reading The Lord of the Rings. That's been one of my favorite books since junior high school, and I've re-read it every couple of years since. We've worn out at least one set of those books. Now I've got it on my Nook, so I shouldn't have to worry about wearing it out any more.

But if you take a book, and re-read it a couple of times in close succession, various plot holes, and other things, that you might not have noticed otherwise might suddenly loom so huge that they suck all the joy out of that reading.

The one that comes to mind immediately was when I discovered "The Little Princess" by Frances Hodgson Burnett (she also wrote "The Secret Garden). I was in college at the time, and so really out of the targeted age bracket. But I picked up the book, and immediately loved it. I loved it so much that as soon as I finished reading it, I turned around and read it again.

I think it was on my third reading of the book, still in close succession, that my mind suddenly asked me, "Why didn't the father's friend contact the lawyer (solicitor)?" ::poof:: All the magic in the book was suddenly gone, and it was a few years before I could read it again. Of course, if the father's friend had contacted the lawyer, it would have been a much shorter book. But the he should have, it should have been an absolutely obvious first step for him. And even if he didn't think of it, his own lawyer should have.

Perhaps the author had put in a few lines about how the father's friend had wanted to contact the lawyer, and wasn't able to, but the editor took them out to tighten the story, or perhaps it had never occurred to her that the question might come up to someone. Probably no way to know, now.

I've had similar things happen when reading other books, though I don't think any of them were quite as dramatic. So, now I usually try to put a little time, and other books, between when I first read a book, and when I re-read it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Writing Schedule

I've been trying to stick to a schedule that will allow me to write, exercise, and get the house work done. And I've got one that works, if I actually follow it. That's the hard part.

It involves me leaving the house at 9, 9:30 at the latest. Monday and Friday, I can go down to the community center, and take some water exercise classes, while Tuesday and Thursday I can work with the weight machines. Wednesday, I go grocery shopping. However, if I don't get out of the house by 9 on the class days, or 9:30 (though 9 would be better), I have a tendency to waste the whole day. I can go to the classes from 9:30 to 10:15, or whenever they end, get to the library by 11, write until 1, come home again, and work on cleaning. Funny thing is, though, if I don't leave the house, then absolutely nothing gets done. I don't like that, and need to figure out how to change it.

I'm also going to have to figure out a different schedule for when the kids get out of school. But fortunately, I've got some months to consider it.

I've been working on my Unicorn Return story, and having a blast with it. It is really annoying, though. I can sit at my AlphaSmart Neo and write this blog without any trouble (I have more trouble remembering to put it into the computer and posting it), but I can't sit here and write my story that way. I've tried, and I stare at the screen, and it stares back at me. So, I've been writing it out by hand, then typing it into the Neo the next day. That way, I don't get too much of a back-log needing to be typed, and get my mind going the right direction in the universe. I'm writing between 400-500 words per day (though today I got over 700 words), which means that I can write the worth of a NaNoWriMo day in approximately a week. Though, if I can get the house caught up enough, I could probably squeeze another hour into the day somewhere, and get another 400+ words. That would be good.

Interestingly enough, though, now that I'm writing several times a week, my handwriting has improved considerably, and I think I'm able to write faster, too. I can read my writing most of the time now. It might even have improved enough that other people might almost be able to make it out. Sometimes. It wasn't what I was going for when I started this, but I'll take it.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Has anyone seen my memory?

It's funny what sort of tricks the memory can play on you. I was reading Lars Walker's  book, Troll Valley  (which I'll review later this week), and early on came across a throw-away line about a book called "Mama's Bank Account", later made into a movie called "I Remember Mama". He said that the book almost never mentioned church. My mind came to a full stop, while it processed this, because I thought that "I Remember Mama" was absolutely packed full of church references.

Fortunately, my mind started again after a couple of moments, and I remembered that I don't think I actually read "Mama's Bank Account," though I once saw portions of "I Remember Mama" on TV. The books that I was thinking of were called "Papa's Wife", and "Papa's Daughter", by . Those were entirely different books (for one thing, the family involved were Swedish, rather than Norwegian), though the theme's probably similar, from what I remember. It's probably been a good twenty years since I read those books, though. I probably should look them up to see if the library has them (I have looked them up at B & N, and they aren't available as an eBook).

I'd say it's a pain getting old, but I think my mind always tended to mix together things of a similar theme like that. Then again, it's my provenly faulty memory telling me so. ;-)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Dominant Eye

Have you ever taken the dominant eye test? Apparently it consists of holding your arm straight out, and covering up a distant object with your thumb. Then you close your eyes one at a time, and see which eye makes the thumb move. The other eye is then your dominant eye.

I think I first heard about this test in high school, but it doesn't work for me. Every time it comes up, I try it, and I get frustrated, and other people get frustrated trying to explain it to me.

When I hold my thumb out at arm's length, and look at distant objects, I do not see one thumb, I see two. Both are transparent, neither of which can actually be said to "cover" that object. I can cover it with my whole hand, my hand's large enough that I get a significant overlap between the two hand images that I see.

Conversely, I can look at my thumb, instead of the distant object. Then I only see one thumb, but see two distant objects. I can cover either one of those up with my thumb, but the other is still out bright and clear.

I looked up other tests for finding the dominant eye. One consists of holding your hands out together, overlapping and leaving a hole between your thumbs and forefingers, then centering the distant object in the hole. Once again, I see two holes. I can look at the object through either hole, but to center it, I'd actually put it behind the fleshy bridge between the holes.

I don't know if I just don't have a dominant eye, or something else weird is going on. But for between 20 and 30 years, I've been trying to do this, and have only gotten frustrated. I don't know why it works for other people, if their mind suppresses the image of one of the thumbs, or what.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

We once again had nice weather this weekend, after those cold days we had last week. It looks like that trend is going to continue for a while. It got cold again last night, and is supposed to stay cold these next couple of days, while getting nice again on Saturday and Sunday. At least, though, we stayed in the 30s last night, not those really cold 19° and 14° days we had last week. The wind howling last night, though, made it sound like a lot colder out there than it really was. And when we heard the rain coming down, it didn't really sound like a good thing. Fortunately, the ground was still warm from the nice weekend, so no ice stuck. I think ice storms are probably about the worst thing about Missouri weather.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Remember When? (Computers)

It's funny, looking back at things, how much has changed since I was a kid. The changes seem to happen slowly, until you look back, and realize how much has happened.

When I was younger, computers were just beginning to enter into private houses. We got a Vic20 when I was in high school, and used it to play games and do word-processing and such. The hard drive hadn't been invented yet, so the programs were on cassette tape, and you had to run one every time you turned it on. The screens were monochromatic, green or orange. Orange tended to be easier on the eyes. And the graphics were hardly worth the mention of the name.

When I went to college, the school required me to buy a portable computer (it was a technical/engineering school). It was technically portable, but was about the size of a suitcase, and heavy. The keyboard fastened onto the front of it, for storage and portability. We had moved on from tape to 5" floppies, quite a step up in the world. But still no hard drives, so you had to make sure the right disk was in the drive when you turned it on. And you also had to wait for the message telling you that you could take out the disk, or you'd ruin it.

I don't remember when hard drives came in, but they made life much easier. And then we switched from 5" floppy disks to 3" disks, which weren't really floppy at all. I remember predicting that eventually we'd have computer disks, storage systems the size of credit cards. They would try to go smaller, but then move back up, because too many people would lose the dumb things. Well, you see how well that's turned out. We get a lot of programs on CD/DVD disks, which are stiff, not bendable at all, and probably close to 5" floppies in size, though they hold considerably more. We also have small flash drives, thumb drives, etc., that are much smaller than my thumb, but hold a couple gigs in memory. The amount they hold keep going up, while the prices keep coming down.

And for a lot of things, you don't even need drives. You can pull the information you need right out of the air. That's bizarre, when you really think about it. The air is filled with information, computer wireless, TV, radio, GPS, probably a whole host of other things, that you just need the right equipment to pull out of the air and use.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

First cold day of the season

Today's one of the coldest day's we've had so far this season. It was only 19° when we got up this morning, and doesn't really feel much warmer out there now. Plus we got a smattering of snow. It'll probably vanish if we get any sun at all, even as cold as it is, but the sun is hiding today.

Rocky and I took a much shorter walk than usual this morning. I bundled up as much as I could, even wore an extra layer of clothing. Rocky just went as he was. But he probably still was warmer than I was. Though, really, I was bundled up enough that I didn't feel the cold as much as I might have. Other than my head. I couldn't find my hat. I wore my neckwarmer all the way up over the top of my head, which helped keep my ears from freezing, but an extra layer would have helped me feel warmer.

It wouldn't have helped, though, to keep my glasses from freezing to my face. I wore my sunglasses, since even with the sun hiding, the snow made things bright out there. But it wasn't too long into the walk before the bridge of the glasses felt like a bar of ice across the bridge of my nose. Ugh.

Even so, I was considering taking the 1.8 walk we usually did. I didn't really want to, since besides the cold, the snow had turned icy in spots. I was taking things very slow (to Rocky's impatience), since I tended to be afraid that I'd suddenly slip and fall. Since I haven't been able to get our pace even up to 3 miles per hour on good days, we were probably walking less than a mile an hour. Another day or so, even without things warming up, should get rid of most of the ice/snow.

But at one of the first places where we had a choice of a longer/shorter walk, Rocky suddenly started limping, hopping along, not putting one of his feet down on the ground. I let him lie down for a moment, and he cleaned the bottom of his feet, after which he bounded off again. So I decided to take the shorter walk. But still, twice more the dog had to stop and clean his feet with his teeth. Makes me glad I'm not a dog. I wouldn't want to have to chew on gravelly snow/ice. If it weren't for getting ice between his toes, I bet Rocky would have been glad to stay out there even longer, though I think even he was glad to get home and out of the cold for a bit.

Walking on the Ice

Walking on the ice,
Walking in the snow,
Cold, cold, cold,
As on we go.
I'm bundled up
As much as can be,
But I think the dog
Likes it more than me.
We'd like to go faster,
But on ice I'd slip.
He doesn't much care if
Over I'd trip.
He stops twice
To clean his feet,
Or bark at those
Pesky cats we meet.
He doesn't get why
We soon turn around
When he's not done
Sniffing the ground.
My glasses are almost
Froze to my nose,
The dog complains
Of ice in his toes.
But he'd still love
To stand out there,
Sniffing out the scents
In the clean, crisp air.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Joyeous Pome

To the tune of "As with Gladness"

Easter morning rises fair
As the sun now gilds the air.
Glorious the Risen King
To whom the Church will bow and sing.

Holy, Holy, Holy He.
The Blessed One, the Blessed Three.

The Creator of the sun and light,
Maker of all sound and sight
Father God, we praise your name
Ever glorious, all the same.

Holy, Holy, Holy He.
Father of the Trinity.

And the Spirit, God's third part,
Which binds the church from heart to heart.
Comforter, abiding friend,
Intercessor, until the end.

Holy, Holy, Holy He
The holder of infinity.

And the Godhead, Three in One,
Father, Spirit, and the Son.
Worship Them, bow and adore,
Forever, ever, evermore.

Holy, Holy, Holy Three.
Blessed throughout eternity.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bucket List?

It's funny how certain words and phrases come into vogue, when you've never heard them before, but suddenly everyone is talking about them.

For instance, a couple years ago the musical "Momma Mia" came to Star Light Theater. It was a fun little show, but definitely not the "Feel-good show of the summer" as it was advertised. That title belonged to "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang." Any way, there were a couple things about the show that I found annoying in. One was how everyone was really shocked and surprised that the main character was getting married at the absurdly young and unheard of age of 20. Right. The second annoying thing was that they kept talking about how she wanted a "White Wedding." I had never heard that phrase before (and only heard it occasionally since then) and it took me quite a while to realize that it merely meant a big, fancy wedding. At the time, I wondered why on earth they invented a new phrase that no one would understand, rather than simply saying "big, fancy wedding."

The latest phrase that hit me the same way is "Bucket List". It apparently has nothing to do with listing things you need to clean, or a honeydew list, which were my first two guesses, but rather a wish list of things you'd maybe like to do someday. I've heard this multiple times over the last few weeks, in different contexts, folks asking each other what was on their bucket list. I'm not planning on making one. I have no problem with someone talking about having enough spoons, but at the present, the phrase "bucket list" goes down my spine like nails on a chalk board.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Rocky vs. Santa

When Rocky and I go on our long walks in the mornings, we tend to go the same route, but I sometimes vary it, especially if I got us walking late that morning. Not Rocky's fault, of course, he keeps telling me that we need to get going from about half an hour before we normally get ready to go. Apparently when Jonathan and the kids get ready to go, it somehow means that he needs to go, too. Even though he knows we don't start getting ready to leave until after the boy goes.

While we were going out before Christmas, there were lots of houses decorated for Christmas. For the most part Rocky ignored the decorations, I don't think he gave much signs that he even saw them. There were lots of houses that had half-sized Santas, Mrs. Clauses, and elves on the lawn, lots of houses with half-sized Nativity scenes. He didn't turn an eye on any of them. But shortly before Christmas, we took one of our shorter alternative routes, and passed a house with a live-sized Santa statue standing on the porch. He was wearing red Chiefs sweats rather than the traditional Santa suits, but was instantly recognizable. But not by Rocky, apparently. He took one look at that statue, and started growling and barking at it suspiciously, and kept an eye on it until it was completely out of sight. Since he's usually friendly with anyone we might meet out on our walks, about all I can figure is that to Rocky, the statue *looked* like a normal human, but didn't *smell* at all like one. It didn't look particularly lifelike to me, but from what I can tell, dogs don't see as well as we do. That's more than made up for by their sense of smell, of course.

So, as near as I can figure, though the statue was clearly fake to me, for Rocky, it fell smack-dab in the middle of the Uncanny Valley. It was rather funny, seeing him react that way.

In subsequent days, I took him down that street often. Like I figured, the next time we went that way, he kept a suspicious eye on the statue, and on following days didn't notice it at all.