winter is coming

It was quite warm on the week-end. Not uncomfortably so (not really anyway) but quite warm. Monday was ok, but then yesterday it suddenly got really cold. I think it was the first time this year that I actually thought “yes, winter is coming!”

I’m sure that I’ve mentioned in previous posts that winter is, in fact, my most favourite season of the year. Well, winter and autumn. Suffer through a Brisbane summer and you’ll understand why. Anyway, that’s why this change in weather has me quite excited. While other people are complaining about how cold it is, I’m just embracing it. It’s positively invigorating (although I will concede that it is anything but invigorating when you’ve just woken up and there’s no sunlight but you have to get up and go to work).

We did have a bit of a cold snap a week or two ago, but then it suddenly got warm again, so it was kind of a false alarm. It didn’t last very long either, and you could kind of tell that it was just a bit of a tease.

On to other matters, I also started watching Game of Thrones on the week-end. Yes, trust me to take three days to post about something that happened on the week-end. (I still haven’t gotten around to posting about “Wicked”, which I saw a month ago…) And, yes, by “started watching” I do mean season 1, episode 1.

A lot of people I know watch GOT, so I suppose it was kind of peer pressure, but I like to think that it wasn’t really peer pressure because I resisted for so long, and it was really my own choosing to watch it in the end (mostly). I generally don’t buy into hype, and prefer to wait for it to die down a bit before checking out a new book/movie/tv show/whatever. (It’s possibly why I haven’t seen a movie in the cinemas for over a year. Well, that and the fact that cinemas are expensive, and I’m usually too busy with work and other things anyway.)

So, with some new episodes of GOT released last week (or accidentally leaked, as I was informed), a colleague at work talked me into finally starting on GOT. I watched three episodes total and, actually, I think it was alright. A lot of people have told me previously that it’s just a whole lot of sex and violence, so I was kind of prepared for that. And I’ve been told that there are a lot of characters and different stories and people dying just as you’re starting to like them… But, apart from not being able to remember all of the characters’ names, I’m finding it not that hard to follow.

All in all, I suppose GOT has my tick of approval. But I’m not someone who can just sit in front of a TV or computer for a whole day (and night) and marathon a TV series, so I’m going to wait for the week-end or some other day to continue watching it. Well, that’s if I continue watching it. This won’t be intentional; it just seems like I’m also not very good at committing to watching complete series.

Well, either way, it kind of seems appropriate to start watching it now – what with our winer approaching, and their winter approaching (except that their winters can supposedly last for years – doesn’t that sound magnificent?)

of Life, the Universe, and Everything

In high school, we were lucky to have a number of different English units/courses to choose from for grade 9 and 10. Depending on your interests, you could spend a semester learning about fantasy, romance, comedy, classics, etc. For one of those semesters, I chose the science fiction unit, mostly because I wanted to expand my reading horizons (I mostly read fantasy novels at the time).

I remember our teacher explaining that sci-fi can include anything that asks the question “what if…?”, and by this broad definition, a lot of novels can fall into the sci-fi category. Our focus novel was ‘Jurassic Park’ but, if I remember correctly, we also analysed ‘I, Robot’ quite a lot as well. Since then, I’ve tried to include more sci-fi books in my reading list. I’ve come across a lot of bad sci-fi, but there’s also a lot of good sci-fi out there as well. I reckon a good science fiction book can instil a sense of wonder and awe (and maybe fear) at previously unexplored possibilities.

‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ by Douglas Adams is often featured on lists of “books you should read before you die” and is probably one of the most renowned sci-fi novels ever written. Many fans would consider it to be a classic. I’ve wanted to read THGG since high school, but just never got around to it …until now!

My overall impression of THGG is that it’s a very funny book mostly because it’s silly but seems to take itself quite seriously. It could easily have been a focus novel in the comedy unit (I never chose that unit because I thought analysing why comedies are funny would take the fun out of them) but I understand that different people have different senses of humour, so THGG might not suit everyone. When I was on GoodReads earlier, I saw several reviews by people who found absolutely no enjoyment in reading THGG at all.

When I think about it, though, a lot of the positive reviews just listed quotes or concepts that people thought were really funny, clever or insightful. Because of this, I feel like the storyline was perhaps a bit randomly all over the place and lacking in real substance. It doesn’t have the same profound resonance that other great sci-fi novels have – the ones that echo in your mind long after you’ve finished reading them. But that’s not to say that it’s not thought-provoking in its own right. You just have to remember that it started out as a radio series, so that would have affected how the story was constructed.

Truth be told, I was surprised once I’d gotten to the end of book to find that it’s actually part of a trilogy, and then when I got onto GoodReads, I realised there’s actually a volume 4 and 5… All this time, I actually thought it was a stand-alone book (whoops…) The question I’m asking myself now, of course, is whether or not I want to seek out the rest of the series and read those books too. I suppose I would like to (so I can find out if/how they find the question to the answer) but I’m not in any great hurry to read them.

As I was reading THGG, I was constantly smiling at the random jokes. I’d like to share some favourite parts because I feel like the main reason I liked this book was because it’s a collection of funny things put together into a story. Be warned, there may be spoilers.

  • The history of Ford Prefect’s real name, which he couldn’t learn to pronounce (so his father literally died of shame) and the nickname he was given, Ix (“which in the language of Betelgeuse Five translates as ‘boy who is not able satisfactorily to explain what a Hrung is, nor why it should choose to collapse on Betelgeuse Seven'”)
  • Why Vogon poetry is only the third worst in the universe
  • The missile that turned into a whale, which then briefly pondered its existence before dying on impact on the surface of Magrathea
  • A lot of the things that Marvin the depressed robot says
  • Slartibartfast and his revelation about how and why Earth was created
  • The mini side-story about how the Vl’hurgs and G’Gugvuntts joined forces to attack Earth but “due to a terrible miscalculation of scale the entire battle fleet was accidentally swallowed by a small dog”

blog circle

In recent times (by which I mean, like, the last few months, maybe half a year) I’ve been noticing that I’m spending more and more time on WordPress and reading blogs. I think I went through a phase where I just kept following more and more blogs. There used to only be a few that I’d read with any regularity, but I reckon I’ve discovered a lot of new blogs through comments on other blogs. (Often the thought process is something along the lines of “Hmm.. that person wrote a well thought-out comment, which is also (mostly) free from spelling or grammatical errors. Perhaps this person has an interesting blog…”)

I hardly even look at “Freshly Pressed” any more. After all, I have enough blogs to read already! My daily internet routine has become something like this: (1) quickly check emails, and quickly respond or send necessary emails; (2) quickly check Facebook for messages and notifications, and maybe browse my newsfeed in case anything like-worthy has happened; (3) read blogs. (Yeah, usually I’ll only check emails and FB once per day – or usually not at all for emails on week-ends – so these are not great ways to contact me for anything urgent/important.) Depending on my mood and what sort of posts people are publishing, I might spend the rest of the night on WP, or I might go off and do something else.

(NB: Although I have a Twitter account, it is not part of the routine, and any activity that occurs on Twitter is sporadic at best.)

I find this shift in routine kind of interesting because I don’t actually know anyone in “real life” who still maintains a blog and publishes in a vaguely consistent manner. I think a lot of friends from high school, and maybe at university as well, dabbled in blogging for a bit, but then eventually gave it up or forgot about it. The first blog I ever read (that I can recall) was created by a friend during high school (can’t remember what year… maybe grade 9?). I don’t even remember what platform/site she used, but I do remember talking to her about it, and how she actually had to explain to me what a blog was.

Over the many years that have passed between then and now, I can remember her changing her URL, blog title, theme, content, etc, etc many times (probably not quite as capriciously as I’m portraying here but still fairly often relative to most blogs, I reckon). At one stage she had a hiatus in blogging, and I remember being a bit sad about it. I mean, we still talked in real life, but I suppose there was something special about reading her uninhibited thoughts on her blog. I believe that it was she who inspired me to start my own blog – mostly as a place for me to rant, rave and ramble about whatever I wanted, to my heart’s content.

Back in those early days – even in the early days with WP (my blog started out on “Windows Live Spaces” or whatever it was called) – I didn’t read any blogs that were written by people who I didn’t personally know. Now, however, all of the blogs I read are written by people who I’ve never met in person (except one, but she doesn’t post very often). And while I know that a few of my “real life” friends still read my blog (even if only very occasionally – I still appreciate it), I know that the vast majority of my readers are overseas (thanks to helpful WP stats). The majority of blogs that I read are also written by overseas people. And although we will probably never meet – or maybe because we will never meet – I think it’s incredible that millions of people can share their stories with millions of others.

This post was actually supposed to be a quick, short-ish post to mention that I’ve added the “posts I like” widget to the side-bar… I’ve been seeing it on a lot of blogs I follow, and thought it was a great way to, well, share posts that I like. I might write more on this whole blogging business another day. Stay tuned!

good news

Today, despite its trials and tribulations, has been a day of good news.

Today a colleague of mine became a dad. It’s his first child – a beautiful baby boy. We’re all very happy for him, and I reckon he’ll be a great dad.

Today our intern received news of her registration as a pharmacist. I remember when I was finishing up my internship, one of the pharmacists (and mentor and friend) got a little bit emotional. I think what she was trying to express was pride. It truly warmed my heart, but I don’t think I really appreciated it as much as I do now that I’m on the other side of this.

Today also brings news from a friend from afar about a brief visit next week. This was completely unexpected (unlike the birth and the registration, which were both anticipated for a long time before they eventuated) so this is the “pleasant surprise” of the day.

And, finally, it was not so much today specifically, but the weather this week has been getting cooler. The blankets are out, and I’m taking warm showers again! (I don’t think I’ve had a warm/hot shower since before summer began.) I do like cold showers (makes me feel like I’m conserving energy by not using water heating; and there’s no fiddling around with taps to try and get the water temperature just right because it’s just cold water) but week-end sleep-ins are so much better in colder weather.

letting go of preconceptions

It feels like it’s been a long time between posts. I did post last week, and I’m still in time for this week’s post, but it got to the stage where I was starting to worry that maybe I’d accidentally forgotten a week…

Well, anyway, apart from being ridiculously busy at work (I think I did 40 hours over four days), I’ve been busy trying to finish ‘Never Let Me Go’ by Kazuo Ishiguro. I did actually finish reading it this afternoon, but I’m having a bit of trouble making up my mind about what I think of it.

NLMG, to me, seems to be a pretty short book (only 282 pages, and reasonably large font size) so I had expected to finish reading it pretty quickly (kind of like with ‘The Book of Tomorrow’, which I read earlier in the year). I can’t remember exactly, but I probably would have started reading it around mid-March. Maybe it started at a disadvantage because I’d just finished reading ‘The Hotel New Hampshire’. Actually, I remember taking my copy of NLMG to/from work and to lunch, but taking several days to actually get started on it because, although I’d been really keen to read it ever since I bought it in January, once it actually reached the front of the line, I didn’t want to rush into it.

Maybe I just wanted to allow adequate time between THNH and my next novel. (Usually I read a bit of ‘Great Expectations’ in between books – I find it helps the transition i.e. getting over book hangovers – but my copy of ‘Great Expectations’ was still on loan to a friend.) Maybe I just wanted a bit of a rest from reading in general (I’m quietly afraid of becoming short-sighted).

Now, this may seem a bit silly to some people, but another disadvantage NLMG faced resulted from the cover of the book. I’ve already written a post about the dilemma of buying the movie tie-in edition, but the problem goes beyond that. On one of the first occasions that I took the book to lunch at work, people naturally noticed that I was reading something new, and asked to see what it was. I was having lunch with quite a few people that day (good synchronising of lunchtimes), and most of them had seen the movie and thought it was, well, terrible.

I didn’t want this to deter me, as generally movies don’t live up to the books they’re based on, and I really want to say that it didn’t affect how I read it (I honestly didn’t know it was also a movie until I saw that cover), but, really, I can’t be sure. They also kind of spoiled the story a bit by talking about the donations (I still hadn’t started reading it at this stage). Again, I was hoping this still wouldn’t affect my reading experience (I knew Dumbledore would die in HP6 but still loved it), but I feel that, because of the way it’s written, it would have had a greater impact if I’d known nothing about it at the start.

Overall, NLMG didn’t capture and pull me in as well as I was expecting. The story kind of progressed a bit slowly, and I didn’t really sympathise with any of the characters. I checked out some reviews on Goodreads just now, and it seems like a lot of people thought that the first half or so was pretty slow. One person pointed out that nothing really gets explained until the last 30 pages.

I also wasn’t overly taken by the writing style – particularly the segues between sections, which felt a bit repetitive sometimes. It tended to be something like “I thought that was the worst of it, but then there was this incident” or “Before I tell you about this, I should elaborate on this other thing”. I’m probably oversimplifying, and maybe this is nit-picking, but it was just something I noticed.

The concept behind the book, however, I thought was great. It is thought-provoking, and kind of makes me wonder if this could realistically happen, provided you could get past the ethics, etc. (I can’t imagine that cloning would ever lose the controversy and become widely accepted.) And then there’s the question of whether clones would be like mindless zombies or if they’d think and feel and want things for themselves. You could end up with a clone uprising.

I liked NLMG a lot more towards the end. I think I should hide it away somewhere for 20-30 years, forget everything that happens in it, and then read it again anew.