Friday, 29 May 2009

Thank you, real-life IT Crowd!

Clever Fifecat had an email folder called "Current Work" and it was full of sub-folders of things I was working on, waiting for an answer to, etc.

Stoopid Fifecat deleted it while tidying up. Why?? I knew the moment I pressed delete I shouldn't have done it and there it all was, gone, into the ether and never to be seen again.

Well not until the IT people retrieved it for me because stuff on the server is backed up every night! Yay!

Thursday, 28 May 2009

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

I'd read this before but it's a sort of desert-island book; you could read it again and again and find more in it each time.

Muriel Spark expertly interweaves past, present and future in this complex and compelling novel set in 1930s Edinburgh. Miss Brodie appears first as a wholly-admirable character, free-spirited and declaring that she is in her prime (which is an excellent idea! This will be the prime of Ms A Fifecat!) Gradually we become aware of the flaws in her character ...

By complete contrast and as I have books to catch up on, I read Terry Deary's Vicious Vikings (part of the Horrible Histories series written for children and teenagers). This was amusing, and I think I would have found it hilarious when I was younger. The illustrations were particularly funny. It was even proper history too, because nothing was presented as truth which could have had any doubt about it (sources and their likely reliability were examined). A good read, but possibly one which parents would buy for their children rather than the children buy themselves.

Day 230; Book 223

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

The Jupiter Myth by Lindsey Davis

This is another Falco mystery, and this one is set in Londinium itself. What a dump, according to Falco! There are bodies in the Thamesis of course and dodgy goings-on with a gangster takeover bid, and there's also tragedy for one of the characters.

Speaking of the ancient world, I really fancy a pair of those gladiator sandals! (Shallow, moi?) I think they would make my legs look stumpy though ...

Also off the agenda is a trip to the Bass Rock, a literary location as featured in R. L. Stevenson's Catriona. It would cost £190 for two though, so I think I'll look for a cheaper literary location to visit in the meantime. Any suggestions?

Day 229; Book 221

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

The importance of grammar

On his 74th birthday, a man got a gift certificate from his wife. The certificate paid for a visit to a medicine man living on a nearby reservation who was rumored to have a wonderful cure for erectile dysfunction. After being persuaded, he drove to the reservation, handed his ticket to the medicine man and wondered what was in store for him.

The old medicine man carefully mixed a potion, handed it to him, and with a grip on his shoulder, warned, "This is powerful medicine and it must be respected. You take only a teaspoonful and then say '1-2-3.' When you do that, you will become more manly than you have ever been in your life and you can perform as long as you want."

The man was encouraged. As he walked away, he turned and asked, "How do I stop the medicine from working?"

"Your partner must say '1-2-3-4,' he responded. "But when she does, the medicine will not work again until the next full moon."

He was very eager to see if it worked, so he went home, showered, shaved, took a spoonful of the medicine, and then invited his wife to join him in the bedroom. When she came in, he took off his clothes and said, "1-2-3!" Immediately, he was the manliest of men.

His wife was excited and began throwing off her clothes. And then she asked, "What was the 1-2-3 for?"

And that is why we should never end our sentences with a preposition.


Thanks to Scoot for this grammar-related cautionary tale!

Monday, 25 May 2009

Once Were Warriors by Alan Duff

This is a hugely-powerful book, the sort which leaves you feeling as if you have been punched in the stomach. It's a tragedy of Shakespearean dimensions but one which admits of the possibility of redemption too. You'll be thinking about this for days after you have finished reading it. Emotionally, it's not an easy read but it is worth it. The best books can immerse you completely in a world you knew nothing about before. In this case it is the present-day lives of the Maori. The author doesn't shrink from attributing blame wherever he thinks it is deserved, and apparently the book was controversial.

The Tipping Point is another book well worth reading. It uses the principles of the spread of disease epidemics, and translates them into sociological and psychological terms. Why and how do street fashions spread into the mainstream? What techniques do successful marketers use? Who are connectors and mavens and why are they so important? This is all explained in a fascinating and easy to read book. It almost tempts you to try to start your own epidemic - if only some of the social components weren't so hard to come by.

Finally I enjoyed another Falco mystery, with the Roman detective this time finding himself reluctantly back in Britain (cold, damp and full of ginger natives, according to him). Plenty of bodies and the welcome return of Larius the teenage nephew, now all grown up into a hard-drinking, foul-mouthed bundle of hormones. Hilarious!

Day 227; Book 220 (eek!)

Friday, 22 May 2009

Travelling without reading

Back from London and sadly without much reading to report, but I had interesting times with the following:

Loving the Bloomsbury area with its tree-lined squares and Georgian buildings, and also the Great Court in the British Museum, not to mention lovely little speciality shops like the bookbinders and paper shop. It was a bit like something out of Harry Potter with assistants rushing about to fetch the paper from huge stacks of shelves they had to reach by ladder.

Pretending to be a business person at City Airport in London but not liking accidentally knocking over a drink (which someone had left on the floor unknown to me) and then a businessman ostentatiously drying his briefcase and glaring at me! I was innocent! I didn't know it was there!

Being approached by a panhandling woman who obviously thought I was a soft touch (correctly). Even without knowing all the means by which you can recognise someone who is telling a lie (I have been watching Tim Roth in Lie to Me on Sky) I could still tell that her story was far too elaborate to be true. Nevertheless I offered her my change. Which came to less than a pound. Which made her stomp off in disgust. (With the change).

I've come back to 2 new books to read on my desk though. Thanks to Mark and Steve for Once Were Warriors and The Tipping Point which both look really interesting. (But which must wait - back to work!)

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

A work-related book

It's not really a book, more of a booklet, but because it was challenging I'm counting it as one! It's the E-Resources Technical Update by Simon Inger and Tracy Gardner, and it's really the slides of their presentation. Very interesting for anyone working or using electronic resources in an academic or library field. For others, not so much. Good revision for me though before my e-journals meeting in London. Back on Friday with hopefully some travel reading under my belt.

Day 221; Book 217

Monday, 18 May 2009

My feet are wet ...

because I thought it was Spring, silly me. Good weather to stay indoors and read, if you can.

I finished JonBenet by Steve Thomas and Donald A. Davis. It was a good clear account of the case, written from the viewpoint of one of the detectives involved. It was no wonder he had to leave the department if this was what he was up against. The murder remains unsolved.

I was at a loss for something to read on Saturday, so I turned to The Number One Ladies' Detective Agency again. Even when you know how the cases turn out, this is still so beautifully written that it doesn't really matter. A book for restoring your faith in human nature.

Then Jo lent me a few more books (thanks pal!) and I read The Savage Garden by Mark Mills. I'm afraid I hadn't heard of this before but what's not to like about a murder mystery set in Tuscany and featuring Renaissance art and architecture. I thought the characterisation could have been done in greater depth but it was a really enjoyable book all the same.

Day 220; Book 216

Friday, 15 May 2009

In Progress

It's a book about the JonBenet Ramsey case in America (where a 6-year-old beauty pageant contestant was found murdered in her home). This book is really about the police handling of the case (it's written by one of the detectives who was involved). I wonder what really happened?

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Just a Phrase I'm Going Through: My Life in Language by David Crystal

I finished this book last night. It's the autobiography of the language expert David Crystal - or is it his memoir? See his blog here for a discussion of these terms. This was a pretty interesting book because the emphasis was on applied rather than pure linguistics - how it could be of use in speech therapy for instance. The biographical elements were cleverly handled so that dramatic events were hinted at and then revealed in due course (some of them were tragic, unfortunately). Of interest to me as a cataloguer was Crystal's time spent working on a "sense engine" so that internet searches could be placed in context despite the varying meanings of words. I suppose this is a use of the controlled vocabulary that lies behind many web resources these days. He applied it also to contextual advertising (on sponsored webpages or forums you will see related advertising appearing depending on the words in use on the main page. As you can imagine this can lead to unfortunate juxtapositions if the vocabulary is not controlled).

Day 216; Book 213

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

The Basic Guide to Rubber Stamping

At least that's what I think it's called - I'll need to check. For a beginner, this is an excellent book as every technique is described in detail and then projects are given to illustrate them. Some of the projects look beautiful. However some of them are hideous! Mostly the stamping effects are very good though, and you wouldn't HAVE to make things like plant pots with bits of broken up plant pot stuck on the sides ...

ETA: It's The Basics of Rubber Stamping by Inkadinkado (the rubber-stamp company)

Day 215; Book 212

Monday, 11 May 2009

Book Catch-Up

Here's what I have been reading since I last posted:

First was The Savvy Crafter's Guide to Success by Sandra McCall. I bought this because I thought the Rock Chick would be interested in it. It was an easy read with lots of useful advice for the aspiring art or craft designer, maker and (importantly, if you want to eat) SELLER! Encouragingly in a way, some of the art featured was hideous and yet people seem able to make a living from it!

Then I got all nostalgic and read William's Crowded Hours by Richmal Crompton. Fellow fans, can you remember the names of William's Outlaws? These books are beautifully written and very amusing, even for adults. Touchingly for me, it had "Pat Walker, 1930" written on the flyleaf (that's my dad).

Next I read Harlan Coben's Long Gone and Linwood Barclay's No Time for Goodbye. The Harlan Coben was his latest Myron Bolitar and it was up to his usual exciting standards. The Linwood Barclay was his first novel and an excellent debut, reminiscent of Coben with its mysteries and plot twists.

I read two books by Elizabeth Noble (thanks Jo), The Reading Group and The Tenko Club. Both of these are women's books about a group of friends and their relationships, break-ups and families. They are beautifully written with characters you care about.

I also read two books set in very different Scotlands. Alexander McCall Smith's The Unbearable Lightness of Scones is another of his Scotland Street novels with an Edinburgh setting featuring Bertie and his awful mother and the other residents of his street. It's very witty and perceptive. Much bleaker was Garnethill by Denise Mina, which is a murder mystery set in Glasgow, but you will be rooting for the feisty heroine by the end.

The Ginger Tree by Oswald Wynd is about a young Scottish girl who in 1902 sails to China to get married. It's fascinating with all its period and local detail and the character of Mary is well-described as a girl and as she gets older. A surprising and terrible thing happens to her, which she eventually comes to terms with.

I had read Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell before but decided to read it again when I came across it on the bookshelf. It's honest and beautifully written. I want a pet otter! Apparently there are more books by Maxwell so I must look out for those.

Finally I read Eyes of Darkness by Dean Koontz. This is a bit of a potboiler even though Koontz had revised it years after it was originally published. Dean Koontz is a writer whose development has been amazing over the years but this wasn't one of his most original or exciting. Fortunately this one didn't feature a clever dog or mystical happenings (involving the dog).

Day 213; Book 211

Some Useful Advice

1. Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me either. Just pretty much leave me alone.

2. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a broken fan belt and leaky tire.

3. It's always darkest before dawn. So if you're going to steal your neighbour's newspaper, that's the time to do it.

4. Don't be irreplaceable. If you can't be replaced, you can't be promoted.

5. Always remember that you're unique. Just like everyone else.

6. Never test the depth of the water with both feet.

7. If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments.

8. Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.

9. If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is probably not for you.

10. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day .

11. See a penny, pick it up. And all day long you'll have... a penny.

12. If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably a wise investment.

13. If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.

14. Some days you're the bug; some days you're the windshield.

15. Everyone seems normal until you get to know them.

16. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket.

17. A closed mouth gathers no foot.

18. Duct tape is like 'The Force'. It has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together.

19. There are two theories to arguing with women. Neither one works.

20. Generally speaking, you aren't learning much when your lips are moving .

21. Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.

22. Never miss a good chance to shut up.


23. Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Finished at last!

I've finished that book I didn't like, and here's the name: Ghost Heart by R. J. Ellory. To be fair it did have an ending which came as a complete surprise (and was very clever). The rest of it was kind of predictable though, and the main characters could have been more sympathetic.

But in other news I have the new Harlan Coben novel! It's called Long Lost and it's the latest in the Myron Bolitar series. I'm tempted to go back and read all the others in proper order first but I know I won't - I'm going to start this one tonight (and then lend it to anyone else who wants it).

Off on a course now and then on holiday so I will report back in a week with my latest reading.

Day 203; book 200