Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sharks with frickin' laser beams on their heads.

In Africa, one of the most dangerous animals is the hippo. Most people would say that the most dangerous animal is a lion or a leopard, but most people would be wrong. It is the hippo. The reason it is the hippo is because hippos are quite stupid, quite large and quite aggressive. When a hippo is spooked, it runs. And if you are in the way of a hippo, you will be trampled. And if an animals isn't very smart, the chances of spooking it are quite high. If you were to run into a lion on the savanna, if it had eaten recently, it might not even make its presence known. If you got really close to it, it might release a warning roar - a sound to make even the manliest of men want to pee their pants (and yes, I do know this from experience). The warning roar simply says, "Yo, dude. Turn back the other way. Here be monsters." And if you are a sensible person, you do what the lion says because it has sharp pointy teeth.

So what is the most dangerous animal in North America? Some people might bet on the mountain lion. Others might bet on a buffalo (also large, stupid and possessing pointy horns). But today I would like to advance the goose as the most dangerous animal in North America. Apparently, geese have superpowers. They can cause planes to crash into the Hudson River upon take off.

For those living under a rock, there was another plane crash in New York City. Thankfully, unlike those other plane crashes, there were no casualities. A plane, as it was taking off from LaGuardia, ran into some birds (presumably geese) which caused an engine malfunction. The pilot - who, incidentally, it totally amazing from all reports - managed to land the plane in the Hudson River where rescue crews were able to ferry the survivors to the shore, and medical attention was given for hypothermia and other effects of the cold.

What surprises me most about this whole incident are comments like this one (sadly not isolated at all):

"Ellen Howe, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration, confirmed only that there was "no known nexus to terrorism" in the downing."

Because, you know, everything bad that happens in America is a terrorist attack, until proven otherwise. Al Queda armed those geese with frickin' laser beams on their head, and released them over the airfield so that this Airbus 360 with 126 passengers heading to North Carolina would crash.


Thursday, January 01, 2009

Book Roundup

I made it with ease this year, coming it at 54 books. That's more than one per week! WOO HOO.

Here are some of the highlights:

# of books read: 55
- female authors: 17 / male authors: 19 (each other counted once - lots of repeats this year)
- nonfiction: 4 / fiction: 50
* general fiction: 12
* young adult: 1
* fantasy: 22
* mystery: 2
* historical fiction: 1
* romance: 3
* classic: 7

- Longest Book: The Other Boleyn Girl at 672pp
- Shortest Book: I Have The Right To Destroy Myself at 132pp
- Oldest Book: Robinson Crusoe, published in 1719

Set aside: 4 books this year. One of them I'll definitely go back to and finish.

Best Books
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
I resisted reding this book for a long time because of the gory subject matter. I mean, a little girl who is raped and killed and watches her family from Heaven? But Sebold manages to make this book touching without syrupy, and achieves a sense of hopefulness in the end, despite the difficult subject matter. Sometimes books make a bestseller list for a reason, and this is definitely one of them.

The Caliph's House by Tahir Shah
My favorite non-fiction author is Tahir Shah.  In this book, he moves his entire family to Casablanca and into an old Caliph's House ... which they decide to restore and renovate.  Hijinks, including the impossible search for help and the exorcism of a djinn ensue.  Tahir Shah always mocks himself with dignitiy and finds the humor in his situations.  He clearly respects all of the people around him and write about them in a way where the reader can see the amusement, but he never makes fun.  I wish I had his job. 

The Other Boleyn Girl
by Philippa Gregory
From the beginning, this book captivated me.  Anne Boleyn is arguably the most famous of Henry the VIII's wives.  Philippa Gregory managed to tell the story of that time period in a way that brings a fresh and interesting view.  By using Catherine Boleyn as the narrator, we see Anne in a different way - ambitious, desperate and doing what she needed to do to stay ahead of the crowd. 

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
If you've never read anything by Jodi Picoult, you should start here.  I loved this book and passed it on to someone else who also loved it.  About a school shooting, I especially loved the portions of the book that deal with the parents of the shooter.  An excellent read. 
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Path
Classic feminist literature.  I can't believe I didn't read this sooner. 

The Awakening by Kate Chopin
See above.  A must-read for any women who has been questioned about not wanting to be a wife and a mother. 

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
A Handmaid's Tale-esque book the explores the relationships between friends and lovers, as well as touches upon larger social issues.  Set in a world that both is and is not the world that we know, this book is disturbing in the way it hits close to home. 

Most Disappointing
Getting Stoned with Savages by J. Maarten Troost
I loved The Sex Lives of Cannibals , but this book was too much about politics and pot and not enough about going native. 

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson
I think Anderson understand women better than men.  I loved Speak, but this felt overwrought.

House of the Tiger King by Tahir Shah
Instead of his usual jovial attitude, this book is as bogged down as his crew was on their trip up the amazon river.  Good thing he moved to Morocco!

The Fionavar Tapestry
by Guy Gavriel Kay
A mess of a novel with too much storylines stolen from other places. 

Christy by Catherine Marshall
I loved this book as a young adult, but as an adult it had too much preaching in it for me.  I don't know how I missed that when I was younger.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
Defoe should stick to prostitutes.  There was too much Bible in this for me.

50 Book Challenge 2008

italics = in prograss
* = poor
** = fair
*** = good
**** = very good

Fiction/Classic Literature:
No Longer At Ease - Chinua Achebe *****
Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe *****
The Awakening - Kate Chopin *****
Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe ***
As I Lay Dying - William Faulkner ***
Grendel - John Gardner *****
The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath *****

Bodily Harm - Margaret Atwood ***
The Other Boleyn Girl - Philippa Gregory *****
Slam - Nick Hornby ****
Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro *****
I Have The Right To Destroy Myself - Young-Ha Kim ***
Private Dancer - Stephen Leather ****
Christy - Catherine Marshall ****
Fight Club - Chuck Palahniuk ****
Nineteen Minutes - Jodi Picoult *****
Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold *****
Light in Snow - Anita Shreve ***

Magic Bites - Ilona Andrews ****
Magic Burns - Ilona Andrews ****
Blood Rites - Jim Butcher ****
Death Masks - Jim Butcher ****
Dead Beat - Jim Butcher ****
Fool Moon - Jim Butcher ****
Proven Guilty - Jim Butcher ****
Storm Front - Jim Butcher ***
Summer Knight - Jim Butcher ****
White Night - Jim Butcher ****
The Wind Witch - Susan Dexter ****
Debt of Bones - Terry Goodkind **
The Dark River - John Twelve Hawks ****
The Traveler - John Twelve Hawks ****
The Darkest Road - Guy Gavriel Kay ***
Song for Arbonne - Guy Gavriel Kay ****
The Summer Tree - Guy Gavriel Kay **
The Wandering Fire - Guy Gavriel Kay ***
Gate of the Cat - Andre Norton ***
Hands of Lyr - Andre Norton ****
Mirror of Destiny - Andre Norton ****
The Iron Dragon´s Daughter - Michael Stanwick ****
Caliban's Hour - Tad Williams ****

Silent Fall - Barbara Freely ***
Switcheroo - Olivia Goldsmith *
Accidentally Yours - Susan Mallery **

The Game - Laurie R. King ***
Out - Natsuo Kirino ****
The Full Cupboard of Life - Alexander McCall Smith ***
The Kalahari Typing School for Men - Alexander McCall Smith ****

Children/Young Adult:
Twisted - Laurie Halse Anderson ***
Twilight - Stephanie Meyers ***

Nonfiction/Travel Essay
The Caliph's House - Tahir Shah *****
House of the Tiger King - Tahir Shah *** Getting Stoned with Savages - J. Maarten Troost ***

In Control of Nature - John McPhee ****

set aside:
Faery in Shadow - C.J. Cherryh
Gardens of the Moon - Steven Erikson
Under the Black Flag - David Cordingly
Freedom at Midnight - Dominique La Pierre