Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Eye of the World

When I was in high school, my dad delivered Sears merchandise to a corner store that also sold what any good corner store does. Goodies, pop, books, comics, magazines, and so-on.

It’s the books, comics and magazines that were important at the time, because, as is common with my father, he became friends with the shopkeeper. What this resulted in was box after box of coverless literature. There were dozens of the same issue of Deathlok, Sleepwalker, Ghostrider and all the other popular comics of the day, as well as thirty or forty Auto Traders, Big Bike magazine and all other sorts of things.

It is this way, however, that I discovered Robert Jordan. One delivery of books brought The Eye of the World into my life and I read it, sort of knowing that I liked fantasy and thinking that this looked like a good fantasy novel.

I’ve never been pulled in by a book so completely in my life. The story starts in a serene little village where the weather is strange. It’s been winter far too long. Then a modest farm boy sees a mysterious stranger on the road, which leads to a whirlwind of adventure, excitement, terror, elation and sadness. This is the traditional fantasy story at its absolute best. The characters are believable, you can sympathize with them, and, unlike Jordan’s later works, they haven’t worked themselves into stereotypes or cariacatures of themselves yet.

The terror that follows the main characters is haunting, the evil they have to overcome daunting, and pages are turned with heart in throat.

The Eye of the World is the book that helped me to define myself as a fan of Fantasy (or Speculative Fiction if you’re one of those who finds the term Fantasy to be a negative one) and it has largely directed my reading toward that genre.

Today, I finished my (what, tenth, eleventh?) latest reread of this book and it remains my favourite.

In the impossible slowness of this incredibly busy day, I just thought I’d share that.

Distraction by Bat and Jeff

A desperately-needed distraction presented itself by way of two characters, Bat and Jeff. The distraction was necessary because of a meal-time tussle with number-one son over the consumption of a hamburger. Moving away from the conflict, I switched into “amicable-Liam” mode (not to be confused with “angry-Liam” or “Chinese-Liam”).

This is what came out (kinda—it’s been awhile, so word-for-word is unlikely):

Once upon a time, there were two boys, Bat and Jeff. Bat’s real name wasn’t bat – it was Bartholomew. But he didn’t like Bartholomew, so he asked everyone to just call him Bat.

Bat and Jeff had mostly the same classes, but they didn’t take Gym together. Other than that, they were mostly together.

Jeff had some odd habits, not the least of which was excusing himself to go to the bathroom and following teachers around the school. He was intensely curious and he would pick a teacher and follow that person throughout the day during various bathroom trips.

Well, one Tuesday, Jeff decided that Mr. Johnson, the principal, would be an interesting person to follow around the school. Throughout the morning, Mr. Johnson had a very normal day – he would go to his classes, go to the mysterious Teachers’ Lounge, and the bathroom, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Then came the afternoon. Mr. Johnson, at precisely two o’clock, left the school and did not return. The whole day, Jeff kept an eye on Mr. Johnson’s office, and the other on the teachers’ lounge and Mr. Johnson was nowhere to be seen.

He explained this to Bat and suggested that the two of them keep an eye on what Mr. Johnson was doing the rest of the week.

Bat, who had known about his friend’s habit, had never joined him, but this mystery was too much to walk away from.

So, the two kids kept watch over their wayward principal, marking his trips to the bathroom, the teachers’ lounge and his classes in Bat’s notebook.

Then, Tuesday came around, and Bat and Jeff kept an especially tight watch on the principal.

At precisely two o’clock, Mr. Johnson left in his car and did not return. The two kids were stymied.

They enlisted the help of Bat’s older brother, “Pit”. Pit’s real name was Poindexter, but he hated the name and made everyone (except his mom and dad) call him Pit. This, as you may guess, was the reason Bartholomew had chosen Bat.

Pit didn’t have classes in the afternoon, since he was in college and could choose his courses. Bat and Jeff asked Pit to keep an eye on Mr. Johnson the following Tuesday and find out where he was going and what he was doing that kept him away from school on Tuesday afternoons.

Pit, liking his little brother very much (I think the name-thing had a lot to do with that), decided he’d help the kids out. He got in his car and followed Mr. Johnson at two o’clock on the third Tuesday of this story.

Bat and Jeff waited in Bat’s basement for Pit to return with the report. They had thoughts of a secret job as a spy, or a secret woman he would meet (they’d watched a lot of soap operas during the summer) or any number of fantastic things that Mr. Johnson was getting up to.

Finally, the door upstairs opened and slammed closed. Pit joined the two kids in the basement and gave his report.

“There’s nothing strange about Mr. Johnson leaving Tuesday afternoons. He gets in his car and drives out to Leduc where his mom’s in the hospital. He doesn’t have any classes to teach Tuesday afternoons and he spends all afternoon and evening with his mom before going home.”

Bat and Jeff were disappointed with the very ordinary explanation for their mystery but the solution was pretty satisfying in itself.


Granted, it’s not the best story that I’ve ever come up with (especially compared to the greatest hero in the history of Liam-kind – Rick the Robot), but it got Nick through supper and improved everyone’s mood drastically.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Innovation meets technology

When I was working at Halliburton, Sheldon Kryger (also known as that student-guy) introduced me to Tablet PC, a piece of technology that has a screen that you can write to. It requires the special pen that comes with the Tablet and it has a bunch of nifty software to make use of the hardware. I coveted his laptop for a long time.
Finally, yesterday, my dream computer became my reality computer. Combining the authorization of the Benefits Coordinator at Intuit, the Product Manager of Quicken Solutions Group and my wife, as well as Canadian Equifax, I’m sure, I was cleared for the money required to buy Best Buy’s best buy, a Gateway (insert model numbers here) Tablet PC.
So far, I’ve fought with the power cable and the wireless router. There was a little scare when the power cord would not power up the computer (fear not - it wasn’t pushed in far enough, and before you laugh at me, Sylvain at Intuit had the same difficulty as I did when he first got his).
The biggest inside joke of the purchase is that it comes with Microsoft Money 2006, the big competitor for Intuit’s Quicken. I had a good laugh over that.
Where do I go from here? Anywhere in the house, maybe in the yard, and currently at the office, though the wireless network here is secure and I can’t get on to configure antivirus, anti-spy ware and anti-adware. Someday…

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

My Pod, i-Poddius

For my birthday this year, my parents bought me an iPod.

I've never been one for getting the name-brand stuff. I would have been happy with some 512 Meg thing from a company nobody's heard of. However, my sister has elite-status tastes, and nothing would do but that her brother's music-box be the best. And so, she delivered the tiny, tiny Nano to my door one blistering Friday afternoon.

The first thing on the iPod? Blinded by the Light by Manfred Mann (although it says it's ELO).

It's a great little piece of technology. I can fit an entire Robert Jordan book on it and still have room for 200 songs and the installer project I'm working on. It's got games (breakout, solitaire, paratrooper and a name-that-tune based on the songs currently on the iPod), notes that you can read through, reminders, probably an alarm that you can set on the computer and transfer to the iPod, and a stopwatch. I use the stopwatch to measure my times going to and from work on my bike (which I've ridden almost every day for the last month).

Thanks Mom, thanks Dad, and thanks Meghan for having elite-status tastes.




As of Monday, I have decided that I will no longer strive for the goal of 50 books in this year.

That does not mean that I'm going to stop reading or that my reading-list will change but work, life and overtime have conspired to keep me among the non-reading (except for Google search results on obscure windows API functions).

Instead, the time that I have that is free has lately been occupied by College Football 2003 (the one with Joey Harrington on the cover), family time and cleaning.

In news, it looks like I've finished the main part of my installer project for work - the status screen is the next hurdle but aside from some refreshing issues (as in, the screen won't refresh -- not that I am refreshed by the work) it's done too. Now to cross my fingers and hope it passes QA.

That is all,