Sunday, October 31, 2010

Blogosphere Book Circle - Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Title: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Author: Jane Austen and Seth grahame-Smith
Published: Quirk Productions 2009

From the back cover:

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains."

So begins Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, an expanded edition of the beloved Jane Austen novel featuring all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem.  As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet village of Meryton - and the dead are returning to life!   Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menacer, but she's soon distrcted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr Darcy.  What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilised sparring between the two young lovers- and even more violent sparring on the blood soaked battlefield.  Can Elizabeth vanquish the spawn of Satan? And overcome the social prejudices of teh class-conscious landed gentry? Complete with romance, heartbreak, swordfights, cannibalisim, and thousands of rotting corpses, Pride and prejudice and Zombies transforms a masterpiece of world literature into something you'd actually want to read.

Well I rather disagree with the sentiment expressed in the last sentence of that blurb.  I am left wondering why anybody would want to change Pride & Prejudice & why he thinks it is better with sword fights & zombies in it.  I suppose I am a classical person & feel that classics should not be ripped off like this.  I don't think it improved the story at all having sword fights & zombies but then maybe Pride & Prejudice is too boring for male readers. Was the author trying to get more people to read a classic?  I don't know, plus having a Readers Discussion Guide at the back really rubbed me the wrong way.   I had to read Pride & Prejudice at school in English & I loved the book then, I loved the way Elizabeth fought with her words.

I really don't like this book & feel quite strongly that someone really shouldn't make money off totally taking someone else's work & just slightly adjusting it like this.  Maybe I don't get it, maybe he really was trying to poke fun at Pride & Prejudice, but why?  I am just glad that I didn't spend money on this book because it just felt like a cheap rip off of a classic & I can't see why it was a New York Times Best seller.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Robocup – Sunday 15 August

Meet Michaelbot!


This robot was created by Brent & two of his friends in robotics.  Brent is new to robotics & only took it up this year at school.  So far he hasn’t seemed greatly interested in it but I think yesterday may have sparked him a bit, thanks to the Robocup.  His team put this robot in the dance competition.  It would seem that the criteria for this competition is to build a robot or two (or more, more points are awarded to having more than 1 robot on the dance floor) & get it to move or dance inside a 1.8m square to music.  The actual design does not have to look at all humanoid, it could be made to look like a train, cats, a lion whatever the imagination can up with.


Brent’s robot was rather humanoid like & it was supposed to dance to Thriller by Michael Jackson.  It had a pretend microphone in its hand & was supposed to move it arms up & down while moving across the dance floor.  Unfortunately the first two attempts the poor robot fell on to it’s face & then on the last attempt it did stand upright & its arms moved up & down but it didn’t move around the dance floor.


I don’t think Brent was too disappointed but he was really interested in the other robots in the dance competition.  He is now worried that Christ’s College & St. Andrew’s don’t do robotics so he really doesn’t want to go to those secondary schools thanks very much.  However he is happy to know that Burnside high does & what’s even better is that we are in the zone for it & it is just down the road. 

Personally I think we’ll see what we can find in Singapore, maybe we can find a bargain on a Lego robot down Orchard Road. 

Monday, July 26, 2010

Blogosphere Book Circle - Replenishing the Earth

Title: Replenishing the Earth, The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Angloworld, 1783 -1939
Author: James Belich

I found this book very heavy going.  It was both heavy to hold & very heavy reading.  So heavy reading that each night I would read about a page & then I was asleep with the book on top of my face.  I had the book for a month from the library but I never got it finished.  I must have got about halfway & then I had to return it again.  I have to say that I didn't check if I could renew it because really I had had enough, I needed some lighter reading. 

This book read like a text book that could possibly used for studying anthropology.  It was kind of interesting how so much of the Western world speaks English & not Dutch or Spanish or French, but really I was never so interested in it that I wanted to carry on reading it.

I gave it a crack but I have to say for the way I read books, entertainment these days, I'm done with serious studying, it really wasn't up my alley.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Blogosphere Book Circle - Novel About my Wife

This book is supposed to be August's reading but all the other books are still on loan to other people, so I decided to charge on ahead & read this book.

Title: Novel About my Wife 
Author: Emily Perkins
Published: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC 2008

From the inside cover:
If I could build her again using words, I would: starting at her long, painted feet and working up, meticulously shading in every cell and gap and space for breath until her pulse just couldn't help but kick back into life.  Her hip bones, her red knuckles, the soft skin of her thighs, her fine crackle of hair.

Tom Stone, skinnyish, fortyish, English, is madly in love with his wife Ann, an Australian in self-imposed exile in London.  Expecting their first child, they buy a semi-derelict house in Hackney.  They believe this is their settled future, despite Tom's stalling career and their spiralling money troubles.

But soon Ann becomes convinced she's being shadowed by a local homeless man whose presence seems like a terrible omen.  As her pregnancy progresses she spends hours cleaning and reorganising the house, and sits up all night talking with a new feverish passion.  As their child grows, so too does Tom's sense of an impending, nameless threat.  Their home seems beset with vermin, smells and strange noises.  On the verge of losing the house, Tom makes a decision that he hopes will save their lives.

I found this book to be a very quick & easy read, I really wanted to know what the ending would be.  Unfortunately I got to the end & didn't really like the ending. I felt as though I needed to know what really went wrong, what truely made Ann crack.  I was thinking up reasons all the way through to the end & felt disappointed that we never got told what Ann really suffered from.

It was an interesting story that I really don't think was about Tom's wife at all, it was more about his perceptions of his wife & how he really didn't know her very well at all. 

It was a good read & nice & light compared to the previous book I read.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Blogosphere Book Circle - Bad Science

Title: Bad Science   Author: Ben Godacre  Published: HarperCollinsPublishers
From the back cover: Dr Ben Goldacre dispenses fast and powerful relief from: Scaremongering journalists; pill pushing nutritionists; flaky statistics; evil pharmaceutical corporations

I was a bit daunted at the thought of reading this book.  It sounded like it was going to be a whole of science stuff that I may not understand.  Part of it was but I did read it through the whole way & came away thinking "my goodness could I have now made my son think fish oil is helping him when in fact it isn't?"  That is a scary thought & really the book was very thought provoking.  The way statistics are read & made to interpret what anyone wants them to interpret & then thrown across the world headlines like they are proven facts is also thought provoking. 

Then not days after I had finished reading the book was the headline in the Christchurch Press that the Maori Immersion school - Te Kura... achieved 100% pass rate for all three NCEA levels.  In fact I have just found this excerpt from  I have cut & pasted what the first paragraph says:

A Maori-immersion school in Christchurch has recorded a 100 per cent pass rate for all three NCEA levels.
Te Kura Whakapumau Te Reo Tuturu Ki Waitaha's five year 11s (level one), seven year 12s (level two), and two year 13s (level three) passed the 2009 National Certificate of Educational Achievement, results show.

This is the kind of statistics that the author (Ben Goldacre) was talking about.  You need to look behind the statistics & see what is missing.  In the case of the stuff article what was missing was the actual figures of how many are actually in the years classes & how many students in those years did actually sit for the NCEA.  It makes the school look good from the headline (and maybe it is) but you have to wonder whether there are more than 14 students in years 11 through 13.

I never was greatly into maths but this book did open my eyes as to how statistics can be twisted around to suit people's needs.  Then we come back to my fish oil thought.  Have I just started bringing up my children to believe the very tight & slick marketing campaigns of huge corporations.  My children know that McDonald's isn't a great meal to eat, even if a couple of meals are endorsed by Weight Watchers, but medical/vitamin/supplement campaigns are different.  As Goldacre says, just because it sounds pseudo technical it makes us think that they have to be right & that fish oil does help the brain.  I'm worried because James truely seems to believe that fish oil makes him think better.  I agreed at the beginning of the term that the fish oil did seem to help but by the end of term there really was no apparent help from it at all & I suggested to James we stop taking it.  He got very upset & he really does think that fish oil helps him.  I seem to have inadvertantly brought up a child who strongly believes in a product that actually doesn't do him any good, hopefully it doesn't do him any harm.

Yes the book certainly made me think & I have started looking at headlines differently. I found it hard going in places but then just as I was about to give up the next chapter was about something interesting & not as difficult to follow.

It is an interesting book but not one I would recommend as a light bedtime reading, your brain needs to be switched on to read it.  It has opened up my eyes to the twists & turns of statistics & for that I am thankful.  Now I just need to figure out how to deprogramme James from believing that fish oil will fix his brain.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Blogosphere Book Circle - March Book

Title: Access Road   Author: Maurice Gee  Published: Penguin Books 2009
From the back cover:
The old family home in Access Road, where Lionel, Roly and Rowan grew up, is crumbling away - but after more than fifty years Lionel and Roly are back.  Rowan, too, safe in 'upper crusty' Takapuna, is drawn more and more strongly 'out west'.
The past is dangerously alive.  Clyde Buckley, violent as a boy, enigmatic, subterranean as an old man, returns to his childhood territory.  What does he want? What crimes does he hide? And how is Lionel involved?  Rowan must abandon safety if she is to find out...

I confess now that I have never read a Maurice Gee book before this one.  I have no idea what his writing is usually like but I have to say I found this a compelling although dark read.  I love the descriptive phrases he uses & this paragraph in particular  "Clouds hung their bellies over the sea. The water was leaden and the waves slid up the sand like oil.  I beat the rain home by several minutes but couldn't keep it out of the house.  The sound on the iron roof was like a train in a tunnel."

His descriptive writing easily led me to imagine a small town on the outskirts of a large city & really could have been describing any small town in New Zealand.  Maybe that was the pull of the book, it could happen anywhere in New Zealand.  This darkness could actually lurk anywhere in New Zealand.  The next thought from that is, is there a chance that by standing and watching these dark acts as a child, not telling anyone about them, could you really be letting a darker act follow later & therefore could you be partly responsible for that act?   One character in the book clearly thought so & Rowan? Maybe she did to, after she was able to connect the dots, or find the resolve to connect the dots.

I have to say connecting dots has happened a lot to me in the last few years, luckily in nothing like as dark as this.  Maybe that's why I felt a pull in this book, Rowan was discovering what it all meant & I have just been going through that process myself.

It was a good book to read & I enjoyed the descriptive prose that Maurice Gee used.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Ocean Swim Race

Today was the day!  Today was the day that I have been training hard for since January 7 2010. 

Last year when I joined the gym I suggested to the instructor who took me through my paces that I would like to do the Ocean Swim at Corsair Bay.  The instructor said "I can see you doing that & it won't hurt your knee either."  So he developed a strength training program based on building upper body strength.  I admit that last year things really got in the way from about July onwards & really I didn't do much of any exercise, let alone building upper body strength.

I decided this year was going to be a different year to last year & when we came back from Wanaka I decided that I would do the Ocean Swim & that I did have time to train for it.  I started seriously training from the 7th January, taking the boys swimming with me during the holidays.  This was easy to do because for the first time since the boys have been born I can leave both of them in the pool secure in the knowledge that not only am I legally allowed to do so but they can both swim if they get into trouble.

I had thought that I was going to swim the race in just my togs, to keep the cost down but after doing a training swim at Corsair Bay I quickly realised that was not really going to be an option.  So last weekend I went and bought a swimming wetsuit & then on Tuesday & Thursday I went out to Corsair Bay to try swimming in it.  Thank goodness I did try the wetsuit out first because the buoyancy it gave me made me feel like I was a little cork bobbing around in the water.  It also was a lot heavier on my arms (that hadn't had any real weight training happen on them since last year) & very constricting to breathe in.  Even on Thursday I came out from my swim wondering whether I would be better just to be in togs.

Today dawned bright & clear & over at Corsair Bay the water was like a millpond. Brent came to watch me & he took the photos, Scott & James had to go to James' cricket match.  Brent & I watched the kids do their swim of 300m first & Brent thought that he might give it a go next year.  The kids race was all in the shallows so they could put their feet down & touch the bottom if they wanted.  Then it was my turn.

It was perfect conditions for my very first Ocean Swim.  I got my wetsuit on full of trepidation still wondering about how sensible it was to be doing this & whether I should be doing it in my togs.  I went for a warm up swim & the wetsuit felt right.  I no longer felt the weight of it around my chest or on my arms so I knew that I had made the correct decision to swim in a wetsuit.

At 10:40am we had our race briefing & then we were off.  The start was pretty choppy, a lot of argy bargy happening.  I seemed to be either getting hit by other people's legs and arms or doing that to other people.  By the first mark we were all more strung out & it was easier to swim "my swim".  The next mark I found really hard to see.  That white yacht with the red sails closest to beach seemed to be right in my line of view of the next mark & although a lot of people swam on the shore side of it I decided to swim behind it as to me it looked like a more straight line than what the leaders were doing which was swimming back out to sea.  I rounded my last mark & knew I was on my way home, I should have been relieved but there was a stage in that part of the swim where I felt like I wasn't moving at all.  I'm not sure if it was a tidal thing or quite what but the trees when I took a breath on my right didn't seem to be moving away behind me any.  I just dug in & kept my arms moving a bit faster & then I seemed to be making some forward traction.  I got towards the beach & there was another swimmer approachiung from my right & then it was a race up the beach & up a bit of a hill to the finish line.  I just couldn't beat her, so Sadie Scott came home 4seconds ahead of me.

I have to say I am thrilled with my race time of 14minutes 36 & my worries on Thursday that my swim of 14minutes wasn't quite long enough came to nothing.  When I started swimming this distance I was doing it in 18minutes 41 so I have really knocked some time off that. Here are the official results

This picture was taken after I came back from my warm up swim.

And then there was the horrible run up the beach & up a slight hill, I cut my foot on some sharp stones on the run up the beach.

What an accomplishment & I can tell you I feel very proud of myself for getting out there & doing it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Book Review - The Bolter

Synopsis (from the book jacket)

On Friday 25th May, 1934, a forty-one-year-old woman walked into the lobby of Claridge's Hotel to meet the nineteen-year-old son whose face she did not know.  Just over fifteen years earlier, as the First World War ended, Idina Sackville  had shocked high society by leaving his multimillionaire father to run off to Africa with a near penniless man. Now, three more husbands later, she was back to help the son whom she had been banned from seeing. 

An inspiration for Nancy Mitford's character The Bolter, painted by William Orpen, and photographed by Cecil Beaton, Sackville went on to divorce a total of five times, yet died with a picture of her first love by her bed. Her struggle to reinvent her life with each new marriage left one husband murdered and branded her the 'high priestess' of White Mischief's bed-hopping Happy Valley in Kenya. Sackville's life was so scandalous that it was kept a secret from her great-granddaughter Frances Osborne. Now, Osborne tells the moving tale of betrayal and heartbreak behind Sackville's road to scandal and return, painting a dazzling portrait of high society in the early twentieth century.

I found this a very easy book to read, which was a great surprise because I don't usually read biographies because I find them hard to get into. I found the time period fascinating & I had always thought that they were prim & proper but it would appear that there was an unspoken rule that an affair within a marriage was acceptable as long as it was with another married woman. 

I found myself feeling sadened for Idina that her first husband chose to take that course of action & that really the rest of her life was left trying to find love & inevitably never really finding it. I did feel very sorry for the children of all the different marriages & I can understand why they tried to keep Idina from being mentioned a lot within the family.  I think they never really understood her, & how could they when she was never around for them. 

It was a really interesting read & I ended up thinking that really in some aspects our society is not as bad as we think, it is just it is discussed more these days than it was back in Edwardian England.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Week 2 recap

This week has been much the same as last week. 

We did get someone in to look at the wasps nest & he confirmed that the little wasps are actually more aggressive than the bigger wasps.  So he came around & sprayed the nest with something & true to his word the wasps weren't to be seen the next night.

The boys & I did take my fitness thing seriously this week.  I ran/walked three days this week with the boys either on their bikes ahead of me or Brent running/walking beside me.  I quite like having a little running buddy.  He runs at my pace but he stops a bit more often but he soon catches up again.  We also went swimming together twice this week, both times in the indoor pool.  I make sure they are in the end slow lane where water walkers are.  I'm not sure what you really call these people.  They aren't swimming but they aren't aquajogging either, instead they are just walking up & down the swim lane & then pumping their arms in the air really quickly at the end of each lap.  Anyway I swim in the lane right next to them so that I can kind of keep a gentle eye on the boys.  I know that they are confident in that water & with James being 8 I can leave him in the water alone but I prefer just to be able to keep an eye out in case trouble brews up.  I think the boys actually enjoy the swimming because they now ask me excitedly if it is a swimming day.  I also went swimming today but this time I was able to leave the boys at home.  It's really nice to get changed in the females change room rather than having to go in the family one with the boys all the time.

Talking of trouble, we did have an unsavoury moment last weekend.  This group of 5 boys aged from about 11 - 7 came up our driveway & started accusing my boys of stealing their trampoline.  It didn't just end there, one of the boys actually pushed Brent into some bushes quite roughly.  Unfortunately Scott had just left to take some stuff to the storage so it was me versus these boys.  I asked them what their problem was & they said that we had stolen their trampoline, I said there is no way it's there's as it's being sitting on our lawn for years.  I suggested they get off home & one turned around & said "piss off you motherf..."  I couldn't believe my ears, I know I have bad language but never has it been quite that bad.  Lucky Scott had noticed
them walking down our street & he got a feeling something might be up so he turned around & came back home.  Just as well because that sent those boys scurrying away.  Scott followed them until they went to Burnside Park.  We haven't seen them back again fortunately but they have been in the neighbourhood before.  The next door neighbour children have had a problem with them too.  Hopefully they'll just stay away now.  There's nothing like a big striding, angry looking man to put the place to rights.  Ohhh, Scott my knight in shining armour....

I heard from Sharon, the real estate agent, that she has shown two different parties through mum's house.  One party say the house isn't for them & the other party are a bit put off by the whole "leaky home" thing.  We have been very upfront about it & they are able to get copies of  the builders report that mum got after it had all been fixed up.  They of course can get their own building report too.  We knew that this was going to be an issue but we'll just have to hope that someone will trust the builders & buy the house.

We did look into flying up to Wellington for a day on Wednesday 20 January.  Scott is flying up for work & we thought it might be nice to tag along & maybe see the zoo & Te Papa but the prices are astronomical so that's not happening.  Maybe we will go & see the Wellington Phoenix play at AMI instead, at least that won't cost us $500.

We have spent today clearing out all the stuff from the garage & moving it to the storage locker so now for the first time in a very long time both cars fit in the garage.  Yippee!  I know our next door neighbour will be pleased because we have been using "his" parking spot since about August.

Tomorrow is my day off fitness so hopefully we can take the christmas tree down.  That's right we still haven't taken the christmas tree down but it hasn't been up a month quite yet either.  We were very late putting it up so I reckon it can just stay up longer in January to make up for it.  Well that's my story & I'm sticking to it.

I'm looking forward to yet more of the fitness next week, proably hear yet more arguements & fighting, but we will be on the second last week of the 7 week school holiday.  I can do it, I can do it, I can do it.  I will survive, I will survive, but will my sanity?

Week 1 2010 recap

Week 1 was a back to the grindstone week.  Scott started back at work & I had to catch up on all the laundry from both the holidays & the week before Christmas when I was spending more time at mum's house than at my own.

On Monday I had a Stampin' Up! meeting with my upline where we made a really neat treat card.  I must take a photo of it & put it up on my SU blog. 

On Tuesday I decided to write down some personal fitness goals for the year.
1. To compete in the Sovreign Ocean Swim at Corsair Bay on February 27.  I'll be swimming in the 750m race.
2. To carry on training in both swimming & running to keep my level of fitness up so that next year I can compete again in the Ocean Swim & maybe even the Contact Triathlon.
3. To lose 20kg by the end of this year.

On Wednesday Brent went around to his friend's house to play so James played happily by himself with no arguing & fighting to be heard.  That in itself is a small piece of bliss.

On Thursday I started my training for the ocean swim by taking the boys down to Jellie Park to swim.  It was quite a nice warm day so we started off with me swimming my required lengths in the outside pool in a rash top.  The boys just puttered around in the water in the lane next to me.  Then James got cold so we went to warm up in the inside pools.

On Friday all fitness activites ground to a halt because James got stung twice by a wasp.  It is absolutely heart breaking to hear your child who has been being billigerent & unthinking of anyone cry out for his mum in exactly the cry he used to have when he was a toddler.  I think what got to me most was his "I want mummy"  He doesn't call me mummy anymore.  He was poking around in the area behind the compost bins with a stick, as boys do, & then he must have disturbed a wasp's nest because a little wasp flew down the neck of his tee-shirt & stung him once on teh neck & then moved on & stung him in between his neck & shoulder.  When I found him the wasp was still sitting there so I flicked it off & got James inside, then removed the stinger that was poking out of his flesh.  I put on some calamine lotion, but there was no way he was going outside after that.  That was the end of any thoughts of going for a run.

During the weekend we mowed the lawn & took a huge load of rubbish to the dump.  We also picked up the key to our new storage unit.  Hopefully this will solve our storage problems that we have at the moment while we work out just what to do with mum's stuff.

We also found out that mum's house is now up on the Bayleys Real Estate website

Really it was a week of catching up & planning what I want to accomplish fitness wise this year.  Now I just need to work out what else I want to accomplish this year rather than just sitting passively back & seeing what happens.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Happy New Year!

We spent New Year's Eve in Wanaka.  As you can see from the photo, it was quite cool.  We did have dinner outside at the patio table & watched a mustang fly over us & do a few barrel turns & loop the loops.  We decided that for the first time ever the boys could stay up until midnight to see the new decade in.  James was nearly asleep by midnight but he made it.

We wish you all a happy new year!