Algonquin Vacation Reading 2014

Every year, I bring a stack of books to read while on vacation. This year was no different; approximately 3,700 pages and 40 hours of listening over the twenty-two days.

TheSummerBirdVolume One of The Seraphimé Saga, The Summer Bird, by S.M. Carriere (2013).
I read this book cover to cover in a single day and am pleased to report that she’s done it again. Last year, I read her The Dying God & Other Stories, she’s one of those indie authors who works hard, edits harder, and deserves success. The book covers the story of Seraphimé, a clan princess who barely survives her clans near-destruction and follows her recovery.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadaver, by Mary Roach (2003)
My friend Susi (by way of friend Sara) lent me this book, but it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting – a more technical discourse of the nature of what happens to corpses (research, I swear!). It’s more of an informal firsthand account of various uses of cadavers, a history of the use of cadavers, cannibalism, and amusing crucifixion experiments. Worth reading!

The SleepwalkersThe Sleepwalkers: How Europe went to war in 1914, by Christopher Clark (2012)
This book was lent to me by a friend and long-time client, Berel, who said that it was a graduate-level class in political science. He wasn’t kidding. It covers the thirty or so years *before* the outbreak of World War One and into the war, the conflicting allegiances, cultural & racial issues, making it pretty clear that the world was going to fall into war no matter what. I’ll probably re-read this to make sure I got it all straight.

ANightToRememberA Night To Remember, by Walter Lord (1955)
This covers the sinking of the RMS Titanic, using information Walter Lord collected from survivors of the disaster. As a child, I have fond memories talking with my grandfather about the Titanic and he steadfastly maintained they’d never find it, so when finally saw this book in the book store, I couldn’t help but pick up the widely-accepted definitive account of the sinking.

Plague: How smallpox devastated Montreal, by Michael Bliss
Another book from Susi, which showed how a single person infected with smallpox arrived on a train from the US which killed thousands of largely francophone Montrealers, and furthering the rift between the linguistic groups. The book also shows that the tactics of anti-vaccination fanatics hasn’t really changed in 150 years – exaggerate, lie, and rely on the fears of the uneducated. It’s a bit infuriating to read at some points, actually.

Episode 123 – of Penn’s Sunday School, with Richard Dawkins [podcast / audio]
I’d saved this episode of Penn Jillette’s podcast for when I’d have time to listen to the ninety minute hilarious and serious talk he had with Richard Dawkins.

BloodlandsBloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin, by Timothy Snyder (2010)
A second book from Berel, who said this would be a difficult read, and it was by far the hardest book I have read in many years not due to prose or formatting but the content. Bloodlands details how between 1933 to 1945, Stalin and Hitler killed approximately fourteen million people – these aren’t combat deaths – largely non-combatants, who were starved in deliberate famines, executed, and death camps. A sombre examination of totalitarian governments working to their goals.

TheAndroidsDreamThe Android’s Dream, by John Scalzi (2006) [audiobook]
After the heavy content of the previous book, this audiobook was a hilariously wonderful reset. It follows a government employee tasked with giving bad news to aliens who is handed a rather special task – finding a specific breed of sheep called “Android’s Dream”. Throw in a made-up religion bend on making it prophecies come true and you have a book that I started and finished in a day. Read it.

TheFeastOfTheDrownedDoctor Who: The Feast of the Drowned, by Stephen Cole [audiobook]
They’ve made a few of these now – short two-and-a-half hour stories read by David Tennant. The story features the Tenth Doctor and Rose Tyler as they try to find out the source of a watery ghosts showing up in the London area. Of course, aliens are the problem. There’s a brief interview with the author at the end as well. Even though the story was abridged (which I normally loathe), this was a fun and fast listen.

DarkSunDark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb, by Richard Rhodes (1995)
I read this probably shortly after it came out and thought it was worth a re-read. This book focuses on the development of (you guessed it) the hydrogen bomb, and covers the massive penetration of the Manhattan Project by Soviet spies. In fact, I’d say the book spends more time covering the espionage aspect than the complexities of the Teller-Ulam design development.

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible VoyageEndurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, by Alfred Lansing (1959)
Sir Ernest Shackleton and his team planned a trip across Antarctica – and didn’t get there at all, barely escaping with their lives. A brilliant tale of survival in the face of one of the worst environments on the planet, taking place one hundred years ago. This audiobook was read brilliantly, and kept me on the edge of my proverbial seat even though I already knew how it turned out.

Far-SeerFar-Seer, Robert J. Sawyer (1992)
Everyone who knows me, knows I’m a huge Robert Sawyer fan. I’ve put off reading this book, as I keep forgetting to pick up the other two books in the Quintaglio Ascension Trilogy, but this year, I saw it after we moved and decided I’d bring it along. Cover-to-covered the book in a day. Now I have to pick up the other two to find out what happens. Who doesn’t love the idea of intelligent dinosaurs?

Bitten: Women of the Otherworld, by Kelly Armstrong (2001) [audiobook]
Kelly Armstrong first came to my attention at a panel at FanExpo a few years ago that Tracey and I attended. Tracey picked up the audiobook a few months ago, and I made sure to bring it along for our vacation. It’s not often that I enjoy a book written in the first person, but this was clearly an exception. I did enjoy the story, but I don’t know if I enjoyed it enough for a thirteen book commitment.

Nightface, Lydia Peever (2012)
This is one of the books I’d been looking forward to reading for some time – the tag line “It is gory. It is vicious.” had me. I’ve always thought vampires should be scary, and this book didn’t disappoint. I saw on Twitter that she is nearly finished the sequel (which I anticipate being a bloodbath), so I’m looking forward to my next trip up to the park (unless she also puts out an audiobook).

Four issues of 2600
Usually, I bring a couple of issues of 2600 with me camping for catchup, but this year, I just put them all into a pile for reading while camping. For those that don’t know, 2600 is a hacker culture magazine. Educational, entertaining and enlightening all in one. Well worth the subscription price.

What’d you read this summer?

Hog Back Falls, April 16, 2014

Water levels are high all along the Rideau River this year, and while I was out on walkabout I took the opportunity to shoot some video at Hog’s Back Falls.

For comparison, here’s what it looks like around June:
Walkabout: Hog's Back Falls

Unfortunately (for me), the path was completely flooded out at the north end of Vincent Massey Park (the photo is from the north end of that flooded section as I doubled back to see what it looked like – curiosity!):
Walkabout: pathway: flooded

This lead to me backtracking almost a kilometre around the flooding, and then back onto the path.. which was again flooded not half a kilometre further north. At least that time I could just walk along Riverside Drive to get around the worst of it.

How to format a hard drive for Mac OS X

This video post was inspired by two conversations I had with (on the subject of Time Machine backups) and (with two video files that wouldn’t copy onto a drive), so be sure to thank them if this helped you!

Here’s the video:

Here are the steps:

  1. Connect the drive to your Mac and power it up.
  2. If there is data on the drive, copy it to another drive. This will erase the data on the drive.
  3. Launch Disk Utility, either by using Spotlight, or by using Finder’s Go menu, selecting Utilities, then double-clicking Disk Utility.
  4. Click on the drive you wish to reformat.
  5. Double-check that the drive is indeed not a Mac OS formatted drive.
  6. Click the Erase tab up at the top
  7. Select either Mac OS Extended (Journaled) or Mac OS Extended (Case-sensitive, Journaled) if you will want to use case-sensitive file names. (Eg: AwesomeVideo.mp4  and awesomevideo.mp4 would be considered the same under Mac OS Extended (Journaled).
  8. Give the drive a new name.
  9. Click Erase, then a warning will appear to remind you of possible dataloss. Click Erase.
  10. The drive will be re-formatted and should be available quite quickly (usually less than twenty seconds)

That’s it! If you have any other things you’d like demoed, let me know!

Sixteen years.

Tom saying words..I know.

Seriously. I know. Twenty-year-old me wouldn’t believe it either.

I spend what appears to be a heck of a lot of time talking about numbers, but it’s one of the lenses through which I view and understand the universe.

Sixteen years ago today (that’s over half a billion seconds ago, yo), on a mild February day, I married my best friend (who may or may not have said yes when I originally asked her to marry me) in at ceremony held amidst (melted) Winterlude ice sculptures with Chilean music playing – due to my being overly considerate to family members who were tardy (insert comment about how no good deed and all that). Tracey wore a custom-made.. everything, and I wore a suit with a custom made shirt with a Nehru collar (as I loathe ties). There are unfounded allegations that I sprinted down “the aisle”, but the photographic evidence doesn’t support that.

I’ve written about this a few times like in 2006 – Two thousand, nine hundred and twenty two days and counting and in 2008 – A testament to love ten years of marriage. All of what I said then pretty much stands today.

Boiled-down advice: Marry your best friend.

Of all the decisions I’ve ever made, marrying my best friend by far the greatest.

Some of the photos (taken by Adler House Photography) can be found over at Flickr.

We’re going to take the day off and see where it takes us. Apparently there will be cinnamon hearts and possibly some black forest cake (the greatest form of cake in the 814 known planetary systems).

See? No sprinting:
Walking..