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2012 Reading

I’ve been doing pretty darn well on the 2012 Sci-Fi Challenge over on PaperbackSwap. Got a good start on it. I’ve generally kept to my 70 page test; 70 pages seems to for me to be a good test on whether I’m enjoying the book; if I’m enjoying it getting to 70 pages happen quickly- maybe just in 1 day-, if I’m not getting to 70 pages could take quite a bit longer and it often feels like I’m being forced into reading something, like in school. So I don’t bother keeping reading something I’m not enjoying.

So here’s what I’ve read in 2012:

Books I’ve enjoyed
Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds: Despite the book being 700 pages long (likely my longest book ever finished), despite it being Hard-SF, despite me not really liking the characters that much, and despite me being confused on the ending, I really enjoyed this.
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde: I enjoyed this book. It was pretty humorous at times. If you’ve read Jane Eyre (which I haven’t) you’d probably like this book even more.
The Ophiuchi Hotline by John Varley: I read this one after Steel Beach (listed below). While I was absolutely thrilled with it like I was with Steel Beach, I really enjoyed this.
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest: Enjoyed this thoroughly. Steampunk, zombies, a city of Seattle that cutoff because of a plague. What’s not to like?
The City of Ember by Jeanne Duprau: Light, quick, wonderful read. I do want to read the next in the series.
Steel Beach by John Varley: Aliens attack earth; Earth is sent back to the stone and humans are for the most part wiped out. The attack and life on earth is only briefly mentioned. The book talks about humans living on the moon and the advancements made to deal with living there. This now is one of my all-time favorite books, if not my most favorite book. I really need to read the rest of the “Eight Worlds” series.

Books that were okay or I didn’t enjoy
Stardust by Neil Gaiman: I really wanted to like this. I loved the movie, but gave up on the book (although I think I made it roughly 150 pages in).
The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch: I think I finished it. It started out really enjoyable, but that faded.
Life as we knew it by Susan Beth Pfeffer: Asteroid hits earth, which causes climate changes. It’s a different style than I’m used to; journal style, written from the perspective of a teenage girl dealing with the world. I got roughly 200 pages in, but couldn’t keep going; it got a little repetitive about what was happening in day-to-day entries.
Consider Phlebas by Ian M. Banks: The book sounded like something I’d enjoy, but I don’t think I even came close to 70 pages. Maybe the author’s writing style, but I found it pretty dull reading. Then again (space) war books I don’t enjoy, I had thought the book was more than a war book.

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UMD has been in their new building for some time now, so I’ve had quite a bit of time to think about it. Of course as always I will not give free corporate advertising when refering to the building.

There certainly are major improvements from moving from the DECC to the “New Duluth Arena”. The most obvious thing that hits you, other than the new building feel, is the big scoreboard hanging above center ice. This most certainly puts UMD’s building in the more modern sports arenas. The scoreboard is easy to read from wherever you are and now there is video, which is really wonderful since it now allows replay of goals, showing of out of town scores, and other stuff like that..

One thing that’s only now starting to hit me that I love about the building is that it feels more intimate than the DECC. It could just be an illusion, but I feel like the fans on the opposite site of the building are closer than they were at the DECC.

Sort of going along with that you can see the ice (a tiny part that is) when you are walking about the lower level. The exception is on the one side where the press boxes are. When you’re walking about on the uppper level you can see the ice perfectly, although there’s only seating up there, no concessions.

As far as things that are about the same, I would say the food hasn’t changed much, although to be fair I don’t stray much in my choices (frosty malts and the occasional bratwurst). From my seeing the menus it looks like the same food of burgers and hot dogs. I myself am perfectly content with these things and consider how some fans complain when there’s only these options to be extremely whiny. For ice cream there’s a lot more room for those waiting in line, although it still seems that there’s not enough.

One thing that I could see someone griping about, which doesn’t bother me that much, is something that applies to very few seats. Between the two seats that my Dad and I have, there’s a good size gap in there. It’s rougly the size of a seat. I’m guessing it’s because of how the bleachers come out and how they can pull them back in for concerts and other such things. So if I have something to say I have to lean over a bit to him. I’ve adjusted to it. I could see someone griping about it, but it doesn’t bother me.

I mentioned the scoreboard before. It’s generally a good thing, but I find myself frequently rolling my eyes at it. Now since video is allowed, that means in the drive to get more of those little green papers, there’s now video advertising from “corporate sponsors”. The videos are great, but I do wonder if I myself would rather not have the video scoreboard so that there’s no video advertising.

It’s sort of knock on the arena, but I’m sort of underwhelmed by it. Not entirely sure why. I guess I was hoping for something that’s more better looking. The seats are maroon and gold (the would be Bulldog colors by the way) in a nice pattern and there’s the Bulldog club in the corner, but I just don’t find the arena to be that nice to look at. Seems that maybe not having the gigantic media wall in something other than grey would have been a major improvement. The off-white of the DECC walls was better looking. The DECC had very unique features; the overhang of the media boxes, “the cave” or whatever it was for people ice level that sat in, the wonderfully low tiled ceiling that kept the noise it (well, before the tiles started coming down). Maybe it’s a money thing, but I was hoping for something different in the look of the building.

One thing that didn’t improve with switching buildings is the amount of space in the concourse. Walking around you’re still surrounded by people. I would have thought that would improve with a new building, but I guess not. It’s certainly nothing I’d complain about though.

So I guess my final verdict (although it’s subject to change) is one word: underwhelming. I’m not one of the demanding fans, I’m pretty content at a stadium since I’m really only there to watch a game, but in the end I’m underwelmed by “The New Duluth Arena”.

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I haven’t written in a while, since I haven’t found anything that remarkable to write about.

As far as UMD goes they now are unbeaten in 13
games. That’s pretty darn remarkable streak against any opponent, unless all those games were against Squirt B teams. Apologies to Squirt B teams, maybe there are some out there that can beat UMD, who was the #1 rated team in the country and got 3 points in Madison over the weekend. That 13 game streak also includes 4 road series. Friday UMD never lead and came back in the third for the tie, that tie stopped a string of 7 Ws for the Dogs.

In my personal life things are going good. We just had the Northfield Winter Walkabout on Thursday. It was more bearable than previous years, since the weather wasn’t bitterly cold. We had a fun time going through the streets, with the lone exception being us trying to get Kaelyn’s picture with a walking snowman; she cried even through the snowman wasn’t touching her (makes sense, she’s been scared of Santa, UMD mascot Champ, and other such costumes). After this week we’re off until after Christmas. We’re doing the north-south Minnesota thing, north before Christmas and south on Christmas. Hopefully there won’t be any storms to make the 4 hour trip from north to south terrible.

We bought Kaelyn a good bed. Up until this point she had been sleeping in a crib, with the side off. We bought her a bunk bed, for when she has a friend and/or cousins over. The bunk bed doesn’t have a ladder, but instead has stairs on the side of it, so it’s less likely she’ll fall going from the bottom to the top bunk. She’s only sleeping in the bottom bed for now.

My 2011 Sci-Fi Challenge is over, for whatever reason it runs December to November. I’d say I completed the regular challenge, but that’s being a little deceptive, since I can’t say I read every book from cover to cover (some I stopped around 70 pages). Like the 2011 Challenge there are 3 challenges: Light (read 10 of the 30 categories), Medium (20 categories), and Regular (all 30 of the 30 categories). You can double-count books if you wish. I went through and penciled in books for the categories.

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Something on Facebook last night got me thinking, thinking about myself and being a “fan”. With the possible exception of UMD hockey, I don’t think I can label myself as a “fan” for sports anymore. I may count certain things as interests, but I don’t think “fan” applies. Seems to me that to label myself a “fan” there’s all kind of stuff that goes along with that.

In cases like the NFL, NBA, MLB, even the NHL, I certainly wouldn’t call myself a fan. I’m not even certain how much I’m interested in them. The four leagues combined I’m not sure if I’ve watched more the three games in the last four years; haven’t watched one Superbowl, NBA Final, World Series, or Stanley Cup finals game in that time. I may hear about things going on in any of those league in my car each day, but whatever is being said I’m only mildly interested in, listening to sports talk radio is just something to have on, instead of silence, when I’m not wanting to listen to music. Like how Bostonians (is that the word?) are up in arms regarding the conduct of the Red Sox players. I heard about on the radio, but I really had no interest in any of it, it doesn’t matter to me.

Like I said UMD may be the exception, I may still label myself as a UMD “fan”, but even then I’m not so certain. I get plenty of enjoyment out of it and was very glad UMD won the National Title last season, their NCAA run was amazing. Still, if UMD was to zero wins for the next decade I really don’t think that would matter that much to me, I don’t have any expectations regarding team “performance”. Even with zero wins in a decade, I’d still want to go to games and I can’t see myself being one of the people who would be calling for a coach firing or any such thing.

It’s kind of been a lot of things that are why I’m a lot more mellow regarding sports compared to a decade ago. I’ve come to realize that “relax, it’s just a game” (this one is good too) so it’s not so often that I get worked up about sports anymore. I guess that’s why I’ve come to appreciate NCAA Division II, Division III, and junior hockey; the games are treated as just games, you don’t see the other stuff that you do in D-I or professional leagues.

So I guess what I’m saying is that I am not a “sports fan”, I’m someone who finds sports interesting from time to time.

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Inside College Hockey has "The Great 58" list. UMD is ranked #12.

In USCHO’s poll, UMD is ranked #9, down one spot from #8 last time. They didn’t get any first place votes this time.

LSU’s is really darn cool. Especially cool since it’s the punter who scored. For my take there’s no way it should have been called back. I’m for letting almost everything go and not call "taunting". I’m certainly not for calling back touchdowns on it. The only time I’d say a penalty should be called is if it’s 1) excessive and 2) ongoing, which I admit is subjective. Still don’t take away the touchdown for it, since the touchdown would have happened anyway. Not sure what the correct penalty should be, I’m leaning towards just a 15 yard one – maybe a play ejection on top of it.

Looking through the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award winners:
Books I’ve read: The Windup Girl (2009 Nebula, 2010 Hugo), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2001 Hugo), Ender’s Game (Nebula&Hugo), The Forever War (Nebula&Hugo), The Dispossessed (Nebula&Hugo), The Left Hand of Darkness (Nebula&Hugo), The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (67 Hugo), The Man in the High Castle (63 Hugo), Stranger in a Strange Land (62 Hugo)
Currently reading: Ringworld (71 Hugo),

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My reading

Over the last couple of years I’ve really gotten into reading.  Reading Sci-Fi in particular.  I have lots of books I have on my “want to read” list.  My general feeling is that life is too short to force myself to keep reading something I’m not enjoying.

I just gave up on Diaspora by Greg Egan.  I’m guessing it fits into the “Hard Science Fiction” genre, although I’m not really sure.  Generally I give a book 70 pages (trying to keep roughly to the 100 page test )or so before I give up on it, although usually I know pretty quickly whether I’m going to continue to read it.  With Diaspora I gave up only 22 pages into it and I basically knew 11 pages into it.  That’s certainly a record for me.  There was just too much terminology in it.  So much it felt like I was reading a science journal, not fun reading for me.

I usually have two books going;  my “day book” (reading on my commute and/or during my lunch) and my “night book” (reading before bed).  Currently I’m reading:

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson:  Yes, it’s the book the Will Smith movie came from.  I’m roughly 60 pages in and I’m guessing I’ll end up finishing the book.  It’s nothing thrilling, but is a good read.

Ringword by Larry Niven:  This is one of the books mentioned when people talk about the “best sci-fi”.  Which for me doesn’t mean much;  there’s been plenty of instances I’ve liked the popular sci-fi and plenty of instances of ones I haven’t liked.  I’m only a dozen or so pages in to this one, so it’s hard to know if I’ll finish, but I am enjoying it so far.

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Monday

Apparently the two teams playing in the (not so-)Superbowl were decided yesterday.  Speaking as a Minnesota-born person, who’s lost their enjoyment of “professional” sports, I have no problems the Packers won.  Maybe if I had nothing to do, I’d watch it.  Then again I never have nothing to do;  that’s especially true with having an almost 2 year old now.  Instead of watching the Superbowl, I’d rather be watching a movie with Amy, reading a book, playing video games , or just taking a nap, just to name a few things.
 
Speaking of the other things I mentioned above…..
 
Movies:
Amy and I finished Sherlock Holmes recently.  It certainly was entertaining, but not sure what to think about it in an Sir Arthur Conan Doyle sense.  From Amy’s Dad we are borrowing Inception to watch, I’ve heard it’s very good.  Due to the amount of time we have in our evenings and other shows to watch, not sure when we’ll get to it.  We did go to the theaters recently and saw Harry Potter (Fantastic!) and Narnia (Very good!).
 
Books:
For Christmas/Birthday presents I got a lot of stuff to read (over 4,000 pages), most of it being Sci-Fi, my favorite genre.  As usual, I’m currently reading two books;  one for during the day (commute and lunch) and one for at night (mostly right before bed). 
 
My day book right now is “I, Robot” by Isaac Asimov.  It’s basically a compilation of Asimov’s short-stories about robots, which are repackaged into one “book”.  Very good so far.  Some of the stuff in the Will Smith movie of the same name is in there (the 3 robot “laws”, etc).  This one is from the library,  not sure if eventually I’ll buy it from somewhere.
 
My night book is “Counter-clock World” by Philip K. Dick.  Great idea of time is going backward (people are coming back alive, etc) but I consider it to be just so-so reading.  I’m fairly close to the end, so I’m guessing I’ll end up finishing it.  I’m certain I’m going to be “swapping” it, I only keep the books that I will re-read over and over in my lifetime (this is also a reason why I’m against e-books, swapping “hard copy” books is much better).
 
Playing video games:
I’m currently trying to play Syphon Filter – Dark Mirror on the PS2.  I’m really enjoying this game.  I had tried playing Call of Duty, but even though it was somewhat enjoyable, I felt like the game was going to move forward no matter what I did, provided I didn’t die.  Seemed like the AI-teammates did all the “work”.  Siphon Filter is better, because I’m doing all the “work”.  It’s sort-of like Resident Evil in that regard.
 
Amy just gave me God of War II for my birthday.  I never played the first God of War, but I’ve heard both of them are good. 
 
Taking a nap:
I did a lot of napping this weekend, which is from being sick.  Normally I’m a “napper” person, I love naps.  When I’m sick I generally just sleep through the day.
 

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