Monday, March 28, 2005

On The Nightstand

I haven't done an "On The Nightstand" post in a while, even though I have been reading a bit. So here are a few books that have recently been on my nightstand, but are mostly back at the library now.

I finally got around to reading Old Man's War by John Scalzi. It came highly recommended in the blogosphere. It's an interesting premise-- you have to be 75 to join up in the army-- and as science fiction goes, it's pretty well written. But it reminded me why I'm really not into the whole SF genre any more. Once you've read Asimov, nothing else compares-- and Asimov is dead, so once you've read all his works, you're done.

I should say, though, that I don't really like fiction books to begin with. I used to read a lot of fiction, especially science fiction, when I was a kid. I found that it colored my view of the world too much. I started thinking the world really was the way the authors said it was. But then I realized it was like watching too much TV-- you start to be unable to tell the difference between what you have watched and what you have actually seen. When the kids ask you if you've ever seen a shark, you have to think: did I really see a shark, or did I just see one on TV? Because if you say you have seen one, the follow-up questions will be "Where?" and "Did you touch it?" and you won't be able to answer.

I also took a few minutes to read David Macaulay's Motel of the Mysteries. It's cute and short, and the kids got a real kick out of the illustration of the lady wearing the toilet seat as a headdress. It's a fictional account of a future archaeologist who excavates a motel and comes to all the wrong conclusions about the nature of the room and the purpose of the artifacts found therein. There's a whole section describing items in the museum gift shop, with toilet coffee mugs and toothbrush earrings and such. It really makes you wonder what the ancients would think about our King Tut T-shirts and Mayan glyph pencils.

I actually bought two books. I almost never buy books; partly because I'm cheap, and partly because shelf space is so limited in our house that I have to be really choosy about which books I feel I really need to have on hand. If I just want a good read, I go to the library and check a book out. But I did end up buying Quickbooks 2004 For Dummies, and Color By Accident by Ann Johnston. The former I got with one of Favorite Hubby's gift certificates (every month, if his department meets his quota, they all get a $25 gift certificate to this local bookstore which is not FH's favorite, so he let me have one of his gift certificates.) The latter I ordered from Amazon, because every Google search I did on low-water immersion dyeing turned out to recommend either that book or Paula Burch's excellent website.

Some of the reviews of Color By Accident said that Johnston really got into the chemistry of dyeing, but evidently the reviewers and I have different ideas about what "really getting into" entails. I was kinda hoping to use taking up dyeing as an opportunity to redeem myself for the C I got in Mr. F---'s AP Chemistry class in high school, so I was a bit disappointed in the lack of chemistry detail. (Just for the record, it was only a C because everybody else in my 5th period class was cheating off those in the 1st period class. If I'd been in the 1st period class, I'd have gotten a B, but Mr. F--- flat-out refused to curve the classes together to counteract the incentive to cheat.)

And lastly, I finally got around to reading The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket (#3 in the Series Of Unfortunate Events). The only reason I read it was to see if I could find any of the Sebald Code in it. I've been re-reading the entire series now, looking for scraps of Sebald Code. Since the indicator of the start of the coded message is the sound of a bell, I thought The Wide Window might have some, since it takes place by Lake Lachrymose and involves boats. I found a couple references to bells, but none of them was followed by a coded message. It would be really cool if Snicket had embedded spoilers or other secret messages in the text of each book using this code, but it appears he has not. That's too bad-- the existence of such messages in the books would have increased my estimation of the author quite a bit.