Archive for November, 2013

Some Drawings

Gamma has been prolific in his artwork recently, so I thought I would share some of his drawings here.

I’ll start with my favorite:

child's crayon drawing of a happy frankenstein

This is his Frankenstein. I asked him where he saw Frankenstein, how he knew what he looked like. He said he just knew. We don’t do a lot of Halloween stuff, but I guess he just picked that up along the way.



Many of you may be aware of the trichotomy of features, perhaps better known as “choose any 2 of these 3”.

trichotomy of features, also known as choose any two characteristics

I think I first heard it applied to dating, by some classmates in high school.

trichotomy of dating - choose attractive, available, or sane

I next heard it applied at work:

trichotomy of construction - choose cost, quality, or time

The quickest, best quality bid will cost you extra money.
The cheapest, quickest bid will be of low quality.
And the best quality, cheapest bid won’t be done in time.

Then I got to thinking “what other areas present such a choice?” Here are some other things I thought up:

Little Golden Font

Introducing: Little Golden Font

FontGrill is providing another free font. This one should be recognizable, especially given the name. If not, then click on the link below for some more clues.

image of Little Golden font, the font meant to resemble the lettering used in the Little Golden Books logo

Go visit the FontGrill page for Little Golden font.

Solomon made all the furniture which was in the house of the Lord: the golden altar and the golden table on which was the bread of the Presence;

1 Kings 7:48

Cherry Hostile

Why are cherry-filled chocolates always friendly?

cherry cordial and cherry hostile are two different desserts

I’m not quite sure what would make a dessert into a cherry hostile, but I’d guess it involves very spicy hot sauce.

For those who are interested, you can buy Cherry Hostile T-shirts and merchandise.

Be hostile to the Midianites and strike them;

Numbers 25:17

Fall Book Thingy, 2013

This has been an odd year. No really, it’s 2013.

But it has been odd in other ways, particularly in that I am reading books throughout the year instead of just during summer vacation.

I thought I was done for the year, but no. We went as a family to the library, which is a common occurrence, but for some reason I felt like checking out a book for myself. I think the impulse was mostly due to Ricky Anderson’s excitement about Ender’s Game, what with the movie being released soon and all.

So I grabbed Ender’s Game, just to see what all the fuss was about. Then as long as I was going to be checking out a book, I might as well grab a couple of them – more bang for my buck. I had heard a few recommendations for Eragon, and I wanted to read it before Alpha asked to read it so I would know how appropriate it was. And then there was a book that has been mentioned a few times on various lists of best books – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. It is supposed to be a great spy novel. And then my wife threw in a book – Out of my Mind – that Alpha was going to be reading in his class and she wanted to be familiar with it. And then she also grabbed Wonder, which Alpha’s class was already reading.

So that’s 5 books. I’ll review them here in the order I read them.

Ender’s Game

cover of the book Ender's game by Orson Scott Card
I had a deadline for this one, since the movie was pending. The book was captivating, and if you are not familiar with it then try not to read any descriptions of it because the story is much better if you don’t know what is coming. Don’t worry, no spoilers here.

I liked the book a lot better after I finished it, compared to while I was reading it. You need the whole story to appreciate the parts.

What I thought while I was reading it is that it was a bit too crude for my tastes. Not crude as in the writing is primitive or unscholarly, but crude as in crass. Not a lot of it, but enough. This is a book about kids, but it is not a book for kids.

I like to describe it as a cross between Lord of the Flies and White Fang but set in space. If you don’t like the premise of, and descriptions of violence in, Lord of the Flies, then you won’t like Ender’s Game.

I forget how I normally sum up a book in my review posts. Interesting story, well-written, but not for everyone. Right now, I would say if my kids ask to read this I will tell them to wait until they are in high school.


cover of the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio
While I was reading Ender’s Game, my wife was reading Wonder. She wanted to be familiar with the books Alpha’s class was reading.

I noticed she was moved (emotionally, not physically) while reading this book, so I figured it would be a heart-warming story of some sort.

It was.

(On a side note – it’s a shame there is not a city named Tears that is a home to many businesses. Then, if anyone was relocated there for his job, he could claim he was moved to Tears.)

I sensed a theme in the books that Alpha’s class was reading: anti-bullying. This book is done well; it is not a heavy-handed piece of anti-bullying propaganda. It is a story, a story of a boy whose disfigurement causes him to be a social outcast. The book tells his story through the eyes of different people – family and friends – and the reader comes to understand the effects of teasing or ignoring someone with abnormalities.

The book was good, but there were some side stories (the high-school sister and her boyfriend, for example) that made me think I wouldn’t have picked it for 4th graders. There was nothing objectionable, that I remember, but I think those parts of the story won’t be appreciated by kids younger than middle school. They won’t understand or empathize with the sister’s disagreements with the parents, or the other aspects of high school that are portrayed in this book.

But there is plenty about the school where the younger brother goes that they will understand, so I guess it’s okay.

Out of My Mind

cover of the book Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
I figured out Wonder had an anti-bullying message, but I didn’t figure the class had a theme of anti-bullying books until I read this next book, Out of My Mind.

Maybe “anti-bullying” is not the right term. The books are not anti-bullying, but the messages they promote should reduce bullying. Both books are saying “be nice to people, regardless of how they look”.

Out of My Mind is the story of a girl with cerebral palsy who can’t speak. But she can move her arms and thumbs. With the help of the right people, she starts achieving things.

What I liked about this book is that, unlike Wonder, not everything goes well. Not anything against Wonder, it is a compelling story, but it has a Hollywood ending. Out of My Mind does not have a typical Hollywood ending.

The main detraction in the book was that the author named technologies. She has characters mention putting things on MySpace and such. My suggestion for authors is to make your story more timeless by not mentioning specific brand names when a general term would do. The MySpace examples stands out because it is rapidly fading from society. If students a couple of years from now read the book, they might have to stop and ask what MySpace is. But if the author had used a general term, such as “class website”, it would have more staying power.

When my wife handed me the book, I thought I was previewing a book that Alpha would be reading. But when I started reading, the class was already halfway through. His teacher was reading the story aloud to the class, only a chapter or so a day, so I quickly passed them.

The book is fine for elementary schoolers.


cover of the book Eragon by Christopher Paolini
There is a lot of hullabaloo surrounding Eragon. When my son saw me reading the book, he pulled out his World Records book and showed my the picture of the Eragon author, winner of the category “Youngest Author of a Best-Selling Series”.

This one is pretty simple – if you like stories about dragons and magic and medieval-type fighting and battles, you’ll like this book.

It’s a long book, but compelling. What did it compel me to do, you may ask. It compelled me to keep reading, that’s what.

When I finished the book, I offered it to Alpha. He hemmed and hawed. I told him he didn’t have to read it, I’ll just give it back to the library if he’s not interested. He didn’t care, then I mentioned that it was like Septimus Heap. Then he jumped up and grabbed the book.

The book is fine, the story is fine. There are some descriptions of violence, and there is a chapter that involves torture (the concept of it, not depictions of it), so it is not for younger kids. The definition of “younger” is relative, depending on the child’s maturity and sensitivity.

We went back to the library this week, and Alpha eagerly picked out Eldest, the sequel to Eragon. I’m not going to keep up with him on these books – I’m going to trust Common Sense Media for the rest. They say that the second book is less violent than the first book, so Eldest is fine. But they warn that the third and fourth books are more violent. I’ll tell Alpha to wait on Brisngr and Inheritance.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

cover of the book Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre
This book had all positive reviews, but I think only people who like spy novels actually read the book and left reviews. I read some Tom Clancy books in high school, and those were interesting. But I would not consider myself a fan of spy novels. Still, this book was so highly recommended that I figured I would try it.

Now I know – avoid spy novels. It was not that entertaining for me.

Sure, there was some suspense. And there were some characters. But overall, the book felt dreary. I think it was all the depressing depictions of the characters’ personal lives. People were having marriage problems, the business was having organizational and succession problems, kids at the school were having emotional problems, etc. I’m not saying that everything has to be happy all the time, but, to ruin a C.S. Lewis quote, the book was all winter with no hope of Christmas or spring.

I did not read this one with the intent of deciding if it was appropriate for Alpha to read. Not for kids. I picked it to be able to say I read it. And that’s about all I got out of it.

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Philippians 2:4

White Hot Chocolate

Hyphens do matter:

hyphens do matter: white hot versus white-hot chocolate

I have noticed that more and more places are offering white hot chocolate, in addition to the ubiquitous pumpkin spice latte and whatever other seasonal drinks are popular these days. Consider this a public service announcement: do not order the white-hot chocolate.

My heart was hot within me,
While I was musing the fire burned;
Then I spoke with my tongue:

Psalm 39:37

Reasons for Electric Heat

I recently wrote a blog post about my electric bill. The reason my bill is higher than my neighbors’ is that my house uses electric resistance heat. It is not unheard of, but it is unusual enough that people are surprised by it.

We are hoping to move next year. That implies that we are going to try to sell our house. Having an unusual heating arrangement may scare off some potential buyers. I am hoping to prevent that by making a flyer that people will see when they come to see the house.

Reasons why electric heat is better than a furnace:

reasons why electric heat is better than a furnace

  1. No Maintenance
  2. Zones
  3. Will Not Kill You While You Sleep
  4. Better for Allergies
  5. Quiet
  6. Green
  7. Outages

Maybe it won’t persuade everyone, but it should at least reduce their prejudices against electric heat.

The only thing not on the list is cost. That’s because electric is not better than gas or propane on that point.

But it’s not as bad as people think. And since we switched to electric from heating oil (fuel oil), our costs have gone down. I do plan on providing the numbers so that potential buyers can see how much we spend to heat the house.

Its rising is from one end of the heavens, And its circuit to the other end of them; And there is nothing hidden from its heat.

Psalm 19:6