Briggs-a-thon

Moon Called, Blood Bound, Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs
So reading Silver Borne brought out a desire in my wife to reread the Mercy series and I felt it my duty to help her. I’m very supportive that way. Picking up Moon Called reminded me that (a) Silver Borne finished off a lot of loose ends including some miscellaneous bits I hadn’t really noticed, and (b) Holy Crap do we enter the universe in medias res.  I remember wondering if I had missed an earlier series when I first read the book and despite knowing I hadn’t this time around I still had to ask my loving wife if we had missed something. Admittedly it is an awesome universe that Briggs keeps deciding to show from various angles (she wanders off onto various werewolf things every now and then in other books and short stories). My need for urban fantasy has been satiated. For this week at least. Rating: A

When Demons Walk by Patricia Briggs

This is a really fun little fantasy book. Highly entertaining, sexual tension but no chapters of pornography to skip over.  I really want to read more with these characters. Rating A.

Random Man

I am officially “random guy” at work. Ever since showing that I can do my job when left to my own devices I have been given the random tasks that always seem to pop up. Now I’m being sent to random job sites, three in fact, in the span of five days.

Part of this is simply the fact that I’m working for an outfit that does commercial work — condos, hospitals, offices and whatnot — and, unlike industrial sites where you can spend four weeks working on one stretch of piping and it doesn’t really look like you are accomplishing much, commercial work just stops when you run out of pipe to cover. Occasionally you spend time covering it with canvas or pvc but more often than not most of what we cover is covered itself by drywall. If you can’t see it there’s no reason to make it look pretty.

So while this leads to a feeling of accomplishment and the answer to the question “how does one not become bored” it can occasionally be a tad overwhelming. Just when you get used to one site, and in my case when the coffee truck comes and who gets what in which beverage, you pop over to another. Generally speaking there’s not this much jumping which leads me back to “random guy.”

As I am not a journeyman/mechanic I need to be on a site where there is at least one person with that rank. If they aren’t there, I can’t be. Couple this with the fact that when I go to work I tend to, get this, work and you end up with me being sent to sites to essentially be the guy who does that random task that really needs to be done. I’m trusted to get it done. That is a good thing. I still don’t quite understand why I’m trusted to get it done but then again I have issues valuing my own work.

I’m getting close to putting on around 500 linear feet per day. Top help make that number seem useful Journeymen/mechanics put on around 700 feet per day. I don’t smoke or text so I’m generally always working. I don’t speed but I end up with a fairly decent pace simply by virtue of not stopping. Two days in a row I’ve essentially ran out of material. Part of me thinks that’s a good thing. It means that I’m doing more work than I’m estimated to do.

I can be happy with that.

Two more books, now over halfway

Thanks to being out of work for four months, having a train ride into work once I got there, and a coping mechanism with depression that has me hide in works of fiction I have managed to surpass the halfway point for the 95 books without really realizing it. The hardest part has been sitting down and writing these posts but after admonishing a friend to read without worrying about the number she’s at I too have to write on this blog without worrying about the fact that I’m behind on my books.

That being said I have two more books to write about.

Book 54 A Mighty Fortress by David Weber

I swear these things should count as four books in and of themselves. This book tops out a 690 pages. We finally get to have some David Weber style countless deaths too. There is even an homage to Honor Harrington which I’m certain that only a few will catch. I still love the interplay between religion, science, and geopolitics that winds its way through the series. I love the fact that people can still have faith in God even though they know their religion is made up. God does seep through the cracks. Rating: A.

Book 55 Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs

Ah yes. My not-so secret passion: urban fantasy. I rather enjoy the Mercy Thompson series. Over the books she has really become a full character. This book ends a few of the outstanding plot lines but opens up a few more. Thankfully the inter-textual references to her other books are ones that I’ve read (and even then they are explained for those who haven’t read them). Even better? The romance sub-plots are not annoying and we don’t veer off into chapters of sex. Very Fun with more than a few “it’s about time you hit/shot/yelled at said person” that were eminently satisfying. Rating: A (if you like this sort of thing which I do and am proud to say it).

Seven more books

Book 47 – 49  Island in the Sea of Time, Against the Tide of Years, On the Oceans of Eternity by S.M. Stirling

The Island of Nantucket drops out of time to somewhere in the 1250s BCE and is lucky enough to have both a Coast Guard captain who can use sails, an ancient civilizations Professor with the ability with languages and an astronomer who can speak Lithuanian (apparently it’s closest to the Indo-European proto-languages, go figure). As an alternative history it does indeed work. I enjoyed reading as people struggle with the idea that life without the Internet — well it was set in the 1990s initially so it’s more life without cable television — is indeed possible. As a story there are parts that I find difficult. No one dies. Maybe I’m just getting used to David Weber killing off untold millions of people but there needs to be a time when everything does not go well and that half your population will cease to exist. Thankfully I know he makes up for this one in the other series so I’ll cut him some slack. Maybe if I had encountered these books when they were initially written and with nearly a decade of time in between I would have been more gracious of my acceptance. Overall: a decent read but don’t give up your current reading to grab it. Rating: B- to B.

Book 50 In Enemy Hands by David Weber

Rating: A. I was about to write “thankfully this one isn’t as emotionally wrought at the previous one” but that’s not really true. There is still a great deal of personal agony reaching out from Honor Harrington, its just has a different reason. The previous book nearly traumatized me towards the end but then again perhaps reading it during the depths of depression is not the smartest thing I’ve ever done. Honor is just such a well created character and war is just such an ugly mess of needless death and destruction that even though all of these wretched things still happen you still need to keep reading. Personal agony aside this series is quickly coming close to surpassing the Dresden Files on my all time favorite series/character list. Which brings us to …

Book 51 Changes by Jim Butcher

Harry Dresden is back and a metric ton of story arcs are, well, changed. Butcher does an amazing job of tying up all of the various threads that have been hanging around while fixing it so that the series must change if it is to continue. It has no choice. As for the “controversial ending” bit that half of the Internet is aflutter over (according to my wife, I tend to stay away from online reviews which is fairly ironic if you think about what I’m writing at the moment) I saw it as perfectly fitting and I know exactly who did what to whom. There is not cliffhanger wondering bit here. If you’ve paid attention this is not out of left field and it is by far the greatest ending. Rating: A+

[Aside: Wow. I just got off of one of those wonderful Internet tangents where you bounce around for a while and end up writing down something you really ought to read. Focus dammit. Focus. Then wander and start taking notes about the Napoleonic wars.]

Book 52 Without Remorse by Tom Clancy

I needed a train book and picked up this one which lives on from my “I must read Tom Clancy” era. It’s ok. As a precursor to the characters in the Jack Ryan series it explains some things. I do like the concept of a serial killer who is not a psychopath but one who does wonder if what he is doing is indeed the “right” thing to do. Or maybe that is a psychopath and it’s the difference between that and a sociopath. Meh. Rathing: B.
Book 53 The Scourge of God S.M. Stirling

This one came very close to a book fail. As the second book set in the second series I spent a lot of time wondering: who is this person and why should I care? On more than one occasion I had to backtrack to figure out what the hell was going on and in one case I am not entirely certain how someone died. At least I think she died. Like I’m said this book was not the most polished of his I’ve read. Now I’m thinking I may have to re-read this after going through the earlier series and hopefully it makes sense but after loving The Sunrise Lands I was vastly disappointed. Rating: C (for now).

CIBC is organizationally incompetent

From the beginning of this year to April 19th I was unemployed. Big deal. That happens a lot in the trades. If I had stayed as a librarian the situation would be pretty much the same if not worse. Fine. Not a problem. However since I was off so much the previous year I ran out of Employment Insurance (EI). Great. So I called the student loan people to get some relief. Thus started the months of FAIL.

Let me start off by saying that the National Student Loan Center (or whatever their apparently privatized operations are called) have been great.

CIBC? Not so much.

Apparently somewhere in the past I never signed a piece of paper saying I would be repaying these loans. Despite the fact that I have been paying them for eight years everyone needed proof that I wasn’t a deadbeat. The national center’s forms came and went. I hear nothing.

I call in to find out that they are waiting for CIBC to give them a piece of paper. I call CIBC.  I need to sign papers for them too. Fine. Whatever. I’ve only been paying it for ages. Give me the paper.

I send it in and find out that one of them wasn’t signed two weeks later when I get them back in the mail. Sighing I sent them back.

Then CIBC started their phone calls trying to get me to call them. I call and get a woman who is quite annoyed when I say that I’m returning their call. She checks the computer and tells me I haven’t paid lately. I tell her that I applied for the interest relief/not-paying for a while program. She tells me they haven’t received the paper. I tell her that I sent it in last week. She says she will mark it down on the computer (all of this very begrudgingly I’ll add).

A week goes by. CIBC starts calling again. I call them to find out that they haven’t received word from the government and why haven’t you paid. I tell them that the government is waiting for them to send a form. Skippy checks the file and finds out that, yes, the government asked for the form and they will send that out at some point.

Today I get a letter from the government saying that I owe them money. I sigh and call to find out that CIBC never sent over the damned form and as a result my application was canceled would I like to reapply? I ask for all the information I need to yell at CIBC (saying over the phone that I will indeed yell at them) and proceed to work out that my next regular payment will cover the interest from the last two missed payments and they will call it a day adding another two payments to my overall account.

I call CIBC ready to yell and am on hold. Surprise. I get a message saying there is a high volume of calls. Well duh, I’m on hold I expected that. I get another voice telling me that if I would like to leave a message they will call me back within the next 24 hours if I press 1 now. I don’t press it because they’ll be calling me anyways and I want to rant at a real person. The next thing I know I’m listening to another voice telling me to leave said message  and they will get back to me.  I don’t want to leave a message you incompetent morons. That’s why I have a fucking book in front of me. I’m expecting to wait for an hour.

So now I get to spend my weekend hopefully getting hold of someone but not being certain I will because it’s, surprise, the weekend.

The sooner I can be rid of these ass-clowns the happier I will be.

It could be worse kid, it could be me up there

Today I got to climb up on top of things in order to get at other things and cover them with insulation.  So part of my day was spent in a three foot high space that is completely covered in dust and other fine things. Luckily I brought in my blue overalls yesterday so the mountains of dust were on my outer layer and not on the clothes I had to spend the rest of the day plus the trip home wearing. The downside of this whole day was the heat wave. Southern Ontario is in the midst of a nasty hot weather streak, breaking record temperatures and everything. Wearing an extra layer is hard to do on days like this. Plus, thanks to said heat, I’ve slept a total of 18 hours over the past three or four days. I climbed aboard the GO Train for the ride home, sat down, felt the air conditioning waft over me, and woke up 45 minutes into my ride.

I’m really looking going to bed at 7 tonight as a serious proposition.

Books a plenty

I’m just slightly behind in my book write ups so I’ll just add a brief sentence or so to some of them.

#38 Star Wars: Dark Lord — The Rise of Darth Vader by James Luceno — This is how the last movie should have ended. He took a petulant, whiny, crybaby and made him the Dark Lord of the Sith. Not the greatest book ever but the beginning material made it hard to make anything exceptional.
#39 Food Rules by Michael Pollan
#40 The Sunrise Lands by S. M. Stirling
# 41 Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
#42 Field of Dishonor by David Weber
#43 Ghost in the Shell by Masamune Shirow
#44 Spy vs. Spy 2: The Joke and Dagger Files by David Shine — This was just for fun. I much prefer the earlier ones.
#45 Flag in Exile by David Weber
#46 Honor Among Enemies by David Weber

David Weber has this lovely tendency to prove that war kills a lot of people I’m now up to book 6 and I swear his killed more than a million people including a number of major characters. The level of post-traumatic stress written into these books is intense.

What I’ve Gained Thus Far

One of the accidental end results of being an insulator has been that I have gained something from every company that has hired me. My first company gave me a chance, hired me and kept me on for nearly six months allowing me to actually get a job plus I got my whimis and fall arrest (a piece of paper saying I know how to use a harness). The second company gave me knowledge of an industrial job site. The third company gave me the a lift ticket and the experience of knowing that a company will screw you if you let them (if I ever work more than 90 kms from Toronto again I am getting a room and calling the union hall regardless of whether the company says they’ll pay room and board). The fourth company gave me a fitted respirator mask.

I’m now on my fifth company and I already know what it is they have given me: the knowledge that I can do this job. When my boss points at something I go "ok" and do it. I have a tool kit of knowledge. I have indeed gained a skill point. Possibly two. I can be randomly asked to do something and I know that I can do it. I may have no freaking clue where the material happens to be in the building but I know how to do it. I have the confidence in myself and my abilities.

That happy, tired feeling of contentment

This afternoon I got off the GO train with weary legs and a glow of knowing that I, however little, helped to build something today. I truly do enjoy being an insulator even if it puts me three inches away from uninsulated, active steam lines. I can also say for certain that insulating said lines reduces the ambient temperature by a metric wheelbarrowful. It went from brutal to warm in a matter of minutes.

So if you will excuse me I’m going to sit on my couch, watch my favorite hockey team beat up on the team I picked to win the Stanley Cup, and hope to heaven that this aspirin kicks in real soon.

Hockey Predictions 2010

Once again it is the great contest between the hockey knowledge of yours truly versus the pencil of fate wielded by my beloved wife. Those of you willing to risk the archives will discover I didn’t do half badly last year. I picked a Washington/Detroit final and it was a Pittsburgh/Detroit final. I remember being conflicted last year about who was coming from the East and I should have gone with my gut instinct. Lets see if I get a perfect score this year. How did the pencil of fate do? Let’s just say she’s better at football (although she did pick the Ducks to beat San Jose).

Eastern Conference

  • Washington versus Montreal
    • I’m picking Washington. Kate is picking Montreal. Funny. I’m the fan of the Habs.
  • New Jersey versus Philadelphia
    • No dear there is not a “none of the above.” No pencil here she hates New Jersey less. I just think the Devils are the better team.
  • Buffalo versus Boston
    • We both pick Buffalo
  • Pittsburgh versus Ottawa
    • I’m picking the defending champs. The pencil chose Canadian content. For yet another year. Weird.

So I break it down like this (re-seeding sucks for flowcharts):

  • Washington versus Pittsburgh — If you want this in the conference finals Boston has to win. I’m torn. Again. I’m picking Washington. Again.
  • New Jersey versus Buffalo — In the battle of goalies I’m going to go with the new kid. Buffalo to shockingly make it to the conference finals.
  • Washington versus Buffalo — That is as far as they go. Washington to the Stanley Cup finals.

Kate’s Breakdown:

  • New Jersey versus Montreal — One more of the Habs. Again. I’m the fan.
  • Buffalo versus Ottawa — Canadian content yet again. This pencil likes the Great White North.
  • Ottawa versus Montreal — The battle of the Battle of Canada East goes to the Canadians.

Western Conference

  • San Jose versus Colorado
    • We both say San Jose doesn’t choke. Yet.
  • Chicago versus Nashville
    • I’m calling upset with the Predators shocking the Blackhawks into some semblance of NOT PARTYING ALL THE TIME DUMBASSES. Or something like that. Oh yeah the pencil went to Chicago.
  • Vancouver versus Los Angeles
    • I’m really torn with this one but I’m sticking with the Sedins. Vancouver in a 7 game showdown of death. Kate’s going Canadian again.
  • Phoenix versus Detroit
    • I feel bad. I really do. They deserve better for all the work the put in. Detroit will win but I don’t think it will be as easy as everyone thinks. Kate has the desert dogs going forward.

My Breakdown:

  • San Jose versus Nashville — I say they don’t choke yet.
  • Vancouver versus Detroit — This is where the “upset” run ends. Vancouver to win.
  • San Jose versus Vancouver — Suck it Sharks. Canucks to the finals.

Pencil of Fate:

  • San Jose versus Phoenix — It picks the choke to happen here. Phoenix forward.
  • Chicago versus Vancouver — Canadian content all the way.
  • Phoenix versus Vancouver — I say again, Canadian content all the way.

Stanley Cup Finals

I have Washington versus Vancouver. Kate has the all-Canadian final of Montreal versus Vancouver. I think Alex O hoists the cup in the Capitol. Kate believes in Vancouver 2010 (see what I did there?)