Thursday, June 24, 2010


Every room in the house has bookshelves, and nearly every bookshelf looks like this:
time to decrapitate

Yes, I know - we need to use the library more often, do a better job of donating or otherwise getting rid of books. But we tend to hang onto a lot of non-fiction and reference, and we are all re-readers. In fact, I'm often guilty of returning a book to the library or a friend, only to run out and buy my own copy. As for taking books to the used bookstore, I inevitably exchange them for credit, and come home with more books anyway.

Will these be our saviours?

Kindle and Kobo

I got the Kindle as soon as it became available in Canada. I was quite skeptical about how useful or readable an electronic screen would be till one of my research participants came into the lab with her Sony eReader, which she took travelling while on an archeological dig. Not only did the idea of carrying a whole pile of books along in one small package intrigue me, a good look at the Sony screen convinced me that it would be no harder on the eyes than printed paper.

At the start of the year, only the Kindle and the Sony were available in Canada, now joined by the Kobo. This is what my husband chose, after experiencing considerable eReader envy on our recent holiday. Compared to the Kindle, it has quite a few advantages - as a no-frills reader, it is much much cheaper, even after Amazon's recent price drop in order to compete with the B&N nook. It doesn't have connectivity - content has to be transferred via USB or bluetooth from your computer, but that isn't a dealbreaker for my husband nor many others, I suspect.  I love the smaller, lighter size with the same size (maybe even slightly larger) viewing screen and I like the page navigation from the blue button on the right hand size - it bugs me a bit that the "previous" page button is lefthanded on the Kindle.

But the biggest advantage it has over my Kindle is that it is compatible with the eBooks available through the public library. I think that is fantastic, not least because it will expire at the end of the lending period - no overdue fines!

Both the Kindle and the Kobo have access to free public domain classics, and the Kobo comes preloaded with 100 books. Both allow a certain amount of sharing among multiple devices and family members (or trusted friends) linked to the same account. Both have apps that allow the books to be read by an iPhone, iTouch, or other such device. Choosing one over the other probably comes down to whether one really wants connectivity, and some social sharing - Kindle just introduced the ability to share book passages through Twitter or Facebook. I don't see myself ever using this, but some people might like it. The only distinct disadvantage I can think of for the Kobo is slow loading for a book when you first open it up (you can probably go get a cup of tea in the meantime) but after that, the screen refresh rate is fine.  Tim hasn't had his long enough to really know how good the battery life is, but I can't honestly see how it would be a problem.  And of course there is also the Sony - I don't have personal experience with it, but family and friends who have it are also very happy with theirs.

The REAL question, however: will it actually reduce the pile of books by the side of my bed?

pile of rubble June 2010

Sadly, it appears not.

215800 - what ARE those mysterious numbers?

A few weeks ago, I blithely put up a shiny purple badge on my sidebar then promptly fell silent without an explanatory word. This is because it only took me a few days to realize that this wonderful project, which I think everyone ought to take the opportunity to consider, is in some ways unsuited for me right now, which is not to say it won't be suitable for other people right now, or for myself, a few weeks down the road.

It came to my attention via my friend, original yogalilan, and life coach Lianne Raymond, who has been sharing her practices on the community blog, yogalila . It's been great to drop in on the writing and shared practices on the twitter feed, and the daily musings of originator Bindu Wiles.  Most of all, in provided me with the inspiration and momentum to get out of my yoga slump - I seem to have one every late spring, to the unhappiness of my lower back, especially. So, just by virtue of putting a badge on my sidebar and reading what others are doing, I'm slowly coming back to a habit of consistent practice.

I tend to use my own sequences, tried and true poses that my body needs for regular maintenance, so I infrequently use media. But when I do, right now Jill Miller does what my body needs; I love the approach she takes in YogaTuneup, either with rolling on balls in the form of self-massage or movements that break me out of my habitual patterns - because even in my yoga practice, I tend to have habitual patterns.

My newest interest is a blogger I ran across through Jill's links: Katy Says.  Her approaches often defy conventional wisdom, but she makes persuasive arguments; I love her article You Don't Know Squat, with a terrific biomechanical breakdown of an exercise that hardly any one thinks about, but I'm convinced is essential to our health - even independence - as we age.

However....while the yoga part of 215800 is going great, the 800 part - writing 800 words a day, just doesn't fit with what I need to do in my life right now. This part of the challenge was designed for writers, though with considerable flexibility - Bindu points out that it can be anything that involves words. Participants have shared wonderful blogs posts, memoirs, prose and poetry.  And, I do write, all the time - in the form of my personal journal entries, and academic writing. Up until the time 215800 began, ironically, I was also doing morning pages a la The Artist's Way. But right now, due to abstract deadlines, funding submissions, and other academic responsibilities, all my writing is technical; what often seems like the same 800 words in variants and revisions, distilled into the required formats. I write and draw mind maps, outlines, schematics. I write notes to myself to be used in my thesis. I actually like this kind of writing, and enjoy it. Bindu suggests:
THE WRITING: The writing can be ANYTHING. Memoir, blogs, business plans, essays, fiction, free-writing, letters,……..ANYTHING. The point is to get writing again daily and to have the boundaries and challenge of a daily word count to reach.
 Boundaries and word counts I certainly do have - but determined largely by academic constraints.

I notice that Bindu is extending 215800 by 10 days - fantastic! I plan to keep up my practice regardless - it's for life, after all. But perhaps after getting a few more academic chores behind me, I can spend some time writing a little more freely, and personally, and come more into the spirit of the original intention of the project.

Meantime, a little video love for Jill here - her shoulder routines have done wonders for a chronic injury in this area, and are now part of my regular maintenance.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

in bloom (and stupid lens tricks)

At last, we're getting some semblance of spring and summer, and the few flowers we have that bravely survived the snow, rain, and hail are showing their faces.

Yay columbines - I'm always kind of surprised when they emerge, because the foliage is usually buried under a pile of faster-growing, more aggressive plants.

after the rain

some sort of daisy - I don't know the name, but I sure wish we had more. They're so showy and neon like, they almost seem fake. And of course, the bleeding hearts are blooming prolifically. I look forward to these every year.


the back spurs of a columbine, in macro:


I have been playing stupid camera tricks again, as in this earlier post about free-lensing.  The above macro is the result of  holding the 50mm prime backwards against the camera body, without a mount or protection for the rear element. Suggesting this has elicited cries of horror on other boards, and despite the fact that I recently had to clean dust off my sensor (not as a result of free lens or reverse macro - more from changing lenses on a dusty bus in Turkey), I can't resist doing it again anyway. I  actually do have a very nice macro lens - a non-metering 55mm/3.5 Nikkor, but the ability to just whip your lens off and turn it around - well, I just think that's cool.

Using the free lens the right way around - the rear element held towards the camera body, but not mounted, allows a bit of light leak. I'm trying to get a lensbaby-ish effect, but didn't quite succeed this time. Still, I like doing it, and I like the unpredictability of it, and indeed, lack of control.


I can totally understand why people find the idea of a loose, unprotected lens reckless. But I like experimenting, and really, I am not careless with my things; most of my possessions last decades, and I take good care of them. But I like to use them, even if it means using them in ways the manual might warn you against, and sometimes, just because I can.

Friday, June 18, 2010

inside, looking out

inside, looking out, originally uploaded by Sophie_vf.
I haven't touched my camera in nearly a week. Could be because of the incredibly depressing weather? Why yes, yes it could.

The early winter with its blizzards, followed by late spring with blizzards, has now turned to constant rain. We're used to rain in June, but not quite this much, and not quite with this depressing temperatures.

Till I can get out into the coulees, it's a good time to look at some interior landscapes - these are from inside the student union building at university.

inside, looking out

inside, looking out

Thursday, June 03, 2010

webbie in the bag

webbie in the bag, originally uploaded by Sophie_vf.
answering Stephanie's question on Rhodia Drive.

I don't normally carry this notebook with me, actually. It's just that after coming back from my holiday, it seems to be helpful to start the morning letting my brain unload, and the act of writing seems to set the stage so I can get actual work done, rather than just daydreaming and staring off into space (not that there's anything wrong with that). So my journal has turned into a morning pages kind of thing, which for the time being, helps clear the mental space in preparation for the tasks ahead.

My bag is also not normally this empty. I had to take out several things for the photo - a small handful of pens, a small Habana, and a tin of Neocolor 2 crayons.