Archive for the ‘Idle Thoughts’ Category

The War-and-Peace-O-Meter: Week Seven

Previous weeks: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

I’ve broken the 500-page barrier this week. I wouldn’t want all books to be this long, but there is something almost luxurious about the opportunity you have, as a reader, to become absorbed in these characters’ lives. The epic scale of the novel is very much grounded in the emotions of the characters, whose virtues and flaws ebb and flow as the narrative throws love and power at them. It’s all very pleasing and satisfying to read.

The War-and-Peace-O-Meter: Week Six

Previous weeks: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

After a hiatus of three weeks, during which I found that newborn babies and immense works of Russian literature do not really complement each other, I’ve been making good progress with the absorbing drama of the first part of volume two. I’m congenitally unable to not have a book on the go, however, so sought out some more light-hearted reading material for the Little Monkey’s first few weeks. (Not that War and Peace lacks for (wry) humour, but it does demand the reader’s attention.)

East of Ealing, by Robert Rankin, was the best so far of the Brentford Trilogy – it’s third in a series of five – although still not a match for his Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse. And a chance encounter with a Kurt Vonnegut quote impelled me to read God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, which was every bit as splendid as I hoped it would be. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to read something by Vonnegut, he’s exactly the sort of writer that appeals to my tastes; I shall have a couple of his other works cued up for when I’ve finished War and Peace

The War-and-Peace-O-Meter: Week Five

Previous weeks: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4

I finished the first volume this week, just as Mrs. Monkeyshines was going into labour. Twenty-four hours later, our first child was born, a Little Monkey called Toby Charles. Things are going well so far, and I might have a chance to snatch a few chapters over the next couple of weeks, but I think my progress will be somewhat diminished as I allow my son to bask in my adoration…

The War-and-Peace-O-Meter: Week Four

Previous weeks: 0, 1, 2, 3

Pretty much bang-on the 20% mark this week. I had hoped to get through it a bit quicker, but while it’s eminently readable, it’s not the sort of book you can churn through at a rate of knots. And, since I’m only going to read this book once, I might as well savour it…

Part of the reason I haven’t read much this week is because I did some working from home, so I haven’t had my usual bus-time for reading. Instead, I tended to watch the second Frasier episode on Channel 4 at breakfast time; then watched some Wimbledon at tea-time. Haven’t really done much of note this week – it feels like I’ve mostly just been sitting around, idling my engine, pacing the halls, and getting my metaphors all muddled.

The War-and-Peace-O-Meter: Week Three

Previous weeks: 0, 1, 2

The battles in War and Peace have been good reading this week, although my progress has been somewhat stymied by the BBC. They’ve adapted Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie novels (two of which I have previously reviewed: Case Histories and One Good Turn), which Mrs. Monkeyshines and I have enjoyed settling down to of a Sunday evening. The third novel, When Will There Be Good News? has been on my ‘to-read’ list for a while, and I wanted to get through it before I watch it on TV tonight. So that’s gobbled up most of my reading time this week; but I’m glad that it did, as I liked it the best of the three books. The strands of the story came together pleasingly, and as with the previous books, the narrative twists were unexpected yet plausible.

Our new telly turned up this week (a nice shiny LED flat screen), which was rather exciting for me – I’ve only ever bought one television before, about 10 years ago, and it was a big ole CRT as flat screens cost the same as a small car back then. Mrs. Monkeyshines and I finished watching the final season of 24 on the new screen – as with most of the latter series, there were ridiculous moments, but it was entertaining escapsim. And the foreknowledge that this series was the last provided the added tension of not knowing how it would end, whether Jack really would make it through day 8…

The War-and-Peace-O-Meter: Week Two

Previous weeks: 0, 1

Well into part two of volume one of War and Peace, and the men have gone off to war. Although as yet there’s been no actual fighting; I suspect that the marching, waiting around, and wonderfully frantic retreat are more typical of the realities of war. More pragmatically, I’m on page 150 – now that I’m into triple figures there’s no going back.

It’s been a relatively quiet week in the MonkeyShines household; Binky’s wobbly canine tooth necessitated another trip to the vets, which he did not enjoy, but he’s his usual sociable self, so isn’t too poorly. I’ve been wasting too much time playing Glitch, but figured I might as well enjoy it while it’s quiet on the home front…

The War-and-Peace-O-Meter: Week One

Last week I explained that I would be tracking my progress while I read War and Peace. I think I’ve done quite well in this first week, although I do feel like a bit of a lemon pulling it out of my bag on the bus. I’m getting to grips with the characters and their connections, and it’s really rather engagingly written.

Since an in-depth review of the book seems a bit redundant, I thought I might as well chronicle what’s going on in my life while I read War and Peace. I’ve had a good week, on the whole: I submitted my first first-authored paper to a journal, and bought a home cinema speaker system with some ill-gotten gains from a lucky punt on the football a few weeks ago. Binky did require a trip to the vets (dodgy tooth), but he now seems to be eating and sleeping better. And Mrs. MonkeyShines and I have been enjoying the anticipation of an exciting time later this month…

Single Noun Book Reviews

I’ve been rather slack lately at writing about the books I’ve been reading; I don’t expect anyone else to care, but I’ve found that I quite like having a record of what I’ve read. So, to catch up for May’s reading, I’m writing one word book reviews; to increase the cryptic and obtuse nature of the endeavour for no apparent reason, I’m limiting myself to nouns. A rating out of five provides a bit of context in which to interpret the review.

The World of Null-A, A. E. Van Vogt
Review: Wiring.
Rating: 3.49 out of 5:

Modern Baptists, James Wilcox
Review: Beer.
Rating: 4.25 out of 5:

Survivors, Terry Nation
Review: Snow.
Rating: 4.12 out of 5:

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, Marina Lewycka
Review: Apples.
Rating: 4.01 out of 5:

The War-and-Peace-O-Meter

Some years ago I asked for War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy for Christmas; a new translation had just been published, and that seemed as good a reason as any to tackle this metaphorically and literally immense book. I do a lot of my reading on the bus, which has tended to put me off starting it, but I decided that I should stop procrastinating and get on with it. I’ve read the first few chapters, and I’m enjoying it – I was a bit worried that my historical ignorance might make the setting a bit confusing, but Tolstoy does a fine job of filling in the background, and there are a few judicious notes by the translator, Anthony Briggs (it’s the 2005 Penguin edition, by the way).

I thought it might be nice to visually track my progress, so, naturally, I built a War-and-Peace-O-Meter. I swiped the image from elsewhere, modified it a bit, then wrote some very simple CSS rules to do the “filling up”. For the War-and-Peace-O-Meter I only need a static level (and will be posting weekly updates), but to demonstrate how you can fill up the meter dynamically, you can change the percentage:


Geek Details

The image of the -o-meter is a gif with transparency in the middle. Behind that is a div with a white background, and behind that is a div with a red background. The height of the middle div is dynamically adjusted, revealing more or less of the red behind. This is a bit more complicated than absolutely necessary, but it’s easy to implement, and it’s flexible in that you don’t have to use a solid block of colour as the bottom layer, it could be an image that is gradually revealed. Like in pubs which have packets of nuts mounted on a bit of card, and which reveal a saucy lady as the packets are removed. No saucy ladies here though, this is a family-friendly website.


.ometer_coloured { background:crimson; width:90px; height:370px; } .ometer_mask { background:white; position:absolute; z-index:1; height:361px; width:90px; } #ometer { background:url(‘/img/ometer.gif’) no-repeat; position:absolute; z-index:10; width:90px; height:370px; }

<div class=’ometer_coloured’> <div id=’mask’ class=’ometer_mask’> <div id=’ometer’></div> </div> </div>

function updateMeter(ometer_mask_id, ometer_pc_id) { var pc = document.getElementById(ometer_pc_id).value; var numericExpression = /^[0-9\.]+$/; if (pc.match(numericExpression)){ var total_rows = 353; rows = Math.round(total_rows * (pc/100)); if (rows > total_rows) { rows = total_rows; } rows = 361 – rows; var mask = document.getElementById(ometer_mask_id) = rows+’px’; } else { alert(‘Numbers only, please.’); } }

Feline Book Review: Binky to the Resuce

Having recently reviewed the first instalment of Binky the Space Cat’s adventures, I instructed my hoomins to furnish me with the sequel, Binky to the Rescue, by Ashley Spires.

Cat schools aren’t big on teaching hoomin language (frankly, the cat community is staggered that learning Cat language isn’t compulsory in hoomin schools), but I’ve picked up enough to follow the dramatic story here, as the fictionalised Binky has exciting adventures in outer space (what hoomins call a ‘garden’). The drawings are lovely and expressive, and sufficiently detailed to bear repeated scrutiny. Altogether, thoroughly entertaining.