Sunday, December 30, 2012

The 306 Greatest Books #114 - Selected Stories by Anton Chekhov

The next up on my reading of the 306 greatest books is Selected Stories by Anton Chekhov. This book can be found on the Norwegian List and partially on Zane's Top 10 List.

There are two sets of Chekhov stories on these lists. Zane's Top 10 list includes all of his stories (~200) while this one, only has 24 stories. In general, the stories are have been moderately "OK". Many of the early ones feel like Poe, but without the twist; in other words they were rather boring. But his later stories did have the ability to make me feel for the characters even if the story was only 2 pages long. The stories ranged in length from 2 to 35 pages long with most of them being under 10 pages. Should you go out and get this? I don't think it is necessary. His writing is good, but overall, I didn't feel anything great reading the stories. Perhaps I am just not a short story advocate.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Twas the Night Before Christmas (kind of)

This was posted by Ken Carpenter on the Vert Paleo mailing list back in 2007.

Twas the nocturnal segment of the diurnal period preceding the annual
Yuletide celebration, and throughout our place of residence, kinetic
activity was not in evidence among the possessors of this potential,
including that species of domestic rodent known as Mus musculus. Hosiery
was meticulously suspended from the forward edge of the wood burning
caloric apparatus, pursuant to our anticipatory pleasure regarding an
imminent visitation from an eccentric philanthropist among whose
folkloric appellations is the honorific title of St. Nicholas.

The prepubescent siblings, comfortably ensconced in their respective
accommodations of repose, were experiencing subconscious visual
hallucinations of variegated fruit confections moving rhythmically
through their cerebrums. My conjugal partner and I, attired in our
nocturnal head coverings, were about to take slumberous advantage of the
hibernal darkness when upon the avenaceous exterior portion of the
grounds there ascended such a cacophony of dissonance that I felt
compelled to arise with alacrity from my place of repose for the purpose
of ascertaining the precise source thereof.

Hastening to the casement, I forthwith opened the barriers sealing this
fenestration, noting thereupon that the lunar brilliance without,
reflected as it was on the surface of a recent crystalline
precipitation, might be said to rival that of the solar meridian itself
- thus permitting my incredulous optical sensory organs to behold a
miniature airborne runnered conveyance drawn by eight diminutive
specimens of the genus Rangifer, piloted by a minuscule, aged chauffeur
so ebullient and nimble that it became instantly apparent to me that he
was indeed our anticipated caller. With his ungulate motive power
travelling at what may possibly have been more vertiginous velocity than
patriotic alar predators, he vociferated loudly, expelled breath
musically through contracted labia, and addressed each of the octet by
his or her respective cognomen - "Now Dasher, now Dancer..." et al. -
guiding them to the uppermost exterior level of our abode, through which
structure I could readily distinguish the concatenations of each of the
32 cloven pedal extremities.

As I retracted my cranium from its erstwhile location, and was
performing a 180-degree pivot, our distinguished visitant achieved -
with utmost celerity and via a downward leap - entry by way of the smoke
passage. He was clad entirely in animal pelts soiled by the ebony
residue from oxidations of carboniferous fuels which had accumulated on
the walls thereof. His resemblance to a street vendor I attributed
largely to the plethora of assorted playthings which he bore dorsally in
a commodious cloth receptacle.

His orbs were scintillant with reflected luminosity, while his
submaxillary dermal indentations gave every evidence of engaging
amiability. The capillaries of his malar regions and nasal appurtenance
were engorged with blood which suffused the subcutaneous layers, the
former approximating the coloration of Albion's floral emblem, the
latter that of the Prunus avium, or sweet cherry. His amusing sub- and
supralabials resembled nothing so much as a common loop knot, and their
ambient hirsute facial adornment appeared like small, tabular and
columnar crystals of frozen water.

Clenched firmly between his incisors was a smoking piece whose grey
fumes, forming a tenuous ellipse about his occiput, were suggestive of a
decorative seasonal circlet of holly. His visage was wider than it was
high, and when he waxed audibly mirthful, his corpulent abdominal region
undulated in the manner of impectinated fruit syrup in a hemispherical
container. He was, in short, neither more nor less than an obese,
jocund, multigenarian gnome, the optical perception of whom rendered me
visibly frolicsome despite every effort to refrain from so being. By
rapidly lowering and then elevating one eyelid and rotating his head
slightly to one side, he indicated that trepidation on my part was

Without utterance and with dispatch, he commenced filling the
aforementioned appended hosiery with various of the aforementioned
articles of merchandise extracted from his aforementioned previously
dorsally transported cloth receptacle. Upon completion of this task, he
executed an abrupt about-face, placed a single manual digit in lateral
juxtaposition to his olfactory organ, inclined his cranium forward in a
gesture of leave-taking, and forthwith effected his egress by
renegotiating (in reverse) the smoke passage. He then propelled himself
in a short vector onto his conveyance, directed a musical expulsion of
air through his contracted oral sphincter to the antlered quadrupeds of
burden, and proceeded to soar aloft in a movement hitherto observable
chiefly among the seed-bearing portions of a common weed. But I
overheard his parting exclamation, audible immediately prior to his
vehiculation beyond the limits of visibility: "Ecstatic Yuletide to the
planetary constituency, and to that self same assemblage, my sincerest
wishes for a salubriously beneficial and gratifyingly pleasurable period
between sunset and dawn."

Merychippus and a Hippo New Year

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Source Behind some Christmas Traditions

As I go back and drudge up old things that were passed around many years ago. This post goes into the source for a lot of the Christmas traditions that we have today. Thanks Stuart Sumida who sent this out over the Vert Paleo list serve back in 2007.


As you sit back in your chair this Christmas ­- Christ's Mass - (the biggest holiday of the Ancient Roman World called Saturnalia and the birth of the Persian Sun God Mithras was named the birth festival of Jesus by Pope Leo the Great in 885 A.D.) December 25th was also the Feast of Sol Invictus, the Invincible Sun, a cult popular to Romans like Constantine, the first Christian emperor. Modern estimates based on the census records of Augustus and astronomy calculate Jesus' actual birth may have occurred in July although Christians had started to use the Saturnalia as the birthday feast as early as the 300's A.D.) your yule log (German Norse custom, the Yule Festival lasting twelve days),

...wrapping your presents in pretty paper (Roman Saturnalia custom)

...with your house all decorated with lights (Roman New Year custom)

...under your mistletoe (Druid custom),

...drinking from your Wassel Bowl (Anglo-German hot beer with toast floating in which is why we "toast" with the words "was-heil"-hail to you.  Egg Nog was a drink of Elizabethan sailors which means 'Eggs with Grog".)

You're admiring your Christmas Tree.  Besides Druid tree worship, in Ancient times Germans and Vikings brought evergreen boughs into their homes at the winter solstice to bring back the plants from winter. Legend was in the 8th Century Saint Boniface stopped pagan Germans from sacrificing to Odin at a sacred oak by declaring the oak sacred to the Christ child. In the Middle Ages Dec 24th was the Feast of Saints Adam & Eve. The western theatrical tradition survived in the form of Medieval Mystery Plays, acting out stories from the Bible. So this day they would do a play about the temptation and expulsion from the Garden of Eden. A tree was brought into the church and decorated to represent the Tree of Life, glass balls representing the fruit. This is one of the origins of the Christmas Tree, The Feast of Adam and Eve was dispensed with during the Counter-Reformation. This custom was brought to America first by Hessian German soldiers, but it really caught on when Queen Victoria's husband German Prince Albert set up a Christmas Tree in the British royal palace in the 1840. Charles Dickens called it " A new German toy." In 1877 The New York Times called Xmas trees " A useless rootless corpse, unworthy of the day." But Soon everyone had to have one, and anything fashionable in England was soon cool in America too. Thomas Edison first replaced the candles with a string of electric lightbulbs in 1882, President Grover Cleveland lit the first White House Christmas tree in 1895.

Holly bloomed only at this time of year and to Medieval people looked like the Crown of Thorns with the little red berries symbolizing blood droplets. Poinsettas were introduced in the 1850s by the U.S. consul to Mexico, Jacob Poinsetta.

And you dream of a visit from Santa Claus.  A hybrid of Anglo-Dutch customs appearing in its modern form in New York in the late 1850's. The English form was St. Nicholas, a big jolly Bishop in a red suit and the Dutch had Kris Kringle, the elf who dropped down your chimney and was also known as 'Klaus-in-the-Cinders' or 'Cinder-Klaus'. The Welsh had a Druid priest who distributed magic mushrooms wore a red robe with white fur trim. To avoid the more toxic qualities they fed
these mushrooms to Reindeer and drank an ale fermented from their urine.  Yeah, that's where the Reindeer come from. The first image of him was drawn in 1859 in the New York Sun by cartoonist Thomas Nast for the anonymously published poem "A Visit from Saint Nicholas" attributed to Clement Clarke Moore. Nast also created the Democratic Donkey and Republican elephant. In 1866 Nast originated the idea that Santa was from the North Pole to stop post Civil War squabbling as to
whether Santa was a Yankee or a Southerner. The modern Santa Claus image was created for a 1930's Cocoa Cola ad by illustrator Haddon Sundblom

The song "THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS" was a secret code from an unknown author in the XVIII Century. From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the
children could remember.

The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ, don't ask me why. Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments. Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love. The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John. The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament. The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation. Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit: Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy. The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes. Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience,
Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control. The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments. The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples. The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.

The carol "Silent Night" was composed by Austrian minister Rudolph Scribner in 1848.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer appeared in 1939 in a story by a Montgomery Ward Department Store ad exec named Mayo - Gene Autry the Singing Cowboy recording the famous song (after dozens of other singers passed on doing so).

So here's wishing you hopes for a "White Christmas" (song written by Russian-Jewish composer Irving Berlin) and a very Happy New Year (courtesy of the 12 month calendar reformed in 45 B.C. by the Hellenic-Egyptian scientist Sosigenes for Julius Caesar, modified by Pope Gregory in 1582 and not accepted by English speaking lands until 1752, else we'd be celebrating New Years in March - the stubborn Old Believers were called April Fools.)

Merry Christmas, Freylich Chaunnakah, Happy Ramadan, Happy Winter Solstice, Happy Washing of the Buddha, Happy Birth of Mithras - who was born in the wilderness and adored by shepards, Io, Io, Saturnalia, Joyeux Noel, Bozego Narodzenia, Frohe Weinacht, Prettig Kerstfeest, Nadolig llawen, Selamat Hari Krismas, Happy Birth of Sol Invictus the Sungod, Happy death and rebirth of Baldur son of Odin, Happy beginning of the rise of Porsephone back from Hades to her mother Demeter, and
please pass the reindeer pee! ­


Tom & Pat Sito (and Stuart Sumida) 2007

Friday, December 7, 2012

2012 Personal Goals - Month 11 Update

11 Months down. Just need to get through the holidays.

1. Finish first draft of my novel -
January 1st - 3rd year on the list. Lets see if I can do it this year. Starting point - 1st section first draft is done.
Months 1-11 Update - Nothing new

2. Drop weight to 167
January 1st - Again 3rd year on the list. I think I will have a little more time this year to get it done. Starting point - 182.1.
Month 1 Update - 181.7
Month 2 Update - 179.0
Month 3 Update - 178.3
Month 4 Update - 175.3
Month 5 Update - 173.6
Month 6 Update - 172.1
Month 7 Update - 169.5 (Almost there!!)
Month 8 Update - 169.9
Month 9 Update - 168.2
Month 10 Update - 170.1
Month 11 Update - 171.8 - Damn holidays

3 Read 2 of the Top Ten books on Zanes book list
January 1st - 3 books are left on the list. I am currently in the middle of War and Peace and hope to finish it by March.
Month 1 Update - Finished Book 3 of 4 in War and Peace.
Month 2 Update - Finished War and Peace. 1 book to go.
Months 3-10 Update - Nothing new
Month 11 - Started reading some of the Anton Chekov short stories

4. (DONE) Read 7 books on the Sybervision Book List for a total of 75
January 1st - To get to a nice round number of 75 I want to finish 7 more books.
Month 1 Update - Reading War and Peace
Month 2 Update - Finished War and Peace. 6 books to go.
Month 3 Update - Nothing new
Month 4 Update - Read Camille and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. 4 books to go.
Month 5 Update - Read How We Think. 3 books to go.
Month 6 Update - Read Carmen. 2 books to go.
Month 7 Update - Read Turn of the Screw. 1 Book to go.
Months 8-10 Update - Nothing new.
Month 11 Update - Read Far from the Madding Crowd. Done!

5. (DONE) Read 7 books on the BBC Book List for a total of 45
January 1st - These are generally easier books to read, especially with Annabelle.
Month 1 Update - Reading Anne of Green Gables and War and Peace
Month 2 Update - Finished War and Peace. 6 books to go.
Month 3 Update - Finished Anne of Green Gables. 5 books to go.
Month 4 Update - Nothing new
Month 5 Update - Read The Faraway Tree. 4 books to go.
Month 6 Update - Read The Story of Tracy Beaker. 3 books to go.
Month 7 Update - Read Double Act. 2 Books to go.
Month 8 Update - Nothing new.
Month 9 Update - Read Girls in Love. 1 book to go.
Month 10 Update - Nothing new
Month 11 Update - Read Far from the Madding Crowd. Done!

6. Update 2 Geologic Movie Reviews
January 1st - I have 1 update I need to do one one movie and a complete overhaul of the other.
Months 1-7 Update - Nothing new
Month 8 Update - Finished the corrections to Dante's Peak. 1 to go.
Months 9-11 Update - Nothing new

7. Finish 1 more movie on my Geological Movie Review
January 1st - Look to do 1 more movie, most likely Earthquake!.
Months 1-11 Update - Nothing new

8. Watch 15 of the 100 Greatest Movies of All Time (according to AFI)
January 1st - Current count 70 so 15 more will get me 1/2 way to the goal.
Month 1 Update - Watched High Noon. 14 more to go.
Month 2 Update - Watched Double Indemnity. 13 more to go.
Months 3-6 Update - Nothing new
Month 7 Update - Watched Sunset Boulevard. 12 more to go.
Month 8 Update - Nothing new.
Month 9 Update - Watched The Gold Rush. 11 more to go.
Month 11 Update - Nothing new

10. Skin the top of the Hovercraft
January 1st - I finished working on the bottom last year so lets see if I can get the top done this year. And with my new garage heater I will be able to work during the colder months.
Months 1-8 Update - Nothing new
Month 9 Update - Put on one coat of protectant. Nothing much but it's a start.
Month 10 Update - Nothing new
Month 11 Update - Put on second coat of protectant.

11. Catalogue, photograph, and organize Star Wars collection by CVI
January 1st - With Star Wars Celebration VI coming up in August I want to catalogue and photograph my collection to get ready to know anything I need to buy when I go.
Month 1 Update - Caught up on the pile of recent stuff but nothing else.
Months 2-7 Update - Nothing new
Month 8 Update - Went to CVI but didn't get this finished in time, will have to get this done by the end of the year.
Months 9-11 Update - Nothing new.

12. Do 1 major job each month on the "Things to Do for the House" list
January 1st - With an updated list we have 20 things that we want to do to get the house in tip-top shape.
Month 1 Update - Started working on some things but nothing finished
Month 2 Update - Finished putting boards in the attic and moving stuff up there. 1 task done, 11 to go.
Month 3 Update - I was going to replace the side door but it turned out to be a lot more work than I anticipated so I only have it about 2/3rds done. 11 still to go.
Month 4 Update - Finished installing the new side door. 10 to go.
Month 5 Update - Extended the sprinkle head. 9 to go.
Month 6 Update - Several projects are in process but one project took a lot more work than was anticipated. Still 9 to go.
Months 7-8 Update - Nothing more completed
Month 9 Update - Finished removing the mirror and upgrading the attic. 7 Projects to go.
Months 10-11 Update - Nothing new

Other items of note:
Besides the holidays I have been mostly busy with school. I submited another manuscript for publication and my first manuscript was accepted for print. We just need to wait for the technical edits on that and it should be all set to go.


9. (DONE) Do 1 Geological Fact for each month.
January 1st - This went over well last year so let's do it again.
Month 1 Update - I wanted to finish these early and release them as the months went by. I have 9 done so far. 3 left to go.
Month 2 Update - Finished the last 3. So this task is DONE!