Dangerous Waters Puzzle

Dangerous Waters 3D Jigsaw PuzzleOlivia received a 500-piece 3D puzzle called "Dangerous Waters" for Christmas from my brother Dave (among many other cool presents from everyone).

She worked hard to put it together with a little help from TJ and Maya - and (hopefully more helpful) help from me - and was able to get it finished in 2 days...pretty good for her first puzzle! What made the achievement that much sweeter was that the picture is 3D (there's an animated image of it on the website) so the image does not stay still. And the pieces are slightly reflective so putting them together using an overhead light is pretty tricky.

Having not done any puzzles since she was a kid, Olivia came up with some strategies:

  • She made the outside of the puzzle first. Brilliant idea.
  • She concentrated on an identifiable section (the large open mouth) early on and nearly finished it all on the first day, which helped to place other bits of the puzzle around it.
  • Sometimes we looked at the box cover and tried to figure out where individual pieces should go, but that only worked when the piece had something identifiable and not too ambiguous on it.
  • We found that putting pieces into roughly the right location in the puzzle, even if they didn't have any adjoining pieces, helped so other pieces could be added to them later.
  • Toward the end, we sorted the pieces into groups of the same shape and tried each piece in the remaining gaps.
It was a really fun activity, I'm glad Olivia asked for my help, and the end result was rewarding - I reckon we should frame the finished puzzle! I can't picture myself becoming a puzzle addict, but when you've got young kids and don't get out all that often, finding something that's fun and that you both enjoy is worth doing again. I'm looking forward to the next one...

DVD Player Broke

Well, I blogged about getting a new cheapo DVD player 2 years ago, and now it's broke. I reckon 2 years is a good life...you get what you pay for, and we only paid $90 (at the time, the lowest price you could get a DVD player for).

After Christmas we'll look out for another cheapo, but until then we're stuck watching VHS (!) or using the X-Box (which is region-encoded, and has a sucky remote control).

Merry Christmas!

Wishing all my reader a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Look forward to continuing writing in 2006!

Happy 6th Anniversary Wifey

I almost forgot to blog about it - Happy 6th Wedding Anniversary Wifey! A day impossible to forget - Saturday, December 11th, 1999 - and now 6 great years under the belt. Looking forward to more of the best years of my life...

p.s. Thanks Rodney for prompting this...Happy Anniversary to you guys too!

Guardian's "Top 20 Geek Novels"

I like Science Fiction stories. When I saw via Stephen Said that the UK newspaper "The Guardian" did a blog poll for "the best geek novels written in English since 1932", I thought it was worth reproducing the results (percentages and in brackets, the number of people who voted):

1. The HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy -- Douglas Adams 85% (102) 
2. Nineteen Eighty-Four -- George Orwell 79% (92)
3. Brave New World -- Aldous Huxley 69% (77)
4. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? -- Philip Dick 64% (67)
5. Neuromancer -- William Gibson 59% (66)
6. Dune -- Frank Herbert 53% (54)
7. I, Robot -- Isaac Asimov 52% (54)
8. Foundation -- Isaac Asimov 47% (47)
9. The Colour of Magic -- Terry Pratchett 46% (46)
10. Microserfs -- Douglas Coupland 43% (44)
11. Snow Crash -- Neal Stephenson 37% (37)
12. Watchmen -- Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons 38% (37)
13. Cryptonomicon -- Neal Stephenson 36% (36)
14. Consider Phlebas -- Iain M Banks 34% (35)
15. Stranger in a Strange Land -- Robert Heinlein 33% (33)
16. The Man in the High Castle -- Philip K Dick 34% (32)
17. American Gods -- Neil Gaiman 31% (29)
18. The Diamond Age -- Neal Stephenson 27% (27)
19. The Illuminatus! Trilogy -- Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson 23% (21)
20. Trouble with Lichen - John Wyndham 21% (19)

Now I've got a few more books to add to my list while browsing at the library.

Will You Be Seeing Narnia?

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe movie opens in Australia on Boxing Day, and having read the C.S. Lewis books as a kid (and adult), I'm looking forward to seeing it. Adding to the excitement is the fact that C.S. Lewis was a Christian who worked his faith into his books, which seems to have caused divides in the movie-going public as well as in Christian circles.

I've quickly skimmed some reviews from normal media (thanks for the heads up, GetReligion), and here's the general gist:

"'Narnia represents everything that is most hateful about religion' - Children won't get the Christian subtext, but unbelievers should keep a sickbag handy during Disney's new epic, writes Polly Toynbee" (The Guardian)

"That's the charm of the Narnia stories: They contain magic and myth, but their mysteries are resolved not by the kinds of rabbits that Tolkien pulls out of his hat, but by the determination and resolve of the Pevensie kids -- who have a good deal of help, to be sure, from Aslan the Lion. For those who read the Lewis books as a Christian parable, Aslan fills the role of Christ because he is resurrected from the dead. I don't know if that makes the White Witch into Satan, but Tilda Swinton plays the role as if she has not ruled out the possibility." (Roger Ebert)

"Alice, down the rabbit hole, tumbled into a Wonderland of vanity and vice — the real world etched in satirical acid — and her early-20th-century American counterpart, Dorothy, found Oz, with its surreal yokels and charlatans, to be just as crackpot a place. But when C.S. Lewis wrote his own variation on rabbit hole metaphysics, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, in which he dispatched four very proper British children into the haunted and mystical winterland of Narnia, he wasn't fooling around, or even cracking a smile. " (Entertainment Weekly)

"...too often in "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," even with a good cast and a promising first hour, the results recall the subtitle of "The Pirates of Penzance," the old Gilbert and Sullivan operetta: "The Slave of Duty." This project is a slave of duty. It tells Lewis' story, which has its share of sticky and ponderous aspects, in a predictable, visually cautious way. You keep waiting to be transported, yet in cinematic terms, the transportation never arrives." (Chicago Tribune)

I say bah humbug to everyone else. I'm not letting any negative reviews bother me - I'm going to see this Disney movie in person!

I'm sure there will be many different viewpoints once the film hits Australian shores/outside the US. I'll let you know what I think.

What about others - will you be seeing it?

Me Church

Via TheOoze, a "parody video of what happens when the church sells out". A church for those of us who've been asking:

I have a busy work week and by the time Sunday rolls around, I'm tired. So how 'bout a church service that starts when I get there?

We want to find a church, where, if he [a crying baby] starts screaming, we're not the bad guys.

You'll have to watch the (short) video to see how the "Me" Church copes.

Glurged Out?

Dan at Signposts is keeping track of the memorable "glurge" that I know I also get in my inbox. "Glurge" is:

...inspirational (often supposedly “true”) tales that conceal much darker meanings than the uplifting moral lessons they purport to offer, and that undermine their messages by fabricating and distorting historical fact in the guise of offering a “true story.”

I find that a lot of this stuff comes under the banner of "christian" inspirational material (the "send this to three friends for an extra blessing"-type stuff), and while I find it funny all by itself most of the time, Dan has gone that extra step and added in answers to some of the questions/comments. Funny.

By the way, snopes.com is a good resource for when you get sent "glurge", to find out if it has any basis at all in fact. I just google for some part of the text, and append "site:snopes.com" to the end of my search to see if it's been documented by this urban legends site.

Abortion Article at LA Times

There's an article on abortion at the LA Times (via GetReligion) that talks to women at an abortion clinic, and Dr. William F. Harrison who has run the clinic since the mid-1970's. I don't know what views other people have on abortion, but here's a few bits as a sample of the article:

He calls himself an "abortionist" and says, "I am destroying life."

But he also feels he's giving life: He calls his patients "born again."

"When you end what the woman considers a disastrous pregnancy, she has literally been given her life back," he says.

Politicians on both sides of the abortion debate often talk up adoption as a better alternative. Harrison's patients do not consider it an option.

And, towards the end:
Before, after and even during an abortion, Harrison lectures his patients on birth control. He urges them to get on the pill and to insist their partners use condoms.

They promise. But Harrison knows many will be back.

His first patient of the day, Sarah, 23, says it never occurred to her to use birth control, though she has been sexually active for six years. When she became pregnant this fall, Sarah, who works in real estate, was in the midst of planning her wedding. "I don't think my dress would have fit with a baby in there," she says.

The last patient of the day, a 32-year-old college student named Stephanie, has had four abortions in the last 12 years. She keeps forgetting to take her birth control pills. Abortion "is a bummer," she says, "but no big stress."

It's interesting hearing from the women at the "front line" of abortion, not in a preachy "don't take away my rights"-kind of way, but often in a sad way. I don't believe the LA Times journalist who authored this article jumps to any conclusions. She just tells it like it is.

Some of the quotes are almost on the point of despair. I feel sad for some of the people interviewed, and angry at others.

The piece also goes on to talk about the possibility of abortion becoming illegal in some US states - I figure that whatever is happening in the US will eventually get to Australia, but I wonder about this...


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