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Sunday, March 21, 2010

I Am Now Ready For "The Two Towers"!

I had very little time to read last week. I was busy at work, came home later than usual most days, then had to attend a couple of social programs that took some more of my time. I was also dealing with setting up my new DSL modem, and testing a new power supply and so on and so forth. But through it all, by squeezing in as little as a page at a time, I finished "The Fellowship Of The Ring" this week.

It was a book that was hard to put down. Every interruption that I had to endure during my reading of it was painful, but such is life. Now, I am looking forward to starting "The Two Towers". I hope the book is not checked out when I try to pick it up at the library tomorrow. I don't think I need have much fear of that because most people don't seem to have much interest in such classic books anymore.

I see it even in my daughters' reading habits. My daughters are voracious readers who read all the time. In fact, they read during their meals, which I don't approve of at all. But you have to pick your fights! Anyways, in spite of their reading during most of their waking hours (outside of school), I can't get them to read much non-fiction. That is another fight I have had repeatedly with them (this I am not willing to give up on yet). When I meet their teachers at parent-teacher conferences, I have let them know about this problem, and they have acknowledged that it is difficult to get children to read non-fiction.

As an alternative to getting them to read more non-fiction books, I offered them a compromise. I would not harp on them to read non-fiction if they would read classics, as identified by me. But that has not gone too well either. I picked out some Robert Louis Stevenson books like "Treasure Island" for my daughters. They read a few pages because I insisted they do. After that, they went back to their usual fare. Maybe they will develop an interest in the classics later in life. In the meantime, I doubt I will have much competition at the library trying to pick up "The Two Towers" tomorrow!

At work, things have been proceeding vaguely in the direction I want things to go. There have been many detours and meanderings that have wasted time and effort. This week also some false starts and a couple of false alarms that had us thinking we had hit a brick wall which we could not surmount. But we managed to move forward anyways. We still are on track as far as our deadlines are concerned, so I am not complaining yet.

I also had my performance review this week. The review turned out to be approximately as I expected, there were no surprises on either the positive or negative side. I gave my manager a decent accounting of my performance last year, and in exchange he gave me a manager's eye view of what I did right and what I did wrong. Our perspectives were not too far off, so we shook hands on the review and called it done.

In my karate class, one of the newer students took his green belt test last week. I had trained him with his latest katas, and also worked with him on his self-defense techniques and other skills he needed for this test. I was relieved that he did pretty well on his test, and passed without any problems. Obviously, he needs more work, but as my sensei loves to point out, everybody in the world, including himself needs more work all the time. But, overall, he was quite pleased with the performance of this student.

My sensei has also let me know that I will be taking my black-belt test pretty soon. I am reviewing all my katas in class right now and ironing out the wrinkles in them so that they look presentable in a black-belt test. I am also working on my other skills like self-defense, sparring, etc. I am pleased with how my interval training workout routine has improved my endurance and stamina while sparring. I have a feeling that will come in quite handy in the actual black-belt test when I will probably be sparring continuously for 15 to 20 minutes or more, and probably against more than one opponent at a time too.

My sensei also told me that part of becoming a black belt in the martial arts is the ability to teach others and convey the art to them. I obviously can not be tested on this aspect of things during the test itself, but I am probably being tested right now with my assignments to teach the newer students various techniques and getting them ready for their tests.

At home, my daughters had a major dance performance this week. They had a bunch of rehearsal sessions before that. The dance performance itself was about 3 hours long. It went off very well, and my daughters danced very well if I do say so myself! Shuttling them to the rehearsal sessions, in addition to their already full schedule of music lessons, gymnastics lessons, violin lessons, etc., kept my wife and I pretty busy this week.

But now, they have their spring break, so at least I don't have to take them to school for the next week. They still have a couple of classes during the break, and they have a music performance next Sunday. But hopefully, the frenetic pace of life at home will come down significantly this week.

As I wrote last Saturday, I did not have internet access for a few days earlier this week. But since I still had internet access at work, my blogging was not affected much. My post on Microsoft Access focused on unmatched queries. All the graphics in that post were created by me using various tools like MS Paint and MS Powerpoint. Those were the graphics I talked about last Sunday as taking a whole morning.

On Tuesday, I came out with a post on the 10 worst PC's of all time. On Wednesday I continued my explorations into the nature of polynomial division. On Thursday, I wrote up a post on regaining internet access at home (it actually happened late on Tuesday, but I did not have time to write about it right away). On Friday, I put together a post on some humorous, confusing signs, and another post on giving away a power supply I had bought with the hope that it would work with my DSL modem as a replacement power supply (actually it did not, which is why I want to give it away to someone who might have a better use for it).

Even though I avoid being too politically slanted or opinionated, I felt strongly enough about healthcare reform to put together a post on Saturday arguing for it. I also took my own advice from that post and sent emails to my congresspersons urging them strongly to vote for healthcare reform or lose my vote in the next election. If enough people did this, I am sure healthcare reform would be a done deal by now. As I write this, I am reading news articles that say there are now enough votes in the US House of Representatives to pass the healthcare reform legislation under consideration. I am happy. But I hope this is just the first step on the road towards a national single-payer healthcare system, which I am convinced, is the only system that works over the long term.

This week four visitors from new countries visited my blog. They were from Saint Vincent & The Grenadines, Uganda and Oman. Yes, I said 4 new countries, and I have listed only 3. Well, the fourth new "country" was classified as being from an unknown anonymous proxy. I have had visitors to my blog from 114 "countries" so far (4 of them are actually not countries. Flag counter says they are from "Unknown European Union", "Unknown Asia/Pacific Region", "Unknown Satellite Provider", and "Unknown Anonymous Proxy").

What a wonderful thing the internet is. In what other medium can I write such that people from 114 (or 110 if you want to get technical about it!) different countries would read my words? Newspaper publishers would be lucky in the days before the internet to have readers from a dozen countries read their writings in printed form! Obviously, my blog does not yet have the circulation of a printed newspaper, but printed newspapers are bridging the gap in leaps and bounds by losing their circulation numbers rapidly!

That is going to have to be all for now. I spent most of today shopping for clothes for my daughters. Going in and out of stores trying to satisfy their tastes while at the same time trying to make sure I don't break the bank was quite exhausting. I don't know what I would do without my wife doing most of the legwork. It was exhausting enough driving them to the mall, and sitting around waiting for my wife and kids to troop through the stores looking for clothes! It is time for me to unwind and catch a movie or something before I have to get ready for another week at work. Why can't they give me a spring-break like my kids have?!

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