Another trivia roundup

I run through trivia books like other girls run through, say, a tube of lipstick.

At any given time, in between the novels I read, I thumb through five to eight trivia books simultaneously and all over the house — in bed, in the bathroom, in the den, in the kitchen. As I’ve said before, they make great palate cleansers, especially when I’ve been reading text-heavy narratives, plus they contain snippets that can be read and digested easily, not to mention the convenience of being able to stop at any point of the book and pick it up days or weeks later and just keep on reading. The trivia junkie that I am, these useless bits of information do come in handy from time to time during the weekly quiz nights and the monthly geek fights that I attend.

I finish a batch of trivia books several times in a year, hence the trivia book roundups. Here’s the last bunch from last year, which includes Say Chic; The Bathroom Trivia Book; Be Safe!; Cocktail Party Cheat Sheets; Kiss and Tell; A Year in High Heels; From Altoids to Zima; The TV Guide Book of Lists; The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Fun FAQs. These are books 189-198 for 2010, which means I only owe you 6 more book reviews in my 2010 backlog. Hopefully I have the remaining six up by next week so I can move on to my January reads (12 and counting) as well as a surprise in the works for this month (patience!).

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Surely you’re joking, Mr. Feynman!

I was watching an episode of The Big Bang Theory where Leonard celebrates his birthday, and Wollowitz presents him with a signed copy of Feynman’s Lectures on Physics. By then I’d watched enough BBT episodes to know that Richard Feynman won a Nobel Prize for Physics (and is somewhat of a god to theoretical physicists), but I had a nagging feeling I’d come across that name somewhere else.

Last week, I was rooting through my shelves for a book to swap at the FFP book discussion, when I spotted a book I’d forgotten about, a copy of Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character), a semi-autobiographical collection of stories narrated by Feynman, caught on tape by his friend Ralph Leighton. I’d gotten it for about P30 at a Scholastic warehouse sale last year, and I got it mainly because the cover looked interesting and I had a bag to fill, but I had no idea what it was about.

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All about Seuss


Last Saturday, our book club Flips Flipping Pages held our July book discussion on one of my childhood favorites, Dr. Seuss.  I’d been looking forward to this discussion because we haven’t tackled any children’s books yet in a year of book discussions, and I was part moderator of this one, where I took on the discussion of the art of Dr. Seuss.

As a child, I was fortunate enough to attend a school with a principal that had special interest in children’s books, and so our library was well-stocked with the best of them. I remember discovering the Dr. Seuss section when I was in first grade, and I spent many happy hours in the library — well, happy for me, not for the maid who waited for me for hours at the gate, because I didn’t want to go home yet so I evaded her for as long as I can. Hehe.

For this particular discussion, I read three Dr. Seuss books (books #114-116 of 2009): How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss; Seuss, the whole Seuss, and nothing but the Seuss: A Visual Biography of Theodore Seuss Geisel by Charles D. Cohen; and Hooray for Diffendoofer Day by Dr. Seuss, Jack Prelutsky, and Lane Smith.

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Up, Up, and Away

(blogging about another old favorite, as I’m still in the middle of reading Silverlock and am majorly swamped, hay…)

When I was in 4th grade, my dad usually picked me up after work so I had a few hours to kill while waiting. I usually read books if I didn’t have any homework to work on, or if I didn’t feel like doing it, which was more often the case.

Now in those days, we decorated the room with special corners for each subject — Christian Doctrine, Science, Math, Social Studies, etc. Of course, my favorite corner was the Reading Corner, where everyone brought a book or two to share with the class and we would have a mini-library to escape to in between classes or during DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) time, so we wouldn’t get listed down as “noisy girls”. Haha, magically by the end of the school year the books would have dwindled to a couple mo.tley ones; I lost a lot of books to the Reading Corner, although I gained some other kids’ books too, wink, wink.

One of the books I discovered in our 4th grade reading corner is the 1947 Newbery Award winner The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois, which I first read while waiting to get picked up from school one rainy afternoon at Gate 1.

The Twenty-One Balloons one of the best escapist stories I have ever had the pleasure of reading, and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read it and how many copies I’ve worn out and lost (e.g. loaned and never returned to me! grr).

I really love the premise: Professor William Waterman Sherman decides to retire from teaching arithmetic to grubby kids, and decides to fly off on a grand vacation — drifting aimlessly on a hot-air balloon! I loved the detailed description of how The Globe (Prof. Sherman’s hot air balloon) was constructed — a small wicker house with an observation deck, and everything made from the lightest materials — even a small library of paper-bound books in tiny print!

Professor Sherman left San Francisco intending to fly across the Pacific Ocean, and three weeks later, he mysteriously turns up floating in the Atlantic Ocean, in a wooden wreckage with 21 balloons!

Where exactly has he been? On the island of Krakatoa (he flies over the Philippines!), which turns out to be an extremely wealthy island-nation of eccentric citizens!

The Diamond Mines

I love the idea of Krakatoa in The Twenty-One Balloons, and this book has made me daydream about living there, and given the choice, I’d drop everything and go. The island has an expansive diamond mine right under the volcano Krakatoa. According to Krakatoan history (as narrated by Mr. F), a sailor got shipwrecked on the island and discovered its treasures. As soon as he was able to return to America, he handpicked 20 families of diverse talents and interests. Each family was renamed with a letter of the alphabet, e.g. Mr. A, Mr. B, A-1, and A-2 and so on until the Ts, and the small nation lives a leisurely life financed by discreetly selling a small load of diamonds each year.

The Coat of Arms of Krakatoa: “Not New Things, but New Ways”

What’s most interesting about Krakatoa is its “Gourmet Government.” Each day of their 20-day calendar (A through T) is assigned to a specific family, who is tasked to serve meals at their house, which functions as a restaurant specializing in a particular cuisine — A for American, B for British, C for Chinese, D for Dutch, etc. It’s a lot of fun, as each house resembles the architecture of the country too — from an Egyptian pyramid to a Russian tea house to an Italian Bistro and a miniature Versailles! — and the families are very competitive in coming up with great dining experiences for one another, and they have theme months too, like “Month of Lamb,” depending on their surplus stock. I imagine every day to be a gastronomic adventure!

There are also a lot of imaginative Krakatoan inventions in the book, including a bed that automatically changes sheets, a collapsible dining room, living room bumpcars, sky beds, and flying merry-go-rounds. William Pene du Bois is not only a gifted writer, he illustrated the book as well, and the illustrations are great fuel for the imagination.

M-1 and M-2’s Sky beds

Of course, you will have to read the book to find out how Professor Sherman ends up in the wrong ocean with 21 balloons. It’s a great book for all ages; kids and adults alike will appreciate the rich experience that Pene du Bois lays out for the reader.

Interesting factoid: the story came out around the same time as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “A Diamond as Big as the Ritz” in 1947, which has a similar plot although very different ideas. William Pene du Bois writes a horrified note as an introduction and quips,”The fact that F. Scott Fitzgerald and I apparently would spend our billions in like ways right down to being dumped from bed into a bathtub is altogether, quite frankly, beyond my explanation.”

My copy: trade paperback. Looking for a hardcover copy!

My rating: 5/5 stars

Doggie 101

(Making up for lost blogging time… This week has been trying, and the book I’m currently reading is taking me such a long time… harr.)
Shortly after we got our new (old) dog Macky (his old family migrated to Canada), who is somewhere between a shih tzu and what looks like an old english sheepdog (they told us he’s a shih tzu), I found a book that made the transition easier for us: The Dog Owner’s Manual: Operating Instructions, Troubleshooting Tips, and advice on Lifetime Maintenance by Dr. David Brunner and Sam Stall (illustrated by Paul Kepple and Jude Buffum).
Although a bit pricey for my regular Book Sale standards (P160), this immediately caught my attention primarily because of its cute vector graphics (it’s from one of my favorite publishers — Chronicle Books, which publishes a lot of quirky books), but mostly because of its smart concept.
It’s a pet care book that reads like an instruction manual for a gadget. The back reads:

At last! A Beginner’s Guide to Canine Technology

Pee stains on the carpet. Barking at all hours of the night. That embarrassing thing he does with your leg. It’s enough to make you cry out, “Why doesn’t my dog have an owner’s manual?” And now, thankfully, he does.

Through step by step instructions and helpful schematic diagrams, The Dog Owner’s Manual explores hundreds of frequently asked questions: Which breeds interface best with children? How can I program my model to fetch? And why is its nose always wet? Whatever your concerns, you’ll find the answers right here — courtesy of celebrated veterinarian Dr. David Brunner and acclaimed author Sam Stall. Together they provide plenty of useful advice for both new and experienced dog owners.

The chapter headings read: Welcome to your new dog! (includes diagram and parts list, memory capacity, product life span); Overview of Makes and Models (product history, top selling models, pre-acquisition checklists); Home installation; Daily Interaction; Basic Programming; Fuel Requirements; Exterior Maintenance; Growth and Development; Interior Maintenance; Emergency Maintenance, and Advanced Functions.
And the schematic diagrams are really schematic diagrams, and are quite entertaining. The book can show you how to give your dog a Heimlich maneuver, get your dog in a car, identify rabies, calculate age in dog years, give your dog a bath, and many more!

Tonight (several months later), I found The Dog Owner’s Maintenance Log (unused, for P15!), which is a spiral bound record book. It’s a great companion to the book, because you can personalize the details and use it to keep track of your dog’s progress. I plan to fill in this one (hehe, read: get my sister to) with Macky’s medical info and other important notes.

Squee for Book Sale! And squee for compulsive book buying!


My copy: Dog Owner’s Manual and Dog Owner’s Maintenance Log, both paperback
My rating: both 5/5 stars