Change and responsibility

It's interesting how life changes. Last year I was in an increasingly stressful job thousands of miles away from anything famliar, and trying to juggle the different roles that were being thrust upon me. Not only was I the front line help desk person, I was also the server guy, the email guy, the backup guy and the sound guy, and as the temperature rose I was also the sweaty guy. All these things were getting more intense until I finally injured myself in Summer and almost collapsed from all the stress.

Once we got back to familiar ground and where we thought life would get normal, we found that while we were gone, life here in Southern Manitoba had also kept going and things were not exactly how we left them. Granted some of the things in our house were exactly where we left them, but it turns out they too change over time and a year is not a kind thing to a bag of flour.

As my job before we left on our adventure was nothing special, when we returned I started a job more than an hour away from home. The commute was fine, and I enjoy driving, and I was allowed to work 4 ten hour shifts which made for a long day but I did get to spend Wednesday's at home. This last month my job moved to a much closer location, and now my commute is about 4 minutes instead of 80 and I get homebefore 6pm which is when I left work at the other store.

This has been a wonderful blessing, and I enjoy it, but there is a trade off. I no longer get an entire uninteruted day in the middle of the week to spend with my wife. I also now have time to take on other things of which there have been many. It seems that Sunday afternoon really is the only time when there is time to reflect on life and all that has and is given to me. I suspect that the only remedy is to go to bed earlier, but I've spent my life fighting that and it is so difficult to change.

I am lucky enough to have some projects put on hold, and my own list of things to do around the house are not so great that I won't be able to sneak in a few evenings of relaxing and putting my feet up. I think that will be good, but today there are still some responsibilities that mean I will have a bit more work to do at home before I get to sleep.

Well, we made it back.

So we haven't been here for quite a while. Sometime back in August 2013 I managed to break the web site and with all the stuff going on I wasn't able to get the site back up and running until now.

So what happened? Well, I clicked on the update button without doing my homework. When you update a computer, things usually work better, but when it comes to web sites, there is a little more involved. What I should have done was make sure I followed the steps written out for updating this system, but I didn't and it went bad.

Also during the time when this all went bad, my life was full of other things that required my energy, and since this web site is more a hobby than a business, it took second place on the list of things to do. I have managed to make it through some high stress things recently and now we're on the sunny side of the problems. Now I can concentrate on building this site back up to its former glory.

Part of all this included removing some other web sites that I am no longer involved with. We will be moving in a different direction in the future. Thanks for showing up and come back soon.

What I'm reading now: 13 July 11

So, my current kick comes by way of the far side of the world...

I've talked about gutenberg.org, the website that provides the text of books in the public domain. I should perhaps be more clear about that, though: gutenberg.org has content that's in the public domain in the United States. There are two related but different sites that I know of : gutenberg.ca and gutenberg.net.au.  The .ca is the Canadian site, and folllows Canadian rules for public domain. I don't like it much, although Canadian laws are (at least for the moment) somewhat less stringent than those of the US. The problem I have is with the website itself - it's not very easy to browse, the content is limited, and there's a huge foreword about pending changes in Canadian copyright law that is so lengthy that I have lost sympathy with the cause before I make it to the end of their argument. (For the record, I agree with them, but I think they could state their case more succinctly.)

Then, there is gutenberg.net.au. It calls Australia home, and there, too, the laws of public domain embrace more material. There are (or have been) a lot of content contributors, and the website designers have made it easy to navigate. So when I began searching out more classic detective writers, I searched Gutenberg Australia as well.

I found a treasure trove of SS Van Dine there. SS Van Dine writes the Philo Vance mysteries. Van Dine is both the author and a character - a Watson to Vance's Sherlock, who follows along and records everything, occasionally asking the questions the reader is dying to ask. Vance is one of the New York elite - an intelligent snob, but with ample excuse for snobbishness, it appears. He solves crimes by looking at the psychology of the crime and the criminal, and is known to bemoan the fact that people consider material evidence and motive to be indicators of guilt or innocence. The three full-length novels I've read so far are all slightly dated (especially by some aspects of the psychology Vance espouses), but still fun. I'm reading them in publication order: The Benson Murder Case, The "Canary" Murder Case, The Greene Murder Case, and (my current read) The Bishop Murder Case.  Definitely fun, and it's hard to argue with free.

I've also been reading some of Edgar Wallace's J.G. Reeder short stories. I know I read one of them years ago in some mystery anthology for teens ("The Treasure Hunt" was the title, and in it, Mr. Reeder uses the criminals intent on robbing him to unwittingly uncover what really happened to Sir James Tithermite's wife, supposedly lost at sea.) I wish I could remember the title of the anthology, as there were a few other authors who might bear looking up. I recall another story in the anthology about a woman who was poisoned, almost fatally, because she was the caretaker of a dog who had inherited millions. Other than that, the only thing I recall are the illustrations, one per story - line drawings on a single-color background (green or something like that) which mostly hinted at the contents of the story while hiding anything unsavory. The illustration for the woman with the dog story was the unfortunate exception to that rule.

Back to the topic at hand- the J.G. Reeder stories. They're enjoyable in their quiet way, although I find the use of slang a bit disconcerting. I prefer Wallace's short stories and novellas to the full-length work I read, though.

 

What I'm reading now: 13 June 21

So... more classic detective fiction. Specifically, Jacques Futrelle and R. Austin Freeman.

I finally read the last few Thinking Machine stories by Jacques Futrelle. I enjoyed them, although none are quite as good as "The Problem of Cell 13" - the first Thinking Machine story I read, and still my favourite. However, there is one lovely story (I don't remember the title, sorry), which I shall now spoil for you by telling you that, after The Thinking Machine has deduced the existence of a specific couple from the barest of clues, drawn them to his chambers, and demonstrated that all his deductions are completely accurate as well as brilliant, and dismissed them to sin no more, so to speak... his Watson (intrepid reporter Hutchinson Hatch) asks who the couple is - and the Thinking Machine has no idea of their identity.

I have been reading more Dr. Thorndyke mysteries. Having read all the short stories I can find, I'm now delving into Dr. Thorndyke novellas. Dr. Thorndyke is the forerunner of the forensic scientist. He doesn't detect, as such. What he does is a proto- scene-of-the-crime analysis, and it's quite fascinating. He (and his brilliant but self-effacing assistant, Polton) has developed a small vaccuum device to collect dust for microscopic analysis. Fiber comparisons, fingerprints, decomposition rates, insect traces - it sounds familiar to the forensic-science aficionados, although some of the things that happen to a crime scene before he gets there would make those same aficionados cringe. Thorndyke even looks states that he expects that one day science will be able to positively identify a man by a single drop of his blood - which is almost routinely done today.

As to the novellas: the stories ("The Eye of Osiris" and "The Mystery of Angelina Frood", from Dr. Thorndyke's Crime File) are told from the point of view of a third party, different in each story, who is the agent of bringing the mystery to Thorndyke, his companion Jervis, and assistant Polton. Because there's a little more length to expand the stories in a novella, as opposed to a short story, a side plot (a romance, of course) is slid into the mix, along with a little extra ornate prose. I could do without both, but they're only a mild annoyance, and I will admit that, in "Angelina Frood," I had suspicions of the right character, but for all the wrong reasons. Cleverly done, Mr. Freeman; I will continue hunting up more of your work.