Archive for the 'Reading' Category

Comics A Seven-Year-Old Would Love

Garfield is Stephen’s second greatest love, second only to Lego. Lilian’s Sean first introduced Stephen to Garfield in London when the two were about five years old but it wasn’t until a few months ago that Stephen really started understanding the sly jokes and not-so-subtle sarcasm that underlies the comic. He’s also a big fan of The Garfield Show on the Cartoon Network. I can see how it appeals to Stephen because it’s completely off-the-wall ridiculous with storylines that feature a time-stopping stopwatch, robots, and a mind-reading helmet but may I just say that this CGI bastardization of Garfield the comic strip is not really Garfield at all.

The trouble with Garfield is that Stephen feels compelled to try out some of Garfield’s sayings and mannerisms. He identifies with Garfield the curmudgeon and his distaste for Mondays and waking up, and his glee in thwarting Nermal (who I suspect Stephen equates with his sister).

Thinking that it might be healthier for Stephen to identify with another little boy rather than a fat orange cat*, I’ve been trying to introduce him to Calvin and Hobbes because Lilian mentioned that Stephen reminds her of Calvin. Although I should probably read some Calvin and Hobbes first to make sure Calvin is an acceptable role model. I must confess that I’ve never really gotten the humor in the strip but might be able to understand it better from the parents’ point of view. In any case, if GeekDad says Calvin and Hobbes is good then it must be good! :P

Other comics Stephen has enjoyed include the Geronimo Stilton graphic novels and the Bionicle graphic novels. Adeline’s RK likes Asterix and Obelix.

As for me, my favorite comic strip is The Far Side by Gary Larson. Marv’s is Dilbert.

What about you and your kids? Have any other comic strips to recommend?

*Super Skinny Stephen once made some comment about being too fat to get on some piece of playground equipment. I started stressing about eating disorders until I realized his comment came from Garfield. argh


Youngest Kindle Reader?


At 6 1/2 years old, Stephen is probably not THE youngest Kindle user ever but one of the younger ones for sure. Here he’s reading How to Take the Grrr Out of Anger – a book we’re both finding helpful! ;)

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Amazon Kindle Tip: Go to Cover

imageI don’t know if this will apply to Amazon’s new Kindle v2 but for my old Kindle v1, I always click on Menu when starting a new book and Go to Cover. If I begin at the automatic start page for newly downloaded books, I end up missing prologues, forewords, and other material.

PS Yes, I use my Kindle even in Singapore where I purchase books (with my U.S. credit card) at the Amazon site, download them to my computer, then transfer via USB cable.

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Throwing Away the Parenting Books

Parenting books can drive a person InSaNe. They all have a laundry list of things not to do:

  • Don’t label your children. They’re changing all the time. So instead of saying “you are such and such,” say “you can be such and such” so that you don’t limit their perception of themselves.
  • Don’t spank or hit.
  • Don’t yell or scream.
  • Don’t give general praise like “good girl.” Give specific praise like “That’s a complicated 3″ silver robot you drew with the Faber Castell pens I got you at the stationery store 16 days ago.”
  • Don’t tell them what to do or boss them around. Engage them in choosing the right way to behave or to accomplish something.

I break almost every one of those @#! rules every day. (Notice I said almost.)

So now I’m reading about Barack Obama’s childhood in his book, Dreams from My Father, and guess what? He had a far from perfect childhood with far from perfect parents. His white mother married his black African father at a time of rampant racism. His father then leaves him and his mother to return to Africa when Obama was only two years old. Then his mother marries an Indonesian and they move from his grandparents’ home in Hawaii to Indonesia where Obama runs around with the neighborhood kids in a squalid environment where people cut the heads off chickens and lets them run around in circles dripping blood from their necks until they drop dead. Obama later returns to live in Hawaii with his grandparents without his mother who is too busy with her own life to bother herself much about him.

With this kind of parenting you’d think Obama would have grown up to be a serial killer instead of the first African-American presidential nominee of a major U.S. political party. And he’s neither bitter nor filled with resentment towards his parents.

Clearly I won’t be like Obama’s parents but I should probably quit reading parenting books and driving myself crazy with guilt.


Recommended Parenting Books for Infants and Toddlers

My sister sent me the following list of parenting books that people on her company mailing list recommended.

  1. Baby 411 (after birth advice)
  2. Baby Bargains (buying guide)
  3. The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer by Harvey Karp [Watch the DVD; it's helpful to see the techniques demonstrated]
  4. Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy [Hilarious]
  5. Nursing Mother’s Companion [I read in cover to cover.]
  6. Why Motor Skills Matter
  7. The complete and authoritative guide caring for your baby and young child birth to age 5″ by the American Academy of Pediatrics
  8. What’s Going on in There? : How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life by Lise Eliot

To those, I add:

1. Dr. T Berry Brazelton’s Touchpoints Birth to Three
2. Dr. William Sears books
3. Some people also like Louise Bates Ames books (children at each developmental stage)
4. The Continuum Concept (attachment parenting theory)
5. Good Nights (family bed)
6. Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense (positive approach to feeding kids)
7. Super Baby Food (feeding kids from first food and more)
8. So That’s What They’re For (breastfeeding guide)


Sunday Salon: Reading on the Kindle

custom kindle screensaverTwo weeks ago, my sister brought an Amazon Kindle electronic reader for me from the States (I live in London, UK). Since then, I haven’t gone a day without using it and obsessing over it by reading every mention of it via my RSS feed subscriptions. It is quite possible that I spend as much time reading comments and reviews of the Kindle as I do reading material on the device itself!

What I’ve read on the Kindle thus far:

  • The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch and Jeffrey Zaslow

    Currently, this book is only available in hardcover, audio CD, and Kindle formats. If I didn’t have the Kindle, I would have waited until the paperback version and by that time, would have probably forgotten all about it. I think this is one of the powers of the Kindle. Readers can read the latest books at a reasonable price (Last Lecture Kindle edition is $9.99) and authors can get faster gratification from seeing their books sold and read soon after first publication.

  • The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8 Lee

    Another book I would have put on my long long books wishlist. Who knows if I would have ever gotten to it had it not been available on the Kindle! As it is, I not only read and enjoyed this book about Chinese-American food and culture in general, I’ve purchased a hardcover copy for a friend who I think will be nodding her head all the way through it.

  • The Sunday New York Times

    I’ve taken to buying just the Sunday issues for 75 cents each week. Having the newspaper on my Kindle means that I can browse the articles at leisure no matter where I am without any of the mess and bulk so I’m able to recapture some of the serendipity of flipping through the paper version. I miss the pictures and diagrams but can always have a peek at them online if the story really moves me.

  • Time magazine

    Not a great experience. I miss the glossy pages and the photos. No more magazine purchases for me, I’m afraid.

  • Drums of Autumn and The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon

    I succumbed to downloading these to my Kindle even thought I own the paperbacks. Both of these (#4 and #5 of the Outlander series) are well over 1,000 pages and when I couldn’t crack the spine of one while reading, I got frustrated and went Kindle instead. My tired eyes (increased font size) and numb arms thank me!

So would I recommend the Kindle to other people? It depends.

If you travel frequently on public transportation or take longer trips, get a Kindle.

If you move frequently, especially to different countries, get a Kindle.

If you sometimes struggle with font size, get a Kindle.

If you have limited space for paper version books in your home, get a Kindle.

If you like buying hardcover new releases and want to save some money, get a Kindle.

What I think is really silly about my owning a Kindle is that I have no wireless access overseas meaning I have to download everything via USB whereas people in the U.S. in the wireless coverage area can download directly to their Kindle from (what seems like) thin air. In essence, my purchase subsidizes everyone else’s use of the wireless network! Nonetheless, the Kindle is a handy and convenient gadget for anyone who reads on a daily basis.

NB: I haven’t written up a list of likes and dislikes of the Kindle simply because so many others have done it. If there’s interest, I shall do so next Sunday provided baby #2 hasn’t arrived!

Photo credit: Custom Kindle Screensaver by Scurzuzu.

Free Kindle screensavers can be found at


How to Convert PDF Files to Read on the Amazon Kindle

One of the first things I wanted to do with my Amazon Kindle electronic reader was to read PDF files on it. Unfortunately, you can’t just dump PDF files directly into the Documents folder of the Kindle. You have to convert them first into one of the document file types the Kindle will recognize (.azw, .txt, .mobi*,.prc*). I tried emailing my files to for free conversion and delivery to the email address associated with my account but I never received the files.

Thankfully, Blaine sent me a link showing how to convert PDF files using Mobipocket Creator but the instructions weren’t very clear. Here is a step-by-step on how to convert PDF files into .prc files for the Amazon Kindle.

  1. Download and install the FULL version of Mobipocket Creator. (If you opt for the simpler version, it won’t have the PDF conversion option.)
  2. When Mobipocket Creator is running, select Adobe PDF under Import From Existing File
  3. Choose the PDF file you want to convert
  4. Leave the rest alone unless you want to change your destination folder and click Import
  5. Select the html file that was just created and click Build from the toolbar at the top of Mobipocket Creator
  6. Click Build (you will most likely get a few errors but I just ignore them)
  7. Go to your destination folder, open the folder that was created with your publication
  8. Copy the .prc file into the Documents folder of your Kindle via the USB cable (if you want it delivered wirelessly, you’ll have to email it to yourself and pay 10 cents)

One of the major difficulties of reading PDF files on the Kindle is the lack of a Table of Contents so you can’t skip around very easily. There is a function on Mobipocket Creator for creating a Table of Contents but I just can’t be bothered to figure it out. My solution is to convert only individual articles and not large PDF files such as the entire digital issue of Scientific American. Sometimes the formatting can also be wonky but it’s still quite legible. I’m willing to put up with this process as I much prefer reading PDF files on my Kindle. Hopefully in future software upgrades, PDF files will be supported!

When I have time, I’ll write more about my impressions of the Kindle. Thus far, I’ve had it for about five days and think it was money well spent.


Unread Books Read

To satisfy my own curiosity…. I’ve read more of these books than I expected (~37) but can’t really recall some, esp. the ones I read for school.

What we have here is the top 106 books most often marked as “unread” by LibraryThing’s users (my LibraryThing catalog). As in, they sit on the shelf to make you look smart or well-rounded. Bold the ones you’ve read, underline italicize the ones you read for school, italicize underline the ones you started but didn’t finish. Here’s the twist: add (*) beside the ones you liked and would (or did) read again or recommend. (Had to change the original directions because I did it incorrectly!)

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Sunday Salon: Books Read In The Year After Having a Baby

Following up on Sunday Salon member Maxine pointing to Susan Hill’s rant about a survey in the UK regarding women’s reading habits after having children, I went to my reading list to see what I was up to reading-wise in the year after giving birth to Stephen.

It appears that I read 20 books in 12 months which has pretty much been my average over the past 13 years that I’ve been keeping track of the books I read. I’m not sure what happened when my son was between four- to eight-months-old but I lost track of the books I read over those months and lumped them together (November 2002 to March 2003). And while the number of parenting books I read since he was born has increased, the other books I read aren’t much different than what I read before having kids and what I read now almost six years afterwards.

I am certainly not inclined to read celebrity autobiographies by “the likes of Victoria Beckham and Jordan.” I don’t mind reading about them in magazines or blogs, but I don’t think I could tolerate hundreds of pages about them. I am also not among the 60% of mums who read less than they did before having kids although that certainly makes a lot of sense! And I definitely belong in the 8.5% minority who read non-fiction since I have a self-imposed rule about alternating between fiction and non-fiction.

In any case, my reading habits would most definitely be different if I weren’t an independent consultant working from home. Perhaps I’d read more on the commute in lieu of reading before bedtime. And perhaps I’d blog less so as to get more time to read. Who knows. I refuse to think, however, that my friends and I suffer “maternal amnesia” relating to declines in memory and brainpower after becoming pregnant. Those “experts” can go stuff it.

national year of reading aprilBTW, did you know 2008 is the National Year of Reading in the UK?

Below the fold is the list of books I read in the year after having my first child.

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Sunday Salon: The Amazon Kindle Electronic Reader

kindleMy reading life is about to change.* I will soon be the owner of an Amazon Kindle electronic reader!

They came back in stock last week after having sold out in less than six hours after being released last December. When I learned that my sister would be coming to London on a business trip, I immediately ordered one for her to bring for me. Woohoo!!

I will be missing out on the wireless connectivity that’s available only in the U.S. but it’s much more important to me that I have access to books in a timely fashion. When we started our expat life in 1998, books in English weren’t always easy to find.

  • In Taiwan, there was a decent selection at Eslite even though I was at the mercy of whatever was on the shelf.
  • In Japan, Maruzen was ok but it was very expensive. A couple of years after we’d moved there, launched and it was wonderful!!! (Yes, that deserved three exclamation points.)
  • In Vietnam, very few English books could be found in the shops except for classics. Relatively new releases with Vietnam as the main subject were available but only as pirated versions on the street corner. Otherwise, the International Ladies in Vietnam library was actually pretty well stocked but in disarray. So once again at the mercy of whatever was on the shelf.

    I’m not trying to make it sound like I was very deprived, though. We made frequent trips to Singapore where the selection of English books between Borders and Kinokuniya is quite good. My personal stash of not-yet-read books is also consistently worth several months if not a year of reading.

  • Right now, we’re in London, UK which is, of course, fabulous for books but can still be quite pricey esp. compared to the U.S.

In contrast, Amazon Kindle books are $9.99 or less and available immediately for download.

Whether you prefer biographies, classics, investment guides, thrillers, or sci-fi, thousands of your favorite books are available. The Kindle Store offers more than 100 of 112 books currently found on the New York Times® Best Seller list and we’re adding more all the time. New York Times Best Sellers are $9.99, and you’ll find many books for less.

You spoiled lot in the U.S. will get to download sample chapters as well not to mention doing it all wirelessly (assuming you’re in the wireless coverage area). I, on the other hand, will be very satisfied with downloading my content via USB. Three features I’m really looking forward to are the built-in dictionary, search of all materials downloaded onto your Kindle, and clippings and notes which can be uploaded to the computer for other uses.

The first set of books I intend to download includes:

  • Escape by Carolyn Jessop
  • The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
  • The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8. Lee (If you’re wondering why she has a number for her middle name, she added it herself when she was a teenager because “Jennifer” is too common.)
  • Bringing Home the Birkin by Michael Tonello
  • Pretty is What Changes by Jessica Queller

My books wishlist (started using delishlist in March) is, of course, much longer than this. Unfortunately, not all books are available for the Kindle. So while you may still find me at home with traditional paper books in hand, when out and about, I’ll most likely bring my Kindle.

What do you think of the Kindle and of eReaders in general? If you already have a Kindle, what books have you downloaded?

*Although hopefully not in the way of what’s been assumed about pregnant and post-partum women and their reading habits.

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