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Harry Potter. Have you heard of it? It didn’t matter that the book was not brilliant - it’s like the Return of the King, by now I judge it on the whole story, not the individual novels. It was a lot of fun to be caught up in the expectation and excitement to buy the book the moment it came out and disappearing from the world until it was finished. I hope we don’t have to wait too long for whatever is the next big thing that gets people so excited about reading!
Tom and Rachel lent me Atonement and I rushed to finish it before seeing the film. It’s hard to say much without giving spoilers. I initially felt betrayed by the ending. It wasn’t the events of the story that disappointed me, but that I was tricked by it, even though the author gives a fairly big hint about two-thirds of the way through. Now, days later, the book is “still with me” (I hate that phrase) because the ending is so different. It probably wouldn’t have me still thinking about it if there was a traditional ending, and I now really enjoy how I was tricked, and how I forgot who the main character of the story was. All the way through the book I found small pieces that I enjoyed - making me feel jealous that someone could write something so insightful in a few paragraphs, almost as an aside in a chapter focusing on a different story. The romantic in me does wish that it had been a bit more of a tear-jerker. Nevertheless, I thought it was a great book and I’m looking forward to reading more by the same author.
I got poor Hugo to drive me around the valley for hours looking for a seemingly obscure horror book called House of Leaves. We eventually found it, and it was as entertaining as I had heard (and I didn’t find much horror in it). The book is written as if it is a true record of an event at what I suppose is best described as a haunted house, with multiple “authors” making passes over the content and adding their notes. Much of the story is told in footnotes, and there are hundreds of references to external works, the majority of which don’t exist. Very Borges. But that’s just the start of it: as the story progresses the book itself seems to follow along in real life. Some pages are written backwards, lots of text is missing, multiple narratives are happening on the same page. It’s a blast.
I started Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell in 2006 and got stuck in the middle. I absolutely loved it to begin with - I’m not sure why I put it down, probably something else was bothering me at the time. I actually started reading it again because I bought Susan Clarke’s next book judging it purely on its cover (it’s beautiful), and wanted to make sure I read them in order. This time I got completely immersed in it, enjoyed every word and doubly enjoyed every footnote.
William Gibson’s Spook Country is probably criticised as a rehash of Pattern Recognition. I haven’t checked if people are actually saying that, but I’m usually terrible at spotting things like that and I noticed it. The good news is that I loved Patter Recognition and had no problem with the fact that Spook Country seemed to be the same story with (mostly) different characters and motivations. It felt like having my favourite meal in a good restaurant. In fact I think I enjoyed it more than Pattern Recognition, and I understood the ending on my first read which is the first time I’ve managed that with a Gibson novel.
Overall I was happy to be getting back into the habit of reading in 2007. I still have more success buying books than reading them, but I have fun doing it so it isn’t a deadly habit I’ll commit to breaking.
There was a big change in work this year. After six years of attending meetings, reading email lists, scribing conversations and pretending to be knowledgeable about obscure technical topics I chose to leave W3C. I’d felt it was time to go for a while but I hadn’t seen (or been offered) an exciting alternative. I’m also very cautious, so it was frightening to consider giving up a job where I felt mostly comfortable. Eventually I got to the point where I realised that I was stressed by the work and that was making it hard for me be enthusiastic and put in enough effort. An opportunity to join a startup with some friends came along and I gave my notice to W3C in January.
I made many friends at W3C — friends I know I will keep for life. It was still pretty scary to leave, and I miss the people a lot, both on the W3C staff and in the Working Groups.
I ended up only staying at the next job for two months because a dream opportunity came up somewhere else. I felt really bad for not staying very long, but I couldn’t say no to my dream. And it has turned out almost like a dream — the job is very fun, very challenging and working with great people. It’s also much more technical than W3C. I’m programming again, and wondering why on Earth I ever stopped. I’ve also just learnt that Antoine is joining me in 2008. El Diablo and the Magic Man will be doing some shaking and baking.
Thanks to leaving W3C my travel schedule in 2007 was closer to that of a normal human. There were four trips to the USA, with a total of about 1 week in Boston and 10 weeks in California. The California trips were a pleasure because I stayed with Nandini’s family. I can’t describe how grateful I am to them for making me feel welcome.
The only other travel of 2007 was a trip to Sydney for Web Directions South 2007. As always, John and Maxine put on a fantastic conference. It was good to see some old friends.
I would usually call this section whitegoods, but the highlight is a mattress and the big whitegood purchase wasn’t white.
I cashed in my thousands of frequent flyer points and bought a fridge. We went for the least power hungry yet biggest we could find that would fit into the small alcove in our kitchen. It turns out that you can get some amazing fridges if you’re willing to pay as much as a new car. If you’re not willing to do that, then the choice seems to be limited to Fisher and Paykel. So at last we have a nice fridge that is a decent size. My only complaint is that it is impossible to open the door for about 60 seconds after you’ve closed it. I think this is kind of crazy since that’s the time you’re most likely to want to open the door (take milk out, pour it into cup, put it back).
While we were out looking at fridges, we accidentally tried out some mattresses. After about 10 years sleeping on a horrible, hard, lumpy collection of springs a new foam mattress feels like heaven. So $3000+ later and I had my own piece of heaven. And I love it. Bed was already my favourite place in the world, now it is even better. (I can’t believe I spent that much though).
I’ve waffled on for too long, so here are the remainder of my highlights in bite-sized form (or byte-sized for you nerds).
That’s all, unless you’re reading backwards in which case you could head to my year in television.