The Big Read

I found this on Annie's site; she found it somewhere else. The Big Read, an initiative by the National Endowment for the Arts, estimates that the average adult has read 6 of the top 100 books they’ve printed. How about you?

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE.

I'm adding

4) Put in red "I saw the movie; does that count?"

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series ... I've read the first two with the boys
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare ... Complete? Gimme a break! I've read a LOT of the plays and many of the sonnets. Complete? No way!
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald (read it but hate it)
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis ... hello? See number 33 above.
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker (good but overrated)
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare (because it was left out of number 14, above)
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

37 out of 100, plus a few movies. I'd be curious to know the definition of "top 100" -- but not curious enough to follow the link to the NEA site. Sigh.

BTW, three posts in one day?!?! What's going on here?

Last weekend

This was originally a P.S. to the ME TIME post, but as I wrote, it became its own post.

The weekend in Phoenix was great. It was nice to see the widows again, and I've promised that our July dinner will be at my house -- that counts as ME TIME for sure, because I truly love entertaining.

The boys and I had a great time at the waterpark/hotel -- it was a 5-star place and we thoroughly indulged ourselves in the luxury of it all.

The best was going to church: It was so good to be in a familiar liturgy, singing from the heart again. It's a very small parish, maybe 40 people, and a few women came over during the coffee hour to introduce themselves (and compliment the boys on their good behavior and participation in the service).

I introduced myself to the deacon, with greetings from the protodeacon at Holy Transfiguration; they had overlapped in their time at seminary, and Deacon Paul from HT holds Deacon Marion from St John of the Desert in high esteem. Since the Melkite church in the United States is so small, the clergy know one another. Deacon Marion started talking about the HT clergy, and how blessed the parish is, with Fr. Joseph, Deacon Paul, Deacon David, Reader Romanos ... "and of course, how tragic it was when Deacon Nicholas died."

At that point, I said Yes, he was my husband. I hadn't introduced myself as a widow, let alone as Deacon Nicholas' widow. Deacon Marion then started talking about Nick, about meeting him at the deacons retreat and saying wonderful things about him. When the boys came up to us, I introduced them to Deacon Marion, and it was so good to be able to say he knew your Daddy. And Deacon Marion took the cue and started telling the boys things about Nick from the retreats. He didn't tell them anything new, but it was good to hear things about Nick from someone else. It was SO good. Nearly four years later, and I still miss that man from the depths of my soul.


One line of my online dating profile (egads, did I just type that?) reads My first priority is my kids -- two boys, ages 6 and 10 -- but I'm also ready to claim some ME TIME. In our conversation on Friday night, Mr. LooksPerfectOnPaper asked what I was doing for this ME TIME I'm claiming.

That was a really good question, one I wasn't prepared to answer. I stammered and stuttered and stumbled and basically said that I was trying to figure that out. ME TIME. Any parent knows that ME TIME is such a hard thing to come by.

I talked about reading and going out to dinner without the boys. My sister and BIL took the boys for an overnight earlier this week. I got all dressed up and went to a local restaurant, sat at the bar, chatted with people on either side of me, ate dinner, and felt really good. Then I went to Wal-Mart and shopped without little people wanting this that or the other.

ME TIME. I've been writing here since Day One that I need ME TIME. I really need to decide what ME TIME should look like, so that I can claim it.

As I sit here, thinking about it, I see that I really need to organize all the TIME in my life, it's so slipshod and haphazard that I can't think straight, can't figure out what TIME it is. I don't mean that I need to make a schedule, but I need to understand what my time is. I must think about this.

By the way, I sent a note to Mr. LPOP saying how nice it was to talk to him and wishing him a good time at his family reunion; he responded by saying he looks forward to meeting me. Eeeek.

Firday at the Square

Just a standard night out at the square... few beers...

Bazza (ME)

Stew and James

Holy cow

I'm going to be calling someone from an internet dating site tonight. On paper he looks perfect, and our email exchanges have been entertaining. But calling him? Talking to him?


Update: We had a very nice conversation, a little more than an hour. We covered a whole gamut of topics from kids and ex-wives to jobs and family and books and and and. He's going to Chicago for his family reunion this week and said he'd call for a dinner date when he gets back. We'll see what happens. For now, it's just nice to have talked to someone new.

New Live WebCam

I have added a live webcam to my Blog... Check it out on the right...

I'm going to have to kill Rock

He set the freezer to "warmest" and the refrigerator to "off."

Need I say more?


Hey Hey.... The first electronic components arrived today at stews office, all the way from Hong Kong... Take a look... next parts should be here soon...

No don't worry we have not given up on the project.... We have just been doing loads of research into all the electronic components that we will be using and placing orders for them from the US..

If you take a look on and look at the parts list it will show you all the parts we have decided on so far and what we have ordered.

Will be adding some tech notes to the website soon as well and will post a few pics as soon as the mail man arrives with the first components.

Quick getaway

I've got a quick overnight trip planned that is going to be lovely...

We leave shortly to go to church in Phoenix... Hurray! A Melkite liturgy! Hurray! Phoenix has the only Melkite church between San Diego and Chicago. No wonder I feel lost...

Then we're checking into a resort with a great waterpark: a 100-foot slide, a 600-foot tubing river, and a positively HUGE lagoon-pool.

Tonight we'll have dinner with the widows (trust me, that's a lot more fun than it sounds), which I haven't done in 6 months -- WAAAAAY too long.

Tomorrow will be spent in the water until checkout time.

I am really looking forward to this escape.

Friday Night At My Place

Had a braai at my place on Friday, was good fun. The normal crowed was mostly present.
Its getting very cold up here now days so thought it would be a good idea to dig a whole in the garden to have a bit of a wood fire to keep us warm. This went down very well with everyone, so was deff a good idea....

Just setting up Friday afternoon.

Ty also having a good time...

Mariska keeping warm..

James doing the same...




degrees Fahrenheit. Now THAT's hot.

Sunday... Build Day

So on Sunday morning we got working on the first electronic parts of the quadcopter. The plan for the day was to get the motor control operational from the microprocessor with an input coming for a serial port.

We started off by getting the oscilloscope up and running so that we could check the signal we were generating, this came in very handy as we would soon see.

We then started off building the prototype board with the atmel mega 8 as the main control chip for generating the PWM signal.... we hit 2 problems that we never thought we would have ever done.

First time we hock the board up with everything connected, we connected the wrong power source wire's, so we were pumping 12v into the board instead of 5v... with a quick rip out of the wire's after seeing this on the multimeter we were hoping that we did not blow the ISP programmer, but we would only know this once we got it all up and running.

After changing the wire's to the power supply and making sure we had the right voltage we thought it was time to try again. so we plugged it all in again and crossed fingers, after such a stupid mistake surly we would not do something like that again... NOTHING.... Stew trys thinks we might have blowen the atmel chip with the 12v we were feeding it. He touched the chip... "aaaaaaaahhhhhhh" screams Stew, "The chip is F****ing hot" so we turn it all off again and check the wiring. Turns out we had connected the 5v power into the analogue to digital converter pin instead of the vcc pin.

We changed the wiring and checked it 100% as we did not want to make a stupid mistake again. NOTHING..... but this was not a surprise as we were almost sure by this stage we had blown the atmel, so with a quick swap out of the chip finally everything was running 100%

We weird up an LED to the board and wrote some code to make it blink. Yay it was working now we could get to work on the code to generate the PWM signal to control the Motor.

We had some problems at first with generating the signal as we were still getting our heads around the atmels data sheet. Finally we figured out the right equations to use to get the numbers for the right pulse width. we thought it would be best to get a servo moving first as this uses the same signal as the motor controller. Now with the right signal being generated it was not hard to get the servo moving and we had that done in no time.

Time to move to the motor controller... we first got this running as normal and just made the motor speed up and slow down but itself. we then programmed in a serial controller so that we could start getting so debug info out the system. this turned out to be way way easier than we thought, and in a short time we were getting info out of what our program was doing. we moved on to start making the speed of the motor controllable from the serial console, with a few tweaks of the code we got this done.

By this stage we thought we should call it a night, So we shot a video of what we had done and posted to You Tube.

3D Puzzle all done....

Well here it is....

ISP Programer

Well Stew was busy on Saturday so i thought that I would jump right in and build my Atmel programmer. Was really easy to do and worked first time. Soon after that i was programing my first chip with it and got it blinking an LED in no time...

Cleaned out the work bench and setup for electronic work

This is my programer... Populated with the Atmel microprocesor ready for programing.....

The 1,407th ... the 4th

Just another day,
Just another Father's Day --
and our hearts still break.

Friday was Puzzle day...

Well after about 2 years of having this 3D puzzle that i got from Dubai, I thought it was time to build it and put it on my desk in my office...

Here a few pics of the build. Sorry there is no final pic from when i finished, but i forgot to take one :P but i will take one on Tuesday and post it up.

Build Day 2

Well we bought a few right angle clamps to keep the frame square, but after attaching the first one to the frame and then checking the other side with a tri square we bought.... things were not aligning. It turns out the expensive tri square we bought is not quite square....

We then cut the the 4 strengthening bars, drilled the holes for them and attached them to the frame.

We were going to rivet the bars to the frame but thought it would be best to bolt them on as we might want to use the same bolts for the landing gear or camera mount at a later stage.

Well now with the frame pretty much done and only weighing 296g things are looking good in the weight department. We hoping for a weight of not too much more that 1kg as we would like to hover at about half throttle. We have done some testing and it seems with the 4 motors we should get about 2.4kgs of thrust.

Mock up with right angle clamps.

Mock up of strengthening bars.

Mock up with holes drilled.

Final outcome after it had all been bolted together.

Just a pic to for us to keep track of weights...

Well now that most of the frame is done, we need to start working on some of the electronics. First thing we will be doing is getting the electronic speed controlers that power the 3 phaze motors, to run off our microcontrolers (Atmel Mega8's) we will be generating a PWM signal that will tell the speed controler at what speed to run the motor at...

Unfreakinbelievable, or

Good news, for a change

Mother met with her oncologist yesterday. Her blood count numbers are down to 18, which is, in a word, fantastic. In September, she was given 12 to 18 months to live. In December, she was told there was a good chance she could be cured. Now ... Wow! Wow! Wow! ... It would seem that the doctor was right!

In late July, assuming all goes well, mother will have major surgery again, to resect her intestines and remove the ostomy bag. She will regain her quality of life. I don't need to tell any of you what this means to her, to me.

So, if you are a praying person, offer thanks to God. If you're not, just heave a sigh of relief to the Universe. Project

Well myself and a mate stew have started work on a new project

The aim is to build a 4 rotor helicopter with a autopilot system that we will write.
The Quadcopter will contain a few custom built components eg. computer controlled speed controllers, electronic compass, accelerometers, gyros, GPS, GSM module for long distance controling over the cellular network and a wifi module for the closer range controling.

It will also carry a long range camera so we can navigate or just look while the auto pilot is flying....

You can follow the build at or here on my blog..

Here are a few pics from the first build night... we had a few planning nights befor this but this is the first "Build night"

Stew filing down edges after first frame cut.

Measurements with our new R200 steel rule for the first notch cut.

The plan is to make the frame as light as possible, so we used aluminium
for the bace of our frame.

My new work bench in my now very clean garage.
The door we using as the table top is a bit narrow so as soon
as we can get a new door we will replace it.

Filing down the noches in the 2 main struts to make them fit just right.

Well this is as far as we got the first night, reason being, as i was cutting the next bit i bumped our work light and blew the bulb so we had to call it quits for the night as we could not see a thing :(

My hair

I love my hair. I have always loved my hair. When I was a little girl, I would dump the watering can on my head to make my hair grow.

I love the color of my hair. I love how thick my hair is. I love its natural curl when short, wave when long. I love my hair. I am vain about my hair.

So I make a point of donating my hair.

Every three years, I cut my hair and donate it to Locks of Love or some similar organization. Every three years, my hair is down to my waist. Every three years, I can't wait to cut my hair.

I donated my hair today. And for the first time in nearly 20 years, I had my hair STYLED ... I didn't just cut it straight across my shoulders. The stylist spent nearly an hour shaping and layering my hair, so that the curls are full and wonderful.

I love my hair.


Marsha, over at Breathings of the Heart, has honored me with the Arte y Pico award, which I think translates best as Arts and Views. My instructions on receiving this award are as follow:

1. Pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also for contributing to the blogging community, no matter what language.

2. Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog.

3. Each award winner (upon acceptance) should show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award.

4. Link to the Arte y pico blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award.

5. Show these rules.

I've had to think about this. I've not received or given awards in the blogging world (with one small exception :-D ), so I didn't want to blow this opportunity!

My first choice was easy: The Girl Left Behind writes deep and thoughtful posts about her widowhood. I have to confess that sometimes they're TOO deep for me to read these days. But she is a wondrous writer with a rich perspective.

My second choice was also easy: Ali and I apparently share a brain. We are often on the same page of the Widow's Guide to Getting Through This Mess. It's nothing short of refreshing to find my feelings expressed in someone else's words.

Two widowed bloggers inspired me to start my own blog. It's really hard to choose between them, but I must because I don't want to name only widowed folk here. Both women have written poignantly about their sorrow and about rebuilding their lives. I think I have to choose go-go yubari, even though she rarely addresses widowhood per se anymore. And yes, her naming a doll after me was a factor in this decision. Even I can be bought for a price!

My fourth award also goes to a woman who writes about grief: RachD's older daughter drowned nearly a year ago. We widowed folk mourn our spouses and our lives together and let go of our own role as spouse. Rachel has to mourn her daughter and all that could have been, but she has to continue being a mother to her toddler. I can only begin to fathom how hard that must be.

And now, for something totally different, I select Mimi. She writes about Orthodox Christianity and good books and parenting. Her entries often have beautiful icons or liturgical texts that remind me what I'm supposed to be doing.

Ladies, I salute you. Thank you for making my life richer.

Data Dump

First, I was going to make this post today even before Sandy checked in on me. Thanks, dear, for your concern. Second, I could have written the post written yesterday by Ali, my twin born of different mothers on different continents; of course, "Soccer Mom" wouldn't be an appropriate title, but otherwise, I wouldn't change a word of it.

So, without further ado or introduction, my data dump... the myriad random thoughts and things to do that prevent me from doing anything. (Read at your own risk: I am literally dumping, without organizing, editing, or anything.)

  • I still miss Nick to tears, sometimes more than I can believe.
  • My mother's oncologist says she should have 2 more cycles of chemo (6 weeks); Mother is declining further treatment. It annoys me that she won't ask more questions about what difference the 2 cycles could make. But I also understand.
  • But I don't want Mother to die. I don't want to endure that alone (and yes, my sister and boys ARE chopped liver). Mother held me when Nick died; who will hold me when she dies?
  • Oh yeah, I've been on the dating sites for a while. Exactly one person has expressed interest in me since January; we got to the emailing stage when he simply closed the match for a reason that "he would rather not say." Not one person has responded to my expressions of interest in him. This is so good for my ego and self-image, as I'm sure you can imagine.
  • I don't really have the energy to date though, if the truth be told. I couldn't even drag myself up to Phoenix for last week's widow dinner.
  • The news about Ted Kennedy's brain tumor was a kick in the gut. The diagnosis made me sick; the optimism depressed me; the "success" of the surgery hurt. I miss Nick so much; he never woke up from his surgery; I never got to say goodbye; it still hurts to have lost him, to have lost my love.
  • My BFF Paola wrote about the time she spent with me the week that Nick was in the hospital. I was so glad to have her contribution to the story, even after all this time. But God how I hate the story.
  • I realized that part of my recent downward spiral began with reading (for the third time) b's account of her husband's sudden illness and death. Our stories are so similar, so brutal.
  • I tried reading my telling of Nick's illness and death ... and I couldn't. I couldn't even read the opening sentences of the background. The deep nausea and grief were simply overwhelming.
  • I still haven't found counseling for the boys and me (and yes, I know that I need it as much as or more than the boys do). I made a few phone calls, with no success. A dear friend did some research for me, and I just can't make myself follow up on it. I'm sorry, Suzann.
  • Clara is a wonderful gift. She is so loving and affectionate, so very much what I need. HardPlace adores her and Rock teases her ... she's very good for all of us.
  • I have to take her to the vet tomorrow for a scheduled shot; she's also got a little cold. Kitten sneezes are very cute, but the eye goop is not.
  • We're having a great summer so far -- just two weeks into the boys' vacation of course. We haven't done ANYTHING. The boys have quiet mornings with tv, legos, and whatever else, while I do whatever housecleaning I feel inclined to do. The afternoons are spent in the pool: We have so much fun horsing around together, inventing different games and simply indulging in watery bliss.
  • I've stopped going to church at all. I hate that I've stopped, but I really can't bear the westernized Byzantine Catholic Church here in town. I want to go to the Melkite Church in Phoenix once a month. There's another widow dinner coming up soon; I intend to get a hotel room with the boys and do both dinner and church.
  • A good friend has canceled her trip to visit us this summer; and I'm not even disappointed ... just relieved. It would be great to see her, but I'm not capable of being the Hostess with the Mostest right now, and I'm not able to be just a hostess.
  • The stars in the desert are astounding. I sit outside every night and just gaze in silent wonder.
  • HardPlace wants guitar lessons. I've told him that he has to learn fundamental piano skills first: I'm not going to pay a guitar teacher to teach him how to read music. We'll see how badly he wants to learn to play guitar.
  • I'm reading again, lots of fun fiction by favorite authors (and new favorites), and that is a good thing.
I think I've run out of things to say.