Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Lights of Las Vegas

My office is right across the hall from our floor's large conference room. Unfortunately, this conference room has only sliding glass doors that do nothing to block sound. I've been privy to the details of quite a few meetings, especially those meetings on which the door is not fully closed. Let's just say I've gotten used to pulling my headphones out when a particularly loud group takes over conference room 2923.

Sometimes, though, I get to hear little gems of conversation during my inadvertent eavesdropping. Like today: A group or market forecasters was in a meeting. While they waited for all the attendees to arrive, one was asked about his recent vacation. "I was in Vegas" he replied. Many others chipped in with their anecdotes about Sin City, one commenting on how bright it is to walk down the strip. Suddenly, one of the mused, "I wonder what the total electric load for Vegas is?" Another pulled out the relevant statistic. A third chimed in that each hotel on the strip averages approximately 8 MW. Suddenly, stories about wild vacations in Vegas had turned into dorky shop talk.

I work with a bunch of nerds – and it feels like home.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Reading List

My new job requires a 30-minute bus ride every morning and every evening. During my first few weeks of work, I usually spent at least the bus ride home getting carsick, as I have done on buses for years. However, after consistently riding almost every day and learning at which stop I was most likely to get a seat at the front, I've been able to get to the point where I can read on the bus. This is great, because for the last several years, I've been so busy with school that my reading has dropped off a little (although not enough to stop me from devouring Stephanie Meyer's Host in the 24 hours before my Economics of Taxation final – don't worry, I still passed).

The past two months, I've read over 14 books (not quite back up to my high school level yet)
from such a scattered assortment of genres, the list looks like it was created by a butterfly with ADD. It's just reinforced what I told people years ago in high school: if it's got pages between two covers, I'll probably read it. Here's some of my favourites for those of you who are looking for a good summer read:

The Host, by Stephanie Meyer
The Host tells the story of the world after an alien invasion. These aliens are a completely peaceful race and have implanted themselves in our brains to prevent violence, war, and anything else nasty. The main character, Wanderer, has arrived on earth after the aliens' dominance is mostly complete, but is implanted in the brain of on of the last human survivors, a girl named Melanie. Melanie is strong-willed enough that she remains present even after the insertion and Wanderer begins to feel some sympathy for the human race and the remaining survivors. They go off on an epic adventure to find the rest of Melanie's family, who are still on the run. Yes, I know it's the same woman who wrote Twilight. I know that amongst my acquaintance, Twilight has gotten extremely mixed reviews. Let's just say that I do enjoy Twilight, but I'm under no impression that it's a work of fine literature. The Host, on the other hand, is much better written than Twilight. The drama that pervaded Twilight is still there, but feels less hokey and more believable. Even though I was reading it for the second time, I couldn't put it down.

Frederica, by Georgette Heyer
My sister Jaima got me into Georgette Heyer books after I got home from my mission, and I've been reading them whenever I can find them from the library since. Heyer started writing in the 1920s and most of her books take place in the Regency era, the same time as all the Jane Austen books. Frederica is my favourite so far. It tells the story of a girl in her mid-twenties, Frederica, who is left in charge of her family when her father dies. Determined that her younger sister will not waste her beauty on their insignificant country circle, she takes her siblings to London to attempt an advantageous marriage for her sister, who although beautiful, is rather stupid. She prevails upon their distant relative, the wealthy Marquis of Alverstroke, to sponsor them in society, which he does, mostly to spite his other scheming relatives. Adventure piles on adventure as the Marquis finds himself increasingly involved in the exploits of all members of the young family as they caper through Regency area London. As with all Georgette Heyer stories, the wit is plentiful, the characters sparkling, and happy endings abound for all.

The Firm, by John Grisham
I first read The Firm is high school, and for the following few months, took out every Grisham novel I could find at the library. Grisham has the ability to keep his readers glued to the page, throwing twists and turns and describing everything in compelling detail. The Firm is one of his earlier novels, from 1991, and has all the appeal of his very early stories without the dated feel that I've gotten occasionally from some of the very first. It tells the story of Mitch McDeere, a young Harvard Law graduate who gets an incredible job offer from a small sized firm in Memphis. They offer to pay off his student loan, arrange a mortgage, lease him a car, and pay him much more than any other offer he's received. It's only after a few months there that Mitch realizes that the offer too good to be true came from a firm that is really not what it appears to be, when he is approached by the FBI to assist them in an investigation of the firm and its number-one client. Caught in the crossfire and blackmailed from both sides, Mitch has to keep on step ahead of spies, goons, federal investigators, and lawyers to do the right thing and save his family.

Happy reading, and if you have any suggestions for my next book, let me know!