The gender gap circa 2006: the pop culture version

I've spent the last couple of weeks thoroughly immersed in the world of Veronica Mars, watching seasons 1 and 2 practically nonstop. While this has had all sorts of interesting side effects on my social life, manner of speaking and dreams, the most unexpected corollary has been unearthing another indicator of the gender gap.

In short: The women love Logan Echolls (link contains season 3 spoilers). The men don't, at all, and, furthermore, they don't understand why we find him attractive.

Ah, the impossibility of explaining the appeal of the Bad Boy ...

Maybe the Bad Boy works because he's safely dreamy in whatever TV universe he lives in and has little, if any, opportunity to screw around with our lives (although our heroine, of course, remains deliciously in peril of it). Maybe we want to live on the edge a little, while still (fairly) certain that the Bad Boy will not only lead us to that edge but pull us back in time. Maybe we just all want to piss off our parents, so that for at least fifteen panicked seconds, they're entertaining the notion we might actually want to marry one of these Bad Boys.

Maybe we just want to land a Bad Boy just to prove that we can --- without necessarily wanting to be landed forever with the responsibility of bailing him out of jail or whatever other expensive or inconvenient circumstances he winds up in.

Do nice boys finish last? Discuss.


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Looking for the right umbrella

The river runneth over

We're having one of the fiercest monsoon seasons ever this year, which means that one doesn't leave home without a sturdy umbrella, unless one has made handsome libations to the rain deity or enjoys flipping a coin between the options of being trapped in a building by an unexpected rainstorm or taking an outdoor shower of the extremely unsexy kind.

My collapsible umbrella's served me well for a couple of years, but one of its metal arms snapped out of position a while back and another one was threatening to do the same this week. So I thought: perfect, now I can go shopping for that perfect collapsible yet stout umbrella that I've always wanted. I know such a species exists because I had one of its kind for four years in the States and it was to my eternal chagrin that I didn't make space to ship it back in one of my boxes. Foolish me, thinking that it would have been easy to find an umbrella of equal durability in the little cosmopolitan and technologically-savvy crossroads of Asia that I was going home to.

Who knew that almost ten years on, it's still tough to find a strong collapsible umbrella in these parts? Robinson's and Marks & Spencer, for all the other fine household items they sell, do not seem to carry umbrellas, or at least I couldn't find them, at their Raffles City outlets. I was forced to consider the feeble options at the basement Cold Storage supermarket instead, where just under $4 bought me a not-too-auntie-despite-the-floral-print umbrella --- that lasted exactly two uses before one of its rods parted ways with the umbrella fabric.


In the end, it was back to my old faithful neighbourhood provision shop, which for $5 has given me a chequered print umbrella that snaps stoutly into place (despite being a collapsible model) and has a reassuring heft to it even as it's being extended to full length. It still doesn't feel as solid as the one I had in the US, or perhaps I'm just idealising that memory, but I think it'll do me all right in the current situation. If nothing else, I quite like the somewhat retro chequered print.

Now if only I had a place to dry my umbrella without worrying that the cat would get at it ...


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Year in review: 2006

Reading Capitalism Bad; Tree Pretty reminded me that I did this last year.

Write down the first sentence of the first entry in the past twelve months:
The thing about spending New Year's Eve at the same place we were last New Year's Eve --- not to mention it being the same place we spent the most recent Xmas Eve --- is that one can't help getting a little introspective about where the year's taken us and what's changed (or not) since last year's party. I know it's not Monday anymore, but those of us who got to enjoy the long Chinese New Year weekend just started our work week today, so it's apropos that we take a moment to take Monday's Test (link via By The Way). I have a desk. Ink has been with us for three weeks, and every week we've had to pop into a pet store to pick up supplies. And so it was, that at the ripe old age of 32, despite not having the opportunity to vote in this general election, I attended my first political rally tonight. Because then when my iPod decides to crash, I won't panic about the recorded interviews that I should have transferred to my hard disk last week, instead of waiting till --- well, till the iPod crashed. Some nights are all about chilling out, particular when the preceding evenings have been spent hammering on the keyboard till midnight or thereabouts. The funny thing about being a freelance writer is that I work industriously through several consecutive weeks and weekends, then in the middle of the afternoon today, I look down at my to-do list and suddenly I've got nothing to do. So I finally sat down and watched Revenge of the Sith in its entirety tonight. But when we got there, the host announced that it was a wine and cheese party instead. Busy week, hence the "dearth of blog posts", as Little Miss Drinkalot pointed out last night. Alas, poor Terz.
Whew! At 309 words, that's a damn sight longer than last year's 212-word aggregate.


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The cat killed our ironing board

On the one hand, it's amazing how strong he's getting.

The cat did it

On the other hand, we now need to get a new ironing board. And no, Ink didn't get us one for Xmas.


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Bah humbug

Did you think a motorcycle bar would have an Xmas tree like this?

This Xmas, I have been feeling a bit of a sourpuss. I suspect it's the guilt that comes from yielding to laziness and deciding that I really wasn't sending any Xmas cards or buying any Xmas presents --- wanting to soak up the festive joy without putting in the work, so to speak. I actually made a face over the phone last night when my mother called to remind me to bring gifts for the gift exchange at my aunt's place today.

Fittingly, the last episode of Veronica Mars that I watched last night before going out to an Xmas party was the season 2 holiday episode:
Veronica (voice-over): New Year's Eve. Someone just needs to change the name to Same Old Year's Eve, because that "New," implying all that hope and promise, it's not fooling anyone.
Last night's party sure felt like a warm-up to New Year's Eve. For one thing, there was an actual countdown to Xmas, which arrival was then heralded with plenty of silly string and fake snow being aerosol'ed all over people. Fortunately, none of it got on my new shirt.

Give it up for the red and green

I think it's time for a nap.

Merry Xmas, everyone!


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Just in time for the holidays

Nothing like a boring meeting on Wednesday to make me pick up the threads of something I let slide for months: reading blogs. And nothing like catching up on blogs (which is sorta like catching up with a whole bunch of old friends, all at the same time) to make me realise that I'm way, way, way tardy on a meme that dio tagged me for over a month ago.

For the record, yes, this took me four days to complete. The letter 'H' is harder than it looks.

10 Things I love that begin with ... the letter 'H'

1. Home --- namely, the apartment where Terz and I have been nesting for the past seven and some months. It's not posh, it's not huge, it's not tidy --- but it's got everything where we want it to be (more or less), a great view of the neighbourhood, is in a lovely neighbourhood itself, and it's ours.

2. Hawai'i, where in 1997 I spent a few very touristy days with the family, then spent a few very drunk days with the friends --- wherein I discovered that snorkelling was not that hard to pick up, tourist divers give local divers the evil stink-eye when the latter spear fish (legally!) and the local variety of ice kachang is shave ice.

3. Hollinghurst comma Alan --- wickedly good British writer. I read his books, then despair of ever being able to write.

4. "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and other carols of its ilk. Blame it on when I used to attend church, which entailed going carolling every Xmas because that's what all the kids were doing. Call 'em schmaltzy if you must, but I like a good rousing "O Holy Night" or "Joy To The World".

5. Har gow, siew mai, lor mai gai (sticky rice with chicken) --- that's what I singsong when people ask if I speak Cantonese. It's actually a line first uttered by ampulets, from some random conversation when I was supposed to "teach" her a smattering of Cantonese or somesuch. (Hey, we've been friends 15 years --- I can't remember all the conversations we've had.)

6. Hugh Grant. But only because I just watched Love Actually again on Friday, and I'm feeling all Xmas-y and googly-eyed.

7. Halley's comet --- well, maybe not so much Halley's in particular, but I was a bit of an astronomy nut as a kid. The interest was only brought up short by the cold hard brick wall of reality when I realised how much actual physics I would need to have in my back pocket if I was going to pursue astronomy seriously.

But I still remember being thrilled to my little toes in 1986 to be outside the Science Centre one late night in March, I think it was, to see the blur spot that was Halley's comet through a telescope. Not only was the comet in our neck of the woods (so to speak), it was even more mind-boggling to think that it wouldn't swing around again till 2061, when I would be, well, much, much older.

On hindsight, coming on the heels of the Challenger explosion, maybe seeing the comet for myself (disappointing faint inkblot though it turned out to be) was important too.

Speaking of astronomy, has anyone else been watching the 2001 BBC documentary Space (with Sam Neill) on our local Discovery channel? Good stuff.

8. Haroun and the Sea of Stories, which I only read after I finished university. Yeah, I was late to the party again. Such a beautiful book, metaphorically and literally, if you happen to own the illustrated version, which, I discovered with great jealousy on Friday night, EH does.

9. Hubby! Which is a term I hardly ever use, actually, but it was the first thing Terz said when I told him that I was struggling with this H-list. Oops.

10. Hershey's and many other brands of chocolate. 'Nuff said.


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Day in, day out

Now that I'm gainfully unemployed (or it certainly feels that way, as I'm tying up loose ends on various freelance projects), I have plenty of time for errands.

Like going to the bank in an attempt to put some money into a fixed deposit account, only to find out after much back-and-forth sitcom-esque wrangling with a no doubt well-meaning but ineffectual bank officer that they didn't have one that met my specifications.

The conversation went something like this:
ME (waving a flyer that we got in the mail): Hi, do you still have these fixed deposit rates?
Well-meaning but ineffectual bank officer (WIBO): Oh, no more. That one expired 16 December.
ME: Okay, so what are your fixed deposit rates now?
WIBO: How much are you planning to deposit?
ME: [names a small sum of money]
WIBO (placing a rate card before me): Oh, if you put it in for one year, you get this Rather Impressive Amount of Interest.
ME: So I only have to put it in for one year?
WIBO: Yes, but it's a savers account, so you must also pay a monthly premium of $180. It's to help you to save.
ME: So I have to put the lump sum in for one year, and pay the monthly $180 premium to get this Rather Impressive Amount of Interest?
WIBO: Yes.
ME (pointing to a different column on the rate card): What about these other Even More Impressive Interest Rates, for less than one year?
WIBO: [convoluted reply that I can't follow. Never mind.]
ME (going back to the 1-year interest rate): So I put in the money for one year, that's all, and I can take it out after one year.
WIBO: With the monthly $180 premium. It's to help you to save ...
ME: Yes, with the $180 premium.
WIBO: ... which you have to pay for 10 years.
ME: 10 years?
WIBO: You have to pay the premium for 10 years. It's our special savers account.
ME: And the lump sum is also stuck for 10 years??
WIBO: No, you can take out the lump sum after 1 year.
ME: But I have to pay the $180 premium for 10 years.
WIBO: Yes.
ME: So it's an account with a 10-year commitment.
WIBO: But you can take out the lump sum after 1 year.
ME: But I have to pay the $180 premium for 10 years.
WIBO: Yes.
ME: That's not what I'm looking for. I don't even know what I'll be doing in 5 years, don't even say 10 years.
WIBO: [smiles ineffectually]
ME: That's all you have?
WIBO: Yes.
ME: Bye.
How does one not mention a 10-year commitment right off the bat?

Yesterday's errand was much more enjoyable. I went to pick up the Xmas cakes we'd ordered from Baked Ideas aka my friend Karen's new operation. I know it's too late for Xmas, but everyone should seriously go order her Xmas fruitcakes right now. I couldn't resist and had an Xmas cupcake for tea yesterday afternoon, and it was amazing: soft, moist cake chock-full of fruit, yet not so frightfully sweet as to immediately kill the rest of your appetite.

Now this fruitcake I could eat all the way through the Xmas season and then some --- unlike say the extremely passé log cakes that I keep trying to avoid at Xmas parties.

Today's errand will be grocery shopping and writing Xmas-greeting emails to everyone I've failed to contact in the last few months ...


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An unlikely nightmare

Last night I dreamed that I was leaving on a vacation with Terz and some friends, but even though I had three huge bags with me as I met them after work, I hadn't actually had the time to pack properly (who knows what was in those bags) and hadn't packed any toiletries.

So then there was the dashing off to some kind of convenience store/pharmacy to pick up random toiletry items, but when I got back to my bags and my friends, it was time to go and I didn't have a toiletry pouch to put the items in. Why this should seem like a gargantuan crisis, I have no idea, but I was panicked enough in the dream that I woke up in real life --- and then wondered why the hell I would be panicking over not having toiletries when, hello, vacation? Even an imaginary one.

Potential vacation spots for January have been narrowed down to Myanmar and Laos (Adri's current adventures there helped to swing my vote that way). But I haven't sealed the deal by booking air tickets or accommodation yet...


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Rainy days (don't) get me down

Rainy days are good for:
  • Snuggling under the covers
  • Taking a hot shower to make the body really wakes up after the alarm's gone off
  • Hot coffee
  • Watching the cat watch the rain out the windows
  • Hot Milo over lunch
  • Ordering delivery for dinner 'cause we're tired of the food at the coffeeshop and it was too wet to go out
  • Vegging out over DVDs after dinner: last night it was Veronica Mars, tonight it was that plus Babel, which was not as slow as Terz warned me it would be, though I'm not sure how he could possibly describe its ending as "uplifting".
It's been raining nonstop since Sunday. Ay carumba!


Related posts: The rain, it raineth every day, What the rain did, Without fail

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Babies galore

This weekend, I had the good fortune to make the acquaintance of two delightful babies, both of whom have been out of the womb for less than a month. It's quite charming to see how small they are --- and then to witness what fierce lungs they have.

Since my best friend had her baby last year, it seems like 2006 has passed in a flurry of new baby arrivals and accompanying anecdotes about how much (and how) they poop, eat and learn to do fun stuff like grin, sing and wriggle. In sum, the following people I know have had kids this year (in chronological order):
  • Cousin DavidTheTan and his wife (he practically ceased to blog thereafter)
  • The "boss" and his wife
  • Ondine's best friend
  • Ondine's sister-in-law, whom I occasionally do work for
  • The ex-boss from earlier this year, whom I also occasionally do work for
  • G-man and wife, whose Alexandra I met yesterday
  • Maye-E and her husband, whose Nate I met this evening
I suppose this means that in a few years' time, there'll be all the obligatory friends' kids' birthday parties to attend and birthday gifts to buy to corrupt them more than their parents would like.

Alternatively, I could just become the "boring" auntie who always gives them books because books are actually good for them...


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Xmas is coming

A Caffeine Xmas

I know Xmas is coming because I've attended 2 Xmas parties since Thursday, been gobsmacked at the prettiness of Xmas trees everywhere I go (it seems that there's been a resurgence of good taste this year, as evidenced in no small part by Raffles City's classic Xmas tree) and been regaled by friends' and associates' triumphant tales of completing their Xmas shopping well before Xmas proper.

Nevertheless, and much as I love the season, I haven't had the energy or zest to dig out our Xmas decorations or low-maintenance Muji Xmas tree, or to buy pressies. Mostly, I can't believe the year is almost over --- where the hell did 2006 go when I wasn't looking? --- and in some small way, maybe putting off the Xmas routine helps me to put off 2007 for just that bit longer, until it becomes irrevocably true and/or I can accept that the year is, in point of fact, over.

Meanwhile, it's a swirl of Xmas parties. I have seen some of the same people three nights in a row (with likely a fourth sighting tomorrow at a one-month celebration for our friends' baby), which ain't a bad thing because it means a good chance to catch up thoroughly after the months of social life that I lost to work. For instance, I finally got a first-person account of a certain car catching fire while on the road.


For the record, the miniature Volkswagen Beetle is a stand-in for the actual Beetle that caught fire, the brown pouch for the car driven by the friend who put out the fire, and the yellow cue ball for the Shell petrol station where the Beetle on fire pulled up --- which turned out to be a pivotal decision that probably saved the Beetle from going up entirely in flames since it meant that fire extinguishers were immediately on hand. (Although, on hindsight, it seems equally possible that the flaming car could've set the petrol station on fire ... )

The nice thing about Singapore is that even after attending a slew of Xmas parties, I have not had any eggnog, roast turkey, mince pies or any such predictable Xmas fare. Instead there's been excellent popiah at the Objectifs do on Thursday and a welcome overdose of mee siam at last night's Caffeine/Addicted shindig. I'm hoping to make it all the way to Xmas itself before any roast turkey or honey-baked ham touches these lips.


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Sexism Watch #3: I'm sure it's the guy that's paying

Is it just me that gets annoyed when there's a man and a woman at the table, and the waitstaff not only automatically present the bill to the man, but even after receiving a credit card from the woman (albeit a card with a name of indeterminate gender origin), proceed to blithely present the charge slip to the man anyway, all the while pretty much ignoring the existence of the woman?

This happens far more often than I would expect or appreciate, in this day and age. It doesn't matter what the gender of the waitstaff is, so maybe this is something all waitstaff are taught in Singapore or that they pick up over time. And why should that be the case?

If there's a man and a woman at a table, are they going to be mortally offended if the bill is presented in such a manner that doesn't assume the man is picking up the tab? Am I simply ignorant of situations in which women react with absolute horror, embarrassment or indignation if it's suggested that they could, as much as the men, pay for the meal (and if indeed I am, then there is something very wrong with our society)?

I'm not saying that I pay, or want to pay, for every meal. But I pay about 50% of the time, so why don't waitstaff acknowledge that I might have the ability, desire or responsibility to pay? Because that's what it comes down to: In a capitalist society like ours, money is power. To have the money to pay is to exercise a certain power over consumption, and behaviour. For people to repeatedly assume that the woman isn't paying is to assume that she lacks the means or mandate to do so. It's like assuming that she can't become a doctor or run a Fortune 500 company or buy a car on her own or fix a computer because that's not what women usually do.

As I've said before, I work hard for the money, okay, and I like being financially independent. Stop assuming it's only the guys that do the paying around here.


Related posts: Sexism Watch #2: What the news forgot to say, Sexism Watch #1: The bank says women still need men to buy them stuff

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I don't hate you, really, I don't

It's more than a little surreal when my former students are the first few customers trooping into last night's Sinema screening with sufficient consistency and timing that it starts to look like the setup to a joke or something. Thanks for the love, guys.

Then it turns out that certain other former students are, apparently, convinced that I hate them. And really, I don't. I never did. There's too little time in one's life to spend hating anyone, least of all former students whom I last encountered when they were still legally not allowed to drink and I was supposed to whip their writing skills into shape.

In fact, the worst that can happen is that I'll have nothing to say to them, not because I don't want to speak to them, but because there are always just some people in the world that one meets and just doesn't have anything to say to, and it's absolutely nothing personal, just one of those mysteries of human relationships.


In other ongoing mysteries, it turns out that when panaphobic left her cigarettes at our place tonight, she was also too lazy to come up again to get them, so she called me from downstairs to say can I please toss them out the window and she'll catch them.

I live on the eleventh floor.

I tossed the cigarettes. She yelled up, loud enough for me to hear through a closed window, "Got it!"




Sweetness and light

Sugar in small bites

I thought I was in the mood for a huge slice of cake, but then we four decided to split the dessert sampler at the Fullerton Courtyard instead, and that was so much better.

I am, however, declaring a moratorium on mediocre desserts for the Xmas season. Only good desserts will be eaten.




I don't usually ...

A different kind of Xmas tree

... get all gussied up at 5:30 pm on a Thursday. But I was told to show up for the party by 6 pm and it was gonna be one of those parties, that sent me scrambling to the back of my cupboard in the middle of the afternoon to rustle up an old (but good) dress that I'd completely forgotten I had.

... pay attention to speeches at an event. But this time I wanted to hear my colleagues' and collaborators' names read out for the applause they more than well deserved.

... eat that many profiteroles at a buffet reception. But I was in the mood for chocolate.

... invite an ex-student to crash a party. But panaphobic got lucky.

... dance in public. But the problem with declining to dance by advertising one's disinclination to dance in public, is that all one's well-liquored up colleagues (or even those who were relatively sober) immediately take that as a challenge. So when I let my guard down towards the end of the night, an evil colleague from Montreal whirled me out onto the dance floor before I could take cover.

... do the air-kiss-kiss thing. But when everyone's from Montreal, that's what you end up doing to say goodnight.

... mix white wine with champagne with vodka. No wonder I threw up on the way home.


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I've forgotten how to blog

So now I have a little bit of breathing space between work, but I've forgotten how to blog. I sit here, I stare at the blank Blogger screen, and I wonder what it is that one writes about when one blogs. I think about the day that's passed, or is passing, and I can't think of anything that's worth committing to words, as such.

I mean, of course, there's stuff. There was Terz's birthday last Friday, which involved a considerably amount of alcohol, semi-public humiliation and silliness for him, and not very much of any of that for me (because I had to put him to bed eventually, see).

There was the Museum's soft launch on Sunday, which involved showing people around the place so that they'd know exactly where the help they'd given us had gone. If anyone wants a personal walk-through, I'm available for one-on-one tours till December 13, all for the low, low price of a good meal and a glass of wine.

And then there was the usual whining about how much I need a vacation. At last recitation (last night), I have the following places on my to-visit list (in no particular order): central Vietnam (currently in the path of the most creatively named Typhoon Durian), Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Bali and Beijing (which I've been talking about visiting since June). I have booked not a single air ticket. I have no travelling companion (Terz is otherwise occupied). My window of travel is in January only. At the rate this is going, I will still be talking about the proverbial well-earned vacation come next December.

I do believe I now remember what blogging is all about after all.

For the record, I am still in the office, drinking cold Tiger beer out of a white Ikea coffee mug, while we try to complete everything in time for a certain midnight deadline.


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A long overdue meme

Alas, poor Terz. He tagged me and then hardly saw me until his birthday yesterday.

Instructions: Below is a Science Fiction Book Club list of the most significant SF novels between 1953-2006. The meme part of this works like so: Bold the ones you have read, strike through the ones you read and hated, italicize those you started but never finished and put a star* next to the ones you love.

Okay, I am going to absolutely suck at this.

1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien *
2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
3. Dune, Frank Herbert
4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
6. Neuromancer, William Gibson
7. Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury (I think I tried reading it)
11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
15. Cities in Flight, James Blish
16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison
19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey *
22. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling
27. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
31. Little, Big, John Crowley
32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
39. Ringworld, Larry Niven
40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer

Clearly, I have a lot of "classic" science fiction reading to catch up on. Meantime, though, in what scarce free time I have on the train, I've been reading a lot of non-fiction.

No tagging here. I can't think of enough friends who read science fiction whom Terz hasn't already tagged.


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