bunrab: (Default)
I decided to do another pass through a bookshelf I haven't closely inspected in a while. Anyone want the paperback Son of Origins of Marvel Comics (1975)? Used copies currently selling on Amazon for $12, yours for the cost of postage, about $3 via media mail. (Greg, is this something that would interest you?) Anyone want the very last Sears Wishbook, 1992, currently selling on eBay for $10-15, for the cost of postage, probably about $4-5 because since it's ads it can't go media mail? What they would sell for is just not enough to be worth the hassle of dealing with eBay. Last but not least, you'll never guess what I found: that's right, another one of Steve's college textbooks! _Die Energie_ - it's a physics textbook. In German. From 50+ years ago. Nobody in their right mind wants that, do they? Anyway, let me know if any of the above interests you.

Also have a 1963 issue of Film Culture magazine, an autographed concert program from Al Hirt, and two issues of Life magazine - ask me for details if you collect any of those kinds of things!
bunrab: (me)

Recent reading, at least as told on my Goodreads account:


4 of 5 stars
Afterparty by Daryl Gregory
First person unreliable is a difficult voice for an author to pull off, but Gregory not only manages to do it well, he makes it seem as though that's the only possible way this story could have properly been told. The insertions by "G.I....

Neptune's Brood

4 of 5 stars
Neptune's Brood by Charles Stross
Warning: even a one-sentence summary of this book is a spoiler if you have any idea what I'm talking about in the first place. So let me preface that spoiler sentence with this: if you find the financial industries (roughly, banking, in...

Dragon Blood


Share book reviews and ratings with Kelly, and even join a book club on Goodreads.

bunrab: (me)
Remind me to tell you all about The Martian. And the economics book, and the humor research book. And the couple more fantasy books that haven't gone back to the library yet.

And we saw "The Edge of Tomorrow," so now I want to find that book (titled /All You Need Is Kill/) at the library.

Hmmm. A library trip in the near future, it seems. What a shocking development.
bunrab: (me)

First off, a couple of books I didn't like, but they were part of my "quest" - I made it a goal of my own to try and read some things that aren't the kind of stuff I always read. So we have a couple of books that are by authors I've never heard of before.
1. A Kindle book, cheap. Witch for Hire (A Witch's Path Book 1) by N. E. Conneely The premise sounded amusing - a witch who works for several police departments in Georgia, as a consultant, when supernatural things cause problems. In execution, however, the book was weak - it read more like a YA than anything else, even though our protagonist isn't a teenager. There's absolutely no sense of how a real work day goes, or what real jobs are like. The family secret is revealed, with reasons for keeping it that sound incoherent, and the resolution of it goes far too smoothly and quickly for what it is. New magical beings spring out of nowhere, as needed, just to give our heroine something to do. The dinner table conversation at the boarding house she lives in is there just so that there are other characters for Michelle to bounce off of - and it's difficult to tell one kind of supernatural humanoid character from another. And the love interest is barely even there at all - and really, Elron? An elf named Elron? Reeeeally? No convincing reasons why said elf should be attracted to Michelle, and even fewer to explain why she should be interested in a middle-aged elf; their repeated interactions seem to be a series of non-sequiters. The ending is ambiguous enough to pretty much guarantee that the author intends a sequel; I don't intend to read it.
2. From the library, allegedly first in a new series: Pile of Bones (A Novel of the Parallel Parks) by Bailey Cunningham  - I'm providing a link to Amazon, because that's easier that linking to a library site most of you won't be signed in on. " In one world, they’re ordinary university students. In another world, they are a company of heroes in a place of magic and myth called Anfractus" RPGers playing a game in a park in Regina, Saskatchewan. The university students are allegedly grad students, and honestly, the grad students I know don't have time for this much game playing. And /everybody/ needs more sleep than any of these characters get - even medical interns on call get more time to sleep between shifts than these guys seem to get between playing their game all night and TA-ing all day. Anyway, the magical world inside the park.seems to be vaguely based on ancient Rome, with lots of Latin words and place names and professions. Why a magical interface from a park made over a Cree area full of buffalo bones should be European rather than Native American/First People/Indian, I haven't figured out. And after chapter 3 or so, I stopped trying, and started skimming, because it became obvious that this book is written for gamers, and is just a novelization of a game, albeit a game the author invented. And I think you'd have to be a serious live-action RPG-er to care what these characters are doing, or to follow their reasoning, even when they're in the real world. You'd also have to be more familiar with Regina than I am, and I don't care to have to familiarize myself with the streets and neighborhoods of an unfamiliar small Canadian city just in order to be able to follow a fantasy novel. In short - not at all interesting to someone who isn't fascinated by novelizations of someone's D&D games from college.

Now on to one I did like:
3. Dragon Bones (The Hurog Duology, Book 1) by Patricia Briggs - I've read her entire Mercy Thompson series, but had never gotten around to any others of hers, so I grabbed this one from the library. And I like it. I like Briggs' writing style. It isn't exactly humorous - well, the Mercy Thompson books have plenty of humor, but that's not their main raison - but it is wry. Most of the characters have a good sense of the fact that so much of what they have to do is ridiculous, and that life is an awful lot of trouble, and that other people are usually inexplicable. Our hero, accompanied by the family ghost, gives up his fortress/leadership of the clan because he can clearly see that no physical castle is worth as much as saving the lives of his people. There are plenty of plot twists that I'm not going to give away. I'll just say, I found the premise - the last set of bones of an extinct race of dragons is buried under the keep of the Hurog - to be carried out well, and I really liked the characters. Ward does what he has to, to make sure his father doesn't kill him, and then has to figure out a way to get out of the hole he's dug for himself after his father dies. He has siblings, and cousins, and faithful followers, and not-so-faithful members of his band of misfits, and he has the aforementioned family ghost. Keep an eye on the ghost. Some particular things I liked about this book, as specifically pertains to fantasy: first, there's not /that/ much magic in it - there's a lot going on that's people interacting, not magical things happening. And the magic seems to follow a reasonable set of rules; there aren't new magical things popping up every few pages just to solve problems or just to give our hero something to kill, as happens in far too many fantasies. There are the dragons, and there are mages, some with more magical abilities than others, and that's about it. The rest of it's real people, doing what real people in feudal societies do, and frankly, when magic comes messing with their lives, they aren't all that enthused about it - it's usually more trouble to people than it is a help. And yes, that has some parallels to Game of Thrones, such as the line that the series is named after. In fact, if you liked Game of Thrones but would prefer to read something with far fewer gory deaths and far fewer pages, you could do far worse than this. It's got the hardworking people of the north, and the king in the south who maybe shouldn't be king, and some other similarities, but all in a normal-sized volume and with not one single toilet disemboweling. I plan on reading the sequel, and on finding more of Patricia Briggs, because I like her voice.

I think that completes
for this year; I probably won't have time for another quest, as there is real stuff I should be doing. Maybe next year.
bunrab: (me)

So when we last met, I had mentioned that I was going to attempt to read one of the volumes in Daniel Abraham's current series; two chapters of that disabused me of the notion. It's definitely complicated enough that one would have to start at the beginning. And given the size of each volume - fatter than the volumes of Game of Thrones, for comparison - it would be far more than I want to take on at this time. So back it went to the library, unfinished.

lengthy book stuff )

Now under way: another Patricia Briggs, but this time a series I haven't read before, or even noticed existed before, which appears to include dragons, maybe - at the moment, at the beginning of the book, the dragons appear to be extinct. So that will be the next one I report on.

Also read a graphic novel that sort of counts as fantasy: Beasts of Burden Volume: Animal Rites - cute, not terribly deep, but the dog characters and the cat are sort of cool.

Other things: took the euphonium to a Browningsville rehearsal and played it for about half the time, and there were moments when I didn't make a fool of myself. And saw "A Million Ways to Die in the West" with Larry, speaking of the West, and Seth MacFarlane's West is probably almost as fantastical as the books above, and from the first couple of measures of the score during the opening credits I was laughing, and I think I enjoyed it so much because so much of the humor was audio in one way or another, which is what I was paying attention to rather than the gross and tasteless poop jokes. From the snippets of Copland in the score, to "Mila Kunis" by way of "People die at the fair" and not forgetting the uncredited cameo by Bill Maher, I laughed a lot. I'll probably buy the soundtrack album.
bunrab: (me)

As I described in the previous post, trying to read 5 fantasy books by June 21. Well, I don't really have to try hard; I read enough that I'll have far more than 5 by then. The part that's a challenge for me is remembering to blog about them, and then writing a post that actually says something more than "I read this."

So today's book is Brazen by Kelley Armstrong. It's the newest entry in a werewolf-and-vampire series, a minor entry in several senses of the word, and a disappointing one. Its purpose is apparently to convince us that there's more to a particular minor character than there appears to be, and I didn't find it convincing.

First off, it's barely novelette length - there's not much story here, not even for the short length of the book. What brings the price of the book up to that of others in the series is supposed to be the illustrations - a whopping three of them, on glossy page inserts, none of them necessary and none of them at all useful in furthering the story nor in clarifying anything from the text. So, if you were to pay the list price of the hardcover (I got it from the library; I don't buy hardcovers any more), you'd be paying for a longish short story in which nothing gets resolved, with three glossy black-white-and-red illustrations with no action in them.

Spoiler alert )

If you're following Armstrong's series, there's no real need to read this, I don't guess, and if it doesn't make it to your library, you can nonetheless read the next one without having lost any major threads in the series arc.
Other recent reading )

Now tackling a much more substantial volume: Daniel Abrahams. It's apparently the third in a series - new on the library shelves; I often start series in the middle and then decide whether it's worth going back and reading from the beginning. I liked Abrahams' Long Price Quartet, mostly, so this has promise. Stay tuned.
bunrab: (me)

I just found out about this from [livejournal.com profile] avanta7, and though it started March 21, I believe I can read 5 fantasy books and blog about them by June 21. Um, I'm sure I can read them. It's the remembering to blog that's a challenge. So,

And here's the first book, which I happen to have just finished:
Moon Called (Mercy Thompson #1)
by Patricia Briggs
The start of a werewolf-and-vampire series I hadn't read before, by an author I hadn't read before. I read 2 of the series by accident last week, out of order, and decided they were good enough to go start the series from the beginning. Although I refer to it as a werewolf-and-vampire series, one of the things that makes it different is that our protagonist is a shapeshifter coyote, as far as she knows the only remaining one of her kind, which means that for supernatural company she's reduced to hanging out with werewolves. The story is told in first person singular, normally not my favorite voice, but Mercy's (short for Mercedes) voice is quite good, natural sounding, and has lots of humor, so that it works.
In reading this one, I see the first roots being laid down for the plot in the later ones I read out of order, and when I reread them in order, they'll have more depth because I will have the background.

I know, I know, werewolves, what a cliche by now, right? Does it help any if I remind everybody that I've been reading vampire fantasy since long before the current fad? That I started reading Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's St. Germain series when she first started writing it, in the 70's? That I read Tanya Huff's Henry Fitzroy books long before anybody made them into a wretched TV series? (And speaking of TV series, I've never seen True Blood, so I have no idea of how much worse than the Sookie Stackhouse books it might be.)

Nonetheless, cliche or not, and the fact that I've been reading vampire stuff for 4 decades now or not, there was enough in this series that isn't common to all the books in the genre, that I am finding it well worth my time.

Stay tuned for book 2!
bunrab: (me)
I am reading Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman, and I like it so far, but I have reached one particular part in the discussion of risk aversion, and particular, the difference in how risk-averse people are with prospects of winning something, vs. with prospects of losing something.

The observation of contrasting attitudes to risk with favorable and unfavorable prospects soon yielded a significant advance: we found a way to demonstrate the central error in Bernoulli's model of choice. Have a look:

Problem 3: In addition to whatever you own, you have been given $1000. You are now asked to choose one of these options: 50% chance to win $1000 OR get $500 for sure
Problem 4: In addition to whatever you own, you hav e been given $2000. You are now asked to choose one of these options: 50% chance to lose $1000 OR lose $500 for sure.

You can easily confirm that in terms of final states of wealth - all that matters for Bernoulli's theory - problems 3 and 4 are identical. In both cases you have a choice between the same two options: you can have the certainty of being richer than you currently are by $1500, or accept a gamble in which you have equal chances to be richer by $1000 or by $2000. In Bernoulli's theory, therefore, the two problems should elicit similar preferences. Check your intuitions, and you will probably guess what other people did.

  • In the first choice, a large majority of responders prefered the sure thing.

  • In the second choice, a large majority preferred the gamble.

Kahneman presents how his prospect theory views this choice in terms of the reference point, an improvement over Bernoulli's utility theory. He then goes on to say most people never notice the gift of $1000 or $2000 that they've been given - it's included in most people's reference points. People see this in terms of winning money in Problem 3, and losing money in problem 4, and, as he had demonstrated earlier in the chapter, and verified through studies, when all of the choices are bad - for example, when all the choices involve losing SOMETHING - then people are more inclined to go ahead and take the gamble.

But there's where apparently I am way different from most people. That I had been given money was the first thing I noticed, and how I immediately thought of both problems is that hey, there are no losses here - in no case am I not winning at least $1000! Problem 4 is as much about winning as problem 3 is, despite the misleading wording of losses. For me, I interpreted problem 3 as "I definitely win at least $1000 no matter what; I have a 50% chance of winning $2000 instead, or a certainty of winning $1500. So I picked the gamble, because hey, even if I lose the so-called gamble, I have still won $1000! And in problem 4, I interpreted it as "I definitely win $1500 if I choose the second option, or I have a chance that I only win $1000 - of course I'm going to take the definite win of $1500!"  In other words, because I saw that I win $1000 no matter what I do, my perceptions of which gamble was worthwhile was exactly the reverse of most people's.

This isn't to say that Kahneman's prospect theory is as wrong as Bernoulli's utility theory - but it is to say that it's less complete than Kahneman thinks it is, because there are people who do see that their "reference point" is what they had before they were ever offered the opportunity to gamble, and that a gift given to you as soon as you agree to participate, before you even make any choices, does not change the starting point - the real gamble here is deciding whether to accept the offer to participate in the study in the first place! Once you make that decision, you have already won, if you decide to participate, or not-won (lost an opportunity, though not lost any real money) if you decide not to participate.

One of the things this shows is that studies based on academic settings with limited and fixed choices are never going to elicit the kinds of behavior that people will exhibit when they actually have money in hand and a real-world setting - and furthermore, which Kahneman should certainly have perceived, based on lots of earlier stuff in this book, how they have been primed by prior life experience that is not under the control of the experimenter, usually not even known by the experimenter nor does the experimenter even realize that he should somehow find about about those things. A person who has spent time previously in their life thinking about risk aversion, about gambling, and about decision theory, even in an amateur way, is primed to read these problems differently than someone who has never spent any particular amount of time thinking about risk and gambling. Even if asked to make a quick decision, these people will be more inclined to think that thinking it through is FUN rather than work, in that it's pursuing a personal interest, and so will expend the effort to think about it for a few seconds even if not encouraged to do so.

Am I wrong here?
bunrab: (me)
I was discussing the phrase "ye gods and little fishes" with boyfriend the other day, and I swear I remember reading a book as a kid, in which a little girl used that phrase frequently to express her impatience with other people. I cannot remember what book it was - this odd notion comes to me that perhaps it was Cheaper By The Dozen??? Could that be right? If not, does anyone else remember such a little girl using that phrase, possibly in connection with walking to get ice cream? It's very odd what scraps the mind remembers.

I am too lazy to go to the library and find Cheaper By The Dozen just to see if that's it.

This year, our anniversary and Mother's Day came on exactly the same dates it did the year we got married, 1985. It would have been our 28th anniversary. I kept busy and didn't think about it too hard, because who wants to ruin someone else's nice Mother's Day dinner by bursting into tears?

My stepmother lost her first husband when she was considerably younger than I was when Steve died - and she had several small children to take care of as well. (If I recall, her youngest at the time was an infant.) I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for her - and I can see why she would have been happy to meet my dad, even though it wasn't that long afterwards, because she must have been so lonely, surrounded by children who were a constant reminder of what she had lost, without being old enough to be useful in helping her cope with his loss. My stepbrothers and stepsisters never talked about their father very much, though I gather he was rather strict, and chronically ill.

Saturday was our condo community's annual group yard sale. Six boxes of books and two boxes of crafts magazines out the door, along with a few miscellaneous items. Steve's three torque wrenches were the first thing to be sold - lots of guys want those, apparently. The crowd, and what they're looking for, is rather different than Austin; fewer books sold than I had hoped (the leftovers went to the charity donation truck that came at the end, not back into my condo) and a lot more people were looking for clothing, which I hadn't even considered bringing because in Austin, it never sold well - only baby/little kids clothing ever sold at all. Here; people who had women's dresses and suits and shoes were doing a brisk business. I did get a few people who each took an armload of crafts magazines, though, and a few science fiction geeks who picked up 10-20 books apiece. Did a bit of electioneering for the condo board elections this summer - I'm serving as an appointed member, right now, filling in a vacant spot, but I need to get elected to a regular term, and, quite oddly for such things, we have 5 people running for the three open spots (usually it's hard to get anybody to run at all) - so I used this as an opportunity to talk to a bunch of neighbors I hadn't met before, and do a few good deeds - things I would have done anyway, of course, but now I mentioned that I was running, after helping people.

I had my quarterly device check today, and it looks like the battery is holding up enough that we don't have to schedule replacement for July - the power level is still a bit above even the "elective replacement" level, let alone the "mandatory replacement within 3 months" level. So we've scheduled the next quarterly check for August, 3 months from now, with the assumption that at that time, the power will have just dropped into elective replacement then, and since replacement is outpatient surgery, it can be scheduled fairly quickly, probably for later that week. The question will be whether I've healed enough to play in rehearsals that start up around Labor Day - I believe the first concert any of my bands have scheduled for next season is something like September 15. By now, my cardiologist is used to hearing that his schedule comes in somewhere less important than my concert schedule :D

Hey, anyone in Maryland: Maryland Community Band Day is June 9, noon to 8 pm, at the Lurman Woodland Theater in Catonsville. Montgomery Village Community Band is playing at 3 pm, and Baltimore Symphonic Band, as the host band, is playing last, at 7 pm. C'mon out and listen!
bunrab: (me)
I regularly grab large armfuls of stuff off the new books shelf in the library, on spec, to see if there are random authors out there I haven't run across who might be any good. This is particularly the case with murder mysteries - I read 'em faster than the authors write 'em, so I am constantly on the lookout for new series, or new to me, anyway.

One of the things that I've noticed is that there are more and more gimmicks in the mystery genre.
A long rant about gimmick escalation. )
One example of too many gimmicks, that I skimmed through and could hardly stand even the skim version: our protagonist spends lots of time drinking brand name liquor and talking about kinky sex with her neighbors, but still has time to have a really successful career! And she has a boyfriend who's a cop, and he doesn't mind at all that she constantly gets involved in murders and solves them for him! And she's going to be on a reality show! Which is supposed to be a bunch of women from whom the rich guy will choose a spouse, but really he's gay and it's one of the men in the house that he's going to choose! Only one of the guys is secretly straight and pretending to be gay in order to get the rich guy's money! Oh, and there's a guy who's secretly his son he didn't know he had! I'm pretty sure there were designer shoes in there somewhere too, but I couldn't hack even skimming more than the first two chapters and the last one.

And then there's the other bane of the random book grab, the self-published book. These show up on the library shelves, often because a local author has donated copies to the library. Where do I even start about the horrors of most self-published books? I won't even mention the lack of proofreading in many; that's just pitiful - but the stuff beyond typos and obvious grammar errors? The dialogue that clearly no one has ever tried saying out loud? The massive info dumps as filler? The continuity errors, oh gods, the continuity errors. Bad enough when it's just that the spelling of someone's name changes from Marjorie to Marjory, a little worse when someone's physical characteristics such as hair color change suddenly, or their background information changes. Then it gets to the point where someplace that we were told 2 chapters ago is a place our protagonist has never been, but suddenly he's familiar with it and has spent years there. Or there's dialogue and suddenly one of the characters who's speaking is someone who wasn't in the book at all until suddenly they were in the middle of this conversation! And then there's the really egregious stuff - the narration changes from third-person to first person at random times that are clearly accidental, not a deliberate viewpoint change to make something clearer. Or similarly, the tense changes for no reason, and a paragraph that was in standard fictional past tense is suddenly being told in the present tense, even though nothing else has changed. Or someone who was speaking standard English (albeit stiffly and without contractions or very unrealistically) suddenly starts speaking in a dialect, with the dialect spelled phonetically.

I've been sent a few such books by authors who see my name on Amazon; so far, there hasn't been a one of the self-published books where I'd be able to write a positive review.

Sometimes it really makes me question whether it's worth trying to read anything new. But in the next post I will describe a couple of books I liked, one with a gimmick that was a little bit gimmicky but the characters were likeable and the plot was good, so it worked; another that was self-published but turned out to be quite decent.
bunrab: (me)
The local library seems to have gotten a big shipment all at once from Prometheus, publishers of assorted skeptical stuff and also way-out-there stuff occasionally - people who are skeptical of the real world to the point of massive conspiracy theories, etc. The quality of books from them varies. Sometimes it's straightforward "my doctoral dissertation turned into a book" stuff, sometimes it's stranger than that. Anyway, I grabbed a few of them to look at.

First up: Radical Distortion: How Emotions Warp What We Hear - John Reich. First the totally obvious: people with extreme views on a subject don't like to hear contrary opinions. Then the slightly less obvious, with several studies: people with extreme views on a subject are more likely to rate neutral statements as being negative/against them/contrary, rather than neutral - holding extreme views makes one incapable of perceiving neutral ground. Many of the studies cited are actually from the 50s and 60s, not from current issues that are polarized, showing that this aspect of extreme views has been around for a while.
For example )
Next up: Second That Emotion: How Decisions, Trends, and Movements are Shaped - Jeremy Holden. This turns out to be mostly stories about how to use social media to spread propaganda - not as interesting as the title, and not even that informative - it's anecdotes, and no real studies showing whether what the author thinks made the "movement" in each anecdote work, is actually what fueled or spread it. It's just stories, no analysis. Waste of time.

Last from this batch: The Big Disconnect: The Story of Technology and Loneliness - Giles Slade. It's the Kindle's fault that people don't talk to each other any more and are rude when they do. No, it's Amazon.com's fault even before the Kindle. No, it's the Internet's fault!! The author's thesis is that since we buy more stuff online now, we have fewer daily interactions that consist of saying "thank you" and "Have a nice day" with store clerks, and that's making us lonelier and ruder. My opinion: Um, no. For one thing, for most products, the percentage of people who buy them online is still vanishingly small - almost everyone still buys their groceries in a grocery store, and even if they order them online, they talk to the delivery guy. Likewise restaurant meals, haircuts, dentists, all that other stuff that CAN'T be done on the Internet - still far, far outweighs the commerce that is done on the Internet. I wound up chatting about this book with the guy next to me at a restaurant - the only seats left at the place across the street before a concert were at the bar, so we were squished together, and he had an e-reader, and we had a nice long chat about reading books (news flash: people who have e-readers still buy lots of hardcopy books too! The more you read, the more you buy!) and whether having a tablet to read on alienated you from other readers. Conclusion: no, if anything, e-readers seem to spark more conversations than carrying around a dead-tree book, if anything. So our joint conclusion was that The Big Disconnect is full of crap.

I also grabbed The Pickwick Papers in my quest to read a few more classics, but discovered that my tolerance for that particular type of humor is quite limited, and after 4 chapters I was too tired of those characters to continue. Oh well, I'll try a different classic soon.
bunrab: (me)
I went to the US Army Band Tuba-Euphonium Workshop this past week - and discovered that I enjoy it for its own sake, not just for Steve's memory, and that other people look forward to seeing me there for my own sake, not just because I'm Steve's widow. That was an interesting discovery.

There are a lot of things to enjoy at such a conference, even if one isn't a tuba player. It's a whole bunch of music for free. Recitals by excellent professionals, evening concerts by the Army's professional groups - Army Blues, the concert band, etc. And some of the sessions that were lectures or recitals-with-talks were interesting for any musician. The morning warm-up for tuba players included suggestions about breathing and maintaining embouchure that were surprisingly relevant to a bari sax player. And the conversations in the lobby and the bowling alley dining room (the only place for civilians to eat on base most of the time) and at restaurant meals are with people that share a lot of interests in discussing music of all sorts, and griping about community band conductors, and building a music library, and lots of other stuff that isn't just for tubas.

I got to make lots of ophicleide jokes with people who understand ophicleide jokes and have more in turn. There were vendors who recognized me, and wanted to chat. And I bought a cleaning kit for the bass trumpet, and a swab of sorts meant for cleaning a euphonium that I think will do a much better job on the bari sax neck loops than what I'm currently using. And a couple of euphonium mouthpieces which will fit into the sax neck, which is part of the ophicleide jokes. And I am going to practice the bass trumpet more, and maybe even borrow a euphonium to bring to next year's workshop, to participate a bit.
One of the things I don't like is the process of getting there. Even though Ft. Myer is less than 50 miles away from me, the routes that all the mapping services and GPS suggest are roads that I particularly hate. The BW Parkway is poorly maintained, especially when it crosses into the district and becomes DC-295. Here's one of the more disconcerting steps in the Mapquest directions: "Southwest Freeway/I-695 N becomes I-395 S." That was at least equaled, if not exceeded, in weirdness, by driving right under a sign on the way home that stated that the road that I was on was "I-295 S/ DC-295 N" - really, really disconcerting.The entrances and exits of DC-295 aren;t in the same spots NB as SB. Neither are the entrances and exits to the George Washington Parkway. And neither are the entrances and exits to US-50. All of which means that one can NOT reverse directions to get home.

Saturday night, driving in the dark, I decided on an entirely different route. Since the concert got out early enough that we could still get out by the Wright Gate (the north gate to the army base, which closes at 9 p.m.), I went straight up Ft. Myer Drive which ends directly being an entrance to GW Parkway going Northwest, straight to the west side of I-495, the Beltway. No need to read dimly lit local street signs, no need to watch for intersections or parking lots or pedestrians once I was on GW. That route winds up being some 20 miles longer, total, to get home - but being so much simpler, with so many fewer turns, and more time on higher-speed highways, that it takes no longer - and is MUCH less stressful. I think next year I'll use that route to go TO the fort, right off the bat. Yes, it sounds bizarre, yes, it uses up more gas, but so much easier on my sensibilities (avoiding US 50 altogether has a LOT to recommend it) that it'd be worth the extra $2 worth of gas.

In other news, I finished Rage is Back (see previous post) and also Albert of Adelaide, an adult fable about a platypus who escapes from the Adelaide Zoo to go looking for the Old Australia, where animals are all free and live naturally. Instead he meets up with an arsonist wombat, and they have adventures which unfortunately include a bunch of killing. I think the takeaway is supposed to be something about the power of friendship and mutual support, but the lesson I got out of it was more that the supposed good old days were actually violent, and lives were uncomfortable and short, with violent ends; modern "captivity" is actually a hell of a lot better quality of life. That's just me; you read it and see if you get more of that touching "buddy" feel out of it.
bunrab: (me)
A Christmas Garland - Anne Perry. Novelette, Christmas-themes, annual, features one of her regular characters at a much earlier point in his life. Good mystery.
The Member of the Wedding - Carson McCullers. I sorta resolved at New Years to try and read a few "classics" this year, and since this was on the "classics" display at the library, I grabbed it. I have no idea why it's a classic. I am reminded once again, even in this relatively short novel, of everything I don't like about the style of "Southern" writers and of the whole southern-gothic-sort-of genre. Stories of family scandals based on ignorance, disease, and discrimination, will just never be my cup of tea, I guess. And our protagonist is actually too young for this to be coming of age, nor does she particularly come of any pieces of wisdom from the incidents. I guess it's a good description of the intense but scattered emotions and lack of logic typical of a girl on the brink of adolescence, but so what? Not that interesting.

Tried a bit of chick lit, since it involved a bookstore; I thought that might make it interesting. It didn't, and I didn't finish The Book Lover by Maryann McFadden. I stopped at about the second point where I was mentally shouting at someone, "Why the hell do you people keep lying to each other on the spur of the moment for no logical reason???" Life's too short.

Now reading: Rage is Back - Adam Mansbach. Very, very funny. It's told in the first person, and some of it in New York City dialect, if that's the right word - our protagonist is the teenage son of an absent father who was a famous graffiti-writer in his day. Said son, unfortunately named Dondi, is quite intelligent, and has only recently been kicked out of what he refers to as the Whoopty Whoo Ivy League We's A Comin' Academy, which he was attending on a "What the Hell, Let's Give a Clever Young Colored Boy a Chance to Transcend His Race Scholarship."
Here's an excerpt from where I just reached, in which our narrator's reappeared father has described an alleged entheogenic serum from a talking tree, and our hero is deciding whether to listen to him:

I'm taking the time to acknowledge this out of respect for you, the reader, because I hate stories with fuzzy internal logic. Kids who've grown up on Harry Potter don't know any better, poor schmucks: the people in those books are constantly doing things that were impossible five minutes earlier. In a few years, you'll see. The Rowling generation's going to be the most fucked up yet. Whereas you could break into George Lucas's house right now, traipse into his study, and say, "Hey George, what exactly is a parsec?" and as soon as he finished taking his bong hit, he'd be able to explain. Probably before security arrived. Or take Tolkein: not only could J.R.R. have told you why they didn't just ride those giant fucking eagles straight into the heart of Mordor instead of walking, he'd have done so in High Elvish, or the Tongue of the Woodland Realm, your choice.

bunrab: (Default)
The heart stuff first: yes, I did go to the doctor's the next morning, just to confirm that it was a real episode and what I felt was what I thought it was, and test the device just to make sure nothing's wonky with it. And indeed, yes to all of that. And they raised my dose of Coreg again, now all the way up to what it "should" be - I had previously been taking only half the full dose, for years, because it made me so tired and because nothing much was going wrong and the Coreg wasn't helping my blood pressure that much over and above all the other meds I take - the Diovan or enalapril, the diuretics, etc. And for years, that was fine. But now, it appears that I need it for the anti-arrhythmic effects as well as the antihypertensive effects, so full dose it is.

a couple more paragraphs of whine )

Now, books. Part of moving is, I have to de-acquisition a LOT of books.
whining about why I have to give up a few )
One of the things I'm doing is reciting a mantra that goes like this: "The library has this book. The library has this whole series. Every library in Maryland and the surrounding states has this whole series!!" That mantra is useful for a lot of the murder mysteries and some of the science fiction. Of course I am not giving up the Lois Bujolds - I want to be able to reread any Miles book on any spur of the moment! - but the mantra helped me get all the J.A. Jance out the door, because, really, libraries are very good about murder mystery series. And a bunch of Steve's vampire collection that I still had - since vampires have been more popular these last 10 years than they were when I first started reading them or when I turned Steve on to them, more libraries have them, more used book stores have them, and more of them are available as e-books. So I don't need to keep most of them. (The complete Yarbro St. Germain series stays. Don't try to talk me out of that one.)

Another way to get rid of books )
Some of the reading I've done this past 6 months has been new stuff, and there's thoughts on that.
Reading and rereading gets tiring )
So that's the process. I am trying to remember to record all the re-reads on Goodreads as I go along, and also the library books I have been reading interspersed because a body can't read 100% fantasy series 100% of the time. If there's still any of you who I haven't found or haven't found me there, well, I'm easy to find.
bunrab: (alien reading)
When last seen, other than a few short tweets,we were in Elko, Nevada, and I was complaining that there were great chunks of the North American continent that should never have been settled, and we *certainly* shouldn't be encouraging idiots like me & Steve to visit them by building an interstate highway to them. I-80 continued to enchant the next day, when we drove as far as Rock Springs, Wyoming, where tiredness, rain, darkness, altitude, whatnot, combined to say "We're stopping here instead of continuing to drive." The people in Rock Springs were very nice, both at the KOA and at the supermarket, where we bought too many desserts. Pumpkin-chocolate chip cookies!

The next day was, thank goodness, our last stretch of I-80 for the moment. From Rock Springs, we made it to Denver in time for supper, even with my stop at Cowgirl Yarn in Laramie. Delightful people in that yarn shop! They are currently at 115 Ivinson, but wanted to let everyone know that in June, they'll be moving -two doors down, so they'll be next to the coffee shop instead of the chocolate shop (don't worry, the chocolate shop will still be easily accessible). I got out of the yarn shop relatively cheaply - lower prices than Baltimore-area yarn stores! Not counting the gasoline it took to get there, of course.

Denver is where we had built in an extra day, good thing, too, because after driving through heavy rain and snow, we really needed a break from the road for a while. Sunday, Vince and Chas did the driving - as we went up Pike's Peak, where there was more snow! We were only able to go up to 12,000 or so feet, as the road above that was closed. Interesting stuff: though there is no official venue for such sports, there were quite a few people skiing and snowboarding down the mountain. Absolutely nuts. Crucial thing to know for anyone else considering a day at Pike's Peak: the gift shop at the Glen Cove point has only one unisex restroom, that is one toilet, and so you can expect quite a line, especially if everyone has been drinking lots of water as is recommended for the high altitude.

Speaking of high altitude, I have to admit it did leave me a bit dizzy. Although we had been rolling along the highway at 6000 feet or so for a couple of days, and adjusted to that altitude, 12,000 feet is something else. My heart and lungs were not 100% happy with me. I recovered fully after a really long night's rest, though.

On the way home from Pike's Peak, we ate at the Rockyard Brewery and Grill, in Castle Rock, and I can highly recommend it to anyone else touring the area. Lovely Mission decor, excellent sandwiches; I hear the beer is quite good though I wasn't up for alcohol after already experiencing low oxygen, but I did have the homemade root beer, and it is spectacular. And free refills!

Since I slept in today, I missed breakfast, but made it out of bed in time to head to the zoo - where we found that not only was every parking lot and every side street full, such that even some school buses were roaming around looking, but every spot of grass in the lots was occupied by groups of schoolchildren waiting to go into the zoo. So we went to the Denver Museum of Science and Nature instead. Cool stuff! We only saw part of it, the dinosaurs and early mammals - lots of dino fossils found in Colo., so a lot of the exhibits were of local items! There is a really nice lounge in the back of the Space Odyssey area, where people can relax in armchairs while looking out a glass wall at the City park, and behind the city, the mountains. Very relaxing.

And then we went to a bookstore... well, Tattered Covers is one of the most famous independent bookstores in the country. Yes, I was bad. I was rather thoughtless, in spending unlimited time there without even wondering where the rest of our party was and whether they had other things to do. Sorry! And I spent too much, too. But hey, bookstore. And back at the Museum, the only things I got at the gift shop were one refrigerator magnet, and a bookmark for Cindy - surely that restraint balances things out?

By the way, back at Pike's Peak I only got a magnet, too, though at the Garden of the Gods Park, which is sort of an introduction area to the peak, I did buy a t-shirt because I did not have enough layers of clothing on for the expected temperatures at the peak. It's a cute t-shirt: three squirrels in the classic "hear no, see no, speak no" poses, with stuffed cheeks, and a caption that says "Birdseed? What birdseed?"

One of the books I bought is a collection of all of Stephen Foster's songs, along with a few from several other songwriters of the same era. It's funny how much we think of as being folk music was actually written by Stephen Foster.

Well. Having been extremely well-fed by C&V, and having some of our remaining cookies from Rock Springs for dessert, I think we're up to date now. Tomorrow we are back on the road, but I-80 is much greener, and fewer occasions of having to climb up mountains, from here on in. So, Omaha next!
bunrab: (Default)
First, some tea reviews:
Ginger Bread Cookie from Teavana http://www.teareviewblog.com/?p=5282 Thanks, Chas! Yummy tea!
Smoky Earl Grey from Fortnum & Mason http://www.teareviewblog.com/?p=5276 Thanks, [livejournal.com profile] parelle! This is one intense tea! (Other one to be reviewed soon!)

And some of my other recent tea reviews:
http://www.teareviewblog.com/?p=5375 Pomegranate Oolong from Harney & Sons
http://www.teareviewblog.com/?p=5332 Ginger Peach Black Tea from Let’s Do Tea
http://www.teareviewblog.com/?p=5327 Starry Night from Liber-Teas

And some book reviews on Amazon.com:
The Enthusiast by Charlie Haas - read the review here: The Enthusiast
Monster by A. Lee Martinez - read the review here: Monster
As usual, you might have to scroll down through several reviews to find mine. And as usual, if you like the reviews, please click the little Yes button! Thank you.

Other recent reading:
A History of the World in Six Glasses by Tom Standage: there's a cute visual pun on the cover - in place of the word "the" in the title, there's an elaborate tea tin, looking like it's from an era when the French went in for Chinoiserie - and the French word for tea is thé. The book is a bit superficial, but fun, and let's hear it for beer, bringer of civilization!

Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris - latest in the Sookie Stackhouse series, a bit too much blood, gore and torture - catering too much to the Anita Hamilton fans? Lots of action, but some of it totally unnecessary to the plot. If you are a reader of diverse and sundry fantasy and SF and have read Miller & Lee's Liad series, you can compare Sookie's accidental marriage to Eric with Miri accidentally marrying Val Con - both have knives. I didn't bother to do an Amazon review of this one because (a) there were already 493 reviews of it on there, and (b) my review would have been more negative than not, given the aforementioned blood and gore and torture, and the loyal fans don't want to see any negatives.

Coyote Horizon by Allen Steele - 4 connected novellas in his Coyote series, ties up some loose ends but creates others with its semi-cliffhanger ending.Won't make much sense if you haven't read the earlier books - but I do recommend them; it's good, straight-forward SF. Many people have compared Steele to earlier Heinlen (before the porn) - but Steele's politics are more nuanced and complex than Heinlein's rabid take-no-prisoners libertarianism.

Now the request: I can read Latin, more or less, as long as I don't have to get the tenses right, but I can't generate grammatically correct Latin. And there's two things I really want to make needlework samplers out of.
(1) Rust never sleeps.
(2) I know it's in here *somewhere*. (As in, someone asks whether we own such-and-such a book or object; our reply is that we do own it, but haven't the foggiest idea of where in the house or garage, packed or unpacked, it might be. This is pretty much our family motto, and has been, since the day we got married. So, I want Latin for something equivalent to "I know it's in here somewhere" although to sound euphonious, you might have to be a little elastic with the exact wording - I know that these objects are located within somewhere? Anyway. Something like that.)
bunrab: (bunearsword)
Reading: Liquid Jade (about tea); Beyond Red and Blue (about politics); Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (interminably long fantasy, which I am about 1/3 of the way through after 2 weeks of hacking away at the underbrush.)

Music: Went to BSO concert last Friday, going to another one this Friday - that would be today! - last one of this season. Baltimore Symphonic Band played at Charlestown Retirement, here in Catonsville, on Tuesday. Bel Air Community Band will be playing at Shamrock Park in Bel Air on Sunday evening at 7. Next Montgomery Village concert is June 28.


Started June 1, finished June 12! No pattern, just two rectangles, with a V-neck worked into one of them. It's knitted, not crocheted. Has baby cables in it. Craft cotton in the big cheap skeins, one skein.

And before that, there was this one, in May, same deal except I hadn't figured out as much about the shaping yet:

That, and cleaning bunny litter boxes, and cleaning up the old house, packing a bit more at a time each day - almost completely empty now, and it's already being shown!
bunrab: (alien reading)
So, I read this book called How to Read Novels Like A Professor, which turned out to be great - imagine a course on literature, except instead of concentrating on all the boring stuff, he concentrates on bestsellers and genre fiction. And he's funny. He starts out by telling us how the first two sentences of the book can already reveal exactly how much effort and attention we'll have to put into reading it. Several chapters are spent on discussing the unusual narrative techniques of modern novels - as a contrast to Victorian novels, explaining too why those were written the way they were, and how much something can change from that and still be considered a novel. We have the usual discussion of POV, and what the limitations of first-person are, and so on. He uses a lot of examples, including Agatha Christie mysteries, and the aforesaid Dickens. Mostly, when he discusses Dickens, he talks about Great Expectations, which I didn't like and never finished; he doesn't mention my favorite, A Tale of Two Cities, at all. And he spends a lot of time trying to justify reading Joyce's Ulysses, leaving me totally unconvinced - I'm still never going to read it. On the other hand, some of the books he discussed were ones I had not previously considered, that he made sound downright interesting - see more on that below. Others, well, no - he spends a lot of time on Fowles' The Magus, which I read while I was in college in the 70's, and didn't like at all, and the very points that I didn't like are what he does like about it: how "clever" it is, where you have to *work* at figuring out what's going on. And when I read it, I kept thinking, this is an awful lot of effort for very little story; there's not enough plot under the cleverness, and if I want to do this much work while reading, I'll read a textbook and get a good grade for it, thank you very much. So, not everything he considers interesting is attractive. Nonetheless, an excellent book; the writers on my flist would probably enjoy it, too.

One of the books he used in illustrating POV was Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible which I had heretofore ignored. But his description of multiple third-person non-omniscient POVs sounded interesting. So I went and took that out of the library next, and wound up reading it through in only two sittings - it was that interesting. And going in knowing what to expect, the multiple POVs, some with limited information, were not too much work, and were quite enjoyable. Lots of story in there; it's not just character and cleverness.

I also finally got around to reading Koontz's Odd Thomas and one of its sequels, Brother Odd, books which illustrate yet another POV - the *unreliable* first-person narrator, as Odd himself describes himself, comparing it to the POV in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. I don't think I would have focused as much on how the unreliable-first-person POV affects the story had I not recently read the How to Read.... Anyway, I liked the first one, didn't like Brother Odd as much, mainly because of the excess of "Forbidden Planet" woo-woo - I didn't like "Forbidden Planet," for that matter, and for that matter, I hate "The Tempest" - I think it's the stupidest play of Shakespeare's that I've ever read, character and plot-wise. (Great language, but stupid.) Despite the "things man was not meant to create" vibe, though, I enjoyed a lot of the book, especially the Russian character.

Now off to more crocheting and some herbal tea.


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