Jul. 14th, 2013 11:48 pm
dxmachina: (Books 02)
Friday was the first (and only, so far) truly nice day of weather we've had this month*. Saturday was warmer and more humid, and today is meet the new sweltering, same as the old sweltering.

* I use the word "we've" advisedly, because it didn't really get nice until I was in Burlington, so I have no idea what the weather was like in Rhody.

Spent the weekend at Readercon. After the post-con meltdown last year, the subject of safety was on everyone's minds, and deservedly so. Couldn't miss it really. There were signs everywhere, and it seemed like pretty much an entire program track was devoted to it and related topics. That said, at least one incident of some sort occurred, and is now being investigated. I noticed some of it on Twitter, but am confused about what exactly happened**. This is a shame.

** Mostly because I am unclear about whether there was one argumentative creep, or one creep plus another separate argument with someone else. The argument was about the potential for false accusations, which would be weirdly ironic if that's what escalated to the complaint.

Anyway, the panels — Besides the safety topics, there was quite a bit on gender issues, which doesn't really interest me much. Still, there was enough stuff on the program to find something to occupy me in most sessions. The times I couldn't find anything seemed to coincide with the times I needed to check-in at the hotel or get something to eat. Actually, it worked out in such a way that I really never had to choose between two equally appealing panels, so that worked out... I guess...

I didn't take many notes this year, at least not until Saturday evening, but I still have impressions.

Friday... )

Saturday ... )

Sunday... )


The con was very well attended. The registration line was very long when I showed up. Fortunately for me, almost everyone in line had pre-registered. I hadn't, so I was shuttle to a different, much shorter line. And still didn't have my badge much sooner than the folks I had been standing behind in the original line. This is actually the opposite of what my experience has been in the past. The pre-reg line is usually way shorter than the registration line. I wonder if way more pre-registrations came in this year in solidarity after the troubles were resolved. I usually pre-register, but never got around to it until too late this year.

The number of attendees put a strain on the facility. The two ballrooms still seem more than big enough for any panel, but the smaller panel rooms were too small this year. Almost every panel I attended in one of the smaller rooms was standing room only, and I mean a lot of standing.

Barry Malzberg was, as usual, listed on several panels, and I wondered how the recent controversy surrounding him would fly given Readercon's current emphasis on safe spaces and non-harassment. Then I saw the sign that said he wouldn't be in attendance. So it goes.
dxmachina: (Calvin)
The Midway Campaign — Jack Greene

If a book can be awkward, this book about the first six months of the war in the Pacific is awkward. Where did that come from? )

dxmachina: (Books 02)
Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. — Groucho Marx

Yes, I am behind my time, but it's only once a year. It won't be repeated.

The whole list... )

The last couple of books read... )

I have finally gotten back to fiction, thanks to the library notifying me that Jim Butcher's latest Harry Dresden novel was waiting for me to pick it up. Fifty pages in already.
dxmachina: (Bike 03)
Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike — Grant Petersen

Real cyclists don't wear underpants. At least that's what the biking magazines have been telling us for the last thirty years or so. They also wear spandex shirts*, shoes that clip into bindings on the pedals, and bike shorts with padding in the seat rather than getting a more comfortable saddle. They fret over every single ounce of weight added to the bicycle or their person. And they pay through the nose for all of this gear.

* Often covered with logos providing free advertising for megacorporations.

Becoming an unracer... )

Meanwhile, back at the bike path, I had a singular year...

New. League. Record. )

Volleyball tonight, for the first time since I got sick back before Thanksgiving.
dxmachina: (Books 02)
Mechanique — Genevieve Valentine

I had never heard of Genevieve Valentine until the whole Readercon debacle occurred, so had I seen Mechanique: a Tale of the Circus Tresaulti prominently displayed on the new fiction shelf of my local library, say, two months ago, I probably would've walked right past it without a second glance on my way to checking out the current issue of Fine Woodworking on the magazine racks. As it was, I stopped to look at it as soon as I noticed the name on the cover. I still almost put it back. I don't enjoy circuses. The acts presented rarely do much for me. On the other hand, I do seem to enjoy stories about the circus. I love Barry Longyear's Circus World books*, and Circus Boy, starring a very young Mickey Dolenz, not to mention Jim Rockford's pop, was one of my favorite TV shows as a kid. I figured what the heck.

* Once at an autograph signing, I mentioned to Longyear that I never really liked the circus, but that I really enjoyed his books about it. He replied that before he wrote the books he wasn't much of a fan, either.

It's the story of a small circus traveling through a post-apocalyptic world, although it much more steampunk fantasy than science fiction. Most of the performers are mechanically enhanced by Boss, the ringmaster, with the enhancements tailored to their acts. Boss's abilities catch the eye of the head of the local government, who imagines what those abilities could do for him, and trouble ensues.

It was a difficult book to get into. It has lots of very short (sometimes just a single paragraph) chapters, and the narrative is very non-linear, especially early on as the back story is brought out. It reminded me a bit of Vonnegut's Cats Cradle. In addition, the narrative point of view bounces from first person (for Little George's story, the main character), to third person (for the other characters' stories), and even occasionally to second person. The narrator also makes occasional parenthetical asides, much like video pop-ups. It takes some getting used to. The main plot takes awhile to get going as well. All that said, it was worth the effort. I was always interested and quite enjoyed it. I'm glad I picked it up.
dxmachina: (Books 04)
Ringo: Books are good.
Grandfather: *Parading's* better.
Ringo: Parading?
Grandfather: [nods eagerly] Parading the streets! Trailing your coat! Bowling along! LIVING!
Ringo: Well, I am living.
Grandfather: You? Living? When was the last time you gave a girl a pink-edged daisy? When did you last embarrass a sheila with your cool, appraising stare?
Ringo: You're a bit old for that sort of chat, aren't you?
Grandfather: Well at least I've got a backlog of memories! All you've got is - THAT BOOK!

Books are good, the list... )

I went out of my way to try to avoid rereads this year. Apart from one Wolfe book whose turn it was in the Wolfe sequence, all the books were new to me. Toward the end, I was sort of getting desperate to find new books, so I read two entire mystery series, one terrific and one terrible (the Hamiltons were the terrific ones). It was a good exercise. I finally got around to reading Pratchett's Witches sequence, which were wonderful and I highly recommend them. Plus there was a new Vimes novel, and Vernor Vinge's sequel to A Fire upon the Deep came out, as did Barry Longyear's long awaited (at least by me) collection of Jaggers and Shad stories.

There were some duds. I was looking forward to Charlie Stross's Rule 34, but was very disappointed by the ending, or lack thereof. I liked McDevitt's A Talent for War, but the sequel, Polaris, highlighted everything I dislike about his writing. The worst of the bunch, though, were the four Rex Graves mysteries written by C.S. Challinor. Badly plotted, badly written, they're only virtue is that they're short. I really should've cut my losses after the first one, but I already had the other three waiting.

Only one non-fiction, and no baseball books at all, although I have a couple on my night stand waiting to be read. Now I'm looking forward to rereading some favorites.
dxmachina: (Vimes)
Sorry, teach, still way behind on book reports. Here's all the Pratchett I've read so far this year.
(Note: There's some general description of Snuff, but no real spoilers.)

The Wizard... )

The Witch... )

and the Watch... )

"The Brain Thief" — hollimichele

And just to tie things all together, I also read [ profile] holli's Discworld fanfic, "The Brain Thief," a terrific story of a now grown up young Sam investigating the discovery of some gruesome corpses, with the help of Esmerelda Margaret Note Spelling Garlick. It was a lot of fun. Not quite the real thing, but certainly a reasonable facsimile. and the characterizations are quite good. The story brings up something I hadn't really thought about, to wit, who will replace Lord Vetinari when he finally meets Death? Holli's answer make perfect sense, and I wish I'd thought of it.
dxmachina: (Books 03)
Three of the last four books I read have included talking ferrets as characters. Is that just a very strange coincidence, or the first inklings of a sinister trend? Is there some sort of ferret conspiracy a brewing?

Dogs Don't Lie — Clea Simon )

Graceland — Deborah Grabien )

Jaggers & Shad: ABC Is for Artificial Beings Crimes — Barry B. Longyear )

Rule 34 — Charles Stross (spoiler alert) )

dxmachina: (Books 04)
Readercon 22...

Friday... )

Saturday... )

Sunday... )

As usual, there were a few times when I couldn't find anything I was really interested in going to, but also as usual, mileage varies. Add in some homemade baked goods, two decent bike rides, and a couple of terrific meals at Lester's House of BBQ, and it was a pretty good weekend.

Book Meme

Mar. 4th, 2011 07:54 pm
dxmachina: (Books 03)
Snagged from [ profile] snurri...

The book I am currently reading: A Talent for War by Jack McDevitt, the first of his novels about Alex Benedict. So far I'm liking it better than his Priscilla Hutchins books, which annoy the crap out of me.

The book I am currently writing: I've been revising the first scene of a book about the Sang Sacre City Watch for the last couple of years or so.

The book I love most: Hard to say for certain. There are lots of books I like a lot. One is Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light.

The last book I received as a gift: Fail Nation, a compilation from

The last book I gave as a gift: I gave my mother a copy of How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog by Chad Orzel for Christmas. One of these days I need to post a review, because it's a terrific book.

The nearest book on my desk: Not on my desk, which today is oddly book free, but the shelf right next to my desk is where I keep a bunch of cookbooks.


Feb. 20th, 2011 10:11 pm
dxmachina: (Snow)
I'm sitting here staring at the notes I took at Boskone this weekend and not working up much enthusiasm for typing up a con report. I'm pretty meh about this year's edition, which is odd because Charlie Stross was GoH, and I find both him and his work very entertaining*. There just weren't many panels that I was enthusiastic about attending, and some of the few that I was interested in were scheduled opposite each other. Plus I was cranky before I even got to con, so that didn't help matters. I will write it up at some point, just not now.

* Early on he was walking around carrying a stuffed Cthulhu which was wearing a knitted Cthulhu ski mask.

Crankiness... )

There was one thing that made me less cranky. I seem to have developed a knack for stumbling across good barbecue joints while at SF cons. It may not be much of a super power, but it'll do. This time it found a place called Tennessee's BBQ just up the street from the hotel. Very tasty.

While at the con, I finished Stross's The Jennifer Morgue which is part of his Laundry series of Lovecraftian spy thrillers. It's a very funny book, and I liked it quite a bit.


Jan. 15th, 2011 08:06 pm
dxmachina: (Books 03)
Aftermath — Jim Butcher

A novella set immediately following the events of Changes. It's narrated by Karrin Murphy, whose internal voice sounds a heck of a lot like Dresden's. When several of Dresden's werewolf posse go missing, Murphy investigates. Butcher probably shouldn't have written it using first person, but it's fun to watch Murphy kicking major ass on her own.

My Man Jeeves — P.G. Wodehouse

A collection of short stories, some about Jeeves and Wooster, the rest about Reggie Pepper. The Jeeves stories are all tales that appeared in the Laurie and Fry adaptation. The Pepper stories just feel odd. Reggie is basically Bertie without Jeeves, and his pals are always finding themselves in the same sorts of situations that Bertie's chums do, so Reggie has to both come up with the Jeeves-like plan to sort it all out, and then wind up being the one to take one for the team when the unexpected consequences arise. It's never quite as satisfying. And as above, it's hard to tell the difference between Bertie's and Reggie's internal voices. It was several pages into the first Pepper story before Reggie introduces himself, and up until then I thought it was Bertie.
dxmachina: (Books 02)
It's a complex world,
Sometimes I feel like a ch... ch... ch... chimpanzee,
It's a complex world,
So hard for a casual guy like me.
"Complex World" — The Young Adults

Changes — Jim Butcher

A friend (I'm pretty sure it was [ profile] serenada) once referred to Stargate SG-1 as a show with "mad continuity." The same can be said for Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden books, where old characters and subplots constantly return with a vengeance, many of them simultaneously. Add in the fact that Harry always seems to be beset from about four or five different directions at once and the big piece of magic Harry unleashes has to be more spectacular than the one in the previous book*, each plot becomes more complicated than the last. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. It certainly makes one want to read the earlier books to catch up.

* The Harry Dresden of the books, especially the later ones, bears only a passing similarity with the Harry Dresden of The Dresden Files. The book Harry is way more powerful. It's very similar to the differences between George Reeves' Superman, who dealt with small time crooks who threw their guns at him, and the comic book Superman of around the same time who spent his spare time juggling planets for amusement.

Changes is more of the same, turned up to eleven. The title is deliberate. Butcher burns Harry's entire life down to the ground, one piece at a time. There was at least one point where I was tempted to walk away, just because the troubles Butcher had piled onto Harry were starting to make Job's seem like a spa day. I persisted, though, and it was worth it. I think. Depends on what happens next. The ending is both a fulfillment of a long, multi-book endeavor AND a cliffhanger, sort of like the end of Buffy season 5. If I didn't already know there were more books on the way, I might suspect it was the end of the series.

Gilded Latten Bones — Glen Cook

This is left over from last year's list, and I bring it up because Cook's latest Garrett book bears some similarity to Changes. It's been several years since Garrett retired as a detective, and he's living a quiet life with his true love, Tinny. Except it's not all that quiet what with all the arguing. Neither one is very happy. Then a nearly successful attempt on the life of his best friend pulls Garrett back into his old life. The similarity is not that. In fact, Garrett is rebuilding his life after a change took it away. The similarity is that along the way Garrett seems to run into practically every friend and acquaintance he's made over the entire run of the series. All are aging, many badly. Saucerhead Tharpe is developing a gut. Belinda Contague is starting to sag. Playmate has cancer. There is a thread about aging all through it, almost as if Cook is wrapping things up, and very different from the usual Garrett book.

Nikki Heat

Jan. 4th, 2011 08:29 pm
dxmachina: (Books)
Heat Wave — "Richard Castle"

I just watched the "Nikki Heat" episode of Castle, which was a hoot, and even more so because I'd just finished reading Heat Wave. In the episode, The actress who's to play Nikki Heat in the film version of Heat Wave shows up to do some research into the role by following Beckett around. As Castle notes, it's all very meta. And often hilarious. I enjoyed the heck out of the episode.

I wasn't sure I was going to get through the book at first. The prose tends to the purple end of the spectrum. I saw someone write that it's written like a Dan Brown novel. My own thought was that they probably tries to emulate James Patterson or (the late) Stephen Cannell, who have both appeared on the show as Castle's poker buddies. I don't actually know, since I haven't read any of them.

Anyway, the prose eventually settles down to something a bit more tolerable, and the mystery is a good one. There're lots of meta references to snicker at. Nikki Heat keeps wanting to hear the balding, poker playing Judge Simpson say "D'oh. In the series, the poker playing judge is played by Dan Castellaneta. There's also way more nakedness than on the show. There are worse ways to spend a few hours.
dxmachina: (Books 04)
"Because inside every old person is a young person wondering what happened." - Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures

More books than ever since I started keeping track. A lot of rereads, too, especially towards the end of the year.

The list... )

I bought an e-reader a few weeks ago, an Aluratek Libre. It was $90 on sale at BJ's, and came with 100 public domain books already installed (including the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes). I like it. It replaces the Palm Tungsten I had been using mostly as a reader*. The Libre uses a non-backlit LCD screen. It's very readable, as long as you're not trying to read it in the dark. I prefer it to epaper. I did like the screen on the Palm better, first because it was in color, and second, and more important, because you could highlight text on the Palm. That's the biggest weakness of the Libre (for me). It does let you set bookmarks, but then you have to figure out what exactly it was that made you want to bookmark it in the first place.

* The battery in the Palm, which I'd replaced not all that long ago, was completely shot. I could've gotten another battery, but the last one lasted barely a year, and replacing it involved soldering it into place. No thanks.

My current book is by a fictional character, Richard Castle's Heat Wave. Detective Kate Beckett Nikki Heat and writert reporter Rick Castle Jamie Rook (Castle=Rook, get it?) fight crime. So far it's a little better than I expected.
dxmachina: (Pitching)
Bob Feller
Bob Feller taught me how to pitch. Or at least he tried to. When I was a kid, I picked up a used copy of his book, How to Pitch. I still have it, and the inside cover informs me that it cost me 20¢. It's a thin volume, only 90 pages, but there is quite a bit useful information, especially should I have ever found myself in the unlikely position of having to come up with the perfect pitch to throw to Ted Williams. Alas, the ragginess of my arm never allowed me to put Feller's tips to effective use. It's one thing to know what to do. It's quite another to have the physical ability to actually do it.

Feller died a couple of weeks ago at the age of 92. I suppose one shouldn't be much surprised when a 92 year-old man dies, but until he took ill with leukemia earlier in the year, he was still one helluva a vigorous nonagenarian*. He had some of the best nicknames in baseball—Rapid Robert, Bullet Bob, and the Heater from Van Meter.

* Feller was one of the starting pitchers at the inaugural Baseball Hall of Fame Classic last year (photo below). Apparently he could still bring it. And unlike a lot of celebrity throwers of a first pitches, the ones who bounce them from forty feet out on national television, Feller always insisted on throwing them from the rubber.

For those unfamiliar with his work, Feller was the Nolan Ryan of his era, a pitcher who threw fast balls that blurred**. Like Ryan, he occasionally had control issues. Not only did he often lead the league in strikeouts, but also in walks and hit batsmen. And like Ryan, the control eventually came.

** Feller once threw a pitch that was clocked at 107.6 mph.

Feller became a national sensation in 1936 at the age of 17. He signed with the Cleveland Indians in his junior year of high school, and, as he later put it, spent his summer vacation pitching in the major leagues. His high school graduation in Van Meter, IA, was covered by the NBC radio network. He never did play in the minors.

Bob Feller at 91
In the three years (1939-41) leading up to the war, he established himself as the best pitcher in the American League, leading the league in wins and strikeouts every single year, and in ERA in 1940. Even so, when Pearl Harbor was attacked he enlisted in the navy the very next day, the first ballplayer to do so. Given his stature, he could easily have pulled light duty in Hawaii***, but he volunteered for combat duty, and served as an anti-aircraft gunner aboard the battleship Alabama. He lost almost four full seasons to the war. He returned to baseball towards the end of the '45 season.

*** <coughDiMaggiocough>

After the war he picked up pretty much where he left off, and pitched for another 11 years. He was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1962. He is the only chief petty officer in the Hall.

He was ahead of his time in many areas, and always outspoken in an era when outspokeness wasn't especially appreciated. In the off-season he barnstormed around the country with Negro League players (he often pitched against Satchel Paige), and was an advocate for integration of the majors. The barnstorming also left him financially independent, so that he did not need an off-season job, a rarity in those days. This afforded him the time to work on his conditioning all year round, another rarity among ballplayers of that era. There's a whole chapter in his book about conditioning. He also spoke out against the reserve system, long before there was a players union.

He did not fade quietly into the background once his career ended. Perhaps the best adjective to describe him was irascible. He often chided modern players over various matters****, and once the internet fully kicked in, it often seemed that the snark "Get off my lawn," was invented for him. And yet even when he was at his most curmudgeonly, a fair reading of his comments would almost always find that he was making a valid point. He became the grand old man of baseball, and he will be sorely missed.

**** Most recently it was over the hoopla surrounding young phenom Stephen Strasburg, who has occasionally been compared to Feller. Feller's comment about the young man, who has pitched all of 12 games in the majors, paraphrased, was let's wait till he wins a hundred games or so before doing any comparisons. Not long after that Strasburg blew out his elbow, and required Tommy John surgery. He'll miss most, if not all, of next season.


Oct. 4th, 2010 09:25 pm
dxmachina: (Writing 01)
So, after one glorious autumn day on Saturday, the weather seems to have taken a turn towards winter—cold*, gray, windy, rainy. Blech.

* It's actually in the fifties, but it feels damn cold after the tropical air we had last week.

I'm watching House as I write this, and I was going nuts trying to figure out where I'd seen the patient of the week before. Turns out it's Amy Irving, who I haven't seen in anything since, like, Yentl. She's gotten old in the interim. What's worse is that she's a year younger than I am.

Ben Mondor, the owner of the Pawtucket Red Sox and one of the best-liked people in Rhode Island, died this morning at the age of 85**. In the late seventies he bought the then bankrupt PawSox, and over the years built it into one of the most successful minor league franchises in the US. He was the antithesis of the stereotypical team owner, always wandering around the stadium during games, talking to fans. (The first time I ever saw him was when he took my ticket as I entered McCoy stadium for a game a couple three decades ago.) He always seemed a nice man, kind and generous, and I've never heard anyone say different. He will be missed. R.I.P.

** He was two weeks younger than my father. Gulp.

I need to get back in the habit of writing stuff down. I did lots of stuff in September, and all I've got to show for it is two lousy posts. We'll see. I've also written no book reports in a very long time, but I have been reading a lot. Lately I've been alternating between rereads of Pratchett's Vimes novels and first-time reads of Laurie R. King's Mary Russell series.
dxmachina: (Books 04)
Spent a long weekend in Burlington, MA, riding my bike, eating terrific barbeque, and attending Readercon 21. The weather was really muggy, but otherwise I had a pretty good time. I drove up Friday morning, so I missed Thursday night's session, which looked like it had some interesting stuff. Anyway....

Friday Sessions... )

Saturday Sessions... )

Sunday Sessions... )

Other... )

dxmachina: (Archie Goodwin)
A few of a raft of books I've read in the last couple o' months. First, some detectives

Prisoner's Base — Rex Stout

This one could've been called Archie's bad week, as through distracted inaction (he and Wolfe were pouting at one another) he manages to allow two women to be murdered. The book was one of those adapted for the TV show. Kari Matchett played one of the victims. Broke my heart, it did.

The Broken Vase — Rex Stout
Bad for Business — Rex Stout

I picked these up at a used book store when I was home for the holidays thinking they were Wolfe books I hadn't read. Actually they were two of the three Tecumseh Fox novels Stout wrote. Although Fox lives on his hobby farm up in Westchester, both mysteries are set in the same New York City that Wolfe lives in. Dol Bonner shows up in one book, as do some of the same DAs, and he occasionally eats as Rusterman's. He appears to be much more like Stout in personal interests than either Wolfe or Goodwin. He also seems to get along with the police much better than the other two, too.

The oddest thing about the books for someone used to Archie's narration is that they're written in third person, with occasional viewpoints other than Fox's. The Broken Vase, which I read first, out of sequence, is particularly odd in that the language also seems a bit stilted at times. I didn't really know what to make of it, but I thought maybe Stout just wasn't very good at third person, and that's why he gave up on Fox after Vase. If I hadn't already had Bad for Business, I wouldn't have picked it up.

Turns out I was wrong about any difficulties Stout had with point of view. Business is just fine, with none of the weird constructions I noticed in Vase. I'd actually already read a shortened version of the the book because Stout rewrote it as the Wolfe novella Bitter End. The full length version is better. At some point I need to find the third Fox book.

Devil in a Blue Dress — Walter Mosley

[ profile] snurri has been reading and reviewing Mosley's Easy Rawlins books, which got me interested. Rawlins is a black man living in postwar Los Angeles, but while he's treading some of the same ground as Marlowe, he often lacks access to some of the places Marlowe can get to. OTOH, he has access to places Marlowe can't get to. I enjoyed it quite a bit, enough so that I went out and found a copy of the film version, which stars Denzel Washington as Easy. I mean, who doesn't love Denzel?

There was one weird thing about the edition I had, a paperback purchased from Amazon. I'm reading along, enjoying myself, when about forty pages in Easy solves the case, the end. Huh? Turns out it was a short story from a more recent book, used as a teaser. I seen that done at the end of books before, but never at the start. Huh.

Boskone 47

Feb. 20th, 2010 10:50 am
dxmachina: (Spaceman Spiff)
How I spent last weekend...

Friday Panels )

Saturday Panels )

Sunday Panels )

Odds and Ends )

These were most of the panels I attended. There were a couple of others I went to mostly as time fillers, and even those I found engaging, although not enough to write about them.


dxmachina: (Default)

February 2016



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