The Den of Ubiquity

Friday, June 11, 2004:

When Will You Make Up Your Mind

I'm not much for exercising. Maybe that stems from being two years younger than most kids and thus developing a distaste for Phys. Ed. class. Or maybe not. There's pretty much only two forms of exercise that I don't really mind undertaking--swimming and cycling.

I used to ride my bike a lot, in Grande Prairie. I was a late starter, or maybe not late when you consider my age and not my grade. I was probably eight or nine by the time I could ride without training wheels, which was Grade 5 or 6 for me. But after that, I took to it quite readily. It was nice, several months of the year(I refused to ride in snow and ice)to have that mobility. I could ride to and from school most days, go visit my friend Jeremy, etc. I started out with an ugly purple bike, but that didn't bother me, and I tended to boast that at least nobody would want to steal it.

When I was in high school, we moved to the other side of town, and I kept up with the bike riding. After a few months I discovered the paved trails along Bear Creek, which went all the way down to the G.P. Regional College, not too far from the high school. They were a little hilly, but by that point I had acquired an eighteen-speed mountain bike. I was never any good at shifting gears, though, so I stayed in the same gear most of time--the highest one. And I still got to the point where I could climb some pretty serious hills without always having to get off and push before reaching the top.

Then, after one year of college, I moved to Edmonton for university. My bike didn't fit in the first load I brought down, and it took an entire year for it to get sent down on the bus. I rode it around Millwoods a few times, and I was a little bit out of shape, but not too bad. I kept it locked up with a plastic-sheathed metal cable and a plain combination lock. And it got stolen within weeks. I went out one morning and they'd obviously hacksawed right through the cable. I felt like an idiot. We were renting the top floor of a house, and there was a big gap in the back fence so the downstairs people could park there. My bike had been locked up in plain view of a fairly major street.

And that's been pretty much it. At some point we inherited some ten-speeds, but they had tire leak problems, and we never got around to getting the things fixed. When Sharna was storing her bike with us a couple of years ago, I took it out a few times, and by this time I was so pitiful I could barely ride for ten minutes without coming back wheezing, panting and drenched in sweat.

What I really want, at this point, is an exercise bike. I can do all the wheezing and panting in the privacy of home, without sun and wind and bugs. And whenever I decide to stop, I'm already home.

In the meantime, there's swimming. I took a lot of swimming lessons, though they kept changing the grades so I was never sure where I was. I do recall taking some survival/rescue-oriented stuff at least once, so I'm probably not too bad.

When Nicole and I lived downtown, there was a community centre nearby with an outdoor pool that we visited often in the summer. We got out of the habit when we moved to Grande Prairie, and only really started going back(apart from a few visits to the West Edmonton Mall wave pool)with the kids. They have good kids' facilities at the Millwoods Rec Centre, and even a wave pool.

For the past few years, though, it seems that every time I go to the pool I catch something. At least one ear infection, and possibly more, and most recently a case of athlete's foot, which finally cleared up(hopefully)a week or two ago.

I'd have to say that athlete's foot is less unpleasant than the ear infections. Those things got quite painful, especially when I had both inner and outer ear infections, or both ears at once. Earplugs in the bathtub, eardrops several times a day...not fun. Rubbing some antifungal cream between my toes once a day, more manageable.

But it makes me leery of the pool, now. I've heard that the kid's pool, where we spend a lot of time with Luke and Simon, is the worst culprit, or possibly the hot tub. If I stayed clear of those, I'd probably be okay. But I'll be stuck with the kids' pool for a few years yet. Sigh. Maybe I just need to go by myself for lane swims or something. But that cuts into my personal time that I'd rather spend doing other stuff.

So for now I guess I'll continue being "obese". Taking walks is kind of boring, takes too much time, and hurts my feet. Team sports are just a pain, plus they have to involve other people. Running is like walking, except you exchange time for pain. Public gyms cost money. I climb the stairs at work instead of taking the elevator, which gives me a good five-six minutes of exercise a day.

What I'm really waiting for is technology for rendering exercise and dieting obsolete. Nanobots that keep body fat at reasonable levels, or some way of keeping your metabolism high enough that you're always burning it off. Of course, I'll be dead by the time they come out with any of that stuff. But I can still hope, and it's easier than doing something about it myself.

We don't know our neighbours that well. A couple of years ago we noticed that the fence on one side of our backyard was getting very saggy. Eventually we decided to get it fixed, but we concluded, perhaps cravenly, that trying to get them to pay for half of it wouldn't be worth the trouble. So we told them were going to fix it, and then we got it fixed. (By someone else--we're not handy.)

Now the same thing is happening on the other side. Those neighbours are apparently concerned because the fence is sagging, and they're getting it fixed. But there's more to it than that, because it's sagging due to the junk in our yard pushing on it.

It's not our junk. Well, I suppose it is now, but we didn't put it there. It was there when we got the house, and we never had much of a reason to look at it until now. And now we have to clear it out. We don't really have anywhere else to put it, so we have to call somebody to come and haul it away for us.

We spent some time on Wednesday at least clearing away the stuff against the fence. A lot of fenceposts, probably from where some of our predecessors took out the fence at the end of the driveway so they could extend it and cover it with a carport. Some hollow metal tubes that may have something to do with gardening, I don't know. Some broken chunks of concrete, some rocks, some of that foot-high metal garden fencing. A few other bits of trash--plastic bags, a beer bottle. A big green beetle, and probably other arthropod denizens that I would rather not tally.

There was one cool thing, though, that I may keep. It's a stick, like your average fallen branch, stripped of twigs and bark, but wrapped in canvas. I always loved picking up those branches and stripping them if I happened to be walking in the woods. I did it a lot walking through Bear Creek Park in Grande Prairie years ago, and I did it on the long weekend when we were walking through the woods on my mom and stepdad's farm. But wrapping it in canvas--that's cool.

It's been a slow month or so for books. I read Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising. It says "A Jack Ryan novel" on the cover, and it seemed to have been Clancy's next book after The Hunt For Red October. The first Clancy novel I tried, actually, was The Sum of All Fears, but it didn't take long before I discovered it was later in the series.

However, though I do believe that some of the names in the book are familiar with the other two Clancy books I've read, Jack Ryan was not one of them. Repeat, there is no appearance by Jack Ryan in Red Storm Rising. This is not necessarily a bad thing...but it's a misleading notation. It's like when Escape Velocity was marketed as being in the same series as The Warlock In Spite of Himself, when in fact it's mostly just that the two sets of characters intersect in The Warlock Wandering, as far as I can tell. It's a marketing thing, I'm sure.

In any event, it was not that bad a book. Long, but one expects that from Clancy. I learned a lot about modern warfare, particularly the submarine kind. It included several plotlines, in various areas of the war, but my favourite would definitely have to be Edwards, the Air Force meteorologist who ends up the highest ranking officer on Iceland after the Russians sack an American airfield there, and has to tramp around the island with a few marines and a girl they rescued from Russian molesters. You could've done a book about him right there, although then he might have had to do more than stay out of sight, watch, and radio in once in a while.

I just finished The Caves of Buda by Leah R. Cutter. It's one of my random library paperback rack picks, where I grab a book by an author I've never read before, that's not in the middle of a series. Sometimes they're hard to come by. This one drew me in with Hungarian elements, because I like Hungarian stuff. Mostly because of Hungarian's nature as one of the few non-Indo-European languages in Europe. It's also got some cool stuff with an obsessive-compulsive guy who turns out to be performing actual magic with his compulsive rituals. It doesn't all work, but it's decent enough.

The Caves of Buda took me a week to finish, though, because I was also reading The Watcher's Guide, a "Buffy" companion book. It only covers the first two seasons, but that's mostly okay because we're still working on the fourth one. Still had some interesting stuff, especially some of the interviews. But it meant that I was only getting about thirty pages of Buda read a day, which is slow for me. That's about a half-hour's reading, and I can usually muster a little more than that.

Going back to some books from earlier this year--holy Mowgli, am I still only up to January??? Well, let me soldier on through, because this way I can put off working on my NaNoWriYe novel:

Dave Duncan: Impossible Odds. I'm not quite as enamoured of Duncan's King's Blades books as I am of some of his others, but he still manages to put together a rip-roaring tale of swashbuckling adventure in his thinly-disguised fantasy Europe. This one is in something like fantasy Austria, or something Germanic, at least, with lots of magical twists. A worthy addition to the series, if not my favourite.

Gordon R. Dickson: Soldier, Ask Not. You know, for the most part I've been pretty take-it-or-leave-it with Gordon R. Dickson, though I'd never really read much of his Dorsai series. Well, this one might have sold me on it. While dated in some respects(the female characters, for instance), I found it a spellbinding tale of a man with great power learning to use it for good instead of evil. Sounds hokey when put like that, but that's what it boils down to.

Lois McMaster Bujold: Diplomatic Immunity. I held myself back from reading this one after devouring the last few Bujold books. Mirror Dance, Memory, Komarr, and A Civil Campaign were all amazingly great books. This one is pretty good, but not her best. Perhaps the fact that Miles seems to finally be happy in his personal life has taken some of the edge off, and there's little to no Mark in it either. It didn't quite gel the way the others did, which makes it still a good book, just not a superlatively great one.

Terry Pratchett: Night Watch. Pratchett still continues, as the Discworld series goes ever on, to get better with each book. He did have a misstep or two there, with The Fifth Elephant in particular, but the last few are some of the best of the entire series. I waited for this one to come out in paperback, for some reason(and I'm still waiting for Monstrous Regiment, or even The Wee Free Men), but it was worth it. Sam Vimes is once again the main character, as he is so often of late, but Pratchett shows us yet more facets of his character as he goes back in time to mentor his younger self. Reminiscent of Les Misérables in places, and probably A Tale of Two Cities and other French revolutionary works.

Gordon Korman: Island(Shipwreck/Survival/Escape). This is really one novel released in three tiny volumes, so I read them all at once. Korman moves fairly firmly into YA thriller territory here. He's still got a wacky character or two, but he's not playing everything for jokes. Instead, his young characters have to deal with, well, surviving a shipwreck and escaping, with a few sinister subplots. He rises to the occasion and creates a spellbinding tale. He's got a few other of these "trilogies" out now, and I wish they'd stop releasing them like that--it's silly.

Michelle West: Sea of Sorrows. Michelle West pulls off a good moment here and there, but somehow her books seem to drag. In this, the fourth book of her "Sun Sword" series, every single scene seems to be imbued with ponderous significance. A single fight scene contains three chapters' worth of flashbacks. And because of the way the previous book ended, we have to spend the first half of the book catching up with one entire set of characters until we can reach the point when the last book ended. When you do get back to the other characters, things are picking up mightily, and things are starting to come together. Still, it's hard to believe that she's only got two more books to try to wrap up the series. Hopefully she won't introduce too many new plot threads in there.

Gordon R. Dickson: Three To Dorsai!. I was really looking for Tactics of Mistake, but what I found was this book, a three-volume omnibus also containing Necromancer and Dorsai!, which I was pretty sure I'd read before. However, since I couldn't remember very much from those two books, I decided to reread them anyway. I'm glad I did, because now, with Soldier, Ask Not under my belt, I felt like I had a much better handle on the structure of the Childe Cycle universe, and I could tie the names of planets and characters into what I read in other books. Now I'm wondering, did Dickson ever finish his Childe Cycle? I remember huge volumes like The Final Encyclopedia and Young Bleys coming out, but I know that there were supposed to be historical novels in there too. Of course, the whole Childe thing seemed to be predicated on a misunderstanding of the nature of evolution, as if it were some search for the perfectibility of organisms instead of something much more haphazard and contingent. If I believed in an afterlife, I'd hope that Stephen Jay Gould was setting him straight.

Mercedes Lackey: Magic's Promise. I've been moving slowly through the Last Herald-Mage series. Vanyel seems just a bit too tragic a figure for me, sometimes, and I know that his ultimate fate is not going to be good. It's engaging in parts, but in other parts is trying to be too cute or something. I imagine I'll finish the series sometime.

Philip K. Dick: Eye In The Sky. This was a reread of what I think is the first Dick book I ever read(unless it was The Unteleported Man). It's still one of my favourites, and it holds up well, as a group of characters thrown together by an accident at a nuclear facility find themselves moving through a strange sequence of worlds of their own creation.

Glen Cook: Star's End. The end of his "Starfishers" trilogy, which is not one of Cook's greatest works, but satisfying enough. Cook's science fiction rarely seems to be as good as his fantasy, for some reason. The books in this series didn't seem to hang together that well, either. Well, I'm getting closer to being caught up on his earlier works...

Catherine Asaro: Skyfall. Nicole has been raving about Asaro's Skolian Empire series, so I thought I'd try this one when she had it out from the library. It's in the nature of a prequel, featuring the parents of the main characters from later books, so I tried it first. It was interesting, but it did seem to suffer from prequelitis, where the author knew the way things had to turn out to be consistent with later books, but somehow it didn't always feel natural. But it got me interested in the series anyway.

Piers Anthony & Robert Kornwise: Through The Ice. I used to buy Piers Anthony all the time, until the double dreck of The Colour of Her Panties and Firefly turned me off him. Somehow I've ended up with a few of his collaborations on my shelves, and I'd heard good things about this once when it came out. It still reads like a typical Piers Anthony work, but at least not an especially bad one.

Robert Silverberg: The Stochastic Man. One of Silverberg's many novels from the 1970's, I think nominated for a Nebula Award or something. It's an interesting tale of precognition and freewill, as well as politics. Is a man who sees his own future is reduced to nothing more than someone reading lines from a script? Read and find out!

Catherine Asaro: Primary Inversion. And then I leapt right into the actual first book published in the Skolian Empire saga. It has a very different mood from Skyfall, with the main character being a high-tech fighter-pilot type, but it's not a military novel by any means. She gets post-traumatic stress disorder, and she gets into serious difficulties when she finds herself falling in love with the enemy empire's heir apparent... Leaves a lot of loose ends at the finish, so I'm not surprised that there's another half-dozen or so books in the saga, with more to come.

Jack L. Chalker: Balshazzar's Serpent. Chalker has almost reached the Anthony point. Not a sudden, swift decline, but a slow one where I keep hoping that he'll find his feet again. But he hasn't written much decent since the Wonderland Gambit series. This book feels like it could have been a shorter part of another book, with gratuitous complications added to pad out the part of the plot that is actually relevant to the rest of the series. Of course, I could be wrong, there could be more stuff that will be relevant later, but I highly doubt it. Come on, Jack, you're using up your accumulated goodwill here.

George MacDonald: Phantastes. An odd book, very nineteenth century in tone, about a man who finds himself wandering in Fairyland. Key word here is "wandering". So there's not much in the way of plot, though partway through the book we do get a shadow-self somewhat after the style of A Wizard of Earthsea, which spiced things up a bit. But otherwise a fairly languid book.

Simon R. Green: Winner Takes All. Holy Mowgli, how long ago was it that I read the first book, Hawk And Fisher? Loooong time ago. It was a decent, if thin, book about cops in a medieval fantasy city. Bears some resemblances, I notice now, to Glen Cook's Garrett series, and also occasionally to "Grimjack". It has an anachronistic feel to it, without any overt references to really jar the reader. This one is based around city politics, for instance, which don't seem really medieval but don't seem modern either. Maybe a bit of Thieves' World in here too, come to think of it. But Green makes it work fairly well.

Guy Gavriel Kay: The Last Light of The Sun. Set in the same fantasy historical setting(not to be confused with Dave Duncan's fantasy Europe)as The Lions of Al-Rassan and The Sarantine Mosaic, this novel moves up to Saxon-era England. We've got marauding "Vikings", cattle-stealing "Welshman", and a king who's trying to hold it all together. And there are the same occasional traces of fantasy, this time mostly in the form of Faerie. It's not quite as majestic as some of his work, and it's not the revelation that Tigana was, but it holds together fairly well. One conceit that Kay repeats over and over again is to take a minor character you will never see again, and paint in the broad strokes of what happens to them for the rest of their life. It's occasionally a bit annoying, but it must fit in with his theme or something.

China Miéville: Perdido Street Station. I'd tried this one before, from the library, and never made it through. But after reading The Scar and liking that one, I bought this one in paperback and gave it another try. I don't think I like it as much as The Scar, but it still has its moments. Sometimes it feels like the author's thrown in a few too many things, almost first-novelitis(though I gather that King Rat was his actual first), but in the main it hangs together.

Legends. I'd read a few bits from the anthology already--the novella version of "New Spring", Tad Williams's "The Burning Man", Ursula Le Guin's "Dragonfly", and the Terry Pratchett story. This time I went through and read the whole thing. I don't feel like I'd really missed that much, though. The Terry Pratchett one, featuring Granny Weatherwax, I reread this time as well, and still enjoyed. The Terry Goodkind one, "Debt of Bones", did not inspire me to any greater haste in starting that series. Raymond Feist's "The Wood Boy" did not inspire me to read much more of his Riftwar books. The Robert Silverberg Majipoor story was okay, but not a revelation. No, what I was reading that book for was George R.R. Martin's "The Hedge Knight", and that was a really good story, a fine, if peripheral, addition to "A Song of Ice And Fire". Also surprisingly good was the Stephen King Gunslinger story, "The Little Sisters of Eluria". Let's see, am I forgetting anything? Well, the Anne McCaffrey one, "Runner of Pern", was slight and inessential, but not painful to read. The Orson Scott Card one, "The Grinning Man", was also interesting but not revelatory.

And I think, if I may go into another paragraph here, that that's the problem with the anthology. The authors are trying to produce a story which introduces their world to people who haven't yet encountered it, and in most cases are trying not to put anything into the story that will be crucial to the series, for people who don't read the story. Terry Goodkind's had an ending which contrived in a very prequelly fashion to explain something which was probably already a fact of life by the beginning of the series. Robert Jordan's was also very prequelly, but as someone who is devouring everything he can find on the series, I don't mind that. But "The Hedge Knight" was practically the only one that stood on its own two feet.

Dick Francis: Comeback. Continuing to work my way through my Dick Francis backlog, though since he seems to have gone on indefinite hiatus there's not as much hurry. This book is a great read anyway, with a diplomat's son coming back to his hometown to help out some chance-met friends whose veterinary business(there's the horse-racing angle, of course)is under threat from an unknown saboteur. Has loads of Francis's spot-on characterization details, and the bit of romance he often manages to work in. A worthy sample of his opus.

Stephen King: The Drawing of The Three. At least partly inspired by the story from Legends, I finally(after some years of neglecting it)went on to the second Gunslinger book. The first one didn't really grab me that much, but this one hooked me pretty early in. I loved the first section of the book, though I can't say I was quite so enamoured with the rest of it. The interaction with our world caught me off-guard, but it was a great way to spice up the book a little bit, considering how desolate Roland's travels tend to be otherwise. I'm not sure if that makes me look forward to trying The Waste Lands or not.*

Robert W. Chambers: The King In Yellow. Now this one was a little bit deceptively marketed. Touted as psychological horror by one of the masters, it only partially fills the bill. It's a collection of stories, ostensibly all linked by the titular work of fiction. (I first encountered references to it, by the way, in James Blish's story "Let There Be More Light".) The first few stories are interesting enough, avoiding the Lovecraftian mold while still following similar outlines. But as the book goes on, the psychological horror elements recede further and further, until all we have is tepid stories of young artists in Paris falling in love with woman of questionable morals. And very little is revealed about the actual King In Yellow, or "King In Yellow"--you'll get more of that from the Blish story.

Anne McCaffrey: The Coelura. "Runner of Pern" did not inspire me to read this book--its thinness did. And that was even before I realized that this was an illustrated book, with drawings on about every third page. It's a glorified novelette, really, printed in a large font and padded with pictures. And, to be honest, it reminded me in a few ways of Asaro's Skyfall. But it was a decent enough little tale--I just hope I didn't pay full price for it.

William Goldman: Boys And Girls Together. I think that this is the same guy who wrote The Princess Bride and Marathon Man, but you could hardly tell it from this book. Predating the others by ten years or more, this reads like some attempt to write a Great American Novel or something. It has its moments, but it sprawls, following a number of different characters whose lives seem to take too long to converge. And the plots are nothing special, either--I got heartily sick of the girl who falls in love with the married man. Maybe that was a groundbreaking thing to write about back in 1964, but these days it's banal. There's homosexuality in it too, and perhaps I couldn't judge, but Goldman seemed to deal with it a little ham-handedly. I'm so glad he got better than this, and I'm almost sorry I read it.

Dave Duncan: A Man of His Word. That last book left such a bad taste in my mouth that I decided to go and reread something that I knew I liked, Dave Duncan's Magic Casement. This was the first book of his "Man of His Word" tetralogy, and when I finished it I went straight on to the rest of them--Faery Lands Forlorn, Perilous Seas, and Emperor And Clown. I'd have to say that, on rereading, the first and last books seemed to be the best. In fact, very little seems to happen in FLF, but perhaps that's because very little of the information that the characters were discovering was news to me, having read it before. But the finale of the series is very fine indeed, and worth getting to. There's also a sequel tetralogy, which I didn't like quite as much, but by this point I may end up rereading it sometime as well.

Frederik Pohl: The Gold At The Starbow's End. This is a collection of stories, so naturally a little bit uneven. Two of the stories, the title one and "The Merchants of Venus", are novella-length. The title story is a bit outlandish in its premise--a group of astronauts are sent out to a fictitious planet, in hopes that in their spare time they will solve a number of scientific problems. While the Earth falls apart behind them, they progress much farther than anticipated. The other novella is set in the Heechee universe, and is a fairly straightforward of trust and betrayal on the surface of Venus. "Call Me Million", a ten-page story in the middle of the book, is probably the best story there, with "Sad Solarian Screenwriter Sam" and "Shaffery Among The Immortals" being more played for humorous effect.

Roger Zelazny: The Hand of Oberon. Another book that I read for the first time many years ago, and barely remember now. I read it as part of an omnibus, too, so I barely noticed when one book ended and another began. It's the fourth book in his Amber series, for anyone who doesn't know, and while it deals with some of the complications introduced in the series, it's building for a climax of sorts in the fifth book, the end of the original series. There's five more after that which I never have read, though I'm not sure if they're any good. I'm sure I'll try them.

Kevin O'Donnell, Jr.: Lava. Third book in his McGill Feighan series--one more was published, but the series was never finished. The first part of the book, dealing with "office politics" on Earth, was more interesting to me than the alien world he visited for the rest of the book. He found out a few more things about the Far Being Retzglaran, whose minions had warped his life, but not enough. And it's not like the next book will tie it up or anything. Well, I'll get around to it sometime, I guess.

And I'm done! The next book I read was Red Storm Rising. Whew. So, that's about five months worth of books for me. I just started The Dark Side of The Earth by Alfred Bester, another short-story collection, and I've got Charles de Lint's Spirits In The Wires and Dan Simmons's Ilium out from the library, so I've got my reading cut out for me.

This episode: Nick Danger stumbles endlessly on through...Alfvaen's 750 favourite songs!

283. Belinda Carlisle: You're Nothing Without Me, from Live Your Life Be Free

This is an interesting song, a little bit harder-edged than much of Belinda's work(no, really?). She's trying to play it cool while her lover leaves her, warning him about how horrible his life will be without her, but there's an undercurrent that she's really trying to make herself believe it. So, a caustic, bitter breakup song with a hint of underlying vulnerability. Yummy.

282. Massive Attack: Protection, from Protection

Fairly low-key trip-hop, with Tracy Thorn's warm vocals setting the tone for the song. Not as edgy as, say, "Safe From Harm", but effective nonetheless, as Thorn sings of dealing with feelings of being responsibly for other's safety and well-being.

281. Dire Straits: Why Worry, from Brothers In Arms

Mark Knopfler's near-whispered vocals and slight keyboard and guitar backing produce this near-lullaby, urging optimism in the face of anxiety.

280. Eurythmics: Conditioned Soul, from Be Yourself Tonight

The Eurythmics make the best of their full-band sound on this song, with soaring harmony and sturdy basslines on the chorus and Annie Lennox's edged vocals in the verses.

And that's that. Bleah. Sounding a little uninspired there, but what do you expect? It's late.

Pardon my circumlocutions, I seem to be soliloquizing.

Aaron // 12:06 a.m. Clix me!

Saturday, May 01, 2004:

Hard On The Heels of Something Gold

Well, I haven't completely abandoned the blog, but it's come close. I have been posting desultorily in
my LiveJournal, but this one has been more daunting.

I see now why people who use more than one journal often post increasingly infrequently to one or the other, or give each one a specific purpose. So I think that I will try to start using this one for, say, books and music posts, and leave the other one for everything else. Books and music are a big part of my life, which I have been sharing all too infrequently. But if you're interested in other stuff, then feel free to try the LiveJournal.

So, without further ado, let's get started on the books I managed to get through in the last five months or so...not all of them, but hopefully at least a month's worth:

Vonda N. McIntyre: Starfarers. I'm not sure what I was expecting of this one, but I don't think it quite worked for me. It was very definitely a setup for a series, but it didn't get much more accomplished than getting the series started. I only have the next book in the series, so I guess I'll give it one more chance to hook me. ...Whatever happened to Vonda McIntyre, anyway? It seems like ages since I saw much from her. Well, it looks like there was The Moon & The Sun, from 1997, after she finished the Starfarers series, but since? Maybe she went back to writing Star Trek books, where I wouldn't have noticed her. My eyes are very adept at skipping over that section of the shelves these days.

Iain M. Banks: The Use of Weapons. I've heard many good things about Iain Banks's "Culture" series, but I haven't read much of it. I'd read Consider Phlebas and Look To Windward, but I know there were a number in between. This one seemed to next in publication order, at least, so I picked it up from the library. It's the story of a man who was not born in The Culture, but was recruited by them to do their dirty work. The one thread follows a current mission he's on, and the rest follows his timeline backward to the original recruitment. In that way the book really devolves into a sequence of individual scenes. Some of them, like the time where he's badly crippled, but manages to signal for rescue by smearing bird guano over an island in a particular pattern, are mesmerizing, but others are less so. It's interesting, but hasn't sold me on the series yet.

John Morressy: A Voice For Princess. I've read other material in this series, like Kedrigern In Wanderland, and a few short stories in F&SF or someplace like that. This is really light fantasy of a type that may only have been publishable during the fantasy boom of the 80's. Not to say that it's bad, but it's got some of the texture of Jack Vance with some of the silliness of Craig Shaw Gardner. It does come off as charming rather than lame, but it's still a little bit light for my tastes.

Steven Brust: The Lord of Castle Black. Perhaps Steven Brust should be promoted to my list of buy-in-hardcover authors--which so far only includes Robert Jordan and George R.R. Martin--but if so, I should have started with The Paths of The Dead, the first in the sub-series "The Viscount of Adrilankha". So I waited to get this one from the library. He continues on being delightful in the Dumas-esque tales written by the charmingly intrusive author Paarfi of Roundwood. Having only read "The Man In The Iron Mask" from Dumas's original "Viscount of Bragelonne", which this is drawing from, I can't see the parallels too clearly, but the next book should be getting there. Morrolan, well-known from the Vlad Taltos books but just getting introduced to Dragaeran society here, is the title character, and several important steps in his history are taken in this book. Not recommended to anyone who hasn't read at least The Phoenix Guards and the other intervening books, but to those I would simply recommend that you do read those books, then proceed to this one.

Dick Francis: Rat Race. Still working to catch up on Dick Francis's back catalogue, but it is seeming sadly more likely that Dick Francis may have stopped writing upon the death of his wife, so perhaps there's no hurry. This one was another air-taxi one, ground(so to speak)that he already covered in Flying Finish, but there's no sense of rehashing here. Another character, a pilot, with only a peripheral interest in horse racing, is drawn into that world when he ferries a famous jockey and they both are nearly killed. The characters and the plot seem to carry equal weight, and when the book ends, you miss the characters. And I will miss more of his characters if he doesn't write any more books...

Susan Elizabeth Phillips: Kiss An Angel. This is mostly a research book, actually. One of my works-in-progress seems likely to feature a circus in one part, so my wife recommended this to me. It's one of her romances, and contains a few elements that I find winceworthy, not being inured to some of the genre's conventions, but it does have some appeal beyond its informative value. Now I just need to get to that novel. Next year, perhaps.

Steve Lyons: The Time Traveler Trilogy Volume 1. I confess, I was a big fan of the Micronauts comics when they came out way back when, and I even had a few of the toys, long since gone. I always seemed to like the SF/fantasy comics better than the straight superhero ones, though it took me some time to realize that. "Micronauts" was uneven, but it had its moments, mostly when they forgot about going to Earth and encountering numerous guest stars, and just dealt with the Microverse. The "New Voyages" followup series was even better, a truly mature comic.

When a new Micronauts series came out, I tried a few issues, but it didn't grab me. Still, I picked up this book on impulse at the library, and decided to try it. Well, it wasn't that bad, but it wasn't really the same Micronauts, which was the same problem the new series had. They had most of the same characters--the ones based on actual toys--but the ones that Marvel had created for the first series were of course unavailable to the new publishers. The book seemed to be another level off, though. As far as I could tell, the events from the new comic books were an alternate reality that the main character, a human boy, was beginning to remember, so they didn't have to worry about plot crossover too much. He got drawn into events anyway, and by the end was trying to set about restoring things to the way he thought they should be. But I don't know if I'm really inspired to try to track down and read the next two.

C.J. Cherryh: Defender. I think this is fifth in the atevi series, and there's one more at least. It continues to be compulsively readable, with her best-drawn alien race to date and the human who almost belongs more with them than with his own race. He continues to try defusing tensions and misunderstandings, if not outright hostility, between the atevi and the people from the spaceship that left humans there centuries earlier. I won't be able to hold myself off from Explorer much longer...

Dean R. Koontz: The Face of Fear. A fairly tight thriller, in which a former mountain climber who retired because of paralyzing fear has to somehow manage to escape from a nearly-empty skyscraper when threatened by homicidal maniac. I admit that a few of the plot points have managed to escape my mind after four months, but it was very effective, and would probably film well.

Robert Jordan: New Spring. This one I did but in hardcover, even though I had read close to half of it in the novella from the Legends anthology. Was it worth it? I can't say yet, I'm too close to the series. It's a prequel from the Wheel of Time series, one of three that's apparently coming out over the next couple of years. On the one hand it's frustrating to think that it might be slowing down the interminable pace that the actual forward-plot books are coming out at, but they will probably be interesting to read in any case. And is it any better to do all the prequels after you've finished the first series? I'm thinking Terry Brooks here, though it's not like I've read any of the Shannara prequels...

And that's all I can manage for now...that takes us to January 16th, at least. Hopefully more soon.

I've thought a lot about this whole countdown thing. At the rate I'm going, two songs a post is seeming way too slow. When I posted every day, it would be fine, but at any pace I think I could sustain today... That's one reason I'm posting here so erratically.

So I will try to increase the pace a little bit. I haven't figured out how for sure yet, but it may involve triangular numbers. Though I don't want to actually do more than ten songs at a time...

Let's try three:

286. T'Pau: Heart & Soul, from T'Pau

Though I had heard their first album called "Bridge of Spies", that's not what my copy says. Anyway, I liked this song a lot when it came out, and I remember being disappointed, for some reason, when Madonna's execrable "Who's That Girl?" beat it to the #1 spot on the Canadian charts. The largest part of its appeal to me is the counterpoint between Carol Decker's spoken and sung vocal lines; the rest of it it solid pop, but not special. Decker's vocals carry the song to its heights.

285. Style Council: Have You Ever Had It Blue, from the Absolute Beginners Soundtrack

I found out later that this song was a relyricking and retitling of a song from their "Internationalists" album, with a more political tone to them. The lyrics on this version aren't anywhere near so pointed, but they strike more of a chord with their appeal to the experience of crushing disappointment. The album version contains an extended intro that the video version did without, and I don't think it's really necessary...but maybe if I saw it in the context of the movie it would work better, I don't know.

284. They Might Be Giants: Letter Box, from Flood

A slight piece from what I think is their best album, this song is mostly notable for the high-speed lyrics in the verse, which are often hard to decipher, and hard to reproduce when singing along, as I am wont to do. But they are delightfully by turns childlike and biting.

Stupid == the flying Wallendas without hands. --billbill

Aaron // 11:31 p.m. Clix me!

Thursday, December 11, 2003:

A Secret Burning Thread

Apparently I took another month off. But that's only an illusion. I was actually working on
NaNoWriMo, as my few LiveJournal entries at the beginning of the month might attest to.

In a nutshell, I did complete NaNoWriMo, writing 50,007 words towards my novel in the month of November, though unlike the last two times, the novel is not finished this time. We also acquired a second vehicle, which is proving to be quite convenient. Which I also mentioned in LiveJournal, redundantly even.

But right now I think it's time to go over the books I've read in the last month and a half or thereabouts.

When last I wrote, I was reading...Hybrids? Has it been that long? Well, I finished it, and I thought it was okay but not Sawyer's best, nor his worst either. It didn't feel like it had much of a plot, even though it had some tension near the end.

After that I read The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman, by Louis de Bernieres, who I believe also wrote Captain Corelli's Mandolin, though I'm not sure. I read a lot of this on the bus, because this was when Nicole was in Medicine Hat with the car, and before we had our second vehicle. It was a bizarre book, reminding me more than somewhat of Gabriel Garcia Márquez's One Hundred Years In Solitude, about a remote village full of bizarre characters. It also has some ugly things to say about religious fanaticism.

I spent a week and a half at the beginning of November reading Mary Stewart's The Last Enchantment. It wasn't filled with thrilling excitement or anything, and it didn't really pull me along. It had its moments, but not that many of them. Mostly, it seemed to have years. We don't actually have a copy of The Wicked Day, next in the series, and quite frankly I'm in no hurry to acquire one.

By contrast, I spent a cool two days reading each of my next two. First was Lemony Snicket's The Wide Window, third in the Series of Unfortunate Events. They are very amusing books, more for the authorial voice, and its constant explanations of words and phrases a young reader might not know. And, of course, it's a quick read.

Also surprisingly quick was Tanya Huff's Stealing Magic. It's a Tesseract Books collection of fantasy stories involving a couple of different characters. One of them is a lusty, earthy woman who happens to be the most powerful mage in the world. The other is a female thief who gets into a number of scrapes. I had read most of the former stories before, since they were reprinted in OnSpec magazine a few years ago, and they were mostly written for laughs. The thief ones were not always so light-hearted, and I found them quite inspirational for the portions of my NaNoWriMo novel involving a Thieves' Guild.

From there it was onto Tanith Lee's Gold Unicorn, sequel to Black Unicorn. They're both young adult novels, but with some interesting themes to them. They're not quite as deep or atmospheric as some of her other books, but she doesn't pull her punches all that much. I certainly didn't feel like she was writing for 'kids' as much as she was accurately portraying a girl in her teens in a fantasy world.

The entire rest of November--another twelve days--was taken up with Steven Erikson's Deadhouse Gates. This was not nearly so much of a plod as The Last Enchantment--it actually is that long, close to 1000 pages. And well worth it. It's the second in his "Malazan Book of the Fallen", and I just now realized that said book was actually mentioned in this volume. Heh.

Erikson's work, while epic in scope, continued to draw more on Glen Cook for inspiration than it does Tolkien. There are some decidedly Asian elements in this one--religious fanatics waiting for their prophet in the desert, and roving tribes on horseback. There a number of sets of characters moving about, sometimes intermingling, and a lot of interesting plot twists. It only involves a few of the characters from the first book--the rest will apparently take the stage in book three, Memories of Ice, which seems to be contemporaneous with this one. Probably even better than the first book.

After that, I wanted something a little shorter again. I moved on to Billie Sue Mosiman's Night Cruise. These days, Mosiman is a writer of vampire novels, but her earlier works were straight thrillers. This one is about a serial killer who picks up a young runaway as a 'witness' to his killings, which he has done several times before. This time, nothing goes quite as either of them plan. It's more psychological than really bloody, as you spend a lot of time inside the head of 'Cruise', the killer. It doesn't quite have the impact it could have had, especially the ending, and might have been served by being longer.

Finally, I reread Roger Zelazny's Sign of The Unicorn, third in the Amber series, just finishing that last night. I read the first five Amber books in a two-volume omnibus a loooong time ago--probably in high school, so at least fifteen years ago. I reread the first two a few years ago, but hadn't yet gone past that. The first one was always my favourite anyway, but I think I kind of got confused about what happened in the last three. So I'm rereading them, and while it can get a bit confusing keeping track of the thirteen Amber siblings(some of whom are dead, and some of whom are only presumed dead), I am once again intrigued. After rereading these I may go on to the second Amber series.

Now I'm reading Borderland, a shared-world anthology co-edited by Terri Windling. The Will Shetterly novel Elsewhere that I read a while ago is set in this universe, but apparently this one should have come first. Well, I'm reading it now. There's only four stories in this book, one of them by "Bellamy Bach", which they admit is a pseudonym, probably for Shetterly himself in this case. There's also a Charles de Lint story, an Ellen Kushner, and a Steven Boyett. So far I'm only in the second story, and the first story takes place some year earlier, so it's hard to say how much the world itself will jell.

I also read a few non-fiction and humour books in there. I just finished Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe, which was an excellent introduction to string theory, taking me far beyond the vague memory of having heard about "seven dimensions curled up" for every point in space. A lot of the explanation in the text is done using three-dimensional or fewer analogues, so it only delivers some of the flavour of the full glory of Calabi-Yau manifolds and other esoteric mathematical devices. It's hard to me to gauge how accessible it makes the material, since I do have a Physics degree, but it uses a minimum of equations, and lots of helpful diagrams. And my eyes didn't glaze over once.

I'm sure there was more than that, but that'll have to do for now. Well, I know I read the latest Darwin Awards volume, and a few Worst-Case Scenario Survival Guides, but there's not much to say about those...

Lurching ever onward in that countdowny thing:

288. Prefab Sprout: Cue Fanfare, from Swoon

This is a peculiar song, as those from Prefab Sprout's first album tend to be, whose lyrics involve Bobby Fischer, among other things, and which has a bit of an edge to it that was often softened on later albums. It's fairly singable, if nothing else.

287. Suzanne Vega: The Queen & The Soldier, from Suzanne Vega

This was one of the first songs to strike me from Vega's debut album, with its fantasy-esque storyline. It's probably an allegory or something, but I was never good at that stuff. It seems to be one of the more "folky" of the songs on the album, though that can often be deceptive, with a synthesizer or two lurking in the background.

'Why, this is other people, nor are we out of it.'

Aaron // 9:42 p.m. Clix me!

Friday, October 24, 2003:

I'm Going Cheap

When my dad moved down to Edmonton a few months ago, he had a job at a furniture chain. They were opening up a new store, and he was to be sales manager. In the interim, he would work at their various stores throughout Edmonton as a salesman, to get acquainted with the store.

He has now quit, though. He was routinely working six day weeks, and sometimes seven. Since one of the reasons he wanted to move to Edmonton was to see more of his grandchildren, he wasn't happy with that, and the new store was not coming together on schedule either.

This is not an object of major concern. My dad has had many, many jobs in his life, most of them sales-related in some way, and by this point I imagine he has some job-hunting skills accumulated. My uncle, whose house he is sharing right now, has a lawn-maintenance company which can always use extra hands, so he's working there when the weather permits.

I found out some of this at lunch with him last week. He needed to borrow my car to get insurance for his new car. This is how little time he's had--he's had this car(which is my grandma's old car, because my aunt bought her a new car)for weeks now, but hadn't been able to get it ready to drive yet. I think he also had to pick up some stuff from his former office, because he left some stuff in my trunk that he couldn't carry on the bus.

Anyway, he said he might look for something a bit lower-key, like maybe a bookstore, or even something in the Farmer's Market. Not sure what precisely that's about, but I'm sure he knows what he's doing.

A few days later, I begin to notice an odd smell in the car. Mostly just when getting into it, and my nose quickly adjusted to it, but it was somewhat unpleasant and a bit annoying. It didn't smell like, say, burning automotive fluids, or anything car-related, but I wasn't sure. It smelled more like decaying food, and I wondered if something the kids ate in the car on the Thanksgiving drive had gotten under the seat or something. I never actually crawled around trying to locate it, though.

Yesterday my dad called me at work, asking at Simon's birthday party(he turns four on Sunday). He mentioned the stuff that was still in my trunk. And he asked if I'd thrown out the eggs yet.

Only then did I remember that he had mentioned some hard-boiled eggs from the fridge at his former office. He'd grabbed them with everything else when he left, and left them in a bag in the trunk. And he'd been worried that they might go bad...and start to smell. Of course. Rotten eggs.

Yesterday was the day that Nicole was driving to Wainwright, doing some school readings, and driving back. So of course she had the car. Her nose is not as sensitive, and she didn't seem to have noticed anything. When she got home last night, I remembered right away to check the trunk, and sure enough, there was a tupperware container with stinky eggs in it.

Already the car smells better.

I signed up for
NaNoWriMo again this year, of course. How could I not? I waffled for a while about what I should be writing--a sequel to one of the last two novels? Something involving the Calgary-based superhero group led by Joe Clark, retired International Agent? Maybe some cosmic battle fought on higher planes of existence?

But I ended up deciding on another fantasy novel, in what I am tentatively planning to be a huge, sprawling umpteen-book epic series. Because, unlike some people, I like such things. In the NaNoWriMo forums, I got involved in a discussion of Robert Jordan, and all these people saying that they stopped reading the series in the third book, or the fourth book, or the seventh book, or the tenth book, or whatever, often because of frustration with the interminability of the series. For me, that's practically one of the selling points.

I'm cannibalizing two previous stories, which both seem to fit with the overall plot I have in mind while taking place far enough apart to be able to define the world almost by triangulation. The world, which one of the stories is already sort of set in, is something I built as a world-building exercise in the summer of '85 staying with my grandparents in Stettler. I've lost most of the notes I made, but I remember the highlights. There's a big decaying empire to the south, a big decadent Aztec-style empire to the east, and in the middle a sort of ithmus, like about a quarter of Europe, where everything else happens. I tossed in a bunch of cultures because they seemed like a good idea at the time, and I wanted all the AD&D races there, but whatever else, I have to keep the elves.

Anyway, I'm still trying to finish my Space Empires III game before the end of the month. I've still got a week, but it's a bit busy. This weekend will be taken up mostly by Simon's birthday--he turns four on Sunday--as well as Nicole's brother Wayne's, on Saturday.

Nicole's going down to Medicine Hat for some more readings on Tuesday, and that's a long enough drive that she will be going down Monday, and maybe staying overnight in Calgary on Tuesday instead of coming all the way back. To prevent logistical nightmares, the kids will be going back to the grandparents' in Beaumont, so I will essentially be on my own. I have a number of plans, the majority of which I know from experience I will not execute. But I will probably go to a NaNoWriMo get-together on Monday night, at a bar which is relatively near the office. The problem will be killing time in between, but I think I've decided that I will finally make some time to go down to the University library and check out that Dictionary of Minor Planet Nomenclature book. Tuesday night I will probably just go home and watch "American Beauty", which Nicole has no interest in watching. As long as I finish it in time to tape "24".

For some reason, since the end of summer we've gotten more TV stations than we used to. We cut back to basic cable a year or more ago, because we were mostly watching network programs, and didn't have much time to watch more. But now we're getting a whole bunch of channels again, and as far as I know aren't paying more. Mostly I've been trying to catch a few Star Trek:TNG reruns on "Spike". Tonight we were fortunate enough to catch "Dark Page", one of the few that we had never seen before, with Majel Barrett's best acting in the entire series.

The only new show we've really stuck to this year is "Coupling". I know, but I never saw the British version, and likely never will, and this seems to be going well enough. "The West Wing" doesn't seem to have changed too much for the worse, despite Aaron Sorkin's departure. I hope Gary Cole's character will get some airtime, because I tend to like him.

I finally managed to finish The Plains of Passage, despite forgetting to bring it with me for Thanksgiving. It wasn't quite as bad as it could have been, but it really could have had the prehistoric botany and zoology cut out into appendices or entire separate books. And sometimes Auel gets a little hamhanded with her characters. It had its moments, but I'm glad I'm finished it.

When I was up for Thanksgiving, I ended up reading Robert Sawyer's Iterations collection, which was a library book. I'd read several of the stories before, but quite a few were new to me. One of them, "Fallen Angel", didn't really work for me, but it was apparently inspired by a particular sculpture, and maybe seeing that would have made it work better. On the whole it was pretty solid, though.

After finished The Plains of Passage, I read another library book, Tricky Business by Dave Barry. Ever since reading Big Trouble, I was hoping he'd return to fiction, and he has, with admirable promptness for someone who is surely very busy thinking up booger jokes. I mean, honing his craft of humour. I think it holds up quite well with its predecessor, and proves the first book is not just a fluke. It has some almost harrowing moments to go with the madcap humour, and engenders some serious suspense, too.

Then I went on to Starfishers, the second book in Glen Cook's SF trilogy of the same name. The first one, Shadowline, was an almost straightforward military SF book, with two mercenary bands manipulated into opposing each other by the nasty human offshoot race, the Sangaree. The Starfishers proper, a mysterious group that live in deep space, are only a minor plot thread in the first book. The second book takes a quite different tack, following a spy sent to infiltrate the Starfishers, with a friend who turns out to be one of the survivors from the first book(maybe I should've noticed that earlier, but I'd forgotten his name). There are also Sangaree involved, but the book focuses on the main character, who has some problems because of frequent psych-conditioning into various cover identities. It jumps around a little bit in the timeline, as Cook often does, and the same character goes by different names, even in his own head, at different periods. I hope we see more of him in the third book, Star's End.

Now I'm reading another Robert Sawyer: Hybrids, the third in his Neanderthal Parallax trilogy. It's another slow-paced book, like the last one. Sawyer does seem to be seriously proposing his "Neanderthal" world as a utopia, despite its lack of agriculture, universal electronic surveillance and recording, and ruthless eugenics program. It does ask some tough questions about humanity and our own cultures, though, and is often interesting.

I'm also making my way through I Have Landed, Stephen Jay Gould's final collection of articles on natural history. As usual, he seems to spend more time writing about scientists and philosophers than he does about science, but it's still fitfully interesting.

A couple of links to boost my ego a little bit:

First, there's a review of the Open Space anthology in "Challenging Destiny". About my story, it says "'The New Paranoia Album' by Aaron V. Humphrey tries to make some points about the power of pop culture in a fantastical story but it didn’t seem make as big an impression as it needed to." That's an interesting deduction on the part of the reviewer, about what my story was trying to do, though a bit misguided. Frankly, I wasn't "trying to do" much with my story, just entertain myself with a story which is more, really, about its main character's struggles with obsession than it is with the power of pop culture in general. But whatever, at least I got mentioned.*

Second, in a recent entry in "Cosmic Log", the author was talking about books related to solar flares. Mentioned was Thomas T. Thomas & Roger Zelazny's Flare, and I remembered having written a review of that back when I was actively reviewing books on rec.arts.sf.written, ten years or so ago. So imagine my glee at finding a link to a collection of reviews of the book, and my review being there! It's like a brush with fame or something. Oddly enough, that review is not up on the web with the rest of my reviews; I may have to remedy that now, and see what other ones I might have missed.

An exercise to the reader: at my current rate, at what date will I reach the top of my countdown? Don't neglect higher-order derivatives.

290. Fleetwood Mac: Never Going Back Again, from Rumours

This quiet acoustic number from the blockbuster album is one of the most striking, probably because of its very quietness, and the oblique lyrics.

289. Depeche Mode: Behind The Wheel, from Music For The Masses

The synth-driven beat to this song is the main attraction of it, with the lyrics just icing on the cake, following the usual Depeche Mode themes.

Balloons cost more when they're blown up. Well, that's inflation for you.

Aaron // 10:49 p.m. Clix me!

Monday, October 06, 2003:

This Hunger's Made Me Weak

See, what did I tell you--Space Empires III ate my brain. But it's starting to wind down now--the Aphsinx(that's me)long since wiped out the Baklad, and have been making good progress on the Vrok and the Tch'ickan. Declaring war on the Tch'ickan, unfortunately, may have turned the other large empire, the Certadsh, against me, and soon after that my longtime allies the Hevordah and the new empire that sprang up, the Welshra.

But now my ships are making headway in Certadsh space, the Welshra have been resubjugated(they originally formed on a Vrok planet that I had just subjugated with my troops--I guess they had been a subject race to the Vrok, and took advantage of the chaos to declare their independence), the Vrok themselves have only one tiny planet left, the Tch'ickan are nearly gone, and the Hevordah's fleet of numerous but tiny ships has been decimated. Now it's mostly bureaucracy, with the occasional space battle. The game will probably be over before I finish plumbing the remainder of the technology that the registered version has made available to me.

Anyway, I've had no shortage of things that I've thought of blogging about, only a shortage of time where I felt like blogging. Or even Livejournaling. I'll scrape up what I can now. I don't think that I'm going to feel like doing the Worldcon thing, though, surprise surprise, after over a month. There are a few things I might want to mention, but a day-by-day discussion is a bit too late.

So what else have I been up to?

I never believe those people who say you need to give your car an oil change every three months, or 5000 km, or whatever. For one thing, who are these people? They're the ones who run oil change places, so of course they want you to come in as often as they can get away with. I'm sure your car will run just fine if you bring it in every three months for an oil change, but will it run must worse if you only do it every six months? Every year? So I do it every year, just before Thanksgiving. (Which in Canada, as you may recall, is around the same time as Columbus Day in the States.)

Last year we were feeling a little guilty about under-maintaining our car, or something, so I got the absolute works. I was probably there for almost an hour while they flushed out everything they could flush. This year I was feeling a little more conservative, so I got mostly the basic, though still with a pricier synthetic oil.

They mentioned that my fan belt was looking a little cracked, and it should get fixed soon. I remembered them saying that last year, too, so I thought, okay, it's really time to get it done.

It's a pain to take the car in, though. We've just got the one, so it's a nuisance. You have to be sure it doesn't interfere with grocery shopping, or any out-of-town trips. Nicole's parents went on holiday, so we had to check on their place in Beaumont for a couple of weekends. And so on. I put it off, and put it off.

Then, last Tuesday, I was driving home from work, going up the hill out of the river valley onto Connors Road, and I happened to notice that the engine-temperature gauge on the dashboard was a fair bit closer to the "H" than it usually is. By the time I reached the top of the hill, it had reached the "H" and the dashboard was trying to call my attention to it more vigorously, using the "Check Gages"[sic] warning light. (I'm 90% sure that "gauge" is the correct spelling, not "gage" or [shudder]"guage". Actually, lists "gage" as a variant, and I guess that's okay; "gauge" really looks like it shouldn't have a long "a" sound. But I digress.)

Once I got off the hill I made a quick right turn into residentia and pulled over. I called Nicole on the cell and told her what was happening. The last time this had happened, we were down in Calgary for ConVersion, probably 2-3 years ago. I spent a long time waiting for Nicole to show up, and found out that on Deerfoot Trail it had started overheating, and she took it in to Canadian Tire. Luckily, she got to borrow her cousin Carla's SUV for the day, and it turned out to be just the thermostat. I didn't think I could assume it would be so simple this time.

Unfortunately, there were no Canadian Tires nearby, or near my way home at all, really, though there was one at Mill Woods Town Centre, a little past our house. I was still less than halfway home, though. I didn't want to drop the car off at some random garage if I could help it, either. So I decided I would try the slow way home--drive for five minutes, pull off the road and stop for five minutes to let the engine cool down. I crept fitfully down Connors Road, past Bonnie Doon mall, down to Argyll Road, and finally onto 75th Street, which is practically the home stretch. And then I saw a Midas.

Of course! Midas got their start as strictly a "muffler & exhaust" place, but now they do full service, and I've never been less than pleased with them. I pulled into their parking lot and walked into their office. I let them know about the engine troubles and thought, hey, while I'm here, I should get them to do the fan belt as well.

They didn't have anyone free to drive me home or anything, but there was a bus that went by. It turned out to be the 321, a peak-hours-only route of miniature van-sized buses. Luck was with me, because one showed up after only a couple of minutes, and I later discovered that they only came by every half hour.

Wednesday I rode the bus, which I hadn't done to our new office, but it turned out to be easier than I thought it would be. When I talked to the Midas folks that afternoon, they said it was the radiator(which they kept calling a "rad", but I assumed that was what they meant), and they'd have to replace it, for about $500. I reminded them of the fan belt(which somehow they had forgotten), and they said they'd do that as well--another $100. They said it should be ready about 5:00-5:30. I checked all my bus routes, and ended up getting there closer to 4:30 from some fortuitous connections.

They said they had it mostly done, radiator and fan belt replaced, and showed me the spongy, crumbly mess that my old radiator had become, which disintegrated at the touch of a finger. (I also discovered that the radiator didn't seem to be a round tank of fluid, as somehow I had always pictured it, but a metal lattice of vanes to, well, radiate heat over a larger surface area.) They just had a few more tests they wanted to run. Not a problem; I had a book to read, and they had reasonably comfortable chairs, even if they played the country station.

Half an hour later they had it up on the hydraulic lift again. Apparently the heater wasn't working, and the water pump didn't seem to be circulating the heat like it was supposed to. It had been working earlier, but was no longer. They had a few things they could try, though.

Half an hour after that, they said they wanted to keep the car another day. That day, I got a ride with one of the mechanics in his red sports car, and we ordered out for pizza.

Thursday I rode the bus again, and found out from Midas that they had to replace the entire water pump. They also replaced the timing belt, which wasn't in horrible shape but had a couple of tears, and which they'd had to take off to get at the water pump anyway. Another $650. My connections were not as smooth this time, and it was more like 5:00 when I got there...and they were running tests again. Luckily, these ones all turned out okay, and I got to drive it home. I deposited my paycheque(which I had been planning to do on Tuesday...), picked up some Subway, and drove home.

So far it's been running fine, maybe even a little quieter. I had some brief hope that it might have indirectly fixed my tape-deck problems, but it's still as flaky as ever. Ah, well.

Now, at least, I don't have to feel guilty about not checking the oil when I gas it up at a self-serve station--which is every time, except when we're on the highway. After an oil change, I can relax for a few months before I start worrying about it. Not actually doing anything about it, but worrying.

Holy crap, has it been an entire month since I updated on my books? Man.

It seems that last time I posted, I was reading A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold, which I finished quickly. It did have a little bit of SFnality, mostly due to the "butterbugs", but it was mostly enjoyable for its character-based plot. I am holding off from Diplomatic Immunity for the nonce. Since then we've had:

Sheri S. Tepper: Singer From The Sea. This book doesn't seem to have a whole lot that's new from Tepper. Society with oppressive males and oppressed females--check. Weird alien life forms--check. Gaian forces--check. Maybe the elements hadn't been combined in quite the same way, but they've all been in her other books.

Sometimes Tepper's near-strident feminism bothers me. It's not like she doesn't have sympathetic male characters, but they are almost never the ones who are in charge. It's too often the oppressive patriarchy. It keeps seeming to me(as, I admit, a white male)that they're complaining about evils that are already pretty much non-issues. Maybe it's my Generation-X background, but I just don't see that kind of phallocracy around. The "male oppressive patriarchy" is on the wane, which to me is good enough. Attitudes will die out when the people who hold them die, if they're not reinforced, and so that kind of feminism seems less and less relevant. But that's just my take, of course. Still, Tepper's preoccupation with it is as annoying in its way as Jack L. Chalker's nearly-monotonous occupation with themes of physical and mental change imposed from without. Chalker is already sliding down from my list of favourite authors, and I would hate to see Tepper follow.

Robert Charles Wilson: Blind Lake. His new hardcover, which we got from the library. Nicole and I have been reading his books fairly avidly since Mysterium, probably, or maybe even A Bridge of Years, and while they have their moments, they never quite manage to hold together. But he does seem to be improving, and this book I think is his best so far. Nicole didn't like it as much as the Wilson's last one, The Chronoliths, which had a better beginning, but while this one starts slow, it carries off a conclusion much better than Wilson's usual. Usually that's where he falls down, you see, in tying everything up, or explaining the enigma that has been central to the book. Here the closing revelations are far from a letdown, and there are a number of intermediate mysterious resolved as well, so it's very satisfying. This should definitely go on the Aurora, or, heck, Nebula, lists for next year.

John Brunner: The Stone That Never Came Down. This is a book I read years ago, that I grabbed off the shelf to reread pretty much on impulse. It's one of Brunner's most optimistic books, in a way. Admittedly, its premise is that the human race is unlikely to survive without a fundamental change in its way of thinking, but luckily, in the book, such a change comes a long, in the form of a "viral chemical" called VC. VC is an experimental drug which enhances human perceptivity and memory, and turns out to be contagious through blood transfusion.

So in a near-future(well, alternate history, these days)where Europe is crumbling under unemployment, fundamentalism, and the threat of war, suddenly a growing group of people from different backgrounds become clear thinkers, and agree that the best thing to do is to spread this clear thinking to the rest of the world. So they proceed to deploy VC in edible form to trouble spots, and everybody lives happily ever after.

If I ever become omnipotent, I tell you, that is what I'm going to do. Infect the human race with something that will make people's thinking more...well, more mature. I often define maturity as "the ability to take a large number of things into account at once". A child will reach for something not caring that they've just been told not to. A teenager might take something if they think they won't get caught. And adults are often encumbered with preconceptions, prejudices, and sloppy thinking. What would happen if people no longer had the ability to ignore things? Some might not be able to cope with it, perhaps, but in general I think the world would be a better place to live.

Joyce Cool: The Kidnapping of Courtney Van Allen And What's-Her-Name. This is a young-adult book that Nicole had, probably from her own girlhood. The main character ends up hanging out with a spoiled rich girl, and then they get kidnapped. It's mildly wacky, with some things that you couldn't get away with in these post-Generation-X days. It's all played for comedic effect--not a lot of real tension, because even the kidnappers are goofy. Not in Gordon Korman's league by any means, but a nice quick read.

Samuel R. Delany: The Ballad of Beta-2. One of a bunch of Delany books I bought years and years ago upon reading the wonderful Babel-17. They've been fairly spotty, with the sprawling and uneven Dhalgren, the almost incomprehensible The Einstein Intersection, the readable misfit-in-utopia Triton, the space-operatic Nova, the lackluster Tales of Neverÿon, and the intriguing Fall of The Towers. But this one, which, perhaps tellingly, is earlier than Babel-17, is a small gem.

A budding sociology major is forced by an unsympathetic professor into a detailed study of the titular ballad, one of few lasting works coming from a group of generation ships launched just before the invention of hyperspace made them obsolete. The ships' occupants have been mostly quarantined on their ships ever since. The student starts off making a perfunctory effort, and becomes more and more intrigued the more he finds out, right up until the very end.

Linda Haldeman: Esbae:A Winter's Tale. I have never been quite sure whether Linda is related to Joe or Jack Haldeman, but that's not important. This is a short little urban fantasy--well, collegiate fantasy, really. It takes place on a college campus, in a college town, featuring college students and college professors, with good and evil spirits thrown in for spice. I couldn't help wondering how similar the female protagonist was to the author, which is also not important, I suppose. The plot works itself out well enough, I suppose, but it's not a stellar book.

Robert Charles Wilson: The Perseids & Other Stories. I had requested this one from the library at the same time as Blind Lake, for some reason, but decided to put some space between them. The stories are an odd bunch, mostly set in Toronto, and most featuring a particular used bookstore, though often only in a cameo way. It's not Newford by any means, though. The stories are, perhaps, a little bit more successful in their resolutions than Wilson's novels, but still a bit spotty, especially "Pearl Baby", which didn't work for me. The stories are strongly character-driven, with speculative elements playing a role but not always dominating them. Worth a look, though.

Crawford Kilian: Gryphon. This was the book I was reading the first day I took the bus. I get a lot of reading done on the bus, and this wasn't that long a book, so I finished it that night. It didn't start out that promising, with a couple of spoiled-seeming kids in a near-Utopian future Earth, but it quickly picks up. The stakes escalate in a way that somehow reminded me of Eric Nylund's Signal To Noise, and by the end I was completely enthralled. Not quite as stellar as his epic Eyas, but a high point in his oeuvre nonetheless.

Spider Robinson: Callahan's Con. From the second day I took the bus. I wasn't sure whether I should try this book out or not, since the major disappointment of Callahan's Key, but after kitten's recommendation at Worldcon(which I will explain later), I thought I'd check it out from the library. It moved pretty fast, as the Callahan books tend to do, brought in a few older characters, even some unlikely ones, while leaving some out. This is actually one reason the book works better than the last one--the de-emphasis on the mind-numbingly powerful allies the denizens of Callahan's have acquired. Also, they are concerned with not calling attention to themselves from any large government organizations. There is also the touching death of one of the series regulars, which evokes real pathos. So, a welcome return to form.

Peter Ward & Donald Brownlee: Rare Earth. A non-fiction book that was recommended in one of the Worldcon panels I attended. It offers an interesting look at the fledgeling science of "astrobiology", the study of life on planets. It makes a case for the Rare Earth Hypothesis, which is that while bacterial life is likely common in the universe, given its long history on Earth and exploitation of seemingly hostile niches, multicellular life is likely exceedingly rare.

According to the Rare Earth theory, animal life requires such diverse elements as placement of a star in the correct area of its galaxy, correct composition so planets form at all, but also radioactives for plate tectonics, a large moon so its axis doesn't shift too often, the right kind of star so that it remains habitable for a long enough period, and an absence of nearby supernovas or planet-sterilizing asteroids. In addition, it may require the whole planet to freeze over more than once, frequent mass extinctions, and a Jupiter-sized planet in a stable orbit.

It seems to me that the authors are almost too eager to take anything odd about the history of Earth, or even weird theories(like the Snowball Earth where the whole thing freezes over), and make a virtue of necessity. Maybe it's just that it's hard to accept the idea that we only exist on this planet, as sentient animal life, because of a mind-numbing series of coincidences resulting in just enough water(but not too much), just enough heat(but not too much), just enough asteroid collisions(but not too much), just enough radioactives in the core(but not too much), etc.

I don't think it'll necessarily stop alien races from showing up in SF for a long time to come, but that's because alien races make good story elements. Asimov's Foundation series, where there are no alien races to be found, becomes almost more plausible.

Right now I'm reading Jean Auel's The Plains of Passage. It's not really pulling me along, since it contains some bad writing, and winceworthy segments where the author(not either of our protagonists, oh no)drones on and on about indigenous planet and animal species, and uses intensely anachronistic words like "protein" in doing so. When things are actually happening, it's okay, but Ayla and Jondalar's thought processes are far from profound, and their dialogue rarely more so. There is no plot, really--this falls mostly into the category of "Milieu" novel, with people wandering around discovering things.

Well, I'll try to read it, and if I get stuck, I will give up. I've done it before, on rare occasions, when it's warranted. I've got the new Dave Barry novel out from the library, as well as a Robert Sawyer short story collection, Iterations, so I don't have time to read too much dreck.

On to the glacially slow-moving countdown:

292. Bruce Cockburn: Anything Can Happen, from Big Circumstance

It took me a while to get into this album, and to discover the album closer, one of Bruce Cockburn's rare funny moments. Over a jazzy background, he speculates on all the ways he and his lover could die, and then uses this to clarify why he doesn't want to say goodnight. Always good for a smile.

291. Suzanne Vega: Undertow, from Suzanne Vega

Another great song from Vega's first album, which has no shortage of them. Unfortunately, and embarrassingly, that makes it hard for me to pick out a distinguishing feature to discuss here. Oh, well.

I like you, but I wouldn't want to see you working with subatomic particles.

Aaron // 10:33 p.m. Clix me!

Thursday, September 11, 2003:

My Work Has Only Begun

I wasn't planning on blogging tonight, but my new Space Empires III registration key has not arrived(yes, I broke down and registered my first piece of shareware ever). My current empire was close to the limit of the technologies available in the unregistered version, so I want to get my registration key before I play further in that one. But in spite of the email saying "Orders are generally fulfilled very quickly, however, please allow up to 24 hours.", it's been close to 48 hours. I don't want to seem importunate, but I don't know how much longer I should be giving the guy(s) at Malfador Machinations to process my order... Surely if there was a problem with my Visa purchase, they would've gotten back to me already.

I have a few other saved(abandoned, really)games of SEIII, but I just can't manage to make myself play any of them. I'm trying to tell myself I shouldn't try to start a new game, even with all of the new alien race and star system names I've added, which won't show up in any of the old games. And somehow nothing else is appealing to me.

So, here I am blogging. Aren't you glad?

Back to Worldcon. Finally, starting with Friday morning.

To try to save a bit of money, we decided to try to bring something for our breakfasts. Something that we didn't have to refrigerate, since our hotel didn't provide us with a fridge. Not to mention something that we could bring on the plane with us. We settled on some "cereal bars". So we broke our fast with those, and then wandered down to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre to see what was going on.

I think I checked for Kaffeeklatsch signup sheets, but they weren't there yet. I hadn't even heard of those, as a Worldcon feature, until B.J. passed us a copy of Mike Resnick's notes on attending one's first Worldcon. Apparently a number of authors are scheduled to have an intimate chat(with or without coffee)with whatever dozen or so people sign up first. Later, reading some Worldcon commentary, I realize that you really have to line up early for some of these ones.

The 10:00 panel we wanted was called "Never Say You Took A Creative Writing Course!", and was on the topic of what to put in, and what to leave out of, cover letters. The panelists were editors and agents, and one of the reasons we went to the panel was because Jim Minz of Tor Books, who had been Nicole's editor for Running On Instinct, was there. The consensus was that magazine editors don't care about cover letters, book publishers might want to get an idea about previous publications and what kind of book you've written, and agents want to know enough to let them decide whether you have a good writing career ahead of you, but never over a page.

Nicole did introduce herself to Jim Minz at the end, and he gave us an invitation to the Tor party that night. This was, we had been told, the reason to go to conventions--to go to the parties and meet authors, agents, and editors. So this was a first step.

After that(as far as I can tell from the pocket schedule, anyway)we went to the first of two George R.R. Martin readings from A Feast For Crows, the fourth book "A Song of Ice And Fire". According to Locus's most recent "forthcoming books" list, it was supposed to be published in September, but given that according to Mr. Martin himself it wasn't even finished yet, that didn't seem likely. I was looking forward to trying to get a signed copy, but oh well. He gave us a choice of four chapters, and we picked the Jon Snow one. It was pretty good.

At noon Nicole had to go up to the signing area, which we eventually found at the back of the dealer's room on the second floor. I grabbed each of us a sandwich from the little cafeteria, brought Nicole's hers and sat down to eat mine. Then I went to get autographs from Nicole's fellow scheduled authors, Suzy McKee Charnas and Eric Raymond. Being forewarned, I had brought Charnas's The Vampire Tapestry(which I hadn't read, but it contained "Unicorn Tapestry", which I had read in an anthology), and Raymond's The New Hacker's Dictionary. ESR was busy typing away on his laptop(Blogging? Hacking? Writing? I wonder), so a minimum of personal contact was made.

I browsed around in the dealer's room, but didn't find anything I couldn't resist buying. I'm very able to resist hardcovers and trade paperbacks, even signed ones, and few of the paperbacks were that tempting. Forget about memorabilia and action figures. I wandered over to the art show(where they made me check my camera at the front desk), didn't see Jim Beveridge's stuff there yet, or much at all, really. I'm not that much into art. So I was back picking up my camera about five minutes later.

After that we split up. I had been very curious about the Alien Languages Workshop, which was supposed to have limited attendance, though I hadn't seen a signup sheet. I went there anyway, and discovered that it wasn't quite that organized. That is, there may have been supposed to be a signup sheet, but there wasn't. There also was supposed to be a flip chart or something, but there wasn't. The panelists were Stanley Schmidt, editor of Analog(and apparently an amateur(?) linguist), and Laurence Schoen, father of the Klingon language. The panel itself was mostly just a primer into linguistics, so I could practically have skipped it, because I was mostly up to speed on that. We eventually got a flip-chart substitute, in the form of a large pad of paper you can tear off and stick to the wall...

Then the panel was split into two groups, called "Purple" and "Green" on the program, but which Stanley and Laurence called "Porcupines" and "Squids". I started out as a Squid(Stanley's group), but then a Porcupine came over and said their room was almost deserted, so I moved over there. In the end we both had more than enough people, though.

Then we tried to come up with a "Porcupiny" language, which occasioned much debate. Laurence was adamant that we stick to something we would be able to pronounce, no fancy Klingon-style uvular consonants, no tones, etc. We decided porcupines would talk very circularly, anxious not to offend each other, and wouldn't use sibilants because they would be lost under the sound of rattling quills. We ended up with six consonants(plus two glides)and three vowels, for a very agglutinative language with lots of prefixes. We also had a standard word list which we were supposed to populate, though it seemed a bit artificial to me. We ended up(even with two hours)running a bit short on time, so we just each got assigned two words to create. We dubbed our race the "Kaglapglap", which meant "Those who stay[in one place]". On Saturday there was supposed to be a "First Contact" panel, but we weren't sure what that would involve.

From there(after three hours of alien language immersion), I headed to "Design Issues of Star Systems". That was kind of interesting, with panelists from Larry Niven(who of course was known to make up his own star systems, most famously Ringworld, of course)to people who actually worked on the projects dedicated to discovering extrasolar planets. Apparently they are planning to launch some kind of interferometry device(in a decade or so)to make it easier to detect planet-sized objects, like Earth-sized objects, in other systems. They are aware that up to now there is an observation bias towards large planets, mostly trans-Jovian ones, but they hope to overcome that. They discussed some limitations on planets in multiple star systems, which I found interesting. But, in a nutshell, they don't have any other complete solar systems to compare to our own, so we still can't tell how typical or outlandish ours is.

After that, Nicole and I met up again, and we decided to go out to supper, even though it was only 5:00. None of the programming looked really compelling for the rest of the evening. We walked over to East Side Mario's, which was quite close by(and familiar, because they opened one in Edmonton). (Hey, at least we didn't go to the Planet Hollywood at the base of the CN Tower...) At about 5:45, I suddenly noticed that the signing session for Open Space had been supposed to start at 5:00...oh, well, too late.

We went back to our hotel room and kicked back for a couple of hours--I was trying hard to finish the last book of Tad William's "Otherland" series at the time--and then headed out again close to 9:00, for the Royal York, to check out the parties.

We remembered something about the Tor party starting at 10:00(though I think we were mistaken), so we looked around for something else. I was interested in checking out the Kansas City 2006 Worldcon bid, mostly because I thought I might meet someone there who knew Marie Loughin, an old net.friend. (And I think I saw Glenn Sixbury's name on the programming list, another Kansas writer I remember Marie talking about...) But I chickened out, and instead we wandered into a "Song of Ice And Fire" party. I bought a T-shirt, "Winterfell: Westeros 2005", which I'm still not quite sure what it meant. I guess Winterfell was bidding to host the Westeros SF convention in 2005... It was a bit noisy(though later I would think back on it as blessedly quiet), but we found some chairs, and sat down and chatted with a guy who introduced himself as Ernst, and pressed free copies of "George R.R. Martin's The Hedge Knight" comic adaptation on us. He talked about some of the other comic projects he had lined up, which sounded pretty cool, and we talked about other SF/fantasy series for a while. It turns out that Ernst is Ernst Dable, Editor-In-Chief of Roaring Studios, who are producing the series for Image Comics. Definitely have to check those out next time I'm in Warp 1 Comics.

(I just got around to checking out, which seems to be sort of like "Dragonmount" for ASOIAF.)

At close to 10:00, we thought we'd head up to the Tor party, which was up on the 8th floor of the hotel...out of the "party floor" area, so we thought it might be a little more private/intimate. Ha.

The hallway outside the room was already pretty populated, and we could hear the colourful roar of many conversations going at full blast. Inside the suite itself, it was packed. It was possible to navigate, carefully, from place to place, and we did manage to go over to the food table in just a couple of minutes. But it was just too much. We should've tried to mingle, or maybe even schmooze, but we didn't see anyone there we knew that we could talk to, and neither of us was very good at introducing ourselves to strangers. If Jim Minz was anywhere around, we didn't see him. So we made a strategic withdrawal. So much for the big "publisher's party" opportunity. Maybe for extroverts, but not for us. "Pop" go all the bubbles of talking to authors whose books I like(not like those bubbles contained much in the way of rational conversation on my part anyway).

We made our way down to B.J. & Ann's room instead. The night before, they'd said that Mike Resnick was going to be reading some of his stories there at about 11:00. It was probably closer to 10:30, but there was several people there anyway, so we hung out there. I can't remember who all was there, but some subset of our writer's group complement, at least, so we had people to talk to in a low-pressure kind of way. There were also a couple of women in belly-dancing costumes, whom I had seen around the Con(e.g. in the dealer's room earlier).

Mike arrived in due time, and had three stories to read, two humorous and one serious. One was a Lucifer Jones story, one in another series I forget, with a P.I. in a magic-based world, and the serious one was an African alternate history. They were all pretty good; all recently sold, I believe, too.

And in between the stories there was belly-dancing. They had music, and they obviously had done some practicing. At that point in the evening, it felt highly surreal.

After that, we went back to our hotel(taking the much shorter John Street route, rather than the long, dark and scary Spadina Avenue one)and crashed.

Crawling a little further up the charts:

294. This Mortal Coil: Strength of Strings, from Filigree & Shadow

I have since learned that this song was a cover of a Gene Clark(ex-Byrd)song, but I still like this one better than the original. I've lost my liner notes for this album, so let me do a quick net search to see if I can find out who's singing... Okay, according to this page, it's Dominic Appleton, whoever he is. ...Apparently he's from a band called Breathless, who sounds kind of interesting, have to check them out. Anyway, the song has a wonderful sense of menace, especially from that eerie sound sample at the beginning.

293. Rush: Afterimage, from Grace Under Pressure

A wonderful song about trying to deal with the death of a good friend, and being confronted with memories at every turn. This album is among Rush's best at combining guitars and synthesizers, as evidenced on this song.

When all you've got is lawyers, make lawyerade. --d.

Aaron // 11:33 p.m. Clix me!

Tuesday, September 09, 2003:

No More Excuses; Decisions Are Final

My morning started off with a bang today.

Well, actually, it started off restful enough. It was Nicole's morning for the children, but I got up at 7:00 as is my wont anyway, to spent a quiet hour at my computer. Mostly making up lists of ship-model-names for
Space Empires III. (For which I've just broken my decade-long ban on shareware game registration.)

For breakfast I had my semi-usual bowl of Quaker-brand Life cereal. I've been eating that for many years now, as a happy medium between the "healthy" cereals and the "sweet" cereals. Every once in a while I get sick of it, but as long as I switch off with something else, I'm usually okay.

Usually, though, I don't see something black floating in my cereal bowl after I've had a few spoonfuls. Even less frequently so I notice that the black thing has little legs, which are moving to keep it from drowning.


I cannot stand bugs. I cannot deal with bugs. A bug that(it occurred to me later)I came close to putting into my mouth... No. I had a major case of the willies in the hallway while Nicole more-or-less calmly disposed of it, and the former contents of my cereal bowl.

I got out a clean bowl, and a clean spoon, and poured myself another bowl. A few unenthusiastic bites into that one, it occurred to me that a)the bug may not have been alone in the cereal box, b)the bug may have laid eggs or something in the box, and/or c)the bug may have polluted the contents of the box with its feces. Another bowl of cereal went in the garbage/down the drain. And the rest of the box, which luckily wasn't too much. (How much of that had I eaten unawares before now?)

I had some nice toaster waffles instead. Which put me a bit behind, but I didn't want to skip breakfast entirely.

Ew. Bugs. <shudder>

I was planning to continue my Worldcon memoirs sometime soon, but it's been low on my time allocation list. I will, however, fill in a couple of things I forgot to mention in my Thursday coverage.

First of all, when we were talking to Jim Beveridge, he told us about growing up in southern Ontario, and spending his summers working at the amusement park on Bob-Lo Island. This was the same Bob-Lo island that I wrote about last summer, which we tried to visit while down there for my brother's wedding. We had to inform him that these days, rather than hosting an amusement park, it is now an upscale gated island community. But it was interesting to run across it again...

Secondly, I forgot what it was we had been doing between registration and going up to B.J. & Ann's hotel room. A look at the "pocket schedule" would have enlightened me, but I didn't think we'd gone to anything... We had, though, gone to the Spider & Jeanne Robinson musical performance in the ballroom of the Royal York.

I'd seen Spider before, briefly, at ConText '91 in Edmonton. He'd been scheduled for a musical performance then, in one of the con rooms, but decided at some point to sing in the bar, instead. This proved to be a mistake, because the bar was full of people who were not expecting Con programming, and were drinking and smoking and talking instead. And Spider was insufficiently amplified, if at all. So after trying for a few songs to hear him over the roar, we gave up.

This was somewhat better, at least soundwise. Spider is a passable musician, sings pretty well, plays the guitar not too badly. His songwriting skills are also passable. I'm trying not to damn too much with faint praise, but let's face it, Spider is a better SF writer than he is a musician. He's a good SF writer, he's a fair musician. That's all there is to it. His musical tastes also do not intersect with my own that strongly, being more into folk and blues.

But it was an enjoyable session, and the patter was witty--Spider is, admittedly, a pretty good comedian. The seating was a little haphazard--people moved their chairs out onto the dance floor from the tables along the sides. So if you wanted to sit down, then generally you had to get your own chair, then find somewhere to put it in the rough semicircle around the platform Spider was performing from.

I don't think we stayed for the whole performance, either, because Nicole was getting restless by that point...and I was, as I said, less than entranced.

Friday later, I promise.

Racing up the charts:

296. Tragically Hip: New Orleans Is Sinking, from Up To Here

I've always found the Tragically Hip a bit uneven. They are(or were)huge here in Canada, if apparently more of a cult phenomenon elsewhere. This was one of the few songs of theirs that I actually liked right off the bat. The lyrics are, like most of their songs, a little impenetrable, but dark and blurred enough to go with the music of the song.

295. Go Four 3: Death of Love, from Go Four 3

Another song from my favourite obscure independent band of the 80's, this one from their six-song debut EP. It has a brooding feel to it as well, and would probably go nicely with "New Orleans Is Sinking".

We promptly judged antique ivory buckles for the next prize.

Aaron // 11:38 p.m. Clix me!

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