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I'm sitting around at MSP, having found a nice quiet corner with a power outlet. It has almost[1] all the comforts of the Delta Sky Club at a fraction of the cost. (0/n is a fraction, right?)

I wound up getting to the airport much earlier than necessary, because I was able to snag a ride with someone who was heading out right at that moment...since the hotel shuttle is no longer operating, that was a definite win. Naturally, the security line was short; it always is when I'm not in a hurry.

It was a good con. I got in several games of Dominion, some Zar, a round of Power Grid, and some other games; made it to a few program items; saw many people I wanted to see; and made the Saturday night party rounds including the great LJ party. (I never managed to make it to the pool/hot tub, though.)

Now the countdown to Penguicon starts.

[1] No snacks, no drinks, no shiny bathrooms. Comfy chairs and power, though....
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Roger Ebert has posted a thoughtful piece on food and dining and memory, discussing his experiences since surgery left him unable to eat normally and what he truly misses most about no longer being able to do so.

He's managed to express in words something I could never quite get right: how I feel about the difference between a meal eaten in company and a mere refueling stop, and why I take the convention rule of 5-2-1 (5 hours of sleep, 2 meals, 1 shower each day) and add the stipulation (in my own case) that the two meals should be eaten with other people if at all possible.

Read the whole thing.

(via [livejournal.com profile] cristalia)
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The Atomic Testing Museum. The gift shop sells, among other things, Atomic FireBall candy and postcards showing the above-ground tests as seen from Las Vegas (they were a tourist attraction!).
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This is important.

Since my state rep is on both the Joint Committee on Public Health and Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, I specifically mention them in this letter in hopes that a non-form letter will be more effective. If you live in Massachusetts, please call and write your legislators with your own experiences and concerns. (Call and write; call to get their attention, write to make your arguments.)

my letter )
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Whether you call it Armistice Day, Remembrance Day, or Veterans Day doesn't matter; the day itself does.

Thank you to all who have served and are serving today: family, friends, and others.

May the results of your service be worthy of your sacrifices.
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I'd asked folks to guess how many different artists' versions of songs I have. Here are the answers, along with lists of the artists represented.
time to flip over the mix tape )
ckd: (music)
If you ask me to play each of the following songs, how many different artists (including the original artist) will I have available in iTunes? (Not including parodies, but including instrumental-only versions.)
saving your friends page )
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In this post I asked for questions, and received some...and as I said, "I might answer". Here are some answers.

In some cases, I'm going to list the questioner but not the question; in the others, the question but not the questioner. (Oh, and I've sorted the list so there won't be any telltale correlations between comments posted and questions asked. :-) If you've forgotten what you asked, you can see what you said.

[livejournal.com profile] aedifica: Is it still there?
[livejournal.com profile] cthulhia: Indeed.
[livejournal.com profile] dpolicar: Good question, to which I don't have a good answer.
[livejournal.com profile] gnomi: It's a bit late to answer this one, isn't it?
[livejournal.com profile] lbmango: Mu.
[livejournal.com profile] mdyesowitch: Not at the moment.
[livejournal.com profile] moiread: Fairly, even when I don't know how to respond.
[livejournal.com profile] timprov: It's a bit late to answer this one, isn't it?
[livejournal.com profile] yendi: If it were a game of BSG: all four dials in the blue.
But is it much much worse than two? I guess....
Have you ever given any thought to what you want your funeral to be like? You mean besides "very far in the future"? Not really, since I don't expect to be actively involved in it.
Three? Yes, I forgot to include "Come Together".
What color are your shoes? Black.
What do you like best about autumn? Being able to keep the windows open, because the weather is just cool enough to start doing that instead of running the air conditioning all the time.
What is your favorite cheerful song? There are several candidates: "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport", "Good Day Sunshine", the Great Big Sea cover of "Run Runaway", Three Dog Night's "Joy to the World", even "Daydream Believer" (cheesy as it is) makes the list...but when it comes right down to "this will make me smile EVERY TIME" it's got to be the Muppets version of "Mahna Mahna". (I want to hear a mashup of "Mahna Mahna" and "Numa Numa".)
What is your favorite food? Probably pizza, just because of its versatility.
What's your favorite cryptid? If fictional ones count, the Loch Moose Monster from Janet Kagan's Mirabile. If not, probably the classic: Bigfoot.
Why am I having flashbacks to the Usenet Oracle? Because everything old is new again, and a question that can engender an amusing answer is still fun to play with. You owe the Oracle a .signature file of 4 lines or less.
Why? It's an interrogative used to ask about underlying causes, but that's not important right now.
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I'm guessing that most of the MSP contingent have plans to be at Convivial 4 (Oct. 16-18), and some of the folks who usually make it to Penguicon have plans for ConClave 34 (Oct. 9-11)...and it's quite possible that there are people who're planning on both.

Right now my next planned con is Arisia 2010 (Jan. 15-18), but it's not completely silly to try to get to something between now and then.

Who's going to what, when, where? Philcon is probably too close to Thanksgiving for me to manage. What else am I missing?
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As my last few posts have indicated, I had a bit of an adventure getting home from Worldcon this year. Funny, it wasn't so hard to get home from my last Worldcon in 2004! (I just took the T, since it was in town and I was actually commuting.)

This was my third Worldcon, but only the first one I actually went to instead of merely attending when it was being held within an easy commute of where I lived (Noreascon 3 [1989] and Noreascon 4 [2004]).
the saga begins... )
Then there was the "adventure" of getting back (previously described here and on FB), which worked out with meeting Scott Edelman at dinner in the hotel restaurant at the Holiday Inn, because his flight had also been cancelled. I wound up accidentally encountering two industry pros, one on each end of the trip, both of whom were also very nice people and great to talk to. That's the sort of thing that I love about this field.
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(Worldcon report coming at some point.)

It looks like airfare is pretty cheap at the moment, though transcontinental travel is still going to be a giant time suck. There aren't any BOS-SJC nonstops (AA killed their old "nerd bird" a few years ago, and JetBlue chopped theirs during the fuel price jump last year), so it's a hub connection somewhere (IAH, probably, since CO has the cheap fare right now) and end-to-end gate-to-gate times run in the 8-9 hour range.

Pluses/minuses:
+ Another con to fill in the gap between Worldcon and Arisia
+ BOS-SJC fare reasonably cheap right now
+ Can hook a SEA stop in there to see family; a BOS-SJC-SEA-BOS triangle trip only adds about $100-150 to the fare if I stay through Sunday
+ "Use it or lose it" vacation policy; WFC + the extra day at each end would get me closer, and doing the Seattle trip would get me under the threshold for sure even if I don't take any other time off
- Not sure how many folks I know will be there
- Two extra hotel nights pretty much required due to flight times (either in SJC or near SEA)
- Two long travel days

Thoughts?
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Home and safe. Going to try for some more sleep since I'm not very functional. More later.
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At YUL, and about to head to the gate. "This time for sure!" ("But that trick never works.")

Let's hope my next post is from BOS or somewhere in Cambridge, and that it happens today.
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I'm at the Holiday Inn Aeroport in Montreal after Air Canada cancelled my flight. I have an 0630 flight tomorrow and will at least try to get to work after I arrive.

The good news is that this has become an extension of the con; I'm sitting in the restaurant with Scott Edelman and a couple other stranded congoers. Apparently the NW flight to Detroit was cancelled due to crew rest issues, so several of the non-Boston contingent are also still in Montreal.
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At YUL in the AC lounge; it was definitely a good call to get the lounge pass add-on for my flight. Wi-Fi, snacks, drinks, comfy chairs, power outlets, and OMG clean bathroom yay. I'm tired and worn out but I had a damn good con despite shut-down parties, overly long elevator lines, and the nearly endless walk to the panel rooms.

Back to work tomorrow. Urgh.

ETA: flight delayed ~1hr. Back in the lounge. Very glad I got the pass.
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Given this post, you already know what's coming up, don't you?
[Poll #1434226]
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At least for now (since I don't think reading filters are working yet on DW), I'm trimming my subscriptions on DW to cut down on the number of posts I read twice. This is a short-term fix but will make it easier for me to keep up on both LJ and DW without getting nearly as confused over what I have and haven't read yet.

I'm leaving more reading on LJ because I haven't had time/energy to port my style over to DW yet, so it's easier to read things on LJ. Once I've done that, especially if reading filters are also working, I'll definitely be moving at least "comment on DW" folks onto my DW reading list and off of my LJ "Default View" filter.
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From the program guide:
Apollo 11 and Science Fiction. Michael J. Daley, Paul Di Filippo (L), Carl Frederick, Barry N. Malzberg, Allen Steele, Ian Randal Strock. Forty years ago a week from next Monday man first walked on the moon. Apollo 11 can be regarded as a triumph of the science fictional imagination, even if virtually no one foresaw that it would come as part of a massive governmental program motivated more by global politics than by scientific or commercial interests. That we haven‘t been back there since 1972, though—that would have been unthinkable in 1959 (to us) or 1969 (to everyone). Arguably, the moon landing was precisely the moment that sf became irrelevant, the moment where the real world overtook us and our ability to discern the future better than others collapsed. We‘ll talk about the strange and unforeseen history of the manned exploration of space—and its relationship to sf.

My notes on this one are unfortunately not as complete as I would like, and only really cover about the first half of the panel.
more details )
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Remember how I said I was wary about next year's Readercon? You may have seen some rather...spirited...discussions of the issue elsewhere on LJ, also.

I'm feeling much more reassured after [livejournal.com profile] sovay's post about Readercon:
Let us all agree that "This is your father's Readercon" is a really bad slogan. It has a deskful of negative associations and nothing to do with the current plan for Readercon 21, which is a temporary simplification of the program to something whose creation and coordination will not cause nervous breakdowns among members of the committee. Note that I do not mean simplified intellectually. The only issue is the density of program items. The dealer's room will contain its usual stacks of books. The traditional events—Meet the Pros(e), the presentation of the Rhysling, Shirley Jackson, and Cordwainer Smith Awards, and the Kirk Poland Memorial Bad Prose Competition—will all take place. And please, if there aren't parties all over the place in 2010, something has gone terribly wrong with the whole de-stressing idea. Further information will be forthcoming as soon as I have it, i.e., after the committee has a chance to check its e-mail, breathe for the first time since mid-April, and perhaps water some of its plants or pets. For now, please repost and link as you see fit. And if you have any concerns about Readercon, ask.

Don't Panic.
This says to me that the concom knows there's been a screw-up, that they want to address it by fixing the communications channels, and that they're listening. This is a huge improvement over how things looked earlier. I'm still concerned, but even at the nadir I was willing to give the benefit of the doubt as much as I could, and this...this helps a whole lot.

I'm looking forward to the promised FAQ, which (while I don't expect it to answer everything or solve all the problems) should be another important step toward the better communication/better transparency side of things.
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Back from Readercon. Tired. Sniffling, which is allergies and/or a con crud cold. As usual, falling into the post-con "it's over? already?" blues...and looking forward to Worldcon.

Overall: This was another good Readercon.

Positives: I made it to several very good panels (which I have notes on and will put some reports together for). I got to see lots of great people I don't see often enough (and meet some new ones). I finally managed to get to the Korean BBQ place after years of not quite making it. (Mmmm, bulgogi.)

Negatives: There were too many people I didn't see: not everyone I would have liked to see made it to the con, and I didn't get enough time with several of the folks who did make it. The hotel Internet was $13/day and really bad; I heard enough complaints that I didn't even bother trying. I just used my cellphone data plan instead, and even shared it out over Wi-Fi for a few folks so they could get to sites that weren't working through the hotel wireless: you know, the really obscure and useless ones like Gmail. I was spoiled by the free and functional wireless at Fourth Street and Penguicon; if this had been either free or functional, I think a lot of people would have been at least marginally satisfied with it.

I'm really wary about the announced "no GoH, single track" plan for next year. It worked for Fourth Street, but that was between 1/3 and 1/4 the size of Readercon and probably would have been a problem had it been much larger. For the first time in a while I didn't pre-register for next year at the con, because I'm wondering if I'll want to go. Watching train wrecks isn't nearly as much fun when you're on the train.

I'm really glad I decided to (a) stay at the hotel again and (b) arrive Thursday. There was enough con on Thursday night and Friday morning to justify the extra day (to the detriment of folks who couldn't get there until after work Friday, unfortunately). I don't see going to a single programming track as likely to improve that issue either.
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Only a few days until Readercon!
[Poll #1425552]
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This isn't so much a con report as a collection of random reactions, but I'll post it anyway. (If nothing else, if I post it now I won't wind up waiting until after Readercon, which would be pretty silly.)

I had a great time. This was my first [livejournal.com profile] 4th_st_fantasy, and I was strongly reminded of [livejournal.com profile] farthingparty; a small group, a single track of programming, and many of the same folks were there. St. Louis Park is no Montreal, but there was still good food nearby, and the con suite was well stocked.

A+++ would buy again. FSFC is now firmly part of my plans for the Boskone-Readercon Calendar Gap of 2010. I'll probably try harder to avoid connecting flights next year, though.

Space/Logistics/Facility/Food

Absolutely wonderful. The staff were really helpful and flexible, the rooms used for the consuite were right near programming (and the smoking consuite was just a few doors down), and everything was easy to get to. The challenges are admittedly less than those at a larger con (such as [livejournal.com profile] arisia, where the staff are similarly helpful but the Hyatt has severe physical issues at that scale) but they were exceedingly well handled.

I was particularly impressed by the way dietary restrictions were taken care of by the hotel staff, both at the restaurant and during Sunday brunch. Hotel liaison [livejournal.com profile] jenett deserves some real credit for this, including the wonderful brunch. (I'm lucky enough to not have any major dietary restrictions; that just meant I had all the wonderful options to choose from.) Little things done right included the hotel being able to give me a 1300 checkout instead of a 1200 so I could go to brunch without needing to deal with my bags and the banquet manager (really) coming out to where we were playing Dominion on Friday night to ask if we needed anything, and bringing us water.

Program

Somewhat writing-heavy, but in a good way even for my determinedly non-writing self. I enjoy listening to writers talk about how they write, possibly all the more because I have no reason to worry about how I'm doing it wrong just because I have a different approach.

I wasn't taking panel notes, and there are much better panel reports over on [livejournal.com profile] 4th_st_fantasy anyway. Go read them.

Travel
travel griping within )
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25. The Numbers Game: The Commonsense Guide to Understanding Numbers in the News, in Politics, and in Life, Michael Blastland and Andrew Dilnot (hc)

A quick and breezy guide to better comprehension of numbers like "this project will cost $x billion" or "we measured y% improvement over the course of the year". Unfortunately, I suspect the people who really need to read it won't, and many of those who do read it will find the material familiar. (They do a good job on the bibliography, though, including classics such as John Allen Paulos's Innumeracy .)

The authors do a BBC Radio show (which led to the book), and many of the examples are still British even in the US edition; I consider this a feature rather than a bug, myself.

Recommended as a quick library read, or a gift for that family member who keeps saying "but that program is so expensive!" about things which equate to about $2/week/person benefitting.

26. Saturn's Children: A Space Opera, Charles Stross (ebook)

I was lucky to have switched to reading this just before upgrading my iPod touch to 3.0, since eReader broke and wouldn't go back to the book list (it's fixed now).

Another solid effort, this one mixes a post-human robolife solar system with Heinlein's Friday and Asimov's Three Laws. In some spots, it has a Galaxy Quest-flavored tone of "poking fun, but with love" but doesn't fall into the trap of becoming an inside-joke fest. (Admittedly, the "Scalzi Endowment Museum" was made funnier by knowing about this museum visit, but it's not a requirement.)

Definitely up with the other two 2009 Hugo nominees I've read (Little Brother and Zoe's Tale), it takes on questions of identity and the Meaning of Life while still doing the "romp through the solar system" well. Recommended.

RR41. Power, S.M. Stirling, Ed. (mmpb)

This mix of short SF and "science fact" articles reads like a theme issue of New Destinies edited by Stirling. The lead story (Poul Anderson's "Snowball", which I suspect inspired the Shipstones in Friday) is really the high point of the book; the articles on how coal-fired MHD should have Saved Us All, and if that didn't then fusion certainly would, are less so. Stirling's own story ("Roachstompers", which actually did debut in New Destinies) of how cold fusion power ruined the global economy, resulting in the US's southern border becoming a war zone (apparently Pemex was the only thing keeping the Mexican economy running) has his usual deft grasp of peaceful intercultural and interracial relations, as well known by those who've discussed the topics with him on USENET.

RR42. The War God's Own, David Weber (mmpb)

Second in his "Bahzell Bahnakson" fantasy series, which contrasts with his SF by having a protagonist who is actually generally distrusted by the rest of the universe (for historical/racial reasons) rather than having the Glow of Righteous Valor that causes even some of her enemies (the honorable ones, as opposed to the Eeeeeeevil Nasty ones) to respect her. Also, there are no huge broadsides of missiles.

A good light re-read, suitable for travel, which is why I brought it along.

RR43. Rude Astronauts, Allen Steele (mmpb)

Short story collection (with some nonfiction as well) of his near-future space and alt-hist space writing, plus a few other pieces. (I tend to like his short stories better than I like his novels.) The alt-hist in particular is enjoyable, with fun parallels as well as differences (in this case, WWII ended not with nuclear bombs, but with intercontinental suborbital rocketplane bombers...and the first moon landing was still in July 1969, but with a whole lot more than two people present).

Recommended along with his later All-American Alien Boy.
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(Currently in progress: Charles Stross's Saturn's Children: A Space Opera, since it's inspired by Friday which I recently re-read.)

24. The Survivors Club: The Secrets and Science That Could Save Your Life, Ben Sherwood

This seemed to be mostly about having a Survival Attitude (complete with an online quiz that lets you determine your Survival Style, though since this was a library copy I didn't dig the code out from under the dust cover to try it out). Sherwood refers to a few scientific papers on things like the "anniversary effect" (death rates going down before birthdays/holidays/etc and up afterwards), and it seemed like in every case there was also a throw-in of "and then this other group tried to replicate the results and couldn't". This doesn't inspire confidence in the rest of his conclusions. His focus on attitude and faith also seems to invite the failure mode of blaming victims for being insufficiently determined, which bugs me.

There were a few practical tips, though some of them are things I already do (air travel: count rows to the exits, wear pants and long-sleeved shirts made of natural fibers, and make sure your life vest really is under your seat) or knew (the rule of threes, though even there the formulation used adds "3 seconds without spirit and hope" and "3 months without companionship or love" to the usual air/shelter/water/food lines).

Not quite disrecommended, but I suggest a library pick-up rather than a purchase.

RR38. Zoe's Tale, John Scalzi (mmpb)

The fourth[1] "Old Man's War" book, this runs in parallel with The Last Colony but switches viewpoints to Zoë Boutin-Perry and brings in some new events that weren't seen in TLC. Despite the large amount of overlap in the events, the combination of the change in viewpoint, the newly seen events, and Scalzi's ability to create an emotionally engaging narrative makes it a very fine read. (It's good enough that I still teared up during my first reading, even though I already knew what was going to happen to one character...it being expected didn't diminish the impact.)

It's much more YA-ish than the others in the series, which I don't consider a criticism; just as Old Man's War will remind the reader of Starship Troopers, this has the flavor of an updated/modernized take on the Heinlein juveniles. I don't know how it reads as an entry into the OMWverse, but it works very well within the larger context. Recommended.

[1] Leaving aside the chapbook "Questions for a Soldier" and the novelette "The Sagan Diary", both of which I also enjoyed (and which also take on different viewpoints).

RR39. Wizard's Bane, Rick Cook (mmpb)
RR40. The Wizardry Compiled, Rick Cook (mmpb)
(read as the omnibus The Wiz Biz)

Humorous "computer programmer pulled into a world of magic" fantasies, with the protagonist using algorithms and the ability to combine primitives to build spells that work like code. Light and fluffy, but fun. In the first, he arrives and defeats the Dark League; in the second, what's left of it goes after him and he gets some help from home. Later books in the series weren't as good, IMO. Both books are in the Baen Free Library, so if they sound interesting give 'em a look.
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23. Bright Underground Spaces: The Railway Stations of Charles Holden, David Lawrence (hc)

Since it covers both architecture and transport, this was something I expected to be interesting. It was, though it suffers a bit (for me) in that most of the Holden stations are on parts of the Northern, Piccadilly, and Central lines that I've never actually been through so I don't have any mental images to compare them to.

His reworks of Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square, though, are ones I am familiar with (and rather pleased by), and I will have to make a trip to 55 Broadway next time I get a chance. (Note for fellow type geeks: Eric Gill, designer of Gill Sans, also produced three of the eight "wind" sculptures on the building.)

I also want to get out to the Moscow Metro-inspired Gants Hill one of these years.

RR36. In Fury Born, David Weber (mmpb)

An expanded (by adding a prequel) version of one of his pre-Honor Harrington books (Path of the Fury). I'm sure nobody will be terribly surprised to hear that the protagonist is a butt-kicking woman. It's the kind of thing you'll like if you like that kind of thing.

RR37. Friday, Robert A. Heinlein (mmpb)

Speaking of butt-kicking women....

I picked this up again based on a half-remembered comment about how the California Confederacy (part of a balkanized North America) was overly besotted with democracy as the sovereign voice of the people. (Oh, and also willing to take rights away from an "invisible" minority who can "pass" as long as they shut up and "act normal". Any similarity to recent events is completely non-coincidental.)

I also found the description of Friday's extended "random reading/research" work to be reminiscent of the way I've been using Wikipanion Plus's queue mode (with auto download turned on) to stock up plenty of quick reading on my iPod touch.

(Hmm... it's been a few months since my original iPod touch as a PDA post; I should revisit that, and cover some of the apps I have loaded. I'll wait and see what Monday's WWDC brings before writing that post, though.)
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Not much book reading lately. (Well, apart from looking stuff up in O'Reilly books for work; I don't count that as "reading" the books....)

RR34. The Aliens Among Us, James White (mmpb)

Not quite a Sector General book, though of the seven stories in the book one of them ("Countercharm") takes place at Sector General, another ("Tableau") predates it in the same universe (and eventually leads to the creation of Sector General), and a third ("Occupation: Warrior") was originally written as a Sector General-verse story but was de-linked by editorial request. (White later had the main character show up as a Monitor Corps officer anyway, in effect re-linking the story into Sector General continuity.)

The other four stories include two that are a bit too similar to really work well in the same collection ("The Scavengers" and "Red Alert"), the first contact story "To Kill or Cure" (which has a Sector General sensibility to it, what with the "injured aliens that need medical care" and all), and "The Conspirators" which reminds me most of Poul Anderson's Brain Wave.

I generally recommend White, though this is probably not the best starting point.

RR35. Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Gene Roddenberry (ebook)

The novelization of the less-than-stellar first movie, this is better than one might expect based on the movie. It fills in some badly-needed characterization (explaining, for example, just why Kirk ever let them pry him out of a captain's chair in the first place) and also includes this classic "Take That" to slashfic writers:
[S]ince Kirk's and Spock's friendship was unusually close, this has led to some speculation over whether they had actually indeed become lovers. At our request, Admiral Kirk supplied the following comment on this subject: "I was never aware of this lovers rumor, although I have been told that Spock encountered it several times. Apparently he had always dismissed it with his characteristic lifting of his right eyebrow which usually connoted some combination of surprise, disbelief, and/or annoyance. As for myself, although I have no moral or other objections to physical love in any of its many Earthly, alien, and mixed forms, I have always found my best gratification in that creature woman. Also, I would dislike being thought of as so foolish that I would select a love partner who came into sexual heat only once every seven years."
Vonda McIntyre's novelization of The Wrath of Khan is my favorite of the movie novelizations, but this isn't too far behind.
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I've probably forgotten something, since it's been a while since my last booklog post.

18. Rogue Bolo, Keith Laumer (mmpb)

Really two unlinked Bolo stories; the first is written in the same style as "Field Test" (short snippets from multiple points of view); the second a more traditional one. Neither was terribly interesting.

19. Elsewhere, Elsewhen, Groff Conklin, ed. (mmpb)

An old Conklin anthology, with several stories I haven't seen elsewhere.

20. The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives, Leonard Mlodinow (ebook)

A pretty good overview of both randomness and the history of the study of randomness, with some great historical bits about the folks who developed the science (Thomas Bayes, various members of the Bernoulli family, Blaise Pascal, and so on). Fairly short. Recommended.

21. Why We Make Mistakes: How We Look Without Seeing, Forget Things in Seconds, and Are All Pretty Sure We Are Way Above Average, Joseph Hallinan (hc)

This overlapped both in reading time and subject with The Drunkard's Walk, since one of the areas in which humans are prone to mistakes is estimating probabilities. The descriptions of some of the psychological experiments (like the "door test") are great. Recommended, especially if you liked Freakonomics.

22. Nation, Terry Pratchett (ebook)

A great non-Discworld book. The setup naturally brings the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami to mind, and for me it was also hard not to think of Sir Terry's "embuggerance" while reading it.

Mau and Daphne are strong protagonists, the usual Pratchett "funny with deep philosophical underpinnings" is in full form, and like several other recent books it's both a good YA book and a just plain good book. Highly recommended.

RR33. The Cold Cash War, Robert Asprin (mmpb)

One of his older books, with none of the "Myth/Phule's" humor, this involves corporate conflict that becomes actual conflict (with electronic tagging instead of real bullets, at least most of the time). Some parts have aged really badly; salary offers that were pretty high in 1977 don't sound like too much in 2009. Not bad, but nothing special.
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14. Carrier, Tom Clancy (ebook)

A nonfiction book about carrier operations, the training and doctrine needed, strategic implications of carrier-based air power, and so forth. Naturally, the editorial bias is in favor of the whole thing (Tom Clancy: Definitely Not a Pacifist), though there are certainly criticisms leveled at the Navy and particularly Navy aviation for becoming too insular; this led to both Tailhook and problems during the first Gulf War when the Navy's aircraft couldn't participate in the common air tasking orders and were therefore much less useful than they should have been (both in the general sense and in the "justify our budget" sense).

The book's about 10 years old, so it's out of date in various ways but the general content holds up pretty well overall. Recommended if you like mil-techy infodumps, since it's basically a book-length collection of such.

15. How Would You Move Mount Fuji?: Microsoft's Cult of the Puzzle, William Poundstone (ebook)

Much shorter and lighter than Carrier. I was interested in both the puzzle aspects and Poundstone's take on the history that led to the whole "puzzle interview" process.

I'm generally a fan of Poundstone's nonfiction, and this was as good as I expected. Some of the puzzles were familiar (like the "four people, one flashlight" bridge-crossing test; here, the four are Adam, Larry, Bono and Edge); others weren't. (Some aren't even puzzles, but rather ways to figure out what questions you'd ask about the situation as given.) Recommended, along with his other nonfiction (with the exception of the Big Secrets series; they're not as good, and at this point badly out of date).

16. The Mystery of Flight 427, Bill Adair (hc)

This is more of a narrative than Gerry Byrne's book on the same topic; it starts in media res with the crash of 427 (rather than UA585), goes into slightly less technical detail, and concentrates more on the people involved (including the husband of one victim). It appears that Adair was writing newspaper articles throughout the process, so he had significantly better access to the investigators and other parties than Byrne did (in particularly, Byrne says that Boeing was unwilling to talk to him; OTOH, Adair is much easier on Boeing than Byrne is).

Recommended over Byrne's Flight 427 for readers who might be less interested in the technical aspects; people interested in the technical details of this and other crashes should read Byrne, and look for Macarthur Job's Air Disaster series as well.

17. The John Varley Reader: Thirty Years of Short Fiction, John Varley (ebook)

In the "air disaster/investigation" vein, Varley's Millennium is a pretty good novel (though he'd probably be the first to say "ignore the movie!") with good old SF time travel thrown into the mix. "Air Raid", one of the stories included here, was the original for the whole story, and is still my favorite of his short fiction.

As with Worlds of George O., the real gems here are the autobiographical segments between the stories.

RR30. Engaging the Enemy, Elizabeth Moon (mmpb)
RR31. Command Decision, Elizabeth Moon (mmpb)
RR32. Victory Conditions, Elizabeth Moon (mmpb)

The last three Vatta's War books. Any real discussion would get into spoilers; suffice it to say that I highly recommend the series to fans of military SF and/or Miles Vorkosigan. Ky Vatta's not Miles (she's her own person) and the mercenaries are rather more peripheral here than the Dendarii, but "smart Academy dropout goes into space, makes mistakes, learns lessons, and so on" works as a quick description.
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Thanks to [personal profile] emceeaich.

Nothing here yet, but I'm definitely interested in the idea of an LJ-alike that goes back to the original business model....
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10. Far Frontiers, Vol. VI: Fall 1986, Jerry Pournelle & Jim Baen, eds. (mmpb)

Another in this bookazine series. my thoughts, mostly about the nonfiction content )
11. Bolo!, David Weber (mmpb)

Self-sacrifice? Room for huge technical infodumps? Yeah, the Bolo universe was practically made for David Weber, or he for it. This is a set of Weber's stories from the sharecropped Bolo follow-ons, and they're pretty good, comparable to the better ones from Laumer's own work. If you like the Bolo stories, give these a shot. (Additional feature for folks who've given up on some of Weber's other series work: the Bolos don't have to go through all the angst and whatnot that Honor Harrington does. They just shoot stuff.)

12. It Looked Good on Paper: Bizarre Inventions, Design Disasters, and Engineering Follies, Bill Fawcett, ed. (tpb)

A collection of short essays on various notable failures, though not as limited in breadth as the subtitle implies; the XFL might be a "bizarre invention" (and that's stretching things a bit) but kudzu? Each essay is very short (67 of them in a 380-ish page book will do that) and none goes into any real depth. A useful book to keep handy for times when you want something short and reasonably funny to read, making it the perfect thing to leave in one particular room of the house IYKWIM. Not deep; buy cheap.

13. Flight 427: Anatomy of an Air Disaster, Gerry Byrne (hc)

This was very good on the technical details of the investigations of both United 585 (a 737-200 that crashed on approach to Colorado Springs in 1991) as well as USAir 427 (a 737-300 crash near Pittsburgh in 1994), though some illustrations would have helped the book significantly. UA585's investigation was originally closed after nearly 1¾ years of work with one of the NTSB's few "unable to determine a probable cause" findings; US427's investigation took over 4½ years and finally came up with a cause for both accidents.

It desperately needed a better copyeditor, though! Some examples: on one page the author refers to the crash of an "Air Austria" 767 in Thailand (though there's no such airline); 100 pages later he gets it right as Lauda Air. A mention is made of "Dallas-Forth Worth" [sic]. Within two sentences, a reporter's name is spelled in two different ways. There's at least one "hanger" that contains airplanes instead of suspending clothing. There are more.

RR26. Hospital Station, James White (ebook)
RR27. Star Surgeon, James White (ebook)
RR28. Major Operation, James White (ebook)

These are the three books included in the omnibus Beginning Operations, containing the earliest of the Sector General stories. These are fix-ups of short stories, so they're a bit more episodic than the later novels in the series and also suffer from a bit of repetitiveness. The first sets the stage beginning with the construction of Sector Twelve General Hospital; the second and third have somewhat more continuous plot arcs.

The Sector General books are among my favorite comfort reads. Recommended.

RR29. Bolo, Keith Laumer (mmpb)

I wanted to go back to the original stories after reading Weber's contributions to the mythos. They still hold up pretty well. The Retief/Bolo crossover is enjoyable, but my favorites are still "Field Test" and "The Last Command".

Coming up: Laumer's Rogue Bolo, which I've never actually read despite having the Baen omnibus that includes it.
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Law Dork, who (unlike me) is actually a lawyer, has a really good summary of the opinion written by the Iowa Supreme Court. If the 69-page opinion is TL;DR for you, I recommend reading his post for a quick overview of the key points in their argument.
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The Iowa Supreme Court's unanimous ruling on their same-sex marriage case just came out. (Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] tacithydra for pointing me at it.)

ETA: Of course, while I was reading it and writing this post, it's been mentioned a whole bunch of times on my flist. With, unsurprisingly, much joy.
some quotes from the opinion )
This ruling really takes on all the anti-SSM arguments like that; I can see this being more influential in the long term than Goodridge.
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The Elements of Style turns 50 years old this April. I used it as the subject of my college admission essay on "a book that changed your life"; it clearly worked, since I was accepted (and got the scholarship I was aiming for).

I can't condone theft from libraries, but this case might be the exception:
Strunk's "Elements of Style" probably would have vanished for good had not someone stolen one of the two copies in the Cornell library in 1957 and sent it to White.
Omit needless words. (If you can't, at least LJ-cut.)
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8. The Jennifer Morgue, Charles Stross (ebook)

Most of my new-to-me reading has been on the iPod lately. I have loaded the Kindle app on it, but the interface is terrible and the typography isn't wowing me either; I'm sticking with eReader. Unfortunately, while Ace and Del Rey and HarperCollins are all fairly good about getting their books onto Fictionwise in eReader format (and Baen, of course, has no DRM on their ebooks), my options for current[1] Tor books are either to buy Kindle editions and read them in the (IMO unusable) iPhone app, or to do without except for the freebies and just read other publishers' books. (There's also the not-really-an-option option of buying either the Kindle or Secure Mobipocket editions and stripping the DRM.) I'm just going to do without, and spend the money elsewhere.

This is the second "Laundry" book, with Bob Howard once again facing supernatural threats; this time, it's a James Bond mode complete with goofy gadgets. Like The Atrocity Archives, the book also contains a shorter story following the main title; this time, Bob gets a new intern. Hijinks ensue.

The combination of geekery, bureaucratic nonsense, spy spoof, and general humor is more than worthwhile. Recommended, though if you haven't read The Atrocity Archives you should probably read that first.

9. Far Frontiers, Vol. III: Fall, 1985, Jim Baen & Jerry Pournelle, eds. (mmpb)

One of the various iterations of the Permanent Floating Jim Baen Bookazine, Far Frontiers fell between Destinies and New Destinies (and pretty much morphed into the latter, as far as I can tell). This volume/"issue" starts strong with Vernor Vinge's "The Ungoverned", which I skipped since I just re-read it recently. The rest is hit or miss, with Alexander Jablokov's "A Wink in the Eye of the Wolf" the best of the batch and Rivka Jacobs's "Morning on Venus" totally lost on me; Thomas Wylde's "Space Shuttle Crashes!" reminded me of Allen Steele's short "Mudzilla's Last Stand" in tone, and was similarly enjoyable.

RR24. Marque and Reprisal, Elizabeth Moon (mmpb)

Second in the "Vatta's War" series. After surviving a more than usually eventful first cruise as a merchant captain, Ky Vatta gets some really bad news. Soon she and her cousin Stella are dealing with some particularly nasty characters as the implications start to build up.

I highly recommend this and the rest of the series; start with Trading in Danger.

RR25. The Atrocity Archives, Charles Stross (ebook)

Re-read in preparation for The Jennifer Morgue. Bob Howard, IT support drone for Britain's secret anti-occult agency, winds up on active service...but still has to deal with his bureaucratic boss as well as an ancient evil entity from another universe; it's not always clear which is harder to deal with. Enjoyable and recommended.

RR26. Flare, Roger Zelazny and Thomas T. Thomas (mmpb)

It's a disaster novel... IIIIN SPAAAAACE!! The Sun's been really quiet for decades, so nobody's bothered rad-hardening their space gear; as you can easily guess, this turns out to have been a really bad idea. I don't know how much of this was Zelazny; it reads similarly to the other Thomas I've read.

Not bad, but nothing you should spend a whole lot of time or money seeking out either.

[1] There are some eReader format Tor ebooks which date from around 2002 and are still priced at the "hardcover" level, including [livejournal.com profile] papersky's The King's Name and Michael Flynn's Falling Stars, but none of the previous books in either series are available....
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Not much reading lately.

7. The Presidential Book of Lists, Ian Randal Strock (ebook)

This worked nicely as an ebook, since each list is fairly self-contained and short; quick snippets are no problem. Generally interesting, though it suffers from being written before January 20th and therefore has to include things like (in the list of youngest Presidents) "In order to join this list (and knock Cleveland off), the President who wins the election of 2008 will have to have been born after January 6, 1961. (Barack Obama is therefore now the fifth youngest President.)

RR22. Smart Dragons, Foolish Elves, Alan Dean Foster and Martin H. Greenberg, eds. (mmpb)

18 "funny" fantasy short stories, though including Avram Davidson's "And the Grasses Grow" stretches the definition a bit (as recognized in the editorial intro which says "Of course there are all kinds of smiles, and not all humor is light"). It's a heavy hitting lineup of authors, with Davidson joined by Harlan Ellison, Roger Zelazny, Robert Sheckley, and other big names, with a few lesser-known folks mixed in as well. Generally good, though not all the stories click with me; Ron Goulart's "Please Stand By" is my favorite of the set.

RR23. Trading in Danger, Elizabeth Moon (mmpb)

I'd planned on re-reading the "Vatta's War" books because [livejournal.com profile] mjlayman had started going through them last month and posted her review of this book. With her in the hospital with a stroke it's turned into a very bittersweet re-read. (Good thoughts and energy sent her way would be appreciated.)
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I want to get this posted before sundown, because the timing's too good to miss. (Also, posting my last booklog post late on Saturday night probably had something to do with the dearth of comments it received.)

6. I Remember the Future, Michael A. Burstein (ebook)[1]

Happy birthday, Michael!

I'll freely admit that I'm biased in favor of both this book and its author. There are authors whose work I enjoy, and authors whose work doesn't really click with me; there are authors I like as people, and authors who I would have a hard time getting along with. Michael is in the best quadrant of the truth table: an author whose work I like, and a person I would enjoy spending time with whether or not his work met my taste.

I enjoyed reading both the stories I had previously read as well as those I hadn't; I enjoyed the afterwords to each story even more, though. (Despite (or because of) my non-writerness, I really like hearing about how stories came about or how writers approach their work.)

[1] I have this in hardcover as well, but I'm much more likely to read an ebook than a hardcover when I'm reading in snippets, and short story collections are great for that.

RR20. Microcosmic Tales, Asimov/Greenberg/Olander, Eds. (mmpb)

100 short-short SF stories. Suffers a bit from Asimov's lead-in sentences, which are often both punny and spoilery, but still a good choice for extremely quick reads.

RR21. Ambulance Ship, James White (mmpb)

One of the mid-series Sector General fixups, from the timeframe where the stories within a given book were more closely linked than in the earliest books but before the point at which each book was a true novel rather than a fixup. Notable also for the "Secret History of Sector General" forematter, later included in NESFA Press's The White Papers IIRC.
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5. The Vondish Ambassador, Lawrence Watt-Evans (e-book)

I have a soft spot for the Ethshar books, even though (or because) they tend to run to a formula of "clever young person winds up in a situation where their cleverness is useful, and then rewarded". In this case the CYP is not the titular ambassador but an itinerant dockworker who winds up being hired as his aide, and who then proceeds to be clever as necessary. Light and enjoyable.

All of the Ethshar books (except for the two that wound up at Tor[1]) are available from Fictionwise, which is great for me; they're just about perfect comfort re-read material, and this will fit right in to the rotation.

[1] (Insert obligatory rant about Holtzbrinck's handling of e-book editions here.)
Rereads: Science Fictional Olympics, Heinlein, Wrede, Vinge, Scalzi )

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