Monday, May 28, 2012

New Yellow

I biked out to my friend Tim's house this morning, and got some new yellow highlighter on my bike maps -- roads I haven't biked before. I took Keene Rd to Keene, then south on 169 (new yellow) to Harrodsburg Rd and south to Barkley Woods subdivision. After visiting, I continued south and then came back Clear Creek, Woods, and Delaney Ferry. 2h18m, 27.1 miles. Hot.

Harrodsburg Rd was four-laned out that way last year. Jessamine has turned 3-4 miles of the old 2-lane into a bike trail. Nice!

Saw a meadowlark on 169. Phew, I guess. Hopefully not another sign of global warming.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Where have the Meadowlarks Gone?

Biked this morning from 9:07 to 11:03. 23.8 miles, Parkers Mill to Dedham to Ft. Springs-Pinkard through Little Texas, out Military Pike to Shannonwood, Dry Ridge to 33. Then south, back 169 to Shannonwood to McGee to James and back in Military Pike.

Right before I turned onto Dedham a hawk flew about 5 feet in front of my nose with 2-3 smaller birds on its tail. On Dedham, I heard crows making a racket and out of a tree busts another big hawk with 3 crows chasing it. I didn't have enough time to ID the hawks, but the 2nd one at least I think was a red-tail.

I saw a kingbird on a fence on Military Pike. It was the 1st one I'd seen in a while. That got me to thinking about other birds, and I realized, I don't think I've seen a meadowlark for several years.

They are easy to spot. Distinctive markings, short tail, helicopter flying style, very sweet, melodic song. They hang out in fields rather than trees. I used to see and hear them all the time, now I can't remember when the last time I saw or heard one was.

So have the fields become subdivisions? Are they really gone, or is this just the general (increasing?) spottiness of (my) memory? Guess I'll keep more of an eye out for meadowlarks.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Music ... And Videos

Looks like this is April through mid-May. Then I got hit with an especially rich "100 Albums for $5" email from Amazon and bought 6 I think. So better get caught up some.

BTW, I posted to Google+ (mostly my geek friends) asking for a MP3 purchasing alternative to Amazon. Didn't particularly get any good alternatives.

  • "Natives", by Bright Moments. This is the latest band of Lexington native and Dunbar graduate Kelly Pratt. Kelly is also in Beruit, and toured with Arcade Fire a couple of years ago. Really catchy grooves, and in one of their live videos you can see that the bass is coming from a tuba. Kind of the balkan pop like Beruit, but a little more catchy and brighter. 4 stars, and 5 stars for "Travelers", video here. Man you just keep waiting for that monster groove to come back around.
  • Miike Snow, "Happy To You". 2nd album by this Swedish group. Catchy dance grooves, I thought about putting it in Electronica & Dance instead of Euro Pop. 3 stars.
  • Idiot Glee, "HopHop EP" (2010). A local group, 4 songs recorded at Lexingon's HopHop studio. Doo-wap type tunes. Way too much reverb, 2 stars.
  • Hospitality, eponymous. Surprisingly tasty stuff from yet another great Brooklyn band. Nice female vocals. 4 stars.
  • fun. "Aim and Ignite" (2010). The first album of these guys, who got a great review last time. I love this peppy, poppy stuff. Vocals that sound like ELO or Queen. And, no, I'm not gay. 4 stars. This song messed with me. Here's the video for"All The Pretty Girls". My wife insightfully pointed out that it reminded her of the incredibly catchy "Come On Eileen" (video here, 1982).
  • Tennis, "Cape Dory" (2011). First album by this husband and wife duo whose 2nd album was mentioned last time. Still gets "Girl Groups" classification -- again, I think that it's the reverb on the drums that gives it the Phil Spector sound. 4 stars.
  • Rocket Juice & The Moon, eponymous. Brit-hop, with some contributions from Gorillaz members. Interesting how as the various parts of the empire come home, Brit-hop becomes world music. Good dance tracks. 3 stars.
  • Of Monsters And Men, "My Head Is An Animal". Icelandic Euro Pop. The female vocalist really reminds me of someone else who's come out recently. Nice tunes, very listenable. 3 stars.
I stayed up til 1 last night and finished my 1st library book in a while: "Exultant", by Stephen Baxter. Very hard science fiction / military space opera. A fun read. But, should I feel bad about a book where humanity has spread like vermin through the galaxy, wiping out or assimilating other races as it went? A little too close to US history? Baxter is British tho.

Monday, May 14, 2012

eBooks at the LFPL

So I followed the instructions of the fine pamphlet I was given at the Beaumont branch of the Lexington Free Public Library. I went to and downloaded the OverDrive Media Console from the iTunes app store and put it on my iPhone and iPad. It has a Find Library function, and there was the Beaumont branch. Select it, all done!

They have a limited number of books per title to download. If one is available, you can add to your cart, otherwise you can put your name in the queue for a copy, or add it to your wish list. Most books seem to be available only for 7 day checkout.

They offer two flavors of downloads:

  1. Kindle format books. When you pick one you are redirected to amazon to check-out. You must also go back to your Kindle page at amazon to return the book. So I think I will forgo this in favor of
  2. Adobe EPUB format. These load directly into the OverDrive app, and you can return them from there. The app is pretty well integrated with the library when you want to look for more books. I did download a book and read it in this format. The reader is a little bit funky tho. When you swipe to the next page, rather than any kind of page turning animation, the new page just pops into place, but maybe looking like it is scrolling down a line. Odd that something like that is just a little annoying, but it is.
So the tech is decent, I would have to say the selection, not so much so. I searched for a few sci-fi authors I like, nothing. So in 10-at-a-time mode, I looked at the 451 titles they had listed in their top level browsing category "Science Fiction & Fantasy". It was pretty much completely fantasy. I don't remember a single sci-fi title. And the emphasis was on fantasy series I'd never heard of, most in 12 volumes or so. They had the whole Sookie Stackhouse series (Twilight). They did have "The Lord of the Rings" and "A Song of Fire and Ice" (A Game of Thrones) series. Interesting, 10 people waiting to read "A Game of Thrones", tails off pretty rapidly after the 1st one.

This kind of fits with what my friend Michael the bookstore owner told me: ebooks are being overwhelming adopted by genre (sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, western) readers who plow through far more titles than your average reader.

For my sample read, I chose "Side Jobs" by Jim Butcher, a collection of short stories set in The Dresden Files series. I had read the 1st of these "Storm Front" and liked it OK -- although there were some anti-science rants that seemed unnecessary to me -- but didn't follow up with the series. Stories were OK, I'm kind of digging urban fantasy as mindless reading -- but it looks like the series winds up getting into some serious christian mythology, with archangels and that murderous psychopath jehovah (god the father) getting involved.

I don't mind christian mythology, like in the movies "Constantine" or the "The Prophecy" series, but, man, I'm so tired of christians in general. We went to Campus Pub to see Ben Lacy Friday, got there 1 hour early, the trivia question is "Which is the only gospel that mentions the word "manger"?". KMN, fucking bible trivia in a bar? Where will it end?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

R&R + T&T

Well, since it's been a while since I've had a paycheck, I decided to go the library this afternoon rather than go eshopping for ebooks. Hadn't been there for a while, the Lexington Public Library now has self-checkout. You just scan your card and the books yourself. I also got a pamphlet on their ebook lending, I'll see how that works.

Looking at books by two prolific authors -- Stephen Baxter and Iain M. Banks -- and I was having trouble remembering if I had read them or not. So got a couple and then checked this blog to see if I'd read them. Apparently not, yay! Although searching for Banks turns up a single reference to his work in general, and no specific titles. Need to do better blogging this stuff. I definitely need the external memory. There are some mystery writers I've kind of quit reading because I can't remember which of their stuff I have and haven't read.

Anticipating rain tomorrow, I biked today, Saturday: 28.3m, 2h20m. Browns Mill to Leestown, back Waizenberger Mill, Pisgah, and Military Pike. Nice day. Kind of felt like I was getting stronger at the end. Almost fell down a steep trail down to the creek when I stopped at Waizenberger Mill. I always stop there to check out the waterfall.

So, recent reading (R&R), from most recent back:

  • "Japanese Fairy Tales", compiled by Yei Theodora Ozaki (1908). When we 1st got an iPad, I went into the Apple store and downloaded lots of free, out of copyright books. Nice that Apple makes them available. All the Oz books, some Kipling, Wind and the Willows, complete works of Shakespeare, and lots of books of mythology and legends. I ran out of reading material coming back from Jacksonville last week and pulled this up. Interesting stuff. Evil stepmothers appear to be a cross-cultural constant. Ditto for cannibalistic ogres. A few stories feature Ryn Jin, the dragon king under the sea, who was generally a pretty good guy unless you disrespect the power of the sea.
  • "Year's Best SF 6", edited by David G. Hartwell (2000). I think my daughter Alexis got me this for solstice. Kind of interesting, 12 years old, but the stories all pretty good. I think I'd read only one before. I think this validates my building a stash of "Year's Best" collections in Florida -- good reading even when old.
  • "Majesty's Offspring", by A. J. Vega. This was a free Kindle book. The A.I. kind of ruling humanity decides it wants to breed. Humanity decides, bad idea, and destroy it in a big war. Story set post war, with lovable, former navymen turned space pirates (arrgh). Ends in a complete and total cliff-hanger. I the 2nd one costs money, I will probably decline. 1 star.
  • "Deep State" and "The Fourth Wall", by Walter Jon Williams. These are sequels to "This Is Not A Game", which I thought I'd blogged but can't find. Both very enjoyable reads, gaming nerds trying to help make the world a better place. 4 stars.
  • "Liminal States", by Zack Parsons. I think this was recommended in a tweet by one of the SF writers I follow on Twitter. Harry Connolly, John Scalzi, Cory Doctorow, Charles Stross, and William Gibson get some lively exchanges going on Twitter. Anyway, this is a 1st novel, and it really, really covers a lot of ground. It goes from being a western to a 50's cheap detective mystery to a 21st century SF story. When I got to the end, my reaction was kind of like, "huh"? But you keep turning the 448 pages. 3 stars? BTW, the eBook format on this was bad. Like a file that had inconsistent hard and soft returns. Lots of bad white space and run on words. I emailed the author, he said he fwded on to the publisher -- nice!
  • "The Magicians" and "The Magician King" by Lev Grossman. This started out looking like magical realism in Brooklyn, and I'm kind of like "Oh no, that never works". But then it becomes Harry Potter meets Chronicles of Narnia -- but for adults, dark and with sex and death. Pretty good reads, I guess. 3 stars.
  • "Distrust That Particular Flavor", by William Gibson. A collection of his non-fictional essays. I think I'd read most of these before. I never believed in semiotics until Gibson explained it to me. He has definitely coined some bon mots -- wow, a web page just for these, nice! "The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed." 4 stars.

    The other day I thought I came up with a good term for something I was working on -- something unique and cute. Quel dumbass, I didn't check it with The Google. When I finally got around to it, of course there were already several versions of my "original" idea out there. When will I learn? ;->