Thursday, September 22, 2016

New Yellow

A general biking update. The weather has been cooperative and I've gotten a lot of riding in this year. I've done the same rides enough that I wanted to go somewhere new and different.

When I 1st started biking 11-12 years ago, a young cyclist coworker (Kent Lewis) gave me a hardcopy of the Bluegrass Cycling Club's maps. Whenever I took a road, I would highlight it in yellow on the map. I haven't had any "new yellow" for a few years, so I determined to get some.

So I biked out Old Frankfort Pike and headed north on WoodLake Rd (KY 1685), through Spring Station. North of Leestown Rd (US 421) I went into Franklin Co for the 1st time. I jogged west on US 460 (east on this road takes you through downtown Georgetown) and continued north on Woodlake, now KY 1262. Right (north) on KY 1688 took me over into Scott Co to the unidentifiable town Sand Hill. I then took a right to go south on Pea Ridge Rd (KY 3378), which turned into Fishers Mill Rd when it crossed US 460. A mile or so east on Leestown Rd took me into Midway, and I came home Waizenberger Mill Rd, Paynes Depot Rd, and Pisgah Pike. 49.11 miles, 3h45m ride time, average speed 13.11 mph, not bad.

Here's the map with the new yellow.

On another biking topic, in June of last year, while they were installing the solar (9 kW) on our Florida house, I did a 53.74 mile, 3h38m ride - 4h20m elapsed time - after which I could hardly use my hands for an hour. So I decided to try aerobars. Here's what the ones I tried looked like.

They really had me looking down, almost to the point of backwards, so the bike shop also put in a 4" stem extender to get me a little more upright when using the areobars.

They were great at getting pressure off my hands. Plus I would say that they added 2 mph to my biking speed. But, I rode with them maybe 20 times and just never liked them. I generally only stayed in them for 5-10 minutes at a time. The saddle had to be tilted forward to the extent that when I wasn't using them I was perched on the back of the saddle. Plus, when I was in them, I really had tunnel vision, focused totally forward, as opposed to when I'm more upright I can take in much more of the surroundings, which is part of the fun of cycling.

So I had them taken off. But I kept the stem extender. It keeps me more upright and probably costs me 0.5-1.0 mph in speed, but it does take a little of the pressure off my hands. It's funny, my wife's road bike was pretty closely matched speed-wise to mine, now she is faster! That would probably be true riding with other people as well, but, as I'm almost always biking alone, I don't care. I'll take the pressure relief on my hands. I told the guy at the bike shop, my bike was now more of a "grandpa bike", but, hey, I'm a grandpa!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Letter to the Editor

I will post a comment if they print this. I've had pretty good luck lately.

How can our Senator Mitch McConnell not repudiate the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump? Trump is completely and utterly lacking in the temperament, experience, knowledge, attention span, and intelligence required to be the leader of the most powerful country in the history of the world.

My theory: McConnell and Paul Ryan think that if Trump is elected, they can use him as a rubber stamp for legislation, appointments, and executive orders. But have they not seen that Trump is uncontrollable? His revolving door of campaign management teams have all only succeeded in keeping him on message for a few days before he is compelled to insult someone. The narcissist Trump has become addicted to the attention he generates for himself by creating outrage, uproar, and discord. What happens when the insults are directed at foreign leaders, as they have been and you know they increasingly would be?

Donald Trump with his finger on the nuclear button is far more terrifying than any Islamic or Christian terrorists could ever be. I call on all our elected officials to put their love of our great country before their political party and their individual will to power, and to repudiate this unstable and dangerous demagogue.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Bad Behavior Is Rewarded

I was supposed to be reading some Economics next, but, with 30 unread works of fiction on my iPad and another half-dozen in hardcopy, I decided to go on and read a couple of novels. Plus, I decided to pick novels totally new to me.

I have also changed my Twitter consumption. Rather than doing it during the day after email, FaceBook, and RSS feeds, I switched to processing Twitter at night, after the drinking light and the TV have come on. TweetBot also seems to be helping by jumping ahead if I get too far behind on my timeline. It seems to be eating up a lot less of my time, leaving me more time for reading, yay!

1st up, I read "All the Birds in the Sky", by Charlie Jane Anders. The world's greatest scientist and the world's greatest magician reconnect over decades after having been middle-school misfits together. The writing style is whimsical and fantastic, but it is set in a near future where the climate crisis has begun to ramp up its impacts. Quite often a fanciful statement is made that then turns out to be true. Also some lines that make you think: "Boredom is the mind's scar tissue." I don't think I agree with that but, still, it makes you think. The conflict between magic and science makes for some surprisingly action-filled scenes, and the ending is hopeful. Definitely a fun read.

Next up, "Too Like the Lightning", by Ada Palmer. Wow, what a find, thanks to whoever on Twitter (Cory Doctorow?) suggested it! It is set in a mostly utopian world in 2454 - yay, I love utopia! It is apparently a post-scarcity utopia, as some characters are stated to be "vokers" or vocateurs - people who care about a job enough to do it full time, rather than just live.

Rapid world wide transit has mostly put an end to nations and war. Gender differences and roles are of course blurred, and the narrator is sometimes politically incorrect in referring to characters with a gendered pronoun, when he feels they are strongly fulfilling traditional male or female archetypes, which, unsurprisingly, still linger in society. Countries are largely replaced by 7 hives focusing on different aspects of human existence; Graylaws, who provide some neutral government services; and Blacklaws, who live outside the law in a kind of ultra-Libertarian manner. Religion was banned a couple of centuries earlier as part of getting rid of war, but religion in private (2 people max) is very common, as are all kinds of philosophical discussions.

The main narrator is a criminal who somehow reminded me of Severian of the Gene Wolfe stories. The detail with which this world is described is completely over-the-top - nothing else similar in the last couple of decades except for maybe the world of Hannu Rajaniemi's "Quantum Thief". Dr. Palmer teaches history at the University of Chicago, and layers in a ton of information on the Enlightment philosophers Voltaire, Rousseau, and de Sade. I have not read much if any of these. Who knew that de Sade would mix pornography and political philosophy? At the time, they both would get you in trouble, say if your political philosophy included denying the divine right of kings. The only thing I can remember with this kind of detail was maybe Neal Stephenson's "System of the World" trilogy.

I also liked that, when characters were working on spreadsheets, they put the tables in the text. Dr. Palmer definitely writes really well. Here's a line I highlighted: "I apologize, Member Saneer, for this mismatch in the radii of our consequentialisms." Nice!

I should have paid more attention to the metadata - that this was Book I of "Terra Ignota". I have pre-ordered Book II, "Seven Surrenders", due out in February. When strong new characters were still being introduced 2/3 of the way through the book, I was getting the inkling that this was not going to be a stand-alone volume. This is definitely 1 story in 2 parts, like Dan Simmons' "Hyperion" and other books.

So the table is set. We have a dozen or more complex and interesting characters, most of whom seem to know each other. A couple of the characters have messianic possibilities, created by evolution? And in a world without religion? This made me think of Frank Herbert's "Dune" of all things. The investigation of what appears to be a minor crime has, in the best film noir, cheap detective tradition, become a matter of world shattering importance. Dr. Palmer has set herself a daunting task in producing a Book II to fulfill the promise of Book I. But, as I suspect the story was created in her mind as pretty complete, I am confident she will pull it off. Come on, February!

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Year's Greatest Nightmare Stacks

Out and about with my youngest daughter and her 2 YO son, we went into Carmichael's Bookstore to kill time while waiting for our food order from Ramsi's. I wound up with not 1 but 2 hardcopy books.

1st, in hardback, Charlie Stross's latest Laundry Files novel (#7), "The Nightmare Stacks". I still buy all Charlie's stuff in hardcopy - I pass the Laundry Files books on to my son-in-law.

This one seemed less tired than the last one.

  1. It's a love story, between our vampire Laundry protagonist and our parallel-universe elven antagonist.
  2. Fun stuff, with a magic-based army taking on tanks and planes of the British military.
  3. An interesting, speculative example of how a human subspecies developing language later could cause a very different type of mind to be created.
2nd, in trade paperback, "The Year's Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Third Annual Collection", edited by Gardner Dozois. I look forward to this every year, but, again this year, after having read the Technology Review, Microsoft, and short story collections, there were 4-5 stories here I had already read. There were also stories that really did not seem to belong here.
  • "The Children of Gal" by Allen M. Steele is your standard, colony planet forgets science and substitutes religion. That is a really old idea, I think the original Star Trek used it at least a couple of times.
  • "Inhuman Garbage" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch is a police procedural with several threads that fail to come together by the end. So what was the point of including them?
The final story, which is often strikingly good, is the 2nd one in the collection by Aliette de Bodard, set in her oriental-themed space opera where humans are grown to become ship-minds. For whatever reason, these stories just don't do much for me. I guess that conceptually it is interesting for a space empire to have an oriental flavor rather than a western one (Ms. de Bodard is French-Vietnamese), but still, I'm kind of like "so what"?

There are some good and different stories, but no real standouts. I'm wondering if I should quit reading the other short story collections? I'm thinking not. I don't mind rereading the duplicates, they are mostly good stories. But 4 or 5 seems like too many.