Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Meh, and a Trip

2 science fiction novels and 1 fantasy novel, none that great.

1st, the oldest unread eBook in my iPad: "Crysis", by Peter Watts, 322 pages, 2011. I have commented before on how much I liked Watts' "Blindsight", and its sequel "Echopraxis", blogged here. After I got it, I found out it was a video game tie-in novel - hence the delay in reading it.

So what is a video game novel like? Lots of fighting. The aliens who have invaded Manhattan with bioweapons get bigger and harder to kill, but, of course, the protagonist gets bigger and better weapons. Not sure there was a big final fight against the queen mother organism at the end. The tech detail both on the bioweapons and our cyborg protagonist is very good, but still, if you are not a fan of the game, this is probably not worth reading.

2nd, the fantasy, "The House of Shattered Wings", by Aliette de Bodard, 418 pages, 2015. When the angels get kicked out of heaven, they come to ... Paris, which they make the hub of a worldwide empire until they begin to war among themselves and trash the place. The protagonist is an exile from Chinese/Vietnamese mythology who got drafted for the war. I liked the inclusion of this other mythology, but overall, the story didn't do much for me, and the characters were all kind of whiny. A sequel is out, but I will stop here with this series.

3rd, "The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.", by Neal Stephenson, Nicole Galland, 768 pages, 2017. After the previous book, Stephenson's standard smartass dialogue was greatly appreciated. This book had its moments - say when the Vikings invade a Walmart - but Stephenson seemed to be using the book as an excuse to expound on some his passions. 1st, lots of detail on swords and swordfighting. 2nd, the sacking of Byzantium by the crusaders, which I think he had already used in "The Baroque Cycle" - or maybe that was another siege of Constantinople. I am glad I read it, but I was a little disappointed. Note, this book wound up tagged as both science fiction and fantasy - I don't think that has happened before.

Thursday, July 28, my wife and I flew to Portland OR. We came home Wednesday, August 2. We flew on United. We changed planes in Chicago, and flew Chicago to Portland and back in a 737 with seats 6 across. I seem to recollect that 737's had seats 5 across. It was really tight quarters. The flight back I was rubbing shoulders with my wife and another woman - and I am not that broad shouldered. The other woman said she had heard that the FAA was looking into the situation - they need to.

We rented a car, spent 1 night in the Hotel Monaco in downtown Portland, and then Friday drove to Oakridge OR, which is ~40 miles SE of Eugene on the Willamette River, which is 2 hour drive (111 miles) south of Portland, to spend the weekend with our middle daughter who, following her 1st year as a grad student in Landscape Architecture, was doing a (paid) internship for the US Forest Service. We did some nice hiking, saw Salt Creek Falls, at 286' the 2nd highest waterfall in Oregon, and 2x ate tasty vegetables from her garden.

Sunday we drove back to Portland, ditched the rental car, and spent 3 nights at the Hotel Deluxe in downtown Portland. It had a 40's Hollywood movie theme. We enjoyed:

  • the street statuary on 5th and 6th avenues, particularly "Portlandia" on the Portland building. This is a googled image.

  • Powell's City of Books. We were told this is the largest bookstore in the US, I believe it. Its color coded sections and numbered shelves sprawl over 3-5 levels. I picked up Dozois Year's Best #6, 7, and 18. #34 just came out - Dozois started doing these in 1984. I am now missing just #1, 2, 4, 5, 8, and 17. The latest, #34, just came out.
  • The Oregon Museum of Fine Art - not real big, but containing some good stuff. My wife bought me 2 very arty ties in their extensive gift shop.
  • The International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park. So many colors and sizes of beautiful roses. Possibly the high point of the trip. 7000 bushes in 550 varieties. This picture represents maybe 5% of the extent of the gardens.

  • The Oregon Zoo in Washington Park. Very big and well laid out.
  • The Japanese Garden in Washington Park. They had some amazingly colored koi.

    After this we were tired, so we got a ride back to the hotel using Lyft. My 1st time, it worked very well.

  • The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). A huge museum, with an incredible amount of hands on stuff for kids. Washington Park has the Portland Children's Museum - I wonder what it's like? The featured exhibit at OMSI was on Pompeii, which I have always found interesting.
Tuesday we purchased 2 mass transit day passes, senior price $2.50 each, very reasonable, and rode buses, trains, and streetcars. I love being without a car in a big city.

The best meal we had was at Jake's Crawfish, founded 1892. I had an etouffe with crawfish, shrimp, and chicken, my wife had "Northwest Salmon and Alaskan Halibut Sauté w Shiitake & Oyster Mushrooms, Sherry, Hazelnuts and Cream". Both were very tasty. We also had a dozen oysters on the 1/2 shell, 5 different varieties all from the pacific northwest. The flavors were varied and interesting, but they were maybe as little as 1/3 the size of huge, golden Gulf oysters we get in Naples, FL.

One other thing I really liked about Portland was the many views of Mt. Hood. It is so striking sitting by itself, like The Lonely Mountain in The Hobbit. I wonder if all such mountains are volcanoes like Mt. Hood?