Saturday, November 05, 2022

I Missed 1

I had 1 more book I should have included in the last post but which I missed: "3001: The Final Odyssey" by Arthur C. Clarke, 1997, 209 pages, 56k words. I'm not sure how I missed this over the years. It is billed as Volume 4 of the "Space Odyssey" series. A quick, easy read. Instead of Dave Bowman, our protagonist is Frank Poole, who somehow survived until 3001, when he is discovered suspended in his craft. It seems like the 2nd or so "really old guy comes back to civilization" I've read lately. He does unbelievably well integrating into the future society. Then it's on to chatting w Dave & HAL & discovering the meaning & purpose of the monoliths. An easy & fun read.

Monday, October 31, 2022

Argle Blargle

1st up, "The High Sierra", subtitled "A Love Story", by Kim Stanley Robinson, 2020, 625 pages, 170k words. KSR, the dean of climate fiction, has been hiking in the California Sierra mountains for almost 50 years. It is indeed a love story. It covers a lot of different topics: geology, locales, types of trails, history, people, equipment. I have labeled this as travel? KSR is lucky to have formed such an connection with such a beautiful place. I certainly have nothing comparable in my life. I bought this in hardcover, others might like it as a vacation book.

Next, "Attack Surfact", by Cory Doctorow, 2020, 531 pages, 144k words. I also bought this in hardcover, so as to spread the memes. That is why I just got around to reading it.

Doctorow is the bard of the revolution. This story is a continuation of the story arc of 2008's "Little Brother", blogged here, and 2013's "Homeland", blogged here - no wait, I haven't read "Homeland" yet! This is what comes of buying hardcovers! Oh boy, I got that going for me, I needed something good to get rid of the bad taste in my brain left by the last 2 books (below).

In "Attack Surface", we go from teenagers vs the evil Department of Homeland Security to 20-somethings vs evil private security government contractors. Great insight into the tech & tactics of the burgeoning surveillance state.

3rd, "The Iron Gate: A Twenty Palaces Novel", by Harry Connolly, 2022, ? pages, ? k words. I liked this series years ago, then its publisher discontinued it. Connolly did a kickstarter for this book & 1 more in the series. It was a nice, diverting read. The mystical Twenty Palaces society continues to protect earth from extra-dimensional horrors with a taste for human minds.

4th, "Victories Greater Than Death", by Charlie Jane Anders, 2021, 373 pages, 101k words. This is billed as YA, which I generally do well with. This seems to be targetted to younger YA readers, tweens maybe - agonizing on "should I kiss them", etc. If you have seen the movies "Jupiter Ascending" and/or "The Last Starfighter" you have most of the plot. But these aliens are so much more considerate and advanced than the aliens in those other stories - they always introduce themselves both by their name and their gender pronouns. I won't be continuing this series, it's just too juvenile. I think I got spoiled by the YA novels of Paolo Bacigalupi. Cory Doctorow, & others.

Last, "A Half-Built Garden", by Ruthanna Emrys, 2022, 345 pages, ? k words. An interesting premise - 50 or years in the future, aliens show up just in time to help us emigrate from Earth to their Dyson sphere, before Earth becomes unlivable. Earthlings in 2080 feel they have the climate crisis under control such they can save the Earth & not abandon it. Conflict.

Ok, starting to get weird. Local government on earth is ... watershed watch networks?!?!? My wife has collected water samples from local creeks for Kentucky River Watershed Watch for many years. I act as her 2nd pair of hands and puller-out-of-the-creek. I have attended KRWW meetings. It really, really seems like an unlikely group to be running things - and to have succeeded in banishing the corporations & capitalism to New Zealand and other island sanctuaries. I'm guessing the author is active in their local watershed watch.

Plus, above & beyond the expected gender pronouns, the corporations use gender pronouns based on role-playing roles - 6 of those. The author in the acknowledgements calls out their gender pronoun wrangler - maybe something you didn't used to need to write a book. By the end of the book you are guessing that words are gender pronouns with no idea what they are supposed to represent. There should have been a table.

Most annoying of all, the protagonist (& the author?) is a kosher-keeping practicioner of Judaism. So the aliens offer her food in greeting & she can't eat it because she doesn't know if it is kosher. The book should have come with a large-type warning label:

WARNING: CONTAINS BRONZE AGE RELIGIOUS BULLSHIT!!!
The protagonist (& the author?) is a nursing mother, so we get lots of detail on breast pain & letting down, etc. My wife nursed our 4 kids, it is a wonderful thing, but I don't think all the breast-feeding detail added to the narrative of the novel.

The watershed watch society is based on social media reputation-based governance, with alghorithms for everything. I have been off social media for years, it is toxic, & I think as stultifying as the society in this book seems to be.

Then at the end, the big reveal: the wife of the progagonist (& the author?) used to be a male.

The book seems like the author constructing a narrative where all her interests & life choices are what will save the earth, defeat capitalism, & provide a safe & just place for all. To me, that seems, what, narcissistic? Solipsistic? Self-centered?

Meanwhile, the pacing is totally odd - "hi, we're aliens, can we come in?". There was a trip to visit the aliens during a hurricane that was suspenseful, other than that the drama is fairly minimal.

I almost quit reading this book several x, but I wanted to see if it got any better. Not particularly. Interesting that I can write so much about a book with no Spoiler Alert. I'm giving you a precis so you don't have to read it.

On to "Homeland", yay!

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Music In, 2022, Batch 2

I don't seem to be getting to listen to this music enough. Spending most music time on Music Out aka Jaz Dumoz. That is a better use of my time, I think.

I'd been getting a bit more music than usual lately, then bought, a 1-day-only sale, 49 tracks, 3h15m, in support of abortion rights, by a complete all-star cast - Bandcamp of course. I like getting these compilations, sometimes they point me at good new artists.

OK, time to get cranking, back to the start of spring.

  • Ella Fitzgerald (& Duke Ellington & his Orchestra), "Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Duke Ellington Songbook", 1957, 3 discs, 51 tracks. Quite a sprawling effort. In addition to Ella singing songs, there is also a spoken/orchestral "Portrait of Ella Fitzgerald" with many takes (which I rated 2 stars to get rid of). I don't like this album as much as some of Ella's others, which I think just reflects that perhaps I don't like Sir Duke's songs as much as those of some others. Still, 3 songs in the Jaz Dumoz songbook:
    1. "I'm beginning to see the light"
    2. "Don't get around much anymore"
    3. "Squeeze me (but don't tease me)" (In progress)
    Ella is in good voice, plus great guitar - Herb Ellis & Barney Kessel - plus great jazz violin, so 4 stars for the album. Here's "In a sentimental mood".

  • Barrie, "Barbara", 2022, 11 tracks, Bandcamp. Really easy to listen to, laid back chick emo pop. 4 stars. Here's the 1st track, "Jersey".

  • Destroyer, "LABYRINTHITIS", 2022, 10 tracks. Destroyer is the side project of Dan Bejar, also of New Pornographers. This is the 4th album of his I have & I thought at 1st that his eclectic singing style had gotten to be too much for me, but I did warm to it after a while. 4 stars. Here's "Eat the Wine, Drink the Bread":

  • Elmore James, "Shake Your Money Maker: The Best of the Fire Sessions", 1961, 16 tracks. One of my harp player friends told me I needed to learn 1 of the songs on it - "Look On Yonder Wall" I think. As usual, it's just another 12 bar blues song. But this whole album - Elmore James is supposed to be 1 of the great fathers of slide guitar, but listening to this album, it sounded to me like he has maybe 3 licks, tops. Very disappointing. 2 stars.

  • Nick Teale, "Love Was", 2021, 6 tracks. Nick is a very nice & talented young man from Louisville whom I met at the Twisted Cork open mic. This is a very very good 1st effort, but still, it feels like a 1st effort. Interesting songs, but the engineering needs some work, & occasionally the songs have 1 of those chords where you go, "that's not quite the right chord". I'm looking forward to more of his stuff. 3 stars.

  • Kate Bollinger, "Look at at in the Light", 2022, 6 tracks, Bandcamp. More laid back, quirky, dreamy, chick emo pop. I seem to be a total sucker for this stuff. 4 stars. Here's the very poppy "Who Am I But Someone":

  • David C. Johnson, "Songs About You And Me", 2003, 8 tracks. David Carlton Johnson is an incredibly talented multi-instrumentalist (vocals, bass, guitar, keyboards, drums) who for maybe 2011-2021 was bass player & vocalist for the SW Florida blues/rock band Mudbone - here is my review of their great album "Live at Dogtooth".

    David also was a member of the Aaron Neville Quintet & toured with them - here he is on vocals, keys, & bass on Aaron & Linda Ronstadt's big hit "Don't Know Much". But, Aaron retired last year (age 80) which apparently was a blow to David's income. So he has moved his family to near Orlando, where apparently the gigging is better. I will miss David. Here is his website. I'm guessing I bought this album there. 4 stars, here's the existentially titled "Where Did Lisa Go?".

  • Willie "The Lion" Smith, "Willie "The Lion" Smith and His Cubs", 1944, 17 tracks. Willie "The Lion" I really don't think measures up to his contemporary Fats Waller. Ah, but they weren't contemporaries - Willie was born in 1893, 11 years before Fats. That would explain why his song selection seems more ragtime than swing. I find that for Jaz Dumoz, I don't like the older, more ragtime stuff, particularly before 1920. Very limited videos on YouTube of Willie, so I am going to go 3 stars for this album.

  • Andrew Bird, "Inside Problems", 2022, 11 tracks, Bandcamp. Wow, the 13th album I have from Bird. He is such a good songwriter, and I love his sparse, eclectic arrangements. 4 stars. Here's the 1st track, "Underlands":

  • Harry Styles, "Fine Line", 2019, 12 tracks. I read a glowing review of his latest album, somehow I wound up buying the 1 before that. I like the album. A good amount of variation in the arrangments, and good tunes. Also, some of the songs, his voice sounds so much like Gene Clark of the early Byrds - & I always loved Gene Clark, and a few years ago determined that all my fav Byrd songs were the ones he wrote.

    Back to Harry, 4 stars. Here's the great video of his catchy, anthemic song, "Treat People With Kindness":

  • Kaidi Tatham, "Galaxy", 2022, 4 tracks, Bandcamp. Some nice vocals to complement his Afro-Jazz beats. 4 stars. Here's vocalist Lola Vialet on the "upbeat mix" of the title track:

  • Cribaby, "crii EP", 2022, 6 tracks, Bandcamp. More laid-back vocals and arrangements. Not quite as funky as her last outing. 4 stars. Here's "hurt (feat. Somni)":

  • Blossom Dearie, "My Gentleman Friend", 1959, 10 tracks. My friend Lexington music legend Tom Cool recommended this artist to me, in particular the song "You Fascinate Me So" shown below. What an interesting artist, & I am totally surprised I had never heard of her growing up. Per her Wikipedia page, she played in France 1952-1957.

    The 1st time through, her kewpie-doll voice was a little offputting, but, that was just how she sang. Plus she was an accomplished & influential pianist. I'm still surprised I'd never heard of her before. Here's the track Tom recommended:

OK, that brings me to the end of June, perfect for Batch 2! And, no, I am not OCD!

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Still? Really?

After chiding myself in my last post for downwarding spiraling into reading old Frank Herbert novels, I of course next read ... another old Frank Herbert novel: "Destination: Void", 1966, revised 1978, 275 pages, 74k words, $1.99 at Kobo.

This is the novel that served as the seed for the "The Pandora Sequence" blogged about last time. It was really not good. The philosophical rummaging in search of a definition of consciousness is way lame. Of course this was written years before Dennett & "Consciousness Explained" (1992), etc. But still, lame. The computer terminology is beyond dated. Plus we have 1 of the crew of scientists experimenting on herself with tailored cannabinoids to find the nature of mind - I bet we loved that during my college years. And, of course, the way heavy-handed ending. Well, hopefully that cures me of old foo for a while.

So next up my fav relatively newly discovered modern sci-fi author. "Cage of Souls", by Adrian Tchaikovsky, 2019, 720 pages, 196k words, $1.99 at Kobo. This is set in the far distant future when the sun is starting to expand, so almost more like fantasy. A Devil's Island story. 2 interesting flashback threads. Well paced, well written, yay modern stuff!

For my middle daughter, I next read "Botanical Folk Tales of Britain and Ireland", by Lisa Schneidau, 2018, 180 pages, 49k words. An enjoyable set of short folk tales, with some interesting twists to some of the better known stories. So off to my daughter it went.

Finally, "The Time Ships", by Stephen Baxter, 2014, 608 pages, 165k words, $0.99 at Kobo (all these bargains!). Written to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the original H. G. Wells "The Time Machine", by a very reliable British hard sci-fi author. It does not disappoint, cosmic in scope but still very respectful of the original.

Next up ... Music In.

Note, most of Music Out has transitioned to the Jaz Dumoz blog. With today's Song of the Day - stardust - I posted the following:

Today is the 2nd birthday of Song of the Day. 1st video posted September 27, 2020.

Today is Song of the Day #158!

Sunday, September 04, 2022

Downward Spiral?

OOOO0000oooo....

Wow, pretty good textual image, neh?

1st up, "January Fifteenth", by Rachel Swirsky, 2022, 147 pages, 40k words. I really liked some of Swirsky's early stories. I was excited for this collection of stories based in a near-future world where everyone receives UBI (Universal Basic Income). In her world, it happens annually every January 15th, which seems stupid to me. My Social Security comes every month, I pay Medicare every month, my annuities pay every month, I cannot imagine why a UBI program would pay annually. So I guess it is just a (stupid) literary device.

We follow 4 different UBI recipients, including a slave teenage wife in a polygamous (Mormon) society. Ugh, ugh, & ugh. Way too much domestic detail. I was glad when it was over. So something you should read, but maybe not particularly enjoyably.

So, after that, I regressed. I reread the "Tbe Pandora Sequence", by Frank Herbert & Bill Ransom, a trilogy, total 1340 pages, 388k words. A reissue of 3 novels:

These stories are the sequel to "Destination: Void", 1966. The AI of a voidship becomes sentient, & then omniscient, omni*, etc. (oops), and declares, "Decide how you shall WorShip me." Big oops.

The 1st novel was especially memorable. A hell world, horrible predators populate the surface, what was Ship thinking?

The 2nd novel, more Ransom than Herbert. The 3rd novel, all Ransom, a poet, as Herbert had died.

"Jesus Incident" is the best of the lot, mostly because Ship is still around & messing with people. The 2nd reads like a 2nd novel, i.e., transitional. The 3rd novel seemed to be mostly just plot waiting to be inevitably resolved. Yawn. Still, not bad for a reread.

I then tried something very random. My oldest daughter Erica in Brooklyn passed on a recommendation to me (yay!): "Reclaimed", by Madeleine Roux, 2021. I read the 1st chapter, and was like, "Noop". Not good writing. I tried to analyze why I concluded that. I think, in that 1st chapter, the banality was overwhelming: 2ndary character wants to kick traumatized protatagonist out of her apartment because she & her boyfriend want to have a baby. And, while she is discussing this w the protagonist, she of course spills her Starbucks on her cashmere sweater. Because, she hasn't wasted nearly enough of my time already ...

This surely must be a generational thing of some sort ...

So, alarmingly, I regressed yet again, and read another old Frank Herbert: (should I wish they would quit offering these to me to buy for $1.99 or $0.99???) "The GodMakers", 1972, pieced together from stories going back to 1958! 200 pages, 58k words. Some Dune tuneup material here, on the nature & meaning & utility of Religion. Dated but interesting.

What to read next? Totally not sure. Certainly something newer ... We'll see, I guess.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Cormorant Menace?

I just sent the following email to the most excellent IslandWalk Lakes Committee.
When I posted my 2021-2022 IslandWalk Birds report, I noted a lot more double-crested cormorants than what I remembered as being usual.

A month or so ago, I read an article about how 10s of 1000s of cormorants were wreaking havoc on the salmon population in the pacific northwest. I couldn't find that article again, but if you google DuckDuckGo "cormorant problems", there are dozens of articles.

Then a couple of weeks ago, my wife & I vacationed in Ottawa, Canada. On the way there we spent a night in Clayton, NY, and took a 5 hour boat tour of the Thousand Islands - the area where the St. Lawrence River leaves Lake Ontario.

We learned an island is defined as: 1) above a minimum size; 2) always above water; 3) has at least 1 tree. We were shown 1 ~30-40' island that had no tree, but instead dozens of cormorants. The cormorants had started roosting there, and their acidic droppings had killed all the trees on the island.

I wanted to get at least 1 more data point, so I compiled my 2020-2021 IslandWalk bird data:

http://portraitofthedumbass.blogspot.com/2022/08/islandwalk-birds-2020-2021-season.html
Between the 2 sets of data, there was indeed a large increase in cormorant #s. 2020-2021, I counted at least 1 cormorant 100% of the time, the average was 3.2 birds, with a max of 10. 2021-2022, it was 95% of the time, but the average was 7.9, with a max of 25. That is around a 2.5x increase.

Hopefully I will be counting again this year, and hopefully this trend will not continue. And, of course, 2 data points is not nearly enough from which to extract a trend line.

But I wanted to bring it to your attention as something that needs to be watched. Does our lake management company also monitor the wildlife? If so, maybe pass this on to them? Maybe this is something that could be nipped in the bud before it becomes a problem?

It's too bad, I have enjoyed watching the cormorants fish on Lake #1, and I like how an aid to identifying them is how they always, whether swimming, standing on the bank, or roosting in a tree, keep their head at the same 20 degree angle.

And, of course, cormorants are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty.

Best regards,
Chris Heinz

Monday, August 29, 2022

IslandWalk Birds, 2020-2021 Season

My overall birdwatching strategy for IslandWalk is posted here.

My 1st ever "IW state of the birds" post was for the 2021-2022 season. I am cloning this post from that post. That post contains discussions of things I found interesting about a lot of the species.

I was of 2 minds about posting the data from 2020-2021. There were only 9 X & X2 datasets, and the final X dataset, on March 4, 2021, was cut short when the arch of my right foot totally gave out at the 4.5 mile point in the 5.41 mile walk. I went straight home (cut down Freeport rather than walking the SW corner) and finished at 5.0. But, there is a bird issue, and I wanted this data for comparison purposes, so I went on and entered it.

[Note, I have quit going barefoot on our tile floors, and have put arch supports in all my shoes & my new comfy slippers, and my feet are doing much better. :-) Hopefully I will be up to walking the 5.41 & 5.47 mile X & X2 routes by December.]

I will do a follow-up post on the bird issue I mentioned. (Hint: cormorants).

I manually entered this data in this spreadsheet

I will be reporting for all observed species the following 4 datapoints:

  1. % of days seen;
  2. total birds counted;
  3. average;
  4. max.
Note, the 2021-2022 post, I reported "# of days seen" vs "% of days seen". I will go back to that post and revise it to show the % instead of the #, for easier year to year comparison.

Doing this post ~18 months after the fact, I don't remember any fun anecdotes to share.

Here's the link to the IslandWalk hotspot at eBird.org.

Each bird name listed below is linked to its IslandWalk activity page in eBird.org. So click on the name, you will get a picture & all the data eBird has on that bird in IslandWalk.

Swimmers

I guess all are dabbling "ducks"? "Dabbling" === "stick your bill down in the water & swish it around & eat what you get from that" - as opposed to diving ducks.

Divers

Waders

Beach Birds

Raptors

Corvids

  • fish crow: % days 67; tot 132; avg 22.0; max 55.
  • blue jay: % days 67; tot 40; avg 6.7; max 20.

Perching Birds (Passerines)