Thursday, February 26, 2004

Insert Snappy Title Here

Had a very nice vacation 2/16-2/23. We were in St. Martin, French West Indies, at the Grand Case Beach Club. Mid 80's, light rain twice for 10 minutes, color and life, surf crashing 15 feet from the door of our room. It was a 10 minute walk to Boulevard de Grand Case, "the Gourmet Capital of the Caribean". Restaurant after restaurant, mostly French, some Italian, Indian, Creole -- no Chinese or Sushi. Every meal we had was excellent, but, man, after the 3rd rich French meal, I had to give it a rest. The Lolo was also fantastic -- sidewalk cafes, half oil drums charcoal grilling ribs, chicken, fish, shrimp, lobster -- sides of red beans and rice, curry rice, cole slaw, potato salad, corn-on-the-cob, johnny cake, fantastic conch chowder -- and $10 for a slab of ribs, 1/4 chicken, and 3 sides, and Carib beer for $1.50. The money was weird, they would take dollars straight up for euros. I couldn't figure out that model.

My wife got to water-ski twice (no-hands, rope between the legs and everything, cheers from the watching boats) so she was happy. We also took a speed boat to the reef north of Anguilla and snorkeled. My 1st time, it was OK but I swallowed about a pint too much seawater, and looking at the pretty fishies got kind of dull after a while. I got to speak some French, I love the way it tickles my brain to get that 2nd language thread running. Had a fun evening our last night there. Had a very nice dinner at Il Neptune (Italian). They had a guy playing guitar and singing. I sang harmony to "Happy Birthday" at the next table (family tradition), so he came over after and I sang harmony with him on "Ai, Yi Yi Yi (I am the frito bandito)" and "Santa Lucia". At the end of both, he held a note a long time and bent it down to the step below. I had a good column of air going so I stayed right with him -- boo-ya! Then we found another place with a singer and we finally got to do some dancing.

So, on the trip I read:

  • "Dune: Butlerian Jihad" -- guilty as charged. I read the other three Dune followups, they are competently done. But, I realized that they are lacking the thing I really liked about a lot of Herbert, which was stories that really are about evolution. The followups seem mostly concerned with checking off "that was in Dune, now we've done the secret origin".
  • "The Other Wind" and "The Telling" by Ursula K. LeGuin. She still writes very well, simple tales with a lot of heart. But, no surprises, kind of dull.
  • "Black Cherry Blues" by James Lee Burke. A David Robichaux Cajun detective novel. I saw a new one of his books and decided I'd try him -- this was the oldest David Robichaux book I could find. I was reading the jacket material and was afraid I'd already read these. But, starting it, I realized that this was the character from the movie "Heaven's Prisoners", with Alec Baldwin and the Teri Hatcher fully-nekkid scene. It was OK, I may try some others.
  • "Picoverse", by Robert A. Metzger. Nothing new, creating pocket universes with particle accelerators. like the one by Steven Gould and lots of others.
  • "Vectors" by Michael Kube-McDowell. Ugh. I thought I had liked some of his stuff in the past, this was really crap. Scientist takes pictures of brainwaves, unique as fingertips, discovers identical ones from an old man and a kid born after the old man's death. His Wiccan, video game genius new girlfriend is killed by gang-bangers after he has scoffed at her suggestion that this is proof of reincarnation, so he goes on a mission to prove her theory. After a bunch of plot, he kills himself so he can be reincarnated soon after she is, so he can hook up with her again -- good plan.
The "mind is magic" crowd just won't go away. They just don't get it. I go see my dad who now has basically no short-term memory, and it is recognizably my dad, but at about a 60% level. On the snorkeling trip, there was another couple with us. The guy was a 6th grade teacher and I had thought it was odd that he would search for words or form odd malapropisms. Then both he and his wife told us how he had had 5 brain surgeries and gamma-ray treatment for brain tumors, the largest of which was cue ball size. Ahh, now it makes sense. One of the contentions of Descartes, the pappy of Dualism, was that the mind/spirit was indivisible. But, it just ain't. You can lose one or more of thousands of pieces, or just degrade horizontally, vertically, diagonally, or however. But, are you still yourself? What self? There is no self.

Before the trip, I read "The Crystal City", by Orson Scott Card, the 6th Alvin Maker book. Card writes well, but he lost all edge years ago. Still, I empathize with the guy, he has 5 kids to try to feed and raise. His stories are always strong because they are about the moral decisions the characters must make. In this one tho, they build "The Crystal City", actually "The Crystal Building", where you can go and get weird visions and reflect on them -- and the women decide they should call it "the Tabernacle" rather than "the Observatory". Card seems to be downward spiraling into his Mormon roots -- ugh. Well, at least we probably don't have to worry about him getting DOM (Dirty Old Man) syndrome in his declining years.

No links to any of the above books. Not enough edge to really recommend any of them.

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