Tuesday, August 27, 2013

We Now Return To Our Regularly Scheduled Program

Almost 2 months without a blog post, what a slacker I've been. Well, we've been having a beautiful mild summer, highs mostly in the high 70s to mid 80s. So I've had lots of nice walks and bike rides. In addition to the 61 mile ride on July 4 in Raleigh, I did a 70 mile ride with my friends Tim and Ed on the Little Miami Bike Trail a few Sundays ago.

This past Sunday I did a 50 mile ride (49.8). It was longer than I expected, I made a wrong turn east of Georgetown. I was on Crumbaugh Road, which I had not planned on, and I'd stopped in the shade at the top of a hill to try to check the map on my phone -- which I have trouble using when biking because of the outdoor light and no reading glasses. I heard 2 male voices talking and thought, "I'll ask them for directions". They were in a small apple orchard and seemed surprised to see someone walking a bicycle towards them. They gave me directions (left at the end onto 460 to the Georgetown bypass), but the funny thing was, one of them was Graham Rowles, who coached my son Adam's U-14 soccer team and was active in LYSA for the years I was (and beyond). First soccer run-in I'd had in a while, I used to get them all the time.

Just after turning off of Newtown Pike onto Johnson Mill Rd, saw this interesting dam. I'd never seen one constructed like this.

But, there are really two reasons that the blog is late:
  1. I had been anticipating the new Charles Stross novel so much, and then didn't really like it that much. What to do?
  2. I read my 1st evolutionary psychology book in quite a while: Stephen Pinker's latest, and it was 829 pages. Generally an easy and very informative read, but still, 829 pages is a fair amount. But, finished yesterday, yay!
So, first, the new Stross novel is "Neptune's Brood". It is set in the same universe as his earlier "Saturn's Children", but 2500 years later. Like the earlier one, it has no (biological homo sapiens) humans in it, just our android children.

One of the reasons I was psyched for this book was the fact that most of its plot centers on economics, which, along with music, has been my avocation since I retired. And there is some interesting stuff there. First, 3 kinds of money:

  • fast money, aka cash;
  • medium money, aka stocks, mutual funds, etc;
  • slow money, which is what is used to fund expansion to new star systems. It takes years to cash, as it must be validated by both the issuer and a certifying agency, both in different star systems, with no FTL communication.
There's also the realization that slow money represents a form of Ponzi scheme. I think I've mentioned that at some level, all investments are Ponzi schemes. If nobody wants to buy your investment, it's worthless. So you have to keep bringing new money into the system.

The heroine of the book is a nun/accountant/historian. She's an expert on financial scams, particularly those involving the development of FTL travel, which does not exist. She's looking for a "sister" of hers who has gone missing, possibly with a legendary financial instrument. The search takes her to interesting places and includes a run-in with pirates/insurance agents/branch bankers. It is the normal inspired zaniness you expect from Charles Stross.

So I think the 1st thing that kind of disappointed me was the heroine. She is definitely a "hero with feet of clay", who soldiers on and won't give up her quest -- but still, just somehow too timid in outlook.

And the 2nd disappointing thing was the ending. I think everything got wrapped up, but, still it seemed to end too abruptly. I reread the last 20 pages and still felt that way. But, I have found this to not be uncommon in Science Fiction.

So of course, I highly recommend the book. I probably need to get a little less information on future content I'm interested in to avoid getting myself over-anticipating a release.

I think I'll cover the Pinker in another post.

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