WEEK 52 2010
Mon- Tue- Wed-
Picture of the Week
17 March 2002
Ago, This Week, 2002
Ago, This Week, 2003
Years Ago, this week, 2005
Ago, This Week, 2006
Ago, This Week, 2007
Ago, This Week, 2008
This Week, 2009
Saturday - ran a few errands, did a few chores. It's cold out, I don't even want to go out and walk, and I need to.
I had to replace the battery in the Probe yesterday - it could no
longer hold a charge, even for a week. So I went down to Sears in the
early afternoon, thinking it would be a ten minute job. Only it
was the end of lunch hour, so the help was going to lunch after the
rush, and they were short handed, yada yada yada. But they were honest
with me - it'd take two hours.
Well, OK. The theater was next door, so I went and caught TRON: Legacy
in 3D for $9.00. Yikes. Still, it was OK. It was the first 3D movie
I've seen in decades, and the 3D worked reasonably well. It was odd how
the three dimensional objects just disappeared at the edges of the
screen, but it wasn't as blurry and headache invoking as I remember the
old movies and glasses to be. As for the movie, eh. There were a couple
of good scenes, but Tron himself was just a cameo. They had a cute girl
as the guide/protector sidekick instead.
After a couple of hours at the movie I went back to Sears. Where they
informed me that they'd bumped me up in the queue, and that my car had
been ready since fifteen minutes
after I left. Heh. I guess my understanding & kind attitude got me
some results, but since I had my phone turned off in the theater...
Yes, it's time again for that final book tally. There were a lot this year,
which I put down to not being quite as busy as usual, and of having
evenings free when working away from home at my parents' place, and on the boat, and not being desperately tired. Also
the ease of downloads with the Kindle helped increase the total number (but
decrease my net worth).
The Year in Books, 2010
The Year in
Books, 2009 (84)
in Books, 2008 (54)
Year in Books, 2007 (64)
Year in Books, 2006 (53)
Before 2005 I didn't record books here on the blog,
except occasionally. For the six calendar years we have 408 books in total, averaging 68/year or 1.307/week.
Looking things over, I am a bit disappointed in myself. It isn't much
of a reading plan. There isn't much hard science or engineering, just a
little true history, just a bit of biography, and a lot of science
It's easy to be hard on one's self in retrospect, to say "I should have read this, that, and the other improving tome, back then".
On the other hand, those days, and nights, were much like tonight when
I am blogging instead of reading; and though the detailed memory of any
particular night is mostly gone, I was just as certainly busy, tired,
depressed, thinking about teevee, the family, the job, vacations, and
wanting some distraction as I am now. So, where does one draw the line
between self indulgence and admitting a fault?
- New Years Eve. Over with friends, watching teevee. These were firstly The Producers, then some Big Bang
Theory Season 3 DVD's, and we all sat around, watched, worked on our knitting,
nooks, pc's...and drifted off to sleep. I missed 12:00pm myself, woken
up by the (rather sparse) shooting and fireworks outside (it was too
cold for people to linger long outside I'm guessing). The teenage boy
was awake as
well, but that was it....
A present to myself this Christmas was a Roku box, for Netflix
streaming. I ordered it from Amazon and it arrived well before
Christmas...and just sat there in the box. I was busy, for one thing,
and I knew that it would be a horrible pain to install for a second
reason, and I was considering getting a new flat screen teevee which
would mean taking everything apart anyway for a third, and would
probably incorporate a streaming connection natively, for a fourth.
Well, it's almost the new year and I'm still dithering on the flat
screen, so I installed the Roku last night. It should have been a five
minute task, but took over an hour. Pull the teevee out, plug in the
ROKU cables (RCA, it's an old teevee) and push teevee back. But,
somehow, the DVD player became unhooked. Pull it out, replace SVIDEO
cable with new cable, push back in. No video. Ah, the RF cable from the
teevee is dislodged. Pull teevee out, attach cable, push back in. No
TIVO light. Pull TIVO unit out, reattach power cable, push back in.
Fish power cable behind cabinet for ROKU. Power up ROKU and teevee.
Discover that the old TIVO remote no longer allows changing to
secondary input. Neither does the audio system controller, which was my
backup. Search for the original teevee remote, change the batteries in
it, and switch to secondary input and...
Voila! The Roku works!!
Pretty snazzy, really. Since the cable modem is right there, alongside
the router, I just hardwired the ROKU to the router, no WPA setup
required. And the setup was dead simple, a password for the ROKU
website, and a password for the NETFLIX website. Essentially just
setting up a handshake.
So, it all works. Teevee, Tivo, VCR, DVD, Stereo out and Roku. (The CD
player won't eject though.)
So, I can now watch my NetFlix DVDs on the teevee, rather than the
computer, and I can stream whatever I want. Roku also does Amazon and
some of the other sites, I'll look into that eventually.
My first streaming download was Deep Water, about the
strange last voyage of Donald Crowhurst. In 2007 I read Robin
Knox-Johnstorn's story, "A World of my Own"
about winning the first single handed around the world race in 1968,
wherein he was the only one to finish. Winner by default, but he seemed
at the time to have one last challenger, Donald Crowhurst, who was on
track to beat his time.
Only Crowhurst was a fake. After setting out late and making terrible
time, Crowhurst had simply lurked in the South Atlantic after deciding
that his boat was not up to the voyage in the terrible waters at the
bottom of the world, sending in fake position reports, waiting until
the racers were on their way home, and then finally falling in behind
them, willing to come in last and knowing few would be interested in
him. But then, one by one, as the true racers dropped out, he became
the only other sailor besides
Knox-Johnston who would finish, and probably, due to his falsified
position reports, the apparent winner on time. His records would be
scrutinized in detail and his lies and deceptions revealed (he had even
gone ashore in South America, and made repairs, a disqualifying action
even if he had sailed about the world). Francis Chichester was already
a bit suspicious of his fabulous (in both senses for the word) daily
record of 243 miles.
His boat was found empty, floating alone in the ocean, and his logbooks
told the story of deception, despair, loneliness and eventual madness.
He probably committed suicide.
And, something I don't remember reading before: the race winner, Robin
Knox-Johnston, himself by no means rich, donated all his winnings to
the destitute widow. Now there
Thursday 30 December 2010
- After a bit of a storm yesterday it is sunny and clear. Winds were,
quite literally, howling in the house eaves last night. That, from
experience, means about 40MPH and above, and looking at the Weather
Underground "Wundermap" for Lancaster, at that time, did indeed
show those sorts of wind speeds.
An intriguing thing about the map, that I noticed, was that the winds
didn't slow down substantially from Gorman, in the west, to Lancaster,
despite the valley widening out. One would expect the increase in width
to act as a diffuser, and for the wind speed to decrease. The
explanation is probably two-fold, firstly that there is an elevation
drop, which would tend to accelerate the working fluid (air), and
secondly that it's not a simple 2D situation, there is a vast mass of
air moving, and above a few thousand feet AGL the diffusion is limited.
I'm reading a bit, being home and it being the end of the year, and
even finishing some of the lighter stuff. So maybe I'll make that 100
Books for the year after all. Some books I've had for a while, others
are library books. At any given time I've probably a half dozen
partially read books laying about the house, another half dozen that
I'm meaning to start, and a half dozen that I should start (but require
a mental effort or a mind set I'm not in the mood for).
Book #96 was One
Good Turn, by Withold Rybczynski. Subtitled "A Natural History of the
Screwdriver and the Screw"
it is a short book on, as it says, screws and the screwdriver. Starting
a request for a magazine article nominating a "tool of the
millennium", in 2000, the author reviews several venerable tools,
and finally decides on and tracks the screwdriver and screw much
further back in time than expected. The august Brittanica dates the
screwdriver only to 1800, but the author eventually tracks the
screwdriver and screw, much as we know them, all the way back to 1475,
at least. They are, it turns out, useful in attaching parts of objects
that endure repeated sharp blows - like the butt of a musket or arbequs.
WR also talks about the screw proper, and it's probably descent from
Archimedes water screw, the lathe, and it's development, and the
history of the Phillips and Robertson screw heads. And the A-frame
level and the bubble level.
A fun read, and ties in a bit with the history of machine tools I read
a few years back. More than 5 years, since my tabulations at year end
don't show it, and maybe pre-2002, since a site specific google
search doesn't find it:
Book #97 was The
by Paul Davies. This is another riff on the "Where are the Aliens?"
question. There is no sign of them in radio signals, and no historical
record or evidence on earth or in the explored solar system. In 1950
Enrico Fermi pointed out that even the most inept technological
civilization, given the age of the galaxy, fifteen billion years,
should have spread across it and left signs (condo's on Mars, beer cans
on the Moon, alien versions of Happy Day's broadcasts). But there are
There are a lot of explanations, but I've read this stuff before, and
the only really new take to me was "The Great Filter". Essentially
Davies and an economics professor, Robin Hanson, worked out some math
relating to "filters", i.e. obstacles or doomsdays affecting the
development of technological civilizations. Essentially it's a
probabilistic argument that says: (1) if we find any kind of organic
life not of earth origin, then the "filter" is in our future (yikes!);
(2) If we find no life, then we have probably (by sheer Darwinian luck)
managed to get past most filters, and the future is bright.
Book #98 was David Weber's Out
of the Dark. It starts out well, then sort of peters out into
foolishness. Genre confusion foolishness, the worst kind.
Essentially a galactic civilization of herbivores discovers a primitive
Earth around the time of Agincourt. Horrified by our violent ways they
sic the only carnivorous race in their federation, the Shongairi, on
the disgusting omnivores (us). The Shongairi arrive about 2020 (hey,
it's a big galaxy), kick everybody's ass with kinetic strike weapons,
but get bogged down in a guerrilla/pacification war against the plucky
humans. Disgusted and demoralized the aliens decide to pull out and
destroy the planet entirely, from orbit. Then, at the last
At the last minute
Dracula, the vampire Vlad the Impaler, uses his and his followers
vampire powers to defeat the enemies.
I think somebody plotted himself into a corner (the humans could not
win, given the novels initial premises), and this was his ridiculous
(and unfair to the reader) way of ending things. I have nothing against
vampire stores, I enjoyed Saberhagen's books, and those Barbara Hambly
books earlier this year, but vampires clinging to the sides of
ascending space shuttles and infiltrating super space dreadnoughts
through the air vents? Insulting. Glad I didn't buy the damn thing.
I was thinking a bit about Z-Sting, and why it didn't "gel" for me. In
a way it fails to live up to the literary equivalent to Occam's Razor:
there are too many sci-fi elements introduced, too many characters are
introduced, and coincidences multiply beyond any rational expectation.
Now that last might be unfair, given that the Z in Z-Sting refers to
the "Zeitgeist", things that are in the air and might be considered to
cause coincidences, but still.
That said, it was an honest effort, and wasn't unfair to the reader in
the way Out of the Dark turned out to be.
- again, just a bit of (billable) work. I did get by the library to
pick up some books on VB.Net & such.
The library is, given the wet and wild weather outside, chock full of
bums; smelly, sleeping, snoring, mumbling incoherently. I've talked to
friends in other cities, it's a problem everywhere. The library is a
public space, you can't exclude someone just because they're annoying
Checked on the cats again - food gone, solid waste generated - they are
obviously alive, still. My friend got home this evening, so I'm off the
Book #95 was an odd one: Z-Sting
by Ian Wallace. A system is set up to generate world peace by what
might be considered a grievance exchange, where the balance of
grievances between nations is calculated. If a certain level is
exceeded then the offending nation is "encapsulated", cutting it off
from other nations. But something goes wrong, the calculations are
fiddled with, and the Z-Sting weapon is programmed to enshroud not just
a single nation for a limited time, but the entire world, forever.
Zounds! Superhero to the rescue.
Not really recommended...
Kind of a cheesy cover, too.
- not much to say. Had lunch out, did a bit of work at the computer.
Still cat sitting. The kitty litter needed changing, and most of the
soft food was gone, so I know that cats are present and alive.
Book #94 was Things
I Wished I'd Known Before I Started Sailing,
by John Vigor. Short, mostly just tips on this and that. But I found
myself saying "Yeah, that's right!" frequently. Some things I haven't
done - long distance sailing, for example, so the tips involving that
were interesting as well. He suggests that going downwind in a sloop
(Bermuda) rig that tacking will reduce the rolling and not add much to
the distance - 20 degrees off the wind only adds 6% to the distance.
Stuff like that.
The inhabitants of Matilija Canyon
aren't quite into the Season, it seems.
- Feeling a bit better.
I've been watching a friends' cats. Well, sort of, 'taking care of'
might be a better term. They are indoor cats, but nowhere to be seen.
My own cat sitters have mentioned this, but this is the first time I've
experienced it. I put food and water in bowls, clean the kitty litter
box, but there is no sight, no sound, no sign of feline presence at
all. But I'm told they are shy...
Book #92 was The
Dirdir, Tschai #3. Excellent.
Book #93 was The
Pnume, Tschai #4. Oddly Vance stopped there, with our intrepid hero
successfully leaving the planet. He didn't cover the Phung, the fifth species on the
planet, said to be related to the Pnume.
These are short books, but the way, about 150 pages each. Altogether
they'd only make two
thirds of one volume of the modern Baroque
Cycle, for comparison.
Sunday 26 December_2010
- The Day after Christmas. Last Week of the Year. I see that it ends
pretty close to the end of the blog week, which is nice. Usually I just
extend the blog, and duplicate the overlap for Week #1 and Week #52, so that makes it easy.
While not feeling well I did a bit of reading. This was old, light
SciFi stuff, a Jack Vance series in paperback: Tschai: Planet of Adventure! Vance
has a knack for naming and atmosphere, and the books are an old
fashioned pleasure to read. The setting is Tschai, an old world settled
by a number of species. When a spaceship from Earth is sent to check on
a radio signal the ship is destroyed, with only a single survivor, who
crash lands and tries to make his way back to Earth. Much to his
surprise he finds humans, groups adapted to live alongside each of the
various species, and all more or less at each others throats.
So, Book #90 is City
of the Chasch: Tschai #1, by Jack Vance. This sets up the story,
and introduces our protagonist, one Adam Reith. We meet two other
supporting characters, Traz and Anacho, who as natives give Adam his
needed insight into the various human and alien cultures. The Chasch
(Blue and Green) are the first species we meet (after the humans).
I note that Amazon reviewers gave it, despite it's 1968 publication
(but perhaps that's just the ACE edition date, see below), glowing
Book #91 was Servants
of the Wankh, Tschai #2,
by Jack Vance. More adventure, this time interacting with the Wankh
species, and their human imitators. I didn't see the ACE cover at
Amazon, but there is a copy with a date of 1960, which is more in tune
with it's late1950's style of writing. Though Vance was always better
at imagining planets, cultures, peoples, aliens than he was as an
expositor of deep human feelings, so it's hard to say. Well worth
I am reminded of an not-quite so old a series, C.J. Cherryh used a
similar idea of humans imitating aliens much later in her 'Faded Sun'
set of books, with a human soldier identifying with the ferocious alien
warrior mercenary and his manipulative boss identifying with the
mercenaries unscrupulous client. Her plotting and character development
is superior to Vance, but for sheer visual exposition he is the master.