Tag Archives: books

Warm Sunday

It was near 70 degrees here in the Metro DC area today–unusual for late December, to say the least.  It was almost like we were back in Florida.  I slept in until about 8:30 or so.  But we still managed to get an early start on our day.  First, we headed over to the Apple store to get Kelly her Christmas present, a new MacBook!  (Her old PowerBook was on its dying breath.)  We were in-and-out in 10 minutes.  I also picked up a 1 TB external hard disk for our desktop computer (iMac) so that we can consolidate out entire iTunes media library and have it centralized in one place.

Next, we headed to the grocery store to buy food, very little of which we had in the house.  We stocked up and headed home.  I ran down to the concierge and picked up the two packages that were waiting for me.  One package was a gift from Mom and Dad:  Mario Cart for the Wii, with the steering wheel attachment included.  We can’t wait to play.

The other package was my copy of mabfan ‘s first book, I Remember the Future, which he signed for me.  I was very excited to get it.  When I finish The Hard SF Renaissance, it will be the next book that I read, making it book #401 or 402 on my list.  (Yes, I’ve read just about all of the stories already, but they are that good.  I’ll have more to say on the subject when I am done re-reading them.)  Humble though I am, I can’t help but mention the fact that my name appears in thebook twice.  I mention this only as a point of fact:  it is the first time someone has ever mentioned me in the "Afterward" of a story, and it was Michael that did me the honor.  The book looks great, incidentally, and as I have said before, the stories are a perfect introduction to what science fiction is all about (for those who don’t know); and they are great examples of solid science fiction for those who do read in the genre.  Buy the book!

There were some additional chores to do:  cleaning out the cat litter; taking out a bunch of trash and recycling; vacuum the house (Kelly did upstairs, I did the downstairs).

Spoke to Mom and then e took a long walk in the afternoon.  We didn’t need jackets; it was warm and windy.

I spent the rest of the day setting up our consolidated media library.  It was a little complicated, but mostly time consuming, copying data over the wireless network.  But it’s working the way I want it to work now, so all is good.

More odd sleep patterns

Most people were not at work today.  But Kelly and I headed in as usual.  It was a quiet morning for the most part, but a busy afternoon.  I had lunch with Monica at CPK (Todd was supposed to be there, too, but never showed up.)  I then prepared for a 2 PM meeting that was more contentious than I imagined it would be.  We were told we could leave at 3 PM, but my meeting didn’t finish until 3:20 or so.  Kelly met me at the mall and we did some brief shopping.  I got a new wool coat from J. Crew for those extra cold days.

Got the latest (November 22) issue of NEW SCIENTIST in the mail today.  In fact, I got two of them.  The second was stuck to the first and it made me wonder if that was how I ended up missing an issue a few weeks ago.  Also AOPA Pilot was in the mail.  I also received my book shipment from Amazon:  Incandescence by Greg Egan and Anathem by Neal Stephenson.   I should finish up Marsbound tonight or tomorrow morning and then will start in on Incandescence.

I put the finishing touches on the manuscript for "If By Reason of Strength…" and printed it out.  I’m sending it off on Friday.

Spoke with Dad briefly today.

When I got home from work, I was pretty tired.  I’d been tired since lunch.  I read for a little while and somewhere between 5:30 and 6 PM, I decided to go upstairs and lay down.  I woke up 20 minutes ago, at about 10:35 PM.  Kelly was in bed and I was completely disoriented, having slept nearly 5 hours.  I even dreamed that I was in a bookstore and met up with mabfan  and Barry Malzberg to talk about s.f.  Anyway, I’m downstairs now and going to read for a while, since I don’t feel tired at the moment.


Raindrops keep fallin’ on my head

Today was supposed to be my last Orioles game of the season.  But weather and other tasks kept me away.  And while I was fairly certain this game would be postponed–or at least delayed–it turns out it wasn’t.  The Orioles lost 10-1.  They lost every game I attended this season, some 10 out of 13.  At least there was some good news in baseball yesterday.  Mike Mussina got his 20th win.  It was the first time for him.

I cajoled Kelly into taking a drive up to Frederick, Maryland late yesterday morning.  I wanted to go up to Wonder Books and browse around the used books in the science fiction section.  Kelly was remarkably patient with me.  It was an hour drive to the bookstore, and I probably spent close to an hour wandering around the stacks.  I ended up getting 5 things:  the December 1945 issue of ASTOUNDING, which has Part III of Isaac Asimov’s "The Mule"; The Mound Builders and The Stochiastic Man by Robert Silveberg; Stanley G. Weinbaum’s A Martian Odyssey; and collection of Poul Anderson stories, containing his story "The Light", which I’ve been searching for for years.

Later in the afternoon, we decided to go for a bike ride.  We took the 4 Mile Run trail to the Mt. Vernon trail and then started heading south toward Mt. Vernon.  The weather was gorgeous and it was so nice to be out riding bikes on an actual bike trail.  We took the river route and at one point, I found a spot where we pulled off to the edge of the water, just off the southern end of one of Reagan National Airport’s runways–and watched planes come in for landings.  We continued south until we got to Old Town Alexandria, where the Chart House is located.  From there, we turned around and headed back.  None five minutes into our ride home the skies opened up.  It poured and we were drenched.  It was fun until Kelly’s left pedal broke off.  I gave her my bike and had her ride home on that.  Meanwhile, I struggled riding and walking her bike through the rain with a single pedal.  Not as much fun, but we both made it home safely, took hot showers and relaxed.  We will definitely do it again.  Next time we’ll just keep a better eye on the weather.

We lazed around for much of the evening.  We did practice our wedding dance, and we stayed up to watch the season premier of Dexter.  Spoke with he11o_sunshine yesterday, and had a voicemail message from Dad.

I woke Kelly up in the middle of the night more or less wailing from a dream I was having.  It was not a particularly scary dream, just a little creepy.

Less than two weeks to the wedding!

Library books

After work today, I headed over to the local library and checked out two books: John Scalzi’s The Ghost Brigades, sequel to Old Man’s War, and Vernor Vinge’s Hugo award-winning Rainbow’s End.

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t dream of checking out science fiction books from the library. I’d buy them and add them lovingly to my collection. But even in our commodious new abode, I am simply out of room for more books, and if I want to read these books, I have to go the borrowed route.

This fills me with a certain amount of guilt. After all science fiction writers, like most writers, make their living off royalties from book sales. Sure, there are such things as library sales. And yes, I have bought used books before. But I’ve always tried to accrue my books used only if they weren’t readily available new first, so as not to take any money out of the pockets of my fellow writers. Libraries are noble institutions and I balance my guilt against my patronage and use thereof. All-in-all, however, I must admit that I was pleased to use my local library. It’s conveniently located on the drive home from work. And they have a pretty good science fiction selection.

Both books are due on September 18th, but I think I can finish them by then. If not, I can always renew them online.

Fouled up my data on GoodReads

I was trying to be clever and managed to delete most of my data on Good Reads. It’ll be sometime this weekend before I get it all re-imported.

End of summer reading

Halfway through The Count of Monte Cristo and it’s dragging. I don’t want to give up on it, but I don’t want it to prevent me from getting reading done. It’s been a while since I’ve gone on a s.f. kick, and so this evening, I went to Amazon and bought 4 new books to take me through the rest of the summer:

  • City at the Edge of Time by Greg Bear
  • The Last Theorem by Arthur C. Clarke and Frederik Pohl
  • Marsbound by Joe Haldeman (part of which I read in ANALOG)
  • Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

This, plus the reading for the writer’s group should get me through the rest of the summer, up the wedding.

eReader for the iPhone

Since I mentioned upgrading my iPhone to the 2.0 software today, I should also mention that I downloaded the eReader application for the phone. I have always been on the fence about eBooks, not for any particular reason other than I like turning pages and having the book in my hand. But even with all of the space in the new house, I am out of shelf room. I got to thinking I should at least give the eReader a try.

So I bought 2 books and 1 story today. First, I bought Charlie Stross’ latest novel, Saturn’s Children. I also bought the book that I’m currently reading, The Count of Monte Cristo (the Fictionwise version was $3*). And I bought mabfan‘s story, “Cosmic Corkscrew”, just so I could taunt him and tell him that I can read his stories on my iPhone. 🙂

I’ll let you know how it goes. The interface is simply and intuitive and the text is clear and readable.

*One thing I’d mention: eReader did not, in the case of The Count of Monte Cristo distinguish between abridged and full version. The first version I bought turned out to be abridged. Because it was so cheap, I’m willing to overlook it this time, but I hope someone over there gets a clue and corrects this.

Now you see it, and now you don’t

We were up pretty early this morning. Kelly had to go into work, but I stayed home because I needed to be here for the cable guy. I made good use of the time. I got my books unpacked. There are 36 boxes of books and I managed to get most of them unpacked and on shelves. Not in proper order, you understand, but in rough alphabetical order. I will need to go back through and do some rearranging, but it’s good enough for now.

The cable guy arrived at 9 AM. He got everything setup. HD cable downstairs, regular cable upstairs in the guest room/office. High-speed Internet (yeah! we have Internet again), phone service. I got the wireless working, and even have an extended WDS network going so that we can do remote wireless printing. When the cable was set up, I saw HD on my TV for the first time. I watched a portion of Sunrise Earth, and a portion on some show about Dracula on the History Channel. It was pretty cool!

I turned in our move-in checklist, noting all of the damaged items when we took possession of the townhouse. I was careful to note everything, not matter how small. The most significant things were (1) the ice maker does not seem to be working and (2) there is a loose tile in the kitchen floor. Once that was turned in, we got our mailbox keys and I emptied our accumulated mail. My replacement pilot certificate was there from the FAA. Way fancier than my original!

I headed into work at about 11:25 and was in my office at 11:35. Not too bad. It was a busy, hectic workday, despite it being only a half-day, mainly because of some software problems I’m dealing with.

After work, I went home (6 minutes) and did more unpacking. Kelly got home from work and wanted to rest for a while. She napped and I continued to do some unpacking. Later, I showed her the new HD stuff from cable.

We headed out to Target in the evening to do a bunch of shopping. When we got home, we decided to take it easy and relax in front of our new HDTV. And that’s when we discovered that the cable wasn’t working. Turns out that the box was bad, and to make a long story short, after talking with the cable company, and getting a $5 credit for the lost day, we have to swap out the box tomorrow. I was annoyed to no end, but what can you do?

I got the book I’d ordered for the writing workshop, James Gunn’s The Science of Writing Science Fiction.

Saturday

I was up at 7 AM and headed over to Saturn to have my car serviced. It believe it was my 117,000 mile maintenance. A while back I received a $500 gift card from Saturn. Each time I use it, I can get 15% off parts and labor on service and so this time the whole thing cost me 15% less than usual and saved me about $7.50.

I headed home after that and did a few errands. I was going to head over to the post office, but I ran out of time. It seems that they have processed my change of address so that I have stopped getting mail at the old house. Probably not a big deal since I’ll be at the new place in less than 2 weeks, but it’s still annoying since I specified July 25 as the last date for getting mail.

I drove to Kelly’s and arrived there shortly before 11 AM. I’d wanted to get a new book so we headed over to Barnes & Noble and after a moderate search, I picked up The Count of Monte Cristo. I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction lately and thought it was time for a change. I was attracted to the book for several reason. First, I’ve never read it, but have heard that it’s one of the most thrilling novels ever written (it’s about a jail break and revenge). Second, it’s huge: 1462 pages and by my estimate, over 483,000 words. That isn’t quite the longest book I’ve ever read (Shogun was 537,000 and A History of the American People was just over 500,000 words). I have a strange attraction to long books like this. There were several editions to choose from in the bookstore. I ultimately chose the Modern Library edition, but there was another edition that was compressed to 600 pages and I couldn’t understand how, until I saw it was an “abridged” edition. What a sin!

We went to Hard Times for lunch and I had some excellent chili. Then back to Kelly’s. Later in the afternoon (after a nap), we booked four excursions on our honeymoon cruise, one at each of the ports we’ll be stopping in. We have one more to go (in Jamaica) and will hopefully have that booked soon.

Around 6 PM, we headed out to Reston for Todd’s 40th birthday party. The route took us on the Dulles toll road and I did not have my EZ Pass in the car. Fortunately, we had just enough change for the round-trip journey. The party was fun. The house was on a lake and there were lots of people there, many of whom we knew. We left somewhere around 10 or 10:30 PM.

Friday

I was into work later than usual in order to catch up on the lack of sleep last night. Moderately busy day, a couple of meetings. I headed over to Kelly’s after work. The weather was absolutely gorgeous and we walked over to Harry’s Tap Room for dinner where I had the tequila shrimp dish, for a second time. This time is was far more spicy than the first time. Delicious actually.

After, we walked over to Barnes & Noble where I picked up a copy of The Last Lecture, a much talked about best-seller, and one worthy of it, from what I understand.

Then it was back to Kelly’s. We watched TV for a while, but I got tired sometime around 10 and headed off to bed.

Almanac

I bought an almanac today, my first one since 2003. I purchased the World Almanac 2008. It’s been something I’ve been meaning to do and it just keeps slipping my mind, so today, when I thought of it, a ran across the street to the bookstore and picked one up so that I didn’t forget again.

I love almanacs, packed as they are with all kinds of facts and figures. I usually pour through them when I’m bored, and have idle time to spare. I already scanned this one and there’s some pretty cool stuff within.

America’s most popular book

A recent Harris Poll asked 2,500 adults about their favorite book. It should come as no surprise that people’s number one favorite book is the Bible. Second favorite book seems to vary by demographic, but in the top 10 were J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Stephen King’s The Stand, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, and J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. The poll asked people about their literary pursuits, and there are a number of fascinating things about this list.

As it said, it comes as no surprise that the Bible finished first. I can think of a number of reasons for this: (1) it is by far the most widely printed book available; (2) it is freely available to just about anyone; (3) many people who chose the Bible as their favorite book probably would have chosen another book, but would have felt a certain amount of guilt in doing so because of their upbringing.

What is more interesting is that American’s “literary” pursuits appears to made up entirely of fiction. But not all literature is made up of fiction. The American Heritage Dictionary defines “literature” as “the body of written works of a language, period or culture.” The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word as “literary productions as a whole; the body of writings produced in a particular country or period, or in the world in general.”

While one of the greatest works in the English language (the Bible) tops the list almost more or less by default, no other true classic is to be found on the list. Shakespeare is missing entirely. Gone from the list are the Greek tragedies of Sophocles. And what about Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire? Or Cervantes Don Quixote? Or dozens of other books that have all been considered literature in past generations?

In fact, it is with fascination that I would bet that between thousands of books President Thomas Jefferson read in his lifetime, and the books our leaders read today, only one, the Bible, remains in common. (In fact, I’d guess that few of our leaders can come close to the true “literary” self-education Jefferson gave himself. But these are different times.)

I am not trying to make any kind of statement about the quality of the books that appear on the list. (In fact, I’m just glad Americans are still reading. One wonders sometimes about these things.) What I find interesting is the social context into which reading lists can be placed. It says volumes about a culture what they collectively read. (As it does, what they watch on television.) Thirty years ago, the list would have been very different, although I’m certain that the Bible would still have been number one on the list, as it would have been 210 years ago when Jefferson was still in office.

I do find it interesting that American’s interpreted (or were guided to believe) that literature excludes non-fiction. Even with social changes that have taken place over the decades, I would expected to have seen some non-fiction books on the list. Maybe not Gibbons (although he seems the most likely candidate), but someone. Einstein was popular in his day. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin was also popular. I wonder what the number one non-fiction book would have been if it had been specifically asked for. Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck, perhaps? Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville? I’m pretty sure I could make a good guess.

I bet it would be the Bible.