Tag Archives: books

Sunday Morning, On the New Deck

Among the many little advantages to the new house is the deck. The deck overlooks the backyard, which slopes down into the local park—the same park our kids have been going to for ten years now. A deck wasn’t on our list of must-haves, but ever since putting the offer on the house, I’ve imagined sitting out there on Sunday morning, reading the papers.

This morning, after our youngest woke us up around 6 am, I took advantage of the unexpected wake up call to do just that: I went out onto the deck and spent nearly an hour and a half reading the Washington Post, listing to the birds, and watching the joggers and bikers descend into the park.

A picture from the new deck
A picture form the new deck this morning.

For some reason, it made reading the newspaper that much more enjoyable. I found several new books to read. Among them, Ballpark, Baseball in the American City by Paul Golderberger, and Ten Innings at Wrigley by Kevin Cook—a rare instance in which a review in the paper convinced me to add books to my reading list. Tony Horwitz, who recently died unexpectedly, has a new book out. I enjoyed reading Blue Latitudes when it came out, and have added his new book, Spying on the South: An Odyssey Across the American Divide to my list.

Sitting on the deck and reading the Sunday papers may seem like a small thing. But given how hectic life has been lately, with house-hunting, packing, moving, unpacking, all on top of our normal jobs and chores, the quiet comfort of sitting out there made me feel good.It didn’t go unnoticed. When I came in to make some eggs, the Little Miss, noting my cheerful demeanor, said, “Daddy, you sure seem in a good mood this morning.” (Maybe I haven’t been a good mood lately?) I was, despite being awakened earlier than I would have liked. And I think it was due in large part to that hour out on the new deck.

New books!

Came home to some new books in the mail today.  First off, one of two rare Isaac Asimov books that were not already in my Asimov collection,  Our Federal Union: The United States from 1816 to 1865.

Next on the list is Alastair Reynolds’ first novel Revelation Space.  I saw this book on a must-read list and I’ve never read anything by Reynolds besides some of his short fiction.  I figured I’d give it a try.  It wasn’t available on the Kindle so it arrived in today’s mail.

Finally (and also not available on the Kindle) is physicist Steven Weinberg’s latest, Lake Views: this world and the universe, a collection of essays.  (Pictured.)  I’ve never read anything by Steven Weinberg before, but the review for the book in the February 2010 issue of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN made it sound like a fascinating read.

At present I’m making my way through Connie Willis’ intriguing novel, Blackout, to say nothing of two issues of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN and two issues of NEW SCIENTIST.

Some cool things in my book collection

Getting the office setup and organized, and purging some books reminded me of some of the cool things I have in my collection. I’ve picked out a few of these things to highlight below.

I’ve got nearly 200 Isaac Asimov books, including some rare books and 3 signed books. Among some of the rare books, are four of his five "annotations". Here’s a picture of three of those books, Asimov’s Annotated Don Juan, Asimov’s Annotated Gilbert & Sullivan, and the Annotated Gulliver’s Travels. (The fourth one, not pictured, is Familiar Poems, Annotated.) The only one I’m missing is the Asimov’s Annotated Paradise Lost. These are all first editions:

I have three books signed by Asimov: a hardcover edition of In Joy Still Felt, an old paperback copy of The Caves of Steel, and this first edition of Murder at the ABA:

I have a number of friends who have had books published and who have been kind enough to sign copies of their books for me. Here are a few of them:

First, there is Michael A. Burstein’s () excellent collection of short fiction, I Remember the Future, nestled comfortably between William Burrows’s This New Ocean and Italo Calvino’s, If On a Winter’s Night, A Traveler…

Then there is David B. Coe’s first novel, Children of Amarid, between John Clute’s Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Michael Collins’ Carrying the Fire.

And then there is Edmund Schubert’s novel, Dreaming Creek, nestled between Healer’s War and an anthology of science fiction from ANALOG. Edmund is the editor of Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, and he bought and published my first story, "When I Kissed the Learned Astronomer".

I am a huge Barry Malzberg fan and have many of his books, both paperback and hardcovers, first editions when I could get them. Here’s what I mean:

I met Barry at Readercon 2008 and he was very kind to me there. He signed two of my favorite books of his, Herovit’s World and Beyond Apollo, both first editions:

Robert J. Sawyer (author of the book for which the ABC series FLASH FORWARD is based) was so cool to me at RavenCon in 2007. At the time, his novel Rollback had just come out and when he signed it for me, he signed to me as a "fellow writer":

Children’s author, songwriter and performer Barry Louis Polisar was my land lord for 6 years when I lived in Maryland. During that time, he signed one of his many books for me. He is a great guy, a real mensch:

And then there are the magazines. Here is just a sampling, beginning with my complete collection of SCIENCE FICTION AGE, edited by Scott Edelman () between 1992-2000. To this day, I believe it was the best all-around science fiction magazine ever produced.

The first time I met Scott in person, at Capclave 2007, he was kind enough to sign the premier issue for me. That issue is pictured below, along side the January 1993 issue of the magazine which contains Bill Shunn’s () story, "Two Paths in the Forest Toulemonde," which I consider to be the best fantasy story that ever appeared in that magazine. Bill was kind enough to sign that issue for me when I met him in person at Balticon 2007.

There’s more, like the May 1950 issue of ASTOUNDING, which contains L. Ron Hubbard’s original Dianetics essay. Or the August 1945 issue of ASTOUNDING containing A. E. Van Vogt’s "World of A". But I’ll leave you with the image of my complete 1924 edition of H. G. Well’s Outlines of History:

There’s more interesting stuff, but I’ll save it for another time.  And just one note, in case anyone asks:  I’m not interested in selling any of it!

Busy lately?

So here’s the deal:  We moved.

This move culminates a series of (wonderful) events that have taken up the better part of the last two years.  Now that the move is over the unpacking has begun and this takes time and meanwhile, the house is in a fair amount of disarray.  I don’t work too well in disarrary and so we are working hard to get things unpacked in proper array.  This includes the office.

The office/library is a pretty large room and once it is completely unpacked and organized, it will be a wonderful room.  Bookshelves line the wall, filled with something on the order of 1,200 books and old magazines, including rare signed books, rare editions, and a complete collection of SCIENCE FICTION AGE magazines.  Unpacking and then organizing those books in the proper order on the shelves is a slow and complicated process.  In an ideal world, I would arrange the books alphabetically by author, and then chronologically within each author.  However, given limited shelf space, this isn’t currently practical and the best that I can do is alphabetically by author.  To do this, all of the books must be unpacked and then arranged around the room in roughly alphabetical order.  Once that is done, I can start loading up the shelves, using my LibraryThing collection to help guide me along the way.  In an ideal world, I would get the books on the shelves and the office completed this weekend.  For three reasons:

  1. It would be nice to have it done.
  2. I’d like to use the office in the early mornings next week to complete a short story by Halloween.
  3. NaNoWriMo!

Meanwhile, there are still other things to do.  I’ve anchored to the wall 4 of the 7 bookshelves in the office.  This is to ensure that when Zach is old enough to roam around and pull on things, he doesn’t pull a bookshelf down on top of himself.  (Incidentally, I did this the right way:  I got some corner mounts, pieces of metal bent at a right angle with a screw going into each end.  I used a stud-finder (jokes welcome) to align the mounts to a stud and then drilled a small hole in the wall (and the top of each bookcase–though it pained me to do so) and screwed the mounts tight.) 

Since we have an eat-in kitchen, we’ve converted our dining room to a kind of TV sitting room.  We removed the chandelier and put in a light that makes the room look less like a dining room.  We put a new 27" Vizio HD TV in there (the big TV is down in the family room).  Still, the room can use a little work.  As can the kitchen.  And don’t get me started on the guest room, which is a complete mess at this point.  And I still have to put the grill together, although I agree with strausmouse about grilling between November and April on the east coast.  We have to mount all of the art work on the wall–which in turn will clear out space in one of our storage closets to put our bicycles.

And in between all of this there is a baby to take care of, a wife’s birthday coming up (tomorrow!!), Game 6 of the ALCS (and ultimately a Yankees/Phillies World Series), finally finishing the Stephen King novel that I’ve been reading for the last month, and of course my day job.

So yeah, things have been busy lately, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel that I can just barely see.  But it is getting closer and closer…

Good meals

I’m sequestering myself in the office this week in order to complete some training material for a 3-day train-the-trainer session I’ll be leading in mid-March.  I started the work morning off by putting together my annual self-appraisal.  With the exception of one meeting, I spent the rest of the day working on the training stuff, and I’m pretty happy with my progress.

After work, Kelly headed to the gym and I prepared dinner.  Tonight I made strausmouse ‘s recipe for tofu lettuce wraps.  They turned out pretty good.  Kelly liked it and wished that I had made more.  As I side dish, I made a kind of cucumber dill salad that also came from strausmouse .  Kelly really liked that one.

Spoke with he11o_sunshine  earlier today.  I returned a library book, and picked one up that I had on hold.  That one is for Kelly’s book club.  I received the books I ordered from Amazon today:  Ray Bradbury’s We’ll Always Have Paris, and Nancy Kress’ Steal Across the Sky.  The Kress book is next after I finish up The Way the Future Was, which will likely be tonight.

Chest and back strength workout tomorrow morning.

My book catalog is on LibraryThing!

This is related to the consolidation process from last week.  I’ve finally got the bulk of my book catalog loaded into LibraryThing.  I’m still in the process of tagging and cleaning up the entries that are there, but with the exception of some really new books I’ve acquired, and a few still packed away in boxes, the bulk of my collection is now uploaded.

And here are a few canned queries I put together:

I you are on LibraryThing, please feel free to friend me.


Last night, I completed my 400th book since January 1, 1996, finishing off The Hard SF Renaissance.  I’ll have a summary of this later on (and on goodreads).  Shortly before going to bed, I started up on book #401, Gardner Dozois’ The Best of the Best: 20 Years of the Year’s Best Science Fiction.

400 books in 14 years seems like a lot, but it averages a mere 28 books per year, which is just over half of what I was aiming for when I started this out, way back when.  Still, I should be very satisfied.  There are people out there who probably don’t read 400 books in a lifetime.

New Year’s Day

We had a quiet day yesterday.  It was cold in the metro D.C. area, with temperatures in the 20s.  We went shopping in the morning.  First to Old Navy for Kelly to get some maternity clothes, then to Target, where she got more maternity clothes, and where we picked up a few other items.  Fromthere we headed to Barnes & Noble where I got a couple of new books:  The New Space Opera and The Best of the Best: 20 Years of the Years Best Science Fiction, both edited by Gardner Dozois.  While browsing around in Sport’s Authority, we ran into Sarah and Mike.  Finally, there was a quick stop at the grocery store and we headed home.  I was starving and made a massively tall sandwich for lunch.  After lunch, we played Lego Star Wars for a while–until I felt dizzy from the motion on the screen, something that’s happened to me once before a long time ago.

I napped for about an hour and a half and then spent some time reading more of The Hard SF Renaissance.  I had hoped to finish this up in 2008, but didn’t make it.  I’m close to 2/3rds of the way through the book and I enjoyed the Greg Egan story I read yesterday.  I’ll post a short summary about what I’ve read so far soon.

I watched a few more episodes of Battlestar Galactica in the evening, and then it was lights out at 10 PM.  Kelly works from home today so I headed into the office a little early this morning.

I didn’t get any writing done yesterday, but I cut myself a little slack.  I do have to work today, although I suspect it will be dead here.  Snow is expected although I don’t think it will be much.  I plan on getting back to regular writing and workouts in earnest next week, although I am hoping to get some writing in before then.  As for the workouts, I have been a real slacker, and it shows.  I am at my peak weight, and I constantly feel it.  I’ve been steadily working my way back to a healthy diet, and plan on starting the workouts up at a simple level, rather than trying to start where I left off.

I don’t have specific New Year’s resolutions.  Aside from the arbitrariness of them, it’s hard to plan your year when you are expecting your first child halfway through.  We really have no idea how that will affect even the simplest things, like going to the gym.  I would say this:

  • I’d like to aim for 5.2 million words read this year
  • I’d like to complete the novel I’m working on and get it submitted to one place
  • I’d like to write at least 3 short stories
  • I’d like to sell at least 1 short story

Stay tuned…

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.