Wednesday, February 28, 2007

My Hugo Nominations

I listed my Hugo nominees last year, and the world didn't end, so I'm going to do it again this year. The usual caveats apply: I didn't read everything, my tastes are possibly idiosyncratic, and I'm only nominating things I actually did read and like. Once again, I haven't read as much of last year's short fiction before the deadline as I'd wanted to; I've gotten through two-and-a-half SF Year's Bests, which is not as much as I'd hoped for.

The deadline for nominations is March 3rd (midnight, Pacific Standard Time), which is earlier than some years -- and only two days away. If you were a member of L.A. Con IV or are a member of Nippon 2007, I urge you to nominate.

If you can't remember what you read/saw/liked, check out NESFA's Recommendations page, the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2006, Locus's lists of books by editor and by cover artist, and this list of authors eligible for the John W. Campbell Award. (And maybe even my list.) And then go nominate online.

Best Novel:
Scott Lynch, The Lies of Locke Lamora
Charles Stross, Glasshouse
Charles Stross, The Jennifer Morgue
Jo Walton, Farthing
Peter Watts, Blindsight

Best Novella:
Robert Reed, "Good Mountain" (One Million A.D.)
Alastair Reynolds, "Nightingale" (Galactic North)
Charles Stross, "Missile Gap" (One Million A.D.)
Michael Swanwick, "Lord Weary's Empire" (Asimov's)
Robert Charles Wilson, Julian: A Christmas Story (PS Publishing)

Best Novelette:
Gardner Dozois, "Counterfactual" (F&SF)
Michael F. Flynn, "Dawn, and Sunset, and the Colours of the Earth" (Asimov's)
Paul J. McAuley, "Dead Men Walking" (Asimov's)
Alastair Reynolds, "Signal to Noise" (Zima Blue and Other Stories)
Walter Jon Williams, "Incarnation Day" (Escape from Earth)

Best Short Story:
Neil Gaiman, "How to Talk to Girls at Parties" (Fragile Things)
Joe Haldeman, "Expedition, With Recipes"
Michael Swanwick, "Tin Marsh" (Asimov's)

Best Related Book:
Cathy & Arnie Fenner, editors, Spectrum 13
Tom Kidd, Kiddology
Julie Phillips, James Tiptree, Jr.
John Picacio, Cover Story
Bill Willingham and various artists, Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall

Dramatic Presentation, Long Form:

Nanny McPhee
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
V For Vendetta

Dramatic Presentation, Short Form:
no nominations

Best Editor, Short Form:
Gardner Dozois
David G. Hartwell
Stanley Schmidt
Gordon Van Gelder
Sheila Williams

Best Editor, Long Form:
Ellen Asher
Marty Halperin
David G. Hartwell
James Minz
Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Best Professional Artist:
Julie Bell
Jim Burns
Donato Giancola
James Jean
Stephan Martiniere

Best Semiprozine:
The New York Review of Science Fiction

no nominations

Best Fan Writer:
James Nicoll

Fan Artist:
no nominations

John W. Campbell Award (not a Hugo):
Alaya Dawn Johnson
David Keck
Justine Larbalestier
Scott Lynch
Naomi Novik

(Yes, some of those categories say "best" and some don't, but I copied them directly out of the Nippon 2007 Nominating Ballot, so perhaps there is a Reason Behind It.)

OK, those are mine. What are yours?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Clobbered by Hubris

Remember how I gloated that I managed to avoid catching the Boskone Bug? Remember what happens to anyone who gloats about things like that?


I do have to admit that either I'm in the very early throes of something more hideous, or I have a pretty mild case of whatever-this-is. I have no appetite, and am ridiculously cold (ha! as if that would mean anything to a man who's been through heart failure! I was colder than this for much longer back in aught-two) and have so little energy I feel like a Hard SF near-future.

But that's it, so far. I'll probably even go to work tomorrow, less'n I worsen in the night...

Monday, February 26, 2007

Movie Log: The Good Girl

Seeing Friends With Money the other week got me thinking: "Wasn't Jennifer Aniston in some other movie, a couple of years back? Something that actually got good reviews?" The Good Girl was the movie I was thinking of, so The Wife and I saw it last night (yet another thrilling Saturday night date for the old married folks).

This is the one where she's married to John C. Reilly, living in a small Texas town, and has recently turned thirty -- that's about as interesting as her life gets, and it's beginning to bother her. So, when a spectacularly unsuitable young man (Jake Gylenhaal) starts working at the same store she does, she wanders into an affair with him.

This movie is about Aniston's character's choices, so it was was marred a bit for me by the fact that Gyllenhaal's character is clearly nuts; the possible life he offers to Aniston is a mirage (unless she's completely oblivious to his lunacy), so she doesn't have a real, balanced choice. For the movie's sake, I think it would have been stronger if he were a little bit more together -- as it is, he's a caricature of the Tortured Young Artist; so much so, that I started to believe (without the movie giving any specific evidence) that his "writings" were absolutely horrid.

I liked this movie, but I actually would have been more interested to see Gyllenhaal's character pursue a character played by Zooey Deschanel, who works at the same store. They're about the same age and are similarly disaffected. But Deschanel seems much more grounded, or, at least, that she knows what reality is, even if she would prefer to ignore it as much as possible.

This is also, pretty clearly, a whole movie about people finding ways to get through their lives: Reilly and his buddy smoke pot, Gyllenhall is Tortured, Deschanel is dismissive, Aniston is looking for True Love, another store worker is part of a bible study group, and yet another worker at the store talks to Aniston about eating healthy and correct makeup application. The underlying message is that nobody is actually happy with what or who they are, but that they're all trying to live with themselves and their lives. I certainly have days when I feel like that, so I can relate.

Fear Me!

And today's triviality is what I can't avoid calling The Monster Meme, which I picked up from Gwenda Bond:

Abducting Nightmare from the Dreaded Yonder
Get Your Monster Name

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Recently Read: The Meadowlands by Robert Sullivan

I finished this on Friday, but haven't managed to mention it until now. I got this because my bus goes through the Meadowlands (less tactfully, but possibly more realistically, described as "those swamplands around Giants Stadium") every day, and because I've read a couple of Sullivan's books before (Rats and Cross Country) and liked them. So I read this, pretty much entirely on the bus, over three days -- which means I mostly read it in the Meadowlands, sitting in traffic.

Sullivan is a solid non-fiction writer, with an apparent interest in the underbelly of modern urban life (rats, swamps near major cities). I don't think you have to live near the Meadowlands to appreciate a book about them -- they're vaguely interesting because they're right next to a major city, but the fact that the city is New York isn't as important.

Anyway, he covers the usual stuff (where Jimmy Hoffa might be buried, where lots of other bodies have been found, mosquitoes, garbage dumps, and so on), and even took a couple of serious trips by canoe through the area (see the cover). This book pretty much covers anything a normal person would want to know about the Meadowlands. It's a good book for anyone interested in how human habitation affects the natural world, and vice versa.

The Blogroll Has Returned -- Better Than Ever!

What I know about HTML could be engraved on an atom using very large power tools, but I have (finally) managed to return my blogroll to the sidebar. I still wish my section headers were a bit more large and noticeable, but at least the list is back. (It went away when I upgraded to "new Blogger" around Christmas time.)

It's divided into a large number of sections, starting very science-fictionally and gradually wandering off into more general matters. (Which is pretty much the way my mind works these days.)

I keep meaning to do a post (or several) talking about some of the more interesting links there, and I still might do that. But at least the list itself is there.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Advice for New Parents

I wrote this back in 2000, when Thing 1 was just under two years old, as part of a letter to a friend who had just had twins. Most of the notes are originally from The Wife, who scribbled a little list of advice, but I did turn them into actual sentences (and it's hard to remember exactly who had an idea first when you're getting by on two hours of sleep a night, anyway).

I'll pass it on, even though it has nothing to do with most of what I talk about in this blog, in the hopes that someone will find it useful and/or amusing. I have changed the actual name of my firstborn son to "Thing 1" throughout.

I'm posting it today, since Thing 1 was mildly ill last night, which reminded me of the good bad old days.

The list of Things That Worked For Us:
  • Mylacon drops (that’s the brand name – the stuff is called symethicone, but don’t trust my spelling) are taken orally and are great to reduce gas. Thing 1 was very gassy in the beginning, and being able to pass it did wonders for his personality.
  • Get as many free samples of Tylenol, etc. as you can from your doctor. Don’t be shy; take a bunch every time you go. There’ll come a time when it’s 3 AM and you need them…
  • Those hollow-handled medicine dispenser spoons look really good, but they’re impossible to clean and don’t actually work that well. You’ll have to try a few medicine droppers to find one you really like (and then save that one).
  • You won’t need them yet, but Diaper Doublers (I think Chris threw one in here, it’s the thing that looks like an absorbent pad of unknown use) will be very useful in your future. Once the kids are sleeping through the night for the first time, sometimes they start over-wetting and waking themselves up (and changing wet clothes in the middle of the night is not fun). Doublers go in the diaper and absorb a little more.
  • You might already have noticed that lots of the “cute” outfits are a pain to get on and off. We basically went to all “onesies” (undershirts that snap at the crotch), and it was a great thing. You develop an eye for clothes, and ask: can I change a diaper in public in this outfit?
  • We have several sets of sheets and waterproof mattress pads, and found that making the bed in three layers can help a lot. If the baby leaks, you only need to remove one layer, not remake the whole bed.
  • Thing 1 had some trouble sleeping, so we got a noise machine. At first, actually, it was going to be for us, but we both could hear patterns in the white noise, which was very distracting, so we couldn’t sleep. He seems to like it much better. I’m not sure if getting a baby used to a certain noise to sleep with is completely a good thing, but it’s worked so far for us.
  • More useful early on was a teddy bear that made womb noises. Thing 1 was a bit colicky for his first few months, and that helped him sleep. You might already be out of that stage.
  • Thing 1 loved to see what was going on, so both a “bouncy seat” (sling-like baby seat that sits on the floor — good up to six months or so) and a baby jumper (that hangs in doorways — we actually usually attached it to joists in the basement or a tree limb outside) were wonderful. Jumpers are particularly fun: the kid gets a little exercise, can move around a bit, and get to see everything that’s going on.
  • Chris swears by consignment shops; she’s got two that she goes to regularly, and she saves a lot on clothes. (Even more than you might think possible, since she also goes to the Salvation Army, buys clothes at 3 for a dollar, and sells them for store credit at the consignment place.)
  • She also loves outlet stores, particularly Stride-Rite. Some of the outlets are just lower-quality merchandise for practically the same cost, but you can actually get deals on good shoes at Stride-Rite.
  • There’s a note here that says “which diaper using coupons.” I think she means that you should clip all baby-related coupons, even if you don’t use that brand. You’ll end up trading with other parents either while shopping or at playgroups and things like that. (True Fact: we were shopping just Wednesday night and Chris and a woman she’d never met swapped diaper coupons.)
  • Chris also signed up for every single formula company’s promotional programs, and both her mother, my mother, and her sister do the same. So we got lots of formula coupons, lots of free samples. You can usually exchange the brands you don’t use for the ones you want by saying (as Chris did) “my husband got the wrong one.” But you might need to go to a larger number of supermarkets than usual, so they don’t get suspicious. (I’m sure several people at our local A&P think I’m feeble-minded.) Oh, and save receipts on all that stuff — you could suddenly need to switch them to soy formula or something like that, and most stores won’t take back baby products without a receipt (at least around here).
  • Sunshades in the car are very important, especially when the kids are little. I don’t know why Chris thinks you wouldn’t know that, but maybe she was just listing everything.
  • Thing 1 sleeps with one of Chris’s old nightgowns, which he named his night-night. He started doing that during another colicky phase, when nothing could get him to sleep. He fell asleep on our bed, clutching the nightgown, and has slept with it every night since. I’m sure at first it was because it had Chris’s scent on it, so you may want to try something similar with your girls if they’re unhappy or whiny.
  • If they’re getting shots at the doctor’s office, put their clothes back on before the shots. This is very important. Let me repeat that: shots happen to clothed babies.
  • Also give them Tylenol at home (or at the doctor’s office) before the shots — of course after making sure with the doctor that it’s OK. Thing 1 was much happier that way, instead of trying to give him medicine while he’s screaming about the shot.
  • Oh, she also writes “don’t lock kid in car,” but I think everybody does that once. But only once.
  • And, last, she sent you a sample baby lock. I know your girls won’t be up and about yet, but, once they are, you’ll need to baby-proof everything. Luckily, baby-proofing is a slow-motion business, so you can mostly keep ahead of them. First they can crawl, so you can’t leave things on the floor. Then, they start to pull up and open things. And once they start walking (and worse, climbing), everything needs to be tied down or to go into storage.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Quote of the Week

"There's no thief like a bad book."
- Italian proverb

Someone Else Posts Boskone Pictures, I Link To Them -- That's How The Internet Works

I never remember to bring a camera to conventions, so I have to check other people's pictures to refresh my memories. Luckily, other people seem to be less forgetful than I am.

Laura Ann Gilman (aka suricattus) has posted a few pictures from Boskone. Somewhere in that post, cleverly hidden, is a picture of me. But which one is it? Am I the gargoyle towering over Elizabeth Bear? The friendly crustacean? So many choices...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Because It Seems Like I Am Very Rare in This Regard

I went to Boskone last weekend, and am not now debilitated by intestinal distress, nor have I been afflicted with same in the last week. But it looks like a lot of people are down -- anyone have any idea what happened? (This seems to be something other than the usual flu-like creeping con crud.)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Movie Log: Friends With Money

The Wife and I watched Friends With Money Saturday night [that would now be a week ago Saturday -- Ed.]; that's as close to a date as old suburban married couples (with little kids) like us get.

The title is a bit cringe-worthy (look! it's Jennifer Aniston! She used to be on a big TV show! now, what was the name of that show? you know, I just can't remember!)

And, once again, I wrote the above and then left this to sit for a week or so. Now I can't remember much of the movie. I did enjoy it -- it's got a lot of good performances -- but I couldn't say much more than that. (Though the fact that I find three of those four women really attractive -- sorry, Frances, nothing personal -- didn't hurt, I'm sure.)

I do remember talking to The Wife sometime in the middle about how this is the kind of movie I gravitate towards; I like character studies, and low-key looks at relatively real life. As I said to her then, I get way too much plot in the day job; when it comes to movies, I'm looking for other things. (So, if you're looking for lots of plot in a movie, you probably don't want this.)

Reading Into the Past: Week of 2/18

At first I rolled a 12, but I just did 1995 last week, so that was an immediate do-over. Second time was 12 again, but I finally got an 8, so let's hie ourselves back to the pre-millennial year 1999:
  • Ben Stein, Tommy and Me (2/10)
    I intermittently like Stein's non-fiction (more when he's talking about complicated financial dealings or specific factual matters; much less when it's about how wonderful Richard Nixon was or how swell rich people are), but I can still taste this book in the back of my throat nearly a decade later. Stein was, on the evidence of this book, horribly spoiling his only child (the Tommy of the title), and I hope he's stopped. The dichotomy of Ben Stein was probably one thing that shoved me towards being the less-good Republican I am today.
  • Diana Wynne Jones, Deep Secret (2/14)
    I haven't re-read it since then, but it's my favorite Jones novel. It's one of her very rare adult books, which may be one reason. It's about a SF convention, which I'm sure is another. But it's also just an absolutely wonderful book, and that's most of it.
  • Glen Cook, Bleak Seasons (2/15)
    I am that weirdo who started reading the Black Company from the end, and I still haven't read the original trilogy. I liked the four books of this piece of the series; they're gnarly and complicated and just this side of over-reaching. I got through the rest of this sub-series in the next week or two.
  • Jack Vance, The Grey Prince (2/16)
    I don't recall it specifically, but I know I liked it. Some day I need to get systematic with Vance; he's one of my favorite writers, but he did so much, in so many directions, that I'm not really sure what I've read and what I haven't.
  • William Kotzwinkle, The Bear Went Over the Mountain (2/17)
    Kotzwinkle is a weird writer, and I mean that as a compliment. This is probably the least and fluffiest thing in his oeuvre (on the other hand, didn't he do a couple of E.T. novelizations?) -- it's a pseudo-allegory in which a bear finds a manuscript and becomes enmeshed in the modern world in general and publishing in particular.
  • A.R. Melrose, The Pooh Dictionary (2/17)
    I have no clue. (Looks at shelf.) Whad'ya know -- I still have it, and had completely forgotten. It's a guide to the words of Milne's "Pooh" books, and probably should not be read by anyone with diabetic tendencies. I started reading Pooh when I was very tiny, so I'm still able to read the books (and ancillary stuff like this) without wincing, but I know that otherwise I would loathe it.
  • Bill Maudlin's Army (2/18)
    I think this was a reprint of a specific war-time book, and I know that it was a good collection of Mauldin's cartoons.
After that, I finished up the Glen Cook series (as I said) and read Cavellos's The Science of Star Wars (which I recall as trying far too hard to stretch real science to cover Star Warsian plot points, like a naked woman stretching a hankie into a throat-to-floor ball gown through pure will).

A Somewhat Different, Terribly Overcomplicated Book Meme

Edward Champion is to blame.

The instructions:

Look at the list of books below. Bold the ones you’ve read, italicize the ones you want to read, cross out the ones you won’t touch with a 10 foot pole, put a cross (+) in front of the ones on your book shelf, and asterisk (*) the ones you’ve never heard of.

  1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
  2. +Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
  3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
  4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
  5. +The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
  6. +The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
  7. +The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
  8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
  9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
  10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
  11. +Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
  12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
  13. +Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
  14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
  15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
  16. +Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
  17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
  18. The Stand (Stephen King)
  19. +Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
  20. +Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
  21. +The Hobbit (Tolkien)
  22. +The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
  23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
  24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
  25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel) (I read about half of it, and abandoned it because it was terminally boring.)
  26. +The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
  27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
  28. +The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
  29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
  30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
  31. +Dune (Frank Herbert)
  32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
  33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
  34. +1984 (Orwell)
  35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
  36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
  37. *The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
  38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
  39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
  40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
  41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
  42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
  43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
  44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
  45. Bible
  46. +Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
  47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
  48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
  49. +The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
  50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
  51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
  52. +A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
  53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
  54. +Great Expectations (Dickens)
  55. +The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
  56. *The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
  57. +Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
  58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
  59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
  60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
  61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky) (In a really lousy translation, back in high school. I'm not sure that counts.)
  62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
  63. +War and Peace (Tolstoy)
  64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
  65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
  66. +One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
  67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
  68. +Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
  69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
  70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
  71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
  72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
  73. Shogun (James Clavell)
  74. +The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
  75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
  76. +The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
  77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
  78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)
  79. *The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
  80. +Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
  81. *Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
  82. +Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
  83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
  84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
  85. Emma (Jane Austen)
  86. +Watership Down (Richard Adams)
  87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
  88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
  89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
  90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
  91. *In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje) (I've heard of Michael Ondaatje, but not this book, as far as I can remember.)
  92. +Lord of the Flies (Golding)
  93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
  94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
  95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
  96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
  97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
  98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
  99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
  100. +Ulysses (James Joyce)

What a weird, weird list.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Seven Songs That Made This Country Great

A musical meme grabbed from Caitlin Kiernan:

List seven songs you are into right now, no matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they're not any good but they must be songs you're really enjoying now. Post these instructions in your LiveJournal along with your seven songs.

This is not my LiveJournal (even though some of you may be reading this syndicated into Live Journal), but my choices are:
  • "Cortez the Killer" by Matthew Sweet (a live version from the 2nd disc of the recent reissue of Girlfriend)
  • "Rich" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  • "Wake Up" by Teddy Thompson
  • "Feral" by Beth Orton
  • "Does He Love You?" by Rilo Kiley
  • "Sleep of the Just" by The Mendoza Line (from the Elvis Costello tribute album Almost You; also the uncredited version of the same song immediately afterward, in an utterly different style)
  • "Cream and Bastards Rise" by Harvey Danger

Aftermath of the "Summon Author" Spell

(See My Elves Are Different for something like an explanation of "Summon Author.")

Actually, I should be more specific: I didn't manage to summon John Scalzi here, as "Summon Author" is supposed to do, I just induced him to post about me back in his own place. Perhaps what I actually cast was a "Poke Author With a Pointy Stick" spell, which is also very common on the 'net.

Anyway, Scalzi wrote a long it's-not-a-manifesto for the New Comprehensible, though he did specifically refuse to drum anyone out or call for all future SF to be written in New Comprehensibilist mode. (You can't win them all.) I still have hope, though -- you can't have a real literary movement without feuds, fights, and blood on the floor.

Minor Point 1: it was Patrick who said that John had already left the con, and so we could take his name in vain (and plan out his future career for him). Matter of fact, he said it gleefully. Of course, we're clearly not the Towering Editorial Overlords we aspire to be if we're not even sure where our putative puppets are, but perhaps practice will make perfect. (Now I need to find another author to make plans for...)

Minor Point 2: This is unrelated, but I wanted to share another thought I had during the "New Millennium" panel -- Steve Erikson's "Malazan" novels are to epic fantasy what Charles Stross's Accelerando is to Hard SF.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Incoming Books: 19 February

I seem to get to my favorite bookstore, the Montclair Book Center, about every two months. (My last two visits were 12/22 and 10/24 -- and how do I know? because I've saved the receipts on my desk here at home, and I check off the books as I read them.) So it was time to go again today.

Thing 1 came with me, and got random middle volumes of Digimon and Dragon Ball, since that's what they had. (It's a serendipitous shop; going in with specific books in mind is not always useful.)

For myself, I found:
  • About Alice by Calvin Trillin
  • House of Meetings by Martin Amis
  • Lemons Never Lie by Richard Stark
    They actually had a good-sized Hard Case Crime display, which reminded me to get this one. And the first blurb on the back is from "Paul Kavanagh," which is perfect. (Kavanagh is to Lawrence Block as Stark is to Donald Westlake.)
  • The Unbinding by Walter Kirn
    I've read and enjoyed two of Kirn's novels in the past (most recently Thumbsucker), and I remembered the cover of this one from The Book Design Review.
  • The Meadowlands by Robert Sullivan
  • Ode to Kirihito by Osamu Tezuka
    A massive medical-horror manga by the guy best known for Astro Boy. It's a great package, and was blurbed by a lot of interesting people (from Neil Gaiman to Adrian Tomine).
  • Scrum Bums by Darby Conley
    A Get Fuzzy collection
  • Heckuva Job, Bushie! by G.B. Trudeau
    a Doonesbury collection
I'm diving into About Alice tomorrow, and I might actually manage to read all of these in the next couple of weeks, if other things don't jump ahead of them.

Scattered Boskone Thoughts

I forgot to make any notes, so I'm probably forgetting most of what happened, but here's what did sink into my brain:

I drove up on Friday, and stopped for lunch semi-randomly on I-84 -- ending up serendipitously at the Traveler Restaurant (Traveler Food and Books, says the sign), which was not actually visible from the interstate. It has decent American diner-style food (about what you'd expect from the closest restaurant to an interstate exit), but the interesting thing is that the restaurant is lined with bookcases, and diners are encouraged to take up to three free books away with them. (There's also a decent-sized actual used bookstore in the basement, with books that cost money to buy.) I had a fine lunch of fish and chips, and walked out with a trade paperback copy of The Best of Plimpton (by George Plimpton) -- which also is a conversation piece, since the book block evidently went into the binder upside down, and got bound on the right edge. So, if you're driving up I-84 to a book-related gathering, I'd definitely recommend lunching at Traveler.

I arrived at the Westin Waterfront about 3 PM -- it was Boskone's first year in this hotel, but it was also my first Boskone, so I can't compare. The hotel was notably swanky for a SF con, though (with prices in the restaurant and bar to match), though the service in the bar on Friday was shaky, to say the least. (The hotel recently opened, and apparently was still in shakedown-cruise mode.) The hotel is in South Boston, right off I-90 (aka the Mass Pike), near the airport, and otherwise in an industrial wasteland. It was also ridiculously cold, so I was one of many who didn't leave the hotel at all once I got there. (Everyone did express hopes that next year there would be some other restaurants and things in the neighborhood -- and there probably will, since a building boom was evident.)

I checked in, got my various stuff, wandered through the dealer's room once or twice (paused to read a novella in my hotel room -- Jonathan Strahan had delivered Best Short Novels: 2007 earlier in the week, so I had to read through it during the con), and then settled into the bar somewhere between six and seven o'clock. I pretty much stayed in the same place for the next four hours, having something dinner-like with a group including Josepha Sherman and a bunch of artists (Ruth Sanderson, Linda Graves, Elizabeth whose-last-name-I-can't-remember, and intermittently Ruth's daughter). Others dropped in after we ate, including Laura Anne Gilman, Tobias Buckell, Elizabeth Bear, the agent Joshua Bilmes, and at least one other person with the Gilman-Bear axis who I've completely forgotten. If the service were faster than glacial or the waitress somewhat better at understanding colloquial English, it would have been perfect -- the space wasn't too noisy and the couches and chairs were very comfortable.

(Sidebar: this is a great hotel for lounging and chatting; there were clumps of comfy seating all over the place. That's one of the things I look for most in a con hotel, so I like this place a lot.)

Eventually I dragged myself off to the art show reception, where I mostly talked shop with my boss (the uncrowned queen of science fiction, Ellen Asher), and then went to bed.

Saturday dawned cold. Well, every damn day for the last two weeks had dawned cold, too, so that was no surprise. The Starbucks in the lobby had no baked goods that I could see myself eating for breakfast (it was all cookies and such), so I reluctantly had the buffet in the hotel restaurant. (The food was good, but it was still a mistake, as usual -- I always feel like I have to eat enough to make up for the outrageous cost of the meal, and so end up over-full and logy.)

My first panel was on "Neglected Authors," and I'm afraid Greg Feeley hijacked it. His version of it would have been a great panel: his point was that, essentially, panels like this all talk about the same few dead old farts, who have all been republished by NESFA Press by now anyway, so we should look at the recent neglected authors. Unfortunately, none of the rest of us had prepared for that version of the panel, so Greg went on at great length (as he does), and the rest of us spun our wheels, reacted somewhat, and tried to keep up. It was probably better than doing the same old thing one more time, but I wish I'd been prepared for the Feeley Variation.

(In between many of the paragraphs here, you have to mentally picture me plopping down in a chair somewhere -- remember what I said about the comfy chairs? -- reading another novella, and then moving on.)

My second and last panel of Saturday was on Urban Fantasy, and the devastatingly devastating Elizabeth Bear moderated me and Mark Del Franco. (I'm afraid Elizabeth and I dominated most of the time, though I think we let Mark speak up enough, here and there.) I came in with notes, glib rationalizations, and a boundless sense of my own sparkling wit, and I think I didn't do too badly. I put forth my taxonomy of Urban Fantasy, which seemed to be accepted by Elizabeth and at least some elements of the audience. Excellent.

I'm not sure what I did after that, but, around about seven, I found myself wandering aimlessly, hoping to run into someone to have dinner with. As luck would have it, I found Karl Schroeder in exactly the same predicament, so we went to the hotel restaurant and had a nice dinner together. (I hadn't actually sat down and talked with Karl since I met him at the Chicago worldcon, so we had plenty to talk about.)

The evening entertainment involved a playlet about the history of NESFA, which was reasonably entertaining (preceded by a long and tedious filk song, unfortunately -- though, since I find most folk songs long, tedious and dull, I can't say I have a specific antipathy for filk), and then the usual awards. (I was actually sitting next to Mike Walsh, who was named a Fellow of NESFA.)

When I went upstairs to collapse at a still-early hour I discovered that the hotel had stuck me on the party floor. (grumble grumble) I was tired enough to fall asleep quickly anyway, so there was no harm done.

Sunday was a bit weird for me -- I usually bug out of conventions as early on the last day as I can. (And, at least once -- the aforementioned Chicago worldcon -- I rearranged plans to get out a day early because I was sick of being away from home. I'm not that bad these days, but I'm still a hermit and a curmudgeon by nature.) But I was scheduled to moderate a panel at 2, so I had to stick around for that.

I'm glad I did, because it was fun. It was essentially about what the major works, trends, and authors have been of the millennium thus far. (Parenthetically, I will be so glad when people finally stop talking about "the millennium.") Joining me were Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Vincent Docherty. I forget all that we talked about -- though I'm sure it was utterly brilliant and provided a model for all future fantastic literature -- though I did get to unload another one of my attempts to invent some skiffy terminology. (I aspire to be the Boy Clute.) I said that John Scalzi -- who had already left the con and wasn't around to protest his name being used in vain -- should continue on his entry-level SF kick and produce a real manifesto, throwing people out of the movement and creating a posse of "in" writers. In fact, I already have a name for his movement, should he want it: the New Comprehensible. (Patrick was at least humoring me on this topic., for which I have to thank him.)

Immediately after that, I got the hell out of Dodge and drove back home. It was about three and a half hours of driving (four and a half with stops for gas and dinner), which I didn't mind at all. I didn't actually start driving until I was thirty (though I got my license a year earlier than I should have), and this was my longest driving trip to date. So I really enjoyed it -- I've been listening to Bruce Springsteen songs all my life, but now they really make sense.

Today I tried to catch up on stuff, and tomorrow it's back to the SFBC salt mines.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Off to Boskone

I'm shutting down the computer in about two minutes and going outside to warm up the car. If you're in Boston this weekend, maybe I'll see you there. If not, this blog will be on hiatus until Sunday night.

Quote of the Week

"American is a large, friendly dog in a small room. Every time it wags its tail it knocks over a chair."
- Arnold Toynbee

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Incoming Books: 14 February

I haven't been blogging much this week (here, at least; it feels like I've been a fiend over at the SFBC Blog); my new assistant started on Monday, and it's been a busy week at work anyway, so I haven't had much time.

And I'm running off to Boskone tomorrow morning: there won't be any blogging until (maybe) late on Sunday. So I'm trying to do a couple of posts tonight, to have a little something here for those long, cold winter nights.

And, of course, I went to the comics shop yesterday (yes, on my way home from work, during the snowstorm, on Valentine's Day -- I was betting that it wouldn't be that busy, and I was right), and I'm compulsive about these things.

For Thing 1, I got the second volume of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, a manga series based on the video game, and one other digest-sized book for the pile of stuff he gets on odd occasions.

For myself, I got:
  • Hellboy Animated: The Black Wedding, after much debate. I finally decided in its favor because I do like Hellboy (though not brand extensions) and it was cheap.
  • The Grave Robber's Daughter by Richard Sala, which I thought was supposed to have been out the last time I went to the comics shop
  • Doom Patrol, Vol. 5: Magic Bus by Grant Morrison and various artists -- this still isn't the end of his early-'90s run on the comic, which I'd thought wasn't this long. Shows how good my memory is.
  • The Legend of Grimjack, Vol. 6 by Ostrander and Mandrake (the cover still says "Truman," but all he did is the new cover) -- as I recall, Mandrake was a great artist for this series and stayed a while. (He and Ostrander have worked together well for long periods several times -- their Spectre comic was also pretty good.)
  • Big Baby by Charles Burns -- I might have these stories already, in some form, but I like the new unified Burns collections, and I'm willing to pay money for 'em.
And now my stack of comic-book stuff is getting too tall again; I'd better start reading some of it.

Reading Into the Past: Week of 2/11

If I actually do this quickly, it will be two weeks in a row, for the first time in about six months, so let's dive right in to the books I was reading this week in 1995:
  • Guy Gavriel Kay, The Lions of Al-Rassan
    The first Kay book I read -- I still haven't read much of his stuff, though I've got a shelf of it -- and the discussion at the SFBC was whether it was "fantasy enough". (There is one, very minor, magical element.) It wasn't enough then, but it would probably be enough now; odd how things like that can change.
  • Larry Niven, Flatlander
    A book I'd completely forgotten that I ever read. Is this the Beowulf Schaffer stories? {checks} Nope, that's Crashlander (easy mistake). This one has all the "Gil the ARM" stories. They're vaguely coming back to me know -- I think I mostly liked them, but thought they were too gimmicky.
  • Justin Kaplan, Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain
    It's supposedly the biography of Samuel Clemens, but it deliberately avoids covering any of the periods of Clemens's life that he wrote about himself (so it basically starts with him as a newish writer). It's well-written, but I still think Kaplan completely copped out of the job of a biographer. (And writers' childhoods are usually the most interesting parts of their biographies, anyway.)
  • Isaiah Berlin, The Crooked Timber of Mankind
    A collection of essays that made me feel smarter. I'm starting to feel dumb again, so I probably need a Berlin booster shot soon.
  • Nancy A. Collins, Paint It Black
    One of the "Sonja Blue" vampire novels. I thought they were fine, if a bit predictable. Haven't heard much from Collins this past decade; I suspect the last horror crash hurt her career. (And being published by White Wolf probably didn't help, either, he said cattily.)
  • John Harvey, Living Proof
    A middle book in a very good British police procedural series; I started somewhere in the middle myself and never quite made it back to the beginning, so I think you can start anywhere with these books. Harvey is also a poet, which shows in his control of language. When I had the time to read more mysteries, this was one of my favorite series.
  • Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon, The White Gryphon
    A minor middle Valdemar book, back when those were my major guilty pleasure. (I was reading them for work, yes, but that didn't make it less guilty.) This "Gryphon" trilogy was, as I recall, awfully fluffy, but they were quite pleasant to read. (And this was before we got several chapters of building-the-magical-medieval-jacuzzi in every book, a few years later. I never minded reading any of these books, but sometimes the plot seemed to disappear for half a book at a time...)
Right after that, I dove into a re-read of Wolfe's "The Book of the New Sun" (starting with The Castle of the Otter for no reason I can see).

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Movie Log: Mystery Men

I managed to avoid watching the only movie made from a Bob Burden creation for eight years, but I finally gave in and saw it this weekend. Mystery Men isn't as Burden-esque as it should have been, but it's not as bad as I was afraid it was. It's a dumb late-'90s superhero movie, with a bit too much of a debt to Batman Forever (especially in the production design and swooshy camera moves), but it's entertaining enough on its own.

Well, I might not be quite hard enough on it: if it had no connection with Burden, it would have been a decent dumb superhero movie, but, given what it should have been, it's a real disappointment. The biggest difference: Burden's Mystery Men aren't losers, or bad at what they do -- they're loud-mouthed working-class superheroes, who protect the grimy old industrial towns. Oh, and Burden's Mystery Men use guns a lot -- it's the villains who use bizarre not-always-lethal devices. (Well, except for Screwball, of course.) This movie manages to get the names right and everything else wrong; everything that could have made this distinctive and interesting is missing.

I think I'd only recommend this to people who haven't read Bob Burden's great comics...and, even then, I'd recommend Burden above this thing any day of the week.

Another Cartoon Question

In this Mike Luckovich editorial cartoon, are we supposed to believe:

a) that this bomb is the living embodiment of Irony, or

b) that Luckovich, undoubtedly working against a tight deadline, misspelled the name of the country of Iran?

Inquiring minds want to know...

It Must Be Mine!

OK, so I don't have anywhere in my house to put a gigantic Lego Millennium Falcon, and I probably don't have the time to build a 5,000-piece set, and I certainly can't justify spending $500 on it.

But I wants it, my precious, I wants it!

It's built exactly to minifigure scale! How cool is that?

I wonder if there are several "rooms" inside the back? The Lego site only shows the figs near the ramp or in the cockpit...

Monday, February 12, 2007

Happy Darwin's Day!

I wasn't going to do anything for Darwin Day, but I saw this great image at Velcro City Tourist Board and I had to steal it.

I am proud to be in the Darwin posse, in my own tiny way.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Just Read: The Lemon Table by Julian Barnes

I finished this on Thursday, but haven't managed to have anything but "blah blah" in this post since then. (I usually set up drafts with "blah blah" or something similar, to remind me to actually do a post.)

This is a collection of stories, linked thematically, by a noted literary writer. I've been reading Barnes for about a decade, I think -- as I recall, I started with A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters (which is brilliant, and still the best introduction to his work). He probably looks very non-skiffy, especially at this point, but History has a pseudo-SFnal organizing conceit, England, England is a near-future satire, and Staring at the Sun covers a hundred years and ends about thirty years in the future from when it was written. (Of course, practically any literary figure these days has similar genre-like exercises in his CV, so that doesn't mean much -- except that the literary world doesn't hate and fear SFnal ideas, as some people keep claiming.)

Anyway, this book is pretty anti-skiffy. It contains eleven stories, all of which are about aging, death, lost loves, and similar cheery topics. Most of the people who read this blog will probably be completely uninterested in it, but I quite like Barnes's writing and his people. (With any luck, I'll get to his most recent novel, Arthur and George, this year before he publishes another book, and I can get caught up.)

Your Bad Idea of the Week

Spider-Man has...radioactive sperm!

Organic web-shooters don't seem so bad now, do they?

A Question Which Will Probably Make Me Look Like an Idiot

Does this M. John Harrison blog post make anyone else's head hurt?

He seems to be writing about things I'm interested in, but...I keep thinking there's a verb missing, which would bring the whole thing into focus, but I just don't get it.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Quote of the Week

"In the first place God made idiots; this was for practice; then he made school boards."
- Mark Twain

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Incoming Books, Junior Division: 1/8

Thing 1 gets to go to the bookfair with his class tomorrow (and The Wife will give him some money to spend then ); Thing 2 went with his class today and got a book. And, of course, last night was family night for our end of the alphabet; I've already blogged about that.

So here's what they got:
  • For Thing 1 last night, Pokemon Top 10 Handbook and Pajo's Unofficial Yu-Gi-Oh! GX Duel Academy Trainer's Guide 2007 (whew! I think I got all of the bits of that title, and in the right order). You know how people say that boys tend to read non-fiction rather than fiction, and are "information-seekers" rather than lovers of story? Well, I can't say one data-point proves anything, but it's sure true of my older son.
  • They both got to look at the flyer before we went, and Thing 2 really wanted There Was An Old Woman Who Swallowed a Shell! (by Lucille Colandro, illustrated by Jared Lee) -- and so we got it. It's a modern, "PC" retelling of you-know-what. It's funny, and the art is fun (looks like watercolor over pen-and-ink). But I have to admit I look askance at what I think is the reason for doing it -- I like the original poem, which has bite, is also quite funny, and is just fine for kids.
  • What Are You So Grumpy About? by Tom Lichtenheld. We'd borrowed this from the library, and loved it then, so we were thrilled to see it really cheap at the bookfair. This is another one of those great books with lots of little things going on around the edges, and its very very funny. (It's also a catalogue of reasons a kid might have to be grumpy, as well as being a sly way to push that kid out of grumpiness.) I recommend this one highly: unless your kids are pure Polyannas, they'll see themselves in this, and enjoy it a lot. (The image up top is from the back cover -- in case you're wondering, the "warning inside" reads: "If you're grumpy too long, a little birdie will come sit on your lip." That's on the title page, with a great close-up illustration of lip and birdie.)
  • Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel. We bought this book barely twenty-four hours ago, and The Wife or I have read it to the boys, in whole or in part, at least five times. This is partially an alphabet book (there are four separate alphabetical lists), and partially the story of a cat who doesn't get what she wants, and so goes on the rampage. If you have a crazy cat, as we do, this will resonate.
  • Hi! Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold. I think I've mentioned Arnold before; he did the great Parts/More Parts/Even More Parts books. This is a first reader about a boy and his pet fly -- we already own one other book in the series, and had read this one from the library. (In fact, we might actually have another copy of this book somewhere.)
  • Meggie Moon by Elizabeth Baguley, illustrated by Gregoire Mabire. This was Thing 1's purchase at school today -- it's pleasant but a tad didactic, in the "isn't imagination swell?" vein. A girl comes to a junk-filled vacant lot, and the two boys who hang out there at first don't like her, but, when she builds neat things, they come to look up to her. I don't have anything against socially constructive lessons in my kids' books, but this one is a bit blatant. (And wordy.) Still, it's a fun read.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Bedtime Reading: 1/7

With the recent end of Book-A-Day, I'm finding I don't have my automatic post per day, either. I like the discipline of posting every day, though, so I intend to do that if at all possible.

One way to fill that gnawing void is to write more about kids' books, which I've said I wanted to do more often several times now. So I'll resurrect the "Bedtime Reading" title, and try to write about four or so kids books about once a week. (I did Bedtime Reading at least once before.)

For parallax: I have two sons (Thing 1 and Thing 2). Thing 1 will be nine in just over a month (on St. Patrick's Day, actually), and Thing 2 turned six two days after Christmas. At bedtime, Thing 1 sometimes joins us, but usually reads by himself in his room (mostly comics of one kind or another, usually manga). Thing 2 and I read on his bed; I read somewhere between one and four books (depending on how long they are), and then, at least part of the time, he reads to me from his cut-out-and-folded books from school.

So I have two very boyish boys, and the books they like tend to reflect that. (Although they're both big ol' softies, as well.)

I remember "Bedtime Reading" because today was the Scholastic Book Fair at their school, and we got back from that just before bedtime with six books (two for Thing 1, four cheaper ones for Thing 2). I might list those tomorrow, but I couldn't get them away from the boys tonight.

Anyway, for this edition, I have four books:
  • Cowboy Small by Lois Lenski
    I wrote about the "Mr. Small" books in one of my earlier posts, but I'll mention them again. Lenski wrote these books over a nearly thirty-year period, starting in the early '30s, so they're a little outdated -- though, my boys have never noticed or said anything about that, and they've liked them all. This one is probably my favorite: it's so post-war cowboy boom that it's not funny, which I find entertaining, and the mix of words and pictures is just about perfect. Boys don't generally think about wanting to grow up and be cowboys, these days, but my guys liked this book. (They're getting a bit old for this series now; I think it's best for pre-schoolers.)

  • Wacky Wednesday by "Theo. LeSieg" (Dr. Seuss) and illustrated by George Booth
    Yes, the New Yorker cartoonist Booth; there are several of his inimitable dogs in here. Thing 2 loves this book: we got it from the library several times, and he bought his own copy last weekend when we went to a B&N to spend one of their Christmas presents (a gift card each). In this book, our young hero notices weird things happening, and they increase and increase as the book goes on -- the reader has to find and count them all. As I said, my younger son loves this: it combines counting, Where's Waldo, and young kids' sense of humor very well.

Hotshots! by Chris Demarest
  • This is a large-size book about fire-fighters in the Western scrub country (where fighting wildfires is as much about digging as it is about spraying water), which is probably designed for pre-schoolers. Demarest has done several books in this vein -- Smokejumpers One To Ten is a counting book, and Firefighters A-Z is an alphabet book, and there's another one about rescue swimmers that I forget the title of -- but this one was the boys' favorite. Demarest's art is interestingly textural -- it looks like colored crayons on textured paper -- and shades a bit into impressionism at times. (I tend to prefer kids' book art that isn't purely photo-realistic; I want art that looks like art, where you can see some life in it.)
  • Science Verse by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith
    Thing 2 had me read this collection of poems about science to him every night last week, and found it hilarious nearly every time. Since I think most people reading this have an interest in science (though SF, at least), I expect this is a book those of you with kids would really want to have. It covers, humorously, a whole lot of science topics, but you the adult reader should know at least a sketch of the real science behind the jokes (and the precursors of the poetry, preferably). I can't recommend this highly enough: it's incredibly funny and entertaining, with wonderfully quirky, expressive art, and actually teaches kids as it goes. Science Verse was the follow-up to Math Curse, and was followed in its turn by Seen Art?, both of which my boys also love. (They keep asking when there's going to be another one...)
  • Tuesday, February 06, 2007

    I Love Deadlines. I Love The Whooshing Sound They Make...

    I keep intending to enter the New Yorker's weekly cartoon caption contest, but I always forget to actually enter my ideas by the Sunday night deadline. Today I pulled out last week's New Yorker while waiting on my bus line, and realized I'd scribbled down nearly a dozen caption ideas for this cartoon, and had completely neglected to do anything about it.

    Well, thinks I (in bad grammar, natch), I do have a blog, so I can share these attempts at humor with the world at large. And so I shall. Feel free to mock my feeble humor-making; I can take it.
    • "Can't you at least pretend to be having a passionate affair?"
    • "I'm sorry, those nail clippers have just been recalled."
    • "Call me Ishmael. Some years ago -- never mind how long precisely..."
    • "My wife! My uncle! My nail clippers!"
    • "But have you really considered the merits of an excellent set of encyclopedias?"
    • "So this is what you do all day when I'm at work!?"
    • "Honey, it's no fun catching you when your affairs are this boring."
    • "I'm sorry, I thought this was 14736 Maple Street."
    • "Mom, Dad, I have an announcement: I'm running away to accountancy school."
    • "As I was saying before, life insurance is the most important purchase you can make."

    Read Today: Why Things Break by Mark E. Eberhart

    I read this hoping for another writer like Henry Petroski, and was slightly disappointed. Eberhart has an MIT Ph.D. in materials science and teaches and researches in various areas of chemistry at the Colorado School of Mines. This book is one-half an abbreviated professional memoir (mostly starting as he was thinking about grad school) and one-half a semi-popular account of his own research into fragility.

    I was hoping for a somewhat broader book, one which was not so focused on one person's life and career. It was interesting, and I enjoyed reading it, but it wasn't quite what I thought it would be.

    Movie Log: Wordplay

    I saw Wordplay sometime last week (Wednesday?) and it's already getting hazy in my mind. It's a pleasant documentary about crossword puzzles, concentrating on Will Shortz (New York Times puzzle editor) and an annual puzzle competition he runs at a Connecticut hotel.

    The one thing I kept expecting someone to mention, but no one ever did, was the difference between American-style and British-style crosswords. Maybe British-style puzzles are little-known over here, but failing even to mention the great divide made the movie seem very parochial to me.

    It is a nice, light documentary, but anyone who wants to see it should know that all of those famous people on the box cover (and a few more) only show up for a scene or two each -- the movie is about lesser-known folks competing at the aforementioned competition. I didn't mind that at all, but in today's celebrity-crazed culture, I'm sure there are people who will be suicidally depressed that we only see Jon Stewart three or four times in his office.