Book Reviews: Post-Thanksgiving

Britannia Volume 3: Lost Eagles of Rome
Having moderately enjoyed the previous two entries in this graphic novel series, I wasn’t against continuing it, as just the idea of a detective in Roman times is pretty awesome. This time he’s searching for the army standards that were lost in battle against early Germans. He’s also got a female sidekick he’s hot for but won’t take advantage of, despite the fact she makes it pretty obvious she’d welcome it.
With so little real estate on each page it’s tough to show detailed detective work, but what there is, is fascinating, especially from a historical perspective.
Storywise, I find it humorous that he’s probably the smartest person in at least Rome if not further, and yet so naïve at the same time. Just about every move he made was the right one at the moment but wrong in the big picture, and he doesn’t get it until it’s told to him. Hopefully by the time the next volume comes out I’ll have forgotten how bad he screwed up so I won’t pity/disrespect him, which otherwise makes him pretty useless.
The art is pretty standard, complimenting the story but not enhancing it.
3/5

Dictionary of Dinosaurs
Colorful though not realistic drawings—some even look art deco—of dinosaurs dominate the pages, with plenty of information and graphics strewn about in the area still available.
Pronunciation, English translation, size—with a human next to it for comparison—when and where it lived, and diet are all included on each page. And it really is a dictionary, with the entries in alphabetical order.
As it turns out, very few of the lizards get drawings; I assume there’s not enough known about most of them to illustrate them accurately.
Alvarezsaurus is certainly one of the strangest looking, though we can figure out how it was named.
Ankylosaurus would look cute and cuddly if it wasn’t for all those spikes.
Bambiraptor does not mean what you think it means.
There’s quite a few variations on the old triceratops.
Giraffatitan’s name speaks for itself.
Ornithomimus doesn’t live up to its grandiose name.
Oviraptor plunders the same things I do.
Pachirhinosaurus sounds badass, but it’s hard to take it seriously when its head looks like a South Pacific god head.
Hmmm, come to think of it, I learned a lot about dinosaurs. . .
3.5/5

Turned On: Science, Sex and Robots
Just like there’s a site for everything on the web, there’s a doctoral dissertation for everything in the libraries of academia, or at least in the sometimes-fertile imagination of grad students. Here’s the proof, a book about sex robots, though the author would kill me if she saw me writing it so simply.
Right away in the intro there’s humor and self-awareness, which is a good harbinger. Actually, the title starts that with a pretty good pun. From there it delves into the ancient history of dildos and vibrators. Not sure what this has to do with the topic, but it’s fun, at least for a while.
As much as I’m enjoying the writing, I’m a third of the way through and the author seems to have forgotten what the book is supposed to be about in her fervor to provide historical perspective.
Getting through this becomes so tough I long for the humorous interludes, my fave being her running a conference amidst accusations of “bouncing.” Every once in a while she’ll sneak in a line like “I watch sex doll porn so you won’t have to,” and it reminds me why I keep reading till the end.
Despite the humor and conversational style, it really is more like a scientific report than anything else. I learned a lot of things, but not so many on the topic. But the important takeaway is that, even if it felt long at times, I enjoyed reading it.
3.5/5

Space Police: Attack of the Mammary Clans
A British police inspector—of which there seem to be thousands today—wakes up from cryo to find himself on an orbiting space station above Earth, with only one leg. There’s some mention of how he lost it, presumably in a previous book, but nothing on why they took his cryo tube or whatever it is from Earth to the space station. Seems like an excuse to have a contemporary detective move into science fiction.
Right from the start it’s trying really hard to be Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. The scene with the microwave is right out of Red Dwarf. {Do I know sci-fi comedy or what?}
Though I’ve traveled through Great Britain a lot, there’s a bunch of Britishisms I’m not getting.
I wish that there was at least one character that isn’t a complete idiot, and that goes for the protagonist as well. Sigh.
This was more silly than funny, not much different than others I’ve read in this genre, except in space.
2.5/5

;o)

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Travel Thursday Encore–How to mix pleasure with business–Seattle 05, Day 3, Part 3

Back on the ground, thankfully, I crossed the street to wait for the bus, the surroundings making me feel like I was standing at the edge of some rural town, waiting to go to the next little village. Yet another place in Seattle with a small town feel. On the ride we passed many of my old haunts, like the Washington Park Arboretum, where I took my famous shot of Husky Stadium through the reeds, and the Museum of History and Industry, where I bought a four-way chess set that I think I’ve still never used. Still had plenty of time, so I stayed on the bus till I got to the Ave on the west side and then walked through campus, always a lovely stroll, though not as awesome as the leaf-turning walk during football, or in my case, volleyball and soccer season.

Seattle, Space Needle, lake

Seattle, lake, boat

Seattle, Husky Stadium, botanical gardens, reeds, U Dub, University of Washington

Seattle, mountain, fountain, U Dub, University of Washington

I started coming to Seattle as a kid, and the first time someone mentioned “U Dub” to me, I had no idea what they were talking about. I guess in context to the rest of the sentence it’s easy to see they were referring to the university, but I still wondered why it was called that, until it finally came to me that it must be short for UW–as in “U DoubleU.” Which officially makes everyone here lazier than me, if they can’t pronounce a full letter. Did you know “The Wave” was invented here at Husky Stadium? Almost as good as the tidbit about some local PR guy inventing the “happy face” icon in the 60s.
Finally I had only Montlake to cross, and there was that bridge where I’ve had many a conversation–not exactly the Ponte Vecchio or the Rialto, but fun anyways. Going between the football and basketball–or volleyball–stadiums, I was finally at Husky Softball Stadium, hungry and anticipating a good game.
Which I didn’t get. Not only was getting any food I liked an issue, not only did the Bruins stink up the entire state, but it was more than 80 degrees of hard sunshine and there I was in a heavy jacket, with a hoodie underneath! Had one bright spot where the UCLA team spotted my jacket and waved, but other than that. . .
I always thought UCLA’s softball stadium was beautifully located, surrounded by trees in the middle of El Lay, but U Dub’s has it beat for that amazing view of Lake Washington beyond left field. There aren’t many places where you can catch a game and watch the sailboats between innings.
I understand that most of you aren’t going to be baseball/softball fans, but this game was so putrid I just need to vent. Case in point: the opposing pitcher gives up FIVE walks in a row–the only two runs UCLA scored–and up comes the best hitter, who not only swings at the first pitch but strikes out on an offering outside IN THE DIRT.
There was only one other Bruin fan in the stands, and he was wearing the exact same jacket, which should be no surprise, considering it was given to me by the father of the shortstop, who has an incredibly extended family, and the other guy was one of her numerous cousins. But to their credit the U Dub fans were a happy bunch and didn’t seem to take things too seriously; I certainly didn’t have to dodge any beer bottles. . . this time.
On to my other complaint: the nachos are only served with spiced cheese! Or whatever that yellow cheese-like substance is called. It took a while for me to get over my incredulousness, even went back to my seat to eat my peanuts–gotta have peanuts at the softball game. Finally, hungry as I was, I went back and asked if I could have the nachos without any cheese, more than willing to pay full price. Perhaps they were so happy to finally get rid of me that they took off fifty cents anyway; people in the Pacific Northwest may be closet Canadians.

Seattle, UCLA Softball, softball, U Dub, University of Washington

Seattle, UCLA Softball, softball, U Dub, University of Washington

Seattle, softball, U Dub, University of Washington

Seattle, UCLA Softball, softball, U Dub, University of Washington

Not wanting to walk all the way back up to the Ave after the game, I asked around to see if anyone knew which bus that came along Montlake could get me back downtown. No one seemed to know, so I walked south, hoping the bus signs would help me, lugging all my camera gear as well as the heavy jacket I couldn’t put up with anymore.
At this point I ran into a beautiful green-eyed blonde dwarf, whom of course I asked for directions. She was very nice, and extremely happy, perhaps that someone was talking to her and treating her like an equal, just another person. Unfortunately she couldn’t help me out either, but as you can see, I shall never forget her. . .
Once I got to the southeastern edge of campus, and there’s that fountain I shot so famously above, I decided to screw it and limped my way up the Burke-Gilman trail, converted from an abandoned railway. At least this was a gradual uphill, but I’ve been on it many times I didn’t expect to see any sights, especially without the aforementioned fall foliage.
And then I came across one of the world’s rarest and most elusive natural wonders: a beautiful redhead in a Catholic schoolgirl’s uniform! Excuse me, I have a sudden need to lie down and “remember” that vision again. . .
Okay, I’m back. And no, it wasn’t what you think. . .
Ended up climbing on the same bus I came on–same driver–except now it was rush hour, so I had plenty of time to take in my surroundings and recharge from all the walking. Landed downtown with still about a half hour to spare before my business meeting/dinner, which was far too boring to discuss here.
After that, still in explorer mode, I went down to the waterfront, wandering without destination or purpose, not expecting to find anything new from my previous jaunts through this area. I certainly wasn’t in any mood to see any more animals in the Aquarium, not after yesterday. As it turned out, apart from the cooling breeze, remembering previous jaunts was the best part of the walk, most of them involving a 6’2 babe who shall remain nameless {poor girl, going through life without a name. . . or at least not a pronounceable one, but again, that’s another story}. We walked along these same docks, then rode the merry-go-round, where her legs still reached the floor even when seated on that lucky wooden horsie. Then we ate some ice cream in forty degree weather, watched Mt. St. Helens explode in the Omnidome {since closed}, and played air hockey until we got kicked out for not letting others play. After that incredibly tiring exercise–I could barely lift my arms–we relaxed by taking the harbor cruise, sitting in the biting wind and snuggling while regaling each other with stories of air hockey games past. Doing more walking later, I asked her for a rest, and she laughed, “I don’t need to rest.” to which I of course replied, “Well, I do. Stop being so selfish.” She gasped and left, and I never saw her again. . .
There’s something about Seattle that always surprises visitors: it’s as filled with hills as San Francisco, and that’s after some leveling. Walking down to the bay it doesn’t enter your mind, but coming back up you realize just how steep these hills are. And just as you get to the top of one, you find yourself at the bottom of another.
Back to hotel to vegetate. . . I mean, cogitate on next morning’s meeting, and found my hotel room door apparently closed, but not locked! Careless maids are one thing, but this still shocks me to this day. . .

;o)

Poetry Tuesday: A Poet Should Learn

By Kshemendra around 1150, originally written in Sanskrit, which is beautiful to look at even if you don’t know what it means.

A poet should learn with his eyes
the forms of leaves
he should know how to make
people laugh when they are together
he should get to see
what they are really like
he should know about oceans and mountains
in themselves
and the sun and the moon and the stars
his mind should enter into the seasons
he should go
among many people
in many places
and learn their languages.

;o)

Travel Thursday Encore–How to mix pleasure with business–Seattle 05, Day 3, Part 2

SEATTLE SEAPLANES, the giant sign said, and what else do you need to know? My sign would have read: Fly at the risk of your own sanity. Anyhoo, I walked into the office, which was on a floating dock that didn’t handle waves very well, and told the lady I had called earlier. She said no pilots were around yet, although one was on his way, if I wanted to wait. The huge dog yawning at her feet made me wonder, but around that time said pilot walked in and, after being informed of the situation, cheerfully said he would take me up for the tour, after the standard pre-check.
While he was doing that I looked at all the photos and such in the waiting room, especially the poster from the 1930s with the {deep authoritative voice with reverb} “Rules of Flying.”
Rule #12: If you see another plane near you, get out of the way.
WHY THE HELL ISN’T THAT #1?
The pilot agreed with a chuckle as he came to gather me and my cameras, and then we were in the plane and taxiing into Lake Union.
The previous day I’d been to the observation deck at Smith Tower, and I’d gone up the Space Needle before, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m scared to death of heights, as I said on the overpass. Oddly enough, I’m not bothered by flying in a jet, but on the other hand I can look away from the tiny window and not think about it. Not so on this thing, where most of the front half is window. Luckily I was seated, because I had a full-blown case of jelly-leg syndrome. My stomach was fluttering big time, but of course I couldn’t betray my calm and collected exterior, even to someone I was never going to see again. Eventually I managed to concentrate on taking photos and forgot everything else. . . for the most part. Kinda hard not to be reminded when you’re constantly looking out the windows. . . that’s a long way down. . .
The pilot had the route down after no doubt hundreds of flights, but he kindly told me to let him know if there was anything I wanted to see either closer or again. Since the takeoff was north, we flew straight over Gasworks Park, but unfortunately there was still a big of mist/haze from the morning’s weather, so it was hard to see. I had better luck when we turned east and overpassed U Dub; this was particularly fun for me because I’d done the same thing over UCLA, yet tried not to compare my two favorite schools. The floating bridge was a quick flyby, but it proved to look quite interesting from this perspective.


On the far side of the bridge you get to a real doozy, Bill Gates’ estate. Not only is this thing huge, sitting on the water across Lake Washington in Bellevue, but the pilot plays guide and you hear through the headphones about all the security devices and computer controls the mansion has. I can say with ease this was the most interesting part of the flight.


From there it was a big loop across the southern part of downtown, checking out some interesting buildings, before going over the water and finally turning back at Discovery Park and the Ballard Locks. Unfortunately the mist hadn’t cleared out of this area yet, and there was a bit of glare off the water, but I persevered, managing to get some interesting shots of both places, as well as the shoreline and the estates lining it.

There’s the corn cobs again!



Zoomed by the zoo too quickly to get any good photos, but then we made a loop around the Space Needle, so close I could see the people up on the observation deck without the telephoto. No doubt they were gawking at me too–we were really close. And from the air, the silly rock museum looks like the anorexic Space Needle vomited.

The Leaning Tower of Seattle


Best of all, once we landed and taxied in, the pilot said he couldn’t tell how nervous–scared shitless–I was. Yay!

;o)

Poetry Tuesday: Too Late For A Husband

Anonymous 16th century Vietnam.
The gods DO have a sense of humor. . .

Where were you in the marriage season?
Now all the available men are gone.
You pitch yourself up and moan to the sky,
“O Heaven, O Earth!
Can’t you toss me a little husband?”
The sky pokes out his head and replies,
“You were too choosy when the merchandise was in.
Go home now, we’re all sold out.”

;o)

Travel Thursday Encore–How to mix pleasure with business–Seattle 05, Day 3, Part 1

Officially passing the halfway mark of this long saga–imagine if I wrote so much for a three-week trip! Better yet, don’t imagine it. . .

Stepped out of the hotel and walked over to the big street just in time to see the bus flash past! Oh wait, wrong bus. Phew!
The rain finally fell silently on the beautiful city, truly an emerald city, but no one except some of the tourists minded. It was not a torrential downpour, nor a quick tropical shower. It was like an ever-present sense of wetness, more than mist, but no barrier to a fine walk. As a matter of fact, I’d found that, with the proper company, it was preferable to sunshine.
Being alone, of course, doesn’t help.
And it didn’t last–by the time the bus left me off at the top of the hill, the sun was out again. The weather had a big hand in the rest of the day, but not as expected.
Having planned on places to be today, but no set times, I figured I’d check out a neighborhood I’d never been to, Capitol Hill, and see what the views were like from there. It turned out to be another interesting great neighborhood with too many hills, like Queen Anne, again reminding me of Los Feliz, with all the little new-agey yoga bungalows and coffeeshops. I had no idea this was the gay part of town; there was no outward evidence. I also wanted to see the museum of mysteries, UFOs, and such, figuring it had to be better than the sanitized one in Seattle Center that charges two arms and half a leg, but it didn’t open till the afternoon, and I’m not a patient tourist, so I left the big avenue and turned west, noticing with a cackle that this street was called Republican.
I certainly did not expect to be sitting in a shoe repair shop with a guy named Angel, talking about every subject on Earth while giving snacks to every dog that walked by, on a leash or not. I’ve always noticed that it’s the recent immigrants that want to talk politics the most, and that was no different this time, though I don’t think Angel was that recent. As I was gawking over how many different shoe polishes he had in the store, I asked him what he would recommend for my boots, and after a quick glance he deadpanned, “Shoe polish.” Ha ha, up yours too. But he was fun enough to leave a positive impression for this journal.
With the museum still closed and social and footgear needs attended to, I eventually moved back down the road, already sweating with a combination of the sun and me dressed for rain, still heading downslope on Republican, seeing all the tiny roundabouts with trees on even the small streets; I guess that’s one way to keep the speeds down, and much prettier than sleeping policemen {what they call speedbumps in Spain}. Passed the only theater in Seattle showing Bride and Prejudice, which I never did see. Went into the Broadway market, found nothing I really needed, and walked behind it, where I came to a library. Figuring I would rest up a bit while doing some random researching, I came across some mentions of Tashkent Park, which was a block away, so I went there to rest up a little longer and think of that city, which I hadn’t been to in a long time but was pretty sure I’d be going through on my big trip either later in the year or next year.
After moving north another block, turned west on Roy–hoping it wasn’t pronounced Waugh like some Canadian version of Sade–I came across Kerry Hall–there’s that man again!–which appears to be the last remnants of the old campus of the Cornish College of the Arts. At the time it wasn’t worth much of a thought—I’m surprised I even wrote it down—but I was to remember it the next day when I went to an art museum and saw a fantastic exhibit by one of their alumni. Plus I later remembered it as a setting in a mystery novel. . .
Onward. I headed northwest on Belmont, which was a steep downhill with lotsa nice country-type houses, the kind you occasionally see in Pasadena and such. As a matter of fact, the whole walk along here, with the ivy-covered walls and little statues on the fences, reminded me of the street from Gamble House to the Rose Bowl.
Eventually I arrived at Lakeview Blvd., which when you go southwest becomes a very thin overpass, very high above Interstate 5–did I mention I was afraid of heights? The sidewalk was maybe four feet wide, with cars whizzing by even though it’s a long curve–and very elevated, don’t forget–and the barrier was less than waist high with a tube-like handling area on top. Scaaaary. But even with all that I paused to get some photos, for right across Lake Union was the Space Needle and a particularly excellent view of the monstrosity known as the Music Experience Museum. From here you could tell exactly how ugly it is, looking absolutely nothing like a broken guitar. It was so ugly I had to photograph it, ya know?
Finally got across to firmer ground, this time Eastlake Avenue, which I know well as the route to the University, the bus always going slow enough in one stretch for you to see the massive REI flagship store. But instead of continuing my walk north along this street I cut through the parking lot of the Cancer Cure Center and got on Fairview–not to be confused with the Fairview a few blocks from where I live in Pasadena. I crossed this street as well to get to the lakewalk {since it wasn’t a river, I didn’t know what else to call it. . . okay, we’ll go with waterfront}. There’s a little park and then a floating wood walk past the small marinas, until. . .
Due to the early morning rain, I had planned to go to the softball game first–if it wasn’t called off due to the weather–and then do other touristy things I had in mind, but since I had a lot of time before I had to get to U Dub, and I was right here, accidentally, where I needed to be. . . float plane!
Come back next week for plenty of photos from even higher than the Space Needle or Smith Tower!

;o)