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Nov. 11th, 2008

The Death of Achilles

I finally finished Boris Akunin's The Death of Achilles last night.  Over all, it was a fun read and a reasonably good mystery novel.

This was the first "Erast Fandorin" novel I've read.  I own another but haven't begun it (nor can I remember the title at the moment) and probably won't for some time.  The protagonist is a turn of the century Russian government functionary who is part Sherlock Holmes (keen powers of observation and induction) and part Jackie Chan character (martial arts).  The plot is a fairly complex labyrinth of dark, dangerous, dead ends punctuated by discoveries that illuminate new questions.  The writing style is fluid and fun.

One reason it took so long for me to finish was this:  After the first 100 pages or so, when I had become interested in Fandorin and his ways and with the exposition of the murder at the heart of the story, a new section begins in a place and time fully divorced from the action and with none of the characters from the first part.  I'm not saying that this is a flaw in the novel -- I just found it off putting.  After a time, I became interested in the new characters and was intrigued as to how this section would intersect with the first.

All in all a fun read.

Nov. 1st, 2008

Idleness

It's been more than a week since I posted something here.  I've done very little reading (and what reading I've done is technical and not worth commenting on) and have basically been busy at work and slothful otherwise.  I hope to consume a lot of pages today; of course, I also hope to take a long walk:  it's fall beautiful outside and I'm working on losing weight and strengthening my back.  At the very least, I'll visit the library today and will have something to say about what I bring home.
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Oct. 24th, 2008

The Name of the World

I finished reading The Name of the World last night.  It is beautifully written and an engaging and serious story.  The narrator is a man who suddenly lost his wife and daughter in a tragic automobile accident.  His life with them, and, in fact, their loss, is prologue to the novel.  Michael Reed is a college professor somewhere in the midwest.  He teaches history:  basically having the students read books that he has already read and discussing them in class -- what he calls "doing nothing" or "being on vacation."    Despite his solitary circumstance, and his tragic past (it has been several years since the accident), he is not really unhappy.

I think that I want to avoid 'spoilers' in this commentary so I'll not describe what happens.  I would say that Reed is a broken man, he knows that he is a broken man, but he has little or no understanding of what that means to him.  Gradually, the life he is living begins to unravel and dissolve.

It would be understatement to say that the novel is about a man coming to terms with his grief.  Rather, coming to terms with grief causes him to come to terms with life.

I picked up The Name of the World after reading another Denis Johnson novel:  The Stars at Noon.  The story of The Stars at Noon is extraordinary (I plan to write something about it soon); but the real delight was in how beautifully written and rendered it is.

The Name of the World doesn't disappoint on either count:  it is an extraordinary story beautifully told.

Oct. 23rd, 2008

Music

This evening, I'll be meeting Mel at Dead Freddie's to have a couple of beers and maybe some food . . . before we head over to his house to rehearse.  We're playing renaissance and some spanish music arranged for guitar (me) and mandolin (Mel).  We do this every Thursday.

I'm concerned that I won't read again this evening.

Perhaps while I'm waiting for my son to emerge from school.
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Coolness

Truly, this is just pretty damn cool.
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Nothing read . . . again

For the last week or so, the music coming from my computer speakers is occasionally replaced by a brash, loud, white noise.  Startling and unpleasant . . . particularly when listening with headphones.

Since my sound card is several years old and I bought the speakers less than 6 months ago, I suspected that the sound card could be the culprit.  Leaving work yesterday, I disconnected my speakers from my work computer and brought them home.  The plan was to listen to music in those speakers and see (hear) if the white noise would blast its way through (indicting the sound card).

When I connected the speakers at home, the first surprising thing was that there was no volume to speak of -- with both the system volume and WinAmp volume all the way up I could only discern what was playing sitting right in front of the speakers.  My home speakers have a pre-amp and the work speakers do not -- so the situation wasn't entirely unexpected but the degree seemed remarkable.

So, I decided to make sure that I had inserted the miniplug in the correct port.  I got a flashlight and moved all the crap that collects around the computer (kids) to try to see what was going on.  Pulling the miniplug out, I noticed that the sound card moved a bit; I plugged it again and the sound card moved.  Hmmm.

I shut down the computer and disconnected the peripherals and the power cord.  I cleared a place on the dining room table and opened the box.  Somehow the sound card had become loose.  I reseated it properly and reclamped the cards.  Everything was chock full of dust.

So, I found the vacuum cleaner and carefully sucked the dust from the innards of my computer (where does it all come from?).  Then I put everything back together and connected my regular home computer speakers (assuming that the wandering sound card had been the problem).

This had been a 3 beer operation.  I listened to music for several hours through dinner and experienced no white noise blasts.

But, I read nothing.  Again.

Oct. 22nd, 2008

Rat Pack Martini

I didn't read anything last night.

On the way home, I needed to buy potatoes to have with dinner.  So, I stopped at the market near my home and succumbed to temptation:  I stopped at My Favorite Bar to have an after work drink.  Normally, I drink one of the fine beers or ales that are on tap.  However, there wasn't a place available at the bar, and, sitting by myself at a table, I ordered a 'Rat Pack Martini'.  This is a dry martini (gin, of course) with two olives stuffed with blue cheese.

As the cheese dissolves, smoke like tendrils can be seen emerging from the olives and drifting toward the surface.

About half way through the martini, space opened at the bar and I moved.  I met Eva who was sitting on my right; and Kristen who was sitting on my left.  Andrew and Amy were behind the bar.  When the martini was gone, I ordered a Weyerbacher Hop Infusion Ale.

Amy mixed up the "Chef" cocktail recommended by Craig the food guy.  Kristen tasted it and declared it 'fuel'.  I tasted it and deemed it 'nasty'.  It is a mixture of Gin, Bourbon and Absinthe over crushed ice.  Amy poured it in the sink.

I had two more Hop Infusion Ales and left.

I remembered to buy the potatoes and had a meatloaf in the oven with potatoes baking by the time the wife and kids got home.

I didn't read anything last night.

Oct. 21st, 2008

The Name of the World

I started Denis Johnson's The Name of the World a few weeks ago.  Then, as happens often in my house, I couldn't find the book for a few weeks.  It turned up again on a bookshelf the other day.  Since I had to pick up the kids from school -- which involves about a half hour wait at one school -- I made sure that I had the book with me so that I could return to the novel.

After parking in front of my son's school, I picked up The Name of the World and tried to determine where in the text I had been when reading it before.  In a few moments, I decided to just begin again.  In three sessions, about 30 minutes in the car, another 20 or so on my front porch when I got home (now that it's late October it was a bit too chilly to sit out there for very long even though I was wearing a jacket) and another 30 minutes in the living room, I read a little more than 100 pages.  It's very engaging and nicely written.  I'll post a summary when I've finished the novel -- perhaps this evening or tomorrow.