Thoughts

My thoughts about subjects, including politics, religion and happenings

Musical Updates

For much of the year, and into last year, I have been (was) taking music lessons.  First voice lessons and then piano lessons.  Of the two, the voice lessons have been more successful.  However, those ended in the spring when my instructor moved away and I’ve not resumed them with a new instructor – at least not yet.

I still have three piano lessons scheduled this month, but may put them on hiatus as well to let some other things calm down (mostly some house rearranging and minor remolding – replacing the flooring in two rooms as part of the rearrangement).  Hopefully, once rearranged I’ll be able to set up the keyboard in my new office without it taking up the whole room and may feel like I can practice and resume lessons.

But, overall, I’m thinking that singing is my strength.  So, that is what I should focus on.   I will need to go back to the songs I worked on when I had voice lessons and try them again – recording them and listening back so that I can be sure I’m still on key, pitch, etc.

But, I’d also like to expand my {word I cannot spell well enough to fix with spell check, that means list of works one is able to perform}.  I’ve got a few songs that I have lyrics and accompaniment tracks for that I could work on.  Obviously, most of these are mainstream songs – although thanks to a program that does an OK job at stripping vocals from sufficiently complex tracks (it fails miserably if the track is essentially mono) I have a couple of filk standards (“Mal’s Song” and “Hope Eyrie”) available.

However, I’m running into an odd problem.  Having only recently discovered it, I’m finding Stan Rogers’ “White Squall” a very inviting song to learn to sing.  [It is a bit odd to think that someone from New Mexico enjoys songs about The Great Lakes, many of which are disaster songs – fictional or non-fictional.  On the other hand, I spent many years in the Chicago area, and my dad’s family comes from Grand Haven, Michigan].  But, karaoke-version.com doesn’t have a version.  Nor have I turned any up in my other searches.  And, I cannot strip the version I (currently) have because it is from Apple Music making it a DRMed AA3 and the program needs a non-DRM MP3 to work.

Another thing I’m thinking I should try a bit is song writing.  One idea I have is to take my grandfather’s story about an ancestor who ended up working in Chicago (or Milwaukee) as an operating engineer for a hotel boiler; but would periodically swap jobs with a friend who worked a steamer crossing to Grand Haven.  This song would fit well with “White Squall” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” (another song I’m tempted to learn).

One other thing that I’m still tempted to do is pick up and learn (or refine to correct skills) a cajon and/or other hand drum.  At least short-term, I think if (when) I start spending more time in filk circles these might be useful instruments.  Longer run, these might also become what I’d be likely to use should I end up doing more formal performances; relying on either accompaniment tracks or (preferred) someone else providing accompaniment.

Brief 2015 Hugo Award Finalist Reviews

Note: This post was drafted back when I was actually reading through the various Hugo Award Finalists (and then voting on a category by category basis).  It was hidden until after the awards were announced (or should have been announced – I’m counting on the ceremony to start on time and run less than two-and-a-half hours) as I’m part of the 2015 Hugo Awards subcommittee, and I don’t want anyone to accuse me of stacking the deck.

I’ll present the categories in the order I read (or otherwise finish consuming) them; and the works in the order I voted for them.

Best Short Story

“Totaled”

At first, I was having a hard time liking this story.  But, as it went on there was a good balance between ideas and action which makes it stand out in this category.

“Turncoat”

Again, at first I wasn’t liking this story.  It does drag the action out a bit – and it is almost entirely action, with just a few bits of history and a not quite out of context Bible quote.  Having a short story drag its action is a bit of an accomplishment, but not a good one.

No Award

“A Single Samurai”

This story was all action and background.  Now, that isn’t necessary a bad thing, but in this case it resulted in a pretty boring story.  Even if I didn’t read a lot of short stories in 2014, if I’m this bored, it isn’t a Hugo worthy work.

Asside: when I was regularly playing paper and pencil RPGs, I’d often find long, drawn out, combat boring, so I think that my standards aren’t the same as others as to what makes a story boring.

“On a Spiritual Plain”

This story is short, and has one pretty good idea.  But, the execution still results in a story that is almost all idea and little action.  And the action that is there is pretty mundane.

“The Parliament of Beasts and Birds”

The part of me that likes when Christian ideas cross with science fiction really wanted to like this one – even if Wright’s screeds about a TV Show predisposed me to dislike his stories.  But it was just talking, and more talking, and even more talking.  And the dialog, or I probably should say “Parliament,” was all philosophy and at the end theology.  Its last sin (a pretty ironic term in this case) was that from the beginning I pretty much knew where it was going to end.

Best Novelette

“The Triple Sun: A Golden Age Tale”

At first this story was kind of slow, but it was short enough that the initial slow action wasn’t a big drawback.  However, I did, mostly, solve the mystery well before the narrator.  The fact that it is ranking first, tells me that this is a pretty weak field.

“The Day the World Turned Upside Down”

An interesting idea, and well executed.  I think my main issue was dealing with the suspension of disbelief over the interesting idea.  The juxtaposition of the narrator having his world both figuratively turned upside down by the loss of a long-time girlfriend, and then literally being turned upside down is its biggest strength.

I’ll note that this story was translated from, I believe, Dutch.  Yet the setting didn’t feel either particularly European nor particularly American.  I don’t know how much of that is from the original, and how much is how the translator dealt with some of the descriptions.

No Award

“Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust, Earth to Alluvium”

Not a bad story, but I don’t think it is Hugo worthy.  The idea is interesting, but the execution ends up kind of dull.

“Championship B’tok”

This isn’t a Novelette, this is an outline of the first part of a large series.  After spending much of its time skimming over world building and character development, it just ends.  It leaves character threads hanging, the main action hanging, and just about everything else hanging.

This one also gets special mention for being yet another case of abusing apostrophes to make a language alien.

“The Journeyman: In the Stone House”

This has a similar problem to the last one.  Except being the beginning of an incomplete story, it is the middle of an incomplete story.  Now, the prior story exists, which might help explaining some of what is going on.

But as a stand alone piece, all of the aspects of the story are left lacking.  The worldbuilding is rushed through or implied (I’m guessing that this is a case of a world that has fallen back to being psuedo-medevil), and the main characters are more caricatures – broad outlines.  The secondary characters are even less developed.

My Nominations

For reference, I nominated the following for Best Novelette:

  • The Ghosts of Bourbon Street Seanan McGuire
  • Stingers and Strangers Seanan McGuire
  • Bury Me In Satin Seanan McGuire
  • Snakes and Ladders Seanan McGuire

(Yes, they are all InCrypid stories by Seanan McGuire – but I nominated almost everything I read from last year, at least if it was good.  And I really like these stories)

I’d probably still rank these above just about everything in the above category.

Best Novella

“Flow”

I enjoyed “Flow” a fair amount.  It is a pretty straightforward explorer’s story, with the protagonist learning about parts of his world beyond his original ken, and nearly getting into serious trouble

No Award

Yes, only one novella seemed Hugo Worthy to me.

One Bright Star to Guide Them By

This wasn’t all that bad of a story.  But, as I was reading it, I couldn’t help by see Narnia shining through.  This left me feeling off until a friend summed up what it was quite succinctly: “Bad Narnia Fan Fiction.”

“The Plural of Helen of Troy”

This story was hard to follow – coming from a collection of shared-world stories (I gather based on the title of the collection it comes from).  It is a mish-mash of alternate history, time travel, and paradoxes.  But, instead of being intriguing as this could/should be, it was just confusing.  The stories not-quite back-to-front ordering added to the problems, even if it was necessary to hide the outcome.

“Pale Realms of Shade”

I didn’t finish this story, which means I probably should have left it off my ballot (but it is there at the time of writing).  After reading a not insignificant part of the story, my feeling was that I needed to re-read (re-listen to) Seanan McGuire’s Sparrow Hill Road (one of my Novel nominees) to wash the taste of it out of my brain.

Like the Rose Marshal ghost stories in Sparrow Hill Road, “Pale Realms of Shade” is a ghost story told, in first person, from the perspective of the ghost.  In this case, it was combined with an attempt at a Noir feel and Celtic urban fantasy.  Again, this resulted in a bit of a mish-mash that became unreadable.

Big Boys Don’t Cry

I didn’t finish this story either.  But, it did do something very important for me: it convinced me that I don’t like the type of military SF that is mostly combat.

Best Novel

Note, I didn’t read the excerpt from Skin Game.  Being part of a long-running series that (from what I understand) has a lot of continuity, I didn’t feel that I could enjoy or judge the story.  Also, at the time of this review, I was still reading The Goblin Emperor, but had read enough to make my judgements and cast my ballot.  Plus, I was getting to where I was going to start seeing preliminary results in testing and wanted to minimize my influence.

The Goblin Emperor

I’m enjoying this story a lot.  It is a coming of age story, with a lot of unique elements.  On top of that, the author is doing a good job of revealing a world that is both unlike ours, and unlike your typical fantasy world – even if characters are referred to as “elves” and “goblins.”

If I have any complaint, it is her odd use of older speech forms in the dialog, but not in the text nor the internal monologue.

The Three Body Problem

Again, a very enjoyable story.  There is what I have to conclude is a definite flavor coming from the setting in modern China, but it also resonates with the parts of the world I’m more familiar with.  If anything bothered me significantly, it was some possibly out-of-date information regarding nearby star systems.

The Dark Between the Stars

At first, I was liking this a fair amount.  But, I quickly grew tired and quit listening for two reasons.  First, the information carried over from the author’s previous 7 book series in the same universe seemed to becoming something that was really needed to understand and follow the story.  But, more importantly, the story quickly found itself in a “many lines, all waiting” situation.  Having read (OK, listened to) about 1/3 of the story – around 18-20 chapters, I’d only seen 3 characters having more than one chapter as the PoV character.  On top of that, most of the story lines appeared to be independent, with no indication of how or why they might be interconnected.

Ancillary Sword

I know Ancillary Justice was last year’s Hugo Award winner.  But, I couldn’t get through the first chapter of the excerpt.  Not only did there seem to be a lot of information from the first book that was needed to understand what was going on, it was sounding or feeling like the setup for yet another military SF drudge story.

 

Possible WSFS Proposals

First, a proposal I’m very tempted to tack onto B.1.4:

I move to amend B.1.4 by adding {somewhere} “provided that the Hugo Award Subcommittee of a Worldcon can elect to continue the previous process of counting nominations until one of the following conditions is met:
– A prior Worldcon has used the revised method.
– They have received and accepted (1) pusedo code, programming code, or mathematically rigorous formal specifications for the program to count the nominations, and (2) a set of sample data that contains sample nominations from at least 2/3 of the number of people to cast nominating ballots in the largest category over the last three years.

Second, some year in the future, I’m tempted to make the following motion:

I move to amend the WSFS constitution by making the following changes:

Add:

1.5.x: Members of the immediately preceding Worldcon, or the immediately following Worldcon shall be allowed to purchase a Hugo Award Nominating Membership for no more than a regular supporting membership, and for no more than $20.00 USD or the equivalent in local currency, adjusted upward by inflation as reported by the United States Department of Commerce.  These memberships shall only grant the right to participate in Hugo Award Nominations, and shall grant no other rights.

3.7.1 The Worldcon Committee shall conduct a poll to select the nominees for the final Award voting. Each member of the administering Worldcon granted full voting rights, the immediately preceding Worldcon, or the immediately following Worldcon as of January 31 of the current calendar year and persons with Hugo nominating memberships shall be allowed to make…

 

My Radical Agenda

For a moment, let’s pretend that I’m somehow made, simultaneously, into both the President and the entirety of congress, here are some of the radical ideas I’d have – which probably go to show how far reality has pushed me from my former libertarian-ish views.

  1. Progressive tax reform – reinstate the higher tax brackets starting at either $1,000,000.00 or $10,000,000.00 of income.  Also adjust the corporate tax and capital gains taxes so that corporations are encouraged to invest long term and pay dividends rather than raise their stock prices.
  2. A “basics” package for all U.S. Citizens, including
    • Basic education: PreK – College (4 years)
    • Basic income, paid to all citizens over 16 who are not full time students
    • Basic health insurance: no deductible, pays 80%-100% depending on purpose of visit, choice of appropriate provider (urgent care over ER), etc.
    • Basic access to housing with water and heat.
  3. Massive investment in infrastructure – repair first then maybe a new WPA
  4. Plans to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.  This should include fuels from what would otherwise be waste products, and fuels produced in non-agricultural areas.
  5. Reduction of military involvement in training and direct action in foreign countries.  Retrain them to be ready to perform humanitarian missions, including rescues of persecuted groups.
  6. Ensure that the military has the equipment it needs – but only what it needs, not what congress decides it needs.
  7. A more open immigration system, and an expedited asylum system.  Immigrant parents of US citizens should also get the basics package until their child is independant; by which time they should have had enough time to become naturalized citizens in their own right.

Albuquerque’s Nob Hill Business District

Albuquerque’s Nob Hill neighborhood’s major business district is along Central Avenue – which carried Route 66 from 1937 until it was decommissioned – stretching from Washington Boulevard on the east to Girard on the west.

Ernst Haas Photo looking east on Central at Carlisle, Circa 1969

Ernst Haas Photo looking east on Central at Carlisle, Circa 1969

When I was in college at the University of New Mexico, which is located just west of Nob Hill, running from Girard to University mostly north of Central, I would head into Nob Hill with some frequency, mostly to do shopping at War Games West.  While I did walk up Central on at least a few occasions, and biked up Silver, one block south of Central, at least once, I’ll confess I mostly drove up Silver to the parking lot at Silver and Amherst that served War Games West and the rest of that block of buildings.

But, my recollection was that most of the other businesses in the area weren’t that interesting.

Over the last few years, Tara and I have discovered that at least the section from Richmond on the west to Carlisle has a number of interesting and eclectic shops, and is always worth a visit when we are in Albuquerque.

Much of the development along Central was started after 1937.  But a major development was done in 1946 and 1947 when Robert Waggoman built the Nob Hill Business Center, the first modern (i.e. car oriented) shopping center in New Mexico (according to Wikipedia), and possibly west of the Mississippi (according to a reference I’ve misplaced).

Nob Hill Business Center is a Streamline Moderne style building with hints of the New Mexico Territorial style.  The structure is U shaped around a small, but probably sufficient in 1947, parking lot.  The parking lot faces Central, and the building runs along the other three sides of the block bounded by Central on the north, Carlisle on the east, Silver on the south, and Amherst on the west.  There are store fronts available that both face the parking lot, and the three outside streets.  Since Silver is up Nob Hill (the geographic feature) from Central in that area, most of the Silver frontage is made up of the upstairs sections and backs of the stores.

In the two interior corners are two larger store spaces.  My understanding is that, originally, these were occupied by a grocery store and a drug store.  The remaining store fronts are available for smaller shops.

Now, the two corner shops are occupied by the La Montanita Co-op grocery store, and a salon and day spa.  But there are two stores in between that we like visiting.  One is a gallery (whose name I’ve forgotten) and the other is Beeps, which I can only describe as an eclectic store as it carries toys, jewelry, novelty kitchen accessories, and other interesting things.  We used to also enjoy browsing at the design shop that used to face Carlisle at the northern end.

Continuing west from Nob Hill, we pass an Asian “street food” restaurant in the building that was occupied by the late lamented War Games West when I was in college, and later Bow Wow Records.

A bit further down the block is The Flying Star Cafe‘s original location.  When I was in college, their easternmost storefront (one storefront west of the former location of War Games West) housed a Double Rainbow ice cream parlor (possibly only until 1987).  As I understand it, the franchise owners wanted to go a different way, and converted the shop into the first Flying Star.  Since then, they’ve taken over every storefront west until a small alley.  The rest of that block has two free-standing buildings, one a fairly mundane building containing a pizza parlor, and another housing a Starbucks.

The building containing the Starbucks was a KFC when I was in college.  But I think it was built for something else – but more recently than when much of the rest of the area was built up.  It is a fairly long and narrow building with a rectangular footprint. But its roofline is mostly a half-cylinder, except at the front it is cut in a circle.

Continuing into the next block west is an Arby’s and one of several sushi restaurants along this stretch as well as business well off of Central.  I’d guess that, like the Starbucks, this is a newer development with even more parking.

The block after that has Kelly’s Bar and Grill, located in what was a Ford dealership, and later (or at the same time) may have been a Texaco station.  I’ve never been to Kelly’s – too many other favorites to go to a place that could be found elsewhere – but it has a good reputation.

Kelly’s apparently leases part of the building to a Cold Stone, and to a flower shop.  The rest of that block is occupied by the Hiway House motel, and a Korean barbeque located in what I think was once the motel’s lobby and check-in area.

The next block is where the eclectic nature of the area is most apparent.  In that block, in addition to a restaurant or two and a store selling smoking supplies, is a vintage clothing store, Masks y Mas – which specializes in mostly Mexican arts and crafts largely focused on Dias de Los Muertos – and Astro-Zombies – a comic book store with a good selection of comics and graphic novels, and a whole lot of other geeky toys and games.

The north side of Central through that area has some more mundane stores, including a dry cleaner, Kurt’s Camera Corral, a Redwing Shoe store, and Disco Display House, a party supply place.  These were all there when I was in college, as was The Guild arthouse movie theater.

There is also a block where there is a complex with shops on the lower floor and condos on the upper levels.  This is less than two years old, since it was strikingly out of place to me; more so than it would have been if it had been built in the prior 23 years.  But it also has been there long enough for one business to go out of business.  Most of the business there are pretty mundane.

On the north side is also where we find a Satellite Coffee, owned by the same people as The Flying Star – which yesterday was full of hipsters and nerds in the mid afternoon.  There are also a couple of clothing boutiques catering largely to the hipster demographic.

As I said at the top, Tara and I always find it worth a trip.  On the other hand, I still will miss War Games West and we’ll miss the design shop.

Musical Ambition

I’m reposting here two posts that went initially to Facebook and Google+, one from October 25, and the other from October 26:

October 25:
(Tara will probably complain, but) I picked up a Jamstik as a late birthday present/right hand exercise. It arrived the other night and I’ve been working through the tutorial.

I’ve already figured a few things out, however:
– I’ll probably want to still get a real guitar and take lessons from a live person. I don’t know whether to go through the Poway Adult School, Palomar College, or go the private lesson route.
– I need to build up the calluses on my left hand.
– my (literal) fat fingers make it hard for both of the chords the tutor has tried to teach me: E and A.
– the tutor program has an “arcade mode,” based on Guitar Hero and the like. I find this much harder to do since I have some eye-hand coordination issues that still require me to do too much thinking before fretting the correct string(s). Even in the other mode, I pick the wrong string a high percentage of the time.
– I find it easier to use headphones – otherwise the actual sound of the strings kind of distracts me.
– I need to stick with this in order to get myself up to the level I’d like to be at: enough to at least accompany myself in filk type settings (which, sort-of includes the monthly worship sessions at our church)

October 26:
I did a bit of noodling tonight. Mostly working on E and A chords. I still have to look at reference and think to get my left hand correct.

I’m also having a problem with the E chord that tends to make the Jamstik sense the third string (C?) as being fretted on the second fret, not the first. I don’t think it is because I’m swapping my first two fingers. I also think I’m going to need to trim my nails.

I located a place for lessons. I decided to give their voice lessons a try first – since I already own the instrument.

(I also need to decide if I should get an electric guitar so I can practice without disturbing Tara. On the other hand, that is what the Jamstik is for.)

Writing Again

For the last week or so, I’ve been dabbling with writing.  I’m not resuming As of Yet Unnamed Fantasy Story.  Instead, I’m working on something that I doubt I’ll be sharing (or at least sharing broadly and publically) for personal reasons.

However, doing this has brought a couple general things up that I’m going to share:

I’ve been using Scrivener (http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php) for this.  I’m finding I really like how it works.  It lets me organize things, draft scenes and sections, store notes, etc.  It also takes care of formatting the story – it will even generate .epub and .mobi formatted e-books directly (albeit without the ability to embed fonts).

What I’m writing is alternate history.  Especially for real-world and alternate history, I’m finding that the Internet now has tons of good (and not so good) places to get information to ensure at least some accuracy.  My story touches the legal system, and I’ve been able to track down both a general overview of the legal process, and the actual laws of the state where my story takes place.  This has let me make surgical changes in history but make sure that they (I think) fit somewhat seamlessly into an otherwise recognizable world.

Google Maps and Google Street View are also quite useful in visualizing settings that I’ve not actually been to – or haven’t been to recently.

If my next project is more shareable, I’ll let you know how my dabbling comes out.

Flatland Theology

I’m about to describe how an understanding of some of the ideas expressed in Edwin Abbott Abbott’s Flatland has helped me understand a couple of difficult theological topics.  I’m 95% sure that I’m following the common (little-o) orthodox Christian theology.

1: On the nature of God

Christian theology describes God as a trinity – one God, but made up of three distinct parts: The Father, The Son (Jesus), and The Holy Spirit.  Many have problems with how can one entity also be three distinct entities.  But if one thinks back upon the 2-dimensional world described in Flatland, and how a three-dimensional object passing through it would appear, at times, to be a different shape.  Now God is clearly an extra-dimensional entity (beyond however many dimensions various theories in physics postulate).  So he can appear to us differently depending on what side or part interacts.

Now, as with any model that attempts to explain God, this isn’t perfect.  One of the oddities is that The Son, while fully God, still prays – or at least in his time on Earth being equally fully Man prayed – to The Father.  I’m not sure how to explain this beyond an idea that it might have had to do with the Son being fully man at that time.

2: On Predestination and Free Will

The teachings of The Bible, as well as the fulfilled and unfulfilled prophecy, show that God has a knowledge of what is to come.  This is further played out in Ephesians where Paul talks about predestination.  However, we also have free will.  Yet, if God knows who will follow him and who won’t ahead of time, how do we have the will to choose freely to love and follow, or not to love and follow, him?

Take an extension of Flatland where their temporal dimension (time) maps into our third spatial dimension.  Now, we see not just one point in Flatland’s history – but all of its history spread out along that third dimension.  The 3-dimensional observer is now able to travel back and forth through Flatland’s history, and may be able to make changes by altering something in “the past” which is connected to “the future.”

Now, I don’t believe that these simple models (and my simple explanation) fully covers the much more complicated reality – but I also don’t think we are (yet) equipped to fully understand God.  On the other hand, these do help me deal with these sometimes seemingly self-contradicting points of (again, little-0) orthodox theology.

 

Thoughts and Observations on the Dragonlance Stories

Back when I was in college, starting in 1984 or 1985, my regular gaming group started working our way through the Dragonlance modules for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons.

In conjunction, I read the original three Dragonlance Chronicles novels by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, and enjoyed them enough to read the followup trilogy Dragonlance Legends, and some of the other stories that TSR released.  I also read their first non-Dragonlance trilogy and enjoyed it well enough.  I also felt positively enough to have no objections to inviting Margaret Weis and her husband at the time Don Perrin to be the author guests of honor at Duckon X.

However, I’ve more recently started listening to audio books which make books that I’d find daunting to read in text – between my dyslexia and other issues, I’m a slow reader and find it easy to get bogged down in books and abandon them, although I’ve gotten somewhat better over the years.  This allowed me to finally actually read (or at least consume) The Lord of the Rings, and is also have I’ve consumed the first five parts of The Song of Ice and Fire.

A couple of years ago, Audible.com had unabridged audio book versions of a new(er) trilogy called The Lost Chronicles.

I think at that time I’d recalled that after the first two modules (playable adventures), the Dragonlance team had taken to having Weis and Hickman write about half of the story, and have the other half told in the novels.  Clearly if you read the second and third novels, Dragons of Winter Night and Dragons of Spring Dawning, you’d find that the second book begins with a brief recap of stuff that happened after the last book, and then shortly splits the party.  From that point on, the stories more-or-less alternate between the two groups, and each group has some adventures skipped only to be, again, replaced by a vague description of what happened.

So, I made the, mostly correct, guess that The Lost Chronicles would finally tell those parts of the story, and purchased the three books.

But, it had been a long time (more than 20 years) since I’d ready anything related to Dragonlance.  So, I located an alternate source of audio versions of the original Chronicles – apparently recorded for the blind.  {I have plans to remedy this and purchase legitimate audio book versions of these three at some point before too long}.  I alternated between the books – which I found out didn’t work perfectly.  But this also confirmed that, even being RPG based fiction, these stories still stand up reasonably well against the giants of fantasy (Tolkien and Martin, et. al.)

Then, a year or so, Audible Frontiers – Audible.com’s in-house audio book studio – started releasing unabridged audio book versions of the myriad of novels and collections published by TSR and WoTC have put out over the decades.  Since then, I’ve picked up a few – the Legends trilogy, Dragons of Summer Flame which gets listed as part of the Chronicles, but takes place after the Legends trilogy and a number of stories involving the children of the heros of the original books.

Not that long back, I discovered another trilogy by Weis and Hickman called The War of Souls which takes place another generation later.  I’ll admit I didn’t enjoy that one as much, and I think part of it is the tinkering that TSR and WoTC forced into the stories to keep them in sync with the current versions of the games – including an ill fated stand along Saga System Dragonlance game – requiring changes in the basic structure of the world to introduce new elements and remove others.

Most recently, I purchased the audio book version of the two book Raistlin Chronicles: The Soulforge and Brothers in Arms, both coauthored by Weiss and Perrin.  The first book covers the growing up of two of the most important characters in the early Dragonlance works, twins Caramon and Raistlin Majere.

These have been good, clearly better than the newer trilogy.  But they’ve had a few surprises in them, most noticeably they are more adult, that is a bit closer to Martin than Tolkien.

In The Soulforge there is a key scene where the teenage Raistlin is struggling with the fact that a young woman, about his age, whose moved into their village recently is attractive to him, and distracting him from his study of magic, only to find her and his brother in a delicate position in a shed.

Now, in the Chronicles, there were a few times that Caramon went off with his future wife and spent time off page, with a strong implication as to why.  But this was the first time such a scene was on page – at least in the books I’ve read.

Then, near the end of The Soulforge, the character of Caramon utters an expletive.  I’d call it A Precision F-Strike, except it was more of an “S-Strike” if you catch my drift.  This was the first time a modern expletive was used.

Now, I’m about half-way through Brothers in Arms, much of which (so far) has involved the brothers training in a mercenary squad – one as a fighter and the other as a war wizard.  This book has had more use of the synonym for feces.

The other thing I’m finding interesting is to compare its training scenes with the similar scenes from Starship Troopers, and Old Man’s War.  I’m finding a lot of similarities – which both of those stories share with nearly every modern military story that involves basic training.  I cannot say if that is realistic or not; since I have no way of knowing if a medieval European mercenary army would have ever been trained anywhere close to this way (I suspect not, and know that most armies were largely untrained peasants).  I also have to point out that I suspect any realistic army of this sort would be trained first in using spears, and only the elite in swords for economic reasons if nothing else.  I’ll make the observation that the legions described in Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera did just that – most of the legionaries were armed with spears and only the officers had swords (Roman broadswords in that case).

Now, I could write (and have thought about writing) a whole other article about reconciling my Christian worldview with this decidedly not-Christian worldview.  The only things I’ll observe there are:

  1. Neutral is the ultimate good in that world
  2. So-called good characters can be as or more evil than many of the so-called evil characters when looked at through a Christian lens.

As Tracy Hickman is Mormon, I suspect that his own beliefs may have partially influenced the way the world was portrayed, but the idea of good and evil needing to be balanced clearly comes from a more eastern worldview.

San Diego’s Olympic Bid Website and Con Bid Websites

San Diego has now launched a bid for the 2024 Olympics and Paralympics.  (Read that again – Olympics and Paralympics, not Worldcon.  Got that!)

They have their website up at http://www.sd2024ec.org/.

There are a few comments I’ll make about this site at the time of bid announcement.  Many of these are at least partially applicable to Wordcon and Westercon bid sites as well.

1: They have a section for “venues,” but nothing is listed.  Yet elsewhere (in the video) they talk broadly about many of the venues already being built.  Since what venues they were talking about was something I really wanted to know, this was doubly a problem for me.

2: The “About the Committee” link doesn’t lead to a page that lists who the committee is.  It jumps to a general page describing the bid.  As I’m not all that familiar with inside Olympic politics, I don’t know how much the actual people on the bid impacts the bids prospects.  But I suspect that it does help with some people.

3: Having the volunteer form up early is good.

4: Having the request for donation page up before other key details are listed, isn’t so good.

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I can make an educated guess of some of the venues likely to be used, but not all:
– Petco Park (Unless Baseball and Softball are re added, it will be used in a non-standard configuration.  But it has been used for Rugby and Tennis that I know of)
– Qualcomm Stadium or whatever The Chargers manage to get built before then (Athletics/Track and Ceremonies)
– San Diego Bay (Sailing)
– The Olympic Training Center (BMX)
– The San Diego Convention Center – which better be expanded by then (Fencing, Weightlifting, Wrestling, …, possibly broadcast center)
– Valley View Casino Center, f.k.a. The Sports Arena (??)
– Vejas Arena (??)