Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Plot Twist - The Hippies Didn't Actually Save Physics - Physicists Did.

How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum RevivalHow the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival by David Kaiser
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In a word, ug.

Honestly, I was disappointed with the lack of physics. Aside from a solid explanation of the two slit experiment and Bell’s Theorem (which is used to assert quantum nonlocality), and the refutation of the no-cloning theorem there is very little here. This is not a book about physics, but a book about how the nature of philosophical questions about physics was preserved by the Fundamental Fysics Group (FFG), a group of disaffected from the mainstream physicists who tried their damnedest to use Bell’s Theorem as a basis for parapsychology, getting the CIA, DIA, and Erhard to foot the bill.

While I regard philosophical questions about physics to be of fundamental importance, but with all the book’s emphasis on Uri Geller’s “mental spoon bending” (were these people so easily duped?), EST seminars with LSD and naked coeds to attract physicists like Feynmann, and the lurid story of Ira Einhorn, who murdered his girlfriend, kept her body in an apartment for a year, and then - after posting bail - spent 20 years on the lam, blaming the CIA and FBI for framing him (he was later convicted with overwhelming evidence), you have to wonder whether this group was really the *best* philosophical unit for saving physics. Especially when we consider the advances of other physics approaches (such as quantum chromodynamics which led to String Theory) and David Bohm’s quantum mind. Bohm, incidentally, was one of the heroes of the FFG who fled America during Joe McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee witch hunt, but he did not rely on FFG as much as they relied on him for actual physics. It really looks like the FFG was a bunch of partying nerds with scientific and psi background that didn’t really do much physics, being far more obsessed with ESP and telekinesis. They also come off (to me at any rate in 2015) as naïve, willing to be led by anyone who waives a shiny object in front of them (especially if it is gold).

All of this would be fine, though, if there was nothing destructive about groups like the FFG, but there is an opportunity cost when time, energy, and money are spent on non-serious science. The same resources spent on better elaborated approaches might actually yield a better understanding of consciousness and physics. It is axiomatic that there is a link between the two, but real science has to come into play, and while all data is crucial (psychedelics certainly does show that matter can affect mind), there was more going on in the mainstream than the author attests. I think that was the part of the book that was most erroneous, the idea that we needed the FFG to save physics. Physics cannot be destroyed by the government’s obsession with military weapons nor can it be saved by renegade physicists. It is above both, because important questions about the nature of the world and how it applies to the mind are eternal.

Ok, one more thing that absolutely bugged me was the assumption that inviting a group of people together implies that they all form some type of community. This is a constant theme of the book: A goes to visit B who works with C who studied with D who went to a party with E, so A and E are linked. No. Einstein and Bohr argued with each other and had a long correspondence - that was real. That one of Geller’s handlers meets a physicist in a forum somewhere does not imply that the FFG is a universal mainstream non-fringe group. People can associate with each other and just be polite. I’ve been to parties before with people that are convinced in divine intervention on their behalf. Does that mean I agree? I’ve learned enough not to argue with everyone with whom I disagree, and I afford everyone else the same credit.

I lost patience a lot (especially in the long-winded exposés about Zukav’s “Dancing With the Wu-Li Masters” and Capra’s “Tao of Physics”). These were as long as many book reviews on Goodreads. I’ve read both books and while I recognize that especially “Tao of Physics” encouraged many people to be interested in the philosophical questions of physics, neither book is a good physics book. Zukav’s pun about Wu-Li (where he changes the emphasis on Li to connote different interpretations of Wu-Li) shows a fundamental ignorance that in Mandarin emphasis creates fundamentally different words (that’s the point) and not variations of the same. It really seemed when I read it like typical Western arrogance. Also there is no physics (sorry, I said that).

At the same time, I actually got what I wanted from this book, which was a fundamental understanding of Berkeley’s fringe physics movement. I really feel like I understand their goals (which were not physics but proving parapsychology to be true using physics). It will help me as background information in a story I’m writing, so 2 STARS. I am going to read Penrose’s book about quantum consciousness next and see if it helps get a better actual understanding of the nature of the mind through the lens of physics.


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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Bob Dylan playing with the Grateful Dead


Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again [6:03]
Tomorrow Is A Long Time [4:42]
Highway 61 Revisited [4:12]
It's All Over Now, Baby Blue [5:40]
Ballad Of A Thin Man [4:42] (cuts)

You can see most of the show in this video: Quality varies.

  E Rutherford New Jersey, 7/12/87

Full Setlist:

Sunday, July 12, 1987
E Rutherford, New Jersey

Set One:

Hell In A Bucket [5:49]
West L.A. Fadeaway [6:46]
Greatest Story Ever Told (*) [4:04]
Loser [6:15]
Tons Of Steel [4:51]
Take A Step Back Tuning
Ramble On Rose [6:19]
When I Paint My Masterpiece [4:33]
When Push Comes To Shove [4:34]
The Promised Land [3:53] > Bertha [6:45]

Set Two:

Morning Dew [9:21]
Playing In The Band [9:09] > Drums [7:31] > Space [5:01] > The Other One [4:36] > Stella Blue [7:34] > Throwing Stones [9:12] > Not Fade Away [6:35]

Set Three:

Slow Train [4:01]
Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again [6:03]
Tomorrow Is A Long Time [4:42]
Highway 61 Revisited [4:12]
It's All Over Now, Baby Blue [5:40]
Ballad Of A Thin Man [4:42]
John Brown [5:02]
The Wicked Messenger [3:31]
Queen Jane Approximately [3:45]
Chimes Of Freedom [7:25]
Joey [9:05]
All Along The Watchtower [4:50]
The Times They Are A-Changin' [4:24]

Encore:

Touch Of Grey [6:01] > Knockin' On Heaven's Door [6:02]

 Comments (*)Bob:"We're gonna do an older tune." before Greatest Story.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Rosemary's Baby - Review after my Happy Halloween reread

Rosemary's BabyRosemary's Baby by Ira Levin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ira Levin specializes in disturbing tales of enormous vision. As such, Rosemary’s Baby is a quintessential tale of terror, standing beside giants like Frankenstein and Dracula, because it creates a new, oft-imitated horror form. The book is essentially a psychological conflict set in New York CIty, the capital of the modern sophisticated world, where a young newlywed couple, composed of an ambitious self-centered actor and his made-in-Omaha housewife, are drawn into a world of Satanists for the express purpose of forging (with Rosemary’s reluctant assistance) Satan Incarnate. The book is set in 1966, “Year One” of the new era, a year of tremendous conflict and change, and this plays a role in the book’s setting and also figures in the plot:



I’ve read it three times now and I’ve reacted differently each time. The first time I was quite young and thoroughly shocked (it was the late 70s) and absolutely riveted. I saw the movie immediately after and was mesmerized with its elegant terror. I have heard it said that the movie - being so faithful to the book in its adaptation - is an adequate replacement for reading Levin’s novel, but I’d argue that Rosemary’s internal dialog (it’s written from her POV) is valuable, especially as we see her movement back and forth between trusting Guy and their neighbors, how guilt is used against her, and how her internal compass gets decalibrated.

The second time I read it (late 80s) for pure pleasure and was surprised that it no longer seemed as frightening compared to its new competition. In truth, Levin’s avoidance of the grotesque, always choosing the type of subcutaneous chill that most ignites psychological horror, creates tension without the weight of relentless violence we see in films like Friday the 13th and books like Headhunter. What happened in my case is that this terror incubates, never leaving, so that the mere thought of Rosemary’s conflict with the coven is enough to invite shivers. There are few books that I’ve read (It by Stephen King is another - every time I pass a storm drain, I swear I look for clowns) that so perturb that the fear never really leaves.

Thus, now I read it, almost studying it, because of its craftsmanship, and I see it entirely different, perhaps because of my age. I mean, I’m much closer to Roman Castavet’s age than Rosemary’s, right? What do I see different? Well, first of all, I appreciate the utter simplicity of their time. If 1966 was a complicated time, at a crossroads so to speak, 2015 is a high-speed interchange. A cover that says “Is God Dead?” wouldn’t even spark surprise today. Their world of Manhattan seems almost quaint, but the power of the novel survives. The characters (the ambitious actor, the innocent housewife, the malignant Satanists, the Dr. Kildare obstetrician, the junkie project) all seem like tropisms, and it’s hard to believe they were ever original, but nothing is really lost there either. The dialog is as witty as ever (Levin is really good) and the scene of Satanic seeding is as tasteful and delicious as ever, though some participants have lost their contemporary value:



Almost everything else works actually. In fact, a book that seemingly required to be set in the great period of flux is actually astoundingly timeless. What a tremendous success!

I think it’s because Ira Levin taps into eternal themes: Guy’s ambition, Rosemary’s guilt and alienation from her family. There is also the theme of Satanists, which could indeed be any occult obsession. The Devil of Levin isn’t necessarily Lucifer, but the quest for the third rail of religion. On top of that, there is also an essential message about the elemental power of motherhood and its substantial power, which I glossed over in earlier reads, but (probably because I’m older now) I see as a counterweight to the masculine obsession with raw power.



Rosemary’s diet though…

tl/dr: A finely crafted tale of psychological terror with a Satanic/witchcraft theme. Highly recommended! Five stars.



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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Thomas Tryon - Harvest Home

Harvest HomeHarvest Home by Thomas Tryon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Let’s take a successful, but troubled couple (Ned & Beth Constantine) with a daughter (Kate) who has emotional issues that manifest in physical illness out of the city and put them in the country where all their problems will be solved. Give them a rainbow to point the way. Now, let’s see what happens.

Is there a more frightening horror archetype than the fertility cult? Belief in Earth Mother, representing both the bounty of the earth and motherhood, is thousands of years old. We see figures that some archeologists believe represent mother goddesses dating back to Paleolithic times. The Venus of Dolni Věstonice (Brno, Czech Republic) dates from 29000 BCE to 25000 BCE. In Neolithic time both in Europe and the New World, there are mother goddess symbols associated with fertility. Later there are Isis & Hathor of the Egyptians and Demeter for the Greeks. There is Venus for the Romans, and Mary who was worshiped as a mother goddess by the Collyridianists.

Fertile Earth, female, provider of all that nurtures, was indeed a ubiquitous fixture in early agricultural civilizations. Neopaganism is also popular today. People from the city might think it’s quaint like Ned does or might immediately feel estranged like Burt & Vicky do in King’s Children of the Corn. Other stories that explore this theme are Robert Graves’s “The White Goddess”, David Pinner’s “Ritual”, and (my favorite!) Brenda Gates Smith’s short series “Secrets of the Ancient Goddess”/“Goddess of the Mountain Harvest”. In many ways, the monotheistic god male-dominant god of Jews, Christians, and Muslims is opposed to the worship of the Earth Mother. In pleasantly pastoral Cornwall Coombe, however, the two work in tandem.

I’m not going to discuss the plot, except to say it is everything you could hope for in a story designed to scare you. Tryon cheats a little bit by making his protagonist, Ned, into *that* character. You know him. He’s the one that goes down into the spooky basement holding a candle because he hears a window opening, just after he finds out a murderer is on the prowl. Ned’s combination of recklessness, over-inquisitiveness, and bad choices makes this story work incredibly well.

Though I didn't really like Ned much (and happy he gets what he deserves) I did like the Widow Fortune and Missy Penrose who are integral parts of the cult. The Widow Fortune is the glue and Missy is her successor. Here are their made-for-tv images:

The Widow Fortune:

Yes, that is Bette Davis. And Missy Penrose:


Played by Tracey Gold, who was also in The Dead Zone.

So, the lesson here is to watch out for women, because though they are beautiful, nurturing, and so much fun, they have their own needs and Mother Earth most of all must be satisfied. Failure has a very high price, so keep her happy (or else). Also, watch out for where the rainbow ends, especially if you are a city mouse.

tl/dr: A lot of good scary fun...


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Friday, October 9, 2015

My Review of Knebel's Seven Days in May (a reread after 35 years)

Seven Days In MaySeven Days In May by Fletcher Knebel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the third time I’ve read Fletcher Knebel’s novel about a beleaguered president whose job is threatened by a charismatic military man. Before I go into my new impressions I will give a short summary of the political situation of 1961-2, when the book was written, coinciding incidentally with my first year alive. President Eisenhower (a two-term president who was a famous military commander in World War II) left the Oval Office in Jan 1961 after President Kennedy’s election in November of 1960. Kennedy was also a WWII war hero for leading his crew to safety after his torpedo boat, PT-109, was cut in half by a Japanese destroyer. Kennedy was matched against Nikolai Kruschev, a formidable player in the Cold War. 1961 saw American embarassment in the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, a summit in Vienna, and the construction of the Berlin Wall. The novel was set in the 1970s (1973 I believe) in an alternate America where a war like the Korean War was fought in Iran (leading to partition that left the military unhappy) and without a Vietnam War. There are also long shadows of McCarthyism and McArthur. Those were real and scary.

I’m won’t go into details about the plot, but I want to give some impressions about the characters. First General James Mattoon Scott, the charismatic general, is a larger than life character who seems perfectly human and whose behaviors do not jive well with someone who is supposedly the brightest military mind of the generation. His plot involves capturing the President in a bunker and sending gung-ho troops to seize communication lines in Utah and capture major cities. This may, of course, have been a realistic approach in 1960 (or even 1970), but without popular backing, how could it work? Gen Scott has popularity on his side, though, and the President does not. In any case in this read I was less impressed by Scott than I was when I was younger. Despite the attempts by the authors (both political journalists) to show him as a complicated, calculating adversary and then reduce him to desperation at the end, his assumed superiority doesn’t really emerge. He is a gambling man that is sailing by jury rig (as the Secretary of Treasury points out - mixing metaphors because Scott is actually an air man). Lyman, the President, by contrast comes off as likeable and philosophical with a good sense of his place in history. This is one of the themes throughout the book, selfless duty to the constitution that seems almost quaint in these days of the Tea Party.

The story is written in 3rd person limited point of view with alternating characters. Thus we get Colonel Casey’s perspective about General Scott’s lies, but never Scott’s impression about Casey’s “disloyalty”. I’d say that some of the suspense is killed by solving problems quickly, but this is a reread so I knew they’d be solved anyhow, right? Also, I recognize the Girard’s cigarette case as a deus ex machina, but by that time the general’s men are already kidnapping, so maybe it wasn’t necessary after all. It was important enough to die for though.

As I said, this is my 3rd (and last) read and I’m impressed by how my perspective has change. I am a child of the nuclear age fully grown, but who lived with the threat of atomic winter for a good part of my life, including all of my formative years. Much has happened since 1961 and in the government and the military have become tainted. Watergate, Iran Contra, and Vietnam come to mind. 9/11 showed how vulnerable we were to terrorism, and The Great Recession demonstrated the fragility of our economy. To be elected president now it seems you must evoke a common man, but still be smart enough to actually solve the problems. This recalls some of President Lyman’s words about the lack of variation in approaches, the power of government bureaucrats compared to the power of the presidency, and numerous other reflections. For that alone the book is interesting.

Another aspect I found entertaining is the depiction of culture. Everyone seems to smoke cigars or cigarettes. High balls are consumed en masse. Casey speaks about rape of his wife as if it is seduction. Men and women have very distinct roles and service wives are supposed to be acquiescent. In another example of how the book has aged poorly the Secretary of Health and Urban Development is not included in the counterconspiracy because the color of his skin (he is African-American) would call too much attention. Can you imagine having a Black man in the White House? Not likely.



If the book has a large failing, I would say that the characters are too rote. No one except Lyman is very complicated. I wonder if people were really this simple to understand and we’ve changed, but dismiss it out of hand. The book is written for its political intrigue by journalists of that era. The reductionism that occurs also reflects on the reader of those times.

The looming question, of course, is whether something like this happen. If you are old enough to remember 9/11, the memory of the wave of patriotism after the attacks in New York and Washington in 2001 must still resonate with you. There was a groundswell of support and the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan were supported more than any since WWII. Even so, military men stayed in the background most of the time. Civilian leadership took precedence. I think this speaks volumes about our current attitude. With the end of the Cold War the military has become a diplomatic tool of first resort rather than last, but it certainly is moved by the president rather than the other way around.

To show the distance between now and then did you hear about the new Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff? 14 days ago General Joseph Dunford became Chairman. A Marine, he was the leader of the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. “Fighting Joe” is 59 (about the same age as Scott) and shows no inclination to overthrow the government.

Don’t sleep too easy though. One way things have not changed is that both the United States and Russia are fully capable of destroying each other with nuclear weapons. Arms treaties have helped reduce the stockpile of warheads (approximately 1640 today) from the tens of thousands that prevailed back in the 1960s. 1640 nuclear weapons on each side is still plenty enough to bring on the Dark Ages again.



I’m going to say I still “like” the book, but not “really like” it. It has aged and not very gracefully. The concept of the story is good, but its telling could be improved. In any case it’s a quick read (300 pgs more or less 5-6 hours) and depressingly fun.


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Monday, October 5, 2015

Moving Interview with Trey Anastasio - New Yorker

Alec Wilkinson interviews Trey Anastasio:

(1) Conversation about songwriting, influences, playing with the Dead, summer tour, parenthood, much more.
(2) Performances of "Blaze On", "The Line", "Joy", "Cartwheels", "Farmhouse", "Backwards Down the Number Line", "Sample in a Jar"


Listen to show here!



I loved the story of counting down "Althea".

Monday, September 28, 2015

Flowing Water on Mars


NASA announced this news today, but the title is not quite right. It's evidence of flowing water on Mars. It's briny so it doesn't evaporate. Briny makes me think of the presence of microbes, so I think the next big Martian news may make us all reach for David Bowie:



That's Mike Garson on the keys. :-)

Presence of water below the surface and frozen at the caps has been known for quite some time.

This is the Google doodle for today.

Luna Park

In one of my stories, this old amusement park is visited:




Sept 27 2015 Lunar Eclipse


Photo by NASA

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Project Humor

An Imgur Exploit.

An opportunistic exploit of images by injecting java script during an upload stores malicious script on the Imgur server that is downloaded to the computers of unwitting users. If you love pokemon foot porn, clear your cache. Want to know more?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

My review of The Martian

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yeah, this was a great romp. Good story, well told, and left me dreaming of space travel.

It's really rare to find a good science-fiction book that relies on good science, but it sure is a pleasure when it happens, and it's done right. The Martian is really special in this regard, but that alone wasn't what made it work so well for me. I also really enjoyed Watney and the others on the crew. Yeah, I agree that we didn't get to see everyone fleshed out as much as I'd like, but the concentration of the book is on the individual vs (lack of) nature conflict, not issues of individual vs government bureaucracy or individual vs individual (though those both came into play at some point).

It's always a bit tricky to talk about books without giving spoilers, and, of course, there is a movie with Matt Damon that is out October 1, so everyone will know the plot anyhow, but there is enough to say about style, humor, and the most compelling thing of all (Mark's resourcefulness) without giving things away. There are also some important lessons and I can talk about all this without giving away much at all.

First off, the story is mostly told (at least the main part of the tale) from log entries of my favorite Martian, Mark Watney, who was left behind and needs to survive. I have to admit this was pretty dry for me until and the writing felt barren because, well, they're log entries and Mark is alone. We don't really know much about him at first, but as the story progresses, the log becomes a window into his soul, and what we find there, through his childish humor [12:15] WATNEY: Look! A pair of boobs! (.Y.) and general geekiness (including comments about how hard it is for a botanist/mechanical engineer to get dates), is a plucky fellow who uses his optimism to find his way through impossible challenges.

It's never predictable and it's never that farfetched. (Ok, there are some things you shouldn't try at home though) In fact, one of the strengths of the novel, to me, who enjoys "reality-based" science-fiction, is the practical nature of the space mission. I get an optimistic feeling that something like this could actually be pulled off, maybe even in my lifetime (which I know is absurd, but still...)

I want to say two more things before I'm done here. One is the way the book left me feeling about humanity, in that, if something like the response and collaboration resulted from a disaster like this, it would probably be worth it. The conflicts of the world are deep and we are all very divided. Maybe a Watney event would even be beneficial no matter how it turned out.

The last thing, and what MOST impressed me, is the realization (I already knew this but it was sledgehammered into my head) that everything that we bring from Earth is a resource on the other world. Mark Watney uses his urine and feces to great effect and cannabilizes the equipment over and over again. All along my mouth hangs open and my hand in a steady clap. Even our shit is valuable.

You can't really help but cheer for him and in doing so, it feels like you're cheering for us all.

What a great tale!

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Monday, September 14, 2015

The Deed of Paksennarion - my review on Goodreads

Such a good book. One that I fought with, but came out loving it even more because of the challenge. Do you want to see how to do polytheistic cultures?

The Deed of Paksenarrion (The Deed of Paksenarrion, #1-3)The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s pretty hard to talk about a book of over 1000 pages that sprawls across a continent and cataclysmic heroic events without spoilers, but that’s my goal here. Before I start, I want to say that I fought with this book for the longest time, but resistance was futile. I ended up in love with the characters and the world-building impressed me tremendously. Elizabeth Moon, your imagination is amazing. Your story will live in my mind, if I am lucky, until my last breath. Thank you for writing it.

I bought these 3 books on sale at Amazon. I read the first one in an 2 week period last year (that’s trudging for me) and bitched the entire time. My first impressions were that Paks is some perfect, order-following recruit that gains favor by brown-nosing relentlessly. Just call me Barra, ok? Grrr… Anyway, everything goes well for her for a long, long time. She follows orders without much dissent until she is confronted with the old problem of the good that chooses to wear the face of the evil, if only for a time. A moment where she stops the Duke from making a terrible mistake with Siniava becomes vital for the rest of the story, and we find that we have fallen into the velvet hand of a master storyteller. The last 700 pages of the story were swallowed like a glutton at a feast.

My first impression was that the characters were a bit too rote, but that changed over the story, and I (am the last one?) realized something (along with Paks) and now it’s clearly the intent of the author to demonstrate how people’s perceptions of others change over time. At one point in the story Paks realizes that people that have older have already lived a good part of their life before she meets them (or maybe she is hearing a story as such - I can't find the quote) and at that point you need to reevaluate all the different relationships.

A lot of people who say it is too easy for Paks (myself included early on) go dumb by the middle of he 2nd book. What this character endures from Liart and The Webmistress is truly unspeakable. If I had to make a criticism at all, I don't think that it's necessary for Paks to be so "pure" to make the point of her degradation. She seemed at times asexual to me which was off-putting, but this becomes a small complaint. The characters ascend to almost Pantheonic proportions by the end of the tale.

Before I go I have to talk about the world-building. I was thoroughly caught by surprise, because you are not immediately immersed. I don't know really when I started breathing air from Paks's world, but I did. By the end of the story the gods made sense, the different guilds and sects made sense, and the characters, their nations, their races... EVERYTHING became natural. I don't know how else to say this, but it's not often I am this pleasantly surprised. If there were six stars I would give them. I fought the Moon and the Moon won.


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Friday, September 4, 2015

Animal Collective Live At 9:30 Club Released


It sounds great. Here's the track listing:

Live at 9:30

1. Amanita 
2. Did You See the Words 
3. Honeycomb 
4. My Girls 
5. Moonjock 
6. New Town Burnout 
7. I Think I Can 
8. Pulleys 
9. What Would I Want? Sky 
10. Peacebone 
11. Monkey Riches 
12. Brothersport 
13. The Purple Bottle 


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Don't Let Life Get You Down - You Aren't Very Important Anyhow



The Galaxy Song

I am a Goodreads Author now.

Here is a link to my Goodreads author page:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14247287.Michael_Gouker


The best part is the photo I use so I'll reprint it here:





This was a gift from Roger Misteli and Sandra Just! :-) That's a real picture of me eating wasabi.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Pato Stays!


Alexandre Pato vai ficar no São Paulo FC pelo menos até Dezembro 31.

Pato stays in SP! :-)

GMT Project 500 Mentioned on 538.Com

This is about Kickstarter crowdfunding of board games:

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/crowdfunding-is-driving-a-196-million-board-game-renaissance/

Project 500 is a GMT Games program that gets pledges for games and then publishes:

http://www.gmtgames.com/s-2-p500.aspx


Monday, August 31, 2015

Higgs Particle Discussion

Brian Greene and Lawrence Krauss discuss the Higgs Particle and the Higgs Field.


The original video was Dec 13, 2012.

The Higgs Field gives all particles mass. Particles with more mass have more interaction with the Higgs Particle.

Siberian Totem - 12000 YEARS OLD



http://www.lazerhorse.org/2015/05/14/shigir-idol-oldest-wooden-sculpture/#

Sunday, August 30, 2015

My Review of "The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon"

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Nice.

So, I avoided reading this for years because I thought it would be another one of the "Can you survive the _____?" books like Misery and Gerald's Game. Oh, and I'm also not a Red Sox fan. ;-)

It seems to be a recurring theme for Stephen King to put his characters into abominable situations, let them adjust, make it worse again (as they get hungry, thirsty, whatever), let them adjust, give them a small amount of hope, tear it away, et cetera. As I feared, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is along the same lines, but any misgivings about repetition faded because the author brings a lot more to the table.

First, Tricia is a wonderful character, likable in every way and SO realistic. She makes adjustments for everything wrong in her life and this flexibility pays off for her when the world gets tight and mean. I love how she channels the sayings of her mother and father and we learn about them through her interpretations.

Second, King is so good at making everyday situations absolutely chilling. I think you really need to understand fear in order to write about it convincingly and not only does he do this here, but we also see it through Tricia who is only 10, but big for her age. It cannot be stressed enough, but to buy into a story like this, you need to be one with the characters. Man, he nails it here so well that it doesn't matter that the father and mother seem like cookie-cutter characters. Tricia's internal struggles compensate and we see that there is broken-down, beaten-up, world-weary humanity in the people around her and we can forgive the blithe interpretations because the complexity we are looking for doesn't even matter. By the end of the story Tricia is gazing into the souls of everyone and everything.

I'm not going to give away any of the ploy here, but there is a parallel obstacle as well and if it doesn't freeze your blood, then you have to stop doing the Surge anti-freeze shots.

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the story and am going to rate it 4 stars (GG was 3 for me and Misery - scary! - was 4 or 5). I "loved". Yes indeedy.

I do wonder now if when Stephen King finishes one of these, does he point a finger to the sky?



My Review of "The Colorado Kid"

Usually I love Stephen King books but this fell flat for me.

The Colorado KidThe Colorado Kid by Stephen King
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well, I see. Yes, mystery is important, but let's talk about Sudoku. Imagine a game of Sudoku that gets to the last few moves, just when you have to make the deepest analysis - essentially when you win or lose the game because of your skill - and then, well, you put the puzzle away and keep it in your pocket. You think about it off and on but you don't really make progress. Then you spend an entire afternoon telling someone about the game that you couldn't win. And then nothing. Instead, you say, "Sudoku is important."

I did like the characters. I like the setting - really familiar turf.

That's about it.



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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Here is ANIMAL COLLECTIVE radio!

Animal Collective Radio

http://radio.myanimalhome.net/


Well?


MagnaBall Tweezer-Caspian

I hope this link isn't removed, but here's the high point (for me at any rate) of MagnaBall, Phish's 10th festival that just ended at Watkin's Glen.



Prince Caspian has been a jam vehicle before, but this time is historic. What a show!


Friday, August 28, 2015

What you'll get if you send $1 to Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption

http://imgur.com/a/YcQsb



Inside:









Bibracte

Well, my friend Larry crushed my Helvetii in Bibracte, but it was certainly a lot of fun.

Don't know Bibracte? Well...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Bibracte

In our game my Helvetii never got it going, and the legions stacked up. Consequently, the battle was over almost before it started. The Boii and Tulingi never even showed up. Next up The Rhein.

I bet you wonder what Bibracte looks like today. Pleasant countryside, right?




The helm from an unlucky Roman.


The actual battle I think the Romans did a little worse.




We are going to Alesia, but we're going to take the long way.



Thursday, August 27, 2015

I found this version of Chalk Dust Torture (from the IT Festival of 2003). With so many great CDTs in Phish 3.0, it's a good idea to sometimes revisit where this song already went:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=966&v=xG6magkY-KE

Highly recommended.

São Paulo is classified in the Quarter Finals of the Copa do Brasil

http://www.gazetaesportiva.net/copa-do-brasil/sao-paulo-reage-vence-o-ceara-e-avanca-na-copa-do-brasil/

Rogério Cení, our 41-year-old keeper, made a goal (penalty) and closed our goal against Ceará! Bigger challenges are ahead though.


It looks like I get to play the Barbarians against the Romans:

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/7843/caesar-conquest-gaul

Bibracte - 58 BC (vs the Helvetians)
The Rhein - 58 BC (vs Ariovistus's Germanic tribes)

Bibracte was Caesar's first major battle at the age of 42.

Here are some pictures:



Dwyane Wade Posted This on Instagram. READY!!!

Ready for 2015-6!

https://instagram.com/p/61FRkIFCCV/


This is quickly becoming real as I get feedback from beta readers on Goodreads. It's weird that the third novel I start writing is the first one complete, but the others are much bigger in scope. Anyway, it still might change, but this is what it is now.

Here is the blurb of my new novel:

Bartholomew Barrington, a troubled young man of the Gilded Age, is beset with difficulties of every kind, amplified by his angst of being part of the leisure class that he despises. His dysfunctional family is rocked by the death of their father and its perilous aftermath. Bartholomew's struggle is to grow in this turmoil of loss and danger, surrounded by an environment of greed and despair, murder and lust, but first he must survive.

Protagonist: Bartholomew Barrington - an economist and a card-shark of dubious morality.
Antagonist: Nona “Sapphie” Barrington - heiress and trendsetting star of Ziegfeld Follies, a woman who is used to getting her own way.
Antagonist: Sterling Barrington - The new Lord Barrington, a greedy sadistic man whose greatest pleasure in life is to see his younger brother suffer in pain and shame.

51500 words.
15 chapters and a short afterword.

Setting: America early 1900s

Elements: Historical fiction, mystery, thriller, horror, suspense

I recognize we all turn to books for different entertainment. My tastes are across a wide spectrum that I know that many do not share, so to protect those who do not want to read content that is offensive, I will describe possible issues in advance, so you can decide if you would like to read or not.

PG: Adult situations of violence but no gore nor mature language, however not YA. Includes psychological terror and characters of questionable morality.

Drugs: Alcohol and Laudanum are imbibed. 
Sex: Not very much and that which exists is mostly mind games, but there are some odd dreams that reveal character defects.
Violence: Some, but (again) very little gore.
Psychological Terror: Quite a lot really. I would be very pleased to be responsible for some nightmares.


I can provide PDF, EPUB, or MOBI.

Friday, August 21, 2015

My Review of "Storm Front: Dresden Files #1"

Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1)Storm Front by Jim Butcher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Delicious, but like a snack with too much salt rather than the healthy hearty meals to which my reading self is accustomed. Jim Butcher has built a picturesque world, but Storm Front is only going to give us tastes of what's inside. Still, I'm very intrigued and the series is huge, so I'm definitely enthusiastic about what will come. This review deals just with Storm Front though.

I gave 3 stars, but it's actually a little closer to 3.5, in that I really did enjoy the way the plot came together. I cannot give 4 because I wanted *more* depth, but maybe that doesn't really come with the territory. I also did not feel much affinity for any character (not even Lt Murphy who was the best described outside of Dresden, who basically is no one anyone would want to meet, including Dresden himself).

On the other hand, I did think Dresden was interesting, and I'm afraid if I read more of the series that I might end up liking the guy, which may mean that I will start to suck socially too. I'm sure an amulet or something can be found to stop it from happening.

I am interested in the magic, but I have this feeling that a spell is there whenever Dresden needs it. He seems to not have any power and then all at once have enormous mana to fire off one spell after another. This didn't bother me when I read it but later on it came to mind. I hope the magic system is fleshed out in the other books.

As for the characters, I've already read a lot of criticism about their "tropish" nature and I'm not going to add more here. Again, their lack of depth and diversity hits harder after the story is done than when I was reading. I was completely hooked to the story and devoured the book in only a few hours.

All in all, this was a nice way to enjoy some time on the noir side. I'm looking forward to more.


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Sunday, August 16, 2015

My Review of "Joy Land"


JoylandJoyland by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3 stars is about right. I definitely enjoyed the story. There were interesting characters and a terse tight plot. I actually guessed the culprit, but not through the clues, but the psychological trail. All those women were charmed. When Jonesy suspects Eddie but realizes it was a bad choice, I started asking myself if there was someone that fit the bill better and the answer leapt out. The actions afterward solidified my opinion so I wasn't too surprised.

A bit of a deux ex machina to save him, but if you except psychic revelations - as you are asked to from the beginning - being valid, you won't have a problem with the plot.

Not a bad story at all but definitely it was not a horror story, despite the actions of spirits from beyond, so if that's what you are looking for, choose one of his other books. On the other hand, this is a good example of how well King's talents work in other genres. His stories are almost always impressive and you end up caring about the characters.

Note: I don't care if some of the characterizations of the amusement park are inaccurate. It's fiction.


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I liked it.

A different story than I expected, but definitely interesting. The ending was pretty obvious. I wonder if that was intentional.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

My Review of "Outlander" by Diana Gabaldon

OutlanderOutlander by Diana Gabaldon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Overall a 3 star rating (I liked it) is correct.

Diana Gabaldon has a very expressive voice, especially when describing surroundings. There were times when I could read a paragraph close my eyes and BE inside this world she painted. I had a bumpy ride through the plot, which had moments of good effect and others where it really dragged on. I understand that she tries to be realistic, but sometimes this became a triptych about Claire, who often made curious choices.

A lot of reviews point to the violence and even rape-culture-advocacy in this novel. Frankly, I think that's overstated. The world described (18th century Scotland) was a very violent place and women were often second-class citizens. She makes this point very effectively and it does chafe at 21st century sensitivities, but isn't that the nature of historical fiction, to immerse yourself in those times?

Actually what bothered me more was the obsession with the loving relationship between Jamie and Claire, which had its bumps too. I often felt I was intruding by reading as they frolicked from one moment of bliss to another. I am not easily shocked and I was never shocked here (it's 2015!), but sometimes I thought the characters deserved more privacy than what was doled out by the author. That's really what keeps me from giving it 4 stars. On the other hand, my first impression (let's say my first 10 impressions out of the 100) is that Ms. Gabaldon can write very steamy romance. My tolerance for it is probably not the same as her most dedicated readers however and that's my loss I suppose.

I'm not going to address the physics aspects of time travel, the inevitability of events, parallel universes, or any of that because Claire only lightly brushes on these. (I would have liked to go deeper her then every aspect of their bedroom conduct.)

I liked the vivid characters (especially Jamie's sister) and there were times when the plot warmed up quite nicely. When things stopped and things got comfortable for them, the miasma of love claimed the compass of the story's trajectory and I lost some momentum. Claire with the Wolves is better than Claire and Jamie getting it on in another haystack.

I want to end on a positive point. I was extremely gratified to find the level of competence and completeness in Ms. Gabaldon's research. I have no idea if it is perfect, but I could definitely see that a huge effort was made. I really enjoyed reading the descriptions of the highlands, the prison, the castles, and the monastery. When this talented author describes some of these places, it is quite chilling.

Anyway, thank you for a great read. I've bought the others in the series and will read them one day. :-)


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Monday, August 3, 2015


Man, I was sick when I took this picture. Fever of 102º Fahrenheit. So deranged, right?

Saturday, August 1, 2015

My Review of "Perdido Street Station"

Perdido Street Station (New Crobuzon, #1)Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved so many aspects of this story. The world-building - a broken-down, dismal place where industry and magic work together and compete with each other - astonished me. This book drips theme. Some readers may find this time spent on the vivid description disconcerting, but not a moment was wasted in my opinion. I loved the constructs, the remades, and the alien aspects of the species.

The characters really took time to grow on me. I instinctively did not like Isaac and Lin repelled me, even though her uniqueness won me over first. Yagharek, I immediately decided was a victim of unfair judgment. Damn those Garuda! How could they do that to him? Clearly with all his bravery in the struggle, he lived up to my expectations. ;-) Damn those Garuda!

I enjoyed Derkhan most of the others, along with that nice fellow who gave Lin that job when she needed a diversion.

I'm not going to comment on the plot, except to say it NEVER felt forced. Everything was in its right place, all the time. The focus on the roles of the principal characters in the story was never lost and by the end of the story I nodded along thinking... yep, this feels right. I kind of wish someone could have repaid Motley for all his generosity.

I did think that the Weaver was a bit of a Deus Ex Machina element, but at the same time, he had enough negatives to keep the balance, so...

As for China Miéville's style, I found it very florid, lush even, with some exotic plants like oneiric &
kukris in the mix, which lend some color. Most often it reads too quickly and you want it to slow down. There are some sections, like when the weaver is introduced that are lovely and yet so chilling. I think that some of this book could be considered more horror than fantasy.

It is a big story and I took a long time to read it, because I was reading 4-5 other books at the same time. That's probably a mistake, but it's a habit. When the story gets its talons in me, I let go of the others, so it's first come first served. I think I finished this 3rd of that bunch (it's not really formal). One reason is that the book is longish. Not knowing the word count, I'd guess about 650 p is 240K words or more, so if you plan to read it in a skein, you better put some hardcore time together.

Anyway, this was a great effort, very enjoyable, and I'm glad I didn't listen to all the people that were so shocked by the gore (like the council construct's avatar). In this book, *that* is not terror. The terror is the overall air of repression which I'm hoping will be explored in the other two of the series.

Recommended!


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ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

My Review of "At Home" by Bill Bryson

At Home: A Short History of Private LifeAt Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found this book to be very illuminating. It is well-researched, but it reads more like a conversation than a history treatise. Bryson introduces characters who recur in the story, but in different roles. The end result is a fullness of understanding that is beyond the sum of the facts. In short, you are immersed in their history through their lives.

One thought I had towards the end - after the discussion of how children are treated - is how people will look on us in the future. Certainly our society will seem strange to them too, right? I actually spent the last chapter with this in my mind and it may have taken away from the discussion of the landed gentry's troubles, along with the plight of the good parson.

It was a very enjoyable book. I do enjoy his style and it's inevitable that it suffers a comparison to "A Short History of Nearly Everything", which is imnsho, one of the best books for non-scientists to explain the world/universe/life/primordial history and for scientists to speak to other people about what they know. At Home pales a bit by comparison, but its value at framing ourselves in the context of human history is undeniable.

Wonderful!


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Brilliant, if somewhat daunting, but altogether worthwhile. I was shocked to learn as much as I did.


My Review of "Kushiel's Dart"


Kushiel's Dart (Phèdre's Trilogy, #1)Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ok, first let's look at the positives. There is a good story with top-notch political intrigue. The main character is touched by Kushiel and, thus, has an interesting method of acquiring important information. First she is used by her master to gain secrets but he also teaches her to do critical thinking, empowering her to make great choices on her own. I liked all of this and especially the rich world where it takes place. The characters were good (not great though - sometimes they were a bit too cliché) and the plot moved well until about the middle of the book (60% mark).

Then things just worked out too well. I'm not a huge fan of perfect endings and I know there was bravery, risk taking, death, and sacrifice, but still...

Anyway, I enjoyed it, but I wanted a little more.


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I loved it but...   ;-)

Thursday, April 30, 2015

My Review of "The Conjure Book" by A A Attanasio

The Conjure BookThe Conjure Book by A.A. Attanasio
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was quite pleasurable. I'm not really sure why I chose to read it with several hundred books on my to read list, but about a month ago I started it and promptly forgot. Today I found it again in the pile and a few hours later I'm sad it finished so quickly.

What's to like:

1. Wicca theme. It is drenched in the mood of the supernatural.
2. The faeries and gnomes were fun.
3. BEST of all: the seductive hook of dragging Jane in deeper each time she makes a choice. She becomes responsible.
4. I enjoyed the cat familiar and the fox villain.
5. I actually enjoyed the philosophical idea of multiple existences of now.

What's not to like:

1. Jane at 13 seems pretty naïve. That actually may be believable given her sheltered background.
2. The solutions to the problems are too close to the presentation of the problem.
3. I would have liked a more tragic end. It came off a little too well for the protagonist.

I finish every book I start and so when I found it was young adult fiction I was disappointed, but I vowed to make the best of it because maybe someday I'd like to try this genre too. I was hoping for some really horrific things to happen to Jane, but she (mostly) escaped injury. If I had written it her mom would be a brain-eating zombie that invades their house and eats her dad. Munch, munch... The End.

It's best I didn't write it.  :-)


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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

My Review of "Snow White and Rose Red: Curse of the Horseman" by Lily Fang

This is a nice story, novella sized:

Snow White and Rose Red: The Curse of the HuntsmanSnow White and Rose Red: The Curse of the Huntsman by Lilly Fang
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Very enjoyable retelling of a fairy tale that reeks of Faerie in the same way that Smith of Wooten Major or Stardust does. This is a less ambitious story, but the magic is there below the surface.

The main characters in the story are two maidens who are beset with a host of problems that young women face (courters, rivalry, envy, poverty), while simultaneously being hunted because of their link to magic. It's a beautiful story of self-discovery and growth as well.

I thought this was very refreshing and I'm looking forward to the sequel.


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