Reading at the Gym V: The Builders

•January 18, 2016 • Leave a Comment

[2016-01-18 5:30pm] 15 minutes on the recumbent bike followed by a 45 minute 5k on the treadmill. Did it walk 3 minutes run 1. Got up to 7.2 mph, but did most of the running at 6.5.

Tor.com started publishing novellas last year. I saw at least one on the shelf at Small World Books the other day. If eBooks are your thing, they’re releasing these in bundles now. You can get The Builders by Daniel Polansky either on it’s own or bundled with 2 other novellas.

The first 3rd involved getting the band back together. Anthropomorphized animals tearing it up in a tale of revenge. I admit to plenty of Redwall flashbacks, but my favorite part about the novella so far is Polansky’s voice. There’s a humor in even the the bloodiest passages.

The part I read at the gym today finally saw the team in action. Honestly I’m more focused on how good it felt of the treadmill. I’ll write more about The Builders when I’ve finished it.

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Ingress in 2016

•January 18, 2016 • Leave a Comment

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I’ve earned the Translator medal in #Ingress.

Been a while since I played actively, but I got drawn back in on the 3rd waiting for my friend to finish a half marathon in downtown Los Angeles. I did the 5k. She did the 5k+half marathon challenge. It’s one more reminder to get outside and move. Now back inside for laundry and other responsibilities. Gym later.

Reading at the Gym IV: Two of Swords Part Twelve

•January 16, 2016 • Leave a Comment

[2016-01-16 7:15 am] 6 miles of walking, to and on the Venice boardwalk.

Read the 12th installment of K. J. Parker’s ongoing serial Two of Swords at The Sidewalk Cafe and finished it off after the walk. Musen, the thief, spent this bit as the mouse in a game of cat and mouse. He and Axeo (the cat) arguably have the same goal, though they disagree dramatically about how to achieve it. Plenty of colorful characters encountered as always. It’s crazy difficult keeping the cast of POV characters straight between installments, but I’m still finding the serial rewarding.

Also spent some time at Small World Books and came away with Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. I’ve been meaning to read this and it always feels great to support a local independent bookstore. I read a bit of this on a bench by the skate park. It’s a bit cool out, but there was still a pleasant cognitive dissonance to sitting in the bright sunlight and reading about a frozen planet. The main points that I knew about the book, the non-gendered language and the main character that used to be a ship, were both raised in the first few pages. Looking forward to finding out more.

Reading at the Gym III: The Coode Street Podcast

•January 14, 2016 • Leave a Comment

[2016-01-14 6:10am] 35 minutes walking and running around the Venice, Wade, Pacific, Moore block. This was a proof of concept. How well do I run on a cold morning. Could I possibly run down to the beach (2.3 miles) and back for a morning run? Actually, strike that. There’s a bus that runs regularly along that route, so I really only need to be comfortable getting to the beach. 2.3 miles is cake! I’ll top up a TAP card and try this next week.

Just as I wasn’t actually in the gym, I wasn’t actually reading. I listened to the tail end of Episode 257, the last episode recorded in 2015, and the start of Episode 258, an interview with Jim Minz.

I’m always amused when Gary and Jonathan ponder how people are supposed to stumble across new (to them) writers in a podcast where they’ve given dozens of reading recommendations. I know that an insider baseball (actually science fiction) podcast like this isn’t going to be where the average reader discovers the gems of science fiction, but it’s one of MY favorite ways to dive deeper into the field. To the extent that I go on to recommend books, the seed of those recommendations often start here.

Review: 1984 at The Broad Stage

•January 14, 2016 • 1 Comment

1984 by George Orwell, a new adaptation created by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillian, runs through February 6, 2016 at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, California. 101 minutes with no intermission. I attended Wednesday January, 16th.

The play opens with Winston Smith writing in his journal. He writes the year 1984 followed by a question mark. We see this both on stage and projected large on the white acoustic tiles at the top of the single room that will be the set for all but the final act. A disembodied voice narrates what Smith may be thinking. A jarring sound, a darkened stage, bright strobe lights toward the house and the rest of the cast joins the stage.

Much of the world of George Orwell’s 1959 book is present in this stage production. It’s been decades since I read it in school, but much feels familiar. Perpetual war, constant surveillance, power for the sake of power and all of it wrapped in newspeak.

The multimedia that was used in the opening to show the journal is used to great effect (though not constantly) throughout the play. It’s easy to question the reality of a certain off stage set. The editing of history is visualized. A propaganda snuff film might as well of been produced by ISIS.

Winston Smith (Mathew Spencer) is a brilliantly confused presence on stage, driving the core narrative. The rest of the cast morph moment to moment from his contemporaries, to memories, to a book club in our future debating if the book 1984 is fiction or truth or both. Scenes freeze and restart and refrain and fugue. The disembodied voice returns occasionally.

Whereas most of the play is engaging with occasional and jarring scene transitions, the final act introduces a new set and a spectacular level of discomfort. It’s powerful and drives home the point but is not easy to sit through.

I’m amazed how much was packed into a non-stop hour and 40 minutes. I have the distinct desire to reread the book, a desire I’ve not had for years. This is the second play I’ve seen in this venue and once again I feel like the intimacy and relatively small stage manage to amplify the production rather than constrain it. I highly recommend you catch a showing if at all possible.

Reading a the Gym II: Zer0es by Chuck Wendig

•January 12, 2016 • Leave a Comment

[2016-01-11 6:15pm] 30 minutes on the recumbent bike. 5 minutes on the stepper (need to figure that one out). 30 minutes on an elliptical.

Read 12% of Zer0es by Chuck Wendig. The hackers continue to do their thing. The 5 we’ve been following continue to bond, Breakfast Club style. The larger plot thickens.

Reading Chuck Wendig reminds me that I want to write about the new Star Wars canon I’ve been reading up on, but at the moment, I’ve worn myself out and must sleep.

Reading at the Gym I: Temper by Alex Hughes

•January 9, 2016 • Leave a Comment

[2016-01-08 ~10pm] Recumbent bike for 20 minutes followed by a little over a 5k on the treadmill.

Temper, the novella I was reading, is a companion piece to the novella Fluid, the most recent stories in Alex Hughes Minspace Investigations series. Fluid follows the telepath Adam, who has been the central character, whereas Temper covers the same time period from the point of view of Cherabino, Adam’s partner and frustrated love interest.

Adam’s struggle with addiction has been central to the series, so it feels right that Cherabino have her own internal struggle when we’re seeing the story through her eyes. For Cherabino it’s the titular “temper,” her “fight or flight” reflex that’s light on the flight. I’ve gotten used to Adam thinking about how various tech will interfere with his ability and how crowded rooms will strain his ability to concentrate and, as a telepath, what other people are thinking. It’s refreshing to see the same world, a high-tech, future Atlanta with sever restrictions on computers, through the eyes of a well worn police woman. Her stray thoughts are mostly self reflective, trying to remain focused on the task at hand while her stable life crumbles around her.

Perfectly serviceable mystery as always, with a solid introduction into how both Cherabino will handle working as a private investigator instead of a cop. She’s getting used to lying and playing on the various assumptions people have. I wasn’t that satisfied with the ending to Fluid, but it works much better as a counterpoint to the ending of Temper. It’s been established that Cherabino and Adam can’t sleep together for … reasons … and Cherabino’s struggles with that were great to see from her point of view.

After reading these I’m definitely ready for another Mindspace novel. I’m glad Hughes is still writing even if she’s no longer with a major publisher.