Monday, June 30, 2008

Books Read: 1st Half of 2008

I've posted some book reviews up before, but this time I thought I'd just do a list of every book I can remember reading so far this year. I'll undoubtedly forget some, but I should get most of them.

1. Curse of Chalion - Lois McMaster-Bujold
2. Paladin of Souls - Lois McMaster-Bujold
3. The Hallowed Hunt - Lois McMaster-Bujold
4. Goblin Quest - Jim C. Hines
5. Goblin Hero - Jim C. Hines
6. Harrowing the Dragon - Patricia A. McKillip (short stories)
7. Genesis Quest - Donald Moffitt
8. Red Seas Under Red Skies - Scott Lynch
9. To The Power of Three - Laura Lippman
10. In Big Trouble - Laura Lippman
11. Blood Child - Octavia Butler (short stories)
12. Dawn - Octavia Butler
13. Imago - Octavia Butler
14. Scardown - Elizabeth Bear
15. Worldwired - Elizabeth Bear
16. Dust - Elizabeth Bear
17. Undertow - Elizabeth Bear
18. Knitting Rules! - Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
19. Poems of Color - Wendy Keele
20. Alanna: The First Adventure - Tamora Pierce
21. In the Hand of the Goddess - Tamora Pierce
22. The Woman Who Rides Like a Man - Tamora Pierce
23. Lioness Rampant - Tamora Pierce
24. Old Man's War - John Scalzi
25. The Ghost Brigades - John Scalzi
26. The Last Colony - John Scalzi
27. The Android's Dream - John Scalzi
28. The Wizard's Dilemma - Diane Duane
29. A Wizard Alone - Diane Duane
30. So You Want to be a Wizard - Diane Duane (3-novel omnibus)
31. Karate-do My Way of Life - Gichin Funakoshi
32. Beyond Black Belt - William Duessel
33. One Foot in the Grave - Wm. Mark Simmons
34. The Longevity Diet - Brian M. Delaney
35. Melusine - Sarah Monette
36. The Lightening Thief - Rick Riordan
37. The Chains That You Refuse - Elizabeth Bear (short stories)
38. Passage: The Sharing Knife, book 3 - Lois McMaster-Bujold
39. The Mad Scientist's Club - Bertrand R. Brinley
40. New Amsterdam - Elizabeth Bear
41. Blood Bound - Patricia Briggs
42. Iron Kissed - Patricia Briggs
43. Dragon Bones - Patricia Briggs
44. Steal the Dragon - Patricia Briggs
45.When Demons Walk - Patricia Briggs
46. The Titan's Curse - Rick Riordan
47. Off Armageddon Reef - David Weber
48. Knitting for Anarchists - Anna Zilboorg
49. Mastery - George Leonard
50. Komarr - Lois McMaster-Bujold
51. The Golem's Eye - Johnathan Stroud
52. Ptolemy's Gate - Johnathan Stroud
53. Orca - Stephen Brust
54. Dzur - Stephen Brust
55. For Us, The Living - Robert A. Heinlein
56. The Fire Rose - Mercedes Lackey
57. Crossroads and other tales of Valdemar - Mercedes Lackey, ed. (short stories)
58. Knit Three Ways - Melissa Mathay
59. Grave Peril - Jim Butcher
60. Blood Rites - Jim Butcher
61. Fool Moon - Jim Butcher
62. The Way of Aikido - George Leonard
63. Shards of Honor - Lois McMaster-Bujold (on audio)
64. Barrayar - Lois McMaster-Bujold (on audio)
65. Learner English: A Teacher's Guide to Interference - Michael Swan & Bernard Smith
66. Survey Research Methods - Floyd J. Fowler
67. Blood Lure - Nevada Barr
68. The Cup of Morning Shadows - Rosemary Edghill
69. The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
70. What Not to Wear - Stacy London & Clinton Kelly
71. Sai - Karate Weapons of Self-Defense - Fumio Demura
72. Bo - Karate Weapon of Self-Defense - Fumio Demura
73. Tonfa - Karate Weapon of Self-Defense - Fumio Demura

It's felt like I haven't gotten much reading time this last six months, but as you can see, that doesn't mean I don't read, just that I slow down some. I know I'm missing some - mostly non-fiction, but at least one fiction book (new author, a werewolf detective, no idea of the book name). With non-fiction, though, I tend to absorb the information without paying too much attention to the author or book title. Which has led in the past to buying multiple copies of the same book because I knew I was interested in the topic, but didn't remember I'd read the specific book. The list also contains some books I read to my kids, and some I read out-loud for a friend doing thesis research.

As you can tell, I read heavily in SF and fantasy, moderately in mystery, and a decent assortment of non-fiction. I usually read more theology stuff than is showing up in this list, but my non-fiction gets read in topical clumps more than my light reading. Right now I'm running heavy in the martial arts, due to impending eligeability for black belt. I really wish our local library had more martial art books - most of them aren't very good, and the library and bookstores have so few of them I can't look them over to see which ones I ought to be ordering. (If anyone has any suggestions for don't miss MA books, please let me know. My personal favorites are Mastery by George Leonard, and Living the Martial Way by Forrest Morgan.) Also, if anyone wants an opinion on any book listed above, just ask and I'll give you a review.

Friday, June 27, 2008

I Said "Ow" Too Soon

Because the next night, my knee went crunch.

Ironically, it didn't do this during karate practice, though I did do it at practice. We did mostly kata, which for me means Kusanku (plus review and minor teaching). All that popping up and down for Kusanku, and my knees were fine for all of it. Not even a twinge. Twinges are actually pretty common for me when kneeling all the way down, which happens no fewer than six times in Kusanku.

No. It was sitting down in the car. Opened the door, started to sit and crunch! It took me several tries to get my leg bent enough to get it inside, and driving home was no fun at all (stick shift).

I don't seem to have done anything really problematic to the knee. Today it's sore and swollen, but it functions fine and is perfectly stable. I've broken out the soft brace and ice packs, but don't see a need for the hard brace this time. But between the bruises from Tuesday (mostly forearms) and the limp, I seriously look like an abuse case. Based on past experience it should be fine in about four days. It rather puts the kibosh on Sensei's extra Sunday practice (at least for me), but I should be back in action by the next regularly scheduled class.

But I think I'm going to skip the full kneels for a few classes.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Beating on Cindy


Sensei has declared that he wants all of us to bring home medals at this fall's Lennox Legacy tournament. (A pretty reasonable goal, since all but a couple of us brought home medals last year.) To this end we have started kumite training at every class - to wit we go on the barrel sequentially every class. On the barrel, in this context, means that you fight the class one person at a time, non-stop. Right now, the first couple of times, he's being nice about it and bowing each person in and out, but eventually he will just holler and the old challenger will run off and the new person run in, so that the person on the barrel will fight continuously.

We've done barrels before, but not every person, every class. Also last time I wasn't a brown belt. It makes a definite difference in how hard people are gunning for me. This morning felt very reminiscent of my days back in Mr. Gabbard's dojo - bruises and/or sore muscles everywhere.

I wasn't thrilled with my performance, but it will do for a start. I pressed Sensei hard enough to get clocked in the jaw (unless he's genuinely fighting to stay in the match, his control is precise). I got knocked on my butt by M, but did a fairly smooth roll-out back to my feet. M is interesting to fight. She's a brown belt, but has been out for a long time. She's one of those people whose style is not at all pretty, but who fights really well. If I'm watching her fight, I can point out a dozen places where her technique needs improvement, but if I'm in the fight I'm too busy getting out of the way! Our blue belt contingent (2 boys and their mom) has improved mightily since last year, and the older boy is starting to hit his major growth. He's nearly my height now, and will be both taller and stronger within the next year, or I'm no judge. Mom is getting over her fear of hitting and being hit. Our purple belts are doing pretty well too. J has always been dangerous (I have footprints on my ribcage), while I needs to learn to be more aggressive, but has good technique.

No work on Kusanku, which is a shame. I'd really like to get it signed off on so I can start with Sunsu or Tokumine no Kun. Ah well.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

He Thinks What?

Michigan State University professor Richard Lenski recently published one of the more exciting papers in biology to come out recently. It's the outcome of a 20-year experiment in e. coli evolution. In a nutshell, Lenski started with a single e. coli bacterium. From this he created 12 identical bacterial colonies. Each colony was grown in a citrate-heavy, glucose-poor medium. For twenty years, the colonies have been re-inoculated into fresh medium each morning(the old medium having exhausted all it's glucose by about halfway through the day), and a sample frozen. Lenski has been watching for genetic divergence among the twelve colonies.

The bacteria responded with the expected genetic divergence - developing more efficent ways to metabolize glucose, for example. Then something less expected happened. One of those colonies evolved the capacity to metabolize citrate. Based on Lenksi's work looking back through the samples, the ability seems to have required three separate mutations, the first one providing no apparent advantage to the bacterium posessing it.

While this is really cool, and why I started reading this article about the whole thing, it's not what this post is about. The discussion after the article is interesting, at least partially because one of the co-authors (Lenski's student Zachary Blount) pops in about halfway through and offers to answer questions as he can. A fairly hostile questioner immediately pops in and starts peppering him with questions (most of which could have been easily answered by simply reading the initial paper, many of which could be answered by a serious look at the review papers). Being unsatisfied with the answers he got (some of which were "go read this paper" with a link), he became even more hostile. Eventually he lets loose with this whopper.

"Zachary and his paper have no credibility because he won't answer some simple, basic, objective questions about it. Zachary and his supporters have long ago passed the final point where they could redeem themselves by giving straight, consistent answers to my questions.

This paper has attracted a tremendous amount of reviews and comments. I hope that a lot of people will see this thread so that Zachary and his paper will be thoroughly discredited."

Wait. What? What kind of doofus thinks that a comment thread on a blog involving a bunch of people who are merely interested non-scientists (and certainly mostly non-biologists), has any power whatsoever to discredit a reviewed, published and ground-breaking paper?

The web sure gives some people delusions of grandeur.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Home Again

Actually, we've been home for a few days now (since Wed.). But by now we're unpacked and I've caught up on my sleep.

The trip was great. We spent the first week up at L's house, where there was much book reading, knitting and some writing. We had a low-key party for L's oldest son (whose actual birthday is later this month) so that he could celebrate while we were there. Ice cream, chocolate cake (the kind made with boiling water over cocoa), and fresh strawberries. We only actually talked S into having a cake at all by telling him we needed something to put the candles into. Given his own way it would have been strawberries, whipped cream and ice cream.

Because S's birthday celebration was the day before A's graduation party we ended up making four homemade cakes in 24 hours. For the graduation party it was lemon/white chocolate cake, chocolate angel food cake, and an apple-spice ring (vegan). Those were carted into Boston for the party, but held up well and were duly demolished by the guests.

A's place was next. As usual that was a whirlwind of visits to everywhere in creation. On the plus side, she now has a high-end GPS, which means that for the first time ever I spent a week driving around downtown Boston without getting lost. For those who haven't been there, Boston streets are supposed to be paved over cow paths. This is supposed to explain why they are so twisted. Given the sheer number of one-way streets, five and six-way intersections, roundabouts that aren't round and other bizarre features my contention is that the cows of early Boston were ingesting some kind of hallucinagen. If you miss your turn it is impossible to simply go around the block and try again - even attempting such a thing is likely to land you across the harbor. This is complicated by Boston not posting street names for most of its major streets apparently under the impression that everyone knows what they are anyway, so why bother? The GPS was a godsend. It even got me to my clinic appointment at Mass General on time and on the first try with only one wrong turn. (Even a GPS isn't a miracle worker. "Turn left in 50' " isn't always going to work in a town with five, six and more way intersections. "WHICH LEFT!!!")

The neuroendocrinologist visit was all good. Dr. Utz was lovely, spending a good 90 minutes with me answering every question under the sun. I have a couple of blood-test results waiting to come in, but the upshot so far is that the adenoma appears to be doing no harm and is unlikely to ever do any harm. She feels that if the next MRI (in August) shows no growth, then I can drop back to having an MRI every second or third year just for safety's sake. As much as I like Dr. Utz though, I'm very glad MGH isn't my regular hospital. It's hellish to get around in - lots of traffic, weird street patterns, and a huge campus that isn't particularly well labeled.

While we were at A's, I got to leave the boys behind for a day and jaunt down to NYC for a day with Beth and Becky. B&B are friends from college. I've seen each of them several times since then, but have not in the last 15 years had a chance to just spend a day hanging around as a trio. It was wonderful. We had lunch at Alice's Tea Cup, and Alice in Wonderland themed restaurant with out-of-this-world food. For a random note, BLT's with dark bread and bleu cheese spread are marvelous. We also sampled frozen hot chocolate (fabulous), went to a good yarn store (where I got materials to knit Beth a beaded stole for weddings), went shoe shopping (successfully), and hit a Tibetan store where I finally got a pouch for my MP3 player and a leather case for my PDA.

Then it was back to Boston, where we spent the day at the New England Aquarium. We went with one of A's friends from work and her two girls. All four kids had a grand time. Aaron (with A's encouragement) is now talking about spending a summer volunteering there when he's old enough at fourteen. Robbie would rather volunteer at the Science Museum.

The last day of the trip was Beth's ordination. We left A's early, went to Connecticut to meet up with Becky, and then all crammed into her and her husband's Civic to go down to Manhattan. The 4th Universalist Society is a beautiful old stone church - with air-conditioning, thank goodness. Beth and her mother had already hung up yards of rainbow organza and yellow satin. I got to help with setting out candles. Lots and lots of candles. Judging by the number we had to choose from, the UU's really, really like their candles.

The service itself was beautiful. UU congregations ordain the ministers, so there were a number of welcoming speeches by various communities, readings selected by Beth, a couple of beautiful songs, and then Beth and the congregation read vows and charges to each other. This was followed by a laying on of hands by everybody in the room in a sort of giant human web. Followed by more welcoming speeches, a gift of her robe by her parents and of a stole by the congregation. For me it was a wonderful chance to see Beth in her element (she's going to make an awesome chaplain), and to meet many of the other important people in her life.

After that it was the drive home, losing one of the DS's (after we got home, no less), and flopping out to recover for a couple of days. Normal life to resume tomorrow.