WOW #72

You young whipper-snapper snowflakes today….  This is how we did it in The Good Old Days!

I was recently reading an historical novel on my Kindle.  I came upon a passage where a female personal assistant (read secretary – at that time, a secretary was a lockable writing desk, and 50 years later, a typewriter was the person who ran the new-fangled machine) in 1850 NYC, produced a document for her lawyer boss on a

PTEROTYPE

I’ve run into some strange and uncommon words, but this one stunned me.  The word was coined near the end of The Golden Age, when learned men all spoke some Latin, and a little Greek.  Fortunately, I could just tap the screen to investigate this strange word.  It took me to a Wikipedia article about a predecessor to the typewriter. pterotype – Google Search

File:Pterotype.jpg – Wikipedia

During further research, without even asking, dictionary.com first took me to ‘Stereotype,’ and later offered me ‘Proterotype,’ which is the first example of any new article. So, this is the proterotype of the pterotype.

Historically, technologically, we have come so far, so fast.  I can just imagine trying to pound out a letter, using this monster.  The lawyer might better have used the services of Bartleby the Scrivener.  I’ll keep my word-processing program and Spell-Check, thanx.

WOW #70

I was recently reading an historical novel.  In it, a commoner performed an uncommon act of intelligence and bravery.  As a reward for this selfless act, the Grand Panjandrum – or Grand Poobah – they both indicate a pretentious or self-important official, like a High Muckedy-Muck, bestowed upon him the reward of a

Carucate
[keyr-oo-kate, (yoo)]

Because I was reading a dead-tree book, I couldn’t just tap the Kindle screen to find out what a carucate was.  I had to play Twenty Questions until I got upstairs to the computer.  Was it a gem – a jewel, like the Blue Carbuncle in the Sherlock Holmes novel?  Was it a lavish dinner in his honor?  Was it a warm, if not willing, bed-companion?  Was it a mani-pedi down at Omar’s Tent and Sail Shop, and Spa?  Don’t ask – don’t tell.   😉 

It turns out that it’s another archaic measurement quantity, equal to 40 acres of land, or a quarter-section – one quarter of a square mile.  It was the amount of land that a team of oxen could plow, and the amount of tilled land that it took to produce enough food for a farm family.

While the measurement is described as square, especially those with water frontage, were a mile long, and a quarter-mile wide, farming spaghetti, or rhubarb.  It was hard to turn an ox-team and unwieldy plow around. It was easier to let the team catch their breath, and just start another furrow in a straight line, for eight furlongs, and this gave more tenants shipping/travel access . Quebec’s Eastern Townships, in Canada are like this, only larger, all fronting on the St. Lawrence River, and looking like a bowling alley on a map. 

Was it possible that this Grand Vizier – Why do all these $3 potentates describe their titles as Grand??! – wanted this potter…. or leather-worker…. to leave the city, and become just another subsistence farmer??  He could sell it, or lease it to a share-cropper.  At least he took his dictionary along, and I learned a new old word.  😀

Book Review #24

I just read the most sumptuous book.  It was as rich and satisfying as a slab of red velvet cake.

The book: The Boat of a Million Years

The author: Poul Anderson

The review: There are only seven story plots.  All of the millions of novels are just variations and combinations on those themes.  This one is a reworking of the movie Highlander, which was released 2 years before this was published in 1989.  I got a cheap 2004 Kindle re-release, while I was COVID-isolating.  The immortals can be killed.  It’s just that they heal quickly and totally.  They survive and recover from, wounds that would slay a normal person.

It’s ‘like’ a time-travel novel, but the travel is all from past, to the future.  Perhaps once per century, a person is born who does not age and die.  Unlike the Off With Her Head movie story, this book is about survival.  The author wants to show that, while these people are different from the rabble in one way, they are quite the same in others, and different from each other.

It is not at all like several other ‘ray-guns and space-ships’ books of this author’s that I have.  He treads lightly, but shows the historical foolishness of religions, when viewed over hundreds, or thousands of years

The most common, though not universal, drive is to find others of their kind.  A Turkish trader in post-Roman Britain spends parts of several decades finding an immortal Norse warrior.  When he finally locates him, he offers him partnership in a safe venture and way of life that will guarantee them both great wealth and political power.  The Viking turns him down, and walks away.  Several years later, he hears that the berserker died in an epic battle.

It takes over a century for a Mesopotamian ship-fleet owner to locate another male.  When he does, the outgoing extrovert is dismayed to find a reclusive milquetoast who is content to follow, and allow someone else to make decisions and take care of him.

Some of the men make the obvious search for females of their kind, for wives/companions, and to find if two immortals would produce immortal offspring.  They don’t.  After several more centuries, the pair locate an immortal woman in Rome.  Pointing out the gender inequality, she has advanced from prostitute, to madam, to courtesan, where she creates great wealth through pillow-talk investments.

Even before computers, birth certificates or accurate census forms, it was not a good idea to remain in one location with one name, for more than a couple of decades, lest the superstitious populace grow suspicious.  The trader suggests that they move back to Nineveh, or Tyre, and sells off his ships and cargoes, converting them to a more easily transported chest, full of gold and jewels.  Her history made her distrust all men, so she betrays them.  The two men escape with their lives, but lose the fortune which takes the one a century to recoup.

This is a psychological and sociological account.  With no ‘action’ to spur the plot, there is no urgency to rush this deep and lengthy book along.  The author has the time and opportunity to compose it like a story from the Golden Age of Literature, of a hundred or two-hundred years ago.  It is rich, luxurious, and full-bodied.

The construction was intriguing and complex, occasionally non-linear.  The history and geography were informative, well-researched, and wide-ranging.  The words were substantive, and often archaic.  There was hardly a page where I wasn’t poking the Kindle screen for a definition.  Words and phrases like, limned, bedizened courtesan, uxorious, an austere magus, lineaments, indolent insolence and caparisoned, peered from almost every page.  For a word-nerd like me, it was Nirvana.

Reading this book was like wearing a silk shirt and walking barefoot across a Persian carpet, while eating a filet mignon.  It was rewarding and satisfying on several simultaneous levels.  I was delighted with the social and personal insights that the mere-mortal author provided.

Flash Fiction #251

PHOTO PROMPT © Liz Young

THE QUEEN OF HEARTS

I just sat down at the kitchen table, when the wife called from the bedroom, where she was battling a cold.

Honey, could you make me a Keurig coffee?

When I deliver it….

I’m bored, and I left my Kindle downstairs.  Could you get it?

Could I have the Butterscotch-flavored creamer?

I have a headache.  Would you get me two Aleve?

I can’t take these with hot coffee.  Would you bring me some cold water?

I should know better than to sneak some ice-cream.  What isn’t dripping off the table and being licked up by the dogs, is strawberry soup.  😯

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

A Love Of Reading

Even for a grumpy, retired old dude like me, with nothing much to do, COVID-infested infected 2020 provided me with a little extra time to read ‘em and reap.  I thought that I was doing well, but….  The son swore off TV some years ago, and spends all his spare time reading – something.  He still reads the occasional dead-tree book, but gets most of his from Kindle Unlimited.  Kindle keeps track of how many books he has read – and reread.  In 2019, he went through 152.  During Apocalypse 2020, his list numbered 213.  I recently went to bed.  By the time I arose, eight hours later, he’d (re)read 3 books.
I only got these 37.

Hawking dumbed down ‘A Brief History of Time’ enough that I understood a lot of it. Mlodinow further simplified the concepts, in this version.

Book number 6 of The Expanse series. I am currently watching my way through series number five, on Amazon Prime

Interstellar Sci-Fi, with magic. Thanx to the son for introducing me to this series.

A time-filling men’s adventure book

A little bit of spaceships and ray-guns Sci-Fi

Alternate-Earth, with magic. Second book, Red Magic will be in this year’s list.

More Action/Adventure

A Sci-Fi book about time travel. One of several read last year.

A stand-alone book from these author’s ‘Magic” series, explaining some plot focus changes, and allowing for the beginning of a new series.

A murder mystery from fellow blogger K J Ivany. A post about this book will soon follow.

The culmination of the ‘Magic’ series. Swords, vampires, shapeshifter were-animals, and various monsters. It’s been fun.

Book #2, mate to last year’s ‘Saints.’

Book number five of The Expanse Series – the one I’m currently streaming. Thanx BrainRants – great reading, and watching.

Bourne Identity type of men’s action/adventure

Another in The Innkeeper, ‘Sweep’ series. This husband/wife writing team are almost as prolific as Isaac Asimov, with four series and several singletons.

More mindless men’s adventure. I am highly qualified.

Another Jack Reacher book. Another in the series has just been released for this year’s reading. As Clive Cussler passed his series on to his son, so has Lee Child passed his on to his son.

Tom Clancy’s heirs just passed the writing of the Jack Ryan series on to a committee of commercial writers.

Same series – different author

An invading alien machine makes the gods of Greece, Egypt and Rome real for those trapped inside a reality bubble.

If one was fun – and more importantly – sold, let’s trap another group with the Norse gods.

One of several ‘Classic’ Sci-Fi books that I reread. A book review will soon follow.

I realized that I had not read this book in the 1960s, so I bought it from Kindle for $1.99.

For the same two bucks, Star Rangers (above), came attached to this book, which I had read in the mid-’60s, titled ‘The Last Planet.’ As a matched pair, this second novel now makes more sense.

Eight millennia-old immortals among us, and how they have dealt with change. Another upcoming book review will tell you how.

Historical/urban fiction to pass the time

More Sci-Fi rereading. I originally read this, titled as ‘The Junkyard Planet.’ How to pull a failed world up by its financial bootstraps.

More interesting men’s action/adventure to pass the time. The first of another series which I believe I have to thank River Girl for introducing me to. The rest will help keep me busy in 2021.

Another reread from the ’60s. Urban fiction which barely qualifies as Sci-Fi because a man finds a way to get rich through industrial espionage, by inventing a device which allows him to move about, unseen and unstopped, while time stands still for everyone else.

More historical/urban fiction. They contain a pleasant amount of fascinating trivia.

Not much blood and guts, but lots of brains and gunplay. Solid story arc and character development.

Were the ten plagues of Egypt actually real?? Is the entire biome of the Earth a semi-sentient, interlocked, Gaia-type entity? Dunno! But it makes good reading.

Another ghost-writer, for Clive Cussler, presents a period-piece action/adventure whose hero is an early 20th century detective, reminiscent of the real Alan Pinkerton.

Time travel without leaving home. Bits and pieces of geography and time periods are inexplicably swirled together. Can our hero figure out how to put it all back where/when it belongs?

Centuries of life through organ transplants for planetary monarchs, but not for the their subjects. A topic brought up in this ’60s novel. The author also wrote the 1776/1976 American Bicentennial Saga series. If I read this book soon after its release, I don’t remember it. It was a pleasant discovery in a storage box.

At least one book to reinforce my lack of belief in the supernatural/religion. A disappointing little 156-page novelette with several passages repeated in different chapters.  Trying to justify his position through  philosophy and logic – and failing miserably.  As dry and tasteless as Muffets.

COVID19 should have given most of you some extra time this past year to read.  Aside from my magnificent prose, did you encounter anything morally or intellectually uplifting?

2017 Books Read

That title is a calendar reference, not mathematical. I did not read two thousand and seventeen books – I’ve probably read twice that many in my lifetime – just not all last year.

With the daughter’s power wheel chair missing, the wife’s two knee replacement surgeries, more visits to more doctors, and the discovery of yet another crossword puzzle site, my book reading fell off significantly. From 51 books in last year’s post, I was down to about 25 in 2017.

I also reread a few old sci-fi books that I didn’t count, and a few on the list are 700/800 page – one even 1200 page – super-books, the equivalent of 2 or 3 books each. Here’s what occupied some of my time

Charles E. Gannon -Commander Cantrell In The West Indies

1636 Commander Cantrell in the West Indies

Another in the ‘1632’ series about a modern Tennessee town transported back in time, and how the inhabitants struggle to survive, both politically and literally.  Sadly, it’s all alternate history, and no real action, just a reason to sell another 800-page blah book.

Mark Greany – The Grey Man – On TargetOn Target

The Gray Man

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the ghost writers for the now-deceased Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Jr. series, this author has one of his own action series about an ex-CIA assassin, forced to go independent.

Tom Clancy’s – Full Force And Effect – On Target

Full Force And EffectUnder Fire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tom Clancy’s name is the one that still attracts readers, but Mark Greaney and Grant Blackwood are two of 3 or 4 contract writers who pump them out.

Lee Child – Night School

Night School

After four years, I’m caught up.  It has been a most enjoyable series.  There will be one more Jack Reacher book this year, one more Dan Brown novel, and one more Ilona Andrews ‘Magic’ book in 2018.

Ilona Andrews – Magic Binds

Magic Binds

I got out of ‘Magic’ Sci-Fi about 30 years ago, but this series has lots of diverse character and plot development, thought and planning, and action.

Steve Perry – Patriot Threat

The Patriot Threat

A Dan Brown type of author, with a wide range of plot ideas, very enjoyable, but with just not quite the same OOMPH.

James Rollins – Blood Line – The Eye Of God

Blood Line

The Eye Of God

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like Steve Perry, above, a good, solid action/adventure author.

Clive Cussler – Plague Ship

Plague Ship

While not dead, like Clancy, Cussler is old enough that he is co-writing with his son Dirk, and a couple of other commercial writers, as well as establishing the story arc and parameters, and letting them loose.

Will Adams – The Lost Labyrinth

The Lost Labyrinth

A fresh young writer who isn’t likely to die before I do.  His books (so far) are about action and intrigue around Middle Eastern archeological sites.

E.E. (Doc) Smith – Subspace Encounter

Subspace Encounter

A re-read that I downloaded a cover for.  I also re-read his ‘Skylark’ series, The Skylark of Space, Skylark Three, Skylark of Valeron, and Skylark Duquesne.  This year I hope to re-read all 12 of his ‘Family D’Alembert’ series.  While not as prolific as Isaac Asimov, Doc still pumped out almost 50 novels in four different series.

E.C. Tubb – Earth Is Heaven – Melome – Angado – Symbol Of Terra

Earth Is HeavenMelome

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AngadoSymbol of Terra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I lost this series about 20 years ago, after reading the first 26 episodes.  I recently thought of it again, and found that there were seven more available on Kindle.  The original author wrote to number 31 before he died.  He left notes for novel number 32, which his estate hired another commercial writer to assemble.  The story arc almost got the hero home to Earth, so he wrote a happily-ever-after finale to this epic tale.  I read four of them in 2017, and plan to finish the other three this year.

James S. A. Corey – Leviathan Wakes

Leviathan Wakes

Recommended by BrainRants, this is the first of five books, being made into a television series on SYFY, which I can’t get here in Canada.  The hero ‘acquires’ a slightly outdated destroyer spaceship, and renames it Rocinante, after Don Quixote’s horse, establishing the whole ’tilting at windmills’ flavor of the story.

Robert Asprin/Linda Evans – Tales Of The Time Scouts II

Tales of the Time Scouts II

Another adventure into the paradoxes of time travel.  This is actually 800 pages of two related stories in one (large) book.

Thomas Cathcart/Daniel Klein – Plato And A Platypus Walk Into A Bar

Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar

Another recommended book, although, with apologies, I can’t remember the nice gentleman’s name.  (Stand up Sign in and take a bow.)  This one explores the philosophy and psychology of jokes and humor.  I can’t find its companion, ‘Aristotle And An Aardvark Go To Washington’ in Canada.  I’ll wait till the next time we order something from Amazon, and add it to the order to get free shipping.

Well, that’s (more than) enough about me.  Besides my output, what did you read last year??

WOW #23

Cinderella

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo

No! Wait!  That’s ‘The Magic Song’ from the 1950 Disney animated feature, Cinderella.  What I wanted to talk about was

Bibliobibuli & Librocubicularist

This is a pair of pretentious, $12.50 words that even I wouldn’t use except as a blog-theme, to make fun of.  I recently stole liberated them from another bibliophile’s word-nut’s post.  He claimed that bibliobibuli was a person who reads too much.  I don’t know how anyone could read too much, as long as your regular chores are getting done.  Poor little, provincial Dictionary.Com doesn’t even recognize it.  From its apparent Latin roots, bibliobibulum would be the singular.

Librocubicularist apparently applies to a person who reads in bed.  That is something which I just don’t do.  A young man asked his girlfriend in her boudoir, if they could have sex.  She replied, “I am not prone to object.”  I do my reading sitting up, if not in the easy-chair, then at the computer monitor.

‘Getting lucky’ at my age, means getting a whole eight hours uninterrupted sleep, something my dog and my prostate generally deny me. The wife regularly reads in bed.  So much that I think I’m getting a tan from the glow of her Kindle.  It’s just that my skin is turning an odd shade of blue, instead of brown.

Early in January, I will post my yearly list of books read, for 2017. You’ll see that I have not been reading too much.  How is your reading going?  Have you been reading too much, or has life made it ‘too little?’  Do you read in bed?  Do you do it prone, or propped up with the 27 pillows that many women seem to have?

Reading Room

 

Actually, I don’t need too much room to read.  Aside from what I read off the monitor in the computer room, all my reading is done in the living room.  There was a time when I read in the cafeteria at work, with all the attendant noise, but I find that my attention is diminishing, and I now need silence to read.

This past year all my reading, with Art Browne’s one exception, was from paper and ink, physical books. The son has a new Kindle, so both his Sony Reader and his Kobo are available.  Perhaps in 2015 I’ll save some money and download a few titles.

The following is a display of what I read in calendar year 2014, along with my usual comments and trivia.  I exceeded 2013’s displayed list of 31, and managed to finish 34.

I’ll start with the two ‘James Axler’ series, as I did last year.  I finally stopped buying them and still had five titles to read, to clear up my backlog.  When I read ‘my’ last one, I noticed that I was a full year’s releases behind.

James Axler

Deathlands – Nemesis, Chrono Spasm, Sins of Honor

nemesis  chrono-spasm  sins-of-honor

Outlanders – Savage Dawn, Sorrow Space

savage dawn  sorrow-space

Eric Flint – Grantville Gazette V

grantville gazette V

 

 

 

Lee Child – Running Blind, Echo Burning, Without Fail, Persuader, The Enemy, One Shot, Bad Luck and Trouble, The Hard Way

The Minutia V post that I recently published, where I claimed that ‘One Shot’ was my next Jack Reacher novel to be read, was originally written about two months ago, and I have finished it and two more recent titles since.

running blind  echo burning  without fail

persuader  the enemy one shot

bad luck and trouble  the hard way

Clive Cussler – The Chase, Inca Gold, White Death

the chase  inca gold  white death

John Scalzi – The Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony, Zoe’s Tale

the ghost brigades  the last colony zoes tale

Dan Brown – Inferno

inferno

 

 

 

James Rollins – Excavation, Subterranean, Amazonia, Ice Hunt

In another case of not looking for contradictions, but still finding them, I read in Subterranean, the following passage;

“We had been following the twisting cave through the mountain, winding ever higher, trudging beside the stream which coursed through it.  I could feel the muscles in the backs of my legs burning from the constant uphill strain.

Suddenly it opened into a gigantic cavern.  We must be near the outer mountain surface, because there were thousands, perhaps millions of bats, nesting here.  We had to withdraw.  Because of the dust, the mould, and the overpowering ammonia smell, we could not slog through guano, sometimes feet thick in places.  We decided to wet pieces of cloth, hold them over our mouths and noses, and climb into the rushing stream to let it quickly carry us past the hazard.”

While it’s interesting imagery, and literary gimmickry, I doubt that caves and caverns are formed like this in the granite of the Andes.  Even if they are, the glacier meltwater stream could kill them from hypothermia and impact with rocks, before they could climb out.  Ignoring both of those quibbles, the story says they are moving upward.  Which way is the stream moving?  Rapidly downward, in compliance with gravity!  Riding the rapids will just get them back where they started.  Oh well.

Excavation  Subterranean

Amazonia  Ice Hunt

A.H. Browne – The Saloon at the Edge of Everywhere

This is the first published tale from fellow-blogger Art Browne, over at PouringMyArtOut.  While suitable for teens or young adults, it’s fun, and still has a thing or two to say about social morés.

saloon

 

 

 

Alena Graedon – The Word Exchange

word exchange

 

 

 

Max Berry – Lexicon

lexicon

 

 

 

Gregg Loomis – The Julian Secret, Pegasus Secret

julian secret  pegasus secret

Steve Berry – The Templar Legacy

templar legacy

 

 

 

Ryk E. Spoor – Grand Central Arena

A strangely named man tries to write an epic Space Opera as an homage to the great E.E. (Doc) Smith – and fails.  I’ve read Doc Smith.  This ain’t it!  It does not have Doc’s crisp precision and vision.  While interesting and enjoyable, this overly long tome contains lots of action and social statement, with a happily-ever-after ending.  It is full of physics impossibilities (Vaguely attributed perhaps to God – or gods.), but no explanations.

grand central arena

 

 

 

Anthology – Science Fiction of the Fifties

This book contains 22 short stories by some of the masters, only a couple of which I read in my teens.  The themes include some things we still worry about, and some we don’t; overpopulation, ecological collapse, social demand for uniformity, and miscegenation.  The stories are from the 1950s; the book was published in 1979, and priced at $4.99.  I didn’t purchase it until 1999, and paid $1.99.  It sat on a shelf for another 15 years before I finally got around to it.

50's SciFi

 

 

 

Uncle John’s Slightly Irregular Bathroom Reader

We all know what this one is.  One- and two-page articles full of interesting trivia, useful for a short stay in the small room.  Despite that, I read it in the living room.   😀

Uncle John

 

 

 

That’s enough reading about what I’ve been reading.  Rest up, and return soon.