Sep 25 2012

Failed by random!


Alas, today’s random book is nowhere near as interesting as it ought to be, given the subject.

It’s the prose. Sorry to say; prose which in its every plodding sentence, every heavily turned phrase, every  flat metaphor, successfully communicates only the purest essence of BLAH.

It lacks even the crisp clarity of simplicity.

And it’s a shame, because this woman’s life seems like it deserves better treatment!

Pat wanted to begin his career as a country doctor. His plan was that they should settle in Canadaigua, a small community about twenty miles from Buffalo, where they would put down their roots and start raising their family while Pat served his internship. Kate would remain at home.

“But what about my internship?” Kate asked in bewilderment.

“Oh, you’ll have plenty to do at home,” Pat replied. “One doctor in the family is enough. You can help me when I begin to practice. Or you could take a temporary job doing desk work in a doctor’s office or a laboratory to help out until the children start coming.”

Katie stared at him. Surely he could not mean that she was to give up her own career, abandon her dreams of becoming a doctor in her own right, and merely become a country housewife or an office assistant, after her years of study and her lifelong passion to practice medicine?

But that is exactly what Pat did mean. What kind of a home could she make for him if she had to attend to her own practice? Wouldn’t it be enough for her to help him become successful, and look after his comfort, and bear his children? If she loved him, that should be her chief concern.

Doctor Kate, Angel on Snowshoes, the story of Kate Pellham Newcomb, MD, by Adele Comandini, Rinehart & Company Inc, 1956.

I almost feel that this was written at a prose level intended for children — but it’s a big fat book.

Am I wrong? Or is this just an early example of “invisible prose?”

"Of his liveliness, Chief Dacoteau said, 'Him not born.  Him spawned by muskies in lake waters.'"

Did Native Americans ever actually speak this way or was it only in the movies?:

Either way, hard going.

Sep 24 2012

Old and mysterious contents


I’ve always been drawn to this type of binding on library books:

Old enough to fall apart and need rebinding

From the nearby shelf

As a kid scrounging our little local library, I noticed that books that looked like these were often very peculiar inside. I did not think to check the publication dates, back then. I just knew that they were not childrens’ books, which, however clever and brightly illustrated, were quickly assimilated, and used up. The odd-binding books had more meat on them, and I learned to look for them.

In fact, I’m fairly certain that this is an example of a library rebinding. I don’t know if the books are (or were) rebound in-house or sent out; and I don’t know if this still goes on. But when a book got so old and well-read that it fell apart, someone put it back together, and they all tend to look similar.

The youngest book of the pictured bunch here is about 65 years old. The oldest is from 1902, and speaks of events even further back.

“There is one element of the character of Captain Jeremiah O’Brien which should not go unmentioned, as an explanation, if for no other purpose, of the persecution of which he was for several years, during the War of the American Revolution, the object — reference here is made to his outspokenness, which, coupled with an intense patriotism, called down upon his head the fierce wrath of the tories of Machias, of whom there were not a few, and whose activity, owing to their proximity to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, was bold and aggressive.”

Life of Captain Jeremiah O’Brien, Machias, Maine (Commander of the first American Naval flying squadron of the war of the Revolution), by Rev. Andrew M. Sherman, George W. Sherman Publisher, 1902


and his ship

(Okay, you’ve paid homage to the library — now get to work!)

I wonder what process they used to get this.

Fold-out facsimile in his own hand

Sep 21 2012

A lot of people I never heard of led lives so interesting that biographies got written about them…


Random book from a shelf within reach.

“At first the diary was hidden casually among the children’s books in the nursery. Later, as the Germans drew nearer, she buried most of it, apart from the curent pages, in a tin box in the garden, together with propaganda leaflets and her jewellery. Some of the entries were written at night, after the household was in bed; a few while Germans were actually in the house.”


from Iris Origo, Marchesa of Val d’Orcia by Caroline Moorehead, David R. Godine Publisher, 2000

Not Italian herself, but from Long Island.

Makes you wonder about all the unwritten lives.

Sep 19 2012

The N’s and O’s and P’s, actually


Same seat at the library. Did I mention that I’m in among the biographies?

Quote from a random book off a random nearby shelf:


“Paderewski looked conspicuous.  Newspaper cartoonists and jesters in the street delighted in him.  The little felt hat which he wore on the very top of his exuberant hair only accented its singular appearance, and many anecdotes of the day showed how extraordinary he must have looked to the man in the street.  One night after a recital in Berlin he called a cab to take him home.  Rather loudly the driver asked where he should go; but before Paderewski had time to answer, a voice from the crowd on the pavement shouted: ‘To the barber’s.'”


From Ignace Paderewski by Rom Landau, Crown Publishers, 1934

Apparently by the time this portrait was painted, the exuberant hair had retreated, possibly in embarassment.

As he was in 1930.

(The book is random, but the quote isn’t… I browsed a bit until I found something interesting, as with the Nightingale bio, something that caught my attention. Depending on randomness for an actual quote could have turned up something like: And then he caught a cold and spent a week in bed. There’s such a thing as too random.)

Sep 17 2012

Safely ensconced at the library.


Today in the Biography section.

I’m surrounded by books, to whose siren song I shall not succumb!

Well, I feel I must acknowledge their presence…

Okay:  quote from random book pulled off random shelf:

” By the early 1840’s, power was already a key concept for Florence Nightingale.  She saw that, for all their many excellencies, the women she knew had no desire for power.  It did not occur to them to want it.   But she did want it and this made her different.  In the eyes of the world, it made her aberrant.”


-   Nightingales by Gillian Gill, pg 176

File me between N and O.

Damn, now that quote makes me want to read it! I had no idea Miss Nightingale was so transgressive.


Okay, back to work.







Sep 13 2012

Please, only covered beverages allowed.


So, I was passing through the local library the other day, and noticed a sign:


I was all the way home before I went, Wait, what?

The only thing that was preventing me from LIVING in the library was the assumption that I could not, as is my wont, swill coffee or evilly-strong tea more or less constantly while I write.

Thus, my sad search for an acceptable off-site writing location. I’d settled on the world’s worst Starbucks, largely because it was right next door to my gym. By now, I was used to it, and hey — if the weather’s nice, there’s always the tables outside.

But I love libraries. I love all libraries. I love all librarians! And their libraries.

But I was never able to be entirely comfortable settling down to write in our library….

But now!


Usable in a pinch.

Passably adequate writing location


Absolutely optimal offsite writing location!

Absolutely optimal offsite writing location!

I invested in the most tightly-closing, leakproof coffee container I could find and afford ($16.99 at Starbucks).

I have deskspace, and nice big windows.

Life is good.

Stalking the wily 'feine bean...

Books plus coffee. Than which there is nothing finer.

Sep 7 2012

They’re sorry…


Ustream is apologizing for its bots shutting down the Hugo awards broadcast.

Well, hey. Them bots, you know. So unruly.

Anyway, they are apologizing nicely enough that I forgive them!

And I shall watch the Hugos this Sunday instead. When they rebroadcast — this time free of ads!

That’s how we know they are sincere. Free of ads, see.

The ads were seriously annoying in the original broadcast, but at the time I considered them a reasonable price to pay for the privilege of watching the Hugos.

So okay. We’ll try it again on Sunday!

Sep 3 2012

So, raise a glass..


Breakfast of champions

I don't break out this bottle for just any old thing, you know.

I’m using my fave Laphroaig. Use your own fave whatever ya got.

I was able to follow the awards ceremony on Twitter. Next best thing to live. So, I got the scoop!

The Hugo winners:

for Best Novel: Among Others by Jo Walton

for Best Novella: “The Man Who Bridged the Mist” by Kij Johnson (Asimov’s, September/October 2011)

for Best Novelette: “Six Months, Three Days” by Charlie Jane Anders (

Best Short Story: “The Paper Menagerie” by Ken Liu (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, March/April 2011)

Best Related Work: The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Third Edition edited by John Clute, David Langford, Peter Nicholls, and Graham Sleight

Best Graphic Story: Digger by Ursula Vernon (Sofawolf Press)

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form): Game of Thrones (Season 1), created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss; written by David Benioff, D. B. Weiss, Bryan Cogman, Jane Espenson, and George R. R. Martin; directed by Brian Kirk, Daniel Minahan, Tim van Patten, and Alan Taylor

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form): “The Doctor’s Wife” (Doctor Who), written by Neil Gaiman; directed by Richard Clark (Three of the five nominated works were Doctor Who episodes)

Best Editor, short form: Sheila Williams (She edits Asimov’s Magazine)

Best Editor, long form: Betsy Wollheim

Best Professional Artist: John Picacio

Best Semiprozine: Locus edited by Liza Groen Trombi, Kirsten Gong-Wong, et al — this is the first time they’ve won since Charles Brown passed away.

Best Fanzine: SF Signal edited by John DeNardo

Best Fan Writer: Jim C. Hines

Best Fan Artist: Maurine Starkey

Best Fancast -this is a brand new category, for podcasts: winner is SF Squeecast, Lynne M. Thomas, Seanan McGuire, Paul Cornell, Elizabeth Bear, and Catherynne M. Valente

The John W. Campbell Award for the best new writer: E. Lily Yu I feel I must rush out and read this woman’s work.

PS: Our Beloved President (of SFWA) John Scalzi was a charming host (until the minions of hell cut him off). I’ve always enjoyed his blogs and books; it’s nice to see he’s as likeable live as he seems in print. He was obviously THRILLED to be toastmaster and MC, and brought more than an occasional tear to my jaded eyes.

Sep 2 2012

What. The. FRAK?


The Worldcon live stream was BANNED due to “copyright infringement” —

This because they were awarding the Dramatic Presentation awards, each of which came with a CLIP FROM THE TV SHOW nominated. Which was shown. Streaming. On to the Internet. Against, apparently, the freaking LAW!

Seriously? I mean, SERIOUSLY?



Well. I did get to see Neil Gaiman accept the award for best Dramatic Presentation short form, for the Dr. Who episode “The Doctor’s Wife”, which he wrote.

But I guess that’s it for the Hugos tonight.

Sep 2 2012

Stream a little stream with me….


The blogosphere (at least that part of it to which I pay attention) is largely silent this weekend..

Probably because all my favorite bloggers are either at DragonCon in Atlanta, or WorldCon in Chicago.

So, not only can I not be there myself, I must also forgo my usual fix of witticisms, deep thoughts and general geekery.

I am doubly deprived. snf.

But — aha — it’s the twenty-first century!

Worldcon is going to stream the Hugo Awards ceremony live. 8pm Central time.

There’s also a live stream of text-based coverage, with Kevin Standlee and Mur Lafferty reporting from the Grand Ballroom at the Hyatt.

So, I shall be watching from the comfort of my little (subterranean) garret. Plus: during the boring bits (come on, there are some) I can dust, pay my bills, practice a little guitar — all options not available to me were I present in person.

So I can still be among the first to know who wins!

(Still… wish I could be there…)