Friday, February 27, 2009

Hoops: UW men solidly #1 in Pac-10 standings

Last night's game between the UW Huskies and the Arizona State Sun Devils was awesome. The #1 and #2 teams, respectively in the Pac-10, UW (11-4) and ASU (10-4) were set for a real showdown. I went to the game with an old friend from Aldus days, John. He had been a student at UW many years ago back when, as he said it, "there will still columns in Hec Ed." He said he had never heard a louder crowd in that arena and I have to agree with him. The atmosphere was loud, noisy, and rockin'.

UW came out with a stifling defense that let ASU know what they were going to be in for all night. ASU's big guns, Jeff Pendergraph, and James Harden, were certainly the major firepower for the team. At one point in the 1st half ASU had 36 points. Between them Harden and Pendergraph had 30 of them, 15 each. In the second half, Lorenzo Romar adjusted the Huskies defense into a major-league, ball-denial effort against Harden and it worked. He only scored 4 more points to finish with 19. Pendergraph was very good, banging inside with Brockman and getting the better of him for the most part, finishing with 24.

The game was perhaps the most poorly officiated Pac-10 game I had ever witnessed and John concurred with me on that. That being said, it should never have gone into overtime. Unfortunately, some sloppy passing on the Huskies' part led to them giving away the lead in the waning minutes of the 2nd half and then coming back to tie it. At one point, Justin Dentmon missed receiving a pass right in front of Coach Romar. As the ball sailed out of bounds, I thought Lorenzo was going to grab Dentmon by the neck and strangle him!

In the end, our foul shooting, both percentage wise (24-31, 77.4%) and overall (we shot 31, they shot 12), made the difference, especially in OT. We ended up winning the game 73-70 with our last 5 points coming from the free throw stripe. Thank God we've improved from dead last in D1 in foul shooting percentage, otherwise we might have let this one slip away.

I wish I could go to tomorrow's game at Hec Ed against Arizona, but I have to run a retreat for a non-profit I'm the Board president for from 9-3 and the game tips off at noon. It would look bad for the Prez to bug out with 4 hours left in a 6 hour retreat. So far, I've tried to give the tickets away to 6 different people without any success. In the middle of writing that last sentence I took a call from the 7th guy I offered the tickets to, no dice there either. During this week, the Seattle Times called this "the hottest sports ticket in town". You can't prove that by me; though, trying to give away the tickets on short notice for a mid-day Saturday game makes the timing kinda tough.

As it stands, UW is now 12-4 in Pac-10 play, ASU is 10-5 and in second place. We have three more home games; Arizona tomorrow, Seattle U on Tuesday, and then WSU on Saturday to end the season. After that, it's Pac-10 and then NCAA tournament time. Barring a major meltdown, I feel reasonably certain that we're going to get an NCAA bid. If we don't, no-one in the Pac-10 will, that's for sure.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Racin': Skip Barber Day 3

Well, day 3 at Skip Barber was a week ago, so it's about time that I got back to writing it up. I brought my camera to the track all three days, but I took very few pictures. In fact the only ones I took were early Saturday morning on Day 2. You'll have to content yourself with my word pictures; threadbare as they are.

Days 1 & 2 were similar in their weather patterns. Each morning was cool and wet, then during the day the sun came out and the wind came up and dried the track off. By the time we were out there to do exercises of one sort or another, the track was dry. Here's what it looked like before class started. This is the view of the track from the front steps of the Skip Barber facility. The Yokohama bridge is on the straight between Turns 3 & 4, both 90 degree right handers.

Early morning at Laguna Seca

You can see that the sun was fighting through and the wind was starting to blow the overnight clouds away.

This is Bill, my co-driver on One Lap of America this year and a good friend for the past couple of years. We worked on the 21st Century School Initiative in Mississippi and Louisiana for Cisco from November 2005 through January 2007. Bill actually worked longer at both ends of the project, but that was the extent of my Cisco fellowship.

Bill outside the Skip Barber entrance

Finally, here's my early morning similing face outside of Turn 3. You can see the apex cone on the inside of the turn. The turn in cone is further back up track and the track out cone is just outside the frame to the left. You can see the track surface of the front straight flowing downhill to the left behind Turn 3. This was the scene of our deep-braking, trail-braking exercise on Saturday.

Jim at outside Turn 3 at Laguna Seca

Sunday's weather was totally different from Friday and Saturday's. It rained during the night, then rained all morning and all afternoon. Our curriculum was to practice race starts in the morning, followed by some unrestricted lapping of the track, lunch, and then more lapping in the afternoon. The track stayed quite wet all day; the rain would let up for a bit, but then come back, making sure that the track surface never dried at all. Driving open-topped, roll-caged Miatas with fabric covered racing buckets was a somewhat soggy affair.

We were scheduled to practice two double-file rolling starts and then a single-file restart, so that if we did want to go racing, the procedures would not be totally unfamiliar. Before we practiced the starts though, they had us do some lapping to get a feel for the track surface today. I had been in a silver MX-5 Miata for both Friday and Saturday. When it got a bit wet inside and the wet got to any of the electrical connections, it would show a 'battery' light on the instrument panel. Sunday was very wet; when I got in and started up, I had the battery light and several others illuminated as well. That should have been my first hint that trouble was coming. The car started ok and then I took it out onto the track accelerating gently as the motor, gearbox, tires etc (as well as the driver) were all cold. As it began to warm a bit, I pressed further, the Miata would not follow. It would not run past 3,000 rpm (and those cars make very little power below about 5,000). Pretty soon, I had an embarrassing procession of cars behind me running up the hill to the Corkscrew. I hate slowing other folks down. This one, though, was totally out of my control. After dropping down into the Corksrew and then negotiating Turns 9 & 10, I pulled into the pits. Lucky for me Skip Barber has lots of Miatas. They gave me a shiny red one and then all was right with the world.

We were scheduled to run our race starts on the front straight after making the sharp left of Turn 11. Because there were a couple of small rivers coming across the front straight, things were a bit dicey. The whole weekend we had been sharing the track with the SB Formula racing school, little 1,400 lb open wheel cars with 2 liter Dodge Neon motors and 5 speed transmissions in them. In the lapping session they were doing just before we went out to do our practice starts, one of the formula cars hit the water coming across the straight without being terribly straight himself, aquaplaned and spun. He hit the wall twice knocking both rear wheels and most of his body work off in the process. As a result of the conditions and the time it took to clean things up, we only got one side by side start and then a single file restart. It was kinda fun; once the whole field came off Turn 11, they gave us the green flag and then it was pedal to the metal time. I started in 5th (left side, third row) out of 8 cars and ended up third by the end of the front straight. Once we got over the hill, we slowed down and ran single file around the course until another pace car picked us up between Turns 4 & 5. We followed that around and then, coming off Turn 11 again, we did a single file restart. Because the cars are so remarkably similar in power and setup, the likelihood of making a pass on a restart all comes down to someone making a mistake. No-one in front of me did.

After that we had lots of lapping for the rest of the day. At every track I've ever been to school at, the first thing they teach you is 'the line'; the theoretically most efficient, fastest way around the race track. They did that for us on Friday and Saturday. The line at Laguna Seca was already pretty familiar to me from video games, but it was immensely gratifying to be able to run it in reality and have it been way more fun than any video game.

When it rains, the only thing you can be sure of is the 'the line' is likely to be the slowest, most slippery way around the track. That's because race cars tend to fill in the racing surface with bits of tire rubber, oil, coolant, etc all along the line. The surface off line is where all the grip is when it's wet out, though you do have to be savvy enough to watch for puddles etc. As our lead instructor, Rene, said, "Driving in the rain is a search for grip. Go wherever you find it." It is also a great exercise in car control.

In the process of 'finding the grip' you often find sections of less grip than you thought. This leads to a pretty wiggly car at speed; you have to be comfortable with a certain amount of understeer, oversteer and general dancing around on the razor's edge of traction. It was actually great fun. We only had one student put his car off (and make use of his insurance) during the entire day, so I'd say that was pretty successful.

During the last session of the day, I got waved onto the track a couple of cars behind Bill. I was able to make my way past those two cars and began to come up on Bill. I thought it would be great fun to pass him before the end of the session. Alas, Bill saw me coming and had other thoughts on the matter. In fact, he told me that that was the last thing in the world he wanted to happen at that moment. We probably ran 4 or 5 laps of Laguna Seca without me getting any closer than a couple of car lengths. I figured that if I kept behind him, he'd begin watching his mirrors and eventually make a mistake. He didn't oblige.

I have to say that that session was the most fun of the weekend. First, because we had a clear track for most of the time and could wiggle around there to our hearts' content. Second, and much more important for me, I had the chance to see that Bill has good car control and won't fold under pressure. That bodes well for our One Lap adventure.

Now I just have to get him some time in the Roadster before One Lap starts. Driving an unfamiliar track with one reconnaissance lap is hard enough; doing it in a car you've never driven before would be suicide. I've spent the last week looking for track events on the West coast were we can run. I'll post about it once I get something lined up.

Raisin' Fish: Saturday Afternoon lookin' at fish fry

When I posted two weeks ago about the incubator, there were still enough alevin in the tray to dissuade me from cleaning out the trays. At that time, I figured giving them another couple of weeks would do the trick. It did.

This afternoon I went down to the incubator intent on cleaning out the trays and preparing for the next stage of the fishes' growth. The most encouraging sign was the sheer amount of water coming out of the incubator's exit pipe.

Excellent water flow from the incubator

I pulled the top off the incubator and this is what I saw:

The top tray after 2 1/2 months

The clumps of greenish-brown matter are gluey deposits made up of dead eggs, egg shells, silt and clay particles. When you stir up the water the silt and egg shells, which are pretty light, get released and drift out the exit pipe. I stirred up the top tray a couple times, let the water clear, and then brought the tray close to the surface. Sitting on the tray were three or four late hatching alevin. Here's what one of them looked like:

A late hatching alevin

I was pretty surprised that there were any alevin at all. Usually, they would all be hatched out and have matured to their next stage, fry, by now. The few alevin that were in there had hatched only recently. My aim would be to keep them in the incubator if I could by tilting the tray and letting them slide over the lip and down into the barrel. While I was looking for more alevin, I noticed my first coho salmon fry of the season:

The first fish I saw

There are probably 65,000 - 69,000 salmon fry in the barrel right now. That little guy is one of the adventurous ones. It's hard to tell exactly how many are there, but I'll show you how I estimated that.

Once I rescued as many of the alevin and fry as I could from the tray, I took the tray into McAleer creek and washed off as much of the gunk on those clumps of eggs as I could. This is what the tray with its dead eggs looks like after that.

About 200 dead eggs

It looks to me like there are 200-300 dead eggs there. The other two trays looked about the same. So, if I take the high estimate of 300 and multiply by 3, I get about 900 - 1,000. So, my high estimate for hatch rate would be 69,000/70,000, about a 98% hatch rate which is pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.

My plan was to clean the top two trays, then pull the bottom tray and replace it with one of the clean ones. If you don't do that, the bag of plastic media floats to the surface and makes it hard for the fry to find anyplace to swim. I pulled the third tray and replaced it with a clean one. Once that was done, I cleaned out the clarifier a bit. When I looked back into the incubator, I was not terribly surprised to see that quite a few fry had begun to migrate into the upper part of the incubator. These explorers are almost done growing. Here's a closeup look at one of them:

A good looking coho salmon fry

He's just resting on the big U-shaped piece of piping that I use for an exit screen. There are literally hundreds of tiny holes drilled into that pipe. I know this because I drilled all of them. The fry is almost done growing and will be ready for release within a month. Look closely and you can see that its belly is still absorbing part of its yolk sac; its got a reddish bulge right there in its middle. I love their little red tails and fins. The fry are really delicate looking and in reality they are pretty delicate. If I let them go right now, many of them would not survive the next week. If I keep them for another month, they'll be much tougher and ready to live in the wild. Most of them will become food for something else, but that's why I raise so many. If I get a 1% return, then 700 fish will be migrating up McAleer Creek. I haven't seen that many fish returning yet, so my return rate must be significantly less than 1%. Seems depressing, but it isn't, really. Even if very few of the fish return, they are still enriching the food chain all along the way. Dolly Varden trout in Lake Washington, kingfishers, great blue heron, frogs, other salmon, otters, seals, and orcas will all have meals compliments of yours truly. I say, "Have a great dinner." Putting fish back into the water is what it's all about. Building up the biosystem is my aim; that and getting a chance to play in the water!

A coho salmon fry looking very delicate.

This one is waiting on the exit pipe, close to his eventual route to Lake Washington and the sea. Hang on little fella', you're not quite ready to go yet. Your time will come soon enough.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Racin': Skip Barber Days 1 & 2

Last night, I felt tired and a bit disgusted and so I went to bed early without posting (sorry to all of my readers (all one or two of you) out there)). Bill and I had finished the first day of the Skip Barber 3 day school and, while the exercises we did were valid, I didn't feel like I was getting my money's worth out of it. We did a bunch of autocrossing in the morning and that was ok for getting a feel of the Miata's and what they were likely to do. In the afternoon, we started lapping Laguna Seca after we had had a van ride around the track.

The Miata is a fairly neutral, tossable car. The SB examples are in Miata Cup trim, more or less. They have the interiors stripped down, racing seats, a full roll cage, a cold air intake and header, straight through exhaust w/SuperTrapp muffler (and probably some software mods to go with that), racing pads in the brakes (though the brake calipers and rotors are stock) and perhaps some suspension mods (don't know for sure). They go pretty well for having only 175-200 hp.

On Friday afternoon we started using the 'stop box' technique. This involves driving around the track for one lap and then stopping near the start/finish line to get feedback from the instructors who were stationed at various spots around the track. On the one hand, I was thrilled to be driving on Laguna Seca after only having run it on one video game or another. On the other hand, we were only doing a lap at a time and they were having us keep our rev limits, first at 3800, then 4000 rpm. In addition, we were working on heel-and-toe downshifting. So, I went away from Friday a bit disappointed.

Today, made all the difference in the world. I don't remember what we did in the morning, but the afternoon was certainly worth the price of admission. We did a deep braking exercise leading to a trail-braking exercise. What they had us do was accellerate from a standing start through the first 3 gears. We had to accellerate all the way to a cone that was much closer to the first apex of Turn 2 than I had ever been before. The only thing that got me even close to believing that I could make the stop was the first half of the exercise. We entered the track, drove all the way around it, came around Turn 11 (the sharpest corner on the track), accelerated to a cone placed in the middle of the track and then hammered the brakes. When I saw how fast the car stopped, I began to believe that I might be able to do this.

This has been my main weakness in working on the track all these years. I have never really trusted just how well the car is capable of stopping. When I came to SB this morning, I told one of the instructors this and then we went right out and did the one exercise that would help me begin to trust that. Coming over the hill on the front straight at Laguna Seca, hitting the apex of Turn 1 blind and then starting down hill toward Turn 2, ccelerating to the top of third gear,and then waiting what seemed an impossibly long time before braking. Having just come from the panic stop I had done at the other end of the straight, I knew the car could do it, so I put my faith in the car and the intructors and it worked out.

I know I'm going to have to work on this a bunch more tomorrow, but it was definitely worth coming, if only just for this.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Racin': Skip Barber School is tomorrow. Yippee!!!

Yesterday I left work a bit early and drove to Portland and stayed with some old friends of ours. I wanted to get a bit of a jump on today's drive. Thank God I did, because today's drive was long enough as it is.

I left Portland at 6:05 this morning. It was 31 degrees and all of the windows in the Audi needed to be scraped before I could get going (which is why I didn't get off at 6:00 as I had wanted to - and if you didn't know it before, now you know just how anal-retentive OCD-like I am about time.) I got to the hotel in Monterey at 5:05 this evening, just about 11 hours exactly after starting and 729 miles away. I didn't do much else but drive for that whole 11 hours; just took a bit of time to put gas in the car, pee a couple of times, and buy one grande Americano at the Starbucks right near my second gas stop about 50 miles east of San Francisco.

Tomorrow, we start Skip Barber's 3-day Mazdaspeed Racing school at Laguna Seca Raceway. This should be pretty exciting. I don't feel much like writing right now, I hope I'll add more tomorrow. I've brought my camera and will be taking pictures. Winter in this part of Cali is very pretty; everything is green and lush. By summertime it is all dead and brown/golden.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Readin': The Last Supper

Charles McCarry's spy novel The Last Supper is another of his works centered on the life of Paul Christopher, his main character. In this one, we get a fuller look at his family life; his father, the writer/spy, his mother the German aristocrat he met at her family's home on Rugen, an island in the Baltic Sea. McCarry shows us their first meeting, courtship and life together in a series of deft portraits.

Though the work is mainly about Paul, we get to meet others of his extended family; cousins, uncles, aunts, and hear stories of some of his more remote Hubbard family ancestors. Most of the family seems tied up in the early days of what they called 'the Outfit', the organization later known as the CIA. That history starts in the days leading up to WW II and we see glimpses of action in a variety of locales.

What is emerging for me, having now finished three of these books, is a much richer portrait of Paul Christopher. I may eventually go back and re-read The Miernik Dossier to pick up things I may not have grasped on first reading. It is an intricate portrait of a man whose behavior seems simple and straightforward to himself, but is incredibly strange to those around him. Paul's devotion is to The Truth, whatever that may be in the situation in which he finds himself. Others have a wide variety of motivations, few of them relating to truth, if any at all. I've come to admire Paul in ways I never thought I would. I'd love the chance to meet him, hang out with him. I realize that seems strange. He is, after all, a fictional character. But McCarry's writing has shown an infinitely complex man who seems so very human to me. I'm going to have to continue reading these stories, if only to learn more about Paul.

This is some of the best fictional writing I have come across in a long time. I have already started on the next book Christopher's Ghosts and will be reporting on that in time. The Last Supper is a really good book, but I would not recommend it as the first Paul Christopher novel you read. It is, however, highly recommended.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Raisin' Fish: A report mid-way through the process

So, here it is, Saturday, February 7. The eggs have been in the incubator for a couple days short of two months now. I figured it'd be good to take a look at what was going on in there. The water has been flowing strong and well, except for a couple of occasions when the flow was somewhat slowed down. On both those occasions we were able to get things flowing freely. Once I did it, opening up the inlet somewhat and purging air bubbles from the pipes; the second time, Francis did pretty much the same thing.

I had a general idea what I would be seeing once I took the cover off the incubator. Because the outlet filter slows the water flowing through the incubator quite a bit, things inside get loaded up with silt. The first thing I did then, was to stir the water up with my hand to dislodge as much of that silt as possible. In addition to the silt, there is the organic detritus of the empty egg casings that clutter things up and give the silt a place to rest.

Cloudy water

This is what the water looks like as the silt and egg casings are being flushed out of the top of the incubator. You can see the outlet pipe (without the filter screen on it) in the upper right and the silt particles rushing out. If you look closely at the picture, you can see little white patches all over the place. Those are egg casings that are very light and are getting flushed out with the silt.

Once a bunch of that silt had been moved out, I lowered the water level in the incubator temporarily. At first, I thought that I would remove two of the egg trays, leaving the third one in the incubator to keep the bag of plastic media from floating to the surface. In the past, I have taken out all of the egg trays and then watched as the bag of plastic media floated to the surface. Experience has taught me to leave one tray at the bottom. I wanted to remove the trays because they had clumps of eggs on them that had not hatched and those clumps were having two negative effects on the incubator. First, they were starting to rot and having that in the incubator can't be that good for the alevin/fry. Second they slow the water flow down and allow more silt to accumulate in the barrel.

Alevin & Unhatched eggs

When I lowered the water level, I saw that in addition to the egg clumps (the brownish lumps in the tray) that there were still alevin in the tray. Normally, once the alevin hatch, then squiggle down through the gaps in the tray to the plastic media underneath. If you look carefully at the photo above, you can see at least four alevin. They are the things that look most like salmon eggs in the middle of the picture. Look closely and you can see their eyes, body and tail. Alevin are very fragile. Even brushing against them can kill them at this stage. Because I want as many live fish to survive as possible, I decided to leave the trays in place for another couple of weeks until all of the alevin retreat to the bottom of the barrel.

After I had closed up the incubator, I dropped the cleanout pipe on the clarifier (the blue barrel). This would allow the clarifier to flush out some of the stuff it had accumulated in the past two months. The water/sediment mixture gushing from the pipe had, at first, a dense, dark brown flow which eventually changed to a greyish-brown as time went on.

The clairifier works

You can see just how much sediment was trapped in the clarifier. Most of it is sand, some of it is silt. Soil is composed of three types of particles; sand, silt, and clay and then however much organic matter is in the soil. If you were to take a beaker of water and dump in a handful of soil, stir it thoroughly and then watch it for the next several minutes you would see a couple of things. In the first 30 seconds or so, all of the sand particles would fall to the bottom, over the next hour or two all of the silt would drop out of suspension, leaving a fine haze of clay particles in the water. If you had the patience to wait several days, the water would eventually be completely clear and all of the clay particles would have dropped out of suspension as well. The reason they deposit in that order is size and weight, the biggest ones are sand, the smallest ones are clay and those are 80,000 times smaller than the sand grains.

Given that behavior, you can see that the clarifier is mostly filled with sand and a little silt. The incubator gets much more silt. The clay particles pretty much get flushed through the system. As you can see, the clarifier is working. If it wasn't there, all of that sand would get trapped in the bottom of the incubator and eventually cause it to stop flowing because the outlet holes are all the way at the bottom of the barrel and would get blocked first.

So, my mid-season report says that thing are going fine at the McAleer Creek Salmon Circus. It'll be some time in April, a couple of months from now, before we are ready to release. Between now and then, we'll probably look into the barrel a couple more times. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Racin': Signed up for the Skip Barber Three day Mazdaspeed Racing School

I have driven Laguna Seca Raceway in various driving games now for a couple of years. It has always been a dream of mine to do it live and in person. As of today, that possibility exists in solid form. This morning I signed up for the 3-day Mazdaspeed Racing School to be held at Laguna Seca raceway February 13-15. I'm going there with Bill who's going to be my co-driver in One Lap of America this year.

I am so excited I can hardly stand it. There are a number of road racing tracks that are famous throughout the United States; Watkins Glen, Road America, Road Atlanta, Sebring, Daytona, Sears Point, VIR (Virginia International Raceway) and Laguna Seca are usually mentioned in the first round. I have driven a couple of them; Watkins Glen, Road America, VIR, and Sears Point. This year I'll get to do a couple more; Sebring, Daytona, and Laguna Seca.

The school is an intensive experience meant to prepare drivers to go racing in the Mazda MX-5 (Miata) Cup. The cars that we will be driving are Miata Cup cars; about 200 hp and 2500 lbs, so a decent power to weight ratio, but also excellent handling. I don't think that I want to do wheel-to-wheel racing. I enjoy watching it, but don't fancy spending the kind of money it takes to do it. Racing is as expensive as you want to make it and generally more expensive than you want it to be in terms of dollars, time and energy. I like doing One Lap and will surely write about it as I blog along here, but I sincerely doubt that I'll ever go racing with a pack of cars on the track.

So, why am I doing this quite expensive school. Mostly because I want to transfer the lessons I learn both to my street driving and to my One Lap track work. If you work seriously at car control, you pick up habits that will keep you alive longer on the street (your awareness of your car and its relation to traffic is that much more finely tuned and further reaching) and make you faster and smoother on the track. One of the things they teach you in any of these schools it to look and plan as far ahead as you can. Don't look just at the car in front of you; look all the way down the track. Think about the turns coming up; how do you need to set up the car now to sucessfully and smoothly negotiate the turns later. You can do that on the street as well. Broadening and lengthening you situational awareness on the street can definitely keep you out of accidents and help to smooth out the flow of traffic.

Plus, I get to drive one of my dream tracks. One of the most famous corners in North America, the Corkscrew, is part of the track at Laguna Seca. To get to it, you climb a long hill. At the top, just after a kink, there is a 90 degree left that drops quickly downhill (much more quickly than the one you just came up) and bends very quickly into a high speed right hand corner. That's the way it looks in the video games. I can't wait to find out how it feels. Won't have to wait too long for that; a week from Friday in fact.

Yee hah!

Readin': The Sharing Knife, Volume Three, Passage

Lois McMaster Bujold has continued her series well. Volume Three of her Sharing Knife series continues with the book Passage which I've just finished. Yes, yes, I know; I still haven't written about the other three or four books I've read before this. I'll get to it, I promise.

Anyways . . .

Passage picks up the story of Dag and Fawn just after they've left the Lakewalker camp and return to Fawn's family's farm. They spend a couple of weeks there and then set out for the river. Dag has promised to take Fawn down the river to the sea as a honeymoon of sorts. They do that and it forms the backbone of the story, but there are many interesting characters involved and lots of growing done by lots of folks.

I like the way Bujold writes. Her characters are deep and their troubles are real, human troubles, even if it is all written about in a totally fantasized world. Orson Scott Card once said that speculative fiction (his words) was the only place where authors could honestly write philosophical social commentary these days (or something to that effect). That comment put me in mind of the original Star Trek TV series, that did pretty much the same thing, cloaking the problems of the world in the guise of 'aliens' and then letting the stories play out.

Bujold writes of two cultures that coexist somewhat symbiotically, but are walled off from each other by suspicion, myth, and misunderstanding. Dag and Fawn, one from each culture, have been grudgingly accepted by her culture (though Dag ends up having to prove himself over and over), though not at all by his. Between the two of them, they see the necessity, as do some of Dag's contemporaries, for the two cultures to learn about and accept each other. It's a fascinating story and touches on the themes of cultural interpenetration in a way that is easier to bear because it it happening in an 'imaginery' world.

A good book and a good continuation of the series. Book Four, Horizon, is now out in hardcover (it came out last week), so I'll either have to get it from the library, or wait a year to read it in paperback. I can't see buying books like this in hardcover for the most part, they read so quickly that it seems a waste of money. My frugal nature wars with my desire to continue the story; I'm guessing my library card will get a workout one day soon.

These are the things that interest me. If any of them are of interest to you, great. Read along


About Me

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I'm currently 60 years old. I currently work as the learning management system specialist for American University of Madaba in Madaba, Jordan. I was originally certified as a high-school English teacher and taught school for 13 years (1 year of substituting, 1 year of 7th grade, 2 years of a combined 5th, 6th, 7th grade, 9 years of 8th grade). I've worked for hardware and software companies for the past 23 years doing training, training materials development, certification test development and other education related stuff. My wife and I have raised four children to adulthood; some of them live at home at the moment, but that won't last (they're too independent for that). We live at home with 2 Golden Retrievers, 2 black cats, a crazy cat, and, during the winter, 70,000 coho salmon.