Friday, September 30, 2016

Book Club - September 2016 Reading List

I've probably mentioned before that I keep a catalog of the books I own and have read on-line at I think you can find me there if you look for capewood. Every month they have a large selection of Advanced Reader Copies of new books. An ARC is a pre-publication version of a book. Usually a trade paperback sized. It may not be edited or lack a table of contents and acknowledgement pages, but otherwise is close to the final book. All you have to do is have a account and ask for one. They also ask you to provide a brief review of the book.  I've read two of them this month. Some of these books I've been posting I've also reviewed on Amazon. You can find me there as capewood as well.

My first ARC of the month, which was already published before I got it read. An American professor teaching in England becomes involved with a female Egyptian graduate student. She decides to keep the resulting baby but doesn't really want him in her life. He gets a new teaching gig back in New York City, where he had lived for years. But something isn't right. Why is he being followed? He gets a box delivered to his apartment which is a listing of what appears to be every web site he's visited for the past 5 years. More evidence of the continual observance of his life appears at his door every week or so. Is he going crazy? He's been sending money to the Egyptian woman, to support the child, is she a terrorist? Or linked to terrorists? The Professor pleads that he is no one. By the end of the book neither he or we find out the answers to these questions. It was an interesting book even if the story didn't get resolved. The author is a master of long, long sentences. Early in the book was a 192-word sentence describing a man's haircut.

I really enjoyed this. Meyer is probably mostly known for three movies, "The Seven Percent Solution", his first novel was the basis for the film; "Time After Time", which he directed;  and "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan", which he directed and and mostly wrote the screenplay although he was not credited. He also wrote the screenplay for Star Trek IV and is involved in the new Star Trek: Discovery television show. I love reading about the creative process and Meyer tells a good story about his career. An added bonus is his involvement with Star Trek. It wouldn't be much of an exaggeration to say that, with Star Trek II, he saved the movie franchise.

This is a mostly failed attempt at hard military science fiction. Serengeti is the name of a space ship designed for war. It's also the name of the artificial intelligence who controls the ship. She has an almost unnecessary human crew. The bulk of the book takes place after a space battle, fought on both sides with no strategy other than to throw as much ammunition at each other as possible. Serengeti, although badly damaged, manages to escape, and sets out to save the reminder of her human crew. The author seemed to have given little thought to how things on a star ship might work (such as artificial gravity) and of the distances in galactic space. And her helper robots were just too cute. Maybe it was meant for a much younger audience than me. If so, it even did that audience a disservice. I got it for about a buck for my Kindle. It was entertaining enough to read while on the treadmill, although I almost gave up on it several times.

This is the squeal to "A Darker Shade of Magic" which I wrote about last March. Although I'm not much for fantasy books, I had liked that quite a lot. This is not only a sequel but the second book of a trilogy. It suffers from being the middle book of a story that wasn't long enough for 3 books. Hardly anything happens in the first 2/3 of the book. I'll admit that the final third was pretty good, but was just a set up for the third book.

I'm not going to get into an argument that 1971 was the best year in rock music. I read a book last year claiming 1965 was the best year. All I know is that 1971 was, considering my situation at the time, a great year and the music was a big part of my life. The author says that in 1971 he was a 20-year-old college student, living in London, who spent all his money of records. In 1971, I was a 19-year-old college student, living in Philadelphia, who spent all his money on records. Hepworth went on to become a music critic and journalist while I went on to become a chemical engineer but the music was and still is important to me. If you were, say 17-23 years old in 1971, I think you'll like this book.

It's hard to believe but this is the 17th book in Cherryh's "Foreigner" series. I think I've read them all. The series started some 200 years after a small group of human colonists, more or less crash landed on a alien world. By now the humans live on a island of their own while the aliens claim the rest of the planet. They are at peace, but a sometimes fragile peace. Bren Cameron, the blond-headed fellow above, starts his career as a translator of the alien language. By this book, he is a full human ambassador to the aliens, one of the alien's leader's chief advisor,s and the alien's representative to outer space, where a third and dangerous race has appeared. This series has become one of the best multi-book science fiction stories out there.

The second ARC of the month, which has also already been published. This post-apocalyptic story takes place in British Columbia some unknown years since the "Big Stupid" (apparently an exchange of nuclear weapons). The story is told in first person by 18-year-old Elka. She'd been raised by a backwoods trapper since he found her homeless when she was 7. He was a hard man but he taught her everything she would need to know about living in the world. It also turns out he was a mass murder (and worse) but she didn't know until she found out that the law (such as there was in the wild BC) was after him. At the beginning I 'bout thought what the backwoods sort a' writin' was going to drive me 'round the bend, but within a few pages I got the cadence and Elka's voice. If you can get past the first 10-20 pages, it's worth the effort. Elka escapes the Trapper and heads north to find her parents who left on a gold rush when she was a baby. My only real problem with the story was the post-apocalyptic story. It seems it could have as easily been set in 1880.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Players I Collect 2016 - Part 4

Leaving off with Griffey, now we get to...

Vladimir Guerrero
Guerrero retired in 2011 after a 16 year career. There were a few 2012 cards and then none until this year. I have a total of 216 Guerrero cards. For awhile, it seemed that he appeared in just about every insert set. As a consequence, he makes a lot of appearances in my reference card binders.

Guerrero spent most of his career with these two teams. 8 years as and Expo and 6 years as an Angel.

Bryce Harper
Another of the few current day players I collect. He was the 2012 NL Rookie of the Year and since then he's been a 4-time All-Star and the 2015 NL MVP.

This card has a frame on the front, which is a type of parallel card I like.

Would you like a little face with your eye black?

Oh, yeah, he was the #1 Draft Pick in 2010.

I'm not quite sure why I still buy Opening Day. It's a bit cheaper, so maybe.

I getting pretty tired of mini cards, even if they are purple.

Rickey Henderson
I have at least one card from nearly every year of Henderson's 23-year career. Plus for every year since he retired in 2003. The earliest card I have is a 1982 Fleer Stamp issue.

Next up - Ichiro.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Players I Collect 2016 - Part 3

Continuing on with the Players I Collect who had cards in 2016. Or at least the cards of them that I have.

Dwight Gooden
After a 6 year gap, there have been no lack of Dwight Gooden cards since 2012. Overall I have 106 Gooden cards, most of them from his 16 year career.

This is a reproduction of Gooden's 1985 card, which is the year I started collecting. I don't have the original of this but there was a Gooden "Record Breaker" card in 1985, which I do have.

Another insert in Topps. My first Gooden card is from the 1984 Topps Update set.

Goose Gossage
Although his best years were behind him, he still had some good years left in him when I started collecting in 1985. Oddly enough, however, I only have 23 Gossage cards, and 9 of them are post career.

Gossage retired in 1994 but there were no 1991 Topps cards for him.

Ken Griffey Jr.
As you might expect, there are plenty of Griffey post-career cards. He retired in 2010 and I already have 26 (out of the 459 total) post-season cards of his. Being inducted into the Hall of Fame this year, his first year of eligibility, certainly won't hurt his popularity with the hobby.

One of the few recent Panini sets I actually like.

1997 Topps is one of my favorite sets from the 1990s. My biggest beef with this Berger's Best set is that I would have liked it to be more about the card design than the player.

Power Alley indeed with 630 career home runs. I was in Toronto for a conference and saw the Mariners play the Blue Jays in June 1997, when Griffey and Mark McGwire were both on a pace to beat Roger Maris' single season home run record. I'd seen a Blue Jays-A's game a few days before and McGwire had hit a monster home run. At the Mariners game, I thought that if Griffey hit a homer, and one of them beat the Maris record, I'd be able to say that I saw one of the record breaking home runs in person. Griffey had a disappointing day but managed to just clear the outfield fence in his last at bat. Griffey ended up with 56 that year and McGwire hit 58. So close for both of them.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Movie Review - "Sully"

How does a movie maker find drama in a story that everyone knows the ending to?

While the "Miracle on the Hudson" may not be one of those events that you'll always remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard about it, it only happened 7 years ago, in 2009. And it got a lot of TV coverage.

What director Clint Eastwood has done is make the movie more about the National Transportation Safety Board investigation then about the actual crash in the river. We get to see the crash several times from many angles, but the movie spends more time in conference rooms than in the chilly Hudson.

Tom Hanks does a wonderful job, as you might expect, playing the man-of-little-words, just doin' my job hero. Hanks was apparently born to play such parts.

I found the crash scenes to be pretty scary and emotional. There is one scene in particular when the plane is going down, where the flight attendants, in their jump seats in the front of the passenger compartment, scream "Brace brace brace! Keep your heads down!" in unison, over and over. I swear, if I ever survive a plane crash, I would hear the flight attendants yelling in my nightmares forever.

The movie is pretty short, only 96 minutes, but didn't feel rushed.

Aaron Eckhart, who plays the co-pilot, Jeff Skiles, with understatement and some humor, is also pretty good, and really, the only other actor other than Hanks who has much to do. To me, he's always that guy on screen that you recognize but can't remember where you saw him before. Oh, yeah, he played Harvey Dent in that Batman movie.  Maybe I'll remember him now.

The only drawback of the film for me was tone of the investigation. From some reviews I've read (notably the bad reviews), Eastwood rather played up the NTSB as trying to 'get' Sully and Skiles and blame them for the crash. There is a key reveal during the public hearing part of the investigation, which I won't spoil for you, that I, in particular, found ridiculous, although it didn't ruin the movie for me. If you don't know by now that movies about true events are often highly fictionalized, then I'm sorry to break your bubble.

The day before the film opened, Ton Hanks and Chesley Sullenberger  were on the Jimmy Kimmel Show. I hadn't had much interest in seeing the movie up until then but their appearance made me interested. Hanks talked about how the NTSB is required to investigate every plane crash. He spoke quite favorable about the NTSB and said in real life it was a 'friendly' interrogation that Sully went through. Which is not how it was in the movie.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Players I Collect - 2016 Part 2

I finished the last post with George Brett. Let's pick up with:

Jose Canseco
There was a long gap (2005-2013) when I didn't see any Canseco cards but since 2014, he's back. My collecting years include Canseco's entire career and he used to be very popular so I have 173 of his cards.
 Topps Allen and Ginter

Gary Carter
Always a popular player he's never been gone from the hobby for long. I have 78 of his cards.

Topps Allen and Ginter

Roger Clemens
Roger disappeared for a bit but he's back. I have 366 Clemens cards. Him being an Astro for a few years really boosted my collection. I think it unlikely we'll see a Clemens post-career card as an Astro.

Topps Bunt

Yu Darvish
Darvish is one of the few current players I collect. I have 40 of his cards.


Topps Heritage

Dennis Eckersley
He's usually good for a couple of cards a year. I've 149 of his cards.
Topps Archives

Topps Allen & Ginter The Numbers Game

Nomar Garciaparra
Nomar retired in 2009 and it took 5 years for his first post-season cards to appear. There have been plenty since. I pulled 4 this year for a total of 179.

Stadium Club
Topps Allen and Ginter
Topps Archives
Topps Bunt

To be continued. Next up Dwight Gooden.