Friday, September 7, 2007

Rants, Rambles and Book Reviews.

Someone cursed me.

"May you live in interesting times."

Thank You!

We are finally back in Madrid and relatively settled. We even went for a run today. Our newest favorite toy is the Nike + Ipod Sports Kit. It keeps track of our distance, time running, best time, average X minute mile and a host of other things. My sister Molly turned us on to it and like most things Apple, it is simple and intuitive. Some of the more interesting things it can do is track your run to a certain global distance. Wendy and I are going to challenge Collette to a race. The first one to run from Madrid to Paris (us) or Paris to Madrid (her) wins. Right now Molly is training for an Internet and live half marathon. The Nike + Ipod thing will keep track of racers and when you finish tell you what place you finished in the marathon.

We live in magical times.

Thanks to lots of sitting on a plane, sitting in a terminal and the lovely folks in Brignole we actually got some reading time in. I love both facts that Wendy is a voracious reader like me, and she reads the same things as I do.

I turned her on to John Varley's series called "Titan", "Wizard", "Demon" and then had to reread them again myself. So much goodness. After all these years, still in the top ten of my favorite books of all time. After that I thirsted for even more Varley. Sadly, a lot of his stuff I had read after the initial three listed above, I didn't like. I thought Steel Beaches sucked. Same for Golden Globe. Millennium was only fair. Since it had been years since I had looked into him, I checked at Barnes and Noble and used up a couple gift cards to pick up "Red Thunder" and "Mammoth."

"Red Thunder" was a page turner. I could not put this book down. I'm a sucker for stories with super smart guys in them especially when they're autistic. Its a pretty simple story. Super smart guy invents unlimited free energy and he, his cousin the former astronaut, and 4 early twenty misfits build a spaceship and race the Chinese to Mars. As with all Varley books the characters were vivid and distinct, likeable and flawed. It moved along at a good pace and while not in my top ten, was a very good light read.

Mammoth was also a page turner but for a different reason. I flipped right by a few pages. This was more of a novella with extra padding to make it long enough for a novel. Again, very distinct, likeable and flawed characters. Again, a super smart guy who this time around sort of invents a time machine. Sorta doesn't. It's a bit confusing but really, both statements are true in the book. He invents a time machine and he doesn't. Where it goes from there is entertaining, but not particularly deep. Varley tries to throw in some knowledge and impress the reader with what he knows about Sting Theory but it never really gels into an explanation that has anything to do with Time Travel. It was just sort of a way to fill a few pages and then sort of shrug and say "So what I'm saying is, I don't really know." All in all, another good light read that falls somewhere in my top fifty books. I'd buy Red Thunder first and see if you like it, then try Mammoth.

Since I'm doing a lot of travel writing and working on a book about my first year outside the states, I also picked up Bill Bryson's "In a Sunburned Country." I loved "A Brief History of Nearly Everything" and "A Walk in the Woods" but this was a little stale. The entire time I'm reading it I'm thinking "I can write better than this." Well researched and a few amusing anecdotes, but without a constant companion to bounce things off there's little witty dialogue. Unlike other Bryson books, this one read more like a history and geography book than an amusing exploration of Australia with a lot of laughs thrown in. The over-riding theme of the book that is repeated a few more times than necessary is "It's really big, it's really empty, and more things can kill you here than anywhere else on the planet." One of the things I found odd was no mention of kangaroos. No amusing stories about kangaroos, nothing that talked about how the Aussies felt about them, how many he saw, anything. There was a little print Kangaroo at the beginning of every chapter, but no mention of them in the book. I find that a little bit odd in a travel book about Australia, don't you? I finished it because even bad Bryson is still pretty good, but I wouldn't rank it in my top 100 and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone not going to Australia.

Magic?

I get up every morning and watch the latest Standard and Extended top 8 replays. I am loving Standard right now. A couple mono-green make top eight all the time. A lot of nice storm combo that kills with a dozen goblins as well as a few Project X decks and best of all, only about 50% of the decks have blue in them. Hah! No offense but Blue needs a little rest from being in the spotlight so long. Blue has a damn sunburn its been in the spotlight so long.

Yeah, yeah, I know, Tarmogoyf. Personally, I find the guy a little over rated. Seriously, even for 2 mana, and as large he can get, he's still a vanilla 5/6. How many ways are there to kill a Green creature in Standard? And after sideboarding you can throw in Deathmark? Terror? Seize the Soul? Spellsnare?

Seriously.

Speaking of Tarmogoyf, congratulations to Evan Erwin on winning the Storyteller spot to the Magic Invitational. Someday I hope to see my name on that ballet but this year, there's really no one more deserving than Evan. Bringing Magic writing into the twenty first century with lights, camera, humor and action.

I haven't played Magic in over a month, but it still fascinates me and now that we're back in Madrid maybe I can get some games in. I'll probably build a mono red storm combo deck, a green white all creature Heartwood Storyteller deck, maybe play Dragonstorm in a few tournaments since everyone seems to have forgotten it, and build or copy a mono green deck. Those seem to be doing great.

I gained 8-10 pounds thanks to our time in the states but it should melt right off. We walk long distances nearly every day, eat less and climb up and down 4 flights every time we leave the house. We've gotten more exercise in the four days that we've been home than our entire six weeks in the states.

Wendy and I are doing great. Last night we cracked open a bottle of wine, sat in the pool, read and talked for a couple of hours. Then we put some dry clothes on and went across the street and had my old favorite, paella. Paella is wondrous to me. Picture shrimp fried rice. Now add saffron, garlic, squid, red and green peppers, fish chunks, cigalla, muscles and scallops and you have a hint of what I'm talking about. Eating it was like a welcome home present.

A little over a year into it and Wendy and I still can't run out of things to talk about, discussing politics, Red Thunder, the future, life, the universe and everything the whole meal.

Life is good.

6 comments:

  1. If you haven't read The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, Jamie, you really must. As a man prone to hyperbole and exageration I can still honestly say it's one of the best fantasy books i've ever read.

    Matt

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  2. Also on the topic of books: are you a Terry Pratchett fan yet?

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  3. By the way: Dragonstorm has vanished from the metagame because it lost Seething Song when 10th Edition rotated in. It's a lot harder to get to 9 mana without it.

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  4. Did you watch the UFC that was held in London over the weekend?

    You can probably youtube it if you missed it.

    The fight of the night was the guy from Omaha in the first fight, he is an animal.

    The upset of the night in my mind was Hamill beating Bisping, Hamill looked incredibly improved. Of course, the fight was held in London, so Bisping officially won the fight, but I don't think anybody who watched that fight including Bisping himself actually believed that he deserved that win. Clearly a staged fight with a pre-determined win to keep the UK crowd happy.

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  5. hey Jamie,


    You don't know me but I'm a long time fan of yours and am heading to PT Valencia. I was wondering if you were headed that way and if you wanted to share accommodation. I can only wait 3 or so days and hope you reply to this or else I've gotta go ahead and book accommodation with other people. Please if you're interested, my msn address is kaltorak_4@hotmail.com or my email is monkey.nick@gmail.com, let me know asap

    cheers,

    nick

    p.s sorry about the anonymous identity, I'm not used to these kinda sites.

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  6. Have you seen the latest decklist from Planeshifted Dan Paskins?

    Blue Deck Wins
    Creatures
    4 Drifter Il-dal
    4 Flying Men
    3 Gossamer Phantasm
    3 Infiltrator Il-kor
    4 Looter Il-kor
    3 Maelstrom Djinn
    3 Spiketail Drakeling

    Enchantments
    4 Unstable Mutation

    Instants
    4 Delay
    3 Pongify
    4 Psionic Blast

    Basic Lands
    17 Island

    Lands
    3 Zoetic Cavern

    Legendary Lands
    1 Pendelhaven

    Sideboard:
    4 Dandan
    4 Riptide Pilferer
    3 Shaper Parasite
    2 Willbender
    2 Snapback

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