TNG Season 6 Favorite Episode

There! Are! Four! Lights!

This is a bit of a cheat, but my favorite episode in season 6 has got to be Chain of Command (Part 1 and Part 2, though I think Part 2 might edge it out if I had to pick one. Good thing I am making the rules for this series!).

Picard and Dr. Crusher (for some reason) are sent off on a secret mission. Whilst Picard is away a new captain appears on the ship and shakes things up (and makes Troi put on a regular uniform to boot).

The mission goes poorly and bad things happen to Picard. Plus there are Cardassians (which might be the best new enemy race TNG created).

Other good episodes include:

  • Relics - Scotty and a Dyson Sphere? I'm in.
  • Timescape - Romulans!
  • Tapestry - Another interesting Picard episode, and a very good Q one too.
Star Trek: The Next Generation is 30 years old. Scott is celebrating by writing a TNG related blog post every day for the entire month of October.

Find the rest of the posts in this series here.

TNG Season 5 Favorite Episode

Season 5 is another season chockfull of great TNG episodes. In fact, it has what many consider to the best episode of TNG ever: Darmok.

I really like Darmok, but it isn't even my favorite episode of season 5. That honor goes to The Inner Light.

Man, what an episode and what a concept. An alien probe causes Picard to live an entire lifetime in the matter of hours just so he can understand their long dead civilization. That's some pretty heady stuff.

And it is one of the rare episodes that echoes throughout the rest of the series. Picard learns to play a flute in this "lifetime" he lives and that shows up in subsequent episodes as a sort of short hand for the impact of the experience on him as a character.

Another favorite episode is Cause and Effect which features a very Star Trek twist.

Star Trek: The Next Generation is 30 years old. Scott is celebrating by writing a TNG related blog post every day for the entire month of October.

Find the rest of the posts in this series here.

TNG Season 4 Favorite episode

Remember Me has a lot going for it as a Star Trek episode. This is one of the rare Dr. Crusher centric episodes, and I enjoy that. It also involves a lot of technobabble (warp bubbles and what have you), a mysterious alien (The Traveler) and something that I really enjoy: uncanniness.

Over the course of the episode the Enterprise, a place familiar to everyone who is watching the show, is slowly transformed into an unfamiliar landscape. People are disappearing, and no one but Dr. Crusher seems to care.

And it is the episode with this quote, "If there's nothing wrong with me maybe there's something wrong with the Universe."

Star Trek: The Next Generation is 30 years old. Scott is celebrating by writing a TNG related blog post every day for the entire month of October.

Find the rest of the posts in this series here.

TNG Season 3 Favorite episode

Season 3 is when TNG really gets cooking. Given the large number of good episodes this season you'd think I would have trouble picking my favorite, but the choice is clear: "The Best of Both Worlds, Part 1."

How could it not be? Picard is assimilated into the Borg? WHAT?! And even better, the writers didn't think they were coming back for the 4th season, so they set up this crazy cliffhanger and didn't have a clue how to resolve it. They figured, "let the suckers who replace us figure it out!"

Joke was on them, since they had to figure it out

Some of my other favs include:

Star Trek: The Next Generation is 30 years old. Scott is celebrating by writing a TNG related blog post every day for the entire month of October.

Find the rest of the posts in this series here.

TNG Season 2 Favorite Episode

Man, season 1 of TNG is not so good. Season 2 is an improvement. In fact, I actually had to pick my favorite from a handful of episodes.

But without a doubt The Measure of a Man has got to be my favorite season 2 episode, and I honestly think it is a good episode of Star Trek in general.

There's conflict between crewmembers, something that just didn't happen in season 1. Sure, it is a setup but Riker has to do his best to prove that his friend is just a piece of equipment. Not only that, but that Starfleet can just rip apart Data and study him in any way that they want.

Star Trek: The Next Generation is 30 years old. Scott is celebrating by writing a TNG related blog post every day for the entire month of October.

Find the rest of the posts in this series here.

TNG Season 1 Favorite Episode

I figured an easy 7 posts for this series would be to name my favorite episode from each season of TNG. Seems like a great idea, right?

Well, I forgot about season 1. It is not so good. I mean, it really isn't good. I have no idea how TNG managed to get another season, but I'm glad it did.

For my season 1 favorite I have to pick a pretty ridiculous episode: Justice.

Why Justice? This is the one where the TNG crew beam down to Planet Jazzercise. Everyone wears very, very little. And you can't just *walk* from place to place on Planet Jazzercise. No, one must jog!

Plus there's a deep voiced glittering orb. How can you not like a glittering orb?

Oh, and Wesley is sentenced to death for crashing into a garden plot. Stupid Wesley.

Now, to be clear this isn't a good episode of TNG. But I enjoy the fact that it is pretty crazy pants (despite the fact that no one on Planet Jazzercise wears pants).

You can watch the whole thing in 10 minutes, if you must.

Star Trek: The Next Generation is 30 years old. Scott is celebrating by writing a TNG related blog post every day for the entire month of October.

Find the rest of the posts in this series here.

31 posts for TNG’s 30th

On Random Trek I always ask my guests what their favorite Star Trek series is, which seems like a good way to kick off a conversation about Star Trek.

Often, the guest will answer and then ask me the same question. This is when I talk about the difference between by favorite series and the series I think is the best Trek series.

Without a doubt my favorite Star Trek series is The Next Generation. When I close my eyes and think about Star Trek, which is something I do more often than you would think, the first images that pop into my mind come from TNG. The Enterprise D is my Enterprise, and Picard will always be my captain.

To celebrate the 30th anniversay of a show that has had a large impact on my life I’m going to write a TNG related blog post every day this month. Why? Why not!

I don’t really have any particular topics in mind at the moment, so if you’d like to sugesst something sound off in the comments or on twitter (I’m @blankbaby).

I should mention that this whole idea was inspired by this great TNG 30th podcast over at The Incomparable. I was almost on this episode myself but I talk about Star Trek enough that I bowed out to let some other people talk Trek for a change.

Star Trek: The Next Generation is 30 years old. Scott is celebrating by writing a TNG related blog post every day for the entire month of October.

Find the rest of the posts in this series here.

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

51FD3B49-2C27-4F07-A12E-61A9A9A00C10Readers of this blog might assume that I earn a living being almost Internet famous, what with my podcast, my several tech books, and this website. Sorry to burst that bubble, but I do have a day job (which I like!).

For the longest time I avoided managing people because, well, I didn’t think I’d be any good at it. However, since I’m in technology I had to decide if I wanted to go down the route of being super technical or managing people. I opted for people management, and now I manage a group of 10 people. That’s not to say I’m GOOD at it, just that I do it. And get paid for it.

Interestingly, I"m the only man on my team, which leads me to why I read “Lean In.” I was in a one on one meeting with someone who reports to me and she suggested I read this book because it could give me some insights into what women have to deal with at work.

And so I read the book. And I must say I liked it! Though I suppose I don’t like that it had to be written, I’m glad Sheryl Sandberg wrote it.

I am glad that she points out at the very start of the book that she has tremendous resources that most women don’t. Even with that setup, though, from time to time I would remember that she is a billionaire (like when she told a story about jetting off to some meeting with other CEOs, or how she got parking for pregnant women at Google by marching into the co-founders’ office).

The take away could be, well she’s so wealthy she doesn’t really get it. But as a white man reading it I took something else away from it: one should always use their privilege to help others.

I know some people don’t think that white privilege is a thing, but it is. And I benefit from it. Plus I’m a white guy, so I benefit even more! I’m not saying that everything is easy for me but I certainly have an easier time in life than most women or people of other colors (for example, I never think twice about speaking in meetings, and if I saw a police officer approaching me I would assume he was either looking for someone else or trying to offer me assistance).

Reading this book underlined something things that I already knew, and made me hope that I’m not doing all the typical male at work things she mentions

Who should read it: If you are a man who manages women you should read this book, or a book like it. Women don’t need me telling them what to read!

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powell's | WorldCat

Sourdough by Robin Sloan

1E6013BE-4D86-4A31-BDE8-D50790338BF5Robin Sloan’s work (his previous book was Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore) tends to teeter on the edge of twee. Though his is a very modern twee set, generally, in a version of San Francisco that is both recognizable and slightly off kilter from reality.

In fact, I found myself in San Franciso a few weeks ago so reading a book set in that city (though this book is “of” San Francisco the city itself doesn’t play a huge part in the narrative) was a nice reminder of my time there.

As you might expect, soudough bread plays a rather important role in this novel. Actually, the sourdough starter is far more important. The story revolves around a programmer working at a robotic arm company who ends up in possession of a mysterious sourdough starter which leads to her becoming part of a mysterious farmers’ market, and changes her life.

A story that you’ve heard a million times!

At first I was skeptical since Sloan’s first book followed a very simliar plot (though in that story a former programmer stumbles across a mysterious bookstore that changes his life), but in the end the charm and wit of the writing won me over. As did the inclusion of Silicon Valley types sucking down packets of a food subsitute called “Slurry.”

Who should read it: Foodies or techies (or techie foodies) will eat this book up. See what I did there? Eh?

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powell's | WorldCat

Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton

6DA848D6-0E2E-4A4E-AE03-3F852EA03F9DRight after I finished Dead Woman Walking I wanted more from Sharon Bolton. Luckily she has written a bunch of books, though most of them are in a series. I didn’t want to jump into a series, so I bought myself a copy of “Daisy in Chains,” despite the fact that I have something like 1,000 ebooks on my Kindle and probably another 1,000 or so physical books just waiting for me to read them (in fact the next 3 books I plan on reading come from the library).

This book is more of a character study than anything else, and it does include a few shocking twists (though I did guess one of the twists).

There are murders, blue hair, gypsies, and a creepy amusement park visit during a winter’s night. What’s not to like?

Once again Bolton deploys short chapters that keep you guessing. I didn’t want to put this book down, and I gobbled it up from start to finish. I was even tempted to just jump right into Bolton’s series… but then my book debt guilt kicked in so I decided to read the books I had picked up from the library. I will be reading more Bolton soon!

Who should read it: If you like thrillers and serial killers this book is for you!

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powell's | WorldCat

Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton

91B9BE4E-81E0-44B0-843F-2E4E801CE0EEI suppose this is more of a thriller than a mystery, though there are some mysterious elements to it. You know who the bad guys are (for the most part), but it is unclear why each of the characters are mixed up in this story. And like any good thriller this book has some unexpected twists and turns (which I won’t ruin for anyone!).

The setup for this novel is brilliant: 13 people are in a hot air balloon and witness an act of violence. And then they all die in a crash… all expect for one person.

I read this book over the course of 24 hours because of Bolton’s effective use of very short chapters and an intricate weaving of a few stories spread over the course of a decade or so.

It is well written and compulsively readable. My only quibble is that it does seem remarkable that these particular characters would end up so well placed in relation to the story. However, I don’t think realism was the point of this book!

I will say that I’d never heard of Sharon Bolton before reading this book, but I plan on reading another one of her books soon!

Who should read it: If you don’t mind horrible people doing horrible things, this book is for you!

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powell's | WorldCat

Ruin of Angels by Max Gladstone

458630B6-2599-4CB7-9720-F3429B8EC020Recommending a book that is the 6th in a series isn’t something one should do, however, the Craft Sequence isn’t a normal series. If you read the series in publication order, as I have, you’re actually reading them out of chronological order. This might seem strange, but the upshot is you can pretty much start the series at any of the books. And you should.

I’m not a huge fan of urban fantasy, which is why I was so surprised when I read a review of “Ruin of Angels” describing it as such. Upon further reflection it does make sense: this is a world where lines of contracts power magic, ever living skeletons run corporations, and gods trade faith for power.

Ruin of Angels is a good jumping on point, and for $3 (ebook) it is a great deal. If you’ve read any of the other books in the series you’ll recognize some of the characters featured.

I suppose I should point out that all the main characters are women, which I guess is either a plus or minus depending on your point of view.

Who should read it: Anyone who has read any of the Craft Sequence, or if you’ve ever wondered what a space program powered by magic might look like.

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powell's | WorldCat

My 5k Report

I ran my second 5K race ever yesterday! You can read all about my first experience in 2008 (so young!) on this very blog. Mayor Nutter (who was the mayor of Philadelphia at the time) was there, and I met him so that was cool. And Marisa took what is my favorite picture of the day:


That's me pointing to the Mayor's back. How security didn't escort me away I'll never know.

Much like my first 5K experience, signing up for this one was something of an impulsive decision. I wanted to support the cause of getting rid of colon cancer in my mom's memory so it seemed like a good idea. Of course, I hadn't actually ran outside, or really at all, for months and months and months before I signed up.

I had been doing an hour on the elliptical for several months, so I didn't think it would be too bad to get back into the running habit. To train I went out and did exactly what you aren't supposed to do: I ran a 5K run to see how it would feel.

Reader, I ran my fastest 5K ever! At this point I considered becoming a professional runner, but the benefits aren't great.

A week later, I ran another 5K and BEAT my previous time again!

Then we went on vacation and I ran along the coast of Oregon… and didn't beat my record. However, I did get chased by a couple of dogs so that was fun.

I ran a few more times in Philadelphia and before I knew it race day was upon me. Marisa, sadly, was off being famous so she couldn't be there. My brother and his girlfriend came down to watch me race (though they weren't there at the start, since really it isn't that exciting. And due to a coffee mishap they missed me crossing the finish line, but it is the thought that counts!).

I showed up, pinned my number to my t-shirt and waited. I hate being late for things, so I was an hour early for the race. I could have helped myself to some snacks… but I don't eat before I run since I imagine myself vomiting along the route (this is also why I don't eat before public speaking).

Since I had so much time on my hands I checked out the giant colon:

Soon it was time to start the race. I was surrounded by people in much better shape than me (some of whom were wearing nothing but their underwear. I was wearing the pair of boxers they gave to runners [it was an undy run] over my running shorts… doubly secured).

And off I went! My goal for this race was simple: pace myself. During my practice runs I was so excited to be running outside that my first mile would be super fast (well, for me) and then the second mile would be slower, and the third mile would be me jogging/walking and hating life.

I didn't want to walk at all during the 5K, and I didn't want to expend all my energy during the first mile. How did I do?

Check out my Runkeeper stats:

Image 29

I am very proud of how darn consistent I was able to keep my pacing. How did I manage it? Well, I had set Runkeeper to tell me my pace at 1 mile intervals, which really meant that I couldn't adjust at all. Before the race I set it to alert me every .5 mile (which I didn't think would be too annoying) and it worked like a charm.

Now, when I registered for the race I had two fears:

  • I would be the fattest person running.
  • I would come in dead last.

I'm happy to report that only one of those fears was true, which made the fact that the second didn't come true all the sweeter.

Sure, I was the biggest guy running (lots of people did the fun walk) but I wasn't the slowest person. Hurrah for me!

Now, I was very far from being the fastest person but I did come in 9th in my age group (104th overall). That's something.

The run itself was pretty good. I made sure to run along the far edge of the road so people could easily pass me (since I wasn't running very fast). We ran 1.5 miles one way, turned around, and ran back.

The way out was great. I was chugging along. Passing some people, having some people pass me. No big deal. Then I turned the corner, passed the water station (no water for me, thanks. Don't want to vomit) and ended up behind 3 teenage girls walking side by side on the race route. It was clear that they were friends since they were chatting amongst themselves. No big deal, but they were blocking the entire half of the road. I sped up, swerved around them and passed them.

No big deal.

Well, having seen an old fat guy pass them they decided they needed to speed up themselves and so they passed me. And kept running. Until they started walking again. And, you guessed it, I had to pass them again since I was running at a consistent speed.

Once again, they saw this… and decided to run pass me again.

And then they started walking side by side again.

So I passed them, again.

And this was with about .7 miles left, so I was pretty sure they would run past me and beat me to the finish line… but I didn't see them again.

Therefore I assume I beat them. Take that, teenage girls who I am sure have no memory of me even being there!

According to the race chip I ran the 5K in 31:39 which gave me an average pace of a 10 minute 11 second mile (3 times in a row!).

And then I ate two bananas and drank all the water:

When I ran my last 5K (9 years ago) it took me 33:03, so I improved without really trying. Hurrah for me.

And a much bigger hurrah to everyone who donated to the cause. I was almost the top fundraiser for the race (I was bet by $75 but I'm ok with that).

Twenty Trillion Leagues Under the Sea by Adam Roberts

A3D80DA6-4ECE-4E8C-9C0F-2DEBA535F133-950-00000172776FA044Adam Roberts is one of those authors who writes whatever they want, and damn the marketability. Generally I enjoy his work, and he is a very talented writer. This book wasn't his best work, though I did think it was quite interesting and I almost enjoyed just as a physical object.


The cover is gorgeous, and the illustrations are generally very good but… the copy editing is just bad. I usually don't even notice the odd mistake here and there, but this book was littered with them. It was distracting (and not the author's fault, but it didn't do him any favors).

The story is heavily influenced/extends 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A French experimental submarine goes off on a test run and dives. And dives. And dives deeper than the ocean should allow a submarine to dive.

And then things get crazy, and none of it is good for the crew.

I would say this book ends up being interesting rather than good.

Who should read it: Big fans of Jules Verne and French people, I guess?

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powell's | WorldCat

The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin

IMG_0395Trilogies can be tough. The first book is exciting because you're discovering a whole new world populated with interesting characters (at least in good ones!), the second book generally moves the story along and not much more, and the third book… the pressure is on to stick the landing. If you have a bad conclusion it can have the power to sour people on the previous two books, plus who is going to recommend a trilogy with a bad final book?

I'm happy to report that The Stone Sky, the final volume in the fantastic The Broken Earth trilogy, does not disappoint. It is a well written and satisfying conclusion to a very good trilogy. Seriously, if you haven't read any of these books you should totally do it.

My one complaint is an odd one: I almost feel like the third book explained too much of how the world got to be the way it is in the trilogy. Now, I know that lots of people will be very happy to find out the details, but I think I would have preferred a little more ambiguity. That's just me, though, since I tend to enjoy books where I have little idea what is going on (which was pretty much the case in the first two books of this series).

I won't bother to try and recap what this book is about, but I will say it is a very interesting mix of fantasy and science fiction.

Who should read it: If you're read the first two books you'll need to read this one. And you should read the first two.

Would I read it again: I can imagine myself re-reading this trilogy again at some point (much like the Foundation trilogy, which is probably my favorite trilogy of all time).

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powell's | WorldCat

Plaid and Plagiarism by Molly MacRae

7A185B08-1BF4-40DE-B3DC-462D5C85D140-970-000000F70BE47711The world is anything but cozy at the moment what with severe weather, missile launching madmen, and more than one Trump in the White House (I know, some of you are happy about that… though I have no idea how you could STILL be happy about it. I get voting for him… kind of… but it is pretty clear he's not suited for the job) and so I turn to books that'll transport me to a nice, gentle place. Oh, and include a murder.

That's right, I read the cozy mystery “Plaid And Plagiarism,” and I gosh darn enjoyed it. It isn't a heartbreaking work of literature, or a particularly good mystery, but it is like slipping into a warm woolen sweater. Plus it features a number of women characters, which is always nice. And I didn't even mean to read it! Marisa picked it up at the library and I saw it laying on the table… and read it.

The high number of women in the book isn't a surprise given the story centers around four women who buy a bookstore in Scotland, and end up involved in a murder of a local. The two main characters (the older of the four) were a little hard to tell apart at the start of the book, but soon developed unique characteristics that helped me remember who was who.

The central murder isn't dwelled upon, and it seems to not trouble the townsfolk as much as I think it would (even if the victim wasn't the most popular person). Oh, and the title does sort of gives a plot point away, which is a shame but I understand the allure of alliteration.

This is clearly the start of a series, and while I won't excitedly be looking for the next installment I'd certainly pick it up and read it if I found it laying around the house. Ok, so that doesn't sound like a glowing recommendation but really it is a fun little book.

Who should read it: If you like a quick read with a gentle murder set amongst book lovers I think you'd like this.

Would I read it again: I should probably get rid of this section since I almost always say, “No.” Which is a long way of saying, no.

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powell's | WorldCat

So many jeans

I was examining the crotch of my jeans and I got to wondering: how many pairs of jeans should a person own?

I probably have too many (which is ironic since there was a time in my life were I refused to wear jeans and now they are pretty much the only kind of pants that I wear).

Arrowood by Mick Finlay

A IMG_0378 good hook is important for any book, but I feel like it is doubly important for mysteries. There are thousands and thousands of them, and to stand out you need to come up with something unique. “Arrowood” takes the reader to well trodden territory: Sherlock Holmes' England. The hook? Sherlock exists, but not everyone can afford him. When you need someone to help but you can't afford Holmes (or he isn't interested in your case) you turn to Arrowood.

Clever, right?

Holmes is a big presence in this book, but he never appears. Arrowood is an investigator, just like Holmes. He has a plucky assistant, just like Holmes. He has an erudite air about him though isn't rich, just like Holmes.

And many characters in the book bring up these similarities much to Arrowood's chagrin. He isn't a Sherlock fan, thinking that Sherlock is mostly lucky (everyone is sure Sherlock is a genius. I assume the two will interact with one another at some point in the future if there are more Arrowood books).

I though the setup of the book was very interest, and the mystery was complex enough. However, the overall execution of this great idea was… well… fine. It wasn't amazing, nor was it bad. It was fine.

Who should read it: This would be a good beach read, I think. If you like to read about darkish mysteries on the beach, that is.

Would I read it again: Nope but I will keep an eye out for the sequel.

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powell's | WorldCat

Thank you! Could I have some more?

Colonomg I signed up for the Philadelphia Undy Run several months ago so I could raise some money for colon cancer research in honor of my mom. And I had trouble remembering when the run is taking place (Sept. 9th if you're wondering), so I visited the page and saw the above image. I'm the top fundraiser at the moment! That's so awesome! It also explains why someone from the Colon Cancer Alliance called me the other day and asked if they could help me with anything (I was puzzled, so I said, "No thanks!"). I wanted to thank everyone who has donated already. You rock! And now, I'd like to suggest that if you haven't donated but you can spare some money why not kick in a little bit? I'd love to help move the needle for the run as a whole (they've only raised about 17k out of a goal of 70k).

Donate here and I'll love you forever!

Sputnik's Children by Terri Favro

587186E6-1C5E-4DC0-8879-9914CC1D4A8C-953-000000FE4E95B1D4I have something like 1,000 books (both electronic and physical) that I haven't read as of yet, but I still find myself at the library once or twice a month. Usually I'm there to pick up a book I've placed on reserve, but while I'm there I check out the books on display.

And that's how I come across books from authors I've never heard of, and probably would never hear of during my normal travels about town. This time I picked up “Sputnik's Children” by a Canadian author (Terri Favro) on a whim.

This book combines a few things that I enjoy: super heroes, time travel, parallel universes, and a slightly unreliable narrator. My favorite part of the book? Some details make me think it is entirely possible that this entire story happens only in the mind of the main character (either version of the main character at that!).

The stories follows a comic book creator whose creation, the girl without a past, is based on her life story. The twist? She isn't from around here… she's from an alternate timeline. Or is she?

Once again I don't want to get into the story too much, but it is interesting and well written to boot!

Who should read it: If you like comic books, time travel, or pending nuclear doom this book is for you.

Would I read it again: As usual, I probably won't re-read this book, but I will read Favro's next book.

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powell's | WorldCat

Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner

52F77A35-623C-4E2F-BB95-126F075ABB6D-3580-0000064962D30F21The follow up to “Missing, Presumed” does not disappoint. You know you're reading a good mystery when you say, “Oh no!” out loud at the end of a chapter.

This installment finds Manon Bradshaw back where she started with an adopted son in tow. Oh, and she's pregnant (the identity of the father isn't revealed early on which lends a bit of tension if you've read the prior books).

It is interesting that the main character, Manon, isn't really involved in the central mystery as an investigator. I don't want to say too much more because I don't want to give anything away.

My only issue with the book comes in the form of the character “Birdie.” The author makes a pretty big deal about the fact that Birdie is fat, and I just got the feeling that this was a thin person writing what they think a fat person should act like. Just one fat guy's opinion.

That's a very minor quibble, though, in an otherwise gripping read.

Who should read it: Anyone who enjoyed the first one.

Would I read it again: I want to read the next one right now!

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powells | WorldCat


As I mentioned in my Oregon trip recap post Marisa and I basically stumbled upon the Pompeii exhibit at OMSI (which is still happening, so check it out if you're in the area).

I just wanted to take a few moments and share how deeply affected it left me, which is unusual because I'm not super prone to crying, yet alone crying about people I don't know who died over 1900 years ago.

That's the cleverest thing about this exhibit, which was entirely by design i'm sure. It made the people of Pompeii into real life people not just figures from a history book.

At the start of the exhibit you stand in front of the “gates” of Pompeii, where a staff member explains what you're about to see and mentions that the “4D movie” might not be for those faint of heart (it was a very mild experience, but more on that in a moment). Then a little film plays, some dramatic music sounds, and slowly the doors open.

In you walk and you find yourself in the atrium of a typical Roman house from Pompeii, filled with ancient artifacts. Like this bust that still has some 1900 year old red paint on it:

Portrait Bust of a Young Woman

All of the sculptures had such fine detail you would have sworn they had just been made. It was crazy.

And as you walk through the exhibit they funnel you through the different parts of the town. Marisa was quite interested in the cooking utensils (of which I took no pictures). Once again, the frying pans and colanders looked like they were just bought the other day (from a high end kitchen store!).

There was even an alcove devoted to the brothels of Pompeii (the Romans did enjoy their sex). It was interesting, and didn't glamorize the life the people working there. Though there was a creepy guy who was hanging out in that section watching the brothel movie over and over again. It was odd.

Then these's the 4D movie: i.e. a regular movie about the day Vesuvius erupted only the whole room fills with smoke (water vapor in this case) and the floor shakes to simulate the resultant earthquakes.

All of this is designed to make you think about the people of Pompeii and how they were very much like you and me. They went to the market, they cooked, they had sex, they argued, they ate disgusting fermented fish sauce called garum (the Romans LOVED garum. It strikes me as completely gross), they had indoor plumbing, and heated floors. Not so different from modern folk.

And that's how they really get you in the gut with this:

Pompeii cast

A room with several of the famous Pompeii casts. Casts of what? Well, of the cavities left by the people who were smothered, and killed, by the volcanic ash. These were some of the about 2000 people who didn't get out in time, or who weren't allowed to leave.

There was a slave who archeologists think was left behind to guard his master's house. A mother holding up her child, trying to save it from the ash… and failing. A dog who was tied up in front of the house and left to die. And a man who they think had gathered up all his money and tried to escape, but he ended up dead on the street with his money next to him (the thinking being he had a fatal stumble as he was running away. Perhaps has he turned he head when a building was crumbling next to him).

It was a shocking, and very moving experience. I knew what was coming as we moved through the exhibit, and had read lots about Pompeii so I thought I knew what to expect. But I didn't. These were people, who had lives. And they all died, their last moments filled with terror and confusion. The only thing they knew was they should run as fast as they could; it wasn't fast enough.

Very Important Corpses by Simon R. Green

31538E8F-A0CF-432F-81C3-555F02676C0C-2634-000004E3DBA6C809Another book by Simon R. Green! I borrowed this one from the library and read it in a day (it is both a quick read and a short book).

Ishmael Jones, the hero of this Green series, is an interesting character even if he talks pretty much like every other Green character. He's an alien that crashed landed onto earth in the 60's and who's ship recoded his body to be human. Though in the process he lost his memory, so he's been working for a variety of secret organizations (which is what all of Simon R. Green's characters do). They get his services, and he gets to move around and lay low even though he seemingly never ages.

Green takes this interesting character and throws him into mysteries that have a dash of the supernatural. This novel finds Jones, and his lady friend, on the shore of Loch Ness in a great house with a sorted history that is playing host to a secret cabal's annual meeting. Someone, or something, is killing people and Jones needs to find out who!

It is pretty obvious who is doing the killing, but it was an enjoyable tale (and much better than the last Green book I read. I do find it amusing that Jones isn't a fan of the ghost hunting organization that makes up the main cast of the series of which I am not much of a fan).

Overall, this did what I expect of a Green novel: took a few hours to read, made me chuckle a couple of times, and was generally pleasant despite the amount of gore.

Who should read it: If you like supernatural mysteries and manor houses you could do worse than this book.

Would I read it again: Nope, but I'll read the next in the series (I won't buy it, of course!).

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powell's | WorldCat

Oregon 2017

If you're my friend on Flickr then you already know I spent some time in Oregon recently. It was my mother-in-law's 70th birthday so Marisa arranged for her entire immediate family (her sister and her husband, their kids, her parents, her, and me) to spend some time in Portland and the Oregon coast.

We rented this house:

Oregon Coast

For a couple of reasons. It had the right number of bedrooms, it wasn't too crazy expensive, and it is right on the ocean. What is the point of renting a beach house if you can't see the ocean from almost every room?

This is right out of that gate that you see above:

Oregon Coast

Walk down a little dune and you're on the beach!

Oregon Coast

Growing up I spent the vast majority of my summers on the beach, which has meant that I pretty much have no interest in the beach now. However, spending some time in a beach town felt like coming home! Of course the Oregon coast is very different from the beaches I'm used to on Long Island in New York. You mostly don't swim, which is wacky. And the beaches really don't have that many people on them.

The water is sure pretty though. And it was nice to sleep with the sound of the ocean at night.

Oregon Coast

Once we were done at the Oregon coast it was back to Portland. I only had one requirement: we stay somewhere other than Marisa's parent's place since it was going to be so crowded.

Marisa agreed and decided we should stay on a houseboat! Here's a view of the marina:


And the awesome bridge down:


There were all sorts of houseboats docked here. Luckily ours was just straight down the pier, so no need for complicated directions.


I don't know if this means it was the 14th houseboat in Oregon, but is is a neat picture.


And here's the houseboat we stayed in! It was very nice, and made me momentarily think that we should buy a houseboat. The reality is probably less attractive than staying on one for a couple of days, but it was nice.


I've already blogged about the doughnuts on the trip, but here are the Blue Star doughnuts again (very tasty):


And here's a nice picture of Marisa before she ate her doughnut (and before a nice man at Blue Star gave her a free doughnut because the one she wanted was sold out):


The sunset over the marina:


We didn't plan on going to OMSI, which is pretty geared towards kids, but we parked in their parking lot and had to pop in to pay for it. And that's when we discovered they were having a Pompeii exhibit. We had to go.


A little volcano stamp! I'll write more about the exhibit later.


The reason we were even near OMSI was so we could walk across the Tilikum Crossing, which is the bridge in the distance.


And guarded by this sculpture:


That's what we are looking for! This bridge is only for buses, trams, people, and bikes. No cars, thank you very much. Oh, Portland.


The bridge is quite striking, as are the views.




Someone drew little faces on these signs. I approved.


Then we took a break so Marisa could be famous on TV.


And followed that by getting some doughnuts.


And we ended our Oregon trip with a solo excursion (well solo as in Marisa and myself) to Mount Hood, where we stayed at the lovely Timberline Lodge.


There's Marisa sitting on a fake ski lift.


We arrived, checked in, and then went for a walk in the twilight. It takes a long time for the sun to set, but we took some pretty good pictures.




Skilift and trees

Back of the lodge


Here's Marisa the next morning slightly annoyed that we missed breakfast. Almost every meal we had at the Lodge was great, except for this one. We were both in the mood for breakfast but had just missed it so we had to make due with a crappy turkey sandwich (for Marisa) and a poorly constructed sausage sandwich (for me).


But the lodge rallied by making some good drinks and offering up a sweet little nook we could take over and sip our cocktails and read.


Then it was time for some hiking!


We took the ski lift up the mountain, which was terrifying. I've never been skiing, so this was my first time on a lift. As it was moving I was gripping on as tightly as I could thinking it couldn't get much worse. And then the lift stopped! And we were just dangling there. I didn't know they stopped!

I was not a fan. And we walked back down the mountain (though we planned to do that anyway).

There's the lodge!

There was still a good bit of snow, and lots of snowboarders.

Snow and rocks

And the views were great.

So pretty

As was the flora.

Flower detail

I really like this picture:


Someone was really into stacking rocks.

Mt. Hood and towers

A little mountain side selfie because honestly.

We are so cute

After all that hiking we were tuckered out, so we headed to the Lounge and lounged about reading.

Marisa reads a book and tolerates me.

I couldn't get enough of the views!

Looks like a matte painting

Or of this pizza! And amazingly, I didn't gain any weight on vacation (I lost like .2 pounds, which I was very ok with).


Some of the doorways were exactly my size.


A view of were we were reading.

Very cozy places to read!

Some fun facts about the lodge, on the lodge.

That's a big chimney.

And then we headed back to Portland for a day of hanging out. We took a 10pm flight, so we could have some more time in Portland. Of course that included some conveyor belt sushi (with a cameo by my new hat).


Overall, the trip was great. Marisa planned it very well to allow me some decompressing at the lodge before we headed back to reality. Plus I bought lots of books, so what's not to like?

The Gunslinger by Stephen King

DD8AB116-959C-48B5-940B-37C5F0E04F49-2541-0000046AA4EB3BCDI am a master of timing, I tells ya.

Fellow Incomparable folks have been singing the praises of the Dark Tower series by Stephen King for a very long time and yet I've been resistant to start reading it. I think mostly because I have boxed away King in my head as a horror writer and I am not so into horror as a genre.

I know this is unfair to the very talented Mr. King, and so with the advent of the movie based on the Dark Tower series I figured now was a great time to try and borrow the book from the library. You know, when everyone else had the same exact idea:


I was content to wait my turn when from the North came a Bookslinger who ended my wait by shooting the ebook onto my Kindle:


(Thanks again, John!).

Now I really had to read it! Though I was concerned that I wouldn't like it and disappoint some people I jumped into it.

The first thing I realized when I started reading was that I really knew nothing about the Dark Tower series (I assumed a tower was somehow involved). This ignorance was cleared up by not one but TWO forewords by the author in the edition I read. It was interesting to read the two and notice how his writing style has evolved over time, plus I found out this was King's attempt to write an Arthurian legend set in the Old West.

That was a bit of a red flag for me: I'm not big into westerns but while The Gunslinger is certainly informed by westerns (and people in it love to palaver) it is really something else entirely.

The book does a good job of setting up Roland and the Man in Black as opposing forces in the quest for the Tower. Really, the whole book is one long case scene intercut with some world building (that train station!) and flashbacks to Roland's life. It was well structured and a quick read.

It does suffer from what some first books can suffer from: a lot of setting up the pieces on the board but not much actually happens. There are some encounters with mutants, some death, and eating some rabbits but mostly this book is about one dude following another one across a desert, over the mountains, and then camping with him for a little bit.

The real question is: was it good enough to make me want to read the next book in the series? Yes, it was. I've already but a hold on it at the library. Now I just have to wait for 50 people to read it ahead of me.

Who should read it: I assume if you're a fan of Stephen King you've already read it, but if you are and you haven't… you should!

Would I read it again: Nah, but I will read the next one.

Get it: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Powells | WorldCat