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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Collage

Just a few of the highlights of 2014. Click to embiggen!

Books I Read in 2014

Since 2011, I've been tracking the books I read. As in other years, I read heavily within my preferred genre, science fiction, and I read more Star Trek books than usual in an effort to catch up with a backlog - though given the uneven quality of media tie-in novels I sometimes wonder why I bother. (I did enjoy David Mack's Cold Equations TNG mini-series.) As ever I try to dabble in mainstream titles, and this year I finished reading Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan novels. Stephen King and Connie Willis were my most-read authors this year, both because I was playing catch-up; King released three novels this year, and I found some of his ephemera. Willis was the year's real joy; I've been familiar with her short stories for some time and she has a stellar reputation, but until devouring nearly all of her novels and collections this year I hadn't been aware of just how good she really is.

This year I finally explored Jack Chalker's Well World books, and the first of Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat series, filling in a couple of genre gaps.

Thanks to the help of friends, I finally tracked down all of the Martin Caidin Cyborg novels and the Logan's Run books; it was a great deal of fun diving back in time to enjoy these pulp adventures.

Books by men once again dominate my list this year; only 22 of the books I read were written by women, with Willis accounting for nearly half of these. Clearly I have to work harder to broaden my oeuvre.

Nearly half the books I read were published in 2000 or later; the bulk of the rest were published in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. The oldest books I read this year were two titles by Jane Austen.

Despite my best intentions, I did not finish the Harry Potter series this year, nor did I get to The Lord of the Rings. Maybe this year. In fact, I think I'll tackle the Potter in January.

Here are the 126 books I read in 2014:

January: 12
Glasshouse (Charles Stross, 2006)
Tarzan’s Quest (Edgar Rice Burroughs, 1936)
Tarzan and the Forbidden City (Edgar Rice Burroughs, 1938)
Halting State (Charles Stross, 2007)
Tarzan the Magnificent (Edgar Rice Burroughs, 1939)
Rule 34 (Charles Stross, 2011)
Burning Paradise (Robert Charles Wilson, 2013)
Iterations and Other Stories (Robert J. Sawyer, 2002)
Wireless (Charles Stross, 2009)
Tarzan and the Foreign Legion (Edgar Rice Burroughs, 1947)
Tarzan and the Castaways (Edgar Rice Burroughs, 1965)
Saturn’s Children (Charles Stross, 2008)

February: 12
Midnight at the Well of Souls (Jack L. Chalker, 1977)
The Final Solution (Michael Chabon, 2004)
Star Trek Enterprise The Romulan War: Beneath the Raptor’s Wing (Michael A. Martin, 2009)
The Human Division (John Scalzi, 2013)
Exiles at the Well of Souls (Jack L. Chalker, 1978)
Doctor Sleep (Stephen King, 2013)
Murder in the Dark (Margaret Atwood, 1983)
Spacecraft: 2000 to 2100 AD (Stewart Cowley, 1978)
Quest for the Well of Souls (Jack L. Chalker, 1978)
Spacewreck: Ghostships and Derelicts of Space (Stewart Cowley, 1979)
Great Space Battles (Stewart Cowley and Charles Herridge, 1979)
Starliners: Commercial Spacetravel in 2200 AD (Stewart Cowley, 1980)

March: 6
The Return of Nathan Brazil (Jack L. Chalker, 1980)
Star Trek Enterprise The Romulan War: To Brave the Storm (Michael A. Martin, 2011)
Red Planet Blues (Robert J. Sawyer, 2013)
Twilight at the Well of Souls (Jack L. Chalker, 1980)
Star Trek Enterprise Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures (Christopher L. Bennet, 2013)
Star Trek: The Complete Unauthorized History (Robert Greenberger, 2012)

April: 6
Throne of the Crescent Moon (Saladin Ahmed, 2012)
Faithful (Stewart O’Nan and Stephen King, 2004)
Green Eyes (Lucius Shepard, 1984)
Borders of Infinity (Lois McMaster Bujold, 1989)
You Went Away (Timothy Findley, 1996)
In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination (Margaret Atwood, 2011)

May: 12
Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen, 1818)
Foundation and Chaos (Greg Bear, 1998)
The Man from Primrose Lane (James Renner, 2012)
Ur (Stephen King, 2009)
Darker Than You Think (Jack Williamson, 1948)
John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood (Michael D. Sellers, 2012)
What Might Have Been Volume 2: Alternate Heroes (Gregory Benford & Martin H. Greenberg, Editors, 1990)
Six Stories (Stephen King, 1997)
The Einstein Intersection (Samuel R. Delany, 1967)
Lincoln’s Dreams (Connie Willis, 1987)
Elleander Morning (Jerry Yulsman, 1984)
Scratch Monkey (Charles Stross, 1993)

June: 9
Fire Watch (Connie Willis, 1985)
Mr. Mercedes (Stephen King, 2014)
Doomsday Book (Connie Willis, 1992)
Solo (William Boyd, 2013)
Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It (David M. Ewalt, 2013)
Syn (Raymond F. Jones, 1969)
Impossible Things (Connie Willis, 1993)
Uncollected Stories (Stephen King, 2003)
The Leftovers (Tom Perrotta, 2011)

July: 12
The Compete Peanuts: 1991 to 1992 (Charles M. Schulz with an introduction by Tom Tomorrow, 2014)
Mile 81 (Stephen King, 2011)
A Face in the Crowd (Stephen King and Stewart O’Nan, 2012)
In the Tall Grass (Stephen King and Joe Hill, 2012)
Throttle (Stephen King and Joe Hill, 2012)
The Dark Between the Stars (Poul Anderson, 1981)
To Say Nothing of the Dog (Connie Willis, 1998)
The Clockwork Man (E.V. Odle, 1923)
Uncharted Territory (Connie Willis, 1994)
Bellwether (Connie Willis, 1996)
Star Trek Enterprise Rise of the Federation: Tower of Babel (Christopher L. Bennett, 2014)
Passage (Connie Willis, 2001)

August: 11
Daemon (Daniel Suarez, 2006)
FreedomTM (Daniel Suarez, 2010)
Kill Decision (Daniel Suarez, 2012)
Cyborg (Martin Caidin, 1972)
Operation Nuke (Martin Caidin, 1973)
High Crystal (Martin Caidin, 1974)
Logan’s Run (William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson, 1967)
Logan’s World (William F. Nolan, 1977)
Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome (John Scalzi, 2014)
Logan’s Search (William F. Nolan, 1980)
Cyborg IV (Martin Caidin, 1975)

September: 10
Tau Zero (Poul Anderson, 1970)
Warped Factors: A Neurotic’s Guide to the Universe (Walter Koenig, 1997)
Star Trek Voyager: Homecoming (Christie Golden, 2003)
Star Trek Voyager: The Farther Shore (Christie Golden 2003)
Twin Peaks: Access Guide to the Town (David Lynch and Mark Frost and Richard Saul Wurman, 1991)
Bowl of Heaven (Gregory Benford and Larry Niven, 2012)
Rogue Moon (Algis Budrys, 1960)
A Case of Conscience (James Blish, 1958)
Star Trek Voyager Spirit Walk: Old Wounds (Christie Golden, 2004)
The Long War (Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter, 2013)

October: 5
Universe 1 (Terry Carr, Editor, 1971)
The Broken Universe (Paul Melko, 2012)
Star Trek Voyager Spirit Walk: Enemy of my Enemy (Christie Golden, 2004)
Star Trek: The More Things Change (Scott Pearson, 2014)
Universe 2 (Terry Carr, Editor, 1972)

November: 14
Flatlander (Larry Niven, 1995)
Star Trek Voyager String Theory: Cohesion (Jeffrey Lang, 2005)
The Adam West Scrapbook (Adam West, 2014)
Star Trek Voyager String Theory: Fusion (Kirsten Beyer, 2005)
Universe 15 (Terry Carr, Editor, 1985)
Star Trek: The Art of the Film (Mark Cotta Vaz with a foreword by J.J. Abrams, 2009)
Star Trek Voyager String Theory: Evolution (Heather Jarman, 2006)
The Stainless Steel Rat (Harry Harrison, 1961)
As Big as the Ritz (Gregory Benford, 1986)
Fugue State (John M. Ford, 1987)
Chase (Nancy Springer, 1987)
The Martian (Andy Weir, 2014)
Remake (Connie Willis, 1995)
A Dance with Dragons (George R. R. Martin, 2011)

December: 16
Star Trek The Next Generation Cold Equations: The Persistence of Memory (David Mack, 2012)
Exo (Steven Gould, 2014)
Miracle and Other Christmas Stories (Connie Willis, 1999)
Star Trek The Next Generation Cold Equations: Silent Weapons (David Mack, 2012)
Starhawk (Jack McDevitt, 2013)
The Crying of Lot 49 (Thomas Pynchon, 1965)
Revival (Stephen King, 2014)
The Drawing of the Dark (Tim Powers, 1979)
Ships of the Line (Michael Okuda, 2014)          
The Complete Peanuts: 1993 to 1994 (Charles M. Schulz with an introduction by Jake Tapper, 2014)
361 (Donald E. Westlake, 1962)
Killing Castro (Lawrence Block, 1961)
Nightmare Alley (William Lindsay Gresham, 1946)
Escape From New York (Mike McQuay, 1981)
Star Trek The Next Generation Cold Equations: The Body Electric (David Mack, 2013)
Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen, 1813)

Fiction: 118
Nonfiction: 8

Science Fiction: 61
Star Trek: 16
Mainstream: 15
Horror: 8
Fantasy: 8
Tarzan: 5
Peanuts collections: 2

Top Authors
Stephen King: 11
Connie Willis: 10
Charles Stross: 6

Edgar Rice Burroughs: 5
Jack L. Chalker: 5

Martin Caidin: 4
Stewart Cowley: 4
Christie Golden: 4

Gregory Benford: 3
Terry Carr: 3
David Mack: 3
William F. Nolan: 3
Daniel Suarez: 3

Poul Anderson: 2
Margaret Atwood: 2
Jane Austen: 2
Christopher L. Bennet: 2
Joe Hill: 2
Michael A. Martin: 2
Stewart O’Nan: 2
Robert J. Sawyer: 2
John Scalzi: 2
Charles M. Schulz: 2

J.J. Abrams: 1
Saladin Ahmed: 1
Stephen Baxter: 1
Greg Bear: 1
Kirsten Beyer: 1
James Blish: 1
Lawrence Block: 1
William Boyd: 1
Algis Budrys: 1
Lois McMaster Bujold: 1
Michael Chabon: 1
Samuel R. Delany: 1
David M. Ewalt: 1
Timothy Findley: 1
John M. Ford: 1
Mark Frost: 1
Steven Gould: 1
Martin H. Greenberg: 1
Robert Greenberger: 1
William Lindsay Gresham: 1
Harry Harrison: 1
Heather Jarman: 1
George Clayton Johnson: 1
Raymond F. Jones: 1
Walter Koenig: 1
Jeffrey Lang: 1
David Lynch: 1
George R. R. Martin: 1
Jack McDevitt: 1
Mike McQuay: 1
Paul Melko: 1
Larry Niven: 2
E.V. Odle: 1
Michael Okuda: 1
Scott Pearson: 1
Tom Perrotta: 1
Tim Powers: 1
Terry Pratchett: 1
Thomas Pynchon: 1
James Renner: 1
Michael D. Sellers: 1
Lucius Shepard: 1
Nancy Springer: 1
Tom Tomorrow: 1
Mark Cotta Vaz: 1
Andy Weir: 1
Adam West: 1
Donald E. Westlake: 1
Jack Williamson: 1
Robert Charles Wilson: 1
Richard Saul Wurman: 1
Jerry Yulsman: 1

Books by Decade
1810s: 2
1920s: 1
1930s: 3
1940s: 3
1950s: 1
1960s: 9
1970s: 15                              
1980s: 16
1990s: 15
2000s: 20
2010s: 40

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Some Thoughts on Interstellar

While I thoroughly enjoyed Chris Nolan's Interstellar, sometimes good and even great films let you down because they're not the film you wanted or needed.

When I first heard that Nolan was working on a space film, its evocative title had me thinking that this would be a story of humanity building its first starship. I imagined a story about a huge human effort, something along the lines of the Apollo program, but on a much greater scale. I imagined a story of hundreds of thousands - millions - of people from across the world designing, building and launching Earth's first voyage to the stars. I imagined a story sprawling and vast and inspirational, a vision of how the species could work together to achieve true greatness in the spirit of peace, innovation and cooperation. I imagined a trip to Alpha Centauri to see what's there.

Instead, Nolan presented a story in which faster-than-light travel is a fait accompli, a gift from an outside agency, a wormhole tossed as a rescue line. And while that story was worth telling and exciting and enjoyable in its own right, it wasn't the story I expected or desired.

Of course, filmmakers are under no obligation to tell any stories but the ones they've chosen, and Interstellar touched on some important issues with a very SF-nal sense of wonder and social responsibility. And the robots were amazing - as I told Pete and Mike after we saw the film, I could happily watch spin-off movies about these clever creations.

I suppose the interstellar movie I was expecting is too optimistic and starry-eyed for this jaded age of austerity and paranoia. On the other hand, those are just the sort of stories our troubled civilization needs. 

Monday, December 29, 2014


Way back in 1996, when I was working at the Western Board of Music, someone - I think it may have been board member Carol Mellors - gave me two tickets to see a sneak preview of Shine, the biographical dramatization of the life of concert pianist David Helfgott. For whatever reason I didn't go.

Today, over 18 years later, I finally watched the film. Of that year's Best Picture nominees, I would rank it above winner The English Patient, but below all the other nominees (Secrets & Lies, Fargo and Jerry Maguire). It's a perfectly serviceable film, but Helfgott's descent into madness comes rather out of the blue. Yes, there are scenes of domestic violence and certainly Helfgott faced tremendous pressure to perform, but in the context of the movies, Helfgott-as-character suffers torments no worse than legions of other film heroes. This is not to trivialize the character's suffering, based as it is on real life, but the film could have done a better job of showing how Helfgott's illness developed.

Sunday, December 28, 2014


I'm having fun experimenting with Lightroom and Photoshop CC while at the same time expanding the lineup of the fictional EW network. I figure Booker is a laid-back bookworm cop whose knowledge of popular culture helps him solve crimes, much to the consternation of the chief. 

Saturday, December 27, 2014


I just imported all of my digital (including scanned) photos into Adobe Lightroom. According to Lightroom, I have 58,706 photos to date. That's...considerably more than I expected, and I haven't even finished scanning the family archives. (I estimate I'm about halfway through.) Maybe three backups are not enough. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Lego Advent Calendar Haiku 2014 Day 23

Two Santas collide
Laden with gifts for rebels
What's in the bag, man? 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Lego Advent Calendar Haiku 2014 Day 23

Jedi fireplace warms
The room on Christmas morn while
A tricycle waits

Monday, December 22, 2014

Lego Advent Calendar Haiku 2014 Day 22

Traditional tree
Looks old-fashioned next to a
Christmas tree robot

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Lego Advent Calendar 2014 Day 21

Y-Wing fighter has
Twin ion cannons and a
Hankering for gifts

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Lego Advent Calendar Haiku 2014 Days 19 and 20

Speederbike presents
Are late for turkey dinner
Pizza is your fate
Imperial bus
Swoops down to observe barrel
Confused as builder

Friday, December 19, 2014

Danielle Smith: Secret Liberal

Back in November 2006, I was almost a year into my six-and-a-half year tenure with the Alberta Liberal Caucus, then the Official Opposition. On November 30, the caucus held a Christmas open house. I took photos and the images languished in a folder for almost a decade.

But yesterday, my computer, which shuttles through my photography folder, randomly chose the above image, out of thousands of photos stretching back to the 1940s, as my wallpaper.

Hey, wait a minute, I thought. That woman on the left talking to Wade that...Danielle Smith? At an Alberta Liberal function?

Click on the photo for a full size image and decide for yourself if that is indeed a young Smith. Of course even if it is Ms. Smith, there's nothing nefarious about her presence at an Alberta Liberal Caucus event; it was, after all, an open house. But it does tickle my funny bone to imagine how hardcore right-wingers would react if they took this image out of context and decried Ms. Smith as a closet liberal, consorting with the likes of Bill Bonko (seen at right).

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Lego Advent Calendar Haiku 2014 Days 17 and 18

Haiku passed over
Wildrose defection was huge
Politics over toys
General Reikann
Wants a mug of hot cocoa
Cop offers handcuffs

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Dark Day for Democracy in Alberta

Today Alberta's Leader of the Official Opposition, along with 8 other Wildrose MLAs, crossed the floor to join the governing Progressive Conservatives. In engineering this cynical ploy for power, both Smith, Prentice and their supporters have shown utter contempt for fundamental democratic principles.

To the best of my knowledge, never before in a parliamentary democracy has any Leader of the Official Opposition abdicated their responsibility with such blatant disregard for common decency.

And yet I place more of the blame on the governing PCs. With a comfortable majority, there was absolutely no reason they should have been party to this. A responsible government founded on principles of respect for voters and the common good would have understood that a strong opposition is good for the province. But Jim Prentice and his supporters proved today that they simply cannot abide opposition. This should anger and terrify anyone who cares about good governance.

I consider myself a democratic socialist, and yet today my greatest sympathies lie with the hundreds of thousands of Albertans who voted for the Wildrose party in the 2012 election. Betrayal is a hard word, but betrayed they were. Should one more Wildrose MLA join the government caucus - and rumors are flying that this will happen soon - then the Alberta Liberals will likely form the Official Opposition once again, despite losing that status in 2012. That outcome flies completely in the face of what voters chose in 2012, and as many readers know I worked for the Alberta Liberal caucus for six and a half years. Despite that, I would be appalled were Raj Sherman to become Leader of the Official Opposition again under these circumstances, even though I consider him a good man with the best interests of Albertans at heart.

(And yes, Raj crossed the floor as well - but he left the government caucus on a matter of true principle, and moved from government to opposition. However else you can characterize that move, it certainly wasn't an obvious grab for power.)

There's one more frightening possibility: perhaps the Premier suspects that Alberta's economy will worsen considerably - so much so that having a viable opposition extant during an economic collapse could actually set the stage for the end of the PC dynasty. In that scenario, this cynical maneuver actually makes sense. And if this supposition proves true, then Albertans should prepare ourselves for hard times indeed, especially if we care about public education, public health care, the arts and the vulnerable.

Even if that dark scenario doesn't come to pass, today Jim Prentice and Danielle Smith told voters that elections don't matter. When the next election comes I sincerely hope Albertans will prove them wrong.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Lego Advent Calendar Haiku 2014 Day 16

Trained for X-Wings but
Only sleds available
Blue Five Standing By

Monday, December 15, 2014

Lego Advent Calendar Haiku 2014 Day 15

Luke Skywalker thought
"Dack's a good name for a dog"
Doggone epitaph

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Lego Advent Calendar Haiku 2014 Day 13

A flashlight is not
A lightsaber but Luke does
Not know, gets robbed

Friday, December 12, 2014

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Lego Advent Calendar Haiku 2014 Day 11

Good King Wenceslas
Good cop on beat keeps the beat
TIE pilot is off key

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Lego Advent Calendar Haiku 2014 Day 9

The Empire hungers
Therefore your bread is ours
We'll fix your wagon

Monday, December 08, 2014

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Lego Advent Calendar Haiku 2014 Day 7

Tripod-mounted gun
Threatens a harmless display
No laurels for wreath

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Friday, December 05, 2014

Lego Advent Calendar Haiku 2014 Day 5

While Christmas shopping
Croissants and helmets fine no
Blasters, no blasters

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Lego Advent Calendar Haiku 2014 Day 4

Damn fine coffee, sure
But must I wear this dumb hat?
At least there is pie

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Lego Advent Calendar Haiku 2014 Day 3

Frosty the Snowman
Freezes still on planet Hoth
Melted by Empire

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Lego Advent Calendar Haiku 2014 Day 2

Robot posts a note
Snowbound frog beckons for kiss
A robot princess? 

Monday, December 01, 2014

Lego Advent Calendar Haiku 2014 Day 1

*Note: This year, each day's Lego Advent Calendar Haiku will feature a model from the City calendar and the Star Wars calendar. 

Letters to Santa
Returned unopened with toy
What is this blue thing?