Thursday, May 27, 2010

Kornbluth review

Very nice review for Mark from Analog:

C. M. Kornbluth: The Life and Works of
a Science Fiction Visionary
Mark Rich

McFarland (,
451 pages, $39.95 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 978-0-7864-4393-2
Genre: Nonfiction

Cyril (C. M.) Kornbluth was one of the pivotal figures of American science fiction. He was there at the beginning, those late-1930s days that marked the launch of Amazing Stories, the foundation of the Futurians, and the start of so many careers: Isaac Asimov, David A. Kyle, Sam Moskowitz, Frederik Pohl, Richard Wilson, Donald A. Wollheim. Kornbluth would easily take his place among those hallowed names. Two of his solo stories, “The Little Black Bag” (Astounding, 1950) and “The Marching Morons” (1951), are classics and as popular today as when they were written. His collaborations with Frederik Pohl, most notably The Space Merchants (1952) and Gladiator-At-Law (1954), are equally well regarded, as is his solo novel The Syndic (1953).

When Kornbluth died in March 1958, at the age of 35, his loss was felt throughout the science fiction community. If he had lived, he would undoubtedly have been hailed as one of the superstars of the field.

Mark Rich has written a very detailed yet highly readable biography of this exceptional writer, which is itself a mini-history of the early decades of science fiction. Along the way, he includes commentary on just about every short story, novelette, and novel that Kornbluth produced, alone or in collaboration, under a variety of pseudonyms. A scholarly text (with the requisite 40 pages of notes) that reads like a novel, Rich’s book is nothing short of a delight.

If you remember anything of that time, this will be a nostalgic journey for you; those of us who had the misfortune to be born after Kornbluth died can only marvel at this now-gone world and the geniuses who inhabited it. The book is a bit pricey, but no fan of the history of science fiction (you know who you are) can afford to be without it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Quality Water for Drinking - 1

A while back, a fellow blogger exhorted me to write about my experiences in water quality protection.  At the time, my last job was a bit too fresh in memory to want to revisit or encapsulate those times, but perhaps now is appropriate.  My music endeavors are winding down for the year and I'm looking forward to leaving the frustrations of those endeavors aside for a while.

I earned a degree that combined natural science with applied science and economics and what they call political science.  To this day, I still don't understand link to science in the latter field, but perhaps it is an aspiration.  I rather like the term "geopolitics" used in "The Next 100 Years" by George Friedman.  Anyway, my graduate degree took me into the depths of hydrogeology and water resources management.  Again with a healthy dose of political science.

I had this idea planted in my head by a professor or two that I would be a good person to be a translator between the technical fields and audiences not immersed in those fields.  Looking back, I should have had my head examined, but at the time it made sense.  And it still does to a large extent,  I have some good skills and a crazy type and amount of experience.  So I headed down this path laid between science and politics and only occasionally looked back at some of the other paths I could have taken.  I do admit that those looks back occurred more frequently in the recent past than early on.

I will start this story part way through my career, for the mere fact that it seems expedient at the moment.  My spouse and I arrived in Central Oregon in the second half of 1995.  We had toured the western states in quest of our future home and finally settled on Bend, Oregon for a variety of reasons.  We thought we'd try it out and see if we could make it even though there were a dearth of professional jobs during that time.  We'd somewhat resigned ourselves to changing careers in order to live where we wanted to live.  Which, did happen, for at least the short term.

I ended up getting a job as a land use planner with the County at a time when the real estate market was starting to heat up in Bend and the surrounding areas.  I'd actually been interested in getting my feet wet in land use planning because I had this notion that land use was where the rubber met the road in terms of creating appropriate development.  Well, my thinking was about a decade too early.  In the mid-nineties, the land use modus operendi was still influenced by the "yeah, sure" attitude that was intended to move the economy along from the sluggishness of the cold molasses slow movement in the 1980's and the recession in the early 1990's .  Funny to think of that during these times.

The attitude was slowly changing, especially as people started reading the land use rules and compared that to what was being proposed and then started asking questions.  Well around the same time, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality also started asking questions.  These questions had to do with the environmental effects of land uses that were in large part established before Oregon land use law came into being.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A pitiful excuse...

...for not writing is the lure of the small outdoors.  Our yard, which in comparison with the terrain twenty minutes out of town, is miniscule indeed but it does take a relatively huge chunk of attention, particularly as we tend to live in our yard over the summer months.  The warm weather days are when we tend to do more entertaining and so I like to spend time sprucing up our outdoor living rooms.   Sprucing up is a bit of a misnomer because the rogue trees I find tend to be more amongst the Ponderosa pine, maple and ceder ilk. 

A bit of a shocker today as Resident Kid asked if there was any gardening I wanted done.  While I really needed some areas weeded or the compost turned, I didn't want to discourage such nascent gardening tendencies and directed Kid Energy to giving a few small shrubby herbs some haircuts.  Not a bad choice as the aroma of fresh thyme filled the yard.  It was cut short, pardon, when the Mimsical dog hauled some nasty stuff out of the pond and Kid started chasing said dog around the yard trying to get her to drop whatever nasty treasure she'd found.  The thyme does look better now.

All in all a lovely morning.  How was yours?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A big hoping of potatoes

For several years I have been experimenting with leftover mashed potatoes to make pancakes.  (I will come clean right off the bat by saying, "Yes, these are often instant mashed potatoes.)  I have made homemade mashers but when in a mad scramble to get something on the table, the taters may result from a shortcut, which these days happens to be Paradise Valley All Natural Creamy Mashed Potatoes from Costco.)

Because the packets are from Costco, they are on the larger size (8 servings per container), which is way more than the three of us can eat.  Not to say that I mind the leftovers, not at all, the scientist in me comes alive as I get the opportunity to continue my grand experiments.

The first attempts were bland, mushy blobs of starch.  These were the days before I realized eggs are an important structural element in many baked, as in this case, pan baked, goods.  My culinary training has been haphazard at best and mostly on the fly.

I was quite pleased with the last batch I made.  No recipe is available because I have no idea what quantity of potatoes I started with.  I can say that I put in one more egg than I thought would be prudent because the batter turned a lovely light yellow from the marigold of the yolks.  Add to that some lightly sauteed diced onion and Canadian bacon and fry dollops on the griddle.

That particular day was lovely and Resident Kid had taken on a backyard chore with surprising gusto.  Considering that Kid had already spent over an hour outside, I called out with what I thought was an irresistible summons, "Come and have some potato pancakes."  Duh, wrong approach.  Of course the answer was an upturned and wrinkled nose, a grunt and a query as to whether there were any mashed potatoes left.

"No, they're in the pancakes."  Silence ... then I sense the whine building.  I attempted the end run around the whine and said with a firm tone, "Come in for some lunch."  A grand show of dramatic foot dragging ensued, which I blithely ignored as I dished up pancakes.  Digging into my own serving, I declared, "Wow, they're pretty good with a bit of syrup on them."

Resident Kid takes a plate, disappears for a while and comes back with one cake (out of two) gone and puts the plate on the counter.  I droop a little, expecting resistance to my urgings to eat a little more.  But, fancy that, maple syrup goes on the second cake (the first having been eaten dry) and the plate drifts back to the living room.  When the plate came back the second time, I ventured, "Do you want a hot one off the griddle?"


"Two?"  Hope springs.

"One."  That's good enough for hope

Then in a totally blatant push of my good luck, I say, "Hey, those cakes are pretty good aren't they?"


"What?  You can't admit that you like them?"  I looked around for the response just in time to see a head duck to barely hide a grin.

"Needs more ham."

Good enough for this cook.  Score.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Spring in the High Desert

This time of year is always a guessing game.  Is it safe to put seeds out?  (Not really, but maybe if you're lucky.)  Is is safe to put seedlings or larger transplants out?  (No, unless you have a greenhouse or other way to cover & protect seedlings from inclement weather.) 

Folks were complaining about the weather the other day, as folks everywhere are wont to do.  Here the complaint was snow in May.  I actually don't think that it would be normal to not have snow in May in Central Oregon.  After all, a significant family event was marked, eleven years ago, by snow.

The locals say not to plant until the snow is off of Black Butte, a local extinct volcano, but not being able to see Black Butte easily from my vantage point, I tend to rely on a nose to the wind and an eye to

Spring is more a frame of mind.  It must be spring, therefore it is.  We wear flip flops and short sleeve shirts and shiver in the still freezing temperatures but don't really care because, by golly, it's spring!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Locally Grown Rye

Wild Rye is defined in Wikipedia as "a term used for several grasses. They are natively found in parts of North America (as well as elsewhere) and are valuable in the control of exotic invasive plants and as a rotation crop."  A pretty boring description from a non-botanist's point of view.  Especially because the name itself connotes a certain image - full of waving tufted seed heads in a plains-y kind of land.  Wide open spaces and big skies.  The kind of place where a certain Mimsical dog would streak around with wild abandon until finally plopping down panting in the shade of a shrub.

The music that arises out of such a vision is also tinged with wildness and abandon that comes from the roots of the land, which is a reason that I think the locally grown band, Wild Rye, is aptly named.  The roots of this group's music reach into Irish and Scottish traditional fiddle music with strong influences from modern takes on the genre from the likes of Alisdair Fraser, Natalie Haas, and Hanneke Cassell (you can see a clip of Natalie and Hanneke playing at  Which isn't to say that the band's influences are entirely Celtic, because they've pulled Americana and rock songs into their unique style, including a great version of REM's "Driver 8." 

While there may be some resistance or perhaps bias in some quarters to being defined by the term "Celtic," I thought it was interesting to do a quick look at the history, Wiki-style, to find that the heartland of Celtic culture appears to have been southern France and: 
"Genetics suggests the Celts were descendants of people who originated in southwest Asia between 4,000 and 8,000 years ago.[7][8] Celtic origin legends recorded in Medieval Scotland and Ireland suggest a possible beginning in Anatolia and then to Iberia via Egypt. It has been noted [9] that the distribution of the gene for lactase persistence apparently originating near the Baltic Sea between 4,800 and 6,000 BP indicates a spread from there to both the British Isles and to Iberia."  
An interesting article, all in all, particularly given that one of the citations is entitled, "How did pygmy shrews colonize Ireland?"  But I digress from my point, which is that, given the historical spread of Celtic society and the more recent (the potato famine being recent in the grand scale of things) spread of the Celtic influence to the music and dance of southeastern states in the US, there are few cultures today that can't claim some tie to this heritage. 

And I think Wild Rye, the band, pays homage to these deep and varied roots by blending traditional musical elements with modern texts and tunes.  Take a quick listen.  Imagine those gently waving tufted seed heads...imagine that touch of wildness and abandon....

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Chicken feed for the soul

A brother blogger mentioned the joys of finding various soil dwellers in the course of gardening (Larval Thoughts) and the joys of bribing the local birds to be your friends.  Our urban farm has a flock of four lovely chickens, which we've bribed since chickhood to be our friends and give us lots of eggs. 

The issue of giving the chickens free range of our entire yard is a bit of a bone of contention in our household.  Resident Spouse likes to let them roam to eat fresh grass and find bugs.  I don't really mind it when I'm digging out sod or otherwise clearing out the detritus because they do a wonderful job of breaking up sod clumps in their quest for worms and other goodies.  I do have an issue when they tear out plantings.  A slightly cavalier attitude towards this behavior on the part of said chicks lead to me having to rebuild and replant a garden bed several days in a row before the issue became a topic of household .... uh.... discussion.

The joys of chicken ownership for any gardener are multitudinous and range from having a wonderful use for lawn clippings (in the coop) to the hottest compost pile you'll ever experience.  The egg shells create a calcium-rich compost that makes for lots of healthy worms to stuff a chicken full in no time flat if you let her at the bottom of the compost bin.  And I have to admit to a bit of vicious pleasure in hunting down that nasty cutworm who dared damage my cucumber and tomato vines. 

Lovely eggs.  Those cutworms do turn into mighty fine omelets.