Chuq Von Rospach is a Silicon Valley veteran doing Technical Community Management and amateur photographer with a strong interest in birds, wildlife and landscapes. My goal is to explore the Western states and working to tell you the stories of the special places I've found. You can find out more on the About Page.
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Monthly Archives: April 2011
Round one is done, and how did I do on picks?
In the west, I picked Vancouver in 5, San Jose in 6, Detroit in 6, and Nashville in 6.
In the west, I picked Caps in 5, Flyers in 5, Montreal in 7, Tampa in 6.
So I went seven for 8. the only series I missed was Montreal/Boston, which I picked to go 7, and it was decided in overtime in game 7.
Excuse me for saying this, but that’s pretty darn good picking. So I guess I’ll go 1-3 in round 2, just to even it up again…
In the West, we have:
San Jose and Detroit. Detroit really worries me; the goaltending’s been good, they are mature, crafty and know how to win in key, high stress games. San Jose has shown they’ve finally grown up and seem to have that same ability, but the goaltending’s been less reliable (but Niemi rose to the occasion) and they still are less proven than Detroit. I think it’ll be a hell of a series, and I’ll take San Jose in 7. Very evenly matched, should be a lot of fun. Definitely not easy.
Nashville and Vancouver. I have to congratulate Nashville for getting to the 2nd round. That’s a great progression for them that they’ve earned. But Vancouver is playing really well, and I just can’t see Nashville beating them. As I said earlier, any of the three big teams (San jose, Vancouver, detroit) could come out of the west and I’d not be surprised, and all three are in the second round. nashville is a team moving forward and getting better, but they’re not in that league yet.
San Jose has the hardest progression out of the west, too, because they had to beat the Kings, which was far from easy, and then detroit, and then Vancouver. That’s going to be tough sledding. I think they can. I’m not convinced they will, and if they don’t, I doubt it’ll be San jose’s fault. but we’ll see. I’m still picking them until someone beats them. Unfortunately, both Detroit and Vancouver could.
Over in the east….
Tampa/Washington: I really like the Caps here. Tampa has some nice game to them, but I don’t think they can beat Washington. Caps in 6.
Philly/Boston: going to be a bruiser series. I’m going to pick Boston mostly because of the Tim Thomas factor, because I’m not really sure philly’s goaltending is going to be what they need. And Philly knows that. Again, their goalie situation is chaos, because the flyers simply odn’t seem capable of building and maintaining a solid goaltending system or developing their own goalies without breaking them. Â Boston in 7.
I’m REALLY hoping boston/philly goes 7, because I expect the Sharks will need a few days of rest if they beat detroit and need to face vancouver. Otherwise, going in against the canucks tired worries me. I expect Vancouver ot finish their series first and be able to sit an extra day or two.
LA really impressed me. If they can keep the team intact (or mostly) and players mature as expected, they’re going to become a western power. Teemu Selanne really impressed me, and the Ducks impressed me more than I expected. I’m not sure they’ll be able to stay as good next year, though. Has anyone noticed how important Ryan Smith is to the Kings? Ever wonder if Edmonton wishes they still had him? And anyone wonder why anyone bothers to let Dustin Penner out of the press box, because he showed a few flashes of good hockey, but mostly, he left me wondering why anyone handed him a uniform. Slow and plodding and not very physical, with no real offense. He’s way too expensive to be a 4th liner or a pylon.
On to round 2. and I’m glad we aren’t doing playoff tickets; we both wondered if we’d hit a point where we wished we were at games. Maybe in the cup finals if San Jose gets there, but right now, sitting at home means not missing some of this hockey to get ready to go to games — and in my case, allows me more to be a hockey fan again and not mentally turn into a sharks fan. Much as I enjoy rooting for the sharks, I find I’m more able to just sit back and enjoy good hockey — and boy, has there been a lot of good hockey (although if you’re a canadian hockey writer, maybe you’re unable to actually see it, from some of the crap being written… fortunately, I can ignore all of that…)
At first glance, the title sounds a bit hyperbolic, but don’t let that stop you. Taubes has been writing about this stuff for a long time and has a lot of heavy research behind his opinions. When I was previously talking about some of the things I’ve been chasing in restructuring my lifestyle, a friend of mine suggested I read Taubes’ books on the subject, which I have.
I read Why We Get Fat, and then I went off into a corner to think about it for a while. I knew I wanted to talk about it, but I wasn’t sure how. Many things he says struck home, they sync up well with how I have come to feel given the research I’ve been doing.
But the thing is, I can’t point to this book and say “he’s right”. He’s going against standard medical advice. Frankly, I’m not qualified to look at his data and say “believe him instead”, and the universe is full of people who have the real answers that the “establishment’ wants suppressed, so any time someone bucks the establishment, you need to be careful and understand the issues before buying into it.
So having told you to be skeptical — and that includes being skeptical of me — I do encourage you to read this book and consider what he has to say. His opinions struck home to me, and align well with what my study independent of him was making me think; his opinions are well backed up by studies, and those studies he’s using seem to be well-designed and well-implemented, their results seem consistent, and they come from reliable institutions. And he’s not selling a product (ALWAYS be extra skeptical when there’s a product involved); this isn’t a framework of studies based on 12 teenage girls from Cleveland looked at for four weeks.
His research and data frankly impresses the hell out of me, and he reaches back into the past to unravel how we got here and how the medical establishment ended up recommending the current dietary protocols and why he thinks they’re wrong.
The basic underpinning of Taubes work is that the medical establishment made a leap of faith in deciding that fat was bad for humans and therefore, carbohydrates are good; that this dogma was established through a few key researchers that politically others weren’t willing to challenge, and that unfortunately, there’s basically no medical studies that can be found that prove they’re right, and a growing body of evidence that the current idea of “fat bad” is flawed.
There are a growing number of people who are starting to take up this concept. It was recently written up on the Huffington Post by Kristin Wartman and she quotes a number of folks from Martha Rose Shulman (NY Times food writer) to Dr. Frank Hu (Harvard) with opinions that encourage moving away from the “low fat” movement.
I encourage you to read the Taubes piece and the Wartman piece, and if they seem to make sense to you, grab a copy of Taubes book and read it and consider his arguments for yourself. I am not saying “he’s right, do this”; but I do believe it is in your best interest to consider his arguments and make up your own mind.
Having been chewing on this (sorry!) for a few weeks, here’s my view of this. As a survivor of the 70′s “pasta and bagel” diet mentality, I’ve long felt that the blind view that fat is bad for you so eat carbs instead was flawed. My personal reaction to the 70′s diet was weight gain and a tendency towards blood sugar crashes because the carbs hit harder and fade faster. I’ve always tried to trend towards a more protein heavy diet over a classic “mediterranean” diet, and this whole “one size fits all” mentality for dietary regimes has always seemed over simplistic to me. My genetic background (northern germanic) is one not well attuned to the mediterranean diet, and I’ve never really reacted well to it when I’ve tried, so even without all of the research that’s been coming out the last few years, I’ve had personal reason to believe the dogma around dietary practices had flaws, if only because it doesn’t take into consideration basic things like ethnic and regional genetic differences — but then, it wasn’t that long ago that drug testing was done almost exclusively on white males and the reality that drugs responded differently to blacks or women or other ethnics was kind of ignored. It’s only been in the last couple of years that we’ve seen the first drugs come out specifically for blacks that take into consideration the genetic differences in how drugs are processed, and this is still a new part of the medical field.
If you stop to think about it, this medical dogma has been eroding for decades. In the 70′s, cholesterol was bad and to be avoided. Now, there are HDLs and LDLs and Triglycerides and some of these actually help the heart, and instead of tracking to a low total cholesterol number, you’re encouraged to do things to raise HDL while lowering LDL, and so we’ve figured out reality is a lot more complicated than they told us. Eggs have even been brought back from exile.
Ditto fat. Used to be, fat was bad. Now, the still yell FAT IS BAD, and then whisper “but monounsaturated fats are maybe kinda less bad”; sometimes they even admit that the poster child of the anti-fat establishment, that box of lard, is actually about 50% monounsaturated fats and maybe not as bad for you (in moderation) as they said. Especially if you swap it out for something that uses trans-fats.
And yes, there are really three kinds of fats in our world today — unsaturated fats, saturated fats, and trans-fats. The latter are manufactured by the food industry and increasingly, we seem to be finding out those are the least healthy of them all.
(interlude: interestingly enough,, where a high fat, low carb diet seems to protect and repair kidney damage in diabetics. By shifting to a ketogenic diet, it seems to give the body a chance to repair the kidneys in mice. Whcih is interesting, because one thing the Atkins diet was criticized for was that it puts the kidneys into ketosis and that was considered bad for the kidneys. Except if you read Taube’s book, one thing he talks about is a study of existing aboriginal hunter/gatherer societies like the australian aborigines and the Inuit, and if you study their traditional diets, they are heavy in protein and fat, not carbs, and are generally ketogenic — and that the belief that the classic “historical” diet of our genetic predecessors as being carb-centric is wrong, and part of the evidence against our current dietary programs.. it’s definitely worth reading Taube’s take on this, but this study seems to reinforce this idea)
Carbs are no longer carbs. Carbs are now complex carbs and simple carbs, and simple carbs include sugars, and a subset of sugars are the fructoses, which include high yield corn fructose, another manufactured product that’s been heavily adopted by the food industries. And even the medical establishment is telling people to eat complex carbs more than simple ones.
So the reality is, even though the high level position of the medical industry hasn’t changed, if you listen to the details, you can see how it’s eroded over the years: Cholesterol is bad (well, some kinds of cholersterol); carbs are good (well, some kinds; other kinds aren’t), and fat is bad (well, except for the kinds of fat that aren’t bad for you). And more and more of the medical researchers are starting to question and poke holes in the standard dogma.
Here’s a quick thought on the question “Is it really possible that all of the experts on health and nutrition in medicine are wrong?” — consider this. Look at the sheer numbers involved in the obesity and diabetes epidemics confronting us; they’re estimating as many as Â in 3 americans will be diabetic in 20 years. Ask yourself “is it really possible that this large a percentage of the worldwide population is unable to follow the instructions for eating healthy?” (which is, really, what the medical establishment and the media that echoes their messaging basically tells us; it’s our fault) — or is it possible that the information being given to these folks is wrong? And if it really is societies inability to follow these directions, what changed in the last 40 years, because up until that point, we had hundreds (maybe thousands) of years where we could. Obesity and diabetes are fairly new epidemics, and, coincidentally enough (or not) coincide with the “low fat” healthy diet teachings that led to the “bagel and pasta” diets of the 70′s and up to today. It also coincides nicely with the switch to more refined/industrial foods and the growth of high yield fructose over natural sugar, as well as the massive increase in intake of sugar as a percentage of diet.
Now, to circle back to Taube’s article on sugar for a bit: I think he’s mostly right on, but with a caveat. I disagree with his premise that sugar is toxic in two aspects. First is he lumps in “real” sugar (which is typically about 50% glucose and 50% fructose) as being as bad for you as high-yield corn syrup (which is typically 45% glucose and 55% glucose) is going to be proven wrong. There are studies coming out that show that we don’t process glucose and fructose the same, and that the human body is genetically tuned to process sugars — when that ratio is thrown off and there’s extra fructose in the mix, the body doesn’t adapt and things get out of balance. This is going to be the defining reason why the high yield stuff is going to be shown to be more damaging and more fattening than “real sugar”, that ratio change is significant in how the human body processes and reacts to the food. So they aren’t going to be equally damaging, high yield corn syrup is worse for the body than sugar is — I believe. it’s not proven, but the studies are coming out, and I believe it’s a matter of time.
The second aspect I don’t agree with him on is the emotionally charged word “toxic” — he is right, but only if the substance is abused. Right now, sugar seems to be going through the same demonization phase that alcohol went through. SUGAR IS BAD. Well…
Yes, it is, if you eat too much of it. And just like eggs were demonized over cholesterol and have been returned from exile, and alcohol was demonized and has been sort of returned from exile (much of the medical establishment seems incomfortable admitting that moderate amounts of alcohol seems to be actually helpful, because they seem unwilling to admit that we all won’t end up abusing it and going alcoholic; but small amounts of alcohol and certain types — like red wine — seem to be healthful in many ways), we’re doing the same to sugar.
My view is different; I think these things IN MODERATION are going to be fine. The key is doing things in moderation. In the last 40 years or so, the typical american has gone from eating 40 pounds of sugar a year to over 90 pounds, and a chunk of that 90 pounds is the high yield stuff. There’s a very close correlation on this increase in sugars in our diet and the growth of diabetes and obesity in the culture. The link isn’t proven, but I’m convinced it will be. When we ate moderate amounts of this stuff within our diets, we didn’t get fat, we didn’t get diabetic. Now we eat way more than we should, and we do.
So I’m uncomfortable promoting the “sugar is toxic” concept. I don’t believe it is. I believe that abuse of sugars is bad for your health, and chronic abuse leads to chronic health issues. But eating a healthy diet in a healthy lifestyle (there we go, away from simple answers to complex solutions. sorry!) with this stuff in moderation within it is how to make this all work.
What does that mean for how I’m trying to do this in my own life?
I think the manufactured foods are evil; I try to minimize both trans-fats and high yield fructose corn syrup. That’s difficult to remove 100% from an american diet without extreme changes (please don’t suggest vegetarian, not gonna happen) but I steer away from them, and they play very small parts Â in my diet and I try to remove them where I find them and can.
I try to aim FOR healthy fats and complex carbs and AWAY from saturated fats and simple carbs. Â Which is tougher than it sounds, because white flours are a simple carb and you have to be careful even with “whole wheat” and how that term is used. I am not banning lard, or white sugar, or white flour from my life. But I am also not pulling out the tub of lard and a spoon. I believe if you use margarine instead of butter you’re being foolish (and research is showing I’m probably right), but I try to be rational about how much butter I use.
I try to be moderate about all this stuff. My goal diet is 40% protein, 30% carbs, 30% fat. I try to steer towards healthy stuff; the more processed foods are, the less you should eat them. But I still drink alcohol (once or twice a week), I still eat sugar (I just don’t bathe in it), I still eat breads (but I lean towards whole wheats and lower carb versions where I can); I still eat cheese (a lot, actually). I’m still not where I want the diet to be — I’m more 35% protein, 40-45% carbs and the rest fat, and unfortunately, as a diabetic, I feel that’s too high on carbs. But if I weren’t diabetic, I’d feel comfortable taking my diet to any dietician in the universe. Which says a lot, given that five years ago, I was a burger-and-fries guy five or six times a week. Now? maybe once a month — except I rarely eat more than a few fries, because I find them rather grainy and salty (I’m convinced most fast food fries are eaten by habit, not because they remotely taste good; I’m happy to say I’ve lost my taste for them).
And having said my diet is 95% of where i want it to be, that last 5% is proving to be a terror. but I keep working on it. that’s a discussion for later, though.
So read Taubes’ article, and think about getting and reading his book. See if you agree with his arguments, and what that means for your lifestyle and diet. And then we’ll talk. This is a big, hairy, complex thing; if there’s a real sin the medical establishment has committed,it’s that they simplified this into something unintelligible, and then tried to solve all of the complex wrinkles off in the footnotes. Get yourself out of the footnotes and get informed and start figuring it out for yourself — and Taubes is a good place to start.
I like how he reacted to it and turned a potentially negative bit of kneecapping into a more positive situation. His discussion on how to do these things more — tactfully — is right on.
But it also doesn’t deal with the reality that some people are interested in being nice. And that some people get off on destroying what others are building. And one thing you need to do if you’re going to play in public — especially here on the internet — is learn to step back from the trolls and not let them get under your skin.
Way back in the day when I was writing fiction, I was a member of a writer’s group called the Over the Hill Gang. it was somewhat legendary in some circles and I was thrilled when given a chance to join. The attitude matched up well to my view of workshops and critiques, which is, basically, “if you want to hear nice things, send a copy to your mother”.
The group was full of characters; She Who Must be Obeyed was the grammar queen, we had a guy who could worldbuild in his head (imagine having someone read your story cold and tell you that your orbital mechanics are wrong — on the fly — and be right. consistently); we had someone strong at characterization, another who’s strength was dialog; a couple of walking trivia machines, and my specialty ended up being consistency checking and general nit picking on details (um, wasn’t he left-handed five pages ago? If so, when he goes this this door in this way, doesn’t that block his ability to aim?)
Sessions could be spirited. A number of people who wanted to join never returned for a second session. Occasionally one didn’t survive the first. But the goal was simple — make the story better. And the one rule nobody could violate was that it couldn’t be personal. You never, ever spoke about the writer, only the work. It was then up to the writer not to internalize what was being said into their ego.
Easier said than done. But good training for the internet. And to this day, I still feel that group did more to improve my writing than anything else. But that group had something that doesn’t exist out here in internet comments much: we all knew each other, and we all respected each other’s opinions.
And that’s the key to dealing with this kind of negative commentary, I think.Â Respect.
If some random stranger walks up to you on the street and insults your shirt, you’ll probably get that puff of adrenalin, and then let it drop and write them off as a jerk and move on. But on the internet, that kind of drive-by insult happens all of the time, and i see it again and again that folks react to it and let it dig in and affect them.
Here’s the secret truth about trolls: they only have power over you if you let them. Trolls can’t hurt you. Trolls can only convince you to hurt yourself.
And that’s a lesson I learned late in life, and the hard way. And as I did, I came up with a set of ideals on this that I think can help others deal with this kind of attack. They are:
- Only pay attention to criticism from people you know, to the degree you respect them.
- Unless the criticism is right.
- Do not take it personally, and do not internalize it or dwell on it.
- Because if you do, you give them a little piece of your soul to own. And they will.
- It may be their advice to give; it is your advice to accept or ignore. Nobody else gets a vote. It’s your work. Only change it if you agree.
Learning to leave the criticism within the work, and to let slide off criticism aimed at the wrong thing (i.e. the person instead of the act or object) isn’t necessarily easy, but doing so will keep you from wasting energy on the trolls and stress on the comments — but still leave you open to when someone says something useful. I think Mark did this to some degree, choosing to see how to take constructive work out of something not designed to be constructive. I think ultimately he gave the guy too much credit and time, given the circumstances.
I mean, just in general, if you don’t know a person, why are you paying attention to what they say and letting them piss you off? (easier said than done, but definitely worth learning to do)
Birding is, as much as anything, a hobby of details. As you progress in the hobby, you need to spend time learning the fine details of various birds. Most birders start out with a field guide, one that they carry with them as they bird. Rarely does it stop there, it seems.
When I’m birding, I’ve mostly switched to electronic field guides (which are a posting for a different time), but I still carry one of the standards, the Sibley Western Field Guide. At home, I have a copy of the larger National Sibley. I also have a copy of the National Geographic Field Guild. They are good examples of the two schools of guides, with Sibley being painting-based and the National Geographic being photo-based.
It may seem like a photo-based guide would be the best, but I’ve found in practice the Sibley, based on drawings, works better for me. The big philosophical difference is that National Geographic images all show a specific bird at a specific time of year, while the Sibley images are idealized images of the species, with a focus on the marks you use in the field to help you understand which identifiers are most important. Under most circumstances, the drawings help you more than photos, but there are times when only photos answer a question. The quality of a photo-based guide depends a lot on both the quality of the images, but also how well the editors choose representative images of a species.
Sometimes, however, what you need is lots of images. Nothing defines the complexity of birding more than gulls, which a few birders absolutely love for the challenges, and many birders grumble about at the same level as mopping the kitchen floor. It’s an occasionally dirty job, but you gotta do it, at least once in a while. But if you do, you’ll quickly find most general guides can’t cover the complexity. Gulls change their plumage as they mature in major ways over the first few years, and especially with younger birds, the differences between species can be subtle and individual birds vary widely from the standard. In my view, the birders who can pick a Slaty-Backed third cycle gull out of a flock of 5,000 mixed Herring and Western gulls gets nothing but respect from me (and I know damn well even if I had the patience to sort out that flock, I’d still never see that bird).
But when you start playing with gull ID (or shorebirds, another class of birds that can make you crazy), you need specialized guides with a lot more detail.And that’s why I own Gulls of the Americas and The Shorebird Guide, because somedays, you need to be able to sit down with your images and be able to make heads or tails of a 3rd Cycle Glaucous-Winged or understand the difference between a Least and a Semi-Palmated Sandpiper.
So those four books are my go-to library where I research about 95% of my birding questions, supplmented by my electronic guides I carry in the field, and resources like Flickr or Cornell’s All About Birds.
But most birders build a library of books over time, because when the weather doesn’t cooperate, you can still sit down and read up on the hobby.
If you’re just growing past the “carry around binoculars” stage and don’t really know what that means, the Natgeo Birding Essentials guide is a good starting point. Owls has been a recent fancy of mine, and so I’ve gotten a couple of guides to stary studying them. I particularly like the Field Guild to Owls of California and how it describes and discusses the birds.
Finally, you can’t find birds if you don’t know where to look, so every birder ends up grabbing a stack of these regional guides. My favorites here in the bay area are Birds of San Francisco and the Bay, John Kemper’s Birding Northern California, and for those of us here in Santa Clara County, Birding at the Bottom of the Bay, which is available through Santa Clara Valley Audubon. The more general guides are good ones to get you started and help you explore the highlights around a region, but the more you want to explore, the more you’ll find yourself drawn towards the specialty guides done by the local Audubon chapters. Many of these are now going online, and a great example of what’s possible is done by Sequoia Audubon in their San mateo County birding guide — this really is the future of birding guides, I think.
A long, long time ago, in a Galaxy far away (or so it seems), I published a science fiction fanzine called OtherRealms. At its core, it was about reviews. I also spent some time writing book reviews for Amazing Stories, back when it was published by TSR. OtherRealms was well-thought of enough to score me a couple of Hugo nominations (and I finished ahead of No Award, thank you very much!) and I really enjoy the process of figuring out how to help someone decide if hey ought to try something out.
I write reviews, not criticism. I’m not going to talk about deeper meaning or higher purpose — or even, necessarily, if something is good or bad. My goal is to help put things into context so you can make a decision if you want to buy/use/read/eat/watch/whatever something. What I try to do with reviews is help you map my experience and worldview into your worldview so you can make a judgement on something and whether it is worth investing your time in it in some way.
And ultimately that’s the issue here: time is a finite resource, and even in one small segment of the universe, if you did nothing else, you couldn’t read every book published in the SF/Fantasy universe every month (and if you tried, you’d go crazy and be committed, or should be). So given there are many more books published in a month than you have time and budget to buy and read, which ones are worth your time? I hope to steer you towards some, away from others, and hopefully make you spend your time budget in a way that you appreciate.
One reason I do this is to broaden my own universe. When I was publishing OtherRealms, one rule I had was that at least every fifth book was by an author I’d never read before. I’m going back to that rule again, and I’d like to recommend it to everyone; it forces you to explore, it forces you to sample new things and new people, and I pushes you out of ruts where you can go stale and stop enjoying what you’re doing. Revisiting the familiar is comforting and relaxing, and god knows we all need that in our life, but wading into the new and unknown is broadening and energizing, and we need some of that, too. And one small way of doing that is to always be sampling things we haven’t sampled before, so I”m going to try to help you do that by doing it again myself.
About a year ago, I made a commitment to try to stop buying dead trees. I’ve bought a Kindle, I’ve been exploring ebooks and looking into electronic publication for my own writing, and in general, I’ve stopped buying words on paper in favor of words embedded in electrons. It’s not a perfect situation yet (it’s not easy to lend an ebook, compared to a paper one), but I was clearing out my computer tech book shelves again one day and realizing just how much paper was being sent out to be recycled because after 3 or so years the books were effectively useless. That caused me to rethink how many computer books I buy (sorry, geek authors), but also made me get serious about buying books in general electronically, because I can now carry around many books in my pocket, and not throw out my back schlepping them around. The side effect of that is if you aren’t allowing electronic editions of your books, I’ll probably never read them. Sorry.
Today’s Wednesday in Review is about an author I’ve known for a while, but never actually read. I love historical fiction, and I really love when an author can write a good alternative history and make it both an interesting story and an interesting view into a period of the past — especially when there are strong fantasy elements built in; Chelsea Quinn Yarbro and her St. Germain series is a great example of this — meticulously researched historical fiction and accurate renditions of the period. With Vampires. If you haven’t tried this series, a good place to start is The Palace. But a discussion of St. Germain will wait for another day….
For some reason, I’ve never read Michael Stackpole, but when I was searching for a book to take with me on a trip, I ran into At the Queen’s Command. It’s historical fantasy set in a period rarely touched by authors (or pretty much anyone) — the time when the French and English were jousting over control of North America and the westward expansion was just starting our of the American colonies, with the colonies starting to chafe under the demands of British rule. Only it’s not, it’s his own world, and there is magic. And Dragons. and zombies, and…
And it really is rather fun. It tells of the time when two major superpowers are fighting for dominance, and this fight spills over into the new lands that are being colonized; the colonists are at that point where they’re wondering why they are still beholden to a far off land that mostly sees them as a source of revenue, and the age of exploration is just beginning as the western expansion is starting and everyone is seeing the advantage in owning and controlling the lands they’re finding out there. The indians, of course, aren’t so hot on that idea.
The story echoes some of the real happenings in our universe involving the exploration and control around the Great Lakes, and here, Stackpole writes about the creation of a fort by one power to assert control over the lakes while the other power sends people over to work with the colony to prevent this from succeeding.
It’s a well-told story based in a fascinating time period that’s been under-utilized and which most of us aren’t very familiar with Stackpole has some leeway in making events fit his need without creating the “hey, that’s not how it really went” echoes you sometimes hit with historical fiction in familiar locales. The fantasy elements have been carefully crafted into the story, but at the same time, he hasn’t made them a focal point. All in all, I really liked the quality of the writing and the story, and it’s a solid piece of world building.
It is the first book in a series, but this book tells a story in its entirety without cliffhangers. There’s a second story in the cycle — what I think is going to be a fascinating one — that builds out of the resolution of this first book, but it’s definitely a second story, not just phase 2 of this one. One of the things I hated back in the days of OtherRealms were what I called the three book novels — and that hasn’t changed much. This book isn’t one of those; it’s its own story that stands alone nicely even though it’s clearly part of a larger story arc.
So all in all, a successful and entertaining book. Well worth picking up and reading, and I’m definitely putting book 2 on my todo list. If you’re at all interested in historical fiction and historical fantasy, you’ll want to grab a copy and spend an evening or two with it.
As is my tradition, I am now going to embarrass myself by picking the playoff winners in the first round and my choices for Stanley Cup finalists and winners. Please do not use this info for betting, unless you like losing money. For what it’s worth, last year I picked 6-2 in the first round, but I’m normally closer to .500. and 3-1 in the second round, and then sort of faded to black. My choice for the finals were San Jose and Washington, so you can tell I didn’t keep up that torrid pace.
This year the playoffs look to be some really good hockey. I’m definitely looking forward to it.
In the West –
Vancouver/Chicago — Chicago snuck in to the playoffs after losing so many players from their Cup run. good for them, but it wn’t last long. Vancouver is a great team, and Chicago won’t beat them. Canucks in 5.
San jose/Los Angeles — Growing up in hockey a kings fan, I can’t think of a series I’m looking forward to more than Sharks/Kings. And Lombardi gets to face his old team in the playoffs. And it’s a california rivalry series. And.. And… And LA is a pretty darn good team. I don’t believe they can beat the Sharks, adn I don’t believe the Sharks will beat themselves, but I don’t think it’ll be remotely easy, and it’ll be a lot of fun. Sharks in 6.
Detroit/Phoenix — Detroit isn’t the team they have been and their goaltending is suspect to me. That means they’re merely scary as hell. Phoenix is a well-coached, hard playing team, but they won’t take the Red Wings. But the Red Wings need to be careful they don’t get injuries or bad bounces, or there could be a surprise here. Wings in 6.
Anaheim/Nashville: all three california teams in the playoffs. Â But in this one, I like Nashville, as good as Anaheim is. I’ll take the Predators in 6.
My pick coming out of the West — San jose. Because it’s what I do. And because I think this year, this team looks like it’s solved the things that have gotten in the way in past years (like growing up and learning to not let down) but having said that, I also won’t be surprised to be wrong. Vancouver is scary, but if the Sharks are going to advance, it’s going to be through LA, through Detroit, and through Vancouver. That’s a tall order (if things go as I expect, 2nd round is Vancouver/Nashville and San jose/Detroit. And THOSE will be fun, too). Vancouver has an easier path, but not easy. So I can easily see San jose being worn down along the way, but Vancouver is going to come out of series with Chicago and Nashville tired and bruised, too. So in some ways, it’s a three way toss-up; I won’t be surprised at all if the western challenger in the finals is any of the top three seeds.
But I’ll pick San Jose, because i must.
Washington/Rangers — I definitely like the Capitals again this year, and the Rangers got in, but not by much. and deserved to get in, but they won’t win. Caps in 5.
Philly/Buffalo — ditto Buffalo. Flyers in 5.
Boston/Montreal — series to watch in the first round. Two teams with a history, most of it full of bad blood and anger. and now a playoff series or go home. I expect this to go seven, be tough, tight, physical and the biggest question is whether the winner will have enough to challenge in the second round, or be beaten up, exhausted and sent home. I’ll take Montreal in 7, and too tired to win whoever they play in the next round. But it’ll be historic hockey.
Pittsburgh/Tampa — lots of questions in Pittsburgh, starting with “Will he play?” If he does, all bets are off. but the way it looks now, I have to root for Tampa, and I think they’ll take this one in six.
My pick in the east? Washington. If they stay healthy and carry on the way they’ve played, I don’t see a team in the east stopping them. Philly is a dark horse, and I can’t see anyone else taking them out, barring injuries or a breakdown. the caps can beat themselves, nobody else in the east can.
And before I go…
As I noted earlier, we decided to sit out the playoffs and not renew our seats next year — take a step back, not spend so much time in the arena, and so we’ll be watching this playoffs from the couch on the big ass HP 50″ plasma in the media room. We’ve talked a lot about whether this was the right decision, and we both agree it was. I’ve talked to a number of our friends who’ve been going to the arena mostly since the start, and it’s surprising how many have been thinking down this same path, or have in the last couple of years. We’ve already talked a bit baout buying some games from folks in our section, and another couple we know from the cow palace days also are looking to back off, and we may just grab a chunk of their seats.
Just to reiterate — not mad at the sharks, it’s not about money, it’s not about the team, it’s not about anything, other than when you commit to 35 games a year like we have for 20 years, you end up spending all of your time in town and going to hockey games. Which we don’t regret a bit — but we both feel we want more flexibility to do other things, and I want the ability to go out and do more photography on weekends and do some traveling, where it seems it’s a real chore to coordinate that around games right now. If the sharks win it all this year, awesome. I’ll probably regret not being in the building when they win (but not much). I’ll definitely be watching and cheering. But I won’t miss the half dozen barker games a year, the not-competitive teams, the trapping teams. And we can always buy more games than we planned, or we can use this as an excuse to get back into going to other arenas like we used to, and get back up to Vancouver, or mayber finally get to Kelowna or do the edmonton/red deer/calgary trip. we’ll see.
Knowing that we were running down to the last few games in those seats, I’ve been kind of drinking it in, seeing it with fresh eyes; you tend to get in a routine being at so many games a year, maybe taking it all a bit for granted.
I remember a good number of years ago, back when the sharks really sucked (it may have been the Al Sims era in fact. shudder) when we were at one of those games you try to forget, and griping about how bad the team was playing that night. And two rows behind us were a couple of guys who’d painted their faces and were just having a ball, loud and just being crazy (in a good way). And so I got talking to them about why they were cheering such utter crap, and their response has stayed with me all these years — this was one of their two games in the arena that year and for them, the quality of the hockey was almost irrelevant. THEY WERE THERE.
I’ve tried to remember them ever since, and just back off and enjoy it for what it is; hard to do some nights, and hard to do when you spend your time tearing games apart and analyzing them and nit-picking everything to death. that’s one reason I backed way off on hockey blogging, because I think there’s something about being that tied into the games and trying to be analytical that turns you jaundiced and cynical after a while, and I simply didn’t want to go there (don’t believe me? Name me a beat writer or columnist out there who’s been covering hockey for any period of time that isn’t primarily negative and many times sounding rather bored with it all. Other than Elliott Friedman at CBC, it’s a ratehr short list; I find the vast majority of Canadian writers and many of the broadcasters absolutely intolerable, because they take is so damn seriously and negatively all the time. Although there will always be a place in my heart for Tom Benjamin at Canucks Corner, who has turned negativity into an art form, and I love him for it).
My seatmate the last couple of seasons is relatively new to hockey (Hi, doug!) but knows more than he thinks, and it’s been a lot of fun talking games through with him; he also has a strong sports background on the business side, and so we’ve had fun chewing on aspects of that as well. That’s been good for me, because it has helped me see games through his eyes as well, which has helped me keep that perspective on the games.
I have to admit I’ve had a ball this season, both watching hockey in general and in the arena watching the Sharks. It’s hard to remember today that in December and into January people were questioning this team, and even having the “should we trade Marleau” chat when he was in his enigmatic phase (again). And you look today, and watch them the last 20 games, and you need to remember that a season is a marathon, and nobody wins a marathon in mile 6 (but you certainly can lose one there). The best factor for the Sharks is that they finish seasons strong, and I’ll take a team that plays well in April over one that’s red hot in November any day. Of course, in November, April is a long way away so it’s hard to be sanguine…
If Doug Wilson doesn’t win executive of the year, I’ll be pissed. He doesn’t make blockbuster deals, but he makes deals that others don’t see that help the team. Don’t underestimate what bringing in Mayers and Wellwood and White did for this team.
And I don’t know about you, but I’m off to the couch to watch eight weeks of really kick ass hockey. Is the game perfect? No, waht is? can it be improved? sure. Am I going to worry about that? Not now, right now I’m going to enjoy it for what it is, and we can nit-pick how to improve instant replay some other time, Â okay?
And if you can’t step back and just enjoy this game for all the things that it is — maybe you need to step back… And speaking as someone who has, you may find the view better than the one you have right now.
On to the playoffs! may the best team win.