Saturday, September 28, 2002

Hugo Awards

I under-packed books for my recent trip to Britain, so when I got there I headed to a bookstore to look for something to read. I was happy to find a series of books called "Science Fiction Masterpieces". I picked up a slim volume and noticed it was priced at 7 pounds, 99 pence (around 13 bucks). Ouch!

I noticed that all the SF Masterpieces were priced at the same level, so I decided to get value for my money by getting one with a high page count. I settled on Stand on Zanzibar.

When describing to Christina my purchase, she seemed unimpressed by the pound-for-pound measure of book value. She did, however, take notice when I mentioned that the book had won a Hugo Award. The Hugos are awarded annually by a vote of science fiction writers (as opposed to the Nebulas, which are fan-driven).

The following week, I found myself in Minnesota and looking for another book to read. Sadly, the SF Masterpieces series appears to be a UK-only thing. I had the inspiration, however, to look up the Hugo-winning novels available. I bought two -- To Say Nothing of the Dog and A Fire Upon the Deep. I read the former, and it was really quite enjoyable.

I realized that I shy away from SF novels with certain topics (in this case, time travel). But for books of this caliber, it is probably better to put away my own notions of what a subject has to offer, and see what the writer has to say.

So I'm going to take a look at what other Hugo-winning novels I can find. I won't necessarily make it a goal of reading all of them, but I'll probably read a bunch.

I've already gotten a good start. Looking at the list, I've read Foundation and Empire, Starship Troopers, A Canticle for Leibowitz, Stranger in a Strange Land, The Man in the High Castle, Dune, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Stand on Zanzibar, Ringworld, To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Foundation's Edge, Neuromancer, Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead, Green Mars, Blue Mars, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Wow. I am a nerd. I may have read a few others years ago, but the titles aren't ringing a bell now.

Friday, September 20, 2002

Thoughts from the UK

In London the Internet cafes never close, and my belly is full with some delicious Indian food, so here are some thoughts on life on this side of the pond...

Indian Food

I don't know why, I don't know how, but the Indian food just tastes better here. Is there some sort of sorting as they leave the country? "You cook somewhat better...go to Britain instead of the US."

Jim Thompson's Oriental Bar

According to a friend living in Cheltenham, however, the other Asian food is not up to snuff. She said the only place she'd eat it was as "Jim Thompson's Oriental Bar". Let me count the ways this didn't seem to be promising:

  • "Jim Thompson" is not the sort of name you expect to see associated with Asian food. (Although finding out who Jim Thompson was changed that view a little bit.)
  • "Oriental" is not a term (at least in the States) that is considered "proper" for referring to Asians.
  • They had 12-foot high torches out front.
  • The restaurant was decorated with Asian "artefacts".
  • Which are for sale.
  • It serves a mix of different Asian cuisines. Generally, in restaurants, it pays to specialize. ("Fusion" cuisine notwithstanding.)

Anyway, it was pretty good, though the service was laughably bad.

The Belgian Monk

OK, not as laughably bad as at the Belgian Monk. I wasn't thrilled with this restaurant a couple of years ago, but I decided to give it another shot, due to my love of Belgian food. (And its difficulty to obtain.) The beer was great, the food was so-so, and the service was pitiful. Generally, you expect a Belgian restaurant to have lambic beers. Generally, you expect the wait staff to know that they do, and not deny the existence. Etc. Anyway, I think for future visits, I would drink the beer and go some other place for dinner.

Exchange Rates

I don't know why it is, but life over here makes sense if you think 1 pound=1 dollar. Now, actually, 1 pound=1.6 dollars (or something like that). But things are more expensive here, so it evens out. Oddly enough, this also works in Canada and Australia, whose dollars are worth less than the US dollar.

The UK Thought Process

Until the other night, I had never been charged for the "mixer" when I ordered a bourbon and coke. However, when I placed that order at Jim Thompson's, I had the feeling that they were going to charge me separately for the coke. And they did. The fact that I anticipated it sort of frightens me about getting tuned into the British mindset.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

All over the world

I'm in England right now. Perhaps more on that later, but the Internet cafe closes in 5 minutes.

Christina has a review on Epinions of the Sydney Hilton.

Thursday, September 12, 2002


Here's the actual faucet:


And here's the sink:

(Although with a different faucet.)

Medicine Cabinet

Here's a picture of the new medicine cabinet:

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Oh, that Osama

Web Site Apologizes for Suggesting Bin Laden Dead

OK, well that probably explains what I heard. Oh, well.


I hit the first big morning traffic delay I've seen in the four years of my commute due to a really nasty accident on Route 50 in Bowie.

I hadn't planned to listen to much of the Sept. 11 anniversary coverage, but I ended up doing so anyway as I spent an hour or so on Route 50. During the top of the hour CBS Radio News update, they departed from their usual coverage to say, "CBS television is reporting that Osama Bin Laden is dead. We have no details at the time." I was very excited and even called Christina. However, as the news continued, they made no mention of this report. When I got to work, I couldn't find anything on the Internet.

You know, if somebody was just confused, they should have gotten on the air and retracted it later. (I guess maybe they did while I was flipping channels trying to hear confirmation.)

Sunday, September 01, 2002

Conditional Tense

Perhaps I'm engaging in nitpicking here. (So what else is new?)

But the AP story on Michigan's last-second victory yesterday contains the following bit:

After the Wolverines failed to complete a pass on third-and-10 with 6 seconds left, Washington was penalized 15 yards for having 12 men on the field. Without the flag, Michigan would have attempted a 59-yard field goal.

Yeah, and without the 12th guy on the field, maybe Michigan would have been able to complete that pass for a touchdown. That's why Washington was penalized. It just bugs me to hear the flag presented as if it were a lucky break for Michigan. It wasn't. If Washington had gotten away with the violation, it would have been a lucky break for them.

Now making the field goal, that was lucky...whew.