Wednesday, November 30, 2022

When A Mind Drifts

Dementia is not forgetting a grandchild's birthday.  It is forgetting who they are.

Dementia is asking the same question.  Again.

Dementia is wearing slip-on shoes because you have forgotten how to tie shoe laces.  You are not likely to ever relearn how to tie them.

Dementia is asking when a person is going to visit when they have been dead for decades.

Dementia is asking when a person is going to visit when they left 10 minutes ago.

Dementia is asking the same question.  Again.

Dementia is not just losing your way.  It is never knowing the way in the first place.

Dementia is not remembering that you broke a bone in your foot.

Dementia is asking why your foot hurts all the time.

Dementia is a series of inappropriate responses.

Dementia is biting your nails.  Please don't bite your nails.  Dementia is biting your nails.  Please don't bite your nails.

Dementia is asking the same question.  Again.

Dementia is asking to go home.  The house in question was sold decades ago.

Dementia is swinging from cooperative to confrontational and back on a moment's notice.

Dementia is pouring your pills into the water cup instead of your mouth.

Dementia is wandering the house at all hours of the night.

Dementia is asking the same question.  Again.

Dementia is napping.  Until your companion naps, and then you are out the front door.  Woohoo!

Dementia is pouring water into your pill cup instead of your mouth.

Dementia is asking to go "home".  The house in question was sold decades ago.

Dementia is expecting kindness in every interaction while being unable to respond in kind.

Dementia is being concerned with modesty one minute and being stark naked the next.

Dementia is biting your nails.  Please don't bite your nails.

Dementia is thinking that your family has abandoned you.  Your family is standing right in front of you.

Dementia is wondering where the guy who was in your room earlier in the morning has gone.  It was your son.  He has a day job.

Dementia is removing the night light from the socket in the bathroom because "I have to turn out all the lights."

Dementia is not being able to see well enough at night to be able to find the light switch.

Dementia is asking the same question.  Again.

Dementia is not giving your family any good options while they are giving you the best options available.

Dementia is always closing the bathroom door despite being told to leave it open.

Dementia is wetting yourself because you forgot where the toilet is and the bathroom door is closed.

Dementia is asking the same question.  Again.

A modest postscript.  This was written over several weeks/months.  I started receiving spam emails for dementia-related services after I started writing but well before it was posted.  The emails started showing up at an email address not directly associated with this blog long before I published the piece.  With Google, we are the product, not the customer.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Review: Strange Company

Strange Company (Strange Company, #1)Strange Company by Nick Cole
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a 3-star review. It is closer to 3.5 stars, but I couldn't round it up.

I have become a big fan of Nick Cole's work as a solo author. He writes convincing characters and compelling action sequences. Those skills are widely present in this book. The back half of the book as our heroes fought a series of running gun battles was engaging and almost captivating.

However....spoilers lie ahead

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Review: A Crown for Cold Silver

A Crown for Cold Silver A Crown for Cold Silver by Alex Marshall
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a 3-star review. I think it is closer to 3.5 stars, but I have a hard time rounding it up to 4 in this case. I made it to the end, but it was a close thing.

A while back, I read the "Evil is a Matter of Perspective" anthology that included a story written by Alex Marshall from the Crimson Empire universe. (also, read that anthology. It's great!)

Like Veruca Salt seeing a boat driven by Oompa Loompas, I so wanted to read A Crown for Cold Silver. I want it, daddy! I want it nooowwww! I did not break out into song.

The short story told of the ascension of the new Black Pope to her current office.

But then I got roughly halfway through the book.

I changed my mind, daddy. I do _not_ want a boat driven by Oompa Loompas.

While the book is reasonably well written, well-paced, and with relatable characters, there were a couple of features that undermined my experience.

The first feature was the use of modern phraseology coming from characters that are obviously not living in our modern world. That approach works when the book is obviously riffing on a modern cultural feature such as Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames. It creates a disjointed reading experience when characters in a fantasy setting are using modern vernacular.

The second feature was the abundance of drug use. Almost everyone was almost always high/drunk on something despite either wandering in dangerous wastelands or on the brink of martial combat where a drug-addled mind almost certainly will lead to disaster rather than success.

The combination of the two led to the observation that the characters really were just playthings allowing the author to have a series of "wouldn't that be cool" moments; periodically driven by a smattering of identitarianism.

The third feature is that this was obviously written as the first book of a larger series. It ends with none of the plot threads resolved. I like the Peter V. Brett approach of the first book being a standalone novel with few (if any) cliffhangers.

If those features do not interrupt your reading experience, then give this book a read as it is otherwise well written. I doubt I will be returning to this series anytime soon.

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Friday, July 22, 2022

History Honored - Clarkston, MI - The Maybees

Almost two decades ago, my great-great-great-great-grandparents left New Jersey to take a chance on a wooded lot in Independence Township near what would eventually become Clarkston, MI.  Their descendants worked the farm until the late 1950s.  My great-grandfather's brother eventually sold the farm and the land was converted into various subdivisions.  

The area where the farmhouse once stood (northwest of this marker) is now a very nice subdivision.  A local group that is dedicated to making the community more walkable decided to erect a plaque honoring my family's history in the area.  (Click all photos to see a larger version.)

The main body of the plaque reads:

John and Malinda Maybee started it all when they left New Jersey in 1836 to take a chance on 80 acres of wooded land in Independence Township.  Their success here as settlers was due to careful planning: They brought enough money, supplies and tools to survive for two years until their farm became productive.  The family farm grew to 240 acres, including Spring Lake at its south end and a separate 80-acre "woodlot" at short distance down the road to the west.  Five generations of Maybees thrived here, headed by John, Jesse, John, James Russell, and Charlotte Ann.  They enrished the community and farmed this land into the 1950s.

The "Charlotte Ann" mentioned was my grandmother's cousin and James Russell was her father.  She was a prominent fixture in my life growing up and was my first "date" to a concert at the Pine Knob amphitheater that is located a few miles from the family farm.  I think it was Paul Anka, but don't quote me on that.  It could have been Neil Sedaka.

I don't think that Charlotte Ann ever "headed" the farm, but I know that she worked it with her parents.  After high school she went on to get a teaching degree from Michigan State University; it was probably a college at that time.  She retired from Flint Community Schools and went on to serve as a consultant for the State of Michigan inspecting various primary educational institutions.

The marker is on Maybee Road near Spring Lake.  The family history is that every bull that was kept on the farm was named Sashabaw and that the nearby road was named Sashabaw due to that fact.  It is entirely probable that either the bulls and/or the road were actually named for the First Nations Chief Sashabaw

Malinda and John Maybee, in the 1850s. 
All images courtesy of the Clarkston Community Historical Society.

A portion of the 1872 map of Independence Township shows the location of the Maybee property.  #1 is what became Sashabaw Road.  #2 is what became Maybee Road.  #3 is the 160-acre Maybee farm.  #4 is their 80-acre "woodlot" property.  #5 is the Saginaw Turnpike that became Dixie Highway.  #6 is the village of Clarkston.

The Birdland subdivision along Maybee Road was built in the 1950s.  It occupies the 80-acre "woodlot" property that the Maybee family maintained for wood for lumber and firewood.  The Maybees' careful conservation of this woodland is indicated in the large mature oak and other trees that endure amount these homes.

James Russell Maybee milking a cow, late 1940s.  In 1933, he was honored by the Nation Dairy Association for his 11 cows, each producing an average of 316 pounds of butterfat for the year.

Cutting ice in 1911, on Spring Lake on the south end of the Maybee far.  Ice was stored for year-round use before electrical refrigeration became common.

The Maybee farm in the late 1940s.  At that time, under the stewardship of James Russell Maybee, the farm was focused on dairy agriculture.

The occasion for discovering the placard was the memorial service for Charlotte Ann Maybee that was held in May of 2022 at the Clarkston United Methodist Church.  News of the plaque spread during the reception and several of us make the trek out to the site.

We were fortunate to be able to show the plaque to my mom, Nickie Vance.  Nickie's mom, Isabel Stark was born Isabel Maybee to William and Beatrice Maybee.  William was the brother of James Russell Maybee.

Nickie Vance with the plaque honoring the Maybee family farm.


Dad Made It To TikTok

I'm not a TikTok guy.  The platform seems questionable, the content is (to say the least) not my speed), and I have enough rabbit holes to dive into already.

Last year, a friend pointed out a TikTok video that included my dad.  Dad died in 2019, well before TikTok was around.  And yet he made it there nonetheless.

He wasn't really a social media guy even when he was around.

Here is a still from the video.  Dad was directing one of his choirs.

The video was a compilation of images from the 1971 yearbook.  You can follow the link or just view it below.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

New (to me) Music - Porcupine Tree

Take the following groups/performers, and toss them in a rhetorical blender.

  • Pink Floyd
  • Styx
  • Journey
  • Led Zepplin 
  • Duncan Shiek
  • Yes
  • Chemical Brothers

What do you get?

Porcupine Tree  

I came across Porcupine Tree a while back due to their song Blackest Eyes from the In Absentia album.  I finally got around to listening to their complete discography.  So far, I've just been listening to their studio albums.

It is like walking in a musical wilderness where one moment you are looking at a bucolic pasture and the next you are watching a river crash down a mountainside in a raging set of mountain waterfalls.

One moment you are listening to an ethereal and melancholic tune with a singer lightly singing wistfully.  The next moment comes as the same song will transition into something with a thumping drum beat and guitar riffs that make you look around to see where all the metalheads came from.

The band has been around for over 20 years and it is probably the best band that you've never heard.

I heartily recommend listening to the albums Signify and In Absentia.

Steven Wilson formed Porcupine Tree and provide both instrumental and vocal leadership in their music.  He has been praised by musicians as varied as Alex Lifeson (Rush), Steve Howe (Yes), Robert Trujillo (Metallica), Jordan Rudess, Michael Portnoy (both of Dream Theater), and others.

Give them a listen.  Spotify - YouTube 

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Review: King of the Bastards

King of the BastardsKing of the Bastards by Brian Keene
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a 2-star review which is a fair evaluation of my experience with this book.

Our protagonist (??!?) is a Conan knock-off who has all of the bravado and toughness but none of the nuance. He conquers and kills because that is what he does. Others are expected to submit to his will. That apparently includes raping women just because.

This book is an amalgamation of cosmic horror, fantasy, and science fiction.

Our protagonist is out adventuring when his group is attacked by various monsters from the ocean's depths as well as raiders arriving across the sea. He and one of his crew survive after running aground on some foreign land. They beat off the remainder of their attackers and are discovered by some of the locals.

The locals are afraid of some wizard that lives on the top of a mountain. In exchange for agreeing to help rid the locals of the wizard, the locals agree to travel with our protagonist as he sails for his home that has been taken over by raiders working for the deity that fomented in the original attacks.

There are two primary issues with this book.

1. Our protagonist is a cheap Conan knock-off.
2. The author is attempting a pastiche of the original RE Howard stories, but he is unable to consistently use language that is in keeping with that pastiche. He uses terms and phrases that are not appropriate for a Conan-type character.

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Review: Reign & Ruin

Reign & Ruin (Mages of the Wheel, #1)Reign & Ruin by J.D. Evans
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a 2-star review. My experience would be closer to 2.5 stars.

This book won the SPFBO this year. I have read every winner since becoming aware of the competition. Those books have been uniformly fantastic...until now. The grammar and spelling were fine. The pacing was fine.

But I spent the first 15-20% of the book wondering if I was going to toss it across the floor in disgust.

The book is centered on a princess/sultana who is slated to marry whomever the powerbrokers want her to marry. Her father's memory and grasp on reality have fractured to the point where he really doesn't know what is going on. She is working to protect him and to protect her country from an aggressive nation to the north. Naturally, she disapproves of this marital arrangement and is working to get out of it. (as a reader, I sympathized with the Sultana) The Sultan's dementia is a result of employing his specific type of magic.

There are six magic houses. Each has a different skill (i.e. air, fire, water, etc.) and each has a different color. I had no real idea of how that worked after reading 15% of the book. There were some indications on some of the houses, but no real establishment of how magic works.

Why? Because in the first 15% of the book none of these supposedly powerful mages does a lick of meaningful magic. We are told they are powerful (mostly by the Sultana who is the focus of the book) but there is no evidence of that power in their actions.

The author does not understand the principle of "show don't tell".

That is the primary flaw with this book. We are told there are powerful mages. We rarely see that power in evidence. We are told that there are some nefarious characters but rarely see them behaving in a nefarious manner. We are told there is a threat from the neighboring country to the north and they never show up in the book.

The Sultana ends up falling in love with a prince from the country to the west. The two nations used to be one nation hundreds of years ago but were split apart. The prince arrives on a diplomatic mission that is part of the Sultana's machinations to avoid a forced marriage.

The two fall in love. Why? She is pretty and he is handsome. They don't actually do much of anything to justify each other's love. We are told they are pretty and that's that.

Then there are the obligatory sex scenes that do nothing to advance the larger narratives of the various storylines.

The last few chapters were predictable. Very little of the consequences in the story are actually earned.

While I usually am enthusiastic about continuing a series that begins with a SPFBO winning book, I have no interest in continuing this series. If not for winning SPFBO, this book would have received the Dorothy Parker treatment after reading 15% of the book.

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Sunday, May 15, 2022

Review: Fevered Star

Fevered Star (Between Earth and Sky, #2)Fevered Star by Rebecca Roanhorse
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have been an active Worldcon member for over a decade; nominating and voting for the Hugo Awards. And I've been a fan of science fiction/fantasy since I learned to read.

This book is why I am usually a Worldcon member. The first book in the series was nominated for the Best Novel award in 2021. I had the first entry in the series (Black Sun) in the first position on my ballot.

This year's book from Ms. Roanhorse, Fevered Star, continues her tour de force in the fantasy genre.

The series is based on the first nation's traditions of the pre-Columbian Americas. In this book, two opposing gods have had their essences imbued into their respective "priests". The people carrying those divine beings don't necessarily want to fight, but the gods most certainly do.

Coupled with that are seven competing clans who all want to control the city of Tova. Each uses the current conflict as a premise for maneuvering events to the advantage of their individual clans.

Rather than using the first book to coast further down the established narrative, Ms. Roanhorse uses this next installment to change the stakes and some of the players to tell an enthralling story.

This book is a singular example of why fantasy fiction exists. Just as JRR Tolkien introduced the world to a completely new epic tale, Ms. Roanhorse is introducing the world to her vision of fantastic characters and places.

Assuming that I am participating in Worldcon 2023, Fevered Star will be on my nominating list.

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Review: The Last Dance

The Last Dance (The Near-Earth Mysteries, #1)The Last Dance by Martin L. Shoemaker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Captain Nicolau Aames commands a spaceship that travels the Armstrong cycle/circuit from Earth to Mars and back. It really is more of a space train that shuttles people and material to Mars and back.

The Captain is obsessed with details. Along the way, he trains people going to Mars and his own crew by forcing them to train for obscure scenarios. Essentially, he envisions a stream of cascading errors and demands that his crew be prepared to respond to any contingency.

Captain Aames finds himself in trouble as he refuses an order from command. The ensuing investigation eventually becomes centered on a death on Mars. If the Captain is correct, it is a murder. Command doesn't see where it could be a murder and just wants the investigation closed.

A second feature is the potential for the spaceship to become a self-contained polity that is free from the dictates of Earth. As an independent polity, the Captain of the ship would be free from many of the regulations imposed by Earth.

Mysteries within mysteries with the question of self-determination in the balance.

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Review: The Liar of Red Valley

The  Liar of Red ValleyThe Liar of Red Valley by Walter Goodwater
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Our protagonist's mother possesses the magical ability to cause reality to change based on what she writes in her book. Whatever she writes comes to pass.

Rather than using that power to run things, she mostly just exchanges her talent for money.

Mom eventually dies and our protagonist discovers that she also possesses this ability, it has been passed down from mother to daughter since the founding of the Valley.

There is some sort of powerful being (an alien? something supernatural?) that is attracted to the valley. He wants her for her power.

Fans of Stephen King will recognize many of the features of this book. But this is a reasonably unique story and setting. Worth a read for any fan of horror and fantasy.

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Review: The Last Campaign

The Last Campaign (The Near-Earth Mysteries, #2)The Last Campaign by Martin L. Shoemaker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another fantastic installment in this series. Where before our protagonist was a spaceship captain, he has lost that high position and now works with his wife running various businesses.

Murders occur and those in power seek someone capable of running a detailed investigation. It turns out to be his wife that is called to serve rather than him. This naturally causes a great of stress between them.

What follows is a collision of principles in front of a background of people struggling to build a new civilization on Mars that is not dependent or based on an overly bureaucratic Earth.

The tension between personal principles, love for another, and the desire to live free creates space to explore the human condition from many directions.

This was on my nomination list for the Hugo Awards in 2021.

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Review: Bystander 27

Bystander 27Bystander 27 by Rik Hoskin
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This book is populated by cliches and cardboard characters. The protagonist is some sort of high-speed special forces guy with an apartment in New York City. There aren't any SF bases in NYC. It goes downhill from there.

The ghost of Dorothy Parker rose in a manner adroit and definitive.

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