June 21st, 2008

Very few butterflies

I walked around Lake Mingo today.  It had obviously been extremely wet there recently, but things had dried out just enough that almost all of the muddy patches were just soft without being sticky.  The mosquitoes were awful; I did use DEET but it seemed to have completely worn off by the last couple of miles.  A wee bit of rain, but I'd prepared for it by making sure I wasn't carrying anything that would be much hurt by getting wet (I left my wallet and phone in the car).  And after the rain stopped, it got a wee bit warm.  The weather report says the humidity is low, but right by a body of water after a rain, I think the local dew point was well above that at the airport where the official readings are taken.  I was wearing a day pack so that I could carry a lunch, which I enjoyed on the bluff overlooking the lake about 2 miles after the nominal start of the loop.  Unfortunately, even with a light pack I want to keep my shirt on, and I would have been a lot more comfortable without either the pack or the shirt on my back.  I need to look into getting a bigger belt pack that I could carry a lunch in, because it's going to be a lot hotter on most of my walks this summer.

The screwy weather we've had this spring has really hit the butterfly population.  This far into the year, there ought to be plenty of butterflies, but there are only a few around.  A few red admirals, but going through so much good habitat I should have seen dozens.  I did have 3 or 4 giant fritillaries, and got fairly close to a couple -- so pretty.  (No camera, due to threat of rain, so no pictures.)  Even the sulfurs, usually too common to even really pay attention to, are almost non-existent.

The most interesting critter sighting was a good sized snake.  My snake identification skills are weak, but I'm pretty sure he was a black ratsnake.  Close to three feet long, plain dark gray (not really black), and seemed to be giving me a little of the fake rattle as he oozed into a hole.  I was quite close enough that I could have grabbed him if I'd been inclined to do so -- but fortunately for the snake, I'm not a snake eating creature.

ETA: I forgot to mention that I saw a bright yellow warbler with dark wings briefly on the path. I just remember to look in the bird book and he's definitely a Prothonotary Warbler. I didn't realize they were with us in the summer, but the range map says they do breed here.

Book review: The Kobayashi Maru

Last week's book review blown off until today is The Kobayashi Maru by Julia Ecklar.

This is an officially sanctioned Star Trek novel.  If you're not familiar with classic Trek, you probably don't want to try reading this.  Since some of the first grown up books I ever bought with my own money were Star Trek books, the franchise has some sentimental value to me, but I'm really not interested in reading them any more.  However, the fact that this one is by a well-known filker was enough to make me pick it up when I was dragged off to a book sale last summer.

If I hadn't set my expectations to Star Trek standards, I probably wouldn't have been able to tolerate this book.  The main plot is terribly contrived -- but it's definitely a Star Trek plot.  And the main plot is really only a device to hold some pieces together.  Each piece is designed to try to give some real dimension to one of the cardboard characters from the original series.  I can give the author some credit for trying (and I rather doubt she had very much creative freedom anyway, given that this is a sanctioned franchise novel).  I think the teenager who loved the Blish novelizations of TOS would have loved this book, but I've grown way beyond it.  It was readable, even kind of fun, but pretty weak as a book.  6 out of 10.

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Book review: Furies of Calderon

Today's book review is Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher.

This is the first in a high fantasy series by the author of the Dresden Files books.  Although the end clearly foreshadows future stuff in the series, it's a fairly complete story.

I started out really enjoying this book.  We're introduced to small aspects of a world that seems to extend well beyond the story at hand, and a magic system that's, if not blindingly original, at least quite significantly different from what we'd see in a D&D game.  Unfortunately, as the story started to get more complicated and the action more breathless, I started getting more distracted by other things, and by the end I was having a lot of trouble keeping everything straight.  I think the failure is more mine than the author's, but still, by the end, it didn't seem to have quite lived up to what I was expecting in the beginning.  Early in the book I'd really gotten into the world, but I was much less engaged at the end, even though there was plenty of excitement and no major cheating in the plot.  (There were a couple of surprises, but they weren't the sort of surprise that just arbitrarily changes the whole course of the novel for no apparent reason.)  So I'm rating my book-reading experience as I had it, but saying that I think I would have liked the last half of the book a lot more if I'd been in a better mental place to appreciate it.  7 out of 10.

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