# Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin is the story of the twin planets - Anarres and Urras that rotate about one another.

Centuries ago, a group of revolutionaries on Urras escaped or were exiled to the barren world of Anarres, where they have been working the mines and building an equalitarian society - a society in which all property is owned collectively, and everyone shares everything and the government controls nothing.

Urras is a world with a beautiful main city where everyone has plenty. But the ruling class of this city oppresses the lower classes outside the city and keeps them in their caste. An oppressive government keeps the rich and poor in their places.

Shevek is a physicist, who was born on Anarres; but he is one of the few from that world permitted to visit Urras. Shevek is invited to an Urras university in order to complete his work - a work that the Urrans hope can allow them to produce faster-than-light interstellar travel. He is overwhelmed by the beauty of his host city, unaware of the suffering outside the walls until local rebels try to contact him.

The story is filled with ambiguities: The 2 planets orbit one another yet each considers the other its moon; It's never clear if walls are built to keep people out or in; the anarchy of Anarres seems morally superior to the caste system of Urras, but Anarres's system is far from perfect and its people suffer much hardships.

LeGuin tells the story in a non-linear fashion, alternating chapters between recounting Shevek's early life and his pilgrimage to Urras. This narrative style can be hard to follow at times, but it revealed his character and contrasted the strengths and weaknesses of each society.

I had forgotten how much I enjoyed LeGuin's writing. She weaves within her stories multiple themes about society and economics. I will be reading her work again soon - maybe a second reading of this book.

Saturday, July 29, 2017 6:53:50 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, July 24, 2017
Monday, July 24, 2017 4:36:36 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, July 17, 2017
Monday, July 17, 2017 10:06:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, July 10, 2017
Monday, July 10, 2017 3:58:31 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, July 8, 2017

AssassinsQuestAssassin's Quest is the third, final, and longest book in Robin Hobbs's Farseer Trilogy.

It also the book with the most action.

Royal bastard Fitzchivalry Farseer was executed by his Uncle Regal, who has usurped the throne from its rightful heir. He escaped by using his Wit power to transfer his consciousness to his wolf-brother and living as a wolf for weeks. Fitz's allies manage to return his soul to his exhumed body following the execution, but he is become more wolf than man and struggles to resume his old life or to fight for his kingdom.

King Shrewd and King-In-Waiting Chivalry (Fitz's Father) are both dead.  Verity has left the kingdom to seek the help of the legendary Elderlings, hoping they can rescue his kingdom from the attacking Red Raiders.

Fitz has 2 quests in this story - the first to find and assassinate King Regal and the second to find his Uncle Verity in hopes he can restore order to the kingdom.

Most of this book follows Fitzchivalry's odyssey across the world, seeking Verity and the dangers he encounters along the way. He is reunited with The Fool - a jester he befriended during his days at court. The Fool reveals himself to be more than he showed before and they seek Verity together.

This is the most complex and most satisfying of the 3 Farseer novels. The storylines weave in and out as Fitz travels across the world and out of his own kingdom. Magical powers are used just enough to keep them plausible in this world; but not so much that they are an easy escape from any danger.

Assassin's Quest completes Fitz's transition to manhood and brings the story of Regal's power grasp to a conclusion. The ending felt a bit rushed, but Hobb managed to tie up each of the plot lines. Overall, I very much enjoyed this series.

Saturday, July 8, 2017 2:04:25 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, July 5, 2017

"Royal Assassin" continues the saga of FitzChivalry, the bastard son of king-in-waiting Chivalry, who is raised to be an assassin.

Fitz recovers from the assassination attempt by his Uncle Regal at the end of "Assassin's Apprentice". He grows to manhood at a court engulfed by the rivalry between his two uncles: the noble Verity and the wicked Regal. Regal and his minions plot to poison the mind of King Shrewd by drugging and isolating him from anyone else. Meanwhile, Verity is devoted to the protection of his people (most notably from the invading and pillaging Red Raiders).

This story mostly involves political intrigue as Fitz is caught in the middle of a battle between his 2 uncles. But there is also much action and character development, most notably of Fitz himself, who is growing to manhood and attempting to harness his mental powers.

Fitz is prosecuted for practicing the feared and illegal Wit power and must find a way to hide it while also using it to protect himself, his king, the kingdom, and his woman.

I enjoyed the story on its own, but it also convinced me to complete the Farseer Trilogy. So, I am now on to book 3!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017 9:53:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, July 4, 2017

JoyceGiardMy mother - Joyce Ann Gill Giard - had a lot of idiosyncrasies.

There were phrases she would repeat often. "and what not" meant she could not think how to complete her current thought; "so anyway" meant she was ready to leave; and "You're special" meant that she wanted to say something nice about you but could not think of anything specific.

There was her inability to tell a story properly. So many times, she would tell a nonsensical punchline; then remember that she had forgotten an important bit from earlier in the story.

And there was her habit of re-telling the same story to us, as if we hadn't heard it a hundred times already - maybe just yesterday. Maybe earlier in the same conversation.

We used to make fun of my mother for these idiosyncrasies. We would smile, and roll our eyes, and we would laugh about it later.

But I began to rethink this attitude a few years ago. That was when my mother's life was struck with a series of tragedies.

It began when my father - Norm Giard - was diagnosed with skin cancer. He recovered, but it cost him his entire nose, which had to be rebuilt.

Next came the following events, which happened in rapid succession.

  • My mother had open heart surgery
  • My sister Denise (Mom's oldest child) died suddenly at the age of 50.
  • Someone my mother trusted betrayed the family and tried to steal an inheritance left to my sister's daughters. This ordeal lasted nearly a year.
  • My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He ultimately had to be placed in a nursing home when my mother was unable to care for him.
  • My mother was in an automobile accident. She was in the hospital over 6 months and never fully regained the use of her legs.
  • My father passed away after a long illness.
  • My mother's health deteriorated, leaving her deaf, confined to a wheelchair, and losing her memory.

JoyceAndDavid2015-06-13 It was her loss of hearing and memory that my mother found most frustrating. Mom was a very social person. She loved people; she loved spending time with her friends; and she loved to start conversations with strangers. I was once driving her around our old neighborhood when she spotted the current owners of our former home. I had not fully stopped the car before she had opened the passenger door to get out and introduce herself.

As her memory faded, she found it difficult to recall the names of close friends and how she knew them. She once called me in a panic because she could not remember where she had met my father.

When she lost her hearing, she found it nearly impossible to engage the new people she met. And when she moved into an assisted living facility in Michigan, everyone was new.

It was this string of tragedies and the dignity with which my mother faced them that caused me to re-think her and my behavior around her. Her idiosyncrasies became for me unique aspects of her personality, rather than a reason to roll my eyes.

I would visit her, and she would tell me "You're special" and I would respond "No. *You're* special!".

She would tell me a story I've heard before and I would listen and nod as if I were hearing it for the first time.

And I laughed at her jokes.

These struggles and these tragedies did not break her. I admire that she maintained a positive attitude and a strong faith throughout all this. She did not blame anyone for her fate. And she remained positive that she would eventually be reunited with her husband and daughter.

My last visit with my mother - about 6 weeks ago We still sometimes laugh at my mother's idiosyncrasies; but now we do so with the appreciation that these are the things that set her apart; that made her unique; that made her the woman we loved.

Joyce Ann Gill Giard passed away last week at the age of 84. Yesterday, I returned from her funeral in Florida.

If she were here with me right now, I would tell her in no uncertain terms: "You are special!"

Tuesday, July 4, 2017 9:27:47 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, July 3, 2017
Monday, July 3, 2017 1:46:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, July 2, 2017

Today I am grateful for yesterday's celebration of my mother's life.

Today I am grateful to make it safely to Florida.

Today I am grateful
-to finally make it to the dermatologist yesterday
-for sushi with Tim last night

Today I am grateful for the support of my family.

Today I am grateful for the overwhelming outpouring of love and condolences these past 2 days.

Today I am grateful for my mother and all that she did for me during her life.

Today I am grateful for a bbq lunch with Tim yesterday.

Today I am grateful for a day in Sawyer, MI.

Today I am grateful for an afternoon at 1871.

Today I am grateful to see J. while he was in town yesterday.

Today I am grateful for good health insurance.

Today I am grateful for my camera, which has preserved so many memories over the years.

Today I am grateful to see Jean Luc Ponty in concert last night.

Today I am grateful to spend Fathers Day with my son.

Today I am grateful that I finally got back my lost luggage.

Today I am grateful that my son Tim will be staying with me for a couple months.

Today I am grateful for my first visit to the Czech Republic.

Today I am grateful for a day in Cesky Krumlav, Czech Republic with Gael

Today I am grateful for:
-coffee with Britt yesterday morning in Prague
-lunch with the Microsoft Prague DX team
-a drive across the Czech Republic with Gael last night

Today I am grateful for a visit to Prague Castle yesterday.

Today I am grateful for dinner and a walk around Prague last night with Gael and Britt.

Today I am grateful for a brewery tour and beer tasting at Fjäderholmarna yesterday.

Today I am grateful to the organizers and volunteers of #devsum for an excellent conference in Stockholm this week.

Today I am grateful that my lost luggage finally arrived at my hotel.

Today I am grateful that I made it safely to Stockholm, despite many delays along the way.

Today I am grateful for an opportunity to teach at Xamarin University yesterday.

Today I am grateful for a couple nights in my own bed.

Today I am grateful that I have the privilege to travel the world and to come home to recharge.

Today I am grateful for a visit to Nashville and my first time speaking at the Music City Code conference.

Sunday, July 2, 2017 3:35:57 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, June 26, 2017
Monday, June 26, 2017 12:55:57 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)