32) Margery Allingham – Three Cases for Mr. Campion. An omnibus of three Campion stories. They were all three good mysteries, each in their own way. The first had a few instances of very non-PC language, which I can only assume was typical in the 30′s when it was written. Luckily the others didn’t suffer from that. In the second story, Campion starts out with amnesia and has to first figure out at least a little bit about who he is and what the mystery is before he can begin to solve it. The third has both an international ring of criminals and a supernatural horror to deal with.
Woloshin et al – Know Your Chances. This short book explains how to interpret all those commercials and news stories about wonder drugs and medical breakthroughs. E.g. if Zocor reduced death from heart attacks by 42%, is that good? Not enough information to tell.
A lot of this I was already aware of, but one new thing I learned was that any claims that early screening for something increases survival rates are complete nonsense – early screening means earlier diagnosis, which means they start the clock on the "survival rate" that much earlier, and survival rates will go up even if people die at exactly the same time they otherwise would have.
31) Maria V Snyder – Poison Study. Not bad at all. A fantasy, with some very common elements like a young person in a castle surviving intrigue as they learn their own capabilities, but pretty well done.
30) Charles Dickens - Great Expectations. I read this once decades ago, and I have to say it’s improved since then. As I was reading it, I was thinking to myself that what really makes Dickens is not so much the plot but the scenery along the way. And yet by the end I decided the plot wasn’t bad either, with all the threads neatly wrapped up, though with a few too many unlikely coincidences. But hey, it’s fiction, and the overall effect is worth the suspension of disbelief.
Of course the characters are what you remember most from Dickens, and this book is no exception. Miss Havisham, Estella, Joe, Pumblechook, Wemmick and Jaggers… all memorable in their own ways.
We had a good choir rehearsal tonight. We were working on the "Howl, ye" movement of Randall Thompson’s The Peaceable Kingdom. It’s in 8 parts, with a lot of dropping out for a short time then jumping back in. We worked through it a little at a time for an hour and a half, then went back to the beginning and sang the whole thing, at tempo (or close to it), and got through it quite well, I thought. It’s really impressive how the whole effect comes together out of all the little bits and pieces.
I think next week we’re doing the movement where everybody gets slaughtered. (The text is all from Isaiah.)
I’m getting a bit behind…
It’s been a fun weekend. Went to a get-together last night to watch Julia Sweeney’s Letting Go of God. It was very good – she’s a very smart, and wise, lady, who worked really hard at trying to find a faith she could believe in. She’s also funny, even on that topic, believe it or not. I loved her response to the Mormon missionaries who came to her door.
Then tonight I attended our church’s annual music gala. It’s a kind of talent show, to raise money for something or other. And boy, do we have some talent in that church. It was amazing. Loads of fun. The choir (including me) sang the grand finale, a rousing arrangement of Yellow Submarine. But we were preceded by everything from bluegrass to an astounding piano-two-hands arrangement of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.
Tomorrow morning, church again, and the choir singing again :-), then the rest of the day is free. If the weather is nice, I’m hoping to get in a good walk.
29) Louise Marley – The Maquisarde. A tale of rebellion in the future against a not particularly brutal dictatorship, as these things go. Not badly written, but vastly improbable – not in the least realistic, more of a cartoon rebellion in which therebels have all sorts of unlikely advantages, not to mention incredible luck. The rebellion is also remarkable for its almost complete lack of Y chromosomes. The protagonist is a woman, and all but one of her compatriots are women (and that man is a very minor character). The rebellion’s leader is male, but hardly heroic; he has severe MS which continues to worsen through the book. And yet, every character of consequence in the state they’re rebelling against is male. How about that. Actually there’s only one other significant male character, and his role is to swoop in a few times to rescue the heroine and become her love interest. If Harlequin did SF, this is the kind they’d publish.
Not recommended, unless this is the sort of thing you really like.
28) Neal Asher – The Voyage of the Sable Keech. This is the sequel to The Skinner, the first Neal Asher book I ever read and the one that got me hooked. This one is as good or better, as many of the old cast and a few newcomers get involved in more adventures on the deadly planet Spatterjay.
Had a nice walk into town, had lunch. Stopped in at the planetarium and got to see a science show – Bernoulli, angular momentum, the effects of vacuum on peeps, and so forth. Lots of fun. Then it got overcast and windier so the walk back wasn’t as nice, but still, all in all worthwhile.