Some Danger Involved: The opening salvo in a series of Victorian murder mysteries a la Sherlock Holmes. 1884 and Thomas Llewelyn is hired by Cyrus Barker as an assistant private enquiry agent (not a 'detective', thank you). This is more like Bond meets Holmes, only the two aspects of Bond are split between these two: Barker, the over-achieving martial arts-streetwise mentor to the younger, too-distractable-by-women junior.
In my desperation to inject as much reading for pleasure before today (well, actually yesterday), when school resumed, I read all 5 of the novels, Some Danger Involved being the first. It is also, so far, the best. Each one has a fairly solid story, each set in a different aspect of life in London 130 years ago. While this was occasionally a bit too pedagogical for my tastes (I already knew what it means to sit shiva, having done so before), it would provide a shock to most modern (read: ill-informed) readers that a) there was a significant Chinese population in London at the time, b) there was a significant population of just about any other large ethnic group, c) the technology at the end of the Victorian era isn't so archaic, or d) the social concerns aren't all that different than ours, and e) murder in 1884 is just like murder in 2009
Told in the first person by Mr. Llewelyn, it describes his transformation from a desperate man incapable of getting a really good job due to a brief stint in jail to an apprentice to a dangerous man in a dangerous profession. A 'frustrated storyteller', the author describes this character. We discover the novelties of London and the gradual revelation of a mysterious man by the limitations of the narrator, whose education we share. Subsequent volumes of the story describe the development of Llewelyn from the failed university student to a man more educated in very different aspects of life.
Each of the novels starts out with a prologue by Llewelyn describing a critical step of the story, e.g. a fight to the death, only to step back to the beginning of the story with Chapter 1. It is a mark of a good storyteller (in this case, the author, not the narrator) that we can know what is going to happen by Chapter 20 and still be on the edge of our seats wondering if he's going to live by the next page of Chapter 10. This is reminiscent of Inigo's narration in Captain Alatriste (a fantastic book).
The Hellfire Conspiracy is by far the lamest offering, with far too many historical references tossed in by really inappropriate characters (some street urchin knowing who Madame Trousseau is, maybe; knowing the full-length name of her museum - be real). It also has a few leaps of complete irrationality. It's not just a leap of deduction by a highly skilled deducer - it was just a leap leaving me wondering if the author left out a few chapters.
To Kingdom Come follows our Intrepid Heroes on the path of Irish nationalists (c. 1884, read: terrorists). As with the other novels, there are historical figures in the book often in a rather different light than is typically portrayed.
Hopefully Thomas will drag his heels a bit longer before the next offering to keep the quality up. As much as I enjoy reading serials like this (or Anne Perry or Elizabeth George), it's only enjoyable if the quality of the books is fairly level. Cranking them out every other year can be draining on the author's ability to express his/her creativity. I guess I'll need to break down (after the semester's done) and read one of the Sherlock Holmes novels. (The preview for the up-coming film staring Robert Downey, Jr. as Holmes looks intriguing and potentially too farcical for my tastes.)
The trip to AIHce in Toronto was nice. I am frustrated that I didn't make a pilgrimage to Tim Horton's. I didn't realize one was close to our area until it was too late ... And then, after getting into the airport, I saw one!! On the other side of the glass. In the domestic departures half of the terminal. What? I can't have a Tim Horton's doughnut just because I'm leaving Canada??
MSA, a safety supply company, hosted the annual 5k run/walk Tuesday morning. MSA, the same safety supply company, hosted the open bar soirre Tuesday evening. The Golden Gopher team represented in both. I was #3 for the walkers (which was actually 2k); Josie was #1 in the real race for her age group (25-35). That evening, we represented in the drinking as well. I consumed more alcohol that night than I have in a very, very long time. Yup, my liver is still up to par. And, unlike the younger students, my brain is up to par: drinking 1 liter of water prior to sleep will prevent hang-overs.
The end of the alcohol consumption was the Loose Moose pub watching the Penguins v. Red Wings. The same MSA employee crowd was there; they're all from Pittsburgh other than the 2 from Windsor, ONT (ie, directly across the river from Detroit). The whole group were wankers - waaaay too interested in the game to actually enjoy themselves. They didn't even go nuts when Detroit lost!?
I managed to blow someone's mind when I stated that I remember the last NASA moon mission (1972). The fellow - who works for NASA - looked at me in confusion and asked "how old are you?" When I assured him I had been 6 at the time, he still looked stunned. I had to remind him that a little 3 years age difference now (he's 40) was a really big difference 40 years ago.
The guest speaker for the opening lecture was the originator of the X prize. He was a great speaker - very much in the motivational light-a-fire-under-your-ass sense. His motto is 'innovation through competition'. I was inspired by the opportunities such a philosophy would have in my profession. Competition for excellence in workplace health, yes? Who can come up with the best method for controlling the methylethylmeatloaf? It would need to be the creation of something, not just the absence (e.g. reducing accident rates isn't creativity, it's often bookkeeping.) I was quite suprised to hear a few people pissing & moaning about the talk being a total waste of time. "We're all going to wind up working for each other ... why compete on anything?" No wonder business thinks we're all a bunch of dweebs wasting their money. Business is competition.
On the airplane decending into Toronto: --Which lake is that? Is that Lake Michigan? I think it's one of the great lakes. --Lake Suprior? Lake Huron? Lake Erie? No, I don't think so --Isn't there another one? me: It's Lake Ontario --are you sure there are 5? me: uhhhhh... yes... ???
Model trains at the GAI German Day festival. The little hat you can barely see over the train next to the adult is Jr.Gopher#2. The o.d. bucket had on the left is Jr.Gopher #1. The grown-up in the picture & his wife were enchanted with the boys; especially since even our 2 year old #2 had no problem keeping his hands away from the trains. And Jr.Gopher#1 is just absolutely entranced - he could have spent the entire afternoon just watching the trains. Including the reproduction ICE (German express trains).
Apparently being 15 isn't much of a deterrent to Raven who has granted her approval to the front yard tree.
Specifically for Grandpa Bob: Jr.Gopher #1 wanted to show him this t-shirt from the Hopkins Fire Department.
Other side of the fire dept. shirt
The Golden Gophers in Toronto why is it that the only good picture of the group is always the one which catches you doing something stupid? I hadn't even had much to drink.
No matter what the talking heads here say about the Senate race for Minnesota ... You'll never convince me that very many people here actually care about our election results. (Depending on which report you hear, the size of the rally in Tehran ranges from "lots" to "more than the entire population of the City of Minneapolis".)
Stockholm is hosting Detroit Red Wings v. St. Louis Blues. Considering the cream of the professional Swedish crop is playing for Detroit, I'm not surprised. Oh, that's right, 8 of the 29 players from Detroit are from Sweden. Maybe Babcock can hold practice in Swedish?
Reality Check from the Atlantic: I have a soft spot in my heart for Minnesota Public Radio, having spent four years living in Garrison Keillor country back in the early 1990s. If you have that much snow and sub-zero weather in your life, maybe you have to have both an enduring, and slightly wry, sense of humor about things. Or maybe you don't. But ... you betcha ... it certainly helps.
Collins (from MPR) corrected his statistics on his own page: The average student [undergrad] loan debt last year  was not, in fact, $50,000, it was $21,899. The average income for graduating seniors in 2007 was $60,000 $46,000, making the total debt 36.5% 47.6% of annual salary.
The problem facing most of the people I know in the Environmental Health Sciences department here @ Rodent U. is the fact that we're returning to school. This means:
-- Losing your income while trying maintain your mortgage payment -- totally scrapping your adult life in order to go back to school -- missing all of the 'social' activities because you actually have other obligations which are inevitably at the wrong time -- desperately trying to manage to get to the optional-yet-really-important events directly related to your program -- abruptly finding yourself truly financially dependent upon someone for the first time in your adult life -- still bearing debt from your undergrad degree -- being a parent with other financial obligations besides school (read: daycare)
None of this sissy "I just graduated with debt pity me" will be acknowledged by me. Pity them? Balderdash. Sure, if NIOSH wasn't paying my tuition, I'd be sucking up a huge pile of debt doing this. Would I be whining about it? No. Bitching about it, yes. Whining, no.
Why? Because I chose to do this. Because I figured it was a good enough investment based upon the salary increase I expect to get afterwards. Same reason I went to college. For this degree, though? Good-bye $60k, hello $75k with no more promotion ceiling.
What the hell did these kids think was going on, when they kept signing away their souls to the Financial Aid office? What idiot is so totally disconnected from reality as to not know ahead of time that following their chosen course of action would lead to massive debt? Not the students at Hennepin County Technical College (low tuition). Not the students at Berea College (no tuition). Not the students who went for quality, rather than a brand name.
Yes, U of Mn is expensive. Grad school is stupendously expensive. Why am I here? Because Mr. Gopher is here. And, unlike the engineering or English majors at the U, the closest School of Public Health is in Madison & the closest one with an IH program is either Chicago (and next after that is Ann Arbor).
For those of you who were at our wedding in Gladbeck, you might remember Joachim the organist. In his other life, he's a professor of nuclear physics at the Technical University of Darmstadt. And now, he can add the news magazine Der Spiegel to his C.V. list of publications.
If you happen to read German, you might find this interesting. You might find it interesting anyway, but require it to be translated.