Travel, bitches!

So, for amusement, let’s do a meme I stumbled across on Matthew Yglesias’s blog, which he nicked from someone else (this dude). Here’s all the cities I’ve traveled to this year. What’s the selection criteria? Well, anywhere I spent a night or more — cities with asterisks were visited multiple times on non-consecutive dates (and driving through places or switching airports doesn’t count).

Mount Pleasant, MI (home)
Washington, DC
Farmville, VA
Grand Rapids, MI
Troy, MI*
Saugatuck, MI
Kalamazoo, MI*
Battle Creek, MI*
Boston, MA

Pretty weak tea this year, but then I haven’t been doing much international travel since I came back from Ireland. Dissertation didn’t write itself, you know…

Reading is Fun!

Cheese, baby! It’s all about the Cheese when you blog…

So, what have I been reading lately? Oh I know you want me to tell you. Mostly reading for fun, which I’ve been able to do since I finished my Ph.D. last year. So here’s the last five books I read and what I thought of them — going from the most recently finished backwards.

1. Pattern Recognition by William Gibson: I’ve read nearly every book published by Gibson (sans All Tomorrow’s Parties, I think), and what always brings me back is the crisp language — overflowing with brands and style, future forward ideas, and other ephemera of modernity — and the rapid pace of his plotting. They’re just a joy to read. Pattern Recognition is no exception. Very post-9/11, spy play, and elements of Naomi Klein’s No Logo all wrapped up in a neat package about the birthing of internet sub-cultures and the hunt for the maker of some clandestine movie footage. But really it’s just about a girl coming to grips with the loss of her father on 9/11. Simplicity… it’s in the details… that and a pair of Bruno Magli shoes…

2. & 3. Evil for Evil and The Escapement by K.J. Parker: These two books are the last two in a trilogy that I find it difficult to explain why I like. “The Engineer Trilogy” by Parker is a fantasy series set in a rough late Renaissance/early Industrial Revolution setting that follows an exiled engineer from the Perpetual Republic of Mezentia who engineers a series of events (his Grand Design) that result in war, destruction, and devastation, all in the hopes of returning home and being reunited with his family. Where Gibson’s book are rapid-fire, Parker takes a much more languid approach, revelling in the motivations and mental world view of the perspective characters, and taking the time to flesh out the people and cultures of her setting. What I find fascinating is the intricate focus on engineering and the world view of an engineer, namely the main character, Ziani Vaatzes, that seems so alien to me. I don’t think like this, either in my everyday life or in my scholarly work, and thus I had difficultly wrapping my head around it, which only drew me into the books further. Hell, I couldn’t even tell you what a lathe is without looking it up; this POV just isn’t my headspace. Good, absorbing reads…

4. Singularity Sky by Charlie Stross: Hard Science Fiction has never been my bag. I remember trying to get into Isaac Asimov in middle school and failing; I’ve never read anything by Arthur C. Clarke (a shame, I know, shut up); and work by dudes like Poul Anderson, Frederick Pohl, and the like have never been high on my to read list. Now, Stross isn’t some Hard Sci Fi dinosaur; don’t get me wrong. But the technical content is his work (he has, among many of his lifepaths, a background in computer science) is utterly bizarre, over my head, and I can’t get enough of it. It’s that difference thing again (see #2 & #3 above): I can’t relate and I want to know more. Singularity Sky is one part space opera, two parts techno thriller, and one part hard sci fi kitsch, with a dash of cyberpunk sensibility tossed in for good measure. It’s his first published book, very cutting edge sci fi, and of course is the last Stross book I’ve read (I’ve already this year gone through Glasshouse and Halting State, and I read Accelerando some time last year — next up, Iron Sunrise). Do not piss off the Eschaton…

5. Winterbirth by Brian Ruckley: The Entertainment Weekly pull quote on the back cover describes this as “Heroic fantasy splashed with 300-style gore….” Yep, that’s pretty much the gist. Epic fantasy without frilly elves and lots of archaic language (and again, don’t get me wrong, I do like that stuff too, from time to time); this is the kind of fantasy fiction I want to write. Intricate and action-filled, well thought out and irresistable to put down, the best compliment I can bestow upon it is that, in many good ways, it reminds me of George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. I’m axiously awaiting the next book in paperback…

Well, there you have it, the good books I’ve been reading while riding bikes and ellipticals as the gym.

Oh, what am I reading next, you say? Or working on right now? Well, it’s all a bit more academic in scope. There’s a biography of Andrew Jackson by Jon Meacham (called American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House) that I started yesterday; The Discovery of France by Graham Robb, which I’ve been trying to read for the last several months; and I will soon be reading Stephen Kotkin’s Armageddon Averted: The Soviet Collapse 1970-2000 since I assigned it for my course on Europe since 1945 next spring. My next fiction will probably be Stross’s Iron Sunrise, and of course I’m also reading The Boy parts of The Hobbit at night before bed.

What have you been reading?

Excuse me, did you tweet?

Okay, so I’ve taken the plunge and joined Twitter, like any good 21st century faux-bohemian. You can see my random droppings (…ew…) at:

http://twitter.com/adevenney

Or you could just join Twitter yourself and follow me like any good net denizen.

Now I know what you’re saying: “Devenney, you don’t even update your blog regularly!” And you would be right, but with Twitter, it’s so short, pointed, and I can text them in from anywhere… much more conducive to my busy academic life (heh).

Anyway, you can blame Warren Ellis for this. I only joined to follow Internet Jesus.

I promise to keep the rantings about catching student plagiarists to a minimum.

Irish No Vote on Lisbon Treaty — “Where’s Your F**king Pride?”

European Tribune – Community, Politics & Progress.

Michael Lillis once ran the Anglo-Irish section of the Department of Foreign and was a central player in the British Irish peace process. As heavyweight civil servants go, they don’t come much heavier. Now retired, he has written a Letter to the Editor (below the fold) outlining the consequences, as he sees them, of the Irish No vote in the Lisbon Treaty Referendum.

In light of the article on early Irish opposition to European integration I have coming out in New Hibernia Review early next year, this post and the LTE included in it is giving me flashbacks.

Ian Buruma: Why the potential death of Belgium matters for all of Europe

Saving this article from the Guardian for later:

Ian Buruma: Why the potential death of Belgium matters for all of Europe

Belgium is in danger of falling apart. For more than six months, the country has been unable to form a government that is able to unite the French-speaking Walloons (32%) and Dutch-speaking Flemish (58%). The Belgian monarch, Albert II, is desperately trying to stop his subjects from breaking up the state.

British Attitudes on EU Membership

Okay, I lied about hibernating…I’m linking this here, so I don’t forget it, as I might need it for a talk I’m giving in a few weeks.

From the Guardian:

Happy in Europe but still best friends with the US

Support for Britain’s EU membership is rising, not falling, according to a Guardian/ICM poll published today. Carried out ahead of parliamentary debate on the new European treaty, the poll also finds that voters back Gordon Brown’s European strategy, with fewer than one in three agreeing with Conservative claims that the treaty will leave Britain worse off.

The poll paints a picture of a country offering clear if unenthusiastic support for continued EU membership, but with no appetite for deeper engagement.

Okay, back to hibernation now…