April 20th, 2010

What's Wrong with the Phone Conversation?

I have come to realise that there are a good many things that I hate about the electronic age.

However, if I have a real peeve, it pertains to the communication between friends and colleagues these days. I spend a good amount of time during the day at work looking at a computer monitor and screen. The last thing I want to do when I get home is to spend another four hours or so looking at the computer and "talking" with people and friends I know who live in the same city as I do.

Sure, there are cases where I'm all right with this. The folks at CanGames getting in touch with me about game scheduling and tournaments. The people at the CD store sending me a note about a disc I've ordered or with information about upcoming releases. My friends finding an internet link and passing it on because they think I might find it of interest or perhaps it's a humourous one. Stuff like that. But when friends want to talk about stuff like arranging going out to dinner, seeing a movie, personal stuff, talk about a tv series episode or a book that one is reading, etc. on the computer via e-mail or Twitter or whatever, that's where I want, nay, I *need* to draw the line. I find myself being the one to call folks by phone these days, some of my friends not calling me. Aside from the fact that I don't want to type buckets of text about a topic of item of interest that we're communicating about, what the heck is wrong with the telephone call? Are folks afraid they'll get finger strain by having to enter the numbers of a phone call? Or is it just laziness combined with lack of social skills and graces these days?

Our society has become so dependent on the internet and its various forms of communication methods that people have forgotten how to talk to one another at times. Some folks these days are completely lacking in social skills because of the amount of time they spend "chatting" with others over the internet, instead of face-to-face. It's a sad state of affairs, and I can't help but wonder at times if Isaac Asimov's vision/prediction of people locked away in their houses and communicating with the outside world via visual telescreens and the like might not be closer than we think.

So, some of my friends in Ottawa will just have to forgive me if I don't answer e-mail questions or posts about links they may have found for me. Some of my friends in Ottawa will have to forgive me if they don't hear from me in e-mails or whatever from time to time. 'Nuff said.

Book Review: The Dragon Book

One of the things that I find challenging to read is collections of short stories by single authors as well as anthologies of stories by multiple authors. Part of the reason for this is that, for me, just as I'm getting involved in a given story and it's beginning to really make me want more, the story comes to a close.

That said, I like and adore theme anthologies, which seems to be the prevalent way to go with anothologies for the most part these days (other than the Year's Best stuff). I'm rather partial to stuff about dragons, so it was no surprise when I purchased The Dragon Book edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois. This book comprises 19 all-new stories by relatively well-known writers such as Naomi Novik, Jonathan Stroud, Gregory Maguire, Tanith Lee, Bruce Coville, Mary Rosenblum, and others. Pretty much all the stories contained herein are for all ages, although the themes at times keep the stories unsuitable for those younger than older teens (in my opinion). One of the best things about this book is that while the book is comprised largely of short stories, there was an almost novella sized tale along with several lengthy, 30-page stories, giving a wide range of reading styles. More importantly, the stories in The Dragon Book had an interesting array of dragons: good, bad, those who fly, those who swim, with wings and without, those who breathe fire, those that breathe ice, and so forth. While many of the stories are told from a human point of view, several of the tales were also told from the dragon viewpoint as well, making for entertaining reads.

Several of the stories contained within this volume stand out to me. There is Naomi Novik's "Vici", a quirky story set in ancient Rome of a man sentenced to death when his punishment is to single-handedly kill a dragon. Humourous, but rather violent at times. Kage Baker's "Are You Afflicted with Dragons?" was a great story with Smith of her Anvil of the World setting as the protagonist, who requires unusual pest control measures when the seasside resort he operates has a bunch of small dragons that roost on his roof, wreaking their own form of havoc. An enjoyable, humourous ride at times by an author who died recently. Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple weave a wonderful tale about the Russian revolution and Rasputin in "The Tsar's Dragons". The dragons here are more metaphorical than in other tales, since this story is about empire vs. communism, but was pretty well done as stories go. "The Dragon of Direfell" by Liz Williams was a very well executed story of a mage hired by a small Dukedom to rid it of a worm-like dragon wrapped around a mountain. The mage undertakes what should be a routine job and finds more than he expected, with deeper magic at work, as he tries to expose the hidden dark mage things are even more complicated than they had appeared. "Puz_le" by Gregory Maguire is a delightfully twisty story, where one rainy afternoon, a boy works on an old jigsaw puzzle picked up at a garage sale with strange results. Then there is Mary Rosenblum's "Dragon Storm", in which a girl with "bad-luck eyes", Tahlia, has a special closeness to the surf-dragons, who finds a dragon egg that hatches, but not into a surf-dragon. A fabulous story where the truth of what is going on unravels as the dragon hatchling ages, and where Tahlia proves to be the saviour of her people, despite their hatred and maltreatment at their hands. Brilliant stuff. And then there is fantasy grandmaster Tanith Lee's "The War that Winter Is". In a land where winter lasts nine months of the year, and may well last longer as time goes by, the tribes have learned to cope, but one thing they have no control over is the dragon, Ulkioket, who can blast a village with its breath of ice and freeze everything and everyone glass-like ice that will shatter. When a hero is born of one of these tragic village remains, the story deals with the belief that he is meant to rid them of the dragon...until he actually confronts the dragon. Masterful storytelling by a true light in the field.

Overall, The Dragon Book is an excellent, varied anthology of stories that will appeal to readers because of their varied nature, both in style and type of story. I would recommend this book to any reader of fantasy and science fiction, regardless of whether they are fans of dragons in literature or not. You won't be disappointed.

Senators-Penguins Pre-Game Thought

I see from the pre-game chat that Jonathan Cheechoo will be playing for the Senators tonight.

Having been demoted to the Binghamtom Senators and played there for two months after his play did not leave the Senators coaches and management impressed, Cheechoo will be getting another chance tonight. He's got the playoff experience from his days with the San Jose Sharks, and has the numbers in the playoffs to merit this chance to help out Ottawa.

Cheechoo was obtained by Ottawa in the deal that sent Dany Heatley to San Jose, and I always thought that despite the problems he had getting points and scoring with the Senators that he never should have been sent down, as the team was playing pretty poorly for most of that time and Cheechoo wasn't being given the ice time that he should have received. While I liked what coach Corey Clouston said about the reasons for bringing Cheechoo back, if that's all true, why did Cheechoo spend the last two months down with Binghamton?

That said, tonight's game against the Penguins is a "must win" for Ottawa. If they go back to Pittsburgh trailing the series 3 games to 1, it will be all over for Ottawa pretty much. This means, quite plainly, that Ottawa needs to find a way to stop Sid the Kid and Evgeni Malkin tonight for sure.

Penguins Blow Senators Out of the Rink

The fourth game between the Ottawa Senators and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs is over, thank Goddess.

What a horrible game Ottawa played. I don't even know where to start on this one. Well, to start with, the Penguins beat the Senators 7-4 in this game, outshooting Ottawa 42-30 overall. Pittsburgh got off to a 4-0 lead, at which point Ottawa replaced goalie Brian Elliott (who gave up 4 goals on 19 shots and struggled with the puck all night long) with Pascal Leclaire, who did a phenomenal job, but couldn't stop the Pittsburgh juggernaut on this night. Sidney Crosby led the way for the Penguins with 2 goals and 2 assists while Matt Cullen had a goal and 2 assists for Ottawa, in a game that was marred by a lot of heavy hitting, ill will between the teams, and a Senators squad that let their frustration show in the third period.

The Senators played a completely undisciplined game this night, letting the Penguins force them into plenty of mistakes resulting in at least four of the goals on the night, but this is not to take away from Pittsburgh's effort. The Penguins went out against Ottawa, and stunned them in the early part of the second period, with three goals in the first six and a half minutes, to move up 4-0. While Ottawa recovered and played somewhat better over the course of the rest of the 2nd period, they just couldn't catch the high-flying Penguins on this night. Both Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov were a minus-3 on this night, having no luck stopping Sid the Kid in a game that Ottawa had to win. Jason Spezza was a minus-2, coughing up the puck to the Penguins on those patented and expected back passes he likes so much, and setting up at least a couple of the Penguin goals.

So now, the Senators go back to Pittsburgh for Game 5 on Thursday night, trailing in the series 3 games to 1. It's a must win game for the Senators if they have any hope of coming back in the series, a task that seems daunting at best. Can the Senators win it? I don't think so, not if the last couple of games are any indications. With the 5-4 win over the Penguins in Game 1, Ottawa woke up the reigning Stanley Cup champions. Unless the goaltending seriously improves between now and Thursday night's game, it's going to be a tough game for Ottawa to win. Sad but true.