Archive for March, 2013

Review: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore isn’t described as a Young Adults title, but it has that tone.  Considering the quality of today’s YA works, that shouldn’t be taken as a slight, nor is it intended as one.  It does mean that Robin Sloan spins a fast-paced enjoyable yarn, more memorable for the sense of adventure and wonder than for its carefully realized characters and poetic passages.

That sense of thrill and enjoyment is really difficult to sustain, especially when the thrill comes from a sequence of puzzles that really aren’t as clever looking in from the real world.  Robin’s savvy about the feel of tech people and the joy of a good puzzle, but he’s not Neal Stephenson. Those impressions and that excitement carried the story, even for a nit-picker like me.

The plot involves a centuries-old conspiracy, the latest big thing, and the people and societies (secret and public) that make things happen in the world.  There are some nice observations about the cults and sects we all are parts of in this world and why Sloan values the ones he does. Overall a fun read.


Review: James Bond – My Long and Eventful Search for his Father

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

This is a Kindle single, really a short insider’s memoir, about the early days of the James Bond franchise.  It’s primarily about the translation from novels to movies in the 1960’s and 70’s.

There’s lots of insider goodness – telling anecdotes and personal remembrances – that I’m sure will delight detailed fans.  I’m not a deep fan, so I actually felt a little adrift in the thing.  I felt like I was expected to recognize some of the names as they came on stage, but other that Ian Fleming and Sean Connery, I didn’t.

Even coming in cold like that, this was a diverting enough read, but I think a bigger fan would get more out of it.

Hemet: a small airport gets better!

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

I hate to say it, but usually when  see a small airport has changed, it’s a change for the worse: an FBO has vanished, a cafe has closed (again), or the whole airport is gone. When the opposite occurs I’m practically beside myself with glee.  Today I got to see a small airport that looks like it’s in the middle of coming to life: Hemet-Ryan (HMT) in Hemet, CA.

I’ve been to Hemet-Ryan before and have some great memories of the place.  I shared the pattern there with someone who had built himself a Mad Max-style Gyrocopter (not the one in the film, to my knowledge) on my private pilot long cross country.  I’ve been in and out of there to do a few landings a few times, but hadn’t gotten out of the plane there in years.  I saw that there was a cafe there, so I figured I’d stop by.  My expectations were pretty low.  The last time I’d been there, the cafe hadn’t been much to speak of, pretty much the baloney sandwich type.

I was very pleasantly surprised.  The pattern had several planes in it as I arrived, which is always a good sign.  I joined in behind another Cherokee and pulled in to a large transient parking area.

That was new.

In fact the whole terminal area looked new.  The last few times I’d been here there was really no terminal area to speak of, and the hangars had given me the impression of being dark and unwelcoming.  There was no obvious FBO or other services.  Today there was a renovated terminal building with a flight school and FBO, a clean cheap fuel pit, and a big tanker base.

After I got tied down I asked a passerby – a passerby! – if there was a cafe, and I got directions and a microreview.  I hadn’t ever seen people walking around HMT before, but the new terminal building had instructors and students coming and going as well as other locals.  A Civil Air Patrol flight was just going out, and a fellow was waiting for friends to return.

The cafe itself was a short walk past more welcoming and renovated hangars with a bunch of interesting planes tied down in various states of repair.  None looked like hulks, but some were clearly being worked on.  The cafe itself was hopping.  There were a couple tables outside that looked inviting, but I sat inside at the counter to soak up the sound of a busy airport restaurant.

The food was very good – excellent for the price – and the folks running the place were great.  Despite the fact that the place was probably about as full as they can support, they made sure I was given the full hospitality of the place.  I was a lone stranger, and it says a lot that they took such good care of me when they were so busy.  I had an “Irish melt” sandwich and they had plaques claiming they’d won pie contests.  Clearly a place with their priorities together.

Hemet-Ryan looks like a lively small airport.  Stop by and buy some gas and have a meal if you’re coming through the area.  I’m already planning to drag my buddies down there.