The Core Dump The Core Dump is the online home of Nic Lindh, a Swedish-American man living in the Sonoran desert. 2017-11-04T17:32:09-07:00 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. Review: Bosch TV series Nic Lindh 2017-10-04T00:00:00-07:00 <p><img src="/images/bosch-review.jpg" /></p> <p><em>Bosh</em> is a TV series on Amazon Video, included with Amazon Prime, based on the novels by Michael Connelly.</p> <p>I’ve been a fan and reader of the novels since they first started appearing, way back in the halcyon days of 1992, so I was excited when the news broke of the TV serialization.</p> <p>If you’re not familiar with the novels, they are gritty police procedurals that follow detective Hieronymous “Harry” Bosch as he deals with gruesome murders, even more gruesome police department politics, the press, and his own psychological dysfunctions.</p> <p>And yes, he’s named after the <a href="">painter of grotesque hellscapes</a>. Which is fitting.</p> <p>In my opinion it’s one of the great detective series, up there with Ian Rankin’s inspector Rebus. Both series do a great job of following a character through time, having their circumstances change, and having the events they live through affect their personalities.</p> <p>Thumbs up to both series.</p> <p>If you’re new, you should most definitely start at the beginning, which for Bosch is <a href=""><em>The Black Echo</em></a> and for Rebus is <a href="">Knots and Crosses</a>.</p> <p>(<em>Knots and Crosses</em> actually isn’t all that good, but it is the beginning of a series which gets way, way better after that and damn it we have to have rules or we’re just animals.)</p> <p>Personally, though, I think Connelly’s <a href=""><em>Lincoln Lawyer</em></a> series is sharper than the Bosch series. Those might be fighting words in some circles, but Connelly started the <em>Lincoln Lawyer</em> series at the height of his powers after he’d worked out his (few) kinks with Bosch so they’re more spare and focused.</p> <p>But this is about Bosch. One of the great police procedural thriller series and one that uses Los Angeles almost as a character. Los Angeles in all its grit and sun-blasted weirdness.</p> <p>And since 2015 it’s a TV series.</p> <p>As of this writing, there are three seasons to the series, which instead of going novel-by-novel uses several novels per season, banging them together, tweaking and updating them for today.</p> <p>In the novels, Bosch is a Vietnam veteran, but TV series Bosch is a middle-aged man today, so he’s made into a Gulf War I veteran turned cop. (It’s necessary to keep his military background since it formed his personality so much.) In the novels Bosch was a “tunnel rat”—the soldiers who went into the Viet Cong underground fortifications to fight and die alone in the darkness, while TV Bosch was, wait for it, <em>sigh</em>, special forces.</p> <p><em>Why? Why always special forces?</em> There are other soldiers.</p> <p>But be that as it may, the series is updated for today including the age and background of Bosch.</p> <p>So how is it?</p> <p>First off, the cinematography is great. The series uses Los Angeles as a character just like the novels do and a lot of it is gorgeous. If you happen to have a 4K TV with HDR support, <em>Bosch</em> will show you why you spent all that money on your black slab.</p> <p>The acting is also good straight through—weary detectives, sleazy politicians and sweaty perps, everybody digs in and seems to have a good time working.</p> <p>The first season has some interesting development of supporting characters, especially Bosch’s partner and Bosch’s boss, who both foreshadow plot points of interesting lives.</p> <p>Unfortunately, that gets a bit lost in seasons two and three, both of which feel a bit uncertain—the pacing gets ratcheted up with Bosch dealing with a murder, and another murder, and a court case, and his daughter, and office politics, and on and on, in a frenetic pace.</p> <p>It feels—at least to me, and I could certainly be wrong; this is just a feeling—like the writers didn’t feel sure the source material was strong enough, so the show had to become faster, more amped up.</p> <p>The pacing and supporting character development were great in the first season. It felt a lot like a British crime procedural. Seasons two and three feel more American.</p> <p>This is not a compliment—most American crime procedurals are dreck as far as I’m concerned. Looking at you, <em>CSI: WhateverleastIgotpaid</em>.</p> <p>That being said, it’s still good. I wouldn’t have watched it all the way through if it wasn’t. At its best it’s riveting, with some great plot points and turn-arounds.</p> <p>The biggest problem with the series is Bosch himself. <a href="">Titus Welliver</a> plays the title character and he does do a good job of it. But he’s terribly miscast.</p> <p>Bosch in the novels is a live wire—a damaged individual who oozes menace and physical violence. At least the way I read them, he’s also an imposing, physical man. Welliver is not.</p> <p>He tries to make up for it with a three-cups-of-espresso intensity that might work if you haven’t read the novels. But if you have, it’s just not the same thing.</p> <p>Somebody like Swedish actor <a href="">Mikael Persbrandt</a> from the <em>Beck</em> series or, if he hadn’t passed away, <a href="">James Gandolfini</a> of <em>The Sopranos</em> would have brought that sheer physical menace to the role.</p> <p>This is what keeps the series from being really great and from embodying the feeling of the novels, that sense that Bosch is on the edge of <em>hurting someone</em> all the time.</p> <p>Nevertheless, what we do have is pretty good. If you’re into police procedurals, <em>Bosch</em> is well worth watching.</p> <p>But, screamed the old fogey, the books were better!</p> Getting started with podcasting Nic Lindh 2017-09-10T00:00:00-07:00 <p><img src="/images/podcasting-heil-pr40.jpg" /></p> <p>I love podcasting. Podcasts have almost completely replaced radio for me. It’s amazing how much excellent content is out there, free for the download.</p> <p>It’s awesome that no matter what niche thing you’re interested in, somebody else out there is way, way more into it than you are and is making a podcast about it.</p> <p>And now I have <a href="">my own Swedish-language podcast, Amerikapodden</a>. It’s tiny, but I very much enjoy creating it.</p> <p>I’m a web developer and a technologist, so it should have been easy for me to get going with this, but it was way harder than I thought, with more things to think about and more things to purchase than expected.</p> <p>Of course the Internet has many, many guides to podcasting and an avalanche of forums where people discuss podcasting, but for a novice it’s difficult to parse the information and separate the lunatics from the knowledgeable.</p> <p>Most of the guides on how to podcast are written by successful podcasters who’ve been doing it for a long time. It’s great and appreciated they share what they know, though they may have forgotten or repressed a lot of the things that were challenging when they first started out.</p> <p>Which is why I’m writing this getting started guide before I get comfortable and start to forget.</p> <p>This comes from the perspective of somebody who is good with technology but had little experience with audio production. However, the guide doesn’t make any assumptions the reader is good with technology.</p> <p>Like any other difficult task, the best way to conquer it is to break it down into smaller, achievable tasks.</p> <p>Many people have done it. You can do it, too. And you don’t have to be a nerd to do it.</p> <p>Before we get into the nitty-gritty, a warning: <em>Don’t get bogged down in gear.</em> So, so much of podcast discussion devolves into nerds yelling about microphones. Mics are important, sure, but they’re way, way less important than the Internet would have you believe.</p> <p>Think about the shows you like. How many times have you thought, man, I wish they were using a different mic? Do you know what mics they’re using? Do you care?</p> <p>So don’t let picking a mic give you an anxiety attack.</p> <p>As a matter of fact, don’t let any of the myriad decisions you have to make paralyze you—if you don’t know what choice to make, just make one and move on. You can course correct later as you have more information.</p> <p>Let’s dig in. Grab a cup of coffee and make yourself comfortable.</p> <h3 id="content-is-king">Content is king</h3> <p>The content is what matters. The words you put into your listeners’ earholes. Those are what really matter.</p> <p>What you do to think up those words, to record those words, and to get those words to your listeners’ earholes does not matter to your listeners at all.</p> <p>Your listeners want to be entertained or provoked or soothed or informed, or whatever your podcast provides for them. That’s what matters to them, so that should be what matters to you.</p> <p>Which takes us to the first point: <em>You are going to suck.</em></p> <p>At first, you will suck. Podcasting is not a natural act. Unless you’re a standup comedian or already have experience as on-air talent, you will suck.</p> <p>Fortunately, if you care and work at it, you will suck less and less and then you will become good.</p> <p>Making a podcast is hard work, with the emphasis on work.</p> <p>I don’t say this to be discouraging in any way. I say this to soften the blow when you listen to your first effort.</p> <p>If you don’t believe me, <a href="">listen to Ira Glass of This American Life</a>, one of the best in his field, talk about storytelling. The part I’m referencing is in the third part of the series, but I recommend watching through from the beginning.</p> </div></div></div> <div class="embed-responsive embed-responsive-16by9"> <iframe class="embed-responsive-item" src="//" allowfullscreen></iframe> </div> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <p>As Glass says much more eloquently, you suck at first because you know what you want to achieve but you don’t have the skills to achieve it yet. You can only get the skills through practice.</p> <p>Nobody just picked up a guitar and played Stairwell to Heaven perfectly.</p> <p>In the second part of the video, Glass also gets into how <em>everything wants to be crap</em>. Which it does. Any creative endeavor you embark on wants to be crap. This is super important to understand.</p> <h3 id="master-of-your-domain">Master of your domain</h3> <p>Podcasts obviously live on the Internet so they need an Internet home.</p> <p>I always recommend people purchase their own domain for anything they do on the Internet. This is a long topic, but to condense it down, if you own a domain you can put your content in many different places and move your content around as you see fit without your audience noticing. You never want to have to tell people to resubscribe because you moved things around.</p> <p>Your podcast should have a home on the Internet. It can be a Tumblr site, a WordPress site, a SquareSpace site or whatever. Doesn’t matter. What matters is that you can map a domain to it so your content and your Google juice are transferable.</p> <p>A .com domain usually costs around $12 per year, but you don’t have to get a .com. Whatever weird domain extension you like is fine. .coms are the gold standard, but don’t worry too much about it.</p> <p>Though I have many, many reservations about Facebook, the easiest thing you can do is to simply create a Facebook page.</p> <p>Obviously you can’t host your podcast there, but you can use it as your online presence, though I strongly recommend against it being your only online presence. The reasons for that is a long rant and I’ll elide it for the purposes of this post.</p> <p>Here’s what I recommend: Purchase a domain and set up a simple site for your podcast. At the very least, it’s a place to point people and for Google to find you.</p> <h3 id="hosting-the-actual-podcast">Hosting the actual podcast</h3> <p>You’ll need a place to upload your mp3s so your audience can download them. (Yes, they should be mp3s. It’s the lowest common denominator. Your file format is not where you want to go bleeding-edge.)</p> <p>This can be any kind of web host. Just a place where podcast players can find your files.</p> <p>However, if you want download stats—and you probably do, so you can know how many people are listening—you need a “real” podcast host.</p> <p>There are a couple of usual suspects: <a href="">Libsyn</a> and <a href="">Blubrry</a> are the major players, and <a href="">Fireside</a> is a new contender that looks nice.</p> <p>Personally, I host my own files and use <a href="">Podtrac</a> for the analytics. If you’re a web nerd you can download and use a <a href="">Jekyll podcast template</a> I created.</p> <p>Libsyn is the 800-pound gorilla in the space and they know what they’re doing. A lot of the podcasts you already listen to are probably on Libsyn.</p> <p>Don’t try to jerry-rig your own analytics and hosting unless you really know what you’re doing.</p> <h3 id="the-equipment-you-need">The equipment you need</h3> <p>The audio quality of your show depends on you and your audience. Some people create hyper-produced shows with NPR quality and some yell into their phones and post that.</p> <p>It’s your call.</p> <p>Your audience might be very forgiving of audio quality or they might disregard anything that sounds less than “professional.” It depends.</p> <p>That being said, the better you can make your podcast sound, the better off you are. Different people have different thresholds for what sound quality or lack thereof they’re willing to tolerate.</p> <p>Fortunately, it’s not very expensive these days to create audio that sounds decent.</p> <p>This means you’re going to have to spend some money. You can spend literally <em>any amount</em> of money to make your podcast sound better—the audiophile sky is the limit—but you don’t have to spend a lot.</p> <p>(It’s kind of funny how in audio there really isn’t an upper ceiling on what you can spend, either to produce it or consume it.)</p> <p>But you don’t have to spend a lot to get to a minimum threshold where people stop paying attention to the audio quality and start paying attention to the content. Which is where you want to be. You don’t want listeners to turn off your podcast because they can’t hear what you were saying.</p> <p>Your audience simply shouldn’t think about how your podcast sounds. It’s all about the content.</p> <p>When it comes to which equipment you need, Dan Benjamin has made his living running <a href="">a podcast network</a> for many years, and he has put together a battle-tested <a href="">list of podcast equipment</a>. Dan knows what he’s talking about. Listen to him.</p> <p>It’s up to you how much money you want to invest. The more you spend, the better the quality, but only you know your budget and your aspirations.</p> <p>I’m currently using a <a href="">Heil PR-40</a> that feeds into a <a href=";sr=1-3&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1505087823">Zoom H5</a> recorder.</p> </div></div></div> <img src="/images/podcasting-the-studio.jpg" alt="Heil PR-40, Zoom H5, Sony MDR7506, and a clicker" class="img-responsive" /> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">Heil PR-40, Zoom H5, Sony MDR7506 with replacement pads, and a clicker.</div> <p>I <em>love</em> the PR-40. It works great for my voice.</p> <p>This setup is working well for me and I really like not having my computer involved in the recording. The Zoom only does audio recording so there are fewer opportunities for gremlins to come sneak in. It has one job and it does it well. But that’s just my personal opinion.</p> <h3 id="the-studio-matters-more-than-the-equipment">The studio matters more than the equipment</h3> <p>No matter what gear you buy, where you record matters more.</p> <p>The number one enemy of high-quality audio recording is room noise. If you go buy the top-of-the-line stuff <a href="">Dan Benjamin recommends</a> and you record in a concrete bunker, you will sound terrible anyway.</p> <p>Your terrible recording can probably be improved by an audio engineer with very expensive software, but unless you have one of those on hand, you’re SOL. And you really, really don’t want to get yourself into the soul crushing business of salvaging bad audio.</p> <p>So record clean. With audio, you need the cleanest inputs you can get. Which means recording in a sound-dampening environment. If you can build a studio, that’s great. Most people can’t.</p> <p>Personally, I record in my man cave/monk cell, which is the tiny room where I watch TV and write blog posts. I put <a href=";sr=1-4&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1503791137">some acoustic dampeners</a> on the wall, and they have helped my quality tremendously.</p> <p>(As an aside, for your man cave if you want to watch movies loud, acoustic dampeners will help with the audio quality for your TV in a major way. You know, if you need another reason to make the investment. Echo is bad, unless you’re a cathedral.)</p> <p>But if you’re just getting started or you don’t have the money to spend to sound treat a room, you have two great options: A car or a closet.</p> <p>Car interiors dampen sound a ton. Record in a parked car and it will sound great.</p> <p>A walk-in closet full of clothes also dampens sound a lot, so just go stand in a closet and record and you will sound like you’re in a fully-treated studio.</p> <p>I recorded my first podcasts in a walk-in closet with a <a href=";sr=1-5&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1503791506">Blue Yeti</a>, a mic that’s notorious for picking up room noise, and it sounded great.</p> <p>Cars and closets are your friends.</p> <p>A last-ditch solution if you don’t have access to any kind of dampening space is to record under a heavy blanket. You will feel like an idiot and you will get sweaty, but you will sound good.</p> <p>The rest is experimentation. Record and listen. Hang more blankets on the wall, record and listen. Move the mic to a different location, record and listen.</p> <p>Only you know what you and your audience consider good enough.</p> <h3 id="technique-matters-even-more">Technique matters even more</h3> <p>No matter what equipment you have and where you record, if your technique is bad it will still sound bad.</p> <p>Remember when I said this is work? We’re close to the inside of the onion now, but this layer is tricky because this layer is all you.</p> <p>When I first started I spent a lot of time searching the Internet for tips on recording technique, and it was mostly fruitless. But recording technique is super important.</p> <h4 id="get-closer-to-the-mic">Get closer to the mic</h4> <p>Be as close to the mic as you can. Seriously. You should be closer than you think you should. You should feel the mike as you record. Closer is better. No further than a hands-width distance from the mic.</p> <p>If you’re really close, you can turn down the gain, which means you will pick up less room noise and your audio is cleaner.</p> <p>Being close to the mic also means you’ll blow your plosives. Plosives are “p” sounds. They cause a sound wave that makes your mic go nuts and emit a really ugly sound. Plosives are bad.</p> <p>To get rid of them you need a filter. It can be a pop filter or a windscreen, which one doesn’t matter, only that it works.</p> <p>You’re the only one who can find out what works for you.</p> <p>How do you find out? Record! Listen to yourself.</p> <p><em>Get closer to the mic.</em></p> <h4 id="wear-headphones">Wear headphones</h4> <p>When you’re recording, wear headphones. If nothing else, use the ear buds that came with your phone to monitor yourself.</p> <p>Even if, like me, you’re only recording yourself talking, wear headphones. <em>You must know what the mic is picking up.</em></p> <p>In a controlled environment like a studio, you’ll know what’s going on, but there will still be surprises. Did the recorder conk out? Did you just find a new angle that makes the mike pop? Are the gardeners outside suddenly loud enough to bleed through?</p> <p>Whatever it is, you want to know about it while you’re recording, not while you’re editing.</p> <p>Wear headphones.</p> <p>It’s the cheapest and easiest insurance policy you can get. If you’re recording and you’re not wearing headphones you’re inviting disaster.</p> <p>Use whatever headphones or earbuds you have, though I recommend the <a href=";sr=1-3&amp;s=musical-instruments&amp;keywords=sony%2Bmdr%2B7506&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1503793442">Sony MDR7506</a> headphones—they’ve been a studio standard forever, they’re built like tanks, they’re comfortable, they’re not all that expensive, and you can use them to listen to tunes when you’re not recording.</p> <p>If you watch making-of videos of songs, you’ll probably see your favorite performers wearing the Sony MDR7506 headphones in the studio.</p> <h3 id="edit-your-show">Edit your show</h3> <p>Some people can just step up to a mic and lay down a perfect recording.</p> <p>Those people have sold their souls to Satan.</p> <p>You won’t be able to do that. So you need to edit your show.</p> <p>Editing your own voice is painful. You will hate how you sound. How you hear yourself when you’re talking and how others hear you is very different. When listening to a recording of yourself you hear yourself as others hear you. You are not used to this. You will find it painful. This is normal.</p> <p>Audio editing is a skillset unto itself and audio editing software goes from free to quite expensive.</p> <p>The Wirecutter has a nice roundup of <a href="">recommendations for podcast editing software</a>. Professional voice actor Mike DelGaudio—who runs the <a href="">Booth Junkie</a> YouTube channel and has a voice to kill for—<a href="">really likes Reaper</a>. I’m personally using <a href="">Hindenburg Journalist</a>, which I like for its focus on spoken audio.</p> <p>As a sidenote, DelGaudio has a great tip about <a href="">using a clicker when recording</a> to make editing out bad takes a lot faster and easier.</p> <p>But in the end whatever software that fits your budget and your personal software taste will work.</p> <p>How heavily you want to edit of course depends on your goals, but you definitely need to go in and take out false starts and long pauses. But it’s possible to spend limitless time editing.</p> <p>It’s in the editing you can really make your podcast shine.</p> <p>As a sidenote, I’m old enough that I remember editing by literally cutting reel to reel tape and let me tell you whippersnappers that editing in software is so much faster and easier it’s almost ludicrous.</p> <p>You’ll note, though, that these are several different skill sets: writing, performing, editing, and uploading are very different skills and you will find that you’re better at some than others. This is normal.</p> <p>This post became much longer than I was expecting. Thanks for reading it and I hope it was useful.</p> <p>Now go out there and record something cool for me to listen to!</p> <p><strong>NOTE:</strong> Some links are Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase through them I get a tiny kickback from Amazon. It doesn’t cost you anything extra and is appreciated.</p> Review: Novels of the Malazan Empire Nic Lindh 2017-09-03T00:00:00-07:00 <p>It might be that with the state of the world these days you want to take your mind off things. A great way to accomplish that is with epic fantasy. And there’s no fantasy series more epic than the awesome <em>Malazan Book of the Fallen</em> series.</p> <p>But if you’ve already read all 3.2 million words—yes, 3.2 million words spread out into ten novels, which is a <em>lot</em> of words—of the <em>Malazan Book of the Fallen</em> series and are jonesing for more, I bring you good news!</p> <p>If you’re not familiar with it, the <em><a href="">Malazan Book of the Fallen</a></em> is a high fantasy series that spans a world and a history of a world and ultimately is a haunting meditation on the meaning of mortality. The sheer scope of Malazan is mind-blowing and that Steven Erikson pulled it off is incredible.</p> <p>The series starts with <a href=";qid=1472341005&amp;keywords=gardens%252Bof%252Bthe%252Bmoon&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;ie=UTF8">Gardens of the Moon</a>, which will leave you utterly confused and enthralled. It’s not an easy read, but magnificent.</p> <p>But if you’ve already read Malazan and want more—and why wouldn’t you want more, the world of Malazan is so rich and deep—Erikson’s co-creator of the universe, Ian C. Esslemont, has written a six-series cycle called <em>Novels of the Malazan Empire</em> that take place in the same time frame but with different characters—though there is some overlap—and tells a different set of stories that tie in to the main stories of the <em>Malazan Book of the Fallen</em>.</p> <p>As an aside here, I’m not a Dungeons and Dragons guy, mostly because we were not aware of it in the small Swedish town where I grew up. If I had only known, I’m sure I would have been one of those guys, but I wasn’t introduced to D&amp;D until I went to college in the States, at which point in my life I was much more interested in hanging around night clubs making feeble attempts at dating women.</p> <p>My biggest frustration with a lot of fantasy is that it feels like some guy—it’s usually a guy—wrote down his awesome D&amp;D campaign and unless you’re that guy, it actually isn’t that interesting because the characters came out of a D&amp;D campaign and are one-dimensional and boring to everybody but you.</p> <p>Not so Erikson and Esselmont. They have myriad—perhaps too many, even—characters, and a lot of those characters are quite interesting.</p> <p>However, Erikson and Esselmont have, to put it mildly, different writing styles. Erikson has found the elusive <em>Epic</em> knob on his keyboard and turned it to 11, while Esselmont writes more prosaically. Not that Esselmont is a bad writer by any means, but he hasn’t found that <em>Epic</em> knob Erikson did.</p> <p>But Esselmont does grow as a writer as <em>Novels of the Malazan Empire</em> goes on.</p> <p>The series consists of <em><a href=";sr=1-1&amp;s=books&amp;keywords=night%2Bof%2Bknives&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1504481267">Night of Knives</a></em>, <em><a href=";_encoding=UTF8&amp;pd_rd_r=0X91PW6VBJ7SP01KJNCW&amp;psc=1&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;pd_rd_w=gJwEF&amp;pd_rd_i=0765363488&amp;pd_rd_wg=oSzmZ">Return of the Crimson Guard</a></em>, <em><a href=";_encoding=UTF8&amp;pd_rd_r=NEW0C8GF3BWC247H5XEQ&amp;psc=1&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;pd_rd_w=HNAdX&amp;pd_rd_i=0765329859&amp;pd_rd_wg=6fkKE">Stonewielder</a></em>, <em><a href=";_encoding=UTF8&amp;pd_rd_r=SR3220MF5G1BQPJ3FH89&amp;psc=1&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;pd_rd_w=0Afn8&amp;pd_rd_i=0765329999&amp;pd_rd_wg=rcdOD">Orb Sceptre Throne</a></em>, <em><a href=";_encoding=UTF8&amp;pd_rd_r=ZY3DQY7SN04AM6WV8KCK&amp;psc=1&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;pd_rd_w=JKqP1&amp;pd_rd_i=0765330016&amp;pd_rd_wg=YFwDY">Blood and Bone</a></em>, and <em><a href=";_encoding=UTF8&amp;pd_rd_r=1K3KNCYP3K2TDKBE24DB&amp;psc=1&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;pd_rd_w=KSSfJ&amp;pd_rd_i=0765330008&amp;pd_rd_wg=RfeGI">Assail</a></em>.</p> <p><em>Night of Knives</em> is frustrating, as it’s told through the viewpoints of characters who have no idea what’s going on and thus you as the reader have very little idea what’s going on, and Esselmont’s prose in this novel is pretty rough. If it was a stand-alone there’s no way I could recommend it.</p> <p>But then he finds his stride and the series picks up steam. So don’t let <em>Night of Knives</em> put you off—it gets much better.</p> <p>As a whole, <em>Novels of the Malazan Empire</em> is satisfying and a worthy inclusion in the canon. And despite being less <em>Epic</em> than Erikson, Esselmont does use much fewer words, so these are more normal-length novels instead of the bricks that make up the <em>Malazan Book of the Fallen</em>.</p> <p>Obviously, this series is not where you should start, but if like me you find yourself jonesing for another shot of Malazan, dive in to <em>Novels of the Malazan Empire</em> to find out more about the Forkrul, the Stormguard and the Crimson Guard.</p> <p>Highly recommended.</p> Either America will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States Nic Lindh 2017-08-26T00:00:00-07:00 <blockquote> <p>“Either America will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States.</p> </blockquote> <p>—W.E.B. Du Bois</p> An opinion should be the result of thought, not a substitute for it Nic Lindh 2017-07-30T00:00:00-07:00 <blockquote> <p>An opinion should be the result of thought, not a substitute for it.</p> </blockquote> <p>—Jef Mallett</p> Photos from Pacific Beach Nic Lindh 2017-07-29T00:00:00-07:00 <p><img src="/images/pacific-beach-hero.jpg" /></p> <p>We live in Phoenix, where eight months out of the year are paradise and four months are a scorched hellscape. July in Phoenix is not only ridiculously hot but it’s also when the humidity kicks in, so there’s no more dry heat—it’s a wet heat, and oh yes, you might die.</p> </div></div></div> <img src="/images/pacific-beach1.jpg" alt="Surfers" class="img-responsive" /> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">Surfers waiting for waves off Pacific Beach.</div> <p>The people of Phoenix, being somewhat rational, decide en mass that July is a good time to get the heck out, and geography being what it is, most of the mass decides to drive to San Diego.</p> <p>So that’s what we did.</p> </div></div></div> <img src="/images/pacific-beach2.jpg" alt="Surfers on a wave" class="img-responsive" /> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">Surfers catching a wave off Pacific Beach. Note the lunatic not wearing a wet suit.</div> <p>Turns out, Pacific Beach in July is packed. We booked a room at the <a href="">Ocean Park Inn</a>, a hotel we’d used before about ten years ago, which is decent and right on the beach. What we didn’t know is that sometime in the last ten years somebody opened a lounge called <a href="">Firehouse</a> right next to the hotel, and Firehouse has a truly, epically, loud sound system. We’re talking sub-effing-sonic earthquake bass.</p> <p>Annoying? Meh, perhaps a little.</p> <p>We couldn’t hear it in the room, fortunately, but leaving the hotel meant untz-untz-untz.</p> </div></div></div> <img src="/images/pacific-beach3.jpg" alt="Surfers paddling" class="img-responsive" /> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">Surfers paddling for a wave off Pacific Beach.</div> <p>Which made me realize I’ve aged out of Pacific Beach pretty severely. So many people. So loud. Get off my lawn.</p> </div></div></div> <img src="/images/pacific-beach4.jpg" alt="Surfers" class="img-responsive" /> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">Surfers waiting for waves in the sunset off Pacific Beach.</div> <p>As a sidebar here, who decided it’s somehow socially acceptable to walk and bike around with a shitty, shitty little Bluetooth speaker blaring your tunes? I would like to speak to the manager, please.</p> <p>But me being crotchety and old aside, Pacific Beach is gorgeous, the entire California coast is gorgeous.</p> </div></div></div> <img src="/images/pacific-beach5.jpg" alt="Massive bubbles" class="img-responsive" /> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">This gentleman was blowing massive bubbles to the delight of children.</div> Book roundup, part 23 Nic Lindh 2017-07-16T00:00:00-07:00 <p><strong>Mea Culpa:</strong> Geting this book roundup written has taken way too long. I’ve read a lot of books since the last installment, but haven’t had the discipline to jot down my notes, so these are only a few of the books that have scrolled across my Kindle.</p> <p>Most of my energies have gone toward my <a href="">Swedish-language podcast about America</a>. Turns out blogging and podcasting scratch the same itch, but podcasting is way more labor-intensive. And fun! Podcasting is a lot of fun!</p> <p>I believe this is what’s called foreshadowing.</p> <p>Nevertheless, I have scolded myself appropriately, and will take better notes going forward.</p> <h3 id="hillbilly-elegy-a-memoir-of-a-family-and-culture-in-crisis-by-jd-vance-"><a href="">Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J.D. Vance</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>A beautifully written memoir of growing up in a dysfunctional family of, not to put to fine a point on it, white trash, <em>Hillbilly Elegy</em> does a great job of showing the human cost of an honor culture out of touch with modern society.</p> <p><em>Hillbilly Elegy</em> is honest and raw, drenched in existential despair and hopelessness.</p> <h3 id="gulp-adventures-in-the-alimentary-canal-"><a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=gulp&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1500251066">Gulp: Adventures in the Alimentary Canal</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>Mary Roach has made her writing career by being utterly non-squeamish and having a breezy and approachable writing style. In <em>Gulp</em>, she manages to make your digestive tract both very interesting and not all that gross.</p> <p>She also found a very plausible theory for the myths about dragons you’ll have to read the book to learn.</p> <p>But above all, <em>Gulp</em> really brings home how our digestive tracts really are us:</p> <blockquote> <p>The great irony is that in the beginning, the gut was all there was. “We’re basically a highly evolved earthworm surrounding the intestinal tract,” Khoruts commented as we drove away from his clinic the last day I was there. Eventually, the food processor had to have a brain attached to help it look for food, and limbs to reach that food. That increased its size, so it needed a circulatory system to distribute the fuel that powered the limbs. And so on. Even now, the digestive tract has its own immune system and its own primitive brain, the so-called enteric nervous system. I recalled what Ton van Vliet had said at one point in our conversation: “People are surprised to learn: They are a big pipe with a little bit around it.”</p> </blockquote> <h2 id="fiction">Fiction</h2> <h3 id="the-stars-are-legion-by-kameron-hurley-"><a href="">The Stars are Legion, by Kameron Hurley</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p><em>The Stars are Legion</em> turns space opera on its head by instead of imagining vast metallic space ships, it’s squishy and nightmarish, with generation ships designed as organic worlds. Which makes a lot of sense when you think about it.</p> <p><em>The Stars are Legion</em> takes place ages after the generation ships’ creation, long after most knowledge of how they function has been lost into myth. Hurley thrusts the reader straight into the action and does a fantastic job of letting the world building unfold organically—as it were—and there are times when you go, “Oh, <em>of course</em> that’s why things are this particular way!”</p> <p>Like Hurley’s previous works, <em>The Belle Dame Apocrypha</em> and <em>World Breaker</em>, <em>Legion</em> is populated by strong women with agency. As a matter of fact, only women, which is one of those details that makes a lot of sense later on in the book.</p> <p>It’s an engrossing take on space opera, but suffers a bit from a draggy middle where a trek flounders much too long and, as is par for the course for Hurley, you have to be in the mood for terrible, self-centered characters.</p> <p>If you enjoy gritty novels or space opera, <em>The Stars are Legion</em> belongs in your reading list.</p> <h3 id="the-kill-society-by-richard-kadrey-"><a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=the%2Bkill%2Bsociety&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1500251292">The Kill Society, by Richard Kadrey</a> ★★☆☆☆</h3> <p>I am a huge fan of the <a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=sandman%2Bslim&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1500251928">Sandman Slim</a> series—it’s one of the freshest, most irreverent gothic-slash-noir-slash-tattoos-everywhere series out there, but unfortunately this ninth installment just didn’t do it for me.</p> <p>It feels like Kadrey is struggling with where to take our beloved Sandman next and <em>The Kill Society</em> kind of flounders around, searching. But—<em>spoiler horn</em>—there is a bit of a reset at the end, so the next installment could be great. Fingers crossed.</p> <p><strong>Note:</strong> The links are Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase through them I get a tiny kickback, which motivates me to keep writing these reviews. It’s appreciated.</p> Putting new gaskets on the Kamado grill Nic Lindh 2017-05-02T10:05:00-07:00 <p><img src="/images/grill-hero.jpg" /></p> <p>I’ve had <a href="">my Kamado grill since 2012</a>, and I still love it as much as the day I bought it. If you enjoy the charring of things, I can’t recommend a Kamado enough.</p> <p>They do require a bit of work, though.</p> <p>Every so often you have to clean out the fire box to restore the airflow, or it will take infinity long to warm up. <a href="">It’s grimy work</a>, but doesn’t take very long.</p> </div></div></div> <img src="/images/grill-charred.jpg" alt="Those gaskets have had it" class="img-responsive" /> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">Those gaskets have had it.</div> <p>You also have to replace the gaskets every few years. My specimen had finally reached that point. According to the Internet, this is easy: Just buy new gaskets—<a href=";tag=thecoredump-20&amp;ie=UTF8">I picked these and they seem good</a>—strip the old gaskets, roll on the new ones, and Bob’s yer uncle.</p> </div></div></div> <img src="/images/grill-scraped-front.jpg" alt="The putty knife is your friend" class="img-responsive" /> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">The putty knife is your friend.</div> <p>The Internet suggested to me removing the existing gaskets would take less than half an hour. The Internet was wrong. The image above represents over an hour of angry stabbing with a putty knife.</p> <p>The Internet was not wrong, though, that it’s technically easy. It just requires violence.</p> </div></div></div> <img src="/images/grill-scraped.jpg" alt="After scraping with putty knife" class="img-responsive" /> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">Stabby stabby scrape.</div> <p>After the orgy of violence, get the rest of the grease—<em>oh, the grease, the grease!</em>—off with rubbing alcohol and let it dry. This is Phoenix, so that took less time than getting a glass of water.</p> <p>Really, the amount of grease embedded in the gaskets is horrifying.</p> </div></div></div> <img src="/images/grill-fresh-seal.jpg" alt="Kamado grill with fresh gaskets" class="img-responsive" /> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">With fresh gaskets.</div> <p>Looks nice and new with the fresh gaskets. Close the grill and let stand for 24 hours to set and you, my friend, are ready to char all the things.</p> </div></div></div> <img src="/images/grill-flame.jpg" alt="Kamado grill with meat" class="img-responsive" /> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">The flames are your friends.</div> <p>Let me leave you with some more <a href="">shots of the Kamado in action</a>.</p> Wings of Freedom Nic Lindh 2017-04-17T00:00:00-07:00 <p><img src="/images/wings-b17-front.jpg" /></p> <p><i>Front view of B-17 Flying Fortress</i></p> <p><a href="">Wings of Freedom</a> is a program run by the Collings Foundation that flies World War II-era aircraft around America so people can see them in person and optionally purchase flights on the B-17 Flying Fortress.</p> <p>I figured they just can’t keep these old aircraft flying forever, so it was worth it to take a look and actually see them in person while they were visiting Phoenix.</p> <p>There are four aircraft on display, a <a href="">P-51 Mustang</a>, a <a href="">B-25 Mitchell</a>, the last operational <a href="">B-24 Liberator</a>, and a <a href="">B-17 Flying Fortress</a>.</p> </div></div></div> <img src="/images/wings-b24.jpg" alt="The last operational B-24 Liberator in the world" class="img-responsive" /> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">The last operational B-24 Liberator in the world.</div> <p>All four aircraft are of course worth seeing, but the B-17 Flying Fortress is the icon of World War II bombers, the plane that springs to mind when you think of the bombing campaigns of the European Theater.</p> <p>According to Wikipedia, each Flying Fortress cost about $240,000 in 1945 dollars, which is equivalent to <a href=";year=1945">roughly 3 million in 2017 dollars</a>. 12,731 Flying Fortresses were built. War is expensive.</p> </div></div></div> <img src="/images/wings-b17-bombardier.jpg" alt="View out past the bombardier’s position" class="img-responsive" /> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">View out past the bombardier’s position.</div> <p>What really struck me about the B-17 is how incredibly cramped it is—the crew members must have been tiny men, especially considering they were stuck in there for hours and hours wearing heavy clothing to ward off the bitter high-altitude cold.</p> <p>Pictures don’t do the claustrophobic nature of the inside of the Flying Fortress justice—you really need to see it in person to appreciate it.</p> </div></div></div> <img src="/images/wings-ball-turret.jpg" alt="The ball turret on the B-17 is incredibly small" class="img-responsive" /> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">The ball turret on the B-17 is incredibly small.</div> <p>How the air force got <em>anybody</em> to agree to operate the ball turret is beyond me—it’s incredibly small and the gunner is quite literally hanging outside the aircraft while enemies are doing their best to blast it out of the sky. Granted, the aluminum skin on the aircraft provides scant protection, but psychologically, being curled up in a little ball outside the aircraft at 30,000 feet must have been stressful to say the least.</p> </div></div></div> <img src="/images/wings-bombbay.jpg" alt="The path between the front and rear of the aircraft" class="img-responsive" /> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">The path between front and rear of the aircraft.</div> <p>When it comes to moving around the aircraft, it involves walking a ledge across the bomb bay and having to squeeze across the support structures in the image above. Which as a burly 6-foot-2 man I could barely do wearing just a t-shirt and shorts, so for somebody to do it in full arctic gear seems incredible. Tiny, tiny people.</p> </div></div></div> <img src="/images/wings-oxygen.jpg" alt="The cabin was of course not pressurized" class="img-responsive" /> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">The cabin was of course not pressurized.</div> <p>The best book I’ve read on the bombing campaign in the Western Theater during World War II is the masterful <em><a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=bomber%2Bcommand&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1492391143">Bomber Command</a></em> by the grand master of World War II history Max Hastings. The book focuses on the efforts of the <a href="">RAF</a>, but apart from the RAF flying at night, the RAF and the U.S. <a href="">Eight Air Force</a> faced many of the same challenges and issues during the campaign.</p> <p>Including the morality of area bombings as a part of total war versus targeted strikes as well as the effectiveness of bombing raids altogether. World War II was the first conflict where massive bombing raids into civilian territory were technologically possible, so there was no past experience to draw on—everybody was figuring it out as they went along.</p> <p>And of course, if you’re interested in World War II as a whole, the same Max Hastings wrote the ultimate book on the whole conflict: <em><a href=";_encoding=UTF8&amp;pd_rd_r=39CF5RXS4VM1MG4XWK1B&amp;psc=1&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;pd_rd_w=BC9By&amp;pd_rd_i=0307475530&amp;pd_rd_wg=FQ4J6">Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945</a></em>, which is so, so good and exhaustive—can’t recommend it enough.</p> </div></div></div> <img src="/images/wings-kia-mia.jpg" alt="The human cost was enormous" class="img-responsive" /> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">The human cost was enormous.</div> The innocent feel guilty, the guilty feel nothing Nic Lindh 2017-03-18T00:00:00-07:00 <blockquote> <p>The innocent feel guilty, the guilty feel nothing.</p> </blockquote> <p>—<a href="">Estonian Movie <em>1944</em></a></p>