Saturday, August 6, 2022

Gooseberries!

Seems late in the season to me. In Sam McDonald County Park. It's named for Sam McDonald







Tuesday, August 2, 2022

The late-summer color palette...

... in Foothills Park. Poison oak, buckeyes, and elderberries.



Monday, August 1, 2022

Fiction catch-up

Just so's I don't forget, some other novels I have read recently. .. 

The Netanhayus
Joshua Cohen

Very much in Rothian mode, from its academic satire to its farcical set-pieces and mix of fictional and historical characters– not to mention its engagement with Jewish identity and assimilation. Yes, it is about those Netanyahus: Bibi is here, but just as a kid; the main Netanyahu is Bibi's dad Benzion, and the (based-on-a-true) story recounts incidents surrounding his effort to land an academic position in the United States circa 1960. The novel veers from slapstick to Netanyahu's wide-ranging and shall we say unconventional lectures on Jewish history. It's a dark comedy with nary a shred of sympathy for the Netanyahu family's behavior and views, but more than a hint of admiration for their crass, chaotic energy.

The Mountain Lion 
Jean Stafford

A disturbing novel about two siblings coming of age; it begins as an idyll and ends as... well, I won't give it away, although I feel that the climax is telegraphed a bit too much. Still, a very good read. 

The Topeka School
Ben Lerner

Therapy
David Lodge

Eat the Document
Dana Spiotta

What Hetty Did
J.L. Carr

I found these four were worth reading "at the margin," as we economists like to say, but don't go out of your way.

Recent reading

A View of the Harbour
Elizabeth Taylor

Taylor's Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont was one of my favorite reads in recent memory, and A View of the Harbour (1947) is even better. Whereas Mrs. Palfrey revolves almost entirely around its title character, A View of the Harbour is populated by a larger ensemble of characters living in a down-at-the-heels seaside town. The chapters of the book weave their way from one short set piece to another, inhabiting each character's thoughts along the way. Taylor's ability to draw so many vivid and fully formed characters in such a compact novel is, in my reading experience, a rare thing. 

The book's multiple and interconnected plot lines are set in motion by the arrival of Bertram, a retired seaman and aspiring painter, who quickly involves himself in everyone's business. Among those affected by his arrival are the book's other two main characters: Tory Foyle, a divorcee with a wild streak, and Mrs. Bracey, a bedridden busybody. But you'll get to know many others along the way. The drama is understated, the humor abundant, and the writing... simply brilliant. Most of the time Taylor employs an efficient prose style with striking descriptions and convincing dialogue. But once in a while she spreads her wings; I can't think of another writer who could compose a sentence as wickedly yet tellingly convoluted as the second in this paragraph. 

Lily Wilson sat behind the lace curtains with Lady Audley's Secret on her lap, but it was too dark to read. Although awaited, the first flash of the lighthouse was always surprising and made of the moment something enchanting and miraculous, sweeping over the pigeon-coloured evening with condescension and negligence, half-returning, withdrawing, and then, almost forgotten, opening its fan again across the water, encircled, so Lily thought, all the summer through by mazed birds and moths, betrayed, as some creatures are preserved, by that caprice of nature which cherishes the ermine, the chameleon, the stick-insect, but lays sly traps for others, the moths and lemmings. 'And women?' Lily wondered, and she turned down a corner of Lady Audley's Secret to mark the place, and stood up yawning. 

Their Eyes Were Watching God
Zora Neal Hurston

Somehow I had never read this until now. It's a fine and important novel, although in parts ethnography takes over for narrative. The use of dialect lends a music to the dialogue, although I can imagine it would be a challenge teaching it today.

When We Cease to Understand the World
Benjamín Labatut

A very meta mashup of fact and fiction, it was critically acclaimed. The vignettes about 20th-century mathematicians and physicists become increasingly speculative and even fantastical as the book progresses. It left me pretty cold, but your mileage may vary.

The Big Clock
Kenneth Fearing

An enjoyable, well-written noir with a pretty contrived plot. It will definitely get you through a decent plane ride. 

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Postcards from the Big Island

My first visit. I hope to return before too long.

We stayed on the west coast near Captain Cook, up the road from Pebbles Beach. Ancient trails extend north and south from the beach, across lava flows from Mauna Loa. Lava flows are a dominant feature of Hawaii, which of course is still growing, although apparently there is a new baby island on the way in a few hundred thousand years...

Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park. Wikipedia: "The historical park preserves the site where, up until the early 19th century, Hawaiians who broke a kapu (one of the ancient laws) could avoid certain death by fleeing to this place of refuge or puʻuhonua. The offender would be absolved by a priest and freed to leave. Defeated warriors and non-combatants could also find refuge here during times of battle. The grounds just outside the Great Wall that encloses the puʻuhonua were home to several generations of powerful chiefs."

Kilauea Iki Trail / Crater. An awesome hike across the floor of a crater that last erupted in 1959, right next door to the active crater at Kilauea. The native ʻōhiʻa lehua tree is trying its best to colonize every nook and cranny.

Makuala O'oma Trail. Fantastic trail through the cloud forest above Kona. The native hāpuʻu tree fern is abundant here, lending a Jurassic Park quality to the place. Invasive ginger plants are a real problem, though their flowers are pretty and fragrant.


Mangos of many varieties and awesome smoothies can be had at the South Kona Fruit Stand. Don't miss it.



South Point, the southern-most point in the United States, is thought to be the first place of landing and settlement of the original Polynesian voyagers to Hawaii. It's a pretty windswept and bleak part of the island, but apparently the fishing is good.



Friday, July 15, 2022

Economic malaise and blame

This post from Paul Romer sums up my own impression of current macroeconomic conditions in the United States, which are not all that bad but widely perceived to be so, and for which it is predicted that Biden will be blamed by the voters even though little of it is his fault or under his control. The Fed appears to be planning to make matters worse. Grrr.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Carson Pass country, again

Last week MK and I camped for a couple nights up at Woods Lake CG. I try to go every year, and this year for the third time I hiked what may be my favorite "day hike" in the Sierras: From Woods Lake up to Lake Winnemucca, then to Round Top and 4th of July Lakes, down into the Summit City Canyon, up to Forestdale Divide, and finally returning around the base of Elephant's Back to Woods Lake. "Day hike" is in scare quotes because this is a 16.5 mile round trip, with a total elevation gain of somewhere around 3,000 feet– a combo that pushes my physical limits, at least at my current level of non-conditioning. That said, the vistas and abundant and diverse wildflowers and other plants are breathtaking nearly every step of the way. Along the deep, rugged, and spectacular Summit City Canyon, you are alone in the wilderness– we encountered not another human soul after Round Top until we reached the Pacific Crest Trail at Forestdale many miles later.

Photos can't really do it justice, but here a few snapshots with the Pixel anyway. The lichen picture is a cheat, having been taken near the Meiss Col on the other side of Highway 88... but such lichens!






Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Granite

A few pictures taken along the Murphy Creek Trail in Yosemite a couple weeks ago. Please click on the photos to see what they really look like... Blogger has trouble with B&W for some reason...