Tag Archives: Elizabeth Bear

Year End Roundup for 2019

This New Years marks close to six years of blogging every day.  I write ‘em, a few of you click on ‘em.

The Traffic Stats Were Weird

The total hits on this blog increased again, up more than 10% from 2018.  As before, there is a huge amount of “long tail” in this traffic, with hits spread widely over the thousands of posts from the last 8 years.

But it isn’t clear exactly how many people actually look at this blog.  The stats I get are defaults from wordpress, so I don’t really know much about them.

This year saw a couple of mysterious blips.  I don’t know how much of this is real traffic, and how much of it is artifacts of the data collection.

Early in the year, the daily hits dropped dramatically.  This approximately corresponds to the European data privacy requirements, and the dearth of hits from that region suggest that the blog is either not available to some people (not being compliant in some way I don’t know about) or accesses are not reported (not having permission to collect that data).   I dunno.

But then, around August, traffic picked up.  Really picked up, to 100 hits per day.  During this burst, it tended to be bursty, with a few days of high traffic, as much a 300 hits per day, and then several days of low traffic.  From the imperfect information I can see, the bursts might be from Hong Kong (perhaps scraping the internet to make a copy to be used inside China?)

Then, around November, traffic dropped off again and has stayed low.  This drop approximately coincides with the increasing troubles in HK, so perhaps this reflects a cut off of Internet access there.

I really don’t know.

The Usual Stuff

The blog continued to cover the usual stuff.

Cryptocurrencies, the Future of Work (and Coworking), Dinosaurs, Birds, Robots, the Ice Is Melting, Renewable Energy.

I blog about anything that interests me and is worth the trouble.  I try to have something useful to say, though sometimes it’s mainly a link with “this is cool”

Many of the things I discuss are from current academic papers, which I cite and generally try to read at least the abstract and always point to the original sources.

“Coworking – The Book” and other Writing

My 2018 book “What is Coworking?” continues to sell like hot cakes–if nobody had ever heard of hot cakes.  I think it sold a couple dozen copies.  My plans for a new villa are on hold…. : – )

Writing is hard.  Selling books is even harder.

Speaking of writing, I also contributed an article to a local free paper, which I really like the title to:

  1. Robert E. McGrath, Think Heliocentrically, Act Locally, in The Public I: A Paper of the People. 2019. http://publici.ucimc.org/2019/04/think-heliocentrically-act-locally/

I archived a report on the 2013 Alma Mater project.  Versions of this report was rejected by several conferences and journals.  A problem with working outside the box is that the journals of boxology won’t publish your results.

  1. Robert E. McGrath, A Digital Rescue for a Graduation Ritual. Urbana, Illinois, 2019. http://hdl.handle.net/2142/105503


This blog will continue in the same vein, and daily posts will continue at least for now.

Band Names

In a continuing homage to Dave Berry, I have identified a bunch of phrases that would make great names for a band.  In general, these phrases are taken from actual, real scientific and technical papers.  So I am not making them up—just repurposing them.

Here is this year’s crop.

gerbil’s casket
Preen Oil
Carolina Preen Oil

Carolina Junco
Dark eyed Junco
Arctic Albedo

Mean Surface Albedo
Arctic Amplification
Amplified Arctic Warming
Surface Air Temperature
Snow Cover Fraction
Pacific Pumice Raft
Sichuan Mudslides
  (also a great name for cocktail)
Soft Exo Suits

The Weddell Gyre
Giant Miocene Parrots
Eocene Whale
Chicxulub ejecta
Perching Drones

Perch And Stare Mission
Due to a lack of sunlight in Scotland

Blogging Birds Of Scotland
Huddle Pod
Cuddle Pod
Giant Hopping Tree Rats
Kangaroo Ancestors
Prehistoric kangaroos

Tiny Pronking Robots
Computational Periscopy


As always, I have continued the weekly review of one or more books that I read this year. This year I wrote about a total of 73 books, 24 non-fiction, 49 fiction.

Some Favorite Books of the Year


The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua
This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
Angels of Music by Kim Newman


Breaking and Entering by Jeremey N. Smith
The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee by David Treuer
You Look Like A Thing And I Love You by Janelle Shane

All the books reviewed (in no particular order)


Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear
Stone Mad by Elizabeth Bear
Grand Union by Zadie Smith
Equoid (2013) by Charles Stross
Toast (2002) by Charles Stross
Speak Easy (2015) by Catherynne M. Valente
Six Gun Snow White (2016) by Catherynne M. Valente
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
The Dakota Winters by Tom Barbash
Agent Running in the Field by John le Carré
Anno Dracula 1999 Daikaiju by Kim Newman
The Princess Beard by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
Grave Importance by Vivian Shaw
The Grand Dark by Richard Kadrey
Amnesty by Lara Elena
Outside Looking In by T. C. Boyle
This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Noir Fatale ed. by Larry Correia and Kacey Ezell
Inland by Téa Obreht
The Origins of Sense by Adam Erlich Sachs
Fall by Neal Stephenson
Gather The Fortunes by Bryan Camp
Anno Dracula by Kim Newman
The Future is Blue by Catherynne M. Valente
No Country For Old Gnomes by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Early Riser by Jasper Fforde
European Travels for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss
The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School by Kim Newman
The Haunting of Drearcliff Grange School by Kim Newman
Luna: Moon Rising by Ian McDonald
Revolutionaries by Joshua Furst
Someone Who Will Love You in all Your Damaged Glory by Raphael Bob-Waksberg
Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq
Unto Us A Son Is Given by Donna Leon
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Angels of Music by Kim Newman
The Burglar by Thomas Perry
Grim Expectations by K. W. Jeter
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua
Macbeth by Jo Nesbø
No Sunscreen for the Dead by Tim Dorsey
Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
Infernal Devices  by K. W. Jeter
Fiendish Schemes by K. W. Jeter

Non Fiction

Lakota America by Pekka Hämäläinen
The Laundromat by Jake Bernstein
You Look Like A Thing And I Love You by Janelle Shane
They Will Have To Die Now by James Verini
Hollywood’s Eve by Lili Anolik
Proof!  By Amir Alexander
How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
Four Queens by Nancy Goldstone
The Next Billion Users by Payal Arora
How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell
Places and Names by Elliot Ackerman
Eyes in the Sky by Arthur Holland Michel
American Carnage by Tim Alberta
Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino
The Ice At The End Of The World by Jon Gertner
Dinosaurs Rediscovered by Michael J. Benton
Devices and Desires by Kate Hubbard
Stony The Road by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
The Rise and Fall of Alexandria by Justin Pollard and Howard Reid
Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff
Breaking and Entering by Jeremey N. Smith
The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee” by David Treuer
Brilliant Green by Stefano Mancuso and Alessandra Viola
The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohllenben
Before and After Alexander by Richard A. Billows


Book Review: “Ancestral Night” by Elizabeth Bear

Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear


This is what we read “space opera” for!

Aliens!  Starships!  Technical wonders!  Galactic scale adventures!

This story has it all.

Young Haimey Dz is a troubled young woman with a very troubled past.  But the past may not be as past as she thought.  On a routine salvage mission, the tow turns out to be a crime scene.  A crime scene that involves them with the mysterious vanished elder civilization.  And pirates.  And the cops.

One thing leads to another, and young Dz is off to the edges of the galaxy, pursuing what might be the biggest discovery of all.

The starships are super cool, the nano- and bio-tech are neat.  The AIs are really interesting.  And the aliens are simply awesome.

This being Elizabeth Bear, much of the story is about the psychology of the trouble young woman Dz, and the weird and wonderful cultures of the known galaxy. Nanotechnology, genetic manipulation, and AI give these people (human and ET) amazing capabilities, but they are still people who love, hurt, fear, and cheat.  Some of the ETs and AIs are charming and more human that some of the Homo sapiens, some of the “humans” are truly monstrous.

Bear has created a huge canvas to fill here, and since this book is described as “Book 1”, I guess there may be more stories from this galaxy.  I look forward to more.

  1. Elizabeth Bear, Ancestral Night, New York, Simon & Schuster, 2019.


Sunday Book Reviews

Book Review: “Stone Mad” by Elizabeth Bear

Stone Mad by Elizabeth Bear

Karen Memory is back!

Plucky, indeed heroic Karen Memory saved the day, and with the reward money she has bought a little ranch with her new love, Priya.  In the nineteenth century west, they can’t legally marry or even be a couple, but there’s a lot of room to live together and be left alone.

But before they even move in together, strange doings interrupt. A visiting illusionist and two spiritualists are in the middle of what turns out to be a supernatural disaster.

White Knight Karen leaps into the trouble, even though Priya is strongly opposed.  It’s their first big fight.

Mad as she is, Priya comes to the rescue with her heavily modified “sewing machine” (kitted out as a steam powered exoskeleton).  The spiritualist and illusionist have their own interesting tech—if they all can avoid getting killed.

Mysterious phenomena aside, young Karen and Priya have a lot of growing up to do.  Living together turns out to be at least as challenging as dealing with spooks and armed gangs.

  1. Elizabeth Bear, Stone Mad, New York, TOR Books, 2018.


Sunday Book Reviews

Books Reviewed 2015

Here is  housekeeping post, collecting all the books reviewed here in 2015.

Looking back at this list, I see that this year saw Terry Pratchette’s last book (a wrenching experience), and new novels by old favorites Stross, Perry, Macguire, Holt, Gaiman, among others. I also read older but still good histories by Goodwin and Graeber. I read several books about banking, Papal and otherwise, and overlapping works about Italy, fictional and (supposedly) real.

Over the year, I reviewed a sampling of important books about contemporary digital life, including cryptocurrency, the “sharing economy”, social media, and “mind change”.   These works covered a spectrum from enthusiasm to dark worry, giving us much to think about. There are many more I did not have time or energy for. (I will say more on this topic in another post)

Throughout 2015 I continued my ongoing investigation of the question, “what is coworking?”, including reviews of two recent (self published) books about coworking by practitioners. (More on coworking in another post.)

Shall I name some “Best Books” out of my list? Why not?


There were so many to pick from. I mean, with Neil Gaiman in the list, how can I choose? But let me mention two that are especially memorable

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
Very imaginative and well written, and, for once, not so horribly dark. This book lodged in my memory more than others that are probably equally good.

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
Published a few years ago, but I didn’t read it until this year. A wonderful, intricate story. The flight of the parrot is still in my memory.


There were many important works about digital life, and I shall try to comment on them in another post. But three books that really hit me are:

Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber
From several years ago, but I didn’t read it until this year. Highly influential on the ‘occupy’ and other left-ish thinking. This is an astonishingly good book, and long form anthropology, to boot. Wow!

Reimagination Station: Creating a Game-Changing In-Home Coworking Space by Lori Kane
An exlectic little self-published book about “home coworking”, which I didn’t know was a thing. Kane walked the walk, and made me think in new ways about community and coworking.

Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs
Unexpected amounts of fun reading this short book. It does an old, graying nerd no end of good to see that at least some of the kids are OK. Really, really, OK.

List of books reviewed in 2015


A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias
After Alice by Gregory Maguire
Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
Bats of the Republic by Zachary Thomas Dodson
Book of Numbers by Joshua Cohen
Chasing the Phoenix by Michael Swanwick
Candy Apple Red by Nancy Bush
Chicks and Balances edited by Esther Friesner and John Helfers
Corsair by James L. Cambias
Count to a Trillion by John C. Wright
Diaspora by Greg Egan
Distress by Greg Egan
Electric Blue by Nancy Bush
Forty Thieves by Thomas Perry
Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong
Get In Trouble by Kelly Link
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear
Koko the Mighty by Kieran Shea
Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald
Mort(e) by Robert Repino
Numero Zero by Umberto Eco
Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
Rebirths of Tao by Wesley Chu
Redeployment by Phil Klay
Satin Island by Tom McCarthy
Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
Shark Skin Suite by Tim Dorsey
String of Beads by Thomas Perry
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross
The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year Volume Nine ed. by Jonathan Strahan
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff
The First Bad Man by Miranda July
The Fortress in Orion by Mike Resnick
The Future Falls by Tanya Huff
The Good, the Bad, and The Smug by Tom Holt
The Mark and the Void by Paul Murray
The Relic Master by Christopher Buckley
The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett
The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu
The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone
The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
The Wild Ways by Tanya Huff
Time Salvager by Wesley Chu
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman
Ultraviolet by Nancy Bush
We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler
Witches Be Crazy by Logan J. Hunder
Zer0es by Chuck Wendig

Non Fiction

Arrival of the Fittest by Andreas Wagner
Blue Mind by Wallace J. Nichols
Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber
Digital Gold by Nathaniel Popper
Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs
God’s Bankers by Gerald Posner
LaFayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell
Let’s Be Less Stupid by Patricia Marx
Live Right and Find Happiness by Dave Barry
Merchants in the Temple by Gianluigi Nuzzi
Mind Change by Susan Greenfield
Mindsharing by Lior Zoref
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
No More Sink Full of Mugs by Tony Bacigalupo
Not Impossible by Mick Ebeling
Pax Technica by Phillip N. Howard
Peers, Inc by Robin Chase
Reimagination Station: Creating a Game-Changing In-Home Coworking Space by Lori Kane
Speculative Everything by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
The Age of Cryptocurrency by Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey
The Art of Forgery by Noah Charney
The Next Species by Michael Tennesen
The Reputation Economy by Michael Fertik and David C. Thompson
The Social Labs Revolution by Zaid Hassan
The Ugly Renaissance by Alexander Lee
Twentyfirst Century Robot by Brian David Johnson
Women of Will:  Following the Feminine in Shakespeare’s Plays by Tina Packer


Book Reviews











Housekeeping: Second Quarter Round Up

This blog has now passed 500 days of daily posts.

This quarter saw the start of the “Inappropriate Touch Screen” File, as well as other grumbling about cruddy digital design.

I also posted initial “Notes on “What is Coworking?””, which will be continued in ongoing research.

  1. Notes On “What Is Coworking?” (Part 1)
  2. Notes on “What is Coworking?” (Part 2): Rules
  3. Notes on “What is Coworking?” (Part 3): Recruitment
  4. Notes On “What is Coworking?” (Part 4): Noisy versus Quiet
  5. Notes on “What is Coworking?” (Part 5): Demographics
  6. Notes on “What is Coworking?” (Part 6): Research Methods

Book Reviews

Non Fiction

Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs
God’s Bankers by Gerald Posner
Mindsharing by Lior Zoref
Pax Technica by Phillip N. Howard
Twentyfirst Century Robot by Brian David Johnson
Women of Will:  Following the Feminine in Shakespeare’s Plays by Tina Packer


A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias
Corsair by James L. Cambias
Count to a Trillion by John C. Wright
Diaspora by Greg Egan
Distress by Greg Egan
Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear
Rebirths of Tao by Wesley Chu
Satin Island by Tom McCarthy
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro


For reference, the Q1 summary is here.



“Karen Memory” by Elizabeth Bear

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

Elizabeth Bear gives us a really nice bit of Steampunk fantasy, gritty gold rush society with steam powered robots and airships (but no cars or telephones). Apparently the city licenses “invenrtors” and, at a higher grade, “Mad Scientists”.  The latter are prohibited from dueling with their dangerous contraptions amok in the center of the city

The plot involves dark doings in a fictional town in the Northwest at the time of the Alaska gold rush. Lot’s of colorful characters and wild behavior.

The title character (whose name is actually spelled “Memery”) is a very plucky young woman, who you’ll likely remember, along with the rest of her crew.

For me, Steampunk is something to be enjoyed sparingly, not a continuous diet. But the great thing about the genre is that it is more of a style than a category, and you can find almost anything there. I liked Bear’s fictional world, even though it makes little sense.

It almost goes without saying that the reason I liked the book is because it is well written, and I cared about the characters.

You’ll probably like it too.


  1. Elizabeth Bear, Karen Memory, New York, Tor, 2015.

Sunday Book Reviews