I read through some League of Extraordinary Gentlemen that Jason lent me. As usual, comics never get me all that excited, but there were enjoyable portions here and there. I confess that I found the most enjoyable thing to be the vintage-style ads. They (and some of the letters to the editor) capture the diction and flavor of the 19th century so much better than the actual comic.
I also finished reading another book Jason lent us, The Etched City, by K.J. "utterly-failing-to-disguise-her-gender-b
It's a fantasy novel set in an interesting world that's somewhat sketchily drawn apart from the portions that the author is particularly interested in. But an interesting world it is, one where magic is present, but not as a cliche. I found the first 50 pages or somewhat poorly written, and the overall structure is a bit awkward, but I definitely found that the writing improves throughout the book and the entire ride was worth some bumpiness at the start.
Ok, enough book reviews for the moment. I flew up on Sunday to San Jose to give my little speechy-speech on the market for lasers in bioinstrumentation at Photonics West, although my talk was actually at the associated Laser & Optoelectronics Marketplace Seminar.
I was fortunate enough to have some splendid relatives up there, so I stayed with my aunt Franny [since she still calls me Mikey, I can call her Franny] and uncle Don in San Jose. They fixed lasagna for dinner, and had a bunch of cousins there as well. When I grew up in San Jose, all us cousins got together all the time for birthdays and stuff, but now we see each other less frequently. Tom was there with his wife and newborn son, Aidan. Jim was there with his girlfriend, Michelle. That completes the Bowen clan. And Patty Fairchild came down from Stanford, where she works as a nurse in the neonatal ICU. It was a great dinner and a lot of catching up was done.
I wish more of the relatives had made it, but that wasn't in the cards. Uncle Dave is somewhat set in his ways, and 'little' Dave is downright reclusive. I haven't seen either of them in years and years. Kathy and her husband Greg have also been sticking closer to home. Both their children have been diagnosed as autistic, and I think they're self-conscious about taking the kids to new places.
Anyway, Monday morning, I suited up and headed for the convention. My speech went relatively smoothly, with maybe 120 people in the audience. I flub-fuhed a few times, but managed to get back on track. Some of the other talks were also interesting. A guy from Sony was there talking about Blu-Ray Disc, which is probably going to be the successor to DVD, with enough room to store movies in HDTV format. Another person had some nifty photos of medical lasers in use, searing flesh and performing painless dentistry. And there were a lot of other boring presentations... like mine. I got as much applause as anyone else, so it can't have been too bad.
After the show, I got together with Tom, Jim and Michelle and had dinner at a Gordon Biersch brewpub. The place was packed for a Monday night. I guess laser people like good beer.
Tuesday, I chatted a bit more with Fran and Don, and helped them install their new refrigerator that was delivered while I was there. Then I went for a quick pass by the Rosicrucian Museum, which is clearly the world's best museum run by a wacky hermetic mystical fraternal order. If I were at all conspiracy minded, I might wonder about H. Spencer Lewis, the first Imperator of the Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis...
*Why* is his name so similar to that of Lewis Spence?
*What* is the relationship between Spence, Reuss and Crowley, (and thus the Rosicrucians, the Ordo Templi Orientis and Astrum Argenteum)?
And *why* does Lewis, who hunted the Near East for fabulous treasures, so closely resemble Mr. Gutman, who craved a certain falcon crafted by Templars in days of yore? Add the fez, and they are as alike as Akbar and Jeff.
Anyway... I remember the Rosicrucian Museum fondly from when I visited it as a kid. About the only thing I remember from that trip is the recreation of an Egyptian tomb. It's still very impressive, but there's a lot of other good stuff there as well. They have an excellent section on Mesopotamian stuff, and a lot of wonderful little statues and other artifacts, in addition to some well-chosen reproductions of famous artifacts like the Rosetta Stone and the Code of Hammurabi.
And there's the mummies of course.
While I was there, there were a number of groups of schoolchildren going through the museum. The boys would run to the mummies and shout "COOL!!!" The girls would run to the mummies and go "EWWWW!" The girls were also rendered very giggly by one of the lesser-known forms of Thoth. One of the girls called over some boys to check it out, and their faces turned a funny shade of red.
Which sorta reminds me of the book I started reading after The Etched City... American Gods by Neil Gaiman. It was something of a coincidence to be at the Rosicrucian Museum the same day that I was reading about Mr. Ibis and Mr. Jacquel, the undertakers in Cairo, Illinois. Anyway, like most Gaimain I've read from Sandman to this, I remain underwhelmed. His attempts at subtle allusion are similar to being struck by a brickbat.
Awright, end of third book review. To the airport, on a plane, back home, safe and sound. Tada. Fin.
PS Oh, the annual Antiquarian Book Fair will be at the LAX Marriott soon. I'll be there on Saturday, I think.