March 8th, 2012

Weber, Jemisin reviews

_A Rising Thunder_, David Weber's latest Honor Harrington novel, is the 13th book in the main series. The first one -- _On Basilisk Station_ -- came out in 1993, which means I've been reading these books for slightly less than half of my lifetime. When I first started reading them, I was looking for more science fiction ideally written by female authors, but, at a minimum, with strong female characters by which I meant goes-out-and-commits-mostly-appropriate-violence-with-gusto-with-a-strong-moral-core/integrity. I'm still reading, for basically the same reasons.

According to the wikipedia entry for this latest entry, it ran long and was split in the middle, with the second half (possibly _Shadow of Freedom_) lacking a release date, at least in the rumorverse I have access to.

As I note with many series books I read, this isn't a good one to drop in on. It _might_ work as a standalone novel, but I frequently wish I'd reread some of the earlier (and ancillary!) books to refresh my memory of the characters when a new one comes out so I have my doubts.

The action in this entry largely pursues implications of Haven and Manticore discovering the shenanigans of Mesa/The Mesan Alignment and the Solarian League starting to creakily implode. As long-time enemies, Haven and Manticore have lots in common. As long-time friends, Beowulf has more in common with Manticore than the Solarian League. And everyone who believes in the threat of the nano-tech zombie thingie is quite happy to turn on a dime to address The Real Danger.

Conspiracy plots are always a little tricky, but if you've made it this far in the series, you really have no excuse for complaining about them at this point, amirite? Have fun; I always do.

_The Broken Kingdoms_ is the second book in the Inheritance Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin and, as one of my kind readers pointed out, is not a let down. No it is not. Wow. Blind painter's dad is

HEY! If you are here from google, I believe in SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS RUN AWAY ARGH!

stoned on that fateful day when Yeine died/sort of ascended (not Jemisin's terminology but sort of hard not to adopt) to fill the goddess-hood formerly occupied by Enefra. Ten years later, Oree is in Shadow (that city below Sky) and pulls a man she eventually names Shiny out of the muck. Shiny's a lot weird: he dies frequently, but always resurrects and he glows every morning at dawn. And when he defends mortals, he acquires a shit-load of powers. Guess who Shiny is. Yes, and he's every bit as much of a jackass as we all suspected, which is tough thing to depict and, stupendously, Oree is genuinely appealing without becoming an idiot, a cartoon, or a tool, even as she continues to protect? Help? Try to befriend? Shiny. Oree's motives are consistently unpredictable without feeling contrived.

Oree's life started out pretty weird and it just gets weirder as it goes along. Godlings die. Lord T'vril attempts to enslave her (in a really nice way). A creepy sect worshipping Bright Itempas keeps killing Shiny (oh, that is so strange). We learn more about the continent destroyed by the Nightlord AND about demons.

As a person who has written a (thankfully never attempted to publish) fantasy novel in which the protagonist can "see" magic (my protagonist wasn't blind, tho), I have a small idea of how tough it is to do this without hollowing out the character and depriving of her of any real self: such a character is a persistent temptation to infodump, to jeopardize, a persistently valuable pawn, blah, blah, bleeping blah. Jemisin handily avoided all the problems AND resisted what must have been a powerful temptation to goddess-ify (I was going to use incarnate and decided against it) Oree. I am very much in awe, and looking forward to the next book (altho a little bummed by the idea that this is a trilogy, rather than an open ended series) and, after that, trying some of her other books.

Jemisin has a nice touch with attachment issues, so it's more or less inevitable that I like her work, even when she's totally creeping me out. I hope you enjoy it as well, but it's hard to be sure.

Our Ancestors Lived in History

I first started telling myself what I summarize in the subject line when I was researching my raised-Mennonite grandfather. It was a really wonderfully productive realization, because my particular group of Mennonites (commonly referred to as "Russian Mennonites") was quite small and inter-related when they arrived in North America and, for a variety of reasons, interesting enough to generate some academic work and prolific enough to generate a bunch of genealogical and more amateur-historic work.

Once I understood where they came from, I could then track the history of that larger group, their arrival from Prussia and how they got to Prussia, knowing that even if I couldn't track the individuals, I had high confidence that a large number of the people being described were my ancestors because the community was so insular over such a long period of time. I could associate certain surnames with certain divisions within the Mennonites and track those groups, even when I couldn't trace with any certainty the individuals I was directly descended from versus their siblings and so forth.

However, history is populated by the ordinary as well as the distinctive. Google books can somewhat randomly help find biographical information about disctinctively named and/or particularly noteworthy individuals, which is fun. But I recently decided to attempt to apply to my recent Frisian immigrants what I had been doing for a while to my Mennonite migrations.

With that in mind, I went back to Hein's passenger record. He is on the top of a page in the middle of the list and on the line below him is a young man named Jan Visser whose birthplace is listed as Achlum and whose father is listed as still living there. I've tried to find Jan Visser (or his father, whose first initial is supplied) in the civil registry but so far to no avail (this is not as surprising as it might seem; Jan Visser is a profoundly common Dutch name).

I looked further down the page, noticing that some surnames were familiar, but they were common ones which I had noticed in the past. In the intervening months since I had last looked at the page, however, I'd spent a lot of hours deciphering village names and identifying them on maps. This time, I didn't see a lot of Dutch names from a lot of difficult to decipher towns and villages. I saw a lot of Frisian names from a lot of Frisian villages, many familiar from my tree, and many others familiar because they weren't that far from villages in my tree.

How many Frisian immigrants to the United States had there been?

When I first went to visit my family in the Netherlands, I stayed at a hostel in Amsterdam and asked the kind people at the front desk to go over my planned train journey to Veenwouden (which I now know to be on the wrong side of Leeuwarden from all the now familiar ancestral villages) to make sure I hadn't screwed up. Their initial reaction was surprise: that's a place people leave, not a place people go to. I'd spent years assuming they meant, people leave small towns like Veenwouden to go to big cities like Amsterdam, just like so many communities emptied out in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as part of urbanization.

Turns out they might not have just meant that.

Here's the list of communities (last residence) from the page in the passenger list that starts with my great-uncle:

Achlum (2 lines) (Friesland)
Oenkerk (3 lines) (Friesland)
Schingen (2 lines) (Friesland)
Leeuwarden (Friesland)
Usguerd (modern name is Usguert and it's in Groningen)
Apeldoorn (Gelderland)
Almelo (3 lines) (Overijssel)
Haren (the one in Groningen, surely, since the contact is an uncle living in Groningen)
Plymouth (USA)
Minnertsga (2 lines)(Hein's brother Sjoerd married a woman from this town)
Seattle (USA)
Elberfeld (Germany)
Goenga (with an umlaut over the e) (Friesland)
Berlikum (2 lines) (Friesland)
Oajeuniski (Russia) (3 lines)
Groningen (2 lines)
Uithuizen (like Usguert above, in Groningen, combined into something called Hefshuizen which was then name changed to Eemsmond)

Over a third of the page is from Friesland (13 out of 30 lines). Groningen is the next province east and that accounts for another 5 lines (bringing us to 18 out of 30). The guy in Plymouth, USA I'm having a lot of trouble making out the contact address for his uncle, but the guy's name is Jacob Tolsma and his uncle is Ch. Postma, and I don't know if it is possible to come up with more distinctively Frisian surnames than those. Which brings me to 2/3rds of the page.

I don't want to oversell this. I'm by no means suggesting that most of the passengers on this boat were Frisian. But this is a bigger batch than I expected and the group sizes are small (some singletons and no big families).

How many of the people who left Friesland went to the US?

What I wanted was a historical atlas of Friesland, showing population patterns, or possibly a historical atlas of the Netherlands, with times series for each province so you could see patterns of population growth and movement. _That_ was going to be asking a lot (and I did realize if I could find it at all, it probably wouldn't be in English). I did stumble across some really amazing stuff about historical atlases that may or may not turn out to be useful, but wouldn't help with this particular problem.

What I _found_ was _Frisians to America 1880-1914: with the Baggage of the Fatherland_ by Annemieke Galema, which almost certainly won't have any information about my grandfather and great-uncle and my great-uncle's friend Jan, but may be able to let me trace more distant relatives who drop out of the civil registry, not because they died too recently to be in genlias/allefriezen, but because they got on a boat and came to the United States.

A detailed review can be found here:

I also picked up some other books about Friesland (research isn't an art or a science: it's a reflex) while I was at it. If they turn out to be useful, I'll mention them later.

complaining about the TV machine

I've been watching Keene's show at noon on Bloomberg on and off for a while, now. Mr. Bow-Tie is entertaining, in part because he has guests on with wildly varying views on the intersection of economics and politics, and he has them on for a large chunk of the hour -- interrupted by other coverage -- and he doesn't _just_ let them yammer on. It's a good format and I wish more people used it.

That said, he has Charles Dumas on from Lombard Street Research (don't bother with wikipedia because he doesn't seem to have a page) today. Dumas has been anti-Euro all along, and was recently hired by a Dutch political party ( to produce a report on how much the Euro has cost the Netherlands.

The leader of that party ( commissioned the report as part of a larger effort to get the Netherlands back on the guilder.

So, to recap: a politician (and a pretty nutty one) with a Fixed Idea hired a researcher with roughly the same Fixed Idea to produce a report on that Fixed Idea to then air in a legislative context in an effort to push political debate while the larger group was in the middle of figuring out how to cut the budget to come in line with a larger austerity plan.

Feels weirdly familiar, so I guess any ideas I had that the Netherlands are the Promised Land of Left Wing Sanity have been finished off. What I can't figure out is why Mr. Bow Tie is treating any of the people involved in this seriously. But then, I can _never_ figure out why predominantly British commentators who have been anti-Euro for over a decade (and preaching doom and gloom the whole time) keep getting air time _anywhere_.

Rumors about the Justice Department and the Agency Model

I recognize there's a lot of loose talk about how Amazon is a monopoly and how if we let them control, well, everything, then, well, bad things might happen. More specifically, the idea seems to be that if we pay cheap prices for stuff at Amazon now, then everyone else will go out of business and Amazon will charge us more later. So to avoid that Dread Fate we should, I guess, pay more for things now.

Or something involving ePub as a standard. I don't really understand it all.

The iPad -- when it was still a har de har har terrible name choice and not the subject of a massive trademark dispute involving the seizure of goods in China -- was released along with the iBookstore, and with that came the "Agency Model" of pricing. That is, instead of companies buying books and then selling them for whatever the heck they felt like selling them for, companies took delivery of books which still belonged to the publisher and sold them on a consignment model in which the publisher set the price and the "retailer" took specified cut (in this case, 30%).

When this happened, there was much ha ha we showed them/Apple will save the publishing industry and other loose talk, also, a disagreement between Amazon and Macmillan that resulted in Macmillan books (p-form and e-form) not being available for sale for a brief period of time on Amazon.

Along with the other talk, there were people commenting that the behavior of Apple and 5 of the Big 6 publishers looked kinda illegal, specifically, it looked like collusion with the goal of raising prices, which might be monopolistic.

The Wall Street Journal seems to be the main source for the current rash of articles suggesting that US and European regulators are contemplating taking action. Needless to say, no one is commenting officially, with their names attached, altho there is a consolidated class action suit in progress as well. Coverage at WSJ is by Thomas Catan and Jeremy Trachtenberg and appears not to be behind a paywall.

The Justice Department didn't limit itself to the price issue, however. "Among the issues that the Justice Department has examined is the effort by three publishers involved in the probe to "window" e-books in late 2009, according to people familiar with the matter."

I wish I hung out with someone who was going to the cocktail parties where this stuff was being dished. Trying to decipher this kind of coverage from afar is so uncertain.

ETA: As usual, Nate's commentary is worth reading: