Monday, August 30, 2010

Brandywine Creek State Park - August 29, 2010

On Sunday August 29 I had the chance to get out and explore another section of the area that comprises the Woodlawn Tract and Brandywine Creek State Park. I have spent a decent amount of time roaming around various parts of the Woodlawn tract, but had not yet set foot in the Park itself. The tracks on the map are actually two different expeditions that day. In the morning, I took the girls with me for a little walk in the woods to get a geocache or two. That is the red track. We parked at the blue mark (west) and walked to the cache at the black mark (to the east). We followed the Northern Delaware Greenway along the creek, but then turned due east away from the creek and climbed into the woods along a nice trail up the hill. It was pretty hot with no air moving, and it was stuffy back in the woods, so a 1.4 mile hike, with some decent up and down the hill for little legs, was all I could talk them into.

After some time back at the house, I went back out by myself to try to find a cache or two in the southern part of the Park on the SW side of the creek. The first order of business was to try to pick up a puzzle cache, assuming that I had figured out the coordinates properly. I had, and the little diversion on the green track to the black mark accounts for fetching the puzzle.

The rest of the track is a more substantial hike (in a clockwise loop with some out-and-backs along the way), and shows me tracking down the three stages of a "multi" hidden here. Stage 1 is the northern of the three red marks, stage 2 is the easternmost, and the final stage is the southernmost. This little expedition made a nice 2 mile hike, and showed me some nice woodland scenery along the way. At one point on the most direct route between the second and third stages I was following a very overgrown side trail and not the main trail. I was considering going back and looping around on the main trail because it was getting so difficult to fight my way through waist high and chest high brambles, but in the best geocaching tradition, I had to keep "following the arrow" (on the gps unit..."target destination is that way"). While fighting through the worst of the undergrowth, I stumbled on the daytime nesting spot of a small group of deer, and almost jumped out of my skin when three or four deer exploded out of the brush not more than 10 or 15 feet from me and went bounding away through the woods. A cool experience, and the kind of thing that adds texture to what would otherwise be a fairly routine hour or so in the woods.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Geocaching Update

It has been a good last few weeks as far as geocaching accomplishments go. As my wife has learned, geocachers tend to be pretty geeky about collecting new accomplishments. This can be in the form of daily streaks, collecting new states, additional counties within states that you are trying to complete, or whatever. Over the past month or so, I have found caches in several new counties in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, found caches for the first time in Utah, Wyoming and Missouri, and have added onto various miscellaneous things that us geocachers keep track of.
The best thing of all, however, is that my younger daughter seems to really enjoy geocaching with me (as long as it is not too strenuous and not too hot!). On weekend days, she routinely asks if we are going out geocaching, and within the last week or so asked if I could create her own geocaching ID for her so that she could track her finds and her accomplishments separate from mine. With a minor investment of $30 and a few hours to backfill some records, we have accomplished that. And she is thrilled, which is great. So now when I set out on a little weekend geocaching jaunt, not only am I trying to run up some accomplishments for myself, but I have a dedicated sidekick with goals of her own. Being a parent is a non-stop series of unplanned and unexpected events, and geocaching has proven to be one of those for me and LittleCacherG.


As the days grow a little less oppressive here in suburban Philadelphia, the more my thoughts seem to turn towards the need to get out and do a serious day hike somewhere... Other than some geocaching, either by myself or with a daughter or two, I have not done any real hiking since the Pinchot Trail trip in late June. Part of this is certainly due to time commitments of work, family, et al, but probably more is related to the fact that it is just too darn hot to consider a serious hike when the temperatures are in the 90's and the humidity is high. Die hard outdoorsy types may be thumbing their noses at me at this point, but I hike for fun, and my idea of fun is not a sweat drenched sunstroke inducing slog in August in this climate.

All that being said, the temperatures should be moderating here soon, and there are a few prime hiking months on the immediate horizon. There are still a wide array of fantastic day hikes around here that I have not done, ranging from simple things like a return to Hawk Mountain during the fall migration, to more ambitious things like Ricketts Glen, or Holtwood on the Susquehanna River.

Whatever the ultimate destination, I definitely feel a change of seasons coming - hiking and outdoors in the Fall, before getting back to more hobby related things in the winter months. It certainly is safe to say that wanderlust is upon me...

Friday, August 27, 2010

Book Review - If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This

It seems I am on a short story reading binge, and the most recent collection completed is Robin Black's If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This. I am also on a good streak of excellent books, and this continues the streak. This is another effortless read, with good strong characters, very natural dialogue and interesting situations. Thematically it is similar to some other recent reads, with most of the stories being told from a woman's perspective and revisiting the well travelled ground of love and loss. I think Black approaches the material with enough fresh characters and situations to keep her stories from just being more of the same.

There are 10 stories in the collection, and I had a hard time picking favorites. "The Guide" is a story about a father and his blind daughter going to get a guide dog. "Pine" is about the aftermath of a husband's death, and the wife and daughter's lives afterward. "A Country Where You Once Lived" recounts a father's visit to England to see his estranged daughter and ex-wife for the first time in years. "The History of the World" tells the tale of an older woman divorcee and her twin brother's ill-fated vacation birthday trip to Italy. All are engaging stories full of memorable characters.

"Family life. Looking back, it seems like a dance. A four-person minuet comprised of steps toward and steps away, approaches and retreats, ending, finally, with each of them standing entirely alone." (p. 57)

"I don't think about Terry every day , anymore. And sometimes I'm stunned by that fact. It isn't only the discomfort of disloyalty I feel, it's the fact of utter disappearance after death. The idea that as loved as we may be, we may also be forgotten. If only for a day here and there." (pp. 219-220)

"The truth is that sometimes even more than a day goes by before I remember to think of my brother. It's only natural, I've told myself, time and time again. It's human nature, I've thought - as though there's consolation to be found in that. And maybe there is. Maybe it's a gift to be able to let go of the remembering. Some times. Some things." (p.221)

Excellent. 4.5 stars out of 5.

Books read this year: 18 [totalling 3,938 pages]
Books by new authors: 12 (including this)
Published in 2010: 10 (including this)
Classics: still 3

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Book Review - Memory Wall

My most recent literary conquest is Anthony Doerr's story collection Memory Wall. This is another one of those ones where I have taken the advice of reviewers on Amazon and tried something new. I certainly don't regret it. This collection, dealing with the theme of memory, remembrance, and the past, is one of the best books I have read this year. I have not read anything by Doerr previously, but will probably search out his earlier works based on this book. A few of the stories have a futuristic element, but not such a far stretch as to consider them pure science fiction. All are grounded in very real people struggling with the juxtaposition of their memories and the future. Of the six stories in the book, "Memory Wall", "Procreate, Generate", "The River Nemunas" and "Afterworld" were all memorable.

An interesting thought from "Memory Wall": "Memory builds itself without any clean or objective logic: a dot here, another dot here, and plenty of dark spaces in between. What we know is always evolving, always subdividing. Remember a memory often enough and you can create a new memory, the memory of remembering." [p. 71]

An evocative passage from "Procreate, Generate": "Outside the wind is flying down from the mountains, and there haven't been headlights on the road all night, and all Imogene can hear is the whirring of the dishwasher, and her husband's low sobbing, and the hot wind tearing through the sage." [p. 103]

And a passage that summarizes many of the central themes of the book, from "Afterworld": "Every hour, Robert thinks, all over the globe, an infinite number of memories disappear, whole glowing atlases dragged into graves. But during the same hour children are moving about, surveying territory that seems to them entirely new. They push back the darkness; they scatter memories behind them like bread crumbs. The world is remade." [p. 242]

4.5 stars out of 5.

Books read this year: 17 [totalling 3,670 pages]
New authors: 11 [including this]
Published in 2010: 9 [including this]
Classics: still 3

What to read next? Probably Robin Black's If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This.

Wyoming Side Trip - 8/18/2010

One of the little obsessions that some travellers in general, and certainly geocachers in particular, get wrapped up in is bagging new states. Never having been to Wyoming, and knowing that I was less than 50 miles from the border, I knew I had to try to find a way to get there...
With the evening of 8/18 not tied up with any particular group events, I took the opportunity to be antisocial and borrow a rented Jeep Cherokee from a friend and make a run for the border. The border of Wyoming that is. I had scoped out a handful of easy caches in the town of Evanston Wyoming, just over the state line on I-80. The drive to Wyoming was worth it in and of itself, passing beautiful mountains, geologic formations and other sights, such as Echo Lake, Utah.
Part of my archaeology degree in college was some geology training, and I am still fascinated by sights like this. Hard to imagine something much more different than the Philadelphia suburbs I am used to.
Welcome to Wyoming. I found all 6 caches I looked for in Wyoming, choked down a fast food dinner, and headed back to Park City. (Given two more hours of daylight, I would have continued north to Bear Lake Idaho. Darn...).

Sunset on the way home.
Big Sky country at dusk. It was so beautiful it was hard to pay attention to the road. Which reminds me... 75 mph speed limits are fun!
At the cost of one hour out, 30 minutes in Wyoming, and one hour back, I was able to visit a new state and get 6 geocaches in excess of 6,500 feet elevation. Call me a geek, but that's 3 hours well spent.

Park City, Utah - 8/17/2010 - Olympic Park

One of the highlights of the Utah trip was a visit to the Olympic Park, site of some of the events of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics of 2002. This location serves as a training facility for ski jumping, aerials, and sledding events like bobsled, luge and skeleton.

As you come in off the main road, you can see the ski jump hills carved into the side of the mountain.
Near the larger ski jump hills, there are a number of practice runs for aerials, the X-Games-ish combination of ski jumping and gymnastics, with twists and spins. In the summer, they can practice using slick plastic ramps and landing in pools of water. This is a safety feature while they work on perfecting their landings, water being softer than...well...just about anything else.

One of the coolest parts of the Park was the bobsled run. In the summer, modified bobsleds were open to the public as a ride. Professional drivers guided a 4-man sled down the concrete track with three passengers. The summer sleds were on wheels (not blades), and had roll bars and other safety features, but a run down the track still took about one minute, travelled at speeds of 70 mph, and created up to 4G forces in the curves. Park City is one of only two places in the world where civilians can ride a real bobsled track (Torino Italy being the other). Unfortunately, not being very good on twisty-turny amusement park rides, I sat out the bobsled ride. No guts, no glory... Oh well.
The top of the bobsled run. In winter, this super-smooth concrete would be covered with a very thin layer of ice and the sleds would run on blades. Parts of the same track were also used for luge and skeleton.

The view of the ski jumps from the base of the landing area. The cables overhead are the zipline. The zipline extended from a platform well above the top of the big hill to well beyond the bottom of the landing area. To ride the zipline, you were strapped into a harness seat and turned loose at the top, riding the cable to the bottom. I did do this! It was momentarily terrifying at the beginning when the chute doors first popped open at the top and the whole valley opened up before you, but it was unbelievably exhilarating.

Riders on the zipline.

Certainly not to be taken for granted, the view of the South Snyderville Basin from Olympic Park was amazing... As an aside, I grabbed a geocache hidden near turn 11 of the bobsled run, which at a little over 7,000 feet elevation turned out to be my highest cache yet.

The group had a great day hanging out on the mountain. It is always nice when there is time at a meeting like this to mix in a nice group activity, and this was one of the better ones I have ever been at.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Park City, Utah - 8/16-8/19/10

Four days this past week were spent at a regional meeting for work. The nice thing about this meeting, though, was that it was held in Park City, Utah, a ski resort town in the mountains about a half hour east of Salt Lake City. Everything about the area is just beautiful. I had to connect through Phoenix Arizona on the way out, so the approach to landing in SLC brought us up from due south and took us past Utah Lake and Provo, across part of the Great Salt Lake, and then looped around to land from the North. What amazing and bizarre scenery. Below is the view from the terminal, showing some of the 8,000-10,000 foot mountains that surround SLC, which is about 4,500 feet above sea level.

The hotel for our meeting was the Grand Summit Hotel at The Canyons resort. Our group had an unbelievable room rate, and it was a very nice hotel. You couldn't beat the views, as it was nestled on the side of a mountain at about 6,800 feet, with higher mountains behind it. The view below is from partway down the driveway, looking west.

The views below are from the balcony of my third floor room (which was on the back, mountain side, of the hotel), with resort condos to my left, and a gondola up to the top of the mountain off to my right. Obviously no skiing going on this time of year, but during the day the mountainsides were peppered with hikers and especially mountain bikers.

The view from the main entrance to the hotel (looking south along the main mountain ridge).

Of course, while in Utah for the first time, I had to grab a couple of geocaches, and was able to find three on a short walk Monday night after dinner while stretching my legs after a day of flying.

As beautiful as this area is in the summer, I can't imagine how much prettier it must be in winter. And how much more expensive...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Book Review - Molly Fox's Birthday

After getting home from a nice dinner out last night (more on that later) I finished Molly Fox's Birthday, by Deirdre Madden. I had a little trouble getting started on this one for whatever reason, but I am glad I kept at it, as I enjoyed it thoroughly once I got some momentum going. The novel is told from the perspective of a 40-ish woman playwright who is staying at her friend's house while the friend is away. The entire novel takes place over the course of one day, the birthday of the friend, Molly Fox, who is a famous stage actress. It is constructed of memories and reflections interwoven with events over the course of the day, and is really a character study of the narrator, Molly Fox, and their friend Andrew. It is a thoughtful and perceptive look into the lives of the three main characters and is a very worthwhile low-key read.

I found myself tagging more pages than I generally do. Here are a few passages...

"...And in spite of all this I believed that Andrew could be happy with her, because as Molly says, we all do get what we really want in life. We make a point of it, although sometimes we choose not to own it. Andrew wanted to be the adorer, not the adored; in any relationship he wanted to worship. Sometimes what we want is not in our own best interests. Sometimes we hunger for our own destruction." [p. 82]

"Meeting her had been a dispiriting experience, as it can so often be when one meets old friends. The initial delight, the sense of connection, and then the distancing, the unravelling of that connection as information is exchanged and it becomes clear why one hasn't stayed in touch. Defensiveness sets in, and it all ends in melancholy when one is alone again." [p. 106]

"The closer you get to Molly, the more she seems to recede. Sometimes she seems like a figure in a painting, the true likeness of a woman, but as you approach the canvas the image breaks up, becomes fragmented into the colors, the brushstrokes and the daubs of paint from which the thing itself is constructed. Only by withdrawing can the illusion be effected again." [p. 126]

"Friendship is more tragic than love. It lasts longer." [p. 175]

4.5 stars out of 5; heartily recommended.

Books read in 2010: 16 [totalling 3,428 pages]
New authors: 10 [including this]
Published in 2010: 8 [including this; published in 2008 in England, this is the first US edition]
Classics: still 3

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Eight Point Buck

While waiting to go out to a nice dinner with my wife, brother and sister in law, I saw this guy moving along the woodline behind my house and was able to get this one picture before he bolted into the woods. We see does and little ones constantly, but rarely a buck in daylight. This nice eight point white tail is the biggest I have seen from my deck...
He was trailing a small group of at least two or three does and several of this year's young, which still have their white spots and look like something straight out of a Disney movie.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Book Review - Point Omega

Over the course of the last day or so I breezed through Don DeLillo's latest novel, Point Omega. At 117 pages, it's a thin little book, and it was an easy read, but I have to admit that I'm not sure I get the point. There's an odd 15 pages at the beginning, and an odd 15 pages at the end, sandwiching a brief and bleak story in the middle. The story was well written, with some beautiful if stark passages, but it didn't have much of a soul. The characters' motivations were not apparent to me, and the plot, such as it was, just kind of fizzled out. There were some interesting bits of philosophy mixed in, and comments on the nature of time, but not enough to hang even a small book on. I suppose this is one of those "making a point" books that is not meant to be plot or character driven, but I'm honestly not sure what the point was that it was trying to make. Obviously, there were some points being made about the Iraq war and post 9/11 America, but they were so obliquely made as to be ineffective to me. It felt more like a point of view was starting to be made about these issues and then just fell by the wayside without ever being drawn to a conclusion. That being said, I am sure there are those out there who would make the case that I just didn't get the book, which I readily admit is possible if not likely. As always with DeLillo though, there were some great bits of writing.

"...I'm not talking about secrets or deceptions. I'm talking about being yourself. If you reveal everything, bare every feeling, ask for understanding, you lose something crucial to your sense of yourself. You need to know things the others don't know. It's what no one knows about you that allows you to know yourself." [p. 66]

It's hard to give this book a rating at this point, but maybe 3.5 stars out of 5. Maybe a little further thought will provide more clarity. Maybe not.

Books read in 2010: 15 [totalling 3,207 pages]
New authors: 9
Books published in 2010: 7 [including this]
Classics read: still 3

I haven't decided what to read next.

Midyear Goals Review

I was reading back through some old posts last night, and it occurred to me that I should go back and check on what I had hoped to accomplish this year, and see how I was doing against those goals. Without having actively tried to address these, I was pleased to see that I have done a pretty good job of accomplishing them. If that tells me anything, it is that what I selected as goals were things that actually mattered to me..
  • Fishing - Good. I have been out several times this year with the family, and will get out more.
  • Canoeing - Bad. Have not done this yet again, but did go kayaking once on the Sassafras with Dave, so that counts a little bit I guess.
  • Hiking regularly - Good. Have been out a number of times, primarily on my own, and often as part of geocaching outings. As the heat of summer fades, I expect to get out as much as possible.
  • Fight my inner introvert - A work in progress.
  • Wargaming Napoleonics - Pretty good. I think there is light at the end of the tunnel on getting involved in this period again. We played a game of LaSalle a while ago, and it went well. It seemed to meet what I was looking for in terms of a nice balance between playability and proper period feel. It was fun enough that I have begun to purchase more figures for the period and re-basing much of what I have.
  • Not get hung up on hobby planning - Hard to answer this one. I haven't gotten hung up on "what I should be doing", but part of that is because I have not been very active in hobby stuff at all over the last few months. Summer is always difficult with family commitments and outdoor stuff. Historicon was energizing, and I do want to get back to painting soon. Historicon also made me appreciate Day of Battle again, as the game I ran was a lot of fun, and I hadn't played it for a while.
  • Live in the moment - doing ok, but a work in process. This is another one of those goals that is a reminder, but not something you ever really finish.
  • Take a real vacation - Haven't done this. Need to think about it.
  • Overnight backpacking trip - Accomplished this (and blogged on it ad nauseum).
  • Dedicated painting area - Done. It is nice to have this, and it does help in providing the flexibility to steal a couple of minutes of painting here and there which might not otherwise be easy to do if constant setup and take down were required.
  • Painting itself - I did not really have a specific goal for actually painting itself, but if I did, it would be a dismal failure. I have not touched a brush in months. I am fine with this, as there has been a lot of other good stuff going on. Painting for me is almost always more of a non-summer activity anyway.
  • Simplify my life - Hmm. Maybe life just isn't meant to be simple.

I also had a set of fiction reading goals that are simpler to measure:

  • Read 10 books by authors new to me - Good. I have 9 already.
  • Read 10 books published in 2010 - Good. I have 6 so far, and am halfway through a 7th.
  • Read a couple of classics - Done. I have read 3 by Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Anything else is a bonus.
  • Read 30 books - Pretty good. There was a reading binge in the spring followed by no real activity in the summer. I have read 14 books to this point, which would put me in the low 20's and well off my goal, but books do come in bunches for me, and this was directional - it's not about hitting a number.

So, two-thirds of the way through the year, that's where I am...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Book Review - What is Left the Daughter

After a three month fiction hiatus, during which time I've read a lot of history, I finally got around to another novel; What is Left the Daughter, by Howard Norman. I picked this one up as part of my ongoing desire to read more good fiction books as they are published, and got this on the strength of good reviews on Amazon. I haven't read anything by Norman before, but his earlier books have been well received, and I certainly was not disappointed. Reading the synopsis, I thought I would enjoy the book, as it sounded like the kind of subject matter that would interest me.

I won't go into a long plot review or anything of the sort (that can be seen by following the link above). The story, in a nutshell, is told from the point of view of a man writing a long letter to the daughter he hasn't seen since childhood. Most of the book takes place in the eastern maritime provinces of Canada during World War II and the years immediately following. For whatever reason I gravitate towards books that most would probably describe as melancholy; lost loves, people dealing with tragic events, all that cheerful kind of stuff. This book certainly has that. Concurrent suicides of the man's parents, who both fell in love with the same neighbor woman. The murder of an innocent. A child conceived out of wedlock where the woman was the love of the man's life but the opposite was not true. The mother and daughter moving to Europe. Loves complicated by distance, time and events. But despite the trials and tribulations, the tragedies and loss, a hopeful ending. Which is how it should be.

Norman's style is an absolutely effortless read. The pages fly by. I liked and sympathized with the characters, the plot moved along, and I was thoroughly engrossed; the 243 pages went by in 3 evenings.

"Friendship is have to keep earning it. Back and forth, give the gift that's only each other's to give." [p. 79]

"It's common wisdom, but a rare actual experience in life, that if you find someone you can truly talk with, you can love that person." [p. 215]

4.5 stars out of 5. One of my favorites so far this year.

Books read this year: 14 [totalling 3,090 pages]
New authors: 9 [Norman is new]
Published in 2010: 6 [includes this]
Classics: still 3

Next up...I don't know. But I have to start another novel tonight - this one has energized me!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

...a Minor Addition

The one thing that the Wikipedia entry on Derek Trucks forgot to mention is that apparently in and around a very busy touring and recording schedule, he did manage to find time to fight in the Battle of Helms Deep in the second Lord of the Rings movie. He didn't have all that much screen time in this movie (or the first one, in which he also appeared), but he did have a great death scene. ;)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Derek Trucks

I have discovered (for me at least), a new musical act I just can't get enough of. I used the term "man love" to a friend, which was met with a healthy burst of laughter (understandably), but I fear it's true. I have to admit, I have a thing for Derek Trucks. And I'll tell you how it happened...

I have always been a huge fan of Eric Clapton. I really like the blues-rock stuff that Clapton has done, and as he has gotten older and the idea of commercial success seems to have become less and less important to him, he has delved deeper and deeper into the blues influences that are so important to him. This has been reflected in the lineups of acts that have been a part of the benefit concerts that he has done in 2004 and 2007 to benefit the Crossroads Center, a non-profit addiction center he has been a part of. Crossroads 2004 was in Texas, and Crossroads 2007 was in Chicago.

Recently, my wife spotted an ad for Crossroads 2010, which was held in Chicago in June 2010. A DVD of the concert (I have the other two) was set for release in the Fall, but a 2-hour highlights version was going to play in a limited number of theaters nationally for one night, for one show. [It is interesting how an 11 hour concert can turn into a 4 hour DVD, which can in turn be abbreviated to a 2 hour movie...]. We got together with a neighbor couple and went to see the show, which was great to see on a large screen and a good sound system.

The show itself could be the subject of a post by itself, but the single best song in the theater version of the concert for me was Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi performing a song called Midnight in Harlem. I left the theater captivated by the guitar line, as simple as it was, and the haunting melody. At this point all I knew about Derek Trucks was from brief conversations with brother Dave. Having had the previous Crossroads discs playing in the background at various times around the house over the years, I knew that the blond ponytail guy in the background of some ensemble numbers was named Derek Trucks and that according to Dave he was a guitarist for the Allman Brothers Band. When I got home from the Crossroads 2010 show, I needed to know more.

As with Carole King a few months ago, I was amazed at what I learned when I started to do a little research. I won't go into a whole biography here (as usual, Wikipedia has a good one...). To summarize, Trucks bought his first acoustic guitar at age 9, was playing in travelling bands at the age of 10 (yes 10), formed the Derek Trucks Band at the age of 15, and currently at the ripe old age of 31 is considered by many to be one of the greatest living electric slide guitarists. He has had his own band for 16 years (and a bunch of albums), is the main guitarist for the Allman Brothers Band, and has toured with all sorts of people, including a 2006 tour with Eric Clapton. The Derek Trucks Band is currently on hiatus, and he has a new band with his wife called (creatively) the Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks Band. Go figure....

My descent into temporary madness can be tracked from Midnight in Harlem on Crossroads 2010, back through Anyday on Crossroads 2007, to an Amazon purchase last week. Anyday has always been a favorite song of mine off the Layla and other Assorted Love Songs album by Derek and the Dominoes (Eric Clapton). I think I like DT's version from CR' 07 better than the original. Poking through some reviews and seeing what was readily available, my Amazon purchase consisted of 1993's Joyful Noise, 2009's Already Free, 2010's live Roadsongs, and the 2006 live DVD Songlines Live.

Joyful Noise is a good album if a bit raw (which is a good thing). Roadsongs and Songlines Live are absolutely terrific. But the gem here is Already Free. This album is a magnificent blend of Blues, Blues-Rock, World Music, Jazz Fusion, and bits of all sorts of other things. 8 out of the 12 songs were co-written by Trucks. The remainder are a nice choice of selections from others, including a cover of Bob Dylan's Down in the Flood. This CD hasn't left the CD player in my car since it arrived in the mailbox and I played it for the first time. If you think you would like a guitar virtuoso playing this kind of music (and brother Dave, I do mean you...), if you do nothing else I ever ask of you...BUY THIS ALBUM. You won't regret it. I promise. Watch the YouTube video I have linked in above for Midnight in Harlem. If you like this even a little bit, trust me...

Pardon the fawning, but I love music of all sorts, and finding something new (for me) that I like this much is an exhilarating feeling. It doesn't happen all that often, but when it does, I have to share it...

Book Review - The Art of War in Italy, 1494-1529

Over the past couple of weeks, I have read the book The Art of War in Italy, 1494-1529 by F. L. Taylor. I have the Classic Reprint Series edition by Forgotten Books, published in 2009, which is a facsimile reprint of a work originally published in 1921.

As I have noted in a prior post, I have a growing interest in this period, but know very little about it. With that in mind, I need to find some books to read through to expand my very limited knowledge. This seemed like a reasonable place to start, as I have seen this book mentioned elsewhere. Overall, I think it served as a useful overview of warfare in the period, and did a pretty good job of describing the changing roles of infantry, cavalry and artillery, especially with respect to the ways in which the French, Italians, Germans and Spanish took different approaches to things. Varying strategies and tactics of the various nationalities were reviewed, and a number of different battles were summarized. As a follow on to my very limited readings to date (Osprey Campaign series books on Fornovo and Pavia and their Landsknecht books, as well as Arnold's Renaissance Warfare book), I thought this was a good next step.

The one thing that concerns me a little bit about this book, and only time and further reading will tell, is that my lack of knowledge prevents me from knowing whether the fact that this book is 90 years old has rendered its interpretations and conclusions flawed or out-of-date. Perhaps modern scholarship has invalidated some of what Taylor lays out in this book; at this point I have no way of knowing whether that is true. I guess there is only one way to find out - read more!