Oregon Coast: Day One

We left our hotel in Portland at 7:20 AM on Monday, June 17th of 2019, and headed West through Beaverton on Highway 26, turning South on the Necanicum Highway so that we could connect with Highway 101 (the Oregon Coast Highway) in Nehalem, OR.

We arrived at our initial destination shortly before 10 AM and began climbing the snaking incline of the Neah-Kah-Nie Mountain trail in order to gain an elevated view of the Pacific coast. Our climb was more abbreviated than any of us would have liked, due to the other stops we wanted to make during that day’s adventure. Someday I hope to return and complete the climb.

Our next stop on the route North was the Cape Falcon trailhead. Just before Noon, we made our way to a sheltered beach where numerous surfers were enjoying the morning’s waves.

Photos from this first part of the day are featured above.

Our next stop was Cannon Beach. We arrived there and made our way to the beautiful, sandy beach around 12:30 PM. We’d been here previously in June of 2017 as well, and I’d been there on another vacation in June of 2014. It’s a lovely little town, but the feature I–and presumably most visitors–came to see was Haystack Rock, protruding only a short distance from the shore.

Photos of Haystack Rock are included above.

We stopped for lunch before venturing further North.

Our next stop was Fort Stevens State Park. Clouds had started rolling in and the day was turning gray. It was shortly after 3 PM when we visited the Jetty Observation Tower at the edge of the park, enjoying the view and witnessing some harbor seals poking up here and there amidst the waves.

We spent a period of time exploring the remains of the wreckage of the Peter Iredale. I hope to return there someday around sunset, as I can’t help but suspect the wreckage would make for a fantastic bit of foreground with the proper sunset over the Pacific behind it.

Photos from that part of our journey are located above.

The final stop of the day was in Astoria, OR where we climbed the stairs within the Astoria Column. The spiral staircase ascending the center of the circular column is an interesting experience, in and of itself. You can feel the vibrations of every footfall from those ascending and descending while you’re on those metal stairs. It’s a long way up–or down.

The views from the platform at the apex are astounding, allowing clear sights of the Columbia River’s mouth where its water mingles with the Pacific Ocean. The hilly neighborhoods of Astoria are laid out before you and you can follow the path of Astoria-Megler Bridge as it traverses the Columbia River and leads Highway 101 into Washington where it continues its own path North almost to the tip of the Olympic Peninsula.

I’ve included some of the photos from that magnificent landmark above.

It was almost 6 PM when we left Astoria and began our return trip to Portland, following the contours of the Columbia River as it meanders along the border between Oregon and Washington. It was close to 8 PM when we returned to our hotel room and settled in for the night.


Randomize by Andy Weir: Narrated by Janina Gavankar

Andy Weir’s Randomize is a fascinating exploration of the superficial topics regarding advancements in and increasing availability of quantum computing devices as well as the impact those things could have on a world not yet prepared for those things. More than that–and the saving grace of the story–it’s a layered story about predictability vs. unpredictability and human nature. That human element is the important thing to focus on.
There’s a lot to unpack in this short story about the capacity to apply pattern recognition to things with seemingly no patterns.
The science behind the technology in this story is lacking in several ways, but that’s often going to be the case in fiction. I’ve grown accustomed to overlooking those elements to enjoy the stories I read regularly. It does sort of invalidate the premise underpinning the whole narrative if you pick away at it too much.
I rather like the final message I took away from the story, in that it wasn’t the highly advanced computational device that got the protagonists/antagonists what they wanted, but the computational abilities of a brilliant human mind. There’s a moral to this morally questionable tale, in that a great piece of advanced technology will never be half as useful without a similarly great mind behind the operation.
Janina Gavankar’s narration is effective, especially in her portrayal of Sumi Singh.

You Have Arrived At Your Destination by Amor Towles: Narrated by David Harbour

You Have Arrived At Your Destination by Amor Towles is, in my opinion, the weakest of the installments in the Forward collection assembled by Blake Crouch.
The story proposes an interesting premise regarding eugenics, the effects of combined nature and nurture on our offspring, evaluation of one’s life in retrospect, self-determination, and relationship dynamics. Sadly, that premise full of promise seems to peter out and go not too far at all.
It could be the author’s intention to have tossed several potential red herrings into the narrative for the purpose of making the reader/listener assume they know where it might be going from this point or that, but ultimately it led to a fairly disappointing overall experience. I’m not otherwise familiar with the author, beyond having heard that they’re quite well-respected for other material they’ve written…so I might have a greater appreciation for what they were attempting if I had a better handle on the author’s style as a whole.
We join our protagonist at a pivotal moment in his life, as he’s faced with one of the most important decisions of his life. He and his wife are considering an enhanced version of family planning, but it all appears to be too much for him. That’s it. That’s how one could sum up the story, and that’s precisely what I’m going to do.
The narration of the audiobook by David Harbour is great. His voice works particularly well for the middle-aged protagonist and the slick, salesman pitching the offerings from his company. That narration alone is the thing that makes the audiobook worthwhile…but that’s about all it had going for it.

Sunset At Cape Flattery

I’d first learned of picturesque Cape Flattery–the Northwestern most point of the lower 48 states–from my friend Charles, while he was visiting the Black Hills during the summer of 2016. I wasn’t able to visit the location for myself until the following summer, and I immediately fell in love.

We returned to the Pacific Northwest in June of 2019.

On Tuesday, June 25th we left Port Angeles and headed West shortly before 6 PM. The drive along the Northern edge of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula is a lovely drive, but a long one. It wasn’t until shortly after 8 PM that we arrived at the trailhead to begin the short trek to Cape Flattery.

We arrived in time to enjoy the scenery before we lost the light. The photos above were taken as we initially settled in to await the coming sunset.

Other groups of people came and went, most returning to where they’d parked at the trailhead before darkness descended upon the forest. We stuck it out until we’d been embraced by full dark. We’d carried high-power flashlights with us in anticipation of making our way back to our parked vehicle after nightfall.

The sky ignited with an absolutely beautiful sunset just beyond the not-so-distant island and the lighthouse located there. Photos I’d taken as the sunset lit up the sky are below. It was almost as beautiful when we were no longer able to see anything without a light source. The sound of waves crashing against the cliff face and stone far below us was peaceful and relaxing.

We began the return trip to Port Angeles shortly before 10 PM, and we returned to our hotel room around Midnight.

And Hell Followed: An Anthology

I hate trying to review anthologies.

Most of the time, I’ll rate them and leave it at that, but it also means I’m left with a lot of my reading material never receiving the review it deserves. I’m going to try to get better about that.

Death’s Head Press decided the Christian apocalypse–as popularized by The Book of Revelation, that hallucinatory bit of end times fan fiction John the Revelator got included in the Bible–would make for a fitting topic. They weren’t wrong.

It’s an uneven anthology, but it’s challenging to find one that maintains a certain tone throughout, so that’s not a fault. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature…so to speak. Whatever sort of horror you might be in the mood for, there’s something in this book for you.

We’ve got stories that are heartbreaking and strangely touching like Chris Miller’s Behind Blue Eyes and Godless World by Michelle Garza & Melissa Lason (The Sisters of Slaughter).

There’s sacrilegious, irreverent humor in Christine Morgan’s Censered, K. Trap Jones’s Ham and Pudge, and Hell Paso by C. Derick Miller.

There are unique, takes on the apocalypse or the interpretation of Revelations like those found in Apocalypse…Meh by John Wayne Comunale and Wrath James White’s Horse.

That’s not even half the contents of this anthology. As I said, there’s a little something for everyone. If you’re not opposed to a little bit of heresy and a whole lot of hell on Earth, I absolutely recommend this anthology.

Sunrise In Yellowstone

The darkness of newly fallen night greeted us as we entered Yellowstone National Park on Saturday, June 29th of 2019. It had been a long drive from Seattle, WA to West Yellowstone, MT and we’d only just entered the park around 10 PM. We’d traveled approximately 800 miles over twelve hours to arrive at the Roaring Mountain parking area before I attempted to join my passengers in slumber.

My 6’3″ height does not acclimate itself well to sleeping behind the wheel of a 2001 Chevy Impala, a fact I’d discovered during our previous trip to the Pacific Northwest when I attempted to sleep in the same position at a rest area just outside of Boise, ID in July of 2017. During the previous trip, the goal was to visit Craters of the Moon National Monument around sunrise, before completing the journey home to the Black Hills of South Dakota. This time, it was to visit Mammoth Hot Springs to witness the sunrise from that already magnificently beautiful location.

Needless to say, I did not sleep well…or long. I was on the road again at approximately 3:30 AM and we arrived at the lower terrace parking area around 4 AM.

We spent the next couple of hours there, and as the first faint hints of dawn emerged behind the mountains to the East, I knew my lack of sleep had been entirely worthwhile. The photos above should serve as testament to the sacrifice being justified.

Returning to the car, we continued through Yellowstone, driving into the Lamar Valley and then reversing course to travel South through the Hayden Valley region so as to exit Yellowstone via the East entrance, returning home via Cody, WY and Highway 14 through the Bighorn Mountains.

Along the way, there were bears. We tend to get lucky during our time in Yellowstone where wildlife is concerned. This trip was no exception. Walking the fine line between maintaining a safe distance and getting close enough for worthwhile shots of the beautiful creatures was as much a challenge for me as it ever is, but I’m not one of those people who can remain safely in my vehicle when taking small risks can produce better results. The photos below are the result of my lack of caution, so you can decide whether it was worthwhile or not.

Another seven and a half hours later, after driving the remaining 430 or so miles, we returned home shortly after 5 PM, after being away for 16 days.

We had intended to spend a few days in Yellowstone National Park followed by another few days in Glacier National Park during June of 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic made that objective disappear. There will be no vacation for us this summer either, as I’ve changed jobs and, in the process, sacrificed the weeks of annual vacation time I’d earned with my tenure at the previous place of employment.

The Last Conversation by Paul Tremblay: Narrated by Steven Strait

The Last Conversation is the third of the six short stories in the Forward Collection assembled by Blake Crouch I’ve listened to. It is also the first time I’ve experienced Paul Tremblay as a science fiction author, and the experience was an interesting one.
I’m sure he’s written other stories or books that have crossed into the science fiction territory, or at least I’d be surprised if he hasn’t, but I’ve only been familiar with him as a horror author and occasionally as a dark fantasy author. This brief tale showcases his talent for wearing a variety of hats with efficacy.
It’s a solid second-person narrative detailing the awakening of the protagonist in isolation to protect him from a global pandemic, while the only other person–seemingly still alive–coaxes them through restoring memories and physical capabilities. The story was ultimately predictable, but no less satisfying for the very predictability of it. It wasn’t about telling us a new tale so much as providing a platform for the discussion of morality, humanity, the devastating combination of solitude and grief, and the ethics involved in cloning. In that sense, Tremblay packs a big punch into a small number of words. He utilizes and capitalizes on the elements of science fiction that have always been used by authors, the capacity to frame thought experiments in a fictional narrative that makes the philosophical subject matter more palatable and digestible for the readers (and sometimes the author).
The narration, performed by Steven Strait, is superb. Strait captures the stubborn resistance of the protagonist to being held captive–even if it is for his own good–as well as the sadness and pity that mingles with that oppositional nature as the truth of everything is revealed in the end.

Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey

This review was originally written in February of 2017.

Nemesis Games, more than the other books of The Expanse series, is a novel about isolation.
Each of our protagonists from the crew of the Rocinante are separated from one another throughout the bulk of the story, all of them longing to return to the family they realize themselves to be for each other.
In the midst of an insurgency from a radical wing within the OPA (supplied by a treasonous, escapist faction of the Mars Navy), we witness periods of combat and senseless devastation from multiple angles that weren’t present in the previous novels with nearly this sort of depth and insight. As an added bonus the reader even gets to witness the grand acts of terrorism from within and without, while not providing anything particularly sympathetic where the terrorists are concerned. It was a bold, and well-executed move by the authors…to humanize the perpetrators of unparalleled acts of aggression without making the reader feel like they might have a valid reason to do the horrible things they are doing.
This was a smaller scale piece of storytelling than the galaxy-spanning, alien technology oriented action of the previous novels, but it was a very satisfying exploration of the inner worlds of the characters we’ve become so close to over the course of the previous four books.
The end does set the stage for something potentially horrifying coming up though, and it certainly kept me invested enough that I want to read the sixth installment.

Jurassichrist by Michael Allen Rose

It all starts when Jesus Christ botches his second coming most spectacularly in Michael Allen Rose’s new book, Jurassichrist.
It’s time, the designated hour and day has reached us. J.C. leaps into the stream of spacetime to arrive just when humanity needs his return, full of confidence and righteousness. He does not stick the landing. Instead of arriving two millennia after his departure, he arrives on Earth a few hundred million years before he’d been born. Time is tricky like that. He can’t really be blamed, though, can he? We’re all guilty of being attracted to shiny things…he did see a bright blue pulsing light and he aimed for it.
Muddy, disoriented, and chagrined, J.C. finds himself in the age of thunder lizards, unsure how he’s supposed to get crucified for a return trip home and a fresh start. Utilizing his knowledge of 1980s action movies and his divine power to materialize firearms, Jesus doesn’t sit idly by to become dinosaur chow. Soon enough, he’s covered in as much blood as mud as he cautiously approaches the source of the blue light that shouldn’t exist in this place and time.
He’s soon forced to face the fact that what he thought he knew about dinosaurs is entirely wrong. More disturbing than that, the mammals (barely more than rodents) appear to be addicted to “As Seen On TV” trinkets, and they’re evolving quite alarmingly in response.
That’s when things get weird.
This book is packed with so many absurdities and so much drama it’s almost too much to describe. It’s a mystery that leads J.C. through various planes of existence and points in time. It’s an adventure story, complete with dungeons and traps. It’s a story of friendship emerging under the strangest of circumstances. It’s Band of Brothers, but with dinosaurs…and saviors…and time travel…
Ok…so it’s not really Band of Brothers at all.
What it is, is fantastic and hilarious, sacrilegious and utter lunacy…it’s a must-read.

Morning Star by Pierce Brown

This review was originally written in August of 2016.

I finished reading Morning Star by Pierce Brown yesterday and that was easily one of the more satisfying conclusions to a trilogy I’ve had the pleasure of reading, though now I kind of wish there was more simply because I enjoyed the characters (and how they grew and evolved over the course of the series) and the story itself.
I don’t know if it’s just that it was predictable or if I had come to be so familiar with how the protagonist thought, but there was nothing at all surprising about the twist at the climax, and yet I still found the experience of reading through it to be thrilling.
Also, there’s something to be said for Brown somehow finding the ability to weave the phrase, “Bye Felicia,” into the narrative without seeming like a total jackass in doing so…especially in a trilogy that takes place more than a thousand years from now.
It was honestly refreshing to read a relatively near-future action science fiction series that wasn’t packed full of dystopian tropes and instead borrowed heavily from Greek, Roman, and even a bit of Norse mythology for the structuring of both the story itself and the society within which it transpired