Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Invisible Man, H. G. Wells

Title: The Invisible Man
Author: H. G. Wells
Rating: Good

I've finally found a reasonable story in this collection of science fiction written by H. G. Wells. The Invisible Man manages to maintain the reader's interest and dodges the pitfalls I noted in The Island Of Dr. Moreau and The Time Machine.

Wells manages to avoid atrociously bad science. That's quite a feat given the book was first published in 1897. In truth, of course, there is no way to do what Wells describes. That is, there is no way to make anyone or anything invisible given the processes presented. However, the willing suspension of disbelief is pretty easy here, despite 109 years of advances in science since this was written. I think Wells improved as a writer between The Island Of Dr. Moreau and this novel to pull that off.

That is not to say that all is perfect here. There are some issues of language and cultural expectation that still jump out at a modern reader, but that is to be expected. The worst, in my opinion, was a single use of "the n-word" - as I guess I have to phrase it these days. Coming out of nowhere, it was a slap in the face to me. But then, putting my brain into a different gear, it was probably common usage that far back. I can give Wells some slack here, though I am left wondering at his thoughts on race and equality.

Anyway, The Invisible Man is a reasonable read as old SF goes. You might enjoy it.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Island Of Dr. Moreau, H. G. Wells (spoilers)

Title: The Island Of Dr. Moreau
Author: H. G. Wells
Rating: Poor

Beware: there are spoilers in here. Sorry.

This is the second of the books in a collection of H. G. Wells's work, and - I hope - the most problematic. I've been sick with a flu for some time now, and that hasn't helped my attitude, but this book is not good. About it Wells writes in the preface: "... and The Island Of Dr. Moreau [is] rather painful." He's right, and for more reasons than he knew when he wrote those words. It hasn't held up over time.

Perhaps looked at as a sample of early science fiction it is an important work. Perhaps as a piece of writing it is significant, though I would argue against that suggestion. In any event, the science is so abominably bad I can't imagine how it could be worse. Taken as a morality play, and with substantial rewrites to get past the most horrific scientific blunders, it might be useful. But even there I wonder. The hero does some stupid things, and doesn't take rational actions when he should have.

Of course this book was first published back in 1896, and apparently the English were all aflutter over the "science" of vivisection at the time. Maybe those factors should cause me to give Moreau a break, but I won't. The language is stilted, the story is simplistic, and as stated above there isn't a single bit of science in here that is close to correct. It really is painful to read 110 years later.

A brief plot summary: the hero (Edward Prendick) is ship wrecked but gets to a life boat. He is picked up by a ship on the way to Dr. Moreau's island with a cargo of live animals. Once there, he is left behind by the ship, and so has to get on with Moreau, his assistant (Montgomery) and a set of servants who turn out to be created (by Moreau's art of vivisection) from various animals. These beast men live on the island after Moreau has decided they are failures. Moreau is eventually killed by one of the animals he is working on, Montgomery is killed by others, the beast men slowly revert back to their animalistic ways, and Prendick finally builds a raft and is rescued. He's writing the tale years later, though no one will believe him.

My biggest problem is that this story goes on forever. I could never believe what was happening, and so the pages dragged on and on and on and on and ... never mind. It was not a fun read.

As of this writing, the wikipedia entry says this book addresses:
  • Society and community. But there is really little here on that. True, the beast men form a society, and true the narrator isn't comfortable in English society when he returns a year later, but that's about all you get. There is no real exploration of what makes up society here. In fact, I would argue that it fails on this point entirely, and there could have been a lot more development of the society of the beast men in the book. That might actually have been interesting.
  • Human nature and identity. What's present on this is so sophomoric that it doesn't deserve the title. Through surgical procedures (vivisection) and hypnosis Moreau enhances animals to near human stature. I think not. But even if you buy it, Wells doesn't actually deal in human nature much here. What little you find is all simplistic stereotyping. Even the hero - who winds up disliking what Moreau does - can't empathize with the animals being tormented. I wonder what Wells's sense of human nature really was.
  • Religion. Other than the hero's occasional statements that he is a religious man, and his use of religious terms when Moreau dies - in an attempt to scare and control the beast men - there is no mention of religion here at all.
  • Darwinism. Yet again I disagree with Wikipedia. First off because the term "Darwinism" has been taken over by the religious right and is used in a negative light. The term that should be there is "evolution". Secondly because once again the term is mentioned a couple of times in passing, and then Moreau goes on to do all kinds of things that simply aren't possible within any evolutionary scheme. (Combining bits of rhinoceros and horse to create a single man-like organism, for example.) There is no exploration of evolution here. It's mentioned in passing to give a hint of science to the work. Nothing more.
  • Eugenics. Perhaps we've hit on something the book is actually about, but even here I am not certain I agree. Eugenics is generally about making the "race" better - for some definition of race, generally encompassing a much smaller set of people than than "all of humanity". In the book, though, Moreau is doing science for no reason at all, unconcerned about repeated failure despite hints that it will never work, and there is no real gain to be had in what he's doing. It doesn't really strike me as a small scale eugenics program going on here. More like a small scale program of torturing animals.
  • The dangers of unchecked and irresponsible scientific research. Yes, here I finally agree with wikipedia, but to my mind the larger problem is the idea that there is such a thing as "unchecked" scientific research. I admit there is a lot of research that leads in unexpected directions, or whose results can be misused, but I would argue that doing the research itself isn't wrong. In any event, Moreau is doing research to no point and purpose. That might be fine if it was mathematics, but he is injuring creatures and discarding them when they fail to meet his expectations. If that was acceptable - even to a minority of people - at the time the book was written, then I am ashamed of that portion of my heritage.
I wish the wikipedia article authors would support why they think The Island Of Dr. Moreau actually addresses - as opposed to "mentions" - these things. If mentioning something is addressing it, then just about everything I've ever read was much deeper than I thought.

My copy of this book is a 1978 reprint of a 1934 edition of this tome. Remember that the preface - written by Wells himself for that 1934 edition - called The Island Of Dr. Moreau "rather painful." He was right, way back then, and it has only gotten worse. Unless you're studying the history of science fiction, I'd give this one a pass.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Time Machine, H. G. Wells

Title: The Time Machine
Author: H. G. Wells
Rating: OK

Some time back a friend gave us an anthology of science fiction by H. G. Wells. I am reviewing each of the novels within that anthology separately, as they were originally published that way. They appear in the order they were written, and this is the first, originally published in 1895. As I reread it in 2006 it is 111 years old. Wow.

This is a classic tale of science fiction. A man from the late 1800s creates a machine to let him travel through time, does so, and sees the distant future. In its time, it must have been an astounding thing to read. Alas, I wish that it held up better than it has.

My criticisms may be too harsh given it really has been 111 years since the book was published. If so, and if they offend, I apologize.

First, the language doesn't go over well to modern readers. Sentence structure and paragraphing are very different now, and on several occasions I had to stop and go back to find out where I had misunderstood something. Double negatives were more common then, and the flowery speech of the writer blocked my absorption of the story at times. I can imagine a current middle school student being very frustrated trying to read this book purely because of the language.

And then there is the science, gone very wrong by today's standards. Even side stepping the issue of how to travel in time, Wells's presentation of the end of the earth isn't right. He has the sun swelling up to something vaguely like a red giant in 30 million years, the planet no longer rotates, the moon is gone, and an eclipse by an inner planet darkens the sky. There are just too many things wrong in there for me to swallow them all now. Back in 1985, I am sure that wasn't the case, but to a reader with modern sensibilities, those issues grate a bit.

More problematically, though, Wells uses this book as a vehicle for discussing a possible result of capitalist society: the division of humanity into Eloi and Morlocks is an outcome of the separation of the classes taken to an extreme. Whether Wells believed such a thing was possible, I don't know, but the presentation is pretty simplistic by modern standards.

I know this is a classic work, and that it has a high place in the world of science fiction history, but much deeper and more believable work has been done since. Wells blazed a new trail, and I am sure it wasn't easy. Later writers of science fiction owe him a debt, but that doesn't mean we should shy away of stating a work's weaknesses.

For those interested in learning more, the work is available in full text versions in several places on the Internet. And the wikipedia entry is also interesting reading, though I am not certain of its accuracy. (It claims that in the 30 million year future, two planets may have fallen into the sun. The text uses the word "eclipse", so I doubt that description, but then again, we are dealing with old prose, and I may have misread or misunderstood.)

If you're interested in Wells himself, or in old SF, this is a must read. If you're looking to read good SF as viewed from our current perspective, this one is more than a bit dated.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Dangerous Days, Sluggy Freelance Book 9, Pete Abrams

Title: Dangerous Days, Sluggy Freelance Book 9
Author: Pete Abrams
Rating: Great!

If you've never had the pleasure of reading Sluggy Freelance, now is the time to start. I mean now. Drop everything for the next few hours and go here:

What you will find there is something like eight years of comic strips in serial format. The characters vary all over the map, from Riff (inventor and weapon lover) and Torg (his web designer buddy), to Bun-Bun (a switchblade wielding mini-lop rabbit, in a long term feud with Santa Claus, and sometime Easter bunny; oh, and he ran Halloween for a while, and Ground Hog day too), and on and on. There are perhaps 10 or 12 regulars, and their story covers all kinds of ground. They're involved with a gymnast assassin, a huge evil company that no one understands yet, alternate universes, and, well, you name it.

Pete Abrams does parodies of movies, takes recent events into account in his strips, keeps an amazingly large number of plot threads together in his head, and amuses his readers consistently. And every so often he publishes a book covering some period of the online strips, and including a bonus story too. This is book nine in the series.

Trying to tell you the major plot threads covered in this book would just leave you confused. For example: Torg's alien secretary is running a web design business now, it gets out of control because Dr. Shlock wants to get close to the alien, and well... never mind. I'd have to give too much away, and you can read it all online for free anytime.

Go read it now. What more do I need to say? I read Sluggy every morning. It never fails to amuse and amaze.

The books are hard to get now. Limited printing runs of each one, alas. And I only recently found out I am missing one of the older books, so I have no idea what to do about that, yet. I will, however, get a copy somewhere.

Why are you still here? Go read Sluggy now!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Calculating God, Robert J. Sawyer (spoilers)

Title: Calculating God
Author: Robert J. Sawyer
Rating: Lousy

Warning: spoilers appear all over this review.

What an irritating book. Grrrrr.

Some time back this book was reviewed in Skeptical Inquirer - the magazine of CSICOP (the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims Of the Paranormal) - and there was something of a furor over it. The reviewer didn't like it, and said so. A bunch of people jumped in on both sides of the issue as I recall (my issues are long gone now). Some defended the book as a work of fiction while others thought it was significant in some way - some bad way that I don't exactly recall. My wife bought the book to try to figure out first hand what the problem was. I'm only getting to it now, quite a while later.

I'm going to say that the book is bad, but probably not for the same reasons that the CSICOP reviewer did.

First off, let me state that I am open to many things in fiction. I have no problem with religion being an important part of a work, but what happens here is just plain silly.

First and foremost, the premise of the novel is completely unbelievable. Aliens come to earth (fine so far) and the first one to appear lands in Canada (again, fine so far). Said alien is a spider like thing (again, fine) and it comes to the Royal Ontario Museum to see a paleontologist. (We're still fine.) And the alien settles in with our hero from the museum to study earth's fossil record.

Now wait just a minute.

I'm willing to buy that the aliens can get here, that they aren't that much ahead of us technologically, etc. I'll even grant that they might be interested in our fossil record for one reason or another, but they cannot possibly be so stupid as to fail to take into account the political ramifications of their arrival. After all, they've been monitoring us for some time - long enough to speak various earth languages pretty well. Their arrival is going to throw our planet into chaos on umpteen different levels, but they - and the author - just pretend that issue doesn't exist.

But never mind that. They're here because they're looking for God. They're seeking the creator of the universe, and we're a step along that path. We're quickly told Earth is the third planet currently harboring intelligent life that they know of, that each planet had the same number of mass extinction events in its history, and they were all at the same points in time.

Ummm.... wait. We've just been told something patently absurd. But the author is using it as a major premise in his plot. OK. I'll do my best to open really wide and swallow that one. Continuing...

Then we're told that the aliens are all religious - that the presence of God is a fact in their eyes. And then a lot of mumbo-jumbo is thrown at us to support that. (It all amounts to the anthropic principle, for those who follow that sort of thing.) But our aliens have knowledge we don't have, and it proves that a creator must have had a hand in the mix. No argument allowed.

OK... I'm not done yet, but I have to stop here for a moment and say that there was something really aggravating about the way all of this was dumped on me as the reader. Our hero doesn't challenge things as he should (or would, given his training and background) and I don't buy it. I know that fiction assumes some things that aren't true to tell whatever tale is being told, and I can accept that. Science fiction has to go farther in that way than many other kinds of fiction for various reasons, and I can accept that too. But this particular telling just plain didn't work. Far too many impossible things in a row, with only the authority of the aliens telling us this to back it up. After a while, I just couldn't stomach it any more. But back to the content of the book.

Our hero spends the next N chapters - where N is far too large a number - in conversation with his alien friend. Unfortunately these chapters all read like creationist (and particularly Intelligent Design) apologist tracts. They're crap. But the author can (and does) resort regularly to the fact that the aliens know more than we do, and so they can simply assure our hero that they're right. Many times I set this book down wondering just what I was reading. It sounded like it came from some ID publishing house so often it was depressing.

Then we get a pointless sub-plot about some wacky creationists that bombed an abortion clinic and are now going to do other dastardly deeds that impact our hero and his alien friends. That sub-plot has no business here. It's entirely useless, but I digress, as did the author.

And then we get to the end of the book, where all kinds of things are revealed. "God" turns out to be some sort of organism (yes, a biological organism) that existed in a previous cycle of our closed universe and somehow adjusted the parameters for the next cycle so that there would be intelligent life here.

I'm going to digress here again. As best we know, the universe is not closed, and we knew that in 2000 when this book was published. The universe is expanding at an increasing rate. As best we can tell, it will not come back together in a "Big Crunch" so it's open. Sawyer tries to use science all over in here to back things up, but he gets it wrong, and this is just another example. Grrr. OK back to the book again...

This "God"/organism has plans for us too. Plans that help it get reborn. Huh? Wait. It's already here. It's been meddling in evolution on at least three planets for hundreds of millions - if not billions - of years. And it does something spectacular right under our nose too, so clearly it is already "here" and capable of doing big important things. But it needs us (specifically our DNA) to be reborn? Something makes no sense at all. (Anyone remember Kirk asking "Why does God need a starship?" in one of the Star Trek movies?)

I'll avoid telling you about the other intelligent life forms out there that are missing now. Just assume that the aliens tell you there are some, and that our hero has theories about where they went - theories based on no evidence. But our alien friends eventually believe them.

I guess in the end even the IDers will hate this book because "God" turns out to be something less than the omniscient, omnipotent, personal deity that Christianity predicts. That sort of conclusion - that life here was created by some other species "out there" in space somewhere - would be just fine with me, but the rest of the book was so irritating that when the conclusion finally arrived I was just pissed off about it.

As an exercise in writing craft, the book isn't that good either. Sometimes the hero is believable, particularly as he interacts with his family, but much of it is flat and fails to seem real, or even reasonable. And why is it told in first person from the point of view of someone who dies at the end? There is actually text at the end where the narrator talks about his last words, in the past tense, as in after he died. Excuse me? Nothing in this book explains that.

Finally, I have to state again that the author simply ignores the reality of what real contact with aliens would be like. Even if the aliens simply didn't talk to the authorities, everyone they interacted with would be grilled at huge length after each and every interaction. Our hero - a mucky-muck at the museum - would have no time to do or see anything other than the alien and the myriad people who want to know more about the alien, its society, technology, etc. He wouldn't even get to sleep given the demands on his time. The book was simply not believable in this area, and I found that really bothersome given the way he tried to keep it grounded in reality in other places.

As you can see, I didn't like this book. I did finish it, but looking back I really wonder why. There was nothing new raised by it as far as I can see, and the willing suspension of disbelief never happened.

Skip this one.

Thursday, March 9, 2006

Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Title: Cat's Cradle
Author: Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Rating: Great!

I haven't read much Vonnegut.

No. Let me try that again.

I haven't read enough Vonnegut.

In fact, if I've read anything other than Cat's Cradle, it's been so long that I honestly don't remember it. There might have been some other works by him back in high school, but if so, I've lost them.

And that's too bad, really, since I like Cat's Cradle a lot. Clearly others do as well, since the copy I have says it was originally published in in 1963 and the specific edition I have is the 32nd printing which was released back in May of 1974.

As regular readers of this forum (and my web site) may have picked up, I have no real use for religion. If it helps others that's fine, so long as they don't try to force it down my throat. Cat's Cradle is an interesting work to me because of its complicated view of religion. And I am a cynic in this area, so to get me to ponder it is saying something.

The story line is a fairly light hearted tale of the end of the world. The characters are interesting and funny, if a bit flat. (That flatness is deliberate, I think, and it works here.) In my opinion, the story of and behind the religion of Bokonism running through the book is where the writer really put his thought.

A religion that admits it is a pack of lies. Interesting. Vonnegut really makes you think here, and I suspect this book could support both sides of the "is religion a good thing?" question.

I am reminded of something I heard once, years ago. It was claimed that a religion - Hinduism, I seem to recall - had within it's doctrine the possibility that the gods were created by man. That has always resonated with me. Well, that and some words on the album cover of Aqualung by Jethro Tull. (I'll leave that research to the interested reader.)

In any event, if you haven't read Cat's Cradle I highly recommend it. It's engaging, varying from laugh-out-loud to sit-and-ponder as needed. Vonnegut gets it right.

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Zodiac, Neal Stephenson

Title: Zodiac
Author: Neal Stephenson
Rating: Good

Back in January two people - galactic_dev and UncleDon - responded to my request for recommended works by Neal Stephenson. They both liked Zodiac and it eventually came into my possession. Thus, this review.

The writing is light and breezy, which is a distraction from the dark events at the core of the novel. It's called an "eco-thriller" on the copy I have, and I guess that pretty well describes it. The main character is a member of an ecology group - probably patterned after Greenpeace - and he hits all kinds of trouble when a project he's working on finds evidence that some really bad things are going on in Boston harbor. Some of the local corporations are still dumping nasty stuff into the water, and covering up for past misdeeds. It's complicated, but you can track it as events unfold.

Originally published in 1988, Zodiac holds up pretty well over time. That's actually rather depressing, since it means that the issues it addresses are still real too. Anyway, so long as you don't stop to ask questions like "why doesn't he use a cell phone?" the story is just fine, and it's a roller coaster.

My only previous experience with Stephenson was Snow Crash which I enjoyed at the time, but which I recall has some plot issues that I (as a software engineer) thought were fairly significant. This one has fewer such plot holes. Perhaps because it is not in my area of expertise, or perhaps because the subject matter is closer to the author's own expertise. I honestly don't know.

In any event, Zodiac is an enjoyable read. Recommended for a few hours of relaxation at some point.

Saturday, March 4, 2006

Reave the Just and Other Tales, Stephen R. Donaldson

Title: Reave the Just and Other Tales
Author: Stephen R. Donaldson
Rating: Good

Donaldson can write. Really.

Reave the Just and Other Tales is a collection of short stories and novellas. Each stands entirely on it's own, and is related to nothing else Donaldson has written as far as I can tell.

My overall impression of the collection is very good. I know everyone reading this thinks I have a "thing" for Donaldson's work, and perhaps I do, but I can still tell good from bad. For me, there is one story here that is fantastic - worth the price of the whole volume. A few others are very good, and one doesn't live up to the standards of the rest. To be more specific, the stories are:
  • Reave the Just
    An excellent tale, set in a classic European style fantasy setting. The main character gets himself into a lot of trouble and only gets out with the aid of Reave the Just, or... well... you have to read it.

  • The Djinn Who Watches over the Accursed
    A pompous youth is the main character here. He falls afoul of powers he doesn't comprehend, and suffers for it, and turns. This story is told in a Middle Eastern setting, and from the first person perspective of a very interesting character. A very good story, but not quite as much character development as I've come to expect from Donaldson. Still, definitely worth reading.

  • The Killing Stroke
    A far Eastern tale of several different martial arts styles, the struggle between good and evil, and magic. This one pins the main characters - and reader - down on the question of "What is good without evil?" Donaldson has a way of exploring these sorts of big questions in depth that I find fascinating. A very good story, well written.

  • The Kings of Tarshish Shall Bring Gifts
    Another Middle Eastern tale of magic. This one follows the son of a ruler as he takes power, but doesn't live up to the expectations of those around him. This was a good story, but one that didn't stick with me as well as the others here.

  • Penance
    This is the best story in the book. A classic European setting is the backdrop for a vampire story the likes of which I have never even imagined. In this one, Donaldson considers the basis of loyalty, power, and authority. I cried when this story ended, and my eyes are going blurry now as I write this. This story is amazingly well written, and it will stick with me forever. I'll reread it from time to time as well, simply because it's that good. Read it if you can, please.

  • The Woman Who Loved Pigs
    Another European fantasy setting for a tale of a simple minded woman coming into the presence of a power that she doesn't understand at all, and which eventually must be faced down. A good story, well written. If there is a flaw here it is only that the passage of time in the story doesn't leave enough time (in my mind) for the main character to go through all the changes she experiences. Still, a worthy read.

  • What Makes Us Human
    This was the only real disappointment in the book. It's a science fiction tale of human descendants who encounter something alien, and have to save themselves. The story and setting are fine, but one of the two main characters isn't handled properly, and I found some of the things he says and does out of place. In addition, the enemy here isn't explained in a satisfactory way. Where it comes from is not known, and that left me wanting.

  • By Any Other Name
    A Middle Eastern fantasy in which a wealthy merchant has to confront a necromancer so far beyond him in power that it appears suicidal. Well written and fascinating, but a tad rough in a couple of the particulars. If I gave you the details, I'd be writing a spoiler review, though, and I don't want to do that.
As I said above, Penance is worth the cost of the entire book, without a doubt, and most of the other stories are good or very good. Donaldson is always examining the big issues - particularly questions around people's internal struggles over what they are capable of doing. That kind of inner battle is his forte.

I should also mention that Donaldson's writing is fantastic. Even where I can fault the story, the writing - the construction of the sentences and his use of words - is always flawless. If you want to write, I think studying how he writes would be a good first step.

I recommend this volume, particularly for Penance.

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

The King is Dead, Ellery Queen

Title: The King is Dead
Author: Ellery Queen
Rating: Good

The King Is Dead is the last Ellery Queen novel in the set Ed Ting loaned me. Ed called it "one of the most patently absurd pieces of fiction I have ever seen" in response to my earlier review of Death Spins the Platter.

I am happy to report that my assessment of the book is different than Ed's. I admit it is absurd, but of the three I have on loan it is far and away the best in terms of writing and character development. It is also the only one of the three to actually feature Ellery himself. It lacks the "CHALLENGE TO THE READER" that Ed has described in other EQ novels, but there is a pretty obvious point it could have been inserted had the author wanted to do so.

I had no trouble with the contents of the story. It centers on a family owned, multi-national business (mostly in arms), and the assassination of it's CEO, though that isn't the title he goes by. As the back cover states, though, the assassination is announced in advance, and the culprit confesses before the event even happens.

The assassination initially appears impossible, and the eventual explanation is interesting both as to how it happened as well as why the solution wasn't seen from the beginning. I did note one minor plot hole, but I cannot describe it without spoiling the book for others, so I won't do that. If you want to know about it, you'll have to email me asking about it.

The end of the book is a bit mellow dramatic, and there is a moralistic twist on it, but it holds together reasonably well.

The King Is Dead was originally published in 1952, and as a result there are some interesting uses of language that I hadn't anticipated. Airplanes for example, are regularly referred to as "ships" - shortened from "airships" I assume - which sounds odd to my 2006 based ears. There were other similar things, but they were minor in comparison to that. The other two EQ books I reviewed had more significant language problems that I had to get over. That's really interesting, as they were written ten years later than this one.

In another "time changes expectations" issue, the lone major female character here is portrayed as a wall flower most of the time, though there is one interesting twist in her actions. But still, she has very little to say, and she never stands up for herself on the pages we read. That's the case in all three of these Ellery Queen books and I really wanted some female character to come right out and clobber someone, swear like a sailor, or something - anything - that wasn't just sitting around barely able to answer questions and/or fainting. By way of counter example, I liked The Matrix precisely because it had a very strong female lead, and I prefer the company of women that can take care of themselves. (Consider my wife, for those that know her.)

Regardless, this one was a fun read. I don't have a huge desire to read more Ellery Queen at this time, but at least I know some of them are worth spending time on. Thanks to Ed for sharing some from his collection and letting me figure that out.