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Jim's (drneutron's) Reading and Playing in 2020 - Second Round

This is a continuation of the topic Jim's (drneutron's) Reading and Playing in 2020.

75 Books Challenge for 2020

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Edited: Jan 30, 12:59pm Top

I'm Jim, 57, husband of 34 years, father of a son in a PhD program in Comp Sci at Notre Dame, who reads pretty much anything. We're in central Maryland with roots in Louisiana. I like to read (obviously), cook, want to learn to fly fish, and trail bike riding/kayaking with mrsdrneutron. Of course, LT is a big time sink, but mrsdrneutron seems to have come to terms with my LT addiction...

One of the first physical activities we started doing together was cycling. Our favorite ride is the C&O Canal Trail that follows the length of the Potomac River from DC all the way to Cumberland, Maryland. I've never ridden the length of the canal, but it's a goal to someday do that - all 180 miles! Here's a picture (not us, by the way) of one of our favorite spots along the river.

Edited: Jan 30, 1:07pm Top

Total Books: 7

Author Gender
Male: 3 (43%)
Female: 4 (57%)

Author Status
Living: 7 (100%)
Dead: 0 (0%)

Publication Medium
Hardback: 2 (29%)
Trade: 1 (17%)
Mass Market: 0 (%)
eBook: 4 (57%)

Fiction: 5 (71%)
Nonfiction: 2 (29%)

Library: 5 (71%)
Mine: 2 (29%)

ARC: 1
Re-Read: 1
Series: 4
Group Read: 1

Jan 30, 1:24pm Top

Hi Jim! Happy new thread.

Jan 30, 1:38pm Top

Happy new one, Jim!

Jan 30, 1:42pm Top

Happy new thread, Jim!

Big change afoot with Mrsdrneutron quitting work to help with her mother. I hope things go well for all of you.

Jan 30, 1:46pm Top

Happy new thread!

Jan 30, 1:47pm Top

Happy new one!

Jan 30, 2:21pm Top

Happy new thread, Jim.

I love the topper; it looks like a nice place for a bike ride.

Jan 30, 2:34pm Top

Happy new thread, Jim!

The cycling sure looks prettier than our local bike lanes!

Jan 30, 2:39pm Top

Happy new thread, Jim!

Jan 30, 3:53pm Top

Happy new thread Jim.

Jan 30, 4:26pm Top

Happy new thread! Enticing topper, on this chilly winter day!

Jan 30, 4:52pm Top

Happy new one, Jim!

Jan 30, 7:22pm Top

Nice topper on your new thread. Looks like it would be a nice route in spring.

Jan 30, 8:05pm Top

Thanks for the well-wishes, everyone!

>6 karenmarie: Yup. Our county government has a lot of resources for aging populations, so we’re hoping for some consultations to help us sort out possibilities. We’ll see how it goes...

>9 BLBera:, >10 quondame: The C&O canal is about 180 miles of really nice trail along the Potomac. This is the closest spot to our house, but also a really nice place along the old canal. The river’s beautiful between there and Harper’s Ferry.

>13 jessibud2:, >15 thornton37814: Oh yeah, I’m really looking forward to getting out on the trail again!

Jan 31, 9:10am Top

Hi Jim. I was just catching up on your previous thread ~ aging is not being well-handled in our country either. So few reliable places for assisted living. Scandals abound for such homes, too. Wishing you and your family good luck in finding a congenital place.

The canal trail looks so attractive. We don't have much in that way, isolated from the roadway. I have fond memories of cycling between Pullman (WA) and Moscow (ID). The trail was paved but very pleasant, winding through low hills, grass lands and alongside a creek some of the way. If I went early, the birdlife was fantastic.

I hope you have some great reading going forward.

Jan 31, 9:22am Top

Thanks! I'm pretty happy with the way my reading has been going so far this year, though I'd like to be able to pick up the pace a bit.

The trail we ride is actually the old canal tow path for the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, which used to be the main transportation route west from DC and Baltimore to the crossing of the mountains into the Ohio River valley. Some time ago it got converted into a biking/hiking trail, mostly packed, hard gravel with a few paved sections that follows the Potomac River.Because of it's history, there are lots of old structures along the way and a couple of working canal locks, as well as lots of wildlife. It's a great way to get outside!

Jan 31, 11:09am Top

Happy new thread, Jim! You're so active in your toppers! How nice to be able to ride along a river, there would always be so much to see.

Jan 31, 11:27am Top

Catching your new thread near its beginning, Jim.

Jan 31, 12:42pm Top

Happy New Thread, Jim!

Jan 31, 12:52pm Top

Happy new one, Jim!!

Jan 31, 1:05pm Top

Thanks, everyone!

Feb 1, 3:29pm Top

Happy New thread, Jim! Just catching up on the old one, I'll add my wishes for your MIL's recovery, and gratitude that it wasn't worse.

The Impeachers happens to be in the Tower of Due, so I'll probably get to it this month. Glad to see you liked it. And yes, it is reassuring to be reminded that we have survived this storm before.

Feb 1, 6:58pm Top

Thanks, Steve! I’ll be interested to see what you think about it.

Feb 1, 8:45pm Top

Happy new thread, Jim.

The C&O Canal Trail looks like a decent challenge.

Feb 1, 9:56pm Top

Thanks! It’s definitely a good time.😀

Feb 1, 10:07pm Top

Happy new thread!

Feb 2, 7:51am Top

Happy Sunday, Jim! Happy New Thread! Ooh, that C&O Canal Trail looks good. I may have to come back out there and join you on it, one of these days. Is this the one that goes through Harper's Ferry?

Feb 2, 10:24am Top

>28 bell7: Thanks!

>29 msf59: Yup! Same one. That particular stretch is about 10 miles downstream from Harper’s Ferry. Another of our favorites I’d Brunswick to Harper’s Ferry and back, about 13 miles round trip. Then cheesecake afterward at this little cafe in Brunswick. 😀

Feb 2, 10:45am Top

Hi Jim, I'm way behind on LT (having had a tummy flu)....

Question (hope you or anyone in fact, can suggest something)...
I recently joined NetGallery to receive 'early review' books (LT seems to have quit *ever* awarding me anything, so I went elsewhere).

About 10 days ago, I received two files (.ascm format). Usually my e-reader (a Kobo) converts these files automatically. But I cannot, for the life of me, get them to become e-pubs. I know I have to go through Adobe Digital Editions, so I tried to make the conversion on my lap top instead, since the Kobo wasn't doing this. No luck there.

Maybe you have some insights? I'll ask on some Canadian LT-ers threads, too, since Kobo is our library-friendly e-book device.

Feb 2, 11:06am Top

My friend and I walked the length of the Kennet & Avon in England last year and had a wonderful time. We had a company that moved our suitcases for us, provided lodging reservations and maps which made it all do-able. I wonder if there's a company that does that for the C&O.

Feb 2, 11:29am Top

>31 SandyAMcPherson: I’m not super familiar with using ascm files, but google says Adobe Digital Editions can convert those to pdf. That may be easier than ePub, though ePub has some advantages in being able to set font size on the fly, etc. that’s about the limit of my knowledge... 😀

>32 RebaRelishesReading: hmmm. I’ll have to look for such a company when I try to ride the length - would certainly make the trip easier.

Much of the upstream end of the trail is pretty rural, so not much in the way of hotels on the way. There are a number of campsites available - the trail is actually a national park - and most folks who do multi-day rides camp. Mrsdrneutron isn’t keen on that much riding, so the thinking is she can act as supply train using a car. 😀

Feb 2, 2:56pm Top

>31 SandyAMcPherson: There are some online converters that turn .acsm to .pdf

Feb 2, 11:54pm Top

>31 SandyAMcPherson: An ASCM file will turn to whatever it started out as (I believe) in Adobe Digital Edition - I regularly get .ascm books from the library, it downloads to ADE and turns into an epub that I can put on my phone. I have to go pull the epub out of the folder where ADE has converted it - Documents/My Digital Editions.

Feb 3, 12:52am Top

Happy new thread, Jim. Great looking trail as your topper. I am not a bike rider but regularly get out to take in the nature in this part of the world. I live close to part of the Trans Canada Trail which in my area goes along the Coquitlam River.

Feb 3, 2:41am Top

Jim--Happy new one!! Hope you have lots of fun with the biking. : )

Feb 3, 4:03am Top

Happy new thread, Jim - the cycle path looks great.

>31 SandyAMcPherson:, >35 jjmcgaffey: so it works for me too - open the .acsm-file with Adobe Digital Editions and ADE will convert it into .epub.

Feb 3, 8:11am Top

>35 jjmcgaffey: Thanks! I hope this will help Sandy - not something I've poked into much.

>36 Familyhistorian: Oh, I'd love to do some biking up that way! I'll bet the trails are beautiful.

>37 Berly:, >38 SirThomas: Thanks!

Feb 3, 9:43am Top

The cycling craze is one I can get behind. I'm a runner, but dear friends own a bike shop and we love hearing about their adventures. There are some lovely trails around the DC area!

And congratulations to MrsDrNeutron on her next step. I understand that the circumstances may be bittersweet, but I'm sure she's glad she has the opportunity to spend more time with her mother. I wish you all good luck on this next step.

Edited: Feb 3, 11:50am Top

>40 London_StJ: There are, indeed! We’ve been exploring over the past few years and have found some good ones.

Thanks for the good wishes for Mrsd. Her first day under the new paradigm is today, so we’ll see how it goes. 😀

I did tease her a bit about Dobbie being freeeee! 😂

Feb 3, 12:13pm Top

>33 drneutron: Please keep us posted. I'm thinking that might make a great walk for us.

Feb 3, 12:56pm Top

Lovely topper, Jim! That looks like a wonderful bike trail.

Good wishes for your mother-in-law. While caring for her most definitely won't always be easy, being retired is, as Karenmarie says, the bomb! And your wife is so lucky to be able to have this time with her.

Feb 4, 9:21am Top

>42 RebaRelishesReading: I'm sure if I ever get to it, I'll take lots of pics and post an as-I-go running commentary! 😀

>43 streamsong: Thanks!

Feb 4, 9:29am Top

An update, an update!

8. Whoever Fights Monsters by Robert K. Ressler

Memoir by one of the early founders of the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit, Ressler mostly tells of his experiences interviewing and studying serial killers to develop tools for solving these sorts of crimes. There are several books like this out these days, all of which seem to imply founder-of-the-field status for the author. In this case, Ressler probably has a pretty good claim, though it's definitely a case where folks were simultaneously working to establish the field.

Having said that, it's a decent memoir, and talks enough about developing different aspects of the theory of forensic psychology to capture my attention. The writing's perfunctory - and I always wonder about memoirs like this how much cherry-picking goes on where we hear about successes and not failures. I'll give it a meh rating.

9. Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Wow, what a great fantasy anchored in Mayan folklore and beliefs, with elements from the Popol Vuh. I loved what she did with the hero quest story that turned out so different from what a European fantasy might have.

Beautiful story, great writing, characters that come alive, Moreno-Garcia is one to watch.

Feb 4, 9:37am Top

Happy new thread, Jim!

I've started The Institute by Stephen King, on audio.. It has a good start so that see where it goes.

Feb 4, 2:53pm Top

Thanks everyone for some additional info on those ascm files.
I did manage to address one problem, a corrupted ADE authorization (no idea why that happened).

If I find it too much of a nuisance, I'll have to read some of the downloads on my computer instead of my e-reader. I am not enthralled with my Kobo so far...

Feb 5, 4:41pm Top

On Ressler - he was an interesting guy, and you have to forgive the FBI guys for some perfunctory writing when they're writing about their cases. He was, I'm sure, trying to strike a different note than Douglas, who was his colleague, and wrote very colorfully, especially about his own exploits. I was lucky enough to get Ressler to sign my copy of that one you read. And on the failures over the successes point - it's so much more art than science, the failures are lots more frequent than the movies suggest; but there's not much to write about with a failure, as you just don't solve a case. And a lot of what goes on is after the case is already solved, to help think through how to work future cases - so it's not really a success, more of a psychological autopsy.

Feb 5, 5:01pm Top

Hi Jim. I may not be participating much these days, but I'm still grateful that you keep this group up and running year after year. I know you have had a few other ..... little things.. ahem.. to do and I am so impressed by your dedication to the group. So

Just saying hi, and please count me in among those who appreciate you

Feb 5, 6:57pm Top

>46 brodiew2: oh, that one was good! I think you’ll like it.

>47 SandyAMcPherson: Glad you’ve got a path to work it out!

>48 blackdogbooks: Fair enough on the failed cases. I’d love to have a beer with Ressler and talk about his work! It’s pretty cool that you got to meet him.

>49 mckait: Kath! I’m glad you’re joining us, even if just a little.

Feb 5, 7:06pm Top

>45 drneutron: Gods of Jade and Shadow sounds terrific. Thanks for the recommendation, Jim.

Happy new thread!

Feb 5, 7:22pm Top

Thanks! I’m pretty sure you’d like it!

Feb 5, 7:30pm Top

Gods of Jade and Shadow is on the List, I'm hoping to get to it one of these days!

Feb 5, 7:48pm Top

>49 mckait: ^^^ What Kathleen said ... Me too!

Feb 5, 8:23pm Top

Gods of Jade and Shadow looks good to me, too. I just placed a hold at my library :)

Feb 8, 8:44am Top

Happy weekend to you and yours-- hope you MIL continues to do well and that MrsDr finds some joy in her not-completely-of-her-own-choosing retirement.

Feb 8, 9:10am Top

When we head to Pennsylvania, we always take route 15 so we can go over Point of Rocks between Virginia and Maryland. We are determined to stop sometime and take a bike ride.

Happy new thread and hope all is well.

Feb 8, 10:44am Top

Gods of Jade and Shadow smacked into me, too, you Satanic Book Warbler, you.

Edited: Feb 8, 4:33pm Top

Doc - since you seem to be interested in all this stuff, try Roy Hazelwood. He was another contemporary in the FBI with Ressler, Douglas, and Ann Burgess - that's the crew that really modernized criminal investigative analysis. I remember thinking Hazelwood's books were really good when I read them - practical and still well written.

Feb 8, 4:24pm Top

>53 bell7:, >54 SandyAMcPherson:, >55 mckait: Cool! It was really good - I think y’all will like it.

>56 Berly: well, the first project she (we 😂) tackled was cleaning up in the basement. She’s been itching to do it. My suggestion was to back the truck up to the basement door and start shoveling... she didn’t think much of that idea. 😀

>57 witchyrichy: we go that way a lot when heading south to avoid the Capitol Beltway. It’s a great section of the trail! Brunswick is just a couple of miles upriver, and is a nice old town - also a great stopping place.

>58 richardderus: SBW. I could live up to that! 😂

>59 blackdogbooks: I’ll check him out!

Feb 9, 9:49pm Top

Hi there Jim! Popping in to say hello. I'm back again this year (hopeful for consistency lol). Hope all is going well with your rockets and also with your reading.
Will be sure to visit your thread often.

Feb 9, 10:38pm Top

Great! I’m glad you joined us again! Spacecraft is going very well/😀

Feb 10, 7:10am Top

Good morning, Jim! I was listening to BBC World Service this morning and at first I thought they were doing a segment on the Parker Probe, but apparently it's a different solar mission from the European space agency: https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-51420402

I guess the sun is really hot right now. ;-)

Feb 10, 9:15am Top

😀 Yeah, ESA launched Solar Orbiter last night. It's going to orbit out of the ecliptic plane so it can view the Sun's poles, an area Parker can't see, as we're essentially in the ecliptic plane (the Sun's equivalent of the Earth's Equator). They orbit around 0.3 AU to look at the Sun remotely while we dip into the corona at 0.13 AU for the next orbits to do local sampling. So the missions really complement each other well and there's lots of cross-cooperation on the science teams.

Feb 10, 9:23am Top

>63 rosalita: - "I guess the sun is really hot right now. ;-)"


Hi Jim!

Feb 10, 10:24am Top

Happy new thread!

Feb 10, 11:16am Top

>65 katiekrug: Hiyah! 😀

NASA's been touting "The next decade will be the golden age of solar and heliophysics research". It's been fun to be a part of that.

>66 ChelleBearss: Thanks!

Feb 10, 2:32pm Top

It's not often that I see an announcement for a colloquium on campus that makes me think, "There's this guy I know from my book club .... "


But here we are.

Feb 10, 5:57pm Top

>68 swynn: Ooh, and the speaker is from UI! I seem to recall reading a local news story that there was some involvement from UI researchers but of course I can't remember any details...

Feb 10, 7:58pm Top

Yep, I know Jasper. He's on our science team. You definitely should go and say hi for me!

Edited: Feb 11, 9:46am Top

10. Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control by Stephen Kinzer


11. The Compatriots: The Brutal and Chaotic History of Russia's Exiles, Emigres, and Agents Abroad by Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan

It wasn't intentional, but it turns out these are highly complementary books. So I'm putting my thoughts on them together.

After WWII and into the 1950s, the American intelligence community was sure that the Soviets were well on their way to developing methods, both psychological and chemical, to affect a person’s behavior and memory. Essentially, methods of mind control to secretly make people do things they normally wouldn’t and forget all about it. This wasn’t completely far-fetched – some events happened that could have been interpreted in this way by those who needed to think about and prepare for worst-case scenarios. The CIA’s response to this possibility was to hire Sidney Gottlieb to run a deeply secret program to develop their own capability for mind control and to understand countermeasures to adversary’s capability.

This is a rational response if you really believe this capability could exist. But from the beginning, those chosen to work this problem – especially Gottlieb – did this work in the worst way possible. Early on, Nazi scientists known to have performed involuntary human experimentation on concentration camp victims were brought in as advisors. Over the 1950s and early 1960s, Gottlieb established a number of subprojects that used American prisons and mental hospitals as experimental labs to study psychoactive drugs and extreme sensory deprivation as ways to break down a person’s mind. Many people were permanently damaged by this work without even knowing what was happening to them. It became so bad that some even routinely and secretly fed LSD to their coworkers at the CIA just to see what happened, and management had to guard the punchbowl at Christmas parties to keep this from happening. And this was not a case of rogue agents doing this work – while MK-ULTRA was highly secret, it was managed by the highest levels at the CIA and the White House, including Eisenhower and Kennedy.

At the same time, the Soviet Union was dealing with an émigré problem along with worries about the US – there was a large international community of ex-patriots that left Russia during and after the Bolshevik revolution that could be seen as an existential threat to the Soviet government. So the question became how to control this community and turn it into an advantage. And again, the Soviets dealt with this in the worst possible way – depending on disinformation, disruption, murder to intimidate and eliminate threats. And as the world changed with the fall of the Soviet Union and the development of Putin’s Russia, these techniques became more sophisticated and more broadly used, leading up to what we saw with the 2016 election, for instance.

Both books are well-written, well-documented works that expose what people who are sometimes well meaning, sometimes self-serving are willing to do. Both should be required reading to hopefully make folks aware of why ethics and morals in our government are critical and why we need to vote ethically and morally, because these sorts of things are still happening today.

Feb 11, 12:43pm Top

>71 drneutron: Wow, Jim, that's quite a pair of books! Thank you for your very well written comments. I am tempted but unsure that I want to read them myself though.

Feb 11, 12:57pm Top

Thanks! THey're both very good, though the subjects are likely to make you angry and sad.

Feb 11, 1:55pm Top

What Reba said, Jim. Thank for such a well-written review of those two. I hope we can protect the 2020 elections from too much interference.

Feb 11, 2:17pm Top

>71 drneutron: Trenchant and tendentious reviews. How I wish this was disinformation, not non-fiction.

Feb 11, 2:34pm Top

>74 jnwelch: I'm hoping that at least some of the electorate is more aware and more skeptical of info this time around, but we'll see.

>75 richardderus: Oh, how I wish this was disinformation. The sad thing is that I don't think the fundamental problem has changed - or else we wouldn't have seen all the issues with torture, etc in recent history.

Feb 11, 8:27pm Top

>71 drneutron: I would have thought those two books together were a bit heavy going. Scary stuff.

Feb 11, 9:17pm Top

Well, I didn't plan on having two so closely related at once - Compatriots was a library book that I needed to finish so I could get it back to the library. The other was one i just happened across on Overdrive. If the writing in both hadn't been so good, it would have definitely been over the top.

Edited: Feb 13, 7:50am Top

It's been a while since I have dropped by . Happy Thursday

>71 drneutron: Great review. BB for me

Edited: Feb 13, 9:06am Top

Hi Jim!

>71 drneutron: Fascinating, if scary, information well presented.

Feb 13, 9:24am Top

>79 figsfromthistle:, >80 karenmarie: Hey! Interesting books, both worth reading, hope you can get to them.

Feb 13, 11:21am Top

Is the James Webb Space Telescope ever going to launch?

Feb 13, 11:40am Top

I haven't heard anything in the last few days about more delays, so I think they're still on for March 2021, about 13 months from now. A friend of mine is in their contamination control organization, and last she and i talked, things were going pretty well with pre-launch activities.

Feb 13, 11:48am Top

I would like to be alive when its data revolutionizes our astrophysical understanding, and that feels less and less likely. *sigh*

Feb 13, 1:06pm Top

Yeah, I know. That thing is one seriously complicated beast, and I think they bit off more than they suspected when they designed it. Flight hardware is being shipped down to French Guiana, though, for final assembly and integration with the launch vehicle, so I think they're still on track.

Feb 13, 1:11pm Top

>85 drneutron: Considering what the machine must do and how precisely it must do it for how many years, I am actually not surprised that it's taking forever. But please please please sacrifice some virgins or something to make it happen!

Feb 13, 4:05pm Top

>70 drneutron: I did go to Dr. Halekas' presentation last night, and it was great. He was engaging and obviously very excited about his work which is always fun even when the details go over one's head. Not to mention, it's a very cool project independent of the way it's presented.

He also handled hecklers well: during the bit where he was explaining the research questions, he pointed out how odd it is that the sun's atmosphere is hotter than its surface. Some smart-aleck called out, "Maybe it's a coronavirus?" Halekas responded that it was unlikely since six thousand degrees Kelvin is a very good sterilizer and in any case he would expect better puns from the department chair.

Anyway, it was a very fun presentation that I probably wouldn't have attended had I not been following the project from things you've mentioned in your threads. So thanks for that!

Feb 13, 4:13pm Top

Cool! I'm glad it was a good talk!

Feb 13, 4:17pm Top

Corona virus - HA!

Feb 13, 6:52pm Top

>87 swynn: Actually I rather like that one (Corona virus) :)

Feb 13, 7:00pm Top

>71 drneutron: Adding both of those to the BlackHole. Thanks for the recommendations, Jim.

Feb 13, 9:12pm Top

>87 swynn: Hahahaha, good comeback.

>83 drneutron: >84 richardderus: So exciting.

>45 drneutron: Two BBs in one post. Good shooting, Jim.

>71 drneutron: Good review of both books, but I don't think they're for me just now, worthy subjects tho they might be about.

My best to Mrsdrneutron and her mom.

Feb 14, 9:41am Top

Happy Valentine's Day!

Feb 15, 9:17am Top

Thanks! That’s a neat pic.

Feb 16, 4:02pm Top

wish you a good new week

Feb 16, 9:59pm Top

Thanks! We saw our first crocuses today outside our front door. Spring is on the way!

Yesterday, 10:04am Top

>96 drneutron: I'm jealous! I'd say we are at least a month, maybe two, away from seeing Spring flowers here

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2020

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