Sunday, November 18, 2018

2018 ATP YEC: Zverev Stuns Djokovic To Win Biggest Title

Sascha Zverev defeated Novak Djokovic in straight sets 6-4 6-3 to win the Nitto ATP Finals in London, becoming the youngest player to win the ATP's year-end championship since Djokovic won the title in 2008.  21-year-old Zverev will end the year ranked at World #4, behind Djokovic at #1, Rafael Nadal at #2 and Roger Federer at #3. In the semifinals, Zverev defeated Federer 7-5 7-6(5). His win over Djokovic ended a 14-match winning streak the Serbian had against Top 10 players in 2018 and evened their career head to head at 2-all (his head-to-head with Federer is now 3-all).

Last year, Grigor Dimitrov beat David Goffin to win the 2017 ATP year-end championship. This win often presages  a quantum increase in success, but Dimitrov didn't have a great 2018 afterwards.

Friday, November 16, 2018

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: Jared Polis Becomes 1st Openly Gay Man Elected Governor

Former Congressman Jared Polis has become the first openly gay man to be elected as the Chief Executive of a State. Polis, 43,  is now the Governor-elect of Colorado, having been elected as a Democrat on Tuesday November 6 with 51.7% of the vote. He is a dot-com millionaire and he and his partner Marlon Reis are parents to a son and daughter.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: Foundryside (Founders, #1) by Robert Patrick Bennett

Foundryside is the first book in an epic fantasy series called The Founders trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett, the author of the Hugo-nominated Divine Cities trilogy (City of Stairs, City of Blades, City of Miracles).

Foundryside has some interesting parallels with the Divine Cities, in that the main protagonist appears to be a woman of color and her primary sidekick is a big, taciturn dude who is really good at killing people. In the Divine Cities trilogy the actual main character in each of the entries in the trilogy changed, while it looks like in Foundryside the main character will presumably remain the same, Sancia Grado (although we only have one book to make this conclusion from).

Sancia is delightful, which is great because we the reader spend a lot of time with her. (If this was a movie, she would basically be in every scene.) It is true that she’s a thief, but she’s also an escaped slave and has been mutilated by her former (unknown) masters to have curious but definitely useful abilities. She carries scars, both physical and emotional which broaden and deepen her as a character.

A key feature of Foundryside is its magic system, which is based around “scriving,” a combination of writing code and spell-casting. Basically scriving allows the scrive to change the reality of the scrived object. Examples include lamps which float in the air on their own, specialized locks that require specialized keys, and extremely powerful weapons in a civilization which is barely out of what we would call the Bronze Age. (There’s a lot of horse drawn carriages, swords, crossbows and armor in Foundryside.)

On top of this intriguing magic system Bennett layers on a feudal society and sets the story in Tevanne, a city which is basically controlled by a handful of family-run Houses that have a monopoly on the scriving market. The book begins with an extended caper of Sancia stealing something incredibly valuable (and powerful) from one of the houses and being tracked down by its head of security, who just happens to be the scion of one of the main Houses, Gregor Dandolo. Gregor is a lone survivor of a bloody engagement in a recent war and is the large dude I mentioned earlier who is very good at killing things whom I would say is the second main character of Foundryside.

Another strong aspect of Foundryside is that there are several other character that are compelling besides Sancia and Gregor. There’s Ofelia Dandolo, Gregor’s mom who also runs House Dandolo and seems to have decidedly un-maternal feelings towards her sole surviving family member. There’s House Dandolo’s primary scriver, Orso Ignacio, and his assistant Berenice who play key roles in the story. There’s also Estelle Candiolo, Orso’s former fling/girlfriend/potential wife from decades before, who is the daughter of the former head of House Candiolo and the wife of the current head, Thomas Ziauno.

I don’t want to say much about the story or plot but we do find out much more about Sancia, her origins and the source of her powers. (Also, she’s probably a lesbian, or at least has a female love interest, yay!) Foundryside being a Bennett book, there’s very rich world-building and an extremely interesting historical backstory, which in this case involves gone-but-not-forgotten ancestors who modern-day people in Tevanne basically think were gods for what THEY could do with scriving. I would not be surprised if the future books in the Founders series gives us more information about these folks, called Hierophants in the book. I look forward to reading the sequels to Foundryside with great interest, enthusiasm and impatience! HIGHLY recommended.

Title: Foundryside.
Robert Jackson Bennett.
Paperback: 512 pages.
Date Published: August 12, 2018.
Date Read: November 5, 2018.

★★  (5.0/5.0).

OVERALL GRADE: A (4.0/4.0).


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

AZ-SEN: Openly LGBT Kyrsten Sinema Wins!

Congressperson Kyrsten Sinema has won election to the United States  Senate from Arizona, defeating Congresswoman Martha McSally in a very close race. Sinema, 42, is the first female Senator from Arizona, and as a bisexual woman, only the second openly LGBTQ member of the "world's most exclusive deliberative body," following openly lesbian Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin (who was re-elected last Tuesday) in Wisconsin with 55% of the vote. She will also be one of the youngest members of the U.S. Senate.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

TENNIS NEWS: Djokovic Returns To #1, Khachanov Breaks Through, ATP YEC Field Set (Isner, Nishikori IN, Nadal, Delpo OUT)

Because Nadal cut his entire season short (he ended up not playing the rest of the year after retiring with an injury against Del Potro in the US Open semifinals) Djokovic was assured to  return to World #1 last Monday when the Paris Masters points dropped off the calendar. This was a historic changeabout for Djojkovic who started 2018  with 6 losses and 6 wins but then had a 20-match winning streak which resulted in 3 titles (2018 Wimbledon and 2018 US Open).


The highlight of the Paris Masters was the 47th match between Federer and Djokovic, which the Serbian was able to win the 3-hour semifinal showdown 7-6(6) 5-7 7-6(3) despite never breaking Federer's serve.

By Nadal being unable to compete in the ATP World Tour Finals, Djokovic will end up as the year-end #1 since World #3 Roger Federer will be unable to get enough points to surpass the Serb by the end of the year. This is the fifth time Djokovic has ended the year at #1 (2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2018).

Karen Khachanov defeated Djokovic in the final of the ATP Paris Masters in straight sets 7-5 6-4 to win the biggest match of his career. The 6-foot-6 Russian reached a career high of World #11 and seized the ATP World Tour Finals first alternate spot with the win.

The Elite Eight is set with the field consisting of Djokovic, Federer, Sascha Zverev, Kevin Anderson, Dominic Thiem, Marin Cilic, John Isner and Kei Nshikori. The two alternates are Borna Coric and Karen Khachanov. The draw is set, with Djokovic, Zverev, Isner and Cilic in the Guga Kuerten group and Federer, Thiem,  Nishikori and Anderson in the Lleyton Hewitt group.

Friday, November 09, 2018

2018 World Chess Championship: Carlsen versus Caruana (London, November 9-28)

The 2018 World Chess championship is being held in London starting today and should last until November 28th or so. It is between the defending world champion 27-year-old Magnus Carlsen of Norway, and 26-year-old Fabiano Caruana of the United States. Carlsen has been the World #1 ranked chess player since 2010, and first won the World Championship by defeating Viswanathan Anand in 2013 at the age of 22.

However, Caruana is the first American player to challenge for the World Chess champion title since Bobby Fischer in 1972. This is a *big* deal and he is the real deal. I didn't know much about him but this article informed me of his bona fides.

Carlsen-Caruana is the matchup that the chess world was hoping for. It’s world No. 1 versus world No. 2—the first World Championship match between the top two since Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov went at it for the fifth and final time in 1990. Caruana only sits three Elo rating points behind Carlsen at 2832 to 2835, both the highest combined rating and the smallest ratings difference in World Championship history. If Caruana wins the match within the 12 classical games, he’ll not only take the title but also the world No. 1 spot that Carlsen has held continuously since July 2011—about which Magnus has said, “I would like to give you some boring, politically correct answer, but the truth is, yeah, it does bother me!”

This should be awesome!

Monday, November 05, 2018

EYE CANDY: Robert Oliveira (reprise)

Robert Oliveira is another one of my Brazilian crushes. He has appeared as eye candy only once before (July 16, 2018) but  almost certainly will make many more. There's a reason why he has over 200,000 followers on Instagram (@robert.official). Enjoy!

Thursday, November 01, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: Jar City by Arnaldur Indriðason

Jar City is the first book by Arnaldur Indriðason that I have read. I was mostly interested in reading it because it’s set in Reykjavik, and ever since the city was put on the map fro the famous World Chess Championship between Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer in 1972 I have been interested in it. I visited Reykjavik this year for a week to celebrate my birthday in May 2018. Thus it was sorta fun to read place names that were somewhat familiar in Jar City

However it turned out that Jar City the book was not that interesting to me in the end. I have a theory that quality of mystery books depends on a number of factors: the quality of the characterization of the protagonist/detective, the interesting features of the sidekicks, the compelling nature of the setting and the intricacy of the puzzle/mystery. 

Here the strongest aspect of Jar City is the puzzle. The protagonist is Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson, who is somewhat interesting but also a bit of a misanthropic and unattractive character. This is not necessarily a deal breaker for me to enjoy a mystery book, since one could also describe popular mystery characters like Inspector John Rebus by Ian Rankin. The main problem with Jar City is with the sidekicks, who are completely uninteresting to me. One  is a woman named Elinborg and a guy named Sigurður Óli. We don't get very much (if any) of the internal monologue of either of these supporting characters, and it's not even very clear what Erlendur thinks of either of his partners. One would think that the setting (Reykjavik) would be compelling but in the end the homogeneous and exotic nature of the setting is not as interesting as I had originally expected when I discovered the books existed. 

Although Jar City is technically not the first book in the Inspector Erlendur series, it is the first book in the English translation order of the books. It's also often true the first book in a mystery series is often not the author's best work. (This is definitely true of Ian Rankin, Peter Robinson and Patricia Cornwell, just to name a few.)

I have to add that the one aspect of the first book that may get me to read the future entries is Elendur’s relationship with his pregnant, drug-addicted daughter Eva Lind. I’m definitely curious about what happens to her character but there are many other series that I would rather make progress on first (Val McDermid's Tony Hill/Carol Jordan and Stuart MacBride's DS Logan McRae immediately come to mind, for instance).

Title: Jar City (Inspector Erlendur, #3).
Arnaldur Indriðason.
Paperback: 275 pages.
 Minotaur Books.
Date Published: October 1, 2005.
Date Read: July 29, 2018.

★★  (3.0/5.0).

OVERALL GRADE: B (3.0/4.0).




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