Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Our trip to a medieval city.

Remember back in January when I made a post about having to cancel a trip we had planned because of the weather and issues with David's work? Well we finally got to reschedule that trip last weekend.  Since it was through the USO they gave us credit towards another trip within 6 months.  Last weekend we could have gone on the trip we had initially scheduled  or . . . .

 . . . gone here.   I think we made the right choice :-)

It's a little town called Rothenburg ob der Tauber.  It literally translates into Red Castle over the Tauber river. The red castle that is its namesake, unfortunately, is no longer standing due to a large earthquake sometime in the 13th century. 

This small little town has endured so much hardship over the last thousand years and yet it's still standing. It's been devastated by earthquake, the Black Plague, the 30 Years War, the Peasant Revolution and the daily life of the 15th century.

It was so fun to walk around a city that had such a long and rich history.  Unfortunately the batteries in my camera petered out on me so I didn't get to take a whole lot of pictures but there was some amazing stuff there.  There was a beautiful house that has been owned by the same family since the middle of the 16th century.  The house of a former mayor from the 15th century is still in the middle of town.  The Medieval Crime Museum is in old building behind an older church.  One of the main churches in town has a Holy Relic of a vial supposedly containing 3 drops of Christ's blood.

I could go on and on about this town.  I could picture myself living in a set of rooms above a shop yelling at my children to go fetch me some water from the town well.  I'd make a good house Frau . . . someday.

And as you can see below the Bavarian countryside was so gorgeous.  Green and lush with little tiny houses tucked away.

I doubt the city walls looked quite as nice then as they do now.  They may have, who knows?   

I just feel lucky to be able to live in a place where there is such and old and rich history for me to explore.  America certainly has a wonderful history, but there's nothing like seeing buildings that have been around for almost a thousand years. 

So now I've seen Cologne, Paris, Reims, Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Speyer.  Next up London!!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Flying Home

I get to fly home in a couple of days and I can't wait!  I'm not looking forward to the flying part (16+ hours of flying and 19+ hours of travelling total) but it will totally be well worth it in the end.  I was going to fly Space A (military flights, kind of like stand by and it's either free or dirt cheap) but I kind of screwed the pooch on that idea.  I got my name on the list to fly out of Ramstein, but failed to put my name on lists for any bases coming home.  Not so good.  This time of year the kiddos are out of school and parents are taking advantage of Space A to fly back to the states or take the family on a cool vacation to Italy, England or the Acores. Flying by myself without David was going to be hard. It would put me at the bottom of the list to get on a flight.  Last week we said screw it and bought a commercial ticket for me to fly home.  It was cheaper than I thought it was going to be this close to when I wanted to fly out so we snatched it up.

Now that I have my ticket secured I'm faced with the task of making myself and the house ready for my departure.  I want to have as much of the house cleaned and free of clutter before I leave because I have this sneaky suspicion that cleaning won't be done by Dave while I'm gone.  Although he said he was going to at least do dishes and laundry which is fine by me.  As long as I don't come home to empty Coke cans and dirty dishes lying on every available surface I'll be happy. The other thing I'm worried he won't do is clean the litterbox . . . he HATES cleaning the litterbox.  I'll just have to gently remind him every other day when we talk on Skype :) Other than that I've made my list for what needs to be packed and I just need to get going on it. 

I am so thrilled I get to come home and spend time with my wives and my family!!  Only two more sleeps and then I'm home :-) My family is doing a big party thing in combination of my homecoming and my Granda's birthday this Sunday and I'm so excited to see everyone.  I've missed having fun friends and family to hang out with over here so it will be a definite relief to be home and around people I know and love.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Leo Tolstoy and Isaac Asimov: Unlikely Literary Bedfellows

When one thinks of the sprawling background established by Leo Tolstoy in Anna Karenina a connection to Isaac Asimov isn't usually found. Asimov's groundbreaking work in science fiction are not what a reader would take into consideration with their reading of the novel under normal circumstances.  However, Android Karenina, Quirk Classics new mash-up novel by Leo Tolstoy and Ben H. Winters, is far from normal circumstances.  It combines Tolstoy's view on realism and Asimov's view on robotics to create a fascinating new world with multiple classes of robots and the normal interactions between humans.  I confess that if it weren't for my husband I never would have realized Asimov had such an important part in this book. While discussing certain parts of the book with him I was explaining about the Iron Laws established for the robots (1. Cannot hurt a human, 2. Must obey humans, 3. Cannot intentionally harm themselves) and he became very excited.  I'm not much of a sci-fi reader myself but my husband is and was fascinated at how Asimov's ideas were integrated with the story.  Now that I've read up on Asimov and his writings it makes perfect sense for Mr. Winters to use him as a base model for a robot-dependant society.

Creating that society for 19th century Russia based on "miracle metal" groznium could not have been easy for Winters.  Establishing a hierarchy of robots from a lowly Class I mouse bot to a Class III Companion, which has highly developed interaction programs, helped eased readers into the idea. Groznium is entire backbone of the new civilization and is what has allowed them to build a society with functional robots. As such, the characters keep referring back to a time without it as if they couldn't understand how people survived without this amazing discovery.  Kitty, for instance, mentions she has to "remember like a child" before she gets her Class III Robot Titania to do it for her.  Levin has similar thoughts while he's working in his groznium mine with the robots and can't imagine how farmers ever worked without them. 

As is inevitable no matter when the technology is introduced, as soon as it is someone wants to begin improving upon the original.  The UnConScyia (Union of Concerned Scientists) are plaguing the government and their hold over the robotic developments because they don't feel they aren't progressing far enough or fast enough.  They terrorize citizens by using emotion bombs and creating accidents on magnetized skating rinks.  We see plainly enough, though, that the government has its own idea of progress and people like Alexei Karenin are working to make their plans reality.  Karenin's own Class III companion robot is experimental and is not widely known to the public and he continues to work on an "upgrade" program to existing Class III's.

The robotic element of the story seemed at times to detract from the human element, at least for me.  Anna's distress over her unhappy marriage to Karenin and her overpowering love for Vronsky seem to get minimized by the technology surrounding it.  Winters creates an effective tool in having the robots go into Surcease mode (shut themselves down for their owners privacy) during particularly difficult scenes but that doesn't eliminate from their overpowering presence.  Granted, when writing a novel that includes such advanced robots as these it is hard to downplay their role.

As a whole Android Karenina is a more lighthearted take on Tolstoy's original book.  The addition of space travel, air borne balls and robotic body armour serves as a great backdrop to explore a different setting but the same themes of love, devotion and unhappiness that are so prevalent in Anna Karenina.  I know I really enjoyed the read and look forward to more mash-up novels coming our way soon!

As a special bonus for the release of Android Karenina you can visit this website for your chance to win an awesome prize pack worth almost $100.  Tell them you read it here and you'll be entered to one of the 25 prize packs they're giving away.