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Edward Tufte Books

Notes and Thoughts on Edward Tufte’s one-day seminar

Dr. Edward Tufte is doing his one-day seminar tour. I sent two of my team to attend on the first day in Austin, and I went on the second day in Houston. If that doesn’t send the message that I think this is a very worthwhile and valuable seminar, then let me be clearer: Dr. Tufte has been and remains the expert in data visualization and he not only keeps up with developments in this area, he explores it and expands it by doing his own developments.

The fee was $380, and includes all for of Dr. Tufte’s books, which cost $100 by themselves. I was not aware that these four gorgeous books were self-published by his own Graphics Press; gives my JoSara MeDia something to aspire to.

And I got all four of his books signed, so the geek fan boy in me is quite happy.Edward Tufte Books

There was no set delineation of the presentation, though in typical Tufte fashion there were handouts and suggested reading during the “study hall” period. I got there early, sat on the front row and had Dr. Tufte come down the row, introduce himself and ask what I did while signing the books. We talked a bit about medical records, EPIC (a large EMR company) and how faxes still dominate the medical field.

Besides geeking out with Dr. Tufte, what did I get out of it?

  • As always, adopted some suggestions for many of our apps, including thinking about the Media Sourcery workflow app as a box score (which it kind of already resembles) and taking my Grand Canyon map experiments into a video panning phase (which I tried once, but looks like the tools have improved).
  • Too often we hear our customers ask us to “dumb it down for the users.” Tufte continually reinforces the opposite of this, that users can handle the complexities, as he goes through his examples.
  • And, of course, his fundamental principles of analytical design (I listed seven, his book BEAUTIFUL DESIGN lists six…so maybe I created one!)
  • The “Tufte-isms” were great, thrown out frequently…so frequently I’m not sure I captured all of them. Quotes from Dr. Tufte are marked like this.

The outline below is my own, just to arrange my notes. They are here for my bad memory, and for your consumption.

Introduction

TufteNoInscriptionsLike most of the world, Dr. Tufte is not a fan of Powerpoint. And the readings assigned in the study hall (more on study hall later) remind of a few of his standard recommendations:

  • Simplification is not the answer, users can handle complexity
  • “Clutter and confusion are failures of design, not attributes of information” (Envisioning Information, pg. 50)

Study hall had several assigned readings in the one hour time set aside, which Dr. Tufte roamed around, signing and talking. Also in the agenda is a set of “Special Interest Topics” (ten sections of these) and two selections of “Homework”. Wonder if I should set deadlines for my guys to get this done… :)

Information Examples

Dr. Tufte went through multiple examples of “information as the interface.” From the seminar page on his website:

Fundamental design strategies for all information
displays: sentences, tables, diagrams, maps, charts, 
images, video, data visualizations, and randomized
displays for making graphical statistical inferences.”

Example #1 – Stephen Malinowski’s Music Animation Machine (try it out at the link)

National Weather ServiceExample #2 – National Weather Service (the base site is linked to, but the site reviewed was a specific forecast, enter a zip code to see the particular page)

mentions little data, with no more little data graphics…which doesn’t force viewers to have to figure out graphs.

Everyone knows how to use, read and view numbers, words and simple graphics.

Tufte: “Minimize design-figuring-out-time, Maximize content reasoning time

A lot of data on one scrollable page. “Humans are good at scanning and recognizing what they are looking for” (example: finding your name on a long list of names)

Tufte: “Being read to from a Powerpoint, the rate of information transfer asymptotically approaches zero.” This guy is witty, eh?

Tufte: “Only two industries call their customers users: illegal drugs and software.” OUCH!

1st: view/eye, 2nd: scroll, 3rd: drill down

Example #3: Policy Story from the NY Times (old article, can’t find online)

Logo and author links show responsibility, accountability, credibility

There are 60 numbers in the story, no graphics, reinforcing the earlier point about that everyone knows how to use/read/view numbers and words…no need to get fancy.

Tufte: “Use experts to get the presentation/article out of your voice and into the experts voice.”

The graph in this article is terrible, sourced from a lobbyist group, with no defensible numbers.

Example #4: Health Article from NY Times (again, an old article). Dr. Tufte does like the NYTimes website, and uses them frequently in examples.

Main point here is a graph of charges vs. Medicare reimbursement. The graphic uses annotations on the graphic, which helps the reader to immediately know how to read the display.

Dr. Tufte continually emphasizing comparing corporate IT properties to Google News, Google Maps, NY Times and WSJ. “Put your IT material next to these. Aim high.”

Espn box score pageExample #5: ESPN.Com World Series page

Using the box score, one level down from the home page. An example of numbers and words, a table of lots of numbers, that is viewed all season for every game and has been for a decade. Great example….though the example he showed didn’t have the cool underwear ad that mine captured! Score!

Tufte makes a point about ordering by interest or mathematical order, not alphabetically.

He ends this segment with my favorite quote: “No matter how beautiful your interface is, it would be better if there is less of it!

How to give a presentation

From the seminar page on his website:

A new, widely-adopted method for presentations:
meetings are smarter, more effective, 20% shorter.”

  • Begin with a document – Paper has the highest resolution of any current medium
  • Every meeting should begin with a study hall – don’t make a big deal about it. Give attendees your document at the beginning of the meeting and ask them to read it. No one reads material passed out before a meeting. Use meeting time for the content.
  • Don’t touch every point in the document. Annotate.
  • Take questions. Take notes on the questions. Directly answer the questions.
  • Example: take a document with your symptoms and questions in to your doctor.

Dr. Tufte shows an Amazon article where they have no powerpoint, all meetings start with a 30 minute study hall. Quote on the article (not sure who to attribute): “Powerpoint is easy for the presenter, hard for the audience.”

Information Architecture

From the seminar page of his website:

“Standards of comparison for workaday and for cutting
edge visualizations. How to identify excellent
information architectures and use them as models and
comparison sets for your own work and for the work
of your contractors. Monitoring the designs of others.”

This section was a bit of a jumble, with various topics, but some excellent examples.

Covered scientific publishing, discussing how jargon is reduced as articles go from the back of Nature to the front of Nature to the more populist web sites and publications. Most people only read the abstracts (so true), and the abstract should state (like a thesis) problem-relevance-solution.

After a break, Dr. Tufte once again mentioned the woefulness that is government and corporate IT Dashboards. He referenced again the ESPN.COM box score page as a easily readable dashboard with tons of numbers as a “standard for comparison.”

The point of an information display – “To help thinking about the content

Example #1: NYTime Article with Annotated Linking

Tufte notes that NYTimes employs 40 “Graphics News Reporters.” Do not use plain un-descriptive lines, use annotations on lines. Also goes through a diagram on pg. 78 of BEAUTIFUL EVIDENCE which uses annotated lines in a diagram tracking SARS patients.

Example #2: Tim Berners-Lee, his original paper suggesting the Internet and linking

Tufte showed the manager’s comment that he originally put on top of Berners-Lee’s paper “Vague but exciting…”. And a good quote from the document, a hierarchy of nouns to the flatness of verbs.

Example #3: xkcd – over lap of items on the front page of college website on left side intersecting with items you really want to know…with only the college’s name in the intersection.

Example #4: Google Maps – again, enforces compare this with your workaday presentations, since everyone uses and knows how to use this seemingly complex app. Compare diagrams to Google Maps. Satellite view – overlay data on top of them.

Example #5: Popular Music chart (from pg. 90-91 of VISUAL EXPLANATION). I found a similar one online, it is shown to the right. It is a flat interface, Tufte showed an iPad version of it in a video and on screen which had the artists names clickable, playing their music with videos behind the diagram. Very cool.

Then he showed the Viz-A-Matic….a graph generate that showed what NOT to do.

Being a Spectator (consuming a presentation)

From the seminar page:

New ideas on spectatorship, consuming reports.
How to assess the credibility of a presentation
and its presenter, how to detect cherry-picking,
how to reason about alternative explanations.

Tufte: “A presentation or graphic should provide reason to believe.”

Tufte: “An open mind but not an empty head.”

Two things in presentations as a spectator – Content and Credibility

Watch out for Cherry Picking (which is not when a Houston Rocket stays back toward his basket waiting for a long pass) – picking only certain details to support points. Also, not linking to the source documents, and being in a “rage to conclude“.

Tufte: “Why go to a presentation whose conclusion you agree with?”

Measurements that are in presentations – have a sense of what is relative. See how the measurements are actually made; get out into the field. See directly. The fog of data will fall from your eyes. Tufte mentions when a chemical company was policing themselves, collecting water samples in clear water…”sampling to please.” People and institutions cannot keep their own score.

Search Google Images for data, the search results are not gamed like the normal Google text searches are.

Finale – Maps moving and Fundamentals

A little bit of talk about displays, and a demo of movie panning over very nice maps of the Swiss Alps. This is something I’ve tried to do with the Grand Canyon app, and I’ll try again.

Dr. Tufte also talked about Small Multiples and Sparklines briefly, but these are covered in detail in his books.

Dr. Tufte demonstrated a tool called “Image Quilts” by Adam Schwarz. It is a chrome plug-in/extension. I played with it, using my friend and artist Barbara Franklet’s images through a google image search.

Barbara Franklet Image Quilt

He closed with his Fundamentals. As stated in the beginning, there are six in the book, but I counted seven.

  1. Show Causality
  2. Make Comparisons
  3. Displays Should be Multi-variate
  4. Integrate All Modes of Information (text, numbers, images, videos, everything)
  5. Document (i.e., show sources)
  6. It’s all about content
  7. Displays are flat, but the world is not

Tufte: “move to web-based presentations. move away from flatland.”

I cannot recommend this seminar and these books highly enough.

Edward Tufte Signature

No Fishing From Bridge

Pikes Peak Ascent training – week 4

Gator MailboxThe previous week’s log is here.

Week 4 has the same schedule as week 3 – five easy runs and two off days. After this, we get into the different tempo and speed work sessions.

The first part of this week was in Tampa/Clearwater, Thursday and Friday in San Antonio, then the weekend back home.

When I’m in Clearwater, I run the Ream Wilson trail (see map at the bottom of this post), but on this trip it looked like they had finished the hike and bike trail across Highway 60, also called Gulf-to-Bay Blvd. It is probably 6-7 miles across for a 12-14 mile round trip…which is quite a bit longer run than desired 4 weeks into the program. But the part I ran on was a great trail (even though they were still putting some of the barriers and rails up) so I will definitely run it again for a longer run next time I’m back in town for business.

Week 4 schedule:

  • Monday:off day - EASY RUN 4.5 mi in 41:55 9:19 min/mi pace. Ran the Ream Wilson trail east to Hwy 19.
  • Tuesday: easy 5 mi - EASY RUN  5.35 mi in 50:55 9:31 min/mi. Ran same trail, this time to the west to Safety Harbor. One of my colleagues, Kim, was looking for a picture of a gator for her daughter back in Texas. I got this one for her – a gator that I can most assuredly out run!
  • Wednesday: off day - EASY RUN  6.56 mi in 1:03:33  9:41 min/mi. Meant to take it easy, but went to the almost completed hike and bike trail on the bay side of the Gulf-to-Bay Blvd. Even though it was a bit overcast in the morning and it was during rush hour, it was a very nice trail, great run. Getting across to the trail was easy that the one time I had previously attempted it; I’m assuming they have fixed the crosswalk lights now to actually let bikers and runners go across. A couple of photos of the trail below

Gulf To Bay Trail No Fishing From Bridge

  • Thursday: easy 3 mi - moved off day to today, which was a travel day. Late night flight in from Tampa last night, flight out to San Antonio this morning.
  • Friday: easy 3 mi - EASY RUN 4.13 mi in 40:53  9:54 min/mi. Now in San Antonio, ran through MacArthur Park as I usually do. Strangely this time I saw no deer.
  • Saturday: easy 5 mi - EASY RUN 5.32 mi  50:25 9:29 min/mi. Back in Houston. Reviewing the week 4 entry from my last Hanson’s running reminded me about why we do “easy runs”. A couple of quotes from Hanson’s to remind me about the benefits of “Easy Runs”:
    • “To understand why easy running is important, you must consider the physiological adaptations that it stimulates in muscle fiber development, energy utilization, capillary development, cardiovascular strength, and structural fitness.”
    • When you run at lower intensities, you burn around 70 percent fat and 30 percent carbohydrate. With an increase in pace comes an increase in the percentage of carbohydrates you burn. Your easy running days serve as catalysts to develop those slow-twitch muscle fibers and, consequently, teach your body to burn fats over carbohydrates. Slow-twitch fibers are better than fast-twitch fibers at burning fat because they contain greater amounts of mitochondria, enzymes that burn fat, and capillaries.Luke, Humphrey (2014-03-12). Hansons Half-Marathon Method: Run Your Best Half-Marathon the Hansons Way (Kindle Locations 730-733). VeloPress. Kindle Edition.
  • Sunday: easy 6 mi - EASY RUN 6.7 mi in 1:03:46  9:31 min/mi

I must comment on the Podcast I’ve started listening to during running. I’ve always listened to TodayInIOS podcast to keep up with iOS related topics, but Rob from that podcast listed his favorite podcasts, and Hardcore History has become my go-to running audio. Currently I’m listening to his description of WWII, a long four-part series called “Blueprint for Armageddon.” If you like history, I cannot recommend it more highly.

Plan total (5+3+3+5+6) = 22 miles

Actual total (4.5+5.35+6.56+4.13+5.32+6.7) = 32.6 miles, quite a bit more than called for, but I’m feeling good on the long easy runs.

Next week, week five, starts something other than “easy runs” with a Tempo Run on Thursday. It is also the last week with Monday off, and since it falls on the Labor Day holiday, I’m good with that.

Map Of Ream Wilson Trail

Pikes Peak Ascent training – week 3

Week 3 has the same schedule as week 2 (previous week’s post here) – five easy runs and two off days. And both of the Hanson’s strategies (half and full) have the same distances (4 miles four days and 5 miles on one day).

This week moved from April into May, and in April I racked up 110 total miles. I feel like the longer distances are easier,  and assume it is because I’m going through the program a second time. But when I look back at the numbers, I did run quite a bit in the months before the first Hanson program.

The first time through the program, leading up to the December 7 SA Half Marathon, monthly totals were:

May 2014: 52 miles; June: 88; July: 100; August (first month of the program): 97; Sept:: 152; Oct: 187; Nov: 191: Dec: 76

This time:

January 2015: 32 miles; Feb: 44; March: 68; April (first month of the program): 110

I did a lot more “warming up” before the program last time, trying to make sure my knees could handle the six days out of seven running. And I did crash a bit after the first time through the program, reflected in the low January and February numbers.

I’ll update this periodically.

The previous week’s post (week 2) is here.

Week 3 schedule:

  • Monday: off day - EASY RUN 3.51 mi in 35:15 10:02 min/mi. Slow pace for two reasons – a really long run the Sunday before, a humid Houston day, and I was fiddling with a new running program, iSmoothRun, which I will be using going forward. I’ll write a longer post that compares it to MapMyRun, but the main reasons are accuracy and support for the upcoming intervals.
  • Tuesday: easy 4 mi - EASY RUN  5.44 mi in 51:32 9:29 min/mi, Last half marathon, I aimed for an 8:15 race pace; this time my goal is 8:00. Therefore, in the Hanson scheme, my easy pace should be between 9 and 10 min/mi.
  • Wednesday: off day
  • Thursday: easy 4 mi - EASY RUN 6.0 mi in 53:54 8:59 min/mi. A rare late April cool front made the running later in the week absolutely wonderful, low humidity and temps in the 50s-70s. Took this one a bit fast for what the program says.
  • Friday: easy 4 mi - off day. Sometimes life, work, roof inspectors and going to see the second Avengers movie gets in the way.
  • Saturday: easy 4 mi - EASY RUN 6.25 mi in 57:54 9:16 min/mi. A nice run followed by some slight brewery tours in Conroe (Southern Star and B-52) and ribs…plus a screening of Pitch Perfect, in advance of Pitch Perfect 2 with the Packers in it. I’m sure the beer and BBQ will help my long run tomorrow.
  • Sunday: easy 5 mi - EASY RUN 7.53 mi Run / Jog 1:11:32 1,037 kCal 9:30 min/mi During the run, felt fine, felt like I could keep going, and certainly did negative splits. But man did I feel exhausted later.

Total recommended: 21 mi (4+4+4+4+5 easy)

Actual: 28.7 mi (all easy), a bit less that last week. Last Hanson training week 3 was 21.9 miles

Next week (week 4) is the last of the same schedule (5 easy and 2 off). I’ll be in Clearwater M-W and San Antonio Th-Friday, so will put some flexibility into the schedule.

To Green Angel Tower Part 1

To Green Angel Tower Part 1 re-read: Part Two: The Winding Road

To Green Angel Tower Part 1THE DOOR STOP KEEP ON COMETHing!!!

This is the second and last part of the re-read of To Green Angel Tower, Part 1, the third book in Tad William’s Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series.

The introductory post is here, if you are interested.

The re-read post for The Dragonbone Chair part I, Simon Mooncalf is here.

The re-read post for The Dragonbone Chair  part II, Simon Pilgrim is here.

The re-read post for The Dragonbone Chair part III, Simon Snowlock is here.

The re-read post for Stone of Farewell part I, Storm’s Eye is here.

The re-read post for Stone of Farewell part II, Storm’s Hand is here.

The re-read post for Stone of Farewell part III, Storm’s Heart is here.

The re-read post for To Green Angel Tower part I, The Waiting Stone is here.

This third book (part 1) is 796 pages – paperback. Part Two: The Winding Road goes from page 523 to 796 (making this second part of a very large book a lot shorter than the first part).

A note on the obvious: if you have not read the book, since this describes said book…here there be spoilers! And color commentary is in color (mostly in this color).

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Even after you read the re-read, I highly recommend reading the books and Tad’s words. Click on the covers below to find them on Amazon.

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Chapter 17: Bonfire Night - The battle is over, the dead have been counted and the Prince mourns his friend Deornoth. As Simon is walking to join Prince Josua, he thinks of the Storm King:

Why hadn’t the Storm King sent help to Fengbald as he had to Elias at the siege at Naglimund? Survivors’ stories of the horror of the Norns’ attack were almost as vivid in Simon’s mind as the memories of his own strange adventures. If the swords were so important, and Josua was known by the Hikeda’ya to have one of them – which according to the Prince and Deornoth was almost certainly the case – why hadn’t Sasuad’ra’s defenders found themselves staring down an army of ice giants and armored Norns? Was it something about the Stone itself? (pg 525)

Simon goes with Josua to pay his respects to Deornoth, and then has the Prince tell him stories of his dead friend as they walk to confront the prisoners. Josua asks Simon if he thinks the Sithi would mind if they buried their battle dead on the Stone. Simon remembers that Jiriki buried his kinsman An’nai with Grimmric. Josua asks Simon what Jao é Tinukai’i was like.

They play a bit of good cop-bad cop with the Erkyguard prisoners that were fighting for Fengbald, and end up setting them free, perhaps with them joining Josua’s army. Simon voices his opinion about not treating the mercenaries so lightly, and Josua tells him he appreciates the counsel.

Simon is admired by three young girls while he is trimming his beard in Jiriki’s mirror (and shows his naïveté by not understanding what they are asking). They ask if he will be at the bonfire celebration and if he has a lady.  This causes him to daydream and moon over the absent Miriamele.

Josua mentions to Vorzheva that they must strike Elias now, to keep their momentum going.

Then, the dead are buried, and the living celebrate their victory, Simon with much wine. I do believe the young knight gets hammered …trashed …loopy.

Simon is snogging (yes, snogging) with Ulca, one of the girls from the party, which a voice interrupts them, eventually saying “I am a fairy woman. What are you doing with my husband to be?” Of course, it is Aditu. Ulca runs away screaming, and Aditu gives greetings from Jiriki.

Chapter 18: The Fox’s Bargain - Eolair and Isorn are camped with their growing company of men, when they hear a great commotion and singing. Venturing out, they see it is the mounted Sithi, riding fast in the same direction Eolair and company were heading – toward Hernysadharc. They give chase, and Eolair laughingly remembers “The Fox’s Bargain”:

“We will never forget” the Fair ones said,
‘Though time may ancient run,
You will hear our horns beneath the moon,
You will see our spears shine in the sun…” (pg 558)

They stop short of the town, so they can approach during the day, and find Skali and his men gone, and colorful Sithi tents everywhere. Eolair finally finds Craobhan, the old advisor, who finds them food and brings Eoliar to Maegwin. Maegwin has a bruise on her head, and tells Eolair that she “made the gods come” (and her caretaker agrees with her). They let her rest, and, as Eolair leaves her room to rejoin Isorn, Jiriki walks in, introduces himself,

“I am Jiriki-i-Sa’onserei. At this moment, I speak for the Zidya. We have come to repay our debt to Prince Sinnach of Hernystir.” (pg 567)

and asks to speak with whoever is in charge. After regaining their kool, Eolair determines that he is in charge, and follows Jiriki to the Sithi tent-city. As they are following, Eolair and Isron ask questions:

“Do you mind my asking,” Eolair ventured, “what happened to the wall that Skali built around the city?”
Jiriki seemed to ponder for a moment. “Ah, that,” he said at least and smiled. “I think you are probably speaking of the handiwork of my mother, Likimeya. We were in a hurry. The wall was in our way.” (pg 568)

Jiriki predicts many harsher battles and many more lives lost than were lost surprising Skali.

Then the story moves to mad King Elias. He has had a bad dream, in fact of the Sithi driving out Skali, and goes to see Pryrates. Pryrates tells him this is true, and that Elias is having these dreams because he is close to the Storm King, having accepted his gift. The King and Pryrates almost come to blows, with the King saying he would not have accepted this bargain if he would have known the changes he had to go through.

Eolair, Isorn and Ule are brought before Likimeya, Queen of the Dawn Children. After teasing Eolair with the idea that there was some Sithi-human wango tango in his past bloodline, and determining that the two Rimmersmen were indeed not enemies, they eat and talk about next steps. Those next steps are to not join Josua in his fight against Elias, as Eolair entreats, but to turn to Naglimund, now a lair of the Storm King, and bring it down.

Chapter 19: A Broken Smile - Cadrach has been trying to revive Tiamak and the other Wrannman after their escape from the Ghant’s nest (last chapter in the previous part). After a while, Tiamak finally awakens, thanks them for rescuing him and tells them of his time as a captive in the ghant’s nest.

The ghants had let the other Wrannman go, and, after covering Tiamak with “ooze”, they put a mirror in his hand (probably like the other shards to the dream road). He started having “words” and “visions” in his head that were not human. He began speaking like a ghant, and the visions showed him the ghants rising up out of the swamp and swarming the cities (no doubt the Storm King trying to use the ghants).

They decide they need to leave the Wran with all haste. Tiamak’s fellow Warnnman dies, and he provides a semi-formal ceremony.

As they are leaving the Wran, Cadrach believes he understands some of what happened to Tiamak.

“…there were once things called Witnesses, which were made by the Sithi in the depths of time. These things allowed them to speak to each other over great distances, and perhaps let them show dreams and visions to each other. They came in many forms – ‘Stones and Scales, Pools and Pyres,’ as the old books say. ‘Scales’ are what the Sithi call mirrors. I do not know why.” (pg 598)

We know what they are called ‘Scales’ thanks to Sir Seoman the dragon slayer.

Miri speaks to Cadrach, asks him if he “knows magic”, and about helping Josua against Pryrates and the Storm King when they get to Josua. This scares the crap out of Cadrach. Tiamak, visibly nervous about what he has hidden in his pack (Nisses’ manuscript), falls back into a fever. Miri, and then Tiamak, catch Cadrach sneaking into Tiamak’s pack.

They finally emerge from the Wran, only to be surprised and surrounded by Aspitis Previtis, whose land they are now traveling through. Aspitis is horribly deformed, and tells Miri she will wake up next to his hideous face everyday. Miri begins to taunt him, telling him he is a weakling who takes advantage of women. She goads him into a sword fight, and gets Isgrimnur to throw the sword in front of Camaris. Camaris fights unwillingly, and then shows skill, ultimately defeating Aspitis and knocking him out. Miri demands horses from Aspitis men as she holds him at sword point.

They camp for the night, and Cadrach runs off with a horse, leaving a note for Miri that says he does not belong with Josua, and that things are worse than she knows.

Chapter 20: Travelers and Messengers - Aditu and Simon are at the “Observatory”, a place Aditu says she has not visited for a “very long time.” Simon asks her a bit about the place. Aditu says “This was the place of the Rhao iye-Sama’an – the Master Witness.” She explains further:

“You know what a Witness is, Simon. Jiriki gave you his mirror. That is a minor Witness, and there are many of those still in existence. There are only a few Master Witnesses, each more or less bound to a place – the Pool of Three Depths in Asu’a, the Speakfire in Hikehikayo, the Green Column in Jhiná-T’seneí – and most of those are broken or ruined or lost. Here at Sesuad’ra it was a great stone beneath the ground, a stone called the Earth-Drake’s Eye. Earth-Drake is another name – it is difficult to explain the differences between the two in your tongue – for the Greater Worm who bites at his own tail,” she explained. “We built this entire place on top of that stone. It was not quite a Master Witness – in fact, it was not even a witness by itself, but such was its potency that a minor Witness like my brother’s mirror would be a Master Witness if used here.”
…”What does that mean, Aditu?” he asked…
“A minor Witness will lead you onto the Road of Dreams, but will usually show you only those you know, or those who are looking for you…A Master Witness, if used by someone who knew the ways of it, could look on anyone or anything, and sometimes into other times and…other places.” (pg 624-625)

So, there is a Master Witness in Asu’a, probably near where Pryrates is messing around with things he shouldn’t be messing around with. And there is a large tail-eating dragon (or the magic or remains of one) buried underground, but providing ley lines of power for those who know where to look. More on this in The Last King of Osten Ard, Mr. Williams.

Aditu, as playful as ever, teases Simon about being kissed and then gives him a nice passionate one….just to addle his brains over females a bit more. Simon asks about the Norn Queen, and Aditu tells him that Utuk’ku is the Eldest, the oldest living one of them, and that she desires oblivion for her and everyone else. Then Simon asks why the Norns went north. When Aditu tells him of the parting, Simon tells her that he saw that during his overnight vigil to become a knight (way back in Chapter 1 of this book). Aditu asks him questions, alarmed that he could have such a vision without the use of a Witness like Jiriki’s mirror.

Cut to Josua’s tent the next morning, where Geloë brings him a message that came from one of Dinivan’s birds…suspicious since Dinivan is dead. The message suggests it is time for Josua to march on Nabban, and tells him a messenger will come to him in a fortnight. Then…Simon walks in with Aditu, surprising most everyone.

Aditu gives the message from her mother that the Sithi have ridden to Hernystir, and from there plan to go to Naglimund to drive out the Norns and the rest of the Storm King’s forces. Other than the fact that Naglimund is too close to their homeland, Aditu will not divulge the full reasons for going there. She tells them the Storm King cannot enter Asu’a, but his minions can….and that it seems that Ineluki desires to rule the humans through Elias, and give his ex-family grief at the same time.

Vorzheva befriends Aditu, and they spend quite a bit of time together. Aditu, whose people have few children, is fascinated with Vorzheva’s pregnancy. The rest of the folks there are fascinated with Aditu, and, because of her association with Simon, lots of stories and fantasies about Simon spread.

The messenger referred to in the message Dinivan’s bird carried arrives. It is Lenti, and the message is from Count Streáwe of Perdruin, saying that he can deliver Nabban to Josua. Josua decides to call his council soon to discuss.

Simon and Aditu are playing shent, when Jerimias rushes in to tell them Duke Isgrimnur and Princess Miriamele, and others, have come.

Chapter 21:  Answered Prayers - The story flashes back a bit to track Miriamele and company’s journey back to Josua and company. Tiamak reveals that he believes he has Nisses book in his bag. One night while camping, when Isgrimnur talks about how he will greet his wife, and how she is a part of him, Miri has a ‘eureka’ moment, and decides that the reason her father is doing these heinous things with Pryrates is to somehow get back with his dearly departed dead wife, Miri’s mom Hylissa.

They finally make it to Sesuad’ra, and are greeted by all.

Another who stood silently by seemed oddly familiar. He was bearded, and streak of white marred his red hair and capped the pale scar on his cheek. He looked at her as though he would memorize her, as though someday he might carve her in stone. (pg 663)

Chapter 22: Whispers in Stone - Utuk’ku sees a problem with her long-laid plans. Jegger is dead, so she sends out three minions to take care of this problem. Then she sees another problem, one “from Amerasu’s line” messing with one of the Master Witnesses. She almost smiles as she plans to take care of him.

It is, of course, Jiriki, the most impetuous of the Sithi (if there is such a thing as an impetuous Sithi). He has gone down with Eolair into the caves of the dwarrows, a place Jiriki calls “Mezutu’a – the Silverhome.” He tells Eolair a bit about their past:

“When the Tinukeda’ya severed their fates from ours, Jenjiyana of the Nightingales declared in her wisdom that we should give this place to the Navigator’s Children, in partial payment of the debt we owed them.” He frowned and shook his head, hair moving loosely about his shoulders. “Year Dancing-House, at least, remembered something of honor. She also gave to them Hikehikayo in the North, and sea-collared Jhiná-T seneí, which has long disappeared beneath the waves.” (pg 669)

Jiriki also tells Eolair that the folks Eolair knows as dwarrows and niskies are all Tinukeda’ya, the Ocean Children, that they can “change themselves over time to fit better into the place that they lived; there is a certain mutability in their blood and bones.” (p670). Lots of fertile ground here for the next series, including several questions around the Garden Born, their treatment of the Tinukeda’ya and these other places with Master Witnesses that are supposedly lost.

They come upon the other Master Witness, the Shard of Mezutu’a, which Eolair and Maegwin on their first visit heard the voice of Amerasu coming through to the dwarrows. Upon somewhat communing with it, Jiriki states that another Master Witness, the “Speakfire of Hikehikayo”, is close. Jiriki decides he needs to reach this to use it to determine what is going on (he doesn’t actually say what he hopes to find out, but one would assume to see if he can determine Utuk’ku and the Storm King’s plans.

At this point, this comes to mind:

Of course, Jiriki gets stuck in the trap. He told Eolair not to touch him while he was communing with the Shard, but Eolair determines that something is wrong, and pull Jiriki away…and then blacks out. He does revive, and Jiriki says he should give Eolair his white arrow, but he already gave it to Simon, so…he just gets thanks.

A quick aside to Rachael feeding a cat in the Hayholt, which I suspect is the author’s small ploy to get me to read his cat book, the only one I have not read. It will not work. Dogs rule.

Eolair and Jiriki are coming down from the mountains after being in the caves of the dwarrows, and they find Maegwin, planting flowers. She believes she is dead and in heaven, and that Jiriki is one of the gods. Jiriki says he may have a healer that can help.

And…back to Rachael. She’d fed the cat, and, as she wanted, the cat leads blind Earl Guthwulf (who saved her from Pryrates when she attacked him) back. She tells him there will be food there for him if he returns.

Chapter 23: The Sounding of the Horn - Lenti the messenger, still afraid of Duke Isgrimnur who smacked him around on Perdruin, leaves with Josua’s message. Towser the Jester passes away. Simon moons over Miri, but she leaves him abruptly when she finds he has kept the scarf she gave him when he left Naglimund long long ago (their conversation reminds us readers that they are both only 16 years old).

Tiamak and Father Strangeyeard take oaths as Scrollbearers, and then they, Binabik and Geloë try to solve the riddle of the three swords. Tiamak presents his copy of Nisses’ book, which gives them more clues. After much discussion, they believe this passage holds some keys:

“…Bring from Nuanne’s Rocke Garden,
The Man who tho’ Blinded canne See
Discover the Blayde that delivers the Rose
At the foote of the Rimmer’s great Tree
Find the Call whose lowde Claime
Speak’s the call-bearer’s name
In a Shippe on the Shallowest Sea -
– When Blade, Call and Man
Come to the Prince’s right Hande
Then the Prisoned shall once more go Free...” (pg 697)

They deduce that this involves Camaris, the horn Simon brought from Aditu, and the sword Thorn (found near the Rimmersman’s tree). After re-finding the horn (Sangfugol had taken it as a reminder of Towser, who had stole it), they all gather with Camaris and the items. At first, he will not touch them, even pushing Josua away with force. But, after a passionate plea from Josua where he described Deornoth’s sacrifice, Camaris blows the horn, and his awareness returns…along with some despair.

In an interlude, Miri asks Josua to promise him that she can see her father King Elias alone when the eventually lay siege to the castle…but she will not tell him why. He denies this request as much too dangerous.

Chapter 24: A Sky Full of Beasts - Count Streáwe (he of the bird message to Prince Joshua) is in Nabban meeting with Nessalanta (the Dowager Duchess (which sounds like something from Downton Abbey), mother of Benigaris. Nessalanta has an astrologer on the roof, and Benigaris joins them, cursing the future of feeding his people and slipping out “I should never have trusted Pryrates.” (which Streáwe pretends not to hear). After some reading of the stars, Steáwe says he wants to impart some things he has heard about Elias and Joshua (playing both sides against each other, eh?).

Eolair is summoned to the Sithi camp. A Sithi healer is with Maegwin but says he body is healthy, her soul is sick from seeing too much death. As Eolair head to the Sithi, Maegwin rises and goes with him. As they walk, she asks him how he died; she is convinced she is dead and with the gods, so since she sees Eolair he must be dead as well. When they get to the Sithi tent, Likimeya shows them Skali’s head – and with that defeat, they entreat Eoliar to join them with a troop of his men to fight at Naglimund. Eolair agrees, and Maegwin tells him she will come too…as she cannot die a second time.

Simon and Miri are off having wine, trying to celebrate the birthdays they missed. Simon tries to give Miri his White Arrow from Jiriki as a present, and when she refuses, he goes and gets his sword and, as a knight, pledges his life and sword to her.

Prince Josua calls his Raed, his war council, and they argue and discuss. It comes down to this:

“Here are my choices. To remain here – to build up this place, New Gadrinsett, and hold out against my brother until his misrule turns the tide in our favor. That is one possibility.” Josua ran his hand though his short hair, then held up two fingers. “The second is to go to Nabban, where with Camaris to march at the head of our army, we may quickly gain adherents, and this eventually field an army capable of bringing down the High King.” The prince raised a third finger. “The third, as Miriamele and Freosel and others have suggested, is to move directly to Erkynland, gambling that we can find enough supporters to overcome Elias’ defenses. There is also a possibility that Isorn and Count Eolair of Nad Mullach may be able to join us with men recruited  in the Frostmarch and Hernystir.” (pg 744).

Josua decided to march to Nabban, much to the dismay of Miriamele.

Cut to King Elias, who tell Pryrates he has heard of Fengbald’s defeat, and believes his brother Josua will come against him…not knowing what he truly faces. “I have friends, now – powerful friends.” he says, even taking Pryrates aback with his forcefulness.

Chapter 25: The Semblance of Heaven - The Talons of Utuk’ku ride out from Stormspike “bearing death for Utuk’ku’s enemies” (remember, she had a vision of something screwing with her plans in chapter 22), similar to Ingen Jegger (which somehow reminds me of Mark Twain’s villain Injun’ Joe).

Josua and company are on the move toward Nabban. Binabik and Sisqui share some time, talking what they will do after “this” is all over.

Simon and Jeremias spar, with Jeremias teasing Simon about mooning over Miriamele. Sir Camaris comes upon them, and asks Simon about his training (or lack thereof) towards being a knight. Camaris lectures them on what knighthood means (with quite a Christian leaning), and then leads them through some basic sword exercises.

Afterwards, with Carmaris’ words about a knight taking care of his horse as if it were a part of him, Simon proceeds to the stables, where he catches Miri acting guiltily around the horses. He convinces her to accompany him back to the camp to hear singing.

Meanwhile, the three Talons of Utuk’ku are watching the camp, waiting for an opportunity.

Chapter 26: A Gift for the Queen - The great company of Josua camps at old Gradrinsett, where most of them were before moving to Sesua’dra. They decide to stay for three nights. Josua, Duke Isgrminur, Camaris and others debate the path they will take to Nabban, citing needs for food and water.

Meanwhile the Talons of Utuk’ku decide they will attack “tomorrow night” when the clouds hide the moon.

Aditu and Simon are playing shent, which usually means Aditu will tease Simon or teach him. This time, as he tells her about Miriamele and his worry that he is not worthy, that he comes from a low house, Aditu tells him the story of why the Sithi and the Norns broke apart, which is why she does not believe any one is beneath another…a good lesson. This is a long excerpt, but important not only for this story, but I believe for the one to come (The Last King of Osten Ard).

“A…bad house?” Aditu looked at him carefully. “Do you ask whether I would consider another of my folk to be beneath me? We have long been too few for that, Seoman. And why must you marry her? Do your people never make love without being married?”
Simon was speechless for a moment. Make love to the king’s daughter without a thought of marrying her? “I am a knight,” he said stiffly. “I have to be honorable.”
“Loving someone is not honorable?” She shook her head, mocking smile now returned. “And you say you do not understand me, Seoman!”
Simon rested his elbows on his knees and covered his face with his hands. “You mean that your people don’t care who marries who? I don’t believe it.”
“That is what tore asunder the Zida’ya and the Hikeda’ya,” she said. Where he looked up, her gold-flecked gaze had become hard. “We have learned from that terrible lesson.”
“What do you mean?”
“It was the death of Drukhi, the son of Utuk’ku and her husband Ekimeniso Blackstaff, that drove the families apart. Drukhi loved and marries Nanais’u, the Nightingale’s daughter.” She raised her hand and made a gesture like a book being closed. “She was killed by mortals in the years before Tumet’ai was swallowed by the ice. It was an accident. She was dancing in the forest when a mortal huntsman was drawn to the glimmer of her bright dress. Thinking he saw a bird’s plumage, he loosed an arrow. When her husband Drukhi found her, he went mad.” Aidtu bent her head, as though it had happened only a short while before.
After she had gone some moments without speaking, Simon asked: “But how did that drive the families apart? And what does that have to do with marrying whoever you want?”
“It is a very long story, Seoman – perhaps the longest that our people tell, excepting only the flight from the Garden and our coming across the black seas to this land.” She pushed at one of the shent-stones with her fingers. “At that time, Utuk’ku and her husband ruled all of the Gardenborn – they were the keepers of the Year-Dancing groves. When their son fell in love with Nenais’u, daughter of Jenjiyana and her mate Initiri, Utuk’ku furiously opposed it. Nenais’u’s parents were of our Zida’ya clan – although it had a different name in those long-ago days. They were also of the belief that the mortals, who had come to this land after the Gardenborn had arrived, should be permitted to live as they would, as long as they did not make war on our people.”
She made another, more intricate arrangement of the stones on the board before her. “Utuk’ku and her clan felt that the mortals should be pushed back across the ocean, and that those who would not leave should be killed, as some mortal farmers crush the insects they find on their crops. But since the two great clans and the other smaller clans allied with one or the other were so evenly divided, even Utuk’ku’s position as Mistress of Year-Dancing House did not permit her to force her will on the rest. You see, Seoman, we have never had ‘kings’ and ‘queens’ as you mortals have.
“In any case, Utuk’ku and her husband were fiercely angry that their son had married a woman of what they considered to be the traitorous, mortal-loving clan that opposed them. When Nenais’u was slain, Drukhi went mad and swore he would kill every mortal he could find. The men of Nenais’u’s clan restrained him, although they were, in their own way, as bitterly angry and horrified as he. When the Yásira was called, the Gardenborn could come to no decision, but enough feared what might happen if Drukhi was free that they decided he must be confined – something that had never happened this side of the Ocean.” She sighed. “It was too much for him, too much for his madness, to be held prisoner by his own people while those he deemed his wife’s murderers were free. Drukhi made himself die.”
…”So you can see,” Aditu finished, “why we of the Dawn Children are careful to say that someone is above someone else. Those are words that mean tragedy to us.” (pg 778-781)

Aditu goes to Vorzheva’s tent, to give the pregnant woman something to help her rest. Geloë, Gertrun and Miri are there, with Miri thinking herself ugly next to Vorzheva and Aditu. Miri thinks of Simon and her heart goes flutter.

Aditu leaves with Geloë to  speak with her. Aditu believes that Camaris was in the presence of Amerasu and with the Sithi (Amerasu did say, when Jiriki brought Simon to her, that Simon was not the first mortal to have been there). Aditu also believe that Camaris knows more that he will tell, but she cannot get him to come clean.

As they are walking, Aditu says that she smells Kei-vishaa. With no time to explain, she rushes toward something, with Geloë in owl-form following her.

Simon, once again tending his horse, once again finds Miri, who this time confesses that she is leaving (though she will not say where she is going). Simon declares that he will go with her, and makes her wait (under threat of revealing her leaving) while Simon goes and gets his sword and other things. The two leave that camp, seeing a fire that is more than a cook fire, and hoping everyone is all right. This is no doubt what Aditu and Geloë were running toward.

 This ends Part 2, and ends TO GREEN ANGEL TOWER, PART 1. On to PART 2!!!

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