February 4th, 2008

Apparently comments have been broken since sometime in June. June 2007! Why didn’t anyone tell me! Well, I believe they are fixed now, retroactively, all the way back to October. Ecto was the culprit, starting when I upgraded it and installed it on my new laptop (Sinclair!) back in June. At any rate, comments should be fixed for future posts. I figure no one wants to comment on anything older than October so I’ll leave those older entries broken. Apologies to all my readers. Here I thought I was being too boring and sporadic for you. I kept asking questions no one answered, and I love comments, and I didn’t know you couldn’t answer. Please say something! Anything! It’s like an echo chamber in here without you.

So if you wanted to tell me the results of your political compass test, say, you could now do so on the entry where I asked about it. Or on this one. Or anywhere really!

Now to go to bed. My hand hurts. Tomorrow I vote in Missouri’s open primaries. Yay open primaries. If you are in the U.S. and a citizen, don’t forget to vote!

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So, last you saw was January 10, right? The picture of my not dead oregano.

January 11, 2008:
Swimming Lessons

I drove my daughter to her swimming lessons and went on the pool deck with my camera. I took a ton of pictures and this is one of my favorites.

January 12, 2008:
Sophia with UV bead braceletSophia with Railroad Spikes

First is a picture of a UV bead bracelet. The beads change the intensity of their color depending on how much UV light hits them. Inside they are often white. Outside they turn colors, from soft pastel to more intense hues, as they absorb light. Second is a picture of my daughter playing with railroad spikes.

January 13, 2008:
Detail of Relief at the Art Museum

We spent some time at the art museum on Sunday the 13th. Most of the pictures of stuff I took didn’t turn out well (flash is forbidden and I haven’t yet learned how to compensate for that), but this one was decent, I thought.

January 14, 2008:
Tea Box

Tea box I got for Christmas, filled with some of my very favorite teas and tisanes. Makes you want to have a cup, doesn’t it? C’mon over, I have types to please every palate.

January 15, 2008:
Oz in basket

Oz curled up in his basket. Rorschach uses it more than Oz, but they both love to curl up in it, especially when it is cold.

I didn’t take pictures on either the 16th or the 17th, so that’s three days I’ve missed so far. The extra leap year day no longer suffices to give me a 365 day streak. Alas. We knew it was bound to happen. Still, the project is working. I’m taking tons of pictures. I’m touching my camera almost every day. I call it good.

January 18, 2008:
Desolate winter garden

I drive by the school garden every day when I drop my daughter off. I’ve been noticing how desolate it looks, and wondered if I could capture that sense with a photograph. I don’t believe it worked.

January 19, 2008:
Red Bird, Blue Sky

I took a half dozen pictures of this cardinal in the leafless honeysuckle, trying to convey how bright it looked against the drab tree. I’m not satisfied with any of the shots. It just doesn’t look the way it looked to my eyes, a strong splash of color in an otherwise dull landscape.

January 20, 2008:
Flag on Tuxedo

On this walk I took directed pictures. That is, I told Sophia to keep her eyes open for interesting things and I would take pictures of them. I didn’t argue with anything she suggested and thus ended up with this pretty awesome picture of a flag, which I would not have photographed on my own.

January 21, 2008:
Sophia with paper doll Natalie

MLK day, so Sophia was off, and we went in to have lunch with Kurt near where he works. This is Sophia sitting at the table with her paper doll, Natalie.

I apologize for the radio silence, and also for the subsequent gumming up of your feed with multiple entries, including a massive photographic entry. I incapacitated my right hand last week, and that, coupled with some laptop issues prevented me from doing anything useful for the better part of two weeks. I’m still recovering, but I am able to type some if I don’t push it, and most of these entries were already mostly typed, just not posted (because of aforementioned laptop issues). I had no idea how many of my daily tasks required fine manual dexterity. I’m glad I didn’t have to get a pirate hook instead of a hand, that totally would have sucked. Meanwhile, I’m still going to try and get pictures done twice a week, which would mean more like three to five pictures per post, instead of ten.

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4 Feb 2008, by


Why didn’t anyone TELL me comments were broken? Geez! I thought you guys just didn’t love me anymore.

I’ll fix when I can, not right this minute, unfortunately.

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Vellum: The Book of All Hours by Hal Duncan. (1) [specfic]. I checked this out of the library. I thought it was interesting, but it took me forever to read it. I’m not sure I’m up to the second book of the duology. I don’t care enough to find out what happens next. My central problem with the book is that it’s not a story in the conventional sense. There’s no narrative drive. For all the journeying of the various characters, we’re not really going anywhere. I found it hard to keep reading because of this. It’s extremely beautifully written, the prose level is top notch, but it also came across (to me) as kind of shallow, so the excellence of the prose seemed like dressing up a corpse. Unfortunately, I think this is the result of writing people as mythic incarnations instead of as characters, so there’s no way I can see to solve this and still keep to what Duncan wants to tell about. I had a hard time getting emotionally involved with anyone, especially with Carter and Pechorin, since they are presented in such radically different ways and I don’t think I ever figured out why they were quite so malleable. I think I’m meant to care about the characters because of some of the heartbreaking situations rendered, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to it. Much of what happened to the characters didn’t quite seem real, especially the big tragic moments. The small moments seemed more real: the three guys sitting together on the quad, Jack and Guy lying together in the cold house at Evenfall, Phreedom sharing a beer with Finnan, Phreedom stepping into the tattoo parlor for the first time, Puck painting things purple in the book as they travel along the Vellum. Eh, maybe that was one of Duncan’s points: small is real, big is only archetype. If so, it makes for a strangely unsatisfying reading experience. I also had what I usually call a Miéville issue with this work: whenever anything I was desperately interested in showed up, it turned out to be scene setting and not something I was going to get to find out more about or follow. Meanwhile, stuff I couldn’t have cared less about was treated in excruciating detail for pages and pages. Also. Points off for horribly translated Spanish. Guh. My brother, if you’re going to set things in the Spanish Civil War, make the Spaniards talk right. It was frustratingly anticlimatic to be yelling at the page when supposed death sentences were being pronounced. That’s pretty much cause for a complete breakdown of my suspension of disbelief lately and I think I may put bad Spanish on my list of dealbreakers from now on. There’s no excuse for it, really. It’s not like Spanish is an obscure language. Bonus points for nice scenery, though. And for a gripping opening. I did like the vastness of the times and spaces of the real world we explored (often more than I liked the fantastical bits), and part of the reason I’m so pissed off about the bad Spanish is because it took the air out of scenes I would otherwise have been really interested in. Some of the archetypal linking was a little…blurry. Sometimes when he linked things (usually by name transformations) I said “oh, ok, what a cool connection” but many other times I was like “that’s a bit of a stretch there, isn’t it?”. In rendering down all the different incarnations as aspects of the same archetypes I thought sometimes valuable individual pieces of story were lost. Maybe that’s one of his points too, but I didn’t care for it. Anyway, it gave me some stuff to think about on a meta level, and it was pretty, but it didn’t really get hooks into me, transport me or give me any kind of catharsis or deep satisfaction on completion. In fact, it felt essentially unfinished. Maybe that would all be nicely wrapped up in the second half, but I’m not sure I trust Duncan to pull it off. Finished on 01/12/08.

A Companion to Wolves by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear. (2) [specfic]. I checked this out of the library. This was a quick read, which I definitely needed after the slog through Vellum. There were some things I really liked about this book a lot. The main character was quite sympathetic, as was the benevolent helpful elf, and (of course) all the wolves. I found the sex scenes neither overly squicky nor hot, hot, hot. They didn’t detract or anything, they were just kind of there. OTOH, I found the main character’s constant passing out and withdrawing inward as a coping mechanism for dealing with trauma too reminiscent of Felix in Melusine and it kind of made my eyes roll, but for all I know that was Bear’s work and not Monette’s. With the exception of long passages that either exclusively used the word ‘estrus’ or ‘heat’, the writing was seamless, afaic. I couldn’t tell which words were whose. The story moved well and the stakes were high and there were hard choices with consequences and fulfilling character arcs – you know, all of those things I expect when I read Bear. I’m not sure I’d read something else set in the same world, necessarily, but I’m not at all sorry I read this. Finished on 01/16/08.

Origami Boxes by Tomoko Fuse. (3) [crafts]. I got this book for Christmas and am delighted to own it. When I say I read it, I mean I made all the boxes, because there’s very little text. However, this is the first of my origami books for which I have made (or attempted) every design within, so I’m pretty pleased. I love this book. There was only box I couldn’t follow the instructions for, though the hexagon box was right to the limit of my folding ability and did not come out very well. I am especially pleased with the triangle boxes. They are easy and gorgeous and I’m going to try to make lots of those in the future. In the middle of this book I embarked on an organizing project of my origami paper (which is not yet finished, but which I have a much better handle on now). Below is a picture of all the boxes I made during the course of “reading” this book. Finished on 01/19/08.
Origami Boxes I made

Ragamuffin by Tobias S. Buckell. (4) [specfic]. I checked this out of the library. Another quick read. This is what I call swashbuckling fun! I love the universe, I liked the characters, the action was non-stop, there were casualties all over the place and the train kept moving. I hope I didn’t ruin anything by reading Ragamuffin before Crystal Rain because after this ride I’m definitely going back to read the first one. There was lots to love here, but I still saw some shortcomings. One was a sort of superficiality to the feelings the characters were purportedly experiencing. Too much of the emotional tenor was overtly declaimed, and not as much as I would have liked subtly telegraphed. It’s as though Buckell is in too much of a hurry with more plot, plot, plot to let me see the characters’ inner worlds. The best I get is told how they’re feeling (usually in sentences that literally start “He felt” and “She felt”). The second major letdown was the terrible proofreading job that was done with this work. Straight characters sometimes spoke in Raga dialect, sentences ended in conjunctions, typos a spellchecker would have caught all over the place (“He swalled” for “He swallowed” frex) and more. This added to the feeling that the work had been rushed, and not received the polish it should have. Still, while I have a word focused eye and sloppy proofing throws me out of the story like a body slam, I still managed to enjoy the thing and sympathize with the broad brush stroke characters. Finished on 01/21/08.

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