amethyst73: (tazz)
When I caught the flu early in July (which was quickly followed by a nasty bout of bronchitis), I ended up reading a lot more than I usually do.  Here are the books I’ve read since early July with a quick blurb about each.
Books below! )
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One of my hobbies is volunteering for  (Its mission is to produce free audio recordings of all literature in the public domain in the USA.)  At the moment, I'm recording a little-known children's book by Lewis Carroll called Sylvie and Bruno Concluded.  Sylvie and Bruno are a pair of children from Fairyland, whom the mortal narrator occasionally comes across in the course of his day-to-day life.  In one chapter, little Bruno is sleepy and wants a lullaby:

"[Bruno] turned a loving look on the on the gentle old man who was sitting on the other side of his leaf-bed, and who instantly began to sing, accompanying himself on his Outlandish guitar; while the snail, on which he sat, waved its horns in time to the music."

Anyway.  I heard the tune in my head, and (worse) heard the guitar as well, and the resulting song became my summer project.  Carroll provided the words and illustrations in the video below (which is a rough draft - there's some issues, and I'd like to include all the words in a later version), I sang, and my computer played the guitar.  Enjoy!

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 My husband and I downloaded an audiorecording of The City at World's End by Edmund Hamilton and have been listening to it.  It's an excellent recording of a sci-fi novel published in 1951 which starts out with a "super-atomic" exploding over Middletown.  The science, such as it is, is pretty laughable, and Hamilton doesn't exactly have a good opinion of the common man, but it's an interesting read as a product of its time.  I'll probably have a review of it when we're done listening.

A friend lent me a copy of Uranium: War, Energy, and the Rock that shaped the World by Tom Zoellner ().  Zoellner makes no secret of his overall opinion of uranium, but once you get past that, it's an interesting read about uranium's discovery as a radioactive element, its early reception as the best substance on earth (even better than radium!), its development and use as a weapon, and US society's reaction to The Bomb.  There's more than that, but I'm only about halfway through the book, being busily fascinated by such tidbits as Bert the Turtle's song about ducking and covering back in the 1950s.

Finally, as I'm nearly done with Zelda: Skyward Sword (only the very last boss battle to go!), I started Fallout 3 (, one of the games that came with the PS3 we bought a couple of months ago.  Why Fallout 3?  Why not the original Assassin's Creed, which also came with it?  I think part of it was wanting to play a completely different game from just about anything else I'd played or seen; I think the closest I'll have come to it in style is probably Metroid Prime (which, I will note, I quit partway through).  But from what I've read about Fallout 3, it's much more of an RPG than it is an FPS - you can get your wrist computer to auto-aim for you, you have stats and skills... and, yes, it's set in an alternate 1950s, after the nuclear holocaust.

Anyway.  Me and the end of the world.  What gives, self?

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As the daughter of not one but two former English teachers, my vocabulary has always been something of a point of pride with me.  Pile startled me: how could something that appears to be a children’s picture book send me to the dictionary multiple times?  All I can say is, Brian W. Aldiss has a vocabulary that one needs must look upon and marvel at.

Aldiss is probably best known for his award-winning science fiction writing.  In a departure from his usual fare, Pile could perhaps be described as dystopian verse.  It follows the adventures of Prince Scart in the city of Pile, a city that has forced out every bit of nature.  The pages are mostly taken up by Mike Wilkes’ intricate black-and-white pen and ink drawings of Pile and its inhabitants.  Wilkes takes his inspiration from M.C. Escher and various real-world locations - readers should have fun playing ‘spot the landmark’ throughout the book.  Below the engrossing illustrations are the no less fascinating verses of Aldiss, who nods to such sources as Coleridge’s Kubla Khan, Shelley’s Ozymandias, and (I honestly believe) Bob and Ray’s Car Talk.  

But be warned: this is no children’s book.  While the destruction of a city is not an unreasonable subject for wee ones, you probably don’t want your five-year-old asking what “whores of reassuring potency” are.  Nor, unless you have a child who’s willing to be caught up completely by the musicality of Aldiss’ verses, do you want to be interrupted after every verse by someone (besides yourself) wanting you to stop and explain what Aldiss just said.  But for folks with a little more patience, Aldiss’s altogether strange and convoluted writing will puzzle and delight. 
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When I was a kid, I loved what was then L'Engle's Time Trilogy: A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet.  The kids of the Murry family went on wonderful adventures: instant interstellar travel to a brave new world, an attempt to fix a human body from the inside a la Fantastic Voyage or Innerspace, and travels through time to remove a future threat of nuclear war was all great stuff.  Several years later, my husband-to-be introduced me to Many Waters, written after the original trilogy but clearly tied to it, in which the two 'normal' siblings of the Murry family spend a year with Noah and his family.  While never particularly hidden, L'Engle's connection to the Christian faith came more obviously to the forefront in that fourth book just by nature of the adventure of the twins, but both the grand adventure and the moral choices presented were happily engrossing.

A few months ago when Borders was going out of business, I spotted An Acceptable Time, discovered it was the fifth book in the Time series, and picked it up on the cheap.  Sadly, L'Engle is not at her best.  Young Polly O'Keefe, one of Meg (Murry) O'Keefe's children, visits her grandparents.  She accidentally crosses circles of time 3000 years apart and visits a world of the distant past in which a small handful of druids from Great Britain crossed the sea and joined the American natives.  So far, so L'Engle.  The problems lie in several aspects ranging from poor science (albeit referred to only indirectly) to character discontinuity from previous books to having characters present that the book would have been better without.

Read the gory details here )

Were these issues complete deal-breakers?  Well, no. The story is still a page-turner, and I did generally enjoy it.  But be warned that An Acceptable Time is far from L’Engle’s best work.
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The book I finished today: Singularity, by William Sleator.

If you discovered an event horizon in your playhouse, would you:
  (a) Run like crazy
  (b) Die of extreme gravitation long before you even knew what was going on
  ( c) Have an adventure centered around the time dilation effect that would "obviously" arise from the proximity of the event horizon due to relativistic effects

The right answer, and Sleator's set of wrong ones )
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Because pretty much everyone on my f-list likes books and bookstores and the like, I thought I'd repost this link from Neil Gaiman's blog.  A bookseller in London writes up some of the, um, denser questions customers have posed.  Read it and giggle here.
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I've entered the auditions for a bit part in Neil Gaiman's upcoming audiobook production of American Gods!  You can find out more about the contest here, and submit your vote for me here.  There's no way on earth that I'm even making it to the second round, but I couldn't *not* enter.
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I should have posted about this ages ago, but haven't. 

Christopher Salmon is a fan of Neil Gaiman's work.  In particular, he's fallen in love with Gaiman's short story "The Price", enough that he wants to make a movie of it.  (You can see this post in Gaiman's blog for a bit more detail.)

Here's the lowdown and dirty: Salmon is asking for funding from fellow fans and artists to make his movie over on kickstarter, which allows individuals to make donations, large or small, through Amazon (weirdly enough).  Here's the thing: with kickstarter, if the entire amount requested does not get raised, no money is given by ANY of the sponsors.  For Salmon, that's $150,000 or nothing. 

His deadline is the end of November (which is why I ought to have posted much earlier!).   He's about $27,000 away from his goal, and he's got some nice goodies for donors who sign up now.  Please consider making a small donation to this neat project!

EDITED to add: He did it!  Wow!
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• The trailer for Voyage of the Dawn treader is out!  Youtube link here - can't seem to find the embed code.  Puzzled by some bits - clearly they've added some stuff.  Special effects look straight out of Harry Potter.  Speaking of which...

• Universal Studios has opened a "World of Harry Potter" area that sounds pretty neat.  A lovingly detailed recreation of DiagonAlley and chunks of Hogwarts, with a couple of random rollercoaster rides thrown in for those who Must Have Rides.  NYTimes articles here and here.  Want to go, can't anytime in the vaguely foreseeable future due to (1) way too much travel this year already, and (2) need to keep "leisure" trips in Boston.

• I have the next book in Tad Williams' "Shadow" series in hand!  (I actually got it out of the library a bit over a week ago, but it was way too big and heavy to lug to Boston and back.)
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Tor Books is celebrating Tove Janssen's creations, the Moomintrolls, with Moominweek.  Learn about the Moomins and their neighbors, check out fanart, and other cool stuff.  Huz introduced me to the Moomins back in college, and I've been fond of them ever since.  All small creatures should have bows on their tails.  :)

EDIT: There is, among other things, a Summary and Commentary about the very first Moominland book, which is absolutely charming and reminds me a lot of [ profile] ladybird 's writing.  While I don't remember this specific book, it certainly sounds like it's one of the series.   You'll get a good idea of whether you'd like the Moominbooks by reading the summary/commentary.
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Fear not, I am still here. I am merely frighteningly busy, between working on The Guest List for The Memorial Service and other such matters in the morning and some evenings, and trying to pack in a whole lotta work during the day between now and when I take my next trip to Boston in May.  Oh yah, and there's this recital thing too.  (And my choir director is stuck in South Africa, waiting for British Airways to be able to fly through Heathrow again.  My life is EASY compared to that.)

I think I might have gone through most of my social circles at this point (finally).  I don't mind so much talking about Mom's death, it just gets kind of exhausting after a while.

I didn't think finishing the book that I started while I was in Boston right after she died would make me cry.  It's a sort of marker, a reminder that it all happened.  (And Tigana is still a very good read on its own merits.  Even though the last sentence screams "Sequel!!!!" and Kay has never written one.)

Sometime I suppose it will quit feeling weird to call my father on weekends, as opposed to briefly saying hi as part of a longer conversation with Mom.

Sometime Easter season won't feel just plain weird.  We'll see when it gets to Pentecost whether it's Easter-specific or church in general.

Sometime it will hit me - really hit me - that she's gone.  I 'spect that'll happen right after the aforementioned Memorial Service, which I'm in charge of.  Once that project is done, I'll have much less "stuff" to do that''s related to her death but so full of fiddly details that I am buffered from emotional thought.

Right.  That must mean it's bedtime.
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You may remember this post, where I ranted about being sent the wrong volume of D&D 4th Ed Player's Handbook.  I waited a few days after the first email, cc'ing Barnes and Noble this time to advise them that a seller hadn't gotten back to me about a problem.  That same day, I received the following response from the seller:

We are sorry to hear that you did not receive the correct order, we no longer have this book in stock to send you a replacement order. we have issued a full refund and you should be able to see it soon [sic - no period]

*shrug*  Fine; I can live with a refund.  B&N emailed me later that day letting me know that full refunds had gone to the various forms of payment (gift card and credit card).  Meanwhile, I still have a book on hand that I don't want and don't really legally own anymore, having been refunded for it.  The seller failed to enclose a Merchandise Return Label or anything useful like that, and I didn't exactly want to pay out-of-pocket to return the darn thing.  So I emailed the seller again, asking how to go about returning the unwanted book.  And I get back as a response, this:

Ok thanks. We will be shipping out your Player's handbook 2 today via expedited mail.

Hrm?  Wazzat??  You, uh, didn't actually answer my question.

I mean, I'll be happy to have the book (assuming they do it right this time).  But unless they are clever enough to include a merch. return label this time, I'll have the dual problems of (1) still having a book on hand that I don't want and feel obligated to return, and (2) getting Barnes and Noble involved again and getting them to re-charge the gift certificate and my credit card so that I can legally own the desired book that I will then have in hand.  (Mind you, that won't happen until the new, correct book arrives.)

This was not supposed to be this complicated.  I would advise people not to buy books on the B&N website from Book Outlet (on their marketplace), because they appear to be Very Confused.
amethyst73: (mii)
Hmm.  Got the last two goodies (Boost Ball and Space Boots - that's double-jump for the layperson) without having to fight anyone big and mean.  Admittedly, acquiring the Space Boots required a fairly iggy skill check with the Boost Ball, which was its own special sort of annoying, but at least nobody was trying to eat me.  Hmm.  Wanna bet there's a big nasty waiting for me for the next goodie?

Also, lava pools suck.  Jumping from one point to another across them without falling *in* (and taking continuous damage, thank you!) will likely be easier now that I've got the space boots.
Spent a good couple of hours in bed during the day being semiconscious and mildy fevery.  Probably a good decision not to go to work.  (Check that - given that I took two serious lie-downs, and obviously needed both, definitely a good decision not to go to work!)

I've also spent a decent amount of time the last couple of days reading Guy Gavriel Kay's novel Ysabel.  I'm only about halfway through it, but am generally enjoying it.  I have to admit though - Early on, there's a scene in a church with a scary bald guy that made me think that perhaps a certain author had read The DaVinci Code and figured he could do better.  Generally fortunately, it's gone off and done its own thing since then, though the plot does feel kind of like books I've read or movies I've seen before.  (I'm only halfway through; we'll see if he has any surprises up his sleeve plotwise come the end.)  Kay does, however, absolutely nail the feel of the light and history in Provence, which is pretty cool.  Keeps reminding me of the exchange program I did senior year of high school, where I spent the second of the two weeks in Provence.

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Rixosous has a marvelous recent entry, musing on the potentially poor choice of metaphors chosen by an overly-expensive SFFH writing workshop.  It is snarkily scholarly, and anyone who has attempted to write science fiction, fantasy or horror, or studied the Odyssey, will enjoy both the entry and the comments.

Life update

Jul. 8th, 2009 09:21 am
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Haven't posted in much too long; my apologies!

Had a lovely super-long holiday weekend - my department decreed that All Regular Employees Shall Take Thursday Off to help us spend down our vacations.  So I spent Thursday taking a kitty to the vet (just regular checkup, no emergencies!), having lunch and hanging out with a work buddy from the Genome Center, rummaging at the library, finishing Chapter 2 of Paper Mario 1K-year Door, and generally relaxing.  (I was sorry to miss seeing [ profile] nezumiko  - hopefully next time she won't have the flu!)  Friday we both had off.  Um... we went skating, and I think we just hung out.  Saturday I did a pretty thorough vacuuming of the bedroom, which badly needed it.  Privet trees/bushes, to which I'm horribly allergic, are just starting to come into bloom, so anything I can do to lower the amount of allergens around is a Good Thing.  We spent the evening indoors with the kitties with the doors and windows closed, so the noise of the fireworks wouldn't freak them out too much.  Sunday I went to church, we skated again, I cleaned the living room/dining room, and finished Phoenix Wright 2.  (If you make the last couple of in-court choices wrong, you get a surprisingly detailed 'wrong' ending; much more interesting than the usual simple slamming of the courtroom doors.  The 'right' ending is, of course, even better.) 

We also finished reading Neal Stephenson's Anathem aloud to each other.  It definitely deserves its own post, hopefully I'll get to it soon.  For now, suffice it to say that it's a book that demands your close attention on pretty much every page, but is overall worth the effort the reader puts into it. 

Finally, a marvelous video ganked from kayray - College Humor's reworking of West Side Story into Web Site Story.  It's only about 4 minutes long, and extremely well done.  (Worksafe.)

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Winding down from a generally fantastic weekend.  :)  We hosted the all-too-infrequent Bay Area Storyreading at our house Saturday night - shouts to [ profile] nezumiko , [ profile] orichalcum , [ profile] cerebralpaladin , and other non-LJ friends.  While the two 3-year-olds were around, we read picture books.  Selections included Two Bad Ants (in which (a) the author had clearly had an ant infestation and took revenge and (b) the moral of the story is that if you do your own thing you'll get into big trouble), the slightly surreal Pete and Pickles (in which a pig and an elephant come to be great friends - the idea was based on a sketch done by author Berkeley Breathed's five-year-old daughter), and the incredibly surreal Hedgie Blasts Off (in which all the scientists are dogs who dress in hazmat suits even when writing entirely accurate orbital equations on blackboards, all the reporters are birds, and Hedgie the hedgehog goes up in a spaceship and saves the day).  Those who could stay later started on Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, which will probably be the semi-official post-bedtime long.  Great stuff.

And today we went and saw Wicked, which was much better than I'd expected it to be given how much I knew its story diverged from Gregory Maguire's book.  It deserves an entry of its own; I hope I get the chance to write about it soon.

Linky link

Mar. 31st, 2009 09:26 am
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I have not much to say at the moment, apart from the usual Work! Music! Too Much Stuff in my Brain!  But a good real-life friend of mine just posted an entry in his blog about e-readers, books, and paper.  It's a nice piece, and I figured that the high volume of readers around here might like it.

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I have stuff that I want to write up in some serious detail, but I am way too busy to do so right now.  (And I've had other writing I have done/need to do: a brief reflection on a Biblical text for our church's Lenten meditation book, and something-or-other for a memory book that one of my paternal aunts is putting together for the other one, who turns 70 next month.)  So I'll just note here, in very brief form, the main points that I wish to make.

1.  Coraline the movie was really really good.  Coraline the book was also really really good.  The movie did some things differently from the book, but they all work surprisingly well (including the generation of an entirely new character).  But because there are some things in the book that didn't get into the movie (including my very favorite scene which, admittedly, would have been difficult to film), you should read the book as well as see the movie. 

2.  Sweeney Todd had his beginnings in a penny-dreadful serial called The String of Pearls that was recently recorded at Librivox and which we just finished listening to today.  The story is essentially a mystery - what's happening to the customers who enter Todd's barbershop and are never seen again?  The modern reader likely knows the answer already, of course, but that doesn't stop the original tale from being interesting, mildy horrifying, humorous (intentionally or otherwise, sometimes it's hard to tell), and at times even pretty well-written.  This recording is a collaborative effort, and there's a wide variety of styles and abilities of readers ranging from folks for whom English is not their first language to professionals.    The catalog page is linked above.


Feb. 15th, 2009 03:58 pm
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There is nothing quite so civilized, so pleasant, as sitting down to a cup of really nice tea (Stash green chai), a plate of chips (we had no cookies), and a good book on a cold and rainy afternoon.  Pure heaven, that.

Being thus fortified, I will now go do vacuuming.


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