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Autobiography in Progress
...emphasis on that last bit.
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Welcome to your daily occasional dose of random.

My sister and I were into My Little Ponies in a big way when we were kids. Barbies? Nope. Ponies all the way!

We're both children of the 80's so we were in on the ground floor. All of our ponies were G1's in the 1982-1987 range, year 1 through year 5 or 6ish. Scrolling through that web page is a massive trip down memory lane, btw. I had so many of those!* Applejack and Firefly and Windy and and and...

In 1984 or '85, MLP did a mail order promotion for a series of birth flower ponies. My dad sent away the proofs of purchase (or whatever you had to do) and got two of them: Carnation for me, and Lily of the Valley for my sister. They were *special* ponies, and I thought they were pretty awesome.

Well, today I discovered that Breyer Model Horses (another favorite toy from childhood, more mine than my sister's) did their own birth flower series last year, the Breyer Blossoms. And it was kind of a mail order thing, as much as anything is mail order in the digital age. You could sign up and receive one model in the mail every month at a discounted rate, or just buy them individually. Like our MLP's from childhood, there's a Carnation, and a Lily of the Valley.

Neat, eh? I'm tempted to track down the Breyer Carnation, just because of the connection to my MLP version.**

And under the general heading of "anyone can make a list", it looks like the list of birth flowers changed between 1984-85 and 2012. January and May are the same but several others are different.

Melo and I weren't into MLPs much past the G1 series. In fact there are lots of the later G1's that I don't recognize. Over the course of my "research" today (i.e. gleeping around the Internet***) I found that MLP did the birth flower series again during the G3 series in 2006. This time all 12 ponies were very different, and yet again the list of flowers isn't quite the same. I like our ponies much better!

This whole field trip through Plastic Pony Land started because I found another Big Ben to add to my collection. He's very pretty.

*Some time in middle school (high school?) my sister and I culled our herds down to only those ponies most special to us and gave the rest away. I can ID tons of ponies I know I had at one time, but I only own about a dozen now. (At Mom's house. Somewhere.) Including the Carnation pony, because I know I'd never give that up!

**Breyer used three different molds for its birth flower series, whereas the MLPs were all the same body. It amuses me that the January and May Breyers just happened to end up on the same mold. Our MLPs look the same so of course "our" Breyers do too, right? Logic! :)

***It's a slow workday today, can't you tell?
Because AWESOME:

- Actress Nichelle Nichols visited the White House and this happened Vulcan salutes FTW! :)
(Via @clubjade)

- From cjtremlett: I love these quotes from each of the three recent Doctors. The tags underneath explain how each relates to that Doctor's personality and they're perfect.

- And more Doctor Who mashed together with a famous quote from Pride & Prejudice.

- Related, from Sally: counting books based on P&P and Jane Eyre. I want them!

- I would totally do something like this for my own someday wedding. I mean, I don't want a complete SW wedding top to bottom, but there have to be some SW touches or else it wouldn't be me. :)

- From @FakeAPStylebook: "The correct spelling is "Rocktober," not "Roctober," which is the month of giant birds." It's funny all by itself, but it's funny to me for a very personal reason. When I was a kid my grandmother gave me an awesome book called Wally the Wordworm, by Clifton Fadiman. I read it constantly, and I learned SO MANY WORDS from that book including Roc. I will forever associate certain words with that book, and therefore with my grandmother.
27th-Jun-2012 02:26 pm - Stone Soup: Avengers
My love for The Avengers continues unabated. :)

I've now seen it five times: with A&A, by myself, with Melody, with Dave, and with Lisa & Alaina. That's the most I've seen any movie in theaters. Ever. More than the LOTRs. More than the SW prequels. Those I only saw twice each. (I might have seen Ep. III three times but I can't remember.) I know I watched the heck out of the SW Original Trilogy when the Special Editions came out, but nothing approaching five times. "Sometimes I amaze even myself." Avengers is just THAT GOOD.

After the third viewing I figured out two of the (many!) things that make the movie really work for me. Cut for slight spoilers.Collapse ) But five times...I think I'm done now. :)

Fun Avenger stuff:

- Thor discovers the whale text thing. It's not all that funny, and yet I laughed really hard.

- Analyses of the costuming in the Avengers universe movies that are really fun to read: Pepper Potts, Thor (movie), Loki (pre-Avengers), Avengers: SHIELD, Avengers: Tony, Pepper, Bruce, Avengers: Captain America.

- Video: Tom Hiddleston loves Jurassic Park. More specifically, velociraptors. And he makes the 'raptor noise and is generally adorable. :)

- Video: Avengers images mashed into the Firefly intro and it MAKES ME SO HAPPY. Must rewatch Firefly now.

- Very cute piece of art featuring Hawkeye and Agent Coulson. And another. There are times when Coulson is my favorite thing out of all the Avengers movies. :)
26th-Jun-2012 09:08 am - Stone Soup: Fun Stuff
Nothing like waking up to no hot water. Arg!

Today started off on the wrong foot, but I feel blessed to have close friends who totally don't mind me invading their shower on short notice. And who were up early to receive my frantic texts in the first place! Yay for friends.

I have a real update post brewing. It's almost all written I just need to finish it and add some photos. (It'll be friends-locked, as per usual.) Meanwhile, here's some of the Stone Soup stuff I've been sitting on. In honor of today's rough start here are things that make me smile and laugh.

- From @FakeAPStylebook: "The plural of 'Dracula' is 'CHRIST GET OUT OF THERE!'"

- From jedimara77 on twitter: "Sometimes the TFN Forums produce utter brilliance: 'That's it. Lando should be the [Star Wars] version of Tony Stark.'" Ha, yes! I second the motion!

- On Easter actor Michael Shanks (aka Daniel from Stargate SG-1) posted this to Twitter: "'Resurrection Day!'......whoa........several characters i have played just got VERY excited..........down boys.....not you."

- I now keep a cheat sheet for my various passwords. Because I have to.

- The Liam Neeson holy trinity. Because it's true!

- Awkward Classical Music Photos is just what it says on the tin. And it's really amusing. My favorite is this game of peek-a-boo. I just can't help but giggle! Yesterday's "Got bassoon?" was also pretty funny. I think the trombone pinwheel is really neat, definitely not as awkward as some of the rest. (And I'd love it anyway for the reference to Nickelodeon's Pinwheel which I watched constantly as a kid.)

- This year's April Fools product from was an Admiral Ackbar singing bass. And I kind of want one. :)
8th-Jun-2012 03:43 pm - Reading, and Goodreads
I'm here, I'm fine, "we're all How are you?"

I've been doing a lot of reading lately, which makes me happy.

Cadfael series, books #1-11, by Ellis Peters
I started rereading the Cadfael series back in March in preparation for my trip to the UK with tawneypup. We were making a special trip to Shrewsbury Abbey, the former Benedictine Abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul where many of the books in the series take place. The visit to the real life abbey (now a parish church) and the real life town was AMAZING. More on that in later some-day post. I reread the first three books in the series to re-familiarize myself with the history and setting, and once I started I couldn't stop. I've written about these books before and I will undoubtedly do so again. I love them.

I just finished book #11: An Excellent Mystery. It's fitting that the middle book of the series is the most unique. It's the only book of the series in which no one is killed and the ubiquitous pair of young lovebirds is almost completely absent. Instead of a murder mystery, it's a story of passion, loyalty, justice, service, and devotion. The "excellent mystery" part doesn't kick in until a third to halfway through the book and isn't fully explained until the end. All of the characters are passionate about something, for good or ill, and some are more obvious in their passion than others. It wasn't until a scene late in the book, when Nicholas was single-mindedly seeking Hugh in the pouring rain, that I realized he was displaying just as much passion as poor Brother Urien, just about very different things. The final act of the book is very moving and also brilliantly constructed, bringing each character's tangled thread to a conclusion. Happy for some, bittersweet for others, but positive and hopeful all around. And adroitly avoiding a huge scandal, too. Besides, any time mischievous Sister Magdalen (introduced in book 5, The Leper of Saint Giles) is involved, I'm all in! The theme of passion is reflected in the historical events of the time. King Stephen and his cousin Empress Maud were fighting a heated civil war for the crown. The book is set in 1141 and readers are direct and indirect witnesses to the burning of Winchester and Wherwell, the siege and route of Winchester, the Empress's retreat from Queen Mathilda's armies, and the capture of Robert of Gloucester. Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester and papal legate, is mentioned often and appears in a brief scene with Nicholas.

Atomic Robo Vol 4, by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener
I enjoy comics and graphic novels, though I wouldn't say I'm an avid reader of them. Or that I'm all that widely read. My friend batman1013 just started a new blog, The Matt Signal, that "celebrates comic books, graphic novels, and all forms of graphic storytelling." His first recommendation was Atomic Robo and I was convinced to try it. The library only had Vol 4 but fortunately it's the kind of story that can be "entered" at any time. I liked it very much. It's fun. Robo himself is "a nuclear powered artificial intelligence created by Nikola Tesla" who now runs a think tank that fights the good fight and generally tries to improve the world through Science. Oh, and one of Robo's nemeses is an insane time-travelling dinosaur. Yes. I look forward to reading the first three volumes.

Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal
Jane Austen with magic. And it's AWESOME.

The Price of the Stars, by Debra Doyle and James MacDonald
This is book #1 in the Mageworlds series. It was recommended by both duncatra and jedimara77 (the latter at some length), and it was billed as a Star Wars-esque space fantasy/space opera adventure with great characters that was "epic, but not dark and depressing." Sign me up for some of that!

I enjoyed it a lot. Loved the setting, loved the interwoven plotlines. The Jedi analog characters were great and I want to know more about how their society and powers work. I liked that the main protagonist was a woman, Beka, captain of her own ship. I adored the medic, Jessan, and Beka's brother, Ari. Gil, the General's assistant, really grew on me and I adored him too by the end of the book. Actually, the only thing that kept me from absolutely loving this book was Beka herself. I had a really hard time getting a handle on her character. Early in the book she takes on the identity of a cold blooded mercenary/assassin. I don't feel like I got to know her well enough before being confronted with this other character who was both her and not her. She didn't seem to have a very clear voice on the page, whereas Ari, Jessan, Llannat, and even the enigmatic Professor came through loud and clear. Perhaps because of this I thought [Spoiler (click to open)]the love story between Beka and Jessan was a bit abrupt. I loved Jessan, but I wasn't convinced that she did. Also, I don't think the book conveyed the passage of time very well. Beka's mother is assassinated just before the beginning of the book. Later on (roughly 3/4 of the way through, maybe?), after our heroes have had several adventures, we're told that it's been two (three?) years since that event and it totally didn't feel like it. It really jarred me. Still, it was a fantastic adventure and I enjoyed it overall. I'm waiting for the library to cough up book 2.

The Alloy of Law, by Brandon Sanderson
I LOVED this book...right up until the very end. (Which is pretty much exactly what happened to me with Sanderson's entire Mistborn trilogy, too.) Instead of a fun, exciting, stand-alone adventure it was a fun, exciting adventure that ended with [Spoiler (click to open)]the protagonist frustrated and the true Big Bad getting away. Arg! Not cool. It's the perfect set up for a sequel book but I haven't seen anything that suggests Sanderson intends to write one. The characters are fun, the magic system is still brilliant, and 99% of the story is wrapped up perfectly...I just can't get past the final disappointing ending.

I'm currently reading The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury. I was sad to hear of his passing recently...and rather ashamed to admit that I haven't read any of his work. Seriously, I haven't. Fahrenheit 451 is one of those books that *everyone* reads in high school. Everyone but me, apparently. My English teachers assigned other things (As I Lay Dying, Grapes of Wrath). I've decided to fill the gap, both because I'm an SF&F fan and Bradbury is one of the cornerstones of the genre, and because I want to see what all the fuss is about. The latter was the same approach I had to Shakespeare, Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Dresden Files, and Twilight. :) firstcrusader was kind enough to loan me her copies of Martian Chronicles, F451, and Twice 22 to add to my reading pile.

Speaking of which, my reading pile currently has 11 books on it. Three from the library, six borrowed from friends, and two from my own shelves. And that's just the literal, physical pile on my end table by the couch. That doesn't include the dozens of titles I've jotted down in my notebook and in various text files on both my home computer and work computer. So many books, so little time!

Related to all this reading I've been doing: I've joined Goodreads. You can rate and review books, and share with your friends what you've read and what you're currently reading. You can also organize books onto various shelves, one of which is a "to read" shelf. I'm under my real name, if you want to find me there. I figured that if nothing else it would be a good place for me to collect and store all those notes and text files into one virtual reading pile. Also, Carl pointed out that since Goodreads is a community of presumably voracious readers the reviews are probably more trustworthy than those on Amazon, and I'm inclined to agree.

I decided right up front not to use Goodreads as an inventory of all the books I own. I have Excel for that. :) Instead I've added all the books I've read since about last August, whether I own them or not. I'm trying to take the rating system seriously and only rate books five stars if they're ZOMG AMAZING. So for now all I have on there are recent reads that I feel I can rate honestly, plus a few favorites that are automatic five stars all day any day.

In other news, Life has been good. When next I have a free evening I really need to sit down and compose a massive update post. I miss keeping up with my LJ.
21st-Mar-2012 12:16 pm - Stone Soup: Two for Doctor Who
- Doctor Hu's Chinese Takeaway. I'd eat there. :)

- Six fun Doctor Who crafts/merchandise. The nesting dolls are cute but my favorite is the "Don't Blink" eye exam chart. I think I need that. :) (Via @rosiewook)
- Excellent article by Ashley Eckstein about geek fans and costuming, and sports fans and costuming. She makes an excellent point; the parallel is obvious but I honestly hadn't made it before. In general I thing she's an awesome spokesperson for geek women.

- Excellent article on the politics of SW, specifically how the political landscape in the US in the late '70s influenced the story. I still think George was consciously influenced more by the Hero's Journey than by contemporary politics, but I can see how it might creep in there subconsciously. (Via @clubjade)

- Man, I really want to see the Star Wars Identities exhibit! Odds are it won't come to the US ever, so if it's still open in Canada next year I just might go there. I really love those images. C-3PO and the stormtooper especially.

- From plasmonicgrid: 3D vector TIE fighter on an oscilloscope. Amazing. :) I was never that talented with an o-scope in school.

- From bookaholicgirl: Norman Rockwell's "Puppy Love" + Star Wars = Ridiculously cute.

- I'm completely excited for the Avengers movie in May. SW author Pablo Hidalgo described it as: "Avengers = Being told in '86 there'd be a movie in which Indiana Jones, Luke Skywalker, Marty McFly and E.T. fight Skeletor." YES!!! I'd watch that. :)

- Wil Wheaton helps a fellow Star Trek cast member with a computer problem, and it's adorable and awesome: "This was funny to me, because we're two Star Trek guys (with magnificent beards), making contextually-relevant Star Trek jokes with each other. More significantly, though, is that we did this using handheld computers which were inspired by the show we were on twenty-five years ago."

- From plasmonicgrid: Take a wookiee with you. I need to print it for my cubicle.
The Capital City Ringers have five concerts coming up in late April/early May. We'll be playing in Lansing, Okemos, Ann Arbor, Macomb, and downtown Detroit. Check beneath the cut for details.

This season's repertoire includes a wide variety of music, from Rock Around the Clock to a classical Pavane and Galliard. My favorite piece so far is called Jazz Gloria - it layers different melodies on top of each other then strips them away as it fades into the distance. And the Galliard half of the Pavane and Galliard is a lot of fun!

If you've never seen us before (or never seen a handbell choir before, period) you should come!

All concerts are free. Hope to see you there!

Concert dates and timesCollapse )
9th-Mar-2012 08:37 am - Reading pile: Austen, Jahn, Peters
I'm currently reading two books at once, which is unusual for me. During my treadmill workouts I've been reading Northanger Abbey (via the wonder of Google Books on my droid phone). It's one of two books Austen set in Bath and the only one of her novels I hadn't read yet. Since I'm going to be in Bath soon I figured I should read it! I'm enjoying it so far. I wish Catherine wasn't quite so innocent and oblivious but that's what sets up the conflicts between her and the Thorpes. Tinley is hilarious.

I just finished The Dispatcher, by Ryan David Jahn. I went into it thinking it would be urban fantasy, since the tagline is, "The phone rings. It's your daughter. She's been dead for four months." Cue supernatural adventures, yes? No. She's not actually dead, she was kidnapped seven years ago and she was only declared dead four months ago. She manages a brief escape and calls 911. It's a really small town so she's answered by her father, the local police dispatcher. She isn't able to say much before the kidnapper hauls her back again. The rest of the book is about the father hunting the kidnapper and fighting to get his daughter back. So, not an urban fantasy....but it's still got monsters. The kidnapper and his wife are just plain disturbing. His actions make sense to him but reading it from his point of view gave me the heebie jeebies. Spoilers.Collapse ) The author uses graphic language throughout to describe everything from bleeding wounds to sweating. Very vivid imagery, well written, but I felt by turns either uncomfortable or just completely grossed out the entire time. Not an enjoyable read. I should have put it down once I realized how much it was getting to me, but I was curious to see how it ended. It'll be awhile before the images fade from my brain.

Next I plan to read A Morbid Taste for Bones, the first Cadfael book, by Ellis Peters. It'll be a relief to visit Cadfael's world again!
3rd-Mar-2012 11:16 am - Stone Soup: three videos
Three fun videos for your morning:

This commercial is a bit long but it's very, very funny and worth it for the payoff at the end. And I would totally watch that movie. (NSFW, language) (Via Cleolinda)

Bobby McFerrin conducts the IPO singing the William Tell Overture. Yes, singing.

It's HILARIOUS. I've heard the overture dozens of times and I've played it on handbells (and we "air belled" it at eitak3a's wedding reception, heehee!). I love watching the IPO musicians sing it, some so serious and others trying so hard not to crack up. :)

This freezmob in Times Square was a publicity thing for the release of Star wars: The Old Republic online RPG. It's actually kind of cool. I love all the costumes and poses. Stick around to 1:25 for my favorite part. :)

1st-Mar-2012 12:43 pm - Stone Soup:, lots.
- Something else I've read recently: a four chapter webcomic called Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant. Neat little story, very well done. Delilah is kick-butt awesome, but rash, impulsive and an unrepentant thief. Not a character I would normally care about yet I still root for her. The stories are told from the perspective of the more mild and somewhat bumbling Lieutenant who gets swept up in Delilah's adventures. The artwork is very good; there's definite pacing and balance. I don't know, it just works for me and I like it. And Delilah has a flying boat.

- Very amusing art: Nine and Rose dressed in each other's clothes, and so on for Ten and Eleven. It's hilarious, love it. :)

- And speaking of Doctor Who, the last three doctors and Rose were all on Top Gear (or some similar race car show) and their reactions behind the wheel are priceless and oh, so predictable, ha!

- And still on Doctor Who, Eleven plus Star Wars and Eleven plus Star Trek. Both awesome, but I'm partial to the SW. Mostly because that's a really great likeness of Luke. :)

- Liam Neeson, badass forever, hee.

- "Accidentals are not accidental". I fully admit that music theory is not one of my strengths. I can kind of vaguely understand why one would use Fb isntead of E, or Bbb instead of A. Something something key signature, something chord structure...but it also strikes me as a bit silly.

- ROTJ retold in icons. My favorite bits are Jabba's evil face in #11, "jamming" in #88, and Lando in #120.

- From urban_exotic: The wookiees invaded Mardi Gras! Peter Mayhew will ride as king next year, ha!

- Timothy Zahn announced via Facebook a few tidbits from his next SW novel: an "Ocean's Eleven-style heist caper" set in the movie era starring Han Solo. Due out at the end of this year. I'm positively giddy with excitement!! Zahn writes Han really well (and Luke and Leia, too, for that matter). This is going to be so good.

- New SW Legos for 2012. I knew there'd be more planet sets! Specifically Bespin with Cloud Car and Lobot, Endor with AT-ST and driver, and Yavin with X-Wing and pilot. First thoughts: I hope the Bespin and Yavin on display were both pre-production prototypes or something because they look pretty boring. Endor looks good. I'm slightly disappointed that Endor gets an AT-ST instead of a speederbike (and a scout) but the other ships are great. (I'm still predicting we'll get Hoth and a snowspeeder eventually.) And there's a new advent calendar for this year, hurrah! I didn't scrutinize the photos (because I don't want to get too spoiled), but it seems to be more prequel themed than last year's calendar. These are all due out in August.

- There were a lot of merchandising promotions floating around for Episode I in 3D but the only thing I got into was the cereal box pens. I buy Cheerios anyway so I started collecting them. Unfortunately the promotion didn't last as long as I thought it would - they were gone from the shelves very quickly! With a small amount of shame, I will admit that I bought four boxes of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, a cereal I would ordinarily avoid like the plague, just for the pens. Sometimes I can be that kind of collector. :) (On the upside, it won't go to waste: it makes a very good 3-point snack!) I ended up with five of the eight pens, out of six cereal boxes. Not bad, overall. Two Jar Jars, naturally. I'm missing R2, Padmé and Anakin. Hopefully I can find them at a con or something.

- Video: Building a giant Lego Millennium Falcon. Wow. Worth sitting through.

- Cute little video interview with gentleman who gave Admiral Ackbar his voice, radio dramatist Erik Bauersfeld. (Via

- Very amusing Stargate tee: Send me home. I'd wear that.

- From nostalgia lane: Remember that one Sesame Street special where Big Bird and Snuffy get lost in a museum and help a young Egyptian boy save his soul and join his parents as a star in heaven? I do! I've always remembered it as kind of trippy and odd, but with a feel-good ending. Turns out I wasn't far off. (link NSFW, language) (Via @clubjade)

- Lego optical illusion. Whoa. That's incredible. (Via @katiecandraw)

It occurs to me that kind of link sharing is probably better suited to Tumblr? I think, maybe? But I don't need one more thing. Not yet, anyway.
1st-Mar-2012 09:07 am - From the reading pile again
Been doing a lot of reading lately, which is great because I love to read, and I'm putting a (slight) dent in my (huge) reading pile. But not so great because I'm far too likely to disappear into a book (or two) and not come out again...for a whole weekend, heh.

Spoilers have been put behind cuts.

Death Comes to Pemberley, by P.D. James
I love Pride and Prejudice but that love doesn't extend to reading P&P universe stories by other authors. There are lots of them out there. I tried one once (the whole P&P story from Darcy's point of view, I think?). It was ok, but I decided the entire genre just wasn't my thing. I decided to give this book a go because P.D. James is a name I know, and I enjoy a murder mystery in general.

I liked this book well enough. The murder mystery part was fantastic; very clever, very intricate, but not difficult to figure out in increments with the characters. It reminded me of several Cadfael mystery plots - two or three parties all contribute to the events/evidence and it's necessary to tease out who did what and which one was the actual murderer. Overall, though, I wasn't head-over-heels for the book. Lizzie felt flat and I felt like the author tried too hard to tie the story to P&P. She used almost all of the same characters, either present on the page or mentioned by others. For other people that may be the best thing ever, but it didn't do much for me. She also repeated a lot of phrases directly from P&P itself, some of them more than once. Both "thus polluted" and "fine eyes" were used at least twice. I found it annoying.

Huge spoilers.Collapse )

A few characters from Emma and Persuasion were mentioned but did not appear. It was fun to recognize their names as they went by and envision a larger Austen world. There may have been others but I didn't catch them. I don't know the other books well enough.

For the first time in a long time I needed a dictionary at hand while I read. I probably looked up a dozen words. The only two I remember are propitious: "being a good omen; favorably disposed; advantageous; auspicious", and benison: "blessing; benediction".

The Rook, by Daniel O'Malley
Enjoyed it very much! From my last book review post: "It's about a woman who wakes up outside in a park, surrounded by dead bodies, with no memory of who she is....This woman basically impersonates herself: she wears her clothes, she lives in her house, she goes to her job, but she has no clue who she is...Just the premise was interesting - how do you con everyone into thinking you're yourself? And oh yeah, at the same time how do you learn to use your supernatural ability (controlling people by touch), deal with your partner (who is one being in four bodies), and prevent Belgian alchemists from invading the nation?"

It was honestly very refreshing to read an urban fantasy story that was completely outside of the vampires/werewolves/witches/fae genre. In this book the supernatural abilities were unique and all over the map. I love me my werewolves a la Briggs, but this was great! Lots of really creative stuff: the characters, the settings, and the plot twists. The author managed to balance a lot of elements: bureaucracy, intrigue, humor, and the main character's emerging sense of identity, and he tied it up very neatly at the end. This isn't the first in a series, but it could be. I'd gladly read more!

Slight spoilers.Collapse )

Movie critic Drew McWeeny recently posted about The Rook and he describes it a lot better than I can.

Girl Genius comic series, by Phil and Kaja Foglio
In my last post I also mentioned that I'd started reading Girl Genius. Well, I'm now completely caught up. All the volumes and everything online. It's AWESOME. I love it. So many characters! I love Agatha's character, how she's grown and evolved. I love the three Jäger boys; Maxim is my favorite. And love it whenever Gil and Tarvek bicker back and forth, they're adorable. And I really want to know more about Higgs.

I have a couple of issues with the storytelling, though. Events tend to get drawn out over a long period of time, across multiple book volumes. Or, if you've been reading it in real time on the site, across multiple years. Yikes. On the one hand that's a good thing, because the authors take time to build characters and atmosphere and layer in details, and the victories feel earned. I like that stuff. But I also get to the point where I've had enough and I want the story to move on. Like, get the castle fixed already! The ups and downs can come really fast and it seems like there are more downs than ups. Like the authors take any chance they can to throw wrenches in the system. Sometimes I just get exhausted by it. Spoilers.Collapse ) It makes for immersive stories and characters with vast complex histories (like Kushiel!). Overall I like this and it's Good Reading, but sometimes I feel it's just too much, too relentless. I know that if you don't have a problem, you don't have a plot, but to quote The Incredibles, "I just want the world to stay saved!" for a little while! Also, there are times (mostly related to Tarvek) when the characters discuss/doubt one another's motivations and I get a bit confused.

Most of the time though, it's really excellent. Now that I'm all caught up I feel that familiar sense of loss because I'm not living in that world full time anymore. Reading it live, one page at a time, has been a bit of an adjustment! I prefer reading it in the collected volumes, all at once. But I can't not keep up with the updates, heh.

Down These Strange Streets, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois.
I got this book for the story by Patricia Briggs, "In Red, with Pearls", set in Mercy's universe and featuring Warren and Kyle, who are both pretty awesome. It's an excellent short story.

Usually when I check out an anthology I only read the one or two stories that I care out about. This time I decided to read the rest. I really liked the stories by Carrie Vaughn, Steven Saylor, Laurie R. King, Diana Gabaldon, and Bradley Denton. Vaughn, Saylor, and Gabaldon wrote stories set in their established series. I've added all three of them to my reading pile. From that perspective, reading the entire anthology was a mistake, ha!

My favorite story in the book, aside from Warren and Kyle's, was "No Mystery, No Miracle" by Melinda M. Snodgrass. It's set in the Depression era and it's about finding and closing a crack between universes and dealing with the evil demons/spirits that came out of it. The hero is a demon too, except he's a white hat who was on Earth before the crack came into being. Spoiler.Collapse ) He's a hobo riding the rails. I love it. And the story talks about hobo codes: the symbols hobos would scratch in fence posts and such to pass along information. Different symbols indicated whether a place had a free phone, or guard dogs, or if you could get a hot meal if you sat through a sermon. Great stuff. I'll probably buy this anthology once it comes out in paperback; a rare thing for me.
15th-Feb-2012 01:18 pm - Hawk Day
Happy Hawk Day!

The 22nd anniversary of our own K family tradition. :)

The full story was originally posted here but in a nutshell (mostly quoting from last year's post):

Many Februarys ago we had a strong snow and ice storm (like you do) and just about every school in the district was closed. At some point during the day a red-tailed hawk hit our second story picture window and injured herself. We poked our heads out Mom and Dad's bedroom window and saw her on the ledge for a bare instant...and then she fell to the ground! Fortunately she survived that fall. We pelted downstairs and watched her flop across the yard to some of the bushes, one wing dangling at an odd angle. Oh no!

Mom called the Humane Society and they said they'd send someone around. The person they sent was a policeman. A plain, ordinary cop. No protective gear, no cage. Heck, not even winter boots. Mom gave him Dad's work gloves and a big, TV-sized box (a mid-1980's kind of TV), and he blazed a trail through the calf-high, ice-covered snow to the bush where the hawk had taken refuge. The poor thing was in shock. He simply scooped her into the box, put the box in his squad car and left.

Later in the day Mom called the Humane Society again. They said the hawk had been very lucky: her wing was only dislocated, not broken. They said she'd probably be released back into the wild in a few days.

There were other goings on, but that's the basic story. Melody and I watched everything from behind the front door. It wasn't actually that exciting, but it isn't every day such a huge bird hits your house and lives. :) Of course, we wanted to go to the Humane Society to visit "our" hawk but we weren't allowed.

For the next two years schools were closed on February 15th due to snow storms. Thus Hawk Day became our own family holiday. Too bad I can't have a snow day every year!
- Giraffe family. I have died of cute. :)

- From plasmonicgrid: Music note socks that I really want. I definitely want to add more music-themed socks to my drawer but most of those I've found are white, and I just don't like wearing white socks. Not that I've done an exhaustive search, mind you.

- I've had nights (weekends?) full of "carousing with friends" but none has ever produced a painful morning after, thankfully. I still thought the comic was funny. :)

- From firstcrusader: The kitchen science of popcorn, in slightly more detail than "moisture builds pressure then pops" but still very accessible. (Also, did you know there's a popcorn museum? I've been there. It's more about antique poppers than anything else, but still interesting.)

- A Scene It: Star Wars game is coming to shelves this Fall. I've never played a Scene It game, but just about any SW trivia game is something I'd love...though the list of people who'd play with me is very short, heh. Still, if I ever found it for cheap I'd get it!

- Cute little video interview with Anthony Daniels talking about being C-3PO and the costume and so forth. No new revelations, but he's just so very entertaining to listen to. And he does the voice at the end and I always get a kick out of that. :)
3rd-Feb-2012 11:56 am - Reading habits
My previous book review post got me thinking about my reading habits. (I may have posted some of these thoughts before, but I honestly can't remember.)

I used to say that it was rare for me to not finish a book. Like, once every two years. Not so anymore, really. The more I read, and the more I branch out in my reading, the more inclined I am to toss something aside if I honestly have no interest in it. It's still not the norm; I'm still more likely to finish a book just to see how it ends. What's different is that I've learned to recognize when I really don't care anymore, or I just plain dislike it. When that happens reading further would be a waste of time, so I don't. There are plenty of other things to read instead!

Which is why I use the library so much. I enjoy having a local independent bookstore (Schuler Books, woo!) and I want to support them. And I've met a ton of cool authors and I want to support them, too. But I can't afford to buy everything I'm interested in reading. And also, as much as I love to fill my shelves with books, I'm not enough of a bibliophile to buy something I may not enjoy and may never read again just to fill said shelves. There are exceptions to both of those statements, of course, but 90% of the time if I see something interesting in the bookstore I'll make a note to get it from the library. In general if I like it then I'll buy it, if not then that's money I can spend on other things, books or otherwise.

In the case of a series (books or comics), my habit is to read through an entire series before I decide whether to buy it or not. I'm pretty sure I made that rule only a few years ago, after a few things happened. One, I'd been buying all of Jacqueline Carey's books because I loved her Kushiel trilogy. Well, the Imriel trilogy was just ok, and I didn't like the Sundering duology at all. And then I got Santa Olivia from the library and decided it wasn't my thing. Two, I met jimhines at ConFusion 2008. I liked him and enjoyed reading his blog, but I didn't think his goblin books were my thing. So I went to the library for them. Liked them, bought them. Three, I bought the first of the Night Angel trilogy at ConFusion 2009 based on someone's recommendation. I didn't enjoy it enough to run out and buy the rest, and I finished the trilogy via the library. And lastly, shortly after that a friend recommended the Codex Alera series, and by then I'd learned my lesson - to the library I went!

So yes, to make a short story long, in the case of a finite series I've learned that if I don't like the end, I'll never reread any part of it no matter how awesome the rest of it was, no matter how much I fell in love with it. Last year at this time I finished Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy and was very disappointed with the ending. Books 1 and 2 had me excited and enthralled but book 3 let me down. And then I had the exact same experience with the Hunger Games trilogy. And then I finished up Zahn's six-book Dragonback series and decided that it was good but the ending didn't push it into "must own". So yeah. Recent experience has made me more wary of committing my money to a series before I know how it ends.

In the case of an ongoing series, I keep reading until I reach a decision point. Either I don't like it and I stop, or I love it and I want to buy it and keep reading. Usually that decision comes before I've reached the end of the published material. I made it through four Dresden books, three Sookie Stackhouse books, and four (or five?) Kinsey Millhone books before deciding none of them was for me!

Star Wars books are the big fat exception to pretty much everything I just said. Though even there I have habits and rules. :)
31st-Jan-2012 02:16 pm - From the reading pile
Some thoughts (long and short) on various things I've read since last September.

Two comic series by Jeff Smith: Bone, and RASL
Down the Mysterly River, by Bill Willingham
Dead to Me, by Anton Strout
Two series by Timothy Zahn: Quadrail, and the SW Thrawn trilogy
Shiver, by Maggie Stiefvater
The Windup Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi
The Spy Who Jumped Off the Screen, by Thomas Caplan
Girl Genius comic series (vol 1 and 2 only), by Phil and Kaja Foglio

Cut for long and a few spoilersCollapse )

I'm currently reading The Rook, by Daniel O'Malley. It's about a woman who wakes up outside in a park, surrounded by dead bodies, with no memory of who she is. There's a letter in her coat pocket from herself that basically says, "Hi, I'm you. Or I was you. I know you have no memory. I have no idea who's out to get us. Welcome to our life." This woman basically impersonates herself: she wears her clothes, she lives in her house, she goes to her job, but she has no clue who she is. It's fascinating. Oh, and the tagline for the book is "In Her Majesty's Supernatural Secret Service"...and organization called the Checquy in which this woman has a rather highly placed job. I foudn this book via the Big Idea piece in Scalzi's blog and there's an excerpt linked at the bottom. Just the premise was interesting - how do you con everyone into thinking you're yourself? And oh yeah, at the same time how do you learn to use your supernatural ability (controlling people by touch), deal with your partner (who is one being in four bodies), and prevent Belgian alchemists from invading the nation? It's very good so far!
- Wow. There's a guy who is walking across the whole of Australia, in stormtrooper armor, for charity. Wow.

- Star Wars Identities is a new travelling museum exhibit that "explores the core concepts of human identity, both in the real world and for fictional characters: their origins, influences, and choices." Sounds interesting! And I like the Vader rorschach image. The exhibit opens in Montreal this year, but my travel schedule is already packed. Hopefully it'll come to a museum near me at some point.

- And speaking of exhibits, I can't go to Australia to see this exhibit of the Art of Star Wars and Superheroes, but I enjoyed reading the article for the comments from original SW artist Ralph McQuarrie. I have always loved his work.

- Fantastic interview with Dennis Murren, special effects guru and one of the founding members of ILM. He raised an interesting point about digital effects: “It just dawned on me a couple of years ago that when we were doing the original Jurassic Park we were copying real animals and we went to a place near here where they had real lions and tigers and bears, you know. Rhinos and giraffes and all that stuff we looked at. But there are people growing up that are copying Jurassic Park! And then there’s people copying those people’s movies! So it’s then a copy of a copy of a copy. It just gets farther off...but a lot of people can’t tell the difference. Which is too bad because I think it pulls you out of the story."

- Anthony Daniels writes about the 25th anniversary of Star Tours. I enjoyed this bit: "Crew members squished out of sight, to swivel my pilot seat. [ILM modelmaker] Don Bies crammed in nearby, as ever, to make sure I didn’t die."

- Neat article on SW and biology: Could the various alien species seen in SW have evolved naturally?
- Thinkgeek now carries SW breakfast drinks: coffee, cocoa, and green tea. Part of me wants to *headdesk* hard at the absurdity of it (SW coffee, really?)...and then part of me has to admit I wouldn't mind having Hoth Cocoa, not one bit.

- I wouldn't mind having a Han Solo chocolate bar either. :)

- From Sally: This Jabba the Hutt cupcake is disgustingly perfect.

- Long but great article by former Bantam editor Tom Dupree on Zahn's Heir to the Empire and the boom in SW publishing that happened after it. It's a fun read for someone like me who started reading the SW books right at that time.

- LOVE THIS: "There are a lot of situations in life where you just think 'well, there’s nothing I can do.' Well this week, I finally did something about one of them. It took remarkably little effort, and made me feel like Batman." (Via @katiecandraw)

- My bell choir is doing a piece called Andromeda that has an extended section in 7/8 time, one of my least favorite time signatures. But this makes it all better! Music + Doctor Who FTW! :)
Happy Friday! Have some art:

- The Seven Deadly Sins, as embodied by denizens of Jabba's Palace. Is it bad that I think Jabba tickling Leia's head is kind of adorable? Especially given the look of death she's giving all and sundry? :)

- The Star Wars opening title crawl reproduced on an escalator! Brilliant! I would sit and watch that for 20 minutes, at least. (Via @rosiewook)

- Several storyboards from ESB "shown publicly for the first time". I especially like the one of Wedge, who looks a heck of a lot like Biggs! I love this kind of artwork, storyboards and pre-production art. I especially love going to exhibits and seeing them up close in person.

- Star Wars X-Wing Mercy Kill is coming out next year, first X-Wing novel in quite a while. Very excited! The cover art looks great.

- A series of SW Galaxy 7 sketchcards from artist Katie Cook. I love how she composed these in two card sets, with the pinup girl on top and a smaller, cuter scene below. Makes it harder for collectors (I'm not one, in this case) who need both cards to complete the set, but it makes for really neat art!

- Speaking of sketchcards, I really want this as a print for my wall. Great likenesses of Vader, Luke and Leia, and the colors are just gorgeous. Love it.

- Artist Travis English illustrates scenes from each SW movie in silhouette. I like ANH the best, with ROTJ and AOTC close second. I want to like ESB, but I feel it needs more (and the tauntaun looks oddly proportioned, actually). I wish I could buy them individually. I'd proabably get just ANH and ROTJ. (Via @rosiewook)

- I really like this art of Leia on Hoth. Carrie Fisher didn't have that torso, but it's the face and stance that get me. That's Leia.

I was going to save this for an all video post, but it's just too cute to keep:

OMG it is SOOO cute, I love it! It's Volkswagen's teaser commercial for their upcoming Super Bowl spot. On one hand, commercials have teasers now? Ugh. On the other, it's so awesome I almost don't care. :) I love that some of the dogs are wearing little costumes: Vader's chest panel, a medal from ANH, Chewie's bandolier, an Ewok hood...and the AT-AT dog is completely perfect! Love it love it!

jedimara77 put it very well: "I like to believe that the Whippet AT-AT who comes in at the end of the VW commercial is thinking, WTF did I get myself into?" :)
Ah, winter. The time of year when my hair is dry and straight (yay!), my skin is dry and chapped (boo!), and my dress shoes live in plastic bags to go back and forth to work....because I wear snow boots every day to keep my feet warm, snow or no snow.

Here's some Christmas themed stuff, very bleated but still fun:

- Sleigh bells "make everything more festive". Ha ha, truth!

- There are certain Christmas songs/carols that would never give me "Christmas carol fatigue" even if I did hear them thirty times. Some are just that good. On the other hand, when I worked at JCPenney I came to detest certain other Christmas songs after hearing six different versions of them three times each, all in one day. It was awful. If "Santa Baby" were to suddenly disappear I wouldn't miss it at all.

- I LOVE that this gingerbread AT-AT includes a gingerbread Luke hanging from the undercarriage. Cute. :) (via @clubjade)

- Lucasfilm's 2011 holiday card featured Jabba made out of snow, and I thought it was actually rather cute. The slideshow includes images of cards from previous years.

- John Scalzi imagines science fiction film holiday specials, and this one for Iron Man was my hands-down favorite:

"An Iron Man Christmas Carol
Yes, Tony Stark is a superhero -- but he's also part of the 1%. This Christmas Eve, his cynical side has gotten the better of him and his view of the world, and all the little people in it. Seeing him wallow in his own bitterness, three of his fellow Avengers take it upon themselves to help Stark reconnect with the joy of the holiday season. Captain America is the Superhero of Christmas Past, the Black Widow is the Superhero of Christmas Present, and the Hulk is the Superhero of Christmas Smash. Paul Bettany makes a cameo as Jarvis Cratchett, Stark's impoverished computer technician. Samuel L. Jackson shows up at the end, because, well, that's what he does, isn't it."

- Seen via firstcrusader orginally but everywhere on the Internet soon after: The Sith Who Stole Christmas, aka, Darth Vader = The Grinch. Hilarious. :) The synchronization of the music to certain shots is quite clever.

16th-Jan-2012 01:44 pm - Stone Soup: Catching up with non-SW
I've been sitting on a bunch of Stone Soup links since about mid-November. Mostly because I didn't take the time to write up any posts during the holiday crazy busy timez. More specifically, I took the time to write up posts that were more important than fun stuff I found in the Inner'net. :) Anyway, I have lots of this stuff to post and most of it is very old (in Internet years). Rather than spew out the whole lot at once I plan to do separate posts by theme. Ish.

Here's the non-Star Wars stuff:

- Extremely excellent article on why Labyrinth is a classic and what it represents as an imaginative piece of entertainment and nostalgia. I particularly love the line about Sarah being a "headstrong young female protagonist taking on the world in jeans and sensible shoes." Hear, hear! (Via @clubjade)

- Author Anne McCaffrey passed away in late November. I came late to the SF&F genre and I didn't branch out beyond SW until even later, so I've not read any of her novels. I'm not in any hurry to read them, but for my own reference here's a quick guide to her Pern books.

- I absolutely love this snippet from an interview with Jude Law:
"Interviewer: Tell us about your relationship with Robert Downey Jr.
Jude Law: Oh, I love him.
Interviewer: You have a bit of a bromance going on there.
Jude Law: What is this new term everybody's using? That's a horrible term. What about just a 'romance'?
Interviewer: No, that's not the same, 'cos then you'd have to star in a romantic comedy together or something.
Jude Law: We just have! Have you not seen it?"

Ha ha! I haven't seen the new Sherlock Holmes movie yet but I still know that this has to be truth. :)

- I can really identify with what John Scalzi wrote last week: every now and again "I has a duh" for a day and don't really feel up to any kind of significant anything. Sometimes the brain just won't engage. When that happens I usually curl up with either a book or the TV, or a movie like National Treasure or The Mummy. :)

- Strawberry Short Snake. Hee! Almost too cute to eat! :)

- From Katie: Settlers of Catan plus Star Trek. Sounds like the game mechanics for Catan don't change all that much, but heck, I'd play it for the Star Trek setting alone. I find it amusing that the article title uses "jump to lightspeed" which is a Star Wars phrase, whereas Trek generally uses the phrase "warp speed", heh. Now, if they were making a Star Wars version of Catan I would buy it in a heartbeat! :)

- From cjtremlett: The Solar System, done in eight chocolate morsels. Wow. Very pretty. Earth and Saturn are my favorites.

- Someday, in my dream house, I would love to have this kind of book room/reading room.
5th-Jan-2012 04:11 pm - Welcome to 2012
It's a New Year...and I'm already feeling behind.

Seriously, there are SO MANY THINGS I want to post about and I'm both not finding and not making time to write. I had intended to get some writing done over my holiday vacation, but then I decided to spend time engaged with my family rather than on a computer in the same room/house. I used my mom's laptop a lot in the evenings to catch up on Facebook and my RSS feed, but I didn't have the energy to write full posts that late in the day.

Ah well. I'm hoping to change that. One of my goals for the year is to post more. I know LJ is pretty barren nowadays, not remotely the community it used to be. Despite that, I currently have no inclination to start a new separate blog elsewhere. My LJ has always been, at least in part, for my own benefit. The "journal" aspects of it are valuable to me. I write about what I've done and how I felt doing it because I want to have a record of it to look back on. Even my Stone Soup posts are more for me than for my readers. I'm not making any attempt to be timely with them, just making notes of Things Found on the Internet that I Enjoy. :) If others enjoy them too, great. Don't get me wrong, I like that I have friends here who are still reading and commenting, and I greatly appreciate it! But I still like posting just to document things regardless of whether people read it.

After just over a year on Facebook I've kind of settled into a usage pattern. I generally have something to say 2-3 times a week: brief State of Me newsy things, a neat link, a photo, an in-the-moment observation. It's enough. For full State of Me things, deeper thoughts, trip logs, project logs, basically anything of length, I'll stick to LJ. Anything really personal gets locked friends-only, though. Same goes for anything to do with family. I'd say roughly 80% of what I post is locked. Sorry, RSS-only people. That's just how I do things. I understand that nothing on the Internet is safe from a determined person with the right tools, but I enjoy the modicum of privacy that LJ provides.

I'm still debating over Twitter. I lurk on so many twitter accounts via RSS that I feel I should just get over myself and join. And then I struggle with not wanting ONE MORE THING in my life.

Another goal in 2012 is to lose weight. I did WeightWatchers once before and I'm doing it again. Another post on that to follow.

And the last concrete goal I have for the year is to bring my photo albums up to date. They end at Sept 2006 and it pains me to be so far behind.

Lots of things planned for 2012 already: ConFusion, a cousin's wedding, PenguiCon, Celebration 6, visiting the UK with tawneypup (SO EXCITED OMGWEEE!!), handbells and more handbells, Distinctly Bronze, game nights, various anual events around town. And also lots of Zelda! Now that we're past all the holiday crazyness tawneypup, plasmonicgrid and I were able to resume our video game dates. We (finally!) started Zelda: Skyward Sword on Monday and played it again on Tuesday. It's great! Lots of fun so far.

So, yes, regarding posting goal is both to post more as Things Happen, but also to go back and write posts for events and travels from further back. Like C5 last year, like my trip Up North with Melo the year before that, like India the year before that! (I will probably date those posts so that they fit in the "timeline" of the journal, and be within hailing distance of the events themselves so that I can find them in the future. I forget exactly how it works, but I think back dated posts don't show up as new on a Friends Page. If so, I'd make a new post at the same time with a link to the update for any who care to read it. Blah blah, bliddy blah.) I also plan to post Project Logs for things/gifts I've made. we go.
21st-Dec-2011 12:16 pm - Christmas spirit: Carol of the Bells
I am SO excited for Christmas! My shopping is done and last night I finally finished the last of my homemade gifts. Whew! They are pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.

Since it's almost Christmas, here's Carol of the Bells played by me and some of the CCR ringers at a concert last year.

From left to right: Jessi, Lindsay, me, Corlie, Andrea and Kim. (Kim is not actually that short, he's just standing a step down from the rest of us.)

This is the sextet that I arranged, that I blathered about quite a bit last Fall. I thought I'd posted the video here already but I can't find it. If I did, owell, it's still awesome and you're getting it again. If I didn't - what was I thinking?? How did I not post about this thing that we did, that I was over the moon excited about?

It's one of my favorite carols and I was (am) pretty dang proud of our performance. And a special thanks to Kim for the video. I'd forgotten how fantastic it sounds.
16th-Dec-2011 03:11 pm - Sharks
We have a phrase in my family: "The sharks are circling." and it refers to the dozen or so cars roaming a full parking lot, looking to pounce on the next empty space.

The phrase started during a family vacation to Gettysburg (in the early to mid 90's, I think). Our days started early before the lot at the visitor's center was full. We always brought lunch with us in the cooler to A) save money, and B) avoid wasting time going somewhere. The first day of the trip we had a mini tailgate at the van, and while we ate we watched the hordes of cars roam the parking lot looking for a spot. It struck us as funny, watching them all go back and forth. The sharks were circling. :) If we had a dollar for every car that stopped and asked us if we were leaving we probably could have paid for our evening meals.

That phrase has been going through my head a lot lately, given all the Christmas shoppers. And I've been a shark myself as recently as today. :) It makes me think of my family and it makes me happy, which helps alleviate the stress.
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