In other news, teeth

Sep. 19th, 2017 09:39 pm
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[personal profile] jethrien
ARR got the second batch of fillings today. He did really well overall--he didn't complain or whine on the way there, and he was cheerful and cooperative until they tried to apply the gas. Which he really, really didn't like and suddenly turned into a barnacle. (Not a whiny barnacle, or a fighting or screaming or crying barnacle. Just wide eyed and glued to me.) We finally managed to coax him into lying down, and then I read about ten books back to back while they put in four fillings. He did great. Stayed still, didn't complain. Burst into tears once it was all over and he was back on room air, but really, he did ok. We sat for a long while as he periodically started wailing again. (He'd calm down, and then touch his numb cheek and burst back into tears.) Poor kid. It's not easy having dental work when you're so little. He'd managed to bounce back enough a couple hours later that I took him back to school.

I had to change every piece of clothing I was wearing because I'd adrenaline-sweat through everything.

Standalone book review

Sep. 19th, 2017 09:25 pm
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[personal profile] jethrien
#77: Caesar's Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us by Sam Kean. 3.5.

Disclaimer: I was sent a review copy in exchange for a fair review.

I probably got the review copy because I loved an earlier Sam Kean book, The Violinist's Thumb. In that book, Kean did a deep dive (for laymen) into our genetic code, with each chapter organized around an amusing story that tied into the theme of that chapter. It was deeply researched, very entertaining, and quite informative.

Here, he tries the same formula...only it never quite gels.

So this one is about gases. Just that--gases in general. There's sort of a vague progression of "beginning of the Earth" gases through "the order in which we discovered stuff" gases to "what we might find one day on other planets" gases. But while the genetic code is a topic that you can go incredibly deep on but has some fairly well defined boundaries, gases are...well, by nature, they're amorphous and don't much like being contained. So this is chock full of insights, but they're really barely connected to each other. There's no actual story here.

And the amusing anecdotes accelerate this problem instead of corralling it. They're really, really random. And he goes far, far deeper into them than actually necessary. (For example, we get multiple pages of learning the life history of a guy who got blown up by Mount Saint Helens. Because...gases were involved in the explosion. Or something. It's entertaining! But really doesn't actually have much more to do with gases than say, my own life history. Because I've played with helium balloons! Or something.)

So. It's deeply researched. (Maybe too deeply, more deeply than is justified.) Very entertaining. (Really! Kean's writing style is delightful! Accessible and funny, and great at putting complex concepts into laymen's terms.) Quite informative. (Did you know the French Revolution can be blamed on a volcano in Iceland?) But it's less a book and more a multi-hour binge on Wikipedia, where you keeping clicking the most interesting link on the page and learning more and more fascinating stuff, none of which has anything to do with each other, and end the evening feeling stuffed full of random knowledge which might be fun to pull out at parties some day, and maybe a little headache-y. (Or maybe that's just me?)
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[personal profile] chuckro
Star Wars! / yah-dah-dah Star Wars! / yah-dah-dah Star Wars! / Yah-da-da-DAH

Read more... )

Overall: This follows the same formula as the other Lego games. We beat it in about 10 hours and didn’t feel much need to go back and find all the secrets; we just don’t have that kind of time at this point in our lives. Perhaps in a few more years, ARR will be able to join us for these games.

Grandia 2 (PS2)

Sep. 17th, 2017 03:09 pm
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[personal profile] chuckro
A mercenary (“geohound”) named Ryudo is hired to accompany Elena, a songstress of Granas, in sealing the remains of the evil god Valmar. Unfortunately, the sealing does not go according to plan, and they both end up on a quest to find the other pieces of Valmar before he revives are destroys the world.

Read more... )

Overall: There's plenty here. The systems are complex but understandable, the plot is decent and the dialogue is nicely done. The PS1-era graphic system drove me nuts. On the whole, I don't think it's much that I couldn't get from a KEMCO game--and the latter is portable and costs a buck. I apparently should have played this ten years ago rather than letting it sit on my shelf. Despite some decent concepts, it hasn't aged well.
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#67: How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now by James L. Kugel. 4. Kugel starts with an interesting structure: going through the Bible book by book, explaining how it was interpreted by religious authorities (often differentiating between Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish interpretations) and then contrasting with how modern Biblical scholars interpret it. The structure kind of falls apart halfway through. (As a whole, it's a bit repetitive and could probably have used a better editing pass.) But it's still quite fascinating.

#68: A Queen from the North by Erin McRae and Racheline Maltese. 4. Alt-history modern romance, where the War of the Roses never really ended. I've always loved both the "political marriage that becomes real" and the "princess school" tropes, so this was catnip. Rather looking forward to more installments in the series. Disclosure: Maltese is an acquaintance.

#69: Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick. 4. Look, aside from being in a bunch of movies, Kendrick hasn't actually done anything all that interesting. But she's delightful company on page. By the end, it's clear she's run out of biographical material but her editor wanted more pages so she just starts ranting about hypothetical theme parties, and it's still hilarious.

#70: Once Upon a Marquess by Courtney Milan. 4. It's not that the set up is so very original (he accidentally discovered her father was a traitor, now she's ruined, but they have to work together), but as always the historical research is on point and the dialogue sparkles. Oh, how it sparkles.

#71: Singularity's Ring by Paul Melko. 3.5. Clever SF conceit in which groups of people are permanently mentally bonded together--especially clever since it's from multiple viewpoints within the same cluster, who consider themselves a single person. The actual plot, involving a cryogenic defrostee trying to restart the Singularity and take over the world, is somewhat less compelling, to be honest. And some of the paranoia-inducing "they're trying to get you" stuff doesn't really work in hindsight. But entertaining overall.

#72: Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. 3.5. So it turns out I'd read this before, and given it a 4. I'm downgrading to a 3.5 because apparently it so failed to stick that I didn't remember reading it until one particular passage 2/3 of the way through. (To be fair, I've read several books set in this time period, so the particular plot points were always going to be familiar. I've seen Henry nearly die on the tilting field and Lady Rochford be a bitch and Anne lose her head from multiple perspectives.)

#73: Please Don't Tell My Parents I Have a Nemesis by Richard Roberts. 4. More delightful teen aged super-villain shenanigans. But it ends on a hell of a cliff-hanger (apparently the next book is the last in the series).

#74: God's War by Kameron Hurley. 4. This is the kind of science fiction that verges on fantasy--extreme biotech to the point of summoned bugs that have replaced most mechanical and chemical processes, shapeshifters, and near-resurrection spells. It's cool. Also kind of nihilistic (the author wrote it while nearly dying and it shows)--a centuries-long religious war on a barely-habitable planet, multiple double-crosses where all the authority figures are ethically compromised, a brutal mercenary team who are each filled with their own special brand of self-loathing. I found it brilliant, but I'll admit I'm not actually all that eager to read the rest of series; this is not a nice place to be.

#75: Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson. 3. Just to be clear: my parents are great. But I needed some research on a character I'm writing, and this gets recommended a lot by advice columnists. Some really great insights. Also a tendency to view every problem as a nail, and to define "emotionally mature" as "behavior I like". Still, could be very useful to someone struggling with their own parents.

#76: The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. 5. Another brutally nihilistic one. Dick's alt-future where the Axis won World War II is so brilliantly, carefully revealed that it's a tour de force of world-building. Unsurprisingly, his one female character is an overemotional idiot (they always are for him), but we'll set it aside as an artifact of its time. The seesawing of racism as viewed through several very different characters, on the other hand, is delicately handled. This book is brilliant and chilling. It's also weirdly beautiful in parts, such as Togumi's last scenes as he tries to gain emotional equilibrium. A masterpiece.

The Magicians (TV Series, Season 1)

Sep. 15th, 2017 11:08 pm
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[personal profile] chuckro
Harry Potter starring depressed millennial grad students instead of children. And boy oh boy, it’s another adventure in terrible life choices. Every character is like Barry Allen.

Read more... )

Overall: If you like “superpowered characters making extremely poor life choices” as a genre, this is one of the purest examples I think I’ve seen.

Hummingbird

Sep. 15th, 2017 02:09 pm
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[personal profile] jethrien
I was standing on the back deck looking at the garden, and a hummingbird came over to say hello! I've never seen one in our city before! She was poking around in the morning glories, and then came right up to my eye level (maybe three feet away) to check me out. I was boring, though, so she went back to poking the morning glories.
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[personal profile] chuckro
The main plotline about the Cluster from season 2 is wrapped up, then we have a season where Jasper is the real concern; then we get much more into a saga with the Diamonds, rulers of the Homeworld Gems.

Read more... )

Overall: It irks me that Season 4 ends on a cliffhanger, but I think I'm going to wait until Season 5 finishes airing before I hunt down and watch that. This series has turned into something made for marathoning.

Books

Sep. 10th, 2017 09:30 pm
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[personal profile] jethrien
#58 The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed by Jessica Lahey. 4. Some things I'd already heard, some new, mostly on why we need to let kids fail when the stakes are low so they have resiliency when the stakes are high. The school gave all us parent reps copies as a present at the end of the year, which I'm taking as a hint that as a population, we're not doing too well on this with our kids.

#59 A Traveller's History of Germany by Robert Cole. 4. I really the Traveller's History series. They're concise, well organized survey histories of a specific region, starting in paleolithic and running up to the publishing date. Good at cause and effect and sprinkling in the bits of color that make history interesting instead of an endless recitation of dates and similarly named monarchs. Similarly to Italy, I suspect the sheer number of different regions that only really unify near the end made organizing this difficult, but the author kept things well aligned. The other big problem with German histories--that particularly horrific period that kind of looms over everything before and after--is dealt with sensitively and straightforwardly.

#60: My Drunk Kitchen: A Guide to Eating, Drinking, and Going with Your Gut by Hannah Hart. 3. Entertaining but so, so random. About what you'd expect, if you're at all familiar with Hart. If you're not at all familiar with Hart...why are you reading this book? You didn't actually expect edible recipes, did you?

#61: The Sumage Solution by G.L. Carriger. 5. Ok, so this is a Gail Carriger book, and has Carriger's usual sense of whimsy and deft hand with dialogue. But it's present day instead of steampunk (although it would fit in the Parasolverse timeline) and is hardcore explicit m/m, not mannerly romance. We're talking details here, people. So if you're not onboard for that...you can't really avoid it here. If you're on board for that, man, does she do it well. Plus bashful werewolves, broken-but-still-good mages, a magical equivalent of the DMV, and a cameo by an absolutely fabulous kitsune drag queen.

#62: Germania: In Wayward Pursuit of the Germans and Their History by Simon Winder. 5. If you're looking for a coherent narrative of German history...go read A Traveller's History of Germany. We'll wait. Then come back. Because this is impossible to follow without a preexisting knowledge of German history, but way more fun. (Do you not particularly care about following what's going on, and you're just in for the snarky asides? Don't worry about it, dive right in.) One extremely biased take on bits of German history by a slightly daft and dotty Englishman who would like to pen a modern day version of Three Men in a Boat. There really is nothing he loves better than a really terrible fresco, or maybe a nice tone deaf dusty museum exhibit. Just plain prettiness is a bit of a disappointment, really. Utterly delightful.

#63: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard. 4. I actually saw the movie version of this waaay back in high school...before actually reading Hamlet. (Oh, I knew the gist, but not the details.) I'd meant to revisit afterwards, and somehow didn't get around to it until now. There's quite a bit of response to Waiting for Godot here, more than I'd initially realized (since I was only exposed to that years later as well). I've never been a Beckett fan, but Stoppard's humor and affection for his characters makes this a good deal more tolerable. I seem to remember the movie including them repeatedly nearly inventing various inventions (like Newtonian physics), which I was a little disappointed to find were not part of the stage directions.

#64: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré. 5. Incredibly tense for a novel with essentially no action. Ex-spy Smiley tries to piece together exactly what went wrong in the disastrous mission for which he was collateral damage, as he hunts for a mole. When everyone is a suspect, how can you tell who is paranoid?

#65: The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett. 3. The beautifully wrought characters and place settings of Patchett's later books, but ultimately unsatisfying. Patchett does a good job of making people I would find despicable sympathetic, but the (probably realistic) near misses of the finale make the terrible choices made unforgivable.

#66: Nebula Award Stories Number Five ed. by James Blish. 3.5. As always, an anthology has a mix of good and bad. Some of these...did not age well at all. Harlan Ellison's "A Boy and His Dog" for example--I realize the sexism is partly of its time and partly a deliberate artistic effect. But the fact that it's pretty well established that Ellison is an asshole that treats women terribly made reading this story make my skin crawl. Others are excellent, or just kind of forgettable at this point. Le Guin's "Nine Lives" is lovely, and you have to give Delany credit for a great title at the very least in "Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones." Good for knowing the history of the genre.

...well, that gets us up to before I left on vacation. 8 more reviews outstanding...

I'ma gonna die

Sep. 10th, 2017 09:28 pm
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[personal profile] jethrien
So I'm running an urban obstacle course in like 3 weeks. I'd been sort of training over the summer, and mostly cool with my progress. I knew going on vacation would disrupt things, but I planned to go full throttle on training when I got back.

I came back with a chest cold.

I can't breathe well enough to actually run. So I've been sidelined all week, and it still hasn't gone away. Basically watching most of that training swirl the drain here. There's no way I'm going to be ready. I'm going to die. Or at least wish for sweet sweet death.
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[personal profile] chuckro
Following the events of Jessica Jones, Luke has recovered and is working as a janitor and dishwasher up in Harlem. At a nightclub owned by criminal mastermind Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes, who is connected to several sinister forces from Luke’s past.

Read more... )

Overall: I’m not interested in Daredevil or Iron Fist, but I did want to watch The Defenders, and I wanted to watch this first to keep late-arrival spoilers to a minimum. I enjoyed it more than I expected to.
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