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Apr. 22nd, 2014

thistle_chaser

2014 book: Force over Distance

So close, yet so far. Force over Distance was to be the first ever fanfic included in my 50 book/year challenge. It's more than the length of three books, and the first 50 chapters (about two books' worth) were outstandingly great.

At chapter 51, everything fell apart. Not with an explosion, but with a whisper.

Whispers, murmurs, no one spoke in a normal voice anymore. Men in a physical fight would murmur to each other. A military commander snapping out "Report!" did it in a whisper, and the soldier replied in a murmur. For no reason, murmur and whisper outnumbered 'said' two or three to one.

Conversations were constantly going like this, just a normal conversation, no reason for it to be kept quiet:

“Is that the way it was designed to work?” Young asked it quietly.

“No. Merging outside the interface is what you are supposed to prevent.”

“I guess I’m doing a pretty shitty job,” he said quietly.

“No,” it murmured. “The compulsion to merge is stronger than it should be. Much stronger.”

“Why is that, do you think?” Young whispered.

“Many reasons,” Jackson murmured.

“Like what?” Young asked, careful to keep his voice neutral, unable to believe the level of cooperation he was getting.

“He is partially human, he is physically and cognitively damaged, and he—does not like who he is.” It looked away from Young. “He doesn’t just feel the need to combine with me,” it whispered. “He wants to.”

“Yeah,” Young said, shutting his eyes. “I think you’re right about that.”

“Furthermore,” the AI said, its voice almost inaudible. “I lack a template. I was not designed to operate this way.”


"Words barely audible", "Voice making no sound", "Words too soft to hear". People having a conversation on opposite sides of the room murmured nonstop and no one had a problem hearing it.

I just don't get it. The writing is otherwise good. In 2.7 books' worth of writing, there were a total of THREE typos (two spellcheck wouldn't have caught) and one punctuation issue. That's damned good! Clearly this person had one or more beta reader/editor, why did no one speak up about this murmuring thing?

Chapters 1-50: fine. Then 51 all the murmuring started. I just don't get it.

I made it to chapter 66, though in truth I would have given up long ago if I hadn't wanted to finish and get credit for the review in this year's count. It's 71 chapters long, so you'd think I could finish, but I find that I'm not even reading anymore, my eyes just jump from murmur to murmur to whisper.

Edit: Hm. Searching random chapters, it looks like this was an issue earlier on in the story as well. Maybe 50 was just where I first started noticing it or maybe it got much worse then.

thistle_chaser

Book #16: Lionboy

Lionboy by Zizou Corder.
Rating: 5/loved (1-5/hated-loved)

If I were reviewing only the first third of this book, I'd call it one of the best books I've read in years. The worldbuilding was amazing -- so good that I was in awe of the authors. (Zizou Corderis the pseudonym of mother/daughter British writing team.)

Set in a very near future version of our world, all sorts of alternate sciences (alchemy, voodoo, native magics) work, but the author handled it in a way to make them seem commonplace. One sentence went something like His mother was in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on her last batch of Breathe Easy potions while Charlie was in the living room watching The Simpsons.. Such a fun mix of what should be exotic mixed in with the everyday.

The family was great. The mother was a "scientist" (alchemist), and the father practiced African magics (native magics from Ghana). They joked that between the two of them (science and magic), they could figure anything out. Charlie, their son, could talk to cats. While how that skill came about would make no sense at all in our world, I loved the story in theirs.
The father took toddler Charlie on a trip to Africa. The animals of Ghana were familiar with the father and knew he didn't hunt, so mostly just went along with their own business when he was around. A leopard's cub got bit by a poisonous snake and the father had the medicine to cure it, but the cub got startled after and slashed Charlie's arm. Blood from the medicine needle mixed with the slashed arm and because the leopard cub and Charlie exchanged blood at such a young age, Charlie gained the skill to talk to cats.


The world almost had a steampunk feel to it. Gas was mostly gone/banned, so trains and ocean liners were back in style. Only the very rich and powerful could use cars anymore. (Though, like the magic, the lack of gas was very much downplayed -- it was just a fact of life and got a casual mention now and then, it never got a spotlight on it.)

It was only when the plot started that my interest waned. That's not at all to say the plot was bad, but I love worldbuilding and getting to know characters a whole lot more than action.

I was really impressed with how well the authors wrote. The dialogue was so well done! We learned all new things in a natural way, no information dumps. I laughed multiple times in delight at just how well this or that part was written.

The only thing I didn't like about Lionboy is that it's the first book of a trilogy and the authors made no effort at all to give it any kind of a real ending; the end of the book could have easily been a break between chapters or a pause within a chapter. That sort of thing annoys the hell out of me. Want to write a trilogy? GREAT! More for me to read! But it annoys me when an individual book can't stand alone.

I selected Lionboy out of my To Read pile mostly by chance: I was looking for a new one to start and had had a great dream about werelions the night before, so when I spotted Lionboy it seemed a sign that I should read that one. It was a very good book, and I think if I wasn't in a reading slump right now that I'd call it a great one (and have given it a 5 rating). Heck, it really does deserve a 5, I guess I'll change that now.

I really should want to read the next two books in this series, but I really don't feel like reading much of anything. This really was a good book though. It felt a lot like the Chaos Walking series in that it had such a wonderful, realistic, detailed, similar-yet-not world. There was no darkness at all to Lionboy though, even though the plot had serious themes in it. Usually 'no darkness' would be a negative for me, but this story was just so magical and light, like a bedtime story or a generations old fable, I just loved it.

I suppose I will pick up the next two books after all.

Edit: Oh! I'm reviewing it without my ipad, so I didn't get to check my notes while writing this up. I forgot one of my favorite parts! The author would do something that made it clear we weren't in this world, but without adding any confusion. Now and then multiple words would be made into one. Riverboatpolice (police who patrol the river on boats), lionchamber (big room with all the lion cages in it), lionboy (the boy who assists the lion tamer). It was enough to give it an exotic twist without it taking even a moment of thought to figure out what it meant (thus not knocking you out of the story). So perfect! Such a great touch! I fell in love with the authors as soon as I realized this was an ongoing thing in the book. Not overused at all, maybe a dozen combined words in the whole book, but it was just so perfect to give it an exotic, not-our-world air.

Apr. 21st, 2014

thistle_chaser

TV: Old and New

TV: Old and New, or TV: Good and Bad. Take your pick!

The old/good: I'm rewatching Stargate: Atlantis and it's even better than I remembered. I'm in the middle of the second season, and I'm really quite impressed with the storylines thus far, and wow do I love the characters! I can see how easily I fell into the fandom at the time, and boy what was my then OTP sure has chemistry! (Shepherd/McKay) I could easily read it either way though, it would totally work as "just" friendship as well. But I sure wouldn't need much convincing of more!

The new/bad: Game of Thrones. "Oh ho ho," you say, "What's this? The most popular show on current TV? Bad?" This week's episode was, yep.



Know what? Rape for the sake of the thrill annoys me.
Rape called consensual sex by one of the directors of the episode annoys me a hell of a lot more.

I'm no SJW, please don't mistake me for one of those, but know what? If a woman says no, it means no. No ifs, ands, buts, or "she eventually got into it!"s about it.

Know what also annoys me? This ruins Jamie's character. What about all the building up they did last season? His protecting Brienne from being raped only to turn around and rape his own sister?

Something should be done about that director.



I'm almost done with the current book I'm reading. I don't think my reading pace could get any slower. I've been at 75% done for four days now and 80% done for two -- and it's not even a long book! I wish I knew where my drive to read went.

Apr. 20th, 2014

thistle_chaser

No dying, computer

This morning someone linked me to an image, and I noticed that it had a really odd background (the area of the window outside of the image itself, but within Firefox's view area).

Today I took a screenshot for someone else, uploaded it, and noticed the "blank"/black part outside the screenshot looked very odd in the same way. See: Strange background.

The image in the middle looks just as it should, but the screen to either side of it should be plain black.

Happens in IE and Firefox both, happens on both monitors (hooked up to the same computer).

Darned laptop is only two years old. Looking on the Amazon page I bought it from, the only warranty I see mentioned is "This laptop is backed by a 1-year limited hardware warranty.", so that does me no good.

It has been running hot lately, even though I blew the dust out of it last night or the night before. I don't know which number "counts", but these are the readings I get from my monitor at this moment:

GPU: 76C
HD0: 50C
Core0: 95C
Core1: 86C
(Edit: After rebooting, with no MMO running, the temps are 45C, 53C, 60C, 30C respectively.)

I have no idea how there could there be a 45 degree difference in temperature within a laptop...

How much trouble am I in? I know nothing about hardware. :/

Edit 2: Rebooting seems to have fixed the issue. Would this kind of thing come and go?

Apr. 18th, 2014

thistle_chaser

Science Friday, you disappoint me

One of the many good things about Fridays is Science Friday, a radio show on NPR. They cover all sorts of science topics, bringing in experts from around the world to talk about them.

This morning my local NPR station ran the promo for today's show. The final segment they teased was "How science can't disprove that God exists!". Oh boy did that annoy me. Of course it can't. You can't prove a negative! GRRR!

Say I believed in Santa. How would you prove Santa doesn't exist? Search every inch of the North Pole? But duh, Santa is magical, his workshop is probably up in the clouds somewhere!

The person making the claim has the responsibility to prove it. I believe in Santa? I need to supply the proof. And the bigger your claim, the bigger the proof needed -- I better darned well come back with a clear photo of Santa and one of his flying reindeer on a leash!

---

As usual when I write a ranty post, I get all paranoid that maybe I'm wrong. I've heard "You can't prove a negative" for years, but is that correct? So I googled around. Turns out the spirit of it is, but if you get picky, the letter of it isn't. You can prove something like "The ancient Egyptians did not play in the NFL", but for most things, it does hold true.

theljstaff in news

LiveJournal not affected by Heartbleed


Dear users,

As you might have heard, a major vulnerability in SSL (the secure channel used for HTTPS) has been detected recently. As many as two thirds of internet sites were affected, including social networks and major web sites.

We are happy to confirm that LiveJournal is not vulnerable and has not been affected at all.

Meanwhile, in the past 12 months we have been working hard to deploy many security features to protect user data.

Nevertheless, even though LiveJournal was not affected by the Heartbleed bug, changing your password is still a good idea, especially if you use similar passwords on other sites whose data may have been compromised. If you haven't changed your password in the last year, we recommend that you do so now.

Apr. 16th, 2014

thistle_chaser

Bariatric surgery: Passed the psych exam, "failed" the sleep study

I'm so annoyed. I just got a call from the sleep study people, they didn't get enough data to know if I have anything or not. I asked her why not (because, while I didn't sleep that much, I know I slept 4-5 hours, which darned well should be enough), she couldn't tell me. Thanks, so helpful, now I'll know for next time if I set something up wrong or if the straps weren't tight enough or I messed up the recording or if I just need to sleep more.

They couldn't even reschedule me until May, which pisses me off even more, since now I need to think about it until then. I'm so annoyed.

Psych eval went well. She asked me basic health questions, questions about my past, eating history, social life, family history, all the expected stuff. She said I would benefit from therapy, which is about the biggest understatement in the history of understatements. I asked her at the end if I passed, and she laughed and said "Of course!" or something like that.

I had been feeling pretty good, I've almost finished jumping through all the hoops they require, until I got the call about the sleep study. Grrrrrrr. Now I'm just pissed.

Apr. 13th, 2014

thistle_chaser

"Life is a cycle, No beginning, no end."

On 9/28/2005 I joined WoW.
I left FFXI for it, after much foot-dragging and months of lingering on the game long after I stopped having fun.
Today, 4/13/2014, I quit WoW for FFXIV.

Want to see something scary? This is the amount of time I spent online on WoW on one character (I had ten total).


More than a year spent on WoW, on just one of my characters. It's a boggling thought. I can't believe how many years I've been playing. I can't believe it took me this long to quit.

As when I quit FFXI, I stayed on WoW too long. Outside of RP (which is player-generated, not something offered by the game), I haven't had fun in two expansions (so about two years). And, as my friends kept leaving for other games, there were fewer and fewer reasons to stay.

I don't know if I'll ever go back. I worry I might run out of things to do on FFXIV. I'm only in my second month, and I'm almost done leveling all the craft and gathering professions (and I don't really like leveling the battle jobs).

I sort of wish I had sold my gold. Doing that is against the rules, but what would they do, ban me? I would have liked to have gotten some RL money out of all that time playing. On both FFXI and WoW, I quit the game as one of the richest people on the server. I've always kicked myself for not giving my FFXI money away (or selling it), so I gave a good deal of my WoW money to a few people.

I'm a little sad to let it go, but I'm sad over the loss of what could have been more than what really was. I had some very good times in the game and some very bad ones, but lately it was mostly all bad. The game felt like a job, something I had to do, which means it was time to go. FFXIV makes me happy. I love the lore, I love the artwork, I have new and old friends I'm playing with. WoW was a part of my life for a long time though, so there will be a hole for a while.

Key for the non-gamers on my friends list:
FFXI = Final Fantasy 11
WoW = World of Warcraft
FFXIV = Final Fantasy 14, A Realm Reborn
All are MMOs/online games.

(Quote in the subject line came from a random online person, though it's hardly original to her.)

Apr. 12th, 2014

thistle_chaser

Book #15: Pictures of You

Pictures of You by TJ Alexian/tedwords.
(Book received free for review from the author.)
Rating: 4/liked (1-5/hated-loved)

There were a number of elements in Pictures of You shouldn't have worked for me, but they did and I ended up really enjoying the book.

It's told in first person: With rare exception, that never works for me.
The POV is a teenage girl: That alone would have sent me running in the other direction; lately I've read so many painfully bad books with a teenage girl POV.
It has a
paranormal element (except not really)
, and usually that would make me uninterested in a book that is otherwise set in the normal world.
Also, while reading the book, I realized it was something I never read: A book set in the modern, normal world. I can't recall ever reading a fiction book set in our world with just normal, average people in it. I suppose I probably did as a teen or kid, but as an adult? I can't think of one.

So, that's a long list of things that I wouldn't usually like, but TJ Alexian made it work. All the characters, from the POV girl to the more minor ones, were believable as real people, and I was interested in knowing more about them.

The story was a mystery (with lots of other elements as well), and while I don't usually read those, I enjoyed it here. At one point I was sure I knew the ending and I didn't like it, but it turns out I was wrong.
For a while I thought it was in fact a ghost responsible, and I didn't like that. I don't believe in ghosts (or anything there's not proof of), so to have it come up in what was otherwise our world annoyed me. I'm happy I was wrong! Not only am I happy to have been wrong, I enjoyed that I was fooled!


Ashley (the main character) and her family were trying to cope with the loss of Daniel, Ashley's brother. On top of that, videos of Daniel were getting posted to Youtube and emailed to her directly. Who would have such videos? Why would they send them to her anonymously? And leave cryptic little messages from "Daniel"?

I hadn't expected the ending at all, but looking back on it once I was finished, it fit.

Recommended!

thistle_chaser

Blue Apron: The $20 mashed potatoes

Swedish Meatballs & Braised Kale
with Lingonberry Jam & Creamy Mashed Potatoes

Recipe here.
Time: 20-25 minutes (I left the kitchen for a few minutes in the middle of things)

Almost as if Blue Apron could go back in time and react to me canceling their service, this meal was a disaster.

1) The flour was missing.
2) The container of lingonberry jam came open in the bag and made a mess.
3) The pork had gone bad.

I had been looking forward to this meal for a while. I wanted to try making meatballs, I like Swedish Meatballs, and this looked like one of the simpler things to make -- only three things to chop up!

I got the potatoes going, no problem. Then I opened the pork. It smelled off. At first I didn't trust my nose, so I continued on with the recipe. But the longer I smelled it, the more sure I was that something was wrong with it. I wish I had trusted myself off the bat, since then I could have saved the spices and breadcrumbs and tried again some other time with my own meat.

I didn't bother trying to make the kale, becasue without the meatballs there was no meal, and kale isn't a new food for me to try.

$60 for three meals = $20 per meal = I paid $20 for two small potatoes, a pat of butter, and a splash of milk. Go team me. The mashed potatoes were good, but not $20 good, plus that's a lot of potato for one person.

I don't want to tell them about it and try to get my money back, since they'd likely think I was doing it just because I canceled and was trying to get more out of them. My time with them is done, I don't want to continue to deal with them.

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