I had to change every piece of clothing I was wearing because I'd adrenaline-sweat through everything.
I had to change every piece of clothing I was wearing because I'd adrenaline-sweat through everything.
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?)
There's a certain incompatibility here. It's not a library's role to decide which ideas are emotionally correct. If it isn't a place for "hate," it has to exclude materials which express that feeling. The term is intentionally slippery; people can claim anything they want about the emotional content of views they oppose, and how do you prove them wrong?
Perhaps they mean that patrons whose research goals are "hateful" have no place there. It's not the library's job to decide which kinds of study to help patrons with. Can librarians even draw conclusions from the materials people ask for? I did some web research on the AfD (a German political party whose leader has said Germans should be proud of its soldiers in WWII) earlier today. Would a Nashua librarian decide I must have a "hateful" purpose in researching the AfD and refuse to help me? Even if people really come in seeking to support bad ideas, research could be the best cure for their errors. Turning them away would only reinforce their sense of being persecuted.
Banned Books Week has long been Bland Books Week, with lists mentioning only books that no one could object to. The Nashua Library was unusually daring, with Gone with the Wind among a collection of otherwise innocuous books. There was no sign of The Anarchist's Cookbook or The Satanic Verses. If you look carefully at lists of "banned" books, what they usually mean is that someone unsuccessfully tried to get the book removed from a school library as age-inappropriate. Books that make their holder a criminal or a target of violence never are included.
Maybe that's what they mean by "No place for hate"; if possession of a book inspires hatred, the Bland Books list has no place for it.
Addendum: I was curious where and how Gone with the Wind was "banned." Several sites say that a school district in Anaheim banned it because of "the behaviors of the main character, Scarlet O’Hara, and the depiction of slaves." I don't know whether all use of the book in the schools was in fact prohibited.
However, I did find that in 2000 the Anaheim school district "removed" a biography of John Maynard Keynes partly because "it could cause harassment against students seen with it." The hooligan's veto.
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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.
My parents are less fond than I am of filling every available wall in their house with bookshelves and did a pruning of their books. A lot of them duplicated other things that I had, or didn't sound interesting, but I still ended up with two boxes of books (and now have to decide which of my books to prune, since I'm out of shelf space).
Also included is the regular accumulation of new ebook purchases.
Mitch Albom — Tuesdays with Morrie (nonfiction)
Ilona Andrews — Clean Sweep (sff)
Catherine Asaro — Charmed Sphere (sff)
Isaac Asimov — The Caves of Steel (sff)
Isaac Asimov — The Naked Sun (sff)
Marie Brennan — Dice Tales (nonfiction)
Captain Eric "Winkle" Brown — Wings on My Sleeve (nonfiction)
Brian Christian & Tom Griffiths — Algorithms to Live By (nonfiction)
Tom Clancy — The Cardinal of the Kremlin (thriller)
Tom Clancy — The Hunt for the Red October (thriller)
Tom Clancy — Red Storm Rising (thriller)
April Daniels — Sovereign (sff)
Tom Flynn — Galactic Rapture (sff)
Neil Gaiman — American Gods (sff)
Gary J. Hudson — They Had to Go Out (nonfiction)
Catherine Ryan Hyde — Pay It Forward (mainstream)
John Irving — A Prayer for Owen Meany (mainstream)
John Irving — The Cider House Rules (mainstream)
John Irving — The Hotel New Hampshire (mainstream)
Lawrence M. Krauss — Beyond Star Trek (nonfiction)
Lawrence M. Krauss — The Physics of Star Trek (nonfiction)
Ursula K. Le Guin — Four Ways to Forgiveness (sff collection)
Ursula K. Le Guin — Words Are My Matter (nonfiction)
Richard Matheson — Somewhere in Time (sff)
Larry Niven — Limits (sff collection)
Larry Niven — The Long ARM of Gil Hamilton (sff collection)
Larry Niven — The Magic Goes Away (sff)
Larry Niven — Protector (sff)
Larry Niven — World of Ptavvs (sff)
Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle — The Gripping Hand (sff)
Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle — Inferno (sff)
Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle — The Mote in God's Eye (sff)
Flann O'Brien — The Best of Myles (nonfiction)
Jerry Pournelle — Exiles to Glory (sff)
Jerry Pournelle — The Mercenary (sff)
Jerry Pournelle — Prince of Mercenaries (sff)
Jerry Pournelle — West of Honor (sff)
Jerry Pournelle (ed.) — Codominium: Revolt on War World (sff anthology)
Jerry Pournelle & S.M. Stirling — Go Tell the Spartans (sff)
J.D. Salinger — The Catcher in the Rye (mainstream)
Jessica Amanda Salmonson — The Swordswoman (sff)
Stanley Schmidt — Aliens and Alien Societies (nonfiction)
Cecilia Tan (ed.) — Sextopia (sff anthology)
Lavie Tidhar — Central Station (sff)
Catherynne Valente — Chicks Dig Gaming (nonfiction)
J.E. Zimmerman — Dictionary of Classical Mythology (nonfiction)
This is an interesting tour of a lot of stuff I read as a teenager (Asimov, Niven, Clancy, and Pournelle, mostly in combination with Niven but sometimes his solo work).
I suspect I will no longer consider many of these books to be very good, and some of them will probably go back into used bookstores after I've re-read them for memory's sake, or when I run low on space again. But all those mass market SF novels were a big part of my teenage years, and a few (like Mote In God's Eye) I definitely want to read again.
Also included is a random collection of stuff my parents picked up over the years. I don't know what to expect from a lot of it, which makes it fun to anticipate. Fall vacation is coming up, and with it a large amount of uninterrupted reading time.
BOO! Sammy has developed a taste for cables. Every cable. He has eaten 3? 4? headphones and one mouse and one 3DS charger. I have a bluetooth mouse now, which is a little weird, but at least will not be displayed proudly covered in saliva on my pillow I ASSUME. Fortunately I had an extra DS charger because I keep accidentally stealing them from Seanan. (Sorry!)
HOORAY! I'm at work and it makes me feel so good. I'm an expert and I'm ON and I'm really good at my job and I have energy and a bounce in my step and I can forget for a while about being my headache. On Sundays I'm euphoric and even feel like I'm faking my disability. Mondays are harder, I'm still enjoying the heck out of work but feeling the strain and counting the hours and am relieved to close up shop.
BOO! ...and Tuesdays any feeling of being a faker are gone, as I spend the whole day at minimum being flat-out exhausted, having headache exacerbation, blah blah blah, alternating sleepy pain and painful sleep. It's all one headache now, it gets better or worse, but never goes away.
YAY! My pain control is a little better this month! I got switched from *drug that is rendered less potent by other drugs I'm on* to *drug that doesn't have an interaction*.
BOO! ...which is probably only a temporary improvement, though. This is a drug that you grow tolerant to, and I flat out can't follow it up in dose and keep working. So I'm using it now until it stops helping and then... it's me and advil, I guess. And waiting for new migraine drugs to hit the market. My neurologist has me in her jar of patients she can't wait to spring the new stuff on once it gets through regulatory approval.
Well that was a depressing little streak of points. Today is Sunday at work and I'm at euphoric still, I can do better!
YAY! Today is a particularly good day for patients coming in at the perfect time for long uninterrupted chats. I found a way to make two broken insulin pens in to one working pen so my patient would be covered until the replacement pens arrive. Someone coming in with a question about a drug selected at random from the shelf - they actually wanted to chat about their feelings as they await the birth of their second child after the first died of cancer, with someone outside the house. Talking a patient with dementia down from a panic attack over the phone. Their medication stopped six months ago but they don't remember that part, and we have this chat from time to time, on days when they remember that I'm their pharmacist. Giving some pneumonia shots. Flu shot season is coming, just one more month to wait!!! Other than that last stabby part, none of this really has anything to do with what I learned in pharmacy school. But I'm so happy my pharmacy ticket puts me in a place where people trust me with all these little confidences and burdens and services. I feel like a shrine maiden, like the work moves through me. If that makes sense.
I mean, and sometimes I'm just disposing of gross expired vitamins and cashing out my till and losing count when I'm counting 500 prednisone tablets and it's work and it's sure good they pay me. It's not all epiphanies and florence nightingale all up in here.
YAY! Employee. Discount. Hallowe'en. Candy.
BOO! I forgot a rain jacket!
YAY! But whatever RAIN I MISSED YOOOOOOU
YAY! DID I MENTION I GET A FIDDLER TONIGHT BECAUSE DANG YO
YAY! Greg. We've been reading the Oz books - we're nearly done book 9 - and he's been asking for me to "do the voices" when I read and he is SO CRACKED UP by my silly voices. The way he begs for extra chapters. The way he reads other books on his own, ravenously. The way he runs in to my room to share random facts with me. The way he mournfully affects instant great tiredness when he doesn't want to clean up a mess / leave Gramma's house / whatever. On Friday my dad said no to making a whole separate dinner for him from the one that was already on offer, and Greg said in a sorry lamenting pout: "Go on your merry way, thennnnn." I just about died laughing. The way he sometimes sneaks out of bed after I've tucked him in, and then I find him passed out by the window where he was looking at the moon, or asleep at the foot of my bed, cuddled up to my feet. <3 <3 <3 <3
YAY! I have stopped the cats from going outside the litter box!
BOO! By putting an extra litter pan in the front hall, because apparently what PLEASES THEM BEST IN THE WORLD is to pee and shit where everyone can watch. Like, they both look around to MAKE SURE I'M WATCHING and proudly do their thing. Uhhhh. Thanks? Dear visitors: I'm very sorry that you must cross the poobicon as you enter my apartment. But it beats finding cat presents in my shoes.
YAY! But at least they're cute. And so, so cuddly. Sammy wiggles up through my blankets to my face like a... blanket sandworm? I'm not sure what the right analogy is here. It's adorable anyway and he doesn't have... lamprey teeth?
I'M GOING TO QUIT BEFORE I OUTDO LAMPREY TEETH
I've wanted to start making one of these posts for a few months but have struggled to find the time. But it seems like a good idea, particularly since I get more done when I write down what I do, so you all get a rather belated one. This covers July and August; hopefully the September one will come closer to the end of September.
August was DebConf, which included a ton of Policy work thanks to Sean Whitton's energy and encouragement. During DebConf, we incorporated work from Hideki Yamane to convert Policy to reStructuredText, which has already made it far easier to maintain. (Thanks also to David Bremner for a lot of proofreading of the result.) We also did a massive bug triage and closed a ton of older bugs on which there had been no forward progress for many years.
After DebConf, as expected, we flushed out various bugs in the reStructuredText conversion and build infrastructure. I fixed a variety of build and packaging issues and started doing some more formatting cleanup, including moving some footnotes to make the resulting document more readable.
During July and August, partly at DebConf and partly not, I also merged wording fixes for seven bugs and proposed wording (not yet finished) for three more, as well as participated in various Policy discussions.
Policy was nearly all of my Debian work over these two months, but I did upload a new version of the webauth package to build with OpenSSL 1.1 and drop transitional packages.
I still haven't decided my long-term strategy with the Kerberos packages I maintain. My personal use of Kerberos is now fairly marginal, but I still care a lot about the software and can't convince myself to give it up.
This month, I started dusting off pam-krb5 in preparation for a new release. There's been an open issue
for a while around
defer_pwchange support in Heimdal, and I spent
some time on that and tracked it down to an upstream bug in Heimdal as
well as a few issues in pam-krb5. The pam-krb5 issues are now fixed in
Git, but I haven't gotten any response upstream from the Heimdal bug
report. I also dusted off three old Heimdal patches and submitted them as
upstream merge requests and reported some more deficiencies I found in
FAST support. On the pam-krb5 front, I updated the test suite for the
current version of Heimdal (which changed some of the prompting) and
updated the portability support code, but haven't yet pulled the trigger
on a new release.
I merged a couple of pull requests in podlators, one to fix various typos (thanks, Jakub Wilk) and one to change the formatting of man page references and function names to match the current Linux manual page standard (thanks, Guillem Jover). I also documented a bad interaction with line-buffered output in the Term::ANSIColor man page. Neither of these have seen a new release yet.
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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.
#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.
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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.
( List is under the cut. )
While going to the state fair is still on my lifetime bucket list, it's clearly not happening this year, so it got punted (it looks like it'll be too late to fall within 1001 days for next year, though I'll laugh if we go in an off year). Because of health issues I'm pushing down on the number of reps I'm doing on those items. I'm generally moving slowly on all things except rpg-related ones, and I should probably switch an item to cover that. I also need to write about some things, not just because of the numbers but because I've got Harvey and other stuff I need to unload about and I haven't gotten to the place where I can write about them yet.
It pretty much kills any real social media time, especially longer-form stuff like DW. I could probably do more if I turned the computer on at night but I really try never to do that when I'm on a project. There's no reason to.
Maybe things will even out a little. I'd made a commitment to myself to write here regularly, and I haven't quite been able to do it for the past few weeks.
On the bright side, Baltimore is a nice town so far. I'm sure there are parts that aren't nice, but that's true of every city, isn't it?
First, you need a group or category of people doing something bad. It helps if they've actually done something bad on a measurable scale, but it's not strictly required. It's enough if they could do something bad. What's important is that you can get your target audience to think of them as "the other."
Next, you need a larger group to equate with the actually bad group. The method can vary. It can be people who look like them, people who share some of their ideas, or people who are defending their rights. If all else fails, outright smears will work. This lets you inflate the threat so people see enemies everywhere.
To insure best results, you need to invoke causes and symbols that people will rally around. Patriotic causes invoked with false analogies will often serve the purpose.
Do all this, and you can accuse lots of people of being members of the seriously bad group. Best of all, anyone who questions your reasoning is automatically part of the baddies.
Keep this pattern in mind. You'll see it in lots of places, promoting lots of different campaigns.
(Argh! When did "disable auto-formatting" become the default on Dreamwidth?)
- Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst, by Robert M. Sapolsky. Still poking at this but set it aside in favor of the other.
= What Happened, by Hillary Clinton. Amazing and heartbreaking so far.
- Joseph Shabason, Aytche. Electronic jazz thingummy that will be good working music.
- Lal & Mike Waterson, Bright Phoebus. Seminal early 70s folk album I bought for Michael's sake. I'm not crazy about the Waterson vocal style and never have been, but the production on the reissue is nice.
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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.
Hawkgirl, Sagittarius, Sansa, and Baratheon have been adopted. Salinger was still there, hissing at us. Placido and Domingo continue to make chaos of their cage and are very shy of people. Orchard and Belladonna are eating very little.
A sample copy of the 2018 MRFRS calendar was out for viewing, and Carl is on the January page! The caption says "World's hungriest cat."