Millennium by Ben Bova

A fun book that manages to build a horrible distopia and a great future for humanity in space by 8 years ago. Several things bugged me– probably in part because of the election just a couple of weeks ago– but overall it’s a light fun book at how we could have had a great space program and still had everything go wrong by 1999.

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

A fun book that shares the world (but few of the characters) of American Gods. It is mostly told from Fat Charlies’s point of view.

Fat Charlie is an interesting and sympathetic character who has gotten into a rut and lives a blah life. His life is shaken up when his father dies and he’s told about a brother he doesn’t remember, Spider. He invites Spider into his life, which gets complicated quickly…

It’s nice to see Charlie and Spider grow and change as the book progresses; much like Charlie, I was upset with Spider for much of the book, but came to appreciate him by the end. A couple of other characters are also developed over the course of the book (particularly Rosie and Daisy), while others stay relatively flat.

A fun book, with less of a sense of revelation– though whether that’s due to being book two, or the lower key plot is hard to tell.

The Iron Cage by Rashid Khalidi

The book provides a solid history of Palestine from 1920 through 2000, skipping over the best known events [the wars] as sufficiently covered elsewhere. The history leading up to the 1920s is covered more lightly, with little detail prior to 1900.

Khalidi writes relatively evenhandedly, though mostly from a Palestinian perspective. (As he points out, that’s somewhat difficult to do, given the lack of a “national archive” or anything similar.) His “just the facts” presentation, particularly for the British Mandate period, proves persuasive. There’s a lot of interesting detail about internal power struggles and illuminating comparisons to the other Arab states of the period.

While it’s not a weighty tome, repetition makes the book drag. The book sounds like a lecture transcribed– many things are repeated two or three times in a few pages, without a lot of variation in presentation. I strongly suspect it’s better written than academic papers on the subject, but it doesn’t rise to the level of charmingly told history.

Next Game: Friday November 14th

Continuing your fight against the rampaging dwarves and saving the gnomish expeditionary force will resume on Friday, unless that doesn’t fit your schedule. Let us know if Friday’s any problem– it sounded like it would be OK last week, but I’d like to make sure.

By Schism Rent Asunder

The second book in the series… and from what it opened up and what remains to be solved, this looks like a VLFN, with several books to come. It’s a good book, a worthy sequel to Off Armageddon Reef, though not as dynamic. This felt like a good “middle book”, but there’s nothing like the excitement of meeting the new characters and the battles on Armageddon Reef.

Chris’s review touches on other concerns that I agree with, like the limited time frame apparently precluding a gbabba rematch later, and a cliffhanger ending.

Despite that, the shortcomings are mostly of an “I want more” kind… which is an awfully good problem to have.

American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic

I liked this book. It assumes that you know the context for the periods, but the introductory paragraphs do a good job of getting hazy memories up to speed.

The book provides a decent balance of highlighting the genuinely impressive moments during the revolutionary and early Republic era and mentioning the difficulties that were forseen but unsolved. It’s a good balance that reminds us that they were radicals (in 1775) who struggled with the difficult task of getting people to think of the United States as one whole. Politics and exaggeration rear their ugly head early, and “who holds the revolutionary spirit” is an ugly precursor of “who is a real American”. Overall, it’s a good look at the famous figures from history as people– basically good but flawed.

Cinnamon Rolls

I tried Chris’s Cinnamon Roll recipe and got it about 80% correct. In the end it made up tasty cinnamon rolls that didn’t look like cinnamon rolls due to a misunderstanding on my part. [They’re also a little salty, but I’m not sure if that was due to incomplete mixing or if there’s just more salt than I expected.]

My mistake really butchered their appearance. Basically, the key oops was to roll the whole thing together into 1 giant roll. I think that’s because the mark, cut, and roll as jelly roll sentences were reversed. Below is how I’ll try to do it next time. [Basically, I’ll roll 12 individual rolls, each like a jelly roll. Last time I rolled one big roll then had to split it into 12ths. They didn’t look right at all.]

3. Turn dough out on lightly floured surface. Knead 8 to 10 times. Roll into rectangle about 1/3 inch thick and 12 inches long. Spread the remaining cinnamon mixture over dough rectangle. Sprinkle currants or raisins over top. Mark first, then cut into 12 slices. Roll up as for jelly roll. Place cut side down in muffin pan.

Thanks for a good recipe Chris! It made a disaster out of the kitchen, but that’s easily remedied with a sponge and water. We stuffed ourselves on the misshapen things… I can’t imagine how irresistible they’ll be when they look right.