Good things recently

Off to San Fransisco for They Might be Giants at the Fillmore. Then off to the Exploratorum, which had us both fascinated for hours.

Thanksgiving at Aunt Mary’s– cooking with Chuck, then the whole family tries out Jennifer’s new longboard.

Making cioppino with Eric and Tonya… though I forgot to take pictures from about halfway through. It was tasty though!

Decorating the tree with kids… and Mocca exploring the decorated tree. He enjoys the new platform and dangling cat toys…

Small Favor

The most recent book in the Dresden Files, this follows White Knight. I wouldn’t advise that anyone start the series here– while it works out fine, there are a lot of relationships and context that make sense only if you know what went on before. While it makes sense in the context of the book, Murphy fans will miss their heroine– she shows up, but much less than several of Harry’s other relationships.

The plot is a twisted and scheming thing in the background, with Harry’s understanding much simpler and more direct. As it goes on, it’s interesting to see how the other takes are valid and often have better grounding. The blasting rod sub-plot was very interesting… and was something I didn’t notice until it was pointed out.

All in all, another worthy book in the series. If you’re still reading, the story keeps rolling on. It’s not the finest stand alone, but it’s a solid entry in an excellent series.

Myth Adventures by Robert Aspirin

This is a hardback collection of the first four Myth Books: Another Fine Myth, Myth Conceptions, Myth Directions, and Hit or Myth.

The book was tremendous fun when I first read it, and it made great comfort reading while visiting Grandpa and spending long hours in the hospital. There are a number of puns, but less wacky than most of Piers Anthony’s Xanth novels. I prefer them– and they vanish at quite a clip as the hours pass by.

The whole series is listed here.

Ariel by Steven R. Boyett

A surprising first novel about a boy and his unicorn… it’s an interesting and meaningful look at a fascinating world. The world has undergone “The Change”; five years ago many forms of technology just stopped working. The social order collapsed; non-functional cars line freeways everywhere, and the remaining people are fewer and much more inured to violence. Along with the technology crash, magic and supernatural beasts returned to the world. Many kinds of critters returned– manticores, gryphons, and unicorns.

Our hero, Pete, has a bond with a unicorn. They are good friends, talk with each other and are perfect companions for the road. Their relationship is strong and well described throughout– Ariel is never a horse with a horn, but is never traditionally human in thought or deed either. Their bond feels real and is strongly forged; they’ve gone through a lot together, and go through a lot more in this book.

I’m looking forward to reading the same-world sequel, Elegy Beach, soon.

Yes Means Yes!

The full title is: Yes Means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual Power & A World Without Rape, Edited by Jaclyn Friedman & Jessica Valenti.

This was a very interesting book, with a wide variety of authors and essays. The loose theme was describing a world running right, with a wide variety of interpretations and depths. Some describe small tweaks required to get us to an acceptable tomorrow, some leap forward and describe the end result, and many walk the line between the two and describe both– or the path from here, to better, to best.

Several essays were solid but didn’t grab me beyond the intellectual level; most of these were expanding the idea of good sex in various directions and breaking down preconceptions. There was a lot of intersectional analysis in these essays, where the social constraints of being female are amplified by being fat, black, disabled, transitioning, and so on. These were good at keeping me grounded and reminding me that there are a lot of moving parts within feminism and desire. I particularly appreciated how many articles emphasized the internalization of norms, where very smart people intellectually knew that they deserved love, but advertising and culture kept knocking them down, telling them that any form of happy ending wasn’t destined for these splinters.

Several articles had me deeply interested; I was very tempted to write a post detailing my own experiences after reading a couple of essays (particularly about nice versus “nice” guys), the vision of “what do we imagine as a good first experience” and detailing the ways the stereotypical “good” was still short. The most persuasive, most useful, and deeply necessary discussion throughout revolved around the concept of enthusiastic consent. Getting that one thing right would help knock down the low standards of “no means no” and seeking a mere absence of resistance, and encourage sex to be an almost uniformly positive thing. It’s easy to get right once you begin with that as the expectation– so we have a job ahead of us, redefining what sex, pressure, and relationships should look like. An article on a very similar topic diagnoses much of the problem as our predator/prey descriptions and expectations for sex– sounds like a good place to start.

A bit of everything

Comics: Too Fat to be a Rockstar (Weekly), Guilded Age (MWF), Math Comics

Chris Chinn’s Blood and Ink gathered– http://bankuei.wordpress.com/2009/10/03/blood-ink-play-guides/
Quick: Character webs– http://www.rpggm.com/blog/2009/09/25/building-better-npcs-iii-character-webs/
Picking the price of success– http://buriedwithoutceremony.com/2009/10/20/the-little-things-in-life/

Mouse Guard AP#3– http://rpg.brouhaha.us/?p=1884
AP #4– http://rpg.brouhaha.us/?p=1920

Cool D&D Stuff: Bendy Dungeon Walls– http://www.dark-platypus.com/bendy_dungeon_walls.htm

Looking out for the story leads to constipation at the table. Story does not need to be preserved or looked out for. It is not a just hatched chick that needs everyone to be careful lest it is trampled. Just play the damned game, make choices that are brave. Look at your character sheet, let your character surprise you and story will just happen. — Judd, http://githyankidiaspora.wordpress.com/2009/10/15/the-myth-of-story-preservation/

Hardening WordPress– http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/blog/2009/oct/23/wordpress-exploit-scanner-hardening-hacker

Men/Women– http://www.rpggm.com/blog/2009/10/19/unintentional-sexism-in-rpgs-even-women-do-it/
http://www.dungeonmastering.com/tools-resources/character-sheet-cross-dressing

Sorcery and Cecelia

Sorcery and Cecelia, The Enchanted Tea Pot, by Patricia C Wrede and Caroline Steevermer.

I really enjoyed this lighthearted correspondence. It’s a great world, with intriguing main characters and an interesting cross between nineteenth century manners and fascinating magic. I really enjoyed the whole concept, and could feel the fun the authors had in building their world together.

This week in Food

Tonight I’m cooking up some (slightly tired) mei qing choi, to make Mei Qing Choi with Soy Ginger Sauce.

Yesterday I made homemade pizza crust, using the Bittman recipe. It was tasty and crunched nicely! [Note the perfectly round pizza crust. 😉 ] [1. Additional pizza night with the other half of the crust was added to the slideshow later.]

Prior to that, I made up one of my favorite dishes, Chicken and Rice. It always hits the spot.

Other Lands: Acacia Book Two by David Anthony Durham

A pretty good sequel to The War with the Mein, with less connected storylines. Time hops forward nine years, which makes for a number of changes to the setting.

Daniel’s tale is the strangest; the Other Lands are much more fantastic than Acacia and the Known World. In many ways it didn’t work for me as well; it felt like everything was painted in super bright colors. There were some Asian influences that felt muddled– the culture’s differences were too great for the ink brushing and other subtle “eastern” flavorings to stand out– they were lost in the riot of body modification, soul transfer, and endless life. As you read along it works well and holds together, and the choice of Daniel to guide our viewpoint encourages us to understand how different the culture is.

Corinn continues largely the same, but with a twist– she’s a doting mother too. Her story is much like the last; intrigue and deciding what the necessary things are consumes her. She’s a conscientious queen with decisions that don’t appeal. The twist to sorcery (the risks explained by the Santoth) seem excessive, but I’ll wait to see what he does with it before I decide.

Mena is busy but not effective; her story is smaller than the other two– more personal. Other stories (like Aliver’s daughter) seem necessary, but didn’t really draw me in.

The ending was solid and really reemphasized who the characters are. I wonder how much of my reduced enthusiasm for this book is a result of the “mid-trilogy” drag, where the gains of the first book are shown to be only a fraction of what will be required in the end. The final book could be great– or this could become a series where I strongly recommend the first book.