Stealing Myspace

The full title is Stealing MySpace: The Battle to Control the Most Popular Website in America by Julia Angwin.

The book was a solid look at a tangle of people and relationships. It’s amazing how much strange luck played a part of Myspace’s history– for a throwaway desperate idea, it was amazingly successful. It’s also interesting how many of Myspace’s unique features– allowing widgets and custom html– came about as a result of bad programming or oversight, not planning.

Actually, that’s the take away of the whole book– sometimes luck shines down. Even the successful widget makers were fantastically lucky, turning huge profits because they released something wildly popular– often among several equally good competitors.

The book is tightly written, in a series of very short (often 3 page) chapters. That makes the read fly along– it’s very easy to say “one more section” and “one more” until the book is through.

Across Realtime by Vernor Vinge

This is two books on the inside– the first, The Peace War, was a reread, though it has been a while. I liked it still– it’s an interesting world, the Peace Authority makes sense [though I’m really curious about those first weeks dismantling the old world], and the path to the book’s present is fascinating. The devastated low population world is quirky and unique. The struggle and Paul’s legendary skills seem a bit much at times, but it all works out well.

The second book, Across Realtime, expands on the bobble concept and seizes on it as a method of passing into the future– just bobble ahead and see what the world’s like when you get there. But everything is gone when the novel starts– some time after 2209 the human race disappears, and everyone coming out of their bobbles finds a wasteland. The book develops into an interesting hop across time, a big murder mystery with advanced technology, and a war between leftover fanatics. While the “low techs” are mostly undifferentiated, the high techs are all interestingly developed.

Assessments, Declarations, and Manuevers


Assessments, Declarations, and Maneuvers are all the same action, the way I look at the system. As individual applications, they’re framed differently. Assessments ask the GM to come up with something that in the story-space is already true, just discovered. Declarations empower the player to come up with something that was already true. Maneuvers empower the *character* to assert something new and now true.


And from Grant: If the GM is amenable, an Assessment may also allow a player character to ‘discover’ an element that the GM hadnĀ“t even thought of previously. In this manner the Assessment works like a Declaration (see below) with the player stating that his character has identified a weakness, Aspect or other feature. The GM sets a Difficulty for the Skill roll to see if the character was correct in his Assessment, or whether he was mistaken. If the roll fails, the GM may wish to impose a temporary Aspect on the assessing character to reflect this, for example ‘Mistakenly believes the security cameras to have a blind spot’.

Pulp theft caper

Holiday Baking

Last night was my last chance to make a big batch of cookies before my early Christmas with Eric and family, so I seized it. I’m proud of my sequencing– though I should have taken pictures, I’ll add some in later.

I began by mixing up the snickerdoodle dough, because it has to be chilled before use. By making it first (and baking it last), I was able to make the cookies with thoroughly chilled dough, which made rolling them in the bowl with cinnamon and sugar quick and easy. (BTW, that’s my reminder for next year: bowl, not plastic bag. You can roll it easily and don’t have it stick to the bag.)

Once I made up the snickerdoodle dough, I kicked it into a container and tossed it in the freezer, scraped the bowl and used again it for the Toffee Bars. It’s a real simple toss everything in one bowl and mix recipe– so I did so. Then it goes in a pan in the over for 15 minutes. When you pull it out, toss chocolate chips on it and cover with baking sheets to keep the heat in, melting the chocolate chips and making it easy to spread. (Note: the 1/2 cup the recipe calls for is too little chocolate to cover the whole pan, particularly in the 10×15. 1 cup works much better.) Last night, the chocolate spread fine but didn’t cover everything, so I tossed it back in the over for two minutes with more chocolate chips, then smeared them throughout for a nice consistency. (The one drawback was that I’d already added the nuts, so the second spreading of chocolate spread over/through them, and it may clump.)

While the Toffee Bars were baking, I mixed up the persimmon cookies. I didn’t soften the margarine, which made the creaming take a little longer, but it eventually worked out. The 1 cup of persimmon pulp is almost exactly one persimmon’s worth, which is easy and convenient. [Also: Persimmons are peeled– I don’t have a note for that in the recipe, and probably should.] The first batch was made with rounded teaspoons full of dough– the result was small, resulting in persimmon bites. The remaining two batches I kicked up to very rounded 1/2 tablespoon– probably 1 tablespoon leveled.

When the second two dozen persimmons came out of the oven, I got the snickerdoodle dough out of the freezer and made my first two dozen slightly rounded 1/2 tablespoon balls. I popped them dough back in the freezer between batches. When they came out of the oven, the cookies went straight to a rack, I grabbed the next dough container from the freezer and made the next 2 dozen balls. When the new batch came out, I moved the racked cookies to a big ziplock, the sheet cookies to the rack, and made the next batch. At 1/2 tablespoon cookies, I made 8 dozen snickerdoodles.)

[Now with pictures below the fold.]
Continue reading “Holiday Baking”

Child of Fire by Harry Connolly

I really enjoyed this novel, despite my feeling of overexposure to modern supernatural books. Ray is a very believable main character, edgy but still sympathetic. He’s just learning the rules of magic in this world– while his relationship with his boss, Annalise, is tense.

Over the course of the book, we learn a few more rules for magic and the society, but all the way to the end, the situation remains hazy. The book is a good stand alone novel, though it seems to be the first book in a series. (Given the ending, followup books with the same characters are very likely.)