Hmmm

May. 29th, 2017 08:46 am
[personal profile] apparentparadox
When out walking the dog this morning, I saw a car with a bumper sticker that read "Keep Oregon Weird" on a car with Kansas license plates.

Were they saying that they wanted to keep all the weird people in Oregon to keep Kansas safe from having to think outside their narrow ideas? Were they Oreganos* forced to live in Kansas for a while, and wanted to keep their hopes alive of the Oregon they loved?




* I'm on a one person crusade to have people from Oregon called "Oreganos" rather than "Oregonians". I think "Oregonian" sounds weird, and "Oregano" is a yummy herb. Besides, people pronounce the one word "Ore-E-Go-Knee-Un", but we don't pronounce the state "Ore-E-Go-n", so actually "Oregano" is closer to how one pronounces the state name.

business fail

May. 27th, 2017 09:11 am
goldibehr: (Default)
[personal profile] goldibehr
Verizon Wireless has a moronic implementation of auto-pay. The auto-pay concept is good: each month they automaticly charge your credit card when the bill is due. The moronic part is that the amount they charge you is completely unrelated to what you owe for the month.

Apparently, what they're really doing is just billing my credit card a fixed dollar amount each month. Um, guys... this is not what any other business means by "auto-pay".

(no subject)

May. 25th, 2017 05:27 pm
bitterlawngnome: (Default)
[personal profile] bitterlawngnome

These were in a second hand shop in Seattle. They are so beautiful - and were so inexpensive - I could not pass them by. My best guess is - volumes 2, 3 and 5 of the Annotated Complete Works of Nogami ? ... but I can't find any further information. Anyone know enough Japanese to decipher what these might be? Or what the stamp on the colophon page means?

註解謠曲全集, 野上豊一郎著, 中央公論社




chat robot

May. 25th, 2017 08:24 pm
goldibehr: (Default)
[personal profile] goldibehr
I use prepaid cell phone service with Verizon Wireless. I just had to interact with their online chat-robot for the third time, and it again went surprisingly well.

Verizon's prepaid plan has good points: a usable smartphone costs less than $100, there's no contract and Verizon's coverage is the best in our area. But one maybe-downside is you can not talk to a human being if you need any kind of support - ordering, billing, tech support - it doesn't matter. I don't think the website even lists a telephone support number to call.

Instead, they make you use the chat feature on their website. What's interesting to me (as a software guy) is that it's difficult to tell whether they're using a robot or a human on the other side.

When you type an initial question or problem, the initial back-and-forth is definitely a machine, and a stupid one at that. It's able to handle basic FAQ-style questions. But if it decides the question is too hard, it escalates. Every time I've had to wait a while (up to 10 minutes) before the conversation resumes.

It's this one that I can't tell if it's a robot, or a human handling many conversations at once. It has a weird style of repeating what you already told it. And in three interactions, its never made a typo or had a misspelled word, which argues for robot.

Whichever it really is, every time I have gotten a satisfactory resolution to the problem I was having, so I guess it works OK. The whole experience just feels odd.

On the mend

May. 24th, 2017 10:54 am
westwind_mv: (Default)
[personal profile] westwind_mv
Although it wasn't explicitly recommended to me by my doctors, after my hospitalization I decided to cut out all caffeine, since I suspect it may have been aggravating the inflammation. Sure enough, after over a week without caffeine I'm feeling remarkably better around the heart, so much so that I'm no longer having to take the anti-inflammatories at all.

One thing I've observed during this is that the choices available at restaurants for non-sugared, non-caffeinated beverages are a little limited. I wonder why, say, the Hansen's line of diet sodas isn't more widely available. Their tangerine-lime and ginger-ale diet sodas are really good, in my opinion.

Anyway, things continue to improve. I've taken the rest of this week off from work, to turn it into an exceptionally long Memorial Day weekend, and am heading down to Southern California on Friday for a couple days to visit my sister and her family. Haven't seen her in person since her daughter's (my niece's) wedding 18 months ago, so I imagine there will be a lot of catching up.

A very good Memorial Day weekend to you all, Gentle Readers!

May. 23rd, 2017 10:25 pm
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[personal profile] octothorpe
He still holds onto, and keeps coming back to the idea that there are other people in this house. He can't name them, nor describe them, but he insists they are here.

I can't talk him out of it.

Arabella wins Norton Award

May. 22nd, 2017 04:56 pm
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[personal profile] davidlevine
I am pleased and amazed to report that Arabella of Mars, my first novel, has won the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, presented by SFWA as part of the annual Nebula Awards. (Complete list of Nebula winners and nominees.) Previous winners of this award include J. K. Rowling, Terry Pratchett, Cat Valente, and Nalo Hopkinson. The award was presented by last year's winner Fran Wilde. 

To say that I'm overwhelmed would be an understatement. I barely emerged from my room yesterday and I'm still stunned. Congratulations have been pouring in via every available channel; I have not been able to reply to most of them but please know that I am very appreciative. 

Here's the text of my acceptance speech:
I’d like to thank everyone who read, nominated, and voted for Arabella for this award, whose name honors one of our finest writers, and acknowledge all the other, very worthy, nominees. Special thanks to Moshe Feder, who acquired it; Christopher Morgan, who edited it; Patrick Nielsen Hayden, who provided invaluable support; Paul Lucas, my agent; copyeditor extraordinaire Deanna Hoak; Mary Robinette Kowal, my invaluable guide to all things Regency and navigating the dangerous shoals of publication; Janna Silverstein, my greatest adviser and cheerleader, and most of all my late wife Kate Yule, who never stopped believing in me. Pittsburgh was her home town and she would have been so proud and happy to share this moment. I wish she could be here. I still love you, snookie.

After I sat down Seanan McGuire let me cry on her shoulder for about five minutes. 

Arabella of Mars is currently available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook; the mass market paperback will be released on May 30. Sequel Arabella and the Battle of Venus will be released on July 18. 

(no subject)

May. 22nd, 2017 07:25 am
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[personal profile] dendren
What a great weekend. Temps in the 90s, sunny and gorgeous. We started the weekend by taking my Mom to see Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2. What fun. I really enjoyed it. It had gotten mediocre reviews or at least "too similar to the first" reviews but I found the whole movie very enjoyable.

We had a very busy Saturday. My cousin Jennifer’s son, Duke, was playing in a softball tournament in Sunnyvale so she and the family were down from Discovery Bay for that. I haven’t seen Jennifer in about 10 years, but of all my cousins she was the closest to me growing up. We were sort of big brother little sister for much of our childhood. As we have gotten older we have not been nearly as close but still so wonderful to see her. Her boys, Truett and Duke, are 10 and 13 now, amazing, and her husband Jeff is doing very well working with the Warriors on merchandising and such.

Bob and I drove up to Sunnyvale to meet them, my Aunt Mar, and my Mom. We got there between Duke’s games so we didn’t really get to see him play at all. After being there a couple of hours I was done with sportsball watching. But, was really good to hang out with Jen and see the beautiful woman and incredible mother she has become.

After that we headed back to San Jose to rest a bit before heading north again. this time to Foster City to meet up with Dave and see Sister Act the Musical. We had planned on having pizza at a local build your own pizza place but when we got there it was closed with a big sign saying “closed at 6, not enough dinner staff”. OMG… that would suck for a business. Waiting for Dave I watched a LOT of people show up to the door then turn back around trying to figure out where to go next. We went to Armadillo Willy’s, which was a yummy alternative.

Sister Act was a fun show. I really enjoyed it. I have gotten to really like the smaller community theater shows. There are a lot of shows out there the I either missed their big run in the larger theaters, or they never had a real touring company to the theaters in the first place. Maybe they were never big hits like Wicked or Book of Mormon, but they are still fun little musicals to go see. The community theaters really have picked up on that nitch and I’ve got my eyes out on the theaters all across the bay area for shows like Sister Act, Addams Family, etc.

The cast in this one was awesome. There wasn’t a single mismatched voice or part. I was truly impressed by them all. I had heard the music on the cast album before so knew I would like it, and they did a great job with it. Yay for another show on my great big musical list LOL And Dave is always the perfect musical show buddy to go with cause I know he always loves them too.

After the show we almost headed back home to crash but we knew it was the monthly underwear party at Renegades and the 90 degree weather would likely make it a fun night. It was. I actually allowed myself to drink more than my usual one drink in San Jose. I told Bob I wanted to try drinking at the party for once and we could Lyft home. OMG San Jose is SO much more fun after a couple of drinks hahaha I hate that my social anxiety is so much better after 2 drinks than one, but it really was. I was a chatty cathy and a flirty frannie. I even got to play around a bit with someone I’ve wanted to play with for almost 20 years. It was fun!

Sunday I was up early, watched a couple of episodes of Amazing Race and just played couch potato until Bob got up later. We went shopping (new pillows at Bed Bath and Beyond, YAY) and did the groceries and stuff. It was a relaxing day :)

The week ahead… I feel like I’m forgetting something we have going on but sure can’t remember. I know Saturday we are meeting with Dave and Aaron who will be visiting from New Mexico, but not sure we have much else planned for the 3 day weekend. I guess we will see…

(no subject)

May. 21st, 2017 11:09 pm
bitterlawngnome: (Default)
[personal profile] bitterlawngnome


Summit Lake, near Nakusp, BC, Canada, 2017-05-18; 1834
© Bill Pusztai 2017

So we went on a road trip through the interior of BC. I think this might have been the best road trip we've ever done together. Amazing scenery, perfect weather, interesting people along the way. More pictures on my flickr stream (if you go there, be aware there is NSFW / adult content in the stream a little further down).

Places we stayed or stopped: Merritt, Kamloops, Revelstoke, Golden, Banff, Radium Hot Springs, Fernie, Nelson, Argenta, Vernon, Burton, Hope. All interesting in their own way. Next time I'd specifically like to see Osoyoos, Castlegar, Trail, and spend more time in Radium Hot Springs. There is a southern route that comes very near the border in several places that would accomplish that. Perhaps in September.

I don't have a GPS attachment on my camera (apparently they are available for a mere $400) but I was able to track down most of the places we stopped along the highway simply by using Google satellite images and relating them to landmarks in the photos. That sort of amazed me.

goldibehr: (Default)
[personal profile] goldibehr

Actor Chris Pratt


Here's is my review of Guardians of the Galaxy 2. It was watchable, but the first movie was definitely better.

We chose it mostly because I think Chris Pratt is sexy. This movie gives us one brief shot of him shirtless, lasting only about 3 seconds. I think his abdominal 8-pack had a little Computer Graphics enhancement, which is a shame because his actual body is just fine. Then there's this, from Variety Magazine:
Pratt has made Quill so iconic, it’s hard to believe that writer-director James Gunn, who announced this week that he’ll be returning for a third “Guardians” installment, originally didn’t want to see him for the part. It was casting director Sara Finn who pushed him for the role.

“She believed in me and kept pressuring James and also me and my manager to audition,” Pratt recalls. “I was certain I wouldn’t get it, so I didn’t even want to try.”

Pratt recalls seeing “dream lists on the internet” over who should play Star-Lord. “They’d list every actor under the sun but me,” he says with a laugh. Pratt finally got into see Gunn, thanks to Finn.

“(She) actually snuck me in and from how I understand it, he said, ‘The chubby guy from “Parks and Rec?” I thought I said I didn’t want to see him.’ And she said, ‘Well, he’s outside.'”


Chris' acting was fine, but the plot of this movie is much simpler than the first one. The writer hits us with the same message over and over, which got tiresome by the fourth iteration. Save your money and wait for the blu-ray release.

I rate it 5 out of 10.

How tall is a horse?

May. 19th, 2017 08:06 am
davidlevine: (Default)
[personal profile] davidlevine
Seriously, think about it. How tall is a horse? The answer -- specifically, the units of measure you use -- says a lot about you, and about your culture, and my goal here today is to get you thinking about how units of measure can be used as a tool for worldbuilding and character development in fiction.

I bet a lot of you would state your answer in terms of feet and inches. Just from knowing that about you, I can tell that you're either a present-day American, or a member of certain European and European-derived cultures from the middle ages to the local introduction of the metric system. But during the earlier part of that period you might have thought in feet and barleycorns rather than inches, or in fractional feet -- five and a half feet rather than five-foot-six. At other times and places the larger unit would be the yard rather than the foot.

Also, you might have to specify whose feet and inches you are using, as they varied from city to city or which monarch you followed. Napoleon's height, for example, was five-foot-two in French feet and inches, which is part of the reason the English thought he was short. But that was actually five-foot-seven in English units... taller than the average Frenchman of the time. Whether in dialog or in a character's internal voice, a character's consideration and specification of exactly which units to use can do a lot to define a character's background and priorities as well as the time and place.

If you state your answer in meters and centimeters, I can tell that you're either a member of certain cultures following the French Revolution, or an American to whom precision and international standards matter more than following the crowd. This offers a clue to your personality, profession, and priorities as well as the time and place in which you exist -- it's a character as well as a worldbuilding item. To completely understand what this choice means you'll need more contextual information, but even knowing that the choice has been made gives the reader important hints about the character.

Many people will state their answer in hands, or hands and inches, and know that it is measured to the withers, or top of the shoulders. This tells me that you are either an equestrian in a modern English-speaking country, or perhaps a resident of the middle ages or ancient Egypt. Again, knowing the context is necessary to understand exactly what this choice says about you. If your answer is "hands or inches, depending on whether it is a full-sized horse or a pony" that tells me still more about you.

Many other units of measure have been used at different times and places, or may be used in future or fictional cultures. An answer stated in cubits, spans, paces, or fathoms suggests that you are a member of certain earlier human cultures. Answers in dhanu, chi, or cabda specify India, China, and the Arabic world. However, if you use units unfamiliar to the reader, you may have to include other clues; if the character thinks of a person as being six chi tall, the reader will not immediately know whether that's particularly tall, particularly short, or of average size (and, furthermore, average human height changes over the course of history).

Getting even further afield, answers stated in simile or metaphor tell us still more about the character and their culture. "Tall as a church-steeple" or "thin as a credit card" or "wide as the Grand Canal of Mars" provide immediate insight into who the character is, what's important to them, and what their economic status is as well as where and when the story takes place.

Entirely made-up units can also be used, and these can tell us even more. "Imperial thornogs" implies an empire, and furthermore an empire in which an earlier, non-Imperial thornog existed. If the thornog is divided into ten squant, that suggests a decimal and hence more scientific culture, but if it's divided into six or twelve squant that suggests a more agrarian one. If it's divided into seven or eleven squant, that implies a non-human, or at least decidedly non-Western, culture. But, again, you'll have to provide additional information to let the reader know whether a horse that's five thornog and two squant high, measured at the antennae, is a particularly fine specimen or a runt. When carefully handled, describing an object in fictional units can inform the reader about the object, the observer, and the setting in just a few words.

Every time a character sees anything, they will seek to comprehend it in terms that make sense to them. Conveying those terms to the reader helps the reader understand the character and their culture, and can be an important tool for both worldbuilding and character... and even plot. Football, after all, is a game of inches.

Food Pr0n: Lemon-Artichoke Chicken

May. 18th, 2017 09:30 pm
jss: (food)
[personal profile] jss
I finally got off my ass and went grocery shopping on the way home from work today... for the first time since before the Cleveland vacation, so at least 3 if not 4 weeks. I was out of a lot of things (including the heat-n-eat frozen ravioli, sammich pockets that're for lunches, ice cream and chocolate sauce, diced fire-roasted tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, apple juice, fresh fruit...) so it was definitely needed.

Anyhow, the grocery store had a sale on boneless skinless chicken thighs so I grabbed a 12-pack and used half to make a batch of lemon-artichoke chicken with "double" the sauce for the chicken. (The other half of the chicken will probably become a batch of "No Peek Chicken" Monday or Tuesday before I skip town.)

Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs, about 1.5 lbs.
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2-lb. jar of marinated artichoke hearts
  • Zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 16 oz. sour cream
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 2 cups shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
Mise en Place
  1. Drain the artichoke hearts and slice into bite-size pieces as needed; set aside in a large bowl.
  2. Zest and juice both lemons into a medium bowl and add the vodka.
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. (If you know how long this takes you can do it later in the process.)
  2. In a large skillet, melt 1 tbsp. each butter and olive oil over medium-high heat.
  3. Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken thighs.
  4. Cook half of the thighs in the butter and olive oil, turning once, about 3 minutes per side. Remove to a 9x13" baking dish when done.
  5. In another 1 tbsp. each butter and olive oil (if needed), cook and reserve the other half of the thighs as in the previous step.
  6. Cover the cooked thighs in the baking dish with the artichokes.
  7. In the same large skillet, pour the lemon juice, lemon zest, and vodka. Scrape up any fond from the bottom of the skillet.
  8. Add the sour cream to the skillet and mix over low heat until the sauce is combined and smooth.
  9. Pour the sauce over the artichoke-covered chicken.
  10. Top that with the parmesan cheese.
  11. Top that with the panko bread crumbs.
  12. Bake 30 minutes at 350˚F.
I served it with Rice-a-Roni® and have leftovers for tomorrow night, but not so many leftovers that I'll get sick of it before I head to Chicago. Dessert was fresh raspberries.

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