Book review(s): Steinbeck

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 08:35 am
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[personal profile] gfish
I just finished a Steinbeck binge, working my way through Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath, and East of Eden. I think I had read Of Mice and Men before, sometime in high school? I certainly knew the story, anyway. Still good. The dog shooting part was hard, since I experienced exactly that as a kid, waiting to hear the shot. The dog ran under the truck one day, so my dad had to deal with it. I had been in the truck when it happened, and I didn't handle it well.

East of Eden I enjoyed, but it didn't really feel finished. The biblical parallels might be more interesting to other people, but it wasn't enough for me. I liked the people and the stories of their lives, I just wanted a meatier backbone to the whole thing.

The Grapes of Wrath blew me away. I was utterly hooked from the very beginning. The socialism/anarchism/questioning of capitalism that is a steady background for the story was a pleasant surprise. Many of the points it brings up are every bit as relevant today as they were then.

I found myself so engrossed in the story that I experienced a certain amount of culture shock. After one day of listening to several hours as I drove down to Tacoma and back, I walked into a grocery store and felt disoriented by the amount of food available. The contrast was just too great.

It helps that I have some personal ties. My dad's family were Okies, oil field workers who moved to California just a few years later than the book. I never knew them, but from all the family stories, they sounded much like the Joads. I even managed to inherit a minor linguistic quirk from them: I pronounce and hear "pen" and "pin" as the same word. /I/ and /e/, before a nasal consonant, are non-contrastive for me. If I focus, I can certainly hear the difference, but it's like hearing the difference between a short and long vowel in Japanese. Turns out that is an Oklahoma thing, and my dad does the same thing.

I grabbed a copy of the movie, because I was curious how it could have been adapted, and I was pleasantly surprised. It was very faithful, in a respectful kind of way, and I really liked Henry Fonda as Tom. It kept a lot more of the socialism than I expected, and stuck the ending pretty well, given that there was no way they could have kept the original ending.

He definitely gets added to my list of authors I'll read more of in the future, as I happen to find their works on sale.

Pictures from a cruise on San Francisco Bay.

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 06:41 am
[syndicated profile] ash_feed

A couple of weeks ago I had an invitation to take a lunch cruise on San Francisco Bay aboard the Hornblower.  It was a work sort of thing, a quarterly fun-thing to do after putting in longer hours than usual organized by one of my cow-orkers.  As luck would have it, that was one of the rare days that it rained in the Bay Area.  You might think that it would put a damper on things but it doesn't rain much out here these days so any change of weather is not only noteworthy, it's a pleasant change of pace for a lot of us.

Anyway, here are the pictures I took.

Interesting Links for 18-10-2017

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017 12:00 pm

Desire becomes more of a need

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017 09:51 pm
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[personal profile] fayanora
There's this book Alex has had on his Amazon wishlist for a long time, NATURAL SATANIC WITCHCRAFT - Traditional,Spiritual,Orthodox (Volume 1)" by Kindra Ravenmoon, that he wants mainly for the fact it contains "malevolent uses for gemstones," information we can't find anywhere else.

Well before, this was just a curiosity and not a very high priority thing, but now I'm doing the Dalia Ravenstone story, I now feel this book has become something I NEED, since those malevolent uses for gemstones could come very much in handy for this story at some point along the way. The book is only basically $23 (and trust me, that's pretty much the cheapest I can find it anywhere), so I'll probably get it next month with something else for the free shipping. But man, that feels ages away right now, and $23 is a lot of money for a book. I rarely spend more than about $10 for any book. But that information about malevolent uses for gemstones is just too tempting to resist much longer.

Of course, if anyone else wants to buy it for me now and send it to me in a few days, I would be glad to pay you back plus interest when I get money again November 3rd.

Gah. That reminds me, I also need the first volume of The Crystal Bible. It took me like, a year or more to figure out that I had *volume* 2, not *edition* 2. Only figured it out because it didn't have rose quartz in it. (Though lilac quartz ended up being better for what I wanted than rose quartz was.)

(Yes, I could just make something up, but I'm trying to make magic in the Ravenstone universe as close to real-world magick as possible, just a lot more powerful. And honestly, it's easier to buy this book and see what this list entails than it would be to try to think of things myself, since I don't know much about the *regular* magical uses for gemstones; I keep having to look things up online.)

Interesting Links for 17-10-2017

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017 12:00 pm
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(no subject)

Monday, October 16th, 2017 09:57 pm
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[personal profile] randomdreams
I went to Moab, Utah, over the weekend to meet some G+ friends and ride all over creation. I'll post pictures later. It was utterly exhausting, mostly because I rode with them in the morning and then went and rode really hard in the evening on my own. I am officially no longer in contention for world-class racing. Dammit. But I am within a few percent of my best times from 15 years ago, which is nice. (Less peak power, but way better endurance.)

Right now I'm battling a spigot. We have frost-resistant spigots on the house, and both have now failed to a lesser or greater extent, one no longer working at all but at least not leaking, and the other leaking at somewhere between the rate a dog would pee and maybe a drop every two seconds if I mess about with it. Traditionally, frost-resistant spigots are easy to fix: you shut the house water off (or, in the case of my previous house, you turn off the cutoff valve I installed in the plumbing right in front of each spigot, for exactly this situation) and extract the spigot valve from the body and replace the gasket and you're good for another 15 years. Well, I shut off the house water and extracted the valve control hardware, and it doesn't have a gasket on the end. The entire valve control assembly is buried in the wall. The only access is by cutting a hole, either in the nice hardwood floor in the bedroom, or in the finished/textured drywall ceiling in the nonfiction library. I'm choosing the library.

Book 70 - Ted Hughes "Birthday Letters"

Monday, October 16th, 2017 11:31 pm
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Ted Hughes "Birthday Letters" (Faber and Faber)

As background Ted Hughes was probably one of the finest English poets of the 20th century.

He married Sylvia Plath in 1956 and was estranged from her upon her death by suicide in 1963.

This is visceral, confessional poetry of an immense power and feeling. It is the final work of a man who, knowing he is soon to die, cares nothing about displaying the soiled linen of their relationship; her weaknesses, fears, obsessions, his failings as he looks through the demonic power of his words to their inevitable conclusion. One is cut to shreds as he sifts the spikes and shards of their failings and failed relationship. There is bitterness too, Plath's father is certainly not spared, nor is Hughes himself but there are goblins and bees aplenty in that superlative, supernatural and ill-fated place they inhabited together. I wanted it to cease, I longed for it to be over, I never wanted it to end.

Hughes spared nothing. He was blunt and his verse often less than flattering but always the images conjured are powerful:

From 18, Rugby Street

, "And I became aware of the mystery
Of your lips, like nothing before in my life,
Their aboriginal thickness. And your nose,
Broad and Apache, nearly a boxer's nose,
Scorpio's obverse to the Semitic eagle
That made every camera your enemy,"

His word in "Visit" are stark and doom-ladenly prophetic

"Inside that numbness of the earth
Our future trying to happen.
I look up - as if to meet your voice
With all its urgent future
That has burst in on me. Then look back
At the book of the printed words.
You are ten years dead. It is only a story.
Your story. My story."

Looking back on that time and facing his own curtailed future (he died of cancer shortly after publication) Hughes left possibly his best work for the very last to be savoured after his passing. Given the subject matter that was just right.

Book 69 - Richie Tankersley Cusick "The Harvest"

Monday, October 16th, 2017 11:16 pm
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[personal profile] jazzy_dave
Richie Tankersley Cusick "The Harvest : (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)" (Simon Spotlight Entertainment)

The Harvest is the novelization of the first two episodes of the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (episodes by the same name, for that matter). As novelizations go, it's really not bad. Cusick manages to adapt the script into something very readable whilst also incorporating some of the charm and originality that the actors brought to the show.

Also, as media novelizations go, the writing -- while again, not bad -- seems to target a younger reading audience. In my opinion, it was at level with tween-ish YA. Content wise, Buffy the Vampire Slayer had not yet reached the maturity level that it would in later seasons, and the edgiest things in The Harvest are standard action-movie violence and mild references to sexuality.

This introduction into the Buffy the Vampire Slayer universe (following the events of the 1992 movie flop) follows slayer Buffy Summers as she transitions into a new life and new highschool in Sunnydale, CA after being kicked out of her old highschool for events that those familiar with the movie will recognize. She thinks she can finally have a normal life, but her slaying duties reappear almost immediately -- along with a new watcher (a person meant to help train and guide the slayer as she battles evil creatures) and a new group of surprisingly resilient friends. Her first challenge in this new town -- which has more than its fair share of vampires and other nasties -- is to prevent "the harvest" -- the ascension of a particularly gruesome vampire from the church he has been trapped in underground for many decades -- and the evil that follows it. Many new allies are created -- including some that will become popular additions to the character lineup very shortly -- and the theme and style of the series is laid out.

The action is carried along smoothly with very little added to what is cut-and-dry from the script I imagine. Cusick attempts to add some internal monologue for some of the more major characters, but in most cases it falls kind of flat. One of the challenges of adapting media is obviously making it recognisable but not so true-to-form that the reader would be better off just reading the script. Cusick manages to get a good, steady rhythm going and sustains it throughout the entire novel and with a little more adventurousness I think this could've actually been a very good book. As it stands, it is passable and enjoyable for Buffy fans but not likely to lure any new folks in.

Interesting Links for 16-10-2017

Monday, October 16th, 2017 12:00 pm

Electronics engineering question

Saturday, October 14th, 2017 11:53 pm
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[personal profile] fayanora
For a detail in a story I'm writing, does anyone know how likely it is for someone with general electronics engineering skills to be able to fix a shorted-out electric wheelchair? I need to know if the dad of one of Dalia's friends could repair it or if they'd need to get it repaired/replaced by their medical insurance or whatever.

Interesting Links for 13-10-2017

Friday, October 13th, 2017 12:00 pm
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Interesting Links for 12-10-2017

Thursday, October 12th, 2017 12:00 pm
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Education at Hogwarts

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017 10:05 pm
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[personal profile] fayanora
What I don’t get is why Hogwarts never had Muggle subjects like math, PE, art, music, and so on. I’m working on my own story with a school of magic in it, and I managed to fit not only the magical classes (7 subjects) and mundane subjects as well (another 7 classes) with room for up to 5 electives starting in 3rd year *with study halls*, and it only took me three days to figure out that schedule! It was a grueling three days, but still only three days! (It’s an A Day/B Day system, one hour class blocks, nine hours a day.)

There are lots of study halls for the first few years. Even more for those not taking (m)any electives.

This thing still on? *pokes*

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017 09:50 pm
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[personal profile] marahmarie

I...I tried to keep it to an even 30 days away because I like even numbers, but obviously I've fallen short. I don't have any reason to write, just blowing dust off The Thing.

Well, if you really want to know, I'm killing time while Tablet from Hell gets a hard drive format so I can finally sell it. I sold one of the two we had for $20 while Other Person was asleep, just to get it off my hands (it was mine after I cracked the screen and bought a replacement with better overall specs) but also because I hated it, and just sold this one for about 6 times that because it was in better condition, but also because I hated it. And OP has a Surface tossed out by someone who apparently didn't know how to clean contacts on a charging cable; nothing else was wrong with it - so he didn't need (or want) the replacement anymore.

Since it's been a hair over three weeks (140 years in intertubes time) I could talk about what's happened - [personal profile] madgravity and I've been having a nice, off-topic bi-monthly chat on a post I made back in August; I have no idea why; AIM's shutting down on December 15th, and while I'd be the obvious choice to say something on that, I'd just be raining on the collective's parade, so can't compel myself. "AIM installs OpenCandy" (malware - yay), "AIM won't let you download your Buddy List since I don't know what version it was they decided to lock you in like this" (using an existing AIM email address might work, or you could try an older version of AIM; I can't get the oldest versions to run on Windows 10, but I could try newer old versions, if I ever stop not feeling like it), AIM never complied with AOL's Software For Sale philosophy (big rip-roaring success that was) which was why it never became Skype or WhatsApp....rain, rain, go away please come back another day. I can't do it. People love AIM so much I just hate pissing on that parade.

In other exciting news, a frozen quart of chicken stock jumped out of the freezer the other day, which probably broke my toe after the corner of it hit said digit just right. I haven't spent a day in that much pain since the other foot got laid to semi-permanent waste, which means I last went around wanting to kill an inanimate object that was actively trying to kill me about three years ago, almost to the day.

Btw, inanimate objects doing everything from flying through the air to jumping out of freezers, fridges, ovens, off of stovetops, out of kitchen sinks, bathtubs, off of buildings and so on are exactly why I believe in quantum psychics. If something can be in two places at once, then something can be two things at once, which literally means all the stuff we think of as "inanimate objects" is actually living - and capable of thought. Tell me it isn't possible. I'll kill time much as I usually do - desperately fleeing inanimate objects that are clearly on the fucking warpath - while I await your response.

Hmmmm, the hard drive forcing me to sit through this post because I have absolutely nothing else to do (I could go scrub the shower, but the hell with it) is still formatting. So lastly, politics suck. I valiantly powered through 12 months of searching for the right words to make change possible via the inwardly flailing author of this blog and finally got my reward in the form of tonsillitis and bronchitis all at once. When I can look at OP and go, "If I don't get antibiotics I'll either be dead or in the ICU in a few more days" - something I've never had to say before, though other times in my life I've cut it pretty much this damn close, so nothing all that new going on here - then yeah, I think it's time to take a break - if not have my head examined.

I have Suggestions in queue on Dreamwidth image hosting that, if they ever post, will show the date of the night I got sick. It was two days later that I got antibiotics over the counter because I couldn't wait on a doctors appointment (up to six weeks off in the future for any clinic I can afford), knew what was wrong because tonsillitis has haunted me since my early 20s, and wasn't about to pay $2,000 for an emergency room visit. And Oh Doctor Heal Thyself I indeed got better. But I'm not revisiting my previous posting schedule - not unless the subject matter changes a lot, and actually interests me again.

The depressing slop that's today's political landscape doesn't, except in a sort of, "Hey, let's watch this trainwreck again in slow-mo!" fashion borne of being so disgusted with such rapid and unthinkable change you can't stop looking, though it's the same trainwreck over and over and over. Each time you watch there's one more tragedy you simply hadn't noticed before. And in the long run, there's too many for any one human to see, absorb or actually deal with without tuning out or drowning, and I don't have any fairy dust left to sprinkle on this thing and make it all go away. Even Eminem's become sort of incoherent, and when he struggles for words, I guess it's time to cut the tape.

Then there's the thought of finding yourself - if not your passion or path, then simply who you are, what you want. But in all the political madness I forgot what I want. I forgot who I was, who I am. I forgot. Then I read Christ in the Garden of Endless Breadsticks and considering how seriously I'm writing this up, you might laugh: it's an article about Olive Garden. But the incredibly over-the-top artsy-fartsy ridiculous fashion it's written in made me realize I no longer want to take the political landscape in and breath it back out like the black soot upon our souls it is. So while I was recovering from tonsils, I stopped emailing myself anything political to repost. The first link I emailed myself was on Olive Garden, weeks later. I decided I liked where it was leading me - way off the path I've beaten here.

But what really swings me around is the situation with North Korea. Which, if you want to (briefly) talk politics (I hope not), all I can say is: "We warned you. There's nothing he's said or done that should raise an eyebrow, nothing he can say or do that should induce the slightest shock. We warned you. And warned you. And warned you! Those of us writing, we warned you. Those of us reading such writers, we warned you. Those of us telling you he was no good, and into infinity exactly why that is, to a person, we warned you."

Anything predicted is coming true so ad infinitum there's probably nothing left that won't - and you know what, if I have but a short time left thanks to this walking brain stem and "his [so-called] people" I'll be damn well sure to enjoy it, or at least die trying to. Nothing he says or does is worth more than the ounce of energy it takes to scan the headlines and any extra ounces required to read in-depth when I must. Because we did warn you, and we shouldn't have to keep retreading the topic of His Royal Asswipe like the threadbare tire it's so quickly become.

Which is to say that while I don't know what I might do with myself in lieu of no longer covering this topic, I can probably think of something.

Interesting Links for 11-10-2017

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017 12:00 pm

(no subject)

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017 10:57 pm
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[personal profile] randomdreams
I was outside working on some stuff in the workshop, and Monty was sitting on the deck whine/howling at me. It's freezing out there, literally. I'm all "Dog, I have stuff I desperately need to finish!" and she's all "NOOOOOO come in here and let me sleep on your lap" and finally I gave up. She's all smooshed up behind me, between my back and the sofa, but at least she's not shrieking.

I spent a lot of the day chasing a wrapper flaw. Labview can call Windows dll's, through wrapper functions, and someone on our corporate labview development team had miswritten one of a series of nearly identical wrappers. I was talking to the people who wrote the SDK that the wrapper encloses, and they assured me that the SDK worked just fine, so I got to learn how to write my own labview wrappers. Turns out that's surprisingly easy right up until I needed to pass a pointer to an array, and then I was very happy that another person on the labview development team sent me the correct function before I spent another two hours fighting with that process.

(no subject)

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017 10:51 pm
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[personal profile] randomdreams
I had a dream that I no longer have particularly organized in my head, but: I was in an enormous decrepit old building, and the owner of the building pointed out one room that was haunted by a surly, physically aggressive spirit. Like, you went into the room, and if you hung out there very long at all, it started pushing you around and throwing things at you. I, of course, went in there to see, and sure enough, it started pushing me around, but I noticed this absolutely beautiful piano, somewhere in between a studio and a full upright, and played a few notes on it. It was *perfect*, despite the dust: the best-sounding piano I've ever heard. She said "oh, yeah, the spirit tunes it." I was all "this is spectacular. That spirit should tune pianos." The spirit promptly appeared, looking like an elderly Turkish guy (silvery hair, ferocious eyebrows, ferocious moustache) and said he'd be glad to if people would bring them to the room. I figured this would be a way to keep him busy and not pushing people around.

Sculpture in Motion

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017 02:10 pm
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[personal profile] gfish
FYI, I have a piece in a local gallery for their Sculpture in Motion show. I'm still putting together a proper video of the device, but I did manage to put up a quick little demo.