Nerd Joy!

We’ve been scan­ner-deprived for many months now, because the mul­ti­func­tion print­er gave up the ghost. We acquired an old­er mod­el HP scan­ner via Freecy­cle a while back, but it wouldn’t work. The mov­ing bit inside had been locked down for trans­port, and just wouldn’t unlock. It is nev­er a good thing when you get a burn­ing smell out of a piece of com­put­er equipment.

But Sam attacked it with screw­drivers and pli­ers and brute force tonight, and made it work! Squee!

Methinks I Need to Safeword

I’m about 34 of the way through The Devil’s Right Hand by Lilith Saint­crow — 3rd of 5 or 6 books in the Dante Valen­tine series — and I don’t think I can take any more.

I want to know how the sto­ry ends. I real­ly like some of the char­ac­ters. I just can’t stand the main char­ac­ter! She’s a total har­ri­dan. I’m start­ing to think that Saint­crow is inca­pable of writ­ing a female pro­tag­o­nist who isn’t set to the high­est bitch lev­els at all times, espe­cial­ly with any­one who is nice to her. What are this woman’s per­son­al rela­tion­ships like, I wonder?

When I was in 10th grade, a new girl moved to my neigh­bor­hood. We quick­ly became close friends. A few months into our friend­ship, I remem­ber her say­ing some­thing about me and my friends being “so pas­sive.” What? That is not an adjec­tive I had ever imag­ined any­body had ever used in ref­er­ence to me or the peo­ple I hung out with. We were all pret­ty opin­ion­at­ed, intel­li­gent, tal­ent­ed, and most of us were some­what prick­ly in one way or anoth­er. Not door­mats, pushovers, or “pas­sive” people.

We didn’t fight, which, to her, meant pas­siv­i­ty. I tried to explain that we could dis­agree with­out fight­ing, and knew the dif­fer­ence between debates and argu­ments, but we nev­er did see eye to eye on that issue. I’m sure that a major dif­fer­ence in our fam­i­ly back­grounds had a lot to do with her per­cep­tions. In her fam­i­ly, scream­ing was a dai­ly occur­rence, after which the air was cleared and all was well. In mine, raised voic­es meant phys­i­cal vio­lence. If some­one raised his voice any­where near me, I expect­ed vio­lence, and the whole fight-or-flight thing start­ed. I nev­er con­sid­ered wast­ing ener­gy by yelling back. If she heard yelling, she’d wade right in and yell back fear­less­ly. (I’m pret­ty sure that she wasn’t ever hit in anger, prob­a­bly not ever hit at all by a fam­i­ly member.)

I’m not going to be friends with some­one who is con­stant­ly pick­ing fights with me or any­one else. I have zero inter­est in argu­ment for the sake of argu­ment. What’s the point? I val­ue my peace too much for that, so com­bat­ive, aggres­sive peo­ple quick­ly get an invi­ta­tion to the world when I encounter them.

I think that friend might relate to Saintcrow’s female char­ac­ters. Valen­tine sure as hell isn’t pas­sive. She can’t man­age assertive, either, though — she’s unhealth­ily aggressive.

Blah — Spammers Are Scum

Not that it’s news to any­one, I know. But Defen­sio was down this evening (because of an Ama­zon serv­er fail­ure), which meant that all of our sites have been slammed with com­ment spam. They all get hit con­stant­ly, but it’s usu­al­ly a non-issue because Defen­sio fil­ters almost 100% of the crap before we see it. These out­ages serve to remind us of how great the ser­vice is.

I notice that my old­er posts are the ones that get the most spam com­ments. I’ve looked for some sort of plu­g­in to auto­mat­i­cal­ly dis­able com­ments on posts after a week or so, but I haven’t found one so far. I final­ly gave in today and start­ed back with the very first post on this blog, dis­abling com­ments. It is a tedious process! I’m sure that some­one could write a script that would do the same thing in the MySQL data­base much faster, but I’m not that someone.

Sam has to go back to work tomor­row. Pout. I’ve real­ly enjoyed hav­ing him home. 

TotD: Ray Kurzweil on Change


Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology

Centuries ago people didn't think that the world was changing at all. Their grandparents had the same lives that they did, and they expected their grandchildren would do the same, and that expectation was largely fulfilled.

Today it's an axiom that life is changing and that technology is affecting the nature of society. What's not fully understood is that the pace of change is itself accelerating, and the last 20 years are not a good guide to the next 20 years. We're doubling the paradigm shift rate, the rate of progress, every decade.

The whole 20th century was like 25 years of change at today's rate of change. In the next 25 years we'll make four times the progress you saw in the 20th century. And we'll make 20,000 years of progress in the 21st century, which is almost a thousand times more technical change than we saw in the 20th century.

Review: Spectre by Phaedra Weldon

Spectre (Zoe Martinique, Book 2) Spectre by Phaedra Weldon

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
Hmm. Spectre feels less like a sequel to Wraith than a chapter two, if that makes any sense. Both books are full-sized novels, but they're so closely related that book two wouldn't make any sense without having read book 1 (and the novella in between). Unfortunately, Spectre ends on a cliff-hanger. I hate that.

At least I know (from her blog) that Weldon is working on the third book. I can only hope that it comes out soon and wraps up all the loose threads without introducing new ones that aren't left hanging again.

I do have to agree with another GR reviewer who mentioned that the main character carries on more like a 13-year-old kid than a 28-year-old woman. I have to agree. I understand that losing one parent early might, for some people, lead to a closer relationship with the surviving parent—but give me a break! Zoë apparently needs to move across the country to learn to live without Mommy. Or maybe Mommy should move?

View all my reviews.

SBQ: Overdyed Floss or Hand-dyed Fabric?

I’m quite late with the cur­rent Stitch­ing Blogger’s Ques­tion, which is:
If you had to choose, would you rather spend mon­ey on overdyed floss
or hand-dyed fabric?

Overdyed floss, cer­tain­ly. I’ve only pur­chased one piece of hand-dyed fab­ric, and nobody is like­ly to go, “Oh, wow!” about the effect in the fin­ished piece (although I’m hap­py, because I couldn’t find any oth­er fab­ric that was exact­ly right). I seri­ous­ly doubt that any­one but anoth­er devot­ed stitch­er would ever know that the fab­ric is hand-dyed.

The overdyed floss­es I’ve used, though, fre­quent­ly lead to incred­i­ble effects that are appar­ent to any­one who views the pieces. They’re usu­al­ly a joy to work with, as well.

Scattered

Anybody else using LiveMocha? Especially to learn French? I just joined (as TechnoMom, of course) and would like to have "friends" there. I started with the beginner level, lesson one, and actually learned a few new vocabulary words. (My wee bit of foreign language instruction in high school sucked, to put it mildly.) You're supposed to ask your "friends" for feedback on your lessons, but I don't have any and don't really want to ask total strangers about how badly I did.

Sam and Katie have been at Dragon*Con for the past few days. We had a house guest, David, but I didn't really "meet" him because of the late con hours and having a really bad pain flare. Sorry David! He went home this afternoon. I'm glad Sam has the day off tomorrow to recover. I'm glad Hope got to come to D*C, but pouting because I won't get to see her while she's in town. I know that she has brightened Sam's weekend.

I finished reading The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross last night, and started Phaedra Weldon's Wraith. I liked Morgue, but it wasn't quite as strong as The Atrocity Archives. The short story at the end of the book, "Pimpf," didn't do too much for me, but I'm not a video gamer so that probably has a lot to do with it.

I'm really liking Wraith. A lot. The fact that it's set in Atlanta is nice, because I can follow along the geography as the characters move around. (Usually, such things go right past me, even if there's a map.) Thanks to Good Reads, I know that there's a novella, "Out of the Dark," on Weldon's site that takes place between this book and Spectre.

I've also been browsing through the archives at Two Lumps, thanks to a link from . I had a pair of Russian Blues who were entirely too much like Ebenezer and Snooch! If you're a veteran of cat cohabitation, be careful when reading. I recommend not having a drink in hand (or in mouth) and being careful to empty your bladder before you start reading.

Kyoshi is busy telling me that he still doesn't want to cuddle with anybody but Katie, but he wants her home NOW! RIGHT NOW! And that we really have to stop letting the kitten out of the house without his personal supervision.

Review: Maria V. Snyder’s Study Series

Fire Study (Study, Book 3) Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I strongly recommend reading Poison Study, Assassin Study, Magic Study, and Power Study all at a go. The two novellas are optional, but canonical and fun.

Snyder's world seems to be made up of just two countries: Ixia and Sitia. Ixia has been ruled by Commander Ambrose and his generals for about a decade when Poison Study starts, after a military coup overthrew the old monarchy. There are no beggars, every child is entitled to an education, nobody has to go hungry or homeless, and promotions are based solely on skill, with no gender or racial discrimination—but every citizen also has to wear a uniform declaring his or her proper location and job function, government approval is required for marrying, moving to a new home, or changing jobs, and anybody identified as having magic talent is killed immediately. Everyone is subject to the Code of Behavior, and there are no exceptions for any kind of extenuating circumstances. If you kill someone, you are sentenced to death, even if you were defending yourself or another.

Yelena has been in the Commander's dungeon for most of a year after killing the son of General Brazell. Valek, Ambrose's spymaster, gives her a choice: go to the gallows, or become the Commander's food taster. The job doesn't have a long life expectancy, as poisoning attempts are fairly common, but Yelena sees a chance at life better than immediate death, and takes the job.

Yelena manages to survive several attempts to murder her. The fact that Brazell wants her dead is understandable, but the other attempts are mysterious. Why would a Sitian master magician try to kill her? Who would slip poison into her wine?

Magic Study finds Yelena in Sitia, learning to cope with a very different way of life. Magic is almost taken for granted, and a strong family/clan structure forms the backbone of the government. But why are there beggars in the streets, and why is it that only those who can afford it are educated? Everyone in Sitia believes that life in Ixia must be horrific, but looking around her, Yelena sees that Ambrose's rule does have its benefits.

Fire Study moves between Sitia and Ixia, involving the leaders of both nations and intriguers who want to bring both of them down by pitching them against each other. Yelena and her friends are trying to prevent a war and reveal the traitors, but they've been declared outlaw and have to sneak around trying to figure out what's going on.

Another reviewer found Yelena too talented for belief, but I found her fairly realistic. She certainly isn't good at everything—she could use a lot of help in terms of social skills!—and the skills that she begins with and gains over the course of the trilogy do make sense. She trained as an acrobat when she was a child, so it does make sense that she is able to learn some types of self-defense without too much trouble. Some of her aptitudes make more sense after she learns more about her family background. She does find that she has magical abilities, but she isn't good at everything, and indeed, cannot seem to master some tasks that other magicians consider rudimentary.

I did find some of the betrayals to be difficult to comprehend, as some of the traitors would have no defense against mental scans. There's a Sitian Ethical Code of Conduct that prohibits non-consensual scans, but it doesn't apply to criminals, and in a war situation, I found it hard to believe that nobody ever did a little telepathic peeking at the people around them.

These were fun books, and they could be useful in looking at the pros and cons of different types of governments with teens. There's some sex in the books, but nothing terribly explicit. The violence is more troublesome, but the author never dwells on it.

View all my reviews.

Review: The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross

The Atrocity Archives The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
I don't give many 5-star ratings, but The Atrocity Archives deserves one. You may need to read it with a web browser open to look up references using Wikipedia or Google, but if you enjoy Torchwood, Men in Black, or Snow Crash, I think you'll enjoy this one.

The volume actually includes the novel and a novella, The Concrete Jungle. Both are good reading, and I recommend giving yourself time to enjoy the foreword and afterword, as well.

View all my reviews.

American Accent Quizzie

What American accent do you have?
Created by Xavier on Memegen.net

Northern. Whether you have the world famous Inland North accent of the Great Lakes area, or the radio-friendly sound of upstate NY and western New England, your accent is what used to set the standard for American English pronunciation (not much anymore now that the Inland North sounds like it does).

If you are not from the North, you are probably one of the following:
(a) A Southerner who hates Southern accents and tries really hard to "talk right"; or
(b) A New Yorker or New Jerseyan who doesn't have the full accent

Take this quiz now - it's easy!
We're going to start with "cot" and "caught." When you say those words do they sound the same or different?

Then again, it could be that I'm a southerner who grew up in the metro Atlanta area, where we hear all kinds of accents. Or that I watched too much television as a child, and broadcasters use the same standard. In any case, the author of the quiz seems to be a bit out of touch as far as the explanations of different results go (and a bit defensive, as well).