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04 April 2015 @ 12:17 pm
I went to a seder last night held by   katchoo_too and tnalpgge , and it was the first seder that the three year old had attended when she was old enough to get what was going on. So the afikomen was duly wrapped and hidden by her father, she went and looked and came back disappointed. Where upon she broke the matzah on her plate into half, wrapped a half in her napkin, and hid it in the hall, then informed us she had found it.

I told Cindy and Tony that this is why I would be a terrible parent: I would reward her for her cunning by given her the promised reward of Lego Movie legos. However, they held fast, and after her mother rehid it in a slightly friendlier location she duly discovered it.
30 March 2015 @ 10:28 am
Things I did not know: finches eat flowers.  I was sitting outside eating breakfast, and saw one ignore the tray full of black sunflower seeds to start working away at the peach tree.  I thought it might be eating bugs or going after the pollen, but no, it came up with petals in its beak and snapped them down.
13 March 2015 @ 12:25 am
I do like having a lot of books on my tablet, but every once in a while I am reminded of why I still love my hardcopy library. I idly remembered a science fiction story I read a very long time ago. A little googling wangled the name and author: "Low Grade Ore", Kevin O'Donnell, and isfdb told me it had only been published in four places; Isaac Asimov's magazine and three anthologies edited by him.

But then I hit a dead end. I have an archive of scans of a lot of older SF magazines, but not Isaac Asimov's. It had been scanned by Google, but was not available for view, as was one of the anthologies. I checked Open Library. Nothing. I checked Amazon. O'Donnell apparently hadn't republished it in an ebook. There were a couple of somewhat expensive copies of one of them if I wanted to wait a week or so.

I cast my eyes upward in annoyance, and they fell upon the anthology section of my bookshelves. The name Isaac Asimov caught my eye; I tilted my head sideways and read the much tinier print underneath it. Why, yes, it did read "Science Fiction Masterpieces" and that indeed was one of the collections that reprinted it.

And thus I am no longer annoyed, and have reread it as I wished.
08 February 2015 @ 09:30 pm
My god, sometimes UI designers are idiots. I was downloading some mp3s from Amazon on my extremely seldom used Windows laptop. The relevant parties at Microsoft decided that what I really wanted was Windows Media Player automatically opened every time a new mp3 was downloaded. And even after I annoyedly gave up and left it opened, it decided it would pop to the front and seize focus every time. And apparently would have gone on doing that for each of the hundreds of tracks I was downloading.

I'm sure that the intended purpose of this was to make sure that I knew I should use the Borg's tools and only the Borg, but the actual result, after a brief google that discovered that the only way of turning this off didn't seem to exist anymore in my version of Windows 7, was me removing WMP entirely.
11 January 2015 @ 08:41 pm
I try not to apply American standards of self-defense to the rest of the world, because we are kind of insane, but I am not convinced that even in the UK 'I came home and found my friend tied up and a  guy with a knife torturing him, I punched the guy once and he died' would actually result in significant legal trouble. Generally the 'eggshell skull' rule only applies when the underlying violence is illegal in itself.
02 August 2014 @ 03:22 pm
Guardians of the Galaxy

Saw Guardians last night with folks. Enjoyed it a great deal, enough that I’ll buy it on DVD.
Spoilers below.
[Spoiler (click to open)]

— A great, likable group of leads. It’s what sells the movie; you truly care about all of them by the end of the movie, so that what could be a paint-by-number everyone unites ending feel deserved. Chris Pratt was absolutely perfect for Star-Lord. The character as written is the kind of slightly smug, slightly douchey character that incites my hatred if played by the wrong actor (see Fillion, Nathan.) But Pratt has just the right edge of fragility and softness to make you identify with the little frog-protecting kid inside not the gross womanizing outside.

Gamora could have used a little more character elucidation. I brought her as the woman she was now, who  was willing to die to try to save billions, but at some point she had to have been an effective tool for Thanos, or he would have discarded her long ago. How did she get from there to the woman we see? I don’t think it has to be spelled out on screen — the character background bits were a bit lumpy as is — but some kind of acknowledgement of that gap, someone asking ‘if you have hated him so much, why did you serve him so well and long’?

Apparently Drax is played by a pro wrestler, so his odd affect and simplicity may be less acting than being, but it works fine in the movie. And the CGI characters are perfection. It’s not a _surprise_, since animated movies have long built characters that we feel as deeply for as any actor, but the CGI has gotten so flawless that at no point was I pulled out of the movie by any awkwardness either of CGI or of interaction with the other characters. I loved that the raccoon was by far the most sensible and sane of the leads, and that the most powerfully felt relationship was between Groot and Rocket. At least, I was more moved by their parting and Groot’s sacrifice than Star-Lord and Gamora’s version.

— The humor! Not just the snappy lines and obvious jokes, but the way that the movie loved undercutting a dramatic moment just when it was turning bombastic. This is material that can turn to lead if you treat it too solemnly, leave the audience looking around it each other in embarrassment.

— As ever, Marvel’s joyous and unashamed embrace of their own universe.  They do not fear putting in giant Celestial heads in space, they do not fear putting in rescued Soviet space dogs (Cosmo!), they do not feel that they have to make everything Serious and Gritty and Realistic. Yet they also do not turn inward and make movies that will only attract comics fans; they have mastered the art of taking that love and saying to everyone “Here, I will show you why all this craziness is awesome and fun and you will love watching it.”


— I really could have done without the ‘hah, hah, women, so disposable and forgettable’ bit in Star-Lord’s adult intro. Especially since it was followed up in short order by scantily dressed female slaves being abused. That was a little bit redeemed by the fact that one of the slaves in question did eventually display some agency but a) not successfully and b) the movie apparently didn’t expect her slavery and death to have any impact, since the end of movie tag expected us to be all amused at her abuser hanging around drinking in the aftermath.

This was exacerbated by the near total lack of female characters in the universe. Gamora, Nebula, and Nova Prime are fine as far as they go. They are fairly scant characters (as mentioned above for Gamora), but they have plans of their own and aren’t purely props to men.  But if you look beyond that, at the minor characters and extras who get at least a moment of focus, there’s nearly nothing. There’s one female prisoner at the Kyln that we briefly see watching a message from home, I think there’s a couple that yell at Gamora, there’s a woman or two in danger on Xondar. But we see a lot of Novas get screen focus briefly, and I don’t recall a one of them being female, the Ravagers are all male, the guards at the Kyln. So a universe where guys took action and women were sex objects or there to be threatened.

One of the most impressive things about the original series of Star Trek when I watched it a few years back was not so much the fact that they had women and PoC on the bridge, it was that they had them everywhere else. Scientists, admirals, that random dude running the transporter could be black or asian or hispanic. They weren’t quite as good with women, but there was still a pretty good diversity in the minor characters. Whoever was running casting had very clearly made it a goal to *not* default to generic white guy for the extras and minor characters. Someone had thought it was important to show that the Federation didn’t just have a few tokens, it was a genuinely diverse place.

And it’s just as clear in this movie that whoever was running the casting for this movie *wasn’t* thinking about that, at least for women.

— The character exposition lumps mentioned above. There were definitely moments in the movie that felt like beats from a screenwriting program — “We must reveal some of Rocket’s past and emotions at *this* timestamp”.  Not bad enough to derail the movie, but it felt that it could have done with a last pass of script work to integrate those moments more smoothly. Same for certain plot moments — “Now we will show the ‘all is lost’ moment for each character, and now we will rotate around them again to show the ‘moment of hope’”…

— Thanos is going to take more work before he’s the center of a movie (presumably Avengers 3: The Infinity Gauntlet.) His voice wasn’t menacing enough, his face felt like a panel from a comic rather than a true translation into movie functionality, he didn’t have the presence he’ll need to make his faceoff with the Avengers work.
24 June 2014 @ 10:53 am
For once I used up everything in the CSA box with no wastage, and even the extra stuff I ordered (fresh corn!) and a cantaloupe left over from last week. I know that doesn't sound like much of a victory for those of you that get all 17 of your daily servings of fruit and veg without effort, but I had work or social dinners for three nights, my company catered lunch both days I was in the office, and I had leftovers to knock off as well. Plus, well, I have never liked vegetables.  I got the CSA box in an attempt to get myself to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, and it's been a struggle sometimes to actually do it instead of wasting food.

Strawberries and cantaloupe with breakfast, cherries, grapes, and red plums as mid-afternoon snacks, endive and spinach became salad, corn and mushrooms I had with sausage for dinner, and this weekend I made up a kale and sausage pasta dish that was delish and also had leftovers for lunch this week. I came up with a pretty tasty dressing for the endive: lumpfish roe mixed with sour cream and a touch of vinegar, with some green onion thrown in.  The sour cream softens the bitter edge of the endive, and the lumpfish gives it some heft and depth as a meal.

I do have some tomatoes left, but I'm not counting them because a) extras I ordered and b) I put them aside deliberately because they were underripe.  I'll probably have some with my lunch today, as they look like they are finally ripe.
15 April 2014 @ 09:46 pm
If you buy a butane torch to burn hog hairs off, Amazon will think you are a drug manufacturer.  I was wondering what the hell the "oil slick balls" to help "you concentrate" were, and the mats, that kept turning up on my recs list.  Apparently they are for the manufacture and storage of THC concentrate.
11 January 2014 @ 02:10 am
Dear god, Amazon's customer service is sometimes alarming. I feel mildly guilty shopping there at times, giant monopolizing megacorp, but they also do things right. Case in point: a few minutes ago, maybe 20, I noticed that two mp3 albums I purchased from Amazon before their cloud service existed weren't in my cloud player.  So I went to customer service and put in a request to add them, since they've been previously willing to retroactively do that.  And _less than 15 minutes later_ while I was sorting albums into playlists, my player reloaded with the albums now included.
29 December 2013 @ 10:20 pm
You wouldn't think that a 4 qt braising pan would be hard to find.  The requirements were simple: oven-safe, low profile, loop handles instead of a long bar handle so it would fit in my small oven.  But this seemed to be the killer: no cast iron, because I wanted something lighter if I was pulling it in and out of the oven filled with liquid.  The only one I could find that fit all of those was an All-Clad... and to get it without the bar handle, it required an extra hundred dollars over the already substantial price.  So that was my Christmas present from my mom.

It's worth it, though.  I had a hog jowl from a local pasture-raised Berkshire, so I mixed up an adobo braise and cooked it on low for 5 hours.  Used forks to rip off the meat for the adobo to have with rice, then put the slab of fat and skin left over in a baking pan and cooked it uncovered for a couple of hours more, which resulted in delicious crispy pork skin and rendered fat. Though I need to remember to do it fat side down next time -- ended up a little too brown this way, so not really suited to be chopped up as a topping, as I intended.  Still ridiculously tasty, though.  Just have to eat it straight. Oh the suffering!
So if any of you want some new blood, I have these hatchlings to give away:

I'm Tavella there as well. 
03 April 2013 @ 02:20 pm
So someone, I think it was rfmcdpei , recently linked to a piece collecting laments on how technological change has slowed.  Well, my grandmother also lived from before cars to after the moon landing, but I'm not going to be lamenting about missing out on technical change, because someone isn't looking in the right places.

When I was a young child, my family took a lone trip out to Missouri to visit my mother's extended family.  My maternal grandfather came along, and on the long drive he talked some about his parents and grandparents, with my young self carrying away a vivid impression of a young woman from England, widowed not long after her arrival on these shores and left with my great-grandmother to take care of.  And I was terribly curious, but there was no way for me to find out more; whatever further details might exist were locked away in file cabinets and registrars.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, when my DNA results from 23andme arrived.  To make sense of them, I started charting my pedigree.  Now, my father comes from a long line of obsessive genealogists, so that side was no trouble.  But my mother's side was more difficult; those English relatives seemed just out of reach as they did when I was a child.  How could you possibly find out much about people that all you know was that they were named Smith and came from England more than a century ago?

Well, it turns out, you can find out a whole damn lot now.  A quick google for my mother's uncles found me a bulletin board where someone mentioned having some information on the family.  A equally quick email got me connected with an extremely talented amateur genealogist who had my great-great-grandmother's death certificate, downloaded from the Missouri online archives.  And we were off, and in a week-long spree assembled a sprawling data portrait of a clan of Yorkshire coal and iron miners, back into the 18th century. 

And it's  not just the mere availability of the records online; it's the sophisticated computer analysis that does much of the work for you, so that it's not just a mass of undifferentiated data but that you can be presented with the most likely candidates.  Even with the availability of the records, the work would have taken years without those electronic assistants.  Sure, sometimes it still takes a human eye looking at an image to recognize a scratched out and written over town name... but that's the point: the repetitive work is done, and it's only the most problematic and interesting work that the human has to do.

That's technological change, and anyone who thinks that at the age of 55 that they have seen only 'trivial changes' in their life is quite oblivious.
01 January 2013 @ 05:16 pm
Ended up skipping out on the NYE party, because I didn't think I was going to want to be out till midnight and curling up in a nice chair with candles and a book seemed more enchanting.  Made it a little past midnight, long enough to hear the neighbors counting down the year, and then crashed.  Had a very nice brunch of bacon, scrambled eggs, and scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream to welcome in the new annum.

It was a pretty good year all in all.  Still working at the same place as the last two New Years, which is a pleasant stability after a sketchy couple of years post 2008 crash.  Got in some good gaming and good times with friends, and no major sadnesses, though I have finally hit the age where one has to anxiously sit out health crises in family and friends.  No real resolution of changes for the new year, except continuing to get mildly back into shape by doing more biking and walking.

Happy new year to you all!
29 December 2012 @ 09:46 pm
I haven't poked much at Yuletide, but there are two that I can recommend to anyone at all familiar with their canons:

The most perfect companion to Pratchett's _Nation_ that I can imagine, The Light Always Burning.  Just astonishing; the voice is dead on, and the content fills in the future history of the Nation in the most believable and satisfying way possible.

And if you are still mourning Glitch, Imagine a World With No Pants will give you something to laugh about through the tears.  Also perfectly true to the voice and spirit of the place.
Pretty thoroughly gutted.  The back's even worse, but I didn't get a good shot of that.

I'm kind of suspicious about the owner's comments here:

"The owner of that house says she was doing a lot of renovations on the house and she had just installed brand new electrical wiring. She planned to start renting it out next week. She believes someone broke in and intentionally started this fire."

It's been "under renovation" for at least five years now, and the most recent activity I've seen is someone repainted the plywood covering the bay window and posted a new keep off sign, and that was several months ago.  I've seen a truck in the driveway maybe once every few months, and I'm pretty sure replacing the wiring would have involved some power tools, which there has been nada of and I work from home three days a week. In fact, a company is currently employing power tools as they board up the place and it's extremely obvious.

Maybe she's just fluffing for the insurance company -- we have a lot of foot traffic in the neighborhood, so 9pm on a weeknight would be an odd choice for commercial arson.
28 June 2012 @ 09:22 pm
Long time readers of this blog may remember the murder house across the street from me. Well, the house is no more, or mostly no more, as it caught on fire this evening. Possibly not by accident, from discussion with my neighbors, who saw it go from a single flicker at a window to wholly engulfed in fire in something like a minute.  Plus one of the firemen was walking up and down, videoing the crowd, which made me think they also had arson in mind.

On the other hand, it's been the realm of squatters for years, so I would not be surprised if it was just a firetrap.  Fortunately, I don't think anyone was living there currently.

ETA: Ah, yes, this might explain the whole "from flicker to fireball" thing. Twitter tells me "SJFD IC calling for shut down of ladder pipes on S 7th fire near SJSU to evaluate report of Meth lab."

05 June 2012 @ 02:47 pm
Verbatim from the League of Women Voter's Smartvote:

Summary of Arguments FOR Proposition 28:
The status quo isn't working. After two decades, our term limits law needs fixing. Prop. 28 places a hard 12 year limit on legislators and closes the loophole that allows legislators to serve nearly 17 years. It's a simple reform that helps make legislators more accountable. Read it. Vote Yes.

Summary of Arguments AGAINST Proposition 28:
Proposition 28 is a scam by special interests to trick voters into weakening term limits. It actually lengthens--not reduces--terms for politicians in office. It doubles the time politicians can serve in the State Assembly. It increases by 50% the time politicians can serve in the State Senate.

There is apparently no option for "I think term limits are dumbass." I'm not sure whether to go with my default No for all propositions that I am in doubt on, or go with Yes on the grounds that it would at least let someone with experience stay in the House they are experienced in.

Why people think a legislature run by lobbyists and unelected staff is better than legislators who have a chance to serve long enough to know what the hell they are doing, I have no idea.
04 January 2012 @ 05:43 pm
You know you are sick when making instant ramen seems like entirely too much effort. At least I have made it out of bed and into the living room for the first time in 20 hours.
21 December 2011 @ 11:20 am
Flexible Squares is an LJ S2 style that looks nice and clean and preserves subject lines, alphabetical text icon list, linking to a comment starting at that comment, no problem posting comments, etc, etc. As in, I'm vaguely aware they changed something from my friendslist but you can't tell it from my own experience, as I've always had my LJ set up to use my own format everywhere (way too many people set up their LJ design to look shiny and be unreadable.)

Here, have a kitty.
18 December 2011 @ 12:02 am
One of my favorite books ever is Last Chance to See, by Douglas Adams, and one of most memorable stories in it is the story of the last Rodriguan wild coffee plant. It had been thought extinct for years, until in 1980 a local teacher was showing pictures of the many extinct flora and fauna of Rodrigues to his class, and a student named Hedley Manan said "but there's one of those by my house."

And one it was; the only one. In the book, the story is memorable for the tale of the fences the government kept building around the plant, which convinced the locals it was special, which meant they kept cutting off bits, and so the government would build another fence around the fence.

But the afterlife is perhaps more interesting. In 1986, botanists at the Kew Royal Botanical Gardens managed to get a cutting to root. It grew and flowered and they were able to clone it repeatedly, but it and the clones never produced fruit no matter how they tried to fertilize them. They began to think it might be male, and in fact they were right. And if that was true, their wild coffee plants would never be able to produce seeds, and cafe marron would remain a living dead plant, only reproducible in captivity.

But these were no mere mortal gardeners; they persisted, and after 17 years of experiments, their clone produced one fruit, with seven seeds.

None of which germinated. And the same procedure repeated produced no more fruit.

But as I said, these were no mere mortal gardeners, and finally they found the right combination of stresses and environment that would force the plant to occasionally produce a fruit. And four of the five seeds from that second fruit sprouted, and more than 50 from the others they were able to produce from the clones. And when the plants grew to maturity, some of them were female, and fertilized produced a proper fruit, with scores of seeds. Which, since plants are generally polyploid, had a great deal of genetic diversity despite coming from a single forefather.

And last year, many saplings and hundreds of seeds were taken back to Rodrigues, to be planted in reserves and hopefully eventually all over the island.

There's a lot to be depressed about these days, when looking at the environment. So sometimes you need a good story, and the pure determination that it took to get a hopeless case, a solitary male plant, into a whole forest of diverse and fertile seedlings, that's a good story.
21 October 2011 @ 02:13 pm
Just in case you aren't aware of what a truly loathsome person John C. Wright is, he demonstrates again by ranting about how Terry Pratchett is Hitler. Yes, really.


The part in the comments where he's fantasizing about punching Pratchett is particularly disgusting.
20 October 2011 @ 10:40 pm
tersa mentioned that we were watching the highlight version of X-Files, so I thought I'd post my list and logic:

Season 1:

Must sees: Pilot, Deep Throat, Squeeze, Ice, Beyond the Sea, E.B.E.. Darkness Falls, Tooms, The Erlenmeyer Flask.

Pilot and Deep Throat are key setup episodes for the mytharc and Erlenmeyer Flask setup for the next season. Beyond the Sea for Scully's personal arc, EBE for the introduction of the Lone Gunmen. Squeeze, Tooms, Ice and Darkness Falls as excellent standalones.

Maybe: Conduit, Fallen Angel, Eve, Gender Bender.

Of these, we only ended up watching Conduit, for background on Mulder's sister, and also for Mulder looking angsty and pretty. Fallen Angel is for the most part duplicated by EBE more interestingly.

Don't see: The Jersey Devil, Shadows, Ghost in the Machine, Space, Fire, Lazarus, Young at Heart, Miracle Man, Shapes, Born Again, Roland.

Some are terrible (Spaaaaace!) some are just mediocre.

Planning for season 2:

Must sees: Little Green Men, Duane Barry, Ascension, One Breath, Irresistible, Colony, End Game, Humbug, Anasazi

LGM is setup for the season, Colony, End Game, Anasazi, ah back in the days when the mytharc seemed to make sense. Duane Barry, Ascension, and One Breath for Scully-arc. Irresistable and Humbug as excellent standalones.

Maybes: The Host, Red Museum, Aubrey, Die Hand Die Verletzt, Död Kalm, F. Emasculata, Our Town.

I suspect I'm going to recommend The Host, both because it's very memorable, and because you get more of a sense of the Mulder and Scully working apart but together dynamic and thus setup for her disappearance. Die Hand Die Verletzt seems beloved by many (I've been crossreferencing with the Geos ratings to bolster my memory), but I remember it as underwhelming. Död Kalm I rather liked, and and if we want some leavening of the very mytharc heavy selections above I might throw it in.

Don't see: Blood, Sleepless, 3, Firewalker, Excelsius Dei, Fresh Bones, Fearful Symmetry, The Calusari, Soft Light.

Sleepless is the first appearance of Krychek, but it's not very good and he appears in the next two that we are watching, so I don't think it's necessary.

Season Three is where it is really going to get hard, if we keep going. I count 12 must-sees just on first pass, and that's leaving out significant Mulder, Scully, and Skinner-centric episodes.
27 September 2011 @ 10:10 pm
Is it just me, or did Delicious suddenly roll back to the old style? No mention of stacks, and I can get more than 10 things on a page and tags with / in them.
11 May 2011 @ 02:46 pm
Did anyone else just have their livejournal theme turn to something else? Mine has suddenly become a very ugly blue narrow boxed theme instead of my nice mellow non-space wasting theme, and I've had my chosen theme for so long I can't even remember what the name is to fix it. Grr.
23 April 2011 @ 06:16 pm
There's apparently going to be a re-do of Rurouni Kenshin. It'd be nice to see one with the proper ending and not a vague wandering off to cancellation.

I was sorting Rurouni Kenshin discs this morning, as part of spring cleaning and purging. katchootoo was getting rid of most of her DVDs and kindly gave her RK discs to me, as I knew I was missing some. In the process of sorting, I discovered that she had brought most of the series twice, first standalones, and then the fancy edition boxes, but not all of either. And I had a nearly overlapping set standalones, and I spent a while trying to decide which mix and match I wanted. And then I realized that I had also brought season 1 as a single (not fancy edition) box , and that duh, each of the fancy boxes also represented a season, so I had a perfectly sensible and fairly compact set. Apart from the fact that the fancy boxes' lid keeps coming off.

But I also have my original set of individual dvds for seasons 1 and 2, missing the first episode of season 2, and katchootoo 's set of individual dvds for seasons 1 and 2, missing the last episode of season 2. This is somewhat of an excess of Rurouni Kenshin.