Gilmore Girls!

tersa and I had a Gilmore Girls on Netflix marathon today.  We started with coffee (of course), and then picked up Chinese, in homage to their favorite late night food.  I was really touched by how they worked in Edward Herrman's death so respectifully, and oh my god they really did get everyone back.  At one point they panned to a young woman playing, I said "wait, Stars Hollow has a *second* troubadour?", Tersa said "Yeah, there was an episode where they were fighting over turf", and quite promptly Troubadour-Prime arrived and started chasing her.

As for the rest? Well, there were times in the series where I didn't like Luke much, but I loved him here.  He was sensible (when hardly anyone else around could be relied on to be consistently so.)  He was distressed and worried about Lorelei hiding things from him, but he didn't do stupid romantic comedy things, he pointed out when she was being silly and let her work things out herself.  Paris? Paris was perfection.  I loved her terrifying the headmaster with her pointed and sensible questions, I loved her being both her driven self and also her freaked out not yet entirely over school self.

Rory?  Her floundering was pretty realistic, and given that my fundamental interest in her love life is "anyone or no one, except not Jess" I was mostly happy, except for really, did we need Jess staring longingly through the window at the end? I don't want him to be Rory's Luke, it's one thing to come in as the stepfather after years of independent life, not being the Nice Guy/Reformed Bad Boy who sweeps in to save the unwed mother.

Lorelei was, well, Lorelei.  But I adored Emily getting on with a new life after her husband's death. I loved her merrily adopting the entire Berta clan, I loved her telling off the DAR, I loved her selling up and moving, and I even approved of her completing the circle of story by requiring the family visits in exchange for the financing for the new inn.

Also, Michel may still be my favorite.  In a series full of snark, he is the snarkiest. 

Happy 90th birthday to one of my favorite naturalists

So at certain times of the year,  a small cloud of tiny flies hangs out on my porch in front of the door. I hadn't spared them much thought before, except to wonder why they were there when there wasn't any food for them.  But today I sat and properly watched them while cooling off after transplanting an aloe vera.  And I noticed something familiar about their patterns: hanging out nearly still in midair, then sudden lightning fast moves at each other.  I had seen something just like that... oh! I said to myself, David Attenborough shooting peas at a hoverfly.  But wasn't he in some jungle somewhere?  Are there hoverflies in San Jose?

I checked my phone, and indeed, there are a vast variety of species here.  So through Sir David, I have learned another small thing about the world around me: that during the summer, my porch is a display stage for mating hoverflies. I'm not entirely sure why they love my porch so much; it's true that at this time of day, the sunlight pours in and shows them off well, but there must be some other thing that makes them favor it. Perhaps the cream walls make their  performance show up particularly well to the female hoverflies?  Or maybe the walls and roof mean they have a little protection from the insect-hunting birds.

First night of Passover

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.

Discovery of the day

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.

One win for the dead trees

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.

The art of UI design, if you are a moron

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.

Watching an older New Tricks...

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.

Guardians of the Galaxy thoughts

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.


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.

Things I have learned today

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.