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It's the first wedding I've been to with the new wording, about how in this country, marriage is "a union between two people". I was already feeling emotional but teared up at that. (And then they did the reading from Captain Corelli's Mandolin about roots growing together and I just gave in and cried.)
I forgot to pack my smart shoes so given a choice between my (bright yellow) trainers or bare feet I'm going barefoot indoors and soaked a pair of socks for the mandatory family photos outdoors. (I remembered spare socks, of course).
Nico decided to read "Room on the Broom" aloud during the ceremony and Charles couldn't sit still and had a small meltdown about taking photos (lesson identified: more effort by us required in walking through formal events in advance). So I'm a bit embarrassed all round, oh well.
Bride and groom are beautiful and look very happy, and it's lovely to see the family and especially my niblings.
Wait, you hate Lego? I hate Lego too, but that's because I remember the good old days of Lego. Tell me about hating Lego, please! —starlady
OK then. (Fuckin' Lego.)
Some of this is simple childhood stuff, one of a number of things I've been saddled with because my parents parenting peculiarities included impatience — they didn't really like playing with us terribly much, I think, or at least not Lego — a desire to foster independence, and not having a lot of money. And then you combine that with my childhood perfectionism.
How this combined into Lego was: we got pretty cheap, small and boring kits. Like, "here is a small house" kind of thing. We also started getting them young, too young by a couple of years to have the fine motor skills, concentration span and executive function to build Lego. But, when you are a child perfectionist and you're, say, six (and I would have been six, because I remember what house this took place in and for much of the time I was a young child, we moved every year), you of course don't have the kind of perspective on things to think to yourself "I bet this will be fun in a couple of years when I have better fine motor skills, concentration span and executive function!" (I love the phrase 'executive function', I didn't learn it until I was about 30), you think "I suck at Lego, I can't build a house that looks just like the one on the box". And then your impatient independence-fostering parent of choice will advise you that this building stuff from the box thing is silly anyway, why not be creative?
And then you're a child perfectionist who can't make it look like it does on the box nor better than it looks on the box. Welp.
That's really my core Lego-hating experience, frankly. Lego bested me, so I don't like it. I've had some fun (that is, not-fun) trying to explain this to my husband, whose room at his parents house still contains the remnants of his twenty-ish fancy Lego sets: planes and helicopters and such, and who could always build something better than the box because he could always combine two fun kits into a helicopter fire engine (as he did for our son the last time we visited), and he also had an older sibling from whom to poach ideas.
The other part of hating Lego is that it's a really common gift for too-young kids. My son got a lot of it for his fourth birthday party a year ago. On that day, his sister was twenty three days old and people had decided to arm a distractible four year old with teeny tiny choke hazards to evenly scatter through our house? Gee thanks. In addition, he saw the pictures on the box, and he naturally wanted exactly what was on the box, so we painfully built it up for him (one kit took three adults about two hours), and then he'd play vigorously with it for about five seconds and he'd be crying because his new toy was in pieces and I'd be all "NOOOOOOOO LEGOOOOOOO." Not good.
I've actually come to terms with it a touch over the last year, as his concentration and, yes, executive function and whatnot come online a touch more and he's actually had some fun with it and can occasionally put it back together himself. But, yeah. I'm sure it's a good toy for eight to ten year olds whose parents can afford enough kits that they can afford to experiment and the result is fun. And maybe I need to come to terms, because Towers of Tomorrow is in town, and also I suspect that my husband's childhood Lego collection is moving here sooner or later.
Impact of the Railways in Cambridge: Friday 27th Feb from 19:00 to 20:00
Tony Kirby looks at the role of the railway in shaping Cambridge and explores the past and present railway landscape, from the days of steam through dieselization to electrification, and from the Hills Road Bridge to Chesterton Junction, Cherry Hinton and Histon.
CAMRA at the White Horse Inn: Friday 27th Feb from 19:30-21:30
Find out more about the history of brewing in Cambridge while sampling delicious beer from the Moonshine and Black Bar breweries, and enjoy a short tour of current and former Inns in the Castle Hill area.
Surely I'm not the only person who is torn between TRAINS and BEER?
What's Yours Is Mine by Talia Surova
Draw Me In by Talia Surova
Call Me Saffron by Talia Surova (dnf)
I want to like these books but found them infuriating in different ways, but I think that rant is lengthy enough to deserve its own blog post.
Snowball in Hell by Josh Lanyon
This was good! It's a detective novella set in WW2 Los Angeles, which starts with a body found on top of the La Brea Tar Pits. And it is also a gay romance where neither of the protagonists dies or has a miserable ending. There is apparently a sequel planned, and Lanyon has an enormous backlist (as it were) which also seems to be m/m romance in various subgenres. I've put in a library request for the one book in the Cambridgeshire libraries system, and put myself on the author mailing list so I can find out when the sequel to this one is out.
Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch
I was on a roll with reading and remembered this was out, so bought it on impulse. This one is over in the Welsh borders rather than London, and the big spoiler from the end of Broken Homes is mostly in the background of a gripping missing-persons case. I was particularly struck by the vivid sense of location - just as much in this countryside as in London. I think this is one that someone could read without much familiarity with the previous books, because it doesn't really depend on them for context beyond "policeman who can do magic".
One Dance with a Duke by Tessa Dare
One of my freebie romances from earlier in the month, and better than I had expected. I think I'd read one previous novella by this author and not been overly impressed, but I may look out more now.
Trade Me by Courtney Milan
I've already blogged about how much I liked this one.
All I Have by Nicole Helm
This was a nice little romance about a pair of farmers and their competition for custom at the local farmer's market, complete with believably annoying small-town reputations and family preconceptions. I now find it's going to be reissued later this year with extra scenes due to one romance line shutting down and books being bought up by another one. So I'm subbed to another author mailing list to find out when that's available.
Maid to Crave by Rebecca Avery
The Last First Date by Maggie Wells
Light My Fire by Kristina Knight
These three were in the same ebook box set as All I Have but all of them annoyed me / failed to grab me so I didn't finish any of them.
The Siren by Tiffany Reisz
Surprisingly good S&M romance, which was more engaging and more complicated than I expected, and turns out to have half a dozen sequels.
What I'm reading now
The Angel by Tiffany Reisz - sequel to The Siren and equally engaging.
I just bought The Seventh Bride by T Kingfisher and have samples of Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel & The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North, all thanks to people reccing things to me for Hugo consideration. Plus I got the special issue Women Destroy Fantasy! of Fantasy Magazine, and am hoping to borrow a copy of the Kaleidoscope anthology.
(Inspired by this euphoric fever dream.)
There will continue to be nothing that Bitcoin does better than existing systems, apart from money laundering and purchasing illicit goods.
No, not remittances. The expensive bit of Western Union is in fact that last mile.
It will remain difficult to turn your Bitcoins into conventional currency (which is the only reason there's such a spread between exchanges).
It will get even harder to turn your conventional currency into Bitcoins, as any exchange not being run by blatant crooks puts you through the anti-money-laundering mill.
The protocol problems will continue not to be fixed, unless most of the hashing power and Mircea "socks and cocks"* Popescu can be convinced to go along with the Bitcoin Foundation. No 20-meg blocks for you!
99% of current hashing power came online in 2014; this will be very price-sensitive, and much will go offline as the price drops, maybe coming back next hash adjustment.
Miners will continue to sell their coins immediately to cover costs: we are circling equilibrium, where the cost of mining 1 BTC is about 1 BTC. The pool of money to pay for them comes from new Greater Fools.
Transaction irreversibility will remain Bitcoin's sticking point, as speculators who are insufficiently computer-savvy keep getting burnt. "No chargebacks" will continue to repel customers and not attract businesses.
Everyone who bought in the last year and held is a bagholder. Their claims and speculation will get increasingly frenzied. Ask for numbers supporting all claims, particularly the ones in this infographic.
The bagholders and gambling addicts will continue to be taken by obvious scams, e.g. the two Ponzi scheme sites in just the last month.
Altcoins will continue to be even scammier than the Bitcoin ecosphere, boggled as I was to realise this.
The price is presently being held up by speculation and wishful thinking. No new reason will come along. The "fundamentals" are a castle in the air.
Nobody actually wants smart contracts. They know that the plot of Dr. Strangelove is literally an unstoppable smart contract going wrong. Real companies want to retain the option of lawyering out of a stupid deal. The only people who would want smart contracts are businesses looking to screw over their customers even more than "mandatory arbitration" clauses do. This is about as appealing to customers as no chargebacks, for the same reason.
Blockchains, even if by some remarkable wrinkle they turn out useful for something, will not lug Bitcoiners' 33 GB of SatoshiDice penny shavings with them. Bitcoiners will continue to bring up "blockchain technologies" as a reason to bother with Bitcoin regardless, because that's literally all they have.
(Bitcoiners misunderstand that when a techie calls something "interesting" they don't necessarily mean "useful", "feasible" or "practical" — often they mean "what the hell even is that" or "I ain't even mad, that's amazing". The blockchain, particularly as implemented in Bitcoin, is very much the last.)
If you know nothing about Bitcoin and find the above largely confusing, here's the short FAQ and the RationalWiki article (which I started). I'm not such a fan.
* Technically this is blatant ad hominem, but it's definitely a post so amazing it should be linked anywhere his name is mentioned, ever.
Over the last year, I finally joined the “listening to podcasts” bandwagon. It turns out that, like everyone else, I need a commute to up my podcast listening. My ‘commute’ is actually about 2km of walking around my suburb dropping off and picking up kids, but whatever.
Some of my regular podcasts:
Slate Money with Felix Salmon, Cathy O’Neil and Jordan Weissmann (and occasional guests). High finance and business, with occasional forays into gossip from finance journalism (Felix and Jordan) and quant-land (Cathy).
Sample episodes: The Davos Edition with Felix bringing gossip from the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos and The “Smoking Up Behind the Bleachers” Edition talking about the creation of Big Weed and also Taylor Swift not streaming on Spotify. (Clearly, I tend to find finance less interesting than business.)
NPR Planet Money. I find NPR/This American Life house production style somehow strange, it’s really unlike, say, the ABC (Australian version) to the point where I have trouble with, say, 99% Invisible seeming a bit fake or overly polished. But Planet Money avoids the uncanny valley of radio, and apparently money is my thing as a podcast listener.
Sample episodes: Bell Wars about the multi-decade feud between the world’s two handbell manufacturers and We’re Short America in which they continue a tradition of making risky investments, dig up $400 or so and short the S&P 500 for educational purposes.
Galactic Suburbia with Tansy, Alex and Alisa talking speculative fiction and related media for about an hour and a half at a time. They have a weak spot in talking about the politics of speculative fiction because they’re often unwilling to name names (“sometimes bad things happen and I think we can agree that less bad things… would… generally speaking be… better”). Their strength is “culture consumed”: their informal reviews of what they’ve been reading and watching. They also do spoileriffic episodes when they talk about things they’ve all watched/read in huge detail.
Sample episodes: with a typical episode lasting ninety to one hundred and twenty minutes, and no formal scripting, episodes tend to be more variable. But a couple I’ve enjoyed most were Hugo Nominations 2014 and Episode 97: the Veronica Mars movie, which is quite a compliment when I’ve never seen any Veronica Mars, including the movie.
Law Report with Damien Carrick. This is an ABC radio show syndicated as a podcast, dealing with Australian legal issues or Australian perspectives on international legal issues.
Sample episodes: Lex Wotton speaks out about the death of Mulrunji and policing on Palm Island, after having his gag upheld for several years by the High Court. Very important for people interested in human rights in Australia. The problem with ‘Mr Big’ confessions, about the policing technique in which people are enticed to confess crimes to undercover police in the belief they are speaking with a senior crime figure.
Chat 10 Looks 3 with Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales. Gossip, literature and cooking with two very senior Australian women journalists. Sadly, they’ve only recorded five episodes and haven’t committed to doing any more ever.
Sample episodes: Episode 1 with Sales singing show tunes and discussion of the gendered idea of the “art monster” (the person consumed by art and cared for by a wife-cum-mother in every respect) and Episode 5 with Christmas baking and Leigh Sales’s total and complete disinterest in the beautiful birds that live in her yard.
Astronomy Cast with Fraser Cain and Dr. Pamela Gay. They do a little too much of the faux-clueless-host-listener-standin for me (although at least gender-wise it’s Fraser doing it and not Pamela), but, it’s friendly and high quality and ASTRONOMY. Right now they’re doing a series on living women astronomers, who, as usual, aren’t as well known as living men astronomers when their work is equally as good.
Sample episodes: Ep. 353: Seasons on Saturn pretty much single-handedly increased my interest in planetary astronomy to about the size of Saturn, and Ep. 360: Modern Women: Jocelyn Bell Burnell is a very interesting story featuring neutron stars, non-aggressive responses to institutional sexism (which I don’t think are better to be clear, but doesn’t mean Bell Burnell shouldn’t be heard), and male astronomers taking damage to their careers challenging institutional sexism. DID I MENTION NEUTRON STARS?
We are proud of our cultural diversity, and of the cultural activities that celebrate our part and our future.
Unfortunately, the next sentence is not:
In 2021 we will be commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the Tulsa race riot, in which envious, racist white residents killed at least 39 of their black neighbors and destroyed the most prosperous black community in the United States.
And the list of key city attractions -- opera, ballet, the jazz district -- doesn't mention that, as a bonus, if you visit one of Tulsa's parks, you may well be standing on a mass grave.
The scifi conference is requesting submissions of short stories. Alt-history counts....
complete with appropriate change of tune, and then enormous giggles. Apparently Let It Go is his favourite.
(He has been ill for over a week, in a "not very serious, just keep treating the symptoms" kind of way that just keeps dragging on, and he woke up in a foul temper this morning, but he is pretty cheerful right now.)
I started reading Courtney Milan for her historical romances, and I was particularly smitten with the Brothers Sinister series, set in Oxford and Cambridge during the late 1800s, with women mathematicians, scientists, newspaper editors (and the aristocratic men who fall for them). She does all the emotional connection and struggle and happy endings that I love reading romance for, while quietly including a whole range of characters who aren't just aristocratic white straight neurotypical people with perfect mental health.
Trade Me is a billionaire novel. There are lots of billionaire novels, especially since Fifty Shades of Grey and mostly I ignore them because I find conspicuous consumption and rescue narratives a turn-off. But this is a Courtney Milan billionaire novel so I couldn't wait to see what she did with it.
And I loved it.
The trouble is, the things I especially loved are basically spoilers. So let me see. It's a trading-places novel, where Blake, the heir to a huge tech company swaps his life with that of Tina, a poor immigrant fellow student, only he isn't doing it for laughs and she insists they make a proper agreement, and they become friends and eventually a romance happens. The novel isn't very fond of the "rich man rescues poor woman from poverty" narrative, and Tina isn't passive or a victim or stupid, and Blake is a rich boy with a problem, but not in a woobie manpain way.
So you have Blake washing dishes to pay rent on Tina's horrible bedsit and trying to figure out his problem, and Tina planning the new top-secret product launch and worrying about her family. (And the actual tech product launch scene, very near the end of the book, is brilliant and funny and spot on and I kind of want to get fanf to read the book even though he doesn't really like romances, just so I can laugh about it with him.) There are lovely minor characters, and people feel believable, and there isn't any minor character being one-dimensionally horrible to provide artificial conflict, and the ending is great and doesn't tie everything up happily ever after.
I am so glad that there are two more books in this series, and I am particularly excited for book 2 and the characters it's apparently going to focus on. I also want to see more about how Tina and Blake and their families go on from where they've got to at the end of this book.
Two other things of note:
- There is a trans character who just happens to be trans, and it only gets mentioned as a background thing to explain a particular response to a conversation. That character has way more lines/scenes that aren't about their being trans.
- There is extensive portrayal of an eating disorder. I think it's a portrayal done well, but it's unavoidably there in the story.
Reading the latest book by a favourite author
Running away from zombies
Getting up early
Oilseed rape in hayfever season
This is assuming:
a) running away from zombies as in Zombies, Run! not an actual zombie apocalypse. It edges ahead of steam trains because all I need to indulge is a smartphone and suitable clothing, rather than an entire railway.
b) the children stay asleep when I get up, so I can have some peace and quiet
- The Neon Genesis Evangelion fanfic "Advice and Trust"'s version of Ayanami Rei
- Nessie Ladle
- Steam locomotives
- Undercooked Aubergine
- Saying positive things about myself
- Getting up early
- Eating paper
- Running away from zombies
- Having my brain eaten
 Shinji x Asuka, very WAFFy.
Running away from zombies
Getting up early
Oilseed rape in hayfever season
Original rules (reorder, add one new item at the top and one at the bottom)
mutated rules (reorder, remove one item, and add three more, one at the top, one at the bottom, and one somewhere in the middle)
World of Warcraft
Running away from zombies
Getting up early
Strange Horizons and Tor.com have a helpful archive of fiction sortable by date.
ladybusiness have a Hugo-eligible spreadsheet sourced from recommendations to them, which I may use for preference as someone obviously already liked the things on it enough to recommend them.
But here is your chance to push something at me to read / watch / otherwise consume between now and 9th March :-) Ideally not something I already have on my placeholder post.
Recommend me an sf novel (or two!) published in 2014
Recommend me some shorter-length sf (do not worry about the exact categories) published in 2014
Recommend me an sf film (or two!) released in 2014
Recommend me some short-form sf drama released in 2014
Recommend me one (or more!) sf graphic novel published in 2014
Prisoner by Lia Silver
Laura's Wolf by Lia Silver
These are turning into comfort rereads for me. Also I haven't got over getting a Yuletide gift from the author :-)
Night School: Legacy by CJ Daugherty
This is book 2 in a series about a boarding school for the teenage children of the rich and powerful. It was due back at the library and I started it in a bit of an impatient mood with it and its tropes (undecided between two boys! beautiful mean girls! secret society secretly runs the world!), but eventually the storytelling drew me in and I finished it in a rush before it was library-run time. I don't think I will bother with the rest of the series though.
Fool for Love by Eloisa James
A fairly fun regency romance; second in a series. I find the style a little stilted and the plots completely silly, but there's a lot of charm and I'm a sucker for farce, which I think James does very well. Also though each one has its own "complete" romance story, there's at least three or four more going on in a more long-winded way among the wider cast, and I do want to see those resolved too. (I am not sure why I'm tolerating the romance tropes here better than the young adult ones in "Night School", but I am.)
Seven Kinds of Hell by Dana Cameron
Pack of Strays by Dana Cameron
Books 1 & 2 in an urban fantasy series (the third is due out at the end of March) about a trainee archaologist who discovers she's part of a Family, of werewolves and vampires and oracles. They're both fast moving with fairly complicated plots and the archaology is intermittently vital to the plot. The viewpoint protagonist is believably confused and flailing and trying to do the right thing even as it gets harder to figure out what that is.
I enjoyed them very much and I've preordered the next one. I have to thank davidgillon for bringing them to my attention (and writing a better review than I've managed here).
Hostage by Rachel Manija Brown & Sherwood Smith
This is the sequel to Stranger, which came out only a short while ago, and which I liked very much. I probably liked this one even more: it raises the stakes, develops the characters and the world a bit further, and has some lovely culture-shock exploration, between the small-town democratic society of Las Anclas, vs the power, wealth and control of the nearby Empire that threatens it. We lost the Mean Girl viewpoint from the first book (though we see her from other points of view) in favour of a new character from the Empire.
The authors have self-published this sequel, after getting the first published through a traditional route, and Sherwood Smith has published a thoughtful piece about that decision, which I think is worth reading if you are generally interested in what's happening with publishing, even if not in post-apocalyptic young-adult novels, or these ones in particular.
Selfishly, I'm glad that this sequel came out so quickly, and I do rather hope both books sell enough that the remaining two books planned can get written too.
Worth the Fall by Claudia Connor
I bought this on the basis of its mention in a podcast transcript by Smart Bitches Trashy Books (the main podcast discussion is on trigger warnings for rape, but this was in the "what have you read recently" bit), and enjoyed it very much. The romance is between a pregnant widow, with four children already, and a Navy SEAL, and it could have been awful, but the way the children in particular were written felt realistic and not-annoying to me, and the romance worked well and showed the two of them having to work their way through conflicts and life-changing decisions if they're going to make things work. It was the SEAL end of things I found less believable, in particular the Last Minute Dramatic Tension about 9/10 of the way through. But overall it worked for me really well, and there's a sequel out in about two weeks which I've preordered.
No idea, something else easy, ideally off my to-read pile, as I'm still ill.