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1. D fed me Order of the Stick (which I'm still in the process of reading), and as a result I've been playing a lot of NetHack. (I'm really bad at it -- the sort of careful thinking-through of potential options when that leocrotta shows up isn't my forte, and I die a lot.) NetHack... can be a sort of interesting laboratory for studying probability, if you play enough. Sometimes you get that wand of wishing on an early level. And sometimes you get the master mind flayer.

2. I'm really grateful that I know and understand elementary statistics and can apply Bayes' Rule correctly. I suppose it doesn't actually make my life any easier, really, but I like knowing what I'm getting into.

3. It doesn't actually stop me from occasional stupid emotionally-fallacious thoughts about probability, although it does mean that I can hit myself on the head when I catch myself doing this. God, I think human beings are wired not to understand probability.

4. Via [personal profile] metaphortunate, Che Fece ... Il Gran Rifiuto (Constantine Cavafy):
For some people the day comes
when they have to declare the great Yes
or the great No. It’s clear at once who has the Yes
ready within him; and saying it,

he goes from honor to honor, strong in his conviction.
He who refuses does not repent. Asked again,
he’d still say no. Yet that no—the right no—
drags him down all his life.


It has stuck in my head, I think, because it is true.
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At the end of National Put Quotes in Your Blog Month, it is traditional for me to post an unattributed list of quotations referenced by our household during the month of February for people to guess. So here you are! I'll add the attributions to this post on Monday. (I think that, for whatever reason, this year's are easier than those of other years', but we'll see.)

1. [redacted]'s domestic disaster was provably not [redacted]'s fault, yes!

2. [Redacted] was a much classier creation, [redacted] thought with a silent sigh of envy. [Redacted] could take the Admiral out to parties, introduce him to women, parade him in public almost anywhere...

3. And he found something sticking out of the snow that made a new track. It was a stick.

4. This was a triumph.
I'm making a note here:
HUGE SUCCESS.
It's hard to overstate
my satisfaction.

5. "I too have stolen a cake."

"You have burned fingers, then. And when you're starving on the waste water between the far isles you'll think of that cake and say, Ah! had I not stolen that cake I might eat it now, alas!—I shall eat my brother's, so he can starve with you—"

"Thus is Equilibrium maintained."

6. -Occasionally it seems to have... oh, how shall one say... How shall one say, Director?

-Too many notes, your majesty?

-Exactly. Very well put. Too many notes.

-I don't understand. There are just as many notes, Majesty, as are required, neither more nor less.

7. "Are two types of jokes. One sort goes on being funny forever. Other sort is funny once. Second time it's dull... Use it once, you're a wit. Use twice, you're a halfwit."

8. -These [balloons] blow up into funny shapes and all?
-Well no... not unless round is funny.

9. "...but have yeh seen anythin', Ronan. Anythin' unusual."

"Mars is bright tonight," Ronan repeated... "Unusually bright."

"Yeah, but I was meanin' anythin' unusual a bit nearer home."

10. Later... when is later?
All you ever hear is "Later..."

..."Oh, that lawyer's son, the one who mumbles.
Short and boring, yes, he's hardly worth ignoring,
And who cares if he's all dammed--"
I beg your pardon-- "Up inside?"

ETA: Sorry for the delay; answers here. )

NPQiYBM

Feb. 14th, 2012 07:25 am
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With apologies to Heather for using the same source (but hey, great minds think alike): Happy Valentine's Day!

I never have known love but as a kiss
In the mid-battle, and a difficult truce
Of oil and water, candles and dark night,
Hillside and hollow, the hot-footed sun,
And the cold sliding, slippery-footed moon--
A brief forgiveness between opposites
That have been hatreds for three times the age
Of this long-'stablished ground.
-On Baile's Strand, Yeats

And, on a sillier note: a video. My husband showed this to me on our anniversary last year, because we share his, um, slightly unconventional view of romance, probably because we know a little statistics...

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Salieri: Mozart, it was good of you to come!
Mozart: How could I not?
Salieri: How... Did my work please you?
Mozart: [hesitantly] I never knew that music like that was possible!
Salieri: [uncertainly] You flatter me.
Mozart: [getting into it] No, no! One hears such sounds, and what can one say but... "Salieri."

-Amadeus (Shaffer)
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Cheer up, Hamlet; chin up, Hamlet; buck up, you melancholy Dane!
So your uncle is a cad who murdered Dad and married Mum.
That's really no excuse to be as glum as you've become!
So wise up, Hamlet; rise up, Hamlet; perk up and sing a new refrain.
Your incessant monologizing fills the castle with ennui.
Your antic disposition is embarrassing to see.
And by the way, you sulky brat, the answer is to be!
You're driving poor Ophelia insane.
So shut up, you rogue and peasant; grow up, it's most unpleasant;
cheer up, you melancholy Dane!

Richard: Geoffrey, I am worried about the future of the entire festival. Now: what is the point of putting on a play if no one comes to see it?
Geoffrey: Which would you prefer: an empty house with a great play, or a full house with a piece of garbage?
Richard: GARBAGE! GARBAGE! I want GARBAGE!

Darren Nichols: I must say, I've fallen in love with the musical genre. It's the art-form of the common man. If you want to communicate something with the proletariat, cover it in sequins and make it sing. It's noisy, vulgar and utterly meaningless—I love it!

Geoffrey: There will be struggle. There will be sacrifice. There will be tears, there will be the occasional fistfight. And in the end, there will be transformation.

-Slings and Arrows (assorted episodes)


You guys, I know I have talked about nothing else for months... I finally watched the pilot of Smash (it is on youtube and also on NBC's site) and just loved it. It's pretty clearly a not-particularly-deep soap opera, mind you, but a soap opera about Broadway WITH BROADWAY MUSIC; therefore, I loved it. (And I am incredibly bored by Glee.) Because, I guess, shows about serious putting-on-a-show really speak to me.

It isn't nearly as this is clearly really awesome as Slings and Arrows (from which all the above quotes are taken -- I could not pick just one) -- which you should all go watch right now, by the way; it's got the dialogue-and-humor awesomeness of the West Wing coupled with the creating-a-production themes of Smash as well as performances of Shakespeare. Smash has neither S&A's amazing dialogue and humor nor its deep treatment of performance themes (which is what I was really hoping for), and the Marilyn Monroe musical is fun but not particularly amazing (the Hamlet lyrics above are much more impressive than any of the Smash lyrics)... but the show speaks to the same parts of my psyche as S&A (it made me utterly bouncy to see how much all the characters clearly loved the musical world), and I actually liked it more than I liked the pilot of S&A, because the characters are more likeable, even if S&A's pilot impressed me a lot more.

There is some suspension of disbelief required to put Katherine McPhee on anything like the same plane in Broadway acting ability as Megan Hilty (who is gorgeous and wonderful and I just wanted to jump up and down every time she was on screen -- although to be perfectly fair her voice sounds a little hoarser than McPhee's, but it may just be an artifact of a naturally lower voice?). Hilty is perfectly, perfectly cast. Have I mentioned how much I adore her? Christian Borle was also perfectly cast. He gets to do a lot of very nice acting with a character who has his good points and bad points too -- it looks like he really has a much larger part than it looked like in the previews -- and he does not have to sing anything seriously, which is also a good thing. (But, since he's the songwriter, it looks like he will still get to sing on occasion, not seriously. Which is also a Good Thing.) Everyone else is really, really good, but I was really watching it for those two. (Although I never noticed before what a big nose Borle has!)

I loved Hilty's line "It was amazing getting the chance to work with you!" Just the way she says it, and her expression... it is totally clear what she means. Also, in breaking news, I love Hilty.

I WANT MORE HILTY/MCPHEE DUETS please thanks.

I am so pleased that the love interest gets to be a non-white boy!

Also, ahahahaha Spider-man jokes!

Why random house boy is in all the audition scenes, I DO NOT KNOW. That was the one extremely jarring note for me.

So, definitely going to keep watching it. It could get better, and it could also get a lot worse (especially if they start piling on the cliches -- there were definite directions that way in the pilot). We'll see.

(Also... I have to go back now to S&A and watch Richard Smith-Jones! And Anna! And Geoffrey Tennant! And who could forget Darren! It's been too long.)

NPQiYBM

Feb. 7th, 2012 08:52 pm
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Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, Lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk and pass our long love's day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Shouldst rubies find: I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood,
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow...

-Andrew Marvell, "To His Coy Mistress"

I am ashamed to admit that this came into my head today because, well, my old boyfriend S. once had to read the LeGuin story "Vaster Than Empires, And More Slow," the title of which, not knowing the Marvell poem, he immediately assumed must refer to the post office... Anyway, I went to the post office today, and no guesses as to the relative swiftness of the transaction.
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There are three things that will beggar the heart and make it crawl--faith, hope, and love--and the cruelest of these is love.

3+/5 (subject to sequel revision). I finished my first Valente! So this is a book that I would never have read except on iPod. I read this in dribbles and drabbles while getting my hair cut, in airports, while getting gas for the car, and so on.

I had sort of a weird reaction to this book. It took me a really loooong time to get into it, for one thing, which is why I had to read it on iPod. I don't know that I take well to Valente's style. I mean, she is clearly a good writer, but I think that writers with distinct styles tend to polarize people into "love" and "don't love," and I'm definitely in the "don't love" camp with respect to Valente. (McKillip, who has a similar lyrical style, is totally in the "love" camp for me, although I certainly know a number of people who put her in the "don't love" pile. I have no idea why I love one and not the other.)

Then, around the third-to-halfway point, I decided I was kind of in love with its strange Pentexoreans and their ways of dealing with immortality.

Then, a little more than halfway through, it decided to turn into a Polemic Against Christianity, and I was all... uhhh, okay, what? What upset me about this development was not the polemic itself, which was annoying but not particularly upsetting (annoying not least because the beginning of the book had me hoping for some at least quasi-deep theological discussion), but the part where it seemed to be putting itself forward as avant-garde and daring for pointing out the flaws in Christianity. Um, no. About seven hundred years too late to be avant-garde (the Divine Comedy did it earlier and better), and almost thirty years too late to be daring (in the 80's Mists of Avalon might have sort-of been daring for pointing out the patriarchial hypocrisies of Christianity, but these days... not so much). Also, it annoyed me that the Pentexoreans are basically sophisticated twenty-first-century voices. Prester John himself is extraordinarily irritating, because his character is basically that of Stupid Ignorant StrawmanFundamentalist!Christian who gets his mind blown. Part of my irritation is that apparently John had read pretty much zero theology, because any early christian church theologian worth his salt could have come up with way better answers than John did when the Pentexorians asked him theology questions. You can imagine that conversations where a twenty-first-century sophistication is asking a really, really stupid and ignorant guy questions are at best demolishing of straw men and at worst John sitting around stammering, "Uh, okay, guess you're right."

Then, a little further, and the book turned (well, somewhat; the Christian-bashing is still around; for example, the above quote is a beautifully done dark take on Paul -- but, um, sort of a set piece) into something else... a rumination on immortality and identity, and that part was really awesome.

Then I got almost to the end, and the Christianity part started to actually get interesting, and then... everything sort of ended in the middle and mushed into a pulp. (Actually, it mushes into a literal fictional pulp, but anyway.) ... I don't know what I think, because this is book 1 of a (three-part?) series, and I have no idea of how much of the stuff that abruptly ended in the middle is going to be taken up in subsequent books, but I suspect not the parts that I thought were really interesting... but maybe so, in which case I'll be pretty excited.

And then I got to the end, and Plot Happened, and Setup for Next Book happened, and, okay, whoa, yeah.

So in the end, I liked it, enough that I'll probably read the next two books. But it was a bit of a rollercoaster for me. And I suspect after reading the second and third books there will be backaction on my opinion of the first, though I do not know what it will be.

I think those who already love Valente will really love this book. I think those who have more than a passing familiarity with Christian theology will be annoyed by this book. I think that those who have no opinion on the first two things, but who like fantastical writing, will like this book very much, probably more than I did. I think (and am living proof) that it is possible to be annoyed by this book and still be impressed by it.
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First come I. My name is J-W-TT.
There’s no knowledge but I know it.
I am Master of this college:
What I don’t know isn’t knowledge.

-attributed to Henry Charles Beeching


I am pleased to participate in the fourth (whoa, already?) National Put Quotes in Your Blog Month (henceforth NPQiYBM), even though every year I intend to save up quotations for February, and every year I forget. Every post this month will have a quotation in it, though, so there.

In totally random news, just because I am so excited about it, I finally took my violin to get its stripped screw replaced, got it back today, and now I have a violin with working tuner pegs for the first time in my adult life. It is so awesome I cannot even tell you. I've only ever had the one full-sized violin, and the violin shop we used to take it to for tune-ups apparently didn't know the right thing to do, or lubricant to use, or something. I was vaguely aware that no one else seemed to have these kinds of problems, but then I kind of thought I was just awful at violin-tuning until the guy at the shop frowned and said, "Wow, this is really bad."

In other totally random news, [personal profile] ricardienne linked me to the Vorkosiverse Impromptu Poetry Battle! (The epigram above is satirized in that thread, in case you were wondering why it is here.)
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It's getting near the end of February, so I thought I'd do another overheard-in-our-household quiz thingie -- some version of all of these quotes were spoken in our household during the month of February. Books and movies both are fair game, with one from a musical. Frighteningly enough, more of the quotations are not from books than are, which is really Just Wrong, but oh well. I'll do an update to this post on Monday with the answers.

1. 'You're altogether too full of bobance and bounce and high spirits. You've got to learn that life isn't all fricasseed frogs and eel pie.'

2. "Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life."

3. "He lay there like a slug. It was his only defense."

4. "Well, I'm back."

5. Then wear the gold hat, if that will move her;
If you can bounce high, bounce for her too,
Till she cry “Lover, gold-hatted, high-bouncing lover,
I must have you!”

6. Nigel Tufnel: The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and...
Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to ten?
Nigel Tufnel: Exactly.
Marty DiBergi: Does that mean it's louder? Is it any louder?
Nigel Tufnel: Well, it's one louder, isn't it? It's not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You're on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you're on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?
Marty DiBergi: I don't know.
Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
Marty DiBergi: Put it up to eleven.
Nigel Tufnel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.
Marty DiBergi: Why don't you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?
Nigel Tufnel: [pause] These go to eleven.

7. Don't squeeze your bosoms against the chair, dear! It'll stunt their growth, and then where would you be?

ETA: Answers here. )
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"Rewarding the good," Delia said, "and punishing the wicked."

Dev gave her a dry look. "Would that everything was so binary," he said.


This is a Duane-tries-to-channel-Vinge book about a big Google-esque MMORPG company. I always enjoy reading Duane -- I got to her from her Star Trek novels and have been happily reading all the Wizard books since high school.

Part of what I enjoy about Duane is that, contrary to the quotation above, Duane is awfully binary -- there are the good guys, the defenders of Truth, Right, and the Way of Good -- and the bad guys, the Bringers of Evil and Entropy and So On. And you never get them confused. Oh, the evil guys are human (well, except the non-human ones) and even somewhat sympathetic, and at the end there's always the chance of redemption (though sometimes they don't take it). But these are not morally ambiguous books. And sometimes that's just what I want.

One unfortunate thing that I've noticed in a lot of her other work, but that annoyed me more in this book (probably because it's near-future SF), is a certain... sloppiness. The biggest example: one of the main plots of the book has to do with one of the villains planning to wait for a large drop in the share price of Our Heroes' company and then proceeding to buy up all the stock on the sly until he has a voting majority. This didn't seem quite right to me, and indeed a quick google search shows that you can't do this -- you have to file with the SEC if you want to buy out a company like this, giving other people the chance to bid on it. In real life, if The Villain tried to do this, either the SEC would come down on him (and all the proxies he was using) hard if he didn't file, and if he did, other people would get wind of it and bid up the share price. So either way it's not really a workable plan.

Here's another minor example.

Across its great lintel was graven in very perfect Trajan Roman letters the first part of the ancient warning: FACILE DESCENSUS AVERNO... Above the door was the space in which some wit three years ago had written (in beautifully drafted archaic Latin) that other famous Dantean quote, Abandon hope all ye who enter here.

Yes, I'm a Dante fanatic, so this will annoy me more than other (uh, sane) people. But look at all the problems here! I'll pass by the mistranslation of Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'entrate because it's so common, and because I don't know Latin I'll just note briefly that google gave me facilis instead of facile, but more than that, the first quote is from Virgil, not from Dante, and even more than that, Dante wrote the Divine Comedy in Italian! The whole point of the Divine Comedy is that it's not in Latin!

(Also, when I was typing in the top quote, I really, really wanted to change it to the proper subjunctive. But never mind.)

Anyway. Rant aside, I think I do best with Duane when I take her SF and translate it into a sort of simplified fantasy world (which is arguably what her Wizard books already are). Her Trek novels submit to this admirably, and Omnitopia Dawn, as well, read as a fantasy (where we don't have to worry about SEC filings and such) is a much better book than as a near-future-SF work.
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I had finally come to see that Coco was an animal, with intrinsically far less potential than Sophia and Lulu. Although it is true that some dogs are on bomb squads or drug-sniffing teams, it is perfectly fine for most dogs not to have a profession or even any special skills.

Naturally, both girls felt the book shortchanged them. "You should definitely dedicate this book to Lulu," Sophia once said magnaminously. "She's obviously the heroine. I'm the boring one readers will cheer against. She's the one with verve and panache." And from Lulu: "Maybe you should call your book The Perfect Child and the Flesh-Eating Devil. Or Why Oldest Children Are Better. That's what it's about, right?"

Okay, so if you have kids or are Asian, and don't live under a rock -- probably even if only one of those applies -- you have heard of this book. So there was the WSJ excerpt declaring the superiority of "Chinese moms," the huge backlash, and the backpedaling by Chua pointing out that in fact her book wasn't like that, and somewhere in the middle of this my sister bought it, and so of course I read it too.

And Chua's right, it's nothing like the WSJ excerpt. It's... actually... really good, painfully aware of her shortcomings and inconsistencies as a mother, and howlingly funny, although judging from some of the reviews I've read, perhaps sometimes the humor can only be appreciated if you yourself have had a "Chinese mom." (She defines a "Chinese mom" as the highly controlling, highly demanding behavior that tends to characterize Asian-American parenting, and does not of course restrict it to Chinese moms alone; similarly, she talks about "Western parenting" as the opposite lenient choice-based model.)

The funniest part was when she tried to apply Chinese parenting to their dog. The first quotation above is pitch-perfect "Chinese-mom" resignation; my (Korean) mom has probably said almost exactly the same thing about both the Kid and me. The ending, where she is talking to her daughters and ends up in a rant against Western moms ending with calling the Founding Fathers Chinese, while her daughters point out she's being overwrought and rather silly, is priceless.

Also, my sister and I agreed that a) Amy Chua sounds exactly like our mom in personality and temperament, and probably our mom would have been exactly like that had she been born in the US and married to a Jewish guy and a law professor at Yale instead of a stay-at-home mom in NC, b) as it was Amy Chua was actually crazier than our mom -- at least we got vacations from practicing when we went on short vacations, and c) Sophia and Lulu reminded us a lot of us; we would totally have had similar comments as the above had our mom written a book about our childhoods.

One thing Chua mentions sometimes briefly but doesn't really dwell on, but which I think is key (and which assumption runs throughout her book -- she says to Lulu, at the climax, "We're giving up the violin," not "You can give up the violin"), is that success is really a joint family effort in the "Chinese-parenting" household in a way it's not in the "Western-parenting" household. My family is extremely close in a way that D finds a little unnerving, and any success we have is a team effort. I'm serious. I was editing the English in my dad's work reports when my English skills got better than his up until he retired, and I was expected to have a turnaround in hours unless I had something else more important going on. Similarly, when I need something from my parents I expect them to put it at the top of their priority list and deal with it Right Now. My mom even volunteered to look after E. for the first year of her life (we didn't take her up on it, but wow). Along the same lines, when my sister and I applied to college our essays were subjected to intense scrutiny and editing by the other three of us, not to mention my dad dragged his half-brother into reading them as well. No, no one wrote them for us, but yes, there was heavy revision going on. Because if I get into a good college that glory reflects on the whole family, and the whole family is invested in me. Et cetera.

I believe that this plays in with the concept of control. The problem is that there's a huge power disparity between parents and kids, so "I am invested in your success," which I think is a very positive thing, can too easily become "Let me control you so as to maximize your success, because I know better because I'm the parent" which is... I think, not as good, even if the parent does know best. Chua tries to have total control over her kids and it backfires spectacularly with Lulu. My mom had a somewhat similar thing with both of us.

What's the takeaway message? Chua and I are both conflicted on this. On one hand I feel it's important for kids to do things they don't necessarily want to do, like practice. Also, I will have high standards for E. and any other kids we might have -- I don't think they should get a report card grade of B until at least high school (and probably then too), absent a clear reason, and will view it as a family failure (see above on joint family effort :) ) should it happen. On the other hand, I also think it's important for kids to have autonomy and be able to make their own choices. I don't know where the line ought to be drawn. D's family all turned out amazingly well and rather better emotionally equipped than the Kid and I, so that may be a good place to start -- on the other hand, I have this musical skill that I feel has enriched my life dramatically, and D and his siblings don't have it, so there's that.

This book actually makes me want to go find my mom and dad and sister and give them big hugs, because it reminded me so much of my extremely- (sometimes the Kid and I say too!-) close relationship with them.

NPQiYBM

Feb. 7th, 2011 02:15 pm
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Okay, I haven't much been doing the name-the-quote thing that [livejournal.com profile] julianyap has been. Here's a name-the-author, anyway.

Child

Your clear eye is the one absolutely beautiful thing.
I want to fill it with color and ducks,
The zoo of the new

Whose names you meditate —
April snowdrop, Indian pipe,
Little

Stalk without wrinkle,
Pool in which images
Should be grand and classical

Not this troublous
Wringing of hands, this dark
Ceiling without a star.

(What a heartbreaking poem, especially if you know who wrote it and when she wrote it. I came across this today while reading Sheila O'Malley's blog, which I love and have been following off and on (more off than on recently, alas) for several years now.)

ETA: Sylvia Plath. Written two weeks before her suicide.
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There was a dead silence. In fact, the silence was so very dead that Abdullah realized that the sixty ears... [mild spoilers redacted]... anyway, that all these ears were at that moment focused entirely upon what he and Flower-in-the-Night were saying.

"Talk among yourselves!" he shouted.

The silence became uneasy. It was broken by the elderly princess saying, "The most distressing thing about being up here above the clouds is that there is no
weather to make conversation out of." -Castle in the Air

Of course I liked all of these. I've never met a DWJ I didn't like! (Um, well, okay, a couple with squicky large-age-power-disparity relationships, but that just meant I hated the romance, not the writing.)

Enchanted Glass: A nice sweet little book, though nothing special. The thing I like about DWJ is that even when you're old enough you can guess the plot far quicker and easier than when you were little, it's still worth reading.

Castle in the Air: Reread. This book was way more charming than I remembered -- I think part of my previous disappointment was that I was expecting it, well, to be a straight sequel to Howl's Moving Castle. But, of course, DWJ doesn't do straight sequels. Much better to think of it as a book that takes place in the universe of HMC, with some shared characters, as I did this time around, and I really liked it.

House of Many Ways: I liked Castle in the Air better, but this one did have the quality, rare in DWJ books, that there was no extra-powerful character come to save the day in the end. (Think about it. Almost all her books are like this. The Undying, the Chrestomanci, etc. Howl counts in HMC, since from the POV of the main character he's extra-powerful.)
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[livejournal.com profile] julianyap has once again declared National Put Quotes in Your Blog Month, so I'm going to put one in every post I make this month.

"Truth is all I have, and truth is never a comfort. But understanding truth, that is what you taught me to do. So here is the truth. What human life is, what it's for, what we do, is create communities. Some of them are good, some of them are evil, or somewhere between. You taught me this, didn't you?"

-Diko to her mother Tagiri, Pastwatch

[livejournal.com profile] winterfox had a very interesting post. It's locked, I think [EDITED: unfortunately, has been deleted], but here are the money quotes:
...even in fairytales where the girl is the one setting out to rescue the boy (i.e. "The Snow Queen"), the alpha and omega of her desires--her person, her motive, her dreams--is still a man.
And
It's like, a lot of authors who think they are being feminist and shit don't... quite get the point: their female protagonists, rather than forming strong relationships with other women, are defined by their relations with men. Their fathers shaped them from childhood. Their boyfriends give them a reason to exist. It's all... proper.

Oh, sure, their dads supposedly taught them to be progressive and enlightened and strong and shit, but why not their mothers? It could just easily have been. Or their older sisters, or their aunts. Whatever. Why can't these super-feisty heroines grow up with female role models?

My first reaction was, "Ah, that can't be so!" and then I went to look at my bookshelf. Cut for randomness and rantiness )
And ending with a strong-female-friendship quote in honor of NPQiYBM:

It finally dawned on her that their exaggerated courtesies signified respect.

It made her furious. All Kareen’s courage of endurance had bought her nothing, Lady Vorpatril’s brave and bloody birth-giving was taken for granted, but whack off some idiot’s head and you were really somebody, by God—!

2-5-11: ETA link to unlocked post, above.
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The little food machine (whom I shall also probably refer to as Princess Baby The First) is quiet right now for once, so I shall indulge myself with a quick post instead of doing the sixteen other things I really ought to be doing. (By the way, this post is dedicated to Harvey Karp's Happiest Baby on the Block, without which you would not be getting a post at all. YAY SWADDLING.)

Once again Deaver was alone on the boundary between the pageant wagon and the town, belonging to neither-- yet now, because of the show, belonging a little to both.

From Orson Scott Card's Folk of the Fringe, which I reread the first week post-delivery. Dystopian-future-SF short stories featuring Mormons and non-Mormons. I think it's amazing stuff, and reads much better now I'm in my 30's than it did when I was in my teens. I wish Card had gone more this way-- I enjoy hearing what he has to say about community (and family as a subset of community) and belonging, but he doesn't do nearly as much of that anymore, choosing instead to focus explicitly on Families Forever. Mind you, I do think Card is at his best when he writes about Mormons, in fact, because it frees him up to actually, you know, think about ideas (and almost all of his Mormon-centric stuff has stuff that contraindicates theology for a True Believer), as opposed to Giving You a Lecture.

"Powers preserve me from thickheaded, self-centered, cocky teenage wizards!"

Diana Wynne Jones, The Merlin Conspiracy. If this isn't a shout-out to Harry Potter (the publication date is 2003) I'll be very surprised, although of course in context it has nothing to do with HP. I really, really liked this one. (Though [livejournal.com profile] nolly, I suspect this is the DWJ you read which made you decide you might not like DWJ. If so, all I can say is, yeah, you're probably right.) Any other author would be content with one-tenth of the imagination DWJ has, and it's in full display in this book, which pulls in Arthurian tropes, Welsh tropes, a world with a lot of hard radiation, the Little People, and an elephant, among other things. It's a sort of vague sequel to Deep Secret, which I didn't realize until after finishing it, and honestly it stands rather better on its own than as a sequel (where is any mention of Maree?) - but I just love the mad rush of ideas, plus which DWJ has that elusive quality that I absolutely love, where her descriptions can go between prosaic-English to wild-elegant-Welsh, with humor as well:

"Forgive me," [the King] said, looking up at the Count of Blest. "I haven't exactly done well, have I?"
"Others have done almost as badly," the Count of Blest said, quite kindly, riding on.


Speaking of humor, I just reread the Attolia trilogy-so-far (Megan Whalen Turner). My favorite bit has always been

"...and I threw an ink jar at his head."
..."I had not pictured you for a fishwife."
"Lo, the transforming power of love."


These books are The Best. Oh, well, The Thief is mildly entertaining, but I don't love it with overwhelming passion the way I do Queen of Attolia (though YES, I have vast trouble with the relationship) and King of Attolia (which I just love, partially because I pretend like some of the relationship from the previous book does not exist, or is tamped down a couple notches), though one must read The Thief to get to the good stuff in the later two books. Although, as [livejournal.com profile] julianyap points out, Gen is rather a Gary Stu, I love them madly anyway -- Turner has a precise, elegant way of writing; and her elegant plots remind me of Bujold's or Brust's in the neat way they hang together. Really, these are some of my favorite books (maybe top 20 or so) I am SO psyched for Conspiracy of Kings, due out at the end of March. If you have not read them you should go read them right away. Just be warned about The Thief not being quite as good, and Queen having the somewhat disturbing relationship thing (though, when I think about it, somewhat less disturbing than Twilight).
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[livejournal.com profile] julianyap reminds me it is National Put Quotes in Your Blog Month, so, a freebie:

"You don't pay back your parents. You can't. The debt you owe them gets collected by your children, who hand it down in turn. It's a sort of entailment. Or if you don't have children of the body, it's left as a debt to your common humanity. Or to your God, if you possess or are possessed by one." -Bujold, A Civil Campaign

That is to say, Elena [mylastname] [D'slastname] was born 25 January 2010, 9 lb 4 oz (eek!... that was maybe a little too big for me, although resulting in a gorgeous large baby). She is a very good baby, not fussy except when her needs are not being met. (And still we have been super overwhelmed and stressed, and I know saying that is an invitation for her to develop colic in a couple of weeks... but she is a very good baby right now! Not that we always understand what her needs are...) My mom is here and is helping out a lot, and D's mom is coming as well pretty soon.
cahn: (Default)
National Put Quotes in Your Blog Month has expired, but I started writing this post in February...

His despair seemed to melt and pool inside him, until he could almost congratulate himself that he was no longer desperate, but simply demoralized and depressed -- emotions entirely accepted, even expected, in the lab.

This quotation from Allegra Goodman's Intuition captures a large part of what captivated me about this book -- it shows what it's like to do research. It simultaneously made me miss research (there's nothing like the high of discovering something) and be very very glad I don't do pure research anymore.

Yeah, so this book impressed the heck out of me. It's mainstream fic (which surprised me; I was expecting science fiction, but it's actually rather that rare beast, fiction about science) about a research lab and what happens when friction erupts in the lab over a postdoc's experiments, until it has ramifications that go well beyond the one postdoc.

But what really impresses me about this book is this: I believe quite strongly that there are empirical facts about the world that do not change. Either an experiment worked or it didn't. But people are complicated. A given empirical fact, say, a conversation between person Alpha and Beta, can to person Alpha say something about herself. Person Beta may look at that same conversation and conclude something different about Person Alpha. And the thing is, they might both be right. Because people are complicated. (And to take it a step further, it may be true that Person Beta's conclusion about Person Alpha says something, moreover, about Person Beta. That may be different from both the way that Alpha looks at Beta, and the way that Beta looks at himself.) And it seems to me that most books assume that there is one right way of looking, not just at facts, but at people and people's motivations. Even in books with unreliable narrators -- well -- it is true I am a sucker for the unreliable narrator, but the whole concept presupposes that there is some underlying truth that the unreliable narrator does not see. No, in this book everyone is a reliable POV, but reliable in different ways, and unreliable to the extent that they do not necessarily see in the ways that others see. Like real life!

The result is that there is a great compassion in this book for all the characters, and that there are no villains. Indeed, the magnitude of Goodman's accomplishment can be seen in that the character that [livejournal.com profile] abigail_n, in the review that got me to read the book, calls "the closest Goodman comes to an out-and-out villain" is the one I thought of, before rereading her review, as the hero of the piece (though I understand why he can be thought of as the villain as well).

I feel like I should add some caveats. I was predisposed to like this book because it describes Cambridge, MA, a city which I love, and even a concert in Cambridge that I actually watched (and which [livejournal.com profile] liuzhia was in)! I have no idea if her portrayal of bio-lab work is all right (I only know that her emotional portrayal of science is dead on). And indeed her portrayal of music (which only occurs a couple of times in the book, to be honest) really kind of sucks (excuse me, but no one who learned violin before his teenage years thinks about the violin spot when practicing unless it's infected, so even mentioning it is a bad sign). I found the middle section of the book, which opens up into the wider world, a bit tedious (though I understand why it had to happen).

Despite all that, my vote for my best read of the year so far, though it's only March and most of what I've read has been old Asimov novels :) I am not entirely sure about this, so take this with a grain of salt, but I think [livejournal.com profile] ebs98, [livejournal.com profile] ase, [livejournal.com profile] julianyap, and [livejournal.com profile] lightreads would like it (and if you try it out and don't, let me know so I can do better next time). [livejournal.com profile] joyce I'm even less sure about, but the next time someone starts yapping at you about academia you could do worse than reading the first chapter of this to remind yourself why you aren't in research!

NPQiYBM

Feb. 26th, 2009 10:30 pm
cahn: (Default)
Hmph, February is almost over and I have not posted half as many quotations as I would have liked. Well, here is a sonnet by my favorite poet:

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

ETA: Gerard Manley Hopkins, as [livejournal.com profile] julianyap guessed.
cahn: (Default)
Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.

Anyone who does not know that this quotation is from Isaac Asimov should go and read a book of his in penance. I've been rereading a bunch of his stuff lately, mostly because I had a cold and was not feeling up to anything less readable, and whatever else you might say about him Asimov is very easy to read.

I had never actually read his robot mystery novels before (though I've read every single one of the robot stories), and the first two are really quite good (in, of course, a Golden Age sort of way-- don't expect psychodrama), though I figured out the killer in the first book after the first third of the book. I have always loved the Black Widower mystery short stories ([livejournal.com profile] joyce, you might like these -- they are short and sweet and usually pretty upbeat), though they vary widely in quality. I love them honestly for the afterwords more than anything else. Which realization started me on reading his autobiography (I, Asimov, though there are three others), which is just really charming. Asimov sounds like he was a delightful person, and I am annoyed that he left us after only 300 (!) books.

Off to Yosemite for this weekend, yay! hope the weather is nice *crosses fingers*
cahn: (Default)
My fourth favorite Arthurian poem, after all-of-Charles-Williams, Preideu Annwn, and Winter Solstice, Camelot Station: )

"Nevertheless you, O Sir Gauwaine, lie,
Whatever may have happened through these years,
God knows I speak truth, saying that you lie."

ETA: "The Defense of Guinevere," William Morris. I really like Morris.

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