September 23rd, 2017
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
posted by [personal profile] vatine at 01:39pm on 23/09/2017 under
Reread.

Ah, Culture what would SF be without you? Probably vastly poorer and leaving us without suitable similes for things like Asher's Polity series.

Anyway, this is a Culture novel that has multiple strains of narrative, somewhat inter-related (even if it's not always that obvious). It is also a story about love, about sorrow, what constitutes good and evil. And possibly slightly about the responsibilities you have as a civilisation, for your past and future actions.

One strand is a composer, who's of a race of predators (the Chelgrsomethings), but who has now solidly decided that his former home memetope is no longer for him at all and has emigrated to a Culture Orbital.

Another strand is a Culture anthropologist/biologist/something who's way out in a weird "I am made entirely of gas" planet but not really a gas giant (ultratech, weirds everything, you know).

A third strand is a Chelsomething military, on a secret mission. A mission so secret that not even he knows what it is.

And then stuffs happen, in unimitable Banksian style. Possibly not the best first introduction to The Culture (mine was Player of Games, then Excession if memory serves me right), but probably not the worst possible.
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
posted by [personal profile] vatine at 01:36pm on 23/09/2017 under
Reread.

Third book in Saunders' Commonweal series, wherein we see more of what we saw in the second book, and get to know what happens to a (relatively) small economy, when you introduce several orders of magnitude of difference in capability. Yes, it involves people discussing difficult things. No, it does not feel like "as you know, Bob".

All in all, if you liked the first two books, this is probably well worth chasing down, trapping in your book-trapping trap, then stun it for long enough that you can read it before, like the book it is, it turns around and devours you from the eyes inwards.

Or, at least, that is what I imagine books are, in the Second Commonweal. At least the really vicious ones.
September 22nd, 2017
gridlore: Old manual typewriter with a blank sheet of paper inserted. (Writing)
Beginning to gear up for the marathon slog that is NaNoWriMo. I'm doing a lot of background work, material that probably won't be in the book, but is essential for building a story in a setting that makes sense. To that end, I'm detailing the government and culture of the state that controls Task Force Singh. The main change is I'm getting away from Star Empires, because what a tired out trope that is!

The Beta Hydri system was settled roughly 300 years before the book's starting date, by way of a huge colonization effort headed by India. The effects of climate change and the ravages of the Warpox epidemic (a weaponized form of smallpox released in the 2060s by an unidentified group) was leading to mass famine. Volunteers from across southern Asia begged to be included in the mission. All told, over 5 million refugees were packed into colony ships and sent out.

The rigorous conditions on the poorly-maintained ships heading to their new home, named Arjuna after a mythical hero from Indian folklore, led to the creation of a strict hierarchy and a strong work ethic. Shelters needed to be dug and fitted out, vast hydroponic farms put into operation, and a million other details worked out. The colony thrived with an isolated oligarchy running things.

Power has concentrated in the hands of the Jagirdar; landed nobles who ruled through sheer economic power. The Jagirdar were the captains of industry and governors of the vast warrens of worker housing. A strong patron-client system grew as the Jagir houses provided for and protected the workers in their territories, while the lower class agreed to support their patrons nearly without question. As the colony grew to exploit both the resources of Beta Hydri and those of nearby stars, conflict among the Jagir houses grew to near warfare. Finally, the leading houses came to an agreement to form a new government based on wealth, a plutocracy with some nods to a representative government.

Today, the Ganaraajy Arjun (Republic of Arjun) controls sixteen star systems besides the home system of Beta Hydri. The government is headed by a Prime Minister. This official wields wide executive and judicial powers but holds his office at the pleasure of the Gomed Hol, the legislative body made up of Jagirdar representatives. Earning one of the 250 seats in the Onyx Hall is simple: you bid for it. Powerful families will place a dozen or more of their clients and relatives in Gomed Hol to further family interests. A seat is held until a challenge is made for it by an interested party.

The people are represented in the Samsad (Parliament), which is based on population. Currently, the Samsad seats 573 voting members and numerous non-voting observers from the colonies. The Samsad is where legislation is proposed and passed, although the Gomed Hol can veto any bill with a simple majority vote. This has led to legislative gridlock and blocked any attempt at reform.

Members of the Samsad are elected from regional councils, which are elected by the people. One of the greatest issues on Arjuna is the growing demand for direct representation and more regional power. The Samsad is considered too remote, with each member speaking for an average of 3 million citizens.
The Prime Minister is charged with appointing officers to the various ministerial posts and running the day to day operations of the state and government. Prime Ministers are usually chosen by the party with the majority in the Samsad, or by coalition vote. Prime Ministers remain in office at the pleasure of the Gomed Hol or until his party falls out of the majority and a new Prime Minister is called for.

There are several unofficial political parties in the Republic and many small factional groups. The major players are:

  • The Expansionists. They support a strong central government and expanding the Republic. Currently, they hold a slim majority in the Samsad with strong support in the Gomed Hol.

  • The Traditionalists. A conservative, religious party dedicated to returning to old Hindu ways and promoting religious unification under one faith. The more radical members want a return to the caste system. They are partners with the Expansionists in the current government.

  • The Unionists. Their main platform is full membership in the Republic and full citizenship for those living on those worlds designated as colonies and ruled by appointed governors.

  • The Democracy Now Party. They demand the dismantling of the current state and full suffrage and free elections under a new constitution. They hold a small number of seats, but are quite vocal and vote as a solid bloc. They tend to support the Unionists, but the latter seems to be embarrassed by the antics of Democracy Now supporters. This faction has been linked to terrorism in the past.

  • The Consolidationists. Bitter foes of the Expansionists, they advocate spending precious Rupees on building infrastructure and improvements in the territories already controlled by the state and improving the lot of the citizenry.

  • The Isolationists. They fight defense spending and expansion tooth and nail. Once the strongest voice in the Samsad, they've lost dozens of seats over the years and are now a distant third after the Expansionists and the Unionists with almost no support in the Onyx Hall. Natural allies of the Consolidation Party, they break on several issues, so a true union seems impossible.


As I said, almost none of this will show up directly in the book, but it will help me build characters and tensions inside the task force. And if I get to a second book, I can see it being a more political novel focusing on the aftermath of the war shaking out in the defeated Ganaraajy Arjun.
location: Santa Clara, CA
Mood:: 'creative' creative
September 20th, 2017
gridlore: One of the "Madagascar" penguins with a checklist: [x] cute [x] cuddly [x] psychotic (Penguin - Checklist)
posted by [personal profile] gridlore at 11:48am on 20/09/2017 under , , ,
It has been said that the unexamined life is not worth living. I mostly agree with that, it's another variant of "know yourself" and other such truisms making it clear that you need to be in touch with yourself before you can make it anywhere.

I would like to point out that I did pretty well as a blissfully ignorant soldier and truck driver, but that's beside the point I'm trying to make here. For the last few weeks, starting literally the day after we returned from Burning Man, I have been having my brain stretched by my neuropsychologist.

These evaluations and tests run the board from the kind of surveys that ask you about your feelings to tests of my ability to retain information to my critical thinking abilities and perception. The results, just from where I'm sitting, have been interesting.

Also exhausting. I leave these sessions feeling wrung out. Some of these tests are extremely hard, forcing me to really push my brain to manage them. Thinking can be hard work, especially when you are forcing yourself into areas that don't work so well due to some traumatic incident. Like a stroke.

So what have I learned just from my observations? My ability to retain and recall information is crap. I forget things really fast or lose them entirely in moments. This is even more pronounced when it comes to numbers. I simply cannot hold numbers in my head. This helps me understand why I am so bad with handling money these days. I can't keep the idea that we only have X to spend when I'm looking at an item that costs Y. Trying to keep those two figures is too much for me, so all I see is Y, and forget that X even exists.

This is why I ask Kirsten for permission to spend any money that isn't cash-in-hand. Even a five-dollar download for Civilization VI has to be cleared through her. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, since I think it's good to have one person being the final word on a family's finances, but it can be annoying. I'm a 52-year-old guy who needs permission to buy a book. But we deal with it.

While my ability to retrieve information is shot, I am much more likely to recall information if I'm prompted. We've done several exercises where there were lists of words in pairs. Trying to just remember the words was almost impossible. But when prompted with the first word, I was usually able to give the correct response. Same goes for the long lists of single words. Trying to remember them was a wash, but when asked for them by a category, like "vehicles" or "furniture", I was suddenly able to remember far more of the words than when just asked for the list.

I've also done many tests designed to examine my reasoning. Mostly puzzles and following directions. I'm happy to say those features seem to be working well. But again, when numbers come in I start to flounder. I suspect that my life-long troubles with math have only been made worse by the stroke. Thank Halford for calculators.

Where does this leave me? I'm not sure. I'm waiting for Dr. Dahl to score my last few assessments to see if we need to do a few more to nail down my exact diagnosis or if we are ready to move ahead with a treatment plan for my depression and hair-trigger emotional swings. I'm good with either path. To me, the important thing is moving forward.

But oddly, the most telling thing about my psyche that I've learned about in these past weeks didn't come in a nice office, but at Burning Man. I've volunteered with the Porta Potty Project a few times. It's a team that does education about how to keep the 1,400 blue rooms on the Playa in good shape, goes around to make sure that each john has toilet paper, and locks off the ones that have been vandalized or, um, desecrated beyond usability. This year, I learned that we might become an official part of the team that runs Black Rock City, and I might be able to drive my truck as an official vehicle to do the necessary work at the banks that lie in the deep Playa.

The way the concept of being able to drive in an official capacity again hit me is hard to describe. I spent nearly twenty years in the transportation industry, most of that as a truck driver. Even if it is just driving a couple of guys and boxes of toilet paper around, it will mean being a driver again. It will mean being part of a team. It will mean I have that part of me back if only for one week a year.

Here's hoping it happens.
location: Santa Clara, CA
Mood:: 'peaceful' peaceful
ivy: Two strands of ivy against a red wall (Default)
September 16th, 2017
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
Reread.

Second book of Saunder's A Book of the Commonweal series (that's what's on the books, calling it a trilogy feels a bit weird, since I have vague recollections of a fourth book on the way). it takes plce not long after the events in the first book. I don't think it's ever explicit, but I'm thinking "weeks to a few months".

We're primarily following Edgar (occasionally just "Ed") who starts the book just waking up from a coma, feeling very weird indeed. And there's a really good reason for that. It turns out that Edgar has spent most of his life having his magical power completely consumed by a metaphysical (and probably also physical) parasite. And now it's been taken out because that's what you do with parasites. And now there's a problem, because Edgar is too old for traditional wizard training to work. But too powerful to not be trained, otherwise things like "death" (and occasionally "mayhem") happens.

And so an alternative is found. We follow Edgar and his fellow students through approximately the first year of training, learning more (much more) about how magic works, as well as how the Commonweal works.
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
posted by [personal profile] vatine at 11:32am on 16/09/2017 under
Reread.

This is Saunders' debut (as far as I'm aware) book. My recollection of this, when it came to re-read it, was "stuffs happened" and that was pretty much it. The book is... dense. Informationally speaking, that is. I can't, to be honest, tell you that I'm sure if the narrative voice is first person or just extremely tight third, but it's one, the other, or switching between those.

Anyway, this is a book set in the Commonweal. And, I hear you ask, what is one of those. Well, it would've been cool if there was an explanatory chapter, but there is't. So, as far as I have inferred, the Commonweal is the creation of the Wizard Laurel, about 500 years ago, as a general "I am so fed up" reaction to the last, what, several many thousands (hundreds of thousands, possibly) years of sorcerous rule (basic pattern: "magic user gets powerful, kills the previous ruler; mass sacrifices and brain squishing ensues", then repeat with the magic user from the previous sentence switched to the ruler position). So, the obvious solution is something that pretty much looks like representative democracy, with a heavy dose of enforced resource equality.

Now, some of that Commonweal information is gleaned from the next two books. Where was I? Oh, yes, as we start the book, it seems as if one of the neighbouring "we keep cycling through previous ruler and mass sacrifices" areas has decided that it is Really Time to enter the Commonweal, in force, and we get a first row seat to the experience of a small band of brave people trying to force the invaders back (or, as the case MAY be, keep them outside the border).

All in all, pretty good reading.
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
posted by [personal profile] vatine at 11:20am on 16/09/2017 under
Reread.

This is the third book in Sanderson's "first Mistborn trilogy" (there now seems to be ore than one, which is fine, I should try to remember looking into perhaps get hold of the first one). All in all, this is a series that plays on your expectations, but not in what I would consider a malicious way.

I did find it quite interesting to notice the things I did and did not remember from the first time I read the trilogy, there were vast chunks that had just left my mind, but other things were relatively as I expected. Memory says I last read this some 5-6 years ago.
vatine: books-related stuff (books)
posted by [personal profile] vatine at 11:18am on 16/09/2017 under
Book list )

A linear extrapolation says 124.5 books by year's end. August was pretty much a miss in the "reads lots" department, with travel that was full of sufficiently interesting distractions that, well, this ain't just been a month for reading (also, perhaps, signalled by being about two week's late wit hte monthly summary).
September 15th, 2017
terriko: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] terriko at 02:08pm on 15/09/2017
This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

Go Tell the Bees Knit-a-long


This was my second rainbow for pride month, because once you’ve accidentally started such a great theme you might as well stick with it! Here’s the two projects together:

Go Tell the Bees Knit-a-long


Yarn


Bling Bling Sister, a sparkly rainbow gradient from Alexandra’s Crafts. Probably acquired at the Oregon Flock and Fiber festival. You can’t see the “bling” in all my photos, but there is a little thread of silver sparkle in there and it looks great especially as it catches the light.


Go Tell the Bees Knit-a-long


I’d been saving this yarn for something special and it didn’t disappoint. It’s a bit more kinky than the last gradient I used from Wollelfe (I haven’t written up that project yet, sorry!), so it really really needed blocking when I was done. Here it is looking lumpy in the PDX airport:


Go Tell the Bees Knit-a-long


However, even a slightly inadequate travel “block on a towel in my mom’s living room” got it looking great:

Go Tell the Bees Knit-a-long


Pattern


Go Tell the Bees by PDXKnitterati.


PDXKnitterati’s been one of my favourite designers since I first cast on her Fern Leaf Shawlette, which is still the bit of knitwear I wear most. (If you’ve seen me at a conference in the past year, I’ve probably been wearing it!) Her patterns are always beautiful, easy to read, well-tested, and she’s got lots that are in that perfect balance of complicated enough to be fun or to teach you a new skill, but with simple enough bits that I can still get lots done during standards meetings, on commuter rail, or hanging out in the hammock in my backyard. Or in this case, on the couch I gifted to my parents when I left Canada:


Go Tell the Bees Knit-a-long


Also, if you ever get a chance, she runs really great knit-a-longs on ravelry for some of her new pattern releases. Her fans produce beautiful inspiring work and she encourages us all to post pictures and even awards prizes! (I even won some beautiful bee stitch markers and candles!) It’s really fun to be part of her community there for a few weeks. Here’s a picture to commemorate the excitement of my first bees emerging from the pattern:


Go Tell the Bees Knit-a-long


I’ve got quite a few more pdxknitterati patterns in my queue, and just going through these photos again has me itching to cast on something else from her catalog!


Project


This one was cast on in Oregon and finished in Ontario, and it gathered comments from people across the continent because of the bright yarn and the great pattern.


From those first few rows:

Go Tell the Bees Knit-a-long


Through realizing I had a perfect honeycomb bag for my project thanks to my friend M:

Go Tell the Bees Knit-a-long


To taking finished object pictures in the light rain in Ottawa:

Go Tell the Bees Knit-a-long


This one was a super satisfying project, and a beautiful finished object that is quickly becoming one of my favourites to wear.

September 13th, 2017
ivy: Two strands of ivy against a red wall (Default)
September 12th, 2017
terriko: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] terriko at 02:01pm on 12/09/2017
This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

I wound up knitting rainbows through pride month, which was fun. This one was an accident (I just like rainbows) but once I realized I did go out of my way to dig out a rainbow ball for my next project. 🙂






Yarn


Bounce Blanket kit from Knitted Wit (“Little Black Dress” colourway, Stroller size)


This was a splurge purchase to celebrate selling off a bunch of my initial stock grant at work. Despite having been in tech for many years, this marks the first time I’ve actually had stock vest and get sold!


Bounce Blanket


My one complaint with this kit is that it wasn’t a perfect gradient — that stupid green skein on the end didn’t quite fit, so I left it at the end where it wouldn’t bug me too much. But I love the yarn, and with the exception of that irksome green, loved the colours. It also was quite generous in terms of amounts: I could easily have made this blanket wider than the stroller size only I legitimately wanted this to fit in a stroller and there’s not much advantage to having it wide enough to drag. So I’m debating a nice rainbow-y project to do with the leftovers. There might be enough for a stripey baby sweater to match!


Pattern


Bounce by TinCanKnits.


This is not a hard pattern, but interesting enough with the rainbow colours that I didn’t get bored! I’ve now done a number of patterns from this team now and took advantage of one of their sales to pick up a few more to try.


Bounce Blanket


Photos


In progress:

Bounce Blanket


Bounce Blanket


In progress with temporary dog (we were pupsitting and it turns out he’s a great knitting companion):

Bounce Blanket


Pre-blocking:

Bounce Blanket


Bounce Blanket


Blocking:

Bounce Blanket


I’m setting this to publish the day the baby it’s for is due to arrive, but I hear babies rarely adhere to schedule so no pictures with said baby for a while. 🙂

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