Thursday, April 23, 2015

Who's Watching?

So, I've got great friends.

I've got friends that work in tech who give great advice.  I've got friends that are crafty and make things for me.  I've got my best friend who is a writer, so we go out drinking together.  And while most of them are geeky, some are more geeky than others.

I have a former coworker (Holly) who goes to lots of conventions.  This past Saturday she went to Big Wow Comicfest in San Jose.  We were having lunch on the Friday prior, and she excitedly told me that Dave Gibbons was going to be there.  Now, I had a wedding I was going to on Saturday, and if I'd known earlier I would have handed something off to my friend for her to take to get signed.

Then Monday were chatting over Yahoo Messenger, and she said that Gibbons was going to be at Flying Colors Comics Wednesday afternoon.  Again, I'm committed that afternoon to help out at mom's with laundry and cleaning.  Holly offered to come by Tuesday, and pick up something I wanted signed, and then bring it back to me on Thursday (today).

Now, I have the original 12 issue comic set (I may actually have two) somewhere in a long-box in storage.  I could have gone to get them Monday afternoon, but it was cold and windy, and I thought I be okay.  I'd be okay, because I have one DC Absolute edition on my bookshelf: The Absolute Watchmen.  Now this is like a special edition DVD for comic books.  It's oversized, and comes in a slipcase.  It's great to read and see all the artwork enlarged.

Holly asked if I wanted my name in the signing, and I said sure.  She does know how to spell my name, which some people still have trouble with, and so Tuesday I handed it off to her.  Last night she sent me a picture via text, and today she dropped it off to me.

It is so much more impressive in person, but here is the picture she sent me:


Now, I know I owe her lunch.  So we're getting pizza next Friday.





Discworld - Wizzard's Return

And so we come to the end of the first five books that I read back to back (to back...) when I first was introduced to Terry Pratchett.  And so I had to wait like everyone else from that point to read the next book.  I didn't yet realize the depths that Pratchett would take his books.  Aside from Mort, they still seemed to be more poking fun at the fantasy genre and not so much being general satire set in a fantasy world.  The next book is a return to (introduction to) the kingdom of Lancre and Pratchett's mash-up of Shakespeare.

Sourcery has man parts, but it hints at a prophecy without ever stating it.  And it also brings up that it is an end of the Disc prophecy that may or may not be true.  And of course the Disc doesn't end.  Pratchett also makes this the last book for a while that involves a Disc-spanning disaster.  He will go on from here to do mostly localized events.  Of course that doesn't mean that city destroying dragons, pocket universe/kingdoms, and wars won't be coming in the future.

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Appearing in this book:

Rincewind
The Luggage
The Librarian
Unseen University
Death
Binky
The Four Horsemen
The Ramtops
Blind Io
Offler the Crocodile Headed God
Ankh-Morpork
The Dungeon Dimensions
Klatch

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Stories

So, I've been going through my hard drive lately, and I've come across some of my old writings from college.

I've put up one of my favorites in a page on the blog.

I remember becoming enamored with the poem "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll when a girl in college who I had a crush on had an amazingly illustrated book of the poem.  Then it started showing up in places, so I worked to memorize it.

Then of course, I had to write something about it.

You can check it out on the following linked page.  It's called "Beamish Boy".

Monday, April 20, 2015

Discworld - Welcoming Death

Terry Pratchett's Mort focuses on who I think was Pratchett's favorite character Death.

Death in his multiversal manifestation appears in every book Terry Pratchett and in most of his short stories.  When typeset properly (always in the English publications, and eventually in the American publications) Death speaks in all capital letters, but with the small caps chosen, and with no quotation marks.  It's a typographical trick that reminds me of the Kirlian Saga by Piers Anthony who indicated different species speaking by using odd punctuation in place of quotation marks.

But this first book to focus on Death, begins to hint at how the power of belief works on the Discworld.  It's easy to get lost in the story of Mort taking over for Death, but the parts with Death fading to become (nearly) human at the end are important bits too.

There are times I consider reading the books my topic.  There are the Rincewind books, the Witches, the Watch, and Death.  But as I list the recurring items that get mentioned in the books, I see that Pratchett had a very strong feel for his entire world with its history, geography, and nations.

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This book contains appearances by:

Death
Binky
Albert (Alberto Malich)
Leshp
Mort
Ysabell
Princess/Queen Keli of Sto Lat
The Librarian
Rincewind
Bes Pelargic
Unseen University
The Million to One Chance
Blind Io
Offler the Crocodile Headed God
Hoki
Fate
The Small Gods
Ankh-Morpork
The Ramtops
Octarine Grass Country
The Curry Gardens restaurant
The Mended Drum
Harga's House of Ribs
Sham Harga

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Discworld - the First Witch

And so we come to the first book of Terry Pratchett's witches.  And through this book we learn that Pratchett has a vision of not just of the geography of the City of Ankh-Morpork and the continents of the Disc, but a full structure of the various ways that the parts of the continent connect.  He has rivers and mountain ranges.  He also has the beginnings of the idea of the inherent magicalness of the Ramtop Mountains.

Equal Rites flows smoothly from beginning to end with just slight hiccups that I feel are more due to editing than writing.

Again, Pratchett had many ideas he wanted to get down, and you can fully sense that there is more to come.

------

This book contains appearances by:

Granny Weatherwax
Eskarina Smith
The Librarian
Ankh-Morpork
The Shades
Unseen University
The Dungeon Dimensions
Death
Gargoyles
Dwarves
Headology
Bad Ass (of the Kingdom of Lancre)
The Ramtops
The Million to One Chance
Hoki



Monday, April 13, 2015

Discworld - The Beginning - UPDATED

So before the weekend started, I finished Terry Pratchett's The Light Fantastic.  This is essentially part two of the first Discworld story continuing from The Colour of Magic.

In the first book, Pratchett's storytelling skills evolve in the four sub-parts of the book.  Puns are pretty in your face at the beginning, and some are even pointed out directly, but as the book progresses they begin to fade into the fabric of the story.

The world itself develops and becomes more real.  There is specific geography in both the cities of Ankh-Morpork and the Disc itself.  By the second book, Pratchett is moving into his signature style.  And at the same time, the seeds for future books are scattered throughout.

I know there are many out there who won't begin the series because of Pratchett's writing style int he beginning, but there are so few Rothfusses out there.  George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire is pretty consistent in skill, but he'd been writing other things for years.  Jim Butcher's Codex Alera is also consistently excellent, but he'd also already written several Harry Dresden books which a rereading will show a lot of writer's growth.

If you haven't read them, and enjoy a good fantasy story, I strongly recommend the Discworld.  Allow the writer to create his world.  By the second book he has found his pace.  And by the third book, he'll show he's in it for more than a marathon.

------

These books contain appearance by:

Rincewind
Twoflower
Hrun the Barbarian
Cohen the Barbarian
The Luggage
Death (and Binky)
Death's daughter (Isabell)
The Librarian
The Patrician (still debated on whether or not this is Vetinari)
Fate
The Lady
Blind Io
Offler the Crocodile-Headed God
Ankh-Morpork
Unseen University
The Octavo
The City Watch (with a fat, lazy sergeant)
The Thieves' Guild
The Assassins' Guild
The Broken Drum
A curry restaurant
Dragons
A statue of Malich the Wise
Traveling Magic Shops
Dungeon Dimensions
The Four Horsemen
Bes Pelargic


Monday, April 06, 2015

Away from the Discworld

So, I've completed the books that I want to read from Terry Pratchett that are not part of the Discworld series.  Pretty much the only ones I've left out are The Carpet People and the Bromeliad Saga.

I've really enjoyed the Johnny Maxwell trilogy.

Nation is a fun story of south Pacific natives and a European shipwreck after a tsunami from a volcanic eruption.  And that's not completely redundant.

Dodger is a great historical fiction set in London before Charles Dickens has begun writing his fiction.

I only realized from this reading that The Dark Side of the Sun and Strata may be written in the same science fiction universe.  I can only imagine what Pratchett could have done as an author if he had decided to write his satire in an arcing sci-fi story instead of fantasy.

And now I have the 40 books of Discworld to look forward to, as well as several short stories, and addendum books.  Perhaps before I finish the series, Pratchett's final book (a fifth story of Tiffany Aching) will be released.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Sunsets

So, last year some time, I started taking pictures of sunsets.  With the new year, I thought I would try to take a picture every night.  I've missed a few due to uncontrollable circumstances.  The most annoying was the day I got the flat after riding through Temescal.

I had wanted to go to either the end of the Powell Street spit or the University Avenue park to get a shot of the sunset through the Gate, but I wasn't able to get home in time let alone get to the water.  They woudl have been amazing too, because the clouds were so fluffy.  I go a few walking my bike, but they aren't quite the same.

Today, I came across a link to a sunset taken from an office in the Mission on March 24 this year.



And here is what I got from that evening:






Thursday, April 02, 2015

Soft Kitty, Warm Kitty...

So, my computer is on at home because I've been uploading my photos to my Amazon Cloud.  And the fan tends to run on high, because the innards are pretty crowded.

My cats have begun curling up next tot he computer to enjoy the warmth.  Usually they just change facing regularly to keep the heat even.

Jennifer just sent me this picture of Oscar:


I think his nose got cold.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Yeah, It's THAT Day Again

So, today is the kind of day that you trust nothing that you read online.

Especially from cartoonists/comic artists.

One year a bunch of syndicated artists traded drawing their strips.  Occasionally webcomic artists do the same.  The best trick was one year that a group of them wrote that they had decided to get out of doing comics and that another artist would be taking over for them.  If you only read one strip, you would have been fooled.  Fortunately, I was reading all of them, and found the circle of deceit.It was fun later that year to meet one of the artists at Wondercon and tell them they had gotten me.

I am fortunate that my best friends were never into fooling each other.  I think we all feared retaliation and escalation.

So I will leave with two facts.

First, today is the birthday of a friend.  And I feel sorry for him on his birthday every year.

Second, I've been in Emeryville now for four years.  This morning on my ride in to work, I saw my first (pair of) raccoon.  Jennifer and I encountered a family of skunks the night we were walking back from seeing "Man of Steel," but these are the first raccoon.  But in their defense, it is garbage pickup day.

Friday, March 27, 2015

PR Stupidity

Today, I came across this video of Patrick Moore refusing to drink a quart of glyphosate after claiming it was safe to drink:



And aside from the stupidity of the "doctor," I was reminded of the guy (found it, B.T. Collins) from the California Conservation Corps who, in an attempt to get people to accept the safety of malathion, drank a beaker of the stuff.  He got sick, but he did survive.

I wish I could find the picture of him at the press conference after he drank it.  The beaker is empty, and he's got this look on his face like he's going to throw up (and a little bit of, what the hell did I just do).


Monday, March 23, 2015

Learning Tool

So, I've mentioned before that Jennifer is very crafty.  She makes cards, art, and among other things, jewelry.

At the end of last year, she made a meditation mala for someone.  It looks amazing, and I think, better than many you see in shops.


There are 108 beads in the mala plus the Buddha bead and the tassel.  The person who uses it is supposed to say their mantra during meditation 108 times using the beads to keep track.  The mantra is supposed to be said 100 times, and the extra 8 allow for mistakes.

I found it interesting that 108 is actually pretty close to the number of elements in the periodic table, which, as I've mentioned before, I've been trying to memorize.  I only have the first three rows memorized (hydrogen to argon), mostly because the next row doubles the number of elements, and I've had difficulties.  So I decided I needed something to help me learn, and I asked Jennifer to make me a Mendeleev mala.

That's actually a name I just came up with.  I'd asked for a periodic table mala, but I like the alliteration.

So I came up with beads for each group (alkali metals, noble gases, halogens, etc.), and laid them out in atomic number order.  Then I needed an equivalent to a Buddha bead.  Jennifer started going through her collection of beads and pulled out one that reminded me of the first s orbital shell.  Then I thought it needed something else go with it and I came across a necklace that symbolically used the Bohric atomic model.

And finally yesterday, she finished it for me.


And she's said that she's going to hold me to learning the table now.  The problem I discovered is that when I was in college the bottom column of the table wasn't complete yet even with experimental/theoretical elements.  Fortunately I have a couple apps that have a complete table.  But today I learned that even the apps aren't up to date as the above link to the Dynamic Periodic Table has two (flerovium and livermorium) that aren't named in my apps.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Sign

In in my Terry Pratchett tribute/re-read, I have been through Good Omens and the Johnny Maxwell trilogy.

Good Omens is a favorite for the collaboration with Neil Gaiman, for being another book with good memories of when I read it, and also great fun at author signings.  I read the book from the library, and bought the large trade paperback.  Then when I found the first printing at Dark Carnival in Berkeley, I bought it.  Then when Terry and Neil came to Berkeley for signing at the old Cody's Book Store, I brought it in to be signed.  Terry was first (and was happy to have released his book a month before Neil so that it would be on the bestseller list before being knocked off by Neil), and he asked if I knew that Neil would be coming in for a signing soon, and was I going to be there.  I said yes, and he said, "Tell him I said, 'Rabbit."'  When I saw Neil, I said, "Terry says, 'Rabbit.'"  Neil look at me, and said, "What kind?"  Unfortunately I never got to see Terry again, and was not able t o continue the game of long term telephone.

The Johnny Maxwell trilogy is a series of books that may be classified as juvenile, but sometimes those are the best books. They're a thoroughly fun series about an English boy who has very strange things happen to him, and his friends get caught up with it all.  Only You Can Save Mankind was popular enough to be have been made into a radio show, and Johnny and the Dead and Johnny and the Bomb were both made into BBC productions.

Good Omens has also recently been made into a BBC radio show, and a movie is supposedly in development.

All of these books have the characteristic of being engaging books in that I can almost completely lose myself in them on BART to the point that I have sometimes had to rush to be ready for my stop.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Tribute Reading

When Robin Williams died, I listened to his old works.  It felt good to hear his voice again, and chuckle, laugh, and giggle at all the bits that marked me as a kid.

Last week, I decided it was time to re-read Terry Pratchett.  I'm going to save the Discworld for last.  I'm going to read his other work first starting with the best collaboration I've ever read: Good Omens.

Neil hasn't been able to write anything about his friend of thirty years, but apparently he had an appearance last week that turned into a remembrance of Sir Terry.



And there's been an article out about Neil's daughter Rhianna as well.

Adn then there's this from the Daily Telegraph:

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sir Terry - Rest in Peace

I just read that Terry Pratchett passed away this morning.

I remember reading the first five books of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series in college.  Before he passed, Pratchett ended up writing a total of 40 books in the series plus supplements, and the doesn't include his other series: The Bromeliad, the Johnny series, and the Long Earth series.

I have regularly re-read his books to recapture the feelings from when I first read them as well as to find things int eh stories that I missed previously.  Pratchett was so intelligent that he would hide items and history from our world in the Discworld while giving it just a twist.

My favorite was the Dwarven throne, the Scone of Stone.  Dwarves use bread in a violent manner creating weapons from them.  The durability of the Dwarf Bread had them create their throne out of their bread.

It was probably five years after reading about it in The Fifth Elephant, that I read about the Stone of Scone which was the Scottish coronation stone.

And he did this all of the time.  As well as planting the seeds of his future books inside others.  Or mining his previous stories for ideas.

All of his work enthralls me, and he will be sorely missed.

Morning Perfume

So, I've been riding my bike to work exclusively now for almost two years.  And aside from the occasional out of town assignment, I've been faithful.  However, this is the first winter-to-spring that I've been riding through my local neighborhood.

The past couple weeks I've been fortunate enough to be treated to waves of jasmine scent as I work my way towards Market.  And the last week or so that has been mixed with the smell of citrus.

Now I need to find out what kind of tree it is, because it's not one that fruits.  We used to have some growing outside of our place in Pacheco.  They smell amazing, but apparently my Google-Fu is weak this morning, because I'm not finding anything based on my description.