Friday, August 11, 2017

Friday 5: Mornings Are for Coffee and Contemplation

Why are waffles better than pancakes?

Are they, though? I'll sit down to a stack of chocolate chip silver dollar pancakes anytime—plenty of fond childhood memories there. Of course, I also have fond memories of 3 AM Waffle House runs, but those aren't the same kind of fond memory.

I admit, however, to liking Swedish pancakes better than American pancakes.

American pancakes // Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash

Swedish pancakes are essentially crepes, and an excuse to have dessert for breakfast (or lunch, or dinner...I don't think they're a solid breakfast food here?).

Swedish pancakes, basically. // Photo by andreeautza on MorgueFile.com


Swedish waffles are materially identical to American waffles, except in shape.

Swedish waffle // Photo by Pietro De Grandi on Unsplash
American waffle // Photo by Joseph Gonzalez on Unsplash

What’s something you remember about being 11?

Middle school? Sixth grade? Lockers? It's a blur, truthfully.


What experience do you have with role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons?

Middle school is when I got started, though not with Dungeons and Dragons. Online play-by-post RPGs were kind of my thing; I didn't play D&D proper until college, with a weird mix of people who were really into getting into character and people (like me) who were more meta-gamer about it. Player groups shuffled and changed and settled as social groups shuffled and changed and settled, and now when I spend time with the final line-up (so to speak), it's not unusual to go for a casual one-shot, just for funsies.


How do you feel about carnival rides that make you go upside-down?

Not great? I don't like carnival rides in general. They feel so pointless.


You’ve seen Matthew Modine in more films than you realize (which he famously admitted during his opening monologue when he hosted Saturday Night Live in 1988) (filmography here). Which have you seen, and which was the best?

I might have seen him in more films than I realize, but that doesn't mean I've seen him in a lot. The only movies I've seen in that list are Full Metal Jacket, The Dark Knight Rises, and Stranger Things (not a movie, but still). Those are all really good, but I think Stranger Things might be the best? And I'm not just saying that because these questions are very obviously based on Stranger Things.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

What I Read: Karen Memory

I mentioned having reading to do for Feminist Sci-Fi Book Club during my vacation in Austin, and how I finally tackled The Dispossessed maybe a decade after I first tried to read it. The other book on the docket for book club was Elizabeth Bear's Karen Memory. I finished it in July, but you're reading this in August, after feminist science fiction book club, because book club gets first dibs on my thoughts!

Image courtesy Tor
Karen Memory is a steampunk Wild West version of Jack the Ripper, kind of. It says that on the back of the book, and I habitually re-read the backs of books as I read, and even still I was waiting for this to turn into a feminist steampunk version of Johnny Mnemonic. Should I have expected that? Obviously not. Was I letting myself get tripped up by the title? Yes, probably. Still, I have to admit to being just slightly disappointed in the book not delivering what I had promised myself it would be.

In a nutshell: prostitutes take on a serial killer and espionage in an steampunk alternate universe version of late 19th century Seattle.

Elizabeth Bear's writing is fantastic. Karen has a distinct voice that's just a lot of fun to read, and the book is worth it for that. This is the first book I've read by Bear and I'll have to find more in the future.

BUT!

Small things bugged me.


  1. Insta-love!
  2. The amazing-and-brilliant-and-perfect-at-everything love interest
  3. Habitual asides about how life is hard/unfair for women. I'm here for feminist sci-fi in the biggest possible way, but I hate when authors don't have faith in the world they're building, or in the sensibilities of their readers, to just show-don't-tell that life is hard/unfair for women but instead have really awkward, add-nothing asides or commentary by characters or the narrator. The same goes for minorities. The Fifth Season handled that particular nuance much better.
  4. A perfectly needless dialogue aside about radium watch dial-painting, an industry that wasn't in full swing until around 1917, which is years after the book ostensibly takes place. Sure, I could write this off as "it's an alternate universe that found radium a little earlier," but what bugs me is that it's not an essential plot point; it's tossed in as an aside, I guess as a world-building thing? or Bear wanting to show off research thing? IT WAS COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY. Like, nuclear-powered steampunk mechas would be fine with me, because you'll probably explicitly fold your universe around the "here we discovered nuclear power a little earlier and took it and ran with it" wrinkle and it'll work. But asides that are historical allusions in a universe with other real-world events and figures that are more or less contemporaneous with each other (the gold rush, Bass Reeves, Mary Ann Conklin, Orange Jacobs) better not be anachronisms because otherwise it just looks like a mistake.
  5. I still kind of wish it had been feminist steampunk Johnny Mnemonic.
Other people might complain that it's not especially steampunk-y enough, but I thought it was just right. (I also appreciate that the gadgets don't always work. Sometimes engineers get it wrong!)

Friday, August 4, 2017

Friday 5: Grabby

There’s a convenience store nearby and you have a small case of the munchies. What do you grab?

A chocolate protein shake and then a croissant or a piece of fruit. Maybe both!




You’re about to get on a plane and someone just stole all your reading material, but there’s a newsstand nearby. What magazine (of likely available titles) do you grab? 




Why am I so chill about someone stealing my stuff? Because if they've stolen my airplane reading material, that means they have my phone!

But I'll answer this question in the spirit in which it's intended, which is: what would I grab from Hudson News (or whatever) if I didn't have any of my own reading material for a flight. The answer is: anything without an airbrushed model or celebrity that isn't also about business or sports.


On a regular work day, where do you grab lunch and what do you get if you don’t bring a lunch from home?

Since I have the luxury of working from phone, I grab lunch in my own kitchen (which is also my office). After putting in a couple hours in the comma mines (I use the Pomodoro Method, but I tend to work for entire hours instead of 25-minute bursts), I take a leisurely lunch: usually a sandwich or a bowl of muesli, sometimes leftovers.



Instead of a lunch, you decide you need a quick nap during your workday. Where can you grab 40 winks?





In my own damn bed!


How close to your head is your cell phone when you’re asleep in bed?


Image courtesy DodgertonSkillhause


Not at all. I leave it to charge in the kitchen partially because there's not enough outlet space by the bed, and partially because having to get up and walk to the opposite end of the apartment to shut off the alarm helps me wake up.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

What I Read: The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage

I borrowed this book from a friend. She thought to recommend it to me on the basis of the footnotes (long story), not knowing that I'm also a huge nerd for Ada Lovelace. I mean, I'm pretty obviously a huge nerd generally and she knew that much when she let me borrow it; I mean for Lovelace and the Analytical Engine specifically.

Image courtesy Sydney Padua and Pantheon
I LOVED THIS SO MUCH. This is the rare instance where a book is popular on GoodReads and I LOVE IT. Bullet points:


  • Padua did so much research, and it shows. I love research. More research!
  • It is so meticulously well researched that Padua makes a point of clearly demarcating where the fictional licenses occur, not only by explicitly creating a "pocket universe" where the fanciful adventures take place, but even the poetic licenses she takes within that pocket universe, e.g. when she fudges the timelines for people like Jane Austen or Lord Nelson. When people don't acknowledge small goofs like that in their historical fiction/alternative fiction universe, IT BUGS ME. (More on this in a forthcoming review of another book.)
  • The art is adorable.
  • Padua also endeavors to actually illustrate how the Analytical Engine might have actually looked, which is so cool!
  • She also includes lots of original correspondence from Babbage and Lovelace as well as their contemporaries in the appendices, if you're into that.
  • Yes, did I mention just how well this web comic-turned-graphic novel is researched?
  • I love the way that fictional Lovelace and fictional Babbage pal around and have adventures together and are clearly good friends and there's no weird romance shoehorned in. 
  • Padua also uses direct or almost-direct quotations from other historical figures in people's dialogue, which I love.
  • Also Lovelace's pipe!
  • So much research, y'all.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Travel Announcement

I'm on vacation! I'll be bouncing around the US to visit friends, attend a wedding, and (belatedly) celebrate a PhD! I have some posts scheduled to go up in my absence, but I won't really be "here."

Image courtesy Art.Science.Gallery.


Most pertinent for this blog, I'll be in Austin for a few days, and hopefully I can convince my hosts to visit the Art.Science.Gallery with me. I've been staring longingly at it from a distance for a while now; I'd love to see it up close and in person! But will I make it? Stay tuned!