dxmachina: (Garden01)
My legs are sore, my back aches, and my right index finger hurts when I move it. Yes, I've been playing volleyball.

Have had a couple of busy weekends in a row, with one more to come (Readercon). Youngest sister visited with her kids two weekends ago, so we did all sorts of stuff. Spent a day over in Newport gawking at the rich folks and their cottages. Spent another day on Block Island (aka, the Block Island Death March) walking hither and yon in the heat and humidity, since we didn't have bikes for the younger kids*. Still, a good time was had by most all, except for younger nephew who was being quite the pill and is fortunate the rest of us decided not to reenact the massacre at Mohegan Bluffs. The next day was a combination pool/volleyball party where the kids swam and I played volleyball for the first time in a year. I also introduced them all to Pratchett via the adaptation of Hogfather, and teenaged nephew left for home with the loan of several books.

* My suggestion that we let the adults and teenager ride whilst the little kids walked was met with disapproval, alas.

This past weekend had another pool/volleyball party, and I played a lot, which is why I ache all over. Still, it's a good ache, and I'm contemplating going back and playing again with the group at the Guild come September. I'd quit after I had my bike accident in 2004, which was followed by back troubles, and general problems with being old and fat. But I've lost considerable weight, and I've been considering going back. I hadn't yet because I was wondering if I could still play up to the competition at my age, but I was able to keep up without embarrassing myself the past two weekends, so maybe. I doubt I could do it every week like I used to, but it'd be fun.

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July 4th is my annual marker for trimming back the shrubs, and I started working on that. The problem has always been the size of the shrubs in front of the house. They're huge, because the previous owner wasn't diligent about keeping them trimmed back, and they're a pain to keep in check. I don't mind so much with the rhododendrons, because they are gorgeous in the spring, but the arbor vitae and, especially, the junipers (I'm mildly allergic) drive me crazy.

So anyway, I was out there trimming away, and I finally decided to do something about it. Went into the basement, found the chainsaw, and cut down juniper #1. Then I spent the next couple of days hacking away at all the intertwined branches with my loppers to separate them all into manageable bits so's that I could dispose of them all. I was worried that the side of the rhododendron would appear bare now that it's neighbor is gone, but it's not too bad, and will undoubtedly grow in now that it has more access to its environs. Juniper #2 meets its fate this week, and then I'll make a decision about the arbor vitae. Then I'll need to replace them with something. I'm thinking azaleas.
dxmachina: (Vimes)
Sorry, teach, still way behind on book reports. Here's all the Pratchett I've read so far this year.
(Note: There's some general description of Snuff, but no real spoilers.)

The Wizard... )

---
The Witch... )

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and the Watch... )

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"The Brain Thief" — hollimichele

And just to tie things all together, I also read [livejournal.com profile] holli's Discworld fanfic, "The Brain Thief," a terrific story of a now grown up young Sam investigating the discovery of some gruesome corpses, with the help of Esmerelda Margaret Note Spelling Garlick. It was a lot of fun. Not quite the real thing, but certainly a reasonable facsimile. and the characterizations are quite good. The story brings up something I hadn't really thought about, to wit, who will replace Lord Vetinari when he finally meets Death? Holli's answer make perfect sense, and I wish I'd thought of it.
dxmachina: (Books 04)
Reading is fun-damental; writing about it is harder...

---
When you look into the abyss, it's not supposed to wave back. )

Now to work on the rest of the list...
dxmachina: (Charrpe)
Monstrous Regiment — Terry Pratchett

Pratchett's take on the military and on gender politics. A young woman disguises herself as a man and joins the army. Hilarity ensues as she discovers that she's not the only one in the unit keeping secrets. Very funny stuff. Vimes shows up, too, so that's good, and there's also this:

'You'll have noticed, sergeant, that the men were wearing the dark-green uniform of the First Battalion the Zlobenian Fifty-ninth Bowmen. A skirmishing battalion,' said Blouse, with cold politeness. 'That is not the uniform of a spy, sergeant.'
Heh.

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The Battle of Britain — Quentin Reynolds
The Men Who Bombed the Reich — Bernard C. Nalty and Carl Berger


Two finds from a terrific used book store I visited while at Readercon.

Never in the field of human conflict... )

Books...

Apr. 19th, 2009 11:04 am
dxmachina: (Books)
When the Tide Rises — David Drake

Another episode in the Aubrey/Maturin inspired Leary/Mundy series. Despite my dislike for certain background details, I am enjoying these books far more than recent Honorverse books. For one thing, there is far less exposition. For another, I find it far more interesting to see what Daniel Leary can do by firing, say, two missiles at an enemy ship than Honor Harrington can do firing 60,000 or so.

---
Escape from Hell — Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

The recently released sequel to Inferno. Carpenter has tried to take over Benito's mission of helping souls escape from Hell, but hasn't been very successful. The book opens with him telling his story to one of the trees in the grove of suicides, who turns out to be Sylvia Plath. He manages to free her from her treehood, and together they head for the exit at the center of Hell.

Redeeming qualities... )

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Soul Music — Terry Pratchett

It is said that whosoever the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad. In fact, whosoever the gods wish to destroy, they first hand the equivalent of a stick with a fizzing fuse and Acme Dynamite Company written on the side. It's more interesting, and doesn't take so long.

would they remember some felonious monk or would they shout for Glod Glodsson? )

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Storm from the Shadows — David Weber

I had hopes. The Shadow of Saganami was supposed to be the first of an Honorverse series that did not involve Harrington and the interminable politics and incredibly lame soap opera surrounding her. It still had annoyances, but for the most part was mostly about action rather than talking heads. Now comes this second book, and it's almost entirely talking heads, and worse, the talking heads are just rehashing the same information over and over and over. Plus there is again the whole massive overkill syndrome (The fleet had all the latest defensive technology, but even that couldn't stop all of the 60,000 missiles now heading for it...) It's not really a sequel to SoS, although a couple of characters continue from that book, but rather it first retells the end of the last Honor Harrington book from Michelle Henke's point of view, and then spends the next 600 pages or so setting up a cliffhanger that will be resolved in the next Harrington book. (Weber's new technological twist is apparently a starfaring analog to modern submarine warfare.) Incredibly disappointing. Feh.
dxmachina: (Archie Goodwin)
The last books of the year.

The Children of Húrin — J. R. R. Tolkien
A curse is a curse, of course, of course... )

---
Juggler of Worlds — Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner
Another point of view... )

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Trouble in Triplicate — Rex Stout
Out of order... )

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Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency — Douglas Adams
Solving the whole mystery... )

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Odd Girl Out — Timothy Zahn
Meet the Tok'ra )

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Hogfather — Sir Terry Pratchett
HAVE YOU BEEN NAUGHTY, OR HAVE YOU BEEN NICE? )

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How the Grinch Stole Christmas — Dr. Seuss
What's the opposite of abridged? )

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The Stainless Steel Rat — Harry Harrison
It takes a thief to catch a thief... )

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Speaking of It Takes a Thief,
Magnificent Thief )
dxmachina: (Books)
Wow, it's been awhile. Six books read, three of which tread similar ground. I'll get to them later. Here are the three that have nothing at all to do with each other.

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And Be a Villain — Rex Stout

Continuing along the Wolfe canon, we finally meet Arnold Zeck, Wolfe's Moriarty. The mystery here is kind of a mess, relying on some unlikely events, and seems mostly aimed at introducing Zeck. I'm not sure the scheme behind the mystery would ever work as neatly as Wolfe, Cramer, and Zeck all seem to think it does (and events in the book are among the examples that indicate why). You know it's a bad case when Archie doesn't flirt with any of the women involved.

---
Rails Under the Mighty Hudson — Brian J. Cuddahy

The Tubes... )

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Pyramids — Terry Pratchett

An early Discworld book that isn't really part of any of the main Discworld storylines. It about, well, pyramids, of course, and some mummies, and the Discworld's greatest mathematician, who happens to be a camel. Much fun, as usual.

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Listen, I don't mean to be a sore loser, but when it's done, if I'm dead, kill him.

R.I.P., Paul Newman, who was a heck of an actor and a heck of a human being.

Fiction

May. 29th, 2008 10:45 pm
dxmachina: (Books)
Too Many Women — Rex Stout

Archie gets the girls... )

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The Little Sister — Raymond Chandler

And Marlowe doesn't... )

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The Third Lynx — Timothy Zahn

I've been working on the Quadrail... )

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Going Postal — Terry Pratchett

They’d cursed and, worse, used logarithms. )

dxmachina: (Books)
I used [livejournal.com profile] serenada's version.

I didn't read a LOT of books... )

---
The Science of Discworld — Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, and Jack Cohen

As for books I have read, I just finished this one, which uses a short Pratchett novel as a framework for discussing science. Ponder Stibbins is running an experiment in the High Energy Magic building at Unseen University. The experiment, of course, goes awry, creating a pocket universe containing a world not totally unlike our own, a development that totally stuns the observing wizards, who are used to less spherical, more carried on the backs of giants elephants standing on an even bigger turtle type worlds. They decide to send Rincewind in as a reluctant, on-the-spot observer.

The novel runs in the odd-numbered chapters. Meanwhile, in the even-numbered ones, the two science guys explain what Rincewind was looking at in the previous chapter as the world develops. It's your basic general overview of the sciences, a little physics, a little chemistry, some geology, and a whole lot of evolution. The science guys are funny, so it's all a bit of a lark, especially if you've been a scientist since about the fifth grade or so. Still I did learn a few things. One thing that I'd never even considered before reading this book is that if you throw a proton onto a neutron star, it becomes one big honkin' hydrogen atom. That's pretty neat.
dxmachina: (Books 03)
Hailstones! Falling from the sky!

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The Dark Wing — Walter H. Hunt )

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Sweet Thursday — John Steinbeck )

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Mars Needs Moms — Berkeley Breathed

Breathed's latest children's book. Great fun, as usual.

---
The Bill James Gold Mine 2008 — Bill James

James' latest baseball abstract. Lots of interesting tidbits.

---
Thud! — Terry Pratchett

This was my original Pratchett, so I wanted to reread now that I have a much greater familiarity with the Discworld. It's also terrific in its own right, so there was that, too.

First Look

Mar. 24th, 2008 10:17 pm
dxmachina: (Vimes)
Have watched the first half of The Colour of Magic. Casting spoiler... )
dxmachina: (Books 02)
I hadn't meant to do another Pratchett right after Mort, but the Wolfe I'd requested from interlibrary hadn't managed to get down to my local library by the time I finished it. So I grabbed the Rincewind the Wizzard omnibus I picked up by mistake some years ago, and took another stab at The Colour of Magic. It's the first of the Discworld books, consisting of four connected short stories, and it's just not as good as the later books. I'd read the eponymous first story about a year ago, got bored, and put the book aside. I suppose it's lucky I didn't try to start my reading of the series with it, because I might never have bothered with the other books and been very puzzled by all the praise heaped upon them by my friends.

It features Rincewind, the saddest sack of a failed wizard in all of creation. I was fine with Rincewind in The Last Hero, but there he was part of an ensemble, rather than the star of the show. A little of Rincewind goes a long way. A lot of Rincewind has me reaching for something else. Still, I persevered till the end. The stories do get better as the book goes on, mostly because Twoflower, who is basically a prop in the first story, becomes more interesting as a character later on. That helps a lot. On the other hand, I hated the ending. Was I not already familiar with the series and characters, the book would've been flung across the room.

The other thing that bugged is that a lot of it seems inconsistent with later canon. Death, especially, is very different from the character only a few books later in Mort, and not nearly as interesting.

"My name is immaterial," she said.
"That's a very pretty name," said Rincewind


Despite all that, it was okay. There was still enough funny to keep me amused. I've read that Sky One is producing a live action version of TCoM and The Light Fantastic starring Sir David Jason (who played Albert in Hogfather) and Sean Astin as Rincewind and Twoflower, respectively. Tim Curry's in it, too, and Christopher Lee is voicing Death. That should be fun.
dxmachina: (Books)
First up is a reread of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe's Company, which tells how Sharpe and Harper, as usual, led the assault on the fortress city of Badajoz. There's a lot of grim in the book. Sharpe's old enemy, Hakeswill, shows up, causing chaos amongst the ranks. Also, it focuses on siege warfare, so the body count may be the highest of any of the books, especially on the British side. Cannister is nasty stuff.

Afterwards, I watched the first four eps of the TV series, starting with Sharpe's Rifles, then Sharpe's Eagle, Sharpe's Company, and Sharpe's Enemy. The adaptations are all good, and Company probably has the closest correspondence to events in the book upon which it's based. It's fun picking out actors who've gone on to other things. Daniel Craig plays a villain in Eagle. Elizabeth Hurley shows up as Sharpe's ex-lover in Enemy. Plus, these are the four episodes with Assumpta Serna as Theresa.

---
I also just finished Mort, Pratchett's vision of Death takes a holiday, and it's just terrific. I laughed out loud a lot. And "sodomy non sapiens" may become my new motto.

An hour ago Cutwell had thumbed through the index of The Monster Fun Grimoire and had cautiously assembled a number of common household ingredients and put a match to them.

Funny thing about eyebrows, he mused. You never really noticed them until they'd gone.


There was also this:

When you step off a cliff, your life takes a very definite direction.

which is such an apt description.

dxmachina: (Books 03)
Just finished The Truth by Terry Pratchett, which tells the tale of Ankh-Morpork's first newspaper. More good fun, and most of the Watch is featured in secondary roles, which is always good.
dxmachina: (Books 02)
I've taken to reading books on my Palm, and I seem to be reading faster and with more comprehension. Take that, Evelyn Wood! I think both can be attributed to the small amount of text visible, which makes it hard to lose one's place on the page after a distraction. The only negative so far is the screen contrast ain't the greatest when I'm reading in the truck at lunch. On the plus side, it's easy to highlight and bookmark text for later review.

The Rubber Band — Rex Stout )
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Over My Dead Body — Rex Stout )
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The Fifth Elephant — Terry Pratchett )
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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — J.K. Rowling )
dxmachina: (Books 02)
Snagged from [livejournal.com profile] debg and [livejournal.com profile] serenada, among others.

When you see this, post a couple of quotations from your own favorite writers. These should be people you read over and over again, not people who had one great idea; go ahead and do it from memory, mistakes and all.

Like serenada, I'm not the sort of reader who can often quote passages at the drop of a hat, but I do remember the gist. I looked these up to make sure I had them right.

Jim Bouton:
You see, you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.

Roger Zelazny:
"None sings hymns to breath," said Yama. "But, oh to be without it!"

Zelazny is one of the few writers whose lines I can quote. Here's another:
I was rabbit.

Terry Pratchett:
That was another thing. Her books on alchemy were marvelous objects, every page a work of the engraver's art, but they nowhere contained instructions like "Be sure to open a window." They did have instructions like "Adde Aqua Quirmis to the Zinc untile Rising Gas Yse Vigorously Evolved," but never added "Don't Doe Thys Atte Home" or even "And Say Fare-Thee-Welle to Thy Eyebrows."

To understand my affection for this passage, it helps to know that as a kid I once cleared out the family home with hydrogen sulfide (aka rotten egg gas) whilst experimenting with my chemistry set. My mother was not amused. They don't make chemistry sets like that anymore. Sigh.

Larry Niven:
Never throw shit at an armed man. Never stand next to someone throwing shit at an armed man.

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The Pratchett quote is from
Feet of Clay
, which I just finished. It's another Watch book, and the mystery is really quite good. There were also (for me, anyway) two laugh out loud moments. A terrific book.
dxmachina: (Books)
I've actually been reading quite a bit, I just haven't been writing it down.

Preludes and Nocturnes -- Neil Gaiman
The Doll's House -- Neil Gaiman
Dream Country -- Neil Gaiman

This is the second time I've tried Gaiman's Sandman series of graphic novels, and although I got further this time, I'm still not as impressed as a lot of folks seem to be. I like Gaiman's novels, but these leave me sort of flat.

---

Deadly Quicksilver Lies -- Glen Cook
Petty Pewter Gods -- Glen Cook
Faded Steel Heat -- Glen Cook

Awhile back I bought the entire Garrett series collected in omnibus editions from the SF Bookclub. These three novels are in one of them, and since they are set within a few days of each other, I found it sort of helps to read the three in one go. The context resulted in me even sort of liking Gods this time around, previously my least favorite of all the Garretts. Lies is the best of the three, a very good mystery emphasizing the Garrett and Dotes team. Steel has it's moments, but is a bit contrived. One thing that occurred to me while reading these is that while Cook draws a lot of his inspiration from the Nero Wolfe books, upon reflection, Morley Dotes is a dead ringer for Hawk from the Spencer books. "Spen-sah!"

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Small Gods -- Terry Pratchett

One of my accidental Pratchetts, this one is just flat out charming, about a young man with a special talent, and the very special tortoise that befriends him. I liked it a lot.
dxmachina: (Books 02)
I continue to bounce back and forth amongst Pratchett's books about the Watch. This time it was Men at Arms, in which Vimes gets married, Carrot becomes a Captain instead of a king, and Angua makes her first appearance. Great fun and a compelling mystery. What more could one want?

Well, one could want to become immersed in that world, which Discworld Noir does a passable job at. Noir is a computer game about the Discworld's first and only private investigator. The wikipedia article on the game claims that "The game's story line is a completely original creation," which is true, if by completely original creation you mean that the creators took the plots of the Maltese Falcon, Farewell My Lovely, and Casablanca, and rolled them around some Lovecraft while lifting lines and/or characters from the Big Sleep, Doctor Who, and To Have and To Have Not (among others). Not to mention all the stuff from Pratchett. It could have been wretched, but it's really a lot of fun watching the hero (Lewton) look for the Tsortese Falchion and a chanteuse named Therma whilst dealing with the arrival of the lover who ran out on him with no explanation all those years ago, and now Sam is playing their song in a cafe in Ankh-Morpork. The gameplay is fair to the player, and the puzzles are in context with the mysteries. It does drag a bit in the fourth (and final) act when most of the characters have left the stage and Lewton is spending most of his time doing library research on the Big Bad, but it finishes strong.

The real fun is seeing the setting and familiar characters. Among others, Nobby, Vimes, Leonard of Quirm, the Patrician, and even Death (in all his CAPITALIZED glory) are on hand. The voice acting is very good. Nobby sounds like Nobby, and Death SOUNDS LIKE DEATH. The voice for the Sidney Greenstreet stand-in (speaking mostly the same dialog) is better then the original. The only voice I was disappointed in was Vimes, who sounded like the guy who played Field Marshall Montgomery in Patton, sort of like Don Adams with a British accent.

After all the Discworld, I read Roger Zelazny's Doorways in the Sand, a book I liked a lot when I first read it back in grad school. It's about a perpetual student whose hobby is climbing things who suddenly finds himself in the middle of a Hitchcockian situation involving a missing artifact, hoodlums, government agents, and aliens who like to disguise themselves as fuzzy animals. The style is interesting. (Well, interesting enough for me to actually notice it.) Each chapter starts with a cliffhanger of sorts, followed by a flashback of how the hero got into the situation, and then switching back to the present to resolve the situation. Lather, rinse, repeat. The ending is a bit contrived (there's a bit of a deus ex machina involved), but I still enjoyed it.

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