tamaranth: me, in the sun (Default)
[personal profile] tamaranth
2017/24: City of Blades -- Robert Jackson Bennett
Mulaghesh stops and looks up into the face of Voortya. The world goes still. There is someone in the statue. It’s the strangest of sensations, but it’s undeniable: there is a mind there, an agency, watching.


It's five years since the events of City of Stairs. spoilery for City of Stairs, marginally spoilery for City of Blades )
tamaranth: me, in the sun (Default)
[personal profile] tamaranth
2017/23: City of Stairs -- Robert Jackson Bennett
while no Saypuri can go a day without thinking of how their ancestors lived in abysmal slavery, neither can they go an hour without wondering – Why? Why were they denied a god? Why was the Continent blessed with protectors, with power, with tools and privileges that were never extended to Saypur? How could such a tremendous inequality be allowed?


The Continent used to be powerful, magical, and blessed by the Divinities. Now it's occupied by the Saypuri, who used to be the Continentals' slaves. City of Stairs is set a generation or so after the Blink -- a moment in which, after a Divinity was killed by a Saypuri rebel (the Kaj), the works of all six Divinities were ... unmade, causing devastation across the Continent as the things that they built and maintained crumble away. non-spoilery )

Bits and pieces

Mar. 23rd, 2017 01:46 pm
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[personal profile] flick
My parents have been to visit, which was nice, and short (possibly the two are related!). They brought us new living room lights (we saw the ones that we wanted in John Lewis, but they were out of stock when we went to order them online. A short panic that they were being discontinued later and my mother had bought them in her local store, as she was going there anyway. They are, of course, now back in stock online), which was good, and then put them up for us, which was better. They're much less fussy than the old ones, and removing the centre light from the ceiling fan / changing the blades on it has also made that look much better.

Just the floor to go, now, and it is finally booked for next week. We went for the middle ground, in the end, and are having laminate from the guy who did the third quote after the other two had annoyed me too much. I honestly couldn't have told you which of the sample books was wood and which laminate, so hopefully it's going to look nice! And then we need to buy some rugs. And new shelves for DVDs. But other than that it's nearly done....

In the less successful home improvement department, we were supposed to be having a new garage door today but the chap phoned first thing to say that his minion had called in sick. Hopefully that will get rescheduled in the not too distant future.

(My parents broke their journey home at Ebbsfleet, in the end, on account of not wanting to get up very early. It all worked ok.)

Following my failed attempt to listen to a bloody mp3 on my bloody phone, I bought the album (digitally, for £7, as the CD was £40!) and then remembered that I no longer have an optical drive in my laptop, so couldn't burn a CD to listen to in the car. In theory, I can use the drive in the desktop as an external drive, so we fiddled around trying to do that but, although I could see the drive, I couldn't see the blank CD that I put into it. (The next day, Mike messaged me from the office to ask why an untitled CD had appeared on *his* laptop. Sigh.) In the end, Mike bought me an external drive, so I spent an afternoon ripping and burning copies of all the CDs that have come into the house since I ceased to have a means of doing so: actually not that many, but it does take a while.

Yesterday, presumably to be blamed on one or other of the parents (although they claim not), I had some sort of odd twelve-hour lurgy: I woke up with a sore throat, got increasingly shivery as the morning went on, spent the afternoon wrapped in a blanket while each of my joints individually got more and more achy, developed weepy eyes and a splitting headache, didn't finish my dinner and felt a bit sick afterwards, felt a bit better by (early) bed time, and woke up this morning with a slight headache but otherwise feeling fine.

In between all that, I've mostly been playing The Last Guardian, which is exactly like the reviews say. It's very pretty, very Japanese, and very random. You are a small boy who is accompanied by a giant cat-bird, over which you have very limited control, while you wander around a mysterious and largely abandoned complex of towers and dungeons. The controls are utterly terrible, and this is a sadly common conversation in the house these days:
Flick: [repeats $keystrokes over and over for five minutes in an attempt to make the cat-bird do a $thing]
Flick: Can you see what I'm doing wrong here? I think that I need to get cat-bird to do $thing but he's not doing it.
Mike: It does look like that's what you need to do. Do you want me to look it up?
Flick: Please.
Flick: [continues to repeat $keystrokes, throughout the conversation]
Mike: It says you need to do get cat-bird to do $thing.
Flick: That's what I'm trying to do.
Mike: You need to hit $keystrokes.
Flick: That's what I'm doing. That's what I've been doing for ten minutes. This game has the worst controls ever.
Cat-bird: [for no obvious reason suddenly does $thing]

I have no objection to tricky puzzles, but these aren't, they're just capricious. Or, possibly, the cat-bird is capricious. Either way, it's a bit tedious. Very pretty game, though.

2017/22: Occupy Me -- Tricia Sullivan

Mar. 23rd, 2017 11:21 am
tamaranth: me, in the sun (Default)
[personal profile] tamaranth
2017/22: Occupy Me -- Tricia Sullivan
With clever beaks and wingtips the beings who made me compile masks made of human skin, made of feathers, made of biological circuits: mitochondrial turbine engines and electron pumps. Their masks are made of darkness pregnant with radio, the slow deep turning of long wavelength light. They wear these masks and they hop around a ragged fire that drinks up the foreign atmosphere.


Pearl is a flight attendant: also, an angelnon-spoilery )
miss_s_b: (Default)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
... Because of various travails within LGBT+LDs we lost our chair.

This evening I was elected Acting Chair, and will be so until the AGM at autumn conference in Bournemouth.

No flowers ;)
miss_s_b: (Politics: Goth Lib Dems)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
You may have noticed that the previous two posts were somewhat light on my usual "we debated this motion, and I voted this way on it" details. That's mostly because after I had done the reporting-back-from-FCC bits (which I pledged to do upon my candidacy for FCC - I keep my promises, me. Mostly...) the posts were already stupidly long, but also in part because my lovely friend Andrew has done an excellent summary of the salient points here, and given that I am his evil twin (or he is mine - honestly, basically the only difference between us is that I really like beards and he merely has one) I don't feel the need to reiterate his points.

For the avoidance of doubt, though, here is how I voted:
  • Emergency Motions Ballot: can't actually remember, except that I put the second Scottish referendum motion bottom (we can't mandate our MPs how to vote so it was utterly pointless, AND it's not up to English MPs to tell Scotland what to do anyway IMHO) and the Trump one next to bottom (he's not coming till October. Put a (better drafted) motion in for Autumn conference, when it will be a live and salient issue). The others I was happy to see a debate on.

  • A Rational Approach to Harm Reduction (aka the Sex Work Motion): I voted against the (mildly wrecking) amendment and for the unamended motion

  • Tackling Overcrowding in the Prison System: I voted for the amendment and the motion.

  • Britain in the EU: I went for lunch during this motion as hell would freeze over before anyone voted against it, and during the scheduled lunch break I would be prepping to aide in the health and social care debate.

  • Crisis in health and social care: I voted for the amendment, and then for the motion as amended, from my shiny shiny "seat reserved for FCC Hall Aide" seat.

  • The Biennial Trident Fudge: I Paired with Alisdair and went to the pub since we would have voted exactly oppositely on both the motion and amendment and thus cancelled each other out. The England/Ireland match was nailbiting.

  • Emergency motion: Unaccompanied Child Asylum Seekers: I voted in favour of us taking in more of them.

  • Faith Schools: We had to vote between three options, then for the amendment, then for the motion as amended or not with whichever option we voted for. I'm going to use Andrew's characterisations here: I voted against "YAY faith schools" & for "Faith schools should be restricted as much as humanly possible without actually banning them". Then I voted for "Faith schools should be restricted as much as humanly possible without actually banning them" and against the horrible and nonsensical fudge which tried to split the difference between the first two. Then I voted for the "ban all faith schools" amendment, but not enough other people did, so it fell. Then I voted for the motion unamended with the option "Faith schools should be restricted as much as humanly possible without actually banning them" being the winning option. And I am not ashamed to admit to shedding a tear during Sarah Brown (Cambridge)'s very moving speech. I am glad Julian and Zoe were there to give her hugs when she had finished.

    As you can tell, this was quite a complicated vote. Small FCC note: I am glad Geoff Payne was chairing it. Although I have had my disagreements with him, he has just the right sort of forensic, nitpicky, legal mind for this kind of thing, and is a very clear and non-waffly chair. He's one of only about four people I would trust with such a contentious debate with so many options, and two of them are no longer on FCC.

  • Associated Membership of the EU: I voted in favour.
I think that covers everything. So... after three long posts... Any questions?
miss_s_b: (Politics: Democracy)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
Following on from my previous post on York conference, I thought people might be interested in how we plan the debates and how cards get chosen and things like that.

I also recognise that many of you will NOT be interested in this in the slightest, so am putting it behind a cut )



And then of course, we had Not The Leader's Speech. The tradition of Not The Leader's Speech started when Cleggy was Our Glorious Leader. I went to a couple of his leader's speeches and found them excruciating. In the pub after, a Bad Influence who must perforce remain nameless asked me why I hadn't just walked out and gone to the pub, because that's what he had done. The next conference, I walked out (after 7 minutes, as I recall) and found this same person in the pub. The conference after that... well, we just cut out the middle man and went straight to the pub, downloaded the text of the speech, and worked out at which point we would have walked out had we bothered to go in. At the height of coalition the record occurred: we both agreed we would have walked out in the second sentence of the speech. By that point, though, word had got around somewhat and there were a reasonable number of us in the pub for Not The Leader's Speech.

When Farron was first elected Glorious Leader he was fully aware that this had become a tradition. I made him a personal promise that I'd go to his first leader's speech, but with the proviso that if there was anything I didn't like I would walk out. There wasn't, and I didn't. In fact it was a really really good speech. The thing is, I still don't like leader's speeches (or for that matter, The Rally, which I always feel has a silent Nuremburg in between The and Rally). I don't like sitting there being spoonfed and not participating. I don't like the enforced conformity of the expectation to applaud in the right places (and in some cases standingly ovate). IMHO it's Just Not Liberal. So the only one of Farron's leader's speeches I have been to, and probably ever will go to, remains his first. I no longer feel the need to read the text and work out at which point I would have walked out, because I don't have that sort of fractious relationship with his leadership, but it's still nice to find a good pub, claim a room in it, and have beer and food instead of listening and clapping.

The problem this time was that the group of people going to Not The Leader's Speech has grown to more than 30. And we hadn't booked. Admittedly there were only six of us queueing outside the door waiting for the pub to open, but the rest had DMed or texted me asking for a venue and turned up in short order after. As a former barmaid, I felt really bad about doing this to the pub. I think that next time I will have to at least warn the selected pub in advance... And as Zoe said in the comments to the previous entry, now I am on FCC this is in danger of becoming an officially unofficial event... If it gets any bigger it may have to be in the Fringe guide... You can tell how uncomfortable I am with that idea by the number of ellipsis LOL.

This conference we were biefly joined by a not-Lib-Dem friend and segued off into a discussion about cricket for a while, which was lovely I don't think we terrified her too much.

Anyway, I hope you have enjoyed my officially unofficial reports from conference: next FCC news will probably be from the Shadowy General Purposes And Resources Sub Committee, which I suspect will be quite vague and heavily redacted, so I apologise for that in advance. I will, obviously, explain exactly why I'm having to be vauge and heavily redacted if and when I am.
miss_s_b: (Politics: Liberal)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
The short version of What I Did At Lib Dem Conference is:

Attended lots of FCC meetings and training; co-hosted Glee for the second time; hall-aided my first debate as a member of FCC; "organised" Not The Leader's Speech.

click here for more detail on the first three )

Coming soon: What I Did At Lib Dem Conference part two: structuring an actual debate: this time it's personal PLUS Not The Leader's Speech.
tamaranth: me, in the sun (Default)
[personal profile] tamaranth
2017/21: An Unseen Attraction --KJ Charles
Clem had listened with fascination the other week as Gregory and Polish Mark and the journalist Nathaniel had discussed how “you could just tell” about men’s tastes, or their guilt, or if they were hiding something that could make a good story. Clem didn’t seem to have whatever ability it was that let other people “just tell,” and it felt as if there was an entire world of communication going on at a pitch he couldn’t hear.


London, 1874. Clem Tallyfer, son of an English father and an Indian mother, runs a lodging house in Clerkenwell: the role suits him, because he's not that good with crowds or noise or thinking in a straight line. His brother (well, half-brother) Edmund owns the house, and insists that Clem tolerate one particular drunken, ill-mannered lodger, Lugtrout by name.non-spoilery )
tamaranth: me, in the sun (Default)
[personal profile] tamaranth
2017/20: Murder Must Advertise -- Dorothy L Sayers
Unlike the majority of clients who, though all tiresome in their degree, exercised their tiresomeness by post from a reasonable distance and at reasonable intervals, Messrs Toule & Jollop descended upon Pym’s every Tuesday for a weekly conference. While there, they reviewed the advertising for the coming week, rescinding any decisions taken at the previous week’s conference, springing new schemes unexpectedly upon Mr Pym and Mr Armstrong, keeping those two important men shut up in the Conference Room for hours on end, to the interruption of office-business, and generally making nuisances of themselves.


Ah, plus ça change ... First published in 1933, this novel depicts middle-class life in London -- work and play -- in familiar terms. Though Sayers' characters (most of them employed at an advertising agency, as was Sayers for seven years) live in a very different time, their concerns are eminently relatable. Work-life balance, the risks of falling into bad company, where to eat at lunchtime, the paradox of the poor spending money they can't afford on 'luxury' items ... Sayers' observations on the advertising industry are acute, witty and cynical.non-spoilery )
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[personal profile] watervole
 I've just finished this book.  It only cost a few pounds for the Kindle version, so it was worth what I paid for it, but I didn't enjoy it enough to buy the next in the series.

It's an urban fantasy featuring Dina, who is an innkeeper.   Innkeeper in her case means that she has a symbiotic relationship with a building that is semi-intelligent, can modify its shape, produce defensive weapons and various other tricks besides.

The task of an innkeeper is to provide a safe place for aliens visiting Earth.

Rather disappointingly (from my viewpoint) the aliens to date include vampires and werewolves.   I must admit that I've had too many vampires and werewolves and I get bored with attempts to use bad pseudo-science to make them believable.  I cannot think of any kind of twist on genetic engineering that will convince me a werewolf can gain large amounts of mass when it changes form.

The inn suffers from the same problem.  I love the idea, but the claim that it is advanced science that can't be distinguished from magic fails to convince me.

I'd rather have real science or pure magic.  One masquerading as the other just annoys me.

On the plus side, the novel is very well written with excellent descriptive text.  The characters are engaging (I particularly liked the mass murderer using the inn as a safe place.  Not a character I would ever want to meet, but well and entertainingly written)

If the book had had original aliens I'd probably have enjoyed it more.  However, what is a minus for me may well be a plus for others.

If you like your werewolves strong and with buckets of sex appeal and your vampires to be clannish, scheming and to have complex, devious politics, then I recommend 'Clean Sweep; to you.
tamaranth: me, in the sun (Default)
[personal profile] tamaranth
2017/19a: The Monarch of the Glen --Neil Gaiman
‘Well, I don’t think you’re a monster, Shadow. I think you’re a hero.’ No, thought Shadow. You think I’m a monster. But you think I’m your monster.

Another American Gods novella (it and Black Dog, both sold as standalone Kindle books, are so short that I am counting the two of them as one 'read', and that's pushing it, frankly.) Shadow Moon's wanderings take him to the Scottish Highlands, where he is asked to work as security for a rich man's annual party. The party is an institution: it's goes back 'almost a thousand years'. And it soon becomes apparent that Shadow's role is more than just that of a security guard.

The construction of this story -- Shadow's encounters with the people who will become significant, before he understands his part in the story; the constant questioning of whether he is a monster -- is like a jigsaw: Gaiman fits a great deal into The Monarch of the Glen, and also sets Shadow up for a return to the States and a greater understanding of his own nature and destiny. (I don't know whether Gaiman is still working on the sequel to American Gods. I do hope so.)

2017/19: Black Dog -- Neil Gaiman

Mar. 19th, 2017 05:51 pm
tamaranth: me, in the sun (Default)
[personal profile] tamaranth
2017/19: Black Dog -- Neil Gaiman
It’s daylight, said Shadow to the dog, with his mind, not with his voice. Run away. Whatever you are, run away. Run back to your gibbet, run back to your grave, little wish hound. All you can do is depress us, fill the world with shadows and illusions.


This novella is a sequel to American Gods: it's set in the Peak District, where Shadow Moon takes shelter in the village pub during a rainstorm. He encounters a cheerful couple, Moira and Oliver, who recount some jolly episodes from local folklore. There's also a woman, Cassie, who Shadow meets next morning on the hillside. She points out the Gateway to Hell. A number of cats arrive ...

This is a simple tale, with a sense of mythic -- or perhaps fairytale -- justice: kindness repaid, wrongs avenged, ancient stories coming full circle. Shadow's equanimity balances Moira and Ollie's brittle cheer, and makes the story less gloomy than it might have been.
tamaranth: me, in the sun (Default)
[personal profile] tamaranth
2017/18: Dark Matter: A Ghost Story -- Michelle Paver
I’ve also flicked through this journal, which was a mistake. I’m shocked at how my handwriting’s changed. I used to write a neat copperplate hand, but since I’ve been alone, it’s degenerated into a spidery scrawl. Without reading a word, you can see the fear.

The novel begins in London in 1937. Jack Miller has a chip on his shoulder, a physics degree from UCL, and a job he hates. When a group of wealthy young men advertise for a radio operator to form part of an expedition to the Arctic, Jack jumps at the chance: he has nobody to leave behind, nothing -- apparently -- to lose.
somewhat spoilery for middle of book )

Book prices on Amazon

Mar. 17th, 2017 06:21 pm
tamaranth: me, in the sun (Default)
[personal profile] tamaranth
2017/17: The Hanging Tree -- Ben Aaronovitch
We’d been reluctant to employ a forensic psychologist because of the well-founded fear that they might section us for believing in fairies.


Following the events of Foxglove Summer, Peter Grant has returned to London. Lady Tyburn (one of the river goddesses of London) calls in a favour: her daughter Olivia was at a party where a young woman died in suspicious circumstances, and Lady Ty wants Peter to ensure that Olivia is not implicated in the investigation.non-spoilery review )
tamaranth: me, in the sun (Default)
[personal profile] tamaranth
2017/16: Foxglove Summer -- Ben Aaronovitch
Nightingale calls them the fae but that's a catch-all term like the way the Greeks used the word 'barbarian' or the Daily Mail uses 'Europe'. [loc. 260]


Foxglove Summer is quite a departure from the previous novels in the series. After the traumatic events at the end of Broken Homes, Peter Grant is sent to rural Herefordshire to investigate whether a local wizard (retired) is involved in the disappearance of two young girls. Nightingale -- who barely appears in this novel, boo -- may also be giving Peter a break from 'the usual' for compassionate reasons; and there are new threats facing the Folly, which Peter may not be ready to deal with.slightly spoilery because of comparison to another novel )

Books

Mar. 16th, 2017 02:15 pm
watervole: (Default)
[personal profile] watervole
 As I'm recovering from the winter's asthma  and it's after effects   (fog traps air pollution and there is more pollution in winter due to wood fires, high air pressure, etc.  Asthma means a course of steroids.  Steroids lead to muscle loss. Hypermobility combined with muscle loss means that I inevitably injure some muscles while trying to regain muscle strength.  Muscle injury leads to chest pain, etc.)  the brain cells are returning and I'm reading more books.

I seem to be buying a lot of books recommended by or written by friends. 

Currently in the reading queue are: Clean Sweep by  Illona Andrews (recc'd by  ([personal profile] feng_shui_house), Bride of the Rat God by Barbara Hambley, (might have been http://sallymn.livejournal.com/ ), Thomas the Rhymer by Ellen Kushner (think that was a friend of a friend) and The Crimson Outlaw by Alex Beecroft.  There are some other recs that I need to go back to now I'm in a better state of mind.

Just completed 'Remnant Population' by Elizabeth Moon.  She writes excellent Space Combat novels, but this particular book is very different in nature.  It's the slow-paced story of an elderly woman who chooses to stay behind when her colony is evacuated to another world.  She's a very believable protagonist.  Aches and pains, a love of gardening and a good touch of bloody-mindedness.

Being on her own allows her to do as she wants and to throw off some of the social conventions that have irked her.   She can value herself on her own merits, rather than being subject to the whims and opinions of others.

It's also an alien first-contact story with a twist that I love (even while conceding it to be improbable)

I've read this book before, and I'm sure I
 will read it again.


Oswin and Daffodils

Mar. 16th, 2017 09:48 am
watervole: (Default)
[personal profile] watervole
 Children have wonderful imaginations - unfettered by knowledge of what is possible.

Oswin (my granddaughter) will be three in April.  As yesterday had real sunshine, we spend quite a bit of time in the garden.  She's fallen in love with daffodils, especially the big yellow 'King Alfred' ones in my back lawn.   She interacts with her favourite flower as though it's a person.  She talks to it, turns its head so it can see what is happening elsewhere and keeps popping back into the garden to see it again.

After the stalk got bent through too much tlc, we snipped it with a pair of scissors and put it in a vase "so it could have a drink".  The vase was placed on the kitchen table next to some cress she is growing, so they could keep each other company.

Later in the day, she was pretending to be a daffodil.  As far as I could tell, the daffodil did exactly what little girls do, but who am I to argue!

Oswin takes a real delight in life -when we go for walks, we often run and jump on all the water meters, manhole covers, etc, in the pavement.  She's very good. I can trust her not to go onto the road without waiting for me to say it's safe.  We've drilled her very carefully in that one.

BTW, if anyone wants book recommendation for small children, her current favourite is the delightful 'Owl Babies', which combines realism with a lovely little story and a touch of humour.  

By realism, I mean that the illustrations actually look like owls and the owls do things that real owls do.

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