Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Monday, June 26, 2017

Eclipse (and a few more things)

As you probably know already, there will be a total eclipse of the sun across the United States on August 21st. When I first saw a map showing the path of totality I got excited because it is only about a three or four hour drive from where I live. But more lately the Scrooge in me has been coming out. I think about the traffic and the crowds because everyone is going to flock to somewhere on this narrow, 70 mile wide, path across the U.S. I picture traffic jams and general chaos. But still, it's the last chance I will ever get to see a total eclipse of the sun.

Then this morning I found this eclipse simulator. You just enter your city or zip code and it shows you what the eclipse will look like where you live. (or for any location) If this is accurate it looks like the sun will be eclipsed about 90% or more here. Technically not total but close enough to make it not really worth it to drive four hours and deal with the crowds.

Oh, and I still have my eclipse shades that I bought for the last partial eclipse we had, so I'm all set.

* * * * *

I did say, when I switched back to Blogger, that I was likely going to neglect the blog but I still feel a little bad about it when I go a whole week without posting anything and there are things I want to blog about, like a whole bunch of books. Well, maybe four books that I really have to mention sometime. But not today. Why not? I don't know. I just have to be in the right mood. Know what I mean?

I have been fairly active on Twitter lately. I am @uppityokie in case anyone's interested. I mostly retweet stuff but I do occasionally post a complaint or smart-aleck comment or a "wow, cool" or something and sometimes even get into actual little conversations with a couple of people. I'm typically on it on my phone during the commercials while I'm watching TV in the evening and I also check it a few times during the day.

* * * * *

Forgotten English looks like a fun site but I haven't taken time to really look at it yet.

Finally, enjoy these lovely images by Igor Zenin

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Close Encounter

The most crazy awesome thing happened just a little while ago. (Sadly I don't have video evidence to prove it.) I had walked to the mailbox and was walking back up my long driveway when I saw a flash of brown in my peripheral vision. A dog? So I stopped walking and turned my head to look at it. It was a fawn and it was running toward me eagerly. I'm sure of it. It didn't just happen to be going that way. It saw me and was purposely coming toward me.

But then it stopped just four or five feet away from me and just looked at me for maybe ten or fifteen seconds. Then it walked around me, stopping to look back at me a couple of times and finally started running when it was well past me. I think the poor little guy (or girl, I didn't notice that detail) mistook me for his mom. I hope he found her. I'm flattered but I don't think I'd be a good deer mom.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Morning Walk

I spotted this beauty this morning in the woods behind my house. I don't remember ever seeing one exactly like it before. The photo is not as sharp as I would like. The little guy (or gal?) was shy and wouldn't let me get close so I had to zoom in from several feet away.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Random Linkage

Relax - a brief history of stress relief toys

Luxury Train - I want to take ride! It's in Japan of course.

Everyday Foodie Menus - How to make your ordinary meals sound pretentious

Sun Worshiping - great photos of cats, and a few dogs, enjoying the sun

Before Bond - Young Roger Moore, modeling sweaters and vests

Obnoxious Antiques - an online antique store

Textless Movie Posters - These are great. Movie poster art without the words.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Eat Your Cake; It's Good For You

Add to the list of questionable scientific studies I want to believe, eating chocolate cake for breakfast is good for you. It allegedly improves cognitive performance, memory, and abstract thinking. And - the really exciting one - it can help you lose weight. Yay! Just the good news we've all been wishing for! Now we can eat chocolate cake every morning and we'll all be thin and smart. What a wonderful world. I love science, don't you?

The scientists say that "your body converts food and energy more efficiently in the morning" plus there are those wonderful, beneficial "flavonoids" in chocolate but I have an additional idea about how this (the weight loss part of it) might work. Believe it or not I actually do tend to lose weight when I eat ice cream as opposed to when I pig out on things like pizza and giant greasy hamburgers. When I eat ice cream it's usually in the evening and because I know I am going to eat ice cream I "save up" during the day by avoiding snacks during the day and maybe eating a little less at supper. I can see some people if they eat cake in the morning "being good" the rest of the day because they think, "I had that slice of cake this morning so I better watch the calories the rest of the day."

Anyway, I don't think I'll be trying the Chocolate Cake Diet, at least not right now. A while back on Twitter I said that if I live to be 100 I'm going to eat ice cream for supper every night and tell people it's my secret for a long life. So maybe I'll add cake to my 100+ diet plan. Cake for breakfast, ice cream for supper = long life. I'll figure out what to have for lunch later.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Gotham

We can't all like the same things. Different strokes, no accounting for taste, and all that. I get it; I really do and I'm fine with it. But still, once in a while something comes along that is so awesome I just can't fully grasp the fact that not everyone loves it as much as I do. My brain has always known that there must be people out there who do not love Gotham but my heart and soul do not believe it's possible. So it was a bit of a shock to learn that there are at least two people who do not like Gotham.

In case anyone reading this has missed out, Gotham (Fox) is a Batman prequel. Bruce Wayne is a teenager - quiet, serious, and often surprisingly innocent. All the familiar characters are there, though some of the villains have not yet acquired their villain persona. Edward Nygma, for example, in the early seasons is just a shy young guy with issues that probably wouldn't seem all that bad if you didn't know what was coming and it is great fun watching him become The Riddler.

Gotham is incredibly fun to watch. The casting is outstanding. The actors all play their characters brilliantly. My favorite is Robin Lord Taylor as Penguin. I can hardly keep from giggling every time he appears on screen. I could list each actor and gush about how brilliant each of them is but you really just have to see for yourself.

Could it be though, that I am having so much fun watching the characters that I never noticed that there's no plot? Typically, shows that have a long season to season story arc tend to eventually lose focus and go off on weird tangents. I have to admit I'm starting to get a little bored with the Court of Owls, and if Penguin is "killed" and brought back to life one more time it might make me roll my eyes a little, but overall I don't think that's happening with Gotham. It does seem like they skip around a lot. Often the story will refer back to events of a season or two ago. I started watching during season two and I caught on fairly quickly but I don't think it would be possible to pick it up much later than that. This skipping around really doesn't bother me though. To me, it just makes it seem more real. In real life events do not always happen in a smooth, logical progression.

So anyway... I suppose I'm just defending one of my favorite shows and if it's not your cup of tea, it's not your cup of tea but if you haven't watched it yet try it. Start at the beginning and give it some time. And don't worry about the plot or lack thereof. Just sit back and enjoy it moment to moment.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Random Linkage

Starfleet Academy - It's a real place and you can take a tour! But you might be disappointed when you find out what it really is.

Artist Rick Stevens - I love this. Abstract and not quite abstract?

Language Links - A long list

Scardy Dog - Lots of pictures of dogs being afraid of things. Vacuum cleaners are a common fear and far from the silliest.

Tender Wings of Desire - OMG! Someone please tell me this is not real.

Digital Pin-Ups - I suppose that, as a woman, I'm supposed to be outraged about stuff like this but I like pin art. I can't help but appreciate the silliness and ridiculousness. These have a bit of a retro feel but at the same time modern and twisted. NSFW?

Sarah Forbes Bonetta - Interesting, little known history

The Orville - A Star Trek parody series. I'll decide later whether I love it or hate it. Of course you know if it's good Fox will cancel it after only 14 episodes.

Beautiful Tables

Train and Rail Yard Art

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Water Bucket

A simple but clever idea: put a camera in a bucket of water. I'm a little disappointed that no cats came to drink but I love this anyway.

Friday, May 5, 2017

This 'n' That

I tried Coca-Cola "Life", the one with the green label, and it's not awful. It took me a long time to get to it. The green label greatly bothers my inner Sheldon Cooper. I know it's silly but it goes against my sense of the way things are supposed to be. Coke labels are supposed to be red. The silver Diet Coke label and the black Coke Zero label don't bother me but green is just a color too far. Another thing is stevia. I assumed as soon as I saw the green label that stevia had something to do with it. I had tried it in the little packets before and didn't like it. It's supposed to be "natural" but it has a bitter artificial taste so I had no interest in trying the green label Coke. But then I saw in a commercial that it's sweetened with cane sugar and stevia. So, okay, worth a try.

As I said, it's not awful but it's not great either. I can't decide if it tastes more of less like "the real thing" than Coke Zero. I haven't had a "real" Coke in a fairly long time so it's hard to say. I think I like it slightly better than Coke Zero but it does still have a bit of that wrongness about it that artificially sweetened drinks have. I would be interested in trying a Cherry Coke "Life". That should have a colorful label. Maybe they could come out with it right before Christmas time.

* * * * *

Speaking of Sheldon Cooper, I just heard that there is going to be a Big Bang Theory prequel series about Sheldon as a child. I don't really have an opinion about it yet but I do think it's interesting that Sheldon's mother will be played by Zoe Perry who is the real life daughter of Laurie Metcalf, who plays Sheldon's mother in The Big Bang Theory. And the young actor who will play Sheldon looks enough like grown-up Sheldon to be believable.

* * * * *

I discovered Kenga Rex on Twitter. If you want to spend hours looking at collections of wonderful photographs this is the site for it. It uses a slide show format, which is one of my top pet peeves of the Internet but this is not too terrible. The photos load reasonably quickly and they are so beautiful and amazing that it's worth the relatively small annoyance.

* * * * *

Oooo! I must get the PlantNet app. (I forget where I first saw this.) At a glance, the website doesn't look especially well organized but the app might be more useful. There are of course other plant identification apps. Everything seems to be focused on useful or desirable plants but what I really want most is to identify all the interesting little "weeds" that grow all over my place.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Fascinating Fungi

We have been getting SO MUCH rain lately! I think maybe someone is supposed to be building an ark. We have had a few breaks, like yesterday, when the weather was nice and I could get out and walk around outside. Naturally, when we get lots of rain we get lots of fungi and it seems like every year I see something new. A few days ago I found this gorgeous fungus growing on this small tree. It actually seems a bit translucent.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Voices

Fillyjonk said something that caught me by surprise. Talking about Willie Nelson, that "He doesn't have a beautiful singing voice..." When I really think about it, I suppose that's true. He doesn't have the kind of voice that people normally think of as beautiful but I have always loved it.

I am attracted to unique voices, at least in popular music. With operatic singing I'm more interested in the music itself. I expect operatic voices to be well trained and I only want the singers to respect the music and "sing it right." But with popular music I want to hear voices that don't sound like all the other voices.

She mentioned Hallelujah. I hadn't heard Willie Nelson's version of that and I've had a certain fascination with that song recently so of course I listened to it. I was a little disappointed, probably because I have developed certain expectations for the song, so I'm posting one of my favorites instead.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Just a Few Links

Edward Gorey, Collector - This is not surprising at all. (I used to have a few of the Red Rose Tea figurines. I haven't seen them since before the last time we moved, over 20 years ago.)

Aging - Comparing photos of centenarians with their photos taken when they were young adults

Vintage Book Covers - I want these.

Russian Tea Containers

Alternate Universes

Fictional Butterflies - Lovely!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A Little Something...

Wow, have I really not posted anything all week and the week is almost over? I need to do a book post because I just finished another book and that makes three since the last time I posted anything about books. I probably won't get the chance tomorrow either because we're supposed to have a massive rainstorm, 4 to 6 inches of rain and hail likely and satellites apparently can't see through heavy clouds so no Internet or TV for me tomorrow. I should get lots of reading and sewing done.

So, for now, here's a little something from one of my favorite "lesser" composers.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

In With the New, Out With the Old

I have such a hard time letting go, even of things that I don't really like all that much anymore. The plate on the left in the first photo below is maybe 30 years old. I originally bought 4 10 inch plates and four 8 inch plates. They're actually a pretty hefty plastic, thicker and better than typical plastic plates but two of the large ones and one of the small ones eventually broke. Last year I finally found somewhere I could buy DallasWare in a small quantity. (They're a restaurant item, usually only available in cases of 48.) I bought 12 blue 10 inch plates and threw out the two yellow plates in that size but kept the three remaining smaller ones. The three that are left have stains that won't come out. I even bleached them and that helped some but there are still faint stains.

I had been looking at these aquatic themed plates at Walmart. I fondled them and left them in the store several times because I "don't need anymore plates." I thought about buying just one so my granddaughter will have something bright and colorful to eat off of when she comes over but today I finally gave in to the impulse and bought four of them. Which means I must let go of the old.

It shouldn't be hard at all to throw out some old, stained plastic plates that we don't even use all that often anymore but... but... they have been part of my life for almost 30 years. My children ate off of those plates! Okay, I did throw them away and right this moment I am resisting the urge to get them back out of the trash. Have you ever heard of such silliness?

I'm sure these new plates won't last that long. According to the label they are only "top rack dishwasher safe" but I know sooner or later (almost certainly sooner) someone is going to put them in the bottom rack and I won't notice and there goes my pretty new plate. Also, while they seem to be fairly decent quality I don't expect them to last more than a few years. Which, I'm kind of okay with because they were cheap enough but, for that reason, it seems sort of wrong to throw away something that is "still good" in favor something new and probably not as good.

Well, all that's probably more of the inside of my head than you ever wanted to see. Here are two more of the new plates. There were only three different designs so I bought two of the fish. When I got home I wondered why I chose two of the fish when the starfish is actually my favorite but I'm really not too disappointed with my choice. I like them all. I really wish there had been four different designs.

Monday, April 10, 2017

A Lovely Weekend

Guess who I got to meet yesterday!

(She was dressed for church. I was dressed for a long car ride.)

We drove down to Austin, Texas on Friday to visit family and drove back on Sunday. I have always had mixed feelings about meeting people I only know online, mostly because the people I'm most attracted to online are all better educated than I am and I worry about what kind of impression I will make. I'm really just a dumb redneck with a sort of weird variety of interests. Fortunately, my husband can talk to anyone so I knew I wouldn't have to worry much about awkward silences.

I really enjoyed our little get-together. It didn't feel like I was meeting Erica for the first time because she is exactly as I always imagined her. We had lunch at a little Italian restaurant called Roma's. I didn't really mind that it took them forever to bring our food because it gave us more time to talk.

* * *

Saturday with family (in-laws) was great too. There were cousins there whom I had only met briefly over 30 years ago and also some I had not met before including some really sweet and adorable kids. So it was a lovely and fun weekend.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Random Linkage

Rubik's Cakes - a cute party idea

Hidden Haikus

Artist Will Wilson - Portraits, still life, animals, and more

Six Pie Recipes

Colormind - I haven't taken the time to play with this yet but it looks interesting.

Glass house - Beautiful! Definitely do not throw stones.

Candy Geode - You'll need a few friends to share it with.

Planet Building Blues - An interesting blog if you have time to do some reading.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Few Things

Turkish artist Huseyin Sahin creates beautiful, surreal scenes using photographs.

I just discovered Factinate this morning. As always, be skeptical of any "facts" you read on the Internet but this does look interesting and I noticed that they did get at least one thing right that often misleads people, about life expectancy in ancient times and how it's skewed by the higher number of infant and maternal deaths.

Black and WTF is a Tumblr devoted to odd old black and white photos.

I made this raspberry sour cream pie. I halved the recipe to make only one pie.I wouldn't say it was the best pie I've ever tasted but it was yummy and I will be making again sometime.

Book Quote

From Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds:

And though he did eventually return, his doubters had in a sense been right, because a large portion of his sanity had not come back with him.

Thanks to my son for sharing that with me. I have read the book but it was several years ago. ("Several" being something like 10 maybe)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Just Some Birds

Newest Vice

Prepared food industry, I hate you. You keep on coming out with irresistible stuff. And by the way, Mother Nature... I don't hate you because you do some really awesome work but let's be honest, you are a cruel bitch sometimes. Like, the way you make stuff that's bad for us taste so good. But back to the prepared foods industry and this evil temptation.

I know... almonds are healthy, right, so this isn't that bad? That's what they want us to think. They don't want us to read the required Nutrition Facts part of the label and see that it has 14 grams of fat and 13 grams of carbohydrates per unrealistically small serving.

So far we've tried it on whole wheat bagels and on graham crackers. The jar is almost empty. I'm going to try to resist the temptation to buy more. For a while.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

New Old TV Episodes

In 1995 we moved from Virginia to Oklahoma. (This is closer to where we were originally from) The first season of Star Trek: Voyager had just finished. And, if I remember correctly, we were in the middle of the second season of Babylon 5. We found, to our intense disappointment, that in the Tulsa area both of these shows were on a weak channel that you can't get with an antenna unless you live practically next door to the broadcast station. It would be several more years before we got cable and then later, DirectTV.

So there are six entire seasons of ST:V that we have not seen. (Not to mention several seasons of B5*) Until now. BBC America recently started showing reruns of it on Monday night and I'm enjoying catching up. So far they have been showing episodes from the later seasons, mostly 1998, 1999 or around that. When the show first premiered I found it a bit disappointing. It was okay but just not... I don't know... not Star Trek enough. But I'm liking these later episodes a lot more. I am missing one of my favorite characters from the first season, Kes. I even named a cat after her.

Seven of Nine is annoying but I think I'm starting to hate her a bit less. I don't think I'll ever name a cat after her though. I can see why most guys like her so much. (You know, I really don't mind the token eye candy but it would be nice if we gals could see some too. At least in the original we occasionally got to see Captain Kirk without a shirt.)

But what I really wanted to talk about is the theme music. This is my favorite of all the Star Trek openings, both the music and the visuals.

There is also an extended version.

And then there's this:

(* No we can't stream it on Netflix or Hulu. Real high speed Internet is not available out here in the boonies.)

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Cute Weirdness... or Weird Cuteness

I did try to think of something clever to say about this but, honestly, I don't think it needs anything from me.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Random Linkage

Clouds - This guy says we should spend more time talking about clouds. It does seem like a better topic for conversation than most I have been hearing lately.

Spiritual Perception - A beautiful surreal art Tumblr. Beautiful! I am so in love with this site!

Kawaii Monster Cafe - Not very monstrous. A colorful and fun Japanese cafe.

Ambiguous Abbreviations - Or perhaps one could say, unfortunate.

Food Carving - Artist plays with food

Ted Wilson Reviews the World - A hilarious review of butter.

Russian Fairy Tale Portraits - Beautiful portrait photography.

Real photographs that look like paintings

Village of Flowers - A Polish village with flowers painted on everything. Wonderful!

The Turban Trick - an interesting bit of history

Ambient Geek Sleep Aids - Background noise from science fiction movies and TV shows

Miniature Environments by Song Kang - Fascinating sculptures

Friday, March 3, 2017

Book Quote

From Helliconia Summer by Brian W. Aldiss:

Hate cheers you up, makes you forget guilt.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

This 'n' That

I came across a word that I don't remember seeing before even though it is an old word, probably considered outdated which would be why I hadn't noticed it before. (And it does seem sort of odd that I had never seen it so maybe I had and just forgot about it?) The word is botheration. This seems like a useful word. The way it's used in the book I'm reading, Helliconia Summer, it's an understatement. All kinds of big, really bad events are just botheration. With all the hyperbole we have in the world today I think more understatement would be healthy.

Here is a list that I actually, totally agree with: Top 20 Things No Woman Should Wear After 30. No, really. You have to go read it. I'll admit though, I might be tempted by the cursed amulet. Or maybe I'm trying hard to find something on the list that I would wear, just to be contrary.

I thought of an idea for a Criminal Minds episode. Disturbed blogger who never gets any comments hunts down lurkers and tortures and murders them after forcing them to comment on every single post on his (or her) blog. No, no! Not me! I would never do that. I wouldn't know how to find you anyway. But it would make a good creepy story, wouldn't it?

Fake fur in a spring fashion show seems a bit odd. Well, that's not the only odd thing about this collection but my inner child wants to pet these clothes and maybe even wear them. At home, alone, where no one can see me.

A nice post about body image. You know, body image is sort of important to me but not important enough to ever make me want to wear long sleeves in the summer. But then, I live in Oklahoma, not New York.

There are several books in this list, How to Escape in 9 Books, that I might want to read. It's not often that you see a general list of books that starts with a science fiction novel so I was immediately encouraged.

Finally, here's another one of those cool Animusic videos, because I simply can't resist.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Font of Goodness

This makes my rebellious little heart almost giddy with happiness. Hating Comic Sans is Ableist. Now before I go on I have to say that I hate the word "ableist". I hate pretty much any recently coined word that ends in "ist". But I won't get any further into that now. I have never had any strong feelings about Comic Sans one way or the other. It's just a font; it's kind of cute, informal, probably shouldn't be used for resumes or term papers but if you did I don't think it would be a deadly sin or anything like that.

Look, I can understand people having font preferences and dislikes and that they might differ from mine. But I will never understand the amount of energy some people waste on hating Comic Sans. I mean, it's not that it's difficult to read, the only legitimate reason for hating a font; people just hate it for no good reason - because it's casual, I guess. But whatever the reason, the way people express their dislike for it is just too over-the-top. Come on, people; there are many things in the world more worthy of all that hate, if you must hate.

Now, here is an excellent reason to demand tolerance for comic sans.

The day my sister, Jessica, discovered Comic Sans, her entire world changed. She’s dyslexic and struggled through school until she was finally diagnosed in her early twenties, enabling her to build up a personal set of tools for navigating the written world.

“For me, being able to use Comic Sans is similar to a mobility aid, or a visual aid, or a hearing aid,” she tells me while we’re both visiting our family in Maryland. “I have other ways of writing and reading, but they’re not like they are for someone who’s not dyslexic.”

The irregular shapes of the letters in Comic Sans allow her to focus on the individual parts of words. While many fonts use repeated shapes to create different letters, such as a “p” rotated to made a “q,” Comic Sans uses few repeated shapes, creating distinct letters (although it does have a mirrored “b” and “d”). Comic Sans is one of a few typefaces recommended by influential organizations like the British Dyslexia Association and the Dyslexia Association of Ireland. Using Comic Sans has made it possible for Jessica to complete a rigorous program in marine zoology at Bangor University in Wales.

As the article notes, there are other fonts designed for dyslexics but some still find Comic Sans the easiest to read and I think people, disabled or not, should be allowed to choose what makes their lives easier without ridicule from self-appointed guardians of good taste. Okay, I have to admit, I lean toward being a guardian of good taste myself in some ways like, for example, if your bra straps are showing and it's obviously not an accident I definitely think badly of you but I'm not going start a website devoted to outrage over exposed bra straps. It's all about the amount of energy you put into hating relatively unimportant things. Comic Sans might be a serious irritant to some people but it's not up there with bigotry, poverty, and a whole long list of actual problems. So, Comic Sans? Just get over it, people. It's only a font.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Book Quote

From Helliconia Spring by Brian W. Aldiss:

...life has a quality rulers cannot touch.

I have thought about this but something that good writers can do that most of us can't is state a thought simply and elegantly that most of us take whole paragraphs to try to say without ever really getting the point across.

Interesting Sweet Potato Recipe

I saw this Melting Sweet Potatoes recipe on Facebook and want to link to it here so I can find it again. It's very simple but interesting to me for some reason. You might laugh at me but, to be honest, the 500 degree oven temp kind of freaks me out a little bit but I'm going to try this sometime.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Hello February

It seems like everyone hates February. I often hear people say that the only good thing about is that it's short. It's true that we have had some of our worst weather ever in February but to me February feels sort of... I'm not sure this is the word I really want to use but sort of hopeful. This is because the days are getting noticeably longer. It's a little less dark. It's increasingly possible to imagine spring. (March, on the other hand, makes me impatient because it's usually still cold in March and it starts to feel like winter will never end.)

Saturday it was 80F. Today it's gray and cold, more like February is "supposed to be" but that's okay. I had Saturday and today it's still not freezing and the sun will come out and it will warm up again soon. February is okay.

I took the picture in this post a few minutes ago, between 8:15 and 8:30.

Valentines Day

I don't really care much about Valentines Day one way or the other. It's a nice little "holiday" I suppose but I'm not that emotionally invested in it. We're not really overtly romantic people which suits me just fine. Too often things that look romantic in the movies come across as creepy in real life. Guys who have been called "creepy" might want to make a note of this. Don't try too hard. Just be real.

I think the jewelry stores, and in particular DeBeer's, have ruined Valentines Day. When we were kids it was just that fun little day when everyone got those little Valentine cards that always had some kind of silly pun on them and when you were grown up you would get a prettier card and if he was really serious maybe a heart shaped box of chocolates, a third to a half of which are slightly icky (Seriously, why doesn't anyone make Valentines chocolates that are all one kind, like all chocolate covered cherries or all coconut so you can have a whole box of your favorite kind?) and that was pretty much all there was to it. Just a nice, fun little day.

Now it's become so complicated. Guys are expected to come up with the perfect gift, "perfect" meaning expensive, and there's a definite suggestion that the woman is expected to "put out" in response to this perfect gift. Sorry folks but if that's the way it works that's a payment for services, not a gift. Also, there's now a stigma against being alone on Valentines Day - like it's so sad and the worst thing in the world. I blame sitcoms for that.

Listen people, the movies are not real life. TV is not real life. DeBeer's commercials are not real life. Just because we see it on TV does not mean that we are required to play along. Just do your own thing, whatever feels right, whatever makes you happy and don't be all angsty about it. Take back Valentines Day and make it the cute, silly little day it used to be.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Earth Images of the Week

I was watching a documentary series about Antarctica Saturday so I decided to do a little exploring on Google Earth. Not much to see down there but this area looks sort of interesting.

From farther out:

Fortunately, it's quite a bit warmer on my part of the planet.

Friday, February 10, 2017

A Bit of Spring in February

More Books

As I already mentioned, I was reading Neal Asher's Dark Intelligence. Excellent story, great fun. It's the first of a trilogy set in his Polity universe and features a very interesting AI character - one of the insane ones - seen in earlier novels. This AI is being hunted separately by two humans, one of whom is being rapidly transformed into something not human.

As I said in the my earlier post I have the second book in that trilogy and I thought about reading it next but since the third book hasn't been published yet I decided there was no point in getting in a hurry about it. So I read Binti instead. You can read an excerpt here. It is not long, a novella, and I read it all in one day. It is excellent and unique, about a teenage girl from a tribal culture who is accepted by a university off world but her parents forbid her to go and her brothers and sisters ridicule her ambitions so of course she sneaks away and goes anyway. On the way she meets people who look down on her because of her traditions and vicious aliens who hate humans. A very worthwhile read.

What do you do when you have two books you want to read immediately? You go looking for a third one. I looked to see if there was anything in my Kindle Recommendations and was shocked and awed (in a good way) to find Brian Aldiss' Helliconia Trilogy for $5 and change. I had found Helliconia Spring over a decade ago in a used bookstore and loved it but I couldn't find Summer and Winter anywhere. After a while I gave up searching and mostly forgot about it. So of course that's what I'm reading now.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Just a Few Links

Vintage Wallpaper - Very interesting designs. I guess it's just as well they don't make it like this anymore. I would have a terrible time deciding what I want on my walls.

How to Transfer a Photo to Wood - A fun thing to try sometime

Fairy Doors

Fat Cat Art

Reading for Longevity - People who read books live longer.

Fy Nyth - Life in a tiny house in Wyoming. Gorgeous nature photography. Take some time to browse the archives.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Science Fiction & Fantasy on TV

Just a few short notes about some of the shows I have been watching:

Pure Genius - This show is about an advanced medical facility that regularly comes up with miracle cures, usually without waiting for FDA approval. The center's founder is a young billionaire genius (but not a doctor) with a lot of heart, enthusiasm, and impatience. In a current ongoing story line he gives a patient an experimental drug that has not been approved by the FDA which leads to a lot of drama but I'm sitting there thinking, "What about all those other times you used treatments that were not approved by the FDA or the AMA or anyone because they were made up on the spot and it was apparently perfectly okay?" Three stars. Or maybe only two and half.

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Beyond is on Freeform, a network I had never heard of until I saw this advertised on another network and discovered to my surprise that we do get it. A young man wakes up after having been in a coma for 12 years. In addition to having to catch up on all the things he missed, like high school and learning to drive, he has to deal with some pretty weird stuff going on - people he's never met who apparently know him and some strange powers. Not bad but not great. Three stars.

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Emerald City (NBC) - As you might guess from the title, this is a re-imagining of The Wizard of Oz but it has very little in common with the original. A rather fun show with entertaining characters but the story is a bit confusing so far. Still, I'm going to give it four stars because it's imaginative and, overall, well done.

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Gotham - You really need to be watching this show! Everything about it is brilliant! The writing, the acting, the set design. For those who haven't heard of it, it's a Batman prequel. Bruce Wayne is about 13 or 14, I think, in the first season. Penguin is one of the few villains who is already known by his Batman villain name. Brilliantly portrayed by Robin Lord Taylor, he is now my favorite Penguin ever! There's really just no way I can convey to you how entertaining this guy is. Edward Nygma is just a shy guy with issues - issues that come out more and more as the show progresses. And he who will someday be The Joker has only recently made an appearance. Morena Baccarin, of Firefly fame, has a role as a medical examiner.

Interestingly, Gotham has a 30s/40s noir ambiance but mixes both old and new elements. We see both cell phones (flip phones only, no smart phones) and rotary dial desk phones. Cars are not really "vintage" but I haven't noticed any current models either. Actually, to be honest I haven't paid a whole lot of attention to the cars. Anyway, the whole thing seems designed to make it impossible to tell what era it's in. I love this show. Five stars.

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The Expanse - Second season premiered this week. Based on the series of novels by James S.A. Corey, this is another excellent show. Most of the action takes place aboard space ships and space stations but I hesitate to call it "space opera" because of the associations that term has for some people. The portrayal of life in space is the best and most realistic I have ever seen. I am not a scientist or geeky enough to tell you if they got everything right but it looks very believable to me. Five stars.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Random Linkage

Beautiful Blue Eyes - Believe it or not the photo is real.

Cynthia Mosser Art - Some lovely abstract paintings

105 Year Old Cyclist - You're never too old.

Parallel Dimensions - Interesting old book.

Paul Michael Smith Photography - He makes photos of historic scenes using miniatures.

Dragon Stones - Beautiful paintings of dragons on small stones.

Disney Meets Dali - A forgotten collaboration. I love it.

Studio Soo Flower Shop - More miniatures

Route 66 Then and Now - a series of GIFs, many of Oklahoma

Thomassons - "preserved architectural relics which serve no purpose"

Geeky Valentines Day Cards

Illustrations by Antanas Gudonis - Fascinating. More

Friday, January 27, 2017

Books

It's been nearly a week, I think, since I finished Hilldiggers, a stand-alone novel by Neal Asher, set in his Polity universe. I think it might be my new favorite Neal Asher novel. Typically, Asher's stories are extremely violent and gory. (and I'm not saying that as a criticism, just a statement of fact) Hilldiggers certainly has its share of violence but it seems less over-the-top than most of his novels so it feels more like a classic space opera. It's also a very political story with several entities, mis-trustful of each other, about to start an interplanetary war.

After that I immediately started reading Dark Intelligence, another Asher novel and I have its sequel War Factory so I guess you could say that I'm bingeing on Asher right now. I guess you could say that fictional violence is cathartic and we need that with the real world in the situation it's in right now, but aside from the violence and gore these stories are extremely interesting. Asher's take on the AIs-take-over-the-universe scenario is the opposite of what we usually see. The AIs are the good guys and most humans feel that they do a better job of running things than humans do. The AIs are not perfect though. They are, in fact, not completely different from humans in their behavior and can even go insane.

A few days ago I saw an ad somewhere for Binti. It looked intriguing and the Kindle version is only $2.99 so I downloaded that and I'm looking forward to reading it. I haven't yet downloaded Bleak House. It's free and it'll be there when I'm ready for it. I am ready for it and for Binti and for the next Neal Asher novel and more. The reader's dilemma: so many books!

One of my Christmas gifts was Football for Dummies. I did half jokingly say that I wanted it. I've been reading it off and on a little bit at a time. It's very dry, like a particularly dull textbook, and it really is for complete football dummies. I have read very little in it that I hadn't already figured out just from watching football. I'm not even halfway through it though so I'm still hopeful that it will contain some information that I don't know.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Raven

Edgar Allan Poe's birthday was last week and Electric Literature commemorated the day with celebrity readings of The Raven. I haven't listened to them all yet. Five readings of The Raven in one morning seems like a bit much. Naturally, I started with James Earl Jones.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

I'll Remember That - Not!

One of the hardest things for me to remember is that I don't remember things as easily as I used to. Last week I heard a song on the radio and for some reason thought about looking up the video of it and posting it here, then I thought, "Oh that would be the perfect song for inauguration day." So I decided to wait but now, the inauguration is two days away and of course I can't remember what song it was that I was going to post. It would have been so appropriate in a negative, darkly humorous, cynical way. I still have two days to remember it but I don't have high hopes.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

America's First Female President

I know it's extremely early for this but my cat Dax (named after a character on ST:DS9) would like announce that she will be running for President of the United States in 2020.

I know there will be some questions but I assure you that she is qualified. She was born in the United States though I admit there might be a problem if anyone demands that she present a birth certificate. Her equivalent age in human years will be 68 in 2020.

More importantly, she has no ties to any foreign governments or to any large corporations. She is, for the most part, quite honest. She has literally never told a lie. She has on a few occasions tried to steal the dog's food and she has been seen licking her own butt but she has never tried to hide these habits and we do not think they will interfere with her ability to serve the nation as President, especially when you consider the habits of some former and soon to be Presidents.

Dax is a peace lover but she does believe in self-defense when necessary. She is in favor of universal health care and enough food for everyone (as long as she gets hers first) so, at heart, she's a Democrat but, as her chief advisor has observed, labels are what is most important to people and since it has recently been demonstrated that Republican voters will vote for anyone as long as he or she is Republican, after much soul searching Dax has decided to run as a Republican.

We hope that she can count on your enthusiastic support.

Friday, January 13, 2017

This 'n' That

Reader-in-Chief - This is wonderful and it also makes me sad because our next president probably never read anything that didn't tell him how to make more money. I think my tastes in reading probably don't overlap much with President Obama's but I already know I want to read some of these and I will look up reviews of some others. There are two that I have already read: Heart of Darkness, which I didn't care much for, and Moby Dick. Also, I think I read To Kill a Mockingbird when I was just a kid but I can't remember for certain. I might have only seen the movie. And of the children's books, I owned one: Harold and the Purple Crayon, and it makes me so happy that the president recommended a book I loved when I was a child. I won't bother to list those I want to read and might want to read but I will refer to this list later. Oh, and I love the photo at the top of the article - the president wearing jeans and hanging with his daughters at the library like any normal dad.

One of the most beautiful things I've seen recently: A Rosy View is a site devoted to beautiful pictures of roses. It includes names and is organized by color.

Odd. A Tumblr devoted to a curious absence of ears

I recently started following Emergency Kittens on Twitter. (Donald Trump followed then unfollowed Emergency Kittens. Hmmm... so many questions. What does it mean? [/sarcasm] I think it's too bad he unfollowed. A daily kitten might have been good for him.) There's also a website. Keep refreshing the page to see more kittens.

I love this wonderful collection of happy historic photos. The headline says there are "10+". I have looked at the first 40 so far.

Great collection of photos of an old pencil factory in Portugal. I just love everything about this. (Via Messy Nessy Chic)

Artist Suzanne Moxhay creates photo montages of abandoned places and nature. I seem to be using the words "love" and "wonderful" a lot lately but I love these; they're wonderful.

And finally, what the heck is an otomatone? Well, I'm not sure you really want to know but here ya go anyway.

That's actually not entirely bad. In fact, I think, creepy but really pretty good.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Tree

One of my favorite things when I was a little kid was my mother's old collection of scenic View Master reels. They were, in a way, my "internet". They showed me the world (actually, only parts of the US) and I spent many hours looking at them and pretending I was looking out the window of a bus or passenger train. Most of the reels have copyright dates in the late 1940s, about 10 years before I was born. They were still in perfect condition in the 1960s and 70s but now most of the transparencies are faded, dirty, or damaged. This one is still in fairly good condition.

One of the images is of a giant redwood tree with a tunnel carved through it for cars to drive through, so when I heard that the Tunnel Tree had fallen in a storm it was almost like I was reading about another celebrity death. But it turns out that it's not the same tree. The tree on the View Master is the privately owned Chandelier Tree.

This is the Tunnel Tree, also known as the Pioneer Cabin Tree.

And now...

This is very sad. It was a famous tree so it's still sort of like a celebrity death but I have to admit I'm relieved that "my" tree is still standing.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Books

My latest read was Flood of Fire by Amitav Ghosh, the final book in the Ibis trilogy. I discovered it here. (You really should go read that. It's a much better review than mine will be.)

The Ibis trilogy is set in the first half of the 19th century in India and China and is about people involved in and affected by the opium trade. It's a fascinating, rich, epic story and I highly recommend it. Since the author is Indian you might imagine that the British are the bad guys in this story and, on the whole, they are but on an individual level it's well balanced. The characters on all sides are realistic and well developed and the story highly complex and, though it's serious overall, there is subtle humor throughout.

The first two books in the trilogy, which must be read in order, are Sea of Poppies and River of Smoke.

* * * * *

I am ready to get back to science fiction for a while. I have started Neal Asher's Hilldiggers and have two more new Neal Asher books waiting: Dark Intelligence and War Factory. On the other hand, after reading this article, The Many Bad Moms of Charles Dickens I was suddenly possessed by a desire to read Bleak House immediately. I'll go ahead and download it but my history of trying to read two books at the same time is not good. I always end up neglecting one or the other. In fact, I have a couple of books on my Kindle that I never got around to finishing for this reason.

So... lots of reading to be done and there's also sewing and my house desperately needs cleaning but I'll try to not neglect this blog quite as much as I have been recently.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

New Year

Oh my! It's a new year so I should probably have a cheerful, positive kind of post up instead of leaving the "2016 sucked" post at the top for days and days. Well, let's see... I do have one thing. I discovered Literary Hub a couple of days ago on Twitter. Twitter seems to be a much more rewarding site than Facebook for discovering worthwhile things on the Internet. So now I'm wondering, why did I not know about Literary Hub sooner. So many wasted days. I've missed so much.