allekha: (Ailen <3)
I took a break from social media and some other sites I visit, so I haven't been on DW for... at least a week. I was kind of hoping that it would help me be more productive, but it hasn't, really. Oh, well. Hope things are going okay for everyone.

My garden's doing just fine - we've actually been getting enough rain here that I've mostly been ignoring it. I did manage to kill off one of my mints right before I potted it (need to get a new one, sigh) and one of the eggplants died for reasons unknown. And one of the basil plants has gone missing; I suspect it became a lawnmower victim. The rest are being more than productive enough to make up for it, though. I need to tie everything to the stakes I put in, will probably do that tomorrow after buying a replacement mint, and do some weeding. The petunia I rescued a few months ago has started blooming again - I didn't realize it would - so it's nice to have the flowers on the table to look at when I eat dinner.

Work is coming along okay - I ironed out some administrative issues, and have finished some programming tasks that I've been meaning to do. And got all my tests to pass again, woo. Need to talk to my advisor when I can catch him; I think I'm ready to start writing that lit review, and I'm more prepared to do that right now than the other thing I need to work on.

I've also been working on the Japanese paper, though not as fast as I should have been. Talk about that and other Japanese study stuff under here )

There's also been good progress on my young!Victor cosplay. I'm making a paper pattern of the fifty million feathers (on the front), after frame-by-framing the footage of him to figure out wtf was going on with his costume. I'm almost done, so soon I'll be able to make all of them, pin and check that it looks good again, and then add fifty million yards of sparkly bias tape. I wish this stuff was available in the US, it looks really nice; alas, I had to buy it from a UK seller on eBay. (Dear Internet, thank you for making that possible.)

And when not programming, reading papers, pattern-making, trying to balance my wips, or procrastinating by looking at Yuri on Ice fanart on Pixiv, I had time to watch Wonder Woman. I actually wasn't that interested in going to see it, but I was invited along, and I ended up liking it overall. Spoilers under here )
allekha: (Tomoyo x Sakura)
I've finished the first page of that Japanese academic paper I'm working on \o/ That only took me a few days. 9.3 pages left to go. According to Mnemosyne, I scraped/mined 48 sentence fragments for studying from that page; I hope that number will go down a little bit for the rest now that I've got some of the fundamental vocabulary and grammar points, but there are some words that are unlikely to repeat. Like 歯車(はぐるま|haguruma) and 滑車(かっしゃ|kassha), gear and pulley (talking about the construction of Babbage's Analytic Engine). (That pair drives me up the wall, by the way, because 歯車 uses the kun reading of 車 and 滑車 the on one. But at least it's not as bad as 売上高, which uses all kun readings even though it's a compound word, and which tripped me up so badly the first time I tried to read it.)

While I'm on the topic of Japanese, I finally got around to making myself a Tenso account in order to buy doujinshi from Japan. One from Pixiv Booth - that one I was nervous about because of my obviously foreign name (even wrote it in latin characters) but it went through just fine and was delivered. Then added another last night because I found out that the person who did the genderswapped Yuri-as-in-f/f on Ice art did a full-color book on the concept, and I am weak /o\ And I ordered, uh, a lot from Toranoana. It's all so cheap per book, even with international shipping! Which I way overestimated at first. I dug through almost every single page for Yuri on Ice on Toranoana, and while it was overwhelmingly Victuuri with some OtaYuri and a smattering of Yuuri/Yuri and Victor/Yuri, I was pleased to find that there are a few rarer ships in there, along with some gen ones. I think I ordered a Seung-Gil/JJ doujinshi with nice art, at least one EmiMike book, and a long gen Victor backstory book; I also saw several Phichit/Seung-gil books, and even a Phichit/Celestino one just popped up on there, it looks like. I even bought one thing that wasn't Yuri on Ice!

Mm, I just like physical fandom media. Digital is good, too - I have plenty of scans - but it's not quite the same as curling up on my couch or laying on my bed with a book and no screen. (Except my phone. I use doujinshi for language-learning, too, and even if I don't feel like it at the moment, sometimes I want to look a word up.) There's just something about the way that zines and doujinshi and the like physically communicate enthusiasm for a source. After I bought stuff, I wandered around the genre tags on Toranoana for a while, just seeing what was out there - Undertale, Tokyo Babylon, historic RPF, Vocaloid CDs, original cooking manga, even one on how to make a 'can piano' out of used aluminum cans.

Oh, and are there any active language-learning comms here on DW? Or even something like [livejournal.com profile] linguaphiles? I tried some interests but couldn't find anything that was being used.

I haven't gotten around to checking out everything I might be interested in this anime season, but tonight I watched Kimi no Na Wa/Your Name with some friends.
Cut for spoilers, though they are very vague )
allekha: (Default)
My sleeping 'schedule' is making no sense again (sigh) but at least it snowed again! It's very pretty.

I'm giving up on Yuri on Ice Week, but at least there's Chocolate Box to look forward to. I never write letters because it seems like too much work, but this time I requested so many YoI relationships that it was very, very hard to fit everything into the AO3 box. (It's here for the curious.) And my brain is still churning out ideas faster than I can write. I have so far restrained myself to two active WiPs and two ideas which needed a bit of research simmering on the backburner.

So far for the new year, I have finished three books - the one on the 'afterlife' of Tutankhamun's mummy (things improved a bit after the initial horrifying 19th century archaeology and it ended with 'science is hard and complicated and doesn't form neat story arcs'), one on prion diseases called The Family that Couldn't Sleep, and Island of the Blue Dolphins which I picked up for a dollar at a local used-book store.

I really liked that last one - it's a fictional story of an Amerindian girl who gets stuck on an island by herself for 18 years, based on the real story of a real woman who was really stranded on a real island. While I think there are a couple of pacing issues (you can kind of see the part where the author got stuck on how many things could happen to the girl in 18 years and started speeding the passing of time up), it was engaging enough to keep me from going to bed like I intended until I finished the whole thing. That, and it's middle grade fiction, I didn't think it would take as long to read as it did!

The descriptions of the island were very lovely, and while in some sense it's a survival story (which, I guess, I like - between this book and the one about the family in the Taiga and The Long Winter being possibly my favorite Little House book and the hundreds of hours I sank into Lost in Blue) I appreciated how lot of it is about surviving loneliness and boredom as much as scraping together food and not dying of infection. There are several parts where the girl just mentions that she went and gathered a bunch of abalone or whatever and then skips into a story of exploring sea-caves or so on.

I did look at some reviews after I read it and someone said that they hated it for being too idyllic, which I found confusing. Sure, she never really seems in danger of starving, but that makes sense given that she's on abundant island and only feeding herself and sometimes her pets. She describes being very cold in winter, and nearly dies from a leg infection. She hides in a cave for weeks when the same group of people that killed much of her tribe return to the island. She makes friends with animals easily enough, but has to fend off wild dogs and almost gets injured by a fighting pair of elephant seals. She doesn't die at the end, and the story is mostly positive, but I thought it seemed pretty realistic.

(A more depressing thought was of how this book came out in 1960 and it has a better-written woman as the main character than several films I've seen in the past few years. She's resourceful but overly proud at points, very clever and good with animals but still nearly gets herself killed a few times - hell, the book even passes the Bechdel test despite the fact that she spends 95% of the book without other humans around.)

Kind of want to write a crossover between the book and Moana now, though the geography would have to be fudged a bit and I'm not sure what the actual plot would be - I just like the idea of the main character meeting Moana, I think they would get along well.
allekha: (Default)
It's 6am, I can't get back to sleep, and nobody else is up. The perfect time to rewatch the Yuri on Ice finale and write about it. Hopefully it came out coherent. I wish I had time to engage more with the fandom right now - I have no idea what anyone else thinks of this episode yet - but that's not going to happen until Z goes home in a couple of days. I'm too busy enjoying his company right now.
Spoilers, spoilers, spoilers )
allekha: (Default)
It got colder again toward the end of last week; I'd planned to go for a run on Thursday, but it started snowing by the time I'd finished lunch and I didn't fancy going out and falling on the slippery asphalt. I did go for a long walk, though; I listened to a podcast while strolling around in the park and playing Pokemon Go, even sat on the swings for a few minutes. I had the whole place to myself for almost the entire time, with the snow falling more and less gently and a fog rolling in when I reached the crest of the hill, where you can see the city and the river below, and out into the mountains.

Then I came back, wrote some fanfic, and woke up to find that my hot water had frozen despite having set my faucets to drip overnight. My landlord couldn't fix it until the next morning, which worked out okay, and it snowed again. The CCSF finished up, and I think it came off rather well for the most part except for a few bumps in the road. For one thing, the scavenger hunt seems to have been too hard - probably going to extend the deadline a couple of days and clarify some things to make it easier. And I still have to code the prizes, which will be more or less easy depending on how complicated I decide to make them. I have a tendency to err on the side of 'does more stuff'....

Anyway, I got my hot water back, and Z and I re-watched Mulan, and I've been writing, so all in all, a good weekend.

I finished up the gen Phichit & Yuuri in Detroit fic, so that's been sat on the backburner for a couple of days and now I need to edit it. (I'd kind of like to get a beta for it, but after all these years in fandom, I still have no idea how you get a beta you don't already know in real life. Besides 'ask on FFA and hope someone answers'?) The other thing I've been working on wasn't even on my list; I just couldn't get over Yuuri's expression and pose in that scene where JJ is imagining the other skaters towering over him, so now I'm halfway through JJ dreaming about eros!Yuuri seducing him before the final. Brain, what.

As for non-YoI anime, I haven't been watching much this season, but I just finished episode 11 of the 2012 anime Uta Koi. I started watching it because I love the Heian period and it's a loose adaptation of the lives of Heian poets, but past episode 6 I've become fond of it on its own merits. Episode 6 was an incredibly silly and hilarious filler episode, and from then on the stories have somehow been more enticing to me. I think the poetry might be getting more to my tastes, perhaps that's it.

While I do have a couple of criticisms of it (why do all of the ladies have their eyebrows so low?! must they be attractive to modern audiences?), the show does a good job of portraying the isolation and lack of freedom the women of the age had - but that doesn't mean they didn't have agency. Sei Shounagon appears in three episodes and despite her outspokenness, still finds love - and not just once. She has two different loves in the series, and then at the end she moves on and may yet love again.

Episode 11 hit me especially because it addressed one of my problems with the series: all heterosexuality all the time. As the number of relationships in a series goes up, given a lack of homophobia that could explain their absence, the less and less I can suspend my disbelief if nobody is in a same-sex relationship. And as far as we can tell, Heian Japan didn't have a problem with same-sex relationships per se (the court sure had a lot of rules about relationships in general).

So, in this episode, Murasaki Shikibu shows up. Now, keep in mind I've read The Tale of Murasaki, in which she has relationships with women, and even written Murasaki/other Heian lady. (They used the language of love poetry while writing to each other. I would love to know where some western authors writing on the subject got the idea that this was 'normal between platonic friends. Super platonic. Not romantic AT ALL even though they're comparing themselves to ducks that mate for life and talking about how charming their faces are when uncovering them at night. Friendship!!!') The episode summary is about her and another girl being childhood friends. I'm prepared to be disappointed.

I'm not. The language is as direct as it gets for the other couples: Murasaki and her friend Kaoriko continuously praise each other as children - Kaoriko praises Murasaki for her unwomanly intelligence and her writing, and Murasaki praises Kaoriko for her strength of body and character. When they're older and Kaoriko is about to get married for the sake of her family, Murasaki thinks 'I really love you', and then they cuddle while clasping hands and lamenting that Murasaki isn't a man so they can get married to each other.

After they have been parted for a long time, Murasaki finally sees Kaoriko again, but only briefly and from behind, then writes her a letter. Kaoriko, who used to have a lively spirit, is struggling with raising her children and feels like she can't face Murasaki when she's become obedient to her husband, and doesn't reply. However, Murasaki, who has been struggling through the episode with writer's block and with what kind of story she wants The Tale of Genji to be, decides that she is going to make it a story about the strength of women, remembering how Kaoriko loved her writing so much, and manages to write the next chapter. Though she misses Kaoriko, she hopes that she will see the story Murasaki has written and see the message of strength she has put into it.

It was just - a lovely story mixing fiction with fact, about the relationships and power women could find when the first thing you read about them in this period is about how isolated they were, sometimes from even the gardens outside their rooms. And the premier woman author of Japan, not only being in love with another woman, but being inspired by her for and dedicating to her the famous Tale of Genji, though it's about a man who primarily pursues woman. This is treated just like the other love stories - tragic, perhaps, in their long parting, but no more so than most of the others. (For example, one man has to abandon a woman after she is arranged to someone else, though they both wish she wasn't; another chooses to let the woman he loves go in order to allow her to choose a career in the palace, which is her dream.)

...hm, while I'm home for Christmas, I should re-start my read-through of Genji. I never finished it the first time, and I'm sure I've forgotten all I did read.
allekha: (Default)
I spent pretty much all day today working on my final project for my R class, which... I am not very happy with, but as long as I at least get 50%, I should still get an A, assuming I did as well as I think I did on the last exam. The main problem was the goddamn string manipulation from my dataset. Never again, R. Never, ever ever ever again. If I have to manipulate strings to get my data computer-readable and for some reason I want to use R? That's going through Python first. I seriously spent longer on making my dates into numbers the program would like than actually doing statistics. (Oh, and the csv didn't read empty values properly which fucked up my one attempt at doing a learning and prediction thing, woo. If I fixed that then my graphs didn't get proper labels. I ran out of time and prioritized readable graphs, and commented out the prediction thing with an apology and short explanation.)

Enough of that. The CCSF is chugging along - the logic puzzle I put together seems to be going over well - the semester is basically over except that I need to email my advisor about some things, and today was Yuri on Ice day!
Spoilers below )
allekha: (Default)
SO THAT WAS AN EPISODE.

I wanted to re-watch it right away, but unfortunately I had to do school stuff and attend a meeting and then I dropped of exhaustion as soon as I came home at 7pm but NOW I can experience this joy of an episode again :D

Spoilers, ho! )
allekha: (Default)
Thanksgiving break went well. My parents and I had a good lunch/dinner; I made pumpkin pie from scratch for the first time, and the recipe turned out better than the storebought we usually get, I think. The only thing that did not go well was the whole wheat rolls, which we made because my mom couldn't find anything in the stores she liked. According to the recipe, we baked them in the muffin tin, and... well, we had muffin-shaped bread rolls. They only tasted so-so, too.

I was there until Monday morning due to the train schedule, so over the weekend, my dad and I went to a local secondhand bookshop and picked up books. I managed to get three from my to-read list. And my mom and I went to a frozen custard place that just opened to have custard for breakfast - she had just read about a study by a Japanese researcher that showed that people who had ice cream for breakfast did better on cognitive tasks than either people who had no ice cream for breakfast or who drank cold water instead of eating ice cream, so we joked about that on the way there and afterward.

Also, I had mentioned that I really loved this new figure skating anime to my mom, so she wanted to watch it, and then my dad came in early on in episode three, and they liked it so much that we mainlined the whole thing and then watched episode eight while it was simulcasting. And then on Sunday, we ended up watching some real figure skating.

I had a bit of an odd experience in that I got into a (long) political discussion with my dad at one point, which went rather well even though we're not exactly on the same page. It was a real discussion, not an argument like you usually hear about happening on Thanksgiving. He's a third party member and his viewpoint is that a government strong enough to protect you is strong enough to persecute you, and I understand his beliefs better now even if I don't agree with all or even many of them.

(There was one point were I burst into tears when we got to talking about Pence and I did have to explain to him that when I was crying and talking about how my friends have experienced hate crimes and it's still legal in too many places to send your kid to psychological torture if they are gay or have gender issues, what I wanted was not to hear how the other side was bad too, but to get a goddamn hug. Then he gave me a hug. He is ultimately a compassionate and caring person, but for various reasons his emotional IQ is kind of lacking.)

Getting back was exhausting (local train + Amtrak 1 + two hour layover + Amtrak 2) and took nine hours. Usually it takes six. Thankfully I managed to snag a taxi with some other people going the same way instead of having to pay twice as much. Taking two buses back and then trudging up a hill to get home was not something I wanted to consider even if it would be free.

My co-host and I ended up deciding to delay the Creatures Community Spirit Festival due to lack of submission, which was a bit frustrating and last-minute, but should hopefully work out for the better. Now it's happening during finals, but I'm actually probably busier this week than I will be that week (thanks, multiple programming homeworks). And I might have time to put another thing or two together. At least the associated blog carnival is still going this week, and that's worked out well; everyone has interesting thoughts to read and has posted every day so far.

YoI Episode 9 spoilers under here )
allekha: (Default)
It's nice to be back after being gone for so long. (Long story short: my computer became unusable due to power issues, then was held captive by tech support for almost two months, after which it still wasn't fixed because they couldn't be bothered to ship the right part from California, so I then had to take it to a local place and spend my own money to get the power jack replaced.)

We had our first snowfall near the end of October. I wonder if we'll have a proper winter this year.

Happy, mostly fannish stuff under this cut )

Elections-related stuff under this cut )
allekha: (Default)
Today I saw Zootopia! It was... better than I expected? It's surprisingly smart for a kid's movie; the anvils are heavy and dropped very often (discrimination is bad!) but the discrimination in the film maps to different groups in different ways and at various points in the film - there's racism, of course, but also sexism, the fear of a minority by the majority, how people who have experienced discrimination can say thoughtless things themselves, etc. Plus, the humor and the animation were pretty good; we both particularly liked how technology was integrated into the film (Judy using her phone as a flashlight or to film suspects, etc).

Oh, and I started a fantumblog for my favorite obscure game, Betrayal in Antara. It has a grand total of one follower so far \o/ I'll be happy even if it doesn't pick up any more, since this is a project as much for myself as anything. Even if I still don't understand how Tumblr works (why are some of my images resized but others not...?). Which reminds me, I really need to finish Betrayal at Krondor, which means grabbing the save files off my old computer....

Spring has definitely sprung here, in terms of the weather if not the plant life, and just in time for spring break! Tomorrow, since it's supposed to be a bit warmer, I think I'll go hike down to that waterfall that's supposed to be nearby, maybe bring some of that pie I made for Pi(e) day, read a book or work on alife stuff.
allekha: (Default)
...and I fell off with keeping up with DW AGAIN because life, why. The summary: I got sick. Then I got a stomach virus and was useless and miserable for three days, when I was already scrambling to catch up on a class that I added late. Things have mostly evened out again, although this week was so busy - I got pulled in to a group Skyrim bards cosplay for the local con this weekend, and apparently I was the only one with much knowledge of sewing? At least I had help for making the costumes, mostly in doing the hems (and thank the gods for that, hems are the worst), but that took a lot of hours. We practiced the songs while we worked :D

One of my classes is about ontologies. I found the concept of an ontology really hard to understand, but I think I have now grokked it. (An ontology is basically a formal definition of a set of concepts, their attributes, and how they relate to each other. Kind of like a class definition, if you're a programmer.) They're a component of the 'semantic web' that my group keeps having talks about, and the term gets thrown around a lot, so it's nice to know what people are talking about now. My partner and I are making a tea ontology so we can make an application that offers suggestions for how to blend teas!

In-between all of the programming and homework I spoiled myself with a couple of books. From the local library. Even though I told myself I wouldn't get a card until I finished reading the books I own. ...but they were really interesting!

The first is Lost in the Taiga. It's about a family of fundamentalist Russian Old Believers who fled from religious persecution into the Siberian taiga, and lived in isolation for decades before being rediscovered by a team of geologists. The book is about their lives both before and after discovery, though the focus is on the two family members the author repeatedly met with (the others having died).

There's a lot of details about how they survived the incredibly harsh conditions, and it was interesting to read about what aspects of modern life intrigued them or that they found strange. These weren't always as obvious as one might think; the daughter of the family took a few airplane trips and was more fascinated with trains and indoor toilets. She still lives out in the taiga today - she claims the air in places closer to civilization (even quite rural places with other Old Believers) makes her sick, and she doesn't appear to care so much about the danger.

One thing I liked about this book is that this family receives assistance and gifts from people many times, and they also would give visitors and the geologists at the camp presents of potatoes and pine nuts. It's actually quite heartwarming to see how so many people went out of their way to help this odd little family who had restrictive beliefs (not using matches, not eating many foods, etc). I don't have any complaints about the book; I saw that some reviews criticized the translation (it was originally in Russian), but I thought it was fine - not sure if there's different editions out there or if I'm just too used to shitty translations or?

The other book I finished was Vitamania. In terms of advice, it probably doesn't contain anything anyone hasn't heard - eat fruits and vegetables, don't take megadoses of vitamins or minerals, supplements are unregulated scams wastes of money. Well, I did learn that cooking with oil makes some vegetables more nutritious. But anyway, it's not an advice book.

It's really a history of vitamin deficiency diseases and vitamin discovery, followed by Americans' relationship with vitamins and their regulation. I was shocked to discover why it is that the FDA doesn't regulate supplements - it's because they can't, because Congress told them not to, because they were inundated with two million letters of protests, because supplement sellers lied to customers and made it about FREEDOM OF CHOICE and how the government was going to BAN YOUR HERBAL TEA (they weren't), and so on. There were parts where I had to skim because I was so angry. There's also a lot in there about how supplements have horrible dosing, make spurious health claims that they can't prove, probably aren't even what's on the label, etc etc etc. The last bit is essentially about how little we know of nutrition and the questions scientists are still pursuing.

Very interesting book, if a bit rage-inducing. The author belabors her point too much - yes, we get it, Americans eat too much processed food and unquestioningly associate vitamins with health and only get enough vitamins because of enrichment and fortification only made possible by foreign companies. But, it seems well-researched (there's lots of citations in the back) and it was easy to get through, so do recommend.

Happy 2016

Jan. 10th, 2016 04:47 am
allekha: (Default)
So I decided to take a break from some sites, including DW, for NaNoWriMo (especially since I had grad-school-related things to do as well) and got caught in the habit of not checking them at all because I felt like I had to read all of the things I missed. Or something. Brain, it doesn't have to work that way.

Anyway, NaNo worked out okay, even though I got very distracted by Fallout 4. I have a few complaints, some of which were easily fixed by mods, but overall I've had a lot of fun running around the wasteland with cute robots. And grad school programming has been... okay? I got kind of discouraged about my project for a bit, but now I'm back to working on it. It would be nice to have documentation, though. Or, like, feedback. No-one's been communicating about this thing since school let out. And Ubuntu won't connect to the internet here even though it was fine with my apartment's wifi. So slightly less than okay, actually.

I'm still visiting at home. I'd meant to go back earlier, but I have a minor dental problem that I might as well have fixed down here, and a friend who is going to a conference in DC invited me to come help keep her company for a couple of days. It's been nice seeing my parents and friends again. Though I am looking forward to watching anime and making food and adventuring with my new friend Z. I just hope that when I go back there will be snow on the ground already. This winter has been too warm!

I am starting to get concerned about my sleep schedule repeatedly failing to be a schedule. Should try to work on that; hopefully it's not a medical issue, though given my parents, I'm worried it might be.

The last book I read in 2015 was Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the book that inspired Blade Runner. It was okay, but I think this is one of those cases where the adaptation is better than the original. The book has some interesting parts, but also some that I didn't understand at all, and overall I felt like I might have liked it better if I read it with a book club or English class. And if there was better treatment of the female characters. It's been a while since I saw Blade Runner, but from what I remember, it really pushed the 'what measure is a non-human' thing more than the book did, without having confusing religious dream? sequences. Granted, both of them - and the movie Ex Machina - got me kind of annoyed by the definition of humanity (and with it 'beings worthy of basic respect') involving empathy or emotions, but that could be a whole rant on its own.
allekha: (Default)
Figuring out how to do things in pycaffe is like trying to learn a foreign language. Without a dictionary. Or a helpful native speaker. I've got a post on Stack Overflow, some test code that double as example code, and a lot of experimentation.

...however. I am the kind of person who, during a group project or whatever, tends to worry about contributing enough, only to show up to a meeting and find that I am in fact being at least as productive as the other people. This trend seems to be continuing; at yesterday's group meeting I felt like I was pulling my weight. Right now the three of us are kind of working on two different projects, but we are making good progress.

Been watching a lot of fanvids/amvs lately during coding breaks (not that Youtube's recommendation algorithm has figured this out yet :| ) and started wondering about the difference between western-style fanvids and amvs. Or rather, how much of one there is. I feel like good amvs tend to be more closely tied to the beat of the music, while this isn't necessarily the case for a good fanvid - this excellent Marvel vid, for example, is sometimes cut slightly off from where I expect it (my expectations having been shaped by amvs), to the point where it's disorientating if I concentrate too hard on it. (Contrast, say, this Evangelion amv.) But then there's vids like this Hannibal one which are closely matched to the music... but I thing it's more common in amvs, still. And I don't think there's a vid equivalent to 'dance vids', where you usually have a clips from many different anime, and it's more visually oriented than meant to have any kind of meaning (like this one by Vivifx).

For some reason I had managed to forget that the next book in Lockwood & Co came out this September! My copy arrived on Tuesday, but I went to bed very early, and on Wednesday I put it off until after the meeting yesterday so I wouldn't get distracted from coding. So last night I picked it up and read it straight through in one shot.
Thoughts on The Hollow Boy )
allekha: (Default)
[written before I moved to my apartment; for some reason the internet at home stopped loading Dreamdwidth the very morning I wrote this :\ so this is actually rather old]

♪Went for a morning walk. The sunrise this morning was just beautiful. When I first saw it, there was a low layer of clouds just above the treetops, in this pale yellow color, followed by a thin stripe of robin's egg blue sky, then a stripe of clouds in pink-orange, pale green sky, and a wider band of faint red clouds and wisps. A couple of deer made their way across the field (never a rare sight); two morning birds were silhouettes against the sky. I sat down to watch and the lowest clouds gradually turned bright golden yellow, the pale green a kind of murky teal, the pink orange became a real yellow-orange, and the red deepened and brightened as more of the sky lit up. A plane took off, creating a faint red trail as it climbed; actually, at some point the color faded entirely, and the trail became almost impossible to see, before turning translucent white. When I started walking again, I could see the moon, a little over half full, glowing faintly in the sky right above me. It's often described like a pearl, but I don't think a pearl could ever be so lovely, lovely.

♪Am seriously considering looking into whether more research has been done on the effects of polyphasic sleep in the past few years to see if I should even contemplate thinking of trying one of the less extreme schedules (4.5 hrs/2 naps, or whatever it is). Several reasons: I like staying up but also getting up early for the sun rise. I have reason to believe I might actually have a sleep disorder that makes 'normal' schedule setting difficult (or maybe not, but it's more than just 'I like doing things on the internet late', dates back to elementary school, and involves family members). The few weeks four years ago that I got onto a poly sleep schedule actually worked out pretty well; then again, it was only a few weeks, and I was probably being more serious about sleep hygiene than usual.
...I might as well see if there's been some research, at least, before I start talking myself out of even thinking about it.

♪Watched Kurosawa's Ikiru last night with my dad. I think it is literally one of the best films I've ever seen. The main character's way of speaking and the actor's facial expressions tell so much, the story is set up in an interesting way, and of course there are some very well done shots. The famous snowy swing scene is something that is very touching in context; I wouldn't watch it without context.

♪For breakfast: crepe/pancakes with lemon curd, and I think I'll make some matcha with milk (and some without, to follow up). And also, at last, some travelog:
Vilnius part one )
allekha: (Rambler rose)
I feel like I actually have free time for once in the past... two months? Three?

Spent ~3 weeks arranging grad school visits (two of them) and then doing visits. Of course, after that I had to catch up on all the work I didn't manage to get done... but! I have officially accepted an offer! So now I'm on the track to a Ph.D. (Aaah, no, I don't want to spend the next five years doing more school! ...but I can't get the kinds of jobs I want with a B.S, so I guess it can't be helped.)

My thesis first draft has been sent, and even the second one. No more hours of late-night programming. Now I just need to get my third reader to help schedule the defense.

Also have an event this week with my writing group. As president, I had to deal with Event Services. It went something like this:
me: *submits room reservation*
(Two weeks pass)
me: Um, VP, can you call them? My throat is sore and our event is on Friday and we have no confirmation.
VP: *calls*
VP: We had to move our event to next Thursday because there were no rooms available.
me: Okay?
Guest Speaker: I can bring my 5 o'clock class now!
me: *reading confirmation email* We have to move our event to an hour later because we wanted catering? Can't we just bring our own food then?
Event Services: Actually, it wasn't catering, it was the room! Either take it or change your room!
me: Um, guest speaker?
Guest speaker: ...I guess I can let class out early.
me: Now to go change all of the notices again.

Yeah, so that was fun.

And also I've been arranging my graduation trip to Europe (Baltics + Iceland). After a year of bugging people about it, I have precisely one friend who can come. C'est la vie. My dad will join us for part of the trip, too. Still trying to work out details.

Things I have worked in for fun around all that:
Genesis of Aquarion, Boueibu, Betrayal in Krondor, and Hikago )
allekha: (Default)
Stupid insomnia. Sleep schedule got messed up again. I've been pretty much crashing straight after getting home from work the past three days - let's see if I can get back on a regular diurnal schedule.

Book 2:
‣We get it we GET IT the kids are escaped lab creations who grew up in cages and have wings for the love of the gods STOP HARPING ON IT.
‣On a similar note: we get it, Iggy is blind, do you really need to mention it every 50 pages? No, you do not.
‣It starts to hurt my suspension of disbelief that on one hand, Max thinks that they are all freaks who are doomed to live outside of normal society forever with their freaky secret that must never be told - and that on the other, a) wings are cool! and b) every 'outside' person they meet finds them interesting, not freakish. Anne is fascinated by their flying, for example, and who wouldn't be? Max's cognitive dissonance here is getting annoying and it doesn't feel like it's being used as a character trait.
‣Better, less repetitive plot, yay. Less coherent than it should be in places, though.
‣Case in point: why the hell does the blind guy who's never been to school not get an aid? He can't read the board, he can't read the homework, why is he expected to just muddle through somehow without help? I'm pretty sure that's illegal. There are other things that bug me about the school scenes, but that's the biggest one.
‣Uh, that's not how Game Boys work. They don't come with games on them.
‣'I could follow their scent' when she couldn't before now isn't that convenient?
‣Angel's water-breathing powers have still had absolutely no relevance on the plot. But now she can talk to fish :D! Why? Who cares! *headdesk*
‣Super-good vision + excellent nightvision = ? As far as my research has told me, bird eyes don't work that way. Birds like eagles that have really good day vision have few rods in their retina and therefore can't see well in the dark, while birds like owls don't have such great visual acuity. He could have had them see into ultraviolet, though, that would have been a cool detail.
‣Ow, Ari. I have to say, I really liked his sections.

Overall: thought it was better than the first book, actually. Less annoying 'do this, do that' from the Voice, no repetitive second half. For some reason, the kids felt more like actually kids/teenagers to me than they did in the first; can't put my finger on why. Plunking them down in a situation where they were surrounded by normal kids their age gave them something to contrast against and lead to some humorous moments.

The ending was kind of eh, though; the thing with the fake-Max went down very quickly, and brought up a lot of questions: how was Max kidnapped so easily, without the others noticing? Why on Earth were they putting her in a sensory deprivation tank? Why wasn't fake-Max informed on anything, apparently, about the Flock?

Also, it could have used less convenience (speed-healing, instantly knowing where to find the others) but that is starting to look like a recurring problem here so...

Book 3:
‣Again with the treating readers like amnesiac goldfish.
‣In the very beginning there's this one line that admonishes new readers for picking up the book when 'it's clearly part three of a series'. This irked me the first time around - there is literally no indication of this being third in a series anywhere on the book.
‣Having a predetermined arrangement with the six-year-old that she act like a turncoat in case this very situation comes up: how convenient.
‣Kind of confused as to how Fang has so many blog readers so fast. Also why people are believing him about the bird-kid thing. There's lots of roleplay blogs on the net. Is he posting some kind of tangible evidence?
‣Sending messages via the internet: not a bad idea. But how do you just target the kids? (Answer: you don't.)
‣I also like how said message urges kids to get up and save the world, but has precisely zero suggestions for actual activism.
‣Bothering me since the beginning: why wolfman robots? If I were going to make killer robots, I'd use a little imagination. You could either make them a lot scarier or a lot more efficient.
‣I have trouble buying that the same people doing advanced DNA experiments are also making advanced robots. These two things have almost nothing to do with each other.
‣Fang learning that taking care of kids for days on end is hard is cute.
‣When the kids email Fang: did they already know each other's emails or something? It's not addressed how Fang knows that it's from Max.
‣Who was 'fang is coming' note??? *cough* That is, who found out that Fang was coming (via his blog or whatever) and decided to slip them a note? How did they know about these kids?
‣Freight plane will be freezing. Are they even pressurized? Hope they brought a blanket. ...and then they end up not getting on it, which is probably for the better. They should probably have been more hurt by that dive they took instead, but eh, I'll let it slide.
‣Is it even possible to shatter metal with your voice?
‣About those chants: "Itex is an evil giant/us kid ain't buyin' it" doesn't scan (plus, do they even use 'ain't' in England?). "Time has come/claim our home" doesn't rhyme, at least not in my dialect; not an expert on Aussie English.

Overall: good start, then kind of fell apart, moreso toward the end. My biggest problem with this is that Max lets Fang and the others split off so easily. I know she's established as not being a Talk It Out kind of person, and there really wasn't room for compromise, but if they are so, so important to her, why didn't she work harder to try and get them to stay? It just doesn't feel like they're the most important people in her life when she barely argues about their leaving.

Also, this is where you can see the green aesop starting to rear its ahead, a thing that will entirely take over the next book. Events continue to feel like they move quickly. Things continue to be convenient - Max had an agreement with the six-year-old already, a l33t hacker they met on the other side of the country shows up in the very coffeeshop they visit and is willing to help, etc. It's not bad when things like that happen once in a while in a series, but it just happens too much in this one.

Oh, and Angel's super special water powers have still had no effect on the plot whatsoever. Or on her character. Or anything.

Might see if I can stand the fourth book long enough to finish it. I thought it was bad even when it first came out, though, so that may or may not happen.
allekha: (AilEn cuteness)
So, I thought I'd missed my fic-a-month resolution for last year, and then I remembered I'd forgotten the Creatures fic I wrote for the CCSF; it wasn't on AO3, so I didn't think to count it in. That makes 12 fics, so I achieved it after all :D

Fandom-stocking was wonderful again this year. I only managed 2 fics + giving someone a poem, but I received some quite lovely ficlets, a picspam, and an icon set that included this one. Once again, I had a good time with it. Maybe next year I'll plan better and be able to write/make more things.

On a non-fandom note, I talked with a professor from one of the grad schools I applied to on the phone yesterday. It sounds like I'm probably going to get an offer from them! It was one of my top schools and my parents really want me to go to this particular school, so I'm pretty pleased.

Told GoodReads that I wanted to read 15 books this year. I've already read three out of five Christmas books, one on tea and the two Lockwood & Co novels by Jonathon Stroud. Why isn't there more fandom for these books, whyyyy. At least I have the next one to look forward to later this year.... Fourth book so far is the first Maximum Ride novel, which I haven't read in ages. I'm using it for, uh, inspiration (in the 'I can do so much better than this' sort of way) so I thought I'd actually look at the books again rather than using my six?-year-old memories + Wikipedia. Thoughts on this one:

‣Come on, seriously, was it necessary to use the 'it was like watching a movie' metaphor three times? Editor, where were you?
‣Random powers for no reason (seriously, why breathing underwater?)! Random powers that appear right when they are useful (the touching things lets you see what happened to that thing previously in time thing, for example)! Random powers that are never actually useful to the plot (like imitating voices)!
‣The plot gets a little tiresome in the second half. Flock advances one plot point. Flock is ambushed by Erasers out of nowhere. Flock escapes. Flock advances one plot point....
‣Does not need to be divided up into such short chapters. One was less than a page long, for crying out loud.
‣The non-Max characters could have used more development, especially given that this thing is 400 pages long. Could have axed out some of those useless Eraser attacks and put those pages towards character drama or something instead.
‣'I'm letting them catch our scent.' ...they're birds. ...okay, I googled this and apparently some birds can, actually, smell. So I'll give him the benefit of the doubt on this one.
‣Some of the plot points happened very quickly; I'm thinking of the escape from the School, but there were others, and that made the plot feel more like a string of events than a story, if that makes any sense.
‣Why was Ella so attached to Max after, like, one day? I can see her being upset that her newfound friend is leaving, but going 'You're like my sister!' is a little ridiculous if she's supposed to be older than ten.

Overall more okay than I feared, but could have used more editing. Or at least less throwing in things 'cause they're cool.

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