Wednesday, December 30, 2009


NOTE: Even if you're not interested in the Posleen, or science fiction in general, this book is still worth picking up just for the afterword, which is about...let's call it "pragmatics of religion".

That teaser aside, the Tuloriad is the story of a Posleen god-king who, with the help of an Indowy, leads his people away from Earth to a safer place. Some of the story is about the history of the Posleen, which is interesting; some of it is setting up the Climactic Battle, which I thought was a bit contrived--where "a bit" means "roughly 99%". I suspect that there was a story conference along these lines:
Kratman: "Hey John, listen to what [historical figure's name would be a spoiler] did!"
Ringo: "Yeah, that's pretty hardcore."
Kratman: "It would be cool if we could work that into this."
Ringo: "Posleen wouldn't normally do that, but maybe if...but we'd have to have someone using pikes."
Kratman: "Don't the Swiss Guards still have halberds?"
Ringo: [locks himself in a freezer and cranks out 40,000 words in a day].
If you've read all the other Legacy of the Aldenata books, you will of course read this one too. If you haven't, this isn't the place to start. But do read the Afterword.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Active Volcano in the Philippines

Fifty thousand have been evacuated from the area of the volcano Mayon.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas in Virginia

We opened presents Christmas Eve, and then enjoyed a white Christmas by the expedient of driving to my sister's place near Charlottesville, where snow is still lingering from last week.

Josh and I both forgot about filling the stockings but we did well on the actual "presents" part. I got Diana a pair of webcams, so she can see and be seen by Josh while he's in Australia; Josh contributed theater tickets, for a play / show as yet to be determined.
Most interactive present was the pair of mini RC helicopters that my sister's kids got. Everyone took turns flying, crashing, or dodging them.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Big Spending, High Taxing, and Poor Service

This article compares California and Texas, their taxes and their service to their citizens


Josh applied for his student visa to Australia yesterday, and got notification this morning that his visa has been approved.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


We had the Christmas pageant this morning, and Randy's message was based on a couple of points I hadn't been aware of. The first thing is that, while we've all heard "there was no room for them in the inn", the word "inn" here doesn't mean "motel", it means "guest room." A peasant house typically had a guest room and a family room, and at the end of the family room there was a low wall separating an area for the animals. You'd keep the family cow and donkey inside at night, both for warmth and for protection from theft. Joe and Mary stayed with a peasant family who took in guests, but someone was already in the guest room so they had to sleep (well, go into labor, probably not much sleeping) next to the animal pen. The second thing is that shepherds weren't honored--nobody thought of David as "the shepherd king". In fact, the profession was listed by the rabbis as one of the unclean ones--you couldn't be a shepherd and keep kosher. And the third was that at the time of Jesus' birth, Augustus was propagating "There is no other name by which you must be saved but Augustus Caesar" and calling Julius a god, and therefore himself "the son of god." The difference is that Augustus was interested in power and prestige and if you didn't go along with him, you were likely to get crucified. When Jesus appeared, it wasn't in a palace, it was in a peasant's hut, and the ones he invited to come were the outcasts.

Josh's 21st Birthday, part 2

Since Josh's actual birthday was spent at college, packing his dorm room up and coming home, we had his birthday-party-at-home on Saturday. As it happens, it snowed on Friday--not much in Virginia Beach, just enough to turn the decks and cars white and make the stairs slick, but other parts of the state got 12-14 inches or more. Several people who'd been planning to come were stuck in Fairfax, so we had four guests actually arrive. In practice, this meant "plenty of food" and "hook up two X-boxes." The guys stayed up till 6am, we woke them at 2pm this afternoon, fed them breakfast, and they went back at it. And are still at it right now, so including the sleep break, this party has been going on 28 hours. But no drinking, other than lots of root beer.

Josh's 21st Birthday

Josh was still at university on his birthday, which was on December 16th (as usual), and this was his 21st, which makes it legal for him to drink alcohol. It's common for people to observe the day by getting drunk, and Josh decided to to that. However, not in common with a lot of people, he went about it with some thought--eating first, and staying at his place rather than going somewhere that required driving. "And I had water beforehand, and after each shot." "How many shots did you have?" "Er....lots?" Which I think translates to eight Jagermeisters. And once he observed "Okay, I'm really drunk", he switched to non-alcoholic drinks for the rest of the night. Which lasted till 5am. And then Diana arrived at 10am to bring him back from college. He was fairly subdued sounding when I called him then but he said he didn't have a hangover, just lack of sleep from exams plus more sleep deprivation from the party.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Candied pecans

  • 3 cups water
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 cups pecans
Bring water and sugar to a boil. Add pecans, lower heat and simmer for 8-9 minutes. Drain and let cool on parchment paper. Then deep fry pecans hot peanut oil for 30-60 seconds--do not overcook! Again, drain them and let cool for 45 minutes. Store at room temperature.

Shotgun and tree

I took the shotgun to the range yesterday, for the first time in a while. One key point that I hadn't quite recalled is that it takes longer than I had expected to get it out of the case, loaded, and ready. If someone burst through the door and came charging straight upstairs, I doubt I'd have enough time, even if I were awake to start with. The solutions are either to keep it loaded without a round chambered--which doesn't particularly appeal to me--or to use something else--which also doesn't much appeal to me. I wouldn't object to leaving a pistol in the bedside drawer with the clip left unseated, but I'm not yet enthused about spending $500+ for one. Until then, I have several sharp pointy objects; as The Zombie Survival Guide points out, blades don't have to be reloaded. Perhaps I can find a pop-down laser auto-turret?
The other thing I hadn't remembered is the kick. My shoulder's not really sore, but I can feel it. I see why they don't recommend a 12 gauge for ladies.

The other excitement for the weekend was getting Stage 1 of Christmas Decorating done, which involves clearing away some of the normal decor, and putting up the tree that Josh and Diana picked out over Thanksgiving. Diana does most of this; I mostly help by making dinner and doing dishes and laundry and generally staying out of the way. Dinner was sausage-stuffed chicken breast, which turned out pretty successfully.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas in Montreal

Last week we went to Montreal to visit my mother-in-law and have an early Christmas. The flights north, on a Wednesday, were half empty and no delays; Montreal airport felt deserted, which made getting through customs quick. Thursday we had our Christmas lunch with Mum and her caregivers and Diana's sister, followed by exchanging presents. I got a camelback canteen, which is good because I'll need to do some serious hiking after all the shortbread and butter cookies and meringues and candied pecans and so forth.
Friday we drove west through a little snow to Kingston, with a stop for poutine before I arrived at Doug's place. Doug, Tom, Derek, James, Kevin, and (by Skype from Norway) Rob warmed up with Lost Cities, Carcassonne and Dominion, then had a roleplaying session for StarGate SG21. They'd made military unit patches for the SG21 team, and I picked one up (actually I got Doug's, as "mine" hadn't made it to Kingston) . The stereotypical gamer survives on pizza and Chinese food, but Doug can definitely cook. I'm learning his technique for poached eggs, although my results thus far don't measure up to his standards.
Saturday night I took a train back to Montreal; on Sunday the planes back to Norfolk were packed but on schedule. Diana stayed a few extra days and will be arriving tonight. Meanwhile My Wife's Dog has pulled down the curtains for the deck door, as a way of expressing her anxiety over Diana not being back.