Friday, December 31, 2010

Worth Doing Badly

"If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly."
--G.K. Chesterton

Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale

   This is a hard back graphic novel which gives the back story of Derrial Book, one of the characters in Firefly and Serenity. The production values are good and the story does, as promised, reveal Book's history. The art is not inspired; I've seen better, but I've also seen worse.
   That's the good part. Now on to the bad parts.
   It's thin. It feels to me as if Joss Whedon handed over some sketchy notes and refused to do anything further, and Zack Whedon didn't dare to add anything beyond those notes. It's not the sort of thing where you'd go back and savor the story and find new aspects to it that you like.
   It was written backwards. You start with the last few minutes of Book's life and then have successive flashbacks, going further and further back in time, with the last sequence being when he is about ten years old. It's a confusing format, and of course you can't properly interpret the later part of his life when you don't know about the earlier part. I wonder whether it was written that way because it would be even more thin if it were straightforward; at least this way you can stay bewildered for a bit and think about it for forty seconds after you finish reading it.
   And the conversion scene is unconvincing. Whedon is an atheist and Ron Glass, the actor who played Book, is a Buddhist. In watching the series, I never got the feeling that either of them understood Christianity at all, and the "how Book found God in a bowl of soup" part of this tale does nothing to remedy that. I might go along with "Book realized there are things bigger than himself" but there was no reason given for why he would have become a Christian layman, much less a pastor.
   I'd like to support the Firefly franchise but I can't recommend spending money on this. If you really need to know Book's back story, borrow a copy. Or just ask for the five-sentence summary instead of reading the whole thing--you won't be missing much.

Blog Stats

It's end of year, so time to look back at how I did for the year.
If you're someone I don't know and decided to be a follower (Sky, zara, No More) or commenter (Blair), I'm be curious to know how you got here and what you like about it.

I had 238 posts (plus 17 at Ficton) last year, and 246+20 this year, so I'm averaging 3 posts per 4 days.

All stats are as provided by Blogger and are for "All Time"--they give stats for Week and Month but not Year.

Top posts by pageview:
  • Absurd beliefs (126)
  • Classical values blog (64)
  • "If I had ten thousand dollars" (59)
  • Hidden Meanings (32)
  • Ironclads AAR (23)
Top referring sites:
  • (397)
  • (119)
  • (113)
  • (Filipino) (86) 
  • (28)
Search Keywords:
  • Chris DeBoe (417) (what a suprise, eh?)
  • what to do with ten thousand dollars (13)
  • absurd beliefs (8)
Total 4369 Pageviews, with Pageviews by Country:
  • United States (3440)
  • South Korea (143)
  • Philippines (119)
  • Canada (107)
  • Australia (83)
  • Russia (61)
  • UK (57)
  • Germany (29)
  • Netherlands (24)
  • India (23)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Driving back from work this evening, I saw a red fox dart across the road.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Braving the snow

We'd intended to come home Sunday, but six inches of snow on Saturday night put an end to that plan. Today we borrowed Mom's four wheel drive car to come home. Had a bit of sliding between the farm and the main road, but once on Rte 221, no major problems--the highways were completely clear in all the rural areas. However, in Portsmouth, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, the interstate isn't entirely clear and even on Virginia Beach Boulevard (an eight lane highway, one of the two main east-west artery) there's still ice an inch thick or more, plus snow on top of that. That should be really fun to drive on tomorrow morning.

But someone shoveled our sidewalk, and there's a guy with a mini-bulldozer clearing our complex's parking lots. The house is intact, and the Christmas tree didn't fall over while we were gone. All is good.. Merry Christmas to all.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

White Christmas

Arrived at Mom & Dad's place on Christmas Eve, had an early supper and went to Christmas Eve service at Elizabeth's church. That was followed by some last minute present wrapping, cheese and crackers (which included ham sandwiches for some of us) and talking till nearly midnight.

Somewhere between midnight and six am, we got about an inch of snow.

Breakfast was pancakes and eggs and country sausage, followed by opening presents. Josh got me Monster Hunter: Vendetta (with a label that said "Not A Book") and Broadsides ("Definitely Not Another Book"). Diana got me In Search of the Old Ones, about the Anasazi, plus a couple of tour itineraries for my upcoming trip to Arizona. There were also sweaters and socks and such.

Josh got, from various relatives, a batch of tools ("which will be useful when you move out") and several cookbooks and cooking utensils ("which will be useful when you're in your own place"). He's wondering if that's a hint.

Elizabeth and David and their kids came over and we had Present Opening Round II, followed by Christmas dinner. Turkey and stuffing, rice and gravy, spinach salad with mandarins and dried cranberries. Several kinds of pies for dessert, and almond pound cake. I did refrain, virtuously, from sampling all the carbs there.

More snow started falling around 11am and is still falling now, now perhaps three inches total. Took a walk with the mutt bounding through the snow, the tiny dry patter of snowflakes on my shoulders, and a woodpecker going tock tock tock high on a tree behind the house. Otherwise it was silent. When you walk through it, you don't just make footprints; the snow crust fractures like a dinner plate around every footprint.
In the evening light, the snow looks blue.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas prep

I'm off from work, my presents are wrapped (yes, all three of them), the car has been emptied of the usual stuff preparatory to being packed for the expedition up the mountains. The current weather prediction for my parents' place this weekend is "snow showers", which will no doubt be pretty...right up until Sunday when I have to start the drive back. Josh has got my car and is off doing last minute shopping.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cryoburn and Monster Hunter

Cryoburn by Lois Bujold. The focus on this is on cryogenic suspension, plus death and what people will go through to avoid it. It didn't seem as complex and compelling as the earlier Vorkosigan books; I got the feeling that the author didn't really think everything through. Part of the reason for that may be because Miles is no longer a hyperactive underdog; when you can phone Imperial Security and have them solve your problem by brute force, you are not forced to be brilliant. Part of it may be that the viewpoint was distributed among several characters; we weren't as focussed on Miles as we have previously been.  Without giving anything away, I'll say that the ending felt disjointed, disrupted, unfinished; however, looking back at it, I think that was intentional and I think it works artistically.

Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia. The hero throws his boss out a fourteenth story window, with good reason; Monster Hunters recruits him and things go from bad to much, much worse. However, in the story, almost all problems can be solved with the proper application of firepower; and the Monster Hunters have lots and lots of firepower. It's not all firepower, though, there's some introspection and character growth. This book is not going to make it into my Top Ten list, but it's a good first effort, and I understand the sequel is better.

Lunar Eclipse

Total lunar eclipse, right now.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

WoW Achievements

While Diana was gone getting Josh, and in the evening after they got back, I played a bit of Warcraft and got a few Achievements:
  • Level 85
  • (Completed dungeon) Throne of the Tides
  • (Completed dungeon) Vortex Pinnacle
  • 20 Dungeon Quests Completed
  • (Top level riding skill) Breaking the Sound Barrier
  • (Quests) Unearthing Uldum
  • (Quests) In a Thousand Years, Even You Might Be Worth Something
  • (Quests) Help the Bombardier! I'm the Bombardier!
  • (Maxed out a profession skill) Professional Illustrious Grand Master
  • (Seasonal event) Tis The Season
  • (Seasonal event) A Frosty Shake
  • (Seasonal event) Let It Snow
  • (Seasonal event) With A Little Helper From My Friends
  • (Seasonal events combination) Merrymaker
  • (All Seasonal events for the year) What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been
Yes, I'm a geek.

Josh's 22nd Birthday

For the actual day, Josh had exams; but given that his birthday is so close to Christmas, we've always been flexible about when we celebrate it. When he got home from college and slightly before he crashed and started catching up on sleep, we had the cake and candles. The presents: a gift certificate for a training class at the local firing range; his own copy of Mark Campbell's Close Action; and Lobel's Meat Bible.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Yet more snow

Today is Josh's birthday, and he was praying for snow so he could get out of his biology exam at 7:30am--what a way to start your birthday, eh? His prayers were effective but not well targeted, in that the snow arrived here, not at George Mason. Our third snow this month, and more coming Sunday.

Today's snow was enough for the kids to stay home from school, and plenty of accidents--at least seventy in the area. Rain first, then freeze, then about two inches of snow, then more rain. I went to lunch at 1pm and the car slid around the turns, even going quite slowly--it was interesting.

Lunch was with Diana and our friend Barbra, who gave me an amaryllis for Christmas. She was anxious to reassure me that she'd done the hard part of getting it planted and started; all I have to do is make sure it gets water. And sunlight. And a warm temperature. something else. We'll see how long it survives.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Beau Monde Bread

We occasionally make this for parties and people always ask for more.

1 loaf french bread--the wide loaf you'd use for garlic bread, not skinny baguettes
1/2 lb margarine
2 Tblsp dry mustard
2 Tblsp lemon juice
1/2 Tblsp beau monde
1 Tblsp poppy seeds
1 Tblsp grated onion
8-12 oz sliced Swiss cheese

Mix all the ingredients except the bread and cheese.

Cut the top crust off the bread. Make a series of slices about 3/4 of the way through the loaf, in an X pattern--if you were to slice all the way through the loaf, you'd end up with large bread cubes.

Place the loaf on foil, and bring the foil up so it covers at least half the side of the loaf.

Spread the margarine mixture over the bread, into the slices and down the sides.

Stuff the X's with cheese.

Bake 30 minutes at 350°.

Monday, December 13, 2010

December Snow, round 2

It appears the initial December 4 visitation of snow demons was merely a scouting party; today we got a reconnaissance in force. It snowed all day and there was some accumulation on the ground--not much, but some. Given that we average 0.2 snow days in December, this bodes not well...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Rainy weekend

The Mutt gets temperamental when Diana is away, and one of the ways she expresses it is by chewing on the blinds; I presume she wants to be able to see Diana coming home. (When I'm gone, sometimes she deigns to come check to be sure I'm not a burglar before she goes back to sleep). There are more blind slats than we needed to cover the window, and a little examination showed that it's possible to take the blinds apart, remove the damaged pieces and replace them with the formerly-unneeded undamaged pieces. It was quicker and easier than taking out the whole blind and installing a new one would have been, and about $75 cheaper. However, it  took a willingness to examine the thing and figure out how to take it apart; I sometimes wonder what percentage of people actually do that, instead of just buying a new one.

Also got the Christmas tree up and the first round of lights strung. Next year we're getting a new tree stand, preferably with an intimidating steel spike suitable for keeping the tree in place. Of course, once you've got the tree sawed to length and the branched trimmed and the whole thing set in place, you have to go and scrape the sap and goo off your gloves or, in my case, hands.

The NaNoWriMo "Thank God It's Over" was last night. About twenty people there when I left. High scorer for our region was over 110K words; low scorer was 2 words, "Chapter One", but she was eight months pregnant and ended up having a C section on December 2nd. There wasn't really a lot of talk about what people had written, though.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Fantasy Novels

I had a request for Ten Favorite Fantasy Novels. Not the ten most important, or most famous, just the ten that come to mind when someone asks me "What books do you really love?". In no particular order, they are:

  • Three Hearts and Three Lions
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • The Well of the Unicorn
  • The Spirit Ring
  • The Ladies of Mandrigyn
  • The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
  • The Harp and the Blade
  • One for the Morning Glory
  • The Princess Bride
  • The Color of Magic
I've left out Conan, Amber, Camber of Culdi, Harry Potter, and a host of others. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


I came into work and joined a conversation already in progress:
Georgette: "When I grow up, I want to be a paramecium!"
Me: "A paramecium? Really?"
Georgette: "It's fun to say. And they look like paisley, and you know I love paisley."

John Ringo interview

Glenn "InstaPundit" Reynolds interviews John Ringo

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Snow in December

It snowed tonight. That happens in December about once every five years. Granted, "snow" in the Virginia Beach context includes "you can see snowflakes in the air and the cars are white but it's not sticking on the ground", which is what we have right now.