Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Price of Admiralty

Joshua was admiral for one side in a Close Action game today. One of the key points about Close Action is that normally both sides have several ships--three to thirty on a side--but each player only commands one ship. That means that in order to maneuver coherently, avoid collisions, and ultimately win, you have to work together as a team. Or, sometimes, you just have to be a disorganized mob but slightly less disorganized than the other mob.

Josh texted me a few times during the battle:
  • 1:32     Seriously, why can't I be a team on my own?
  • 3:07     I hate my captains SO MUCH
  • 6:08     I have sent eight signals. Six of them have been variations of "Engage more closely." They didn't.
  • 6:22     We won, 147 to 119. I don't know how.
I told him that now he knows how Suffren felt.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Chinese censorship

It has been determined that this blog is not accessible from Shanghai, People's Republic of China. Apparently this blog could be a threat to a communist empire that rules over a billion people. Granted, it's not me in particular, it's any blogger or blogspot site. Still, I'm rather pleased.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.
--C S Lewis

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Back to Africa

Mom and Dad went back to Macha, Zambia.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Walrus and the Warwolf

A couple of months ago, I got The Walrus and the Warwolf. It's a serial collected into a book. I get the feel that the writer woke up every Monday morning, said "I need to mail in another installment on Wednesday, what shall I do to Drake this week?" and rolls a dice to see which plot thread to pull. Drake struggles for power and reputation, evades the hunters sent by his former master, tries to win the woman he lusts for ("loves" would be overstating it, at least at first); he lies and schemes when he can, fights when he must. It's pretty much the fantasy literature equivalent of cotton candy. It would be the perfect thing to read if you had the flu and couldn't focus on anything that required thought.
Two notable points:
1.   There are a couple of places where at least one page worth of text is missing. For instance, you're reading about them escaping through the desert, and when you turn the page Drake is saying "What is it to me if Jon was kidnapped?". You don't miss anything important (in fact, you can skip the whole book and not miss anything important), but it's an editorial mistake I'd never run across before.
2.   China Mieville's foreword said that the whole point of the book was that Drake never grows up, never matures. Drake does mature, and the book has at least one chapter of soul-searching on this subject, so it's not entirely subtle. Mieville is simply wrong. This is the only occasion on which an author has managed to lower his standing in my eyes by the foreword he wrote.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Kayaking Season 2011

The weather for the past few weeks has been "beautiful on work days, cold, windy and rainy on weekends." Today was cloudy but good enough to take the kayak out for an hour. Something moving in the marsh grass; I silently paddle up and watch from about fifteen feet away, until the raccoon suddenly sits bolt upright, looks at me, and scampers off. Fish jumping, geese swimming with their heads bobbing back and forth, an osprey hovering overhead.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Grey's Law

Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Contact with Chaos

Michael Z Williamson revisits the Freehold universe a generation later, when a Freehold ship makes first contact with an alien species. When I bought the book, I said "I'm not sure this is going to be as good as Freehold, but I'm going to buy it anyway, just to support Mike." In retrospect, I probably should have bought another copy of Freehold instead.
The planet in question is metal poor, and much of the book is taken up with the humans trying to avoid introducing metal and thereby disrupting the natives' societies. The Freehold government rep is the central character, but his reason for being there in the first place seemed a bit tenuous from a Freehold point of view, and his goals were vague. The climax depended too much on someone other than the main character, and the resolution wasn't satisfying. Basically, it felt like "Avoid introducing metal, avoid introducing metal, rein in other people who want to introduce metal, avoid introducing metal some more, okay, we can show them metal now." This is not to say that I didn't stay up to 1am reading it; I did. His vision of the natives' technology was interesting. But having recently re-read Freehold, I was expecting a stronger lead character and a stronger climax.

First Bikini Day

Actually, it's likely that people were in beachwear at the beginning of last week, when it was 80, but I was in the office all day. Today I went down to the oceanfront library during lunch, so had my first bikini sighting of the year. And when I got back to the office, my Toronto dispatcher mentioned they'd had snow this weekend.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

How to Write a Novel

Larry Correia has a post discussing first person versus third person, and the penultimate paragraph is:
I want to be Dan Simmons when I grow up, but then again, I did just sell a book featuring a teleporting magic ninja fight on top of a flaming pirate dirigible in a world with bear cavalry, gangsters, wizards, and John Browning fighting the magic samurai of Imperial Japan with Tesla super weapons, so I’m working on it.
How could you not want to go out and buy that?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Vorkosigan Companion

The Vorkosigan Companion was disappointing, although the fault is probably that my expectations were too high. It's about 650 pages, of which 110 is the good stuff: a couple of articles by Lois Bujold, an interview with her, interview with her editor. The other 540 pages is trivia, things like genealogies and pronunciation of names, and prefaces to the novels. The one which annoyed me was the article "What's The Worst Thing I Can Do To This Character?: Technology in the Vorkosiganverse". The question part of that is Lois' approach to writing; however the article doesn't cover the art of writing at all, it just discusses which tech appeared in which book, so I'd say the title was misleading. Other than that, no complaints about that kind of thing being in a Companion volume--that's what a companion volume is. I was just hoping for a little higher ratio of substance to fluff.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Zoe goes to the Beach

We took the Mutt to the beach. A couple of surfers, a couple of guys with frisbees, otherwise pretty empty.


My grandparents on my mother's side celebrate their 73rd anniversary today.

Larry Correia's Happy Tax Day

Larry Correia is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Monster Hunter International and Monster Hunter Vendetta, plus four other books to be released this year. And he's an accounting type, as you might have guessed from reading MHI. He has a beautiful rant on Tax Day which you should read now, and at every election.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Josh and Gwen

Picasa album with 14 pics or 52 pics

Monday, April 11, 2011


This spring's pollen season has begun.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Steampunk Walker Tank

A video of a motorized Lego steampunk mech .

Driving to Dulles

Just got back from taking Gwen (and Josh) to Dulles Airport, for Gwen's trip home. She was delightful, and we were all sad to see her depart.
After leaving the airport, we took Josh to dinner, dropped him off at his apartment, and headed home. Round trip total was 442 miles (712km) in just over 9 hours. I always appreciate modern technology when I make a trip like that; in medieval times, you'd have been lucky to make that trip in three weeks.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

936 Little Blobs

Life expectancy in the US is 936 months; what are you doing with this one?

Friday, April 8, 2011


With warm weather finally here, you'd expect people to start getting bare; however, what we actually got was bear. A black bear, in fact. It was sighted around11pm Thursday at 9th and Mediterranean, wandered around overnight, and is now near 16th and Cypress. Give that the southern half of Virginia Beach is undeveloped and the Great Dismal Swamp is nearby, having a bear around isn't all that weird, but we don't hear about it often, and I've never heard of one making it to the oceanfront before.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Contact with Chaos

I picked up Contact with Chaos; the title seems to go well with my plumbing project.When I saw this in the shop, I thought "I'm not sure I'm going to like this"--as far as First Contact novels go, it'd be hard to top A Mote in God's Eye--"but you know, Mike Williamson deserves the support, so I'm going to buy it anyway."

The book is set some years after the Freehold/UN war described in Freehold and The Weapon, and tells the story of what happens when a Freehold ship discovers a planet inhabited by non-humans--apparently with a lower tech level, but I suspect some surprises are in store. I'm about two chapters in, and enjoying it.


As part of the Great "Getting Ready For Gwen" Cleaning And Remodeling Campaign, I foolishly agreed to change out the fixtures on the downstairs bathroom sink. In fact, I was going to do two bathrooms, but the shop only had one set of the fixtures in stock, and when I realized what I'd gotten myself into, I quickly advised them that they really didn't need to order another set on my behalf.
With trusty wrench in hand, I set off into the depths of the cabinet under the, this tale is just too epic to tell. Hacking through a stuck pipe (I used a hacksaw, so obviously I was hacking). Screwing part A into place as the manual instructed; realizing the manual really meant "put A into B, and then screw B into place" even though it never mentioned B; taking the whole thing apart. Realizing I'd get better results by looking at stuff and figuring it out on my own, rather than refer to the incompetently written installation guide. Laying on my back with a basin wrench and WD40 can. Solvent welding PVC pipe. Ah, good times. It did get done, though, functional, and no leaks at all.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Zombie Squad

If you're going to prepare for hurricanes, tidal waves, currency collapse, electromagnetic storms and epidemics, you might as well go ahead and prepare for zombies. And that means Zombie Squad : 
"Nobody knows the walking dead like Zombie Squad. With one of the toughest training programs in the business, our Zombie Extermination Specialists make up the world's premier non-stationary cadaver suppression task force."
On a more serious note, Zombie Squad's mission is "to educate the public about the importance of personal preparedness and self reliance, to increase its readiness to respond to a number of disasters such as Earthquakes, Floods or Zombie Outbreaks."

How to improve bacon

6-12 ounces sliced bacon
2-3 tablespoons maple syrup
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place bacon slices in one layer directly on a large baking sheet.
2. Cook for 10-20 minutes, until beginning to brown. 
3. Remove from oven, brush each slice with maple syrup, and return to oven, cooking for another 4-5 minutes; repeat until bacon is done to taste. 
4. Remove bacon to a rack set over another baking sheet to drain.

Monday, April 4, 2011


Picked up Directive 51 by John Barnes, and The Vorkosigan Companion. I'm halfway through the Barnes one, and I have a feeling he's got a major plot twist lurking. The Vorkosigan one is because there are a couple of articles on writing in it, and since Lois Bujold is one of the very few authors on my "Buy It As Soon As The Hardback Comes Out", it might be worthwhile to see how she thinks about writing.

Spring flowers

The temperature finally crept up to reasonable bounds this weekend, and I need to get back into shape for walking, so I did three miles today. These were all flowers I saw along the roadside, no off-road detours required. Click on the pics for the larger versions.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Prickly Pear

We had a prickly pear fruit today, just as something new to try. By the time you're done peeling, there's not much inside. I'm inclined to say it tastes pink...light and sweet, something like watermelon, something like pink bubblegum, but not as strongly flavored as either of those.