humbleminion: (Default)
Meme thing, pinched from [livejournal.com profile] gamerchick. Comment on this post and I'll tell you five subjects/things I associate with you. Then you post them in your lj and elaborate.

Gaming: Pretty general topic! Have done a bit of everything over the years, starting off with an old cardstock board wargame I found in my next door neighbour's garage sale, progressing through years of computer games, homebrew WWII miniatures rules that never quite got off the ground, Warhammer, epic-scale WH40K, more boardgames, and finally into roleplaying. Only thing I never was into was online multiplayer gaming, because I know myself well enough to realise that if I started getting into WoW or similar I'd never, ever escape, and I really don't want to be That Guy (besides, my gf has been a Warcraft Widow once already, and has no intention of doing it again). Was extremely lucky for many years to be living only a few minutes ride from my best mate, who was a partner in all this stuff through to uni, and then was extremely lucky again, after he moved to Brisbane (he's moving back TODAY after five years!!) to happen across a D&D game advertised online when 3rd edition was brand and shiny new - and I've been playing with the same RP group ever since. What do I get out of it? Intellectual challenge. Escapism. A chance to catch up with friends on a regular basis, which gets trickier the older you get. Doing cool stuff and being cool people, and leaving the boring world behind for a few hours a week.

Cooking and eating ridiculously spicy foods: When I was a kid, mum and dad kept a small tin of curry powder in the top cupboard, with dire warnings to us kids not to touch it because "it's hot tasting". We lived in fear of it. It even reached such mythic stature that I actually remember putting on gloves, carefully holding it at arms length, and chasing my terrified and weeping little sister around the house with it one time. Sorry sis. I don't actually know when things changed to be honest - probably when my parents split up and I started cooking more often - I've always enjoyed casserole-y mingled dishes to neatly separated piles of meat and veg sitting on the plate, and I suppose it was inevitable I'd try curry. I stuck with the pre-prepared curry pastes for a while, but then for my first Christmas after I moved into my own place, my sister gave me a cookbook on doing curry from scratch. See, she DID forgive me! And since it's a known fact that chilli is addictive (it's the endorphins that get released in response to the pain from the burn, apparently), I rapidly branched out from Indian into Szechuan, Thai, and a sort of bastardised homebrew Mexican/TexMex. Probably the dishes I'm best at are sour lamb and lentil curry, Thai fish curry, red Parsee chicken, and quick tuna chilli or Szechuan [random stuff from fridge] stirfry - the latter two are great in front of the footy on a cold Friday night with a bottle of something cheap. I do love my vindaloo, but I have trouble with preventing the chilli heat overwhelm the rest of the spices (I don't mind so much personally, but NOBODY else will even touch the stuff), and my lamb saag is good but can go horribly wrong because I can never tell how hot a green chilli is going to be before the fact. I have to focus a bit on the milder side of things these days, because too much heat really gives the gf problems, but I still do brutalisingly hot stuff every now and again, just for me...

Australia: What can I say? I love this bloody place. I love the way that there's elbow-room, and the place isn't entirely concreted over. I love the lack of pretence that you still do find in the people more often than not. I love the football (they don't get it right anywhere else) and the wild ethnic meltingpot that means I can eat spectacular food from a dozen different countries within a kilometre of my house, and the fact that I can get decent medical care and a reasonable social safety net and not have to censor what I write, think, say or believe - and that pretty much everyone wants to keep it that way. I love the impact of the heat-hammer as you step out the door into the summer sun and the baking air blows dust and drying eucalyptus in your face on a wind straight from the mallee. I love being able to lose myself dozens of miles from any other human being. I love the sea and everything in it, even the biteys. I love how a sullen sweltering furnace of a day can turn hammering thunderstorm within five minutes flat. I love that it's still a little bit untamed, and that living here has a way of putting all the stuff that stresses you out from day to day into its proper perspective.

Reading at an alarming pace: Sometimes, I wish I could read slowly. I get through approximately 60-100 pages of your bog-standard paperback novel in about 50 minutes each way to and from work every day. I simply don't know how to read slower. It's got its pluses and minuses. Pluses; I get through a lot. I've accumulated an alarmingly large volume of esoteric data in my skull about a zillion different oddball topics, and most of it sticks. And when I get interested in a subject or a genre I can read about it widely and get a broad perspective from a number of angles, rather than clinging to my original source. Minuses; I get through a lot, so the house is bursting at the seams with books, and I spend far too much money on them! Also, I have a tendency to skim, so while I extract qualitiative info very well from what I read, the quantitative stuff I'm not so good at. I had a horrible time studying from maths-heavy subjects at uni, because I simply couldn't slow down and focus on the small detail well enough to absorb proofs, understand algorithms etc. Now I'm starting to read in order to try and analyse structure and writing craft in order to learn about the novel game, and again I'm finding it horribly dificult to slow down and smell the literary roses. It's all churn through and get to the end and start the next one, and while the info gets into my head, the style hardly touches the sides on the way down. Last couple of weeks I've read Mage Heart, Fire Angels, Aramaya, And the Band Played On, The Peshawar Lancers, The Siege of Arrandin, the Treason of Dortrean, The Fall of Lautun, Pterosaurs: from Deep Time, Ender's Game, A Scholar of Magics, To Ride Hell's Chasm, The Skinner, and Dinosaurs: the Complete Encyclopedia. Like I said - expensive...

Essendon: And this was the last subject. I've been stretching this meme out, doing a topic or half of one every so often when I can find the time, and this was the last one left. But today I heard my grandmother - who is the reason I ever got started following this club, or football in general - died peacefully early this morning after a long decline due to Alzheimers. Going to have to give this question a miss for a while, I'm afraid. Not really up to it right now.
humbleminion: (Default)
Dear Janny Wurts

I have finished your novel "To Ride Hell's Chasm". In it, you dwell at length on the praiseworthy warrior-like qualities of your main character. At great length. At very great length. At extremely verbose, repetitive, and unspeakably wearying length in fact.

There is a decent, if not inspired, story lurking in there. Your folksy, semi-superstitous approach to magic works surprisingly well. Stylistically, you've got some tricks, when you choose to use them.

But seriously, after six hundred pages of "the unshakeable self-trust of a man who has been put to the extreme test and who had won triumph through the unflagging use of his wits" and "will ruled him as iron" and "here was a man, a trained killer, who would hold his integrity above spoken promises" and "the desert-bred captain mustered the cold force of his discipline" and "warrior instincts" and "to see him move with a weapon in hand exposed what he was: a killer honed to an edged that eclipsed the humanity of his birthright" over and over and over again, often two or three times on the same page, is it really necessary to wind the book up with a final chapter in which all the major characters of the book - even the dead ones - are brought back for the explicit purpose of telling us all over again how awesome the guy is?

This is a step beyond mere mundane self-insertion. It's weirdly like the author is worshipping her own character. Creeeepy.
humbleminion: (fatso)
Still a long way from [livejournal.com profile] dewhitton's standard, but we have a young magpie sleeping in a cat carrier in the laundry. Saw him wandering around on the naturestrip looking crook on the way home from the station, and got the gf to come and have a look at him. Back and wings seem to be passably intact, but he's completely failing to get into the air. Gf reckons he might have been hit by a car and knocked a bit silly, and she's the vet so she should know. Has a bit of fire left in him - really didn't like getting picked up by the feet and having his wings exammined, and took a couple of chunks out of gf's hands to emphasise the point.

Will see what he's like tomorrow after a bit of water and a night's kip. Hopefully he'll be ready to fly off - can't really keep a rehabilitating bird around the place while the cat's in residence...
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Worst of things in the Melb area at least seems to be over. Gf's folks' are ok, and so is the house, but a some people she knows lost everything and a few didn't make it out at all.

Hard to comprehend the scale of the thing. Official death toll is 181 now, which is bad enough, but from the unofficial stories/reports/rumours I'm hearing around the place I wouldn't be surprised to see that number triple. Marysville in particular sounds like a truly monumental horror. I really, really hope that the stories I've heard are just unfounded panicky gossip or sensation-mongering, truly I do.

Fires still burning. They're bigger than ever now, but the wind and weather are a bit more friendly and everyone's alert now, so with any luck from here on in the loss of life should be minimal (you can never expect zero, sadly), nothing like the blitzkrieg we copped on Red Saturday. They're heading more north now, with a few medium-sized to biggish country towns in the firing line, so fingers crossed that the firies can make a dent before the weather gets ugly again. Yea and Healesville will be nervous if the wind picks up. And everyone with half a brain will be nervous about Longford and Loy Yang, cos that's the gas and electricity supply for the entire population-4-million-plus city right there, not to mention a bloody great brown coal mine that'll burn for literal centuries if it gets going.

All sorts of shoulda-coulda hindsight happening now. Stay-or-go policy, fuel reduction burning, national park management, construction standards and climate change all getting a guernsey. Too damn early for that. And it's an exercise in futility anyway. You can't stop tsunamis, you can't stop earthquakes, you can't stop hurricanes, you certainly can't stop what happened on the weekend. 100km/h winds. 48° temperatures. Flames 100ft high. Radiant heat from the fire front that's lethal at 150m. Gum trees spontanously exploding due to vaporised eucalyptus oil hundreds of metres ahead of the fire front. Chunks of burning branch getting thrown 15km ahead of the fire front. The firefront moving fast enough to overtake speeding cars.

At one point on Saturday the fire travelled 25km in 4 minutes. For some perspective, the gf's family place was 4km away from areas that burnt to the ground. Hell, I live the deepest, most mundane suburbia and I only live about 25km away from the fire. While the fire wouldn't travel anything like as fast through suburbs as it did though the bushy fringe, when a fire gets going on a day like Saturday, with the wind behind it, nothing will stop it short of the sea. If the wind on Saturday had been a strong consistent northerly rather than the everchanging chaotic bluster it was, it's hard to see how the fires would have failed to make it deep into the eastern suburbs. Eltham, Warrandyte, Park Orchards, even Blackburn are bushy, tinder-dry, and would go up like torches.

Don't get me wrong - not trying to make it sound like I was on the front lines or anything. Very, very far from it - I didn't even begin to comprehend how bad things had really gotten until Sunday. For some bizarre meteorological reason you can't even see or smell any smoke from where I live or work, which adds an air of unreality to everything I see on TV - though I dare say this will vanish very quickly next time I go to the gf's parents place. I'm just trying to get across the scale of the thing, and that in many ways, it could have been, and still may be, worse.
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Getting worse.

106 people confirmed dead now. Wouldn't be surprised at all to see that double or worse. Marysville had 800 residents, and after an hour on Saturday evening you can now count the buildings left standing on your fingers. People there had 3-5 minutes to get out, and Marysville is full of the elderly, who chose to spend their retirement in the bush. That won't have been enough warning for a lot of them.

All the fires are still burning. 30 people have been killed within 6km of gf's parents place, and there's been fires within 4km. Have begged them to call me so I can give them a hand if things start to look dicey again - they're pretty well prepared, but there's no substitute for hands on deck, and I need to do something.

Number is now up to 108, while I type.

Weather is cooler now, but still no sign of rain. Think we've had a total of about 1mm of rain in the last two months - everything is tinder dry everywhere, the eucalypts are literally explosive, and fires of this size only go out when it rains or when they reach the sea and run out of stuff to burn. Humans can spray as much water around as they like, but all we can hope to do is protect tiny little islands, at best. Wind is worryingly strong where I am, but I'm right near the bay so am probably getting the sea breeze here. Hopefully it's quieter inland a bit.

Not a great weekend in this part of the world.
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Fires yesterday were bad, much worse than I knew when I wrote yesterday's entry. 50-odd people dead.

It's happened before. The Ash Wednesday fires happened when I was about 6. I didn't really understand what was going on at the time, but I do remember the sky turning black, and burnt leaves falling like confetti for days and filling my kiddie pool. I looked it up recently - an area about the size of Lebanon, a fire more intense than the Dresden firestorm or the Hiroshima bomb.

Yesterday was nearly as bad. The fire was worse, but we're better at dealing with it now and the Ash Wednesday fires happened over the course of a week, rather than in a single day. But for me at least, this time it was personal.

Kinglake burnt. That's where me and the gf went for a picnic only a few months back - I saw my first lyrebird in the wild, and we at smoked salmon and brie while the rosellas swarmed over us like locusts. It's only 20 minutes from the gf's family place.

Labertouche/Jindivick burnt. That's where we were going next weekend, to this chilli festival.

Redesdale burnt. That's where Best Friend L's grandparents live - we used to go fishing up there back in the day, pulling little redfin from Lake Eppaloch from their back paddock. And it's not far at all from where mum's hubby's place is, up at Bendigo. Hope he wasn't up there this weekend.

The goddamn suburban train line was cut by fires at Ferntree Gully - I was a few km away on Ferntree Gully Road yesterday morning, picking up a new air conditioner.

Yeah, pretty personal this time round.

EDIT: death toll now up to 76. 11 dead at St Andrews, where there's a little local market that I've been to with the gf a few times, buying plants and second-hand DVDs/books. Also about 20km from her folks' place...

Hot, again

Feb. 7th, 2009 06:31 pm
humbleminion: (Default)
46.4° today. This is just getting ridiculous...

90km/h winds, dry as dust and oven-hot. Computer kept overheating and shutting down, even with 2 air conditioners on. Even the gum trees are dying in the heat, and heatstroked possums/koalas/parrots are falling out of the trees all over the place. Change has come through now, so things are getting a little better, at least. Was planning to go to the chilli festival next weekend, but with the fires out that way I'm not sure it'll be on. Loads of pity for the CFA guys right now. Fighting bushfires today would be a little slice of hell.

Going to get my inner science nerd on next week, so will be around even less than usual. My big christmas prezzy from the gf was a pass to the Evolution 09 conference, celebrating the 150th anniversary of the publication of Origin of the Species. My biological education finishes with a poor mark in second year zoology, so I expect a huge amount of this to go over my head, but it'll be loads of fun nonetheless. And we're going to the dinner, which looks awesome. They're serving primordial soup!

Hot

Jan. 29th, 2009 09:15 am
humbleminion: (Default)
I like hot weather, but this is getting ... impractical. Lazing around in the warm reading a book while slurping an icypole, or heading off down to the beach are some of the great simple pleasures of life, but the side-effects are proving a bit of a problem at the moment (and it's the middle of the week so I'm at work and not at the beach anyway...)

43° yesterday, minimum of 29° overnight, 33° by the time I left the house at 8 this morning, the forecast says it's heading for 43°+ again today and tomorrow. Adelaide was 46° yesterday, and we tend to get their weather the next day, so I'm bracing myself.

Never seems to have occurred to the useless genetic deficients running the public transport system that Australia sometimes gets a tad warm in summer and it might be a decent idea to design/equip their trains and rails accordingly, so getting home from work is a daily cointoss as to whether or not it'll take that extra hour on a crammed carriage with my head in someone's armpit.

Cat is a limp floppy puddle of fur, gf had a bout of heatstroke at midnight last night, which was a bit scary, airconditioner was on for four hours but couldn't get the bedroom below 27°.

No really big bushfires yet, fingers crossed, but the last time we had a heatwave of these proportions was Black Friday 1939.

(Sneakily posting this from the work computer, since the home one is upstairs in a room with no curtains, and so it overheats whenever the CPU is called on to do anything, poor wilting violet that it is...)
humbleminion: (Default)
Australia Day! Heart-pounding, inspiring celebration of our glorious nationhood!

Does anyone actually think like that? I reckon that 99% of the population just enjoys the day off and doesn't give a damn about the why. The only place I've even seen a flag was at the old people's home when I went to visit nan yesterday. We don't do conspicuous patriotism very much here...

Saw Leonard Cohen on Saturday, which was pretty damn special. You don't very often get the chance to experience an all-time legend, in the truest sense. 75 years old and he played for two and a half hours, which really should make the bands full of twentysomethings who do their 65 minute set and then bugger off hang their heads in shame. Spectacular show, spectacular. Gravelly, weary, sorrowful, energetic, mischievous, beautiful. Hunched little old man, puckish and with a sense of humour as dry as dust, but so amazingly alive. A privilege to be there.
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"Tom Cruise hates Hitler"

Ah, modern journalism. Always surprising, always relevant, and ever in touch with the important issues of the day...
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This is the first job I've had where there's been a vaguely businessy dress code. I really do prefer my t-shirts, but I'm happy to live with shirts (ties not compulsory, fortunately!) except on days like today. Long pants and long-sleeved shirts not so much fun in 35-39° heat.

Am still enjoying being able to reading on the train though. Burning though ~2 books per week, and finally starting to make a dent on the enormous backlog that's built up since gf convinced me to give up my tight-arse ways and just damn well order what I want from Amazon, rather than hanging around forever waiting for it to appear on Ebay or in some second-hand book place or remainders warehouse. Liberating, in a way. Finally got a hold of The Man From the Diogenes Club, which I've been looking for forever - it arrived today. Alas I think I got overenthusiastic and there's another one in the mail from some other lot. C'est la vie. Still, last time I saw a copy on Ebay it was US$70 and the thing has been out of print for years, so if I hold on to my extra for a bit I reckon I'll do alright out of the deal...

Cool find of the week - they finally found more of Deinocheirus! Maybe we'll get an idea of what the damn thing looked like (other than its arms) now. I mean, it's only been 40 years since they found the headscratchingly odd bits that we have - about time more showed up. Now we've just got to wait 5 years until some damn postgrad student gets the damn paper written, makes it jump through 376 peer-review hoops, and publishes it. Sigh. Science is too damn slow sometimes.

Gah. Too sweaty up here. Gf is flaked out after a horrible couple of weeks at work. I'm a bit down after we had to put down a car-hit roo yesterday. Going to go read my brand new Diogenes Club in the sun - it'll be winter before I can blink, better make the most of the warm while I can...
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Oof. Christmas. Nearly a week later I'm still living on fruit and toast after doing a truly staggering amount of eating at the various family thingies. One more of those than there has been previously, with the gf's folks, who do an amazing spread of bbq prawns of which I shamelessly ate about half of...

Some very awesome prezzies. Tickets to Paul Kelly/Leonard Cohen, plus a big evolution/paleontology conference courtesy of the gf. DVDs and wine and clothes and nibbly things. Little sister got me a spice garden in a big pot, in which the chillies are actually still alive and not getting continually eaten by something or other like my other chilli plant is. Oh, and books. Loads and loads of books. Add this to my shipment from Book Closeouts arriving (see a couple of entries back - Charles Stross, Joe Abercrombie, and George Alec Effinger are the highlights...) and this place is getting seriously over-literary. The gf has just as much of a weakness for the ol' bookshop as I do, and we've got something like $250 worth of vouchers to spend since Christmas. Picked up a seventh bookcase on the weekend and have been making a point of retiring some of my less-favourite books to cardboard boxes in the cupboard, but bookcases eight and nine are looming...

Holiday off-work time was minimal, and is now over. Have only been at the new job for a few weeks after all - haven't got all that much leave time saved up. Back at work since yesterday, joy joy. Still one of the bosses is bringing her puppy to the office while the workload/visitor rate is low, so that's a bit of fun. Not quite housetrained yet though, which can be a bit of a problem!

Kitten downstairs making bizarre scratching noises. Better go see if he's learnt to use the covered litter tray with the flap door yet...
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Finished Russell Kirkpatrick's Fires of Heaven trilogy. Have absolutely no idea why I felt obliged to finish said trilogy, since it's some of the worst crap committed to paper outside of the smallest room in the house, and this was obvious from about a quarter way in to the first book. Maybe it's because I was feeling really clever for accumulating the whole trilogy at different times and from different second-hand bookshop, and was unwilling to admit it was a big fat waste of time and $12. Avoid this one, people. I can normally find something positive to take from pretty much anything I read, but I'm fresh out of luck on all 1500 pages of this one. Kirkpatrick can't do characterisation, he can't do dialog, he can't write evocatively or movingly, he has no originality or creativity in his worldbuilding, he cannot write a plot twist that is not drearily telegraphed and predictable, he cannot keep his obvious desire to evangelise some brand of speaking-in-tongues fundamentalist Christianity from treading all over his story, I dread to think what [livejournal.com profile] gamerchick would have to say about his treatment of female characters, and he has no ability to give his characters life beyond their percieved roles in the story. God this was awful, and I'm pathetically glad than I've finished it and I can now start reading decent books on the train to work again (Greg <3 public transport and the literary opportunities therein...). But I'm the fool who read through it, so I can't really throw too many stones...

Ok, enough. Have to go do ALL of my Christmas shopping today. *deep and heartfelt groan* Give me strength...
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Pre-New-Year's resolution is to post here no less than once a week. It might be short, but it'll happen.

Gah, busy.

Just started up the new job, which is interesting but utterly different than what I'm used to. Lots and lots and loooots to learn, particularly since the only bloke who knows how the system works is going on holiday as soon as his baby is born, which is currently scheduled for Any Day Now. I am supremely ignorant of the actual implementation, though I was mildly gratified to discover that I remember enough of the soft-option relational databases subject I did as a cheapie points-filler during my honours year that I can still argue meaningfully about normalised databases, entity-relationship diagrams, and index keys. Enjoying the train ride to work too, rather than having a drive - getting a bunch of reading done, though the Russell Kirkpatrick trilogy I elected to start with is proving to be some of the most drab, cardboard, derivative, ineptly-written fantasy I've read in years, and getting through it is proving to be a very grim struggle.

Took a quick ramble up the Grampians before going back to the 9-5 thing. V nice - hadn't been up there since the fires a couple of years back, and the level of regeneration was impressive. Did my old favourite walk/climbs at Hollow Mountain and the Pinnacle. Third day was planning to have a crack at Mt Rosea (can't let ourselves get stuck in a rut, after all...), but was prevented from doing so by a) incredibly sore legs (had to take the long way down from the Pinnacle since one of the tracks was closed, which added about 3km or rock-hopping to the trip), and b) having to spend the day hunting for my phone after some thieving bugger pinched it. Said thieving bugger was polite enough to return the thing after they'd finished with it, but unfortunately this was after I'd given up and gone home, so the hostel had to mail it to be.

Hostels do weird things to people. It's the whole communal atmosphere. Even the thieves have a conscience and worry about putting people out too much. Wish the rest of the world was like that...

Last weekend my wonderful gf shouted me a trip to Sydney - she had a vet conference there, and so I tagged along to see the sights and carry luggage (and attend the swanky dinner...) Wonderful city to visit (everything you want to see is fairly close to one another, there's plenty of parks and interesting buildings and museums all over the place, the weather is good, and there's a free shuttle bus around the city centre for those non-me people who aren't compulsive walkers), but my one previous (working) trip there educated me on how bloody horrible the traffic is and what a nightmare place it'd be to actually live. Fair dinkum it's the worst-laid-out city and road network I've ever seen in my life. The urban planners need to be shot, or better yet, forced to work as taxi drivers. But the museum was very cool, and I wandered around the harbour and looked at the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge and went to the zoo and museum and bought a didgeridoo CD from a busker on Circular Quay, and ate a pie & mushy peas from the supposedly-famous Harry's and raided a second-hand bookshop or two and took a ferry over the harbour and walked until my feet bled. Lots of fun - kinda nice to be a tourist again - not used to the four-star accommodation admittedly, though I sure as hell COULD get used to it!

Gf won a big shiny pathology textbook at the conference, which is basically equivalent to me winning a nice big shiny wheelbarrow full of fantasy novels (though only if I got paid for reading fantasy novels!), and generally wowed the Sydney vets who will from here on in be beating a path to her door. Pretty exciting - big-time tiring for both of us though. Left home at 7pm Fri night, checked into the hotel at about midnight, didn't get back home until 10pm Sun night. Might be getting too old for that sort of thing, uuurgh.

I took a bunch of not-very-good photos of Sydney which I'm not posting cos I've lost the cord that lets me upload them to the PC, and a regular USB doesn't fit the camera. Que sera sera - one day I'll sort that out.

Going to brush my teeth and get pjs on. By the time I've done that, my Wallace and Gromit download (the new one! Glee!) might be done and I can turn this thing off and go to bed...
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Loads of cheap stuff at Book Closeouts at the moment. Entire fiction range is half thei already reduced price (approx US$3 per book) until midnight US time, December 1.

If you're in America, you can get free postage by using coupon number: freeshipping and coupon password: bookcloseouts.com. If you're in Australia, you're shit out of luck and will end up spending ~US$7 per book postage, making the whole deal only ever-so-marginally cheaper than buying brand new at Borders, especially once the crappy exchange rate gets factored in.

C'est la vie...
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Four years ago, I posted in here about the upcoming US election and how important it was.

I was tempted to do it again, but I'm not sure there's any point. I've heard a couple of times recently that this is going to be the most important election of the modern era. Well, that's purest bullshit. The most important election of the modern era was the 2000 US election, followed by the 2004 US election. This one - well, to be honest it's hard to see it having any more long-term historical relevance than that bloke in Queensland who's declared himself absolute monarch of a sovereign nation that comprises his sheep station.

The dream is OVER, people! The water is boiling and the frog is dead, though it might still be twitching a bit. The environment, not to put too fine a point on it, is utterly fucked. 387ppm atmospheric CO2 concentration, and the best case scenarios are aiming for a 450ppm target. Ye gods, that's Mesozoic levels. We're talking about the obliteration of landmasses and a global extinction event to rival the destruction of the dinosaurs. Ten years ago there might have been a chance to turn things around, but they weren't, and now things are so urgent that everyone in politics is too goddamn cowardly to bite the bullet and tell the world plainly how bad things really are and what must be done. It genuinely fucking staggers me that in something like three months the US government can find $800 billion to prop up the banks, but over the past two decades hasn't been able to find a tenth of that money to fund a Manhattan Project to get fusion power/geothermal/solar/something working and economically viable. I sure as hell know which one would have the greater long-term effect. And now, thanks to the deeply predictable failure of US Idiot Capitalism, the money won't be there for generations, by which time it'll be far too late.

In 2000, the US voted for someone who could, with some debate admittedly, be called the leader of the free world. Tomorrow, they vote for someone who's only the President of the USA. America doesn't lead anyone anymore. Hell, they're only marginally part of the free world any more. You simply cannot condone torture (Bush'll pardon all the torturers before he leaves office, just you watch), start wars of aggression, and disappear people without trial, and still claim any sort of moral authority whatsoever. I really don't think most Americans understand how loathed their nation has become overseas in the last few years. This is the end of the American century, guys, brought down in less than a decade by a bunch of spoilt rich kids who got their life lessons from cowboy movies, got their power bought and paid for, and like to believe that sending other people's children to die makes them tough. Australia thinks the US is dumb, mainland Europe despises them, the UK are fed up with seeing their kids come home in body bags over a big lie, and China and a newly re-totalitarian Russia are perfectly ready to step into the gap. Sure, they're bastards and no-one in their right minds wants these guys running the world - but the world has seen America unveiled over the last eight years, and because of that the difference is distinctly less pronounced than it should be. The light on the hill is decidedly dim these days.

The last ten years have effectively put the last nails in the coffin of not only just the democratic ideal, but of human civilisation as we know it. No exaggeration. And Bush'll cheerfully pardon himself and all his mates, then get a fucking presidential library named after him for his efforts and toodle off into a bucolic millionaire's retirement. How can ANYONE defend this man, or even consider voting for the organisation that spawned him? It really beggars belief. The next US presidency will inherit a falling empire, its ideals of freedom and democracy soon to disappear under the weight of its own hypocrisy and the blood-lubricated wheels of Chinese-style totalitarian semi-capitalism. It'll inherit a dying world, and a populace (a Western populace, not just an American one - us Aussies are no different in this department) utterly unprepared to make the sacrifices necessary to stave that death off after being told for decades that they could live on credit forever and that the bills would never come due.

The bills are due. There's no money left in the piggy bank. The next President has all the economic, environmental, and political problems (which are only going to get worse) of an entire planet to fix, and a bit of fencing wire and a pair of pliers to do it with. And he'll have to take out a loan from the Chinese to buy the pliers.

Too fucking late. 2000 might have been early enough, but we'll never know now. Our kids and grandkids are going to despise our generation. We'll go down in history (assuming there IS history beyond the next century, and not just hard-scrabble subsistence in the rusting ruins of our own follies) next to the decadent Romans who lost an Empire, the Germans who lived next to the concentration camps but claimed to know nothing, the people who defended slavery as an economic imperative, and those bastards in Africa who rape babies because they think sex with a virgin cures AIDS. And rightfully so too.
humbleminion: (Default)
The Red Wolf Conspiracy, A Shadow in Summer, Gardens of the Moon, Deadhouse Gates, Grave Peril, Paladin of Souls, Small Favor, Memories of Ice, The Hallowed Hunt, Horus Rising, False Gods, Midnight Tides, Company of the Dead, Galaxy in Flames, Flight of the Eisenstein, House of Chains, Fulgrim, The Zombie Survival Guide, Battle for the Abyss, Iron Angel, Dunkirk, James Hird: Reading the Play, The Italian Secretary, The Black Bouquet, Doom of Kings, Troika, Anyone But England, The Journal of Professor Abraham van Helsing, See Delphi and Die, This Other Eden, The Born Queen, Paint Your Dragon.

Yeah, the review backlog might take a while to clear, methinks. And it's only going to get bigger, cos the next job will have me catching the train to work, so another hour's reading time every day!

Have had supremely irritating internet problems recently, so no me around here. Hopefully they're fixed now. Hopefully nothing horribly virus-related will happen before tomorrow, since that's when I get a new firewall to replace ZoneAlarm, which was causing said supremely irritating problems.

Still working on Greg's Big Off-Work To-Do List. Progress delayed slightly due to ZoneAlarm stuff.
- Help gf set up home office: 90% done.
- Get fit you lazy bloated slug: in progress (ow...)
- Clean house: ~70% done
- Pre-prepare for next few months worth of D&D: only just started
- Fix car: ?
- Deal with health stuff - optometrist, dentist, etc: ?
- Write big chunk of novel: not even looked at yet, sadly
- Go bush and get some sun: waiting til closer to summer, when the weather is better
- Gloat over a US election that might finally go right: on schedule, but celebrations will be subdued on account of the damage being done and it being too damn late for the world in general.
- Learn PHP, AJAX, XHTML, etc for next job: waiting on employer to tell me what I should be looking at

Enough there to keep me busy, at least...
humbleminion: (fatso)
So, it's like this.

Work has been incredibly hectic the last few months, which partly explains why I'm never around here any more. Now, I can live with hectic, but this hectic has been the sort of hectic that involves me going over and over stuff that I thought had been finished months ago, and which really should have been done bloody years ago by someone in another department but wasn't because in general the company's project management structure couldn't manage a sardine into a starving kitten. Not so much fun.

In fact, it was so much not-fun that when my step-brother-in-law (how's that for an over-hyphenated relationship title?) asked me to interview at his work, I thought I'd give it a go. Nothing to lose, even though I simply haven't got any experience in the technologies they're looking for (php, AJAX, Zen frameworks, XHTML, etc.) So I took a morning off and went to the interview, which went pretty well. Then I got back to work, and there was an email in my inbox announcing the company's new voluntary redundancy plan. Serendipity? So I checked it out, and realised that if I accepted the offer I stood to get an after-tax payment of approximately half of my annual take-home income. Part of that is paying out my accumulated leave of course, but it's still nothing to sneeze at.

Anyway, I was offered the job, and at about a 10% pay rise. Plus I'd get to be trained in and play with real web programming technologies rather than messing around doing nothing but application Java (nice, but not as the be-all and end-all) and a weird machine control language that a grand total of one company in the whole damn world uses. The last few years have not been great for the resume, to be honest.

So, old employer has wheeled me out the door with a nice engraved silver beer stein, a broken machine fragment from my most spectacular and expensive disaster specially painted gold and mounted, and a huge pile of money. As of today, I'm not working. New employer thinks (and I have done nothing to disabuse them of this impression) that I have to give old employer 4 weeks notice, and also allowed me to take some time off beyond this just for a break.

So, right now I have a bank account groaning at the seams, and seven weeks holiday before starting a higher-paying job that's far better for my career in the long term. Still kinda stunned by the whole business to be honest, since all this happened in the last 10 days and I haven't processed it or had time to plan. Figure I've got a week of bludging around reading and playing video games while intermittently doing stuff that needs to be done round here, like setting up the gf's home office, hitting the gym really damn hard, cleaning out the garage, and getting my car serviced. Then - who knows? At the very least I want to get a really good solid multi-ten-thousands-words chunk of The Peculiar War of Jennifer Sill written, just to get a solid base to work off in future and so I can finally, honestly say I'm writing a novel, rather than that I will write a novel some day (the present tense makes all the difference to one's author cred...)

But I'll probably be around here a bit more in the next couple of months, at least...
humbleminion: (Default)
Remember the long-ago days when I used to post in here?

Been insanely busy recently. Fun fun fun work stuff - release dates, deadlines, and all that. I've been routinely working 10+ hour days every day, then bringing work home for the weekend. Yay. Fortunately, the back of it seems to be broken for the moment (touch wood) and I things might slacken off for a bit.

Gf saw how frazzled I was getting and was wonderful enough to shout tho two of us a night at a B&B in Queenscliffe on the weekend. Magnificent weather, plus moseying around the old fort (got an eye-opening little talk from the tour guide - Melbourne used to be seriously fortified, surprisingly enough. Gun emplacements and barracks and searchlights and the like dotted everywhere), huge raids on second-hand bookshops, playing with the B&B owners' dogs, and ridiculously good restaurant meals. Great recharge method - highly recommended.

Since then though, sadly, the gf came down with a nasty sore back on the drive home, and I've got an ominous cold coming on. Typical of our luck, really. Still, this too shall pass, and at least the weather is getting better and I'm sometimes leaving work before it's too dark to see now.

Ok, going to bed. Want to knock this sore throat on the head before it becomes a full-fledged cold, and that means a proper 9 hours sleep, and me not sitting in front of the computer in the cold til stupid o'clock.

Coming soon, a new recipe (Thai curry) and a veritable horde of book reviews. Seriously, there's so many I'm probably going to have to do them in installments. And it's been so long I'm probably going to have to reread some of the books to remind myself what they were about...
humbleminion: (Default)
Why I have been reading more Stephen Erikson than George R R Martin recently.

The Malazan Books of the Fallen
(Ten book series)

Gardens of the Moon (1999)
Deadhouse Gates (2000)
Memories of Ice (2001)
House of Chains (2002)
Midnight Tides (2004)
The Bonehunters (2006)
Reaper's Gale (2007)
Toll the Hounds (2008)
The Dust of Dreams (forthcoming)
The Crippled God (forthcoming)

A Song of Ice and Fire
(Five Six Seven book series)

A Game of Thrones (1995)
A Clash of Kings (1998)
A Storm of Swords (2000)
A Feast for Crows (2005)
A Dance with Dragons (forthcoming, 2009 at the very earliest)
The Winds of Winter (forthcoming, though there'll be at least another eight Wild Cards books before this one)
A Dream of Spring (forthcoming - just like the flying car, human colonisation of the Crab Nebula, and the heat death of the universe are forthcoming)

Still, could be worse. I could be waiting for the next War Against the Chtorr book...
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