Ada Palmer, of Ex Urbe, and historian at University of Chicago, has just published her first novel, Too Like the Lightning.

I just finished it (though there was one scene that almost made me stop reading, for real) and would love to talk about it, but I'm not going to spoil you.

Instead, I'm going to give you the jacket blurb, and hope that intersts those of you who haven't picked it up yet:

Mycroft Canner is a convict. For his crimes he is required, as is the custom of the 25th century, to wander the world being as useful as he can to all he meets. Carlyle Foster is a sensayer–a spiritual counselor in a world that has outlawed the public practice of religion, but which also knows that the inner lives of humans cannot be wished away.

The world into which Mycroft and Carlyle have been born is as strange to our 21st-century eyes as ours would be to a native of the 1500s. It is a hard-won utopia built on technologically-generated abundance, and also on complex and mandatory systems of labeling all public writing and speech. What seem to us normal gender distinctions are now distinctly taboo in most social situations. And most of the world’s population is affiliated with globe-girdling clans of the like-minded, whose endless economic and cultural competition is carefully managed by central planners of inestimable subtlety. To us it seems like a mad combination of heaven and hell. To them, it seems like normal life.

And in this world, Mycroft and Carlyle have stumbled on the wild card that may destabilize the system: the boy Bridger, who can effortlessly make his wishes come true. Who can, it would seem, bring inanimate objects to life…
neotoma: "Squee!" goes the bunny (SqueeBunny)
( May. 5th, 2016 11:28 pm)
Just got back from seeing Captain America:Civil War. SO much fun! That was what Age of Ultron should have been!
On Tuesday I went with [personal profile] greenygal and L to see Project Itoh: The Empire of Corpses.

It's an alternate-history anime featuring Dr. John Waston (yes, that one) working for the British government trying to find the lost notebook of Victor Frankenstein. In a world where reanimated corpses have become cheap labor.

Yup, a steampunk zombie movie from Japan. I loved it; it was gorgeous and ridiculous and utterly fascinating.

In no particular order there was:

John Waston, who has stolen and reanimated his friend's corpse.
M/Walsingham, the head of a British intelligence agency who blackmails John into working for him
Friday/Noble Savage-007, the aforementioned friend as a reanimated corpse; Watson has programed him to act as scribe
The Nautilus, in a moment of sheer WTF?!
An automaton that just wants a soul
A cameo by Thomas Edison
Babbage analytical engines directing corpse labor
Analytical engines running on punch cards with input/output by manual typewriter
Ulysses S Grant in Japan
Alexei Karamazov as Russian corpse-engineer who has stolen the Frankenstein notebook and run off to Afghanistan
Nikolai Krasotkin as a Russian agent sent to track down Alexei Karamazov
A battle at the Khyber Pass, as enacted by armies of reanimated corpses
Frederick Burnaby, who is assigned as Watson's handler/bodyguard
The British super-computer/analytical engine is named Charles Babbage
The American one, in San Francisco, is named Paul Bunyan
Frankenstein's actual monster
Universal Horror's version of Frankenstein's monster
A Japanese military officer with truly outrageous eyebrows
A woman on top of a stagecoach, wielding a flamethrower
Zombie shinto monks as scribes for a Japanese corporation's analytical engine
Security hacking of reanimated corpses and with reanimated corpses
A villain who wants everyone in the world turned into a reanimated corpse, because that's the way to peace...uhm, no?
Corpse-bomb, because what's creepier than reanimated corpses? Reanimated corpses that explode!
A trip around the world from London, to Afghanistan, to Japan, to San Francisco, and then finally back to London (by submarine? from San Francisco?!)
Frankenstein's brain, in a jar!

It was like someone had put 19th century European literature and history in a blender, and then filtered it through Japanese anime.

I want more of it, possibly in crossover with Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, possibly just a 5000 word essay on how abundant corpse labor would have transformed Victorian culture, with special focus on the effects on the working class of being replaced by undead factory workers, on death and dying when bodies might be reanimated, and on the leisure class when half your servants are dead.
Today's the last day for Con.txt panel suggestions.

I've suggested a panel on asexuality and a panel on non-monogamous marriage in SF (sedoretu, line marriages, etc).

If either (or both!) go through, I'm going to be looking for co-moderators.
Also, I pruned back my rose bush yesterday. Hopefully this means I will get enough roses at the same time this year to make rose petal ice cream or rose petal jam.

I'm also thinking about buying a pair of dwarf blueberries for my container garden. They'd need a little extra care, because they need acidic soils, but I've already got a rosebush, two banana plants, and a phal orchid, so it's not like I don't like a challenge.
I went to see Rams at the AFI last night. The description is: 'In a remote Icelandic farming valley, two brothers who haven't spoken in 40 years have to come together in order to save what's dearest to them - their sheep'.

My initial reaction was 'my god, it's Norwegian Bachelor Farmers!', except they're Icelanders. But I was with [personal profile] ellen_fremedon; and the Vegan Knitter, and she agreed it was totally Norwegian Bachelor Farmers. Though when we got to the end, she pointed that once you've run away to the mountains, that's the last step to becoming an outlaw and your story is over; so the ending was perfect, at least in the context of Icelandic sagas.

This afternoon I went to see Chandu the Magician with [personal profile] greenygalas part of the William Cameron Menzies retrospective. It had a good bit of painfully dated orientalism, and a good bit of raygun gothic with a 'death ray' as the central macguffin, but it also had some amazing set design consider it was made in 1932, some nifty special effects (and lots of van de graaf generators and tesla coils) and correct use of 'thou' and 'you' between a master yogi and his student Chandu. You could definitely see the seeds of both the Jedi and Indiana Jones in the movie.

Next up, there's short run of Harryhausen films, including King Kong and Jason and the Argonauts at the AFI that I'm going to go to, and a two-day only run of Project Itoh: Empire of Corpses, which is a steampunk anime alternate history -- 'Ever wonder what the world would be like if the British Empire had been built upon a working class of reanimated corpses?' -- so I will go see it even though it's only showing weekday nights.
Went to see Zootopia with friends today. It was very cute, even though we got interrupted by a fire alarm partway through.

I rather want to see this movie spawn an animated series, because apparently a funny-animal police procedural that tackles prejudice is something I need like burning.

Otoh, I was sleeting lightly when I got home, and I'm so ready for the weather to turn. It was nice during the week, but miserable yesterday -- I had chattering teeth in spite of wearing gloves and a jacket of Shetland wool -- and not much better today.
neotoma: Neotoma albigula, the white-throated woodrat! [default icon] (Default)
( Mar. 18th, 2016 09:13 pm)
I just got my apartment renewal notice in the mail. It was sent Wednesday. They are giving me a week to get my documents together for renewal, which is impossibly short, and I just started the new job so I don't have a paystub yet, let alone 4 to 6 of them.

I'm going to call the apartment housing office tomorrow and complain, and then I'm going to lodge a complaint with the Housing Opportunities Commission, because I'm pretty sure someone is playing fast and loose with the rules.

The Metro is completely shut down tomorrow. The buses are still going to run, but the sheer volume of people who are displaced from their usual transit is likely to overflow that system as well.

I'm going to have to be out of the house by 6:45 tomorrow, just to get to work on time. Bleach.

Two robocalls from the same number today for an IRS phishing scam. It felt lovely to report them to the IRS and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

If you (in the USA) get a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS or the Treasury department, get the number, get the name if possible, and give them NO financial information about yourself.

The actual government will send you letters. The actual government will government will send you lots of letters before anything gets serious. These people are phishers who got your name from the same places telemarketers always do, and are trying to scam you (in my case, probably from my resume on a jobsite).

I dumped several pots yesterday, so today I sowed a longbox with 'Lauren's Grape' Poppy from Botanical Interests, sowed three 4-inch pots with 'Yellow Wonder Wild Strawberry' and an 8-inch pot with 'Attila' alpine strawberry, both from from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

If the poppies don't come up, I can usually get live plants at MD Sheep & Wool. The strawberries are more of an experiment, but the 'Attila' cultivar is supposed to send out runners, which is unusual in alpine strawberries.

We're supposed to have rain/snow late tonight, so hopefully this was the right day to put the seeds in the ground. Now, off to add them to my Growstuff account.
Yesterday's dry run of my new commute got me there 30 minutes early, which is much better than the day before's 30 minutes late. I was going to try again this morning, but it is 26F out, so I think I'm going to stay inside and plan to get groceries later, when it gets up to 40F

Today [ profile] fabrisse and I went over to the Talbots; I tried on several sets of dress slacks for the new job. Their weekend chinos, when rolled down, are long enough and will be fine for officewear. I also picked up a new suit for the first day -- blue & white bird's-eye twill in cotton -- along with two button-down shirts, two tunic-type shirts, and grey slacks.

With the Talbots birthday discount and the current sale, everything was 40% off, so why I will be paying this off for a while, I think it was a pretty good investment. My jeans worked fine at the old job, but this new job is more office than lab, and thus the jeans won't cut it.

I still hate that fake pockets are a thing. The saleswoman found me a lot of nice slacks, but I had to reject two outright because they had fake pockets instead of real pockets; fake pockets make no sense to me, because if they're going to all the trouble to cut and sew in false welts for pockets, why not just make them really pockets? How much could that possibly add to the cost of the clothes at that point?

The AFI is showing Attack the Block this Friday at 9:20 -- this is one of John Boyega's first movies, and quite good on its own merits.

Anyone want to meet up with me and see it. We can get dinner at one of the Silver Spring eateries beforehard.
I know this is short notice, but the AFI finally put up their new schedule. HG Wells' Things to Come, an early work of SF moviemaking, is showing at the AFI on Saturday at 3pm. I'd really like to have a bunch of people come with me.

We can meet at the theater at 2:30, watch the movie, and have an early dinner afterwards.
Had an interview this morning, for a tiny start-up that's gearing up for Phase III trials of its first product and desperately needs to ORGANIZE ALL THINGS. Most specifically, it's SOPs and QC documentation.

Actually, it's more like it needs to write all its SOPs and organize all of its other records. Still, it wouldn't be a bad job for the 3 to 6 months they're currently talking about. On the other hand, Doc Control is definitely an ongoing task for any organization over 4 people, especially in the biotech industry.

Still wanting to get a French Republican wall calendar for myself, but am enjoying the Jacobin Calendar twitter until I have a job and can spare the money. France definitely has a different climate than East Coast USA if this is the rainy month and last month was the snowy one.
neotoma: Neotoma albigula, the white-throated woodrat! [default icon] (Default)
( Jan. 25th, 2016 10:20 am)
Calf high boots, knee high snow.
neotoma: Neotoma albigula, the white-throated woodrat! [default icon] (Default)
( Jan. 20th, 2016 11:39 am)
Just snapped the laces on my purple boots. Well, I'll have to make a stop at the DSW on my way to the grocery.
neotoma: Elrond (cool blue ocean) (Elrond (cool blue ocean))
( Jan. 6th, 2016 02:56 pm)
I had jury duty today. My circuit court operates on the one day/one trial system; you're called in, and have to do either one day or one trial, which means you may be called back the next day if the trial goes over, but if you're called into the court room and not empaneled, you're dismissed, and if you're not called into a court room but they've got all the jurors they need, you're also dismissed. I was dismissed without every getting to a courtroom, and don't have to do this for another two years.

However, I did have to leave my place slightly before dawn to make sure I could arrive at the courthouse with plenty of time to get through security. Which means I was out in 14F weather; even with my cashmere-lined gloves and my proper dose of medication, I arrived at the courthouse with all my fingertips brick-red and painful from my Reynaud's.

I got home at noon, having been dismissed about 11:15; my hands still have a bit of residual tingles to them, and I'm reminded of how deeply I hate below-freezing weather and would not make it in any of the northern cities that seem appealing for their cosmopolitan lifestyles and well-developed public transit systems.
neotoma: Elrond (cool blue ocean) (Elrond (cool blue ocean))
( Jan. 5th, 2016 07:59 am)
Woke this morning to water all over the floor of the bathroom. Mopped it up with a towel, and investigated.

It looks like there is a leak between the water pipe from the wall and the toilet tank. I've closed the stopcock as far as it will go, and contacted the housing office. Hopefully they'll send a maintenance person ASAP.


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