Monday, December 29, 2014

The Imitation Game and a Lack of Respect for Audiences

Deadline has an interview with the maker of The Imitation Game.  The following quote made me sad:

we wanted to open up the process of code-breaking to the audience. There is a tendency sometimes in pieces like this to (let) the characters jabber technical gibberish that no one in the audience will understand. We wanted you to be able to follow it. 
Maybe one day the people of Hollywood will learn to respect their audiences, or at least learn how to render technical 'gibberish' into more understandable gibberish.  I believe it was Feynman who was of the opinion that if a subject could not be taught in a manner appropriate to first year college students, then that subject was not really understood at all.  Code breaking can be taught in a manner appropriate to first year college students (indeed, cryptography is usually at least mentioned to first year computer science students), and I personally wanted more technical 'gibberish' from the film and less emotional fluff. Personally, I think the problem is not so much the audience as that the writers themselves do not understand technical things, and so of course they can not render it as anything other than the gibberish they understand it as.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies of +2 Deliciousness (Raisins Optional)

The first batch of oatmeal raisin cookies I made turned out as very respectable bricks.  Since then I have prayed and meditated upon receiving the mystery of the oatmeal cookie, and lo!  The Invisible Pink Pony (may Her holy hooves never be shod) appeared until me and said, "Empiricism for the win!"  So I did some research (reading Serious Eats blog) and experimentation until I got an oatmeal cookie that made me happy.

I love oat-based things, because oats are naturally sweeter than wheat, and the texture will be more fluffy and less bread-y, how much so depending on how you prepare the oats.  Fresh-ground oat flour is sweet enough to lick off your fingers raw, whereas raw white wheat flour tastes like dust.  I'm not yet sold on whole-wheat flour for cookies, but if you want to convince me, bake me your tastiest attempt and I'll see what I think.     

Today I made a batch of my favorite oatmeal-raisin cookies, and I got to thinking about cooking and order.  Most foods will survive if you just throw everything together, stir, and expose to high heat.  But for truly tasty results, method does matter, often as much as the recipe.  I first discovered this when I took the trouble to sift flour properly for a cake, instead of just dumping the flour straight into the batter.  The cake then turned out extra fluffy-and-delicious. 

For most modern cookies, you start with some sort of fat (some people swear by butter, but shortening or lard may work better for texture) and some sort of sugar, and you cream them.  I wonder, what did people do before electric mixers?  Seriously, how was this handled?  Pie dough is pain enough.*  Using a cutter on shortening (or solid butter) and sugar until you get a roughly uniform consistency would not be fun.  Did everyone melt the fat and add it as a liquid?  Because that makes the difference for oatmeal cookies: if you want soft cookies, mix all dry ingredients first, then melt all fats to liquid form and add.  (Elisheba does this anyway, because she cooks with flair and tastyness, but I am sometimes too stuck on a set of rules.)

That gets you as far as +1 deliciousness (notice I'm biased toward soft cookies.  In my world, pickles should crunch, cookies most definitely should not.)  For +2 deliciousness, you need spices.  Lots of them.  Do not scrimp!  This lesson I also learned from Elisheba: whenever a sweets recipe calls for spices, you should add a heaping amount, not a level amount, of whatever called for.  Desserts should not be subtle.  When you eat a dessert, you should know that you have eaten dessert, by jingo!  If your taste buds are not happy, what's the point?   

The spice combination I currently use came from a recipe on Serious Eats blog: (this one, but I use the water my raisins have plumped in for any extra liquid, not chai tea.)  I go extra heavy on the cardamom and cloves, because those are my favorite spices.  Then bake until just set, and wait for 10 minutes or so before scarfing, so you don't burn your mouth. 

High Altitude adjustments: Currently I'm living at about 2,000 m (~6,000 ft) above sea level.  My first cookies here melted into crispy little puddles with all the sugar caramelizing.  I'm starting to get a better feel for the needed adjustments: cut the fat and sugar content by 1-2 tablespoons each (sugar by more if needed), add 1-4 tablespoons flour, make up any needed liquid with water, chill dough thoroughly before baking, and lower oven temperature by about 10 degrees Fahrenheit.  Key is to keep the dough cold enough, and the sugar content low enough, that cookies bake through before the sugar can liquify and they melt.  Cold cookie sheets help: stick them in the freezer for a minute or two if the house temperature is warm.

*And if you use pre-made pie dough, you should just admit your inferiority and make cobbler instead.  And if you use a premixed biscuit dough for your cobbler, you need to re-think your life. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Friday, December 19, 2014

In Which an End is Put to my Whining

When I dance, I have a good side, and I have a stupid side.  I do not like doing things on my stupid side.  Recently,  I was told by a dance teacher that I should just be glad I am not an octopus.

I have no rejoinder to this.  None.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Imitation Game: The Betterment of the World Because of Alan Turing

Alan Turing is my hero.  He is the intellectual progenitor of my science, a war hero who never held a gun, a rallying cry for the injustices perpetrated against LGBT* folk, and an all-around amazingly smart yet tragic person. Some time back, someone asked me what I thought of Benedict Cumberbatch starring in a movie about him.  I hadn't heard of either Benedict Cumberbatch or a movie about Alan Turing, but I promptly started watching Sherlock specifically to judge how I felt about Cumberbatch as Turing in the then only forthcoming Imitation Game.  Now that The Imitation Game has been released, albeit in a limited way, I have been talking about how much I wanted to see it and I finally managed that at an advance screening an hour's drive away.  

Despite all that, I wasn't really sure what exactly I wanted from this film.  I knew two things I didn't want, those being a lurid focus on either homosexual romance or suicide.  Concerning the former, I wouldn't mind a torrid steamy romance story here, but if we have learned nothing else from Brokeback Mountain, it is that Hollywood will use even gay cowboys as an excuse to have women taking up most of the topless screen time.  Concerning the latter,  Turing's death was slightly foreshadowed, but I doubt I would have picked up on it had I not just happened to have known how he died, and because of that, I could be reading in a foreshadowing that isn't actually there.  Either way, his death is dealt with respectfully, and his sexuality is addressed as a non-issue that people make a fuss about.  

Furthermore, I was deeply concerned that Mr. Cumberbatch would play Turing the same way he plays Sherlock Holmes, by which I mean an I-am-smarter-and-better-than-thou with weird twitchy habits and the camera wanting us to believe that his prominent cheekbones are just irresistibly attractive.  Fortunately, he mostly did not, though when he did it was particularly bad, since most of the film portrayed Turing as being almost completely unable to understand human interactions.  In fact, one scene had Turing explicitly stating that he didn't know how people could say something other than what they meant yet still be understood.  Then toward the end of his life Turing was shown as sarcastic and superior and rather Sherlock-esque, and I have no idea when the transition happened. 

I was pleasantly surprised in some things.  I have very low expectations of American movies, but that this is a war message the unapologetic message of which is that force is bad and will be defeated by intellect was delightful, unambiguous, and accompanied by masterful cuts between war scenes and a mathematician hard at work.  The other thing I really liked was the subplot of Miss Clarke's (played by Keira Knightly) struggles to have her very serious intellectual work taken seriously because she was a woman.  We need more movies that push the narrative that sexism is bad and intellectualism is good.

What I didn't like was that the movie wasn't particularly intellectual, despite its obvious moral.  The writers had only sorta kinda done their research.  They conflated Turing machines with the code-breaking work he did on Enigma, which were two separate endeavors.  The writers seemed to almost realize how big a flaming deal it was for mathematicians rather than linguists to be doing cryptographic work (it marked a major shift in thought about codes) but didn't quite get there.  Likewise, the writers seemed to almost get to putting in Turing's Polite Convention (which states that we cannot actually tell if anyone besides ourselves is actually thinking, but we politely assume that we do) but stopped at having him say that we all think in different ways, so why can't machines think?  Finally, and this angered me a little, they subverted Turing's best known (though not the most important) work, that is the Turing test, in order to make a statement about not judging people.  Turing's arresting police office in the film states that if asked to judge whether Turing was machine or human, he could not possibly judge.  Not being able to tell is a result,not, in this context, a statement of being non-judgmental about homosexuality.  Can we please make points about tolerance without sacrificing our grasp of science?  I realize I'm a computer science nerd who basically worships Turing, and I'm probably not the film's target audience, but still.  There are multiple ways to say everything, what is wrong with the factually correct ways?  At least there was a good and mathematical explanation of why brute force methods in science are untenable because large numbers.  

I also didn't like the way the story was handled.  A (by the accounts I've read) quiet and reserved mathematician published a seminal, but not really at the time recognized as such, paper on constructing imaginary machines that demonstrate important things about determinism, then goes on to crack the most mathematically advanced code at the time, then is tortured into suicide by the British government, that is a story in itself.  Yet the film pads it with lots of conflicts between Turing and colleagues and introduces an element that I really hate by having Turing anthropomorphize the machine he built into the image of his dead childhood love Christopher.  No.  Just no. I cannot sufficiently express the amount of no that I have in response to a Hollywood Turing having a creepy and weird romance with a machine named Christopher.  But besides that, the whole film felt a little short on substance, and even short on manufactured interpersonal drama.   

So, it had some of the things I wanted.  Hollywood is actually making a war movie the message of which is that it is better to use intellect than force.  It was even a nuanced movie, that did not pretend that one intellectual victory would magically make all problems go away or that war comes without horrific and loathsome moral dilemmas in which there is really no way to actually win, there are only ways to lose less badly.  Where less badly still means fields full of graves.  The film had two women characters who talked to one another (but about a man.  So close to a pass of the Bechdel test). The film takes an unambiguous "discrimination and sexism are bad" stance. It may have felt a little short on substance, and uninformed on science, but it exists and makes statements that should be more prevalent.  Ultimately, The Imitation Game is not the story I would like to see told about my hero, but it does contain a moment in which Joan Clarke says to Alan Turing "the world is a better place because you were in it."  Yes.  It is.  This world was not only changed irrevocably because of the scientific achievements of Alan Turing, it became a better place because of his efforts.  We need more people like him.  

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Quick, Funimation: We Have a Hetalia Emergency!

So back in the glorious 1920s (votes for women in America, 1919; diaphragms as a first excellent step toward birth control; Lise Meitner; Rosalind Franklin's birth year), the glorious U.S.A. had a plan to invade Canada!

I desperately need to see this mocked by Hetalia, the anime show that takes every nation's stereotypes and anthropomorphizes them.  Hetalia makes me laugh.  Hetalia also makes me cry, because it illustrates (funnily) why I am ashamed to be an American.  Because, Dude!  America is the hero!  America is awesome!  And he'll stop eating that ridiculous pile of hamburgers so you lesser intellects can understand what he's saying!   

(Yeah...we're not awesome.  As a nation, we're abysmally rotten.) 

But having Eric Vale, as the awesome voice actor for both America and Canada, planning to invade himself, should be at least two episodes of Hetalia goodness.

Caturday Post: Ain't No Bookshelf High Enough

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Poetry Tuesday: From Guantanamo

Inscribe your letters in laurel trees,
From the cave all the way to the city of the chosen.

It was here that Destiny stood wondering.
Oh Night, are these lights that I see real?

~Emad Abdullah Hassan, taken into custody while studying at university, and held at Guantanamo even though the U.S. has never alleged he did anything whatsoever. 

 The university of Iowa published a book called Poems from Guantanamo (Marc Falkoff, editor), a collection of poems received by the university via correspondence with the people being held with neither charge nor trial by the U.S.  It's important to remember these things and be ashamed of what we have done in the name of, well, I'm not even exactly sure what.  Nor do I know what we can do to make restitution.  

Sunday, December 7, 2014

In Which I Learn Things about Splits

One of the many wonderful things I got to do recently was take a class with Cirque du Soleil's Yuliya Mihailovna, the incredibly talented handbalancer who lights up Amaluna with her smile.  The class itself was unbelievably painful, but it helped a lot.  Particularly technique-wise.  Turns out, I've been doing splits wrong for years, and the silks have been reinforcing my bad habits. I need to keep my shoulders and hips square and pointed forward rather than letting them turn sideways.  Turning feels natural, particularly in silks, when I typically have one hand reaching back anyway for balance and style.

You can see me, as the black princess, turned out of square with my upper body,
and my back leg is bending so that I can still look like I have a straight line.  Chihaya,as the
princess in pink and white, has spent a lot of time as a classical ballerina,and is a lot more square.
You may also notice she doesn't have a problem keeping her back leg straight.

Having Yuliya grab my shoulders, pull them square, and force my hip down onto the floor was a lightbulb moment, cheesy as that sounds.  Technique is important for flexibility, who knew?

Yuliya signed my program!  Fan girl squee!  

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Kitten Thanksgiving

Kittens are not thankful for turkey because they feel entitled to it.

Kittens are also not thankful for their family, because kitten brothers are just the worst.  

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Things that Make me Feel Better about Myself as a Dancer

Taking classes from professional dancers who are even more one-sided than I am.  Petite Jamila of Bellydance Superstars spins in one direction.  She says if we want to do spin the other direction we are welcome to figure it out for ourselves.  Christina Camperlongo of Cirque du Soleil says she has the side that works and then she has the stupid side.  She doesn't do things on her stupid side.

Speaking of Christina Camperlongo, I got her to sign my program from Amaluna.  Dream big, darlings!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Depends on What you Mean by Love: Atlanta Opera's Madama Butterfly

Madama Butterfly is not, in my opinion, Puccini's best effort musically, nor yet the easiest to stage interestingly.  Nor is the Atlanta Opera necessarily the best company for overcoming either difficulty.  Nonetheless, I was pleasantly surprised.  I had seen the opera once before, but on video, which in itself is usually not a great medium for opera, and the complete lack of stage presence of Pavarotti did nothing to enhance this video.  Also, at the time I was too young to pick up on the rather interesting points Puccini makes about racism, sexism, religion, and American imperialism.  So here, as an adult, wearing a houmongi kimono (because I am that fabulous and thematically appropriate) with a pretty purple (but pretied, because I am that incompetent) obi, I found myself despite expectations quite enjoying the Atlanta Opera's presentation of Madama Butterfly.  Dina Kuznetsova may not be the most spectacular soprano ever, but she is pretty voiced and full of appropriate pathos.  Nina Yoshida, as Suzuki, provided a strong-voiced counterpart, and together, the two of them had enough stage presence to carry us through the second act, which is spent largely by the two women alone in the house.  I would have liked more supernumeraries whenever possible to add visual interest to the stage, particularly instead of what the opera was doing, which was project (mostly cheesy) images on the projector backdrop.   I hate hate hate projector screens in a performance.  Momix is the only company I will make an exception for.  Everyone else should just stop and go back to making pretty patterns on the stage with the lights.  It's less cheesy.  And for the love of cheese, director, don't beat us over the head with imagery with projecting giant slow moving butterflies.  Unless you are planning to go full Cirque du Soleil and just shower the audience with tissue paper butterflies (which was actually kind of a fabulous end to Varekai). I'd be okay with that. 

The only thing I did like about the set, which was just Butterfly's house and garden, was that the ambient light changed  whenever people opened or shut the back walls (behind which was the projection screen).  That was a nice touch.  Costumes were good as well.  The opera also set the scene by having kimono and ikebana displays out in the lobby.  Well done them.  

As far as watching the opera as an adult, I was really surprised at the extent and viciousness with which Puccini attacks the U.S.  I was expecting more of the orientalism that was common at the time, but that's mostly background in this story in which all bad things come from America and adopting American customs and religion.  There's no subtlety whatsoever.  Our tenor, that cad Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton, exults in his ability to buy a wife and a house forever but cancel both with a few weeks notice, and then poses awkwardly while declaiming "America, forever!"

As a side note, I am absolutely going to start assuming awkward poses and declaiming "America, forever!"

Our eponymous Butterfly starts out as a dignified old money but newly poor girl working as a geisha.  She has, however, been sold to this itinerant American seaman B. F. Pinkerton, and instead of taking the approach of her peers, who pragmatically remark that foreign husbands never come back, she is head over heels in love with her foreign husband.  To the point where she is abandoned by her family and friends because they see her as abandoning them by adopting the religion of her new husband.  After (and with a remarkably silly projection of the bloody sun of the Japanese flag with some Japanese characters superimposed) he denounces her, Butterfly's priest type uncle and most of the other Japanese characters depart to never be seen again.  This is more a projection of the way religion works in America than an accurate reflection of how religion usually works in Japan, but Puccini knows nothing of Japanese religion and just needs a plot contrivance to leave Butterfly alone playing at being an American wife. Well, one can see anger at someone ditching family in favor of condescending imperialists, so it's maybe not too unrealistic, this abandonment. Back to Butterfly's American homemaking.  She makes a good go of it to, as she proceeds to be the paragon of Debi Pearl (Of {Created,Preparing} to be His Helpmeet fame) style perfect wifely submission.  As in, Ms. Pearl actively advocates that young wives sit at home being bored and lonely as it will teach them to be more dependant on their husbands, and that is exactly what Butterfly does, without ever complaining. She apologizes to her new husband for bringing some of her own stuff to the marriage and never protests about how he refers to her as a toy and a butterfly, and basically infantilizes her as much as possible.  Butterfly even mixes in the worship of America with the worship of the American God (which is how the god of the Christians is referred to throughout.)  She has a giant (and period accurate) American flag displayed in her house, and welcomes her visitors to "an American household."  She insists that she is Mrs. Pinkerton in the face of all evidence that Pinkerton himself doesn't consider himself married, and dismisses the lack of prayer-answering from her new god as this god probably doesn't realize she's in Japan, but is still better than the "fat and lazy" Japanese gods.  

Butterfly's wifely submissions still don't break down even after a heartbreaking and lovely scene of her standing alone, dressed in her wedding finery in the cherry-blossomed moonlight, waiting for a love that never comes.  She never questions that her son will indeed  be better off in America (not sure why, since it seems being raised by Pinkerton would predispose the kid into growing up to be an ass).  She also has far too much of a very American Christian sense of shame about her old profession of geisha, so now without a husband to give her money, she has no means of support.  This also makes her a paragon of Pearl-style Christian womanhood.  

Fortunately for my sense of justice, the opera stages her suicide as a fuck you moment against Pinkerton.  As in, when he gives her some anguished singing she turns around, looks him in the eye, and stabs herself.  I don't even care (much) that traditional Japanese suicide for women is throat-cutting rather than gut-stabbing.  I'm just relieved the production didn't try to play it as Giselle type forgiveness for the abuser in the end.  Because really.  Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton should not be forgiven.  Nor should a culture in which wives are expected to be submissive in the face of abuse.  

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Little Bit of Happiness

On the left is Pockets, my beloved small white plush kitten made for me by my Grandmama many years ago.  On the right is plush Toothless, the utterly adorable night fury from How to Train Your Dragon.  They seem be getting along swimmingly. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Things I Hope People Will Never Call Me

Down to earth.

I don't ever want to be a down to earth person.  Things are such that I must cultivate a ruthless pragmatism, but when there is nothing in particular that I must do to satisfy immediate demands of living, I do not want to be down to earth.  It sounds so dreadfully bourgeois.  I want to have flights of fancy, admire orchids, and consider poetry.

Mozart was not down to earth.  He spent most of his time pretending to be Italian, fell in love with a woman who never loved him back, spent a ridiculous amount of time writing beautiful concert arias for her and marrying her little sister, and died young after some weird paranoid delusions (probably from the same syphilis he probably died from).  Sure he had sexist, racist plotlines, but it was the 18th century.  Such was the zeitgeist of those times.

In the words of poor dear Oscar Wilde, "We are all of us in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Caturday Lifehacks: Tidying up your Kittens

Instead of letting kittens sprawl about the house tripping people, try stowing them on bookcases.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Votes for Certain Women

It came to my disgusted attention recently that there is a person on a news show who is willing to say almost in so many words that young women are too vapid to vote, and should really be dismissed to go get back to their online dating sites.  Her defense of this statement against the criticism it has received seems to miss, at the least, two obvious points.  First, that young men are not, in my experience subjected to hearing that they don't have the life experience to vote, much less with a side of condescension about what they do on the internet (and, frankly, their multitasking abilities.  These days portable internet-enabled devices are purchasable, so presumably, the presumed vapid young women could take them into places of polling without excessive loss of dating site time.  And given voting lines, why not?).  Second, that voting is a right that does not come subject to other people's judgy-ness.

This news person's justification is that deciding who to vote for is hard.  As I recall, on this ballot there were never more than three choices, and in several cases, no more than one.  Each person had a helpful indication of political party alignment, which is usually enough to give a good starting indication of the way the candidate, if elected, would go about being an elected person.  As a young woman, I face a far more bewildering variety of choices, with far less information, every time I buy lipstick.  I can't even imagine the hard choices I'd have to make if I used online dating sites.  Even if I eschewed information entirely and voted for the people with the silliest sounding names, Bruce Schneier (who is rather a hero of mine) postulates in Liars and Outliers that the most advantageous approach to voting for both the voters and the democracy is for people to vote, but without being informed.  No one would, I think, accuse Schneier of either lacking experience or being on dating sites, though I rather wish he would go in for investigating dating sites.  I'm sure he could break them fabulously and be entertaining and informative about their security flaws.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Caturday Post: In Which Kittens Help me Work

I was working from home.  Since work is bad for me, my kittens have decided to make it as difficult as possible by stealing my spot on the couch every time I get up.  I foiled them by sitting on the floor instead.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

In Which I See Cthulhu

I spent a good part of yesterday hanging out at a parade.  It was fabulous.  There was the Feed and Seed Abominable Marching Band to open, of course, because this is Atlanta.  There was also Cthulhu.

Ia Cthulhu!

I didn't get a good photo of the Planned Parenthood car, but I was pleased to note that it received enthusiastic applause.  Huzzah affordable, accessible, and comprehensive healthcare for women. 

The yacht club (because why wouldn't a completely landlocked city without even a convenient lake around have a yacht club) had particularly imaginative costumes. 

A local theatre group stole the show with their elaborate Star Wars costumes.

 Local dance companies Awalim and Imperial Opa made appearances.

Then there were just some fun people.    Like Mario.  

It was a good time.  

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Poetry Tuesday: A Guide of Destroying Gods

Here lies a toppled god —
His fall was not a small one.
We did but build his pedestal,

A narrow and tall one.
~Frank Herbert

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Caturday Post: Dog Edition

I went to a parade last week.  People brought their dogs in the cutesiest of Halloween costumes.  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

There is at least one good thing about Wyoming:

As of October 21, 2014, the state of Wyoming legally recognizes same-sex marriage.  Spouses are eligible for insurance coverage under State of Wyoming Group Insurance. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

New Computer Game: Jade Empire!

Three words: graphics, combat, storyline!


This is in a demon-sickened forest, with appropriately somber veils of mist, waterfalls, trees, and flowers.  Below is a tiny corner of the Celestial Realm where the spirit guardian of the above forest lives.  I think the mushrooms are a manifestation of the toad-like demon in the wood who is trying to muscle in, but it could just be that heaven is full of giant mushrooms.  You never know. 
My perennial demand that my games be beautiful is more than fulfilled here.  In fact, I'm drooling over the quality of the scenery and the animation, and if I'm not expecting a fight I'll slow my character to a walk and gawk at the scenery as we move around. 


A new style of combat for me to learn.  Rather than me controlling everyone in my party's tactics and strategy and strike/block/dodge being all handled by the computerized dice rolling, I have to worry about my own style/attack/block/dodge/run/move-move-MOVE!  I'm much better at dodging than I am at blocking, and I'm still adjusting the control sensitivity.  Also, large melee combat starts to get a bit laggy as my processor struggles to keep up.  My followers do their thing without my input (and I can only have one follower helping out at a time.  Sadness.)  Dawn Star (in pink in the heaven screenshot) is bad-ass with a Chinese-style broadsword.  I use primarily staff or metal claws, but I'm also studying several magical combat styles.  Also I died a lot in the first chapters of the storyline.  The black hooded things that look like No-Face gone beserk (middle-left side of above screenshot, and watch Spirited Away for No-Face) are the worst.  They fire some kind of magic seeker-weapon that can curve and follow you when you try to dodge.   


We're in a romanticized version of ancient China, with magic and spirits and restless ghosts and assassins and primitive rockets and flying machines.  Above is my little gang of outcasts and adventurers.  The guy at the back right with the hat is Kang the mad.  He lets me do the kicking, likes explosions, and gets ticked off if I scratch the paint on his precious Dragonfly flyer while dodging nasties.  The small child is Wild Flower, the spirit anchor for a large guardian demon who is allied to my Destiny (and yes, it is indeed Destiny with a capital D).  Dawn Star is my childhood companion with a Mysterious Past, which said past seems to be related to the pessimistic ex-assassin Sagacious Zu, who is standing next to Sky.  I met Sky while taking down a pirate stronghold: he was out for vengence on the pirates, and asked to join me after we kicked some pirate butt.  He likes to talk and has an eye for the ladies, Dawn Star in particular.  The burly giant and the skinny cook are recent additions.  Burly is a brawling, drunken mercenary who likes to fight, preferably while drunk.  The cook keeps burly supplied with wine.  I would actually have preferred to send them away, but it seems your core cast of characters is not as variable as in Baldur's Gate.  But hey, I don't ever have to take them along for a fight, and they are funny.      

Not visible around our campfire is a celestial bureaucrat, Zin Bu the Magic Abacus, who's in a snit because he got demoted because he couldn't keep up with  tracking my exploits (so my position on the Celestial Wheel can be properly judged.  This takes mountains of forms, in triplicate.  Heaven has a fearsome bureaucracy.)  He's now my personal buyer/seller and is hoping to get promoted again.

Most of the plot is classic adventure fantasy, done with excellent dialog and satisfying side quests.  My favorite so far was the two ghosts of drowned children who are lost and frightened and lonely and angry, and my character was able to give them peace.  We've also saved the village Dawn Star and I grew up in from pirates and then lost it to assassins, crashed a stolen flyer, saved a teahouse for its rightful owner, arranged a marriage, cleared the demons out of the forest and acquired the map we need to head for Imperial City.  Onward!      

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Day After Caturday Post: The Kitten Finds Happiness

Happiness is an open window.  He has eschewed the blankie and table that is in front of the window specifically for sitting, and begun sitting on the sill itself.  

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Few More Roses for Oscar Wilde

Today is his birthday!  Dude could rock a cape.

Happy birthday, you fabulous gentleman.  Alas that you could not live so long as to not be persecuted for loving men.

We are all of us in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.
~Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Good Ideas and Weird Marketing in Makeup

After one too many preshow beglitterings spent scrabbling through my mess of makeup, I finally went to the effort of organizing my cosmetics.  The internet assured me that making a magnet board by gluing fabric or paper to a cookie sheet is totally doable.  It is, though hanging the cookie sheet from nails on the wall I'm not sure how to accomplish.  Since, however, I keep this stuff in a cabinet anyway, it's not really a big deal, and gluing magnets to all my cosmetics is oddly fun.

Cookie sheet + wrapping paper = magnet board

Armed with an easily visually organized display of what I have versus what I need to replace, I started shopping.  This is when I found gluten free lipstick. This seems generally the equivalent of advertising cereal as being asbestos free. Actually weirder, since I'm not planning to eat the lipstick.
Since gluten-free lipstick is not sufficient cosmetic weirdness, I also ascertained the existence of hd nail polish.  What it means for objects that aren't virtual images to have high definition is an exercise best left to the reader.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Score One for the Anti-Iconoclasts and the Pretty Pretty Icons of Greek Orthodoxy

I went to a Greek Festival, hosted by the local Greek Orthodox Cathedral, for some food, wine, and dancing.  It was a little disappointing.  The music was not extremely inspiring but far too loud for conversation with friends even far away, the dancers committed the one sin I cannot forgive--not ever smiling, and not even baklava can make up for complete failures of music and dance.  The public was, however, welcomed to tour and take pictures of the cathedral, which, like most cathedrals,was rather fabulously decorated.  I like icons, so I enjoyed this.

The altar

St Katherine.  Originally to be martyred in a large group throw to
the lions, got some special extra chances to deconvert because
those in power found her pretty, then was later martyred anyway.
Moral: Being pretty helps you procrastinate. 

The Ceiling. 

Harrowing of hell.  The weird things under his feet are the gates
of Hell. 
Another Harrowing of Hell.  A popular theme, apparently.  

Detail of the devil being squished under gates while Hell is being Harrowed. 

Winged lion (I think maybe?)
Sepulchre replica.  Not whited.  

Prettily carved stand.  

There was also a small display on Church history showing the major schisming and splintering leading to various sects within Christianity.  I learned that the tradition I was raised in came from the Dutch Reform church.  I mention this because I was realized that one diagram displayed more information (though whether right or wrong I don't actually know) than I ever learned from years of Sunday School. Given the quality of religious education in general from various traditions of Christianity, I am not totally surprised to find my own knowledge of historical schisming and evolving of sects was completely lacking. I would say that at least this one cathedral I was touring is invested in disseminating actual education about religion, with an emphasis on placing various sects within a broader context of history and international religious tradition, but then I overheard a docent failing to explain the difference between the choir and chanters and the docent's friend saying that she had a really hard time explaining to her friends what mass was about and what it meant, so maybe not.   Onward with the mindless followings of traditions!

Meh, back to dancing.  Even bad dancing is better than the mindless followings of traditions.

A few of the dancers, my camera doesn't do well with dim light. 

Non performative, and purely social dancing away from the stage.  Even here, the
dancers had a lamentable tendency to stare at their feet.