Moving on

Apr. 15th, 2017 01:58 pm
nishatalitha: text in cartoon speech bubble "the shredder tried to kill me" (Dilbert - the shredder tried to kill me)
I am going to abandon my LJ and stick to Dreamwidth. I won't crosspost and I'm certainly not going to be actively following LJ anymore— I still haven't decided whether I will actually delete my LJ. This is the final impetus for my final move.

I'm rubbish at updating regularly, despite promising myself I'll be better each year. Maybe next year?

Feel free to subscribe etc - I'll almost certainly grant access.
nishatalitha: image: lots of ladybirds crawling up fencepost.  white rope is wrapped twice around top of fencepost (Default)
We had our housewarming party last Friday night, which was properly celebratory. We feel in and settled now (although I do get occasional moments of wow, we own this place). Took Saturday off to recover and ended up pruning our embarassing front hedge on Sunday, it being a nice morning.

Interestingly, some things that seemed really important when we moved in feel less so and we've been doing a bit of prioritisation. Replacing our external doors is still highest on the list becuase then we will have a cat door and can get cats... Also, both doors let in drafts and sound, so upgrading them is a good plan.

We went to Tenerife in early February, which was a week away at just the time we needed. It was really relaxing and we both read loads of books, lazed around, swam, drank, ate good food and so on. It was a bit of a shock coming back to the UK and the dregs of winter. Photos to follow as I've been rubbish at uploading any. Just haven't had the time.

It's March, so we're coming into Spring. We have a hyacinth in our front garden and a few small daffodils in the back. I'm looking forward to doing things with both spaces later this year.

Reviews

Jul. 5th, 2015 05:02 pm
nishatalitha: Sepia photo of a woman in an old-fashioned dress with a book (Woman and Book)
The more observant of you will have noticed that I haven't been posting reviews for the last couple of months. This is due to a couple of reasons:

  1. my head kinda broke a bit—mostly reaction from stress. The workstress is pretty much over, but I'm still reacting to it, and the homestress is ongoing, although with a lower intensity level. As a result I cut back on some committments and also online communicating. It was all a bit too much.

  2. LOTNA, the SF group in London that [personal profile] the_eggwhite and I go to, has a bimonthly fanzine produced by and for the members. I've given them a my review of A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, but my thought is that I will give them two reviews for each magazine, which I will then post here, so there will be a gap whilst I move to the new schedule.


My criteria will remain the same for choosing the books.
nishatalitha: image: lots of ladybirds crawling up fencepost.  white rope is wrapped twice around top of fencepost (Default)
This is due to RL overwhelming me somewhat, particularly today.

I did, however, read The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu earlier this month. I generally liked it, but doubt that I will reread it very often. It's very well written, but is about concepts more than people and as a reader, I am more interested in people. A conflict of taste rather than the author being incompetent. It is the first in a trilogy and I will pick up the sequels as they are translated.

If you like classic SF, then you will probably like The Three Body Problem
nishatalitha: Sepia photo of a woman in an old-fashioned dress with a book (Woman and Book)
I am late this month, thanks to organising a mini-gaming con, and also getting distracted into reading both Wolf Hall and Bringing Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel (the latter two occupied nearly a week of reading time each).

Still, after racking my brains for what I did read this month, I do have a review offering for you. And it's a good one!

Title: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
Author: Becky Chambers
Copyright:2014
Publisher: self-published but has been picked up by Hodder & Stoughton - see below
Obtained: e-book from Amazon
Author Website: Other Scribbles
Reason for review: This is an ensemble cast novel and only one of the least-used viewpoints is a white male (and he is hardly heroic). The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is self-published and was shortlisted for best debut in the Kitschies Awards, but has since been picked up by Hodder & Stoughton, been given a new cover and will be out in hardcopy in August this year (I plan to pick up a hardcover too). I read it twice in a week, made [personal profile] the_eggwhite read it—and he enjoyed it.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry, Planet is readily available from Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, and I believe also from Kobo.

Blurb:Welcome aboard the Wayfarer.

Somewhere within our crowded sky, a crew of wormhole builders hops from planet to planet, on their way to the job of a lifetime. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, and one patched-up construction vessel is a mere speck on the starchart. This is an everyday sort of ship, just trying to get from here to there.

But all voyages leave their mark, and even the most ordinary of people have stories worth telling. A Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she‘s left behind. An alien pilot, navigating life without her own kind. A pacifist captain, awaiting the return of a loved one at war.

Set against a backdrop of curious cultures and distant worlds, this episodic tale weaves together the adventures of nine eclectic characters, each on a journey of their own.


So, this is a delightful romp of a sf novel. As the title suggests, it is all about the journey not the destination (although as could be anticipated the destination isn't ideal and is then final climax of the book). Essentially the main job of the crew of this ship is creating wormhole tunnels for other ships to use (handwaved generally with enough plausible-seeming info for this non-sciency person) and with the arrival of their new clerk, submit a bid for and win the tender for creating a major new wormhole. They just have to travel for a year to get to the start point first! Ensembles are far more common in TV than books and it is nice to see a true ensemble book.

Our cast include several humans: Ashby the Captain who keeps the show on the road, who has to be friendly with his employees since he's living on a tin can in space with them, but also has to be their boss; Kizzy, the engineer, who reminds me of a cross between Kaylee in Firefly and Abby in NCIS; Jenks, the computer software engineer who also does some electrical engineering; Corbin the awkward white male algae farmer who makes the fuel and is obsessed with making it the best possible mix (almost but not quite the most minor viewpoint); and Rosemary, the ship's clerk who is new to the ship and to space which gives lots of good excuses for info-dumping. She is also the primary recurring viewpoint character (if this book could be said to have one),. The non-humans crew include Lovey, the ship's AI; Sissix, the reptilian Aandrisk pilot; Ohan, a Sianat Pair, an alien, who, because of a virus, is basically a wormhole calculator; and Dr Chef, a Grum, who is both the ship's medic and the ship's cook. Given the long trip they are on, reasons are found to meet family of, visit planets or learn backstory for most of the crew but particularly the non-humans.

First of all, I love that their clerk is the one that makes this possible. Paperwork is important guys! It isn't quite competent bureaucracy porn but it's respectable. I could stand to see more of Rosemary being a competent ships clerk. In addition, being print rather than screen, Chambers is not limited in how her aliens should look, and like James White, takes advantage of this. Also, humans are not the most powerful species in the galaxy which is often nice, and earth is ruined thanks to humans—the latter seems quite realistic to me.

This book is a slice-of-life novel. Nothing wrong with that—I quite like slice of life novels, particularly when they are done as well as this one is. For those of you who read fanfiction, it reminds me a bit of fic; for those of you who don't, the reminder is not a bad thing. I considered whether it reminded me of the Nathan Lowell Quarter Share series (another slice-of-live living-on-spaceships book, originally published in audio) and concluded that it didn't: whilst I enjoyed Quarter Share, later books in the series were a bit too creepy for me and I gave up on them. Also, they were all first person from one character's perspective, neither of which The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet are. Nor is it creepy, which yay.

On this ship, the crew works on the legit (but blue-collar) side of the law; they have a job, which they are good at; and the rest of the book is about the crew's relationships to each other. We do not quite go on a tour of each person's background, but throughout the book we do learn about some of the history for each character, but also what is important to them now. It focuses on the relationships between each character, and Chambers keeps things going with a deft hand. The relationships are not entirely what you would expect, and clearly illustrate the sf romance trope that humans can fall in love with any being (it is important to note that these loves are not all the eternal-love type of romance, but they are important now and it is worth trying).

One of my favourite quoteable bits is Sissix complaining to Dr Chef about humans and how they smell, Dr Chef saying he'd put odor neutralising formula in their soap and the humans hadn't noticed!

Language and use of gender is important. There is an underlying message about respecting people and how they wish to be perceived and called. Thought has also gone into body image both internal and external and how to be comfortable with yourself.

If elements of this book, upon reflection, seem a bit formulaic, moralistic or predictable I am fine with that, particularly since it fits in generally with left wing views. The storytelling is engaging, with a fairly light hand and it is, quite frankly, just a fun book to read. It never gets heavy or overwhelming and that sense of fun and the authorial light hand with drama makes it an easy and enjoyable read.

I will be keeping an eye out for more fiction by Becky Chambers.

If you like Firefly or Farscape or ensemble slice-of-life stories, then this is the book for you.

Other books I could have reviewed instead this month: Half-Life and Zero Sum Game by S.L. Huang, Talk Sweetly to Me and Trade Me by Courtney Milan,
nishatalitha: Sepia photo of a woman in an old-fashioned dress with a book (Woman and Book)
Title: Spirits Abroad
Author: Zen Cho
Copyright: 2014
Publisher: Buku Fixi
Obtained: e-book from Amazon
Reason for reviewing: short story collection by a Malaysian woman living in London, set in both London and Malaysia
Author website: ZenCho.org

Spirits Abroad is readily available in ebook from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Google Play, and Smashwords and in print from Amazon and Fixi

Blurb: “If you live near the jungle, you will realise that what is real and what is not real is not always clear. In the forest there is not a big gap between the two.”

A Datin recalls her romance with an orang bunian. A teenage pontianak struggles to balance homework, bossy aunties, first love, and eating people. An earth spirit gets entangled in protracted negotiations with an annoying landlord, and Chang E spins off into outer space, the ultimate metaphor for the Chinese diaspora.

Straddling the worlds of the mundane and the magical, SPIRITS ABROAD collects 10 science fiction and fantasy stories with a distinctively Malaysian sensibility.


Spirits Abroad is one of those rare short story collections in which I don't actively dislike any of the stories. The hit rate for really liking the stories is also much better than usual (four or five rather than two), but I genuinely enjoyed the rest as well, although they currently blur into one another.

Each story is written with a light and deft hand. As would be expected from the book title, spirits are very much present, but they are presented as fact rather than fiction and something you just need to placate or manage as you would any other aspect of your life from work to family. I should probably note that the spirits mentioned (almost without exception) are not Western ghosts or dragons and that generally they are referred to by their Chinese or Malaysian name - I am not familiar enough with either language to know which is which.

The book is divided into locational sections: Here, There, Elsewhere and Going Back, but throughout these, there are two other main themes. The first is family: loved, liked, irritating, close or distant, pressuring but always important. I adored the first story ('The First Witch of Damansara'), in which the main character returns to Malaysia for her grandmother's funeral, and works out a way to collude with her younger sister to placate their Nai Nai's ghost. It is an excellent start. 'The House of Aunts' is all about family being somewhat interfering but ultimately wanting the best for the POV character. On a side note, I was amused by the author noting afterwards that while the aunts are made up of an amalgam of her aunts, they wouldn't be happy about this so please don't tell them!

The second theme is education and the importance thereof. Vivian, in 'The First Witch of Damansara' moved away for her education and to get a good office job and fiance (she did this in the right order); Ah Lee in 'The House of Aunts' is still at school and her Aunts are very keen that she get a university degree before marriage; in There, 'One-Day Travelcard for Fairyland' is set at a UK boarding school - actually all of the stories in There either revolve around school or university or the characters are at school or university. 'The Fish Bowl' is a somewhat worrying story about exams.

Other stand out stories for me were 'The First National Forum on the Position of Minorities in Malaysia', which anyone who has had to organise or moderate a round table discussion of experts should appreciation, 'Prudence and the Dragon' and its follow-on 'The Perseverance of Angela's Past Life' were both engaging and delightful. I enjoy both Prudence and Angela's different practical perspectives. 'The Mystery of the Suet Swain' was also excellent commentary on stalking and how it's not cool, but also how you can support your friends if someone is being that sort of douchebag. And for people like me, who don't pick up on this sort of thing very well, helps to identify when that sort of thing is happening.

The protagonists of these stories are almost all young Chinese Malaysian woman (as is the author) and thanks to the author's notes at the end on most of the stories, I know that the characters are strongly influenced by events in the author's life or people she knows. This means there is a certain similarity to most of the POV characters, but the situations are different and her hand is light enough that this isn't an issue in this collection. I will, however, be interested to see what she decides to write after she feels she has exhausted those ideas.

In short, therefore, this is an engaging collection which is well worth the read and one I would like in hard copy so I can loan it out to other people to read.

If you like Miyazaki films, anime about the family or home, books about being at school, or if you like your heroines to be practical and sensible (with the occasional touch of whimsy), then this is the collection for you.

Other books I have read this month that I could have revised instead: Invisible City by AC Buchanan, The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo by Zen Cho, Amok: An Anthology of Asia-Pacific Speculative Fiction, Dominica Malcolm editor and Servant of the Underworld by Aliette de Bodard. All of these are also well worth reading.
nishatalitha: Sepia photo of a woman in an old-fashioned dress with a book (Woman and Book)
Title: Lagoon
Author: Nnedi Okorafor
Copyright: 2014
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Obtained: from tombola lot at Worldcon from either BSFA or a London SF group
Reasons for reviewing: science fiction written by an American of Nigerian descent, which is set in Nigeria
Author Website: Nnedi.Com—which looking at says she has won a number of fantasy awards for some of her other books (I'm now embarassed that I haven't read more of her fiction and will rectify this).

Lagoon can be obtained from Amazon.co.uk and Amazom.com; I've also seen it in Waterstones, so hopefully is generally around in bookstores and libraries, do check locally

Book blurb: When a massive object crashes into the ocean off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous and legendary city, three people wandering along Bar Beach (Adaora, the marine biologist- Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa- Agu, the troubled soldier) find themselves running a race against time to save the country they love and the world itself… from itself.

Lagoon is a first contact novel set in Nigeria. A former housemate of mine came from Nigeria, but that's the closest I've been. This means that I have to take on faith that Lagos is like the description, but that doesn't matter—until I came to London, London was fictional— the Lagos of the book is an engaging and interesting place. It was fascinating reading the descriptions and trying to picture it in my head, feeling the energy and busyness of the place. Readers may also note the prevalent use of mobile phones; I gather this is true for much of Nigeria.

It is very clear from the beginning that Lagos is as much a character in the novel as the main POV characters. Ditto the sea for that matter; in many ways the book revolves around contact with the sea. But in brief, aliens come to earth. They would like a nice environment to live, one which their neighbours like too. Seriously, why would you land in the US or the UK where you would get found and probably locked up for scientific experiments by the government, when you could land in Nigerian waters where there is no such strong governmental control? The three main characters meet the alien, and events escalate and then rapidly spiral out of control. Not all the events are bad, not all are good. Overall, there is rapid and swift change, as well as resistance to change, before coming to a final conclusion which ultimately ends on a positive note for society as a whole.

One of the interesting things about this book, although there are three 'main' point of view characters, there are many minor points of view, most of whom only turn up once or twice. These include a road, a priest, an accountant and a singer amongst many others. In addition, there are quick perspective switches just after something major has happened in the book (I was particularly fond of the road and the tarantula). The characters do drop into pidgen English and some of the several other languages spoken in Lagos besides English are also used (generally with a translation and there is also a glossary at the end if you are the sort of person who reads those). Sometimes the use of multiple languages can be an author being clever, but in this case, it's a reflection of the city. It's the same of the points of view aspect: it's an example of authorial control and intent, rather than carelessness. All the point of view shifts tell the readers add an element or piece information.

In terms of pacing, which I am rubbish at describing, the first time I read this it kept me engaged the whole way (I wanted to know what happened next). The reread for this review took me a little while to get past the slower prologue, into the increasingly energetic rest of the book, but once I had, I raced through and quickly reached the can't-put-down point. Structure wise, I think it's relatively standard for a novel (from my dimly remembered high-school English classes), but there is nothing wrong with that. The narrative style and the location are more interesting about this book.

Overall, and without wanting to give anything away, this story is about change, both internal and external. And hopeful change at that. Even though some of the events in the book are quite awful, if not particularly graphic, the end is hoping for a positive future for Nigeria and the rest of Africa.

If you liked The Lego Movie, Pyramids (or other early works) by Terry Pratchett, or Farscape, give Lagoon a go. It's worth it. (Also, I was trying to come up with first contact books or TV that had positive change endings for this bit and really struggled!) I have reasons for choosing each of these comparisons, so if you find them a bit odd I'm happy to discuss.

Rating: 8/10

Next up: I haven't decided yet but am currently contemplating The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu or Spirits Abroad by Zen Cho.
nishatalitha: Sepia photo of a woman in an old-fashioned dress with a book (Woman and Book)
The Background: I am going on trip to New Zealand imminently, and rather than pack many many hardcopy books, I am stocking up my kindle with things I want to read. I asked my friends on some social media for genre recommendations, noting that I had a particular interest in diversity, namely race or gender.

The Realisation: The majority of recommendations came in and were mostly for books written by middle-aged white men (or women). I realised that amongst the people who responded, I probably read more diversely than many of them (or at the very least recommend more diversely).

The Resolution: to do a series of posts/reviews over the year for books that fit my very broad criteria. I plan to be relatively realistic, given time and energy, and write one per month. If there are books you'd like me to recommend or there's something you'd find useful for me to consider in a review, do let me know.

My criteria for a book to review currently is:

  1. is not written by a white male;
  2. has a protagonist that either is a person of colour or is non-heteronormative or is disabled or is part of a minority that I have not specifically named here;
  3. preferably not by a really well-known author;
  4. ideally was published within the last three years; and
  5. only one book per author per calendar year.


I recognise that this is very broad but I want to be inclusive rather than exclusive. In practice this means I will probably not review Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan or Sharing Knife series, nor anything by Octavia Butler (although both are excellent authors whom I enjoy reading and whose books fit the criteria above) but instead plan to focus on authors like N.K. Jemison, Aliette de Boddard, Wesley Chu, Lauren Beukes, Nnedi Okorafor and others. Conveniently, N.K. Jemison and Aliette de Boddard both have books coming out later this year.


Just to note: I read and enjoy many books written by middle-aged white men and will continue to do so—but those books are not the point of this review series. Instead, I want to share some of the recent books with that focus on diversity I mentioned that I have read and enjoyed with others in the hope that you might also enjoy them.

Expect the first review shortly: Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor.

Life, etc

Jul. 27th, 2014 10:02 pm
nishatalitha: image: lots of ladybirds crawling up fencepost.  white rope is wrapped twice around top of fencepost (Default)
Some months ago, my livejournal account was going to be renewed and thanks to my bank being overprotective, the payment was declined. I decided not to renew my paid LJ account and have finally set up one at Dreamwidth instead. I will still read in both places.

Haven't posted since May, but oh, well. In the intervening time, we have booked flights to New Zealand for January and done some of the booking for our travels around too. We still need to book accommodation for a night in Fox or Franz Josef, decide whether we are staying an extra night in Queenstown (and if so, book accommodation for that night) and also book flights back up north afterwards. It is in pretty good shape.

Since I have voting rights, I have dutifully been reading my way through all the Hugo nominations. There are some outstanding entries and some that left me cold. I will vote this week - I think it closes on Thursday! My bonus came through so I have also picked up a few new ebooks, including The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison which I have been resisting because it's 9GBP for the e-book! Also a couple of new James Hetley books - [personal profile] tamarillow you may be interested in checking them out (same universe as Dragon Eyes etc).

We came back from a week away with friends in Somerset on Friday and it is back to work tomorrow. I am not quite ready to be going back to work tomorrow—there is so much to do in the next two weeks! The week away was lovely; glorious weather, I cooked dinner for 21 once, ate and drank to my heart's content (and body's occasional displeasure) and swam daily. Also did lots of crosstitch and am making good progress on the wedding present for May.

In a couple of weeks there are two science fiction and fantasy geekery conventions: Nine Worlds and LonCon3. I feel more prepared to face them now (but have still not brought myself to look at the programme).
nishatalitha: image: lots of ladybirds crawling up fencepost.  white rope is wrapped twice around top of fencepost (Ladybirds)
I work on level 23 of a 26 story office building near the waterfront. Because there's another road parallel to the one my building is on that is a good seven stories or more above road level by my building, I rarely notice how high I am. Except when I see seagulls gliding below my window. One day I'll get a photo.

Cooked lots over the weekend (I forget what we had for dinner on Saturday night but also boiled a chicken for stock that day, gumbo using some of the stock and shredded chicken for dinner on Sunday), and cooked again tonight. I made this, but forgot to add the parmesan and butter to the polenta, so it wasn't as creamy and was a bit more lemony than I really prefer (I used half a cup of stock and some lemon juice and some water to make the polenta). Oh, and I used pork mince instead of lamb mince.

These things aside, it wasn't too bad. If the polenta was creamier, I think I would have liked it more. The flatmates seemed to like it though.

Note to self: do not leave prepared ingredients by the coffee-maker. You'll forget them.

Last weekend was the annual DCM bookfair. Normally, it's early September, but they had to shift it this year due to the Rugby World Cup and not being able to get a big enough venue during that time period. Worst weather we've ever had for it, I think. It was absolutely freezing. [profile] purplesparkler joined us for her inaugural trip down and we ran into [profile] darthsappho there. Both of them joined us for lunch at Leuven. I managed to get a small pile of Pratchett (for the first time ever) and Pegasus in Space which I was actually looking for, and picked up Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog, Paul Gallico's The Lovel of Seven Dolls" (which is creepier than I rememebered - and that's saying something!).

Work hasn't been too bad lately. I am gathering all the information I need to give to my responsible partner for my legal exec registration. But somehow it keeps getting put aside so I can do chargable work...

Am still having trouble installing Alice: The Madness Returns on Annabelle. I eventually worked out that I needed to upgrade my system, and figured I'd just go straight to Windows 7, but no, that didn't work. Have finally got XP Service Pack 3 installed (which it should work on) and am still having issues. I'll try again this weekend.

This week I have read two thirds of (and finished) The Bonehunters by Steven Erickson. Reading the Tor commentary is helping me pick out more aspects, although they're a couple of books behind — they've just started House of Chains. I also read Deceiver by C J Cherryh today - big contrast in writing styles!
nishatalitha: image: lots of ladybirds crawling up fencepost.  white rope is wrapped twice around top of fencepost (Red Umbrella)
I have spent most of my spare time for the last couple of weeks trying to install Alice, trying to upgrade Annabelle so that I can install Alice (possibly I need to upgrade my motherboard, dammit), reading books both physical and electronic, and editing metadata. I also woke up every workday morning over that time desperately wishing I didn't have to go to work. So I arranged to take today off.

I slept in, hung out in the lounge in the sun, was sat on a lot by Jemima (who was determined to sit on me even when she was grumpy about it), read some and finished editing H in Calibre. The book I spent most of the day reading is The Madness of Angels: Or the resurrection of Matthew Swift by Kate Griffin. I think N. K. Jemisin recommended her books at some point.

It's interesting — quite disjointed in places and for a while I wasn't sure if some of the disjointedness, particularly in terms of spacing on the page was due to coding or if it was intentional. Having read most of the book now, I think it's intentional, but I would be interested in seeing a hardcopy for comparision. Main character slips between I and We a lot, even in the same sentence, and the grammar changes depending on where he's using I or We, and this is also where the spacing tends to change. Urban fantasy and a sorta a classic one man alone against the night, but not, and in a completely different way from Rivers of London — for one thing, it's his own death that Matthew is looking into.

I need to go to sleep before 3am tonight. I bet that will help.

Boosting the signal received from [livejournal.com profile] sraun: the fourth book of Diane Duane's Tales of the Five.

AKA The Door into Starlight, the fourth in the series starting The Door into Fire and continuing in The Door into Shadow and The Door into Sunset - go read Diane's post on it. And then pass along the word.

Also, she just released a newly updated e-book version of the omnibus here.
nishatalitha: image: lots of ladybirds crawling up fencepost.  white rope is wrapped twice around top of fencepost (Yay! (penguins))
Friday I posted my [livejournal.com profile] kiwifandomsfest fic here.

I also read Rivers of London (also published as Midnight Riot I believe) by Ben Aaronovitch, which is a contemporary fantasy murder mystery set in London. I thought I knew where it was going, but it's a delightful romp and lots of fun, and then it took a right turn and ended up somewhere completely different. The copy I read was borrowed from a friend and I think I might have to buy my own. I'm also looking forward to reading the sequel Moon Over Soho and the third, Whispers Under Ground.

Yesterday, I went out to Indoorpendence, the Ultimate Frisbee development tournament at Te Raupraha Arena in Porirua with my league team, Dirty Creature. We won a couple of games, lost a few, and — importantly — mostly held together as a team for the day. I have no idea how well we did overall, but I understand that [livejournal.com profile] rincewindtvd (one of our A-graders) got male MVP for the tournament, which is excellent. Well done to him!

I had to head off early, though. Unlike previous years, when my work mid-year has been the night before Indoorpendence, this year it was the same day. Different venue from last year too; we were at the Wharewaka this year, and it worked really well for our function, as the band and dancefloor were near the tables, so it was really easy to move back and forth between them.

Wine is one of the things that I have trouble pacing over an evening. I have a certain number of glasses and then it starts tasting funny, so I know I've had enough wine and shouldn't drink anymore of it that night. I hit that point probably around 10 - 10.30pm last night, about when the dancing started and switched to water. Function packed up about midnight, and thirteen or fifteen or so of us headed into town and ended up at the Library bar, where we had a couple of cocktails, and I got home about 2.30am. No hangover, however, due to the spacing of the drinks and the amount of water I drank.

When getting ready, I took one look at my stilettos and decided I couldn't face wearing that type of heel, rummaged in the back of my wardrobe and dug out a pair of old silver shoes with really solid heels that I haven't worn for nearly ten years. Apart from the soles being so slippery that I had to take them off to go up and down our stairs, I was fine. Didn't have to take them off all night, even.

Today I have also been productive. I sorted in date order and put away a pile of filing that I've been stacking up for about two years. Just in case you get the wrong idea, I had previously looked and dealt with it all but put it in a pile instead of putting it in the folders where it belongs. It did take a few hours though.

I also cooked dinner for the first time in about a week. I was home late most nights last week and either [livejournal.com profile] tamarillow and [livejournal.com profile] maudlinrose had cooked or we fended; I didn't have the energy to cook. Tonight, however, was a different story.

Dinner was a roast vegetable red curry that I make once or twice a year. For dessert, I decided to try one of [livejournal.com profile] exiledinpn's favourites: tarte tatin. Like the last version he made, I used the Masterchef NZ recipe. Most of the reviews I read of the recipe indicated that they'd put it on the stove top for less time than recommended and it therefore wasn't as rich.

tarte tatin commentry )

Back to work tomorrow. Bother! How did I manage to put all my low-heeled shoes in for repairs at the same time?

successes

Jun. 30th, 2011 11:52 pm
nishatalitha: image: lots of ladybirds crawling up fencepost.  white rope is wrapped twice around top of fencepost (Default)
Billing day is over, we managed not to kill annoying team member, and tomorrow should be much easier.

Also, I finished my [livejournal.com profile] kiwifandomsfest fic so I can post it tomorrow night.

Time for bed.
nishatalitha: image: lots of ladybirds crawling up fencepost.  white rope is wrapped twice around top of fencepost (Armageddon or Tea?)
My week at work is going to be a tad nuts: end of month (always busy); end of local authority financial year (always busy); and the lawyer I do the most work for is recovering from unexpected surgery on Sunday night and one of the juniors and I are picking up what we can. Lawyer is recovering well and appears to be permanently attached to her blackberry, but we are trying to encourage her to rest and not work on her sick leave.

At least there aren't any settlements this week.

Another one of my lawyers who is currently on parental leave dropped by today to fill out some forms and supply us with baking[1]. She will be coming back to work after she's sorted out day care. It was good to see her—but I feel wuite bad that I haven't had time to finish sorting out her office after the shuffle. There isn't even a working computer on her desk; it's on the floor.

I have also managed to be very productive with my evenings this week (after doing hardly anything at the weekend). Yesterday, I cleaned the bbq to go away for the winter. It hasn't been used since Easter. I also tightened all the bolts, so it should feel much less wobbly now. Today I glued the wobbly dining room chair; made a very plain poster to go up in Wargames Supplies advertising for GMs for Confusion 9/2011; advertised Confusion 9/2011 at [livejournal.com profile] wellingtonrpg; and I went to my last German class for this term. Three weeks' holiday, and I really must do more practice than I have for the last few weeks!

Tomorrow, I have to write my [livejournal.com profile] kiwifandomsfest fic because it's due on Thursday. I have been thinking about it, but haven't put fingers to keyboard for it yet. And having just checked, I see that practically all the copies of the source book are on loan at the library... oh well, I didn't want to imitiate Mahy's style anyway, and not having the source will help with that.

Thursday is gaming and Friday night is currently free, but it needs to be early because Saturday is Indoorpendence and Saturday night is my work mid-year. Alice: The Madness Returns will have to wait until Sunday.

Plus I keep forgetting the dates of the rugby world cup and keep running into events/prices/timetables that are affected by it. Dammit.

Oh, and it's shark week. Joy.

[1] a very familiar recipe to me: Diana's chocolate-caramel brownie.
nishatalitha: image: lots of ladybirds crawling up fencepost.  white rope is wrapped twice around top of fencepost (Armageddon or Tea?)
Over the course of this last week, I have concluded that what I had last weekend was probably a minor bout of the 'flu rather than a cold. Mostly because while my nose pretty much stopped running on Monday, I still had to come home from work around half eleven and spend the rest of the day in bed, and it took 'til Friday before I felt that I didn't need a lie down after work. Plus, I looked at flu symptoms on the Ministry of Health website and could tick most of them off (not, interestingly, the cough nor the body aches).

Gaming on Thursday night was lots of fun. GM's non-sentient characterisation of the week was a grandfather-clock. Still not as entertaining as the time he broke the game being an oak tree. Ended on a cliff-hanger, of course ('most everyone back in England and my coke-addict seventeen-year old changeling who grew up in the fantasy world back in England and apparently pregnant) and now I am really looking forward to next week's game.

Last night, having managed to drag myself away from the internet, I went to bed and reread Fate by Mary Corran. I last read it back when I was in high school and I had completely forgotten just how rampantly feminist it is - reminded me quite strongly of some of the Darkover books. [livejournal.com profile] tamarillow is discarding it, but I don't think I will keep it either - I doubt it meets my reread once in five years criteria. Besides, I always liked Imperial Light more.

Today was sunny and warm enough that I opened the deck doors in the morning. Didn't see many birds, but heard a lot, particularly tuis singing and the kererū flying. I swear kererū are the only birds I know of that sound like their wings are rusty! Got my summer cotton sheets mostly dry outside, too.

[livejournal.com profile] maudlinrose and I wandered into town where I bought a sports bra that will do (the underwire on the bra I was using having poked through) and she bought other stuff. Caught the Wilton and walked home from there rather than catch the Mairangi (25 minutes instead of 10) and that was lovely; air was crisp and cool, but there wasn't any breeze and we got home about an hour before sunset.

Now, unsurprisingly, I am sitting on the couch in the lounge, catching up on Bujold ML emails, editing metadata and reading fic, and it is warm enough in here that I don't need a jersey and we are cooking kumara in the fireplace for dinner.
nishatalitha: image: lots of ladybirds crawling up fencepost.  white rope is wrapped twice around top of fencepost (Dead Cthulu)
Had a very good evening out on Friday at Fangirl Friday (which ended with [livejournal.com profile] ariadne83 and I talking til midnight over several bottles of riesling) and learned that I should not have affrogato at 8.30 or 9.00pm or whenever it actually was, because the coffee in it does make a difference to how I sleep.

This, and the cold that promptly hit, meant that despite the wine I slept appallingly and was awake by 8.30am yesterday—much earlier than I prefer to be at the weekend. It was cold, so I lit the fire, and pretty much spent the day in the lounge, drinking lemon, honey & ginger, then graduating onto the lemsip max stuff. I think I igored the recommendations about how much you should drink, but I'm not sure. Felt pretty miserable all day and went to bed early.

I did make chicken noodle soup though, which was exactly what I wanted by the time it was done, and there are leftovers for lunch today.

Today is shaping up to be worse. So far, it's not as cold outside, but at the moment, that's about all it has going for it.

Before I started this meta data project, I hadn't realised just quite how many books there are in a series whose title ends in "Death" (I'm not even talkking about J.D. Robb either).

I think it might be time for a cup of coffee—I strongly suspect at least some of my headache is due to caffeine deprivation—and possibly then a nap. [livejournal.com profile] maudlinrose has promised to bring in more firewood later today.

EDIT: so it turns out that I am addicted to caffeine and felt much better after having a cup of coffee. Yeah. Still feel tired and miserable, but at least I am clean, dressed and have eaten lunch.
nishatalitha: image: lots of ladybirds crawling up fencepost.  white rope is wrapped twice around top of fencepost (Neon cupcake)
Long weekend is almost over. Had [livejournal.com profile] callie over on Friday night, discovered that mixing average vodka and apple sourz together for shots improves both, and the resulting hangover took out most of Saturday. Note to self: do not drink good riesling (or good anything else for that matter) before drinking apple sourz or if the drinking is to get drunk.

Haven't done much else over the weekend. Went out for a walk on Sunday, lit the fire a couple of times, did laundry, checked a lot of meta data, cooked a bit...

Actually, I did have another go at getting my preferred sleep cassettte tape digitalised using Audacity, but gave up—for the amount of annoyance getting it right will cause me, I think it'll be better just to pay someone to do it. I have the original, and I won't be able to replace it when it wears out—it was hard enough finding a replacement some eight or nine years ago. New Zealand people, any recommendations?

I read some of the gay romance ebooks I picked up recently (the ones with an actual publisher rather than being self-published with obviously photo-shopped covers). They were terrible and not in the awesome way. I read them anyway. Most of the slash fic I read is better (it's better than most of the harlequins I read too). Maybe some fic writers should branch out.

...and the cooking. Despite my distinct preference for Annabel Langbein's style of cooking (I can only say that the meals are clear, somehow), I've made a couple of things from Tessa Kiros' books and one from Stephanie's Cook's Companion this weekend.

Dinner last night was fish in a chopped tomato/celery/parsley/garlic mixture cooked for an hour and a half or so in the oven. Flavour wasn't as deep as I'd like and you could taste the celery, but hey, food. Doubt I'll make it again, or if I do, I might add some tomato puree or tomato sauce and make it a bit less pure tomato flavour (I'm not a fan of raw tomato or plain cooked tomato).

Dinner tonight was a pie I've made a few times: a rich steak pie that is essentially casseroled for two hours on the stove top before even putting it in the pastry shell. I added carrots and dried mushrooms that had been soaked for half an hour in brandy to the filling mixture. I made the pastry as well. It was excellent and I will have some for lunch tomorrow.

I also made a chocolate cake from Stephanie's Cook's Companion for dessert. I forget its name, but it had a bit of rice flour in it, and has chocolate brandy buttercream icing. Used [livejournal.com profile] maudlinrose's Kenwood Chefette for most of the mixing and it's strange (for one thing the bowl spins, rather than than the beaters rotating and the beaters don't stay up very well when they have mixture on them for another). I don't need to use an actual mixer very often, but when I do I wish the ceramic bowl on mine hadn't cracked (Kenwood no longer makes ceramic bowls and replacing it will be a bitch).

Anyway, the cake: a nice dense chocolate cake with excellent icing. Good with plain yoghurt or cream. Cake's more effort than I can usually be bothered with—it's nice, but nothing spectacular. The icing is really good though (but could have done with more brandy).

Unfortunately, no frisbee tomorrow as it clashes with German. I must go for a walk at lunch to wear it off.
nishatalitha: image: lots of ladybirds crawling up fencepost.  white rope is wrapped twice around top of fencepost (Pancakes!)
The food show was at the Westpac Stadium this weekend and I decided that the best time to go was after church today. [livejournal.com profile] tamarillow was in Tawa for lunch and [livejournal.com profile] maudlinrose had to write an assignment, so I went by myself. It was quite a different experience compared to going with someone and I missed being able to share the experience. I think it meant I moved faster—I tended to get impatient with the crowds at some of the stalls more easily and I was done in about two and a half hours.

The only thing I wish I'd gone back for was the smoked garlic carmelised balsamic vinegar. I did taste an even better caramelised balsamic vinegar, but it was about twice the price, even at food show prices.

I resisted pretty much everything we already had in the house. The only thing I didn't resist was some of the Cow Collective yoghurt, because they were doing 3 for $10 and it tastes amazing. I got the black plum (probably my favourite flavour), the mango, and plain.

In no particular order, I also bought sheep's milk parmesan; basil pesto, sun dried tomato pesto, tomato and olive pesto (3 for $10 again); 3 flavours of harvarti in one block; a very sharp cheddar for [livejournal.com profile] maudlinrose; 2 packets of feta-stuffed pepperdews and one of olives in balsamic vinegar (another 3 for $10); and a bottle of scrumpy. I also took away a card for the Doctors rieslings (since they'd sold out), and a free Sunday Star Times.

And if I see Piako lemon curd frozen yoghurt in the supermarket, I want to buy some. They didn't have any containers for sale, but were doing mini-ice creams for $1. I had a cone and it was really good. I was quite disappointed that they didn't have any containers for sale. [livejournal.com profile] tamarillow will be interested to note that they also do feijoa.

[livejournal.com profile] maudlinrose made us a beef roast for dinner—I'd forgotten how good roasts are. It's been ages since we last had one. They suit the cooler weather, and after the cold snap at Easter, it just hasn't been cold enough. I don't even have flannel sheets on my bed, and I usually put them on the last couple of weeks in May! I have lit the fire tonight and the lounge is snuggly warm.

Am making progress on the meta-data. Some of them are rather annoying to find the meta data for, and I solved this by deleting the annoying ones (Buffy & Angel novelisations which I will never read) and all the Anne Rice. For some reason, a search for Anne Rice also brought up Crown of Stars by Robert Jordan...
nishatalitha: image: lots of ladybirds crawling up fencepost.  white rope is wrapped twice around top of fencepost (with laptop)
After the downpour last weekend, I noticed my curtains were disgusting and mildewy and what I had thought was dirt on my ceiling was actually mould. This weekend I have washed my curtains (still somewhat gross, but so much better) and wiped down the ceiling. I feel much better about my room now. I have also won a dehumidifier on trademe, and will get that picked up sometime this week. It's the same as the one we already have, so I know it will be decent.

Still working my way through Calibre. I now have all my ebooks loaded into it (I think) and am going through it, checking metadata. I am being quite restrained for me and am not insisting that the cover loaded into Cailbre match the cover on my copy, if I own it in hardcopy. Yeah. I have a lot of ebooks - this is going to take a while. Especially since I keep forgetting to make sure that I don't load .rar or .zip files.

Have not yet managed to choose a blackwork pattern to bookmark at work, but have stitched a couple of tiny patterns on [livejournal.com profile] maudlinrose's and [livejournal.com profile] tamarillow's aprons - a drunk green ant on [livejournal.com profile] maudlinrose's and a slightly more sober blue beetle on [livejournal.com profile] tamarillow's. I used waste canvas for the lines, since I cannot stitch straight on plain fabric without it. I will probably put a ladybird on mine. Pictures below the cut.

Blackwork insects in colour )

Didn't cook anything remotely exciting this weekend - I made chicken stock and a Tuscan vegetable soup (with some of the stock), and that's about it. Used about half the stock in the soup and have frozen the other half in two-cup lots. I do like having home made stock to use. It's one of the really good throw in your old vegetables and simmer for two hours soups, and it tasted really good and hearty with lots of flavour. Chuck in a bit of bread at the end for thickening and away you go. I will probably have it for lunch for the next couple of days. No pictures of the soup, because ait doesn't look particularly attractive.
nishatalitha: image: lots of ladybirds crawling up fencepost.  white rope is wrapped twice around top of fencepost (A lady's armour)
I spent my weekend playing Settlers II (and completing the entirity of level 8), catching up on housework and adding ebooks to Calibre. I don't feel the need to play Settlers for a while - probably a month or so. Ebooks are still being added, but I think I have managed to get all the ones that were causing the program to hang. Now, to check and edit the metadata on all 10,000 plus of them.

I have also been catching up on Camelot (spoilers) )

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