This was The Big Holiday ‘round these parts, and we did absolutely nothing for four days. It was glorious. We only ventured out for food and coffee, and quickly retreated back to our cave. So we avoided Black Friday entirely, and escaped with only the minor trauma of seeing every tenth car drive by with a Christmas tree strapped to the top.*

We’ve got a new game addiction; Viva PiƱata. It’s a strangely compelling and tooth-achingly cute resource management game. Many of R:tAG’s co-workers are also hooked, and the diabolical cunning of the Xbox 360 designers means that you can judge your score/level against your friends’. So that’s been on the TV a lot. Another new(ish) fave is Taiko Master, from the fine folks who brought you Katamari Damacy. It’s J-pop weirdness, but you get to drum along to the overture to “Carmen” which is worth the price of the game right there.

To continue the last post’s theme, I’m also on the last stretch of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy. I really, really, really like it. It’s very crunchy sci-fi; lots of physics, geology, biochemistry and economics but what I really like is how he writes about the future of the interaction of different human cultures. He doesn’t just assume assimilation into some Star-Trek-like “Terran” monoculture.** His characters are also complex and well-drawn. Good stuff.

Miscellaneous Linkage:

Monkey Dress - EEEEEEEEEEE! (a terrified shriek, not an excited squeal. This is terrifying.)

The Funniest - A constantly changing list of images currently voted “The Funniest.” Really, if you click on only one link on this page, make it this one. You can vote too!

Complainers of the World, Unite! - Hee!

Timing Is Everything
– Cool photos!

Gravity is for suckers!

Do you deserve your high school diploma? - I’m only including this to boast about the fact that I got 97%, of course (and the one question I got wrong was tricksy, precious, tricksy!).

* Like, for transport home. Not upright and decorated, which would have only been slightly weirder. Putting your tree up a month ahead of time seems to be the custom here, and I am baffled. Wouldn’t a real tree put up on November 25 be just a bare dry stick come Christmas? Is that festive?

** I also really recommend his “The Years of Rice and Salt” if you like alternate history stories, which I do. The premise is that plague wiped out 99.9% of Europe in the Middle Ages, and shows history without white people. Fascinating.

Stole this from BinaryKitten... I'm a sucker for a book meme.

This is a list of the 50 most significant science fiction/fantasy novels, 1953-2002, according to the Science Fiction Book Club. Bold the ones you've read, strike-out the ones you hated, italicize those you started but never finished and put an asterisk beside the ones you loved.

* 1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
* 2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
* 3. Dune, Frank Herbert
4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
* 5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
* 6. Neuromancer, William Gibson
7. Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
15. Cities in Flight, James Blish
*16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
*18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison (warning: don't read these stories all at once. They exceed the RDA for depression.)
19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester (wasn't that the PsyCorps guy in Babylon 5?)
20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
* 21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey (loved it when I was 10 or so... haven't re-read it since)
22. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson (I really, really hated this book. The writing was all right but the characters were repellant and the plot was uninteresting.)
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling
* 27. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
* 29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice (don't you judge me!)
30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
31. Little, Big, John Crowley
32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
39. Ringworld, Larry Niven
40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
* 41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
* 43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
* 47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock (loved it when I was 14 or so, haven't read it since)
48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks(Hated this book. Powerful weak writing and absolutely no original ideas)
49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer

Huh. There's a stretch in the 30's that I'd never even heard of, and I'm quite the fangirl. I do wonder about the criteria for inclusion in this list, and I also wonder why it's so heavy on the SF and light on the fantasy ("Lord of Light" instead of the Amber series for the Zelazny pick?!?). Xaq said on BinaryKitten's blog that maybe the compilers considered most fantasy to instead be "children's books" instead of "novels" but that doesn't explain how the Anne McCaffrey, J.K. Rowling and Ursula LeGuin books made this list since all of those are traditionally considered "Young Adult" fare.

There's also the old question of how to define fantasy... what about "The Handmaid's Tale"? "Brave New World"? I'd consider them and all their dystopian ilk pretty "significant."

Oh, and some things that I kept reminding myself to include at their proper times and then completely forgot...

1) A link for Halloween: Best Non-human Costume Contest Winner

2) Another Halloween link: Handbags of Horror!

3) A quote for November 5: “Guy Fawkes. The last man to go into parliament with either an honest motive or a workable plan for carrying it out.”

There’s a Remembrance Day ceremony (sponsored by Digital Moose, a Canadian ex-pat group) up in San Francisco tomorrow that we’re going to try and get to. For as militaristic a society as the US seems to be sometimes, you’d think they’d honour Veterans’ Day/Memorial Day better. I think Canada does a much better job of it.

So I got back in time to vote, and I did. I now see the humour in Scott Adams’ ending every story about something stupid or weird that he did with “And then I voted!” I thought I’d just be voting for the Senate and Congressional reps, but this vote was for a lot of stuff. There was the State Governor and Lieutenant Governor, a schwack* of judicial types, a bunch of other state-level positions, some schoolboard representatives, the Mayor of San Jose, some miscellaneous legal propositions, and several bond propositions that, to my mind, deserved a more thorough and careful examination than voters are likely to give them.**

I’m glad I listen to NPR during my commute and therefore had at least an idea of the candidates and the issues. This helped too.

I have to admit that a big incentive to vote was to see what kind of interface my district was using for its touchscreen voting system. I thought the screens were pretty well designed, actually, though I’ve heard reports of crashes because of the sensitivity of the screens (if you weren’t very careful to only touch it in one place, i.e. if you had mobility/stability problems and let your hand brush the screen as you were tapping your choice, it would freeze). I think one especially has to watch for problems like that, since they just don’t show up as often in controlled tests where everyone’s being careful and maybe isn’t from a broad enough demographic group.

War brides renew vows - this made me get a little misty-eyed.

Very, very short stories – I was talking about this with someone last weekend. Good stuff. Personal favourite, because it doesn’t rely on excessive punctuation or sentence fragments: “He read his obituary with confusion.”

Hot Library Smut – one for my sister. Um, this isn’t really smut, Mom, don’t worry.

Chow Magazine – Mmmm, I’m hungry

Shoes - Why do I like these so much? Can I justify spending the money?

* What’s the correct collective noun for judges? A gavel? A wig?

** I didn’t pay as much attention to Canadian politics as I should have, but I don’t think bonds were as popular a thing to do in Saskatchewan, at least. Or maybe they just weren’t voted on? But these all involved incurring a really massive amount of debt.

Despite torrential rain in Seattle , we are home safe and sound with no pilot deaths. I think we were on the only flight to leave on time out of SeaTac yesterday. Perhaps it was because the plane was a big one, as compared to the little Dash-8s that had been used for every other leg of the journey.*

Also, as you may recall, I was worried about only having an hour and ten minutes to make it through US Customs in Vancouver. This worry was compounded by the plane from S’toon being twenty minutes late in taking off, and then delayed even further in arriving due to strong headwinds. US Customs in Vancouver is fairly small and quick, but located approximately a bajillion miles from the rest of the airport. How fortunate we were, then, to find that our scheduled flight to Seattle had been cancelled completely. What a relief!** We were put on the next flight, though, which still got us to Seattle in time for our flight to San Jose. Luckily you can just get your boarding pass at the gate if you’ve no checked baggage, so we stayed behind Security which helped save even more time.***

But what a wonderful trip it was! The Seattle wedding was charming and had great outfits, we got to see Seattle in the sun and the rain, stay at Chelsea Station (a very nice B&B which we recommend heartily), buy lots of used books and drink a lot of coffee. In Saskatoon, the wedding was charming and included the 2-year old flower girl deciding that clothes were for suckers. And the weather was much warmer than we’d expected given how spoiled we’ve become by California.**** And of course we got to see many of our friends again which is good and bad because we’re getting to see you but we also realize how much we miss you.*****

A few other people have already covered the highlights of the weekend, and most of the quotes or stories probably wouldn’t seem near as funny without the context of reunited friends and $1.50 scotch. But it was an awesometastic weekend, and thanks to all who made it so (especially Alan, who became our host and chauffeur despite being simultaneously colonized by three different sets of bacteria and virii).******

Pictures to follow!

* Does it make any sense that I think that big planes fly better? I mean, planes are fundamentally unnatural. Why should something much heavier make me feel safer in the air? Isn’t that like saying I’d be a better swimmer with weights tied to my feet?

** You have to picture the “sarcasm” hand sign here

*** The San Jose-Seattle round trip was completely unconnected to the Seattle-Saskatoon trip in airline terms; they were two independent events. We were therefore expecting to arrive in Seattle and have to start again right from the beginning of the process to get to our flight to San Jose.

**** What I don’t notice until I get back here is how nice it smells in Northern California. Typical urban odours aside, of course, most of the time the air smells like the Mendel Conservatory (as a reference for all you S’toon and ex-S’toon folks).

***** So if you want to take a US West Coast vacation with us, either in our neck of the woods or in Seattle or Portland (two places I’d love to visit again) do contact us. If we know you. I keep forgetting how public the Intarweb is.

****** Maybe I’ll start using numbers for the footnotes. This is getting silly.


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