Pay very close attention to these cake pairs, now; I wouldn't want you to get the Wreck mixed up with the Inspiration Cake. [eye roll]
Elodie M. asked her baker to do this, only with far fewer rose petals. The baker obliged by providing this:
Ah, nothing symbolizes the beginning of a new life with the one you love quite like shriveled old rose petals. On the plus side, at least they distract the eye away from the poor cake construction. The weird grass sprigs sprouting haphazardly from the side and top help in that arena, too.
Next, Claire G. discovered the hard way how important "pipemanship" (as opposed to penmanship) is.
What she wanted:
What she got:
Such delicacy, such grace...
By the by, I don't monogram much, but I think the middle initial is supposed to be larger than the other two. I also think that if "msk" were a word, it would accurately describe the leveling job done on the leaning wonder here.
And lastly, Hannah W. asked for this, only with square tiers instead of round:
She even brought in the brown ribbon and fresh blue hydrangeas for the bakery to use. Pretty simple, right? Just make some white square tiers. But you know how some bakeries are, always complicating things...
Let's see. Misshapen layers, lumpy icing, no ribbon, electric teal icing "flowers"... What seems to be the problem, Hannah?
My image of the late unpleasantness at Charlottesville is the swastika next to the Confederate battle flag. They always belonged together: symbols of nations that were brutal to a subset of their own population, fought against America because of it, and lost. These people have pledged their allegiance to the Nazi flag, and I hope that enough of our fellow citizens still have enough justified loathing for that particular symbol to judge them by it. Which reminds me…
There is of course no alt-left, no group on the other side anywhere near as hydrophobically hate-ridden as the rabble at Charlottesville. But even if there were, remember: The last time we fought Nazis, we teamed up with the Communists.
I want to write him a summary of the Soviet Army officer's career path, what service branches are available, etc., but nothing I can find tells me the basic stuff. It's all focused on generals and stuff. (Looked on Wiki, looked on Google, neither helped. I found a monograph on dtic.mil that was from 1975 and provided *some* detail, but expected me the reader to know more than I do to make sense of stuff.)
To quote his draft summary: "(1) Early life. Born in 1959, he follows a similar course to Putin (joining the military instead, but attached as an "adviser" to one of the Soviet Bloc countries after a tour in Afghanistan which gave him a scar on his upper right arm from a Taliban attack). He resigned with a TBD officer's rank in the middle of the 1991 coup attempt (a la Putin; he's simply younger) rather than join in the attempt (which he percieved as doomed)."
He's trying to figure it out in more detail than that, but the problem is that he (the player) and I (the GM, one of two, responsible for helping him draw up his character - he does the important work of figuring out policies and stuff, the meat of gameplay, himself) can't find anything much about anything re the company-grade and field-grade officers of the Soviet Army and how they were trained, or how their careers progressed, or anything.
1. As the character was born in 1959, presume he enters officer training from civilian life sometime around 1977. How long is his officer training, and how is it decided whether he goes, say, infantry or airborne troops?
2. What's the career path like from initial officer training (including "what rank does he enter service at?" - the materials I can find state "Lieutenant", but the Soviet Army has 3 Lieutenant ranks!) to, say, battalion command?
3. What additional school-type training would he undergo during that career path, and at what times during his career? (I can help the player figure out good tour-of-duty mixes once I have that information.)
4. What service arms existed in the Soviet Army? I often hear of officers referred to as a "Colonel of Infantry", "Colonel of Air Defense", "Colonel of Strategic Rocket Forces" - but what are the possible options for the "of x" formula?
5. Were ordinary officers even assigned as "advisors" to Warsaw Pact forces, or only Political Officers?
I know these are really detailed questions in some regard. I'm trying to keep them general, but even the general stuff is hard to figure out. My objectives for this are:
B. Figure out what his career would have looked like - where would he have served, at what levels, doing what? (Especially key to figure out when he would have served in Afghanistan.)
C. Figure out if the early life posited is *plausible*.
I thus don't need to know deep details (at least not until a player requests a detailed bio of their Russian adversary from their intel people, at which point I may be back...), but only be able to work out a summary. I can do the hard part of the work myself and with the player, but I need help figuring out the foundational stuff before I begin that.
(Edited to add: Link to something Google *did* dredge up for me, and my note that what I was sent was a draft summary of the character, not a full bio. We'll be working on the full bio once we have the summary agreed to.)
Our current best guess as to the problem is a combination of dust, ragweed, and the c-PAP. The dust and ragweed wouldn't normally give me this much trouble, not at the levels they've been at. I think that my sinuses have been irritated by the c-PAP and so are more reactive to other things. I haven't had a summer this bad for allergies since I was in high school.
All of my plans for the week, such as they were, have been shot to hell. They mainly consisted of writing and watching DVDs that can't be renewed (I have about fifty hours of lectures on DVD that can't be renewed) and more writing.
We have a very long day ahead of us as we'll be heading up to Interlochen to bring Cordelia home. (There are reasons for this that I'm not willing to go into in a public post.) It's been a hard decision, and I still need to make some phone calls about it. Part of me wants to go back to bed and to send Scott on his own, but that would be unfair to him. He could do it. He would, too, if it was necessary, but I can go.
We plan to get on the road as soon as we're both dressed and both have had breakfast.
Keiki squats down to look at the fish in the polar bear enclosure at the Vienna Tiergarten.
The Schoenbrunn should definitely make the top ten of every visitor attraction list of Vienna, if not the top three. It’s the gigantic former summer palace of the Hapsburgs, and the grounds alone merit at least a half-day stroll to explore fully. There are gardens, fountains, hidden playgrounds, an enormous glasshouse full of palm trees, and even a zoo.
Despite having visited the Schoenbrunn grounds many times, I’d never been to the zoo, which is allegedly the oldest in the Western world (founded in 1752). Now, with two small children, one of whom is animal-obsessed, I had good reason to go. The children and I set out early one morning to travel via the Viennese underground to the palace.
Humuhumu was keen to learn how to navigate the transport system. She got very good at spotting the way to the correct train lines, and proudly announced when the next train would be arriving after we got to the platforms.
It took us 45 minutes to get from our temporary abode to the Schoenbrunn and, conveniently, it was just about Cake O’clock when we arrived. We detoured around the palace entrance and stopped off at an Aida Konditorei, a chain of inexplicably pink cafés that serve extremely nice cakes, coffees and hot chocolates (apart from the one near the opera house – avoid that one; everyone who works there is sick of tourists and very grumpy).
We walked into the Aida and chorused “Guten Morgen” at the round-faced, unsmiling woman behind the counter. She broke into a beaming grin and showed us to the table next to a tiny play area containing toys and books, which the children pounced upon. (Throughout the trip, I encouraged the children to greet everyone we met in German, to say please and thank you in German, to order their food using the German words and, when I felt confident in my knowledge of the right phrases, I coached them to make requests in German. I was astonished at the abundance of goodwill toward us that this produced.) Humuhumu ordered her hot chocolate and cake in German, and was rewarded with an additional pink meringue, which she received with an unprompted “Danke schoen”. When we left, Keiki crowing “Wiedersehen” over my shoulder with his dimpliest smile, the server came out from round the counter and gave each of the children an extra biscuit, which, to be honest, they didn’t really need after all that sugar!
Full of energy, we bounded into the grounds of the Schoenbrunn and raced around whilst waiting for the grandparents to join us at the entrance to the Tiergarten (Zoo). As vast as the Schoenbrunn grounds are, they are not big enough to house a comprehensive collection of the world’s animals, so cleverly the Tiergarten is focused on a limited number of species and provided them with luxurious accommodation.
Keiki and Humuhumu loved the place, particularly Keiki. Once he spotted the meerkat enclosure, we couldn’t get him to finish his lunch. Neither could we readily tear him away from the penguins. In fact, Granddad had a bit of a job keeping Keiki from clambering into their pond to join them. We communed with the seals. We watched a polar bear chewing meditatively on a traffic cone. And, of course, Humuhumu found a climbing wall and had to try everything.
It was a wonderful place to spend a sunny afternoon, and we will certainly return to the Tiergarten on our next trip to Vienna.
Further photos beneath the cut.
( +++ )
There is not a single member of the Republican party, nor any other voter who either elected the Orange Menace or by not voting enabled it, who can claim this isn't EXACTLY what they voted for or allowed to happen. Because Agent Orange certainly hadn't kept his views a secret. Nor did his minions.
I didn't love this; I'm not sure how much it's a weaker member of the series and how much it's me. It is book 10 in a set of 19, of which the last five are still to be written. I may have left it too long since I read the previous volumes, or maybe I just wasn't in the mood for it. I decided I couldn't be bothered following all the complex allusions to the meta-structure of the whole series, and as a single novel it's never more than just ok. I didn't find Vlad's voice or Loiosh's asides witty, and the pacing dragged, and I didn't care about the mystery. Because I hadn't been following the chronology properly, the twist at the end wasn't a delightful surprise, it just unsatisfyingly didn't make sense.
When I was reading 50 books a year, I intended to read the whole series, because both the individual novels and the way they fit together into a complex whole appeal to me. Now that I read more like 15 or 20, I'm thinking I may drop this. Not sure; one weaker book doesn't mean the whole series isn't worth bothering with.
Anyway, this is a really amazing fantasy romance story. It's beautifully written, great characters, twisty, thought-provoking plot. The worldbuilding is really deep; looking it up it turns out this is a companion novella in the setting of a novel, which I'm now definitely going to seek out. I had dismissed Wilson's Sorcerer of the Wildeeps mainly because the name is so clunky; I assumed it was parodic or just really generic swords and sorcery.
It's hard to describe exactly what's so great about AToH without spoilers, but it's a really moving romance, and has a lot to say about choices and sacrifices made for love. jack thought it maybe needed some content warnings; some of the content is about homophobia and abusive parenting. To me it didn't feel like misery porn, it felt as if it centred its variously Queer characters and described some of the bad things in their life as well as the good. But I can imagine some readers finding it hard going.
Up next: The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin. I'd been meaning to read this, though I'm a little scared of what I've heard about it, and I've now bumped it up my list since the sequel won a second Hugo.
* Fixed the shower head
* Found some things Shiremom was looking for
* Went through two cartons and found places for everything
* Walked Pippin 3 times (once in the rain)
* Went through the mail
* Tried in vain to figure out what the switch in the hallway is attached to
* Tried in vain, for a third time, to get someone at the Social Security Admin. to answer the phone
* Ate breakfast and lunch
* Went online and printed out new voter registration forms
* Enjoyed reading recent posts on Dreamwidth and LJ
* Responded to sweet comments
* Found the light bulbs and set up a few lamps
* Moved my bed to a new position
* Sent two texts and one email
It's been less than a week since the moving van arrived, and Shiremom and I have a lot already. I'm proud of us. :)
Sunday morning at breakfast looked like everybody at the con hotel had just gone, “…yeah, no, screw it,” and not gotten up to eat. :)
*I’d* gotten up because I wanted to go to Walter Jon Williams’ guest of honor interview, which I did (although I went into the wrong room first and was pretty torn about leaving what proved to be an astronaut’s lecture, but did anyway). The first half of it was full of what I thought were really great general questions for a writer and I wanted to be answering them! The second half got more specific about his career, but as he said at the end of the hour, “Well, that got us up to 1985, so please come to the next convention for the other half…” :)
(jedward has sorry not sorry, get down low, i dont know why, and walking the wire on his playlist. dammit, norwegian air is supposed to have wifi on board and i’m dying to be tweeting this! also he’s singing a lot to himself, just under his breath, which for some reason i find wonderful. people should sing more! also, just in case anyone wondered: he can sing.)
I bailed on the con after that because I really wanted to see a little of Helsinki without it trying to drown me. This would have been better if I had not somehow failed to put a meet-up with somebody into my calendar and forgotten about it, but she forgave me and I had a nice walk around some harbor-type thing where there were a number of trees shattered by the previous night’s storm.
My impression of Helsinki was that it has wonderfully wide streets, excellent pedestrian areas, very good public transport, amazing bike lanes, a lot of very fit, Finnish-looking people, good tap water (they’ve got signs everywhere saying “you can drink water right from the sinks!”), and a sort of vaguely creepy Bladerunner-ish (to me) corporate ubiquitousness with innumerable signs proclaiming business affiliations everywhere vibe. It felt like being in a city labeled like Nascar jumpsuits. Someone I was with said it had a post-Soviet vibe to them, which may be more accurate, but it wasn’t what came to my mind. :)
I went out to dinnner with friends and tried to find the Dead Dog party, gave up and sent one of our party ahead, then thought we HAD found it and went through a lot of contortions to contact said party member, only to find out later we’d screwed up and he’d almost been at the actual party and we’d called him back. We felt very badly. *moop* And I was a little disappointed to not get to the party because I’d wanted to say goodbye to Nicholas, at least, only as we sat around in the hotel lobby he happened to come through so I got to say bye anyway, yay. :)
Shockingly, I completely failed to get to bed early, although I’d planned to. In the morning, Carol and I packed up, went downstairs to the lobby, happened to see eBear and Scott again, and then took ourselves off to the airport, where, to cap it all off, I sat next to half of Jedward, who smelled too much of cologne. And thus ends my Worldcon 2017 report!
(Except for the pictures post I’m going to do! And anything else I remember later! :))
(Like the moment on the way to the Hugos when I muttered (or so I thought), “That is an *extremely* attractive man,” about the gentleman in front of me, who was someone else’s husband. But apparently 3 days of convention was not good for my muttering skills, because he looked over his shoulder and smiled, which was both funny and mortifying. But my *god*, he really was extremely, *extremely* attractive.)
(x-posted from The Essential Kit)
When I thought about what I wanted to do to extend my trip a little (because it seems silly to fly all the way to Europe and not do a bit of extra traveling), I decided that rather than focus on museums and castles and whatnot, I wanted to spend the time visiting people--especially people that I've known for quite some time and had never met in person. I met Irina way back during Usenet days on rec.arts.sf.composition, so that would be about 20 years ago or so. She's been a beta reader for a number of my stories and books, but up until last week we'd never been in the same time and place. So she was on the short-list of people I wanted to visit and here I am in Deventer, Netherlands.
Mind you, if I'd known that I'd get to stay in a building with a 12th century basement, I'd have been even more certain I wanted to visit! The picture above is the view from my (4th floor) bedroom. The basement and ground floor belong to the Russian Orthodox church that Irina belongs to, and she and her husband own the upper stories. The upper parts of the house are mostly 18-19th century with a few bits of older wall, but here's what the basement looks like:
Other than relaxing and chatting, I'm gotten to spend a lot of time wandering around with a personal tour of many of the older parts of the town. Deventer is a great example of integrating older buildings and newer construction into modern commercial and residential functions. Much of the older part of town has cobbled streets and restricted automobile access (though many bicycles!) so it has a slight feel of an extended pedestrian mall. Here's a random example--just an ordinary neighborhood.
I've been taking lots of notes and pictures relevant to early 19th century vernacular architecture and town layout. (I wonder why?) There will be more pictures and descriptions on facebook. And now, I'm going to go shopping for cheese...
What are some of the hard things you've done recently? What are some hard things you haven't gotten to yet, but need to do?
I'm pretty meh about this, because though I liked Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, Skyfall RUINED MY CHILDHOOD (I'm only slightly exaggerating here) and I lost all interest in Craig!Bond movies (I did eventually watch Spectre on DVD and it was terrible). As for the next Bond, I don't know... I think Idris Elba would probably make a good Bond (though what I really want is a Dicsworld movie with Idris Elba as Sam Vimes), but I'm starting to feel that Bond movies as a whole have just overstayed their welcome. I'm not sure how you could even make them feel fresh anymore? James Bond is one of my ur-fandoms, but I just can't work up any excitement for it anymore.
And unpopular opinion, but I don't actually want a female Bond. I just think that if you changed it to Jane Bond, you might just as well change it to Jane Smith and do an action movie without all the baggage of the Bond franchise. And no, you couldn't explain it with the Bond-is-just-a-code-name theory because that's a fucking stupid theory.
(and no, this is not the same as a female Doctor (because the Doctor is an alien, so their gender is a non-issue) or the female Ghostbusters team (who weren't supposed to be the same characters as in the original movies))
I just want *new* female action heroes who are just as iconic as Bond, because I don't think there's anything about the franchise that would *add* to an action movie with a female lead.
"As I hear all the tawdry details of Jenner's story, I am also re-reading 'How Sex Changed' by Joanne Meyerowitz. [...] In it, Meyerowitz discusses the reactions to Christine Jorgensen's coming out in the 1950s, and how both her tale and many others who came out shortly thereafter, were steeped in the same sort of salaciousness as the promotions for Jenner's autobiography.
"Upon reflection, I realize, too, that every transgender person - and not just the Jorgensens and Jenners - face this same sort of thing. When you are trans, the standards of privacy are thrown out the window. We are expected to share our most intimate details to anyone we come across.
"Without exception, any time I was interviewed in any depth, I found myself asked about my name prior to my transition, or for photos of myself from my youth, or for details of any surgeries I may have undertaken. It really didn't matter if any of that would be relevant to the story: my disclosure was simply expected.
"The same standard is not expected of non-transgender people. Maiden names and other such things are considered private enough to be used as security features with banks and other institutions. Non-transgender strangers don't expect details of another's hysterectomies or vasectomies unless they happen to be medical professionals. So many things are naturally considered one's own private business.
"The minute one divulges one is transgender, however, all bets are off. What's more, to make an issue about such questions is to risk being panned as deceptive."
-- Gwendolyn Ann Smith, 2017-04-27
The restaurant has a short menu of small plates, and the waiter said that for two people they recommended one of everything, which was exactly what we'd just decided on. As it turned out, the combination of the quality of the food and the fact that we're both quite hearty eaters meant that we ordered seconds of some of them, and there wasn't a single dish that wasn't delicious. We were especially pleased by the plate of salami, which were lovely and piquante and aromatic, the parmasan and chive gnocchi, which somehow managed to be both rich and comforting and light and summery at the same time, and the pork cheeks with smoked aubergine and barbequed pickled onions, which was expertly conceived and balanced. We were also extremely taken with the cheese course, which was a soft goat's cheese, not too pungent, not too mild, served with slices of peach, firm but not so underripe as to be sharp.
Given the short menu, it probably wouldn't be the greatest dining experience for veg*ns, or people with other major dietary restrictions, but if you're mostly omnivorous, I can't recommend it enough. Dinner for two hungry people, including service and drinks (three beers and two soft drinks, but they also offer BYO at £10/bottle corkage) came in at a very reasonable £115. Also, unlike so many of these new small restaurants, they take bookings, so no annoying queuing.
2. Not getting to bed as early tonight, but definitely earlier than I have been, so I'm still counting that as progress.
3. Jasper is a cuddly baby but he is such a mommy's boy and pretty much only wants to cuddle with Carla. He used to cuddle with me when we first got him, but he formed a preference pretty early and while he allows me to hug him now, it doesn't usually last long. But tonight he came over to me and cuddled for quite a while! With his pur on at full volume and everything.
I was busy petting him and did not get any pictures, but here is one of him tolerating a hug the other day.