Monthly Archives: November 2011

Review: The Last Mage Guardian by Sabrina Chase

The Last Mage Guardian is a new fantasy romance, set in an alternate Victorian age, and very much along the same lines as Stevermer and Wrede’s alternate Regency fantasy novels.

Ardhuin is one of those sensible sorts who just wants to get along with her own life of magic study and practice, far away from the annoyances and censorious glances of those who don’t think young ladies should be interested in such things. But she is the heir to great magical power, and such people have great responsibilities and enemies. However, she also finds herself with unexpected allies — including a young writer who just wants to get away from it all and finish his book….

The author has included all the fun of a good romance and none of the goop. The worldbuilding is interesting and beautiful, the action is interesting, and the book is full of memorable scenes of magic and intrigue. Everything ends happily, even.

(I do not have a single bad thing to say about this book. Do you know how relaxing that is?)

It’s $2.99 on the Kindle.

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The Heavens Are Declaring, and Amateurs Are Watching

Amateur astronomer Rolf Olsen takes a picture of the cloud of stuff around Beta Pictoris, a star in the process of forming planets. With nothing but a fairly normal-sized 10 inch telescope and some clever photo-processing.

The picture itself is not super-new, but it’s super-new to do it without expensive equipment!

Via Slashdot. Also on Universe Today, with commentary by Olsen.

Like the song says:

“Through space and time, to infinity’s border,
What wonders vast and manifold!”

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How You Know You’re Watching a Dominican Kids’ Show

I got a ride home from work today, so I caught part of the Truth in the Heart show on EWTN. One of the sisters was talking to a bee puppet, discussing the story of Jesus’ temptations by the Devil after His 40 days in the wilderness.

So the bee started talking about the “all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them”. “Imagine being offered anything you want!” She went through several standard kid desires, and then added, “The Dead Sea Scrolls! Manuscripts from the First Century!” :)

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Vacuum-Packed Bread

My local Walmart has a lot of stuff on clearance right now, to make room for Christmas stuff. One of the more unusual things was a bunch of tapioca-flour bread and brown-rice-flour bread from the gluten-free aisle. $1 a loaf on clearance. (Pricey normally.)

The thing I didn’t realize about this Ener-G brand bread is that they vacuum-pack it. The company claims it lasts for a year without refrigeration, because there’s no air for the molds and such to eat. The loaves I bought were supposed to be good until June or July next year. Sure enough, they look fine.

The catch is that after you open the bread, it’s not vacuum-packed anymore, and thus will go bad just like normal bread. (Or you can freeze it like normal bread.)

This sounds like a good survival bread to keep around the house, frankly. If there’s a big blizzard or disaster, and no way to get bread, you just open up the survival bread when the regular bread runs out. Even at the normal price, it sounds like a decent idea to have a few loaves. (Although I guess crackers are still cheaper and easier to keep around. They are the original survival bread. But people like to eat crackers, so they tend to mysteriously disappear.)

If nobody around your house likes fruitcake, maybe a survival fruitcake is a good plan. :)

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“Follow the Money” Is an Old Old Saying.

It was pointed out today that “Follow the money” wasn’t a line in the book of All the President’s Men, but was written into the movie as dialogue.

But. For some reason, people think the screenwriter invented it!

Sheesh, people. “Follow the money” is old, old advice. People in 1852 court cases were saying it, as you can readily discover by searching Google Books’ free/public domain section. In fact, at some point there was apparently a legal right (in some financial court cases) for a creditor to be allowed by the bank to “follow the money” to discover who had what they were owed. It’s a legal term first, then, not a law enforcement or financial term.

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RIP, Anne McCaffrey

She died today. St. Cecilia’s Day, the feastday of the patron saint of singers and musicians, the young woman who “sang in her heart” as she was martyred. I do not think this is a coincidence.

Music was a harsh teacher for both her and her brother, who was treated terribly as a cathedral choirboy. Unlike European cathedral schools (which teach boys to play organ and study instrumental music when their voices change), the one he attended kicked him out and dropped his scholarship when he was no longer a boy soprano. The injustice to him embittered her. So she was one of the many ex-Catholics who got that way via the sins of other Catholics. I’ve heard different things, about whether she was an Episcopalian or an atheist, but I guess it’s not really my business if I don’t know.

She had a hard life and made hard choices, and abided by the consequences. She raised children with her own money. She told goopy indulgent stories; she told beautiful stories full of life. She sang. She made music. She made verse. She made musicians. She made a difference, for good and ill, in many people’s lives.

She lived a full life. May God be good to her, and may He comfort those who knew her best.

Via Foxfier and Del Rey.

UPDATE: Vick Mickunas, the local book radio show guy from out Yellow Springs way, apparently had an “interesting” time interviewing McCaffrey, early on in his time. Heh, heh.

The only time I ever met her, it was after that Treasure of the Sierra Mud-re thing. I’m sure that Joy remembers it well….

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Another Springerle Cookiemold Source

I don’t know whether I’ve ever linked to these folks before, but they apparently love springerle! (That’s an old German/Swiss kind of anise cookie, named that because they “spring up” when they bake.)

(If you don’t like anise, you can also use springerle molds to make Spekulaas/windmill St. Nicholas Day cookies from Holland; and/or gingerbread cookies. House on the Hill has recipes for both of these.)

These folks have a huge selection of new and reproduction old designs for springerle molds. (Not the ones my great-great-grandmother brought over from Germany, but some very nice ones. And probably not everyone wants carrots and onions designs on their cookies, though some of the flying bird motifs look similar.) There are lots of rabbits and poinsettias and other good things.

But as is only right and proper for a cookie art custom that comes from Catholic and Lutheran areas of the Germanic countries, House on the Hill also features lots of reproduction Bible story molds, holy day and feastday molds, Jesus and/or Lamb molds, Mary molds, and saint molds. (Well, maybe not so Lutheran, those last.)

See, the idea was that when you went to a fair for a feastday or holy day, you probably wanted to eat cookies directly tied to the reason for the liturgical season. And that meant biting the head off your cookie St. Cecilia, or Easter scene, or First Communion picture, or what have you.

In medieval times, these sorts of scenes were often painted with various medieval natural food colorings as well. So it was sort of like having your holy card and eating it too.

(If the idea of doing this disturbs you, you can go with the rabbits and pineapples and such. Nothing wrong with the simple designs at all.)

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