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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A Couple More Violette Malan Books

Went over to the library and read a couple of Violette Malan books.

The first one, The Sleeping God, was the first one in her mercenary sword and sorcery series. Fun world, interesting setup, tense situation. Unfortunately, it turns out that there were a couple of annoying pieces of cognitive dissonance.

Early in the novel, a young girl traveling with the mercenary couple as her bodyguards notices the look of love in the hero’s eyes when he looks at the heroine, and figures she doesn’t have to worry about him putting the moves on her. Later in the novel, there’s a casual revelation that, oh, yeah, both the mercenaries sleep with other people when they feel like it. So… in retrospect, not a heartwarming scene. When you consider that the young woman references this look of love later on, as the reference point for her hopes for her own budding romance with a nice young man, it gets a lot ickier.

Later, after a lot of “meant by the gods” type stuff as they tangle with a hugely powerful evil from beyond the world, it’s revealed that no transcendence will occur and that humans will use ordinary human resources to deal with it — except that this is then supposed to evoke transcendent emotions in us. Nope. Noopers.

The other book I read was her first published one, The Stone Mirror. There’s a sequel coming out in the next year or so, but you shouldn’t read anything about it. (The publisher blurb for Book Two is a massive spoiler for Book One.)

Anyway, it turns out that a big important personage in the elven world has been exiled to our world for some time, with no memory of his real past and capabilities. His enemies are after him, and his friends are trying to help him, but nobody knows everything that’s going on. It’s a fastmoving book of adventure, action, intrigue, love, and pretty scenery, with enough difference from the usual fairyworlds to make it interesting.

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It Could Happen to You, Local Edition

The ladies upstairs who play the lottery every week? Yeah, they just won a big prize. How big? Multiple thousands for everybody.

The hilarious thing is that they actually won a few days back, but had been forgetting to check the numbers.

Needless to say that, after turning it in at lunchtime, a good number of these ladies are out lunching for the rest of the day… going to see their financial planners… watching out for those meteors and lightning strikes that are a lot more probable…. :)

Alas, as a student of the mathematical probabilities, I’ve never gotten into the lottery thing. So if you’re wondering if I got in on this, the answer is no. Ah, the fickle finger of fate!

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Why I Don’t Like Misattributions

If somebody obscure has written something deathless, he should get the deathless credit.

What’s more, there’s been some fairly famous poems that suffered from this. “High Flight” has an exhibit at the Air Force Museum, because it suffered for years from misattribution to various famous poets and pilots, and to “Anon.” Gratitude for the poem demands gratitude to the actual poet.

So yeah, that whole Baconian flick is kinda amusing; but it also is a rabbit punch against Shakespeare as a man and a poet, and against the many great commoners who wrote great English poetry, despite never going to college, or having wealth and rich friends. The fact that Bacondom is largely the invention of Americans is one of the odder facets of our republic.

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What Is It with Rural Luring of Strangers to Their Death?

Hoosier true crime history is creepycreepy. It’s freakin’ weird, how often some Indiana woman or man has set up a murderous trap for random strangers. And now, they’ve done it again, using a Craigslist job offer?

Well, no. But that’s what I thought at first.

Actually it happened in the OTHER Noble County, the one that’s in Ohio instead of Indiana. The one that’s on the whole other side of the state from Indiana. :) But maybe the guy who did it is from Indiana? (Sigh. “Another beautiful theory ruined by cold hard fact.”)

Ohio is strong on murder ballads, but a bit weak on actual evil serial killers. Mr. Dahmer was probably our worst, and he went elsewhere to do his dirty work. Of course, this may be more of a function of Ohio serial killers not getting caught.

But yeah, this whole Craigslist thing strongly reminded me of the infamous female Hoosier serial killer, Belle Gunness. She was even more psycho than Leif Eriksson’s half-sister, Freydis Eiriksdottir, and she probably got away with it all.

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Sir Francis Drake Didn’t Say It.

Apparently one of those misattributed quotes is going around. In this case, a fairly obvious one.

Sir Francis Drake didn’t come up with the “Disturb us, O Lord” poem. It doesn’t sound Elizabethan in its theology or its scansion or its word choices. It doesn’t appear to have been quoted anywhere until 1961, a fairly unlikely occurrence in a world full of Drake fans. There are longer versions which sound even less Elizabethan. It’s a modern poem, and I seriously doubt it was ever meant to be connected with Drake in any way. (And “wilder seas” is one of those phrases created or much loved by the Victorians.)

In its first detectable appearance, (in The Minister’s Manual, Vol. 37, a sermon helper for the year 1962), the prayer ran “Stir us, O Lord,” and it was apparently written or compiled by a gentleman named M.K.W. Heicher. How it got associated with Drake, I have no idea.

At any rate, it had a vogue in the Anglican Communion during the 80’s, at which point people were misattributing the prayer to the Rev. Desmond Tutu. (But he’s not famous enough for misattribution now, I guess.) Some seem to think Tutu adapted Drake. But if he did use this prayer, he probably got it straight from his 1962 Ministers Manual.

Sigh. This is right up there with the idea that “Dream anyway” was composed by Mother Teresa, or that “Do not stand by the grave and weep” is an ancient Celtic poem.

Here’s an Elizabethan Protestant preacher’s actual style, from his propaganda book written for Drake, The World Encompassed. Take it away, Master Francis Fletcher:

“…. we safely with ioyfull minds and thankfull hearts to God, arrived at Plimoth, the place of our first setting forth, after we had spent 2 yeares 10 moneths and some few odde daies beside, in seeing the wonders of the Lord in the deep, in discouering so many admirable things, in going through with so many strange adventures, in escaping out of so many dangers, and ouercomming so many difficulties in this our encompassing of this neather globe, and passing round about the world, which we haue related.

“Soli rerum maximarum Effectori,
Soli totius mundi Gubernatori,
Soli suorum Conservatori,
Soli Deo sit semper Gloria.”

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Things I Was Right About, But Couldn’t Figure How to Prove….

I never really believed the “reading is always processed in the audial part of the brain” theory.

Folks from Georgetown do some messin’ about with brains.

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Ai Weiwei

One of China’s Internet celebrities speaks out about his experiences in a Chinese prison as a political prisoner. We also learn how the Chinese people are supporting him.

Via Instapundit.

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