Jun. 29th, 2017

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Secret Loves of Geek Girls ed. Hope Nicholson - An anthology combining prose and graphic storytelling, with an assortment of mostly-personal stories about being a geeky girl and dating. While most of them were decently-written experience summaries, they got a bit repetitive by the end, and several of the graphic stories seemed oddly condensed. (And honestly, the bits from Ménage a 3 and Girls With Slingshots felt thrown-in.) Not bad, but not amazing either.

As a completely random aside, I found it amusing how many of the contributors were named some variation of “Megan,” as Jethrien and I have a running gag that if you meet a woman in our neighborhood and don't know her name, you can guess Megan and be right half the time.

Dear Cthulhu Vol. 4: What Would Cthulhu Do? By Patrick Thomas - More of the same, the future devourer of all that lives as a classic agony aunt. The question-writers are often more amusing than Cthulhu’s answers in a lot of cases, because his advice is decent and his routine has gotten stale.

Extracted by RR Haywood - This is a series of fight scenes strung together by a time-travel hook that never really pays off. The first third of the book is dedicated to getting the band together, then the rest is them training and setting up hooks for a longer series. The descriptions and exposition get ridiculously repetitive (if I have to hear one more time about Ben changing his name because of what he did when he was 17; oy). The attempts at being witty don't really work; it mostly comes across as inappropriate levity. An entire chapter is dedicated to the characters marveling at prehistoric megafauna...that could never have existed because of the cube-square law. Then we get several chapters devoted to one character being depressed about being extracted, until he gets beaten to shit and gets over it. Oh, and there are only two female characters, one of whom is only referred to and is apparently a legendarily horrible person, the other of whom gets a loving description of being sexually harassed by her boss. To sum up: It's a crap book without any real redeeming qualities.

The Bread We Eat in Dreams by Catherynne M. Valente - Similar to Kelly Link’s short stories in that they have a mystical, dream-like quality to them. Better than Kelly Link in that Valente knows how to end a story. Though I think she occasionally gets into Grant Morrison territory where everything must have a wacky backstory and long description, even if that doesn't matter to the thrust of the story at all. There's a lot here, and how much gets interpreted as pretentious fluff is heavily dependent on the reader, but I was generally positive on it.

A Blink of the Screen by Terry Pratchett - Having now read virtually his entire corpus, I find that Pratchett doesn't always produce brilliance, but he hit a stride mid-career and even in his later years things remained serviceable. Clearly some of his ideas also work better as short stories; "The High Meggas", which was the basis for The Long Earth series Steven Baxter wrote 25 years later, was one such case. I had read two of the longer Discworld pieces many years ago, but they remain very solid assuming you already know all the players. This is less a stand-alone book and more a completion piece for the thorough Pratchett fan.

Rise of the Dungeon Master by David Kushner - I hadn't realized until I saw this at a bookstore that it was a graphic novel, which prompted me to actually buy it. The problem was, they didn't actually have that much material and took a very surface-level view to the story of Gygax and Arneson creating D&D. Also, they were trying to gloss over the parts where the two of them behaved badly and were dicks to each other. (Though the author pretty clearly thinks Arneson was in the right.) It's a fun fast read of shallow history and the art is acceptable (I mean, Gygax looks like his pictures, so...) but it's probably not worth your money. Borrow my copy if you're intrigued.
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- My back went “poing” on Friday afternoon, shortly before we got in the car to go. I threw my cane in the car as an afterthought, but in retrospect it made life a lot more pleasant. It wasn't until mid-week that I was willing to go roaming without it, because I was getting nasty spasms if I stood too long or bent over wrong. This was, however, probably the best possible week to hurt my back, as I had already planned to spend large portions of it lying down.

- I read and played my 3DS on an assortment of couches in our rented house, on my bed, on a lawn chair, and on the beach. (I had the option of additional lawn chairs but the mosquitoes were too much. I got some nasty bites just playing outside with ARR.) I also went to bed at 9pm some nights, and took several naps. This was the portion of the trip I actually considered vacation.

- I actually didn't do as well as Jethrien did in terms of eating lobster—I only had it a couple of times; one lobster roll and twice in assorted seafood dishes. I did, however, eat some form of seafood pretty much every day—and the scallops and mussels were arguably even better than the lobster. I also had a duck burger topped with pork belly, which was delicious and I very much regretted it the next day. I also had blueberries in the form of pie, muffins, whoopie pie, crumble, cheesecake, lemonade, and margarita. I thought the Popovers at Jordan Pond House were very good, but not worth the insane hype. And there is a LOT of good ice cream in Bar Harbor.

- The best cell reception I got all week was halfway up Beech Mountain, which was coincidentally where I was when I got the only call from work while I was away. (Also, I did exactly two hikes, this being the latter one, and they managed to call during one of them.)

- We took ARR to Timber Tina's Lumberjack show (which he very much enjoyed, especially the part where he got to try the big saw). We actually saw a lumberjack show in 2008 in Ketchikan, AK, and by intermission we confirmed that it was very similar because it was run by Timber Tina's brother. (They even had some of the same jokes.)

- I got a set of OiDroids for ARR on a whim, when I was building a collection of things to do on the trip that didn't take up much space. They're paper craft robots that don't require scissors or glue to assemble, which means that I bought a pack of 15 action figures that fold flat. That's a deal! (Also, you can cover them in glitter glue and feel okay about that.)

- Over 20+ hours in the car, the most effective entertainment for ARR was generally either his tablet or singing along to a mix of (mostly) They Might Be Giants, Barenaked Ladies, Weird Al and Laurie Berkner that I put together. But we also played various car games, played with multiple puzzle/game books, colored with crayons and colored pencils, read a chapter of The Hobbit out loud, and napped. The most effective of my pile of “car surprise” purchases was a Rescue Bots sticker book, which should come as no surprise.

- ARR got severely off-schedule via refusing to nap and staying up too late (despite being clearly exhausted from all the hiking he did), so on Wednesday, after a super-cranky morning, I wrestled him down for a nap. I haven't had to do that in months, but it clearly helped. Also, he was in full preschooler pickiness form about food for much of the week, opting mostly to eat potato chips, crackers and cereal. I suspect that some amount of dehydration and wacky blood sugar levels played a role in his moods, as well. We'd remedied a bunch of that by the end of the week. And really, he was generally well-behaved and clearly had a great time, but it's easy to forget that he's four and sometimes acts like it.

- We stopped to visit Jethrien's brother and his family on the way back, and the fact that ARR and his (year-younger) cousin FJG played for two solid hours, effectively unsupervised, with nobody crying? Blew my mind. We need to spend more time with them.

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