Sunday, May 20, 2007

Blast From the Past. Reposted from 2007

Recently I was introduced to the student of a friend who exclaimed upon introduction, "Oh, M's told me about you! You read hundreds and thousands of..." pause here for me to anticipate her saying something along the lines of 'weighty Shakespearean tomes' (even though I don't) while trying my best to look humble, as if students at top colleges all over the country are constantly being awed by my *ahem* overwhelming smartitude... then imagine my dismay when she instead said, " fiction and fantasy novels!!"

"What?! No!"

"I do not! Hardly. Barely, practically not even, that... often. 'Doh!"

I don't know why I'm afraid to admit my inherent dorkiness. After all, I come by it honestly- my parents raised us on a diet of Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica and whenever the piercing beep of the smoke alarm in the kitchen sounded (don't tell my mother I let out that this happened on a fairly regular basis, it probably had less to do with her cooking skills than with the distraction of trying to make dinner with seven rowdy children runing around underfoot) they thought it was hilarious to dash from the room shouting, "Phaser on overload!! Run, run!!" I think I was in high school before I realized that not all families had customs such as these. *sigh* We were not what you'd call, "cool."

The truth is that when I look over my book journals many of the titles written there technically fit into this category, but when I hear "scifi/fantasy" I immediately and off-puttingly picture a mass market paperback with a luridly drawn cover featuring a) a busty blonde heroine with a sword, b) a musclebound brooding hero with a sword, c) an evil magicians and/or dragon d) busty aliens with swords, or e) all of the above, and I cringe.

I am not a fan of Robert Jordan, can you tell?

Most of the great stuff I've read I found in the children's section, but since the advent of Harry Potter the children's fantasy market is so flooded with crap that it's hardly worth plowing through. It appears that publishers will take anything with the word magic in it no matter how poorly written or tired it is.

The "adult" section (hmm, that sounds wrong) of the genre has always been like this as far as I can tell. There exists a level of cheesiness that is hard to find anywhere else (no, romance doesn't count. It's composed entirely of- not even cheese- processed cheese food, like Velveeta). While there are definitely gems- Tolkein, of course, Michael Marshall Smith's futuristic noir novels, or William Browning Spencer's Zod Wallop, and plenty of others, and what I do like I tend to really, really like- I usually don't even bother browsing in this area of the library unless someone recommends a book or author to me.

So I was cautiously optimistic when my good friend Morgan recommended a book called, "His Majesty's Dragon." It was described as "Patrick O'Brian, Jane Austen, and Anne Mcaffrey all rolled into one." I would differ only to say that Novik is a much, much better writer than Mcaffrey (see earlier comments re: cheese).

The book (the first in a series) is set in during the Napoleonic wars in a world exactly like the one O'Brian and Austen wrote about (or, you know, exactly like the one I assume O'Brian wrote about without having actually read any of his books, although I did see Peter Weir's "Master and Commander," which I'm pretty sure counts) with the small distinction that Novik's world includes dragons.

Novik does a wonderful job making this inclusion seem natural and believable. The dragon character, Temeraire, manages to be both dignified and appealingly childlike at the same time. His- at first, reluctant- handler, Captain Wm. Lawrence, is a bit of a stuffed shirt at first, but he's actually very decent under all of his British proprietry. Lawrence's relationship with both Temeraire and the Dragon Corps (the slightly scandalous but indispensable dragon branch of the military) challenge and change him for the better.

I'm almost finished with the second book, "Throne of Jade," and have enjoyed it as much as the first. The only drawback now being that the fourth book is still being written. To keep myself occupied, I'll be keeping an ear out for news about the Temeraire movie that Peter Jackson, who recently acquired the rights to the books, is hopefully going to produce and direct.

[Update: as usual in a fantasy series, the first book was by far the best. They went downhill after that. I think I read three before I gave up. Why can't sci-fi/fantasy authors just write a great book and leave it at that? I suspect pressure from publishers plays a role. The movie doesn't seem to be going anywhere, mostly because instead of just wrapping up a story the author keeps leaving each book open ended and writing another. *sigh*]

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

This week's best local headline

Squirrel enters S. San Jose classroom, attacks two adults and a student

This one's for you, Katie.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007


This is my fish, Orpheus. He was completely terrified of me when I brought him home and would contort himself into extremely unlikely positions in order to avoid seeing or being seen by me. He used to hide under the seaglass on the bottom of his bowl like this:
It was a little unnerving. I felt like an evil giant even though all I was trying to do was feed him. Now, however, we are fast friends and whenever I feed him he swims over to the side of the bowl to greet me before eating. He doesn't seem to have the aggressive personality that's typical of male Betas.

This week after I cleaned his bowl I noticed a mass of tiny bubbles collecting at the top. I was curious and looked up a few Beta sites. Apparently this is breeding behavior. the males build a bubble nest when they're ready to breed, then the females lay eggs in them. Poor Orry, he's stuck with me, a non-aqueus, non-egg-laying dud. I gently explained to him that it just wouldn't work out between us. It's sad to see the bubbles dwindling as he broken-heartedly swims around in his little bowl. Oh well, at least I'm still bringing home the bacon (or fish flakes, as it were).

Monday, May 7, 2007


I went to my church's women's retreat a few weekends ago. It was at Asilomar, a gorgeous retreat center in Monterey. My room had an ocean view! I had such a great time hanging out with all of the amazing women I know through PBCC.

I & several others were rounded up at the last minute to be in this sketch. We sort-of practiced. Once. Without all the players present.

But it was mostly improv, so it didn't matter much. You can't see them in this picture, but Crysta and Jess M. played it straight as the camera-woman and director. Becca, the ringleader who organized the whole thing, was brilliant as a Doctor (she's in green and white). And Alicia (with the demonically-glowing red eyes) played a somewhat-less-than-concerned mother. I played the part of the sick kid and, as I'm sure was immediately clear from this picture, Julie (red hat) was an ambulance driver shocking me with the sneakers defibrillator paddles. If I look like I'm having convulsions it's because I'm a natural actress who was able to perfectly channel someone who is being shocked back into life Julie is repeatedly and enthusiastically hitting me in the boobs with a pair of shoes.

As my mother would say, "Maybe they'll swell!" We Davenport ladies are optimists.
Flat-chested optimists.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007


Much better the last few days, thank you for your kind words and wishes. April was just not my month, but since Monday (the 1st day of May- coincidence? I think not!) I feel... almost.. what is it called? Happy. Ah yes. Methinks I remember this feeling. Is good. Is very good.

In other news. I have decided that if eucalyptus was a controlled substance I would be in serious danger of breaking the law. Sing it with me now..

Breakin' the law, breakin' the law
Breakin' the law, breakin' the law

Because I am obsessed with the little knobbly thingies that fall off the trees around here and smell so incredibly good that I can't help picking them up off the ground and carrying them around like a little kid, putting them up to my nose every few minutes for a blissful whiff. Yup, I'm an addict. Luckily the part of the Stanford campus I was wandering around on was pretty deserted so there were no witnesses to call the authorities on me.

As evidence that perhaps eucalyptus should be regulated in some way, I offer you the following profound thought I had while ah, inhaling yesterday. The knobbly thingies or gumnuts (I'm not kidding, I looked this up on Wiki. They look like this:)
are the west coast version of acorns. Mind-boggling, eh? (heh heh, I just wrote bloggling. The ironing!) I had this epiphany after noticing that some of them were missing the green parts and had nothing but an empty woody shell that looked like nothing so much as an empty acorn cup (cap?) and I reasoned that the ground squirrels might scoop out and eat the middle. The gumnuts are California's version of acorns, which are eaten by California's version of, well, squirrels. But wait, they're completely different from normal squirrels, i.e. the ones we superior New Englanders have scurrying around in our backyards storing acorns and digging up our &#%&#@* tulip bulbs and taking one bite out of them and them throwing them on the ground as if to taunt us.

Of course they have regular squirrels here too, but that's beside the point. The ground squirrels are these funny little furballs who look like tree squirrels until you see then run. They have a weird hoppy gait that I suppose comes from being adapted to dig holes instead of climb trees. Also, they're sometimes fatter than tree squirrels, which goes to show that climbing trees is good excercise, something I've always firmly believed.

If you haven't already figured this out, I like to feel superior by frequently reminding people that I am from a place much better than this one in every way (except that it's really really cold in the winter and humid in the summer and there's this stoic yankee mentality where people don't talk about problems openly, preferring instead the bury em n' fester method). In the same vein, when I'm visiting home I like to point out that in California it's sunny and 70 degrees every day all year long and the streets are paved with gold (although actually- prepare yourself- it rains here sometimes and the cost of living is ridiculous and people are way too wrapped in in their BMWs and ipods and making sure junior will get into Stanford someday even though he's only 3 years old).

I'm thinking about moving to the midwest. I just have to make sure they have eucalyptus trees there. I can quit anytime I want, I just don't want to.