Previously, in Trip's Life...

31 August 2012 - Friday

Yay! It's Friday! Long weekend! And I'm not even on call!

Also no gathering tonight, because Ayse must sleep and sleep.

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30 August 2012 - Thursday

Sheesh, customers.

No gathering tonight, since Marith is still dead from work.

Paw count: steady at 12.0!

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29 August 2012 - Wednesday

The vaguely annoying thing I passed off to Cow Orker M while I was off yesterday seems to have exploded into enormous drama with wailing and gnashing of teeth and emergency meetings and and salespeople and ultimata. Apparently it's our fault that the customer logging in and making arbitrary OS-level changes breaks things. But they're a big customer, so whatever dumb-ass shit they want to pull is okay by us as a matter of Corporate Policy.

Human pack dominance behavior sucks.

Hide Me Among The Graves (Tim Powers) is the sequel to The Stress of Her Regard, in which the evil rocks move on to plaguing Rossettis, veterinarians, and hard-drinking mudlarks. It is about 500 times faster-paced than tSoHR, and contains lots of creepy magic but not too much gross stuff.

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28 August 2012 - Tuesday

Today I blew off work to play with Ja Baby!

I went with Ayse and Ja Baby to the Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose, which is only a short drive from where they will live when they successfully move to Willow Glen, but a longer drive from Mountain View. Ja Baby was kind of tired from sleeping poorly, which is never a good thing in a preschooler, but she is the best preschooler ever so it was not too bad. She played in the bubble zone (the bubble wand was a bit tricky, but she seemed to enjoy it anyway), the room of water and plastic balls (which floated around, flew into the air, got sucked into vortices, and got water all over everyone), the ambulance and fire engine (I have pictures of Ja Baby driving a fire engine all dressed up in firefighter coat and firefighter hat), and the garden with bees and flowers (and lots of leaves that needed to be raked). It was not as awesome as the California Academy of Sciences, and the cafeteria was definitely not as impressive, but Ja Baby seemed to have a good time.

  • Yozakura Quartet 11-12: The end. It did not suddenly pull out something awesome and stop being a disappointment compared to the manga.
  • Shrine of the Morning Mist 11-12: Beach episodes!
  • Nodame Cantabile 15-16: Chiaki has escaped his crazy relatives and is executing his plan! Nodame has extra crazy teacher, though.
  • Welcome to the NHK 9: If the main characters just rehearsed something noncommittal to say when people ask them about themselves, they would be in so much less trouble.

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27 August 2012 - Monday

Boss G is back, but so are the customers. I think next time we need to take up a collection to get him the extended cruise package.

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26 August 2012 - Sunday

This week in Diaspora Effect: not one, but two social combats!

First, the archaeologists who had missed last session got to compete with the Radical Science Ninjas for first authorship on various papers and sole possession of various information from the ancient depiction of spider-bot doom from the mass-effect relays. This was moderately successful, but they did find the pointer to the source of the artifact, which happened to be the same crater the other PCs had learned of from the drug-crazed paranoid Exogeni researcher.

In the cavern beneath the bottom of the crater, our heroic agents of the Special Subcommitte for Pre-Cambrian Threats discovered a green pool that dissolved instrumentation, some more stone tablets, a lot of spider-bot sculptures welded from spaceship fragments, a stasis capsule containing a three-meter-tall Alien Death Bunny that the human's internal AI instinctively hated and feared, and a multi-tonne eight-legged snow lizard. The stasis capsule tried to cycle the ADB back into normal time, but the asari biotic was able to maintain the time-dilation field while the quarian and salarian hacked the equipment to abort the spin-down. There could have been a physical combat, but they averted that by 1) not taunting Happy Fun Omnigoo to excess after it started menacing them, and 2) engaging the snow lizard in reasoned dialog.

Harnu Ers was able to purchase the Alien Death Bunny (who had brought language to the snow lizards millenia ago and warned them never to use it beneath the sky), but the omnigoo was too scary and had to be vaporized as it sat at the focal point of its huge IR telescope. Then they carted the stasis pod off to a tent on an airless moon, opened it, and engaged in three-way social combat with the ADB and each other. Joker did cough up information about the Oravore Protectorate, its clients, and the spidery robotic doom that befell them all 50 000 years ago, but was also acknowledged to be a sophont entitled to the protection of the law and therefore could not be arbitrarily imprisoned or mulched. He can, however, be charged for a lift back to civilization (if tech level 2 can be called that).

The information on the asari's sordid past of tentacular arboreal brainsucking was just a bonus.

Yay Futurama! Bender's Big Score is very silly, and I have to wonder if the evil aliens are supposed to resemble the Fox execs who cancelled the series. Or maybe they're just ugly horrible spammers.

I'm surprised Bender didn't manage to achieve the worst-case outcome.

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25 August 2012 - Saturday

Look, I'm not on call! That means I don't have to do anything useful today except show my kitties to Ja Baby. (I think Ghirardelli is accepting her.)

Okay, laundry is like useful.

The Wild Ways (Tanya Huff) is the sequel to The Enchantment Emporium, in which our intrepid heroine and her extra-special magical powers (as opposed to the regular special magical powers of her relatives) get into more trouble involving lamentably-straight selkie babes, Celtic music festivals, teenaged dragons, and evil oil companies.

Judgment at Proteus (Timothy Zahn) is the fifth and final volume of the "Quadrail" series, in which a brave or maybe crazed human struggles against at least three forces of galactic domination (one emeritus) on the interstellar railways. In the end, cleverness and courage triumph, as is only fitting for space opera.

This setting includes limited telepathy, but it's limited enough to not annoy me.

Unsurprisingly, my first game of Angband was my best so far. I haven't found any artifacts on any of my subsequent runs, although I think I've gotten about that deep in the dungeon before expiring horribly. Still, hope springs eternal.

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24 August 2012 - Friday

We have survived the week! Boss G will be back on Monday, hopefully not bringing the customers with him.

In The Lion's Mouth (Michael Flynn) is the third in a series about heroes in a future that has forgotten that it's possible to suck less. This episode features the chivalric ninjas (they fight from the shadows and make goofy vows) of the main character's background, and their battle over who should collect taxes from the suckage.

Out of charity, I read The Noise Revealed (Ian Whates). It was not any better. There were a couple of ideas that could have been interesting, but there was not enough to support the idea that they were actually interesting instead of word salad I was Rorschaching interestingness onto.

A Night of Blacker Darkness (Dan Wells) is farce featuring forgers, bankers, undertakers, vampire hunters, and alleged vampires in Victorian Bath and London. It is pretty silly.

Thresholds and Meeting (Nina Kiriki Hoffman) are the first two of the "Magic Next Door" series, in which a middle-school girl with a tragic past moves in next door to an extremely peculiar apartment building. Bizarre friends, secret knowledge, dead guys, cute guys, alien symbiotes, obnoxious jerks, secret knowledge, and interdimensional conquest ensue. It reminds me a little of the interstellar-travel sections of Diane Duane's "Young Wizards" books, which I always liked.

Hello, leapy-pawed cats! Hello!

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23 August 2012 - Thursday

Still all quiet on the customer front.

I found The Noise Within (Ian Whates) to be pretty disappointing, mostly because the worldbuilding was at the level I expect from visual scifi.

Marith is all dead from having half of her company stolen by Mormons, so there was no gathering for Lucifer or anything tonight.

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stolen? by Graydon (Thu Aug 30 18:33:34 2012)

That seems grim, stolen by Mormons -- did they saw the building in half, take every second set of office furniture, convert the odd-numbered co-workers?

Re: stolen by mormons by marith (Thu Aug 30 21:39:04 2012)

Option three! It is grim because we liked our coworkers, but on the other hand the Mormons did pay for them. (For some reason they tend to own much of the genealogy market.)

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22 August 2012 - Wednesday

Still hardly any customers! Are they just saving it up for the weekend?

The Replacement (Brenna Yovanoff) is a very fine modern fairy tale, wth a protagonist who has an excellent reason for feeling like he doesn't fit in with everyone else and that they would hate him if they knew the truth about him. More of a reason than just being in high school, I mean.

I think M J Locke is the same person as Laura J Mixon. Anyway, Up Against It is solar-system scale science fiction, set on an asteroid habitat which is having severe resource shortages, but an adequacy of heroic teenagers. Also, Martian mafia.

Arguably 400 years is too soon for viable asteroid colonies, but it's too long for the people and societies as similar to today's as they seemed. (It may be true that SF is all and only about the time and place it was written in, but it should at least try.)

Monster Planet is the conclusion to David Wellington's zombie trilogy, in which many things are resolved but the world is not necessarily made any better and many major characters are definitely not improved. Zombie apocalypse for the lose!

Ayse and Ken and Dave went to negotiate with the landthings of the place in Willow Glen some more, so they asked me to keep an eye on Ja Baby's monitor. Nothing awful happened, and maybe the lease moved one step closer to being signed.

Tin Swift (Devon Monk) is the sequel to Dead Iron, a steampunk/magic adventure in which two werewolves, a witch, three (rather tall) dwarves, and a gadgeteer try to gather the components of an ultimate weapon made by evil fey who want it back. Also: airship pirates, zombies, depraved Civil War generals, and evil surgery.

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21 August 2012 - Tuesday

The customers are remaining ominously quiet.

Partials (Dan Wells) is not as awesome as the "John Cleaver" books, but not much YA fiction is. However, it is full of doom. Humanity has been almost wiped out and the survivors' reproductive rate has dropped to essentially zero, while the upgraded model that did them in is having problems of its own. Also, power corrupts.

A sequel is obviously planned, since so much is left unresolved; hopefully the perfidy of the publishing industry will not thwart it.

Garth Nix mostly writes fantasy, and arguably A Confusion of Princes qualifies because it has psionics, but really it's YA retro space opera about the child of literally superhuman levels of privilege and what happens when he's exposed to reality. The setting reminds me a little of the off-planet parts of Hexwood.

Troubletwisters is also by Garth Nix (and Sean Williams) and also YA, but Y-er and more traditional fantasy. Pre-teen twins discover their crazy relatives are mages, monsters attack, cats give semi-helpful advice, flying is harder than it looks.

Dave made us pizza! The crust was a little tough, but it was entirely like food, and approximately 1376398 times cheaper than Pizza My Heart.

  • Nodame Cantabile 14: It's the Crazy Relative episode!
  • Shrine of the Morning Mist 9-10: Surely the enemy would not be so crass as to attack his target who is sitting alone at home while everyone with special attacks goes off to have the beach episode.
  • Yozakura Quartet 9-10: Apparently they didn't explain it.
  • Welcome to the NHK 7-8: She's even crazier than we thought!

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20 August 2012 - Monday

What, Monday again? Didn't we just have one of these last week?

At least the customers aren't attacking in force while Boss G is away.

Blue Remembered Earth isn't set nearly as far away in time or space as most of Alastair Reynolds's books, although it's a future that would probably be less worrisome than most of the others. However, the parts of the setting that were explored were not always the parts I was interested in. On yet another tentacle, it sounds like there may be a sequel, which could go in directions I appreciate.

Monster Nation (David Wellington) is the prequel to Monster Island, in which we find out how the world got so messed up. It's not completely outside the normal run of zombie apocalypses, but these zombies do have an origin, it's not a standard one, and it is a significant plot point.

Ghirardelli, do not steal the plastic from the trash to chew on!

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19 August 2012 - Sunday



Rachel's birthday part was a lot bigger than Ken's, but possibly had about the same number of people I was more than casually interested in seeing. But that's okay, Rachel was happy to see everyone there, and it's her opinion that counts.

Surprise guest: Erich Schneider, who I hadn't seen in more than 20 years. He sounds almost the same, though.

I got pointers to several interesting books from Carl and Earl, which I will no doubt review here in due course.

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18 August 2012 - Saturday

HAPPY HAPPY KEN-DAY (observed)!!

Besides the usual suspects, we had Mike, and some vampire-LARPing friends of Ken's (who totally have names — Georgia and Darren, I think). Ayse and Dave and Marith chipped in to get Ken Small World, Small World Underground, and Small World Realms, so we conquered some small worlds, ate black forest cake, ate Chinese delivery, and cheered Ken.

Marith and her cow orker Andy got assigned to entertain her cow orker Sarah while she's in town, so I went with her for moral support to an amateur production of Run For Your Wife, a farce about a bigamist, his fairly inept best friend (played by another of Marith's cow orkers, which is why she went), his two wives, a couple of police officers, and a long series of humorous misunderstandings. I laughed a lot, but there was really not any way in which this show did not reinforce the patriarchy.

I only said hi to Marith's cow orker Sarah, but she seemed like a reasonable approximation of a human. We gave Andy a ride from the BART station and to the light rail station, so I talked to him a bit more. He also seems pretty reasonable.

I saw The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For (Alison Bechdel) in the library, and remembered the author's name from the Bechdel Test, so I picked it up. I had actually read some about a million years ago, back in the 80s when it was new (this collection covers from the early 80s through the lat 00s), but only a little bit. I liked it, although it is sad to think that there are so many Americans to whom the lifestyle depicted are alien and horrible.

The Bush regime really did make everything visibly worse, didn't it?

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17 August 2012 - Friday

Perhaps I should not have eaten so much animal parts at the company barbecue. Blurgh.

Boss G has gone on a well-deserved vacation for the next week and a half. None of us is officially in charge during his absence, but I'm the most senior of the people on this continent, so I get to go to his meetings.

Volume 35 of Negima! (Ken Akamatsu) continues the great battle against the forces of planetary destruction, which is spilling over into the normal world. We have been told about the ultimate, or maybe penultimate, villain, but not seen it in action yet.

32 Fangs is pretty definitively the last volume of David Wellington's vampire pentalogy. Many people die, some of them deservedly; a few people live, some of them deservedly. At the end, the world is safe from the vampire menace... or is it?

Before he wrote five vampire books, David Wellington wrote three zombie books, of which Monster Island is the first. These zombies are not unfortunate but well-adjusted sufferers of some viral malady, they are the nigh-mindless walking dead who feast on living flesh and there is no natural explanation for them (probably). Being trapped on Manhattan with several million of them is not much fun.

Aspen's tummy is so fluffy and cute! It is very sad that she doesn't let me fuzzle it.

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16 August 2012 - Thursday

Remote training has finally ended.

Cosmic Patrol is allegedly GM-less, but in fact the GM hat just rotates around the table for each of the three or four scenes of the adventure. Other than that, it's a pretty typical indie system, although the list of cues and tags a character gets seems pretty unwieldy even compared to early FATE's 10 Aspects.

I understand why one would want to preempt the desire to engage in endless worldbuilding, but games that explicitly encourage meaningless technobabble because that's how it is in bad movies still rub me the wrong way.

I still want to make a pulp SF game that I find satisfactory, but perhaps I need to move to Idaho so my time isn't taken up with commuting and having friends and stuff.

At the last possible minute, we flipped the coin for whether we would have Earthdawn, and it came up BZZT. That was the last Thursday we could possibly have had until next summer, so we'll have to find a weekend to have the last combat round of the campaign and Ken's description of how Throal is destroyed.

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15 August 2012 - Wednesday

More training Webex, but less interesting, or at least less relevant to my job.

For some reason, reading the jacket copy of Hidden (Kelley Armstrong) made me think I had read the previous books in the series, but apparently I can't distinguish between werewolf serieses.

Volume 35 of Negima! (Ken Akamatsu) is out, so I reread volume 34 in preparation. Look, bonus villains!

It's true that part of my dinner is made out of grass, cats, but you don't want to help me eat it because the other part is spicy.

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14 August 2012 - Tuesday

I spent most of the day listening to a training Webex on something I can't talk about. Blargh.

Sharps (K J Parker) is secondary-world, but not fantasy, about a bunch of schmucks dragooned into touring a neighboring country as the official fencing team with bonus diplomatic maneuvering. I found it pretty funny in an absurdity-of-life way, but it is extremely cynical and somewhat dark.

ICONS has definite FATE ancestry in its aspects and Fate points, but it uses d6-d6 and a 1-10 scale for stats and powers (skills are just specializations of stats). It also doesn't have consequences or concessions, just hit points. The powers are pretty free-form, random character generation seems to be the default (balanced by characters with more powers having a lower refresh (high stats count as powers; nice try, bricks)), the setting is four-color cheese to the extent that it exists at all. I can see using this for a pick-up game, but it seems too simple to be satisfying for a campaign.

  • Nodame Cantabile 12-13: They are entering the next stage!
  • Yozakura Quartet 8: I'm sure they will explain what she was doing next time. Probably. Maybe.
  • Shrine of the Morning Mist 5-8: "I got a shrubbery."
  • Welcome to the NHK 6: He looked like an idiot, but at least he looked like an idiot in a room full of people! Still no idea what the mystery girl's deal is, though.

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13 August 2012 - Monday

One-seventh of my life is being spent on Mondays. How did it come to this?

Eight paws of friendliness and four paws that know the truth behind the terrible looming monster's pretence of friendship!

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12 August 2012 - Sunday

Today there was no gaming because Rachel, Jeremy, and Earl are all out of town. I didn't socialize at all. I read some, went shopping, downloaded and tried out some roguelikes, and was generally completely useless.

  • FayAngband: Allegedly updated recently, but the interface feels pretty primitive. The distinctive thing that justifies it being a separate branch seems to be that whenever you go down the stairs in the town, you end up one or two (your choice) levels below the lowest you've ever been, and whenever you go up stairs in the dungeon, you end up in the town. Oh, and being able to sell items is a rogue special ability.
  • NLarn: It's like larn only with color and weight limits and stuff! The interface feels clunky, though, because it involves a lot of scrolling through lists with the arrow keys.
  • Angband: Yay! It's angband! Everybody likes angband! Angband goes, "You see the phial of Galadriel"!

Okay, I also petted cats pretty extensively.

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11 August 2012 - Saturday

Marmalade didn't leap on the tentacle-ball when Ja Baby threw it for him, but later he demonstrated the Rake Thing for her.

Ayse found a place in Willow Glen (a suburb of San Jose) that she wanted to have brunch at, and also a house in Willow Glen that she wanted to look at because it is not a million dollars per month to rent, so there was an expedition with Ken and Dave and Ja Baby, and also me because I had nothing better to do after Ja Baby finished admiring my cats.

The house was fairly large for the price they were asking, and had a pretty big yard with trees upon which food grows, but a bit run-down and in a neighborhood with many other run-down houses and a few houses undergoing active renovation. Ja Baby did approximately 754 pretend rhythmic gymnastic routines and ran in 2985 circles in the empty upstairs rooms and agreed that she could live there, especially if it meant she got to go swimming in the jacuzzi. The grownups were less certain (it is a couple of kilometers from downtown San Jose, which Ken regards as being equivalent to the middle of Nebraska), but unless Ken is suddenly promoted to CEO, they aren't going to be able to afford a house anywhere near that size anywhere near SF. I don't know what I will do if everyone I know moves to San Jose. Move to San Jose too, I guess, or maybe move to Portland.

Bill's Cafe was crammed full of very loud people who stole our parking spot, but had good food. Bread pudding French toast!

Ayse and Marith and I went to La Fondue, because we could. Ayse and Marith talked about psychology a lot and I listened to them, and we ate a pile of fondue bigger than our heads. They no longer have Savage Wild Duck, but they do have Nilgai Antelope. I liked the duck better, but you can get duck lots of places.

Because Ayse wanted to escape while Ja Baby was napping, we had dinner at 16:00, and the sun was still high in the sky when we finished, but we did not have energy to do anything else today.

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10 August 2012 - Friday

Not only is it Friday, I'm not on call this weekend!

Volume 2 of American Vampire (Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque, Mateus Santolouco) moves on to Las Vegas in 1936. Satisfying as it is to see the old-style vampires get theirs, I wish the American vampires would too.

I don't know what part of history Into the Hinterlands is based on, but it's by David Drake (and some Brit named John Lambshead of whom I had not previously heard) so it probably is. Regardless, the original events probably did not have hyperspace bicycles. In fact, I'm not sure I've seen anything with hyperspace bicycles before. Pity they're silly even within the constraints given. (Not as silly as the non-pedal-powered vessels, though — Lambshead is supposedly a marine biologist, so you'd think he'd know something about the properties of water!)

Mercantilism sucks.

I had to look up how long I've been living in my current pit, which lead to reading back nine years. I had so many more friends then, and did so much more stuff. I even wrote, although I counterbalanced that with playing too much zangband. Apparently I am doing something wrong with my life.

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9 August 2012 - Thursday

After being stalled for a week trying to write game reviews (and not coming up with anything worth the wait), I am finally caught up here.

Eh, work.

After a lot of planning and arguing (I have a much stronger appreciation for Agon now), we finally got buy-in for whacking the false Senator from Dwarves of Stature (who will completely disavow us if anything goes wrong) and decided to jump him on his morning walk through the city to the Grand Market. Despite our belief that he couldn't be a Horror, when Beatrice dispelled his digusise, he was revealed as a giant fleshy jellyfish-thing covered with human eyes and mouths. It immediately struck everyone except Tom and Beatrice helpless with terror, so not only will the next session be the grand finale of the '12 gaming season, it may also be the last session of the campaign.

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8 August 2012 - Wednesday

Cow Orker A is out due to a family emergency today, but it sounds like things will be okay, and the customers are not attacking.

Railsea (China Miéville) is set in a world where everything except a few highland islands is covered in a maze of train tracks and brave trainspeople hunt giant moles and other oversized burrowing creatures with harpoons. There is a captain who hunts a giant albino mole, but other people on other quests as well.

There are plenty of science-fiction trappings, but other bits that can't be justified except as fantasy. Perhaps I am only saying, "This is a Miéville book". Regardless, it is one of the most inventive settings I have seen in quite a while.

American Vampire is about, surprise, a new and horrible variety of vampire, endemic to the US. Volume one (Scott Snyder, Stephen King, Rafael Albuquereque) is the origin story of the first of this breed, who is a terrible person, in the late 1800s, and some of the trouble he causes in the early 1900s (including making more vampires, who try to not be terrible people).

Mutant vampires. I hate those guys.

Continue being fluffy and non-horking, Chococat!

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7 August 2012 - Tuesday

Still cleaning up the customers that exploded last week, but there haven't been any more major catastrophes so far this week.

Joe the Barbarian (Grant Morrison, Sean Murphy) is the story of a young boy who is either visiting a bizarre dream-like fantasy world, or having severe hypoglycemic hallucinations. The dream world is pleasingly surreal without being completely incoherent.

In a world where the entire aristocracy of Europe is vampires or werewolves, God Save The Queen (Kate Locke) still manages to have some I'm-a-monster angst. But not very much. Mostly there's conspiracies and fighting and silly slang for consumer electronics and hot Scottish werewolf sex[1].

[1] This appears to be mandatory for stories set in any alternate UK that has werewolves.

  • Nodame Cantabile 11: Finally the Perverted White Guy is gone, and Chiaki can go back to ruining his life himself.
  • Yozakura Quartet 6-7: I told you Kotoha was crazy. But the manga version is still better in pretty much every way.
  • Shrine of the Morning Mist 3-4: Even by the standards of male anime characters, this one is impressively passive. Fortunately for the plot, all the female characters are crazy.
  • Welcome to the NHK 4-5: Now that he's had the courage to admit his prevarication, surely nothing can go wrong with the rest of his life!

Hurray, Ghirardelli does not seem to have horked while I was away! I will not feel obligated to take him to the vet at this juncture!

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6 August 2012 - Monday

Yay, I'm not on call any more! Boo, it's Monday!

Cow Orker M apparently had a terrible weekend and is out, but customers are not attacking today (much).

The Three Incestuous Sisters (Audrey Niffenegger) does not contain any overt incest, but it does contain three sisters and also magic realism. The full-page pictures with one-sentence captions gives it a charming silent-movie feel.

Ghirardelli is still horking. If he keeps this up tomorrow, I will have to take Wednesday off to lug him to the vet. :(

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5 August 2012 - Sunday

Customer X successfully followed the procedure we practiced on Friday, and no one died. However, Customer X2 exploded for inexplicable reasons. We put them back together, but it was not entirely like weekend chillaxing.

Only seven volumes of Princess Resurrection (Yasunori Mitsunaga) have published (unless you read German in which case you get nine) and no more seem likely to come out, so I had to find scanlations. But now I have read all of that, and it is still not finished! The teaser for the last volume (the scanlations have the tankoubon covers, so I can tell where the divisions are) claims that the final arc is beginning, which is consistent with how much Hime and her minions have levelled up and how much she has been forced to crush her foes.

Do not fail me, Scanlation Primates!

(The latest chapter was posted just a couple of weeks ago, so things look hopeful.)

Gyo (Junji Ito) is grotesque in a way I never would have thought of. There are only tow volumes, but that's all it takes to kill off all vertebrate life on Earth in a horrifying and smelly way, and replace it with something incomprehensible to humans.

Ghirardelli, if you continue to be Horking Cat, you will have to go to the vet again, and nobody wants that!

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4 August 2012 - Saturday

Yay brunch! Yay Ja Baby! Boo Tigris & Euphrates, which I lost by a huge margin, and would have lost even if Dave hadn't drawn exactly the improbable set of tiles he was about to need on at least three occasions. Yay broccoli pasta!

There was discussion of what, if anything, we might play on alternate Saturdays. I tried to persuade Ayse to run Amber, but realistically speaking, she's not going to have enough spoons to do it for years to come. Also, if Ja Baby enters a non-napping phase, we probably won't be able to game anyway.

Customers did not attack.

The second book, Moon Over Soho (Ben Aaronovitch), deals with completely different supernatural skullduggery than the previous book, setting up what looks to be a long-running plotline.

Go, Lesley!

Who's Been Sleeping in Your Head? (Brett Kahr) is from a study the author did about sexual fantasies among humans. The results are more or less what you'd expect — practically all humans have sexual fantasies, these fantasies vary wildly, lots of them should remain fantasies, most people know this — but Kahr is a follower of Freud, so when he tries to explicate how people come to have the fantasies they do, it gets pretty... Freudian. You'd think somewhere there would be someone who didn't have any major childhood traumas.

Apparently I am a huge freak.

Ghirardelli, do not be a horking cat! Sigh.

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3 August 2012 - Friday

Customer X has scheduled a complicated procedure for Sunday, which I will be on call for. Fortunately we managed to get them to complete the procedure successfully on a test system, and they are pretty ept (if somewhat crazed), so it might not go horribly wrong.

Reading Whispers Under Ground (Ben Aaronovitch) inspired me to reread the first two books in the series. Midnight Riot is still awesome, and full of doom. And ghosts. And more doom. And hot river spirits. Who are full of doom.

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2 August 2012 - Thursday

Having exploded, the customers now burn merrily.

No Earthdawn because Mike is doing something family-related. I stayed up too late reading Whispers Under Ground (Ben Aaronovitch)m third in the series about young copper Peter Grant and the seamy magical underbelly of London. It was not quite as swell as the first two, but still pretty darn good.

Cats are fuzzy.

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1 August 2012 - Wednesday

Customers, why do you explode?

Maybe I should send these cats to shed on the customers.

Live and Let Drood is by Simon R Green, which is arguably all the description one needs.

Early Dark has some problems.

  • Gratuitously novel and capitalized terminology. It's not quite Allocating Motes from your Immaculum against Hostiles, but I'm pretty sure there are widely-understood terms for most of this stuff.
  • Self-congratulation. Your stats are not conceptually different than stats in other games just because you're real roleplayers.
  • A surfeit of background detail. 150 pages is a bit much for most players to internalize, and it's written as an historical overview, which is less convenient for playing a character from one of the peoples described.

That said, it does have some good bits. The fictional cultures were made by combining one historical culture that's currently glorified and one that's not: Egyptian + Indian, old Norse + Inuit, Han China + Olmec, Native American + Greco-Roman, Persian + Celt. One could argue all day about how good the results are, but it's at least an interesting idea.

There are two kinds of magic, one based on understanding and sometimes adjusting the tapestry of fate and the other based on the seamy underbelly of reality where everything is tangles and frayed ends and doom.

The basic mechanic is: roll a pile of d10s determined by one kind of stat (4-9d10 for a beginning character) and sort them into groups that total no more than a target number set by another kind of stat (2-10 for a beginning character). For a simple roll, you just want to make one group as big as possible, but in more complex situations, you may need to make multiple groups of at least a certain size to succeed at multiple actions, or deploy groups of one or two dice for minor actions like activating powers or breaking out of entangles. This seems like a pretty good rich-dice mechanic that reduces to simplicity when you only need a simple result.

Combat involves whittling down the enemy's DCV until you think you can get a strike through to inflict actual wounds, which is hardly unique but is a mechanic I like.

Experience is in the form of epithets: you go from Zargul the Creepy to Zargul the Creepy, Master of Darkness, ..., Zargul the Creepy, Master of Darkness, Slayer of Tens of Thousands, Brother of the Moon, Who Brought Forth The Great Beast, etc. To get an epithet, you have to have an adventure worth X experience in one lump — no piddling around for ages! When you qualify, you get to pick so many points worth of new stats, skills, special techniques, and other plusses that go with the epithet, and you then get to actually use those bonuses once you spend enough social capital (gained from playing to your social connections over the course of the game). This seems like a pretty good way of doing levels, although levels have to be larger than in D&D or WoW.

So, some tentacles up, some tentacles down.

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