Previously, in Trip's Life...

30 July 2015 - Thursday

Marmalade's glucose is still twice what it should be, but half what it was last week, and the doctor says that it often continues to decline for a few weeks even without changing the dosage, so we see that he is still an excellent cat. Also, it turns out that a couple of hours one way or the other doesn't make a big difference in the effectiveness of the puncturing, so I can do evening things a couple days each week. Hurray!

Technomancer and The Bone Triangle (BV Larson) are urban fantasy set in Las Vegas (which seems to be the new popular place but at least these books have a reason for being set in Nevada), with an interesting magic system and a good temporary-alliance-of-convenience-not-friendship relationship.

Prophet of the Badlands (Matthew S Cox) is set half in a post-apocalyptic wasteland of shattered cities and street-sign-armored barbarians, and half in a high-tech city with interstellar travel, which are sitting right next to each other. This is just one of many things that doesn't make much sense in this book. Read Stranger (below) instead.

The Thousand Emperors (Gary Gibson) is pretty standard SF for this decade. Alien wormhole network, unlimited doom, bioconservatives vs transhumans, killer robots, tyranny, the usual.

Belt Three (John Ayliff) is another book from The Big Idea. I think we needed to see more physical decline to make the intellectual decline of the doomed civilization believable; it looked like they were successfully running an interplanetary civilization, which made some of the stuff discussed in tBI seem less plausible. Good use of characters who were both admirable and despicable, though.

Stranger (Sherwood Smith, Rachel Manija Brown) is the first in an interesting YA series. It is post-apocalyptic but not dystopian — sometimes life is hard, but no one is setting out to make it harder than necessary except for their actual enemies — and sometimes there are superpowers. Something is clearly going on with that, but we will have to wait for a later book (there are four planned) to find out what. Many extra bonus points for same-sex or even poly relationships being completely okay by everyone, even the people in Villaintown.

Despite being written almost twenty years later, Feng Shui 2 is not that different from the original Feng Shui. There aren't general stats any more (the few that got used have been promoted to first-level entities and the rest discarded, leaving skills standing on their own), but aside from the name changes, someone who hasn't played since 1996 could probably leap right in to the system.

The four primary junctions (what an inauspicious number!) have changed slightly: 69AD closed but was replaced by the 7th century so the eunuchs were able to perpetuate their misrule the hard way; the present day is now 2015; the future is also 20 years further along and the world has been destroyed (oops); and 1850 is still 1850 (don't ask, nobody knows). Netherworld, Four Monarches, Ascended, cybermonkeys, etc are all slightly modified but still essentially themselves, kind of. You can still play a Chow Yun Fat character or a Jet Li character or Jack Burton or a horrible monster or a variety of other HK Action Cinema archetypes, so you could even bring 1st ed characters out of retirement, to rebuild the Dragons and save the world again now that these punk kids have let the Ascended stomp all over it.

I have no idea whether new Shadowfist expansions use the modified background.

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26 July 2015 - Sunday

Ghirardelli: "Where's the food? Dad? Why is the food gone? I ate some last night, but now there's no food! Dad, why isn't there food on the food tree? I'm hungry! I'm so hungry! Dad, you have never fed me in my entire life EVER! How can you sleep at me?!"

On the other hand, if he is hungry, he will eat his medicinal yummies and not have to be force-fed, so that's a win.

Aspen is used to eating when there are no thumb-monsters to watch, so I hope she is getting enough to eat, but I think she is. She definitely eats up all her gooshyfood, and I am pretty sure she is eating her crunchyfood when I put it in her hiding place.

Marmalade is just fine with meal-feeding, it turns out, although he doesn't like being punctured very much.

Marith completely coincidentally happened to be in Mountain View in the afternoon, so she dragged me to anime after I fed the cats. We did not have enough time to watch six episodes, but we also had no Ken, so I guess it worked out?

  • Chihayafuru 2.21-22: Chihaya turns her brain upsidedown for the... slightly less crushing defeat.
  • Sword Art Online 21: We already knew he was evil, sheesh.
  • Natsume's Book of Friends 3.10-11: Youkai cause trouble. Natsume tries to keep his friends from getting any of it on them. Heartwarming ensues.

Marion G Harmon's "Wearing the Cape" series (Wearing the Cape, Villains Inc., Omega Night (novella), Young Sentinels, Small Town Heroes, the spinoff Bite Me: Big Easy Nights, and probably more to come) is fairly standard prose supers, or maybe prose fairly standard supers, with a definite but unexplained single origin and superheroes who spend more time saving people from disasters than fighting supervillains. The heroine somehow gets involved in the all the supervillain fighting, of course, but is cute and engaging and so horrified at the sketchy aspects of celebrity.

The Baba Yaga (Eric Brown & Una McCormack) has rumors of mysterious anthropophagic aliens, but otherwise could be 70s Cold War espionage just as well.

Worlds In Peril (Kyle Simons) is Superheroes Powered by the Apocalypse.It's a multi-playbook variant, where you get one playbook based on your origin and one based on your heroic motivation, and can unlock more motivation playbooks and the moves on them by acting on your feels in the fiction (this is the primary method of advancement). The stats and moves seem reasonable, but there are two key elements that I am dubious about.

The major way of pulling heroic success out of the bag of poor rolls is reducing the strength of bonds (of which you normally have a bunch). But, it's very unclear what the results should be. It's not like the Apocalypse Engine is written for rules lawyers in the way any version of D&D is, but it's at least concrete about being vague: "the GM will offer you a hard bargain or a worse outcome", "you're stuck half in and half out", etc. When you burn a bond, sometime later you have to roleplay the relationship getting somehow not as good. I expect most groups can come up with something, but it doesn't feel like it fits with the rest of the system.

Powers are also very poorly defined. You write down one thing that's easy for you to do with your powers, one thing that's difficult, one thing that you could maybe do if you pushed, one thing that's theoretically possible, and one thing that's not possible, and that's pretty much all anyone has to go on. Again, it's not like Apocalypse Engine nails things down precisely with mechanics, and everyone has the same basic moves available regardless of how their powers let them narrate the action, but it still seems fuzzier than I would like.

None of that withstanding, I wish I had more gamers so I could try it out.

anime by marithlizard (Mon Aug 3 07:15:33 2015)

Fear my powers of coincidence!

I will be very pleased if at some point Natsume is forced to reveal his secret to his aunt and uncle, only to have them calmly say Yes dear, we were pretending not to notice since you seemed to want it that way.

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22 July 2015 - Wednesday

Well, now I know why Marmalade drinks so much water, and what to do about it, but no one is going to be happy. It is the end of the Golden Age of Free Feeding, and the beginning of the Oppressive Meal Feeding, plus Marmalade has to be punctured twice a day at fairly consistent times, which means I can't easily go to San Jose in the evening (or stay late at work).

Next Thursday I have to take Marmalade back in for a test to see how well he is doing under the new regime. I am hoping that he will be doing so well that he only need to be punctured once a day, but it is all up in the air.

The new VP of Marketing stole my desk while I was at the vet. This is not a good sign. I mean, he offered to give it back when I got in, but still!

Finally, the Stone Thief is revealed! Sadly, it ate the temple of the frogmonks who were polite to us, but at least it did not eat us, even though it puked up orcs and landsharks at us. No one is in any doubt that we are going to have to feed ourselves to it, though.

I did remember one bit from the third book of the Sherwood Smith/Dave Trowbridge series, A Prison Unsought, so apparently I read that far before, but The Rifter's Covenant seemed new. And argh, the fifth book is not available as an ebook yet!

The Venusian Gambit (Michael J Martinez) concludes the trilogy of crossover between Napoleonic alchemy wars and future space exploitation, but not really very satisfyingly. I still think it would have been better if had been all alchemy.

Marmalade by marithlizard (Tue Jul 28 09:10:12 2015)

Well, they do say cats and their owners resemble each other more and more as time goes on...

(Wait. Does this mean Marmalade might have a secret Internet girlfriend? Better check your chat logs.)

Re: Marmalade by Trip (Wed Jul 29 08:53:22 2015)

Any 14-year-old knows to hide his Internet history from Egregious Authority! So we may never know!

Hey I am not secret =) by Avalon (Thu Jul 30 11:25:18 2015)

I am not secret!

And no, it is not the end of all good things. =)

re: Marmalade and secret Internet girlfriends by marithlizard (Thu Jul 30 17:03:50 2015)

Oh I didn't mean you were secret, Avalon! Just that if Marmalade has a romantic and/or Internet life, he keeps it secret from us :)

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19 July 2015 - Sunday

Finally, anime! Also, BLTs!

  • Chihayafuru 2.19-20: No, Chihaya, you cannot become ambidextrous with a simple Ego roll.
  • Martian Successor Nadesico 24: Ubiquitous Righteousness FTL!
  • Sword Art Online 19-20: Go, Asuna!
  • Natsume's Book of Friends 3.9: I'm almost certain Natsume was able to punch a youkai like that back in the first season. Is he losing his powers as he makes more human connections?

I had never been to a water park, so I went with Ayse and Ken and Jus and Nonny to Raging Waters. (Marith had to work, and Dave doesn't like splashy fun.) Now I have been to a water park, and am not even dead of sunburn, although I am tired and dehydrated. I only got to go down one big waterslide, which was bumpy but exciting, but there was lots of other water. Jus didn't go down any of the small slides, until she finally nerved herself up and discovered that water slides are the best thing ever. Perhaps even better than that.

Three and a half stars, would sploosh again.

I was disappointed that "Please Do Not Taunt The Octopus" (Mira Grant) is not related to "Rolling in the Deep" and does not even have a lot of octopus action, but it does have Newsflesh mad scientists.

"Penric's Demon" (Lois McMaster Bujold) is a novella set in the "World of the Five Gods", about a poor random schmoe and the Bastard's demon he inherits. It turns out that not being a jerk is a good strategy for a lot of things.

I had a vague memory of having read Sherwood Smith and Dave Trowbridge's "Exordium" space-opera series, but didn't remember much except that I like Smith, so when Amazon showed them to me I seized them, but after reading The Phoenix in Flight and Ruler of Naught I think I might have only read the first one, since almost all the bits I remembered were in there. Anyway, fairly reasonable space opera, plus strange psionic-religious stuff that didn't make me spit.

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16 July 2015 - Thursday


Happy happy Avalon-day! by marithlizard (Fri Jul 17 02:38:02 2015)

Many happy Avalonian returns!

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15 July 2015 - Wednesday

After about a million years, I have caught up on megatokyo. There was not really a huge amount of it after the sixth printed volume, which explains why there hasn't been a seventh. However, it is full of feels and cute girls, including a foxgirl, and allegedly chapter 12 will start any month now.

Despite the foxgirl, chapter 11 was kind of a downer, possibly because a building collapsing in Piro's world is much different than one being cratered by an orbital laser strike in Largo's. Also, now that we might know something about Miho's backstory, it seems like the whole thing has to come to an end fairly soon.

The Devil's Apprentice (Jan Siegel) is a novel about a motley group of teenagers who come into possession of a magical time machine (kind of), but it is also about the devil (kind of), which feels a little mismatched to me. But the part of the action with teenagers is pretty amusing.

Ken has seized control of 13th Age again, and we are hot on the trail of information about the Stone Thief. Surely it is not a bad sign when people searching for the largest and most voracious living dungeon in the world are awakened in the middle of the night by an ominous rumble, right?

megatokyo by marithlizard (Fri Jul 17 10:42:17 2015)

So many feels! And foxgirl! And ninja!

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12 July 2015 - Sunday

This week seems a lot longer than last week. I think it's defective.

In a complete upheaval of the natural order Ken provided burrito fillings this week and Jacob provided 13th Age content. I can't help but think that playing a lot of a system where only one person is called the Storyteller would lead to railroading, although Ken says that the Vampire LARP is not really that way.

No anime this week, because Dave is walking one zillion kilometers today. Or something like that. We tried to watch something else, but only succeeded in destroying Dave's AV setup, so we had to play Dominion instead. I got my engine of Prosperity down to seven cards before I started scooping up colonies, but Ken won with his immense stock of Grand Markets. Bah!

For once, the PAD&D5 PCs did not wake up in imprisonment or exile after being beaten senseless! They did get mugged by the hags' sugar-based home security, but Zach got a magic key of mysterious density, so that was fine. Then, they snuck back into town to begin the thunderbolt hijacking, got rumbled by the MPs, stole their zeppelin after a very Feng Shui fight, beat up the enemy commander and his lieutenant and stole their lightning skates, and launched themselves in a thunderbolt.

Level UP! Fifth level gets many people double attacks and other fun stuff, but third-level warlock spells are kind of meh. I think I need to just stop thinking of Zach as a caster and accept that he's effectively an archer with a few (very few) tricks.

Hurray, more John Cleaver books! After the original three books, I had heard that there weren't going to be any more, but now there is The Devil's Only Friend (Dan Wells) and apparently a couple more planned for after it. If anything, tDOF is even bleaker then the original three books, because there are people who think they are qualified to hunt demons. This goes as well as you might expect. (The novella "Next of Kin" tells part of the same story from another point of view.)

Residue (Steve Diamond) was blurbed by Dan Wells, but although it is modern fantasy with monsters annoying small-town teenagers, it is not nearly as well-written.

Speaking of other points of view, the sixth "Laundry" novel, The Annihilation Score (Charles Stross), is from Mo's PoV, which is not entirely complimentary to Bob. Also, there is a lot of doom and some spandex and the odd bit of mass civilian death, because it's not like CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN ever moves backwards from one book to the next, nor do humans get any less short-sighted.

Nethereal (Brian Niemeier) starts as magic-powered space travel, but the characters then get pulled into weird stuff from their mythology, which is simultaneously too many levels removed and too much like our mythology to be very interesting. If there had been a whole book of pirates and smugglers and mages to form a baseline for the characters and their world before it got turned upsidedown, it would have worked a lot better.

Many things happen in The Price of Valor (Django Wexler), but the characters don't end up in a significantly different position than at the end of the previous book, or even the beginning of the previous book. Hopefully the next volume will get over the middle-bookness and have more stuff happen about demons and artifacts and superpowers, instead of just with them.

It got blurbed by Jim Butcher, but I found Black Magic Woman (Justin Gustainis) kind of disappointing. The supernatural aspects are extremely generic — I would expect more imagination from network TV. Bringing in African magical traditions is a little unusual, but of course it's the most gruesomely sensational and overhyped one imaginable.

The "Blood Ladders" trilogy, An Heir To Thorns And Steel, By Vow And Royal Bloodshed, and On Wings Of Bone And Glass, has actual elves and magic, rather than the psychic space elves in MCA Hogarth's other series, but these are not what you would call wise and peaceful ancient people of the forest. In fact, they pretty much suck, which is about 80% of the conflict. But there is more doom, beginning but not ending with the protagonist's chronic illness (which I thought was well-handled, although it's not like I know from health issues). And, foxgirls!

Two Necromancers, An Army Of Golems, And A Demon Lord (LG Estrella) did not have enough novelty to be worth a second book.

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5 July 2015 - Sunday

No Wednesday 13th Age because Ken was busy packing up his kids for Roseville.

Thursday I took off from work to go up to Roseville, but it turned out Marith couldn't get away, so I spent the day being completely useless and we went up late that night. We got lost, or at least misplaced, four times, which may be a new record for Worst Navigator Ever. Go me! (Just don't ask where we're going, although you might have better luck asking when we'll get there.)

Roseville vacation was much as usual, plus fireworks. This is the first year Jus has been deemed old enough to stay up to see them (her usual bedtime is abotu 18:30 because her parents believe that sleep deprivation is bad for children). It was very exciting.

Somehow Ken managed to persuade people to play 13th Age, so we spent a lot of Friday and some of Saturday doing that. The GMing was terrible, and some of the players were silly, but a two-headed hellhound was successfully retrieved from goblins with no important fatalities.

Jus has been taking swimming lessons, so she can put her face in the water and go in the shallow end by herself and such, and now that Nonny (fka Ta Baby) has decided to like the pool, he wants to do all that stuff too. Cheerfully! Even when thwarted!

Al and Sherilyn were wonderful hosts, as usual, and it was very sad to leave, but we did not get lost on the way back and it was nice to be in my own pit with my own fuzzy monsters.

Lots of reading this past week:

Chronicles of Eden vol 1 (Alexander Gordon) has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, and I do not recommend wasting any of your precious seconds of mortal existence on it.

Alchemystic, Stonecast, and Incarnate (Anton Strout) are urban fantasy with gargoyles and artists and scoundrels and a bit of romance. I liked Strout's other series better, although I only read the first couple of books.

Volumes 2-3 of The Sacred Blacksmith (Isao Miura, Kotaro Yamada) continue the same combination of traditional Japanese swordsmithing, demon-summoning, and cheesecake from volume 1.

The protagonist of Selene (Lilith Saintcrow) can only recharge her magic powers by having sex, and leaks pheromones when she's low on power, so this is pretty steamy even for vampire romance.

Rich Man's War, the sequel to Poor Man's Fight (Elliott Kay), gets the hero involved in more PTSD-inducing situtations, and makes his homeworld seem both more and slightly less sympathetic. The corporatarchy (it's a word now!) goes from merely money-grubbing to mass-murdering, though, which more than makes up for any shenanigans on the good guys' part.

The Lost Fleet: Beyond The Frontier: Leviathan (Jack Campbell) cleans up the last major threat and does not introduce a new one, so perhaps it is the end of the main series? There is at least one spinoff still going on, though.

Marith reads The Big Idea semi-quasi(?)-regularly, so she found out about The Library at Mount Char (Scott Hawkins) first, but I think I read it first. It is pretty swell, although also weird and full of horrible stuff, because power corrupts, and power beyond human ken... It reminds me somewhat of Bad Magic (Stephan Zielinski), despite not being very similar in most ways.

The heroine of The Awesome (Eva Darrows) is a monster hunter, with a crazy monster-hunting mother, but also a teenager, and the intersection of the two makes her life miserable. Among other things, she wants to get certified to hunt vampires, but vampires freak out at the prospect of virgin blood, but most guys are pretty lame, etc. But, she is awesome.

It's by Kaori Yuki, so possibly it will get weirder later, but the first volume of Alice in Murderland seems pretty straight-forward "battle to the death for my amusement and also you have superpowers". There is plenty of scope for creepy sibling incest, though (because Kaori Yuki would never do wholesome sibling incest).

So Cute It Hurts!! vol 1 (Go Ikeyamada) also has siblings, but no sign of twincest, just taking each other's places at school and causing unexpected romance with their different abilities. But it's only volume 1.

Apparently I have forgotten all of childhood, because although Augie & The Green Knight (Zach Weinersmith, Boulet) is definitely a children's book, I am not sure exactly which children it is for. The main character is nine, so probably somehere around there? Or maybe older? Maybe I underestimate children, and everyone who can read it, should!

Volume 5 of Witchcraft Works (Ryu Mizunagi) introduces more bizarre characters with very strange designs, but otherwise the conflict proceeds. Less romantic action in this volume, but the female lead gets to appear in something other than her school uniform for once.

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