So I'm buying a new desktop PC because the one I'm using now is sad and slow. What's the general configuration of a lower-middle-end machine these days? I would like it to be able to convert video files from one format to another or run casual games like the Mystery Case Files series without having to close down every other program, but I don't need to do complex video editing or high-end gaming or anything like that.

Some more Hugo-eligible short fiction that I've read and liked:

"Three Twilight Tales," Jo Walton, Firebirds Soaring (mostly not in bookstores any more, but try your local library)

"The Pirate Captain's Daughter," Yoon Ha Lee, Beneath Ceaseless Skies

"A Journal of Certain Events of Scientific Interest from the First Survey Voyage of the Southern Waters by HMS Ocelot, As Observed by Professor Thaddeus Boswell, DPhil, MSc -or- A Lullaby,", Helen Keeble, Strange Horizons

"And Their Lips Rang with the Sun," Amal El-Mohtar, Strange Horizons

Still reading . . .

And a recommendation: Readability, a browser bookmarklet you can customize to, well, make web pages readable.

So I'm trying to actually read some short fiction before nominating for the Hugos this year, partly because I don't have a lot of time and partly because I'm not very enthusiastic about 2009 novels as a whole.

I've seen:

I have a copy of the anthology Federations which I am slowly working my way through. I've put in a library request for Firebirds Soaring because [livejournal.com profile] papersky's story in it is getting a lot of attention.

So: What have you read that you've liked? What have you published that's eligible? (If you're modest, you can post your eligible lists separately from your recommended lists. I want to know what my friends have published.) Either links or names of things I can get from the library, please. I'm not going to go buying back issues of magazines at this point.

Things I've read so far that I've liked—not a draft ballot, note, and I still have a lot of things left to read even from the above-mentioned sources:

  • "Carthago Delenda Est," Genevieve Valentine, Federations
  • "Bespoke," Genevieve Valentine, Strange Horizons (dilemma! I think I like "Carthago" better, but "Bespoke" is getting more buzz, so, strategy-wise . . . )
  • "Different Day," K. Tempest Bradford, Federations
  • "Élan Vital," K. Tempest Bradford, Sybil’s Garage No. 6
  • "Non-Zero Probabilities," N. K. Jemisin, Clarkesworld

So: go read those, and tell me what to read!

(If you absolutely can't stop yourself, go ahead and rec novels too, but I think I'm pretty well up on the possibilities there (things I have read or am reading but have not booklogged yet are in this LibraryThing collection) and I'd really prefer you focus on short fiction.)

netbooks?

Dec. 3rd, 2009 09:51 pm

Last time I looked, it seemed like Samsung was making the best all-around machines, in terms of keyboard size, battery life, and weight. That still the case? And is Windows 7 an actual advance for netbooks, or should I stick with XP for operating system consistency?

There is free time (gasp!) on the horizon, and there's always the middle-of-the-night holding of SteelyKid, but I don't know what I'm in the mood to read. Suggest me things?

ETA: duh, I know what: our ARC of Iorich (with nightlight, if necessary). But other suggestions will be noted for later.

Because maybe we're just having a bad run of luck, but Pampers has not been working the last few nights (including, as you can tell, this one).

If any of you has comments on FNBO versus HSBC online savings accounts, speak up. (I've pretty well researched other options and am happy with these two, but if you have some really great bank you must recommend, go ahead.)

Recommend to me, o LJ readers, non-European epic fantasy. Specifically, I'm looking for something that would answer the question, "Gosh, I liked the way The Lord of the Rings took elements and themes of existing mythologies and cultures and used them to give depth to a really epic fantasy story. What about something like that, but not using Northern Europe, or at least not principally using Northern Europe?"

I am aware of David Anthony Durham's Acacia (which I haven't read yet). And, I suppose, Jordan's Wheel of Time, though I'm not sure what I think of it in this regard (partly because I don't remember a lot about many of the societies). I am also aware of Bridge of Birds and The Orphan's Tales, but they are not epic fantasies. And I already have looked at [livejournal.com profile] 50books_poc's links and the Carl Brandon Society's reading lists.

What else—if anything?

ETA: I forgot, in print, please. (And good, though I thought that was implicit in "recommend.") And secondary-world fantasy, by analogy to LotR.

Somehow I'd failed to remember until now that as a member of Anticipation 2009, I'm eligible to nominate works for the Hugo ballot again.

I expect that Terry Pratchett's Nation will make my novel ballot, and I hope to get around to reading Half a Crown, Matter, and Sly Mongoose before February 28. Other recommendations, with reasons please, for works eligible for best novel—and, also, best graphic story?

So thanks to an ice storm that knocked out our power, Chateau Steelypips removed to a hotel last night (and may well be here tonight too, since there's no estimate for power's restoration yet).

I keep reminding myself that we are very lucky, to have found a hotel that still had a room, would let the dog stay, and had a large enough room that we aren't all tripping over each other; to be able to afford to stay here; and to have a workplace didn't mind Chad and SteelyKid accompanying me yesterday.

But here's the vexing thing. Our furnace runs on gas, and yet we don't have heat because it still requires electricity to run. I'm given to understand there are systems or generators or something that would run on gas as backups, when the electricity goes out. Even just something that would let us have heat would be great, though a bit of extra electricity for the sump pump would be even better, and enough electricity for the fridge and lights would be ideal.

Does anyone have experience with such things? Reliability, likely price, installation as add-on or part of a furnace replacement, other pluses and minuses? After the night we had, I'm thinking that even if we wouldn't earn back the cost through hotel savings, the reduced inconvenience might well make it worth it. (Last time an extended power outage sent us to a hotel, we had neither a dog nor a child.)

What with one thing and another, it's been kind of a rough day here at Chateau Steelypips, and so I found myself watching happy-making videos on my iPod. One of them reminded me that I've been meaning to recommend a bunch of vids—fan-made music videos that set some movie, TV show, etc., to music—for well over a year now, and I might as well give up on writing a big thinky post and just toss out the links.

Besides, my big thinky post was going to be about how I enjoyed these vids both for themselves and for the way they commented on and transformed their sources, and thus it would probably just repeat most of what Micole said in the context of the Supernatural vid "Women's Work", so go read that instead.

Links here are all to pages where you can choose to download or stream the videos.

  • "People Get Ready", Heroes, music by the Frames (Amazon, iTunes), vid by [livejournal.com profile] heresluck. This is the one that I started watching tonight, reminded by the discussion of the start of season three (which apparently sucks). "People Get Ready" is what season one (I said this was old) should have been: about connecting, choosing, growing up, making a difference. Its technical details are also, as far as I can tell, impeccable and impressive; I really love the way it uses motion and builds tension even through the slow portions of the song. Watch it even (especially) if you haven't been satisfied with the show.

    For more, see this detailed review by [livejournal.com profile] 12_12_12 and commentary by heresluck.

  • "The Mountain", The Lord of the Rings, music by Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer (Amazon, iTunes), vid by [livejournal.com profile] astolat and [livejournal.com profile] melina123. A highly-accessible vid that sets Frodo and Aragorn's parallel journeys to a beautiful and remarkably appropriate song. It doesn't strike me as technically flashy as "People Get Ready," but it's probably easier to grasp on the first viewing for that reason, and I really appreciate the way it brings out the sadness that the movie downplays.
  • "Vogue", 300, music by Madonna (Amazon, iTunes), vid by [livejournal.com profile] sockkpuppett. Not only is the concept absolutely brilliant—talk about subverting the source!—but it's technically amazing, with comic-book-like triple panels, motion sped up and slowed down to fit the beat, and even more things that I don't have the vocabulary to describe.
  • A three-fer:

    This is the "vids critiquing race and gender in shows I don't actually watch, but am just familiar enough with that I can appreciate the vids" set. "Jesus Walks" reexamines the character of Gunn, a black man who I believe fans generally feel was ill-treated by the show. "Origin Stories" is a blistering critique of Buffy and Angel's (and Buffy and Angel's) prioritizing of the white vampire Spike over characters of color and women, using the image of Spike's trademark coat, which he stripped from the body a black Slayer he killed (see additional commentary by untrue_accounts and giandujakiss). "Women's Work" forces recognition of the way Supernatural sexualizes, and is driven by, the suffering of women-as-objects.

    The last two in particular I found difficult to watch, but worth it.

  • "Hold me now", Princess Tutu, to the song "Håll Om Mig" by Nanne Grönvall (iTunes), vid by Marisa Panaccio. Okay, this isn't very transformative, but it's just awesome: the whole series in three minutes, with absolutely perfect timing to a great driving song.

I don't watch a lot of movies or TV, and so most vids go right by me; but feel free to rec others that you think I might like.

Chad's new desk for the family room/office/library was delivered today, and we're contemplating how to best arrange all his equipment cables in a way that will be as aesthetically pleasing and safe as possible. The end goal is something like this or this, but as you can see from the pictures behind the cut, the underside of the desk is visible through the window, so I'm not quite sure the best way to attack this problem . . .

pictures )

I am not particularly crazy about the idea of drilling into the nice new wood desk, or of having a cord basket/power strip visible from outside, but there may be no alternatives. Also, I'd prefer stuff I can pick up locally, i.e., from Staples/Office Max/Best Buy, not Ikea.

Anyone out there tackle similar problems or have suggestions?

This weekend I have contributed to the household by hacking back a set of overgrown shrubs in the backyard (and marking for Imminent Death a vicious triffid that snuck up on me; as soon as I get a pair of gloves, it is gone) and stuffing some high-density foam into the squooshed-by-use couch cushions.

This, however, is pretty much the extent of my abilities when it comes to gardening and upholstery. Thus, I ask LJ:

  1. What can we plant in our backyard (pictures over on Chad's blog) as grass-replacement ground cover? Requirements:
    • Thrive in Zone 5 in basically constant shade, under sugar maples and one enormous oak tree, in soil that's not obviously sandy or clay-like but doesn't drain particularly well (possibly because it's pretty tight-packed at the moment).
    • Safe for FutureBaby.
    • No maintenance except maybe seasonal trimming.
    • Not going to take over the neighbors' lawns if we turn our backs.

    Of the things suggested at Chad's so far, I like the idea of moss, and hate the idea of gravel or pavement. Vinca sounds too invasive, and hosta apparently requires a good deal of water. Other suggestions?

  2. If I wanted to walk into a store and buy ready-to-sit-on rocking chair cushions, do I want a furniture store? A department store? Something else?

    (Yes, I know I can get them online, but I'd like to sit on them first.)

Thanks, all.

As Chad said today, after FutureBaby becomes an ActualBaby (knock on wood), we're leaning toward referring to him or her by a pseudonym on our blogs just to provide a mild amount of privacy (after a birth announcement with the actual name, probably). I've been having fun reading the pseudonym suggestions over at his blog, so I'll toss it open here too:

Recommend a post-birth pseudonym for FutureBaby, preferably one independent of age and sibling status.

Heck, if you're so moved, recommend a non-pseudonym for FutureBaby; it's unlikely that you'll come up with a suitable name that we haven't thought of yet, but since Chad's commenters got to offer suggestions, y'all might as well, too. Nb.: FutureBaby's last name will be Orzel (pronounced or-ZELL), with a middle name of Nepveu; probably no second middle name.

(Pseudonym, by the way, is a really weird looking word, or perhaps it only is if you've been awake since five this morning.)

And yes, we know about the Baby Name Wizard's NameVoyager (Java applet).

It seems like time to start educating myself about childbirth in more depth. Since I will not be taking classes, I am now soliciting recommendations for books, videos, web sites, or similar self-study educational resources about childbirth.

I already own The Pregnancy Book by Sears & Sears and have a recommendation for Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn by Simkin.

important note on giving me advice )

For extremely tight muscles: menthol, menthol and camphor, or capsaicin? Bonus if you can vouch for non-stinky brands.

(No Aspercreme or equivalent.)

So I've got this idea in my head that I want to cross-stitch a decoration for FutureBaby's room. We're eschewing most of the usual nursery decoration stuff (lamps? valences? no, thanks), but I haven't been able to shake the urge to make something.

cross-stitch wibbling )

Comments from cross-stitchers or people who know what kids tend to like in decorations are welcome.

Okay, if you've been bursting to give us advice related to FutureBaby, here's your chance:

two questions )

Podcasts

Mar. 2nd, 2008 08:39 pm

For reasons too long and boring to mention, I'm only just looking at this whole new-fangled podcast thing. And today I was inordinately delighted to discover the Car Talk Podcast — Click and Clack! free and without any effort on my part!

I also discovered, through iTunes, a free Cook's Illustrated video podcast (which doesn't appear to be available through their website). And behind the cut are a bunch of audiobook-like things that I'm going to try:

audiobook-type podcasts )

Any other recommendations? Note that I prefer to read my news, and don't have time to watch more than short videos (the Cook's Illustrated ones are in the five-minute vicinity). Things like audiobooks, radio plays, and other entertainment listening are best.

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