Catching Up

So, as I mentioned on Monday, I got whatever Ron had. Instead of going to my lungs, it went to my sinuses, although the antibiotics or something kept it from getting too bad. Went to work Tuesday, Ron took me to get a fill in the lap-band Wednesday morning, then I had him take me home and I went to bed, where I slept for over an hour, On my back. I rarely sleep on my back. Made it to work Thursday and Friday, although I question how much good I was there.

Started feeling better yesterday/today, although I’m still tired.

Made successful chili-type substance yesterday, despite being out of chili seasoning.  So I remember, it was beef (chunks), somewhere in the neighborhood of a pound (whacked off a bigger piece, didn’t weigh it), an onion, cook the beef and onion, add a can of green chile enchilada sauce, diced tomatoes, a can of beans, some middle eastern-ish 7-spice powder from Pita Inn, chili powder, and cayenne. After a while I added a box of shoepeg white corn in butter sauce, and later yet a couple handfuls of crunched-up tortilla chips to thicken it up (a trick learned from AB).  Somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 quarts. Cooked in the crock pot.

Still waiting for vendor registration for Teslacon to go up, but since tickets became available again (I think they’re being released in batches), I went ahead and got 4 – me, Ron, Xap, and Robin. I also made a hotel reservation. Spaces in the main hotel did not appear with more tickets, and none of the hotels have great parking options (ie: pull-through 2-space long space) for the trailer, so we went with the closest option.

So, we’ll be needing steampunk or something related (dieselpunk, gaslamp fantasy, whatever).

My long brocade vest is still waiting to have the hem marked. Maybe this afternoon, since I seem to be at a holding point at the program book for the floodplain managers’ conference (probably more to come about that on the Otter Necessities blog).

I have a bunch of OD fabric samples, come Friday I’ll probably order a bunch of fabric for Dragon Corps gymnasterkas.

On Friday I’ll probably order a couple more Folkwear patterns: #202 Victorian Shirt, and #222 Vintage Vests.  With a shirt and a vest (thinking the shawl-collared (round collar) option and his top hat or bowler, and either kilt or pants Ron should be good. I might even be brave enough to make a vest with an obvious diagonal. The nice thing is that a vest fronts only uses in the neighborhood of a yard of fabric, so you can get pretty fancy without breaking the bank. Cheaper than, say, a floor-length brocade vest-ish thing, for instance.

Victorian pants were higher than modern – to a man’s real waistline, not the hips. Not sure if I’ll bother with those, since modern pants can probably pass for Teslacon, and kilts from UT Kilts are relatively cheap.

I figured a couple military-ish tunics would be fine for Robin with his kilts, but when I asked about the vests, he liked them. I don’t think Ron and Robin would be able to share, since that style vest is more fitted than the modern cargo vests they both like, but I won’t complain if they can.

Read Ben Aaronovitch’s “Midnight Riot” on Friday. UK title was “Rivers of London”, and have started the next novel, “Moon Over Soho”. They’re about an apprentice wizard/modern UK constable in London. They’re good fun. Mystery/police procedurals, but with a sense of humor. At least in spots. People with their faces falling off isn’t fun.

Progress & Book Review

Turns out that one of the fabrics I ordered was out of stock. The one that I was hoping would match some brocade I have, of course.  No further progress on sewing, although I did raid the bins of fabric for doll clothes this morning, to cut out something for Licentia. I’m thinking knickers-like hakama relatives, like the ones shown here:

http://www.iz2.or.jp/english/fukusyoku/wayou/29.htm

Not sure what I’m going to cut out for the top half.

Still waiting on my pattern from Reconstructing History.

Mostly we’ve been hiding from the heat, and yesterday I advanced some more on the Program Book Death March.  The end of the death march is in sight – my plan is to get it to the printer Monday, maybe Tuesday. Yesterday I got the grid done, despite the Drobo flaking out. We’re hoping it was only suffering from the heat, as Ron was able to successfully run a backup this morning. Fortunately, after shutting itself down the Drobo came back up long enough to synch with my laptop, so I was able keep working from my laptop’s local drive (was working off the Drobo).

I’m really glad we got Chrono Synch a couple years ago – I was looking for something to synchronize data on a USB drive with a hard drive, and although it was overkill, it was what I decided on, as most lighter programs seemed to push data one-way only. Besides synchronizing data, Chrono Synch will do automated backups, yadda yadda. And a year-ish ago they came out with Chrono Agent, which makes it even easier to set up automated synching between machines. I have Chrono Agent installed on my laptop, and when it starts up, it goes and looks for the desktop machine and synchronizes auto-magically if it can. Before I got Chrono Agent I had to manually fire off synchronizations. Mac-only, last time I looked, though.

This morning Ron went to fetch Robin, who’s been off dog-sitting since Friday. In a house that is, IIRC, air-conditioned. I’m getting tired of the bedroom. Not that I’m complaining, it’s better than no A/C at all!  Today is also a holiday for Ron’s office, and he’s taking off tomorrow, as are most of his co-workers. Not sure what his plans are for today and tomorrow.  He was nice and told me to take the truck today and tomorrow. I wasn’t unselfish enough to argue, since there’s nowhere he *has* to go. Hopefully he and Robin got home before it got too hot (no A/C in the Kia).

After getting the grid done yesterday, we went to see “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer”. It was a fun, fairly brainless, summer movie. Ron says it’s fairly different from the book, and that the book is better. We’ll probably go see “Brave” this weekend (checked yesterday to make sure it would still be at our preferred theatre), we waited until Robin got home since he wants to see it too.

Earlier this week I read “Unorthodox: the Scandalous Rejection of my Hasidic Roots”, by Deborah Feldman.  I’d looked at it a while back, and then Ron mentioned hearing an interview with the author, and he thought it was one I’d enjoy. He was right. I think I went through it in about 24 hours.

What “Unorthodox” is not: an ethnographic study of a modern Hasidic community, or a dispassionate dissection of her experiences. You do learn a few things about the particular sect the author belonged to, but mostly because it either relates directly to her life (how much schooling girls get), or incidentally. It also doesn’t strike me as a tell-all marvel-at-the-freaks book. She wasn’t happy living that life, and is critical of things, but it is a very self-reflective story.

Some parts of the book just made me cringe: when she’s contemplating her impending marriage she thinks about she and her fiancee will break free of stifling traditions, etc. You know that it’s just not going to happen, and you want to tell her she’s setting herself up to be let down.

I don’t get the impression that the author hates the Hasidic members of her family. Not necessarily loves all of them, but although I don’t think she ever says it, I’d guess she still loves her grandmother, who raised her after her own mother left the Hasidic community. Or maybe I want her to still love Bubby, because Bubby is just as much a victim of the society as she is.

Currently reading “The Crossing Places”, by Elly Griffiths; the first in a mystery series with a modern archaeologist/forensic pathologist protagonist. I seem to have developed a thing for British mystery authors. Probably related to watching BBC mystery/detective shows. I’ve also read and enjoyed a couple of the Midsomer/DCI Barnaby books by Caroline Grahame, and most of the “Simon Serrailer” series by Susan Hill (although the reviews of the current one aren’t good, so I haven’t bothered with it). The first “Bryant and May” or “Peculiar Crimes Unit” mystery by Christopher Fowler was also good, need to get more of those.

I’ve figured out one thing with series like these – I need to  not read them too quickly. A few years ago I started the “Sookie Stackhouse” series and enjoyed them, but read too many too quick, burned out, and haven’t read any more.

Weather Allergies & Mini Book Review

I should have known better than than to go to VS Wednesday night. We weren’t out all that late, but on top of still being tired from Capricon it was late enough. I woke up still tired, and with a sinus headache and upset tummy. The sinus headache was mostly due to the yo-yo weather, not helped by being tired, and the upset tummy was due to the headache and being tired.

Although I got up, got dressed, and downstairs, I decided I wasn’t going to make it to work. Eventually I got back upstairs and changed into slobbing around the house clothes. I puttered around doing Otter-ish stuff for a while, did some dishes, read, played simple games on the iPad, and went to bed early. Truly, an exciting day.

Most of my reading time yesterday  was spent on “The Various Haunts of Men” by Susan Hill. It’s a murder mystery set in an English town. I can’t say much without major spoilers, but I did enjoy it. I didn’t figure out who the murderer was until the author revealed it, although I might have had suspicions had I been more awake. I kinda expected DCI Barnaby to wander in/through, but that’s a different series by a different author.  And the families weren’t nearly disfunctional enough or enough illicit affairs going on for it to be a Midsomer village.

I thought “The Various Haunts of Men” was supposed to be on the gothic side, but it wasn’t. I may be thinking the another of her books, “The Woman in Black”, which I downloaded yesterday. We’ll see.

The sinus headache wasn’t the worst I’ve ever had, but it did resist my everyday antihistimine, painkiller, and a decongestant. It would get better and worse with no apparent pattern.  It’s still with me today, as it happens; but being more rested I’m putting up with it much better.

This, That, Other Things, and Books

Got the MuseCon book burned to a CD this morning, Ron’s going to sneaker-net it to the printer a little later today.  Looking at our numbers we’re not going to have the pocket schedule professionally printed, we can take care of that in-house.

Been having acid reflux issues for several days now.  Usually it’s a transient thing that seems to be caused by too much of this or that in my diet (or certain NSAIDs), but I’ve had a persistent case once before.  Time to see if a couple-few days of a bland-ish diet helps, so I stopped at the grocery store and got un-exciting soup, some pre-cooked heat-and-serve long grain and wild rice, and Ritz crackers.  I probably should stay away from carbonated beverages, too.

Trying to decide what to get for dinner tonight besides mashed potatoes.  We’ve had both burgers and brats in the last few days.  There’s always chicken, but I usually liven up chicken with garlic and other spices.  Unless I go to Eurofresh or Heybeck’s, pork chops/roasts are Right Out.  Ham?  Possible.  Meat loaf shouldn’t derange my digestion, but it would take a while to cook.  Perhaps we have some suitable meat in the freezer . . . no, but Ron had planned to stop and get the stuff for Kraft mac & cheese with ground beef and cream of  ‘shroom soup (it tastes better than it sounds). That’ll do.

Wondering if part of my tummy upset is related to sinus drainage.  I think the sinus infection is pretty much gone, and that now I’m dealing with an attack of “normal” weather/seasonal allergies.

I’m definitely liking Google+.  It may be obvious, and/or trivial, but one thing is that the Circles paradigm does away with calling everyone “friends”, and acknowledges that on-line interaction with people varies depending on your relationship with them, and allows for as much or as little sorting and filtering as you want to do.

I haven’t really sat down and groomed Eowyn intensively this spring/summer, she just doesn’t have the patience for it any more.  But between quick attacks with the slicker brush and plucking the obvious tufts out she’s looking reasonably respectable.  Elrond . . . not so much.  His coat needs some attention, his sides are starting to look white, or at least light gray, from all the loose fur.

Finished the first series of “Sherlock”, which was only three episodes.  Definitely a winner.  I might re-watch the third episode, which combined “The Bruce-Partington Plans” and “The Five Orange Pips”, as I was distracted by finishing up the MuseCon book.  I’m thinking it would be fun to watch “Sherlock” episodes back-to-back with the classic Jeremy Brett episodes.  But which to watch first?

Season 4 of “Eureka” has a crossover with “Warehouse 13” and the DVD set includes the “Warehouse 13” episode. It looks like it has possibilities.  Maybe I’ll get Robin to stop at the library on his way home from school tomorrow and see if they have any “Warehouse 13” on DVD.  Or check the on-line catalog (what a novel concept!).

On the iPad I’m currently reading “Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin” by Timothy Snyder.  The Bloodlands being the area of Europe where Hitler and Stalin did a lot of their mass murders.  For instance, I had no idea of the scale of Stalin-induced famine in Ukraine pre-WWII.  Not a light book, I can only do so much of it in a day.

For contrast, I’ve been reading Louisa May Alcott and Charlotte Mary Yonge on my phone.  I’m also interested strangely by the complete loopiness I expect in “JFK & UFO: Military-Industrial Conspiracy and Cover-Up from Maury Island to Dallas“, but I don’t think I can bring myself to actually, y’know, pay real money to get it. And I really hope the library hasn’t.

I had also started “The Lost Children: Reconstructing Europe’s Families After World War II” by Tara Zahra, but I seem to have stalled out.  I suspect I’ll be able to pick it up again once I finish “Bloodlands”.   So far it isn’t nearly as dark as “Bloodlands”, but it they’re both dense.

I’ve apparently been on a modern history binge, in the last couple months I’ve also read:

Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure“, by Paul A. Offit, who also wrote “Vaccinated: One Man’s Quest to Defeat the World’s Deadliest Diseases“, which I read last year?  Early this year?  Whatever.

The Great Starvation Experiment: Ancel Keys and the Men Who Starved for Science“, by Todd Tucker

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin” by Erik Larson

The State Boys Rebellion” by Michael D’Antonio, the title of which do sucketh.  Not so much a rebellion, as change in attitudes in society, etc.; and my reading was that the State Boys had much less to do with forcing reforms from inside than the description of the book implies.

The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History” by Robert M. Edsel & Bret Witter.  I don’t think I’d have complained if this one were longer, the authors covered a *lot* of ground, and they didn’t even get to Monuments Men work in Italy.  That’s another whole book the authors are working on, and which I’ll be keeping an eye out for.

and earlier this year:

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot

The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million” by Daniel Mendelsohn

All of the above were on the iPhone/iPad, I just linked to Amazon for descriptions because it’s easy.  They were all good, with the exception noted about “State Boys’ Rebellion”, which was well-written, if badly-described.  Nor are most of them exactly light entertaining reading.  “The Monuments Men” is probably the most upbeat of the bunch.

Monday Again

Oh look, it’s Monday again already.

Last week was . . . a week. School happened. Dinners happened. Work happened. Dog excavation both happened and was averted. Dishes happened.

Took Eowyn to the vet to see what’s up with water consumption. Blood work and urinalysis says one kidney enzyme on the high end of normal, one slightly elevated. Get a first thing in the morning urine sample, please. And try to see how much she’s actually drinking vs. what a dog her size should go through in a day (around 10 cups). At least the vet did acknowledge the difficulty of that last one in a two-dog house. Some signs of arthritis in the back legs, but otherwise healthy for a dog her age.

Saturday afternoon Ron, Xap, and I went out to The Fold to get a bag for the Lendrum spinning wheel. I didn’t mean to buy anything else, even though some merino/bamboo had called me the last trip. But then we found a ginormous skein of yarn that said it wanted to be another pair of kilt hose for Ron. And I do mean ginormous – pound of worsted-weight yarn. (Mountain Colors Weaver’s Wool, 1450 yards/lb., I don’t remember if it had a colorway listed).  And a 4-ounce braid of merino/bamboo followed me home.

After that, I went to FedEx to pick up my order from Paradise Fibers.  I’ll have to post a picture of the crossword puzzle that came with the punis (rolls of cotton), I’m totally stuck.   The Black Welsh Mountain top is indeed coarse, but that’ll be fine for sheep puppets.  The “oatmeal” BFL is nice and soft, just like my chocolate cherry BFL roving.  Oatmeal is a good discription – not quite brown, not quite grey.  I also got a naturally sagey-green cotton roving.

After getting a pouch I was working on to a point where glue had to dry and doing some dishes, I finished spinning the second ply of a batch of the  chocolate cherry, wound it onto a bobbin, then plied and skeined it.  This one went much better, I think I had only one knot in one ply.

Then I played with cotton.  I spun one puni, then tried plying it.  Breakage and breakage and breakage.  I think, in retrospect, that I needed more twist.  I thought I was putting enough twist into it, based on what I’ve been doing for the BFL, but the cotton staple is shorter.  A lot shorter.  Yesterday I threw that first cotton skein out (which is about what I expected to do with it).  I had tried doing this hand-plying trick again, which has worked reasonably well for wool, but I’m wondering if it was also continuing to my issues.  Next time I’ll wind off onto bobbins.

Yesterday I snagged the charcoal grey pencil roving that Ron hadn’t used, and played with that.   It comes as a pair of strands, so I wound a pair of golf-ball sized balls spun without drafting, then plied them back together.  Ron hadn’t been able to successfully spin a single ply of roving, the pull on the wheel was too much for his skill level at the time.  I didn’t have that problem with the charkha, but by the time I wound it onto bobbins, I think I had it over-spun, parts of the two-ply are still twisted pretty firmly.  It came out about sport-weight, and I wanted fingering to lace-weight.   Looking at and playing with the un-spun roving, I don’t think it’s going to draft very well, so I’ll either continue with the process of splitting it into two plies for sport-weight, or spin both together and then ply for heavier yarn.

The spinning experiment with the pencil roving was after dinner.  Earlier in the day Ron, Xap, and I had gone downtown to visit a friend in the hospital.  Nice view of the lake!  On the way there I worked on the socks I started for myself out of the yarn left over from Ron’s kilt hose.  While we were at the hospital and on the way home I did the toes for my Very Loud socks (crazy zauberball, to go with my Very Loud Dress).  My leftover-kilt-hose socks are ready to be cast off and the ends darned in, but I didn’t feel like doing that last night.  Maybe tonight.

Ron was pouting that since I started my Very Loud socks, he’ll have to wait for ever and ever for another pair of kilt hose, but I pointed out that either of the next pair of kilt hose use different size needles, so maybe I’d start them before I finish my socks.  Hinting that somebody could help by winding kilt hose yarn into balls was apparently too subtle.  🙂

Ron is really liking Zinio for magazines on the iPad.  It is nice, although he’s been reading more magazines than I have.

Last week I finally read _Minight in the Garden of Good and Evil_ which was interesting.  I was poking around the Wikipedia “Southern Gothic” entry, and decided to re-try Cherie Priest.  A while back I started _Boneshaker_, but despite being nominated for Hugo and Nebulas, it just didn’t do it for me, and I stopped about halfway through.   But her Eden Moore books looked pretty good, so I gave the first one a try.  When I finished that one I went and grabbed the second and third.

The odd thing about this is that I don’t do horror any more (I used to read Stephen King before he got to big for his britches and editors stopped editing him).  Except Lovecraft, yes.  OTOH, these aren’t exactly what I tend to think of as horror, either.  They may stray over into Urban Fantasy, I suppose, but they aren’t really that, either.  But they’re good.

A while back Robin was looking at _Leviathan_, another of Cherie Priest’s, set in the same steampunk-ish milieu as _Boneshaker_, and I’d told him I’d pooped out on _Boneshaker_ (which I was reading on my phone), and he decided not to get _Leviathan_.  I told him I was enjoying her horror books, and _Boneshaker_ had been nominated for this and that, so maybe he should give it a go (in paper).  And he decided to, so if he likes it I may try again.

As Wikipedia notes in the link above, the Eden Moore books may be billed as a trilogy, but each one is a standalone story.  I’m sure it helps to get all the earlier references to things that happened in previous stories, but I don’t think it’s necessary.

After Elrond was Cruelly Tortured by being forced to only go out on a cable last week, Robin staked down some hardware cloth over the wonderful-to-dig-in spot.  Hopefully rain, time, and re-growth of grass will render that spot boring.  His nose was out of joint that Eowyn got to go for a ride to the vet’s Friday night, but Robin took him out for a run up and down the street, which probably helped.

Finally saw the new “Tron” movie.  It’s pretty good, as far as action-adventure goes.  Also saw the original, I think for the first time since it was in the theater.  Ouch.  I may be a child of the ’80’s and still like the music, but the clothes and some of the dialogue are sooooo painful.

A Little Natter, Mostly E-Books

As of Friday the estimate on the Durango was to hopefully be done today. Appeals to the FSM for it to be too mangled to be fixable, please.

Been working on Otter Necessities stuff, natter about that over on the Otter blog. (otternecessities.blogspot.com). Need to migrate that to WP one of these days, since it’s out of hibernation.

Robin goes back to school next Wednesday, which might explain why he was getting a smidge cranky last night. I missed the mail-in and web registration, so I’ll drop off the form and check for fees tomorrow after my appointment at the dentist’s office (just a cleaning, knock wood, phobia getting better every time).

There isn’t enough for me to do, so I said that I would take on the WindyCon program book, when their first person had a computer crash and burn. Friday night was the first meeting I went to and I’ve been communicating via e-mail, should be straightforward.

Friday I bought a couple e-books:

“Packing for Mars”, the latest by Mary Roach. Her other books, “Bonk”, “Stiff”, and “Spook”, which I listened to as audio books, were very good. About a fifth of the way through it at this point, enjoying it as much as I did the others. Ron says the audio version on audible is read by the same person who read “Bonk”, who we both think is the best of the audio book narrators that have done her books. (Ron likes audio books, but his job often allows him to listen and work. I can’t pay that much attention to audio while working, music-only for me).

While browsing the iTunes/iBook store, I noticed “City of Veils” by Zoe Ferraris, which had been featured on John Scalzi’s Whatever blog under the “Big Idea” segment. I read the sample chapters, and promptly bought the rest. I finished reading that instead of Mary Roach, which means it was very very good. It’s a murder mystery set in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah, and all but one of the several protagonists are Saudis. Unfortunately, the author’s previous book “Finding Nouf”, which “City of Veils” seems to be somewhat of a sequel to, does not seem to be available from Apple. Must check Sony e-book store, just in case.

I also grabbed a sample of “The Disappearing Spoon”, by Sam Kean. The subtitle is “And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements.” Haven’t read the sample yet, but it appears promising.

While at B&N yesterday, a book in the medical section caught my eye. Open iBooks, search the store, and found it: “Asleep”, by Molly Caldwell Crosby. “The Forgotten Epidemic That Remains one of Medicine’s Greatest Mysteries”, about an epidemic of something ?viral? (forget exactly, although saw it in a blurb), that acted something like sleeping sickness, but isn’t/wasn’t. At significantly less than the hardcover, the e-book version was a no-brainer. And doesn’t take up room in the house. (More on that later).

While I was at it, I looked for another book that I’ve been waffling about in paper for a while, and found as an e-book: “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down”, by Anne Fadiman, about a Hmong child, her illness (epilepsy, IIRC), her parents, and her American doctors and a culture clash/mess.

Back to my comment under “Asleep”, some of you may have heard about the hissy-cow between Amazon and the publishers a few months back. Amazon had been forcing all Kindle editions to be $10-ish or less. Apple, with the debut of the iPad and iBooks, did not. One of the big publishers (McMillan?), decided they were no longer going to play Amazon’s game. Amazon pulled *all* the publisher’s titles, including paper copies, from their listings. People were pissed, particularly authors, who were the biggest potential victims. Other publishers made very supportive noises, if not joined the first one. Amazon released several severely stupid public statements, then blinked.

During said kerfluffle, I learned some important things about e-books:

Some e-book readers feel that anything over their chosen price point (generally less than $5) is highway robbery, because the publisher doesn’t have to do X,Y, and Z things. Well, it turns out that printing and shipping and warehousing are the *least* expensive things in terms of book production. And having created some ePubs myself (from Gutenberg plain-text files), I can confirm that the text does have to be re-set for an electronic edition. I’m expect that when you’re producing one at the same time as the print edition, there can be some time/effort savings, but the point is that the e-version is not a freebie that the publisher can really afford to make really cheap.

Amazon tried to claim that Apple’s allowing publishers to set the price of their e-books would result in soaring prices. Doesn’t seem to be happening.

I paid $12-13 for “Asleep”, which was substantially less than the hardback version, only a little more than Amazon’s $10-ish magic number, a bit more than a mass-market paperback, and about the price of a typical trade paperback. And to repeat, it doesn’t fill up space in the house. Yeah, I like e-books. And if I keep buying them, hopefully more publishers will keep putting them out.

Now, one of the problems is that e-books are more prone to pirating than paper books – breaking the DRM on a DRM-ed e-book is less manual labor and presumably time than scanning an e-book and running OCR. So I understand why some authors are reluctant to put out e-books. Said pirates are scum, and need a long walk off a short pier with heavy heavy weights attached. If books aren’t being pirated, authors aren’t getting paid, and will quit writing. Bad bad bad. I want authors to be paid so they can keep putting out books to feed my addiction.

At the same time, I understand why people dislike DRM. Apple allows me to share e-books via iTunes to some extent, I think within the household network, so Ron and Robin and I can all read an e-book without paying for it more than once. Not a perfect solution, but it works for me. I’m willing to wait and see what plays out with e-books and IP rights protections.

The Dresden Files questions

As the Jim Butcher/Dresden Files fans will already know, Jim Butcher will be Author GoH at DucKon.  Many of my friends are enthusiastic about the Dresden Files books, so when we saw the first three in paperback as a box set at B&N on Friday night, we grabbed them.

I’m most of the way through the way through the second one at this point, and I’ve got a couple questions:
Are the first two pretty typical for the action/violence level?  How does Butcher do keeping up interesting plots for the next 9 or whatever?  Is there a continuing meta-plot to help them hang together, or should I be looking at it as modern day, well, pulp fiction – fun, but not Serious Literature?

I’ve enjoyed them, I’ll go ahead and read the third, but I’m not sure about going any farther.  There were some good snappy/clever bits in the first book that already seem to be dropping off in the second.  And I guess I’m just getting old, the bang-crash-whack chaos and fighting doesn’t interest me as much as maybe it used to. 

Or maybe I just need to put some space/time between books.  Some series are like that – I really liked the Sookie Stackhouse mysteries, but I read too many at once and kinda got burned out on them after 4 or 6 in one month.

Web Design Reading

I’ve been thinking for a while that the Otter Necessities web site needs another round of updates. I’ve come up with a couple new things since the last round, and the “Belts” section still needs work. Friday night we went to dinner and ended up at the Schaumburg Barnes & Noble. I found Ron looking at digital photography books, which turned out to be in close proximity to the web design books. I came home with two, and finished the second one yesterday.

Here Be Book Reviews

Book Review – “Digital Photography Masterclass”

Digital Photography Masterclass, Tom Ang, 2008, Dorling Kindersley Ltd. (DK), New York, NY, ISBN: 978-0-7566-3672-2. Hardback, 360 pages.

There are certain publishers that I tend to trust, and DK is one of them, and they didn’t let me down.

"Digital Photopgraphy Masterclass" is, as you might guess from the title, not for the absolute beginner, the reader is expected to understand at least the basics of using their camera (a DSLR is assumed), working with image-processing software, etc. The book is divided into four major sections: "Mastering Your Camera," "Developing Your Skills," "The Digital Darkroom," and "Advancing Your Photography." Each section is made up of several tutorials (essentially chapters), with several two-page spreads about various topics, including an analysis of several images in relation to the topics discussed, ending with an assignment for the reader.

The "Mastering Your Camera" and "Developing Your Skills" sections are oriented toward tho obvious photographic skills such as camera and exposuer controls, composition, and different lighting conditions. "The Digital Darkroom" section discusses enhancing an image, and manipulating images to greater and lesser extents. "Advancing Your Photography" addresses different photographic specialties such as travel, sports, and fine art photography.

I enjoyed this book, and definitely found it useful. I would like to go through all the "assignments," although at this point I’ve only done one of them. I’m also tempted to buy another book by the author, "How to Photograph Everything."

Photography Book Review, Yet Another

Mastering Digital SLR Photography, Second Edition, David D. Busch, 2008, Course Technology, Boston, MA, ISBN:  978-1-59863-401-3.  Paperback, 300 pages.

Good Grief!  That’s an ugly URL!

“Mastering Digital SLR Technology” is a very nice introduction to and overview of digital photography.  The author begins with a background to digital photography, including history and what developments might be expected in the future; features of digital SLR cameras vs. point-and-shoot cameras.  Moving on, he discusses the technology behind a DSLR, including the various types of image sensors, file formats, and various features that a camera may include.

Mr. Busch assumes that the reader has at least some experience with point-and-shoot cameras.  Therefore, most of the discussion is how the various topics relate to DSLRs in particular – as might be expected from the title.  Composition and lighting are primarily covered relation to different types of photography, such as portrait, landscape, or action work.  

“Mastering Digital SLR Technology” concludes with brief discussions of camera shake and image stabilization and special photography situations – UV, IR, and night photography.  

What is not covered is digital post-processing.  While Mr. Busch mentions some of the adjustments that are possible with various pieces of software (and not just Photoshop), the emphasis is definitely on the actual process of photography.

While I found it quite easy to read “Mastering Digital SLR Photography” from cover-to-cover, and some topics are spread out over multiple chapters, it could also be used as a reference, browsing between chapters and topics.  Also, it, could be used as a textbook, it does not read as one.  Mr. Busch makes suggestions, there are no suggested assignments or review questions – which might be expected given the publisher name.  Although a few suggested experiments or exercises might have been useful, I don’t consider this a drawback.  Mr. Busch definitely has a sense of humor, and I laughed out loud at several points, but the humor is not over-done.  

This seems to me to be a good general overview of digital SLR photography, suitable for a beginner to intermediate-level photographer.