07/2021

Friday, July 02, 2021

Review Day: Artifact Space by Miles Cameron

There are no major spoilers in this review.

Artifact Space (Book 1 of 2 in the Arcana Imperii duology) is an engaging, accessible foray into "realistic" science fiction by Miles Cameron. My only other experience with Cameron's work was The Red Knight, which I found to be an exciting, yet exhausting, experience. In contrast, Artifact Space had me enthralled and energized to keep reading late into the night.

The book tells the tale of Marca Nbaro, an orphan who finagles her way aboard a merchant greatship to escape her past and present. As the world grows more threatening through the byplay of conspiratorial factions, Marca must grow out of her negative self-perception and distrust of others in order to ensure the survival of her ship and new friends.

Classic sci-fi tropes like alien races, relativistic space travel, and ships controlled by artificial intelligence are prominent. However, the exact proportions of each element are blended together into an amazing worldbuilding smoothie that offers a fresh taste of its many influences. This is an enjoyable mashup of Corey's Expanse series, Card's Ender's Game series, and Whedon's Firefly TV show. The economic undertones and merchant subplots sometimes felt like the cast of Critical Role playing a game of Jaipur.

The author effectively captures the intensity, instability, and uncertainty of the setting while still grounding the plot in a warm bubble of friendship, human perseverance, and positive relationships. The protagonists are worth rooting for and often behave in ways that surprised me, as a reader more used to modern sci-fi books with dark or cynical themes. Some of the supporting characters are not as fleshed out, but "proper name overload" is not nearly as bad as in The Red Knight. The ending is dramatically self-contained enough to satisfy, but big questions remain unresolved that are clearly reserved for the final volume.

This is a book that I would recommend to anyone with a passing interest in sci-fi, especially someone with toes in the water who wants to get into the more meaty stuff. While there may seem to be a lot of technobabble and unexplained terminology up front, the author reinforces the language through repetition and narrative clues that don't interfere with the story's momentum. I was in the right mind space to understand the world and its acronyms just a few chapters in.

Final Grade: B+

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Monday, July 05, 2021

Independence Day

Ian is 10 weeks old!

Maia (right, in patriotic dress) helps build a matchstick village to burn down, supplemented with old sparklers and gunpowder.

"The bunnies have four different fireworks. Each one explodes in the sky!"

Sir Dumps A Lot emits a 12-inch black snake then his butt explodes and sparks fly everywhere.

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Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Maia's Birth Day

Maia turned 4 yesterday! For her second party out of three, she requested a chocolate cake with strawberry frosting (all homemade). For her birthday, she has received a cat tea set, two Frozen lego sets, a shark attack board game, some scarves, an art book from Ori and the Will of the Wisps, an atlas, a science book, and a sketchbook.

One of Maia's last questions as a three-year-old was, "How was the first baby born before there were any mommies?"

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Friday, July 09, 2021

Maia's Drawings Day

All of that bunny drawing homeschooling continues to pay dividends. Maia is always drawing her own bunnies now.

Here is a picture she drew after her first trip on the Silver Line on Monday. We went into the city to Ballston, where we stopped, hit the loo, and came back out to the boonies (the bunnies). You can't see me in the picture because I'm "sitting behind Original Bunny".

tagged as offspring, media | permalink | 1 comment

Monday, July 12, 2021

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

12 pictures of your day on the 12th of every month

7:25 AM: Showered and ready for work.
7:43 AM: Kids awake.
7:54 AM: Bagel for breakfast.
8:37 AM: Ian joins me at work while Maia goes to summer camp.
9:19 AM: Emily visits Rebecca and Ian.
10:54 AM: Working lunch.
11:50 AM: Return of the fussy officemate.
12:38 PM: Running on the treadmill and rewatching The Shield, Season Five.
2:14 PM: Maia plays Age of Wonder: Duel with Rebecca. Not normally a game for 4-year-olds.
4:34 PM: At "Jason's Penny" for the first post-pandemic mall trip.
5:06 PM: Chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream at Ben & Jerry's.
6:00 PM: Family dinner while Ian finally sleeps.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Maia's 12 of 12

Maia's perspective on life (culled down from 216 pictures taken over several days)

Other posts in this series: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 1 comment

Friday, July 16, 2021

Review Day: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

There are no major spoilers in this review.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke is a standalone novel that simultaneously manages to be both a comforting and uniquely different reading experience. This is my first exposure to Clarke's work.

The setting of the book is an unusual flooded house with infinite rooms and hallways featuring an endless array of statues from antiquity. Living here is the titular main character, who adores the house and lives to explore it and care for it. The author devotes the first chunk of the story to fully realizing the setting while introducing just enough seams and irregularities to imply that not all is as it seems in Piranesi's life. At times, my reading experience felt like a work of modern Interactive Fiction from the era when IF was evolving away from dungeon-based text adventures towards serious stories with literary appeal.

Clarke captures the main character's innocence and sense of wonder, contrasting it against the ethereal setting that might seem claustrophobic or even dangerous from someone else's perspective. The whole narrative has a sing-song dreamlike quality that allows the central mystery to germinate at its own pace. The ending (which arrives quickly in spite of the slow introduction) left me satisfied and just a little bit melancholy.

Piranesi would have been a perfect quarantine read had I picked it up last year. It's a beautiful, short read that might appeal to anyone who enjoyed the innocent first-person perspective of Daniel Keyes' Flowers For Algernon, the feeling of rediscovering buried truths in Hugh Howey's Silo series, or the introspective troubles of the main character in Christopher Nolan's Memento.

Final Grade: B+

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Monday, July 19, 2021

Ian Week #12 Battle Report

Ian is 12 weeks old! This is like 3 months if there were a true metric system for the passing of time.

I look back at all the blog posts I made about Maia's weekly progress, down to the length in millimeters of her boogers, and am a little disappointed that I don't do the same for Ian. However, the effort it takes to keep two children alive is exponentially greater than the effort needed to keep one alive while writing about her like an 8th grade book report. I do try to make sure there is time to appreciate how awesome the kids are becoming, even if it is dwarfed by the time needed to keep them alive, work for pay, and live in a tidy house without fungally fragrant furniture.

At this time, Ian eats well, gains weight like a champ, but can go from 0 to 60 on being bored or hungry. He's a little easier to put to sleep than Maia was -- I can pop him in the Bjorn to get him sleeping, then transfer him to a bed after an hour of snoozing. During the day, he wakes up immediately, but at night the transition works smoothly.

He still doesn't smile much, but he can have short "coo" conversations and knows how to hit toys in his Enrichment Jungle. He hates having his arms constrained, but also wakes himself up regularly by hitting himself in the head.

tagged as offspring, day-to-day | permalink | 2 comments

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Time-lapsed Blogography Day: Twenty-Six Years Ago Today

Twenty-six years ago today, on July 21, 1995, I attended the second worst live musical performance of my life.

I was 3 weeks into my stint at the Governor's School for Visual and Performing Arts, and the curriculum regularly tried to take advantage of the Richmond setting by sending us off to live performances all around the city. On this evening, we were bussed to the Carpenter Center (now Richmond CenterStage) for a production of Gilbert and Sullivan's Yeoman of the Guard.

It was a dark and stormy night. So dark and stormy that the actors' bus got stuck somewhere causing the show to start 45 minutes late. Of course, the audience was already captive in their seats and the ushers refused to let a pack of unruly high school kids back out into the lobby, so we passed the time in the worst seats at the very back of the balcony in various states of wisecracking, sleeping, and admiring how well the attractive kids cleaned up for a night at the theatre.

When the show finally started, it became apparent that the leads had either gotten high or drunk on the broken down bus. Pitch was all over and it seemed like half of the lines were ad libbed. We couldn't tell for sure because there were constant sound problems that caused whole monologues to drop off the mics. At intermission, many of the paying audience members left, allowing us freeloaders to get better seats, but this did not improve the show a bit.

This was the time where everyone in theater had Les Mis envy, so of course this production had an obligatory revolving set. The show peaked when one of the two leads tried to leave a scene through a gap in the revolving set that moments ago had just been a solid wall. This would have gone completely unnoticed had the other lead not realized the mistake. She ran back to the scene and then opted to use the built-in doorway as intended, as if proving that only her scene mate was useless. This caused most of the audience to start hissing, fed up with the whole thing.

The show finally ended at 11:45 pm. The power was out across the campus when we returned to our dorms, which was still fewer technical difficulties than the show we had just endured.

tagged as memories | permalink | 1 comment

Friday, July 23, 2021

Data Day: 80 Days of Sleep Stats

After Ian was born, Maia had some initial trouble accepting that life had changed. This was reflected in a few days where she didn't fall asleep until 4 hours after her bedtime or she woke up with the roosters. I started tracking her sleep times to give us a better feel for how tired she was on any given day.

She actually adapted pretty quickly after a couple rough weeks, but I kept on tracking because data is fun. Here is the number of times that Maia woke up at particular times in the AM:

And here is when she fell asleep (with bedtime typically at 7:30 PM).

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Monday, July 26, 2021

Ian Week #13 Battle Report

Ian is now 13 weeks old and 14.4 pounds.

His night schedule is starting to get more regular, with a feed around 8 PM, one near 3 AM, and then another around 6 AM. Ian and I continue to have guy time from 8:30 - 11, where we play video games, rewatch The Shield or (recently) take an online course to pass the AWS Machine Learning Specialty exam.

He is excellent at tummy time and can hold his head up better than a brontosaurus with palsy. He can bat and grip things but gets bored of his surroundings pretty quickly. The one thing guaranteed to calm him down is the awful, tinny, monophonic "It's a Small World" rendition played by one of his jungle animals. We can repeat it up to 10 times before he gets bored.

This weekend, we took him to his first restaurant (Calypso at Lake Anne) while Maia was off running with the grandparents. He was unperturbed by the live David Gray covers.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken 6 years ago today, on July 28, 2015.

Having just arrived in Grindelwald, Switzerland the night before, we took a cable car up into the mountains to First (elevation: 7,110 ft) and hiked deeper into the mountains to reach Faulhorn (elevation: 8,796 ft). Much of the hike took place in the clouds, with scenic views of the Alps popping out for a few seconds at a time. Near Faulhorn, we met these cows who seemed confused as to why so many humans were hiking around on the windy summit.

The little town of Faulhorn at the top was cute. We stopped into the single restaurant for the hottest, priciest mug of hot chocolate we'd ever had and then paid to use the toilet (supply imports and waste exports were only possible by helicopter) before heading down the other side of the mountain.

Later in the day, we went to hike at a local glacier, only to find that it had recently melted.

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Friday, July 30, 2021

End-of-the-Month Highlights Day

New photos have been added to the Life, 2021 album.

  • Events
    • Had the Winters over for Maia's first 4th birthday party on S 7/3.

    • Maia and I went to 4th in Taylorstown on S 7/4. We did backyard fireworks in the evening.

    • Maia took her first Metro ride, from Wiehle to Ballston, on M 7/5.

    • Maia's second 4th birthday party on T 7/6.

    • Maia's third 4th birthday party on W 7/7.

    • The Edwardses came to visit on S 7/10.

    • Maia started her 3rd camp of the summer, at Claude Moore, on M 7/12. Emily came to visit as well.

    • Nolan and Sena came to visit on W 7/14.

    • Maia and Rebecca went to Nolan's 4th birthday party on S 7/17.

    • Maia and Rebecca met the neighbor's new dog, Ozzie, on S 7/18.

    • Went to the dentist for the first time since COVID on M 7/19. Maia had Ashley and Nolan over for a playdate.

    • Maia had a weekend with the grandparents on F 7/23 - S 7/25. The rest of us went to Lake Anne for dinner at Calypso on S 7/24. Ian went to his first farmers market on S 7/25.

    • Rebecca and the kids visited Emily and her kids in Arlington on M 7/26.

    • Got a summer camp bug from Maia on W 7/28 - H 7/29. Rebecca caught it on F 7/30.

    • Went to Lake Newport with the kids on S 7/31.

  • Projects
    • Created a new website to support Don Maitz' original art sales.

    • Started studying for my next cloud cert.

  • Consumerism
    • Enjoyed rewatching seven seasons of The Shield while rocking Ian to bed this month -- it really holds up well over a decade later.

    • Nothing new on the music front, since Pandora seems to be looping all of the same tunes on every station now.

    • Quit the vapid enjoyment of Minecraft. Only playing Ori and the Will of the Wisps right now.

July's Final Grade: B, Work is light and time is plenty.

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