Posts from 05/2023

Monday, May 01, 2023

Review Day: The Wars of Light and Shadows by Janny Wurts

I've been doing a full re-read of The Wars of Light and Shadow series by Janny Wurts over the past 8 months, in anticipation of the final volume which is nearing publication. Here are links to each of the reviews I've posted on the Fantasy subreddit:

Story Arc I: Curse of the Mistwraith

Story Arc II: Ships of Merior

Story Arc III: Alliance of Light

Story Arc IV: Sword of the Canon

Story Arc V: Song of the Mysteries

  • Vol 11: Song of the Mysteries (not yet published)

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day in history

Wednesday, May 03, 2023

Memory Day: 20 Years Ago Today

Twenty years ago today, on May 3, 2003, I made my final trip home from Tallahassee, detached forever from the potential academic composition career I might have pursued. The 900 mile trip took about 13 hours total, and I was sharing the road with my parents who came down with the big truck for my largest items of furniture (mostly a massive CRT monitor that weighed fifty pounds). After an overnight stay in a cheap motel, Booty and I did the last six hours of the trip in my 2001 Honda Accord. I let her out of the cat carrier because worrying that she might squeeze under the brake pedal and cause an accident was less of a concern than having to listen to her caterwauling the entire length of I-95. (She just explored the car then fell asleep in the back window).

Moving back to Virginia was a big deal -- it was time for me to stop dicking around with trite MIDI compositions and start earning real money as a software engineer (my starting salary after 3 summers of positive intern experiences was $62,000 per year). I immediately started looking for apartments along the Route 28 corridor to be closer to work. After learning that my college roommate, Anna, was also interested in moving, we combined forces and looked at three or four different places in Centreville.

The most expensive 2 bedroom apartment we saw was in a gated community and cost a whopping $1200 per month. Nowadays that might get you a shared studio apartment in Warrenton. We ultimately picked The Elms at Centreville because it had an average price, no parking permits, and was right at the intersection of 28 and 66 for easy access to all the places I might want to go to (but never went to). Next, I re-acquired a Virginia driver's license and bought all new furniture. I still have the dining room table and sofa today!

We only lived at the Elms for 8 months before I moved permanently to Sterling in February 2004 but it was a pleasant enough spot apart from the tempestuous arguing couple that lived below us. Pictured below are Booty and Kitty enjoying the cool hearthstone during the hot summer, and various Ahlbin/Spellerberg siblings in the days before craft beer was a thing.

tagged as memories | permalink | 1 comment
day in history

Friday, May 05, 2023

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

NUT by KT Tunstall:
Following KIN and WAX, NUT is another album of pleasant, but not immediately memorable songs. I can't always tell if my listening habits have changed or if the 2007 era songs really were that much better.

Final Grade: B

Welcome to Chippendale's:
This show about the first Chippendales male strip club started out interesting but then went to treading water pretty quickly. Other than the 70s vibe, it doesn't bring much that's new to stick out of the crowd of other shows worth watching. We gave up after 4 episodes.

Final Grade: Not Rated

Abbott Elementary, Season Two:
The second season improves upon the first, with more long-term callbacks and interesting guest stars. None of the characters feel overused yet, and there's guaranteed to be a few laughs in every episode.

Final Grade: B

Beef:
This dramedy about a road rage incident that spins out of control is excellent and artsy. It doesn't hit the typical story beats you would expect which makes it feel very fresh. The final episode is a daring choice but works very well to close out well-earned character arcs.

Final Grade: A

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day in history

Monday, May 08, 2023

Sick Day

No update today as I'm recovering from a particularly rough chest congestion sickness that I caught from the kids last week.

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day in history

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

List Day: 10 Family Routines

  1. Rebecca tries to get to a yoga class on Friday evening and Saturday morning while I watch the kids. She then takes the kids to Riverside Church and the Farmer's Market on Sunday mornings while I get my own downtime.

  2. We've had a regular babysitter who helps us about one afternoon per week (or a weekend date night) when not enjoying her retirement driving around the country. The kids love her!

  3. After Rebecca picks Maia up from the school bus in the afternoon, Maia has an afternoon snack, some no-people downtime, and then usually heads outside to play with the neighborhood kids in the street or the yard (mainly with bikes, chalk, or balls).

  4. Ian will always run to the bookshelf and start reading after waking up, even before eating breakfast or afternoon snack.

  5. I try to get out to our main cross-street (Lillard) to do trash pickup and ivy trim-back once a week. I used to pick up trash at more locations but narrowed down to this one in easy walking distance, and I'm okay with not being able to get it all.

  6. One or both of Rebecca's parents usually come out for an afternoon visit with the kids roughly once a week.

  7. Maia spends a weekend with my parents every one to two months. She gets to do all the fun DC stuff and play with all of their untouched toys.

  8. I insert my exercise time into the middle of my work day whenever I need a "brain break". Rebecca takes a walk or does yoga each night when the kids are put to bed while I play video games. After we've each had a little of our own downtime, we'll get together to play a board game or watch TV together.

  9. Amber spends all day sleeping on the couch or the guest bed, then gets put into the storage room each night so she doesn't wake up the entire household with hear deaf yowls.

  10. We have family dinners with all four of us (sans Amber) three nights a week. On the two nights that Rebecca works, I host a "reading" dinner where everyone can read quietly over their food instead of talking.

tagged as lists, day-to-day | permalink | 1 comment
day in history

Friday, May 12, 2023

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

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

7:38 AM: Showered and ready for the day.
8:33 AM: Getting a "breathing treatment" at Urgent Care because of the sickness that came back after 3 days of getting better.
9:15 AM: McDonald's for breakfast.
9:32 AM: Getting into puzzles.
10:40 AM: Resting on the patio, watching Rebecca and Ian play in our woods.
3:16 PM: After school sudoku.
3:20 PM: I gave the first game a solid C- but Maia is super excited for her very first video game release day experience.
4:17 PM: Beating the first shrine in Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.
4:53 PM: Putting a lot of care into building Trucktown.
5:11 PM: Rotating through my five drugs.
5:36 PM: Mac and cheese for dinner, with soup for the sick.
7:39 PM: I snuck Maia out of bed so she could beat one more shrine with me. Not sure why this photo ended up with potato quality.

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day in history

Monday, May 15, 2023

Easy Photos Day

Maia picked out this flower arrangement for Rebecca. It came paired with a bag of stuff she'd created at school and in her quiet times, like a clay butterfly and a cut-out snowflake. Once the loot was all presented, she did a Mother's Day song and dance.


Here is some of the loot.


Ian's Mother's Day gift was to sit quietly on Maia's bed for over an hour building Trucktown without falling off.


Meanwhile, I did drugs.

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 1 comment
day in history

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Sick Status Day

I have gradually gotten better since my trip to Urgent Care last Friday. I take a daily regimen of pills to exorcise the last of the demons from the depths of my lungs and currently just have "top of the lungs" congestion (also known as "normal coughs"). All of my coughing muscles are broken, though, and I must still face 5 more days of antibiotic-enhanced digestive fun.

Ian and Maia breezed right through this when they caught it, so it looks like I am officially on the wrong side of the "old" threshold.

I had very little energy to do anything useful last week, although I did read two new books and learn a bunch of Spanish. We had to cancel our first barbeque of the year, but are looking forward to the one that would have been the second.

Hope you are all doing well and thriving in the May heat!

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day in history

Friday, May 19, 2023

Review Day: Storm Forge by Paige L. Christie

There are no major spoilers in this review.

Storm Forge is the last book in the four-book series, Legacies of Arnan by Paige L. Christie. It delivers from start to finish, weaving all of the threads from the first three books into a perfect conclusion while simultaneously elevating the earlier books into something more than they already were with new layers and hidden context. I couldn't put this book down (I finished it in a weekend), and appreciated the tale so much that I immediately purchased a complete physical set to grace my bookshelf for future rereads.

Time has always been a key aspect of how this story is told. The earlier books offered us glimpses of the main characters, Cleod, Leiel, and Kilras, through vignettes spanning over forty years. Yet in the course of the first three books, only a few weeks had passed in the period we might label as the present. This lack of forward momentum definitely frustrated me at the time, but it was necessary for the final book. Each of the earlier books weaves a unique layer of new understanding into a tightly-wound flywheel until the pressure is almost unbearable.

Storm Forge finally allows that flywheel to spin out of control, and the chaos doesn't stop until its final pages. The characters continue to adapt and evolve, and each one is given the space to shine in climactic moments. I was constantly surprised by the direction of the plot in each chapter, and even more impressed by how many callbacks to earlier events were crucial to my appreciation -- this conclusion would not have been nearly as impactful if the earlier books had been any differently crafted.

This under-the-radar series deserves recognition as a masterpiece on par with any of the more visible bestsellers. If you enjoyed any earlier part of this series, you'll want to finish it. If you're a new reader intrigued by the idea of a series where the damsel in distress might not actually want to be saved, try the first book, Draigon Weather -- you will not be disappointed! With the concluding volume, Paige L. Christie has expertly fitted the capstone on a tightly-plotted, deeply moving series about friendship, hope, and the power of change.

Final Grade: A+

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day in history

Monday, May 22, 2023

Ian Year 2 Month 1 Battle Report

Ian is a 25-month-old force of nature. His tantrums have receded and though he can be stubborn, he's happy more often than not. He wakes up around 7:30 AM after a full night's sleep and yells powerfully until someone gets him out of the crib. His lungs can propel a sailboat across a pond at 12 knots.

Ian loves books and has memorized several about Trucktown and Thomas the Tank Engine. After we read them to him, he'll reread them himself reciting all of the words. We still do joint story time for Ian and Maia before bedtime, where we read 1 - 2 stories (Rebecca is more patient and does 2). He absolutely loves Maia and always gives her a big hug before bedtime. Maia is a great big sister too and is mostly patient with him.

Ian's still a great singer too -- he can most often be found wandering around the house singing the ABC song as loud as possible. There was a very brief period where he sang, "double doodoo X, Y, and Z" but that passed quickly. Now he sometimes sings, "Now my nose is ABC. Next time won't you sing with me."

Self play is getting better every day. If bored with our company, he'll wander into the other room to play with Duplos or read books all by himself. However, he likes being with us too, especially on car trips and errands. At the grocery store, he'll say, "We have [whatever we just got off the shelf] at home!". We must buy a pouch so he can eat it as soon as it's been purchased at the checkout counter.

tagged as offspring, day-to-day | permalink | 1 comment
day in history

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken 10 years ago today, on May 24, 2013.

We were at the Veramar Vineyard in Berryville, VA, on the way to a bed & breakfast in downtown Winchester to celebrate Rebecca's recent graduation from her physical therapy program at NOVA. These were the halcyon days full of free time where we could just dump a bunch of cat food in a bowl and take off for the weekend on the spur of the moment.

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day in history

Friday, May 26, 2023

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Wake Up Calls by Cosmo Sheldrake:
An interesting, but mostly forgettable album that will make you feel like you're standing in a virtual aviary.

Final Grade: C

The Sins We Seek by Krista D. Ball:
The final book in the Dark Abyss of Our Sins trilogy moves fast and builds intensely. I thought that the story?s focus on depth instead of plot sprawl was very effective, and narrowed the world and plot towards a satisfying conclusion. I felt like the series might have been more powerful with Book 2 and 3 merged and trimmed of the repetitive parts. Book 1 is definitely the strongest book in my opinion, but the series as a whole is so short, fun, and approachable that it's well worth the journey. I recommend it for its sympathetic multi-dimensional characters, its playful banter, and its ability to explore serious real-world themes in a welcoming, thought-provoking way.

Final Grade: B

Better Call Saul, Season Six:
The final season of this show was great. The show manages to find a satisfying conclusion in spite of being a prequel to tons of established lore, and is best when it focuses on these characters in the "now" rather than what they become in Breaking Bad.

Final Grade: B+

On the Count of Three:
This black comedy about two friends who make a suicide pact is well-done but not particularly memorable. It reminded me in some places of Blindspotting, without rapping. On Hulu.

Final Grade: B-

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Monday, May 29, 2023

Weekend Wrap-up

On Friday afternoon, Nana Char stopped by for a short visit with the kids. Maia was all better from her 6 day strep adventure, having only gone to school on Thursday and Friday last week. Rebecca went to a rocket yoga class in the evening then we had Panera for dinner.

On Saturday morning, we went to Frying Pan Farm on Maia's request, since she missed her first ever field trip (to Great Country Farm) while sick. We saw the usual assortment of baby animals and then did both the carousel and tractor/wagon ride for giggles. Ian was uncertain about the carousel, but he loved the tractor ride (which he did while wearing his "Tractor Pull" shirt).

In the afternoon, we had a barbeque with the Smiths. We played a couple board games, let the little kids enjoy the water table, and had shredded steak, burgers, and dogs.

On Sunday morning, Rebecca went hiking at Riverbend with her friend, Hannah, then took the kids to the Farmer's Market while I stayed home and relaxed. My parents came over for dinner (Worcestershire steaks and hot dogs) and Maia went to bed early with a stomachache (but got up bright and early today just fine).

How was your weekend?

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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

End-of-the-Month Highlights Day

New photos have been added to the Life, 2023 album.

  • Events
    • Family dinner at Miller's on W 5/3.

    • Got sick again on H 5/4.

    • Rebecca and Maia went to a First Communion party at Algonkian Park on S 5/6 then everyone but me went to Tammy's for steaks in the evening.

    • Rebecca and Maia went to a neighbor's first birthday party in the afternoon on S 5/7.

    • Sickness came back on W 5/10. Went to Urgent Care on F 5/12 for drugs.

    • Mother's Day at home on S 5/14. Char visited for dinner.

    • Went to the HOA meeting on W 5/17.

    • Maia got sick with a high fever (in the 104s) which turned into strep, H 5/18 - T 5/22. All better on Wednesday, but stayed home one more day and went back to school on H 5/25.

    • Went to Frying Pan Farm with the kids and rode the wagon and carousel on S 5/27. BBQ with the Smiths in the afternoon.

    • Dinner with the parents (steaks) on S 5/28.

    • Rebecca got sick on M 5/29.

    • Ian got sick on T 5/30. Made chicken noodle soup from scratch for dinner.

  • Projects
    • Continued learning Spanish with DuoLingo.

  • Consumerism
    • Enjoyed watching The Diplomat, Season One more than expected.

    • No new music this month.

    • Still playing Overwatch 2. Vaguely considering buying Diablo 4, but the company, Blizzard, just doesn't have the reputation for great games that it once did.

May's Final Grade: C-, "treading water" month due to too much sickness

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 1 comment
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