Random (but not really)

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Tuppence a Bag

We really do get a lot of visitors to our feeders.








Written by Michelle at 6:54 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: House & Garden,Photos  

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Re-Watching Deep Space Nine: It’s the Little Things

One of the things I enjoy about Deep Space Nine is the banter between the characters. I think it starts with running jokes about Dax being a terrible gossip, then we start to see Dax gossiping with Kira and quite soon we see short bits of back and forth, and I love those bits.

But the other thing we get with the scenes is in the background, the little things that allow a space station or fighter ship to function.

Take this scene:

Chief O’Brien: Dilithium matrix is aligned and calibrated. – Just be a bit more careful, that’s all I ask.
Colonel Kira: Opening antimatter injector ports. – Trouble in paradise?
Doctor Bashir: It was nothing. – Emergency life support and damage control systems standing by.
Chief O’Brien: I wouldn’t call it nothing.
Lieutenant Ezri Dax: Autonomous guidance system initialized and active.
Chief O’Brien: He lost Travis.
Colonel Kira: Hm – sounds serious. – Verify astrometric database.
Doctor Bashir: Miles built this Alamo model, replete with small figures. Quite spectacular, actually. – Data sets loaded and verified. – Anyway, he was showing it to me in Quark’s when we – rather I – accidentally misplaced Colonel Travis.
Nog: Phaser safeties engaged. – Can’t you make another one?
Chief O’Brien: What, so he can lose it again? – Field stabilizers online.
Colonel Kira: Well, that’s what happens when you share your toys. – Synchronizing warp plasma flow…
Chief O’Brien: It’s not a toy! It’s a model, built to scale.
Doctor Bashir: He really did a fantastic job.
Chief O’Brien: Nacelles holding at pre-warp threshold.

These scenes feel real–the conversations people would have while going through checklists or other regular tasks. They’re taking the tasks seriously, but they are also joking around and teasing each other and generally being normal people.

It’s something that was brought up in the episode “In the Pale Moonlight” where they are trying to create a fake meeting between Damar and Weyoun.

GARAK: That’s it. Freeze programme. That’s all the new material. The rest of the programme plays exactly as you saw it before. What do you think?
SISKO: It’s better. They seem more real.
GARAK: Yes, and all I had to do was add a little petty bickering and mutual loathing.
TOLAR: So, you are happy?
SISKO: It’s satisfactory.

It’s the similar principle that makes me love the scenes of teasing and general chatter between the characters on DS9. It makes them seem like real people.

It’s a tiny thing, but I it delightful.

Written by Michelle at 8:21 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Movies & TV  

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Books of February

Here are some of my favorite books from last month:

This Side of Murder by Anna Lee Huber is a mystery set post WWI. There aren’t a lot of mysteries set in this time period, which is too bad, because it’s really the start of the modern era. The author also writes the Lady Darby (Anatomist’s Wife) series.  The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater is the conclusion to the Raven Boys series. I put this off for a very long time, because I was terrified it wouldn’t end well. How foolish of me. You really do need to read this series. The Myth Manifestation by Lisa Shearin may be the last SPI Files book, as it was self-published, but it was very well done, and I’ll keep hoping for another book. And I finished my re-read of Rising Stars with Visitations by J. Michael Straczynski. That really is a phenomenal series.

Mystery, Historical

This Side of Murder (2017) Anna Lee Huber 8/10 (Verity Kent)
Bess Crawford
A Duty to the Dead (2009) Charles Todd 7.5/10
An Impartial Witness (2010) Charles Todd 7.5/10


Romance, Historical

The Lescaut Quartet
Dark Angel (1994) Tracy Grant 8/10
Shores of Desire (1997) Tracy Grant 8.5/10
A Scot in the Dark (2016) Sarah MacLean 6/10
Dukes Prefer Blondes (2016) Loretta Chase 6/10
Forever Your Earl (2015) Eva Leigh 5/10


Fantasy, YA

The Raven King (2016) Maggie Stiefvater 9/10 (Raven Boys)


Fantasy, Supernatural

The Myth Manifestation (2018) Lisa Shearin 8.5/10 (SPI Files)


Fantasy, Historical

Bridge of Birds: A Novel of an Ancient China That Never Was (1984) Barry Hughart 8.5/10



Rising Stars, Vol. 3: Fire And Ash (2005) J. Michael Straczynski, Keu Cha, Ken Lashley, Christian Zanier, Jason Gorder, John Livesay, Edwin Rosell, David Wohl, Dennis Heisler, Dreamer Design, Robin Spehar, Liquid!, Matt Nelson, John Starr, Tyson Wengler 9/10
Rising Stars: Visitations (2002) J. Michael Straczynski 8.5/10
Rising Stars: Voices of the Dead / Bright (2006) by Fiona Avery, Dan Jurgens, Staz Johnson, Al Rio 4/10



Night Watch, Audio Version (1998/2006/2010) Sergei Lukyanenko translated by Andrew Bromfield and narrated by Paul Michael 9/10
Cold Reign, Audio Edition (2017) Faith Hunter narrated by Khristine Hvam 8/10 (Jane Yellowrock)
The Brimstone Deception, Audio Version (2016) Lisa Shearin narrated by Johanna Parker 7.5/10 (SPI Files)
Hugger Mugger (2000) Robert B Parker narrated by Joe Mantegna 7/10 (Spenser)


Short Story

From the Editorial Page of the Falchester Weekly Review (2016) Marie Brennan 7.5/10 (A Natural History of Dragons)

And now, the stats!

Trade Paperback: 3
eBook: 12
Audio: 4

I read comics this month, hence the three trade paperbacks. And four seems to be new normal for audio books.

Fantasy: 10
Mystery: 6
Romance: 5
YA: 1
Comic: 3
Multiple Formats: 4
Re-read: 12

Genre-wise I had a fair amount of variety last month, but I mostly had re-reads. This seems to be an era of needing comfort reading.

Male: 6
Female: 11
Joint: 2

And female authors take a strong lead in February, possibly because I stalled on the Spenser series, not caring to listen to the narrator for the rest of the series.

And that’s what I read last month. Lots of great books out there, so there has to be something for you!

Written by Michelle at 1:45 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Hiking WV: Cranberry Wilderness

This may well have been our last hike in snow of the season, so I was glad we were able to enjoy it–and that it was such a beautiful day.

I love the Cranberry Wilderness and am glad we got to hike it in the snow.

Location: Cranberry Wilderness
Trail: Charles Creek, Cowpasture Trails
Distance: 1.9 miles
Elevation: 3422-3564 feet
Temperature: 31 F

There used to be a prison in this area–a prison that didn’t bother with walls and barbed wire, since it was so far away from civilization that there was nowhere for escaped prisoners to go.

Although this prison was open during the Korean war (conscientious objectors were typically sent here) there are very few signs of civilization left: some spots of asphalt, the occasional chimney, and some stairs.



Charles Creek



Written by Michelle at 8:55 am      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,National Park / Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

Hiking WV: Cranberry Glades

Since it’s only a half mile, we always walk the Cranberry Glades Boardwalk when we are in the area. Because it’s the end of the winter, the boardwalk is in need of repair–if you need an accessible route, wait until spring when the forest service has been out to repair sections of the boardwalk.

The start of the trail follows the edge of the glade.


I was surprised to see the pitcher plants coming up through the snow all along the boardwalk.



Normally the underbrush is so thick you can’t see the bog, but at the end of the winter all the grasses are eaten are have died down and you can clearly see the boggy areas.



Written by Michelle at 8:38 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: National Park / Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

Hiking WV: Falls of Hills Creek

The Falls of Hills Creek is one of the places where there is a very small window of time if you want light for taking pictures.

We managed to nail that window Saturday.

Lower Falls


Hills Creek



Middle Falls



Written by Michelle at 8:27 am      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,National Park / Forest,Photos,West Virginia  

Friday, March 2, 2018

Racial & Ethic Categories

So, I found this: Racial and Ethnic Categories and Definitions for NIH Diversity Programs and for Other Reporting Purposes.

American Indian or Alaska Native.
A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America), and who maintains tribal affiliation or community attachment.

A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Black or African American.
A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. Terms such as “Haitian” or “Negro” can be used in addition to “Black or African American.”

Hispanic or Latino.
A person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race. The term, “Spanish origin,” can be used in addition to “Hispanic or Latino.”

Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.
A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.

A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.

As categories for books go, the following seem to make the most sense, at least as far as my reading habits go:

Native or First Peoples
African or African American

But that still has problems. Is Arabic a category that should belong there? It’s culturally distinct from Europe and Africa. Should there be a difference between the Hindu and Islamic south Asian groups? They’re certainly very different from northern Asian groups. And what about Russians? Are they Asians or just white?

In my mind, if I’m going to split things into two categories, it’d be white and non-WASP, but that’s all kinds of problematic for a variety of reasons. Division by continents doesn’t work, because: colonization and slavery. Division by color is ridiculous because for the longest time as a kid and even teenager, I thought everyone with “tanned” skin and dark hair was Italian, so I’m completely incapable making that judgement.

So… I’m still stuck.

Written by Michelle at 4:02 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Racial Diversity in Publishing

Although sometimes I hate it, most of the time I love Twitter. And it’s getting love today for allowing me to come across this:

The State of Racial Diversity in Romance Publishing Report by The Ripped Bodice (a romance bookstore).

Earlier this year I wrote a series of posts about kids’ books and made a point of noting that fell into the category of “multi-cultural” (ie non-WASP).

There were quite a few pictures books on my recommended list but the numbers dwindled as the reading age got older.

Now I want to know about both the author identity and character identity of the books I read. Perhaps I should add tags to my reviews? LGBT would be one, and I already have a category for Asian, since I love Asian-flavored stories. But what do I *call* the different categories? Just Non-WASP as a category name? I suck at naming things–and it’s even worse if the name is something important. (Reminder: His Furriness’s official name was “Kat” so when I say I suck at naming things, I really do mean it.)

So what are good category names for such things? Anyone? Help? Please?

Written by Michelle at 2:10 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Friday, February 23, 2018

Rewatching Deep Space Nine: Now I’m Sure

We just finished season five and are into season six and I always seem to forget just how good season six is.

Let’s start with one of the best episodes of the story arc, Rocks and Shoals.

Kira, Odo, Quark, and Jake are on the station with Dukat, Damar, and Weyoun. Worf is off with Martok, and everyone else is fighting a losing war with the Dominion. Sisko et al crash a disabled Jem’Hadar ship after destroying the reserves of the drug the Jem’Hadar require.

You can’t really watch this episode without having watched most of season five and the season six opener, because almost everything important here is built upon prior events and interactions. Which is of course what makes it so good–it’s not a solitary episode, but a story which has been building for the previous two seasons.

The two main story arcs are Kira dealing with her position on the station and working with the Dominion, and the crew dealing with a crashed Jem’Hadar crew and their vorta.

Kira’s story sees her realizing that she has all but become a collaborator with the Cardassians. There are two important sequences where we see Kira walking up, looking at herself in the mirror and heading to ops to start her day. Its the second sequence, when she realizes that she cannot live with herself that is so powerful–she goes through the same motions, but it is clear that she is distressed and disturbed. It’s a perfect portrayal of her inward turmoil.

Vedek Yassim: Can’t you see what is happening to you? You’re becoming an apologist for them, a defender of evil. What will it take to make you act, Kira, to stop accepting them, and start fighting back?

Major Kira: Vedek – you just don’t understand.

Vedek Yassim: You are right, I don’t. Maybe tomorrow… we will both understand.

But the main story is the crew dealing with the Vorta and the Jem’Hadar. Sisko’s goal is to keep his crew alive, but to do so he has to deal with the Vorta who is, at best, untrustworthy.

Captain Sisko: Keevan doesn’t deserve the unwavering loyalty you’re giving him.

Remata’Klan: He does not have to earn my loyalty, Captain. He has had it from the moment I was conceived. I am a Jem’Hadar. He is a Vorta. It is the order of things.

Captain Sisko: Do you really want to give up your life for ‘the order of things’?

Remata’Klan: It is not my life to give up, Captain. And it never was.

It isn’t the first time we see Sisko doing unpalatable things for the greater good, but it’s this episode that sets the stage for what is one of the best episodes of the show, In the Pale Moonlight.

Unlike Next Generation, where everything is black and white, much of not most of DS9 is shades of grey. Sisko has to keep his deal with the Vorta to keep his crew alive and get them back to Federation space. Kira has to deal with Weyoun and Dukat to keep Bejor safe. And it’s these explorations of the grey that makes this show so good. Because regardless of what Gene Roddenberry wanted to believe, people will never be wholly good. Life will never be black and white.

People lie for good reasons: for love, for hate, for fear. Evil isn’t some over-the-top madman rubbing his hands together in maniacal glee, but a father trying to do what is best for his children and his country. Evil is small compromises made to hold things together that slowly build up into a monstrosity.

It’s what makes the show so fascinating and so very good. You can hate Dukat and see the madness in him, yet you can also see how he truly believes he is doing what is best. Some of it may be delusional, but it’s the thread of reason that makes him so fascinating and makes you understand why he does what he does, even if what he does is awful.

The other thing that makes the show so good is that the secondary characters have been build up so strongly and so well that they can easily hold their own. Garak and Nog and Dukat all have complex and interesting backstories that make them just as fascinating as the main characters.

Chief O’Brien: There are rules, Garak, even in a war.

Garak: Correction. Humans have rules in war. Rules that tend to make victory a little harder to achieve, in my opinion.

And on top of all that, the cinematography and direction in this episode are incredible. I already mentioned the scenes with Kira, but the fight scene with the Jem’Hadar is even stronger. Avery Brooks and Michael Dorn and Nan Visitor and Terry Farrell all have a tremendous physicality that is well-used, but here we see Nog and O’Brien and especially Garak in a way we rarely do–looking serious and deadly. Garak isn’t that much of a surprise, since his background is so complicated, but throughout the show we generally see O’Brien as an engineer rather than a fighter, and Nog–well, Nog has come a very long way since his first episode, and you can really see that here as well.

This is, basically, where everything came together and there isn’t a scene here I don’t love, or that doesn’t give you something.

And it’s probably, the first time we watched all seven seasons in order (very long story there) where I fell completely in love with the series.

Written by Michelle at 10:02 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Movies & TV  

Monday, February 19, 2018

Rewatching Deep Space Nine: Weakness and Darkness

One of the things I especially love about DS9 is how it willingly went into dark places with eyes wide open.

We just rewatched Nor the Battle to the Strong which is a favorite, even though it is one of the more difficult episodes to watch.

In the episode Jake is traveling back from a conference with Dr Bashir when they get a distress call from a colony under attack. Jake convinces Bashir that it’s more important to go help people than to get him (Jake) back safe to the station.

The situation quickly goes bad, and Jake is faced with how to deal with an attack without his father there to protect him.

In this show Jake sees precisely what triage means, he sees people die, and none of it is pretty or clean. (1) But most importantly, we Jake’s first reaction to being caught in a battle: to run away. That fear and terror is something you’d never see on the previous shows where everyone is strong and brave except for the occasional secondary character who exists simply to make everyone else look better. (2) Jake gets a second chance, but although he doesn’t run away, his fear is just as evident. He doesn’t magically become strong and brave—he remains terrified and unsure of himself. It’s a lesson very rarely seen (especially at the time the show ran): that war is loud and confusing and people don’t naturally react with bravery, and that people don’t get to walk away unscathed. (3)

I keep turning it over in my head. The shelling. Losing sight of Bashir. Running. And I keep trying to make sense of it all – to justify what I did. But when it comes down to it there’s only one explanation: I’m a coward!

As I said, it’s not an easy episode to watch, but like so many others in this show, it feels real. It’s dirty and loud and ugly and bloody and there are no easy resolutions.

More than anything, I wanted to believe what he was saying. But the truth is, I was just as scared in the hospital as I’d been when we went for the generator. So scared, that all I could think about was doing whatever it took to stay alive. Once that meant running away, and once it meant picking up a phaser.

I think what makes the show work so well is that Jake is so clearly a civilian. He has never wanted to join Starfleet, he has no training, and although he has been at the scenes of battles, he was sheltered and protected and rescued. He shouldn’t be expected to react with bravery, because in such situations he’s been trained to seek shelter and protection with other civilians.

I think Dr Bashir’s reaction is just as important, when he is berating himself for the danger Jake is in. He briefly forgets that Jake is still a teenager and doesn’t have the training he (Bashir) and the other members of Starfleet have. He may be taller now, but he’s still young. Bashir feels that he’s gotten Jake killed for that lapse, and more importantly, he doesn’t blame Jake, but reacts with concern and compassion.

Throughout the series, we see the members of the station and the Defiant constantly running battle drills—a reminder that it takes practice and work and repetition to keep things together during chaos. It says that heroism may perhaps be a state of mind, but it is also the result of hard work. That weakness and fear are just as (if not more) common and expecting otherwise is not just unrealistic, but foolish.

(1) These aren’t the first ugly deaths in DS9, The Ship also sees Dax, Sisko, Worf, and O’Brien watch a crewmate slowly die from his injuries because they lack proper treatment for him.

(2) Kudos to Cirroc Lofton for this episode. There was a lot to carry on his young shoulders, and he did an incredible job portraying Jake’s fear, anger, and shame.

(3) Another thing DS9 did really well was introducing secondary characters several seasons before they are killed. The character of Muniz had speaking parts in three different episodes in two different seasons before The Ship.

Written by Michelle at 11:15 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Geek,Movies & TV  
Next Page »

Powered by WordPress

books main pictures cats e-mail