Thor

…was never one of my favorite characters. Still, I had read some favorable comments about the movie, and Hell, it was directed by Henry VKenneth Branagh, so it should be OK, right?

I think Kat Dennings was probably my favorite part of the movie, really–cute, sassy and way more interesting than either Jane Foster or muscle-boy.

Yeah, that’s right, the two-dimensional sidekick was way more interesting than the main characters, who managed roughly 1.5 dimensions.

Hell, The Destroyer–which had no lines and did nothing other than blow things up (though it did that magnificently)–was more interesting than our ostensible focus.

Oh, well. I guess I’ll watch–and, I suspect, dis–Captain American next.

Children of the Sky and Snuff

Two of my favorite SF novels are A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky, by Vernor Vinge. So when I heard several months ago that there was a sequel to the first being released this month, I felt both excitement and deep trepidation.

My experience of the book, Children of the Sky, falls somewhere in the middle.

In a way, I guess you could say the scope of all three books has been narrowing–A Fire Upon the Deep being a no-holds-barred Space Opera, A Deepness in the Sky being a first-contact novel, while Children of the Sky is a political thriller that happens to have aliens. It does a good job at what it is, but I found myself missing the sense of wonder that the first two books provoke in me even after numerous readings.

I enjoyed it enough that it’s not going to go into the pile to be donated to the library–and these days I’m getting pretty darn ruthless about putting stuff in that pile–but I suspect that if I went out and bought a new copy of A Fire Upon the Deep (which I kinda need–the old one’s getting pretty worn), in 10 years, it will probably show more evidence of use.

Before that, though, I read Snuff, Terry Pratchett’s latest.

I am sad to say that this is the first Discworld novel in the last 15 years that I haven’t wanted to re-read almost immediately. Like Children of the Sky, I don’t intend to get rid of it, but I feel like it’s relying overmuch on my love of the characters to make up for a plot that seems a little lacking in originality–it feels a little like the bastard child of The Fifth Elephant, Thud! and Unseen Academicals, and I think the result is a little tepid.

In my heart of hearts, though, I know some of my dissatisfaction stems from the fact that I realize that this book or the next book or the one after that is likely to be his last, and I want one last Granny Weatherwax novel. For me, she and Sam Vimes are the emotional core of his cast of characters–both people who are so desperately suspicious of themselves that being good often seems to make them angry–but she hasn’t been center-stage since Carpe Jugulum in ’98, and I have that childish desire to see her again.

My Chai recipe

I knew that I had posted “my” chai recipe at some point in the past, but when I found it, I discovered that it was an old version. Time to update it, especially since as I’ve been getting more and more requests for the recipe of late. Something about cold weather.

The single biggest difference between the version I posted before and this one is that I’ve been using rooibos (aka redbush) tea for the last several years. This started because I was making it for a bunch of yoga practitioners, some of whom had sworn off caffeine. The unexpected benefit was that 1) rooibos is very tasty, and 2) unlike black tea, rooibos doesn’t get bitter if you steep it more than a couple of minutes. This means it’s possible to steep it for a long time and make a strong tea that stands up well to milk or milk-analogues.

Also, you can have it in the evening and still expect to get to sleep.

Since I sometimes make huge batches for 20 or 30 people over a weekend, but mostly batches to last Anne and I a week, this recipe is more concerned with proportion than amount (hence quantities below denoted as 4x or 2x, rather than 4T or whatever). Starting out, if you’re working with a gallon of water, x = 1 heaping tablespoon. If you’re working with a quart of water, x = 1 heaping teaspoon. Over time you’ll probably discover that you prefer certain things to be a little stronger and others to be a little weaker. I rarely even measure anymore, I just eyeball it. So don’t worry about it too much.

Ingredients

4x loose rooibos tea
4x peeled and sliced ginger
3x whole cardamom, crushed
3x cinnamon, crushed
2x whole cloves
2x black peppercorns, crushed
1x star anise, crushed
vanilla bean

For the vanilla bean I use about half a bean for a gallon of chai.

Preparation

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a pot appropriate to the amount of water you’re using. Put a top on it, and turn down low enough that it’s just simmering, and let simmer for 30 minutes. Turn off heat, and if possible, leave it to steep overnight with the cover on. Filter and store.

I generally use this in equal proportion with milk, frothing it with the steam wand on my espresso machine—the frothiness is a nice complement. It works just as well if you whisk it in a pot as you heat it up, it’s just more work. I’ve drunk it with cow’s milk, almond milk and soy milk, all of which go well with it.

As always, slacktivist has a way with a turn of phrase…

This is the sort of inhuman behavior that clarifies that, regardless of what five Supreme Court justices may say, corporations are not people. They have no soul to save, no body to incarcerate, no heart to break and no ass to kick.

Also includes graph as to why the 99% might be justified in being a little peeved.

10 years gone

Ars Technica has a retrospective about Windows XP’s long life that I found very interesting.

Until reading it, I couldn’t have told you when XP was released. I was out of the Windows biz by then—all of my personal work machines had been running Linux for two or three years by that point, and I had given up all but the most peripheral contact with Windows when I left the University of Miami in ’99.

Still, I did have some dealings with it. We eventually replaced Anne’s Gateway laptop running Windows 95 with a ThinkPad T40 running XP in 2003 or so. Even though it’s some 8 years old we still have it, and it still has XP on it. For the longest time I used it to play World of Warcraft on XP, though it’s been a couple of years since I’ve done that—at this point I just need to wipe it and dispose of it. But it still runs.

And thinking about it, I have to say, XP was pretty darned stable, and something resembling svelte. Whenever I have to use Anne’s current Windows 7 machines, I’m always amazed at how slow such powerful machines can be made to run. XP even on much older hardware is surprisingly snappy.

In retrospect, though I would never have wanted to use it as my primary OS or anything, I have to admit that XP was actually a pretty good OS.

The Hunger Games

Yeah, so I started it on my fathers Nook while we were visiting with them in Panama City, FL, early last month. When we got home, I put it on my list of things to get at the library, and then prepared to wait.

However, the Sunday morning yoga class I teach has also taken on something of a book-club character—really, I guess you could say it’s taken on a circle-of-friends character, as we often end up talking about one thing or another, books and food are just persistent topics.

Anyway, someone offered to loan me the first book, but I was in the middle of a stack of things that were coming in from the library, so it sat for a few weeks, and then I got the new Terry Pratchett novel for my birthday, so that got precedence.

Last night I made the mistake of picking it up just before bed, and didn’t get to sleep for a couple of hours. And then picked it up over coffee and oatmeal, and was late getting to my desk. And then finished it over lunch.

I guess in some ways it reminds me of Ender’s Game, which isn’t an entirely positive association for me. It’s compulsively readable, that’s for sure. And I’ll probably borrow the other two from my source…but they’re certainly not books I see myself ever wanting to actually own.