mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
[personal profile] mme_hardy
 This looks like another "young outcast discovers his powers" book.  Wow, is it not.   Trust me. In the very first scene, Kellen needs to fight a magecaster's duel.  

There are three requirements to earning a mage's name among the JanTep.  The first is the strength to defend your family.  The second is the ability to wield the high magics that protect our people.  The third is simply to reach the age of sixteen.  I was a few weeks shy of my birthday when I learned that I wouldn't be doing any of those things.

And we're off, into the duel.  Kellen's problem is that he doesn't have magic.   This is not a survivable problem.   But Kellep does have a very, very clever mind.  In a lesser book, Kellep would discover his magic and wipe the floor with his opponent, winning the acclaim of the crowd. 

This is not a lesser book.  Spellslinger is actually about a young outcast discovering and creating his own moral fiber.  Kellep's struggle, although he doesn't realize it early in the book, is to become a decent human being in an indecent society.  This is a far more interesting coming-of-age story than you usually get.   When the Mysterious Stranger shows up, she's not a kindly wizard mentor.  She's (possibly) not a wizard at all. She doesn't teach Kellep: she gives him opportunities to teach himself.  Kellep acquires some new resources, but they are challenges as much as gifts.

Oh, the Mysterious Stranger kicks ass.  I can't say more, because it would be a spoiler.  She is compelling and ambiguous and funny and tough.

The characters are engrossing.  The worldbuilding is unusual and clever. It's partly based around an original variant of a Tarot deck, but is in no way woo-woo; the cards do not predict your future, but (sometimes) illuminate your choices. The cards are playing cards, but are also a weapon.   The cards have nothing to do -- as far as we know -- with the magic of the JanTep.

The book itself is gorgeous, in a way that made me extremely nostalgic.  The red-and-black cover has two line drawings of the main characters, presented as a face card. (Don't look too closely at Kellep; it's a spoiler.)  Red is used as a spot color, very effectively.  There are interior illustrations of relevant Tarot cards at the beginning of each section.  And the page edges (forget the technical term) are red!  Taken as a whole, the book looks a bit like a deck of cards, which is, I'm sure intentional.

Here's the catch.  There (as of time of writing) no U.S. or Canadian distributor of Spellslinger or its sequel, Shadowblack.  If you're in North America and want to read them, you'll have to order from the, in my experience, reliable, fast, and cheap www.bookdepository.com or an equivalent.

Note: de Castell's Greatcoat books are also awesome.  If you like the Musketeers books, you should love them.  The nice thing is that they preserve the essential "three duelists against the world" spirit without either copying the plots or being pastiche-y.  The second nice thing is that the author is a stage fight choreographer and is able to communicate fights clearly to the non-fighter (me).
[syndicated profile] apod_feed

Both gravitational and electromagnetic radiations have been detected in Both gravitational and electromagnetic radiations have been detected in


Guess the author!

Oct. 16th, 2017 10:07 am
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
"Atwood lifted much of HANDMAID from Heinlein. Yet the world thinks she’s an original."

It's back to school...

Oct. 16th, 2017 06:14 am
seawasp: (Default)
[personal profile] seawasp

... and time to start another mystery in Chapter 25 of Princess Holy Aura
cellio: (Default)
[personal profile] cellio

A few weeks ago I wrote about a Stack Exchange design change that made the site much harder for me to use. I wrote a post about it that got a lot of attention -- which led to a meeting invitation from the relevant product manager. We had a very productive conversation, after which they fixed the main problems I reported (and one that came up during our meeting). Woot! Calm-but-firm user feedback works sometimes.

The meeting was supposed to include one of the designers, but time zones are hard. The product manager and I spent the better part of an hour talking about the design, use cases, the need for responsive design, vision problems, and so on. Through screen-sharing, I showed him what things were problems for me, what I was using user scripts or CSS overrides to get around (but I can't do that on my tablet), what I was just having to put up with, and what site functions I was just ignoring because they're too hard now. While it's not about the top bar (the specific UI change that led to this meeting), I pointed out a problem that basically means I can't do some key moderation tasks on any mobile device. (No word yet on whether they're going to fix that.) Along the way we bumped into a couple things where, apparently, normal people see some color differentiation that I couldn't see, and he said they'd work on that. He shared some of their then-future plans for the top bar and asked for feedback. He said they are trying to move to responsive design, which will make a lot of things better, but we both know that's a big change for a site that wasn't designed that way from the start.

This UI change has been quite contentious among the larger user community. Some users are, sadly, being quite rude about it. I'm glad that, against that backdrop, someone was willing to take the time to try to understand and address the problems I was facing with the new design. I'm one of about 15 million users and about 500 moderators, and nonetheless I was worth a few hours of somebody's time. Courtesy of course matters, but even with courtesy I'm usually brushed off, not engaged, when part of a large user base somewhere.

This is actually my fourth* significant meeting (not email, not site chat, but synchronous meeting) with SE employees -- two community managers, one VP (escalating a problem), and now this product manager. All have left me feeling that the employees in question really cared about me as a user and moderator, and most of them resulted in my problems being fixed. I'm pretty impressed.

* I was also interviewed by a member of the design team for the now-ended Documentation product, I think because of this post I wrote about some planned changes there. That was them doing user research (for which they paid me), not me bringing something to them.

mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
[personal profile] mme_hardy
Nothing ages faster than style guides; the language moves on while the guide continues to shake a fist at the previous generation's shibboleths. (Lookin' at you, Strunk and White. Fowler is at least funny.)

Today, I give you Ambrose Bierce's Write It Right, published 1909. There are gems on every page, but here are a few:

THE BLACKLIST
A for An. "A hotel." "A heroic man." Before an unaccented aspirate use an. The contrary usage in this country comes of too strongly stressing our aspirates.
Note that this means he thinks you should say "HOtel". Some people (*cough*fuddyduddies*cough* still agitate for "An heroic", but I've never seen anybody objecting to "A hotel".

Chivalrous. The word is popularly used in the Southern States only, and commonly has reference to men's manner toward women. Archaic, stilted and fantastic.
I kind of love this. Boy, would Bierce hate "kind of".

Every for Ever. "Every now and then." This is nonsense: there can be no such thing as a now and then, nor, of course, a number of now and thens. Now and then is itself bad enough, reversing as it does the sequence of things, but it is idiomatic and there is no quarreling with it. But "every" is here a corruption of ever, meaning repeatedly, continually.
Good old false etymology.

Some forgotten slang and dialect:
Avoirdupois for Weight. Mere slang.
Clever for Obliging. In this sense the word was once in general use in the United States, but is now seldom heard and life here is less insupportable.
Decidedly for Very, or Certainly. "It is decidedly cold."
Gent for Gentleman. Vulgar exceedingly.

So. Tell me your favorites!


I can play badly

Oct. 13th, 2017 05:33 pm
[personal profile] herooftheage
So one reason poker is hard is that a few moments of poor play can be costly. Last night had several of those moments.

A few hours in, I'm in the cut-off with about 140 in my stack, and I pick up QTo. Everyone folds to me and I raise to 10.

That play is ok. I'm late to play, and I'd be glad to steal the blinds. BB calls and the flop is AJ6 with 2 clubs. I bet 12 and the BB calls.

Again, this play is also ok, since the BB might have missed and be planning on check-folding. Check, and betting 7 or 8 would be ok too, though the latter might well be conveying too much information, as it screams "I'm trying to control the size of the pot! because I don't have much!"

Now things go off the rails. Turn card is a 5, BB checks, and I bet 25, BB check-raises to 50 and I call.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. I got myself a free card, and I threw it away. Then when my opponent claimed to super-strong, I called again in the hopes of a gut-shot coming in to take down the pot, on a hand that should check-fold the turn/river.

River 8c. BB checks, I shove, BB calls, shows JJ, scoops up the chips.

So I represented a flush on the river when for the rest of the hand I was saying that I already had a made hand and was not on a draw. Just as bad, my bet of 60ish into a pot of 140 wasn't going to be large enough to have any real fold equity at all.

So, a few moments of bad play and the result was I lose 140 on a hand instead of 22. You don't need a whole lot of those misconceptions to have a negative night. I had easily a half dozen. Now as it turns out, I was eventually able to buckle down and have a marginally profitable session, but bad play really cut into the bottom line.

Where did that come from?

Oct. 13th, 2017 03:42 pm
[personal profile] herooftheage
It is rare for me to remember my dreams. Rarer still for the ones I do remember to be about anything other than sex. But when I woke up this morning, reverberations from one of my favorite Shakespeare speeches was in my head:

"The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesses him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God Himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice. "

Poem help!

Oct. 13th, 2017 10:01 am
mme_hardy: White rose (Default)
[personal profile] mme_hardy
Does anybody remember a prose-poem about a young man who is determined to see the truth of everything?  The important part is the ending, in which the man, grown old, looks into the eyes of young men and sees a kindly old gentleman who is fond of sunsets.   The last line is something close to

"That is what he saw in the eyes of those wicked young men".

I thought this was by Stephen Crane.  Does anybody recognize it? 
jducoeur: (Default)
[personal profile] jducoeur

I call your attention to this fascinating recent article in The Economist. The tl;dr is:

  • There's a little-known (and never-used) mechanism in the Constitution whereby state legislatures can demand a constitutional convention.
  • A quiet but steady right-wing movement has been slowly steamrolling towards this for a number of years now, and are within striking distance.
  • Their explicit goal is to require balanced budgets at the Constitutional level, likely destroying the social safety net.
  • If a convention were to happen, there isn't much stopping it from going off-topic and changing the Constitution more broadly, with far lower requirements than the usual process for changes.

This is pretty scary stuff -- not quite "OMG the world's about to end", but an unsettlingly plausible pathway for the right to force through their agenda, relatively permanently, on a much broader basis. (Even if they just stuck to the balanced budget requirement, that is extremely foolish economically unless it is very well-hedged to deal appropriately with downturns.) And they've made good progress towards it, precisely because nobody's been paying much attention to it.

Not a short article, but worth a read...

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