Another Post About Fantasy Novels

I found another great book in my couch. This one shouldn't have been a surprise though, because it was my absolute favorite book all through high school. I hadn't wanted to try and reread it, because other attempts to reread books I loved when I was younger only made me realize how much I've outgrown them and how many bad writing habits their authors indoctrinated into me. But this one is still just as awesome as I remember it being; the characters are interesting and believable, the dialog is funny, the plot keeps going strong for 800+ pages, and Rawn put a lot of effort into building but not overbuilding the world. It's got strong female heroes and strong female villains. Why aren't there more fantasy novels like this? And for god's sake, why has Rawn still not finished this incredible series? It's a book I can really just curl up with and enjoy. It was the kind of book I always wanted to write, and what made really want to start writing (well, that and avilina).

I feel like talking about books today. I'll probably swing back around eventually, and go back to rambling about programming or linguistics or religious philosophy, or whatever it is I usually post about, if I post at all. I've hit a roadblock in reading, but I've still managed to finish some new books.

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Speaking of wizards named Harry, despite all the terrible things I said about Harry Dresden, and I went and bought the second books and read it. I'm really getting to like his world, now that he's getting into the rules behind it. I mean, it's exactly the kind of urban fantasy that sets out to explain how mythological creatures could possibly exist in the real, non-mythological world, and succeeds in fascinating ways. The style is not my favorite, but it's growing on me. The main characters still aren't thrilling me, but the minor characters are actually getting to be likeable. Even Dresden's hopelessly cliched mission to save the mundane world from evil magic-users is getting more depth. And Jim Butcher writes really awesome monsters, even if seeing the hero constantly getting the crap beaten out of him is not quite so cool.

I think the moral of this post is that Dresden > Potter. And I will be buying more Jim Butcher books. And that I have yet to find a fantasy adventure story that is better than Melanie Rawn's (still unfinished) Exiles trilogy.

Maybe this is God's way of telling me I need a new (lighter) laptop.

Computational Linguistics professor: "Um, there's been a horrible mistake and this classroom doesn't have any computers in it. I want all of you guys to bring your laptops to class so that you can write perl while I lecture. Yes, at 9:30 in the morning on the day when you have to have three or four long treks across campus to get to other classes."

My back is going to die this semester. If only I had a way to secure the laptop to my waist like those gimongous camping backpacks do. On the other hand, this means that during all the "Ok, this is a while loop. This is how you use the assignment operator." lectures, I can debug my java homework and look like I'm actually paying attention.

Monsoon 2007

Now, I know there was already one terrificly large and inconvenient monsoon storm this summer, because I got caught out in it in my car (and because of that it probably seemed more inconvenient than it really was...) but the one that happened this afternoon was pretty serious, too. I woke up at around 1 PM (because it's Saturday, after all) because the wind was getting very loud. Then it started to thunder and quickly began raining in buckets. Maybe ten or twenty minutes after I woke up, the power in the entire apartment complex went out, and as of yet it still has not come back on. Apparently there was a downed power line a few blocks away, and they still haven't gotten it fixed... I think I spent like a half an hour or so reading in front of the picture window and watching the window be completely submerged in rain, despite the fact that it was under an awning. It was like someone was throwing buckets of water onto the window, over and over. Stuff that was lying under the awning near my door was swept right off the balcony by the rain. Even after it stopped storming crazily, it continued to rain normally until around 4 or 5, and I still have no lights. Or refrigeration, but by some stroke of luck I don't think I have much that's perishable in the fridge right now.

It's actually kind of amazing how well a single candle can light up a room. I wouldn't have thought it would have much of an effect, but I've never had to try it before.

Looks like I'll be haunting coffee shops this evening then. Fortunately, the rain has cooled everything down to a reasonable temperature, so I won't need the air conditioner. But man...
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Twenty-one-year-old cars give the best birthday presents

On Saturday, my car began randomly stalling when I stopped, or, eventually, whenever I put it into neutral. I almost got it home before it became impossible to start and displayed symptoms of overheating, which is really odd because the temperature gauge was quite low at the time. Anyway, hopefully the shop will be able to tell us what's wrong with it.

As of yesterday, I am now 23. Man, I thought I would be done with college by now. Well, I suppose I probably only overshot it by two years or so, so maybe that's not too bad. But all those fireworks that everyone in America is going to be setting off tomorrow? Independence Day, my foot. Those are for me. Are you setting off fireworks in honor of me tomorrow?

As for my much belated recounting of my reading list, I have an honest-to-god excuse for not updating it now, which is the notebook I'm tallying it in is in the car, which is still in the shop. But I do know the numbers, which are:

April: 4 books
May: 1 book, due to finals and all that jazz
June: 0 books, because somewhere in there I stupidly deleted a 2500-line C++ program and have spent most of the month re-designing GUIs.

Plus, I'm just getting around to reading that Sam Harris book, which periodically makes me have to get up and smack my pillow around a bit. When I finish it, there's going to be a rant post. It's going to be long. Really, I just need to work some more fantasy books into my rotation. I didn't really mean what I said here... fantasy beats out sensationalism any day.

"Documentation" of old code

When I go back through programs I haven't worked on in months, I find amusing stuff in the comments sometimes:

int frogboots;        // Note: must not be greater than four

// What the hell is this variable supposed to represent?
// I think I drew a diagram or something in one of the Latin notebooks.
// Gotta find that then.

// Does this member function actually get called anywhere?
// YES. For the love of God, stop deleting it.

// It ain't broke; stop fixing it.


I guess when it's 3 AM there's no one else to talk to except future me. Maybe programming is just a kind of extended conversation with myself, where I go away for a while, get some new ideas, and return to add more insight to the discussion. Feels like it sometimes, anyway. I can look back at this old documentation and remember what I was trying to do and what I was frustrated with and why. It's the kind of stuff that gets edited out of writing and art because it's not part of the finished product, but the compiler doesn't care about comments. I've got something akin to a little comment-blog running on the top of one source file. I guess if nothing else, I can always look up there and remind myself, that yes, I have actually built quite a few things that really do work. Or did, at some point.

I missed April's accounting of the books I read, probably because of finals. Strangely, I only finished one book for May. I'll have to find my list and update that tomorrow, before school starts again.
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It's that time again.

Every year I almost forget how ungodly hot it gets here in the summer. At least in a month or so it'll be monsoon season, and there'll be rain every day to make up for it. But still... The sun comes in through my apartment's west-facing window every afternoon and heats everything up; the only solution is to be out of the house from 11 to 4 so that the blinds are closed then. Even so, it's hot when I get back. I don't like running the air conditioner in the evening, because it doesn't take long to cool off the whole place that way, and when I start it and go to sleep, I wind up waking up two hours later because it's freezing cold. Like any native Tucsonan, I prefer too-damn-hot to too-damn-cold. At least I've never woken up in the middle of the night because it was too hot.

I have a summer programming class that starts on Monday, but since I have nothing else to do this summer, I want to get back into writing for a bit, or conlanging. It's nice not to have school take up all my time. Maybe I could even, you know, actually get a job.

Incidentally, I have a new conworld, and I'm using a community for it (so that I don't have to log out): adeya_ne. Maybe this one will actually go somewhere; I think the more I do this, the more rational the conworlds seem.
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    lazy lazy

Fantasy Premise of Geeky Awesomeness

My syntax professor, who has a sense of humor befitting someone who plays with words for a living, put a question on our final which quoted a fantasy novel and asked if one of the sentences involved an insertion transformation.

The humor? The novel (which was written by a conlanger/linguist) is about a world in which magic is done by applying the rules of Transformational Grammar to physical reality, and the passage was describing how the wizards of this world had transformationally inserted a wall around a city.

I must have this book. Must must must.
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People amuse me.

Since I'm usually in coffee shops these days to use the internet, I usually set up my laptop first and attempt to get on the wireless connection. If I succeed, I buy coffee. If I don't, I pack up my things and find another coffee shop.

Part of this process involves asking other coffee-shop denizens if they can access the internet. It's really funny how as soon as you admit you're having trouble with wireless everyone else turns into a wireless networking expert. I get a lot of advice like "you have click on your browser icon," or "maybe you should refresh your connection," and offers to walk me through it with some wireless network organizing program native in Windows XP. They get very confused when they discover that I'm not even running windows, let along XP, and when even more I start talking about "ifconfig" and "ping," or even "SSIDs."

I can remember a time back at Grinnell when there wasn't WiFi and most of the people I talked to didn't know the difference between a wireless card and an ethernet cable. Or maybe that was just because they were all liberal arts students or something. Heh.
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"I do not make the rules. This annoys me, and so I comfort myself by breaking them."

I really shouldn't be doing a lot of reading right now, but having god-awful complicated syntax trees to diagram gives me too good of an excuse to take breaks. And it turned out to be one of these 3-day books again, so eventually I just forgot about the syntax trees entirely. But I really shouldn't be surprised; it's the other sequel to Swordspoint.

A character from The Fall of the Kings, which was written before The Privilege of the Sword but which takes place 45 years after it, has this to say about the life of the Mad Duke Tremontaine:

Scandal number one: young noble went to University to study instead of to drink.[...]Scandal number two: got kicked out, went to live with a swordsman in Riverside.[...]Scandal number three: inherits Tremontaine and fills the house with scholars, reprobates, and lovers of all, ah, shapes and sizes.[...]Scandal number four: he was driven into exile, passing the duchy to his niece, the Lady Katherine Talbert.

The Privilege of the Sword is the story of the Lady Katherine Talbert, who at 15 was summoned by her uncle the Mad Duke from the peaceful countryside to make her fortune in the city. Is she going to dress up in fancy gown and go to Society balls and meet her rich and politically felicitous husband like every other young girl in the known universe? No. Her mad uncle takes away all her dresses, replaces them with boys' clothes, and has her trained to be a swordsman.

She does get quite into it, and fuelled by idealism and swordsman-romance, she tries to step in to right a wrong, as every honor-bound swordsman should, and winds up caught up in the already-unstable political games of her mad and extremely contrary uncle. It's got the swordfights. It's got the wit. It's got strong female characters in a world where early arranged marriage is the done thing and divorce isn't. It's got theater. It's got scandal. The Mad Duke Tremontaine brings the crazy; he is like the archetypical eccentric uncle times ten. (The quote in the title is his.)

By the way, the "privilege of the sword" refers to the right of the nobility in this world to have someone killed at swordpoint - provided it was a matter of honor. The crazy disfunctionality of this world is a beautiful thing.

You should read Swordspoint first, though.
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