jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
I was sick right after Xmas and then I moved up here, where instead of biking to yoga and then to work I'm mostly sitting in my apartment. This is decidedly Bad News for my physical state. I currently weigh in at, um, about 5% over my previous maximum, which came in spring 2002 right before I got fired from a job where I was sitting around all day drinking Cokes and being depressed. (Long, long story.) Weight is just a convenient metric, though. More worryingly, I get out of breath climbing a flight of stairs. My lungs have always been crap but not usually /this/ much crap.

I was thinking about getting an exercise machine (probably a bike) and doing that in the mornings, maybe while watching an episode of my very large backlog of acquired TV shows. Problems there include cost of machine, time and effort in acquiring machine (might be able to find one in Vanderhoof an hour out; more likely I'd need to go to Prince George two hours out), and willingness to eat an hour out of my morning.

Then a few days ago I remembered something Jmac had posted awhile ago, about a seven-minute workout and how it (among other things) had improved his quality of life immensely. The basic idea is a highly compressed form of interval training: work a set of muscles for thirty seconds, rest for ten seconds, work a different set of muscles for thirty seconds, repeat. The app I'm using gives twelve different exercises.

Seven minutes (even accounting for his "Like all project estimates that cross my desk, I wish to double its budget, and then add a little extra time for slop") is doable much of the time. Perhaps more importantly, it's doable while I'm traveling.

I started yesterday. I collapsed halfway through "Plank". Today I made it through the whole sequence, more or less, despite severe stiffness in my pecs making it hard to keep raising my arms above my head during jumping jacks.

Here's hoping it does some good.
jazzfish: Malcolm Tucker with a cell phone, in a HOPE-style poster, caption NO YOU F****** CAN'T (Malcolm says No You F'ing Can't)
Farthing, by Jo Walton, is an alternate-history set in a 1949 where the UK accepted Rudolf Hess's peace offer in 1941, leading to a Reich that's consolidated the Continent and is still bogged down fighting the Soviet Union. It features unveiled antisemitism and the rise of UK fascism dressed in democratic norms.

I don't know why I thought this would be a good comfort reread in 2019.

(My previous comments hold up well.)


Mar. 29th, 2019 10:01 am
jazzfish: a whole bunch of the aliens from Toy Story (Aliens)
Garfield phones beach mystery finally solved after 35 years, in which Garfield telephones keep washing up on a French beach and no one knew why. I suspect this of being hastily and/or amusingly translated from the French, in light of sentences like this one:
[L]ocal officials say they will continue to harvest Garfields from the coastline.
jazzfish: artist painting a bird, looking at an egg for reference (Clairvoyance)
On the importance of art: "What does art matter compared with something like science, that saves people's lives? Here’s the thing: There's a flaw in the question, because art saves lives, too."

This hung out in a tab on my phone for a couple of months before I closed it by accident, because I keep trying to come up with something more to say about it and failing. It resonates; it seems both self-evidently right and very much worth putting into words.

Neat, though without much commentary:

The Aldi effect: how one discount supermarket transformed the way Britain shops: "Theo later tried, unsuccessfully, to have the ransom written off as a business expense for tax purposes."

Scott and Scurvy: "But in the second half of the nineteenth century, the cure for scurvy was lost. The story of how this happened is a striking demonstration of the problem of induction, and how progress in one field of study can lead to unintended steps backward in another."


Mar. 14th, 2019 12:29 pm
jazzfish: d6s stacked in an Escheresque triangle (Head-hurty dice)
In the course of writing about the Jacob's Ladder books I spent a few minutes poking around the internet for a brief summary of what makes Amber Diceless so great. I didn't find anything, partly because I got sidetracked into this in-depth review/response.

Reading that reminded me of two things.

One, that Amber (and Lords of Gossamer and Shadow, built on the same mechanics) has been the source of three memorable and excellent campaigns that I've run.

Two, that I really, really dislike a lot of the actual mechanics, to the extent that the only Amber game I've played in, I walked out after about three sessions because the GM was following the designer's advice and being an utter dick to my character.

The linked review goes into detail about all my complaints: the attribute auction, one of the fundamental aspects of the game, is kind of a mess; the secondary powers as written fit extremely poorly into the handwavey resolution system; the item creation rules are just plain terrible, as are the character advancement rules, etc etc etc.

So why do I like it so much?

Partly because the setting's so rich that it makes up for a lot of the shortcomings in the mechanics. Partly because it plays to my particular style: here's a bunch of weird stuff, figure it out. And partly because I took to heart some of the advice in the GM section of the book: throw out any parts of this that aren't working for you. Even as a baby GM, I could see the sense in that.

Rules are there to give some structure to the storytelling. Dice are there to give the players something to do with their hands. Conflict is there to make things interesting: not to beat up the players, but to point them in directions that keep their attention.

Dammit. Now I want to run a game again.
jazzfish: book and quill and keyboard and mouse (Media Log)
Elizabeth Bear, Dust (or Pinion)
Chill (or Sanction)
Grail (or Cleave)

I'm torn. The author's preferred titles have lovely opposing dual meanings, but the published titles are more evocative for me. Well, Dust is, anyway. And as a bonus, there are the lovely chapter headings with quotes from, among other sources, Conrad Aiken's lengthy modernist poem "The House of Dust." Oh well. Onward.

The Jacob's Ladder is a generation ship, launched around seven hundred years ago. Five hundred years ago, a series of disasters marooned the ship around an unstable star, and split the ship's governing intelligence into several separate parts. Now the star is threatening to go nova, and our heroes have to get the ship moving again, and find a place to make landfall before the ship completely falls apart.

Dust especially reads like a variant Amber Diceless campaign: the (essentially) royal family are, thanks to nanotech, long-lived, brilliant, just plain superior to normal humans ('Means', in another example of words with multiple relevant meanings), and rightfully distrustful of each other. Hence they spend a lot of time scheming and plotting and maneuvering around. This is not exactly a criticism: I love Amber Diceless, I especially love the later game Lords of Gossamer and Shadow, and I really enjoyed watching the various plots unfold, from the perspectives of characters who don't have quite all the information. It doesn't, however, make for a wholly satisfying read. "Oh, yes, I suppose character X was behind all this. We'll send people to arrest them." And, as in Amber, the gigantic cast of characters means that most of them end up feeling a bit shallow. I wanted to spend more time with most of them, to get to know them beyond just the image they put up.

Chill's big denouement felt a bit weak: not the event itself, the battle at and with the Leviathan that the long-dead crew imprisoned, but the reason behind it all. And Grail... the contact with the unexpected inhabitants of the planet they're heading for is handled so well on a character and dialogue level, and then the conflict is resolved by an almost literal deus ex machina.

Don't read these for the coherent plot, is I guess what I'm saying. Read them for the atmosphere and the characters and the journey. For Mallory the necromancer/gardener and the grove of fruit trees with dead people's memories, for the sentient carnivorous plants and Benedick's animate toolkit. For Perceval's wings, and Rien's bravery, and the Corwinesque Prince Tristen and solid practical Chief Engineer Caitlin.

Delightful, if unsatisfying. Recommended.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
Everyone knows the Prelude to the first Bach cello suite. Even if you don't know you know it. Even if you've never heard it before, it sounds familiar. Here's Yo-yo Ma playing it, so you can remember.

history, etc )

van out

Mar. 3rd, 2019 11:45 am
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
First Vancouver visit's down.

I successfully accomplished the tasks I'd set myself: passport, router replacement, zipper replacement on my heavy coat. Though the zipper's been replaced with a womens' zipper, so I'll get to learn how to use that. I saw a number of people, did some boardgaming, watched the first half of the third season of The Good Place and saw Spider-verse again. I went to work, I did a lot of biking and a lot of yoga. I overspent on restaurants; will have to fix that for next time.

Had a number of painful and unexpected transit memories come up while riding buses or trains. Those, I assume, will dull eventually.

The Airbnb I stayed in this time did alright. The pillows were flat, and I didn't practice my viola at all due to feeling deeply awkward hearing noises from both upstairs and the suite next door (they'd subdivided their basement into two suites, I think). But the location, 19th and Fraser, was pretty great.

I've missed Vancouver. Explicitly: I miss boardgaming, I miss easy (or at least easier) sociability, I miss the vague sense of connection and social-network. I also miss biking and yoga, and transit, and a variety of stores and such.

Social might be solvable, once I get my apartment in better order. Will see. Biking and yoga... I don't think there are solutions for those, not during snow (roughly: November through April).

And yesterday I rode the Skytrain from New West to Commercial at six in the evening, and got to watch an absolutely lovely sunset.


Feb. 25th, 2019 01:25 pm
jazzfish: Alien holding a cat: "It's vibrating"; other alien: "That means it's working" (happy vibrating cat)
Because cats, that's why.

Source: Nathan W. Pyle's 'Strange Planet' comics, worth browsing in their entirety (currently: twelve).
jazzfish: a whole bunch of the aliens from Toy Story (Aliens)
... that have been hanging out in a textfile waiting to be posted.

Meet the Fmitths: "Sleve and Tobb Fmitth are a perfectly ordinary Earth human bondpair. They enjoy typical Earth human activities such as watching TV, walking their dog, converting pleasant sounds into sustenance, and using the replicator from their ship to convert junk into gold and other materials Earth humans consider valuable, and trading those materials for weird green paper Dol-Larz to exchange for goods and services."

New favorite brand of humor: "mixing different kinds of scales, such as: ... The Kinsey-Kardashev scale, for measuring how gay a civilization is."

And a brilliant Twitter thread on the evolution of the Pacific NW Tree Octopus: "How did this specialized, limited range of arboreal mollusks ever evolve into the gigantic jungle island nightmares we know and love? The answer, as always, is seagulls."

And finally, one prettiness via Jim Hines: Perfectly Timed Pictures does what it says on the tin.
jazzfish: a black-haired man with a big sword. blood stains the snow behind (Eddard Stark)
A lump in her lungs, says Emily. She's on oxygen.


When Joe and Spotless moved out, we decided we needed a second cat for Chaos. So we talked to Bert. By then Bert had moved to a house out on a dirt road, and had a whole mess of cats coming and going at all hours. Kai was the one we could catch, so she was the one who came home. She was a muted tricolour calico (there's a word for it but I'm not coming up with it) (Edit: "dilute tortoiseshell," and let me tell you, tortitude is definitely a thing even diluted), all brown and grey with hints of orange.

She was always "the kitten," first because she was a kitten and then because she was so much smaller than Chaos. For a long time she was the skittish cat where Chaos was the friendly cat, likely due to having spent the first couple months of her life as a semiferal. But sometime after we moved to Vancouver she decided people were Good, if they weren't being too loud. So for the last N years she spent a lot of time in warm laps or on her fuzzy-blanketed catbed. If multiple people were on the couch she wanted to sit on all of them. She missed Chaos something fierce when we took him to get nuked, and even more when we took him away and he didn't come back again.

The last time I saw her was October of 2017. She was tiny and brown-going-grey and she grumped at me from her heated catbed and was happy to get petted.

Dammit, little cat. You couldn't hold on for two more days, so I could be there.
jazzfish: a whole bunch of the aliens from Toy Story (Aliens)
Darths and Droids is David "Irregular Webcomic" Morgan-Mar's retelling of the Star Wars movies as a roleplaying campaign. It's pretty funny, it's true to role-playing life, and it's been one of my favourite reads for years and years. From the FAQ: "Our GM is an easy-going guy who most of all wants his players to have fun. He's not straitjacketing them into his preconceived story; he gives them free rein to do pretty much anything they want, and then builds (more or less) logical consequences on top of that. He allows his players to improvise and invent some of the details of the setting, so long as they don't conflict too badly with what he'd originally planned, and that it can be worked into the story somehow." This lines up pretty well with my GM philosophy, so of course I'd like it. (DW feed: [syndicated profile] darths_and_droids_feed)

They ran out of Star Wars movies (1-6) awhile ago. Rather than start on 7-9 they're waiting until 9 is out, so he can craft a coherent narrative. So there was "that time we had a TPK, right before the last campaign" (Rogue One), and now they've sent half the party off to Chewbacca's home planet for the Holiday Special.

The other half have just shown up in... oh, just click the link.

This has absolutely made my morning.
jazzfish: a black-haired man with a big sword. blood stains the snow behind (Eddard Stark)
He thought he saw an Elephant, that practised on a fife:

For a split second I saw a twelve-pound blue-eyed white cat crouched by the kitchen doorway.

He looked again, and found it was a letter from his wife.

Just the bag of kitchen trash that I've not taken out yet.

"At length I realise," he said, "the bitterness of Life!"

Sometimes it takes awhile, I guess.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
I may be starting to recover.

In late October I went into "head down Do The Thing" mode, which is my standard response to stress. I knew I was doing it at the time and decided it was worth it to keep functioning, because there was an end date in sight. That end date has been further away than anticipated by several weeks at least. But I know it's there now.

I've got a little over a third of my books onto the bookshelves, and I already feel substantially better than I did this morning. Living among boxes is a huge source of stress for me, it turns out. I do a lot better when ... hm. I think it's "when my environment is uncluttered." When things have a place and are mostly in it. And, among other stressors, I've not really had that since I packed up half my stuff in October to show the condo.

I'm starting to feel like me again, is I guess what I'm saying.

Additional source of stress relief: the money from the condo sale has gone through. That is, I can see the deposit transaction in my account record, but I can't actually access the money yet. I don't require it for another week and a half, though, so that's most likely alright.

This is not precisely "no longer worried about money" but it does put me back in the situation I was in, mm, a little over a year ago, when I was thinking about moving back into the condo. I have enough of a cushion that I can wait and see how my current financial situation actually shakes out and where I need to do some belt-tightening. This is way better for my mental state than "i am very nearly at the end of my liquid savings." Very curious to see how my expenses shake out during my monthly Vancouver weeks, and what if anything I'll need to change around that.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
Well. The kitchen's mostly in order. I've decided on a bookshelf arrangement (Erin suggested, and I moved bookcases into position and grumped, and slept on it and decided it was probably the best option): along one wall in the living room, then turning a corner and extending back-to-back to create a partition between the living room and the dining room. Gives me a booknook, which I like; gives me space to put up all my games facing the dining-room table, where they're most likely to get any use; gives me a wall to put the couch against. Unsure where the comfy chair is going, but I'll figure it out. My only complaint is the blocking of sight-lines from the dining room to the living room and to the big window with a view of the lake. Oh well; can't have everything.

The games are, as of tonight, on their shelves, which helps it start to feel like a home, to the extent that a place does. The living room is now only half piled in white boxes, which also helps. Tomorrow evening or Saturday will be books, and then the office, and then I guess I'll be moved in.

So far it's alright. That is: it's somewhat drafty and expensive to heat, and I need a rug or two. I miss the condo kitchen, at least on the occasions when it had a functional dishwasher. I don't know how the office will work out and I need to fiddle with the heat in the bedroom.

It'll do. As I said earlier today, if I'm still here after, say, eighteen months, something has gone Very Wrong Indeed.
jazzfish: a whole bunch of the aliens from Toy Story (Aliens)
Unpacking didn't begin on Sunday, because instead Erin and I both spent all day napping and watching Doctor Who. Turns out that travelling for two weekends running tends to wipe one out a bit.

Unpacking also didn't begin on Sunday because the landlord didn't do much of a cleaning before I moved in, and it'd be nice to not unload things onto dirty shelves. So I have cleaners scheduled for Friday morning. Meanwhile there's not a lot of point in unpacking the kitchen, and I want the kitchen boxes out of the way before I start trying to figure out what I'm doing with the living room / where the bookcases are going to go. So ... the bedroom is mostly together?

Upshot: I don't have a functional kitchen. (I do, finally, have a functional toilet.) I therefore have no groceries beyond what I brought down with me.

However, today's the day the internet guy comes to install internet, so I need to be here. I wisely had breakfast before I came but didn't think to pack lunch.

He's been and gone three times now. I think (hope) this is the last one, because I'm nearly out of pop-tarts.
jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
A couple of weeks ago I was made a moderator of [community profile] endings, possibly because I'm one of the only people who posts there. Odd. Unsure what I shall do with this newfound power.

Not coincidentally, this is a plug for [community profile] endings, which has long been one of my favourite things about DW.


Jan. 26th, 2019 12:22 pm
jazzfish: Randall Munroe, xkcd180 ("If you die in Canada, you die in Real Life!") (Canada)
As of yesterday morning, I am a Canadian citizen.

This is, I think, the end of a journey that started a little over fourteen years ago, in the wake of GWB's re-election. ("I think" because there's always the possibility that I'll renounce my US citizenship, though I'm not currently planning to. Too much hassle, no real benefit.)

I surrendered my Permanent Resident card and filed into a room with seventy-some other proto-citizens. We watched a video from Justin Trudeau (I may have sniffled a bit when he ended it with "Welcome home"), and heard a short speech from a judge, and spoke the citizenship oath in English and (bad) French, and sang "O Canada". And then they gave me a certificate and told me that I'm not allowed to apply for a passport for another two business days, which seems fair enough.

Erin was there for support, as was ex-roomie Mya, which was lovely on both counts. Emily and I were civil and courteous and not not-speaking, which was also nice. Emily's cheering section consisted of the two people who I know for certain took sides in the breakup, and they ignored me altogether, and that was alright too.

Afterwards Erin and I went for brunch at Chambar, where I had waffles with fancy syrup (very good maple, and I believe raspberry-caramel; Erin had something involving pistachio and rosewater), and acquired a nice cast-iron skillet from a thrift store.

Today I fly back north, and tomorrow I start making headway on unpacking my apartment. Kitchen first, I think, and then maybe trying to figure out where exactly the shelves of books and games are going to go. Wall space, as always, is a problem.


so tired

Jan. 12th, 2019 10:55 pm
jazzfish: an open bottle of ether, and George conked out (Ether George)
I can tell I've been tired because I've had Gareth Hanrahan's debut novel for well over a week now and haven't had the brain to start it. (Gareth is an RPG writer I've been following since, um, at least as far back as 2000. I must have run into him on the Unknown Armies mailing list.) The Gutter Prayer looks to be gritty fantasy set in a city, with weird magic and twisty plot. Very much the kind of thing I like and I have just not been able to focus enough to read it.

(Also I still have a lingering cough from the xmas plague.)

Movers came Friday and packed the kitchen and loaded 99.9% of my stuff into an orange truck. On Friday I also got winter tires put on Hactar and gave the summer tires to the movers. I then loaded the last of my stuff into Hactar and signed the "yes we're selling the condo" paperwork, at which Emily continued to not speak to me unless directly spoken to. And last night I crashed on a couch at a friend's, which was less restful than it might have been.

I am now in Hope, at the bottom end of the Fraser Canyon, because I wanted to get a start on the driving today but I didn't want to go up the canyon in the dark. (I've done that. Would not buy again.) Tomorrow I drive somewhere between eight and ten hours to Erin's place and collapse, with the worst of the stress over.

Then Monday I see a guy about an apartment, and Wednesday I take delivery of my stuff in said apartment, and Friday we fly back to Van for a kink conference, and fly north on Monday and back to Van again on Wednesday evening, and on Friday there's the citizenship ceremony. Which ought to be a joyous event but I am mostly anxious because two of the people who'll be there for Emily are ones who took sides in the breakup, and no matter how many times I recognise how much better off I am without them in my life it still hurts and it still makes me nervous.

Oh, and there are also some phone interviews in there, because I keep getting headhunted by people who don't believe me when I say "My current workplace is cool with me being onsite one week a month and I'll need you to match that." It's flattering but ultimately kind of annoying.

But I had a bath tonight. And tomorrow I can listen to either any music I want, or the first episode of a number of Serial Box things, to see if I've gotten any better at processing audio books.

I miss you.
jazzfish: Owly, reading (Owly)
Ooh, new Ted Chiang collection in May.

(Chiang is the author of a handful of short stories, perhaps most notably "Story Of Your Life" which got made into the movie Arrival. I liked Arrival less than most people but that's mostly because I liked the source material so much.)

Two new-new stories, plus one that's new to me (the title story), plus reprints of his two Subterranean novellas. "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate" is an enjoyable meditation on predestination, with a time travel aspect and a Persian style that I'm partial to. I tend to pick it up every so often and reread it, just for the writing. "The Lifecycle of Software Objects"... I need to reread, I've only read it the once but I remember thinking it was quite good. It's longish, though, so it's more of a commitment than Merchant.

I hope that's not the complete table of contents; I know he's got a few other stories since "Stories Of Your Life And Others". In particular, I hope it'll include What's Expected Of Us, which was printed in Nature, um, fourteen years ago, and strikes me as sort of minimalist Chiang: predestination, spooky, and enough of a human touch to make it interesting and memorable.


jazzfish: Jazz Fish: beret, sunglasses, saxophone (Default)
Tucker McKinnon


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Adventures in Mamboland

"Jazz Fish, a saxophone playing wanderer, finds himself in Mamboland at a critical phase in his life." --Howie Green, on his book Jazz Fish Zen

Yeah. That sounds about right.

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