[personal profile] kittenscribble
A few miscellaneous bits, because time seems to be running very fast* right now:

I just raced through four Marla Mason books at about the pace of one per day.** It's pretty light reading, lots of fun. Unscrupulous, amoral Marla is the chief sorcerer of Felport, a grim, squalid little town that she loves with all her heart. Other sorcerers can take her mantle by defeating her, and much of the plot stems from their trying to do so. I love the sorcery system, in which sorcerers gain power from certain elements; chaos magicians draw power from disorder, pyromancers are weakened in the cold, and pornomancers... well, you get the idea. Marla herself is actually a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none type sorcerer; if her limited magic skills aren't up to the job, she doesn't hesitate to use tools, fists, and blackmail if necessary.

Marla Mason actually hooked me via T.A. Pratt's website, on which you can read her origin story. Great stuff; I highly recommend it. The following books actually kind of pale in comparison (but they're still good!).

From the Marla Mason series, I transitioned to Charles Stross's Atrocity Archives, which is a much more... technical take. The theory is that sufficiently advanced math is indistinguishable from magic; overly brilliant math or CS grad students, chasing down a particularly knotty theorem, can find themselves opening portals onto other dimensions or summoning fiends from afar. To keep things under control, we have the Laundry: a super-secret agency of the Crown, rife with middle management and paperwork.

The book is a pretty awesome mixture of Lovecraftian horror, James Bond spy thriller, and Office Space. There's actually a little too much in the way of made-up technical detail (I don't care whether your dimensional gate was derived from the Hilbert theorem or one of Turing's principles) but there's plenty of excitement to keep you going.

And yes, Stross reading material can also be found online! If you want a sample, Tor.com has posted "Overtime," a short story in the Laundry universe; check it out here.

** This is actually pretty fast, even for me. I can down a regular-sized paperback given two or three uninterrupted hours, but in the normal course of affairs, I also work, clean, cook, eat, watch TV, hang out with K, play with the cats, etc, so such a book should usually last about a week. (I still try to read when I can, though. When we first moved in together, K was surprised that I would take out a book while I brushed my teeth.)

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Creamed corn! It's corn season at the CSA (even though they mourned the end of corn season three weeks ago, the corn just keeps on coming) and I've been drowning in soft little white kernels. I tried out two recipes for creamed corn: Thomas Keller's, which uses cayenne and lime zest, and the Lee Bros recipe, which uses, well, cream and butter.

Keller's creamed corn was an instant hit with K. The tiny amount of cayenne actually added a huge amount of kick, and the hint of lime was very tantalizing. I liked it a lot, even though it didn't have the "classic" taste of creamed corn. (I also left out the chives.)

The Lee Bros recipe, on the other hand, didn't turn out so well. It absolutely blanketed me with the smell of butter and cream as I was stirring the mixture on the stovetop, which was drool-worthy, and I could almost feel my arteries hardening. Sadly, it was too salty. I think I fell victim to the fact that not all kosher salts are created equal. Still, it's an absolutely luxurious recipe, and I'd definitely try it again... salting carefully next time.

I love the CSA corn but it comes with a fair amount of worm action at the tip. I've learned to husk very carefully so as not to disturb the little guys; more often than not, there's one per cob. They look like little green caterpillars, the kind I used to play with when I was a kid and less squeamish. If I see one, I lop off one or two inches of the tip of the cob, and let the worm keep the tip; I figure there's enough corn for both of us. (One of the other CSA patrons was complaining that there were worms in her corn. The farmer's daughter said, "but you want organic vegetables, right?")

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Vienna Teng played in Silver Spring on Saturday, accompanied by talented producer/percussionist Alex Wong, with singer/stand-up comedian Joey Ryan opening. (He's not really a stand-up comedian. But he should be. I've never seen such deadpan delivery. "This next song is my wife's favorite song, like, ever, in the whole history of music, which just goes to show that, you know, maybe she should listen to more music. Anyway... it's called 'You Deserve Better.'" And as the audience is still laughing, he starts into the opening chords.)

Vienna and Alex were great as usual, riffing off each other splendidly and inviting plenty of audience participation. Both of them made extensive use of loopers during the show, which I found fascinating; Vienna managed three-part harmony with her looper, and worked it in seamlessly during the choruses while accompanying herself on piano. It was really impressive to see. The audience was, as Vienna put it, "pin-drop silent" during the songs (my favorite kind of audience), and very generous with applause. Joey Ryan came out to accompany them on one or two songs, and the three of them together had a fabulous blend.

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Oh! And congratulations to Maryland, which was among ten states (well, nine states and DC) that won funds for the Race to the Top program: $250 million to invest in public schools. I'm grateful, seeing as it's my state and all, but this state also has four of the highest-income counties in the country.

Couldn't we give this money to, I don't know, Alabama or something? Surely we make enough money that we can allocate some of it to the poorer counties in the state, without taking money from the feds. Yes, I understand that it's irresponsible to hand out funds to those unprepared to use them, and that a lot of effort went into making sure that the states that got this money were prepared indeed. But it still seems unfair.

Anyway, in case you're wondering, the other winners were: Washington DC, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island. I'm particularly glad to see DC, Georgia, and Hawaii on the list.

I learned of this because Governor O'Malley informed his listserv in a triumphant email, concluding, hilariously: "We are grateful for... federal investments from President Obama and the U.S. Department of Educatio." Yes, even governors need spellcheck.

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* I keep thinking about that article on NPR which said that time moves faster because we're increasingly familiar with routine. It's a pity that I find such solace in routine. I guess I'll just keep trying to cram more into the interstitial bits.
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