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princeofcairo July 22 2014, 21:02

ENnie Body Out There

The ENnie Awards voting is now open, so it must be time to electioneer for the only candidate who truly believes what you truly believe, namely that I should get more ENnie Awards. Or as it usually shakes out, fractions of ENnie Awards:

Vote for a tenth of an ENnie for me for The Kobold Guide to Magic (Best Aid/Accessory)!

Vote for a fiftieth of two ENnies for me for Hillfolk (Best Game and Product of the Year)!

Vote up a big fifth of an ENnie for me for Deadlands Noir Companion (Best Supplement)!

Let's call it a thirtieth of one ENnie for me for Page XX (Best Website)!

Vote for another fiftieth of an ENnie for me for Achtung! Cthulhu Keeper's Guide (Best Writing)!

Although it violates the core principle of everything we've worked so hard to achieve, I'd appreciate it if you'd vote for a product I had nothing to do with: Eternal Lies (Best Adventure)!

And last but never least, a whole HALF of an ENnie can be mine if you but vote for Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff for Best Podcast!

By my calculations, if we all pull together and vote in the Ken Fractional Slate, I'll rake in 89% of an ENnie Award! And that's something we can all be 89% proud of.

Customarily, I close by sharing something that's nothing to do with me or the ENnies as an election-season gift to you my beloved friends. So here's some absolutely top-shelf best-of-breed eliptony: the 72 Goëtic demons as drawn by the remote viewer Aaron Donahue, "perhaps the most skilled technical remote viewer in the world." Perhaps!
immlass July 21 2014, 15:41

Dallas museum trip, redux

While we were in Dallas, we did museums and attractions (now counted off on 101 in 1001).

The Perot Museum of Nature and Science is the new Dallas science museum. We didn't get through all of it, but the gem and mineral hall was nice, the Texas-centric fossils were cool, and the travelling dinosaur exhibit was well-thought out. The energy exhibit was oil industry propaganda, down to the chirpy tune about urban fracking. I signed a petition to get them to fix their (lack of) climate change discussion.

The Dallas World Aquarium is almost more of an urban zoo in a warehouse than an aquarium. It had a lot of tropical animals and birds, which we enjoyed watching, and a lot of small tanks plus a big shark tank that was clearly set up on the model of the shark tank in Atlanta. We saw three feedings (otters, penguins, sharks) and felt like we got our money's worth.

I also got to see the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. The warehouse isn't set up well for the crowd of people who stand there with their headphones on to listen to the narration, but other than the human obstacles and the obvious bias of the place, it's a decent exhibit. I still want to know who they think is going to buy Jackie's pearls in the gift shop.

I'd see the Aquarium and the Perot museum again, but the Sixth Floor is kind of a see-once.

This entry was originally posted at http://immlass.dreamwidth.org/1775188.html. Comment here or there.
immlass July 17 2014, 03:16

Weekly media report

I'm surprised at how much I got done in a week I spent mostly out of town worrying about a damaged car.

- Ha'Penny, by Jo Walton. Farthing does the Mitfords, and I loved the ending. I'm looking forward to the last of the trilogy now.
- Good Days, Bad Days: The Self and Chronic Illness in Time, by Kathy C. Charmaz. Moving through this and it's fascinating.

- Doctor Who: Resurrection of the Daleks. Five, Tegan, and Turlough and you know know. We started to watch this a while ago and the Netflix disc was scratched, so we got it from the library. It's a decent Dalek serial, and the last Tegan serial, so lots of death and sadness, even if the plot of Daleks vs Davros vs everybody else had the occasional hole in it.

- Time and Form, Lure of the Heavens. Another Bruce recommendation. Nice spacey electronics, somewhat ambient.
- Tom Jones, Praise & Blame. The first of the Tom Jones gets the late Johnny Cash treatment albums, focusing on spirituals and gospel. There are several really nice songs on it but it's a lot at one go.

This entry was originally posted at http://immlass.dreamwidth.org/1775065.html. Comment here or there.
immlass July 17 2014, 03:12

101 in 1001

Started the inevitable change of the list, and knocked off three items (related!).

Under the list to protect your flistCollapse )

The three items are two museums (Perot and Sixth Floor) and the Dallas Aquarium. I've started the revamp finally, dropping some items (particularly nebulous ones) and replacing them with concrete items. This two weeks didn't involve a lot of doing other than on the concrete items, and particularly not enough exercising, but I do feel like I'm making overall progress. I'm slightly behind on strict numbers but the overall list feels do-able and solid.

This entry was originally posted at http://immlass.dreamwidth.org/1774774.html. Comment here or there.
essentialsaltes July 16 2014, 22:58

Okay, one last general update

Our house continues to slowly creep toward the state of being someone else's house.

Tomorrow will begin the great adventure of tenting & fumigation. Also known as the adventure of living with two cats in a hotel room.

We've made offers here and there, and have a couple out at the moment, but so far nothing definite. Got outbid again on the hipster palace, which popped briefly back onto the market.

Two weekends back, Jackie&Andy invited us over for some brats & games with some other good folks. Got another chance at Risk Legacy, but since I got to place my HQ last, I was in a tight spot from the start. I convinced people to attack Dr. Pookie, so at least I caused connubial strife. I survived, but was never much of a threat to anyone.

One weekend back, we got visited by Dr. Pookie's friend from high school, and her three kids. We grilled up teriyaki chicken and (mostly) kept the wee ones entertained. Good times.
essentialsaltes July 16 2014, 22:00

“We’re headed for a brick wall at 100 miles per hour...

... [and] the effects of climate change are branches hitting the windshield along the way.”

The Last Drop: America's Breadbasket Faces Dire Water Crisis - an eye-opening look at the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer. I think the most mind-blowing fact is that, in the great state of Texas, water is not a public resource:

No other state’s water law allows such unfettered individual control. The danger, especially apparent as the Ogallala disappears, is that it favors an individual motivated to turn a profit in the present day above community needs of the future.

The Texas law allowed billionaire oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens to sell trillions of gallons of Ogallala Aquifer water beneath 211,000 acres surrounding his majestic Mesa Vista ranch, in Roberts County, near the Texas-Oklahoma border. In 2011, the now 85-year-old sold his water rights for $103 million to 11 water-impoverished cities nearby, including Lubbock and Amarillo.
Elsewhere, particularly in Kansas, farmers irrigating where the Ogallala is shallowest are required to meter their wells, observe water-use restrictions, and are fined for not doing so.

Landowners in the HPWD – even today – can choose to suck their portion of the Ogallala dry any time they like.

Whew! I'm sure glad California has no water problems!
essentialsaltes July 16 2014, 21:31

The Music Instinct, by Philip Ball

How Music Works And Why We Can't Do Without It

Finally. I think this is the book I wanted about music. It wasn't Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy, and it wasn't The Singing Neanderthals. This is the one. (Although it's curious that Pinker's dismissive(?) comment about music being "auditory cheesecake" also appears early on in this book, which might be considered a response as well.)

It covers many different aspects of music from the basics of how brains interpret sound, harmonies, melodies, longer structures, emotion, and the analogies between language and music. Lots of accessible examples, from major works of the classical repertoire to nursery rhymes, The King and I, The Beatles and Zeppelin. And even if you can't read music, the book has a nice online site, where you can listen to the various figures in the text. And obviously the discussions in the text may give you ideas for new music to try out. I was intrigued by the description of the use of the prosody of spoken speech in Reich's Different Trains, and despite playing the Holocaust card, it's certainly an interesting experiment.

Another interesting thread that runs through much of the book is the idea that, even if you think you're 'not very musical' you probably have a ridiculous amount of musical ability in unexpected ways. It's maybe not too surprising that after hearing a short piece of melody, you can do better than chance at identifying whether certain other notes played at you either belong or don't belong to the 'key' the piece is written in. But apparently, you can do this for gamelan music, which uses not only different scales, but quite different pitch intervals from those in Western music. From listening to a half second sample of a song, you can do better than chance at assigning it to categories like rock, C&W or jazz.

Back to scales, in some ways the do-re-me-fa-sol-la-ti-do seems so natural and correct, that it's hard (for me) to imagine it not being somehow dictated by necessity. And yet it's a convention. And this book helped explain a lot of the issues around that. Probably old hat to people who have actually, you know, studied music academically, but it was eye-opening to me. I mean, we have 12 pitches in our diatonic scale. 12 slices easily. Why don't we have a heptave of six equal tone steps (with the 7th bringing us back to 'do')? Apart from sounding weird, it might be that there would be no such thing as a 'key' in that system. The hemitone steps in the standard scale provide some texture or pattern that your brain can latch on to, so that it can identify a key, and the key changes, in a song.

By the time I got to the end of the book, I had already forgotten all sorts of interesting things, so I think it will bear a rereading. I was a little surprised that Ball is 'just' a freelance writer (though also an "avid amateur musician"), because he seems so at home with all of the musical terms and all of the research. As someone with musical training, but no real knowledge of music theory or musical 'scholarship', I found it very accessible and entertaining. Being able to read music is helpful, but probably not necessary (especially if you use the website to listen to those excerpts.)
princeofcairo July 11 2014, 02:54

Unleash the Madness Dossier

Because the people still reading a LiveJournal (even mine) may very well be the same people who read "The Madness Dossier" when it was just a 6-page setting in the back of GURPS Horror Third Edition, I should note that GURPS HORROR: The Madness Dossier is now a 64-page setting book (in PDF) for GURPS Fourth Edition.

For the rest of you, the Madness Dossier setting is what happens when I write a cosmic horror mind-control technothriller after swapping in William S. Burroughs for H.P. Lovecraft, shaken with Mary Gentle's reality quakes, and stirred with a little Velikovsky, a little Julian Jaynes, and a whole lot of Sumerian monster lore. The Anunnakku controlled us all through command subroutines in our language until we overthrew them in 535 A.D. -- after which time their whole history was erased and replaced by a scrim. Their servants, the Mesopotamian monsters known as the irruptors, are making straight their return, with only the commandos, applied anthropologists, and wetware hackers of Project SANDMAN to stop them.

If that sounds like the kind of thing you might like, check it out.
immlass July 9 2014, 15:09

Weekly media report

- Ha'Penny, by Jo Walton. The "Farthing" alternate history takes on the Mitfords.
- Good Days, Bad Days: The Self and Chronic Illness in Time, by Kathy C. Charmaz. Picked up the Kindle version based on an AskMe. Very interesting so far if a bit dated.

- THX-1138: George Lucas' 1971 dystopian SF film, clearly a forerunner to a lot of other 70s SF films I've seen. We saw it with a live score, which only works because of the lack of dialogue. It's not exactly an art film, but it's not trivially accessible if you're not paying attention. I'm glad I saw it but I'm not sure I exactly enjoyed it.

- Queen of Hearts, Cocoon. I'm glad I got this on the cheap because a significant number of the tracks were on her previous EPs. Since I liked them, I'm not complaining, but I would have liked to see more new material.

This entry was originally posted at http://immlass.dreamwidth.org/1774398.html. Comment here or there.

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