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Finally reset my LJ password.

2013 sucked. Suuuucked. I'm glad it's over, even if Jan 1 is a fairly arbitrary date to say "this shit is over, let's move on." So, happy 2014 everyone!

2013 books I loved:

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. A Sci-fi book that explores what personal identity means when you are the AI ship Justice of Toren, but you are also smaller fragments of Justice of Toren, such as as the 20 person squad Justice of Toren One Esk, but you are also the singular Justice of Toren One Esk Nineteen, and also your body was someone else's before it was yours. It also explores how language shapes our thoughts and the way we view the world - Justice of Toren's culture and language doesn't differentiate sex or gender and the default pronoun used in the book is the feminine. It's amazing how hard it is to not picture every character as female even with sentences as "She was a male." There's also a great passage on how hard it is to discuss a client state attempting to achieve citizenship when "citizen" and "person" are the same word in your language.

The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold. I read all the full-length novels but skipped the short stories and novellas - I'll get back to them someday. I guess you would classify this under "soft" sci-fi, but that seems to be a distinction given to books whose technology falls under a feminine sphere of influence. There are spaceships and wormholes in the books, but the technologies that drive the plot are cloning, genetic modification, and the ability to gestate your children outside of the body, in an medical tank. The books are a mix of action, romance, war, etc. My favorite thing about the books was when I realized that Bujold's protagonist characters were not always right and held prejudices of their own - and that through the protagonists I had completely misjudged one of the secondary characters until said secondary character got his own book.

The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Age of Hijacking by Brendan I Koerner. A non-fiction book that looks at the "golden" age of hijacking - when ending up in Havana on a Miami-bound flight was commonplace and when airlines thought that checking tickets and using metal detectors was gauche and would cause them to lose business. The framing story is fascinating, as is the power struggle between airlines and the FBI (pilots and airlines desperately did not want the FBI to get involved whenever hijackings took place, fearing that the FBI would escalate the situation into violence). Really interesting, especially in this age of security theater.

Also really enjoyed Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone and the Old Man's War series by John Scalzi.

Video Games:

Mass Effect 3: Citadel DLC. Sure, the ending of ME3 sort of sucked. But the 75-100 hours leading up to the ending was still the best video game series I've ever played. Citadel was a big goodbye and thank you from Bioware to the Mass Effect fans, a great send-off that included a great story, a big party, a chance to hang out with all your friends and allies from all three games, a ton of self-referential humor, and true closure on the games. Technically the DLC takes place before the ending of ME3, but it's not hard to imagine it taking place after the end.

Saints Row IV: I hadn't ever played a Saints Row game before, but the reviews caused me to pick this one up used and I'm glad I did. I wouldn't want every game to set you up with God-like powers, but it sure as hell is fun every once in a while. The game is funny, outrageous, and meta as shit. You play the President of the United States (elected after you disarm a nuclear missile WHILE riding it WHILE I Don't Want To Miss A Thing by Aerosmith plays on the soundtrack.) Your Vice President is Keith David, famous actor and voice actor. Not as a character, as himself, Keith David. Then aliens attack and you are placed into a Matrix-like simulation that you must break by becoming ever more powerful. You can make yourself look however you want. You can play as male or female. You can sleep with men, women, and robots. But not Keith David. You can do all these things wearing a business suit, a spacesuit, or whatever crazy outfit or costume appeals to you. Or naked. Songs on the games soundtrack include "This Is How We Do It," "Opposites Attract," and "The Safety Dance." Amazing.

ETA: Can't believe I forgot Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds. Super charming, nostalgic but innovative, just overall a great Zelda game. Definitely the one I've enjoyed most since Wind Waker. Loved it.
I think I need to go back and watch Season 2 of The Wire so I stop getting a shiver of hatred up my spine every time I see Pablo Schreiber.


Jul. 13th, 2013

After months of putting it off, I finally buckled down, got an external hard drive, and successfully transferred my 1500 songs off of my old iPod touch and onto my iPhone. This was compounded by several issues, such as

a) my Macbook Air doesn't have enough hard drive space on its own for me to use it as the intermediate step between mobile devices, necessitating buying the external hard drive.

b) Apple really, REALLY does not want you to do this, because they are afraid you will share iTunes purchases with other people. In reality, the iTunes stuff isn't the problem, because I can just re-download purchases I made going back to about 2003. The problem was all the songs I downloaded in college prior to iTunes even existing, plus the occasional download of songs that weren't available through iTunes, plus all of my CD rips, plus lots of video game music. I had to do a lot of searching and testing to find a program that would get the songs off of my iPod that was free, worked with my non-updated iTouch (I haven't updated it in a long time because I was about 90% sure that iTunes would delete all of the above listed non-iTunes songs if I did), and actually worked. That program is DeTune for the Mac, if you are wondering.

c) I am lazy.

But, I am victorious! The music now lives on both the external hard drive and my iPhone.

We started watching Deep Space 9, which is 1000% more enjoyable if you assume the Sisko is just absolutely face-eatingly insane rather than Avery Brooks just making terrible acting choices.
Also, I had plans to create a rooftop garden in Minecraft and to that end had created a glassed in second story with a grass floor. I hadn't completed the roof yet, and when I came back from one of my adventures, I found THREE pigs and THREE sheep all within the garden enclosure. I have no idea where they came from.

Apr. 20th, 2013

Well, I played Minecraft pretty much all gd day. I even went to the Nether!

This newest attempt plopped me down into what is essentially the cradle of life, so unlike last attempt's arctic wasteland which required me to build a garden and constantly keep on top of my wheat so that I could make bread to keep myself alive, now I have endless pigs, cows, fish, mushrooms, and pumpkins right outside my door.

I seriously spent like fifteen minutes fishing today. In a video game.

But now I have a brewing stand, and labeled treasure boxes for all my crap, and a rooftop greenhouse, and a minaret that helps me find my way home, and a creeper-deterring moat.

Next stop, enchanting table!
From anonymous_sibyl

What did you just finish?

Rereading books 1 and 2 of Kate Elliott's Spiritwalker Trilogy (Cold Magic and Cold Fire) in anticipation of the third book coming out soon. I love me a good alternate history fantasy. This takes place in an alternate 1800s Europe (and Caribbean, in the second book) where the planet is still in an ice age, Christianity never existed, Europe (particularly the British Isles) is populated by a mixed society descended from Celts and Western Africans, Carthage's descendants are a tribe of spies and information brokers, and fire and cold magic exists alongside some elements of steampunk.

Cat Barahal is an educated young woman living with her aunt, uncle, and cousins, expecting to eventually ply the spying and information trade that is her birthright as a member of the Hassi Barahal family descended from old Carthage, but who, alongside her cousin Bee, instead gets mixed up with mages, trolls, the spirit lands, a saber toothed tiger in human form, zombies, dragon dreams, family secrets, and political revolution. Definitely enjoyable. I'd recommend it if you're looking for an engrossing (if fairly unchallenging) read, with a smart female protagonist, a neat alternate history, and a heavily striated, ripe for revolution society whose ranks are in no way governed by race/skin color.
I just saw a post on Tumblr in which someone had listed Joseph Gordon-Levitt as "a crush old enough to be your parent."

I've played most of the Citadel DLC for Mass Effect 3 but I haven't finished it yet because I don't want it to be oooooover. Not many more opportunities to get James in the sack.

And, you know, all that other team bonding/life saving/ass kicking stuff that needs to be done.
From anonymous_sibyl

What did you just finish?

I just finished Akata Witch by Nnendi Okorafor, a great young adult book about a Nigerian-American girl who, upon moving to Nigeria, discovers that she has magic powers and is a leopard person. It was recommended on BoingBoing and I picked it up- the tropes of coming of age as a magical person are familiar but the non-Western based setting and magic are terrific. I think my favorite idea is the magical currency that falls from the sky every time you learn something.

What are you currently reading?

The Coldest Winter by David Halberstam. I've had this book forever and I've read the first half multiple times, but this time I'd really like to finish it. It's an extremely well done history of the Korean War, but also closely examines the biography of Douglas MacArthur and his role in the war, particularly how BATSHIT INSANE he was. And is also filled with anecdotes of the truly epic shade that FDR, Truman, and Eisenhower threw at MacArthur. To wit:

"And what to do with Mr. Prima Donna, Brass Hat, Five Star MACARTHUR," the new president [Truman] wrote in his diary back in 1945. "He's worse than the Cabots and the Lodges - they at least talked to one another before they told God what to do. Mac tells God right off." (p 133)

What will you be reading next?

I think I would probably like to work on more of my Halberstam books next. I have The Best and the Brightest, another book I've half read - I used it as a source for papers I wrote in grad school many times but have never actually read it cover to cover. I also have a huge backlog of books about Vietnam that I own for the same reason but have never actually read all of.
I have slowly grown to love my iPhone 5, but right now I'm annoyed as hell with it. I realized yesterday that I either left my iPhone charger at work (in Boston, so it's not like I can just run over and grab it), or I've lost it entirely. Which sucks. Mostly because I have probably 5-6 chargers that are compatible with my Droid and another 3-4 that are compatible with EVERY OTHER APPLE PRODUCT EVER, but I have the stupid iPhone 5 and its stupid non-compatible charger port.

So, thanks for that, Apple.

At least it's still hanging on, and I am going to my parents' today which will allow me to charge up on my mom's charger. And then I can either get my charger from my desk tomorrow or go to the mall after work and buy a new one. Siiiigh.

Not sure if I'm even going to watch the Superbowl today.

Feb. 2nd, 2013

So, The Americans was pretty damn awesome. I especially enjoyed that the "In The Air Tonight" scene had a visual nod to the original Miami Vice scene. I feel like maybe the Soviet scenes should have been a liiitle bit later than 1960 since Keri Russell is still so young looking, but overall totally cool.

Also, the Dead Space III trailer ALSO used In the Air Tonight, albeit a cover, and that made me want to get back into the series. I can't remember if I finished the first game or not, I just recall being annoyed by the map.

But... how YOU doin, Isaac Clarke?

Tax woes

Tried to do my taxes for a few hours this morning. TurboTax is not handling my "working for the same company but in one state for six months and another state for six months" situation well at all.

It wants to apportion my income, but when I look at the Mass non-resident income form, it says NOT to do that if you know how much of your income was made in MA, which I do. Because both states are broken out on my W2. It also wants to know why one line on my Mass income tax form is more than 10% larger than another line, but I don't know, because I don't know what numbers Turbotax is that filling out that particular form with.

I think I'm going to try Taxbrain. If I have the same problems, I may have to do my taxes by hand this year.

Also, apparently Bank of America didn't give me a keep the change match this year? Did they discontinue the match?

ETA - apparently there is no more Keep the Change match for existing customers, but at least I figured out my taxes... I think.

Jan. 19th, 2013

I have been taking Zumba classes! Lots of fun. Dancing is one of the few types of exercise that I actually enjoy and don't feel like time has completely stopped while I'm doing it. Belly dance semester starts Monday too, so that'll add some more exercise into my week. I've also been eating well. No results on the scale yet, but hopefully soon. I made the mistake of buying Kashi granola bars for my afternoon snack at work, and they are basically bird seed with a light coating of sweetness. Pretty gross.

Tonight - dinner at the Middle East and dancing! Long weekend! Hockey starts tonight! Pats tomorrow!

I picked up XCOM: Enemy Unknown for the XBox, which I am enjoying. I don't think I've really played any strategy games before, except for my hapless attempts at Civilization 1 when I was like... 10. And didn't really understand what I was doing. The first time I got a female Canadian soldier I named her Alix Shepard after one of my Mass Effect Shepards, and then when she turned out to be a sniper, I changed it to Ivy Shepard to match my ME Infiltrator character and gave her a super badass haircut. Which means I am going to be extra crushed if she dies. Maybe I should just stick with the default names.

I also downloaded Final Fantasy: Theatrhythm for my iPhone which came with a whopping two songs, and against my better judgment purchased the Final Fantasy IV song pack and it WILL NOT DOWNLOAD. So between that and the ridiculous Final Fantasy battle game that they just came out with in which you have to PAY REAL MONEY to revive your characters, or else wait hours in real time for them to respawn, I think I'm going to stay away from iOS Final Fantasy games. I did get Ticket to Ride, though, which I enjoy.
Just watched a Ken Burns interview on Colbert a moment ago and thought he was Dave Foley the entire time. I even thought, "wow, I didn't know Dave Foley had gotten into documentary filmmaking."
Yesterday was a good day, exercise wise. I did some couch to 5k jogging in the morning, took a (freezing!) walk to Downtown Crossing and back at lunch, had dance class in the evening...

And had a fire drill at work, which involved walking down 25 stories worth of stairs. Going down isn't as crazy as up, of course, but I definitely had jelly legs when I finally made it to the bottom. The slow, stop and go pace of the crowd didn't help either.

Election day today. 85% optimistic, 15% want to barf from nervousness.
I saw Argo today! I actually went to the actual movie theater! It was really, really good. So many awesome people in it. And this Farshad Farahat chap is certainly handsome. Ben Affleck is really very good at directing.


Or not, ha ha, I don't know. I thought that the storm was supposed to hit Monday night into Tuesday, but now it is tonight into tomorrow? Also, I see that Gov. Deval declared a state of emergency in MA, which is where I work, but not where I live, so I have no idea what that means for me.

I signed up for MBTA commuter rail texts and I'm sure someone from work will call me with updates if there are any?

Really, what I am hoping for is that the MBTA will be jammed up (hopefully this wish doesn't ruin anyone else's day) and then I can suggest that I walk two doors down the street from the train station and work in Providence instead. We'll see.
Was asked if my costume was a pilot or a girl scout last night. Apparently the aviator sunglasses, dog tags, and NAMETAG PATCH THAT SAID "MAVERICK" ON IT didn't tip the scales one way or another for that guy.
Vacation day! Although the special feeling of rolling out of bed and getting a cup of coffee at the same time you would normally be sitting down at your desk is somewhat diminished when your job isn't a soul sucking hell pit. I'm more glad to be taking a break from getting up early and commuting than I am from actually being at work.

There will be cleaning in the future but first... coffee. And maybe some Borderlands 2.
Wow, it is has been a long time since I posted.

Work remains awesome. I've got a lot of vacation time coming up in the next two months, so that's good.

Have been playing Borderlands 2 constantly. <3 ZerO. Mass Effect 3 releases new multiplayer stuff this week as well, so maybe I will dust off Number Six the Geth Engineer and get back to that.

Played Dungeons and Dragons for the first time ever this week. Lots of fun! I am Ruby, a Gnome Cleric.

I watched Sunset Boulevard last night, which I'd never seen more than the first minute or two of. I kind of want to be Norma Desmond for Halloween.