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Sunday, 1 June 2003

[Will Duquette, 08:15 AM (link)]
WE'VE MOVED! You can find the latest "Foothills" weblog posts at our new address, http://foothills.wjduquette.com. Why the change?

To date, I've been managing this blog with code I've written myself, and it's been working pretty well; among other things, it means that the blog is tightly couple to the rest of the site. But I've been wanting more features; in particular, I've been wanting to allow readers to post comments. Given time I could implement such a thing, but it's time I'd rather spend on other things. So I'm moving to a package called Movable Type that runs on my server and takes care of all of the housekeeping, including reader comments.

Over the next few days I intend to import all of the past posts from this weblog into that one, so they'll be accessible in one place; the existing archives will remain in place so that old permalinks will continue to function.

So...come visit us at our new home!

Saturday, 31 May 2003

[Will Duquette, 09:45 AM (link)]
PLAYING WITH BLOCKS: Over at 2blowhards, Friedrich has been playing with blocks. It reminded me of a time about five years ago, when David was very small, when I went through a serious Lego phase. I bought a ridiculous amount of Lego and built quite a few interesting things; the best of them was a little number I call the Alcalde's House. These are some pictures I took at the time; low res, but that's life. The house still exists (I can see it from where I sit) but alas the kids are fascinated by it, and so it's a little worse for wear. (Click on any picture to see a bigger version.)

Will Duquette, The Alcalde's House, 1998

[Will Duquette, 09:07 AM (link)]
THE JUNE ISSUE of ex libris reviews has been posted for your reading pleasure. If you've been following the weblog all months, you've already seen the reviews by me and Deb English, but don't miss Craig Clarke's offerings.

[Will Duquette, 07:43 AM (link)]
THROUGH DARKEST ZYMURGIA: I've just posted today's installment of Through Darkest Zymurgia! over at Once-Told Tales. The Ripping Yarn continues!

Friday, 30 May 2003

[Will Duquette, 05:34 PM (link)]
With the Lightning, by David Drake. I'd call this an Honor Harrington knock-off, except for two things: Drake's Lt. Leary has a very different personality than Honor's, and (in this book, anyway) most of the action is on the ground. And, of course, Drake's a skilled-enough writer that he's not going to write straight knock-offs anyway. But despite that, he's clearly aiming for the same readership.

The star nations of Cinnabar and the Alliance are adversaries, in a cold war that frequently becomes hot. Due to its position and trace, the planet Kostromo is a key ally for either side; a pact with Cinnabar is due to expire, and so a delegation has been sent to Kostromo to negotiate a new one. The Alliance, of course, would like to disrupt this.

Lt. Daniel Leary has been sent along with the delegation because he is the son of Corder Leary, a top man in the Cinnabar government. (He's also on the outs with his father, but the Kostromans don't know that.)

Adele Mundy, Cinnabar expatriate, is already on the planet, organizing a library for the Kostroman ruler. She's a skilled information handler, trained by the best; her loyalty to Cinnabar is suspect, as most of her family were killed by the Cinnabar government as Alliance sympathizers.

The two are more or less thrown together when a disgruntled Kostroman clan makes a deal with the Alliance, and the Alliance subsequently moves in on Kostromo. Armed only with his own cunning, Mundy's skills at information retrieval, and a twenty-man detachment of sailors, Leary must somehow turn the invasion around and get word back to Cinnabar.

It's a fraught situation, but naturally Leary and Mundy and the sailors pull it off, and it's great fun to watch. David Weber fans, take note--you should enjoy this one.

There's a sequel, Lt. Leary Commanding, that I have and will be reading soon.

Thursday, 29 May 2003

[Deb English, 08:43 PM (link)]
Farewell to Manzanar, by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston. I think I was in college before I learned that we put people of Japanese descent into camps during WWII. Somehow, my American history teachers missed that fact during the WWII unit. They were concentrating on how nasty the Germans were. And they were nasty. But I was shocked to learn that some of the nastiness took place here, in the land of the free. In the beginning of the book, there is a timeline that lays out the dates of the laws effecting the Japanese internment. And foreign born Japanese weren't afforded the rights to citizenship until 1952. I am shocked again.

This is another booked labeled for young adults that I read in my quest to find good books for my daughter to read. And it is a good book. The book is a memoir of a young Japanese girl whose large family is sent to Manzanar in 1942 and kept there until 1945. It also tells the story of their return to "normal" life and the adjustment they have to make back into a society that put them there. It's told by the young girl now grown up with kids of her own, looking back on how the camp fractured her family structure, destroyed the proud spirit of her father and changed the way she looked at herself even as an adult. It's another story of survival and triumph. It has a fairly happy ending. But it's still a story that made me angry because it was allowed to happen. Even with all the confusion, fear and unknowns at the time, children should not have been put in camps because of the color of their skin or the slant of their eyes.

Wednesday, 28 May 2003

[Will Duquette, 05:50 PM (link)]
The Business, by Iain Banks. When I open a new book by Iain Banks, I never know what to expect; this is especially true of his mainstream fiction. Mainstream is a non-very-descriptive term, by the way; much of his "mainstream" books are far stranger than any of his science fiction, The Wasp Factory being the best example. I picked this one up when I was in Australia, as little of his mainstream stuff makes over here to the states, and instead of diving right in I brought it home and kept it until I thought I was in the proper mood.

As it happens, I needn't have bothered. It's an interesting story, and it's well-written, and it seems remarkably tame compared to Banks' usual.

The "Business" of the title is an international concern whose roots go back, supposedly, to the Roman Empire. Except for very rare occasions (they once bought the Roman throne from the Praetorian Guard, and managed to keep it for all of six weeks), the Business hasn't dabbled in politics; instead, they've devoted themselves to making quite a lot of money.

Kate Telman is a senior executive with the Business, just two rungs below the board of directors. It's her job to research upcoming technologies and make investment recommendations. She's good at it, and is likely to rise to the top with time. And then her life takes an abrupt right turn.

I don't want to go into the details, as it would spoil it. But this is one of those books that I enjoyed while I was reading it, but afterwards wondered what the point of it was. Or, rather, there's a rather obvious point, that people are more important than profits, but it hardly seems worth writing an entire novel just to say that.

I dunno. The scenery was nice, though.

[Will Duquette, 05:44 PM (link)]
TOO CUTE FOR WORDS: Just now my six-year-old asked if he could play with a big plastic bin lid. Then he asked if we had any Beach Boys music. As I write, "Surfing USA" is playing on the Nomad Jukebox and Dave is "surfing" on the bin lid. This involves lots of swaying back and forth with your arms extended, with an occasional crouch or leap in the air.

Tuesday, 27 May 2003

[Deb English, 05:21 PM (link)]
The Endless Steppe, by Esther Hautzig. I have been reading children's books lately looking for good fiction to toss my daughter's way this summer. She's somehow migrated from the horse phase where she wouldn't read a book unless a horse figured prominently in the plot to what I think of as teenage-girl-angst books. The heroine always has some social ill to deal with, some horrible part of her life to overcome like a mother with AIDS or a pregnant sister or a friend who is dying of some horrible disease. And while I don't want to shield my kids from the problems of the world they will live in, at 13 I think she's a little too young to be exposed to all of them, even in a book. However, she is a reading machine and a vacuum must be filled so my quest for what I deem "good" books is on. I have also been cruising the catalogs of homeschool curriculum suppliers and this book kept coming up time and again as a good historical novel. I like historical novels.

The book is a memoir of a young Polish girl who's family is exiled in 1941 to Siberia as capitalists by the invading Russians. Forced out of their beautiful home with almost nothing but the clothes on their back and sent to work in a labor camp, it'the story of how Esther learns to survive in that world. And it's not prettified or romanticized either. They struggle for every potato, bucket of water and straw mattress they have. Esther takes in knitting to help support the family, working in the unheated log hut with almost no light after working all day or going to school. She learns to glean coal from the tracks of the railroad and steal wood shavings from the lumberyard to heat her family's house. She lives thru illness untreated made worse by poor nutrition and lack of proper clothes And she watches her parents try to keep them together as a family.

It's a sad book in some ways. It's also a triumph of the human spirit kind of book that I would rather my daughter read. This one has a happy ending. The family survives. In fact, the exile to Siberia saved them the horror of the Holocaust that the Germans inflicted on the family they left behind. It will go along perfectly with "The Diary of Anne Frank" which is also on the shelf ready for her and doesn't have the happy ending.

Monday, 26 May 2003

[Will Duquette, 11:50 AM (link)]
IAN HAMET likes Through Darkest Zymurgia! too, what he's seen of it.

[Will Duquette, 07:16 AM (link)]
FROM THE MOUTHS OF BABES:

My nearly four-year-old has gotten to the stage of constantly asking "Why?", and he's been driving Jane to distraction. So when we were in the car the other day, I decided to have some fun with him.

We drove by his pediatrician's office building, and the following conversation ensued:

James: "There's my doctor!"

Jane: "Yes, James, there's your doctor."

James: "I don't have to go there right now."

Me: "Why?"

James: "Because."

Me: "Because why?"

James: "Because I'm not sick."

Me: "Why?"

(Long pause.)

James: "I can't say why."

Now why haven't Jane and I thought of saying that?


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