One morning I opened the curtains and found this on my window. It’s the first time I didn’t just find regular condensation on that window.
There there 3 big trends in my reading in 2017: 1) I decided that my new policy for making sure I got to all the books I was buying in Humble Bundles and Storybundles (and, therefore, not just wasting my money on a “good deal”), was that every time my To-Read list would get to its end, I would start with the earliest book I’d added to Calibre and then work my way up, adding at least one book from each bundle or Project Gutenberg raid. This is why I ended up reading books like Hunt at the Well of Eternity and Black Mercury. 2) I read a LOT of cookbooks. A couple years ago I got into serious BBQing and grilling rather than simply throwing some burgers on the grill on Memorial Day and Independence Day. This year I got into indoor cooking. It started with making bread in a dutch oven and just cascaded into me making 1-2 of our family’s meals per week (on average). 3) I started series I’d been hearing about or discovered via Humble Bundles. This includes getting sucked into Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere universe of books via Humble Bundle, starting GRRM et al’s Wild Cardsseries, and finally starting The Expanse. I’ve also continued my trend of reading multiple books at once. This has the side effect of keeping me interested in reading as I don’t get trapped by a boring book.
I usually list the books I read and link to their reviews on this blog, but that’s rather tedious and I’m rather short on time (as you might have seen on my post on video games in 2017) so I’m just going to list the books and if you’re really interested in my review you can use the search function on this site with the title of the book.
- The Emperor’s Agent
- Hanzai Japan
- Starship Troopers
- Absolute Power: Tales of Queer Villainy
- The Forever War
- The Girl with All the Gifts
- Singular Irregularity
- Dynamite Art of Alex Ross
- Angel’s Ink
- Augie and the Green Knight
- Hunt at the Well of Eternity
- Massively Multiplayer
- Black Mercury
- The Machine God
- Big Pulp Fall 2011
- The Making of Prince of Persia
- Clipping Through
- The LEGO adventure book
- To Sue the World
- Whiskey and Water
- Lightspeed Magazine March 2013
- You are Not so Smart
- The Handmaid’s Tale
- The Trinity Paradox
- Warbreaker Audiobook Part 1
- Pay Me, Bug!
- Solid State
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
- Warbreaker Audiobook Part 2
- Put this in your Brain
- Warbreaker Audiobook Part 3
- Uncanny Magazine Nov/Dec 2014
- Elantris Audiobook Part 1
- Battle Royale Slam Book
- Elantris Audiobook Part 2
- The Camelot Shadow
- The Hope of Elantris
- Elantris Audiobook Part3
- Clarkesworld Magazine #124
- Wild Cards
- Station Breaker
- The Holy Bible abridged beyond the point of usefulness
- Science abridged beyond the point of usefulness
- The Lives of Tao
- Race for the Iron Throne
- Buying Time
- The Bloodline Feud
- Golden Son
- Weber Charcoal Grilling
- The Mongoliad
- Masters of Doom
- Raichlen’s BURGERS!
- Raichlen’s BBQ Sauces
- Weber Big Book of Burgers
- Sandman Slim
- Cook it in Cast Iron
- Project Smoke
- To Pixar and Beyond
- Milk Street: The New Home Cooking
- Leviathan Wakes
- Eden M51
- Paul Ryan Magazine
- Big Pulp Winter 2011
- Chew Vol 1
- Chew Vol 2
- Chew Vol 3
- Dead Witch Walking
- Cook’s Illustrated 2016 Annual
It was a pretty busy year for me in 2017 as I got more into cooking as the twins got older and I didn’t have as much time to myself. I felt I hadn’t nearly played as many games in 2016. But when I started gathering the stats, that’s when I realized just how much less I’d played. In 1016 I’d played 132 hours of video games compared to only 42 hours in 2017. And over half of that was in Civilization VI – once again proving to me that it’s the one game that’s worth spending my money on as I’ll always go back to it. Just writing this makes me itch to get back to the game.
Youtube seems to have removed the ability to embed playlists – or maybe they’ve just moved it somewhere I can’t find it. So this year I’ll just discuss a bit about each game. If you want to watch any of them, just follow this link and then go to the right playlist.
Civilization VI (26 hours 26 min) – Some of this came from playing solo games and some from playing multi-player games. The game continued to evolve throughout the year and so each game was slightly different.
Human Resource Machine (3 hours 37 min) – AKA Assembly Programming the Video Game. I had a lot of fun trying to remember how to do assembly. Stopped when it got a little too hard and I just didn’t have the time to devote to it.
Vertical Drop Heroes HD (3 hr 13 min) – Last year this was my game of the year as I said it was the one I was most enthused to get back into. I did indeed spend a good chunk of early 2017 working to beat the game.
Team Fortress 2 (2 hours 42 min) – I played a bit around Halloween and had a blast. If I had enough time, I’d cycle back and forth between this game and Civ VI.
Rocket League (1 hour 31 minutes) – Vinny’s kid is about Scarlett’s age and he was talking about how much Vinny loved Rocket League. Scarlett had some fun with it, but also didn’t enjoy losing so we haven’t played much since the third time we played.
Contraption Maker (58 min) – Scarlett hasn’t asked me to get this game going in months, I think she forgot about it.
Double Dragon Neon (33 min) – I wanted to see how much this game was like the one I remembered – it was…a little too much. Still, it was fun to live that nostalgia trip.
LA Noire (30 min) – I can’t remember for the life of me what was going on with this game. I’m sure in an alternate world where I got it before the kids and played it continuously I would have loved it.
Dirt3 (28 min) – As a kid I always loved racing sims. But back them most of them were arcade ports that required the player to finish in a certain time or lose. I had fun mucking about in Dirt3 and would probably play it if someone payed me to play video games full-time, giving me lots of video game playtime.
Cook, Serve, Delicious! (26 minutes) – Scarlett wanted me to play the game again.
KickBeat (26 min) – I like rhythm games, but this one got too complex too quickly. Most likely won’t be playing again.
BEEP (17 min) – the game that didn’t want to be played. It just wanted to crash all the time, especially if I was trying to record my time in the game.
Game of the Year
It’s kind of silly to think of a game of the year when I barely played games this year. But I really did like the charm of Human Resource Machine – from the minds behind Little Inferno and World of Goo. If I didn’t play that in 2017 I would have just given it to Civ VI again.
Back in November we took the twins on their first trip to Disney. This time around Scarlett wasn’t as interested in the parades as she was last time, but the twins were REALLY into them. Surprisingly, both twins ended up warming up to the characters. Sam’s reluctance with Mickey on the first day made me think he was going to try and avoid them the entire trip. But as you can see in the video, he eventually got into interacting with the characters.
The twins were a little more patient about waiting in line – not sure if it’s because they had Scarlett to copy or if they’re just a little more patient than she is. It was a little tougher with three kids’ schedules to balance, but the twins also eat a more varied diet than Scarlett did at the same age so they weren’t constantly hungry like she was. We’ll see what happens in the future as they all get older, but there weren’t really too many arguments or disagreements about what rides to go on.
It was also special that my parents once again went for the grandkids’ first time. The kids just about enjoyed their time with their grandparents as much as their time on the rides and at the shows.
Enjoy my favorite photos from the trip.
For the past couple years (ever since my mom got back into photography), I’ve been trying to get her to come in the winter to go photograph American Bald Eagles at Conowingo Dam. They tend to be there from around November to about early January and I usually go in December. This year at the semi-last moment she decided to visit and I suggested we go try and photograph some eagles. So she brought her long lens and we took off. Of course, the one day we had available to do this also happened to be the coldest day of the 2017-2018 winter so we were physically being tortured. I had told her ahead of time to make sure to get long johns, so we didn’t get hypothermia.
I’d read that this was just about the tail end of the eagles’ time here so I wasn’t sure we’d have anything to show for our freezing butts and 2-hour round trip commute. And at first it seemed my fears were credible. All we saw were some seagulls and ducks.
I asked one of the other photographers there if he’d seen any eagles and he told me they hadn’t been active for at least an hour and had flown off into the woods. I usually get there with the sun, but we had arrived pretty late. I was really getting worried.
But then we spotted an Eagle!
And we would spend as long as we could tolerate outside. When our fingers and toes no longer had any feeling, we would go back into the car until we defrosted.
I was a little disappointed with my photos. I was rusty on wildlife photos. I remembered to do a high shutter speed (greater than 1/2000). But the photos just weren’t as clear as I wanted. Probably partially the lens, partially not fully in focus, and eagles are very fast-moving. That said, I got this series of shots:
And, again, it’s not as clear and in focus as it could be. But I’ve wanted this shot for about five years. I never was able to get an eagle grabbing a fish out of water. What was amazing was how quickly it happened! And to be able to get that photographed, even if not perfect, was amazing for me. Next time I’ll try renting a longer lens and beefing up on my technique and try to get that again.
There was also this goose-like bird.
I shot over 1100 photos to get to these 30ish photos – of which I’d probably print a couple – one of them being one of the goose photos.
Overall, the trip was VERY worth it. I got 4 hours of bonding time with mom (and she’s SO busy that’s a rarity worth so much) and I finally got an eagle grabbing a fish out of water. Next time – when it’s warmer and there are more eagles – some time in December – should be great.
It’s always an honor to be invited to the domino table.
and Scarlett got to be invited at night:
And she did really well, winning one round.
This year my music listening is under-counted because of a few factors. 1) Spotify scrobbling stopped working at work, 2) I listened to a lot of bandcamp at work (not scrobbled), and 3) for K-Pop I mostly just watch it on Youtube (not scrobbled). That said, I have been listening to music slightly more often. I’ve spent the last couple months listening to music that I’ve never listened to on my computer (as far as Amarok knows), so while that’s contributed to scrobbles, it’s going to mean that the scrobbles are going to be long-tail, ie they won’t make dents in the counts of top artists, songs, etc.
Interestingly, only The Beatles, Ramin Djawadi, and Chance were on this list last year.
1. The PDX Broadsides (350 listens) – When The Doubleclicks mentioned The PDX Broadsides in one of their Kickstarter updates, I checked them out on bandcamp. A few days later I ended up joining their Kickstarter for Trust Issues and buying their entire discography. They’re a fun little band that mostly tackle geek genres.
2. Jonathan Coulton (348 listens) – JoCo had a new album this year. I got addicted to All this Time and subsequently bought the album and accompanying graphic novel.
3. The Doubleclicks (186 listens) – I Kickstarted their latest album, Love Problems. Almost all the scrobbles come from listening to this one album.
4. Cast – Elena of Avalor (137 listens) – Scarlett wanted the soundtrack from Elena of Avalor. We listened to it a lot while driving around.
5. The Beatles (123 listens) – They’re always there.
6. Celia Cruz (97 listens) – I always love listening to Celia. AZUCAR!
7. Beny Moré (87 listens) – I rediscovered Beny Moré via Spotify, I started listening to him even more.
8. Marian Call (80 listens) – While on the bandcamp page for The PDX Broadsides, I was recommended Marian Call. Good call (pun not intended) by Bandcamp. I loved her muisc and bought many of her albums.
9. Mark Mancina (77 listens) – From the Moana soundtrack.
10. Willy Chirino (77 listens) – Reminds me of my childhood.
11. Anberlin (66 listens) – After remembering that they’d disbanded, got nostalgic for the music, especially the earlier stuff.
12. I Fight Dragons (66 listens) – I’d stopped listening for a bit and then the announced they were working on a new album and are releasing demo tracks via Patreon. Started listening to both the demo tracks and old stuff.
13. Anchor & Braille (58 listens) – On reddit, someone mentioned this group had some of the members from Anberlin, so I checked out Songs for the Late Night Drive Home. It was pretty good although the songs are a bit samey.
14. Lana Del Rey (57 listens) – Mostly from listening to her song from The Great Gatsby soundtrack.
15. Sleigh Bells (55 listens) – From listening to their latest album on Spotify as well as some of their older stuff.
16. Valerie June (55 listens) – just from listening to Pushin’ Against A Stone on Spotify.
17. Chance the Rapper (53 listens) – I finally started appreciating Coloring Book.
18. Ramin Djawadi (53 listens) – Westworld Soundtrack.
19. OK Go (50 listens) – I got back into their music videos which got me back into listening to their music.
20. Thelonious Monk (50 listens) – as always I love his take on Duke Ellington.
1. Jonathan Coulton — Solid State (163 listens)
2. Cast – Elena of Avalor — Elena of Avalor (Original Soundtrack) (137 listens)
3. The PDX Broadsides — Trust Issues (125 listens)
4. The Doubleclicks — Love Problems (98 listens)
5. Mark Mancina — Moana: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (77 listens)
6. The PDX Broadsides — Something’s Rotten (69 listens)
7. The PDX Broadsides — Aim To Misbehave (58 listens)
8. Anchor & Braille — Songs for the Late Night Drive Home (58 listens)
9. Ramin Djawadi — Westworld: Season 1 (Music from the HBO® Series) (53 listens)
10. Valerie June — Pushin’ Against A Stone (51 listens)
11. Celia Cruz — The Absolute Collection Disc 1 (51 listens)
12. Willy Chirino — Asere (50 listens)
13. Thelonious Monk — Plays Duke Ellington (46 listens)
14. Chance the Rapper — Coloring Book (45 listens)
15. Celia Cruz — The Absolute Collection Disc 2 (45 listens)
16. Jonathan Coulton — Artificial Heart (44 listens)
17. Auliʻi Cravalho — Moana: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (42 listens)
18. Jonathan Coulton — JoCo Looks Back (41 listens)
19. Beny Moré — Lo Mejor de Cuba, Vol. 2 (39 listens)
20. Marian Call — Standing Stones (38 listens)
1. Lana Del Rey — Young and Beautiful (29 listens)
2. Christopher Jackson, Rachel House, Nicole Scherzinger, Auliʻi Cravalho & Louise Bush — Where You Are (23 listens)
3. Auliʻi Cravalho — How Far I’ll Go (22 listens)
4. Jemaine Clement — Shiny (21 listens)
5. Dwayne Johnson — You’re Welcome (21 listens)
6. Jonathan Coulton — All This Time (20 listens)
7. Auliʻi Cravalho — How Far I’ll Go (reprise) (20 listens)
8. Opetaia Foaʻi & Lin‐Manuel Miranda — We Know the Way (20 listens)
9. Vai Mahina, Sulata Foaʻi‐Amiatu & Matthew Ineleo — An Innocent Warrior (18 listens)
10. Olivia Foaʻi, Opetaia Foaʻi & Talaga Steve Sale — Logo Te Pate (17 listens)
11. Jonathan Coulton — Solid State (15 listens)
12. Cast – Elena of Avalor — Blow My Top (14 listens)
13. Rachel House & Auliʻi Cravalho — I Am Moana (Song of the Ancestors) (14 listens)
14. Olivia Foaʻi — Tulou Tagaloa (14 listens)
15. Cast – Elena of Avalor — Festival of Love (13 listens)
16. Cast – Elena of Avalor — My Time (13 listens)
17. Jonathan Coulton — Pictures of Cats (13 listens)
18. Jerry Rivera — Ese (12 listens)
19. Kristen Bell;Idina Menzel — For the First Time in Forever (reprise) (12 listens)
20. The PDX Broadsides — I Go Both Ways (12 listens)
It’s a testament to how entrenched these are that only Anberlin, The Beatles, Jonathan Coulton, and I Fight Dragons had enough listens to make the top artists and yet many of the artists that have been top artists for years now remain. JoCo has the possibility of moving up 1-2 slots in 2018 and if I really like the new IFD album, they could finally overtake Gnarls Barkley.
1. Fantastic Plastic Machine (3,606 listens)
2. Anberlin (2,834 listens)
3. Five Iron Frenzy (2,746 listens)
4. The Beatles (2,549 listens)
5. Relient K (1,938 listens)
6. “Weird Al” Yankovic (1,728 listens)
7. Fall Out Boy (1,318 listens)
8. Gnarls Barkley (1,124 listens)
9. I Fight Dragons (1,077 listens)
10. Gwen Stefani (908 listens)
11. Jonathan Coulton (901 listens)
12. DC Talk (896 listens)
13. Tom Lehrer (895 listens)
14. Andrea Echeverri (894 listens)
15. Lostprophets (845 listens)
No real changes here.
1.Clap Your Hands Say Yeah — Over and Over Again (Lost and Found) (116 listens)
2. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah — Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood (116 listens)
3. Jonathan Coulton — The Princess Who Saved Herself (111 listens)
4.Fantastic Plastic Machine — Take Me To The Disco [Malibu Mix] (104 listens)
5. Fantastic Plastic Machine — Steppin’ Out (102 listens)
6. Gnarls Barkley — Who Cares (99 listens)
7. Gnarls Barkley — Just a Thought (93 listens)
8. 4minute — Cut it Out (92 listens)
9. Anberlin — Audrey, Start The Revolution! (87 listens)
10. Gnarls Barkley — The Last Time (87 listens)
11. Andrea Echeverri — Quédate (85 listens)
12. Gnarls Barkley — St. Elsewhere (85 listens)
13. Fantastic Plastic Machine — Love Is Psychedelic (83 listens)
14. Gnarls Barkley — Smiley Faces (83 listens)
15. Gnarls Barkley — Crazy (82 listens)
Scrobbles at End of 2017: 106,549 (crossed that 100k!)
Scrobbles in 2017: 7003 – a little more than last year (about 800ish) which tracks with my feelings that I listened a bit more.
I got the book as a part of a bundle, and I’ll say that the cover (same as the one currently associated with the book on Goodreads – a red-head in a backless top and black pants) kept me away from the book for a while. It seemed it might not be up my alley. Interestingly, the cover is a counter-example to the Trope “Covers always Lie” (mostly attributable to comic book covers). It is essentially a depiction of the opening scene of the novel.
Just what is this novel? It takes place in an alternate Earth in which the existence of fantasy humanoids – witches, vampires, werewolves, pixies, and fairies – is common knowledge after an incident that took place in the 1960s. Geographically, it takes place in Cincinnati, Ohio. There is essentially a human side of town and an Inderlander (the fantasy creatures) side of town. Our main character works for the Inderlander version of the FBI when the novel starts. The meat of the story is both setting up this universe for the sequels and our protagonist’s quest to find the evidence necessary to bring in a mob boss who is careful to maintain a legitimate front. It’s a fun cop plot with all the usual tropes coated in urban fantasy paint.
As usual with fantasy or urban fantasy, a lot of the fun comes from learning the rules that govern the fantasy world of THIS book. Ms. Harrison has taken the trope of vampirism as metaphor for sexuality to 11 with this world. A lot of vampire rituals involve sexual acts and vamps essentially glamor their victims into lusting after then. Additionally, a lot of that can feedback on itself where the more a vamp gets in the mood, the more they make the human in the mood and on and on. Some of the scenes involving a vamp are among the most sensual I’ve read in 2017.
I’m not hooked on the characters and the settings. With all the sequel-laden books I have on my list, I don’t think I’m going to continue in this world. It’s a fun one and Ms. Harrison does a good job taking us on a fun, sexy journey. But I’m drowning in books to read, so a series has to have just that right hook to keep me going.
I finally got the last hardcover book and I can read Chew in its entirety. I’ve only read the first five trades. After that the anticipation was driving me nuts, so I resolved to wait until the series was done to read it all in one shot. That’s what I’ve just started this week. In the end, I’ll have a massive review of the series. Today entry #3.
It seems that, to round off the first 1/4 of the planned 60 issues of Chew, the author has chosen to bring together all the plots from the previous issues. We see the return of many characters including the awesome Poyo. And the cliff-hanger at the end of issue 15 is even a callback to something from the first book. I think this series continues to impress with its twists and turns. And the humor continues to be great. All these books should be in your library.
A good interstitial trade. It continues to pay off dividends on plots started in the first book while setting up plots that will be important in the upcoming trades. At the same time it is a return to the police-work and keeps the series from going off the rails too early.
I finally got the last hardcover book and I can read Chew in its entirety. I’ve only read the first five trades. After that the anticipation was driving me nuts, so I resolved to wait until the series was done to read it all in one shot. That’s what I’ve just started this week. In the end, I’ll have a massive review of the series. Today entry #2.
Chew: International Flavor # 1 – Chew: International Flavor
This book is just as great as the first one. We take a bit of a pause from what I believe to be the main storyline – the reason Mason left. Still, there are plot threads from the first book that get some more play in this book. So it’s not ignoring continuity at all, but it is definitely taking its time to get to resolution.
A large portion of this book takes place on a Micronesian Island that has a plant that tastes just like chicken. Tony goes on a trip to see what that plant is and how it’s connected to an early case. We also get to see his new partner.
Overall, the same humor continues from before and the art style continues to work perfectly with the writing. The art does tend to impossibly busty women, but I feel that it helps to convey the crazy exaggerated feel of the book and isn’t exploitative. I definitely can’t wait to get to the next book.
Interestingly, I wrote almost the exact same stuff in my notes. The only thing I’d add is that it’s funny I had no idea how big of a role Poyo would eventually play.