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Sun, Jan. 1st, 2017, 01:34 pm
Books of 2016

Turned out to be a rather enjoyable year, reading wise.  Though I was either underwhelmed (Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch) or downright disappointed (Vorkosigan saga by Lois McMaster Bujold and Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka, which doesn't even appear in the complete list, because I couldn't finish it) by the latest installments of the few series I've been following, some of the new discoveries amply compensated for that.  Here are last year's highlights:

In the land of sci-fi I definitely recommend Ann Leckie's Imperial Radch series.  It's a well-written and quite unusually different take on the far future of the space-faring humanity (and some aliens.)  The protagonist, the conflict and the universe are very unique and fascinating and worth acquainting with.  Second recommendation is Red Rising trilogy by Pierce Brown.  There aren't any truly unique ideas in this one, but it's very well put together and is certainly very dynamic and fun in a "oh, look, another one bites the dust" sort of way.  There was so much hype over Arrival that I read Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang, which contains the original short story (Story of Your Life) the movie was based on.  Skipped the movie.  The collection of the stories was pretty good, but my favourite in it was Liking What You See: A Documentary.

On to the murder mysteries. Matthew Shardlake series by C.J. Sansom is definitely worth a look if you are at all inclined to like historical murder mysteries.  Not on the same level but also quite enjoyable are Burren Mysteries by Cora Harrison.  Set in the 16th century Ireland and dealing with a life and adventures of the only female judge in one of the Irish kingdoms of the time.  I've never heard of the Brehon laws before reading the series, even if their description is probably somewhat idealized, it's very educational and makes one sad, knowing that the British are coming to destroy everything.  I would clasify these as relaxing light reading, with caveat that murder investigations don't stress you out just on general principle.  I unintentionally ended up starting and ending the year with Iain Pears.  I recommend all three of the books I read, which really can only loosely be classified as murder mysteries.  My personal favourite was The Dream of Scipio.  I don't think it's as popular as An Instance of the Fingerpost, and it's a bit convoluted in the way it's written, but I found the three stories and the times they were set in very interesting.

Not fitting in my usual categories but still deserving a mention are: Shōgun by James Clavell; Gerald Durrell, whom I decided to read after watching The Durrells. Naturally, I've read some of his stuff in translation many years ago, but, for instance, I never realized it was a Corfu Trilogy and not just one book.  He is definitely just as delightful now; Ben Elton, on the other hand, has been steadily losing his sense of sarcasm and has moved away from satire. Time and Time Again is well written but leaves one with no hope whatsoever.  I am not necessarily asking for a happy end, but some glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel would have been nice; Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver is YA but should be read by the parents of those young adults as well.  I never went to an American high school (for better or for worse) and can't judge how close to the truth the depiction is, but even if it's somewhat of a literary exaggeration, it still sounds like my idea of hell.  Main point is, don't expect your kids to survive their school years unscathed just on their own, they might not.

Wish you all the best in the new year and happy reading.
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Fri, Dec. 23rd, 2016, 12:44 am
Book recommendation

Finished Red Rising (Red Rising, Golden Son, Morning Star) series by Pierce Brown and would like to recommend it to anybody who likes grand space opera scale sci-fi. It's really well written, with solid and gripping storyline through all three books, great characters, and a satisfying ending. It's like a mad mix of Hunger Games, Game of Thrones (with a lot more bodies), Communist Manifesto and New Testament set in the future where humanity learned to control gravity, expanded throughout the Solar System yet still didn't learn to do without slavery and tyranny.

"Demokracy <…> the Noble Lie - the idea that men are brothers and are created equal."

Sun, Dec. 11th, 2016, 08:53 pm
Занимательное человековедение

Родители рассказали: Их знакомая, переехавшая в Германию, в письме написала о своем городке, что в нем живет "всего 50 тыс. человек, а остальные – немцы."

Thu, Nov. 24th, 2016, 10:20 am

N: Can you throw me that white cable on the table?
I obligingly do as requested.
N: Who taught you how to throw!?
Me: My gym teacher, with a grenade. How did I do?

Tue, Nov. 1st, 2016, 08:58 pm

Мама: Помнишь, мне <подруга> крем привозила?
Я: Это который в форме жопы? Конечно, помню.
Мама: Она просила, если сможешь, купи несколько штук.
Я: А они обязательно должны быть в форме жопы или какая–нибудь другая часть тела тоже подойдет?

Mon, Jul. 25th, 2016, 01:19 pm

Today on a conference call, while waiting for everybody to join:

(1) Did you hear, Verizon is buying Yahoo?
(2) [Pause] Why!?
(1) Who knows. Maybe they wanted a portal?
(3) You can build a portal from scratch for cheaper.
(1) True. But there are dedicated Yahoo users, maybe Verizon wanted something with built-in community?
(3) I don't think those three people are worth 4.8 billion dollars.

Mon, May. 16th, 2016, 12:53 am
Book recommendation

Just finished the sixth, and sadly last so far, book in C. J. Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake series. It’s a very well written historical mystery series set in Tudor times, starting with Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries and continuing through the years. Supposed to go all the way to Elizabeth’s reign but it’s not there yet.

Shardlake is a lawyer at London’s Inns of Court with a penchant for detective work and a tendency to get mixed up, though reluctantly, in all sorts of high political intrigue. The books are complex and intricate, with a good mix of real persons and events of the time interspersed with fictional ones, and a hefty doze of contemporary atmosphere (yes, everything is smelly and dirty.)

I couldn’t put the books down and wish there were more already. Each book is complete, there are no cliffhangers, but you do need to start with the first to be able to properly follow the story.

Wed, Apr. 13th, 2016, 11:58 am
Cognitive dissonance

Профсоюзы Verizon бастуют, но мне не нужно лазить по столбам. Какое странное ощущение.

Fri, Apr. 1st, 2016, 02:56 pm
Book recommendation

Finally read James Clavell's Shōgun, years after rkatsyv recommended it. Don't know what I was waiting for all this time, the book turned out to be great. If you like historical fiction and Japan and haven't read this yet, give it a try.

Mon, Mar. 28th, 2016, 07:37 am
ЧГК: Весенний Умлаут, Мюнхен

Пока свежо в памяти и есть время запишу краткие впечатления от Весеннего Умлаута. Все будет вперемешку, как в голову придет.

1. Самое главное, мы собрались почти полным составом. Увы, капитан не смог поехать. Зато с легионером нам очень повезло. Спасибо, Ира!
2. Третье место по ЧГК в Умлауте, второе место в Брейне, третье место у Вадима в Свояке и первое место по Мюнхену в Ичеришехере. Мы – молодцы. Один трофей поехал с Олегом в Чикаго, другой в НЙ с Володей, а трофей за Брейн организаторы зажали.
3. Спасибо организаторам за фестиваль, что приняли столько команд и обеспечили такую программу. Но… регламент положено писать до начала турнира, а не по ходу действия. Ну и опоздания в 2–3 часа – not ok.
4. В Мюнхене много интересного и с ним было бы хорошо ознакомиться поближе, но уж очень холодно было и мокро время от времени. А я еще и немедленно простудилась. Туристическая программа удалась не вполне. Надо будет повторить, но не в марте, и не во время католической Пасхи. Из highlights: Neuschwanstein и Linderhof castles, Lohengrin в оперном, прогулка по Мюнхену пешком (пока было только холодно) и на автобусе (когда было еще и мокро), Alte Pinakothek.
4. За всю неделю я не съела ни одного десерта. Это практически катастрофа, к вечеру воскресенья содержание шоколада в крови упало до опасного уровня. Вообще из–за Пасхи с едой было как–то странно. Напомнило мне поездку в Вильнюс двадцать пять лет назад, когда я впервые столкнулась с концептом празднования религиозных праздников заведениями общественного питания. Хорошо что неподалеку от гостиницы было очень приятное сербское место.
5. Спасибо сокомандникам за игру, приятное общение и вообще.

Mon, Mar. 7th, 2016, 04:54 pm
Book review

Finished Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen last night, the latest installment in Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga and the most boring one to date. I kept waiting for something (anything!) to happen. When Miles showed up I went, aha, finally, but no, still nothing. I can deal with emotions and romance and kids in my sci-fi, even if I'd rather not, but not at the expense of everything else and not when the emotions, romance and kids are so bland. Bujold used to manage a fine balance of adventure, intrigue and political shenanigans without robbing her characters of personalities. In fact, one of the things she handled brilliantly up till now was Miles's growth and change through all the insane non-stop action. In this book, nobody grew, nobody changed, and I would say everything was completely predictable except I couldn't have predicted such a nothing story.

Mon, Feb. 22nd, 2016, 11:40 am

Интервьюировала одного товарища. Несмотря на все мои усилия, мужик ухитрился уйти от прямого ответа на все вопросы. Я раньше думала, что это невозможно на техническом интервью, но он уже не первый такой талант. Больше всего мне понравилось, когда под конец интервью я поинтересовалась не хочет ли он у меня чего–нибудь спросить, он уверено сказал, нет, спасибо, но вы мне такие хорошие вопросы задавали, сразу видно, что вы знаете о чем говорите. Лапочка.

Fri, Jan. 1st, 2016, 02:41 pm

Общаемся с мамой.

М: Хочу новую посуду купить, тарелки и селедочницу.
Я: Зачем тебе селедочница?
М: Как зачем? Рыбу выкладывать.
Я: Выложи на блюдечко и не выпендривайся.
М: Вот за что мы тебя любим, так это за твою глубокую интеллигентность.

Wed, Dec. 30th, 2015, 12:07 pm
Books of 2015

I usually do this on Jan 1st, but my current book will most likely spill over into 2016, so the current list for 2015 is complete. I also decided to do away with my usual individual reviews, will just include the few I feel deserve a mention.

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Thu, Dec. 24th, 2015, 05:40 pm

Н. решил сегодня приготовить завтрак. Получилось замечательно, мы позавтракали всего на час позже обычного, а чтобы устранить пожар даже огнетушитель не понадобился (но я теперь знаю, зачем он у нас есть.)

Wed, Dec. 23rd, 2015, 12:46 pm
Учи матчасть

Н. рассказал забавную историю. Его коллега летал в Кению (давно, но это не важно). И в принципе, по словам коллеги, его обычно совсем не беспокоит, когда рядом едят что–то, что ему нельзя. Но в каком–то ресторане люди вокруг ели nyama choma (это такое местное BBQ) и выглядело и пахло это все настолько аппетитно, что он весь слюной истек, пытаясь удержаться от греха и не съесть не халяльного мяса. Все таки удержался, но до сих пор вспоминает. И вот пока коллега весь в таких задумчивых сожалениях, Н. ему сообщает, что в Кении все мясо – халяль, кроме того, естественно, которое халялем не может быть вообще никогда. Бедняга был очень расстроен, хотя, на мой взгляд, это просто замечательный повод еще раз съездить в Кению.

Fri, Dec. 18th, 2015, 02:09 pm
Из читаемого

‘We mustn’t touch anything till the police come.’
‘Oh no,’ agreed Gaskin. ‘We mustn’t touch anything.’
Cyril too was very emphatic that we mustn’t touch anything. We had evidently been reading the same detective stories.
So we sat there, staring about us, not touching anything. It got on my nerves.
‘We can’t sit here like dummies, not touching things,’ I said. ‘It’s so negative.’
‘I could touch a drink,’ suggested Cyril.
‘You can’t,’ retorted Gaskin. ‘They’ve taken the whole lot.’
‘Oh Lord!’ snorted Cyril. ’That’s the worst news yet.’

Beverley Nichols, “Laughter on the Stairs”

Fri, Dec. 18th, 2015, 01:51 pm
Из читаемого

Sang-froid, I always find, is much easier to assume than one imagines. On the few occasions in life when it has been needed I have produced it in such quantities that I have been quite astonished. Always provided, of course, that there is somebody there to watch.

Beverley Nichols, “Laughter on the Stairs”

Tue, Nov. 24th, 2015, 04:05 pm
Как не шутить с подчиненными

Общаюсь с боссом (по Slack). В вольном переводе:
Я: У меня сегодня три интервью было. Ты себе даже не представляешь, как тебе со мной повезло.
Б: Представляю! Хочешь об этом поговорить?
Я: Нет, хватит, что я с этими кандидатами должна была говорить. Хотя, по–честному, если бы я знала японский, первое интервью прошло бы получше.
Б: #Q4mbo [Это значит, поставь в цели для четвертого квартала]
Я: Хорошая идея. Только это должен быть иммерсивный курс.
Б: #travelbudgetrequests
Я: Уже пишу.
Б: Упс.

Sat, Nov. 21st, 2015, 01:09 am
Приобщилась к культуре

The universe evidently decided that leaving me in London with no glasses at the most inopportune moment was wrong. I was amply compensated today. Not only did I have my glasses but I was also occupying the best seat in the house, right in the front row, when Alex Hurt dropped his pants during Dada Woof Papa Hot.
The stage in Lincoln Center Theater is designed in such a way that I quite literally ended up with some usually private male parts staring me right in the face. I was impressed, which is more than can be said about the dude on my left, who was clearly dragged to the theater by his wife. He might have been jealous, Alex Hurt certainly has nothing to be ashamed of.

The play itself, though ridiculously named, was very good, hitting the funny and serious notes just right, thanks to a very good writing job by Peter Parnell. I would have expected the acting to be a bit smoother and less over the top by this point in the production. It seemed like some of the actors were trying to project up to the gallery, which LCT doesn't have. It got better as it went on, so maybe they just needed to warm up. Despite that little nitpick, I really recommend the play with its unusual take on the universally compelling topic of marriage and kids.

Small tip: the play goes for an hour and forty minutes with no intermissions, drinking a full cup of tea right before is NOT a good idea.

I also saw Hand to God recently. It's finishing its run on Broadway and moving to London and I say good riddance. The only thing I liked about it was Sarah Stiles's performance and her character Jessica. Everything else was ridiculous, moralizing, and, above all else, boring, which is a cardinal sin.

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