Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Two Very Different Forms of Light

After beginning to feel as though two of my favorite older photos had been lost over the years, I had a stroke of luck this afternoon in finding them again, on my computer.

The first was taken with my current camera, and was one of two good shots of lightning I managed to capture during a storm in 2009. I'll admit that it was mostly luck. There was so much lightning and thunder going on that I was able to aim the camera at one point and just keep shooting. About five hundred photos later, I had two good photos. I've never been in a storm like it since.

The second was the light at the top of the driveway at the house I grew up in. Taken during a winter storm. I remember a couple of my friends saying the photo reminded them of some of the scenes from the Narnia movies.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Margaret Gwynne's Fruit Cobbler

I'm posting this recipe in honor of my great aunt whose life we just celebrated. She lived a good, long life to the age of 95 years.

Margaret Gwynne's Fruit Pudding/Cake

This was a very frequent star at the dinner table when I grew up. It's very simple to make, and flexible, based on the fruit you have around, although I've never tried making it with berries. In my family it was always apples, plums or apricots, though I've started making it with peaches and that works out wonderfully too.

This was always cooked in a smaller oven-proof dish. If my memory serves, it was usually about a 6x8 inch rectangle or similar dimensions oval oven-proof pan.

Ingredients (topping):
2 tbsp butter or margarine
½ cup sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
¾ cup flour
½ tsp vanilla
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and beat well, then pour into the oven-proof dish over a layer of plums, apples, peaches or apricots or any combination of the four fruits.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Serve on it's own, with a bit of milk or ice cream.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Green Point Sunsets

Last week my husband and I spent some time camping at Green Point in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. He'd told me the scenery was going to be spectacular, and it was! Especially the sunsets - here are a couple of representative photos, linked over from my DeviantArt account.

Tofino Sunset 2 by Endaewen on DeviantArt

Tofino Sunset by Endaewen on DeviantArt

Camping at Green Point was a new experience for me. I'm more used to the Provincial campgrounds and the standards set there: don't leave your coolers out, any other forms of food, toiletries, soaps and the like, but your water jug, stove etc. are all fine to stay out for the duration of your trip.

At Green Point on the other hand, they run a bare campsite policy, and when they say bare, they mean bare. Your camp furniture is allowed (chairs, lanterns and tent), but nothing else. Everything else such as your water jug has to be stored in a hard-sided vehicle or trailer.

On the plus side of things, the vehicle-accessible campsites at Green Point are all powered - makes charging your phone etc a breeze - not to mention your laptop or camera batteries. I took mine so I could clear off my camera card at need, and I filled it on the first three days of the trip, and went through four camera batteries in about the same time.

On the other hand, both the Green Point Campground and Tofino have terrible data reception, although it seems as though it's actually better at Green Point. If you really need to check your e-mail though, in Tofino is a wonderful little coffee-shop called Tuff Beans. I highly recommend stopping in there for a hot chocolate to go with your WiFi. For Fish and Chips, try Big Daddy's Fish Fry, just down the road.

Also a plus: two individual camp cots with "nightstands" (detachable pockets on one side for glasses etc). With the addition of an inflatable mattress-pad and a foam pad, they made for the most comfortable camping nights I've had yet. And the "nightstands" turned out to be even more of a blessing than I thought.

Our tent leaked. Tofino gets an average of 202 rainy days a year, so we had plenty of chances to discover this fact. Tarping the tent fixed some of the problems, but I still found myself with a pool of water under the foam pad in my cot. Which is why I said the "nightstands" were a blessing. I was able to keep all electronics, as well as my books off the ground and away from the damp.

Even with all of that, I recommend camping at Green Point highly. We weren't lucky enough to see or hear any, but the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is home to wolves, bears and cougar.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Medieval Total War - Take Two

Medieval Total War Gold EditionA couple of months ago I wrote up a post on the Total War game series. In it, I commented on my desire to see if the original Medieval Total War game from ca. 2002 would play on my current Windows 7 machine. I've since gone through with that desire and had several hours of fun.

The process of getting the game and the computer to work together was less straightforward than I'd hoped though. First of all, the Medieval Total War game and the Viking Invasion expansion were separate. In fact, at some point over a couple of moves, the Viking Invasion game cd disappeared on me.

So, I decided to simply insert the Medieval Total War game cd and cross my fingers - figuring the game was playable on its own - even though if my memory isn't playing tricks, the Viking Invasion expansion fixed a few major and not so major bugs.

No joy. I'd click "install Medieval Total War" and nothing. So, I went hunting to see if anyone else had an answer, and found several. First of all, most of the people installing the game successfully were installing the Medieval Total War Gold edition, and not the original one, and one solution described was to copy the disc onto the computer first. Didn't work for me - mine is on two cd-roms. So, lets hunt further. If the price is right I'm not going to object to rebuying the game if that's what it takes. Besides, that way I can get the Viking Invasion campaigns again.

Bingo! Turns out that the gold version of the game is available through Steam - and for only $11.00. That install worked - on both computers, and from what I can see, it will also work on Windows 10.

However, that wasn't the end of my initial troubles - some of which were that I'd forgotten some of the game-play tricks and methods (solved by digging out the manual for the game). Others though were not. After the first couple of hours of play - when I'd begin to try and attack other factions, the game began to crash - always on that first turn when I'd triggered an attack.

There is a solution to that problem though - at least so far. First of all, go into the game options and adjust the game resolution up to match that of your screen. That may be enough to fix it. Also, I read that turning off the tool-tips and computer movement visibility from the options on the upper left corner of the game screen will fix some crashes. That one didn't work for me on it's own. However, adjusting the screen resolution did for me. Almost 10 hours later on both computers and no problems.

I have to say, for the age of the game, the graphics and game play are still really good. I'm definitely enjoying the trip down memory lane - amazing how well the music and sound-effects have stuck in my head.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Ammonite Falls Adventure

Yesterday was a real adventure! More that I was expecting for sure. The plan was a nice family hike - under 10k long, with a couple of steep sections with ropes (or so we were warned) - and a picnic lunch at the falls. It all sounds great, then you realize that the day was one of the hottest so far this year - the truck thermometer was saying 33 degrees Celsius when we were on our way back from the park. Thankfully, most of the trail was well shaded - and we all brought plenty to drink as well as sunscreen.

Everything started out smoothly enough, except that all the hills were down on the outbound leg. Everyone knows what that means when you're returning along the same trail. Moderately easy, though I wasn't looking forward to coming back. I slow down a lot on uphill legs of a walk or hike.

Then we came to the first of the steep sections. Silly me. I'd envisioned something like big stairs with a rope acting as a railing. Nothing close at all. And the first of them was something that you could in theory pass through without needing the rope. I didn't try. I used the rope all the way down - wasn't going to be taking a chance. It was the next segment, to the bottom of the falls that was the real adventure though!

Ammonite Falls Trail.
I've never done something like this before, and I wasn't too sure how to go about it this time, but got plenty of coaching from the Ammonite Falls veterans in the group. It's pretty intimidating to go down a hill backwards so you can't really see where you're going, but that's really the only way to do it - and hang onto the rope good and tight!

The scenery at the bottom and the picnic lunch were worth it though. The falls were beautiful, and the pool looked like a wonderful swimming hole - I didn't do any swimming, but I'll admit to paddling my feet and sitting on the edge. The rocks though were pretty slippery, so I didn't keep that up for very long - and the water was pretty cold.
Ammonite Falls - the top section

Ammonite Falls - the bottom portion

If getting down the slope was fun, going back up the ropes was even more of a challenge! I'm just going to call it a full body workout and leave it at that - with the note that I'm paying for the hike today in stiff muscles.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Importance of Food and Drink in Fiction (A Very Pretentious Title)

This whole piece got started by an idle discussion between my husband and I about food in the Lord of the Rings. After that, I just started noticing all of the references to food, food preparation and meals in the books I was reading. It's not an exhaustive survey, just what I've noticed recently and some examples I remember reading in the past.

The Importance of Food and Drink in Fiction

Food and drink. The two are integral to every society I can think of or have read about in real life or in fiction. From a meeting in a coffee shop to a lavish feast being served up in front of the main characters, it can range from an elaborate background setting to something far more integral to the plot, or the characters.

The familiarity or strangeness of the foods being served or made by the characters can act as a barometer to the intended familiarity or strangeness of the worlds that the books are set in. A few examples might be the foods that the hobbits eat in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (apples, beer, bacon and mushrooms for example), meant to represent our own Europe in a distant past, or perhaps the foods from Pern (Klah, wherry, packtail, redfruit, tubers), the world created by Anne McCaffrey, an alien planet. Some authors have taken a middle ground, where some of the foods are our own, but perhaps some of the seasonings or drinks are unfamiliar – the direction taken by Elizabeth Moon in the Paksenarrion's World books (cheese, onions, stews, but also sib and asar).

Done well, the use of food in a novel can be a way of involving the reader's senses into the story through their own experiences and memories. To use one of Mercedes Lackey's books as an example, in Magic's Price there is a scene where the main character is enjoying a piece of bread fresh out of the oven with butter melting into it. Who doesn't know the taste and smell of that? Or the smell of a large pot of soup on the stove?

Some books use food and drink to illustrate elements of the characters personalities, as Mercedes Lackey did in The Fire Rose. Rosalind Hawkins' preference for unladylike sandwiches went along with her other unladylike interests in reading, history and languages, as well as her desire for a university education. Another Mercedes Lackey novel, By The Sword opens with the main character, Kerowyn, supervising the preparations for her brother's marriage feast. Really, her place should have been out participating in the feast itself though. However, for various reasons she's in the kitchen, which suggests in hind-sight that she's something of an outsider at the Keep – which is proven throughout the book. Then, going back to Tolkien and The Hobbit for another example, you have Beorn, the skin-changer, who could also take on the form of a great bear. He lived, according to Gandalf, mostly on cream and honey, which you might say reflected his other form as a bear.

Outside of restaurant scenes, how meal and food preparation is presented to us as the audience can also say a lot about the worlds the characters are inhabiting. If we only see perfectly done, finished meals presented to the characters, it suggests to me one of two things. Either they are upper-class with servants to do all the work, or else the world is a high-tech one a la Star Trek with its replicators to do most of the day-to-day cooking. It's not only how the foods are presented, but also the ingredients used, however – venison, hare, rabbit, onions etc all say to me “good, solid, homey food”. On the other hand, eels and other exotic dishes are more likely to suggest that the meals are designed to be impressive, and often expensive.

Eating and drinking is also very much a social thing to do. Especially when it comes to historical fiction and fantasy, though it's still very prevalent in more modern settings. How often do you see the characters agreeing to meet up for a drink? These days it would be a coffee and a muffin. In historical fiction it's more likely to be wine or scotch (for men) and tea and biscuits for women. One of the biggest set-pieces as well is the great feast, with all of it's attendant preparations and rituals. This is one that you see most often in the historical fiction and fantasy realms – either from the preparation side as in By The Sword, or from the perspective of one of the diners – think of some of the feasts in Diana Gabaldon's books for example.

Continuing with a further look into the third book of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, nearly every time characters are meeting socially there is food involved: Ginger biscuits in one of the 1960's scenes. Sherry or port for the men in the 18th century scenes – or, hare pie or a savory in the same time period in Scotland. Diana Gabaldon is an author who isn't going to shy away from the kitchen and food preparations in her books, and it adds so much richness to her writings.

Broadening out, food, or the lack of may well be a plot-point in and of itself. In J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, the prevalence or scarcity of food is one of the keys to the characters' emotional states. The less food they have, the more irritable and angry they get – and several times, they run out of food entirely, or believe they are about to, adding more tension to the story. Similarly in the early books of the Change series by S. M. Stirling (Dies The Fire and The Protector's War) we see the lengths that the characters will or will not go to to get food due to the sudden scarcity thanks to the Change, and the meals are certainly more than a background setting. Another example of the lengths that characters will go to in order to get food is in Suzanne Collins Hunger Games trilogy where teenagers are willing to increase their chances at being drawn for Tribute in order to get food for themselves and their families. Not to mention what they're willing to consider food!

Similarly, we see the cycle of the year shown through the foods and quantities of foods available as the seasons change in S. M. Stirling's books, and more subtly in the Outlander books. From seasonal feasts to scarcity, it's all there and it has an effect on the characters lives and actions. I know that after reading the early Change books, I have a greater appreciation for the humble backyard vegetable garden and it's potential.

A Feast Of Ice And Fire: The Official Game Of Thrones Companion CookbookAnd now, there's an interesting twist on the food in novels/TV-series that's growing: the novel-themed cookbook. I only know of a few so far, but they're definitely interesting. The first one I saw came out around 2012, for the Game of Thrones TV series, called A Feast Of Ice And Fire: The Official Game Of Thrones Companion Cookbook. It has it's own unique twist, in that the authors took known medieval recipes and modernized them. The Hunger Games has also inspired a few cookbooks, although I'm not sure just how inspiring some of what the characters are known to have been eating was.

The Outlander Kitchen CookbookThe one that I want to read and test the most though is the Outlander Kitchen cookbook. Due out this summer, it looks like a good one, based on the blog of the same name. Diana Gabaldon has included many a dish both humble and extravagant, old and modern through her series of books, and the author of the Outlander Kitchen started a blog inspired by the recipes, which has since turned into a book. However, as far as I can tell, the blog is still being updated as well, and what's more, all of the recipes I've seen there look absolutely delicious!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Tolkien's Annotated Map of Middle-Earth

I've seen a couple of articles this morning about the map of Middle-Earth that J.R.R. Tolkien annotated, including this one over at IO9. It's definitely neat, but I really hope that someday soon there will be a large-scale print version (preferably with notes) made available to those of us who can't go to see the original.

The largest size image I've found so far online is this one. It's good, but I can't read any of the annotations in the image. Part of that, I will admit is because the writing is a challenge in itself. However, many of the notations are quite faint and small - even when zoomed in on the image.

The Tolkien Society article on the topic.
The Bodleian Library article on their acquisition of the map.

The Tolkien Collection, 2016 Version

Back in 2011, Anassa gave me the idea to take out my Tolkien books and stack them up on the table. Made for a rather impressive pile too. The table then seated four. Now, it takes one side of a snooker table to display the collection. The last few years have been good ones for the Tolkien collector, with new books (not to mention new edition of his books) being released every year.

I did another list in 2013, which was the first time I used the snooker table to hold it, and now it's time for a new one.

To get the whole thing in one frame, I had to back away so far that none of the titles can be read easily in the photo. In general though, there's the entirety of the History of Middle-Earth series stacked to the far left of the photo followed by the newer books of Tolkien's poetry. Above those we have the audio books, two Hobbit Blu-rays, Mr. Bliss, the Art of The Hobbit and The Art of the Lord of the Rings (two absolutely gorgeous books). Next to that is most of the mass-market sized Tolkien books and then the Black boxed set and the white set (still in it's shrink-wrap). Just to one side of the middle of the stack are my Verlyn Flieger books on Tolkien, the Lord of the Rings movies, some art books, and the final item in the display is the J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide two book set.

The books:
  1. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
    One volume edition, illustrated by Alan Lee. (Middle of the bottom row)
  2. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
    One volume, movie cover edition. (Horizontally in the middle of the stack beside the Alan Lee illustrated Lord of the Rings)
  3. The Lord of the Rings 50th Anniversary Box Set by J.R.R. Tolkien
    The white box set including the Lord of the Rings Readers Companion by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull. Still in the shrink wrap.
  4. The Lord of the Rings box set by J.R.R. Tolkien
    The black box set. (above the white set)
  5. The Lord of the Rings
    The BBC Radio Play edition adapted by Brian Sibley. Each of the major characters is done by a different actor, including Ian Holm (Frodo), Peter Woodthorpe (Gollum) and Michael Horden (Gandalf). (About the only thing not pictured. I realized too late that it's upstairs)
  6. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
  7. The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien
  8. The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
  9. The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
  10. The Annotated Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Annotated by Douglas A. Anderson
    Lovely design with two columns: one for the text and the other for notes, including excerpts from letters, possible inspirations etc. I'm a bit ashamed to admit I have yet to fully read this edition, but it's so full of information that it really is a must have.
  11. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
    Illustrated by Alan Lee
  12. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
    Mass market edition.
  13. The Hobbit Graphic Novel
  14. Roverandom by J.R.R. Tolkien
    Black edition.
  15. Roverandom by J.R.R. Tolkien
    Illustrated Hardcover edition, with the illustrations being by J.R.R. Tolkien too. Library discard.
  16. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
    Hardcover, with illustrations from the Rankin-Bass animated movie. The first edition of The Hobbit that I ever read. A bit awkwardly sized, but has a lot of sentimental value.
  17. The Hobbit
    BBC Radio Play edition
  18. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
    Hardcover, illustrated by Ted Naismith
  19. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
  20. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
    Library discard hardcover
  21. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, Sir Orfeo translated by J.R.R. Tolkien
    My favourite translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight - Tolkien seems to have kept the meter and rhyme scheme very well.
  22. Tales from The Perilous Realm b J.R.R. Tolkien
    Made up of Leaf by Niggle, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, Farmer Giles of Ham and Smith of Wootton Major. Illustrated by Alan Lee
  23. On Fairy Stories by J.R.R. Tolkien
    Edited by Verlyn Flieger and Douglas A. Anderson. Included commentary and notes
  24. The Adventures of Tom Bombadil edited by Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond. Illustrated by Pauline Baynes
  25. Tree and Leaf by J.R.R. Tolkien
  26. Farmer Giles of Ham by J.R.R. Tolkien
    Edited by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull.
  27. The Tolkien Reader by J.R.R. Tolkien
  28. The Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkien
    Edited by Christopher Tolkien
  29. The Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkien
    Audiobook read by Christopher Lee.
  30. Sigurd and Gudrun by J.R.R. Tolkien
    Edited by Christopher Tolkien
  31.  The Fall of Arthur by J.R.R. Tolkien
    Edited by Christopher Tolkien 
  32. Beowulf by J.R.R. Tolkien
    Edited by Christopher Tolkien.
  33. The Story of Kullervo by J.R.R. Tolkien
    Edited by Christopher Tolkien
  34. Tales from the Perilous Realm
    BBC Radio Play edition.
  35. Mr. Bliss by J.R.R. Tolkien
    Lovely slip-cased facsimile edition.
  36. The Father Christmas Letters by J.R.R. Tolkien
  37. Smith of Wootton Major by J.R.R. Tolkien
    Edited by Verlyn Flieger
  38. Finn and Hengist by J.R.R. Tolkien
  39. The Ancrene Wisse edited by J.R.R. Tolkien
    One expensive book! In some form of Middle English, I think with some latin mixed in. I can't read it at all. Early English Text Society edition.
  40. Bilbo's Last Song by J.R.R. Tolkien
    Illustrated by Pauline Baynes
  41. The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays by J.R.R. Tolkien
  42. The Unfinished Tales by J.R.R. Tolkien. Edited by Christopher Tolkien
    Same cover style as the Black box set of the Lord of the Rings.
  43. The Unfinished Tales by J.R.R. Tolkien. Edited by Christopher Tolkien
  44. The Book of Lost Tales One by J.R.R. Tolkien. Edited by Christopher Tolkien
  45. The Book of Lost Tales Two by J.R.R. Tolkien. Edited by Christopher Tolkien
  46. The Lays of Beleriand by J.R.R. Tolkien. Edited by Christopher Tolkien
  47. The Shaping of Middle Earth by J.R.R. Tolkien. Edited by Christopher Tolkien
  48. The Lost Road by J.R.R. Tolkien. Edited by Christopher Tolkien
  49. The Return of the Shadow by J.R.R. Tolkien. Edited by Christopher Tolkien
    The first book covering the draft versions of The Lord of the Rings. Also, the first book in the History Of Middle Earth series that I ever read.
  50. The Treason of Isengard by J.R.R. Tolkien. Edited by Christopher Tolkien
    The second book about the Lord of the Rings
  51. The War of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien. Edited by Christopher Tolkien
    The third book in the set about the Lord of the Rings.
  52. Sauron Defeated by J.R.R. Tolkien. Edited by Christopher Tolkien
    Only part of the book covers the end of the documents about the Lord of the Rings. The rest holds one of my other favourite unfinished stories by Tolkien though: The Notion Club Papers. I think this copy also has some holes punched in the pages  (from the metal bookmark I stopped using as soon as I discovered it was doing that).
  53. Morgoth's Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien. Edited by Christopher Tolkien
  54. The War of the Jewels by J.R.R. Tolkien. Edited by Christopher Tolkien
  55. Peoples of Middle Earth by J.R.R. Tolkien. Edited by Christopher Tolkien
    Only one of the History of Middle-Earth books I have in hardcover.
  56. A Middle English Reader and Vocabulary by Kenneth Sisam and J.R.R. Tolkien
    IIRC, Kenneth Sisam was one of Tolkien's tutors.
  57. The Tolkien Family Album by John and Priscilla Tolkien
  58. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien edited by Humphrey Carpenter
    Hardcover edition
  59. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien edited by Humphrey Carpenter
    With the improved index.
  60. J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter
    This is the gold standard biography I believe.
  61. The Inklings by Humphrey Carpenter
  62. Tolkien by Raymond Edwards
  63. The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull
    Slip-cased set of two volumes: the Chronology and the Reader's Guide. Another jaw-dropper of a set, and one I consider to be a must-have.
  64. The Lord of the Rings Reader's Companion by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull
  65. The Art Of The Hobbit by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull.
    The artwork that J.R.R. Tolkien did for The Hobbit, both during the drafts and for publication gathered together in one place. Beautifully done in a lovely slipcase.
  66. The Art of the Lord of the Rings by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull. 
    Follows the same format as the Art of the Hobbit. Absolutely spectacular!
  67. J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist And Illustrator by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull
    About Tolkien's own artwork over the years from his childhood on. Stunning, and has insights into Tolkien and his writings as well.
  68. The Complete Guide to Middle-Earth by Robert Foster
  69. The Complete Guide To Middle Earth by Robert Foster
    Dates from university where I was keeping a copy handy for between class editing of my website.
  70. Tolkien and the Great War by John Garth
  71. A Question of Time: Tolkien's Road To Faerie by Verlyn Flieger
  72. Interrupted Music: The Making of Middle-Earth by Verlyn Flieger
  73. Splintered Light: Langage and Logos by Verlyn Flieger
  74. Green Suns And Faerie by Verlyn Flieger. 
  75. Meditations on Middle-Earth edited by Karen Haber
    Illustrated by John Howe. A number of authors writing on how Middle-Earth and J.R.R. Tolkien influenced them.
  76. Master of Middle Earth by Paul Koch
  77. A Look Behind The Lord of the Rings by Lin Carter
  78. A Tolkien Compass by Jared Lobdel
  79. Tolkien's Legendarium Essays on The History of Middle-earth (Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy) edited by Verlyn Flieger and Carl F. Hostetter
    Essays that focus on the History of Middle Earth series. Another expensive book (especially for its size).
  80. The History of The Hobbit: Mr. Baggins by John D. Ratelliff
  81. The History of The Hobbit: Return to Bag-End by John D. Rateliff
  82. The Journeys of Frodo by Barbara Stratchey
    Maps and distances focused on the descriptions given in The Lord of the Rings. Rather a neat book to have, if an awkward size.
  83. Atlas of Middle-Earth by Karen Wynn Fonstaad
  84. Understanding The Lord of the Rings by William Ready
  85. Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary by Peter Gilliver, Jeremy Marshall and Edmun Weiner
  86. The Road Goes Ever On: A Song Cycle: Music By Donald Swann and Poems by J.R.R. Tolkien
    This is one that I`d really like to hear some day. I can`t read music, so I don`t fully appreciate the book at all.
  87. J.R.R. Tolkien: The Man Who Created The Lord of the Rings by Michael Coren
  88. Understanding The Lord Of The Rings: The Best Of Tolkien Criticism Edited by Rose A. Zimbardo and Neil D. Isaacs
  89. J.R.R. Tolkien by Robley Evans
    To be honest I cringe at this book - the errors are glaring.
  90. Tolkien: A Celebration edited by Joseph Pearce
  91. The Battle For Middle-Earth: Tolkien`s Divine Design in The Lord of the Rings by Fleming Rutledge
  92. Middle-Earth: Visions of A Modern Myth by Donato Giancola
    A book of art about Middle-Earth.
  93. The Road To Middle Earth by Tom Shippey
  94. J.R.R. Tolkien: Author Of The Century by Tom Shippey
  95. The Fellowship of the Ring Extended Edition DVD
  96. The Two Towers Extended Edition DVD
  97. The Return of the King Extended Edition DVD
  98. The Lord of the Rings DVD
    The animated Bashki edition. Interestingly, Peter Woodthorpe does Gollum here too.
  99. J.E.A. Tyler`s Tolkien book
    Not pictured, in storage
  100. Tolkien`s Ring by David Day
    Illustrated by Alan Lee - the most redeeming feature of the book
  101. The Tolkien Encyclopedia by David Day
  102. A-Z of Tolkien by David Day
  103. The Gospel According To Tolkien by Ralph Woods.
  104. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
    Peter Jackson's first movie in his Hobbit trilogy. Blu-Ray format.
  105. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
    Peter Jackson's second movie in the Hobbit Trilogy. Also in Blu-Ray.
  106. J.R.R. Tolkien: The Origin of the Rings
    DVD. A waste of a hour it's that bad. Not pictured as I can't find it. I might have sold it on.
Close-ups of the collection:
The left-most portion of my Tolkien collection

The center portion of the collection

The right end of the collection

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Two New Books on Indexing

There are two new book on indexing coming out in June.

The first is:
Ten Characteristics of Quality Indexes: Confessions of an Award Winning IndexerTen Characteristics of Quality Indexes: Confessions of an Award Winning Indexer
Margie Towery

Release Date: June 14th, 2016

The amazon.com product description:
The name "Margie Towery" is synonymous with index quality, and in this guide the master indexer distills more than two decades of experience for the benefit of her fellow indexers. Towery defines and explores the characteristics of quality indexes: audiences and accessibility, metatopics and index structure, accuracy, comprehensiveness, conciseness, consistency, clarity, reflexivity, readability, and common sense.

Writing in an engaging and accessible style, she shares her own struggles in indexing and offers strategies for overcoming challenges such as bias and language, indexing blocks, and working with authors. Her digressions into research on reading and decision-making provide a wider context for thinking about quality, while her suggestions and checklist for evaluating indexes round out this essential volume for professional indexers at every skill level.
This is a book I really want to add to my library. As a professional indexer, albeit a newer one, I find that each time I read a book on indexing, I learn something new - a different way of looking at such finicky debates such as using undifferentiated locators or not, or workflow tricks to speed up the process.

The second book is another one that I really want to add to my library:
Indexing Tactics and Tidbits: An A-Z Guide - Janet PerlmanIndexing Tactics & Tidbits: An A-Z Guide
Janet Perlman
Release Date: June 2016

The Amazon.com product description:
In this highly-recommended reference for indexing professionals, master indexer Janet Perlman presents a treasure trove of practical, in-depth explanations and advice. The author pays homage to the Hans Wellisch classic, Indexing from A to Z, while bringing her own in-depth, conversational style and a multitude of fresh topics to the table.

Indexing Tactics & Tidbits provides answers and insights on such vital subjects as audience analysis, clients and contracts, computers and software, ethics and standards, index depth and length, index structure, periodical indexing, professional resources, quality and usability, work methods and strategies, and much more.

New and experienced indexers alike will appreciate this significant effort to address "everything you always wanted to know about indexing but were afraid to ask" by one of the preeminent indexers of our time.
This should be an interesting read. I have and have read the Hans Wellisch book, Indexing From A To Z, and although it's older, it's still a very useful reference as I noted in my review. Just looking at the list in the amazon.com blurb makes me want to go out and order this right away.

I should note one bit of confusion. The publisher's website says that the release date for this is in June. According to Amazon.com, the book is already available for order, and has been since the end of March. I also note that some indexers have commented about having already received their copies, so it might be shipping out already.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Almost Two Months Of Spinning

I think I've set a new personal record with my spinning between March 8th and April 30th.
The dates were those for the most recent spin-along hosted on Ravelry by Mirkwood Spindles (my current favorite support spindles).

One of the neatest things about this spin-along for me: Two of the three spindles I was using were Middle-Earth themed, and most of the fiber was as well. The grey was from the previous spin-along and themed for Ungoliant, while the darker fiber is called I Am Death and was inspired by Smaug from The Hobbit.

Anyway, I ended up totalling 747 yards of chain-plied yarn that ranges between lace and sock weight.

My wrists are just happy that there's just over a week before the next spin-along starts! They need a break!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

You've passed on your copies. Now you want to re-read it?

What do you do in this situation? I'm re-purchasing the books bit by bit. It's part of why I keep such a large library for myself. I know I'm a re-reader, and I take a risk every time I clear out a series. Most of the time it works out OK. However, once in a while the bug to re-read that series comes back with a vengeance.

Most recently with the S. M. Stirling Change series. Probably the itch for a re-read was inspired by my new Kobo Glo, as I have the first book (Dies the Fire) in the library there (now the first two books). Either way, I found myself really enjoying the read and then the second book (currently about two thirds of the way through The Protector's War). I've already found a copy of the third book: A Meeting At Corvallis, thanks to a local book sale. My one grumble on this re-read is book order. At least on the Kobo store, the second book is labeled as the first. Thankfully for these early books, that paper copy of A Meeting At Corvallis has the reading order listed.

The other series I've repurchased is Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. This time though, I didn't need to do a complete repurchase as I already had copies of all the books from The Fiery Cross onwards, although for some reason I simply couldn't find my original copy of it. Again, a local book sale came to my rescue. Trade paperback for $1.00? Even if the original copy shows up again, the cost was worth it. Just have to get around to doing the re-read now. Skipped around a bit on Dragonfly in Amber, but intending to properly re-read Voyageur. Then I'm going to have to find a copy of Drums of Autumn.

One key question for any readers. I'm testing out the newish Amazon Native Ads on this post. Personally, I'm not that sure of them, and find that I really miss the old carousel widget that I used to use. I'm going to leave the one new native ad in on this post, but would love to hear if those few readers I have would prefer I not use them in the future.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Kobo Glo HD

Kobo Glo HDThe Kobo Glo HD

After a few years of silence on the various Kobo e-readers, I'm piping up again with a rather rambling review of the Kobo Glo HD.

I got into the e-reader craze with the original Kobo - think back to the directional button for navigation and no wi-fi connection. Upgraded to the second generation - same navigation system, but added wi-fi capabilities (and came in some fairly nifty colors). Then I went over to the Vox. And after that, faded back to a strong preference for paper books. I've barely used an e-reader for at least three years.

However, I'd been talking about getting one of the Glo variants for a couple of years now. I finally broke down last month and did so. In general, I've found that I prefer the e-ink style e-readers, although, as the proud owner of an iPad as well, I've still got the option for anything that will do better with full colour (Judith Tarr's Writing Horses: The Fine Art Of Getting It Right for example).

There are several areas where the touchscreen e-ink e-reader outdoes the iPad and even the Vox versions.

First thing. Footnotes. This is something that the original Kobo Touch incorporated, but not any of the reading apps as far as I can tell. However, as someone who likes to read non-fiction as well as fiction, I really appreciate this - even though to date I only have one book which incorporates this feature. It makes the e-reader much more usable for non-fiction reading as well as novels. When I touch a footnote marker, it brings up the footnote right on screen over the page, allowing you to read it and go right back to reading the main text without disruption.

Given some of the articles I've read over the last year to two years on support for indexes in e-pub format ebooks, I'd be interested in seeing how the e-ink Kobo e-readers handle indexes as well. Any suggestions for particularly outstanding examples?

When it comes to the screen and the "Glo" or "ComfortLight" lighting, I have to say it's pretty good. Both definitely live up to their billing of being able to read in both bright, direct sunlight and in darkness. I've tested both. Right from the start with the original Kobo e-ink e-reader they've been great in the sun. I remember having mine with me the day after I got it and sitting out around Noon in full sunlight and having next to no problems. I think I might have upped the font size by one, but that was all.

Now, for night-time or other low-light reading situations, the ComfortLight is an improvement on the methods I had to use with my original e-readers: clip-on lights. Those lights never lasted more than a few hours - I'd kill one on the first couple of nights of a camping trip - before the batteries went.

The strength of the screen light can be easily adjusted. Personally, I rarely take it up above about 30%. Even 2-4% is enough for use in a fully dark room - and it's not as likely to disturb anyone else in the room, although courtesy dictates that the best way to read under those circumstances is to make sure the back of the Kobo is facing them to minimize the light disturbance.

The interface for adjusting the fonts, sizes, line spacing and margins remains more or less the same as it was with the Kobo Touch, as does the workings of the library and home screen as far as I can remember.

Battery life is another satisfactory area. I haven't actually tested how long it takes to end up draining the battery completely yet, but I've only had to charge the battery twice in the last three weeks of fairly heavy use - and probably could have gotten away with leaving it longer both times. I think once was at 60% and the last time the reader still had about 30% of the battery left.

The claim is that the battery will last for up to two months. I'm guessing that that's with either no use or very light use, and of course, using the light will drain the battery faster. Not what I've been giving it. Since I bought the Kobo, I've read the following books on it:
  1. Cythera, by Jo Graham
  2. Deeds of Honor by Elizabeth Moon
  3. Dies The Fire by S. M. Stirling
  4. Time Enough For Love by Robert A. Heinlein
  5. Trio of Sorcery by Mercedes Lackey
  6. Finding The Way by Mercedes Lackey 
  7. The Apocalypse Troll by David Weber
Also, about a quarter of Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff, and some of Lara Adrian's first Midnight Breed novel, A Kiss of Midnight. Quite respectable for what would be more or less one battery charge I think.

The only negative comment I have is nothing to do with the physical Kobo. Instead, it is regarding the price of e-books. While some (such as many of those by Jo Graham) are still very low priced, others are the same price as the mass-market, or even trade paperback version of the book. I guess my mind is still stuck in the early days of e-books when they were marketed as a way of saving money on your book-buying. On seeing that, I generally opt to buy the paper versions these days. Still, there are times when I can't get to the bookstore, or they don't actually have the book there, so the "instant gratification" aspect of e-books comes into play.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Fantasy and Science Fiction Characters Reading

Last week L.E. Modesitt wrote a post about the lack of characters reading/writing books in fantasy and science fiction novels particularly. I just read his post yesterday, so I may be late to the discussion, but I just wanted to add my own comments. I think he's got a point there, however, maybe there are more than he might guess (his guess is about 5% of fantasy and science fiction books).

Here's what I've come up with:
  1. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
    It's alleged to be the Red Book of Westmarch, which was written by Bilbo and Frodo particularly, but also including selections from Merry's work, Herblore of the Shire (IIRC, my Tolkien books are downstairs).
  2. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
    Bilbo's account of his adventures.
  3. The Diana Tregarde novels by Mercedes Lackey
    Not so much for books mentioned in the series, but if my memory isn't playing tricks, the main character is a romance writer.
  4. Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey
    The book opens with Talia reading a book, and later in the book discusses the size of her father's library in contrast to the palace library.
  5. Dies The Fire by S. M. Stirling
    Numerous Tolkien references, and also as I noted in my first review, some references to Mercedes Lackey's books and other classic fantasy and science fiction. I'm not sure though if I really should be including this one in the list as I can't recall if there's actually anyone ever reading the books in the story - as you can see, it's been a while since I've read it.
  6. Night Pleasures by Sherrilyn Kenyon
    There is one amusing scene in this book where one of the characters phones another one to ask her to do something, saying that she's sure said character is only reading the latest Kinley MacGregor novel - which she is. Where it gets amusing is that Kinley MacGregor is the other name that Sherrilyn Kenyon writes under.
  7. Time Enough For Love by Robert Heinlein
    Quite a few references to characters reading and even to specific books such as the Oz series.
  8. The Adept series by Katherine Kurtz
    I've forgotten just which book has the reference to The Temple And The Lodge - might be the third one, The Templar Treasure - but that's only one of several book references in the series.
  9. In Her Name: Empire by Michael R. Hicks
    There are a couple of scenes where Reza, the main character is discussing the benefits of reading - clearly he's a lover of books.
  10. Two Crowns For America by Katherine Kurtz
    If I'm not mistaken, there's a scene in this one where one of the characters falls asleep while reading.
  11. The Harry Potter series
    I've been reminded about the numerous references to books and reading in this series.
  12. The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey
    Mercedes Lackey seems to write a lot of characters that love books, either reading or writing them. I wouldn't mind the library described in this book - but then you could say the same thing about Adam Sinclair's library in the Adept series by Katherine Kurtz.
  13. Exile's Honor and Exile's Valor by Mercedes Lackey
    One of the secondary characters in these two is the Herald-Chronicler Myste. While the chronicles are mentioned in some of the other books, this is the first time we see the one of the Heralds filling the position. There are a couple of reading scenes in these two books as well if my memory isn't playing tricks
  14. The Blood series by Tanya Huff
    Again, if my memory's not playing tricks, one of the main characters is an author.
  15. So You Want To Be A Wizard by Diane Duane
    It's been a while, but I seem to recall that the opening scenes of this book are set in a library. A series of books for kids, but overall a very good read and ties in well with her other two books in the same world: Book of Night With Moon and To Visit The Queen.
  16. Voyager by Diana Gabaldon
    I'm not quite sure if the Outlander series counts as fantasy, however there is time travel in the series, as well as a ghost showing up in one scene. If it does count, you can add at least two more scenes where Jamie Fraiser is found reading - and that's just in the first two hundred or so pages of the book.
Has anyone else got any titles they could add to this list?

Friday, March 4, 2016

Total War Game Series - Rediscovered

I've rediscovered some old favorites this past week: the Total War series of games.

These are a series of strategy-type games with a historical basis - probably somewhat on the dubious side. However, there's two aspects to the game. I only play one and hate it when the game forces me to attempt the other. The first aspect, and the one I prefer to play is the empire-building. That is, organizing what gets built in each city and what unit types get recruited. Even the diplomacy aspect of treaties and deals between the different factions.

The second aspect to the game, and the one I'm not as keen on - mostly because I'm horrible at it - is running the battles between the armies. Thank you, but I'd much rather let the computer do that for me. Unfortunately, that takes me right out of all the multi-player content. Oh well. There's certainly enough challenges in the grand campaign mode. And the new games have additional campaigns that you can purchase separately. I guess that's the current variant on the expansions.

Medieval Total War
Starting with the original Medieval Total War, and it's expansion, Viking Invasion, I've been playing them for over a decade now. This one still holds a place in my heart as a favorite game that has sucked up hours of my time. Even after hours of game-play and quite a few victorious campaigns, I have yet to play successfully in all of the factions. This one has the simplest game-play of the various versions I have played, however it is still one of the most fun. I've seen several articles compare the graphics and game style to the board game Risk. I can't comment on that as I've only played the game a couple of times. Actually, I should probably test Medieval Total War to see if it will play on my current computers (Windows 7). I'm getting the bug again.

Rome: Total War
At the moment, I'm playing Rome: Total War, which I got when it first came out - followed by the Barbarians expansion. Although I have been playing this one intermittently for years, it has been a while since I've tried it, and I have to be honest and say that I've yet to beat the game even once. As a result I haven't tried the Barbarian Invasion expansion either. The graphics are pretty good here too, and the game is satisfactorily fast on my ancient gaming/photo-editing computer. Of course, the games from this era are from when said computer was new. The game-play here is just enough different from the original Medieval Total War to be frustrating, I found previously, although the Roman setting tickles my historical fancy. Let's see if I can beat this one this time, even playing on "easy".

Medieval II Total War
Then there's my other favorite of the series: Medieval II: Total War. The medieval setting of the game I discovered this series through, but on the 3D style of the Rome: Total War game. I also found my interest kept because I could actually beat this game, and have done so a few times now: England? maybe. France, I'm almost certain I succeeded playing as France, and also Spain, and maybe the Holy Roman Empire. Plus, of course the expansion pack - most of which I haven't tried out, being quite happy to keep playing the original game. Again, this one works great on an older computer.

What amazes me with this one is the price-drop. When I bought the game and later the expansion, they were close to $50 each. Now, you can get both together for under $20!

I don't have much to say about the two versions of Shogun: Total War, not having played either one enough. The same holds true for Total War: Empire.

What started me back on this trip through the Total War games was my purchase the other day of Total War: Attila and Total War: Rome II. Unfortunately, both of these are just slightly beyond the capabilities of my gaming computer. Rome II plays decently, but is very, very slow. And much of Attila is lost in a mass of grey with jagged edges. I suspect that I'm going to have to upgrade my graphics card at the least. Until then, I may as well go back and enjoy playing the earlier games.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Thoughts on the Adult Coloring Book Craze

I like them, although I've only gotten one so far - the Outlander Coloring Book. I'm thinking of getting another though - with a different type of picture, one that's more abstract. Sometimes I'd just like to play with colours, and the Outlander one calls for too much realism to allow that. By which I mean that I've found myself googling the correct colours to use for this or that aspect of the picture - including common colours for cars as in the first image. I'm a bit picky that way.

I think I've been waiting for this since they had one of those giant colouring posters on the wall in the staff-room where I used to work. I don't think it ever got finished though. Still, I had a great time on my breaks - at least before the pens disappeared. This is the kind of picture I'd like to find for a second book:
There's been another variant on the adult colouring book that's been around for decades; the informational one. I've gone through a few of those too, and I'm thinking of getting some of them again as they've disappeared over the years - unfinished. The most notable of these were the Human Evolution Coloring Book and one I had on bird identification. At least for me, these made a great way to learn the subject.

Are you someone who's getting into the coloring book craze? If so, what are your favorites?


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