Saturday, December 26, 2009

Unseen Academicals

A Pratchett book for Christmas! Excellent!

Terry Pratchett writes two flavors of books these days: Pretty straightforward plot-driven books, and Message books. This is not to say that Message books don't have fairly rollicking plots, or that the Plot books don't have the Message, but that some are stronger in one than the other. This one's interesting in that it does character development for some people who have been around for numerous books, and that it takes them in slightly unexpected directions.

Ponder Stibbons— the only "sensible" member of the Unseen University staff— is busier than ever, but has managed to turn his intelligence towards something to make his life easier, i.e. understanding how to work Archchancellor Ridcully around. Ridcully, in turn, is still bluff and blustery but displays more of the intelligence that we've seen mere hints of before. Lord Vetinari, the Patrician, is as Machivellian as ever but displays a certain amount of human emotion other than annoyance or mild pleasure.

As far as plot goes, it's actually a comparatively minor event in Discworld terms. No end-of-the-world staff, no Dungeon Dimension Demons, no occult races making things difficult— just football (soccer, to us.) Okay, well, there's a god of football, but she makes almost no appearance, unusual in Chekhovian terms. And as far as message, it's the usual Pratchett commentary that people are individuals, but not presented very strongly. (Some books do bludgeon you over the head with it.)

Was it good? Of course. Was it stellar? Well, not in terms of his overall body of work, but quite serviceable for all that. A lot of people may find it a disappointment if they're looking for Sturm und Drang. But it's quite likeable, and if you approach it as an exploration into characters in a less frenetic setting, you should enjoy it just fine.

Monday, December 14, 2009

December 14th in Sacramento, California

Elk Grove is a primarily suburban community about fifteen miles south of Sacramento. It has been incorporated for less than a decade but has more than tripled its population during that time, a fact which has led to an unfortunate proliferation of chain stores and a lack of Indian food. There is, however, at least one excellent Thai restaurant, which is where we eat if we bother to go out at all.

Sacramento itself has a rather interesting position. Most people in the state have a hate on for it because it is the heart of the screwed up policies of the state. Or they hate it because it doesn't have the culture of Los Angeles or San Francisco. (Yogurt has culture.) At any rate, that's not what I see. There are tons of natural areas, including the American River Parkway, which runs from downtown all the way up to Folsom Lake, 26 miles of undeveloped land with a bike trail through it. And Elk Grove is following that tradition, putting trails along its creeks. At some point in the future, they hope to connect them all up into one huge trail system.

Not that I'm dealing with any of that today. Today is a typical Mommy Day.

The second Monday of the month is the day of a library play group, so I rousted Gareth before dawn. We dropped off his father at his work and drove up to see my parents, who are utterly heartbroken to have a grandchild come over so often. Heartbroken, I tell you.

It was a pretty typical morning. Gareth is beginning to be much clearer in his requests, through body language if nothing else, and it's pretty obvious when a child is trying to climb into the booster seat that he's hungry. He ate most of his oatmeal, but then Djadja came in and brought cereal, so he couldn't possibly stay in the seat. He went over and did his imitation of a baby bird, and Djadja obliged, spooning raisin bran into the open mouth. Gareth is going to be a big cereal child, I can tell.

The library play group was rather under-attended as it falls within the holiday break for many parents. For the first half-hour, there was one other child, a boy named Delano who was marvelously close in age to Gareth. To my astonishment, they proceeded to almost play with one another.

I suppose this doesn't seem too astonishing to most people, but it's the first real indication we've had that Gareth understands that there are other children in the world. Moreover, he wasn't trying to take toys away from the other boy because he didn't want the other boy to have them, and was doing the same things Delano was because it looked interesting.

For the most part, though, it was run around, run around, run around. And eat, once the snacks were brought out.

After we went home, he then proceeded to play with the dog. Pharaoh is an incredible find for my parents; he's never once displayed any nervousness around Gareth, and can take his toys back without so much as nipping Gareth's hand. He does have an unfortunate tendency to knock the boy over, since he doesn't seem to realize the discrepancy in their sizes.

Gareth doesn't seem to mind.

After lunch, Nana held him for several episodes of Yo Gabba Gabba, his absolute favorite show. And then it was time to pick up Daddy and go home, where they are snuggling on the couch.

Nothing really area specific happened today. Last week was far more interesting, what with colds and frigid weather (for the area; some parts of the city actually got real snowfall) and ants in my pantry.

I could write several blog posts about ants. I don't think they'd be very family-friendly, though.