Grace of Kings arrives

Grace of Kings, a first novel by Ken Liu, arrived in the mail today. Liu's been producing an extremely impressive string of shorter fiction in recent years (he's one of my "must-read" authors), as well as translating works of Chinese sf authors. (He did the English translation for the recent US publication of The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu.) Grace of Kings, an epic fantasy influenced by classic Chinese literature, has been garnering outstanding reviews and recommendations; it'll almost certainly be a major award-contender next year.

I've also seen a lot of appreciations for the striking cover of the book, but I'm surprised no one seems to have mentioned the gorgeous endpapers, with a map of Liu's fantasy archipelago. How about we fix that right now?

(The Grace of Kings cover is by Sam Weber. There doesn't seem to be an internal credit for the endpapers. Were they by Weber as well?)


Sad Puppies: Some brief thoughts, and a link-back.

If you haven't been following the Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies mess over this year's Hugo Awards, or don't care, count yourself lucky. (Boy, are you lucky!) But a lot of people care, and thousands (no exaggeration) of posts and comments have been written. I've made a few brief comments myself on sites like File 770, but haven't gotten into the ugly (again, no exaggeration) back-and-forth to the extent some people have.

I'm thinking of writing some extended commentary, though. Probably two posts: One in which to allow my inner Rude Pundit out to vent (hope them Sad Puppies have a sense of humor!, though I expect not), and one with a more serious reasoned response.

In the meantime, my post about the same issue from 2014, before it went nuclear this year,  Some Points Re: Recent Matters, is just as (or more) applicable to the ongoing kerfuffle/fracas/debate/argument/Holy-War (choose one, or several, as you deem applicable). The takeaway line: "Some people are proud of being a prick."


Iggy the Easter Iguana

Sure, it may look like something only Satan could hug and cuddle,
but at least it actually lays eggs, for Christ's sake!

The local Wildlife World Zoo decided to put bunny ears on its resident iguana for a recent publicity appearance on local tv. Because why would you not?


Coconut-Pineapple-Ginger Smoothie

I've been making fruit smoothies at bedtime to take my daily pills and supplements with. Besides being good for that, drinking the smoothies (essentially fruit salads in pureed form) means I indulge in a lot less ice cream and other high-sugar, high-fat snacks than I used to.

I use a wide variety of ingredients. This combination worked particularly well, so I thought I'd preserve the recipe.

Coconut-Pineapple-Ginger Smoothie

11/ C. coconut milk
1/2 C. Del Monte pineapple in coconut-flavored light syrup (these come in lunchbox-size plastic cups with a half-cup in each)
1/2 tsp. ginger paste (or more, if you like ginger)
1 scoop whey protein powder (about 34 grams, or slightly over 1 ounce by weight, or about 3 ounces by volume; it's fluffy stuff)

Blend until smooth. Enjoy. About 300 calories.

(My carton of coconut milk came out of the fridge in slushy form. You might want to add several ice cubes to chill the mixture.)

A Few Words About Obamacare

From bankrate.com: What If Obamacare Never Happened? A chilling look at the world Republicans want to resurrect.

For another reminder of what the Working Poor had to do before the Affordable Care Act. here's one of my own posts from 2006, New Millennium, Old Style Medicine.

Until the ACA went into effect, one of our friends had to try and make do with with herbal and folk remedies to treat her asthma and other problems. Under ACA provisions, she finally qualified for AHCCS (Arizona's equivalent for Medicaid) and has been able to see actual medical professionals and get prescription medications.

One of the dire predictions Republicans made about the ACA was that people would have to pay more for insurance under ACA. That's turned out to be mostly untrue. There's a small number that fall into various qualification cracks, but most of those increases in premiums are small. (I checked the ACA website to see what coverage matching what I get through my USPS retirement would cost. It was about $40 more a month than what I currently pay. That would be annoying, but it would be something I could afford without much trouble; most people who complain about increased premiums seem to be in a similar financial niche as I am, and could similarly afford such an increase if  ACA coverage was their only option.)

I actually met someone recently complaining about ACA premiums being unaffordable, though. It was a new co-worker, who had been on AHCCS during a long period of unemployment. When he finally re-entered the workforce, that AHCCS coverage ended, so he went to the ACA website to see what he could get. He complained that he ended up with a figure of $490 a month. Since he's one of our temporary contract workers at $9.00/hour, that would be over a third of his monthly income.

That figure sounded WAY too high to me, especially for someone who'd just come off of AHCCS, so I suggested he contact one of the person-to-person ACA counselors to see if that amount was accurate. Surprisingly, he actually took my advice (he must have missed the memo everyone else in the world has apparently read, because no one EVER takes my advice). As it turned out, the counselor was able to figure out that in the process of filling out the online questionnaire, the guy's grandchildren had somehow gotten listed as dependents, so that $490 figure had been for the fellow employee AND several grandchildren. The actual cost for solo coverage equivalent to what he'd had under AHCCS would only be about $200 a month. That's something he can afford, so he was a LOT happier the next time I talked with him.

Here's the short version of this post: THANKS, OBAMA! No, really, thank you. I mean that.