Monthly Archives: May 2014

One of the sparsest tutorials I’ve ever seen…

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Hi, Fluffsters! Happy Friday!

So. Friday. That means that it’s basically the WEEKEND! And that means you’ll (in theory) have TIME for stuffs!

To help you fill that time, I have searched the webs, and found an interesting looking tutorial for you to look at.

(Ok, so, actually, a friend shared this on her facebook wall and I decided it would make good fluff material. That’s kinda beside the point.)

But yeah. It’s a tutorial for “cute yummy dog sandwiches.”

And to be fair, they are cute.

However, the tutorial has me a bit baffled… So, the writer mentions the recipe for the bread. But that’s it.

There’s no mention of what to use to make the eyes. Or what, besides a hotdog of some sort, goes into the sandwich part. Or even how to tell “when the dough is ready.”

So, fluffsters, this is my challenge for you this week. What do you think the missing ingredients are? Clearly this is a fairly, um, sparse tutorial. What are the hidden elements? Do you think the eyes and nose are made from chocolate? If not, do you think it would be better if they were?

I would love to hear from you in the comments!

I have a new shiny!

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Hello, Fluffsters!

So, I’m really happy. I have a new shiny!

You got another ring?

What? No!

I got a new computer! Can’t you tell?

No… Why do you think I would be able to know?

Well, I’m using it to write this fluff post…

Webmaster, surely you do not think I can actually tell what computer you are using?

…Uh… No. No. Of course I wouldn’t think something like that…

But yeah.

So, I’m still getting to know the computer. I can’t quite tell whether it’s going to get a male or female pronoun associated with it yet, but it’s a sweet little machine!

It has its quirks, but so far they’re reasonable. For example, to save space, the “end”, “home”, “page up”, and “page down” buttons are hidden on the arrow keys. But it’s also got some really nice speakers! And some easy volume control sorts of things. F6, for example, is insta-mute. F7 is volume down, F8 is volume up. And it has an easy airplane mode button!

Also, it can go into tablet mode. And it’s thin, so it basically kinda works as a tablet!

As I said, it’s a sweet little machine.

Well, I hope you have a good day! Smile, it’s almost the weekend!

Why I Love to watch Ice Skating

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Hello, Fluffsters! Happy Tuesday!

For those of you in the United States Armed Forces, I want to send you a belated “thank you.”

For those of you in America, I hope you had a good holiday, if you’re in a place that does, in fact, take a holiday on Memorial day.

Anywho. So, last night, I spent a fair bit of time procrastinating by watching YouTube videos of ice skating.

Seriously, I love it. I enjoy skating, too, but I’m not very good. (Yet.)

And I think I’ve found some of what makes ice skating fun to watch, for me.

1) The music is often beautiful. Certainly, beautiful music as the background for the skating makes the routine much more fun to watch.

2) The people I watch are really talented. It’s easy to find YouTube videos of the best skates in history, after all. And the most spectacular fails. But that’s beside the point.

3) Most importantly, the two previous aspects can combine to bring visuals to the music. Basically, when an ice skating routine is done well, it is almost as though you’re watching a personification of the music.

For example, this one was making the rounds shortly before the Winter Olympics of 2014:

The skater does an excellent job. (The commentators, not so much.)

But his combination of choreography and music selection do, in fact, bring the music to life. I think that at least in theory dance can also do things like that, but it’s so much harder to find good dance that does so. One of the advantages that ice skating has that dancing doesn’t, is that ice skating can be naturally smoother and flowing. Any stops also become that much more dramatic. And that’s also part of the way music works. It normally flows. Even the silences are frequently, well, flowing. And when they’re not, it requires attention.

And it’s hard to keep that type of constant movement on land. But on ice, with reduced friction, you just glide along. It’s a very natural movement.

Those are definitely part of why I enjoy ice skating and watching ice skating.

Birds can be Silly

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Hello, Fluffsters!

I am going to take a temporary break from reviewing fantasy stuff, in order to bring you this public service announcement:

Birds can be silly.

Yes, I am mentioning this for a reason.

Today, I had the opportunity to go sailing with some family in a Pacific-area bay. It was really fun. One of the amusing things, though, was watching various birds.

There were about two that were common. One was the common sea gull. Those guys are actually kinda fun. Yes, they look silly. But they’re also kinda graceful. Especially when they land- they’ve discovered how to land gently on the water.

There was another type of bird, however, that was just ridiculous in every way possible. It was large, brown, and had a black beak. It also pulled its head back when it flew, and just looked a bit dorky. And when it landed on the water… Well, it didn’t so much “land” as nosedived. Seriously.

Every. Single. One.

They would approach the water in a downward direction. And then, rather than angling up, they would crash. The rear seemed to bob up for a moment, and the head completely submerged. I’m sure they were fishing, but it certainly looked like they simply didn’t know how to land properly. (If you even refer to it being “landing” when they’re aiming for… water.)

It was quite amusing.

What makes an excellent fantasy story (Part 3)

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Hello, Fluffsters! Happy Saturday!

I hope your weekend is going well.

Good news! I have the rest of The List for you! (Who knew I could spend three days on a list, right?) Well, I hope you enjoy the remaining points.

5) Something new and/or original. This was one of the areas where Dragon Champion did an excellent job. The entire book was told from the perspective of… the dragon. That particular perspective was fun! I wouldn’t have thought about how dragons view the world. But E.E. Knight did. And he presented it in a wonderful way. The Dresden Files’ particular take on the interaction between magic and nonmagic is also a lot of fun, and is a very fresh perspective. Summer Knight (from the Dresden Files) presents an “enchanting” perspective of fairy hierarchy, for example. It’s fun.

That’s also part of the reason why I did not like the book “Eragon.” Ok, so it was amusing to see all the different places that the book seemed to steal from. (Star Wars knock off, anyone? No? Well how about Lord of the Rings? Dragonriders of Pern? And that magic looked suspiciously identical to the magic system from The Belgariad…)

As another example of originality, Wrede pulls it off in her Enchanted Forest Chronicles. I mean, seriously- a princess volunteering to be a dragon’s princess, and being bored with normal princess-y things? It’s enchantingly new.

6) Consistency of Magic. This is actually more of a subset of point 4. But it’s important enough to get its own point. It annoys me to no end when fantasy stories (be it written or televised) ignores rules. Especially when there are designated rules, not a designated “there are no rules.”

To again use Eddings as an example, he incorporates a few different types of magic in order to provide consistency. But even so, there are distinct differences. And each category of magic is extremely consistent. The primary type — sorcery — works through “the Will and the Word.” (You gather your Will, and release it with any sort of word that somehow relates in your mind.) The one thing that is absolutely impossible is to will something into nonexistence- it breaks the absolute rule, and therefore backfires.

These rules of magic are followed scrupulously throughout Eddings’s series in that universe. The consistency helps make The Belgariad excellent fiction.

Well, that’s about all I can think of for right now. I hope you have an excellent rest of your weekend!

What makes an excellent fantasy story (Part 2)

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Hi again, Fluffsters!

Sorry for leaving you off after only two points yesterday. But I’m feeling lazy, and there’s enough here for multiple posts, so I may as well. (Aren’t I nice like that?)

Anywho. On to more of what makes excellent fantasy stories!

3) Good plot. This also is clearly important. That’s part of why some of Lewis’s Narnia series are better than others. Lewis has wonderfully consistent characters, but not all of his plots are as strong. That’s also part of why Dragon Champion wasn’t bad. The plot was there. Something happened. That’s also, as I mentioned earlier, one of the reasons why Sorcery & Cecelia wasn’t fantastic.

Granted, plot consistency and neatness is preferred. But even then, it’s not always entirely necessary. Real life, after all, isn’t always the most coherent.

4) “Real” setting. What I mean by this, is that the setting feels real, or like it could be real. There seem to be rules that are followed, like with the real world. Even if the rule is “there are no rules”, it’s consistent. Of course, it’s a lot better to have consistent rules, not lack thereof. Rich details are very helpful for this. Eddings is one of the masters of this. The cultures in his books are fantastic. The Arends, for example, (from the Belgariad) are very… impulsive. Any Arend you meet in the series is not going to be particularly brilliant, but will be brave to a fault. At one point, he describes one of the sub-groups of Arends as, without too much persuasion, likely being willing to declare war on a rising tide. (Or something along those lines.) Again, it was quite consistent, and quite delightful.

And once again, I’m going to leave you after only two sub-points. I hope you don’t mind.

Tomorrow will have the final installment of the list, though, (at least of what I have so far!) so come back tomorrow! I hope you have a great Friday!

What makes an excellent fantasy story (Part 1)

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Hi, Fluffsters! Happy Thursday!

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m a bit of a fantasy fanatic. There are few things better than curling up with a good fantasy novel. (Except possibly for curling up with a good fantasy novel and a mug of hot cocoa on a stormy night, under a nice fuzzy blanket.)

The trouble, of course, is finding a truly excellent novel. There are lots of fun books out there. Some of them are fantasy. But some fantasy books are not that great. Unfortunately.

But good fantasy, oh, that’s highly addictive. Excellent fantasy novels can transport you to a different world or time period for a while. They spark the imagination.

There are a few things that all good fantasy novels have in common.

1) They need to be not-poorly written. That’s pretty obvious… And the better written they are, the more likely they are to be good books. C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series and J. R. R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings, for example, are two examples of well written fantasy. They also have other good things going for them, which contributes to the serieses being good fantasy.

2) Strong characters. At the very least, the characters need to be believable and consistent. This will potentially make or break the story. Inconsistent characters are just confusing and detract strongly from a story. Some books, however, can be completely saved by strong characters. Now, that’s not to say that characters can’t change or grow. On the contrary, they almost need to. But the characters should do so naturally, for the setting.

The book “Sorcery and Cecelia”, by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, for example, was a delightful work of fantasy. It didn’t have too much of a plot, but it had great characters. It was actually kindof like a Jane Austen book, but set in a fantasy world. It was really fun. Its lack of plot made it good, not excellent.

As an alternative, Dragon Champion (by E. E. Knight) did not completely succeed at this. Don’t get me wrong- it was a fun book. But from what I remember (it’s been a bit since I’ve read this book) some of the characters were not entirely consistent. That detracted from the tale. Especially since I remember there being some inconsistencies with the main character. (Again, don’t ask me for specifics.)

Well, I’m going to pause here for right now. Tune in tomorrow for the next part of what makes excellent fantasy!