Monday, May 22, 2017

Announcing: The Tap Takeover

Because one blog isn't enough for me, I've started a new Beer Blog:


If you are so inclined, please go peruse. Please and thank you.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Beer Review: Flying Dog Nice (2016) Holiday Milk Stout

NameNice (2016) Holiday Milk Stout

StyleMilk Stout

Brewing Company: Flying Dog

Location: Frederick, MD

ABV: 7.2%

IBU: 20


The beer’s page on Flying Dog’s Web site

This Holiday Milk Stout is a game changer. Leave this out with plate of cookies and Santa will hook your ass up.



And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he’s gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse.

Milk Stouts are one of my favorite types of stouts, the sweetness balances out some of the bitterness inherit in a traditional stout.  The sweetness comes from the lactose sugars, which lends the name Milk Stout, probably because it sounds better than “Lactose Stout.”

750th unique check-in to Untappd,
thus the 7 and 50 on the D10s
On to this beer…I’ve been hit or miss with much of Flying Dog’s output, but more hits lately than misses I have to say.  Like many good milk stouts, this one starts very sweet and smooth with a balanced feel as it settles really nicely into the belly.

Like most stouts, it gets better as it sits and settles closer to room temperature, but I wouldn’t want to drink this too warm.  Some stouts you want to just linger over and sip over the course of a half hour, but this one is smooth enough that having a couple would be nice.

Despite the relatively high ABV for a Milk Stout at 7.2%, I didn’t feel it too much.  I was able to have 2 of these plus another lower ABV beer and not really feel it. However, I imagine after 3 or 4 of these the ABV might catch up with you.

I also appreciated the lack of bitter aftertaste that accompanies some stouts.

All of that said, I’m not sure what makes this one a Holiday Milk Stout. There aren’t any spices like nutmeg or cinnamon most often associated with Holiday/Christmas beers, so I could see this becoming a year round Milk Stout along the lines of a Lancaster Milk Stout.

Overall, a very drinkable Milk Stout and one I can conceivably see myself enjoying multiple bottles over the course of a holiday celebration. Well, I did enjoy two (as well as one other beer) during a Dungeons and Dragons gaming session.




Monday, December 12, 2016

An Update and Maybe a New Direction

Sure has been a while since I posted here at the old O' stuff.  I'm still posting reviews over at SFFWorld as most folks probably know. I suspect more people know me through twitter now than through this blog. 

For quite a while now, I've debated if I want to keep this blog active, officially close it, or try something new.  One of those "new" things I've been pondering is reviewing beer. I've always enjoyed beer, but over the past couple of years I've been really enjoying craft beer. In fact, for my birthday last month, my wife took me on a mini tour of some NJ Micro/Nanobreweries including Twin Elephant Brewing, Conclave Brewing, Kane Brewing, Beach Haus Brewery, and Carton Brewing

So tomorrow (or later today depending on when you read this) I'll be reviewing beers here at the O' Stuff. Depending on how it feels and what people have to say, I may continue it here or start a whole new blog dedicated just to my beer reviews. 

Friday, May 06, 2016

So Long and a Big Thank You to SF Signal

Since it is public now, I can post my thoughts about John DeNardo and JP Franz closing the doors of the Hugo Award Winning SF Signal.



I’ve been engaged in the online genre community since I joined the SFFWorld forums in 2000, even more so when I began writing for SFFWorld in 2003. Around that time, SF Signal launched and grew into one of the three or four mainstays of the SFF intarwebs, attracting great contributors, fostering relationships with writers and fans, and helping to promote a true sense community within the genre and winning 3 Hugo Awards, 2 for best Fanzine (2012 & 2013) and one for best Fancast in 2014.


Writing for SF Signal helped me to engage in the community, I came to know more people and become friends with many of them, including peers from other genre websites, SF publishing professionals, as well as writers. To name a few I’ve hung out with in “real life,” John Anealio, Fred Kiesche, Shecky, and Ed Lazellari. I’ve made some really good online friendships as a result of SF Signal as well, not the least of which include Paul WeimerJeff PattersonSarah ChornKristin Centorcelli (aka My Bookish Ways)Patrick HesterDavid AnnadaleAndrea Johnson,  Michael R. UnderwoodMike MartinezShana DuBoisDjango WexlerAndrew LiptakJohn H. Stevens among others.

Thanks must to also go Patrick Hester for throwing out the (albeit mass) email invite to be on the SF Signal podcast and allowing me on the podcast not once (Episode 228: Upcoming 2014 Books We Need To Read And Why) but twice (Episode 273: The Best SFF Book, TV Show, Movie, Comic Book, Game or other thing you consumed in 2014). This led to appearances on other Podcasts (Functional Nerds run by John Anealio and Patrick and Rocket Talk with Justin Landon). 

John was a great editor, as was Kristin Centorcelli during her tenure as Associate Editor. allowing me to bounce ideas off of them for my contributions and providing smart suggestions when I was having a tough time with a book review or article I wanted to post to SF Signal. If, rather hopefully when, I meet them in “real life” I can buy them each an adult beverage of their choice, because they more than deserve it.

I completely understand John and JP’s reasons for closing SF Signal. To run a webzine that has new posts nearly every hour nearly every day can be (and is in the case of places like Tor.com) a full time job. Yet these two generous, passionate fans did this not only of their own free time, but their own money for server/hosting costs. Granted, they do run advertisements, but much of that income (HA! Income from websites) went back into making it possible for SF Signal to be the active, robust web site – COMMUNITY – into which it so wonderfully grew over the years.

Bottom line, everybody involved in SF Signal had enthusiasm for SFF, the community, and sharing this enthusiasm with each other. John and JP helped to make the genre and online community a great place, were big contributors to the friendly atmosphere of not only the online genre community, but the current genre community as a whole. As such, the genre community as a whole is a little lesser without SF Signal as an active part of it.

Where does this leave me? Well, like I said, I completely understand their reasons. I’ll still be contributing quite a bit over at SFFWorld and whenever Tor.com will have me, I’ll be there, too. My blog is going through some changes. As regular readers may have noticed, I didn’t post a Books in the Mail this past Sunday, I’ll no longer be posting those. Other than that, the future is still open and I may touch upon that in a later post.

But again, a big thank you to John, JP, Patrick and all the other great folks behind the scenes at SF Signal. It was a great run for them and I couldn’t be more proud and honored to be part of it for the past few years.



For a really great summation of the situation from an outsider of SF Signal, but a great fan (and Hugo winner in his own right), Aidan Moher did a nice little twitter “rant” which he Storified:

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Books in the Mail (W/E 2016-04-23)

I legitimately want to read every one of these books, I hope time permits and other reading priorities allows for that at some point.

Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray (Star Wars Books / Del Rey, Hardcover 05/03/2016) – Gray wrote the very well received Star Wars: Lost Stars and likely because of that, got the crack at writing the Leia novel set between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.


From the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Lost Stars comes a thrilling novel set in the years before the events of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

WITNESS THE BIRTH OF THE RESISTANCE

When the Rebellion defeated the Empire in the skies above Endor, Leia Organa believed it was the beginning to a lasting peace. But after decades of vicious infighting and partisan gridlock in the New Republic Senate, that hope seems like a distant memory.

Now a respected senator, Leia must grapple with the dangers that threaten to cripple the fledgling democracy—from both within and without. Underworld kingpins, treacherous politicians, and Imperial loyalists are sowing chaos in the galaxy. Desperate to take action, senators are calling for the election of a First Senator. It is their hope that this influential post will bring strong leadership to a divided galaxy.

As the daughter of Darth Vader, Leia faces with distrust the prospect of any one person holding such a powerful position—even when supporters suggest Leia herself for the job. But a new enemy may make this path Leia’s only option. For at the edges of the galaxy, a mysterious threat is growing. . . .



The Summer Dragon (The First Book of The Evertide) by Todd Lockwood (DAW Hardcover 05/03/2016) – Most fantasy readers know Todd Lockwood because of his amazing covers, but he’s also a writer. Todd is known for painting some incredible dragons, so of course he’s going to write about them, too. Really looking forward to this one. 



The debut novel from the acclaimed illustrator–a high fantasy adventure featuring dragons and deadly politics.


Maia and her family raise dragons for the political war machine. As she comes of age, she hopes for a dragon of her own to add to the stable of breeding parents. But the war goes badly, and the needs of the Dragonry dash her hopes. Her peaceful life is shattered when the Summer Dragon—one of the rare and mythical High Dragons—makes an appearance in her quiet valley. The Summer Dragon is an omen of change, but no one knows for certain what kind of change he augurs. Political factions vie to control the implied message, each to further their own agendas.

 
 And so Maia is swept into an adventure that pits her against the deathless Horrors—thralls of the enemy—and a faceless creature drawn from her fears. In her fight to preserve everything she knows and loves, she uncovers secrets that challenge her understanding of her world and of herself.


The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor (DAW Trade Paperback 05/03/2016) – This is set in the same world of Okorafor’s Who Fears Death and looks awesome.

A fiery spirit dances from the pages of the Great Book. She brings the aroma of scorched sand and ozone. She has a story to tell….

The Book of Phoenix is a unique work of magical futurism. A prequel to the highly acclaimed, World Fantasy Award-winning novel, Who Fears Death, it features the rise of another of Nnedi Okorafor’s powerful, memorable, superhuman women.

Phoenix was grown and raised among other genetic experiments in New York’s Tower 7. She is an “accelerated woman”—only two years old but with the body and mind of an adult, Phoenix’s abilities far exceed those of a normal human. Still innocent and inexperienced in the ways of the world, she is content living in her room speed reading e-books, running on her treadmill, and basking in the love of Saeed, another biologically altered human of Tower 7.

Then one evening, Saeed witnesses something so terrible that he takes his own life. Devastated by his death and Tower 7’s refusal to answer her questions, Phoenix finally begins to realize that her home is really her prison, and she becomes desperate to escape.

But Phoenix’s escape, and her destruction of Tower 7, is just the beginning of her story. Before her story ends, Phoenix will travel from the United States to Africa and back, changing the entire course of humanity’s future.


Threading the Needle (Erenthal #2) by Joshua Palmatier (DAW, Hardcover 07/05/2016) – Second in Palmatier’s Erenthal series. I still have the first on Mount Toberead. I’ve enjoyed his writing in the past so with the second book arriving, I may finally dive into the first one Shattering the Ley. This one has another gorgeous cover from Stephan Martiniere.


The Nexus—the hub created by the Prime Wielders to harness the magical power of the ley lines for the city of Erenthrall, the Baronial Plains, and the world beyond—has Shattered, the resultant pulse cascading through the system and leaving Erenthrall decimated, partially encased in a massive distortion.

The world has fared no better: auroral storms plague the land, transforming people into creatures beyond nightmare; silver-white lights hover over all of the major cities, the harbinger of distortions that could quicken at any moment; and quakes brought on by the unstable ley network threaten to tear the earth apart. The survivors of this apocalypse have banded together in desperate groups, both in the remains of Erenthall and in small enclaves beyond the city, scrounging for food and resources in an ever more dangerous world.

Having survived the initial Shattering, Wielder Kara Tremain and ex-Dog Allan Garrett have led their small group of refugees to the Hollow, a safe haven in the hills on the edge of the plains. But the ley system is not healing itself. Their only option is to repair the distortion that engulfs Erenthrall and to fix the damaged ley lines themselves. To do that, they’ll have to enter a city controlled by vicious bands of humans and non-humans alike, intent on keeping what little they’ve managed to scavenge together.

But as soon as they enter the streets of Erenthrall, they find themselves caught up in the maelstrom of violence, deception, and betrayal that the city has descended into—including the emergence of a mysterious and powerful cult calling themselves the White Cloaks, whose leader is known as Father....

He is the same man who once led the terrorist group called the Kormanley and brought about the Shattering that destroyed the world!


The Waking Fire (Book One of Draconis Memoria) by Anthony Ryan (Ace Hardcover 07/05/2016) – This the launch of a new series from Ryan, whose Blood Song blew me away when Ace published it in 2013. The sequel, not quite as much. But I am looking forward to diving into this because Ryan has some good storytelling chops and the premise is interesting.


Throughout the vast lands controlled by the Ironship Trading Syndicate, nothing is more prized than the blood of drakes. Harvested from captive or hunted Reds, Greens, Blues and Blacks, it can be distilled into elixirs that bestow fearsome powers on the rare men and women known as the Blood-blessed.

But not many know the truth: that the lines of drakes are weakening. If they fail, war with the neighbouring Corvantine Empire will follow swiftly. The Syndicate’s last hope resides in whispers of the existence of another breed of drake, far more powerful than the rest, and the few who have been chosen by fate to seek it.

Claydon Torcreek is a petty thief and an unregistered Blood-blessed who finds himself pressed into service by the Protectorate and sent to wild, uncharted lands in search of a creature he believes is little more than legend. Lizanne Lethridge is a formidable spy and assassin facing gravest danger on an espionage mission deep into the heart of enemy territory. And Corrick Hilemore is the second lieutenant of an Ironship cruiser whose pursuit of ruthless brigands leads him to a far greater threat at the edge of the world.

As lives and empires clash and intertwine, as the unknown and the known collide, all three must fight to turn the tide of a coming war, or drown in its wake.




Sunday, April 17, 2016

Books in the Mail (W/E 2016-04-16)


Just a few books this week, a trilogy of books in fact.
Between Two Thorns (The Split Worlds #1) by Diversion Books Trade Paperback reissue 02/23/2016)– I read and loved Newman’s Planetfall last year. She originally published these books with Angry Robot a couple of years ago but (I assume) regained the rights and resold them to Diversion. One of our newer contributors at SFFWorld, Shellie Horst, interviewed Emma earlier in the year.

Beautiful and nuanced as it is dangerous, the manners of Regency and Victorian England blend into a scintillating fusion of urban fantasy and court intrigue.

Between Mundanus, the world of humans, and Exilium, the world of the Fae, lies the Nether, a mirror-world where the social structure of 19th-century England is preserved by Fae-touched families who remain loyal to their ageless masters. Born into this world is Catherine Rhoeas-Papaver, who escapes it all to live a normal life in Mundanus, free from her parents and the strictures of Fae-touched society. But now she’s being dragged back to face an arranged marriage, along with all the high society trappings it entails.

Crossing paths with Cathy is Max, an Arbiter of the Split Worlds treaty with a dislocated soul who polices the boundaries between the worlds, keeping innocents safe from the Fae. After a spree of kidnappings and the murder of his fellow Arbiters, Max is forced to enlist Cathy’s help in unravelling a high-profile disappearance within the Nether. Getting involved in the machinations of the Fae, however, may prove fatal to all involved.

“BETWEEN TWO THORNS shows the darkness beneath the glamour of the social Season. Learning to be a young lady has never seemed so dangerous.”—Mary Robinette Kowal, Hugo Award-winning fantasy author

Any Other Name (The Split Worlds #2) by Diversion Books Trade Paperback reissue 02/23/2016)– I read and loved Newman’s Planetfall last year. She originally published these books with Angry Robot a couple of years ago but (I assume) regained the rights and resold them to Diversion. One of our newer contributors at SFFWorld, Shellie Horst, interviewed Emma earlier in the year.
Thought-provoking, wonderfully inventive, and filled with treachery and mystery, the soaring second book in the Split Worlds Series pulls Cathy, Will, Max, and Sam deeper into the twisted world of Fae-touched society.

Cathy has been reluctantly married into the Iris family and moves to Londinium, the magical Nether reflection of London, setting her on a collision course with the restrictive, high-pressure social circles that demand propriety and obedience, things the vocal and free-spirited Cathy cannot abide. Will, meanwhile, is trying to find a compromise for his new bride, but whispers in his ear are urging him towards dark deeds…

Sam, determined to dive back into the world of Exilium to rescue innocents, crosses paths with Cathy and Max once again as Max and the gargoyle uncover more information about the mysterious Agency and the chain of events that wiped out the Bath Chapter. Sacrifices, terrible deals, and dreadful revelations mark this second installment of Emma Newman’s wondrous Split Worlds series.

“Emma Newman has built a modern fantasy world with such élan and authority her ideas of why and how the seemingly irrational world of Fairy works should be stolen by every other writer in the field.”—Bill Willingham, Eisner Award-winning creator of FABLES

“With a feather-light touch, Emma Newman has crafted a very English fantasy, one brilliantly realised and quite delightful, weaving magic, mystery and parallel worlds together with ease.”—Adam Christopher, author of MADE TO KILL

All is Fair (The Split Worlds #3) by Diversion Books Trade Paperback reissue 02/23/2016)– I read and loved Newman’s Planetfall last year. She originally published these books with Angry Robot a couple of years ago but (I assume) regained the rights and resold them to Diversion. One of our newer contributors at SFFWorld, Shellie Horst, interviewed Emma earlier in the year.

Caught in the insidious designs of powerful puppet-masters and playing a life-or-death game for control, Cathy and her comrades face their greatest challenge yet: changing the balance of power in the Split Worlds.

Now at the heart of the Londinium Court, deceit and murder track Will’s steps as he assumes his new role as Duke. Faced with threats to his throne and his life, the consequences of his bloody actions are already coming back to haunt him...

Meanwhile, Cathy, wrestling with the constraints of the Agency and Dame Iris, comes to terms with her new status in Fae-touched society and seeks others who feel just as restricted by its outdated social rules. As Max works with Cathy to uncover the horrors that underpin Fae-touched society, he bears witness as the final blow is struck against the last Sorcerers in Albion…

Darkly imaginative, vividly detailed, and genre-defying in scope, ALL IS FAIR is at once a thrilling and intellectual journey into worlds beyond sight.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Books in the Mail (W/E 2016-04-09)

The first full week of April brings unseasonably cold weather in New Jersey and these books to my doorstep.

Breath of Earth by Bet Cato (Harper Voyager Trade Paperback 08/23/2016)– Cato steps away from her Steampunk series for this new alternate history.

After the earth’s power under her city is suddenly left unprotected, a young geomancer must rely on her unique magic to survive in this fresh fantasy standalone from the author of the acclaimed The Clockwork Dagger.

In an alternate 1906, the United States and Japan have forged a powerful confederation— the Unified Pacific—in an attempt to dominate the world. Their first target is a vulnerable China. In San Francisco, headstrong secretary Ingrid Carmichael is assisting a group of powerful geomancer wardens who have no idea of the depth of her own talent—or that she is the only woman to possess such skills.

When assassins kill the wardens, Ingrid and her mentor are protected by her incredible magic. But the pair is far from safe. Without its full force of guardian geomancers, the city is on the brink of a cataclysmic earthquake that will expose the earth’s power to masterminds determined to control the energy for their own dark ends. The danger escalates when Chinese refugees, preparing to fight the encroaching American and Japanese forces, fracture the uneasy alliance between the Pacific allies, transforming San Francisco into a veritable powder keg. And the slightest tremor will set it off. . . .

Forced on the run, Ingrid makes some shocking discoveries about herself. Her already considerable magic has grown even more fearsome . . . and she may be the fulcrum on which the balance of world power rests.

Fall of Light (The Kharkanas Trilogy) by Steven Erikson (Tor Hardcover 04/26/2016) – I stalled on the 7th book of the main Malazan saga and couldn’t finish the first in this trilogy, Forge of Darkness but I did enjoy those first 7 Malazan books



Steven Erikson returns to the Malazan world with the second book in a dark and revelatory new epic fantasy trilogy, one that takes place a millennium before the events in his New York Times bestselling Malazan Book of the Fallen. Fall of Light continues to tell the tragic story of the downfall of an ancient realm, a story begun in the critically acclaimed Forge of Darkness.

It's a conflicted time in Kurald Galain, the realm of Darkness, where Mother Dark reigns. But this ancient land was once home to many a power... and even death is not quite eternal. The commoners' great hero, Vatha Urusander, is being promoted by his followers to take Mother Dark's hand in marriage, but her Consort, Lord Draconus, stands in the way of such ambitions. The impending clash sends fissures throughout the realm. As rumors of civil war burn through the masses, an ancient power emerges from the long dead seas. Caught in the middle of it all are the First Sons of Darkness, Anomander, Andarist, and Silchas Ruin of the Purake Hold...


Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Tor Hardcover 04/26/2016) – The English language debut of the bestselling Dutch novel, Hex, from Thomas Olde Heuvelt--a Hugo and World Fantasy award nominated talent to watch


Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay 'til death. Whoever settles, never leaves.

Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Muzzled, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. She stands next to children's bed for nights on end. Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened or the consequences will be too terrible to bear.

The elders of Black Spring have virtually quarantined the town by using high-tech surveillance to prevent their curse from spreading. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town's teenagers decide to break their strict regulations and go viral with the haunting. But, in so doing, they send the town spiraling into dark, medieval practices of the distant past.

This chilling novel heralds the arrival of an exciting new voice in mainstream horror and dark fantasy.


Sleeping Giants (The Themis Files Book One) by Sylvain Neuvel (Harper Voyager Hardcover Paperback 04/26/2015) – An impressive looking debut and the launch of a series for Neuvel. This is the final copy of the ARC I received earlier in the year.

A page-turning debut in the tradition of Michael Crichton, World War Z, and The Martian, Sleeping Giants is a thriller fueled by an earthshaking mystery—and a fight to control a gargantuan power.

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?