We had a knowledge day at work today, with talks and workshops on various topics. I spent much of the day playing leethack, a game of coding puzzles (sort of like Advent of Code) using Go.

This was my first acquaintance with Go. I’d never used the language before or even seen it up close. But it turned out to be a pretty normal-looking language, and I put my Google skills to work, and got some puzzles solved. (See also: Essential Copying and Pasting from Stack Overflow.) I even won second prize and a chocolate medal by getting one last highly-scoring puzzle solved just 10 seconds before the end of the game.

I’d been curious about Go since it’s an up-and-coming language. I’m sure it’s great for the things it’s great for, but having tried it, I am less interested in it than I was before. I discovered that Go has no generics, and no functional features – no map and no filter, just loops. Having solved much of last year’s Advent of Code using F#, I’ve gotten used to functional thinking, and without generics I feel half crippled as a programmer. One can get used to most things and find workarounds… but I’d much rather use a language that allows me to be productive out of the box.

I worked late today because of an all-day workshop about applied machine learning. (Great workshop, had fun and learned a lot.)

How nice it felt today to have such big kids. Adrian went home from school on his own; Ingrid took care of grocery shopping and cooked dinner. By the time I got home, dinner was already halfway done. No need for me to leave the workshop early or rush home to sort out the practicalities.

Sarah J Maas is super famous and popular and I haven’t read a single one of her books. The covers put me off. Grim-looking girls with shadowed faces, wielding large weapons – looks like angry teenager wish fulfilment fantasies.

Somehow I still bought one because of some recommendation somewhere. I wish I hadn’t.

I do understand why they are popular. The book was full of drama and excitement and beauty and wondrous places and fantastical creatures and lust and blood and curses and mortal danger. Extra everything!

But I also found this book immensely annoying. Cringe-worthy. Firstly, much of the story is just ridiculous. There’s an elf prince with a curse that can only be lifted by a human girl who falls in love with him, but with dramatic complications. (A more adult version of Beauty and the Beast.) The curse is so convoluted and cliched that it literally made me roll my eyes. The girl doesn’t fall in love fast enough and the elf prince is doomed!

The girl then follows him all the way to the elf queen (or a caricature of an evil elf queen) who cursed him. She agrees to let him go if the girl completes three tasks – or guesses the answer to a riddle. But the quests are incredibly illogical, there is just no reason why the queen would ever set these particular quests, they seem to be chosen only to cause extra drama. Of course they’re supposed to be impossible to complete but the girl manages them all, one way or another. And then she solves the riddle and the queen loses her power and is torn to pieces… what on Earth would possess an immeasurably powerful queen to agree to such a deal?

And of course the centuries-old, all-powerful elf prince falls in love with the callow girl. Because they have so much in common – both have been forced to take responsibility for other people. As if that was totally unique for just these two. As for why the girl falls in love with the guy… well, it mostly seems to come down to his muscles and pretty hair. She seems to have great difficulty separating love from lust. Not that she has much sense in other matters, either.

The whole thing is so silly, so predictable and two-dimensional that I can’t believe she can write this and not be ashamed of her work.

To the ridiculous story, add ridiculous writing style. It’s as if Sarah J Maas was told to avoid normal words, and sat down with a thesaurus and found ways to add extra flourish to everything. Preferably not just one flourish but three. An elf does not turn to face the girl, he “whirls with fluid grace”. The girl doesn’t get dizzy, no, “colours and darkness whirl, eddying her vision”. Arrows “glitter like a shooting star through the darkness”. And this is supposed to be the voice of an illiterate teenager who’s grown up in poverty, completely unschooled?

I have to admit that the story was exciting so I did finish reading this book. But I will take care to never start another one of Maas’s books because it would just annoy me too much.

A Face Like Glass takes place in Caverna, an underground city full of weird magic. Such as wines that can erase or restore your memory – not all of it, but last Wednesday afternoon for example – or perfume that changes your mood.

So valuable and important is this magic that nobody is allowed to enter or leave Caverna. The city folk trade with the outside world, but mostly the outside is a place of legend.

The people in this city are equally weird. They do not have any instinctive facial expressions. Faces have to be taught and learned. Poor people might only be taught a handful of faces, suitable to their situation in life, such as “listening attentively”, “grateful”, and “focused on a task”. The nobility on the other hand may have hundreds, and might commission a special new face for a special occasion. Famous facesmiths craft new faces and release entire new series.

Into this world comes Neverfell, a girl with a face like glass – all her feelings shine right through. She is a bizarre novelty. The warring noble families and the Grand Steward himself compete to use her for their various ends. Unfortunately she is also naive and unworldly, and incapable of lying, since her face immediately betrays her. She is unlike anyone else in the city and throws everything into turmoil.

Clever and inventive, and a neat mystery with some nifty ideas, and entirely unpredictable when it comes to plot. But the tone and the endless piling-on of yet more weird things did become predictable and, well, not exactly annoying, but somewhat too much. There are some gaping holes in the “world” of Caverna and in Neverfell’s background that were really hard to believe.

Mostly quite enjoyable, with splashes of utter brilliance but also some annoying splotches.

Adrian reading a puzzle book (in English, no less) while perched on top of a garbage can.

How can that possibly be comfortable?

Adrian, inspired by Ingrid’s weekly dinners, now also wants to start cooking. For now he doesn’t quite have the skills to do it on his own – he can peel potatoes and chop things but that’s about it – so we’ll be cooking together once a week.

It’s not so much the cooking process that appeals to him. It’s the power to decide the meal.

Today we made mashed potatoes, and chicken nuggets for him and some store-bought veggie burgers for the rest of us.

It’s that time of the year again, when all the badges have to be sewn onto shirts. Ingrid is grown and independent and skilled enough to sew on her own, but not Adrian.

He’s inherited Ingrid’s scout shirt but the badges are his own. The shirt is like a palimpsest.

The end-of-term show at Ingrid’s dance school. This term she’s been doing disco again, as well as show dance. The show dance group focuses more on performing than the other groups, so her group will be up on stage during each of the three shows, not just one. Which means hanging around at the theatre almost all day. After the second show Ingrid was going stir-crazy, totally fed up with being confined to a cramped room with ten other kids, with not much to do. I was really only there to see the second show, which is the one that her disco group was assigned to, but seeing how down and done she was feeling, I hung around and helped her wait.

This photo is from between the two shows, with kids running free on the stage.

First snow. With cat tracks, and a reflection of our floor heating grille. The world immediately feels less gray but also colder. It feels pretty cosy to be inside, looking out.

(Borrowed from tomorrow. Virtual time travel?)

We take turns to bring Friday fika to work, and it’s my turn tomorrow. I made a double batch of double lemon muffins, and the “double” means that first you bake lemon muffins and then you drench them in lemon syrup. Plus there’s poppy seeds in them to make them even more delicious. I’ve been longing for lemon poppy seed muffins for some weeks already, so the fika at work was a perfect occasion to make some.