[Book review] For the win – Cory Doctorow

For those who went by my book recommendation of Ready Player One, you would know that Cory Doctorow was mentioned in the novel. So here I am, reading a book by Cory Doctorow!

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For the Win is one of those multiple pov books that can be terrible when executed terribly. Lucky for Doctorow, this one was done pretty well. The characters are distinct enough that you can figure it out.

The overarching plot is that people in eastern countries are subjected to terrible working conditions and we have someone named Big Sister Nor who wants to unite all unions to stick up for each other rather than each union only being responsible for their own sectors. The multiple povs are of different people working as gold farmers in different countries but treated equally as terrible and viewed as expendable by their bosses. We also have a Jewish high school kid who is a Sinophile who obviously, comes to the aid of his guild mates in China. And we have the pov of a person who actually works behind the scenes in these games.

Doctorow weaves a complicated but eye-opening story on video games, gold farming, and the economy. Seriously, it’s like Investorpedia using game terms with all the explanation of in-game economics that’s actually incorporated in the novel!

I highly recommend this book to people who like MMORPGs or want a book that will make you cry. We always hear about sweatshops and we all bleed our hearts for them BUT without putting a name or face to it, it’s still something that happens in a distant country. This novel (although fictional in its accounts), gives you that personal connection with the people on the other side: the woman who made your Nike shoes, the one who laboriously painted that replica painting you have, etc.

3/5 // Cross-posted on my book review blog: She Reads (anndreachan.com)

[Book review] NPCS – Drew Hayes

Have you ever played a game and wondered about the NPCs? What’s their story? I’m talking about the bar keeps and the people you bump into the street. They come with canned NPC text based on your responses to them. In the next book I’m reviewing after this, it mentions that they hire mechanical turks to be the NPCs and dole out rewards or quests to the player. I don’t think that is happening right now but Amazon does employ Mechanical Turks to do mundane stuff over the internet. (You can look it up)

What about table top role playing games?

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In the novel NPCs by Drew Hayes, we start off with 4 characters in a bar yammering on about their adventure when they all pass out. They had eaten some harmless mushrooms earlier but when partnered with alcohol, it became deadly. We are then introduced to 4 new characters. Gabrielle, Eric, [Replace 1], and [Replace 2]. They found out that the four adventurers who had died had a summons from the king in the nearby town who was known to be ruthless and burned down villages. They figured that if it was made known that the adventurers had died in their village, he would lay them to waste. According to the summons, the party consisted of a barbarian, rogue, wizard and a paladin. Since it mentioned no names, the four decided to take their place.

On their way to the King, they were ambushed by a group of goblins and taken hostage. It wasn’t as simple as they thought it would be. The rest of the book follows their adventure to the King, and then to the King’s actual quest – all the while, maintaining their disguises.

It was a pretty fun read. If you like role playing games (D&D), you would like it. If you don’t know a lick about RPGs, I say – stay away!

Winterlicious 2015 – MoRoCo Chocolat

This is my second Winterlicious dinner for 2015. I had invited several of BP’s friends to go for dinner and MoRoCo’s menu appealed to most of us. I’ve been there several times when I used to work on Bay and Bloor, and many times after for afternoon tea or high tea. (Not interchangeable) I’ve always had a pretty good experience… I’ve never found the hostess to be friendly like other places but I just chalked it up to the fact that we’re in Yorkville. (Ok, that’s really unfair to generalize like that but I’m being honest in what I was thinking)

So, before I get onto the food, I want to discuss my unpleasant experience before dinner even started. We were on our way there and I get a phone call from two other friends who were early that MoRoCo did not have reservations under my name. For the record, I called ahead earlier in the week because I was unable to make reservations on their Bookenda app on their website. (As an aside, I’m very disappointed they switched over to Bookenda from OpenTable because I’m a few hundred points from getting a certificate) I had spoken to the hostess that day who said that while they cannot accommodate my 7PM request for a table of 8 people for Friday, February 6, she would be able to accommodate 7:30PM. She confirmed and took down my information but I guess she never wrote it down. Or lost it. I don’t really care because at the end of the day, 8 people didn’t have a table for 7:30PM.

Prior to that unpleasant experience, I had in fact, called in earlier that afternoon to speak to a supervisor about a certain request but was put on hold for 20 minutes. I called in again after I hung up with my friend and asked about our 7:30 reservation. I apologize as I may have taken a tone with the hostess. I knew she had her hands tied in trying to accommodate for my group. However, I felt that the entire time she spoke to me, she wanted to make sure that I knew she wasn’t the one culpable for losing my reservation to the point that she asked the time and date that I had phoned in to place blame on someone else. But, I guess she was just covering her ass. The best she could do was push our reservation time. Eventually, I relented and said we would take a 9PM reservation. We came all the way here for dinner, and everywhere else was booked on a Friday night.

I went in to speak to her that a friend of mine has work after dinner and if there was any way they could pre-order her food in the kitchen. She has given us the paper menu for Winterlicious and said we were free to keep it. Things were looking up.

Upon our return for the 9PM reservation, we had taken the liberty of grabbing the same paper menus that were free for us to keep and read it. The hostess returned and yanked it out of my friend’s hand and said that the menus were already on our table. I think that’s a little confusing because she was telling us to keep it earlier. And from what I could tell, we were her last table before it was time for her to leave so she was free to look cross, and treat us as if we had inconvenienced her evening. We were placed in the back with two tables put together. Two oblong tables that were meant for 2 people… for 8.

That aside, the experience after that was OK. Although the fact that we had to wait and the hostess’ attitude did sour the mood.

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A few of the group had the pumpkin soup. This is the soup that first arrived at the table for my friend with the rush request. Notice that there is no bread when the rest of the pumpkin soups came with rock solid french bread afterwards.

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This is the Tuna Tartare. The bread on the left is the same one missing from the soup above. The tartare was good. It wasn’t the best I’ve had.

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For your main, there were three choices. The Artisan Burger, which everyone loved. The sweet potato fries went really well with the chipotle mayo sauce. It was like having all dressed chips! I personally did not try the burger myself but from what I heard, it was delicious.

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I’ve been to MoRoCo before for the High Tea and the Truffle Macaroni and Cheese was part of it. It was exactly as I remembered. Delicious. BP said you couldn’t taste the cheese but I would have to disagree.

No one ordered the salmon.

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Finally for dessert, I had the Adam & Eve which is an apple galette. This is not a galette. It’s apple pie filling in a tart shell with whipped cream. It was OK.

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This is the one dessert I didn’t try. This is the Funfetti cake which is a red velvet cake with a macaron. They are known for their macarons so you can’t go wrong with that. It was the one with the best reviews among the table.

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Finally, the get cherried away. I didn’t order this as 1) I don’t like cherries 2) I am kinda over cheesecake. But I have to say, it was pretty good. It was rich but not overly rich.

Would I recommend MoRoCo?

Yes, with a caveat.

Either make your reservation online or call and double check. That’s just ridiculous. I still think they are pretty good in terms of afternoon tea/high tea offerings. The servers are troopers while the hostesses (not just the one mentioned above) could use some attitude check.

But their store front alone is worth a visit 🙂 See my other review here.

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MoRoCo Chocolat
Website: MoRoCoChocolat.com
99 Yorkville Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M5R 3K3
416.961.2202

[Book review] Native Tongue – Suzette Haden Elgin

Now, I normally stay away from “Feminist” books as I personally don’t support the idea of misandry. However, Native Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin has been compared to The Handmaid’s Tale which I enjoyed.

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There are several stories intertwined in this novel but the overarching story is that we are now in the future where we’ve regressed back to a patriarchal society wherein women have little to no rights. We’ve also made contact with alien species and we have 13 Linguist families whose primary purpose is to breed and assist in the translation. They would put infants in interfaces with the aliens so that they can learn their humanoid languages.

1) We follow Nazareth, the daughter of the head Linguist, in her journey into adulthood, into marriage, and through cancer where she leaves her husband’s house to live with the elderly women Linguists (they cast away the non-child-bearing women to their own house). She finds out they have been creating a secret language only for women.
2) Nazareth’s father, Thomas, is the head Linguist of all 13 families and it turns out he’s in kahoots with the government work agency people who are trying to create their own linguist.
3) The government work agency (not related to the government) have been asking for infant volunteers so they can interface them with aliens with non-humanoid languages.
4) Michaela Landry, a nurse, murdered her husband by way of bee stings, seeks to kill the Linguists one by one to avenge her son’s death which she believes is done by the Linguists. (Her husband donated their son to the Government Work people mentioned above)

The results? Well, you have to read to find out.

I give this 4/5! I really liked this book. It wasn’t an easy read, not just because we have so many characters point of views all over the place but there is an affectation to the writing to reflect the time period in which the book is set.

However, I do recommend reading it because it has given me a new perspective on what it means to be a feminist. I have to be very honest with you that I did not watch that Emma Watson video on her ramblings about being a feminist nor do I care to watch it. Sorry, I’m just not interested. But from what I hear, she should run for President ASAP. On the other hand, I have read diatribes by feminist women (why I chose to read them is not the issue at hand) and because of this, the idea of being a feminist has left a terrible taste in my mouth.

I think another reason is that I’ve met several women who strongly believe that they don’t need men in their lives to eke out a living. True enough but again, their “I will bring home the bacon and will not rely on men” left a terrible taste in my mouth.

Then I have men telling me that it annoys them when women want equality and get really upset when you actually treat them equally. Something I totally agree with. Women say they want equality but you also want men to do things for you? My heavens, I thought you said you could do it alone? And I’ve been sailing on that boat for the longest time until this book.

I was able to see a world without women’s rights. I know this still happens in this day and age and I do feel for those women. But this is happening not just in third world countries but right in our backyards! Women were treated like second class citizens who needed permission from men to do anything. And yet, unlike in the past, women actually have to work and they don’t even get to keep their salary. I think that was the point where I got really riled up. So you expect the woman to cook and clean (due to stereotypical gender roles) but you want her to work and you get to keep the money? NO. FUCKING. WAY. What irked me even more was that there were schools to learn to be better wives. EXCUSE ME? Is there a school for being a better human being?

As they say, you never truly appreciate something unless it’s taken away from you and Haden does a really good job of making you feel like you truly have been stripped of your rights as a human being. The inequality of it all.

I won’t go picketing for women’s rights any time soon but I have a better appreciation what the suffragettes and other women have done to obtain these rights for us.

4/5 // Cross-posted on my book review blog: She Reads (anndreachan.com)