November, 2005 Tar Valon Times
Letter from the Editor
October was an insanely busy month for me. Fall Ball (where I lost my Green stripe) was a blast. Then I kidnaped Miridyth al'Landerin and demanded various things for her release (including the return of my Green stripe). I took on an apprentice, Lireina Dormerus, to teach her Red techniques, and I became her apprentice to work on my Green techniques. I got an eyes-and-ears who looks for WoT news (Rodi, you rock). In real life, I had to write a few poems for a class, write a couple of papers, read Knife of Dreams (I cannot tell you how great this book is...it makes me want to read all of them over again, even Path of Daggers which at one point I think I actually threw across the room because it was so horrible and bad), and take care of my cats.
I'm very happy with this issue. Two guest writers are included, Blu al'Eloquene and Atarah al'Norahn, the Tower Librarian. Blu writes an advice column (which, I must say, enlightened me about the nature of turtles and lizards and shells) and Atarah writes about the library. Cary gives us his remembrances about the evilness of the Duckfriends (that's his version...remember to take it with a grain of salt).
TarValon.net, I want to take a moment to invite you to write a letter to the editor. Whether you have an opinion about something you saw in the TVT or on the boards, whether you have an idea for an article, if you'd like to write an article...my email box is always open. Just send your opinion or idea to email@example.com with a clear subject line.
So, a massive bunch of changes. For the old hands, nothing new: changes have rocked TarValon.net on a regular basis for years. Many have been highly successful, and a few have changed the very fabric of the site. The ones facing us now are as controversial and exciting as always, and will be, as always, hotly debated. Not like that debate actually matters, since Mother will ultimately do what she wants, but it does give us something to talk about.
Firstly, the changes to raisings. The Hall will now vote to raise a Soldier or Accepted to Aes Sedai. In my opinion, this can only be good. Simplifying the system can only be beneficial, and is likely to result in a much more balanced approach, as well as providing equal opportunity for both male and female sides of the Tower. It seems to be well thought out, and I can't want for it to be implemented.
Guilds are another new addition to the structure of the site. At first glance, it seems to be solving a key problem that the site has faced--interaction based on rank rather than common interest. The change seems to be a positive one, and it will help give Tower members a new arena to socialise and discuss things near to their hearts. However, a key issue has been the lack of variety, with many people failing to find an interest represented by the guild choices. This should be a minor teething problem, and the system seems flexible enough to change according to the needs of the site.
Other forum changes include the addition of a second Ajah and Company forum for each group, designed purely for full members. This appears to be a compromise position between those wishing for more private Ajah and Company forums and those wishing for them to remain more open. Personally, I do not see the need for such a forum; however, it puts some minds at rest, and it can hardly be negative--the worst that can happen is that they are utterly unused, which is hardly detrimental. The removal of the Practice Yard is a positive move in my view, a step away from the old, rather confused notion of what the Garrison is for, and hopefully a step towards a new identity.
My initial reaction to the changes regarding near-siblings was somewhat disapproving, as I suspect many were. However, on a short period of reflection they should have a positive effect on the site. In many situations, it seemed to be defining public circles of friends rather than the truly close relationship it was originally intended to be. This, as stated, was putting another barrier in front of new people attempting to fit in. Near siblings and similar relationships can remain the same, but they also remain private, as they should be.
Senior Members now having the ability to change their Ajah and Company affiliations is a big step for the site to take. We can hope that it will not need to be used often, if at all, but it is perhaps a good thing, allowing for emergency situations. The very strict terms of the statement will be protection against the frivolous use of the clause.
The membership manual can only be useful, centralising a lot of information that previously only resided in various admins' heads. It is bound to solidify members roles in the community and cut out a lot of confusion. The new rules regarding names and avatars will, like many other changes, cut out confusion. Indeed, there may well be so little confusion left after this round of changes that the club may well have been put out of existence, if anyone still remembered it did exist, at least.
The host of little changes are generally too small to be worth evaluating, so I shall just pass blanket approval over them. Like many of the changes, they tend to be little tweaks to make things run smoother. I hope, like the rest of the male membership, that the Garrison as an institution can be improved, and that we can move it forward without breaking too much of its traditional structure.
In the end, the changes we have seen recently have been overwhelmingly positive. Issues that needed addressing have been addressed, problems have been solved, and some new initiatives undertaken, that will hopefully improve and solidify the community.
Extreme Makeover - Ajah Edition
by Valadilene Aldieb
There have been some recent remodeling projects for several of our Ajahs' Headquarters. Both the White and Brown Ajahs have been tinkering around with links, design, color and content. I was lucky enough to have the time to tour both of these sites and experience the changes for myself. I highly encourage the rest of you adventurous souls to seek out and enjoy these awesome locations!
The new White Ajah HQ is logically located at http://www.whiteajah.org. The site was extremely easy to navigate, with clearly marked links and headlines. For anyone wanting to know more about the TarValon.net Whites and what makes them tick, there is an outstanding description of the Ajah and the ladies within. Under the Community Involvement heading you will find pictures of the White Ajah at real life functions and games (think bubbles) to play. What I had not expected to find was so many great links to Chapter and Character Summaries, as well as an archive on the Whites in WoT literature. These ladies have a fabulous resource at their fingertips. For those ladies who are Accepted and still deciding on an Ajah, or for those Novices soon to be taking their test, you will find the White Ajah Application on the site as well.
The updated Brown Ajah HQ can be found through the link on TarValon.net. This site was also wonderfully easy to navigate and had a very earthy feel (think old dusty library with leather and dark wood). Once there, you can make bookmarks, explore the Brown Studies, which include "Dust Bunny Care" and "WoT Browns." You must visit Brown Quips and indulge in the "Cheese Alphabet." Let's hear it for Vaesterbottenost! For those of you who are not familiar with the Tiki Hut, you will definitely need to do some research. My search resulted in a recipe for a Tiki Torch. Fill a shaker ? full with ice cubes. Pour in 3 teaspoons of cherry liquor, .25 ounces of pineapple juice, and 1.5 ounces of white wine. Shake well, and then strain the drink into a cocktail glass! Mmmmmm.
Knife of Dreams
Editor's Note: There are some minor spoilers in this review, so if you wish to be totally surprised by Knife of Dreams, you shouldn't read this. If, however, you don't mind having a general idea of what happens, read on.
The calm before the storm, the deep breath before the plunge.
In a pig's eye.
Knife of Dreams, by Robert Jordan, is the eleventh and, more importantly, second-to-last installment in the best-selling fantasy series Wheel of Time. Yet Knife of Dreams thankfully doesn't feel at all like a prologue to the much-awaited final book in the series and is anything but calm or serene. If there is a deep breath before the Last Battle plunge, it certainly doesn't take place in Knife of Dreams.
In this book, nearly all the main cast of characters in Wheel of Time are present and accounted for, even the long lost Galad. In Knife of Dreams, Rand returns to Tear while Perrin must deal with treachery in his ranks to free his wife Faile, who herself is being forced to watch her back at every turn. Mat continues to court Tuon with humorous yet satisfying results while Elayne fights to claim her throne. Egwene is keeping busy, doing herself proud as captive in the White Tower and there are some interesting developments with Lan and Nynaeve.
Yes, nearly everyone is doing something. But unlike in previous books, everyone is actually making progress. By the end of the book, everyone has accomplished something and several major storylines get wrapped up. This is a nice change from previous Wheel of Time books where everyone seemed to be busy accomplishing nothing.
Another nice change from several past Wheel of Time books is when we see Egwene return to doing what she does best and what we love watching her do: defy Aes Sedai. She no longer is becoming those she originally worked against and it feels like having the Aiel Egwene back again, showing the Aes Sedai what an real Aes Sedai should be. Rand also, while not at all like his old self, feels considerably less whiney then when we last spent time with him.
Unfortunately the same does not go for Elayne, who in Knife of Dreams will try the patience of even her most loyal fans. The beautiful daughter-heir is a burden to read about simply because of her attitude and poor choices. Despite Jordan's skillful writing, his current characterization of Elayne makes the chapters with her annoying to drudge through.
Another downer is that there are no really shocking or exciting moments in the book. Readers will give appreciative nods, even excited gasps. But there are no heart-stopping moments in Knife of Dreams. This shouldn't come as too much of a surprise as there haven't really been any of those big moments since Crown of Swords.
On the plus side, the fact that Jordan has given this book a full editorial work over is evident. It somehow feels cleaner to read then several past books have been. The writing is crisp and flows like the Wheel of Time books we all know and love. There's also plenty going on in 750 plus pages of the novel, which makes it that much more fun to read.
But though plenty of plotlines are wrapped up in Knife of Dreams, there's still plenty left to do in the last installment of the series, even on top of Tarmon Gai'don. Or more accurately especially on top of Tarmon Gai'don. If Jordan manages to wrap up everything in one more book without rushing through things then his genius will be undeniable. Book 12, if it is truly going to be the final book, will have to be even bigger and better than Knife of Dreams, which will be quite a feat.
Knife of Dreams is exciting, diverse and possibly one of the best books since The Shadow Rising, which makes it a combination that will be hard to beat.
Q Blu Answers Your Questions
Hello ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce myself. My name is Blu al'Eloquene, hence the name Q Blu, and I'm here to, first and foremost, help you out on your endless quest through this world, as well as try to help explain to you the amazing discoveries you make, or are just curious about, on the way. I live here in Tar Valon, home to a wide variety of people from places all around the world, and through my bountiful observation without bias, I am qualified to answer for you all of life's questions. At the least, I would like to make this a less stressful experience for you, perhaps even fun and entertaining. Now that I've made my introduction, allow me to answer a few questions I recently recieved via PM:
Kalana Senith, Citizen. Q : Do you think vegetarians should be allowed to eat animal crackers?
Q Blu A: That's a good question, Kalana, and one I've been meaning to touch on. Do I THINK? Well, as long as these animal crackers are in the shape of an aquatic animal, such as a fish or crab, I do not see a problem with it.
Nyarin al'Batera, Citizen Q : If a turtle doesn't have a shell, is he homeless or naked?
Q Blu A: It sounds like you are very confused, Nyarin! Firstly, let me interject that, while some may feel "out of the box," so to speak, no shell-less turtle is alone in this never-ending battle. Turtles that do not have a shell are better know as lizards, as the ones seen here: http://hem.bredband.net/maxstr/mix/lizards.jpg. The reason why turtles have shells is a defect that happens while they are still inside of the egg. Notice how these lizards have spiny, prickly tails as opposed to turtles, who barely have tails at all? Well, they both come from the same place, but those who are known as turtles did not develop fast enough, and thus could not break completely free of their eggs. Evidence of this lingers as their life-long egg is called a shell, much like eggshells. Scientists have yet to determine what causes this tragic turn of events among lizards, but agree that it has no affect to who they are on the inside. (Note the similar shape of the abdomen of the lizards to that of a turtle shell)
Kiraine Barrhir, Citizen Q : Do you know the muffin man?
Q Blu A: Thanks for bringing this up, Kiraine. You know, I thought I knew him once, but I don't really feel like I do anymore. Ever since he became popular, there's been this...well, definitely not stale feeling...but I feel like he's kind of unoriginal, you know? He's been working on his entertainment career a lot lately, and I haven't had a chance to have him for dinner in a long time, but maybe sometime in the near future he'll pay me a visit. At this point, no one really knows where the muffin man really is (though he has agents guarding him every minute of the day, rest assured), but this was the last local spot he was seen at: http://www.muffinfilms.com. If you know the muffin man, or have knowledge to his whereabouts, please contact your local Appetite.
That concludes this week's questions. If you have troubling life questions, and you need answers, please do not hesitate to PM me, for whatever it may be, and whoever you are. My box is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Thanks for reading, and until next time Tar Valon!
All of this made possible by, and a special thanks to: The Amyrlin Seat, Kalana Senith, Kiraine Barrhir, and Nyarin al'Batera. All rights reserved.
This year, Fall Ball was held in Richmond, Virginia, on October 8-10. Ubah Sedai was the local liaison.
Saturday night, after everyone had arrived, we gathered in a conference room with no air conditioning for our formalities. We had the traditional Goldschlagger toast, which was recorded by Neol. Although Mother was not able to attend, she sent a toast that had half the room wiping tears from their eyes. Zashara and Allin were made first-sisters (though the consensus is that they didn't hit each other nearly as hard as they should have).
After this, everything gets fuzzy for me. No, I wasn't drinking. Not much, anyway. There were some fun afterparties on Saturday night (for details, see those involved; I'm not at liberty to disclose anything). Sunday afternoon saw people going to different places. I was fortunate enough to be with a group that when to CaryTown, an area of Richmond with lots of shops. The store I liked the best was the chocolate shop. When you walk into the shop, the smell of chocolate washes over you like a wave and you have to grab hold of something so you don't drown.
Sunday evening, we all headed to Williamsburg, a town preserved and recreated from the days of the colonists. We had plenty of time to socialize as Ubah told us to be there 30 minutes earlier than we had to be and since the restaurant took its time letting us in. We had a wonderful dinner, were entertained by live music, and socialized afterwards (funny how socializing always occurs at a Tower party). We all headed back to the hotel for some more lovely afterparties.
Monday morning (closer to afternoon, really) we went to a restaurant for lunch (sadly, not IHOP, though just as good). We all said our goodbyes then headed for the airport or various destinations.
In short, a good time was had by all. Those of you who were unable to make it, be jealous. Those of you who were able to make it, go to www.tarvalon.net/parties.asp and submit your own review of the party.
Tar Valon Library
The TarValon.net library is one of the biggest online sources of Wheel of Time information on the internet. Not only that, the Library contains a great deal of Tower history, from records of admin positions to humorous escapades that members have been on and punishments that they have been assigned. Unfortunately, a lot of people don't seem to realize what a big source of Wheel of Time and TarValon.net information the Library is, something that will hopefully begin to change. Currently, there are over 1700 different articles in the Library, written by members both past and present, and more are added all the time.
However, despite the size of our Library, there are still tons of things that need to be done. The Library is always in need of more help; opportunities for contributing include character summaries and other research projects, editing and cross-referencing. There are other things that need doing, as well, but those are the ones that are highest on the list. If you'd like to help out, please either stop by the Projects Forum, or contact me through private message or by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Whether you wish to contribute one hour of work or many times that, your help will be very much appreciated.
I've received several questions on how one can go about contributing a project, and so am including a list of Frequently Asked Questions. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact me!
Question: Should projects be approved before you begin them?
Answer: Yes, they should be approved. Either post your idea in the projects forum, or send me a private message or e-mail to email@example.com and I should be back to you within 24 hours on whether the project is available.
Q: Who can submit a project?
A: Anyone of any rank can submit a project. How long you have been a member does not matter.
Q: Are there any group projects I can join?
A: There are sometimes group projects going on in the Project Forum, so browse through there and see if you can find anything. If you have an idea for a group project, start a topic for it in the Projects Forum.
Q: Does it matter if I haven't read the entire series yet?
A: No, it doesn't matter. There are plenty of projects available that cover research in just a few books. Just send me a message or make a post in the projects forum and I can send you some ideas.
Back in the dusty depths of Tower history, a dark and evil cult was formed in the shadows. Its existence was a secret, with those walking in the Light blissfully unaware of the devilish deeds being committed right under their very noses. A time of terror, a time when innocent members were afraid to leave their room for fear of.the Duckfriends.
That's actually a complete lie, but it makes it sound very interesting, doesn't it? The Duckfriends, formed by the irrepressible Ryquan back in the days of Ezboard, were actually a group of giggly and silly members who were just after lollipops. As well as campaigning for the better treatment of ducks, of course. The movement gathered a wide and varied following from all areas of the site, a stain on the past of many otherwise fine and upstanding members today. The movement lasted quite a while, waxing and waning with the various levels of activity of its glorious founder Ryquan. The movement was finally consigned to history with his retirement from the site, some time and several boards ago.
But within the hearts of many members lies a secret, and with the possibility of the return of Ryquan sometime in the future, the Duckfriends stand ready to repeat the scenes of anarchy and destruction that TarValon.net knew so long ago.