Yesterday was also nice. veejane came down to help me with the gutters. She is clearly insane, as she apparently has no self-preservation instinct at all with regard to heights, but I'll take competent insanity anytime if it means I don't have to climb a ladder. Anyhow, she did the all the actual work at altitude while I held the ladder, and now the gutters are firmly reattached to the dormer. (Thank you so much, Vee, really.) Afterwards we went rummaging though a bunch of local antique shops, and then watched the three unaired episodes of Firefly. She's already done a pretty good critique of the three eps in her LJ, and I agree with most of what she has to say about them, so I won't discuss here.
After she took off, I finished The Golden Compass. I really enjoyed it a lot. I liked it because it always did unexpected things. I liked that both mommy *and* daddy turned out to be evil. I loved the bears, but I've always liked stories about intelligent or semi-intelligent bears. (Check out Murray Leinster's story "Exploration Team" if you can find it. Shouldn't be hard, it was anthologized a lot. Also get his novel First Contact, which, although it isn't about intelligent bears, is still one of the best novels about, er, first contact with aliens ever written.)
The stuff with the balloons and dirigibles still bugs a lot. First of all, any civilization with the technology they demonstrate in the book (especially gas engines) can build airplanes, which are far more useful. Airplanes weren't an accidental invention. There were a bunch of people who had the principles right. The Wrights were just the best engineers. Second, haven't they ever heard of compressed gases? If you're going to fill your balloon with hydrogen, you don't have to find a frelling gas pocket in the ground, or steal your hydrogen from another balloon. You fill it from tanks of compressed gas that you carry with you until needed. They're already hauling around two airships. If you have the technology to move gas from one balloon to another, you have the technological underpinnings to compress the stuff and carry it around with you. Plus, if you're a balloon guy from Texas, like Lee Scoresby, then you know about helium, because that's where a good portion of the world supply comes from. You can compress that, too, and then you can actually smoke your cigar while you're aloft. Sigh. Still it's not enough to ruin my enjoyment of the book. Highly recommended. Now I need to pick up the next one at some point.
I'm interested in where Pullman is going with the alternate universes angle. The way Lord Asriel describes them, they are all the result of probability branches, but I don't see how random probabilities can lead to daemons, or witches for that matter. We'll see.