Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a big fan of wikis in general and the Wikipedia in particular. I do, however, think that the Wookiepedia is quite funny, because you can’t really do any harm to either Star Wars fandom or by combining them.
Fellow blogger, GURPS author, and all-around good guy Jon Woodward has written the essential Filling In for Doctor Who HOWTO. Says Jon of his efforts:
–Making Light has a link to an article with the above title. Which, unfortunately, does not appear to be about standing in for Doctor Who.
-I see a need. I will fill it:
Good stuff, go read it now.
(I don’t normally observe Halloween, but I couldn’t help commenting to a couple of folks this year that my outfit on 31 Oct was my Ninth Doctor costume. My leather jacket isn’t quite the U-boat captain look that the Ninth Doctor sported, but it was still close enough.
Every now and then, I look up from the keyboard and wonder why the heck I’m blogging. I’ve been blogging for work for 14 months, and I still don’t have any really good feel for how many readers I have. Some days, it feels like five or six.
Well, this morning I’m feeling pretty good about my blogging. When I do a review of a book on this blog or on my work blog
I make a point of dropping an email to the author (if possible) to let
them know about it. Since I’ve actually worked with both of the authors
of Protect Your Windows Network : From Perimeter to Data (Microsoft Technology), when I posted review on my work blog I made sure to let them know. A few hours later, I got back a nice response from them — they seemed pretty pleased.
Apparently, the publicist at their publisher is too. I had a very
nice email drop in my inbox this morning, and the upshot is basically
that I’ve been invited to do reviews on any of their books I’d like.
They’ll even send me the books.
Free books for a book junkie. Hmm. This, as they say in Canada, does not suck.
Now all I have to do is convince some of the major sf publishers to do the same thing…
 Yes, I consider writing reviews in exchange for books to be the equiavlent of free books. I like writing.
It’s not the new Battlestar Galactica (what is, really?), but the first season of Dark Angel is proving to be an entertaining watch.
I need to start up a list of my top 10 (or 15, or 25) movies of all time. If I did, Frequency (New Line Platinum Series) would definitely earn a place on the list. I consider it to be the perfect time travel movie. What makes it so compelling for me is the core of the story: the relationships of a boy and his parents, both when he is a young child and when he is an adult. That’s a theme that hits close to home to me; I’d have moved heaven and earth if my parents had been taken from me when I was young and I got the chance to fix it as an adult.
It’s been a bit since I’ve talked about music and video, so here we go.
- Mickie’s belated birthday presents showed up (thanks, Mickie!) so I now have Explosive: The Best of Bond to listen to (and watch, since the flip side of the CD is a DVD with several of their videos). If you’ve not heard any of Bond‘s
work, I urge you to give them a listen. Four classically trained string
musicians can lay down a mightly phat beat, especially when they spice
it up with full techno accompaniment. Think of it as “Hooked on
Classics” only with cool music.
My favorite number off this album, Explosive, has a kick-ass video (even with the silly Mariah Carey moments — you’ll know them when you see them).
- Also in Mickey’s care package: Babylon 5 – The Complete Fifth Season. Now I have the last two seasons on DVD and only need the first three, plus the movie collection and Crusade
to have the complete B5 run.
Unlike many B5 fans, I thought Season 5
was a strong season; I enjoyed the telepath story arc, as I think the
Telepath War is one of the most fascinating bits of the B5 universe and
I’d love to see more about it.
Most importantly, though, this season
contains the incomparable episode Sleeping in Light, which is
the final episode of the series. It’s a powerful and moving episode; I
start crying about 2 minutes in and usually don’t stop until 15 minutes
after I’m done watching.
- Music Inspired by the Chronicles of Narnia
is a collection of songs by many Christian artists, including Jars of
Clay, Steven Curtis Chapman, Rebecca St. James, and more. This is good
In particular, Tobymac’s New World is chock full of
lyrics like “He gave them something to believe / Came back in all His
majesty / He conquered evil through his love and handed them the land
they were dreaming of” with a sound like Linkin Park in their prime.
The David Crowder Band’s suave disco offering of Turkish Delight talks about how big sins come in small temptations.
The most powerful song on the album, though, is Rebecca St. James’s Lion;
the accompanying picture is a shot of Lucy and Susan mourning over the
Aslan’s muzzled corpose as he rests on the Stone Table, so you can
probably figure out just what kind of impact the song has.
- One of Steph’s friends introduced her to the Celtic Woman
show that has been on PBS. You can head to the website to find out more
about the incredible artists who feature in the show and to hear
samples, or you can get one or both of the CD or DVD.
There are a couple of less-than-compelling songs on here (do we really
need yet another rendition of “Danny Boy”?) but all in all, it’s good
- 19yo pop queen newcomer Bonnie McKee cuts a swath through the mass-written, mass-produced twaddle put out by her peers. I especially like the song Trouble; it’s got an infectious beat, catchy lyrics, and Bonnie puts in an impressive performance.
- Finally, because we liked the miniseries so much, we got Battlestar Galactica – Season One (2004).
This new series kicks some serious ass — you can believe me because I
didn’t like the original all that much (although I have a nostalgic
fondness for the comic books and the Vipers and Cylon Raiders I used to build out of Lego).
I told you the new Doctor Who kicks ass. Yes, I am gloating. And “Father’s Day” is still my favorite episode.
I was looking over my Exchange server at home today, getting ready to upgrade it to SP2, and opened Outlook to see if there were any messages I needed to take care of first. The following folder caught my eye:
If you’re now laughing to yourself, able to appreciate why I was puzzled to see a 404 error for SMTP, then you’ve been doing this for way too long too.
For those of you who aren’t laughing and don’t understand why it was funny, permit me to explain. The punchline revolves around Internet history. In order for networked computers to talk to each other successfully, they have to agree on a number of factors: how to send the data, in what order to transmit, what data is expected or required at any given moment, and more. Collectively, these agreements are known as protocols. Just as a diplomatic protocol tells people how to address a leader or how to seat people at a table in deference to their rank, computer protocols define network interactions in very strict terms.
The Internet is built on a whole extended family of protocols. Collectively, these protocols are known as the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol family (TCP/IP for short), and if you really want to know a bit more about it, I’ve got a couple of introductory lessons about it on my writing samples page. The important thing, though, is that many of the protocols share a common design philosophy, even though they were developed by many different people over the space of decades. It’s often easier to adapt an old protocol as a starting point than to design something entirely new from scratch — and it can also be easier for your programmers to write the code if it looks like something they’re already familiar with.
The two protocols that concern us now are the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) and the HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP). SMTP is the backbone of Internet email, while HTTP is the basis for how web servers and web sites talk to each other. Both protocols use a similar format: one computer issues an action or verb (with associated data) and the other side responds with a status message. The important part of the status message is the three-digit number; there’s also a text explanation that is meant to be useful to humans. Based on where the two computers are in their dialogue, this status number changes to tell the client what actions are appropriate next.
In HTTP, 404 is the “File not found” error; the client has requested a resource that the server cannot find. SMTP uses three-digit numeric codes as well, but 404 isn’t a valid one.
So now you know enough to enjoy the punchline:
When I looked at my mail folder and saw the “404”, my first thought was, “Wait a minute! That’s not a mail error!”
[Editor: if you’re still here, thanks for the token laugh. I sure beat that one into the ground, didn’t I?]
[I realize that what I’m about to say might upset more than a few of my friends and readers. I’ve worked to find the most diplomatic and non-offensive way of saying it and I’m sure I could have done better, but I also recognize the high possibility that there’s no way I could say it that wouldn’t offend people. So I am trusting in you, dear reader, to recognize the intent and not take offense, knowing that none is meant.]
I wish to apologize to my friends, especially those who like anime (and there are more than a couple of you!). In my last post, I somehow gave the impression that having discovered one anime title that we really liked, Stephanie and I might perhaps be at the point of wanting to explore further movies. Several of you have given recommendations for which I thank you.
However, that’s not really the case. We still don’t like anime as a whole (notice that I didn’t call it a genre because we fully recognize that anime is more of a catch-all term that covers an ill-defined grouping of media, rather than a well-defined genre or subset of movies) and after having been assured (by people who know us well) that we’d love all three of the movies we watched, finding that we’ve got 1.5 out of 3 confirms to us that no, anime isn’t for us — especially since these three are widely regarded as being non-representative examples of anime.
Therefore, thank you for your recommendations and eagerness to share your love with us, but at this point, kindly mark us down as lost causes. We’re not likely to change our opinions and if we do, we know who to talk to, but in the meantime, we’ll stick with The Iron Giant (Special Edition) and Titan A.E. (Special Edition) (and Castle in the Sky, of course) as the limits of our adventure into anime.
Yes, it’s true.
I’ve finally watched an anime title I not only tolerated, but actively liked enough to watch a second time.
On the advice of several friends and acquaintances, Steph and I added two classic anime films to our Netflix queue a while back. They’re by Hayao Miyazaki, who is considered one of the masters, and our friends who know us (and the details of our aversion to anime) assured us the films did not have most of the elements that we find distasteful.
The first one we got was Spirited Away. Now, I’ve never liked Japanese mythology, and the story was chock full of it (a little girl and her parents get pulled into a spirit world; her parents get turned into pigs, and she ends up having to work at a bath house for spirits in the hopes of trying to free them) — so it will be no great surprise to anyone when I tell you that my reaction was pretty much, “What the hell?” I sat through the weirdness thinking that so many people had recommended it, there had to be some sort of payoff at the end. Nope. Not for me, anyway. Apparently this movie is the highest-grossing movie in Japan, which just goes to show I do not understand the Japanese culture at all.
The next one we got was Kiki’s Delivery Service, which is the story of a 13-year old witch who is spending a year living on her own as part of her apprenticeship. This one was somewhat better — it didn’t send me running for the hills — as the strong voice talents of Kirsten Dunst as Kiki and Phil Hartman as her cat Jiji provided enough of a draw for me to get into the story. Once I was in, I enjoyed it.
Both of these two movies contained trailers for the third movie, Castle in the Sky. We got it almost a month ago and finally found time earlier this week to screen it; with the kids in school, we’ve had to restrict movie watching on school nights and we had decided we definitely didn’t want to let them watch it with us (like we made the mistake of doing with Spirited Away).
Wow. What an awesome movie. There’s a reason this one is considered one of Miyazaki’s best. Lots of pulp and steampunk elements (awesome big airships! robots!) combine with a very touching story about Pazu, the young and determined boy who champions Sheeta, a girl who floated down out of the sky one night into his life. Sheeta inherited a magical crystal and is being chased both by a notorious group of sky pirates as well as the army, headed by the sinister Muska. The key to Pazu and Sheeta’s quest is the legenedary floating castle of Laputa, ancient home of a powerful, technologically advanced people. It’s got action, humor, more than a hint of demure romance, but most importantly it makes you care about the characters and the world they are unwittingly struggling to save. Again, there are some big voice talents — Anna Paquin as Sheeta, James Van Der Beek as Pazu, Cloris Leachman as the unflappable pirate Captain “Mom” Dola, Mandy Patinkin as the pirate Louis, and Mark Hamil as the creepy yet seductive Muska. Mark Hamil’s performance in particular deserves a shout-out — watching it the second time tonight with the kids, I listened for the verbal cues that I missed the first time to tell me Muska was Mark Hamil and came away empty-handed; had I not seen the behind-the-scenes, I’d not have known. He does a fantastic job.
Needless to say, the kids loved the movie, as do Stephanie and I. On the Amazon wishlist it goes, and if you’re looking for a good family friendly tale, give it a thought.
If anyone other than my family knows where the title of this post comes from, I’ll be impressed.
I have belonged to a certain online community for many years, the only one that I’ve joined that requires a subscription payment. While there have been occasional downsides, it has been a mostly positive experience and I have made a lot of what I consider to be good friends there. However, my life has changed quite a bit over the last year, and some of the interests that brought me to this community have lessened or been fulfilled in other ways (my extracirricualr technical writing, in particular, fills a lot of one particular need). These interests no longer influence my life quite so much and I find that I am now only participating in one very small aspect of this community.
So when I got the notice that my subscription was due to expire on 01 Sep, I thought about it for a while and decided that although I could squeeze the $20 out of my budget, it wasn’t enough of a priority for me to do so. I’d get a lot more fun out of using that $20 when we take the kids to the fair over Labor Day weekend, just to name one activity. So, I set about saying my goodbyes and preparing to depart from this community that I have now been part of for many years.
A couple of people asked me to reconsider, and after hearing my reasons, volunteered to chip in a small bit towards the renewal fee. I was completely not expecting that, and agreed that I would look into putting a PayPal donation button on my site. I thought about it over the next few days and realized that I felt uncomfortable doing so just for this community; it seemed, well, presumptuous. Then, I was reminded of an old joke that I shared with many members of this community back in the days before I owned a Mac — I would gladly accept any and all donations to the “Devin Needs a New Mac!” fund. This was good for many laughs and (if memory serves) even a few small donations, which actually went directly towards upkeep of my web server (I host sites for free for a few people from the mystery community).
So, here’s the deal. I added a generic PayPal donation button down near the bottom of the sidebar. I am comfortable with having an ad for a book I have written (and that is on sale) up at the top; I am not comfortable pleading for stray pennies. Down to the bottom it goes. But if you ever want to prod me to, oh, make time to work on the next chapter of Silicon Cats or write an essay on a particular topic, making a donation is a good way to let me know you’re serious.
If it’s good enough for The Bard, it’s good enough for me. Heck, I’ll even write you a customzied sonnet as a thank-you note — and post it publicly — if you (the indefinite you) ever donated a largeish amount at one time. Since I once submitted a sonnet as a weekly status report, don’t think I’m not up to the challenge.
I have a line on an interesting writing project. All I want to say about it right now is that it involves group blogging, possibly introducing some established writers to blogging for the first time. As I am able to share more details, I’ll let you know.
I have sick friends. Of course this is a symmetric relationship; I’m
sick too. As proof, I offer the following collaborative work: a
proposed name for a blog, complete with tagline.
Because a MIME is a terrible thing to paste.
If you don’t get this one, you’re not a geek. Don’t worry, you are better off being confused.
I have found that one of the greatest joys of parenting is when you finally get to introduce your kids to something you loved as a child and find that they love it just as much as you did. We had some of that earlier this year with Alaric when I finally rented the Transformers movie (which I had never before seen). Alaric was an instant fan. We’re going through it now with Treanna, only this time, we’re introducing her to some of the books I loved when I was her age.
We started with some of the fantastic novels by Robin McKinley: The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown. I’ve read those out loud to the kids, so I knew she’d groove on them, but she devoured TH&tC in a day, prompting some wonderful discussions. I think it’s safe to say, no matter how much of a cliche it might be, that I am getting more out of the books now that I have someone to explain them to for the first time.
Next, I introduced her to one of my favorite series: the Harper Hall trilogy by Anne McCaffrey, part of her Dragonriders of Pern series. The Harper Hall trilogy is specifically written as YA (young adult) and it’s got firelizards — plus, it’s a more accessible introduction to the world of Pern than the full series, which can be quite scary for young readers. So while Dragonsong and Dragonsinger introduce Thread (and we see fire lizard hatchlings get caught in Thread, giving a demonstration of just how horrible this phenomenon is), touch peripherally on the events that bring catatonic Brekke to the Hatching Sands of Benden Weyr to face up to the loss of her dragon, and give a glimpse into the fantastic peril that F’nor and Canth find waiting for them at the Red Star, the books do so from a stepped-back perspective. History is being made and the viewpoint characters witness it, but not directly. These provide familiar events when the reader later returns in Dragonquest, yet the fact that they are somewhat known territory helps soften the emotional blow. Treanna has been devouring these books and is quite interested in the backstory of Pern and the physiology of the fire lizards, which gives us a convenient platform to launch future discussions on such diverse topics as animal mating behavior and human sexuality, economics, education, personal integrity, and more.
So, I’ve been assembling the next few sets of books to recommend to her. Along the way, I’ve been populating my Amazon wishlist with a few books that I remember reading when I was a kid, with the intention of filling in a few gaps in our collection. (I’ve already got Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper, Sylvia Louise Engdahl, the one or two Roald Dahl books I actually like, and more.) However, there are two books that I cannot find any sign of, and I turn to you, members of the blogosphere, to help me track them down.
Please feel free to post this following section on your blogs, complete with a link back to this post. Any help you can give me will be much appreciated. The books I’m looking for — I remember only two of them, although there could be three — are young adult science fiction published sometime in the late 70s to mid 80s (no later than 1986 and most likely in the 1981-1985 timeframe although don’t quote me on that). They told the story of a young boy in a compound who one day discovers that there is another boy who looks just like him. They manage to find ways to talk and discover they are clones. One is being trained as a scientist, the other (I believe) as an artist or musician (possibly athlete?). At the end of the first book, they escape the compound and are on the run. In the second book, they are re-captured, largely through the help of a third clone, who has been trained in military/security work. The names are Russian or Eastern European in feel — Stephen, perhaps, and Nicholas/Nicholai — and there’s a definite Soviet/Cold War flavor. I have gone nuts trying to find any hint of information on these books; they may not be great literature, but they were fun reads. I’ve tried Google and the Internet SF Database with no luck so far. Thank you in advance.
Can you still call it a s’more when:
- You’re using Nutella instead of chocolate squares
- You’re using pre-sized graham cracker squares
- You’re using a propane grill to toast the marshmellows
In other news, life has been busy lately (as is probably obvious from my decreased blogging frequency).
- Work is taking up most of my time. Between research and writing, I’m working for longer periods of the day than I’d like to be (I’m sitting in front of the TV with the laptop while the family watches a movie). What few spare hours of time I’ve had have gone to paying freelance jobs. This means there are still a few IT-related tasks (like getting email straightened out and some websites set up) around the house that I haven’t gotten to. Things should ease up a bit this week.
- We’re struggling to maintain a consistent schedule for the family. Summer blew everything out of the water and Steph’s medical problems haven’t helped (and neither have my hours). Happily, we seem to have finally gotten some key pieces of the puzzle in place over the last couple of months and Steph’s health is slowly but steadily improving.
- I finally seem to be getting over my health issues. My allergies haven’t been nearly as bad lately and the viral infection in my ear is finally gone. I still have lingering problems with pressure, but they’re pretty easy to fix now, and I’m not spending most of my time dizzy. This is a nice change.
- This last weekend, I absolutely had to take a break from computers. We were able to purchase several shelves from a local independent bookstores that closed their doors. They were about 2″ too tall to get into our house, so we got to modify them. Due to a couple of recalcitrant power tools and their rechargeable batteries, it took both Saturday and Sunday. The results, however, are stupendous. We have a lot more storage and the rooms feel a lot lighter, and we’ve replaced all of our Sauder units for real solid wood.
Okay, now I’ve seen an entire anime title: Spirited Away. No thanks. The visual style wasn’t nearly as painful as I find most anime and manga to be — the backgrounds in particular were usually stunning, even if the people and monsters were just odd — but the culture shock more than made up for it. Japanese mythology is weird and not in a way that my brain finds engaging. I realize that anime isn’t a genre, but whatever it is, the closest I want to get to it is Titan A.E. — and if that makes me gaijin, so be it.
This picture is wrong on so many levels, yet work-safe, kid-safe, and amusing.
One of the joys of Netflix is that you get some nice surprises in
your queue. Steph and I are watching the credits roll on a fantastic
movie, Down with Love (Widescreen Edition),
starring Renée Zellweger and Ewan McGregor. This movie is an absolute
blast of a romantic comedy, cast in the mold of the classic ’60s Doris
Day/Rock Hudson movies.
Renée and Ewan do a bang-up job reminding us why they are top movie
stars. The story is set in the ’60s and concerns the clash of wills
(and hormones) between Barbara Novak, the author of the brand-new
international best-seller Down with Love, and Catcher Block,
the top journalist for KNOW magazine (and all around ladies’ man).
Barbara’s book has introduced atomic weapons to the war between the
sexes, for she advocates that women find equality in the workplace by
giving up on love — not sex. In short, be the equal of a man by
adopting the man’s attitudes about love and sex. Hijinks ensue.
The hair and wardrobes are, well, frightening, although Renée looks
lovely more often than anybody deserves when they’re wearing those
godawful ’60s styles. Ewan was born to play the suave and sexy Catcher
Block, “ladies’ man, man’s man, man about town”. There are some great supporting performances as well; David Hyde
Pierce (Niles Crane from TV’s Frasier) is Peter MacMannus, Catcher’s editor at KNOW. Jeri Ryan (7 of 9 from Star Trek: Voyager)
is onscreen as one of Catcher’s many female conquests. Tony Randall adds the perfect crowing touch.
Although I’m told that the movie wasn’t a huge success when it originally showed, it
is a brilliant and witty homage to a classic Hollywood era,
intelligently remade and updated for today’s world. The movie is fantastic, with a few musical numbers and a load of pop
culture references, but the documentaries and extras really add to the
experience. You cannot miss the blooper real, and you
have to watch the full version of the final music video with Renée and
Ewan — you can tell they are having the time of their lives. The
documentaries are short, sweet, yet fun and informative.
Down with Love is a wonderful celebration of some of the
best and zaniest tropes of Hollywood cinema. If you’re a fan of the old
Doris Day movies, you owe it to yourself to watch this flick.
While all of my friends and LJ contacts (or so it sometimes seems) wax lyrical about Joss Whedon and Firefly, I decided to step ahead into what’s new in SF. I got the opportunity to watch the new season of Doctor Who, the classic camp SF show from the BBC. For those of you who don’t know what Doctor Who is, it’s a story about a Timelord known solely as the Doctor. The Doctor is from a planet called Gallifrey, and I’m not clear on whether all the inhabitants are Timelords or merely some of them, but the Doctor is a bit of a renegade. The Timelords are supposed to protect time from being changed and are generally sticks-in-the-mud. The Doctor, on the other hand, runs through time in his TARDIS, accompanied by one or more companions, at least one of whom is usually a human. They travel back and forth across the reaches of space and time, saving the universe and putting right wrongs, opposed by a regular lineup of foes such as the Daleks, the Cybermen, and arch-nemesis The Master.
Where somebody at the BBC got brilliant, back in the Sixties when the Doctor first appeared on the screen, was with the concept of regeneration. Under certain circumstances (such as death, but it can be forced by other factors), a Timelord can regenerate. What this meant practically is that the BBC could easily replace the main actor at any time, because the Doctor regenerated. They gave Timelords 13 regenerations, thinking that would probably be more than enough. Over the years, though, there have been a succession of Doctors. The show finally went off the air in 1989 after 26 seasons and seven Doctors. Some Doctors were beloved, some were not, but the show had become a not-so-underground cult classic. Books, magazines, audio episodes, and more kept the Doctor alive. There was a single American made-for-TV movie with an Eight Doctor that was not well received; it was too American to please the regular fans and too British for the average American viewer to understand.
Those of you who have seen any of this season will understand what I’m about to say: Fantastic!
Although the campy special effects and often weak characterization have been left behind, this show cuts to the heart of classic Doctor Who and revitalizes it for modern viewers. The stories are much more character-based; the writers have some spectacular material they’re using. Eccleston and Piper shine with the wonderful scripts they’ve got to work with — even the episodes I’ve liked least have been good shows — and the look of the show is stunning. This Doctor has been around the block a few more times than when we last saw him, and his emotional armor is a bit thinner. He’s more vulnerable and more brittle, more in need of a smart and confident companion to backstop him and confront him. Rose is that companion. Their onscreen chemistry is undeniable and the characters are clearly comfortable together even as the exact nature of their relationship (900 year old male Timelord and a 19 year old female human) remains undefined through the season’s journeys. They clearly care for each other, but it’s not a shallow romantic interest; they’ve recognized in each other a kindred spirit and grow to a deep friendship throughout the season.
I’ve not watched the last episode yet, as Steph hasn’t caught up with me. We’re saving the last one to watch together. I can already tell you I’m not looking forward to it, as Eccleston will not be returning for the second season of the new show. After turning in a performance regarded by many (including myself) as the best Doctor yet, the second season will open with a regeneration into the Tenth Doctor. Regenerations have always been a difficult time for the show; the Doctor’s character usually changes dramatically, giving the new actor room to establish himself. I like Eccleston’s Doctor; he has Tom Baker’s good cheer and joy in life, Peter Davison’s innocence, combined with hints of an unbearable weariness and emotional trauma that we’d expect a 900 year old exile with a tarnished past to have. Several of the episodes have brought tears to my eyes (Episode 8, “Father’s Day,” is a particularly good one) as the writers focus more on tying together the events of the season to show us how these characters are affected by the events of their time-hopping lifestyle.
In short, this is some of the best SF being made today. Doctor Who has grown up. I am scared of yet hopeful for the Tenth Doctor and the necessary changes he will bring, but I’m confident that the producers and writers will be able to do as marvelous job with the new season as they did with this one. Watch this show.
From the pages of CNN Science & Space:
If all goes as planned, the Deep Impact spacecraft will release a wine barrel-sized probe on a suicide mission hurtling toward the comet Tempel 1 — about 80 million miles (129 million kilometers) away from Earth at the time of impact.
Scientists hope the July 4 collision will gouge a crater in the comet’s surface large enough to reveal the pristine core and perhaps yield cosmic clues to the origin of the solar system.
The neatest part of this to me is the paragraph that says the collision should be viewable from the Earth with binoculars. I suppose it’s too much to hope for that a) said collision will be timed so that it’s viewable from where I’m at, b) the recent cloud cover will be gone, and c) a viewing guide exists on the Net so that I know when and where to be looking.
Okay, a quick Google later and I’ve got c) covered. Looks like it won’t necessarily be nearly as exciting as the CNN article implies. Drat.
Ow, ow, ow! Damn you, John Scalzi! Why must you reduce me to hysterical laughter, to the point I have tears in my eyes?
We live in an era in which an active quorum of religious bigots would quarantine gays into concentration camps if they could (“It’s just like Guantanamo — only fabulous!”), and the Times is snarkily concerned that we can’t simply visually identify the gay guys anymore?
As a general rule, I like me the women. In theory I accept the possibility that some guy out there could get me emotionally quivery and physically all winged-out, and I wouldn’t be all angsty about it if happened. But you know what? Hasn’t. Whereas women distract me all the damn time.
If people know you’re a straight guy, on the other hand, they automatically think you’re a beef-witted social dullard in a Linux shirt hoping to delude some poor woman into accepting a sperm packet or two.
So head on over to this article on the Whatever and check out what he has to say, because underneath the blistering humor, he’s got a whole assortment of very fine points to make. You can’t judge a book by its cover — if you could, I’d be right beside John in the teen homosexual angst camp. Pretty much everyone in my high school was convinced I was gay (and for all I know my parents worried about it too) and their obsession with my sexual orientation gave me more than a few issues to clean up down the road.
[Edit: fixed URL to John’s website. This is why Community Server needs a feature that will automatically take key words in a post and substitute them with the appropriate user-defined hypertext link.]
Not much time — less than 48 hours — to fight the latest incursion of the Broadcast Flag.
What’s the problem? (quoted from the EFF website)
The Broadcast Flag was Hollywood’s plan to point its remote control at your digital TV.
The courts struck down the original FCC proposal. The lobbyists have turned to Congress. House Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton says he won’t have a new flag spoiling his Digital Television Transition bill.
The bad news: some of the subcommittee members working on the bill disagree and have spoken in favor of including a Flag amendment into law.
What is the Broadcast Flag? (quoted from the Chicago Sun-Times)
The Broadcast Flag is a signal embedded in HDTV broadcasts that would have dictated what you could and couldn’t do with that HD episode of “Two and a Half Men.” The flag can tell your digital TV receiver not to allow you to record this show, or tell it to destroy the recording after a set amount of time or a certain number of viewings. If the show was recorded in the living room, don’t allow the user to watch it in the bedroom. Don’t let the show be burned onto a DVD so it can be viewed on a laptop … and make sure the viewers won’t have any alternatives when the time comes to sell this show into syndication or as a boxed set. Start a small house fire if you have to!
What do I do?
Go to the EFF online contact form and contact your representatives if they’re on the committee.
I’d have posted it directly here, but some of the safety features were biting me in the ass. Either that or the quiz has really lame HTML. Steph and I vote for the latter.
Why do I continue to set seemingly unreachable goals for my off-time? You’d think that three days of vacation followed by two days of weekend would be enough time to get a bunch of stuff done, right?
Rhetorical questions aside, while the vacation was good, it will be nice to get back to work. All this week, I’ll be heading into the Grand Hyatt in Seattle for a five-day Exchange conference. Steph will effectively have the house to herself during the days, which is going to be some much-needed separation for the two of us. That’s the downside of working from home — if she’s home a lot, we’re in each other’s hair all day long and that not good for either of us. Besides, this will be my first conference in which I’m not presenting, proctoring, or somehow tied to the creation of content, and it will be a welcome change of pace (not to mention chock-full of great advanced Exchange content and a great place to meet up with some more of my peers in the industry) to sip from the firehose of ongoing education.
At least I’ll have one of the major downsides of the commute to Seattle beat this time, thanks to my new 40GB iPod. Although it’s not shiny new (I bought it from a friend who upgraded), it’s my first iPod and provides proof that I’m moving farther along the path of the Apple cult. Much angsting of peripherals later, I settled on combination case/flat panel speaker that allows me to use it in the car (albeit not with the car’s stereo — those are $40 and more) and in my office.
Okay, this is really cool and creepy at the same time.
My Mac mini showed up this morning, and I promptly installed Office 2004 so I could configure Entourage (the e-mail client that unlike Outlook allows you to have connections to multiple Exchange servers at the same time) and get to work. I’ve been poking around at Mac OS X during the day and discovered that Apple included a speech-to-text module in the operating system. This module is easily accessible from any application; just highlight text, tell it to start talking, and you’ll get a pretty decent reading. They’ve got a bunch of different voices to choose from, mostly silly.
One of the cooler ones is Pipe Organ. It’s a deep bass voice with low pipe overtones, and the sample text sounds like it’s singing a hymn. What I didn’t realize is that the voice always sounds like it’s reading from a hymn; it re-uses the musical inflections of the tune instead of trying to develop proper speaking inflections. The result is something oddly like computerized Gregorian chant.
So I promptly pointed Safari (the web browser) at today’s readings in the Episcopal daily lectionary, selected the text, and let ‘er rip.
Neither Stephanie nor I are pretty when we cry.
If you’re drawing a blank on why the above line makes sense in a post titled “It’s My Party,” you’ve obviously never seen the movie of the same name starring Eric Roberts and Gregory Harrison. This movie is not everyone’s cup of tea — the story is about Nick (Eric Roberts), has just been diagnosed with Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML), a condition that attacks the brain and quickly destroys the victim’s sight, memory, and other brain function. Brandon (Gregory Harrison) is Nick’s ex-partner, who broke up with him a year before when he could no longer face living with a boyfriend with AIDS. The movie centers around a two-day period where Nick holds a farewell party for his friends and family. Having seen AIDS claim the lives of too many friends, Nick is determined to say farewell to his loved ones before the PML reduces him to a vegetative state for another few days of life.
Lots of controversial issues in this movie: homosexuality, right to die, assisted suicide, religious beliefs, estranged relationships, and parents who think that life would have turned out differently for their son if only they’d done something differently. Yet the script does a deft job of weaving through these issues to present us with a picture of a man who, while frightened by the thought of dying, is more frightened of being unable to let those close to him know how much he loves them when he goes. There is a lot of tension surrounding Nick, but he moves through it all with a direct yet compassionate sense of humor, cutting the tangles of jealousy and bitterness while helping people to come to acceptance of their loss. The final scene with Nick and Brandon is one of the simplest and most touching goodbyes I ever hope to see.
Some might be tempted to dismiss this movie as another film that proves Hollywood is out of touch with the lives of the majority of America. It is, after all, just a movie about a dying gay guy (yes, I have in fact heard someone describe this movie in just those terms). To them, I would ask what they were afraid of, if they are scared to see “a dying gay guy” facing his end with as much dignity and love as this movie shows. This is not a movie to watch in order to wage a philosophical or religious battle. This is a movie to watch to be reminded how deeply you care for those in your life, how much pain they would feel if you were gone and how much you would feel if they were gone. It is a movie that urges us — compells us — to reach out to others; it directs us to be peacemakers and bridge-builders rather than cling to our hurts and wounds.
There are a lot of people in my life that I love. I don’t think I tell them that enough. I hope that if I ever faced this situation, my party would be as full of people who loved me as Nick’s party. I hope that I would be as full of wisdom, humor, discernment, and ruthlessness as Nick was — able to help people let go of the grudges and disputes. I hope I would have made such an obvious difference in the world around me.
My favorite line is the crack about the temporal vortex and needing the combined efforts of Stephen Baxter, Vernor Vinge, and Greg Bear to free him, and not just because I’ve met Vernor Vinge in person (although he is my favorite science fiction writer and one heck of a nice guy.)
As soon as I learned about it, I’ve always wanted the Lego Mars Rover.
Unfortunately, we never had the money for it until recently. So I
headed to the Lego website and it turns out the thing is out print.
This will not stop me, oh no. A bit of Googling later and I manage to
find it for $40 off of the KBToys online store (retail $90).
I’ve got photos in my gallery, and a list of small .avi format videos below:
- Deploying the mast, rotating the mast and dish (13 seconds; 594KB)
- A look at the steering linkage in action (19 seconds; 734KB)
- Extending/retracting the arm and the using the steering mechanism (20 seconds, 841KB)
- Folding and unfolding the rover (25 seconds, 1,049KB)
I was asked by our priest if I could provide some quiet background guitar music for my church’s Maundy Thursday service. I agreed, and when time came to head down to the church tonight, I decided to walk. It’s only ten minutes away by foot and I can always use the exercise. My fingers are sore — with the practice time yesterday and today, plus the actual time playing for the service, I played more than I’ve probably played for the previous six months — but it was good.
On the way home, I was walking by another church (there are at least five churches within close walking distance of our house; this is not a sign of Monroe’s special piety, oh no — it’s a sign that we need ’em) where a bunch of young folks (by that I mean younger than me, so youth group/early adult) were hanging out on the sidewalk. One of the young men saw me walking along with my guitar bag and basically invited me to sit and play guitar with him for a while. I was tempted, but declined the offer; we chatted for a few more seconds then wished each other well and went our separate ways. I really wanted to sit and play, and while I did want to get home, that wasn’t the reason I declined. Nor was I ashamed of my guitar (which was a birthday gift from my parents a couple of years back to replace the one that got stolen years ago), which while inexpensive has an incredibly rich sound for such a low-end guitar. No, I was ashamed of my playing. What I know about playing guitar is almost entirely self-taught.
When my parents got me my new guitar, I was really excited. Since we were at their house in Portland, I sat in a corner and played for as long as my fingers could stand (I hate playing nylon strings, so I play steel string guitars. Steel strings are much harder on the fingers until you build up the callous tissue on your fingertips. My fingers hate me right now). I was horrified to discover that I’d either forgotten a lot in the intervening nine years without a guitar, or (more likely) I was never as good as I thought I was. My parents said it was nice to hear me playing again, but I’m not sure I believed them then; I was so down in the dumps about how much I sucked that I had a hard time deciding if they were just being nice. (And to be honest, I still have that same trouble.)
It doesn’t help that I’ve been grooving to Allison Krauss + Union Station for the last couple of days. They are very talented musicians, so of course I immediately compare myself to them. I’ve had no formal lessons (apart from some sessions I managed to trade in return for teaching computer lessons back when I was a kid) and I have this wonderful music in my head that I can’t get out through my fingers. I’ve got a limited set of chords and fingerings I know and I can’t even do those consistently. There are chords that I’ve tried — and failed — to get down for as long as I’ve been playing. I think I just need to face the fact that I’m not a competent musician.
It occurs to me to wonder if learning how to touch-type early on has affected my manual dexterity; I’ve heard that typing and guitar playing require different muscles. If that’s the case, and I can only choose to be good at one, well, typing wins. I’ve had life-long dreams about being an author. Granted, I have dreams about writing and performing the occasional hit song, but even in my dreams, those are flukes; I’m first and foremost an author. Even so, it’s hard for me to find the will to do something if I don’t think I can be expert at it.
Edited: Steph says, and I completely agree, that I need to keep playing no matter what. Having my guitar available, even if I suck, gives me an outlet I don’t otherwise get.
I try to read a variety of blogs on a daily basis. I don’t normally think of Instpundit as a site for lots of humor, but today he led me to The Wonderful World of Longmire via this hysterically funny set of romance novel cover spoofs. Thank you, Instapundit — I’ve got a new site to add to my bookmarks.
Congratulations! You’re 95 proof, with specific scores in beer (20) , wine (66), and liquor (52).
All right…you’re getting into the harder stuff. A good martini, a Mai
Tai or straight shots of hard liquor is what you’re into.
| My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
|Link: The Alcohol Knowledge Test written by hoppersplit on Ok Cupid|
Steph and I are on the phone with our friend Andrew and he was telling us about some of the latest doings he’d heard about on Garrison Keillor’s radio show. The most interesting bit was the impending publication of a detailed examination of President Clinton’s years in office. The book is named “The Johnson Years.”
I love Saturdays, especially today. I got a decent amount of work done last night, including turning over two papers that came back yesterday for edits. Additionally, Robbie (my O’Reilly editor) got Chapter 7 edited and passed it back to me last night, so I’ve got some rewrites to do on that. But first, I need to finish up Once Upon a Time in Seattle so I don’t keep having that hanging over my head.
Breakfast was a new dish that has quickly become one of my favorites: Baked Amish Oatmeal. I don’t really like oatmeal, but Steph found this recipe in one of her cookbooks (The Best of Country Cooking) and gave it a try a couple of weeks ago. Everyone likes it. The contributor claims that it tastes “just like a big warm-from-the-oven oatmeal cookie” and she’s right. It’s pretty simple to make: mix up one and one half cups of quick-cooking oats, half a cup of sugar, half a cup of milk, a quarter cup of melted butter (margarine if you absolutely must), an egg, a teaspoon of baking powder, three quarters of a teaspoon of salt, and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Once you’ve got it thoroughly mixed up, grease up a baking pan and spread it in evenly. You don’t want a thick layer, so make sure your pan is a decent size. Put it the oven for 25 -30 minutes at 350 degrees, making sure your edges are golden brown, and damn – your mouth will love you forever. You can eat it as it is (which is the way I like it) or crumble it up and pour milk over it and top it with whatever you like.
Now that I’ve got cuisine tips out of the way, I’ve got to work on writing. Once I get some time in on the adventure, I’ve got a book review to write and a political essay running around my head. And never forget editing Chapter 7.
- Knowing precisely where my wallet is. I lost my wallet sometime on Friday and didn’t realize it until Sunday. A very nice man at Microsoft retrieved it today from the PC Recycle pile it had been thrown onto and sent me an e-mail, so I was able to have Steph drive me in and pick it up.
- Having access to Steph’s digital camera. We got some great pictures this afternoon of the four of us swordfighting.
- Kids who are capable of catching a clue. They’ve gotten into a bad habit the last couple of weeks of not listening to us. Attitude readjustment commenced and they’ve proven quite adaptable.
- Bacon! Had it on the burger at lunch and get some for dinner!
Yesterday I finally got my hands on John Scalzi‘s debut novel, Old Man’s War. I ordered it from my local bookstore earlier in the month; it took them a week or two to actually get a copy, and then I was out of funds.
Since .Text has the nifty ability to create non-syndicated posts (known as articles) which must be directly linked to, I’ve created a new article with my review. I’d have reviewed it here but it contains spoilers, so if you haven’t read the book, you may not want to read my review right away.
If you don’t mind spoilers, read away. I very much like the book, but I go into a bit more detail (and I even tell you the one part of the book that broke my suspension of disbelief).
Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
Published by Tor; Hardcover. ISBN 0-765-30940-8
List Price: $23.95 ($33.95 Canada)
This review contains spoilers.
Good Lord in Heaven, I think my “favorite sci-fi authors list” just got another entry. OMW, weighing in at a svelte 316 pages of text, is the first book I’ve read since Vernor Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky that was literally so compelling that I stayed up to finish it. In the current market where so many hardcover books are the literary equivalent of marathons, OMW is the biathlon: it sticks together two unlikely subjects (military sci-fi and old people) and drops them in the snowy wastes of freshman novels. The result is a tightly written story that gives the reader a lot of action to enjoy, surprises to savor, and implications to ponder long after the book is placed on its shelf.
The plot is fairly simple: John Perry is a widower. On his seventy-fifth birthday he heads into the big town of Greenville to finish the process of signing up for the Colonial Defense Forces, a process he started with his wife ten years before. Not much is known about the CDF or their parent organization, the Colonial Union; they control all travel off-planet, they control the colonization of new planets, and they (through the CDF) provide military support for their colonies. There are aliens out there and they, too, want colonies; there are constant fights over territory. CDF recruits are declared legally dead on Earth and can never go back; for this reason they only recruit elderly people. We follow along with John Perry from his last graveside visit with his wife, through the recruiting office, into space, through boot camp, and into memorable battles in various star systems. Along the way, we learn more about the CDF, humanity’s somewhat precarious situation, John Perry, and ultimately ourselves.
In any normal army, recruiting 75 year-olds is a great way to ensure you’re going to get your asses kicked. The CDF is quite smart about a lot of things, so finding out the truth behind the rumors of age rejuvenation treatments is the first major secret of the book. In order to set us up for the proper impact of this reveleation, Scalzi has to do a bit of infodumping. Unlike most rookie writers, he does a damn fine job of showing us his world, not telling us. We get quite a lot of information about the relationship between the CDF and the Earth in the recruiting office as Perry is completing his enlistment; Scalzi intersperses the actual text of the agreement with relevant commentary. His chatty, personable style keeps it moving and presents the salient points without belaboring them; Scalzi does the reader the courtesy of assuming they will be smart enough to grasp the implications of what they’ve just read and start to wonder about the the clone bodies of those who fail to follow through on their enlistment or who die before they reach this point (like Perry’s roommate).
The secret of the CDF rejuvenation treatment is also simple: there is none. Instead, the CDF has spent the past ten years force-growing a genetically engineered clone, into which they will transfer their recruits’ consciousness (thanks to some advanced technology). Again, Perry learns what’s going on about a second before we do and we have as little prior preparation as he received. Even though I’d already listed cloning as a possible option, Scalzi’s treatment of it was deft enough to leave me nodding in appreciation of Perry’s surprise. This scene provides what I think is one of the finest bits of writing in the book:
“Wait,” I said. “I forgot something.” I walked over to my old body again, still in the creche. I looked over to Dr. Russell and pointed to the door. “I need to unlock this,” I said. Dr. Russell nodded. I unlocked it, opened it, and took my old body’s left hand. On the ring finger was a simple gold band. I slipped it off and slipped it on my ring finger. Then I cupped my old face with my new hands.
“Thank you,” I said to me. “Thank you for everything.”
Wow. As a reader, I live for those passages.
Ironically, Perry’s boot camp experience was the only scene that strained my sense of disbelief. The CDF drill instructors have genuine reason to be the sons of bitches that everbody expects drill instructors to be, and Master Sergeant Antonio Ruiz is no exception. Although Scalzi gets him right — I had more than one flashback to Dr. Death, my own company commander — there is one mistake. Perry is the one recruit who does not provide immediate offense to his new drill instructor, a man who is an expert at finding reasons to hate his recruits. As his reward, Perry is made platoon leader. So far, so good. However, at the end of boot camp, Perry is still platoon leader. Sorry. No fucking way. Every platoon screws up; every drill instructor knows this. The whole point of assigning recruit leadership from the very beginning is to have visible and tangible object lessons. Recruit leaders will pay for the follies of their fellow recruits, but at some point they will be relieved from command so they can learn how to be a regular grunt too. In the meantime, some other hapless victim inherits the nightmare of responsibility without authority. The typical unit goes through 3-4 recruit leaders before settling down on a stable recruit command team, even if that means that likely candidates have been quietly redeemed from their earlier failures and reinstated. It is an important part of the boot camp process and I cannot believe the CDF wouldn’t follow it.
Having said that, though, that’s my biggest fault with the book. Nothing else strains my suspension of disbelief, not even some of the incredible coincidences that come Perry’s way. He’s our viewpoint character precisely because he is placed to reveal secrets we would otherwise not see. Through Perry’s eyes, we find out more about the Ghost Brigades (CDF’s special forces), the Consu (a highly advanced alien race with an odd notion of force parity), and the forces that are arrayed against humanity.
I don’t have enough nice things to say about this book. I read through it last night and immediately handed it over to my wife this morning. She finished it up before dinner and handed it back, so I can now begin a slower, more thorough reading, which is something I rarely do. I’m already looking forward to the sequel, too.
Buy this book. If you don’t like it, you’re a freak of human nature, but that doesn’t matter, because you’ll have bought a copy of the book and generated sales for John. Tell people about this book. Make them buy it. It really is that good.
I’ve been growing my hair out for the past few months, mainly because the urge to see if I could finally get a classic Unix-geek ponytail hit me again. As expected, about 3-4 months in, having this unruly mass of wavy dead protein on my head got to be too much to deal with and I shaved it off. Voila! I am sexy again.
“Isn’t it awfully egotistical,” I hear you ask, “to tell us how sexy you are?” Well, yes, but since when has that ever stopped me? This completely ignores the fact that when I walked out of the bathroom with my newly shaved head and presented myself for Stephanie’s approval, she got so distracted she had to stop the phone conversation she was in the middle of and hang up. I’m talking mid-word stop, stare, drool, forget her name kind of distracted. And if love’s not about learning to see ourselves through our beloved’s eyes, what’s the point?
The new schedule seems to be working, for the most part. There’s only one area where I have any complaints: I hit a point at night where I just shut off.
Monday night, I was in bed promptly at 9pm. Steph didn’t realize that my feeble mutterings of “I think it’s bed time” meant that I was actually heading that way, but I was going while I still had the energy to drag myself up the stairs.
Tuesday night I was able to stay up until 10, but that was because I’d gotten my toys from Newegg and had a slight adrenaline reserve.
Last night, we finished up the book we’ve been reading with the kids (The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley) a chapter each night and the kids went off to bed. That’s the last thing I really remember. I have vague impressions of Steph shaking me and yelling at me, and an even more vague impression of having blankets put over me, and then I woke up on the couch at 4:45am. Normally, sleeping overnight on the couch is a recipe for muscle pains, kinked spine, and impending migraine — let alone not feeling rested. But I feel great and ready to go, and I woke up without an alarm clock.
I’ve been banging away on a presentation I have to give for work on Friday and have been occasionally checking in on the PyraMOO (online chat for the Pyramid online magazine from Steve Jackson Games) as I wait for various processes to complete. At one point, somebody wistfully remarked that it would be neat if Ken Hite and R. Sean Borgstrom could produce a work together. I dissented, as something about their styles strikes me as incompatible. I eventually came out with this comparison to try to explain why:
“Rebecca writes about the faeries living in soap bubbles. Ken tells you how they’ve been mutated by the years of lead poisoning in the water.”
Each is capable of invoking wonder and terror, but they go about it differently. Difference is good and they both rock.
Feel free to copy this on, just please link back to this article (not the LJ feed version, the article on my blog).
I’m sitting here awake at 5:36am, waiting for my newly nuked breakfast to cool down enough for me to eat. This is by no means the first day this week that I’ve been awake at this time, but this is the first day this week that I’m awake because I’ve just gotten up. My sleep schedule has been all messed up lately; I’m hoping this is the beginning of “go to bed early, get up early” because even though I’m a night person by nature, I find that my productivity increases dramatically when I can keep an early morning schedule.
I have enough projects coming up at both work and home to ensure that increased productivity is a good thing. When I realized I was wide awake this morning, I heard a little voice in my head telling me to use this time as a gift.
Speaking of gifts, I was given a rather substantial gift certificate to Newegg because I helped a friend out with his upgrade from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2003. I came extremely close to ordering a new motherboard, CPU, and RAM so I could upgrade a server; I’ve been dying to get my hands on an AMD Opteron (64-bit architecture with 32-bit backwards compatibility; perhaps not quite as much raw horsepower as an Intel Itanium, but the ability to run 32-bit code seamlessly more than makes up for that), but couldn’t quite justify it. I ended up deciding on the following:
- A new 17″ LCD flat panel for Steph ($235!! dang, these things are getting cheaper). This will allow us to move the decent 19″ tube she has to the kids’ computer; their monitor sucks mightily. Everyone has a decent monitor at that point, except for my rarely used monitor back in the server area, and that just needs to be legible enough for me to do the occasional bit of maintenance on it.
- 802.11g (54Mbps, backwards compatible with the 802.11b 11Mbps standard) wireless network gear to replace my current 802.11a (54Mbps) setup. I love 802.11a and not being on the 2.4GHz band, but being on the 5GHz band comes with a downside: it really does not like being inside a house. 802.11a wants a clear line of sight because 5GHz gets quickly soaked up by most common building materials. The 2.4GHz band does not. I also want my wireless network to support Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA, the successor to the horribly weak WEP standard) and the 802.1x standard (the access point will not process packets from a new device until that device can mutually authenticate with a trusted source on my network). I’m getting a new access point, PCI card for my desktop machine, and PC card for my laptop. Finally, I’ll be able to have the wireless network configuration I’ve been planning in my head all along.
- Something silly but cool: a USB MIDI cable with MIDI software. I have not been doing enough music lately; a large part of that is because I can’t really use my MIDI keyboard with my current machine, thanks to old software and an ancient MIDI cable. This should fix that, which means I’ll have fewer excuses. Looking forward to it.
Another gift I cherish: I turned in a paper for work early Thursday morning and got back high praise from my boss (“top-notch”). One of the many cool things about working for 3Sharp is that the three partners are not at all shy about telling you when they think you’ve done good work. I’ve been there two years and I still absolutely love working there.
It is incredibly nice to wake up and have plenty of things to be thankful for. Things aren’t perfect, but some simple gratitude goes a long way towards soothing my worries. It’s a nice balm for the soul.
| You scored as Musical/Rhythmic. You are sensitive to sounds in your environment, enjoy music and prefer listening to music when you study or read. You learn best through melody and music. People like you include singers, conductors, composers, and others who appreciate the various elements of music.
Stephanie and I were listening to the radio in the car tonight. We had it on our local country station since they were doing their weekly countdown and we both like a lot of the modern country music (although by no means all of it). As we were listening to Brad Paisley’s “Mud on the Tires” Steph asked a question that demonstrates just how differently we think.
[Note: For those of you who haven’t heard the song, it’s a song about a young gentleman who has just got a new truck and is inviting his girl to go out for a night drive to a secluded spot on the lake. Since they’ll have to go off-road, it means getting some “mud on the tires.”]
The question she asked?
I wonder if he just drove over and showed up on her doorstep to ask her or if he’s talking to her on the phone?
From her point of view, this was a reasonable question. I found it incredibly funny and was more than a touch gobsmacked that she might think it even makes a difference. The point of the song is that the singer is wooing his lady love into some romantic together time in front of a campfire on a remote strech of lake shore. For the story he’s telling, how does it matter? I know she thinks it’s an important distinction; if this was a real-life event, I’d even agree. But it’s a song; it’s an idealized snapshot of a moment in time. I cannot come up with any way how the answer to that question makes a difference to the scene Brad is portraying (we don’t ever hear the answer, you see; the song is entirely about the proposal.)
That’s one example of how we’re different. I think I’m glad for the differences; it would be awfully boring if she thought the same way I did all the time.
Steph passed me an amusing animation: Icon Story.
After my years of working with Windows, this feels accurate.
Introducing a new category of my blog: Brainlets. After all, my brain is scary, and I need to share that with you. Besides, Steph has been threatening to hurt me if I don’t start keeping a blog of all the random weird shit I come up with and use to make her laugh.
So, here’s the first brainlet: Random X Table.
A few months back, Steph found herself about to go crazy trying to decide what to make for dinner. I don’t remember which RPG project I was working on at the time, but I was exasperated enough to take two minutes and draw up the Random Dinner Table. You roll two six-sided dice: the first told you what meat you were using (chicken, ground beef, steak, etc.) and the second told you what the rest of the meal was (pasta with red sauce). Although it was a joke, it worked quite well, so I decided to keep my eyes open for opportunities to use this technique elsewhere; after all, gamers are used to rolling on tables to make decisions.
In late July, I had the opportunity to draw up another table: the Random Platter Table. Steph was preparing for a tea party and dithering badly about which platter to use:
“I just noticed a downside to having several different serving platters. I don’t quite have enough to make deciding really easy. I am having trouble deciding which one will work best for the lemon bars.”
So, again, I drew upon my valuable RPG freelancer skills to save the day:
Random Platter Table
Roll 1d6 to determine results
- This one.
- That one.
- The other one.
- Get Alaric to decide.
- Get Treanna to decide.
- Roll again.
This is dedicated to everyone who said I’d never get anything useful out of sitting around and playing/reading/writing “those damned Satanic games.” HA!
(Note: the Random Dinner Table has not been included because I’m too lazy to code up the HTML table. One of these days real soon now I won’t be so pathetic; when that happens, the table will be posted and linked. Just remember, Jesus is coming back soon too.)
(Blog note: I’ve switched skins. I ditched the other one because a) it used a dark background, which looks dramatic until you have to read text on it and b) it behaved badly under Mozilla/Firefox.)
I have a few blogs I read on a daily basis. While many of them are technical and work-related, there are many that aren’t. For example:
- Wil Wheaton Dot Net — author and actor Wil Wheaton. Wil’s a fantastic writer and I’d happily throw down lots of cash to buy volume after volume of Wil’s poker stories. I found out about his blog from my good friend Andrew (the soon-to-be ex-Managing Editor of Steve Jackson Games. w00t, ‘Drew!) and from one of my bosses at work, both on the same day. I’ve been a regular reader ever since.
- Whatever — another author, John Scalzi. I haven’t any of his books yet, but they’re half as good as his blog, I’m in for a treat, and I’m eagerly awaiting his first published novel, Old Man’s War. (He’s got another one available for download, Agent to the Stars, but I hadn’t gotten around to downloading it yet and it’s MIA from his site right at the moment.)
- Making Light — Teresa Nielsen Hayden, editor for Tor Books. She and her husband Patrick help keep me in new reading material and have been extremely gracious people every time I’ve had any interaction with them, usually via Usenet and e-mail many years back when I still was active in the rec.sf.arts.written groups.
Speaking of Making Light, Teresa posted a good joke today, with another fantastic one provided in the comments.
I find these three blogs especially appealing to read, because these are people who are directly involved in the profession that I am currently working on acquiring the discipline for: writer. Reading their blogs has helped me make some interesting discoveries about myself. See, I’ve always thought of myself as fairly conservative on the political spectrum; I’m the registered Republican in the household, while my wife leans Libertarian. The last year or two, I’ve been struggling with the notion that perhaps I really am a liberal. Granted, I’ve never been the kind to vote on party lines or to be strictly conservative, but in my head, the term “liberal” still has that faint whiff of decadence and indecency that it carried during my formative years. My parents were pretty good at filtering out most of that polarized world view, but they could only do so much; you grow up in a washed-out lumber and tourist town in Central Oregon, you grow up in a hotbed of conservatism.
Coming to terms with the fact that I’m not nearly the conservative my self-image would have me believe has been an interesting process. Wil, John, and Teresa in particular have helped ease my growing pains; these are people I professionally admire, people that I think I would like to hang out with, and they are not at all shy about their opinions. They explain their opinions clearly, they provide clear reasoning to support why they hold those opinions, and they make no apologies. I agree with them more often than I disagree, but I have no trouble pointing to why I disagree with them and I continue to respect their opinions. They are not idealogues; they are people of reason and principle. In short, these are people I admire; I can only make myself a better person by following their example of clear thinking, personal integrity, and forthrightness.