Monday, March 31, 2008

Movie Review: Colour of Magic/Light Fantastic

Regular readers will remember me talking about the live action version of the
Diskworld book "The Hogfather" released by SkyOne in England two Christmases back and recently released on DVD. Well, now SkyOne has released "The Colour of Magic". It's a two part show that covers the first two books of the Diskworld series. And, I should add, that it was mucked about with sufficiently to reflect the quality inherent in the later books instead of the rubbish that were these first two. A narrator has been added and the whole thing works much better than "The Hogfather" did.

You should be able to download a torrent of it in all the less reputable P2P websites. Or you can do the right thing and wait a year and a half for it to come out on DVD. I already downloaded it AND will be getting the DVD.

Here's the story:
The Diskworld is a flat, circular world carried on the back of four massive elephant that stand on the back of an even more massive turtle. Most books focus on the city of Ankh-Morpork in one regard or another.
"The Colour of Magic" starts in Ankh-Morpork with the single most inept wizard, or "Wizzard" as his hat says, Rincewind being expelled from Unseen University after 40 years of not learning a single spell. Rincewind is played by the gentleman who once did the voice of Danger Mouse and Count Duckula.
Rincewind soon encounters a tourist known as Two Flower. Two Flower comes from the Counterweight Continent on the other side of the disk. It's made of a great deal of gold so as to act as a better counter to the main continent. Flashing around that much gold means that Rincewind just tries to get his share and vanish before the crowds slaughter Two Flower and take his gold. Two Flower is played by Sean Austin, recently back from his trip to Mordor and back.
What with one thing and another Ankh-Morpork catches fire and our heroes go looking to see the sights somewhere they're less likely to get lynched. They find themselves captured by some dragon lords and escape in a highly truncated sequence. As the dragon they escape on fades into nothingness they fall in the ocean and are nearly washed over the rim. They find their way to a civilization that wants to sacrifice them in the hopes that ... well, they escape onto a space ship that is going over the edge of the rim to find the turtle's gender.

There's a parallel story of a wizard killing his way to the top. But to get ultimate power, and save the world from plunging into a star, he needs all 8 spells in a book called the Octavo. Alas, the 8th spell is hiding in Rincewind's head.

In part/book 2 the spells have remade the Diskworld with Rincewind and Two Flower on it instead of drifting through space. On the way back to Ankh-Morpork they hook up with Cohen the (97 year old) Barbarian. They get back and save the Diskworld.

Of the whole series of Diskworld books these two are the weakest. They're also the first. This show does much better with the story but there's still value in reading the book.

Friday, March 28, 2008

No, really

As a computer tech it often falls to me to haul around computers and monitors. And it falls to the people who use those machines to run around looking for a cart or something so I won't hurt myself hauling this big, heavy, but-not-as-heavy-as-it-looks equipment. I try to explain that this stuff isn't all that heavy to me. Heavy is dragging a plow across the yard. Heavy is the last few bales of alfalfa on the trailer after you've just cleared a field of them.

As I'm bringing order to my house I found a photo album from back when cameras used film. I had to bring it in to prove to people that I'm not exaggerating about me and farm work.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Where are you

It's been one of those mornings. I don't feel like typing anything.

So, for those of you who are reading this at what the hit counter registers as two in the morning, where are you? I know I have at least one reader in India. She's a looker, too.

Also, unleaded gasoline is selling for US$3.35/gallon. Luckily I don't use gasoline. What does petrol cost where you are?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Game review: Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude

When I was a kid there were two game companies worth mention. There was Atari and there was Sierra. Sierra rocked. They had the King's Quest series, Space Quest series, Police Quest series, the Leisure Suit Larry series, and a few others I'm sure I'm missing. They had a formula that was great and sold well. Most any geek my age knows who Roberta Williams (game writer at Sierra) was. A friend of mine called the help number often enough that they knew each other by first name.

In these games you were a pixelated, 16 color character. You roamed around the world picking up items and trying to figure out how to use them to get other things. Get the feather, the cat fur, the oatmeal, and the wand, get into the basement while the wizard was away, make the cookie that turns the wizard into a cat so you can get kidnapped by pirates who take you to...
They were problem solving games. It required a certain kind of reasoning that appealed to people who later became programmers.

Leisure Suit Larry had the added appeal of having you drive a wanna-be womanizer and the promise of pixelated, 16 color, scantly clad women. There were three Larry games before Sierra dropped it. The demand never died.

As game systems evolved newer "King's Quest" games came out, but they were lacking somehow. Typing in commands was part of the appeal. Clicking wasn't the same. But they made an honest attempt to stick to the old format.

A couple years back they released another "Leisure Suit Larry" game. The reviews were universally bad. But with the PS3 out the price of PS2 games is dropping. I got it for a few bucks. Naturally the graphics are much improved. The game play, however, was not.

Before you had to explore and solve puzzles to get things to impress the women.
Now you go talk to the woman and play one of 4 mini-games.
There's a side scroller where you navigate a sperm to hit green markers and avoid red ones.
There's a button masher where you have to press a button as an icon passes over a dot. Kind of a "Dance Dance Revolution" idea.
There's a button masher where you have to press a button as it flashes on the screen.
And there's quarters, where you pull the joystick back so far and then forward so far to toss a coin.

It's those 4 games over and over and over again.

There's a couple of other games. There's a pong type game for extra confidence points and there's a game where you pass out flyers to four rows of advancing people for extra money. But they, too, get old fast.

The loading sequences take forever, but during those scenes they show either the digital women you're supposed to seduce in provocative poses or else real models based on the women in the game.

In short, don't bother. Sierra should try again but stick closer to the original games. That's what made them big and that's what we want.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Movie Review: Horton Hears a Who

"Horton Hears a Who" is clearly a cruel bastardization of a decent children's book. I won't see it. But it's also a movie that's big enough to deserve a review. So I give you a review written by Inomi.

It's safe to say this was not even close to being as execrable as it could have been. In fact, it was actually quite nice and not as overwrought and painfully manic as Jim Carrey's last turn as a Seuss protagonist. I took the girls out to see this after the morning events for Zombie Jesus Day wore off and we were looking for something to do that involved not being in proximity to chocolate for a while.

To be fair, I've read "Horton" to the girls numerous times, and I know it only takes 10-15 minutes to get through the book, even when using my reading-a-book-voice and meter, so it's inevitable that a metric ton of extra content would have to be added to pad the movie out to a requisite 90 minutes or so, and about 80% of it is perfectly fine.

The characterization of Horton is really quite nice, and Carrey does a good job of playing Horton's resoluteness and steadfast personality on its own. Maybe keeping him from actually being /on/ camera is the trick to pulling out a good performance from him.

What makes this movie work is that it really keeps the unnecessary "adult" jokes to a minimum. By "adult", I don't mean inappropriate or obscene, but the unfortunate legacy of "Shrek" where every modern kids movie seems to be intent on tossing in so-clever asides and "over-the-kids-heads" jokes, as if the parents had worse attention spans than their kids. Aside from a few zingers, the movie had a very storybook feel to it, and was better because of it.

An interesting aspect of the movie... there were a few scenes where Horton's imagination takes hold, and it turns into a cell-animated fantasy vision, looking a great deal like the style of the old Chuck Jones "Grinch" cartoon. However, one aside, when Horton is running for the mountaintop to drop off the speck, turns into a 2-minute anime freakout, complete with bad dubbing, huge, glistening eyes, garish colors and everything. It's a completely unexpected trip and the audience sat in stunned silence when it was over. I'm not sure if it was meant to be hilarious or just ridiculously unexpected, and therefore random, therefore appropriately post-ironic, and maybe the mother of all grown-up-targeted movie jokes, but it was extremely weird, for which I can appreciate it on that level, I suppose.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Movie Review: Shutter and horror audio

This movie was barely advertised at all. For some reason the ad in the paper appealed to me. And it wasn't bad. It'd better than many movies in this genre. It's not a slasher flick. But the stuff that creeped me out the most were the sound effects. I'll get to that after the review.

"Shutter" is the story of a photographer and his new bride that take a trip to Japan for a contract photography session. When they look at their honeymoon photos there's weird streaks on most of them. Then on the drive to their new job they hit some woman standing in the middle of the road. More and more photos turn up streaky. One of the husband's big expensive photo sessions is completely ruined. A moving figure in one of the developing photos splashes developer chemicals in the husband's eyes. Still, he refuses to believe there's a problem. Eventually the wife's investigations reveal that the spirit is that of one of her husband's ex-girlfriends. Is she a jealous ex trying to drive off the new wife or a wronged woman trying to warn off the next victim?

It's not a bad movie. It's just the season that there's nothing much better to see. Will not get on DVD. Best seen in a second run theatre.

Now, uh, the sound effects. Go back several years. 2002 or 3. I was playing "Thief 2", one of the best computer games ever. Even my parrot loves this game. There's one level with a haunted library. As I crept through the secret passage toward that room a breezy, whispering, mumbling, groaning sound got louder and louder. It was really creeping me out. I armed up, saved my game, and opened the door. It was a library. Rows upon rows of shelves. Rows upon rows of blind corners that could be hiding anything. The sound continued. A light, transparent figured moved up on the second level. I started down the carpeted path. My parrot was on my shoulder staring intently at the screen. Step by careful step I moved along, trying not to draw the attention of the thing on the next level and watching the shelves for something to step out. But nothing did. Instead it materialized about six inches from my face. Gandolf screamed and flew off. I screamed and knocked over my chair. By the time I got back the apparition was gone.

Later I called up my girlfriend at the time. I knew she was at work. I wanted her answering machine. I placed the phone by the speaker and let it run for 30 seconds or so before hanging up. Aaaanyway, I'm single now. But she was thoroughly freaked out just by that one clip of audio.

A few years later I was in my new house and Halloween was coming. I moved my old computer by the window, played the game to that room on that level, stuffed the character where I knew he wouldn't get hurt, and dropped the speakers out the window. Then I watched the reaction of people on the sidewalk. Adults slowed and then hurried away. High school girls bickered about who would have to approach the house first. One little boy, 5 years old or so, froze about half way between the gate and the house.

There were a couple of scenes in the movie that had sound effects much like in the game. Those were the creepiest part of the movie.

Friday, March 21, 2008


Stuff to say... sigh. Ok, I got it.

Tomorrow (arguably today) is the Equinox. That is the sun should be passing over the equator today. If you're plotting out the sun's path to make an analemma tomorrow is the day that the figure 8 should cross. It's also the ancient pagan holiday that was chosen to be converted to Easter as the Christians took over. But where we can say pretty confidently that Jesus wasn't born on Christmas we can't be as sure that Easter wasn't when Jesus was nailed to a plank.

Ok, that was short. As long as I'm on the subject of crucifying people let me clarify something about that. We've long been taught that Jesus was make to drag his cross up to where he'd get nailed to it. That's not quite how it worked. When crucifying people they'd tie the cross beam to the condemned and make them carry that to where the vertical beam was already waiting.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Fan art

I read a lot on online cartoons. Among them is "Happysad". The art is simple, but clean. The theme runs along one central character and his unrequited love.

The artist for "Happysad" is feeling burned out and planned a vacation. I suggested that he put out the call for fan art to fill the space. He loved the idea so I whipped out a comic.

Today he made the call for fan art and used my cartoon to kick things off.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008



That was my initial response. Once I got a chance to contemplate a bit more I went on to add...


Arthur C Clarke just died.


I just looked through my library. It's kind of depressing how little of it has Clarke's name on it. I know I have more than I'm seeing. Much of what I am pulling up is probably Dad's stuff. The stuff I'm not seeing is probably at his house. Looking at his list of works I see that there's a LOT of books of his that I KNOW are here somewhere.

Arthur C Clarke wasn't just another science fiction writer. Forget his age and the fact that most modern science fiction writers grew up reading his stuff. Clarke was an inventor, a philosopher, and a damn good writer in any genre. He joined Walter Cronkite as commentator for the moon shots in the 60's. One of his books "Songs of Distant Earth" was the inspiration for an album of the same name. What we call "science fiction" is usually "space fantasy". He helped put the science in science fiction. As we move into space his name will be used for naming ships, colonies, and structures more than almost anyone. He already has an asteroid, two awards, a Martian probe, a dinosaur, and an orbit named for him. The third movie adaptation of one of his books is in pre-production and will probably spawn 3 sequels if it gets done.

For all intents and purposes he invented the communications satellite. He popularized the concept, did the math, and calculated the orbit necessary to put a satellite in stationary orbit around the Earth. It's called Geosynchronous Orbit or Clarke Orbit. All our TV signals, much of our cross country phone traffic, and no small part of our internet traffic runs through a halo of electronics 35,786 km (22,240 miles) over the equator.

He came up with the idea for a space elevator in his book "The Fountains of Paradise". He thought it, more than the communication satellite, would be his lasting legacy to the world. I believe it's what will finally make space travel commonplace. It's a cable of carbon nanotubules that will reach down from Clarke Orbit and allow an elevator to climb it into orbit. It would reduce the cost of taking stuff into space to just a couple pennies for each dollar now spent.
I think the first will come down in the Indian Ocean near Clarke's adopted home in Sri Lanka and will be called Clarke Tower or something similar.

Clarke suffered from the after effects of polio. In 1954, while scuba diving off the coast of Sri Lanka, he discovered that he could still move normally underwater. He moved there in 1956 and remained an avid scuba diver until late in life.

Personally, it took me a long time to discover Clarke's writings. I made the mistake of watching "2001: A Space Odyssey" first. It's a great movie and a great cure for insomnia. I blamed the slow, plodding nature of the movie on the author instead of the director. When I first read something of his, a short story I think, it was good enough for me to consider giving him another chance.
Arthur C Clarke was 90 years old. He died in a hospital in Sri Lanka following respiratory difficulties.
As prolific as he was he may well still be putting out books when I'm 90 years old.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Book Review: The Drawing of the Dark

Some time back My Krodie recommended "The Drawing of the Dark" by Tim Powers. It went in the stack and just got read. Apparently it's something of a classic fantasy that didn't catch on as well as some people think it deserved.

It is a fantasy novel. Instead of creating a new Middle Earth type world that doesn't have much of anything to do with reality, this book takes 1529 Europe and overlays a fantasy world on top of an invasion by Muslims into Vienna.

Our hero is busy going about his life when he's jumped by a band of ruffians in Venice. After fighting them off a strange man offers him a job as a bouncer in Vienna with a handsome salary. He takes the job and finds himself escorted there by a legion of supernatural beings. Eventually his patron makes it to Vienna and starts dropping hints about what's happening.

The Fisher King is sick and dying. He needs beer that has been aged for 700 years over the grave of Finn MacCool to restore him to health. The health of the Fisher King and the lands of the west are linked. As one fails so does the other. So the Muslims of the east want Vienna and the beer destroyed before the beer matures.

Our hero and his patron have lived this cycle over and over in various lives but only the patron is aware of our hero's true identity.

I'm not much of one for fantasy, except humor/fantasy, but it was a good book. If you are a fantasy reader then I recommend adding this to your collection.

Monday, March 17, 2008


I got a haircut last weekend. It turned out a bit shorter than I liked. I threw on my coat and headed out the door. I saw myself reflected in the glass and smiled. One thing about the new Doctor Who incarnations is that it's a lot easier to make up a costume. One haircut and a shave and I'm almost there. Only they have a better lighting technician.

The thing is that I know how I tend to dress and how I tend to keep my hair. With the suits I've been looking at lately I'm much more likely to end up looking like this.

And once I get old enough so my Segway becomes too tricky to manage you know I'll get one of these.
What? An electric wheelchair with a Segway motor, a bit of cosmetic work, and it shouldn't be hard to incorporate a computer. As long as I have a wi-fi signal I'm at work anywhere in the world.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Movie Review: Doomsday

I saw more ads for this movie than trailers. The trailers weren't at all promising. If I were paying money I wouldn't have seen it. But it was free. And it turned out to be much better than I expected.

"Doomsday" is basically "Escape From Northern Ireland". In April of 2008 a new virus named "Reaper" appears in England. It's extremely contagious and very gross. People start dropping like flies. Limited containment is tried but eventually they have to build a couple of walls across the middle of the England and leave the northern half of the island to die off.

It's now 2035. A police raid in London reveals a roomful of people dying from Reaper. There's some clearly idiotic "evacuation" of London into an island in the middle of London. So now there's a severely overcrowded part of London and a virus. They explain why there's an island in the middle of London and it kinds makes sense. Most of the other plot holes don't get addressed.

Three years ago satellite footage showed some people in the streets of one of the northern cities. They thought everyone was long dead by now. Where there's people there must be a cure. A hot warrior woman is selected to lead an expedition. A bunch of other people are selected to go along to die in a variety of unpleasant ways. They're driving NBCs (a heavily armored military vehicle) and wearing battle isolation suits. (a what now?) Yeah, I know.

Figuring that the scientist who was working on a cure way back when, and who they sealed in the north, must have succeeded they go to his hospital. They drive all the way there without seeing anyone. They wander through the hospital checking room by room without seeing anyone. Not even signs of recent human activity. And then WHAM! People pouring out of every shadow. Hundreds of them and all from a Mad Max flick. How the hell did this many people hide from satellites for this long? Both NBCs, vehicles designed to shake off landmines are taken out by people armed with moltov cocktails and basic archery kit. Our heroes gun down dozens of crazed locals before being overwhelmed.

So our heroine meets the Madmaxians and eventually escapes with the daughter of the scientist she came to find. They catch a train to go find daddy. They take a shortcut through a mountain where I fully expected to find a Balrog. The scientist has moved into an old castle and his people have adopted all the trappings thereof. It was amusing to have a medieval England scene and see the "Gift shop" sign still up and the stained glass windows showing biohazard logos. Our heroine finds herself in the 1530's equivalent of Thunderdome and escapes.

Then there's this pretty awesome road battle when the Madmaxians catch up with the heroine. No, really, primo road battle.

I've given a lot away, but really I haven't. It's reasonably predictable.

The movie starts kinda weak but as it moves on it gets better. Part of it is just being able to settle back and enjoy. Part of it is the director getting into the swing of things as the movie progresses. Part of it is the fact that it's a horror movie on one side of the wall and a post-apocalypse action movie on the other. The folks in the north still have a sense of humor.

I'm glad I saw it and would probably rent it again to sit around and watch with friends. But I have no need to get it on DVD.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Movie Review: The Hogfather

By request, I'm responding to this article.

I touched on this movie before. I guess I didn't review it properly because it had aired in England and my copy wasn't what you'd call "legal". But now the DVD has been released in the United States.

The author of this article bases his complaint on the low budget nature of the film. I honestly don't know what the budget for this movie was. There's a documentary on the storming of Normandy coming out this summer where the beach rush was recreated using only three actors and a computer. Three days of shooting and they made hundreds of people running across the beach and scaling cliffs. You can't tell it from a Spielberg flick with hundreds of extras. Budget has little to do with anything these days if you know what you're doing.

The Brits are masters of low budget. Classic Dr. Who looks like they spent more on tea than on sets but they still got me to hide behind the couch. The play "Our Town" uses only a ladder for a prop. A good story and a good actor can cover any budget shortfall.

The point is that it doesn't really look low budget. The writer says "I should note that my 8-year-old son ran screaming from the room in terror after 15 minutes." That right there should tell you what a good job they did with it. It wasn't even Death or the Boar/Santa that did it. It was just a creepy actor with a milky eye.

Any problems with this film had more to do with time constraints than with a money shortage. Or, perhaps even just an inherent problem translating this particular book to film.

Take the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". It was a brilliant radio show that became an equally brilliant book. However, adapting it to the screen was hindered by the fact that so much of the humor is involved with the descriptions and the narration. Similarly with "The Hogfather" there's background and explanation needed for certain things. The wizards of unseen university lose much of their quality babble. The relevance of a shower built by Bloody Stupid Johnson is lost completely. Without the descriptions the whole scene is shot. You can piece together the Assassins Guild but why do the Auditors want Santa dead? Why do all these other imaginary creatures suddenly come into being? Why does Death take the role of Santa/Hogfather? How is this Susan girl Death's granddaughter? Some of this is explained or at least hinted at but it's done very quietly. Really, that's my biggest complaint. The whole movie is done quietly. Go ahead. Crank the volume. It doesn't help. It's still quiet.

The thing is that the movie is directed toward the huge Discworld fan base. Most people watching it are gonna know the story already. If you didn't know who Jesus was you're not gonna understand Mel Gibson's "Passionate Beating of Some Skinny Guy". The movie ends with the deceased walking around naked with holes in his hands. It looks like a prequel to "Night of the Living Dead". The fans of "The Bible" are gonna get it but the rest aren't. Same story with "The Hogfather". If you're not a fan you're gonna struggle.

For the problems this movie had I'm still looking forward to the next one. A "The Colour of Magic" movie is in the works.

That's right, I compared a Discworld book to "The Bible". I could probably also make an arguement that the Discworld books have a better message.

Now go read my last post on this movie.

And if you want to look into Discworld books I'd suggest starting with "Mort". The books don't have to go in order. Starting at the beginning is a mistake. "Mort" is one of the best jumping off points.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Book Review: The Ig Nobel Prizes

This falls under the category of bathroom literature. Not that the contents are particularly low brow. I mean that each section is just a couple of pages.

The Ig Nobel awards are awarded each year to reward the strangest, silliest, or just plain screwed up research done each year. It's hard to explain, really.

Here's the list of winners for 2007
* Aviation: Patricia V. Agostino, Santiago A. Plano and Diego A. Golombek, for discovering that hamsters recover from jetlag more quickly when given Viagra.
* Biology: Johanna E.M.H. van Bronswijk, for taking a census of all the mites and other life forms that live in people's beds.
* Chemistry: Mayu Yamamoto for extracting vanilla flavour from cow dung.
* Economics: Kuo Cheng Hsieh, for patenting a device to catch bank robbers by ensnaring them in a net.[8]
* Linguistics: Juan Manuel Toro, Josep B. Trobalon and Nuria Sebastian-Galles, for determining that rats sometimes can't distinguish between recordings of Japanese and Dutch played backward.
* Literature: Glenda Browne, for her study of the word "the".[9]
* Medicine: Dan Meyer and Brian Witcombe, for investigating the side-effects of swallowing swords.
* Nutrition: Brian Wansink, for investigating people's appetite for mindless eating by secretly feeding them a self-refilling bowl of soup.[10]
* Peace: The Air Force Wright Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio, for suggesting the research and development of a "gay bomb," which would cause enemy troops to become sexually attracted to each other.
* Physics: L. Mahadevan and Enrique Cerda Villablanca for their theoretical study of how sheets become wrinkled.

The awards ceremony is usually broadcast in whole or in part during the "Talk of the Nation: Science Friday" the day after Thanksgiving. ( Or you can watch the video webcast directly from Improbable Research website. (

The appendix lists all the winners. As does the Wikipedia page (

The book just serves to expand upon some of the more interesting or absurd awards over the years.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Movie Review: 10,000 BC

I didn't have much idea what to expect going into this movie aside from wild historical inaccuracies.

Up on a snowy mountain top, above the tree line, above the cloud layer, there's a tribe of people who wear dreadlocks and goatees. A herd of woolly mammoths passes by often enough for them to get most of their food from it. On top of a mountain. There's also plenty of firewood lying around. On top of a mountain. Above the tree line. But the mammoths have been passing less often and in fewer numbers. After a blue eyed girl comes the old woman of the village makes a prophecy about four legged demons coming to wipe them out. So the lead hunter leaves to investigate the demons and missing mammoths.

Jump forward 15 years or so. The lead hunter's son kills a mammoth, becomes lead hunter, and wins the heart of the blue eyed girl. Then the village is raided by people on domesticated horses - in the year 10,000 BC - who take several people as slaves, including the blue eyed girl. So lead hunter and a few friends go on a rescue mission. They follow the slavers over some even taller mountains - during the onset of winter - down into the jungle, into the tall grass where they're attacked by Rocs, into the desert where they make friends with people our hero's father once met and he fulfills one of their prophecies, befriends tribes of every race, goes to the river where they just miss sailboats - in the year 10,000 BC - carrying off the slavers. They march through the desert successfully because the lead hunter is the first person to follow a star successfully. They find where Atlanteans, who look like Indians, are building the pyramids using the mammoths and the slaves.

Blah, blah, free the slaves, save the girl, everyone goes home.

The special effects are fine, the mammoths look great, the story would makes Edgar Rice Burroughs proud, but the movie just isn't engaging. Maybe it's because I was on the leading edge of the cold that kept me from posting yesterday. Probably not.

See it at the dollar theater.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Dougintology Aquisitions Department

Everybody has one of their own, but rarely do you hear anybody mention the defense mechanisms of the young bookshelf. When relocated to a strange and unfamiliar location they begin to produce a noxious odor that can lead to headaches and worse in poorly ventilated rooms. Be sure to give your new shelves some time alone to adjust to it's new surroundings before loading it with books.

With the addition of the attic the room with the newly exposed brick wall and bamboo floors gets converted from storage room to library. I have moved many of the more portable bookshelves in there and filled them. More shelves are clearly necessary. So I ordered these.

They are viewed here in part of my office. I supposed I should clarify that mine are the spiffy Tetris looking things and not the boring shelves lining the walls.

I've closed the door to that room and opened the windows in there. I'm pretty sure I would have passed out by the end of the day otherwise.

It's not formaldehyde like we first thought. It's been treated so it doesn't off-gas formaldehyde. Instead they rubbed linseed oil on it and THAT's what's making the place smell.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

You are in a 6x2 chamber. It is dark.

I am not a huge gamer. I've been involved in a few games of D&D, as well as some of the games inspired by D&D, but I don't even have my own dice. Being that as it may I have to mention the passing of Gary Gygax Tuesday.

Gary Gygax was the principle creator of the role playing game "Dungeons and Dragons". In this role he became the father of modern gaming and grandfather of a wide swath of computer gaming. Without him there probably would never have been the "Final Fantasy" and "Phantasy Star" series of games or the "World of Warcraft" and "Everquest" games, and, of course, all the related games. In any programming class there were always a few people who had to write a program to generate characters for their favorite role playing game.

His games provided a means of social interaction for millions of social outcasts and provided a community for them. Thousands of people credit him for helping them become doctors, lawyers, police officers and more.

I may not feel his passing as acutely as I did the passing of Douglas Adams or Jim Henson but I know many people who do. I want to join with them in praising his contributions and mourning his passing.

from Penny Arcade
from Nodwick who pulled it from ... someone else.
from Order of the Stick
from Dork Tower
And don't forget the tribute by Wil Wheaton at

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Meeting people

I don't normally write about relationship issues. Not here anyway. Mom reads this. But I'm gonna touch on something here that has been getting lots of coverage on more popular blogs. The topic is how single women are supposed to meet single guys. There's about a million caveats I should include, but the biggest is that these rules change depending on what kind of person you want and what kind of relationship you want.

1) Probably the most important thing to do is go out alone.
This is also item one on the "Five Ways To Get Attacked" list. So while you want to go out by yourself you don't want to be alone.
The key factor here is not being in a pack of friends. Guys know the friends of a woman you're trying to win points with are only slightly less cruel than children. Children are just plain evil.
Being in a group makes it significantly more difficult for someone to approach you.
I go out by myself all the time and I'm always having guys hit on me. Yeah, bad news for you and me both.

2) Lose the finger jewelry.
Wedding and engagement rings go on one of those three middle fingers on either the right or left hand. So if you want to wear a purely decorative ring put it on your thumb or pinky.
Some will argue that decorative rings are clearly decorative rings and relationship rings are clearly relationship rings. This may be so to someone who is into rings. However, most guys aren't. Many of us would buy either a gum wrapper twisted in a circle or something that can hold poison or something unless we have someone telling us what is and isn't appropriate.
I've seen all sorts of rings used for engagement rings and several oddities for wedding rings, too. I have some friends who made each other's wedding rings. One has said he'll make one for me some day if I can get him a laboratory made diamond to play with. They're not normal looking rings.
I've also seen people using rings that have been passed down over the generations. These tend to have more jewels and be more gaudy than modern rings.
And if you keep moving your hands around so we can't get a good look at the ring we really can't tell. One woman threw me off for a couple of months because she was wearing her class ring. Her hand was always in motion when I saw her so all I knew was that is was shiny and on some central finger.
You can probably wear one of those rings that has chains running to a bracelet or other rings. That's almost never used as anything but decoration. But I HAVE seen one as an engagement ring once.

3) Give the guy some way to start up a conversation.
Pets are a traditional favorite but not always a possibility. Carry a good book around with you. You don't have to be reading it, although you should have at some point. You could just have it sticking out of your bag. It should be something that a guy is likely to have read so stay away from the Oprah book club. It should also be something that you'd enjoy reading.
I rarely answer personal ads, but one I did because she had read Robert Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land". Turned out she only read it because it's enough of a classic that she felt it was something she SHOULD be reading.
I'm always getting in conversations about books with other guys on the subway.

4) Stay out of the bars.
This is one of those caveats I mentioned before. Bar = meat market. You're more likely to meet Mr. Right in a chat room than you are in a bar. But if you're looking for a short term thing or just someone for the night then go right ahead.
Ask any group of people where to meet a guy and they're gonna start listing bars first. Often these are people who know better. It's just reflex. They're right in that you'll meet a lot of guys there. But are you after quality or quantity?

4.1) Coffee shops. That's the place. A guy sitting alone in a coffee shop is probably there hoping to meet someone. That or using the free Wi-fi. or both.
The most promising date I've had since moving to DC was with a woman I met in a coffee shop. She just caused every hormone gland in my body to dump at once. We went out a few times and then hung out a few times. An amazing woman, perfect in almost every way. But she writes letters to the kids she'll have some day and I don't want to have kids ever. I'm just not up for a relationship that is guaranteed to end poorly. We kept hanging out until she landed a job at a non-profit. She works 12 hour days 6 days a week. The time she had left she used for laundry, going to visit family, etc. We see each other on the street from time to time.

4.2) Or the park. Same basic idea. Look for a guy sitting alone. Especially if he has a parrot on his shoulder. I know that's where most guys hit on me.

5) Ask him out yourself.
"But traditionally..."
"I want the man to chase..."
"A man needs the confidence to..."
"But I'm afraid I'll get rejected."
Fuck all that. It's the 21st century. There's no more arranged marriages. You don't need someone to look after you. Tradition is just another word of "There's no good reason for it". The guys are afraid of being rejected, too, and have been ever since the first female amoeba laughed at the first male amoeba and made sure every other bit of slime in the pond laughed at him, too.
I've actually had a woman I'd never seen before walk up to me, tell me they'd never go out with me, and storm off. That was a real WTF moment.
You can drop all the hints you want, wear whatever slinky outfit you want, and flirt outrageously but the only sure way to let him know you're interested is to ask him out.
In college there was one woman who was interested in me. We saw each other around the dorms all the time and had several classes together. We were pretty friendly and she was really interested in me. But she was a flirt. She flirted with absolutely everyone. I had no way of knowing that she was actually interested until she out and told me as she was turning in her final. By the time I caught up with her the semester break was over and she had met someone else.
I was having dinner with a couple of girls I'd gone to college with. They told me the waitress was hitting on me. I didn't believe them. I mean, she's a waitress. How can you tell who is hitting on you and who is working for tips?

6) Friends.
The idea is that if you have friends in common then you're likely to have something in common, too. It doesn't always work, but it's someone you wouldn't have otherwise had contact with.
My cousin and his wife tried to hook me up with the wife's best friend. She had quite a bit going for her except she smoked and she lived in Seattle.

7) Get a better job(see 4.1)
If you have one of those jobs where you work 12 hour days 6 days a week your options are:
1) remain single with the occasional 1 night stand
2) date a co-worker
3) move in with someone who seems OK and hope things work. Because that's the only way you're gonna have time to see this guy.
4) get a job with better hours

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Graphic novel reviews

First I want to explain the difference between graphic novels and comic books. Comic books are those thin bundles of flexible paper that tell stories about super heroes and only cost a quarter back in the day. Graphic novels can be a storyline of 6-13 comic books all bundled together with the ads removed and a better cover. They can also be something non-super hero related. Some artists write autobiographical stories in a graphical format and sell that. Some of your favorite movies probably started out as a graphic novel that then got adapted for screen. "V for Vendetta" (the movie was better), "300", "30 Days of Night", and many others. I'm sure My Krodie can add more or enhance my limited definition.

I'm going to talk about two.

"1602" was a series of comic books written by Neil Gaiman. Gaiman's name was probably about 1/3 of why I bought it. It starts out fairly strong. It's the year 1602 and your favorite Marvel superheroes are manifesting. They don't have the silly outfits they have now, but they have the powers. X-Men, Fantastic Four, Spiderman, Capt. America, Daredevil, and Nick Fury have to face King James, the Spanish Inquisition, and figure out what strangeness is happening in Roanoke.
My biggest criticism is that instead of making this a nice stand alone story they felt the need to tie it in with the existing Marvel Universe through time travel and all that rubbish. Why can't they just let it stand on it's own?

"Pride of Baghdad" is based on a true story. During the American invasion of Baghdad four lions escaped from the zoo and got to roam free. This book tells the story from the point of view of the lions.

I'm not gonna insist you run out and buy either one. The fact that I'm discussing them at all should tell you they're better than most graphic novels I've picked up. Next time you're in the book store stroll by the graphic novel section and flip through them.
No, not the Manga section. I'm sure if Manga demonstrates the effects of radiation on a large population. It tells me we either shouldn't have nuked Japan or we should have nuked them more.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Book Review: Jennifer Government

This is why Amazon will never replace bookstores and why NetFlix will never replace the video store. There's just too much good stuff that you'll never know about unless you're walking the aisles. That's how I discovered "Good Omens" (now sitting next to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) which led me to the rest of Neil Gaiman's and Terry Pratchett's work. And now I stumbled into "Jennifer Government" by Max Barry.

"Jennifer Government" tells of the world as Ron Paul would have it. No, really. Research was done by surfing libertarian websites. The United States is a free market utopia. Your last name is determined by what company you work for or what school you attend. The schools are run by corporations that require certain levels of merchandising from the students. The government doesn't have the authority to collect taxes. Their only remaining task is to prosecute criminals and they need funding from the wronged to prosecute. The US also now runs all of North and South America and has just purchased Australia.

The book opens with Hack Nike looking for a water cooler with some water. He gets talked into signing a contract without reading it. The contract drags him into Nike's latest marketing campaign. They've built a world of hype around their latest shoes. Only 200 have been released so far so their price is $2,500 a pair. They've been spreading word that the local store will have a shipment of 5 on a particular day. Which local store? All of them. And much more than 5. Hack's job is to shoot between 5 and 10 of the people buying shoes to make it look like the demand is enough that people are killing for them. This will drive up sales even more. He just has to make sure to shoot some of the poorer people so their parents can't afford to prosecute.

Hack subcontracts to the police who subcontract to the NRA. The NRA is now the biggest baddest group of mercenaries you've ever heard of. They're an Army for hire.

Jennifer Government has a history with John Nike, the mind behind this marketing campaign. She is also investigating the Nike shootings.

This is just the start of the story. Some books you have trouble telling the characters apart, but not with this one. This one has a healthy cast of characters who all come into contact with each other to form a chaotic network of relations. The story escalates from a comedic marketing campaign to an all out war between two massive corporate partnership that climaxes in an exchange of heavy artillery between a McDonalds and a Burger King complete with missile launchers and truck mounted chain guns.

There's no message to this book. No more than what you give it. It's just a good corporate comedy.

But don't take my word for it. If you see this book in the bookstore pick it up and read the first two pages. If you're not sold by then just put it down. I'm pretty sure that you'll want a copy.

The movie is due out in 2010.