Archive for November, 2006

#732

3:21 pm, Saturday, November 11th, 2006

Remember that Terraforming Earth book I was reading? Apparently the author, Jack Williamson, died today. Kind of a weird coincidence. Anyway, finished it Wednesday night. The last third/quarter of the book wasn’t that good. For such a late publication date, nothing in the novel was very original. Mind-controlling parasites, world-killer bolides, immortality through nanotechnology, transcendence… all concepts that have been more thoroughly explored in other works. If this book had been written in the 70s or early 80s, I would’ve been more impressed. Still, it was decent.

I saw Stranger than Fiction last night. I’d like to go into detail, but that would take longer than I’ve got to write this. Though, by my interpretation, it did have a significant point vis-à-vis an argument Janelle made at the Halloween party concerning the value of a happy ending. I really liked the movie, but doubt anyone I know would feel the same way. It reminded me of Adaptation and I Heart Huckabees, but was slower and more sentimental (and, contrary to my expectations, I think those qualities helped the film).

Well, gotta get going. I’m seeing Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan at 4:00.

Looks like the McDonald’s Happy Meal toys are way cooler in Japan.

Japanese Happy Meal toys

#731

9:29 pm, Tuesday, November 7th, 2006

Jones and I hung out this afternoon. Around 4:00, we got some Subway and went to see The Prestige. After getting disillusioned by The Illusionist (rofflecopter), I wasn’t super excited about seeing another turn-of-the-century magician movie. And for the first forty-five minutes or so, I thought my fears had been confirmed. But then brilliant things started happening — I was glad to have someone with me for the car ride home because there was so much to talk about. Even hours later I’m still thinking about the film. There’s some terrific foreshadowing and metaphor in it, plus (very surprisingly) a not-insignificant amount of ethics and philosophy. Great movie.

Terraforming Earth is turning out to be a quick read. As I’d hoped, Williamson doesn’t obsess over Lunarian minutia. But this seems to come at the cost of leaving out real world science almost entirely. It’s weird to read this fantastic style that doesn’t concern itself with physics or chemistry after spending so long immersed in hard SF. And where I was afraid the book might begin to ape Robinson’s Mars trilogy, it seems Williamson only wants to use the bizarre setting as a vehicle to tell stories about a half-dozen kids who have adventures on alien worlds. (Granted, those “kids” are actually multiple generations of clones and the alien worlds are all Earth, plus n million years.)

Well, time to watch some Studio 60 and drink a Fresca before bed. Man, this place sure is exciting.

Monster coming out of a lake

#730

9:29 pm, Sunday, November 5th, 2006

I’ve decided that what the Tri-Cities needs, more than anything else, is a GameALot. And a decent movie theater wouldn’t hurt either (the ones here haven’t gotten Borat yet — it’s been showing in Auburn since Friday). But it really bites not having a place to go to meet other gamers.

I found myself with nothing to do again last night (Beefy being in Portland, Jones a bit too melancholic to be up for socializing), so I went to the 9:45 showing of Man of the Year. Didn’t care for it. It probably would’ve been decent if it included more stuff from the lead-up to the election and Tom Dobbs’s (Robin Williams) campaign, but instead it focussed on the adventures of Dobbs’s love interest: an annoyingly whiny, indecisive twit of a woman involved in a conspiracy to hide the truth about defective voting software. Louis Black was good, but they gave him very few lines.

I finished The Gods Themselves earlier today. I was a little disappointed with the third section of the book; it didn’t compare to the first two parts. Plus, I was annoyed that the humans never made real contact with the “para-men” from the other universe. The first part was (loosely) about a scientist trying to communicate with these extra-dimensional aliens who help Earth develop free energy; then the second part was basically the same story from the point of view of one of the aliens with whom he’d traded messages. But the third part doesn’t further that storyline at all. In fact, it doesn’t even feature any of the previous characters. And the loose ends from the alien story ever get tied up.

Tonight I’ll start reading Terraforming Earth. After all this 30+ year old stuff, I need some recent sci fi. I’m getting a little tired of stories set on Luna though, so hopefully this one won’t spend too much time there. (Or, if it does, maybe it can at least avoid the constant stream of trivia about 0.16 G adaptation that Heinlein and Asimov were so obsessed with imparting to their audience.)

During a particularly boring stretch of afternoon yesterday, I flipped through my dad’s parallel bible and spotted an interesting passage. (A parallel bible, BTW, is basically a book with four different versions of the bible displayed side by side for easy comparison. This one has King James in one column, then New International in another, then Living, then New Revised Standard.) The text from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 gave me a weird feeling of deja vu. After some thinking and a quick google search, I realized it was nearly identical to The Byrds’s Turn, Turn, Turn. Isn’t it strange to think that, at some point in time, a song made up almost entirely of scripture was number one in the US?

Well, this killed some time. Guess I’ll go get a Famous Bowl and watch the new Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror XVII on the DVR. BTW, speaking of Famous Bowls, I just found this sweet 2-for-1 coupon on the KFC web site.

Futuristic City Scene

#729

11:33 am, Saturday, November 4th, 2006

Well, I’m in the Tri-Cities now. On Wednesday I did a sort of one-on-one focus group thing at Gilmore Research for Sterling Savings Bank’s new web site. It was pretty fun, only took an hour, and they paid me $75.

Yesterday I was really bored. Beefy and Jones didn’t want to do anything, so I went and saw The Departed at the Carmike 12. It was very good, but the twists at the end weren’t of the magnitude I’d expected. Some of the dialogue was a little hard to swallow when delivered with that heavy Boston accent. Maybe it was accurate, but to me it sounded silly. It’s hard to suspend your disbelief and accept that people who talk like that could actually be competent detectives.

I set the Moxi DVR over here to record some shows for me. In addition to the lack of a 30-second skip button, the machine lacks another critical TiVo innovation: It doesn’t warn you of scheduling conflicts. It just overwrites pre-existing recording slots without telling you (whereas TiVo throws up a window when a conflict occurs that shows what programs will fail to record if you confirm the action). Oh, and apparently you can’t pause video indefinitely — it resumes on its own after about 15 minutes. I ended up missing The Office because of that “feature” — I kept pausing the playback and when I finally hit play it had replaced the stuff I thought I was saving with some game show (Deal or No Deal or something lame like that). Now I’m going to have to BitTorrent the episode and install the proper video codecs on this machine.

Doesn’t look like much’ll be happening today again. I’m probably just going to run errands for the clinic, get some fast food, and buy some kitty litter. Maybe I’ll install MTGO on a computer here and participate in a Time Spiral booster draft.

#728

12:35 am, Wednesday, November 1st, 2006

Just got back from the Seattle GURPS game. Got to meet the new player, John. He’s pretty cool — more into the in-character role-playing than the rest of us (which is a good thing; you get more out of the NPCs that way). Like Torsten, Kristian, and Martin, he’s Canadian. Anyway, we were fooling around with the grail stones in Riverworld and the gods (Alien overlords? Enlightened spirits? We’re not sure what they are.) showed up and decided to boot us to another parallel somewhere beyond the reach of Homeline (and, presumably, accessible by Centrum). We tried to get some information from them about the “Riverworld experiment,” but they wouldn’t tell us much. Most of our questions were met with answers like “It’s beyond your comprehension.” My best guess at the moment is that Martin’s Riverworld (by his own admission it’s not entirely canonical) is a sort of forum meant to give every incarnation of a soul a chance to reach enlightenment without having to reincarnate multiple times. Of course, that assumes the Riverworld gods were being truthful with us (and we’ve already seen proof that they’re not as perfect as they claim).

Much to my chagrin, Martin wouldn’t reveal his campaign secrets even after the session ended (on the basis that we might still have further interaction with the Riverworld parallel). It’s a little like being one of the characters on Lost. I was actually contemplating having my character commit suicide just before we were exiled to see if the Riverworld gods would use their “soul catcher” on me (and, thus, give me a peek at the inner workings of their cosmic laboratory). But, obviously, it would have been an overly risky wager.

Man, I don’t know why, but I can barely keep my eyes open tonight. Got plenty of sleep last night, but I’m completely bushed at the moment. BTW, it’s freezing here. Below freezing, actually. I am not looking forward to walking the dog in a couple minutes.

I got a couple presents yesterday, which was kind of weird (but very appreciated). Keith gave me the Spycraft sourcebook for helping him move a couple months ago, and Anthony gave me this really fancy leather deck box for helping out his business (i.e. buying Magic cards and playing games there all the time). Pretty cool. Incidentally, when I was there playing Magic last night (after the d20 game), I got a look at this new scary deck Garret made. It’s a mono-red that uses Sneak Attack and Gratuitous Violence to put out tons of huge, hasted dragons very quickly.

Also, I did my absentee ballot today. I think it’s dumb that they charge you $0.63 in postage to send in the darn thing though. I mean, the tax payers already pay for the printing and distribution of the ballots; why not go that tiny bit further and cover the return?

My 2006 Absentee Ballot

Oh yeah, and I’m going to be in the Tri-Cities from November 2nd through the 12th. I’ll have my BlackBerry with me the whole time if anyone needs to contact me.