April 30, 2008


Short post, because I'm going to a going away party tonight. Biggest annoyance in working with Blogger for a blogging tool? That "www.blogger.com" works while "blogger.com" doesn't appear to do so. Those 4 extra characters ruin my day - ok, not really.

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TV Pregnancy

TV Pregnancies are an interesting beast. Sometimes they're just that, a fake pregnancy. Other times, like what I've just watched of Deep Space Nine, they're used as cover for an actor's real pregnancy.

In the case I'm observing now, though, they're really stretching believability: O'Brien's wife Keiko was involved in an accident aboard a runabout, and in order to save both her and her baby, Bashir had to "transplant" the baby into Major Kira, a Bajoran. Admittedly, Farscape did this in the "Peacekeeper Wars" miniseries even more implausibly (in that case, the child accidentally winds up in Rygel - a male Hynerian, who's also a puppet), but I chalk that up to them being weird.

In the case of the DS9 pregnancy switch, like I mentioned above, was a cover-up of an actors pregnancy. Nana Visitor was pregnant with Siddig El Fadil's child (named Django El Tahir El Siddig). They got married a year later, but divorced in 2001.

On a side note, I never liked Siddig's decision to change his credited name to "Alexander Siddig" after the third season of DS9.

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April 29, 2008

Yeah, it sorta hurts

I've got a bit of a headache. Ok, maybe it's more than a bit. After this I'm gonna try to stay away from my computers for the rest of the evening and take it easy. In the mean time, if you appreciate his music, you should "demand" that Jonathan Coulton come to town.

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Engineering Heads

What is it about the head of engineering on space shows/TV in general that makes them well liked? Hell, even just gadget guys are pretty well liked. For example:

  • Montgomery "Scotty" Scott, Head of Engineering, USS Enterprise 1701 ("No bloody 'A', 'B', 'C', or 'D'")
  • Geordie La Forge, Head of Engineering, USS Enterprise 1701-D
  • Miles O'Brien, Chief of Operations, Deep Space 9
  • Galen Tyrol, (not gonna guess this one), Battlestar Galactica - though I guess he's not the "Chief" anymore
  • Q, Gadget Guy?, MI6 (James Bond movies)
  • Professor Albert Wickwire, Not-Quite-Mad Genius, Wild West (The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.)

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April 28, 2008


AKA, Jonathan Coulton, mentioned way back in one of my first posts, is a singer/songwriter, mostly of humorous music. He's most famous among my co-workers for "Code Monkey", but he's also semi-famous for the song mentioned in that earlier post, "Still Alive". He's got some seriously hilarious stuff, though. He's a pretty good live singer too, which makes sense given that he used to be a Whiffenpoof (you'll forgive them the girly name, I hope).

"RE: Your Brains" is all about a group of zombies trying to convince holdouts in a shopping mall to let them in. It's really funny with audience participation.

"First of May" is a song some might consider close to some of Tenacious D's stuff (it's not rock, but it's definitely vulgar).

"Ikea" is a song about, you guessed it, Ikea. It's also a song that uses the not-quite-rhyme of "Norsemen" with "[Di]vorced men".

Interesting fact: most of his music is released under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial license. This means that your welcome to give your friends copies of (most of) the songs, remix them, rerecord them in another language, etc. Provided, of course, that you don't make any money from them.

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It's a little late for a morning post, but this is it. Due to a confluence of events it managed to take this long. Mainly due to getting caught up in completing some hunts (FFXII, because the only way to get access to the Bubble, Reverse, Bravery, and Faith spells is to have killed at least 14 or so marks) while the dishwasher was using up all my hot water.

While I've been spending time on FFXII, I've been listening to Pandora Radio. It's an interesting idea: take the "genome" of music you like - melody, harmony, rhythm, instrumentation, etc. - and try to match that to other music. Personally, I find its efforts on that front a little vague, but I have been enjoying the "Alternative Pop/Rock" genre station.

In somewhat sad, but still good news, one of my co-workers is leaving us. I have to say that it sounds like quite the learning experience, even though I've never put much, if any, stock in certifications. It's too easy to have a lot of knowledge and no experience - though I know Brian won't fall into that category/trap. I suppose they are good for giving clients a warm, fuzzy feeling, though.

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April 27, 2008


No, not the X-Men character or the chess tactics. I'm talking about part of the combat system from Final Fantasy XII.

See, the game lets you, basically, program the combat schemes you want to use. For the most part, this is useful in automating the "random" combats - it's not random combat in the usual FF sense; it's more like an MMO - and automating the rote portions of boss-combat. It also allows you, in one specific case, to automate leveling.

There's just one little thing that pisses me off. The game restricts what gambit conditions you have access to based on where you are in the game. In particular, it doesn't give you access to any of the "Self" gambits except for "Self" (with no condition attached) until you're quite a good ways into the game. Which means every time I run myself out of MP using a quickening? I have to manually charge back up.

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Parrot post: It should be no surprise to everyone, but Nintendo had a really good year. Beyond just the financials too: looks like the Wii has an attach rate of about 7.48 games per system. That means that what people have been saying is wrong - people are buying games for their Wiis.

That should definitely attract developers, if only they'd stop with the minigame games. I'm all for party games, but to be really good it needs to be something different. So if you aren't going to be different, stop that minigame game and make something else.

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April 26, 2008

The Fourth Wall (Commonality Answered)

What do the songs have in common? They all break the fourth wall in some sense - they don't just tell a story or express some feeling, they actually talk to the audience.

  • "The Hook" by Blues Traveler - Possibly debatable, but the song goes on at length about how to get people to listen to something that has no real content - while following those rules itself.
  • "Epilogue (Nothing 'Bout Me)" by Sting - The eleventh song on the aptly titled Ten Summoner's Tales, this song's words speak to what came before on the album. Namely that they were just that - "tales" - and that they bear no relationship to the singer.
  • "We're So Starving" by Panic at the Disco - The first song on Pretty. Odd. (and also the shortest), this could really be written off as just an introductory song. Panic takes some time out to say "We're so sorry we've been gone. We were busy writing songs for you!" and to reassure the fans that "you don't have to worry 'cause we're still the same band." Of course, it seems like some the fans don't believe them.
  • "Thriller" by Fall Out Boy - The opening track from Infinity On High, the song is mostly story about their rise to fame, so it's inclusion is admittedly debatable. However they do take the time to say to their hardcore/"true" fans that those fans are the only ones they really care about because, "crowds are won and lost and won again/but our hearts beat for the diehards."

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Still not gonna answer the question I posed a day or two ago. I will say that you need to look at the words and not the music to find the answer though.

In other news I'm watching There Will Be Blood for the first time this morning. I have to say I was a little worried at first due to what some might consider an extraordinarily long stretch of silence at the very beginning. I'm not one against silence in movies (No Country for Old Men makes good use of it), it was just a little alarming. It looks like it's going to work out to be quite fascinating though, 1 hour in, and an 1:36 to go.

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April 25, 2008

Security Measures

I'm not gonna answer that question I posed in the post before this just yet. You can add "Epilogue (Nothing 'Bout Me)" by Sting to the list though.

So, the one of the more recently implemented security measures in a lot of places online are "personal" or "secret" questions. They're used for retrieving lost passwords and as another layer of password-like security, and are generally made of the standard questions: "What's your mother's maiden name?", "What's your city of birth?", "What's your favorite sport?" (I love that one: questions like these should be something factual. That one is just begging to be forgotten or to change.), etc.

As I pointed out up above, some places don't choose good questions. What's worse in some places is that they never let you change the questions or answers, meaning your stuck with what you picked. WoW, I'm looking at you. I realize they do this so that accounts can be recovered from theft, but there should be some sort of recourse. Luckily when I had to recover an account's password today their account support accepted my spoken version of the security question's answer.

There has to be a better way than this. I just don't know what it is.

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What do "The Hook" by Blues Traveler, "We're So Starving" by Panic at the Disco, and "Thriller" by Fall Out Boy have in common?

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April 24, 2008


That's right, I'm going for the throat on this one. Who better to start off a discussion on genetic discrimination than the poster-boy himself: Khan Noonien Singh. A relic of the Star Trek universe's "Eugenics Wars" (which took place in the mid-to-late 1990s - heh), he was a man of extraordinary strength, mental capacity, and ambition. That didn't make him a good man, though, as he and his selectively-bred cohort conquered most of the world only to be overthrown by the rebellious populace.

But of course, I have a real world point to make here: Congress is considering a bill to prohibit discrimination by employers and insurers based on the results of genetic tests. If this becomes a law and isn't wrapped up in the standard Congress-crap (ok, who am I kidding - this probably won't get passed with a load of crap attached), it's a really good thing. I know I don't want to be excluded from employment or insurance because I have a genetic disposition towards diabetes (which is likely: both of Grandmothers had it).

What does everyone else think?

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For those about to rock!

Eh, this is just another short post. I'm no good at Guitar Hero. I'm not even that good at Rock Band (regardless of actual vocal skill, I can pass 99% of the songs on Hard without gaming the system). But I did find this kind of cool site about both games: Fake Plastic Rock. It's put together by Jeff Atwood of Coding Horror.

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April 23, 2008

Wil says,

"Don't be a dick!"

You may know him as an actor, programmer, improvisational/sketch comedian, geek writer, poker player, or a caring father to his step-sons. Some of you may even know of the following he's gotten (good and bad) all over the internet - see alt.wesley.crusher.die.die.die and WWdN: In Exile. He's Wil Wheaton, aka Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation, aka Gordie in Stand By Me.

To be honest, though, his most important contribution to the world may be something that few people have ever heard outside of the gaming community. Last year, he gave the keynote at the Penny Arcade Expo, and it was amazing. You can find the audio online, from say, Joystiq, but be warned: as Wil himself says after the shocking beginning "[this] keynote is rated MA by the ESRB." It's a fascinating retrospective on video-gaming in general, and a powerful refutation of the supposed detrimental effects of video games.

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No...and never to you

I'm having trouble thinking of anything particular to write about this morning, but in keeping with my heavy posting schedule, I thought I'd share this piece of news from yesterday.

If you've paid any major attention to the realm of video game movies, you've probably heard of Uwe Boll, infamous creator of at best mediocre, money-losing movies. Well, when he heard that Blizzard wanted to make a Warcraft movie, he wanted in. Well, it seems that someone over at Blizzard knows the man's reputation, because they said no, and they said it hard.

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April 22, 2008


Ever have one of those days where something just snaps into place? I had a moment like that today, regarding some of my own strengths and weakness in software development.

For instance, I'm positively no good at estimating the time it will take to do anything. It's not even an issue of guessing an incorrect figure, frequently it's just that I have no idea how long something could/should take. As such, I feel kind of bad whenever I have to give one, especially if it's a big project of any sort.

Even taking it a step back from that, I'm only moderately good at extracting requirements out of users. I do tend to think that I'm decent at determining potential requirements after the fact, but that doesn't really help.

One thing I am pretty good at, and I think anyone in my family could vouch for this, is knowledge of the systems I work with regularly. Odds are pretty good if you asked me about my "primary" system, I could answer any question or know almost exactly where to look to answer it. It started with a tendency to accumulate encyclopedic knowledge of my interests. I think I picked it up from my Dad - we both have a pretty good knowledge of actors, and could probably play a good game of "spot the Vancouver actor" on shows filmed up there.

As a result of that tendency, I'm also a pretty good storage point of the way things can be done. Not always the way they should be done, but if it works and I've used it, odds are pretty good that I remember it. I probably remember it when it doesn't work too - it helps when you don't make the same mistake more than two or three times.

My biggest "failing" of all though: anxiety. I have the hardest time actually bringing up anything to someone I'm not comfortable with. At work, that consists mostly of my area and three of my users. Luckily they're the three users for whom I do most of my work. When I lock up about something, I tend to stay that way too. It really sucks.

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Nine in the Afternoon

So, I listen to lots of different kinds of music, and one thing's always struck me as interesting: it's often easier to move forward with a band - for me at least - than it is to move backwards. For some people it's the other way around: a band evolves their style or experiments with something new and suddenly they can't stand what used to be their favorite band.

This comes up because of one of the bigger shifts I've seen in style: Panic at the Disco's Pretty. Odd. Previously I would have classified them as one of my guilty pleasure bands (like Fall Out Boy, which is a different story) - you know, among the things you do/listen to/watch that you'd rather people not know about - but at least with regards to Pretty. Odd., their sound has matured. In fact, if you listen close enough (or, not that closely as the case may be) you may hear the direct Beatles influence their music seems to have picked up. See the video below for an example of what I'm talking about, in both audio and visual media.

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April 21, 2008

On Shattered Expectations

Otherwise known as the dashed hope. A tool of magicians of stage and screen, it allows them to forge new pathways and thoughts in the audience's brains. Even though I'm about to go to Star Trek-land again, an exploration of this idea is the cause.

Last night, I was watching the end of ST:DS9's second season, "The Jem'hadar," when I came across an interesting application of this principle. In it, Quark and Sisko are captured by a previously unseen species, the titular Jem'hadar. To aid in their rescue, Starfleet sends the USS Odyssey - a Galaxy-class starship, same as the Enterprise (1701-D model). They do this in order to set us up with expectation that this should be a comparatively smooth operation. After all, the Enterprise could handle nearly anything, short of the Borg, without major damage.

I'm sure you've already guessed where I'm going with this, however. After getting the captives off of the surface of the planet, the Federation forces turn to run because the Jem'hadar are too much to handle. While they're attempting to do so, though, a Jem'hadar ship does a suicide run on Odyssey, destroying it.

See what they did there: you think everything should turn out fine. This is a Federation ship, Galaxy class, so most of the audience knows what they're capable of doing. They - the writers - have just shown us that the Jem'hadar are a) very powerful and b) very dedicated, willing to die to achieve victory, even against a fleeing opponent.

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Rules of Acquisition

"Every once in a while, declare peace. It confuses the hell out of your enemies!"
-- 76th Rule of Acquisition
The Ferengi, ultra-capitalists of the Star Trek universe, follow 285 rules (never entirely codified in the run a of series, but most of them have been written and used), referred to as the "Rules of Acquisition".
"You can't free a fish from water."
-- 217th Rule of Acquisition

The Ferengi first appeared in ST:TNG, but didn't really get fleshed-out until ST:DS9.
"Treat people in your debt like family. Exploit them."
-- 111th Rule of Acquisition

In addition to the Rules, the Ferengi also recognize the five Stages of Acquisition: infatuation, justification, appropriation, obsession, and resale. Unfortunately, until late in DS9's run, Ferengi society was extremely sexist (that is, their women were expect to deal with the home, in the nude).

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April 20, 2008

At Least It Could Be Labeled Beta

Been a while since I've posted this late, but I was busy handling the Henne Mines in FFXII (Jelly ambush = killer).

So, just a few days ago, Ballmer called Vista a "work in progress". I realize what he really means: Microsoft needed to get something out the door regarding a new operating system, so they got what they could working and released with an intent to add more and fix what didn't work. Of course, the general public (and myself had this been shortly after Vista was released) will construe this as "very expensive beta" software.

Short of some slowdowns on my desktop machine, I have two boxes running Vista (a desktop and a laptop) and except for some slowdowns on the desktop - due to hardware issues compounding Vista's hefty memory load - I have to say there's nothing really wrong with it. It's just not that much of an upgrade, from the standpoint of a user, over XP. The fact that "Windows 7" is supposed to be out in 2010 just compounds the lack of user-visible upgrades.

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The Pact of Acquiescent Sorcery

"Every word in this notebook that describes my life and work is true, honestly meant, and accurate in detail."
-- Alfred Borden, The Prestige, Christopher Priest
Yes, relatively speaking I suppose it's a bit late to discuss The Prestige, in any form, but I'm going to do it. In both forms, the base of the story is the same. They follow two rival late 19th century magicians through their rivalries - Alfred Borden, stage name
Le Professeur de la Magie, and Rupert Angier, stage name The Great Danton. Their secrets remain basically the same, with the major difference between the novel and the film being the framing of the story and, as such, the final outcome of the story.

The film makes use of the magician's journals to make a multi-tiered non-linear story from the story of their rivalry. The way in which these parts unfold mirrors that of each of a magician's tricks with a pledge, a turn, and a prestige. The movie also has, I feel, a great deal more moral ambiguity in its subject material, but I can't discuss it further without giving away the secret. The framing of the novel is that of a meeting between the great-grandchildren of Angier and Borden in near-modern times.

The source of the rivalry differs greatly. Whereas in the film it is due to a magical accident, in the book it is rooted in Angier's exploitation of Spiritualism for profit. The results of the rivalry also differs greatly, both in how it effects Angier and Borden and, because of their presence in the novel, their descendants.

I highly recommend both and if you don't have the time to set aside for reading the novel, I find the audio version to be of the highest quality.

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April 19, 2008

Burn My Dread

"Beyond the beaten path lies the absolute end. It matters not who you are... Death awaits you."
So, I finished it - Persona 3 - slightly faster than expected.

Overall, I'd say it's pretty good. I did spend over 80 hours playing it, so I hope it was. I'll admit I played on easy - reports of exactly how this works vary, but I know that easy gives you 10 Plumes of Dusk, non-obtainable items that resurrect and heal your party in the event that the Main Character dies, and may decrease the enemy's damage and defense - although unless it also decreases the effectiveness of the enemy's Hama and Mudo (light and dark, respectively, instant death) spell, it's still pretty unforgiving.

The hardest thing to get used to is that you only control the main character in combat, while the rest of your team is AI-driven. Luckily, shortly into the game you get enough "tactics" options to make them smart, as long as you use them. Combat is purely turn based and makes use of a variation of some of the other SMT games' "Press Turn" system. This variation makes it so that, if a character gets a critical or attacks a weakness that would've resulted in knocking down the opponent, they get an extra turn. Should all enemies be knocked down, you'll usually be given the chance to make an "all-out" attack, where all the standing members of your party attack in cartoon-like cloud. On easy, assuming this effects the damage, this is usually enough to kill any random encounter.

One thing that I'm not sure I've broached on here before is the way the game mixes night-time dungeon crawling with the daytime experiences of a Japanese high-schooler. The games lasts the duration of a standard school year in Japan (April - March), give or take the last two months. During this time you go through what's best described as a semi-dating-sim type of game, hanging out with some of your team members, other classmates, and adults as well as spending time studying, singing karaoke, and drinking "pheromone" coffee to raise social stats (Academics, Charm, Courage). These social activities are important to the dungeon crawling part as well: the personas you can fuse will gain bonus experience points on creation depending on what social-links you have built up.

Overall, a very engrossing enjoyable game, that is at times thought-provoking.
I will
Burn my dread
I once ran away from the god of fear
And he chained me to despair

Burn my dread
I'll break the chain
And run till I see the sunlight again

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Just updates

No comments on last night's Galactica, except to say that it was pretty dark.

This weekend is my push to finish up January in Persona 3. I figure I'm gonna cheese my way through the final boss (I've been leveling up in the Monad block), either through sheer force of levels or if I want to be really cheesy, through the Armageddon fusion spell (gained through having the Lucifer or Satan persona equipped and the other one in your persona inventory).

After that, I'm not really sure what I'm going to do. I have so many games I could take to finishing up. For instance:

  • Final Fantasy XII
  • Kingdom Hearts II
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga I & II
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne
  • Persona 3: FES (yes, I haven't started this, but it comes out on Tuesday - if you don't already own Persona 3, this is the game to pick up; it has the "director's cut" of Persona 3 - referred to as The Journey - and the epilogue expansion - The Answer - all for less than the original Persona 3)
And so on, and so on.

Either way, I figure I'll "burn my dread" this weekend.

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April 18, 2008

The Spock-etype

Yeah, another post related to Star Trek. It's something that I'm sure has been noted before, and existed before him (see: 1930s/1940s robot stories), but Spock has to be the iconic man on the outside. There's not a Star Trek series without a Spock-figure. It's the crew member who, due to circumstance, doesn't understand humans/humanoids/solids/etc. and gets to be somewhat funny because of it.

  • Spock, Star Trek. I know I already mentioned him but come on, he deserves another. This green-blooded (copper-based blood) Vulcan/Human hybrid. Cold, calculating, declarer of irrationality, he was a great foil to McCoy.
  • Data, Star Trek: The Next Generation. With even less connection to emotions (except for when he got too much from the emotion chip left to him/forcibly implanted into him by his creator or his brother Lore), his inability to use contractions doesn't make him that much different from a lot of other Science Fiction aliens. Except he's an android, so he's more like a classic robot that way.
  • Odo, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. He's actually the most human of the bunch, even if he's a) not human and b) not even a naturally solid being. He understands us solids, but that doesn't mean he deals with life like us.
  • Emergency Medical Hologram, Star Trek: Voyager. Probably the most consistently written character on Voyager. He also got some of the best episodes. Funny guy.
  • Seven of Nine, Star Trek: Voyager. I have to say that by the time she became a fixture on the show, I wasn't really watching that much. Still, in this case, we have a human made inhuman by most of a lifetime as part of the Borg collective.
  • T'Pol, Star Trek: Enterprise. Another Vulcan - like Spock - but pure - unlike Spock - she had to learn to deal with humans at time where they weren't fully accepted members of space-faring society.
Yes, that's right, every single Trek series has a Spock-like person aboard, even if they didn't stay that way to the end. Interestingly enough, I can't think of any of the other TV space series that had one. Maybe Andromeda, but I only put that forward because I didn't watch that much. Any others I'm forgetting?

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I'm talking about TV, and not the kind of continuity that involves what tie someone had on in the last shot or whether that can of coke was open or not. I mean the kind that says: you got hurt last week and unless enough time has passed between weeks, you should still be hurting. When it comes to TV, I want continuity from my dramas and usually don't care about the comedies. The Simpsons has even joked about their lack of continuity before.

When it comes to Star Trek series, the only ones that seem to have any sort of real continuity - that is, not just for the big stuff, like Thomas Riker on TNG or the various Borg experiences throughout the modern series - are Deep Space Nine and Enterprise. But I'm not going to talk about Enterprise, as I didn't watch it all the way through.

Watching through Deep Space Nine again, I'm noticing bits and pieces of small continuity: Quark mentioning a rematch between O'Brien and Bashir because they never finished the first one seen several episodes before; In one episode, Sisko talks to O'Brien about teaching Jake - and in the one I'm watching now, he's actually instructing him about isolinear rods and learning that Jake doesn't want to join Starfleet.

To be honest though, even DS9 is light on the continuity - at least until you get to the Dominion War. For a more full continuity trip, you have to go to series like Babylon 5, Farscape, or most anime series (where continuity is more the rule than the exception).

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April 17, 2008

Big Numbers

Google just released their 1Q08 financials today, and the news is good - if you're a stockholder, which is probably rare at $449.54 a share.

One thing I find hard to believe is the way that some industries (ok, it seems like software mostly), have profits that are a huge percentage of their revenue. 30% of Google's revenue was profit last quarter - translates to roughly an OR (Operating Ratio = Operating Expenses / Revenue) of 70. Blizzard Entertainment (admittedly a subsidiary of Activision-Blizzard), though not public, supposedly operates around 42? Which is insane, but makes sense when you look at WoW's subscriber numbers.

This differs entirely from the freight industry. We pretty much shoot for as low a number between 100 and 89 as we can get (hopefully at least sub-96 or so, that's what we need to be able to recapitalize periodically). Of course, with the current recession, we were one of the first industries to take the hit (consumer slowdown = less need to refresh inventory), and we'll be one of the first to see the rise back. Just don't ask us when: by the time we notice it, it'll probably be in full swing.

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Mix CD, Part 1

It's not something I do very frequently - maybe 2-3 times a year - but occasionally I like to pick a theme and make a mix CD that matches it. Even though it may be easy this time, try a pick the theme for a CD made from the following tracks:

  • "Fearful Experience"* - Shoji Meguro - Persona 3 OST
  • "Aura (Evil Version)" - .hack//EXTRA
  • "Come Undone" - The Delgados - Universal Audio
  • "Perfect Blue Buildings" - Counting Crows - August & Everything After
  • "Yellow Cat/Red Cat" - Say Anything - ...Is A Real Boy
  • "Upside Down" - Barenaked Ladies - Everything to Everyone
  • "Balaclava" - Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare
  • "Insignificant" - Counting Crows - Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings
  • "The Dreaming Tree" - Dave Matthews Band - Before These Crowded Streets
  • "Fear" - Sarah McLachlan - Fumbling Towards Ecstasy
  • "Walk On The Ocean" - Toad the Wet Sprocket - Fear
  • "Did I Sleep Through It All?" - Tracy Bonham - Blink the Brightest
While I was making this, I came across another subset of music that I'm going to have to try a mix of someday - sort of related to this theme.


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April 16, 2008

Overprotective Mothering

I'm not sure if you've seen this or not, but it's made waves occasionally. No, I'm not talking about helicopter parenting, though I may talk about that at some point. I'm talking about JK Rowling taking what I believe to be an over-protective stance regarding the Harry Potter series of books.

The topic at issue here is the publishing of an unauthorized, fan-created encyclopedia of the universe in which her books take place. I can see why she might need to take formal action - if you're not familiar with the law regarding trademarks, you have to make an effort to protect them or risk losing them - but I have to admit I'm among the crowd who doesn't see what the big deal is. Unless they're trying to make the book out to be an official publication, or doing anything to deceive people into believing it is, how is this situation different than the fan-fiction that pervades the internet? If anything, the fan-fiction is a worse - though probably less attackable - use of her marks and copyrights.

Even though I'd never get a chance to do anything with it - nor would I necessarily wish to - this kind of over-protectiveness is why there is no standardized, licensed Harry Potter RPG, which is really kind of sad.

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Can you really?

Can you love someone and hate them at the same time? Can they inspire you and digust you simultaneously? Can you see their every perfection and flaw? Can you trust them completely with your life, but know they can turn on you at any second? Can you feel like you know them inside out, and still know that they're a stranger to you?
That's something my sister posted as a note on Facebook. I'm going to try to respond here.
  1. Yes, although I think it's more appropriate to say that you can love someone but hate what they do or hate someone and love what they do.
  2. I think it's possible, but rare.
  3. That's hard to say, and I think your next questions point to the answer being "no." They both imply that there's something you know that you don't know about the person in question, which would mean that you don't see every perfection and flaw.
  4. Again, it's possible, but I think that it's either some knowledge you've kept hidden from yourself or, possibly, an issue of trust.
  5. Yeah. I think that's happened to me before. It's an issue in that it's incredibly hard to really know someone, but after a certain point we all assume we know how someone will react, what their opinion will be. We can almost never be certain though.
And now for a quote from my own catalog that may be somewhat relevant:
"I now believe that every weakness is a strength misapplied, and every strength is a weakness which has found its proper use."
-- Stephen R Donaldson

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April 15, 2008


I hate to be such a Slashdot copier, but I could pass this one up. It seems like Monster Cable is threatening another, smaller cable manufacturer - Blue Jeans Cable - with an infringement suit regarding some connector designs. Unfortunately, they didn't count on their target's president, Kurt Denke, being a former lawyer. In addition to firmly handing them their asses, he managed to be pretty funny about it. The following are some excerpts:

Read the patents narrowly, and Monster loses; read them broadly, and Monster loses. You are welcome to point out any error in my reasoning; but I have to say that I will be unreservedly surprised if you are successful in doing so.
Further, if any of these patents or trademarks has been licensed to any entity, please provide me with copies of the licensing agreements. I assume that Monster Cable International, Ltd., in Bermuda, listed on these patents, is an IP holding company and that Monster Cable's principal US entity pays licensing fees to the Bermuda corporation in order to shift income out of the United States and thereby avoid paying United States federal income tax on those portions of its income; my request for these licensing agreements is specifically intended to include any licensing agreements, including those with closely related or sham entities, within or without the Monster Cable "family," and without regard to whether those licensing agreements are sham transactions for tax shelter purposes only or whether they are bona fide arm's-length transactions.
Not only am I unintimidated by litigation; I sometimes rather miss it.

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It's all DNA these days.

"I'll bet you ten quid they're DNA specialists. It's all DNA these days. Like that CSI bullocks. CSI Cardiff, I'd like to see that. They'd be measuring the velocity of a kebab!"
-- Police Constable (PC) Andy, Torchwood, "Everything Changes"
So I haven't managed to get restarted on Persona 3 yet, mostly due to resizing my Windows partition again (thank you, Winclone). Of course, I wasn't aided by my trip to Books-a-Million, where I picked up the latest volumes of Ultimate X-Men and Ultimate Fantastic Four, along with the first volume of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight. Read through all of those and watched the latter 11 episodes of series 2 of Torchwood.

Torchwood, an anagram and spin-off of Doctor Who, is sort of the Doctor Who franchise's opposite number for The Sarah Jane Adventures, that is to say it's the post-watershed series. Set up toward the beginning of the 2nd series of the new, Torchwood is a secret organization devoted to combating aliens and adapting their technology, if possible, to Britain's use. Of course, this series follows Torchwood 3, the Cardiff, Wales office.

Regarding series 2, I need to rewatch the next to last episode as it goes into the backstories of all the main Torchwood characters save Gwen (who we already have backstory on, given she's our PoV character). James Marsters - yes, that James Marsters - had a recurring role in the series and I think he did a fantastic job.

I think that's about all I can say without potentially spoiling people. It should suffice to say that I think it's a good series that can go very dark at times.

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April 14, 2008

Why, oh why, EVE?

Slashdot is reporting on the latest scandal to rock the world of Space MMORPG EVE Online: the source code has been leaked via torrent. (Note: I don't recommend you go searching for it, especially if you play EVE - CCP is watching the torrents and banning IP addresses that match customers). This is far from the first such issue that CCP has had to deal with. It's gotten to the point that they've instituted something similar to an Internal Affairs division, though it's doubtful that's done anything yet.

The big question now is whether CCP is actually seeding some of this code. If so, I can see them technically being in the right regarding banning downloading players - though being complete bastards about it - but the more interesting area of legality would be whether CCP could pursue anyone downloading it on IP-infringement/copyright charges. IANAL, but I think it could put a serious damper on any efforts to do so - also, shame on them if they try.

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Cookie Jar

Ok, time for another bit of lyric analysis, this time on something down but nowhere near as dark. It's not like the song is particularly opaque either. "Cookie Jar", by Jack Johnson, off the album On and On.

And I would turn on the TV, but it's so embarrassing,
To see all the other people, I don't know what they mean.
And it was magic at first when they spoke without sound,
But now this world is gonna hurt.
You'd better turn that thing down.
Turn it around.
This part, I don't quite get. I realize he's setting a point up for a repeat (these lines end the song as well), namely that if you're fed up with the way the world is, turn off the TV and do something about it. If someone has some more insight into the other part of this, please enlighten me.
"Well, it wasn't me," says the boy with the gun,
"Sure I pulled the trigger, but it needed to be done,
Because life's been killing me ever since it begun.
You can't blame me, 'cuz I’m too young."
If you didn't get it from just reading that, we're investigating a murder. Like in many investigations, the blame is gonna be passed around (or attempted to be passed around). In this case, we start with someone we know committed the crime, but claims he's too young. It's even a semi-valid defense in this country: for all crimes, there's a difference in punishment for minors unless explicitly tried as an adult.
"You can't blame me; sure the killer was my son,
But I didn't teach him to pull the trigger of the gun.
It's the killing on this TV screen.
You can't blame me; it's those images he's seen."
Now we go to the parents. This is probably the PoV for which I have the least sympathy. They try to pass the blame off to TV, Movies, Video Games, Music, etc. Those may have help your son on the path, but only because you probably weren't there with him. First, pay attention to what your kid's exposed to. There are ratings now on TV, Movies, and Games, and Parental Advisory stickers/labels on Music. Second, watch/play/listen to what you've bought your child with them. That way, you can answer questions and, if necessary, remind them if what they've seen is acceptable behavior.
"Well, you can't blame me," says the media man,
"Well I wasn't the one who came up with the plan.
And I just point my camera what the people want to see.
Man, it's a two-way mirror and you can't blame me."
Now we get a look at the man behind the media, but not the source of the media, that's up next. He's kind of got a point, but it all boils down to the way most media corporations - hell, most corporations, period - are run. They want to make a constantly increasing profit, and do that they only produce what they think, and have focus-group tested to prove, people will watch. They don't normally think of the way their content might effect the intended and unintended audiences.
"You can't blame me," says the singer of the song
Or the maker of the movie which he bases life on.
"It's only entertainment and as anyone can see,
Its smoke machines and make up man, you can't fool me."
Here we have the source of the media, directed by the media man above to create what the parents blame for the murder. They don't see anything wrong with what they're doing because they know all too well that what they do isn't real.
It was you, it was me, it was every man.
We've all got the blood on our hands.
We only receive what we demand,
And if we want hell, then hell's what we'll have.
The only reasonable response from all of this: we're all to blame in some, probably minor way. Do your viewing habits prompt the creation of violent media? Do you let your children watch that media without supervision, that you know of? Did you bully other kids? Did you let bullies go unopposed? “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people,” said Martin Luther King, Jr.

Then we go back to the beginning, which kind of makes sense given the admonition there to go out and change things for the better yourself. It also makes sense in relation to the source of the song's title. Fake internet points to the first person who knows it.

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April 13, 2008

53 and counting...

So, my dad turned 53 yesterday and I decided that, despite them having come up to surprise me earlier, that I'd go down to visit and have our semi-standard family meal. My immediate family's birthdays are nice and neatly packed together: mine and my dad's are 9 days apart in April, my mom's and my sister's are the same day in November.

The trip began Friday afternoon after a celebratory luncheon (for something that I'm still not sure we're officially supposed to talk about) with some of my co-workers. 3 hour drive to my parent's house with a quick stop by my old college town along the way. I started out listening to Fear the Boot #97, then switched to listening to some music - mostly Switchfoot, I think.

That evening we sat around, enjoying the Starz preview weekend that DirecTV was having. Too bad that, like all movie channels, they pretty much repeat the same stuff over and over. Of course, once 2100 CDT rolled around we watched Galactica. TV and Books are really the only consistent entertainment at my parents, since they don't have access to high-speed internet, short of satellite for which I don't think they'd pay.

On Saturday, Dad and myself lounged around for most of the morning. Mom and my sister went to a baby shower, and the plan was for us to meet them and The Olive Garden around lunch. Such was the plan and such occurred, complete with Dad getting embarrassed by the Garden's lunch crew singing their little birthday song. Sung with cake, but no candle - apparently they'd run out. Then, after a brief stop by K-Mart, the three of us who were going home went there and crashed. (My sister was going to the Senior Art Show at our Alma Mater about and hour and a half away.) Later that evening, dad popped in the DVD I'd brought: The New Frontier, the animated adaptation of Darwyn Cooke's look at the period between the Silver and Golden Age of comics within the DC Universe.

Earlier today, after getting up and watching CBS Sunday Morning, I went grocery shopping with mom - something I hadn't done in a long time. So much stuff ended up in the cart, less than when I lived with them, understandably, but still quite a bit. It's kind of amazing though, when you consider that they've mostly cut out the truly snacky foods. At the time we left, until about 1530 (I was gone by then), the power was out, which made for some pretty quiet periods. After some lunch, cooked on their gas grill, I left, saying goodbye until at least Memorial Day weekend.

So anyways, that was my weekend. How about yours? I've got approximately 1 week to finish Persona 3 before FES comes out, so that's where I'll probably be spending a good deal of free time this week.

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Travelling Again

Another short post.

Parents' electricity out.

Leaving after lunch.

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April 12, 2008


So, I have a connection to the world of coffees and teas (my sister is a barista at Starbucks). As a perk of employment and an encouragement to try the product, they get to bring home a box of teabags or a pound of coffee. Because of this, I've tried a couple of teas/herbal infusions, because they don't actually use tea leaves, and I think they've both been good.

Wild Sweet Orange, a blend of blackberry, lemongrass, spearmint, ginger, orange, has a nice slightly tart taste and is just sweet enough, but not so much as to be sickeningly so.

Refresh, a blend of peppermint, spearmint, and taragon, admittedly tastes mostly like minty water, but the taragon gives it just enough kick to not be dismissable as such.

They're both Tazo infusions and should be available at Starbucks. Not that you should go out and buy them, despite the sales pitch this
sounds like, it's really just an exercise in putting opinions down on "paper".

Oh, and I'm posting this from my phone. (Which explains the bad formatting I just had to edit out)

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Six of One...

Half a dozen of the other. I won't be spoilery for anyone who didn't watch Battlestar last night, so this will be shorter than usual. Interesting facts though: Cavills are the Ones, Leobens are the Twos
, and Simons are the Fours. This means that all of the "Significant Seven" are consecutive until you get to the Sharons (Number Eight).

I wonder if this means that the Dylan Four are numbers 9 through twelve and the unrevealed Cylon is number 7? That might make sense, given the significance of the number 7 in many works.

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April 11, 2008

"He that believeth in me...

though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die."

The question is, who were Battlestar Galactica's writers intending to nail with that quote from John 11? Starbuck, returned from the dead? Baltar, spared a gruesome death at the hands of Connor for being a Cylon collaborator? Jeanne's son's return from the brink? It obviously applies to all the Cylons, being that a) they all believe in one true god (smatterings of Christianity in an otherwise polytheistic universe) and b) they can never die, short of the others deciding that they need to be "boxed".

Jacob at TWoP (see the link to the right, I'd rather link the RSS directly so you don't see the ads or the garish page designs, but it looks like they might have gotten rid of it) also draws an interesting picture of the most evident members of Baltar's new Manson Family: they form a standard witches coven. Tracey is the Maiden (though I guess not, technically, now), Jeanne is the Mother (obviously), and Paula is the Crone.

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On the Road Again

So I'm traveling to my parents' house this afternoon for most of the weekend. It's my Dad's birthday Saturday - he's turning 53. But I have a ~3 hour drive ahead of me, so I thought I'd share how I'm going to spend my time: listening to podcasts (and music) from my iPod.

  • Fear the Boot - A look into the world of RPGs, and a little bit more, from a group of guys centered around St. Louis, MO. Just last month they actually ran a fan convention I think I would've enjoyed being at if I would've known anyone.
  • This American Life - Produced by Chicago Public Radio, this show provides a look at American life through a particular theme.
  • Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! - NPR's news quiz/humor show. Always an irreverent look at the last week's news.
  • TWiT and related shows - My weekly looks at technology, partly from people I grew to like on the now-defunct TechTV. Of the shows offered from that group of people are: This Week In Tech, Macbreak Weekly (more for the hilarity of the hosts than for the news), This Week In Media, Macbreak Tech, and The VFX Show

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April 10, 2008

On Brief Scares

My manager at work has a good way with spooking me when we wants to talk about, well, anything.

If it's something that can be discussed publicly, like the projects I'm working on, he has a very quiet way of just walking into my cube. Luckily, this doesn't scare me as much as it could, due to my conveniently placed rear-view mirror. Sometimes he even does this as the start to a more private discussion (i.e., those dealing with performance and salary).

When it is something private, it's quite a bit scarier. He either walks into your cube or phones you and asks if you have a moment to talk in one of the conference rooms. At that point, you know your in for something bad or something good, not likely anything between. Lucky for me, it's all been good - including today. Even if I'm not supposed to talk about it yet.

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Failures to Communicate

That works on so many levels. I'm working on this particular post 0500 local time, but it probably won't be posted until later on in the day, if then (I hope I have internet at home by the time I get off work if not by lunch)(edit: lunch it was).

Anyways, some pretty big storms passed through our area throughout yesterday evening and today - I saw where the storms are supposed to pick back up around 6 or 7 this morning (edit: they did, but they weren't as bad) - and managed to knock out my cable, which took my internet with it. In and of itself, it wouldn't be much to talk about, but where I work we're on-call for the applications we develop whenever they run (with some rotation depending on frequency of abends/number of supporting developers). I happen to have a pretty big job that runs at 0230 to get some numbers crunched on the previous day. Guess what? I got a call this morning at 0340.

Due to communication failures on mine and the computer room guy's end, I gave him incorrect instructions to restart the job, which resulted in getting another call about 20 minutes later. Due my other communications failure (re: cable internet), I had to drive into the office to diagnose the issue. All in all, not a fun way to start your morning. (edit: I even managed to cause more trouble for myself by driving into work and had to fix it when I went back for real.)

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April 9, 2008

The Zen of OS Installation

Or lack thereof. It's kinda frustrating when you have a situation like I did this morning. I wanted to expand the Boot Camp partition on my laptop and reinstall Windows (migrating, in the course of this, from XP to Vista...yeah, don't ask), but it wouldn't let me allocate the partition the way I wanted.

HFS and HFS+, the journaled file systems on which OS X runs, are pretty decent at keeping individual files unfragmented (analysis shows that after over a year of decent usage file fragmentation was about 0.2%), it sucks at keeping free-space in one place (same analysis, 56% fragmented). That makes it pretty darn near impossible to mess around with partitions on older systems unless you're willing to pay for solution or backup your whole system and do a restore from the backup. Something just stinks about that situation.

Ah well, storms coming through town and all (Hello, Tornado Sirens!). Probably see some more chatter from me in the morning.

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Brevity of Speech

It's an admirable thing, generally. So I'll be it here: doing some OS reinstalls. Annoying that OSX, though it handles file fragmentation well, doesn't keep everything in one place, therefore Boot Camp can't make partitions on longer-existing, fuller hard drives.

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April 8, 2008

Everything You Ever Wanted...

Everything you ever wanted, in the worst possible way. It's the common trap of three-wishes Genie/Djinni stories: wish all you want, but be careful what you've wished for. It also seems to be the phrase to watch for in Battlestar Galactica. I don't know if I should say it was "coined" by Jacob at TWoP during one of his recaps. I honestly think he's one of the more insightful writers on the site, but I can't vouch for all of them.

Just think about it. New Caprica: habitable world, Cylon death-trap. Baltar's new little cult: ego boost for the man, high potential for psycho-protectiveness. The return of Starbuck: looks good on paper, but what about the hybrid in Razor?

The BSG recaps have always been a brand of awesome unto themselves, back to when Strega wrote them. Jacob, though, just has a way with words and has put what appears to be serious thought into the underlying themes of the show, even if he claims otherwise sometimes.

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Bowling for Vampires

Ok, not really, but definitely bowling for little white and red pins. That's right, I went bowling last night. I had been debating whether or not to go, but after the afternoon's little debacle, I figured killing a few little scared pins would be a good idea. I wasn't entirely wrong either, despite my lack of skill at the game.

So I had some fun, took my camera a grabbed some pretty decent shots of people bowling the night away. I use a little Canon Digital Elph (tiny little thing), so it's like I'm using an SLR. I found that aside from a high speed ISO setting, the best way to handle getting someone in action is to make sure that the focus is set before they get in motion. On most auto-focus cameras this is accomplished by lightly pressing the button until you get some indication of focus, in my case, some squares on the LCD indicating where it's locked down the focus.

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April 7, 2008

Issues of Scope

I was originally going to make a post this evening about the bizarre creature that is Japan's CD rental industry, but work has made a rare intrusion into thoughts. I'm a little peeved/angry/upset/whatever, so you'll have to deal with it.

For whatever reason, we have a design that had been sitting around for, oh, a year or so that I got assigned to deal with a few months ago. So I finally get the thing to the point that I'm comfortable demoing it (which was longer than normal likely - I'm not used to dealing with this particular user), and suddenly I get all this crap I hadn't heard word one about sprung on me. It doesn't help that something I'm sure worked earlier is suddenly broken when I show said user how to do it.

So it looks like I've run into a pretty nice wall with no real clue where to start. I've been redirected to a design document that, if I have seen it, I apparently didn't look at long and hard enough. Lord knows I've batted this thing around enough since I took it on. Taking a closer look at it, I only notice one thing in that design that's not handled (integration with another project area's system - which makes me ask the question, why aren't they doing this?). I'll say that some of the other suggestions are good ideas, but even some those I wonder if they work at cross-purposes to what I thought we were intending to do.

So, a combination of apparent lack of research on my part and some not too unreasonable requests and I'm back to what feels like square one. It's not, I've gone too far to scrap much, but it sure feels like it. Why do I feel like I've just managed to get screwed by some sort of user-politics game that sat this particular system in my lap? But they can't take all the blame - I didn't read close enough.

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Soylent Green is People!

Sorry if I spoiled that for anyone (heh). So, I just found out that Charlton Heston passed away Saturday. He was very much the "epic" man (Ben Hur, The Ten Commandments, El Cid) and made some excellent contributions in the realm of science fiction films including Soylent Green, Planet of the Apes, and The Omega Man (the second film based on Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, after The Last Man on Earth and before the recent I Am Legend). It was sad to hear that he'd been suffering from Alzheimer's since 2002, but hopefully he left us before it had been too long of a goodbye for his family.

On a lighter note, I'm starting my own re-watch of Deep Space Nine, which I consider to be the best of the modern Star Trek shows, probably the best of them all. I say that because it was the first one to have any sense of continuity. Enterprise showed some, but it suffered from leadership by Rick Berman and Brannon Braga. I won't claim they tried to destroy Trek, but they definitely didn't do it many favors.

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April 6, 2008

Cacophonous Melodies

It may not be as uncommon as I frequently make it out to be, but there's a kind of music I tend to like that isn't exactly a genre: music that contradicts itself. Happy melodies sung cheerily about terrifyingly depressing or horrendous topics and sad music played and sung in minor keys about glorious events. Though there's far more of the former, I believe. Oh, who am I kidding, I get a weird kick out of some dark, dark music - but still beautiful music.

When I think that kind of music, the band that comes most to mind is the now defunct Scottish group The Delgados (sad really, but according the members themselves, it was amicable). You'll note I'm not talking about the whiny, "I'm gonna kill myself" kind of music. I'm talking about music that talks about strange and dark situations or general depressions of life. So, I'll start with "The Drowning Years" from the album Hate.

This is the life of a woman with demons
The first time we met I was sure she was steaming
This is my life, this is my life, what a life
So we're introduced, at the start, to a man telling the story of a woman he knew and it would seem that she has some mental problems. It would also seem that the man himself isn't particularly happy, maybe even depressed.
Life isn’t precious and life isn’t sacred
Sometimes release only comes when you meet death
A night of reprieve we were wrecked when we slept in the park
When we woke in the morning you cried could I squeeze out the dark
This is the first time we broach the subject of death in the song, the idea being there are some pains that only death can release. In the continuing story, we find out that one morning after they'd spent the night together, the woman asks the man singing to kill her.
Destroy the noises that make all the voices
Get them out of my head
Bring on the screaming and I’ll take your demons now that I’m already dead
This is the chorus. Her cry out to the world, the man. She wants it all to end. At least, that's what I get from the first two lines. The third, I think is the man, who will take on the responsibility. He's already dead inside, so this might give him something to feel.
Days of release when she almost felt better
Gradually faded and words couldn’t get her
Where is the light, where is the light, get the light
Gradually she gets worse: fewer lucid days, she's less responsive in general. I know I'm stating the obvious here, but this is an exercise for me too: to actually think about what I listen to and analyze it a bit.
Fearless and clear all her doubts had been cast off
Last night alive is a nightmare I’m part of
Dreams are a lie, dreams are a lie, so am I
If that’s all there is then I might as well get in the fire
She's made her final decision; she wants to die. He's there for her last night, either to aid in the suicide or as just a figment of her imagination. In fact, given some of the language, you have to wonder if he's real at all, or if he's just a hallucination she's using to push herself over the edge. From here we go back into the chorus.
Oh how the rights of the righteous kept coming
Shining before like the day
I stand before them and cried that you’re dying your way
Followed by the above. All the doctors, who think medication or therapy would help, all her friends and family, who don't want to see her go and think she could get better, try to stop her from taking her own life. The man, however, gets in the way and to defend her choice, as it's her life. I don't think that's entirely the case - you have a profound effect on those around you, usually anyways - but it still boils down to an issue of personal right.
I’m still not sure if the right and the wrong side is one
The song then fades out to that last line repeated several times. It's an interesting thought. How many times are we all right and wrong at the same time? Even if the answer's right today, couldn't it be wrong tomorrow?

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Random Authors, Part One

"Is it possible, just a hypothesis now, but is it possible that he delayed that scintilla of time - only that, no more; but still - because he wasn't entirely sure he wanted to move? The desire and the spasm. Mr. Schafer, your thoughts? Was there perhaps a slight, shall we say, lag in the desire?"
-- The Summer Tree
Guy Gavriel Kay, is a Canadian author, largely of what's marketed as "historical fantasy." His first foray into the realms of fantasy however, was when he helped Christopher Tolkien edit The Silmarillion.
"They ought to have met, if the gods had any kindness, any pity at all for them, in another world than this. Not here. For love was what it was, but it was not enough. Not here."
-- Tigana
Throughout his novels (of which I've read them all, save The Sarantine Mosaic duology), he superbly evokes the emotions of his characters, as well as the significance of each scene. Two of his works are semi-departures from the historical fantasy into more of a standard fantasy setting, The Fionavar Tapestry (his first work, a trilogy) and Ysabel, that have ties to our world.
"What would I have you do?" Ammar's voice had softened. He spoke Asharic now. "What you cannot do, I suppose. Go home. Breed horses, raise your sons, love your wife." He turned to the king of Valledo. "Make your country - all of Esperana if you can unite it - into a land that understands more than only war and righteous piety. Allow space in your lives for more than battle chants to inspire soldiers. Teach your people to...understand a garden, the reason for a fountain, music."
-- The Lions of Al-Rassan
In his works of historical fantasy, he derives his settings and political trappings largely from a specific place and time on our own world. He's visited an almost-medieval Italy (Tigana), looked at a version of the Albigensian Crusade from medieval France (A Song for Arbonne), medieval Spain through the eyes of two military strategists (The Lions of Al-Rassan), the Eastern Roman Empire during the period of Justinian I (The Sarantine Mosaic), and England during the reign of Alfred the Great (The Last Light of the Sun). In fact, the last three of those tales, though they share no characters, do share a world and as such many aspects, namely their particularly their interpretations of three major religions (Jaddites = Christians, Kindath = Jews, Asharites = Islamics).

He also has a book of poetry, Beyond this Dark House, which I haven't read.

  • The Fionavar Tapestry
    • The Summer Tree
    • The Wandering Fire
    • The Darkest Road
  • Tigana
  • A Song for Arbonne
  • The Lions of Al-Rassan
  • The Sarantine Mosaic
    • Sailing to Sarantium
    • Lord of Emperors
  • Beyond this Dark House
  • The Last Light of the Sun
  • Ysabel
Official site: Bright Weavings

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April 5, 2008

A Constellation Of Doubt

So, I'm "watching" - I use the term loosely, as it's more that I'm listening - "A Contellation Of Doubt", episode 4.17 of Farscape. It's one of my more frequently watched episodes, probably tied with "Unrealized Reality" for most re-watches. They're not by any stretch of the imagination my favorites (I'd say that honor goes to "Crackers Don't Matter" and "Won't Get Fooled Again" from Season 2) but they are good and make it extremely easy to just sit and listen. They're mostly dialogue (in a way, they "tell" and don't "show").

In it, John watches a recording from Earth TV made after the Moyans' visit to our little blue planet. It contains some things that weren't shown in "Terra Firma", mostly previously unaired interviews with crew and some home video that John's nephew Bobby, alongside commentary from "experts" from Earth.

It contains within it some pieces of footage that ask us to question our beliefs: Noranti condemns many religions (not by name) for condemning killing but then making allowances, Chiana pushes the appropriate age for sex issue (this is few episodes past the turning point in dealing with her rape), the experts bring up the issue of inter-special children, etc. I don't have to agree with the points the Moyans' make to realize that we need to be more aware of ourselves and how we think about ourselves.

There's also the point of what exactly would happen to Earth's societies once we make contact with other worlds? One of the first pieces of fiction I've ever seen that dealt with that is 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke. TMA-1 was hidden from the general populace for fear of what would happen when the world found out.

All in all, I find it thought-provoking and that's why I like watching it.

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That Wacky Wacky Sci-Fi

I was intending to do a full on review of the new Battlestar Galactica episode, but I can't think of anything to say right now. I'll probably do that once I've watched it again and, if he posts it promptly, listened to Ron Moore's commentary podcast.

In other news, looking at the Sci-Fi channel's upcoming schedule there's a couple of things happening that are pretty interesting. First, starting April 18, Doctor Who joins the Friday schedule for its fourth season, roughly two weeks behind its BBC premiere date - similar to what happened on BBC America with the second series of Torchwood. Secondly, in what seems a bizarre move of sorts, The Sarah Jane Adventures, a Doctor Who spin-off produced for the CBBC, joins the schedule the week before. The thing that gets me is that The Sarah Jane Adventures isn't even the first time that Sarah Jane Smith has been the focus of a Doctor Who spin-off.

All this means that I might actually set up my TiVo for Doctor Who, this being the first time the whole series will not have aired across the pond prior to premiering here. Then again, it's always edited down on SciFi.

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April 4, 2008

If events are matched closely enough to course,

they have a way of restructuring themselves to familiar outcomes. A not-uncommon trope of science fiction and fantasy time travel. The line itself is from "Unrealized Reality," an episode of Farscape. It's also used in the novel Night Watch by Terry Pratchett. But this post isn't about time travel.

It's more of an addendum to Show, Don't Tell below. Something I forgot to mention there that's handled marvelously for being an incredibly sensitive subject: The rapes of Chiana and John Crichton on Farscape. They both happen mostly offscreen (we see far more of John's than Chiana's). They're both different and effect the characters differently, and they're almost never mentioned.

Chiana is raped entirely offscreen, between the 3rd and 4th seasons. The circumstances are almost irrelevant, except that she had been blinded by her special "sight." From that point on, her sense of security and what power she had (both tied up in her sexuality) are gone. She can't stand to be touched and when she uses her "sight" in later episodes, she's noticeably uncomfortable. She doesn't really start getting back to what viewers would consider normal until the Karen Shaw incident.

John, by the time we get to "What Was Lost," has already been mentally raped a couple of times ("A Human Reaction", "Nerve"/"Hidden Memory", "Won't Get Fooled Again"), the only noticeable effect is a slow slide from sanity after his trip in the "comfy chair." Well, in the "What Was Lost" two-parter, he gets mentally and physically raped. Using Heppel oil, Commandant Grayza takes John on the shores of Arnessk. In overcoming the oil, he has his first taste of lakka, a drug that he then uses throughout most of the season to avoid giving away that he has feelings for Aeryn.

The aftereffects of both of these events are seen throughout the rest of the season, but often with no direct explanation of why. It's encouraging that they thought enough of their audience to not have to spell it out all the time.

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Literally Speaking

I got intrigued the other day with idea of making an addin for Visual Studio. So I did. A fairly small and simple one, but still, an addin nonetheless.

"What did you add to Visual Studio?," you ask. The ability to copy, without their formatting, and paste, adding formatting, string literals in both C# and VB files. It was pretty simple, and I started from JT Leigh's Copy Source as HTML addin, which copies text from VS and adds in HTML formatting so that, when pasted into a web page, it looks like it did in the IDE.

The addin was also my first real venture into C#, though honestly it's not that different from VB and C++ on the surface. I haven't had a chance to dig into some of the differentiating characteristics. I know of some of them, but haven't actually needed to use them.

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April 3, 2008

Time not important. Only life important.

Fake internet points for anyone who guesses the movie that goes with the title without Google or IMDB. Not that anyone reads this anyway. Well, maybe one person. It's my first Blu-Ray title, not particularly spectacular of a choice, but it's one I enjoy.

So I was stupid when I mentioned the need for an HDMI cable below. As much as I hate to admit it, Sony made an amazingly good choice in supplying a standard HDMI port on the back of the thing. So, I yanked the one out of my upscaling DVD player and plugged it into the HDMI switch (which I still had to buy). It looks great.

Except for on for Persona 3, which seems strange no matter what PS2 options I use on the thing. The black doesn't look black and full screen just stretches out the image. At least it works though. I imagine the same might happen to other games, depending on what exactly I plan on playing (for example, FFXII has a widescreen mode).

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Small Favor(s)

I won't be a spoiler, but I read all of Small Favor last night. Good book, kinda sad, really funny in places. Harry's managed to get some more responsibility heaped on to him in the process.

Little bit of synergy going on here in my world. Got a Best Buy gift card Saturday with nothing to spend it on. Last night, I get an unexpected delivery from UPS: my PS3 from GameStop (this time a proper 60Gb model). Now I have something to buy: HDMI cable for the PS3, an HDMI toggle, and if there happens to be anything left (unlikely, given how expensive cables are at Best Buy), maybe a BluRay movie.

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April 2, 2008

Reincarnations of the True Goddess

Or, as the Japanese would put it, Shin Megami Tensei. What started out as a novel or two, spawned one of the larger RPG series in Japan (it's rarely reached the US until recently). One of the most recent additions to the western editions is Persona 3. Now, the Persona series is really only loosely related to the kinds of story that the mainline games have told in the past, and Persona 3 is a game in its own league - part high school sim, part dungeon crawler.

But I haven't brought the game up to review (suffice to say, I enjoy it so far though I feel the meaty story bits have too much time between them). No, I brought it up in response to what I wrote last night. See, this game is rated M by the ESRB because of the use of the Evokers (the fake gun that the protagonists shoot themselves with to bring out their "personas"). I think that's appropriate, so that's not what I want to talk about either.

I want to talk about the extreme differences in character that are put forth by the main character of the game, that mimic his (nearly-)unique ability to switch Personas. The game rewards you for having a balanced social and dungeon-crawling life, by having the Personas you use in the latter get a power boost when you fuse them if you've talked to the right people in the former (i.e., Social Links grant bonus XP to fused persona of the same arcana). Each of those people expects a different sort of person from you, though it usually boils down to giving them what they out of the relationship and boosting their confidence.

Like the school teacher who plays an MMO on her off days and complains to you about her increasing age and seeming inability to find a man to settle down with, the classmate who wants your support in going after one of his teachers (just to have it blow up in his face), the depressed monk trying to find meaning in life and drinking his life away while pining after his family, or this guy on the student council who's trying to hunt down who left a cigarette butt in the boy's room and will put anyone to question regarding it. They all want affirmation and support.

So, just like the characters fire the Evokers at themselves - a symbolic death of self - the protagonist gives more of himself just to power these alternate selves. It's true to life: the more friends you have, the more you benefit - but you also spread yourself thinner and thinner with each one added, potentially making yourself a hypocrite in the process.

Oh well, time to read!

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They're an almost unavoidable part of the day and most of us try to minimize them. I think someone's quantified the cost to interruptions, somewhere, but I'm not concerned with that now. Still, there are certain things that will have you interrupting a semi-regular schedule. This time, though, I'm not talking about work.

I mentioned below that I'm trying to finish Persona 3 before the FES expansion (same link) comes out. Well, there's only really one thing standing in my way: Small Favor came out yesterday. I plan on reading that during free time until that's finished, then its back to the Persona grind.

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April 1, 2008

Show, Don't Tell

According to wikipedia, "'Show, don't tell' is an admonition to fiction writers to write in a manner that allows the reader to experience the story through a character's action, words, thoughts, senses, and feelings rather than through the narrator's exposition, summarization, and description."

It goes on further to give some examples as well as the opposing viewpoints regarding the philosophy. To add my two cents, I think they're both valid, but only used in concert. You need to be able to tell something and back it up with action. If John loves Aeryn, let him say so but back it up with the way he acts towards her and the way he reacts to her actions.

Some examples from fiction (at least, I think so):

  • Dead Like Me, "Be Still My Heart" - It's only hinted at, but I think there's enough telling for it to be seen barely. Daisy is noticeably uncomfortable around her reap, a young woman who's a mistress to some man. She gets killed when she gets too needy, too close to the man's "public" self. Later, talking to Mason, she mentions that she had a sister. Putting two and two together, she probably had a sister not unlike her reap.
  • Persona 3 from Atlus Games - Something that maybe has too little telling really. The characters in the game shoot themselves in the head with what is effectively fake gun (called an Evoker) to bring out their other selves. If that's not supposed to be a sublimation of the self for temporary power, I don't know what is.
  • Farscape, "John Quixote" - Not integral to story, but during the portions where John is supposed to outside of the game but he's not, there are subtle clues. D'argo is wearing his season 3 clothes and outside of one mention that they "haven't seen them," Sikozu and Noranti are nowhere to be seen. It all ties in to the idea that this is how Stark last knew them before parting in season 3.
The key is to balance it. There's definitely such as thing as too much showing or too much telling, but I think it's far too easy to talk (tell) a big game and not back it up.

I bring this up because I keep thinking about it, both in the realms of fiction and the real world. Because who really gets ahead in this world? The people who can tell you they're going to do something, and then go ahead and do it. Too bad I'm not that great at it.

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The Cake is a Lie

Yes, by now it's a trite in-joke with the Portal crowd but I figured it was worth using because today, "Still Alive" comes to Rock Band (for free!). Performed by Jonathan Coulton and performed by GLaDOS (Ellen McLain under heavy distortion), the song plays over the end credits to much hilarity.

Tonight, our usual group should be getting together to watch more Dead Like Me. In particular, "Rites of Passage", "The Escape Artist", "Be Still My Heart". So we get a VIP reap and George gets a three-part relationship arc (the first two are the end of this week's selection).

Oh well, time for work.

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