?

Log in

Of Life, Books, and Pictures

As always, MUCH has occurred since my last post. I find that I frequently forget to update this journal though I always enjoy the actual updating when I remember. I could write quite a lengthy dissertation concerning my professional life if I chose to do so. But at this point I simply have to admit that my professional life has been so historically volatile that it will likely be out of date before my next 10 posts occur, and thus I am going to skip that bit to discuss other things.

The biggest change in my personal life has been the addition of Yet Another Hobby (YAB). I seem to pickup hobbies the way other folks pickup bad haircuts (ie at least once a year). Well this year's hobby is photography.

A few months back I went on a road trip, and during that road trip I decided I needed a better camera. This in turn led me to purchasing a Nikon D5200, which is my first DSLR camera. It is neither the worst DSLR camera nor the best. I think it can be safely described as a mid range consumer DSLR. With this camera I have managed to take a great many pictures, some of which are even worth keeping! I have enjoyed taking these pictures so much that I find it now being my chief form of weekend entertainment. I will go out to one of the many parks in my area (I never realized just how many there were till now) and hike a trail taking pictures along the way. The camera thus is providing me an excuse to go hiking which I normally have to talk my friends into doing over a period of months. It also satisfies my creative urges. In order to showcase my pictures I have gone ahead and purchased a domain name and bought a smugmug account to host said domain name. So you can find my work at www.applenegative.com.

In other news I have started reading "The Dreaming Void" (the sequel to Peter F. Hamilton's "Commonwealth Saga"). In fact I am just a few dozen pages from the end. To say I enjoyed the book would be a great understatement. In fact, I enjoyed it more then the original books. I think this is due to the fact that there are far fewer main characters to keep track of in this book, and many of them are ones I already know from the first series. As a result the "Commonwealth Saga" and "The Void Trilogy" are now very squarely located on my list of books "that I can recommend to family and friends without fear of claims of inadequacy." This is an exclusive list you may be sure.

And now for gratuitous pictures showcasing my new hobby.

DSC_0419-XL

20130915_17-XL

20130915_6-XL

20130909_8-XL

Dune 4 Evar!

I have once again proved that I am quite the transient. By that I mean I have moved....again. This time I moved to Columbia where I am renting a room. It is quite a bit cheaper then my last place and closer to my work, so win win all around.

In other news I have been listening to the original Dune series on tape while driving back and forth to work and elsewhere. While I have read the original Dune several times since I was first introduced to it in High School, I have never bothered to re-read the rest of the series. This is because I mostly hate the rest of the series. Well that is actually not true, I hate the second book in the series, dislike the third book, think the fourth book is somewhat boring at times, thought the fifth book was 'ok,' and thought the sixth book was decent.

This odd progression is the impetuous behind this post. The original Dune is my favorite book of all time. A big reason for that is the amazing sophistication that the work embodies. Additionally the book is essentially responsible for one of my earliest (possibly THE earliest) epiphany I have experienced. Specifically, the book made me hyper aware of how precious water can be in the right environment.

While the first book was wonderful, the second book is terrible. Over the years I remembered I did not like the second book, but I had quite frankly forgotten why I did not like it. Listening to the books on tape has brought back those memories. When I read I tend to latch onto characters and pick favorites. I will root for the characters I like, cheer them in their triumphs and morn for them in their defeats. This entrancement with characters is a major part of my joy of reading. However, the second Dune book ("Dune Messiah") has no good characters. By this I mean there are no characters I like. Paul in the second book spends half the book being an asshole and the other half being a whiner. His wife stops being a badass killing machine and instead becomes the purely supporting queen/housewife. His sister spends her time being crazy or angry, and so on. The third book ("Children of Dune") is slightly better because Paul's kids are somewhat sympathetic characters and mildly interesting at times. The Fourth book ("God Emperor of Dune") has the ever present Duncan Idaho as a sympathetic character as well as the rebel Atreides. I just started the fifth book ("Heretics of Dune") so I don't quite know/remember the good characters in this one but since Duncan is still around I am pretty sure he will be one of them.

What I find interesting is how a series can go from Great! to Terrible! to a slow progression back to Pretty Good based not on writing style, universe, complexity of plot - but rather entirely on the number and sympathetic link to the main characters. Essentially what these books tell me is that in order for me to enjoy a story properly, I must be able to identify and and rejoice in at least one character in any given book with more characters being that much better. This is probably one reason I like "Wheel of Time" and "A Game of Thrones" so much.

Of Different Books

In the past few weeks I have gotten some decent reading done, and thus I feel relatively accomplished. Specifically, I read the most recent Jim Butcher book "Cold Days." It should be noted that I am a HUGE fan of Harry Dresden. While I can never say that these books are literary masterpieces, I can feel very comfortable in calling them the very top of the urban-fantasy popcorn novel genre. Meaning they are excellent examples of books that are just fun to read.

The previous Harry Dresden book "Ghost Stories" was almost certainly the worst in the series. This had a lot to do with the format of the story. Harry was just not his usual self in that book. I will not go into detail here for fear of generating spoilers, but suffice it to say the book was not normal for the series. "Cold Days" does not quite return to the old format, but Harry is very much a giant figure of destruction and magical deduction which are the essential elements of the series as a whole. Also the series took several major twists in "Cold Days" that will dramatically impact all future novels. I keep trying to interest people in this series based on it being incredible, but so far I have few takers. The truth is that I cannot say it is a series on par with say, "A Game of Thrones," or "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress." As a result my resounding recommendations do not quite resound thoroughly enough.

While at the book store I came across a book titled "Fated" by Benedict Jacka and purchased it immediately without reading any of it, which is unusual for me. What caught my eye was the blurb from Jim Butcher on the front of this novel talking about how much he enjoyed this book. I can only assume that Butcher and Jacka know each other personally because the book "Fated" was definitely sub-mediocre. One way to get me to buy a book is to throw a blurb on it from an author I respect. If there happens to be 2 or more authors I respect giving blurbs then I simply cannot buy that book fast enough. So when I saw Butcher's comment, this book became an insta-buy for me. Sadly my trust was quite misplaced. The main character in "Fated" is Alex Verus a wizard who owns a magic shop. There is nothing wrong with this concept. The problem is that Alex Verus is a diviner who sees the future. This sounds nifty but that is pretty much all Alex Verus does. He does not cast spells that create light, he does not throw fire balls, or freeze water, or create force fields, or anything. The only thing he does is see the future. He has some magical gadgets (mostly one-shots) that help him along but for the most part he just meditates for a bit, sees what is likely to happen, then picks futures favorable to him and goes out and makes them a reality. This however is extremely boring. If I know the man can walk into a building unseen and get past various magical traps because he sees the future, there is no suspense when he walks into the building. When there is never any chance of a fight because the man has no ability to create offensive magic it also makes all the fights rather dull when they do happen because you know the main character will either lose or run away. Maybe subsequent books in the series are great, but I will never know because the first book was so bad I have no desire to read another.

After literally forcing myself to finish "Fated" I was very interested in finding a book that could grab my attention and thus prove to myself that I have not entered some sort of general malaise where my only interests are in sequels to books I previously read. Thus I was vulnerable and totally open to the suggestion that was "This Case Is Going To Kill Me" by Phillipa Bornikova. Basic premise is that of an urban-fantasy where basic magical creatures are real, specifically Vampires, Werewolves, and Alfar (elves). More specifically the world knows these creatures are real as of 50 years prior the start of the book. The protagonist is a young high powered attorney who is working for a law firm that is controlled by Vampires. The term the book uses is a "white fang law firm." This concept is absolutely silly on many levels, but in much the same way of Naomi Novik's Temerair Series, because the concept is treated seriously it "JUST WORKS." If the author was at any point lackadaisical in their descriptions of the law firm or sloppy in their main characters development the book would crash and burn. But despite the fact that the author is not an attorney, they do a decent job (not a perfect job, but their errors are forgivable) of creating a world where Vampires owning law firms is considered normal. Additionally the main character them self has some sort of mystical something going on which is very unclear but quite intriguing. I am approximately 3/4 of the way through the book and very happy with it. The only downside is that it is a new book and the authors first. So it is going to be a while before I can read anymore of this authors work.

In other news I think my recent trip back to World of Warcraft may be coming to an end. One of my cousins seems to have moved away from the game and my other cousin keeps odd hours in game so I do not get to play with them as often. Now that WoW has loosened its claws the question arises what should I play? I was playing Skyrim the 5th Elder Scrolls game for a while but that interest was waned as well. I am more interested in MMOs. I am leaning heavily towards giving EVE-Online another try. This is a game that I have gone back to at least 5 or 6 times over the years. It is a game I desperately want to love but in the past have always had difficulty making it what I want it to be, that being a game where I can pvp with impunity in really nice space ships. All the same, my character beckons so I may give it another shot.

At Long Last - Max Level

Despite the fact that I think MMO's of all various types are the pinnacle of gameplay, I have never reached max level in an MMO. Or to be more accurate, I had never reached max level till about 10 months ago (hey give me a break its been 2 years).

Over the years I have played more then my fair share of MMOs, specifically I have played: EverQuest 1 (beta for 2), Asherons Call 1 & 2, Anarchy Online, EVE Online, FFXI, Hybernia, City of Heroes, Champions Online, Earth and Beyond, Dark Age of Camelot, Guild Wars 1 Beta, Lineage, Jumpgate, Myst Online Beta, Neocron, Star Trek Online Beta, Star Wars Galaxies, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, Horizons: Empire of Istaria, Planetside, and finally, World of Warcraft.

So as you can see there has been quite a few. Most of those were games where I simply did not play for very long (comparatively speaking). EVE-Online of course has no maximum level and while having only a limited player base compared to others, has been slogging along for years and is giving every indication that it will continue to do so.

Other games like Everquest 1, Dark Age of Camelot, City of Heroes, and Champions Online, I put considerable time into but still never reached max level. There is something about the makeup of most MMO games which has been antithetical to some base trait I possess. To simply say I did not have the patience might be putting too fine a point on it because I think it was more than just patience. When level progression dramatically slows down in later levels of MMO gameplay, my interest in the game essentially dries up. For the most part this has lead to me creating a number of alternative characters (alts being the lingo). In fact I have been accused (and rightly so) of being quite the altaholic when it comes to MMOs.

This changed for the first time with Star Wars: The Old Republic. I do not know if my personality has changed, or that MMOs have evolved to make leveling "easier" (read: less frustrating, boring, and repetitive). For the first time ever, I managed to level a character to the max level (in the game it was 50). Sadly there was not a lot to do in Star Wars once you reached max level so the game quickly lost interest to me. Then along comes World of Warcraft with a new expansion. I meet a person playing the beta and they tell me that you can capture pets like its freaking Pokémon and train them up to battle other pets and now all of a sudden I am completely and totally hooked. So I dust off my old World of Warcraft account and start a new character. Specifically, a Panda Monk, and with very little coaxing (but a decent amount of help) from my cousins, who also play, I level my monk panda all the way up to the max level of 90.

I have played World of Warcraft off and on since it's beta in 2004. That is 8 years of playing this game, and despite all of that I had never before leveled a character to max level. It makes me wonder if it is because the game has evolved to make leveling more interesting (even at the higher levels) or is it because some internal change has occurred inside of me, which lets me attain max level? It is rather impossible to tell quite frankly since the only way to be sure would be to play old style MMOs like EverQuest which was designed from the ground-up to inflict pain and frustration on the player so the player would keep coming back to try and beat the system. This is impossible because modern MMOs typically are not made in that fashion, but instead follow the wild and crazy idea that players want to have fun with their video games. (there is a whole tangential conversation in this that I may post about later)

At any rate, I cannot go back and play old style MMOs like the original EverQuest because the graphics suck by modern day standards. And bad graphics just by themselves will cause my attention to wander.

Changes is a book title

I just finished the latest Jim Butcher book "Changes" (part of the Dresden Files). I won't spoil anything but the follow phrase seems appropriate.

"Holy Cliff-Hanger Batman!"

Seriously, this kind of behavior can not be tolerated in a series I am current with. Granted, Butcher is probably the single most prolific author I read (outputting a book once every 8 months or thereabouts). That does not mean I really want to wait 8 months to find out what happens next. And since he has as many as 2 series going right now, I really don't wait to wait 16 months to find out what happens next!

When someone asks me what Urban Fantasy is, I tend to describe The Dresden Files. This is a series that is intensely interesting and manages to combine both a light hearted side and gritty character development. The Dresden Files is not a classy series (there is no such thing as classy urban fantasy near as I can tell). It is also not a must read like say Harry Potter (which is also technically urban fantasy). What The Dresden Files is, is a series of popcorn books with enough bite to make you realize that it is popcorn with a bit of cayenne pepper sprinkled on top. And as the queen of vanilla would say, "that's a good thing."

Temeraire = Current!

I just completed the 5th Temeraire novel by Naomi Novik. In approximately 2 weeks I read all 5 novels which is a comfortable cruising speed for me when it comes to a good series. The first book in the series is still probably the best but the others are really not far behind. They build quite a bit on the world the series takes place in, but character development is somewhat restrained (mostly by the fact that the majority of characters are stiff necked Brits).

Overall I find the series to be quite entertaining and will be looking forward to reading more from Novik in the future. In many ways I would think Novik is a lot like Jim Butcher. Both write fantasy, both are fairly new authors, and both write quite a lot. Novik is writing about 1 book a year right now and Butcher is expanding his works at a slightly faster rate. Additionally both authors appear to be great big geeks who have no qualms about showing off their gathered and obscure knowledge through both settings and dialogue. Butcher being more of a pop-culture geek while Novik appears to have done a truly stupendous amount of research concerning the early 1800's Europe, and China. Her stories are all based on an altered history, but in truth you need to know your history before you can alter it in some convincing manner.

The next Temeraire novel is set to come out over the summer and you can be sure I'll have it quite soon after it's release. Next up on my reading list is Patricia Briggs' latest work "Silver Borne," which is a sequel to a series I picked up last year. If the book is anything like it's predecessors it will make an excellent pop-corn novel. So far almost all the urban fantasy novels I have found worth reading have fallen into this sub-category.

In sadder news Thor and Sheba my baby ducks have been slain. The culprit is unknown but is most likely either a raccoon or a fox. If not either of them it must be another burrowing creature of no great size to have been able to slip into the hole that was dug under one side of the mobile hutch. Both ducks had grown quite large in the last few weeks and had already started to gain their pin-feathers. I have not decided yet if new pets will be inbound or not.

Dragons and the Brits!

I have just finished reading "His Majesty's Dragon" by Naomi Novik. The premise for the story is victorian era England where dragons are not only real, but very much a part of the military service. The story follows one very british officer and his dragon.

The book was brought to my attention by a post on Penny Arcade, which happens to be my favorite web-comic. To paraphrase Tycho, 'there is no reason why this storyline should work, it just does.'

The fact is that Novik spins an awesome yarn which has all the inherit qualities of a gripping adventure. And what's more, this was the first book Novik wrote, and there are currently at least 5 books total in the series. This combination can only be for the good of all mankind.

In perfect honesty this book was the best one I've read since "The Name of the Wind" almost a year prior. And I have read over 40 books since that time, so I have a decent sample size on which that statement may rest.

It is possible that "His Majesty's Dragon" will be the peak of the series and everything will be downhill from here. There are certainly precedents for that. However, more often it is the case that an author's first work will not be up to par compared to later novels. If that is that case with Novik then this series could quite easily find it's place in my top 10.

Anime Movies < TV

95% of all TV that I watch is regular shows with the remaining 5% being movies. I am including both actual television and things that I watch on my computer. If I were to break it down further I would say 85% of all tv watching is done my computer with the remaining 15% done on an actual television.

Recently I gained access to netflix and began thinking about what I wanted to use the service for. Mostly I just want old Doctor Who shows that are no longer on the air. However, before I dived into that nearly endless ocean I decided I should try and ketch up on some anime movies. Specifically movies for Bleach and Naruto. Since I am up to current on both shows I figured this was a great way to satisfy my urges while I wait for more shows to be produced.

What I did not consider is that the movies might suck.

Both Bleach and Naruto have a lot in common with shows like Buffy and Angel, mainly that any one episode taken by itself does not deserve the adoration fans would heap upon it. What the show as a whole does very well however is take a character, develop him/her over time, and then pit the character against great adversity. Since the movies for these shows exist outside of the regular time-line, and the movies display battles that are about one tenth as long as battle would last in the show, the movies really just don't have the chops to carry the series forward. What the movies do have is better art and direction. This is not surprising but since that is all they have going for them it is not enough to really hold the viewers interest like a regular episode of either show would.

For the record I saw both Bleach movies and Naruto: Shippuden The Movie - and yes that colon apparently goes right where it's at. As a netflix they were an ok choice for someone who is a fan of the shows. As anything else I'd say it is not worth it.

In other news I am now playing the Starcraft 2 beta, and yes it is everything it should be. Any other company would call this a finished product, but this is blizzard we are talking about so it has at least another 5 months of beta.

Avatar I have seen

So the movie "Avatar" (not to be confused with Avatar: The Last Air Bender) came out on DVD/Blue-Ray today. Since I did not see this one in the theaters I made sure to pick up a copy.

I mean this is a movie that generated as much buzz as the last Star Wars film. There are whole fetishes on the internet that have spawned as a result of this movie. Surely it was worth watching.

Well here I am almost 3 hours later and I have to say overall the film was quite good. Was it worth the phenomenon it generated? Not so much. Perhaps I am a bit jaded because I guessed about 70% of the plot-line from the first previews I saw of the film over a year ago. I mean show a guy in a Lab in a wheel chair next to a big blue guy, then show space marines with masks on in a jungle atmosphere, then show those marines being attacked by big blue guys, then call the film "Avatar" and there are only so many ways those scenes can be stitched together so that they make sense. If they named the film "Attack of the Blue-Cat Furries," then it might have been a little harder to guess.

Speaking of which. At a New Years party I had (obviously sight unseen) declared "Avatar" to be about Cat Furries. This elicited groans from the audience and even 1 face-palm that I am very proud of. After having watched the film I must admit I made a mistake. The film is actually a Lizard-Cat Furry EXTRAVAGANZA.

Wheel of Time = Finished ------- Psych!

I literally just finished reading "The Gathering Storm" written by someone who is not Robert Jordan. Actually it is written by Brandon Sanderson supposedly with notes by Robert Jordan but I am personally very suspicious of how much in the way of notes a dead man leaves behind. If that dead man is J.R.R. Tolkien he may leave behind approximately 5 books worth of notes, or none at all but leave behind heirs with 5 books worth of shameless greed, who can say?

Regardless of who did the writing the final book of the epic "Wheel of Time" series was something I simply had to consume. I mean this is a series I have poured more time into then any other book series I have ever read. And not simply because I have re-read the series approximately 3 times now. No, the books themselves are extremely lengthy and there are between 12 and 13 books in the series depending on if you count the prequel.

As for this the latest installment. Well first off it is extremely clear that the book was not written by Robert Jordan. There is just something off about the writing style. I've read some of Sanderon's other novels and was never particularly awed by his talent. This book was better then the later "Mistborn" novels but still not up to the standards expressed in the last true Jordan "Wheel of Time" novel.

Still, finally being able to put the lid on this series is worth having to deal with the quirks of another author. Of course there in lies the problem. You see..."The Gathering Storm".... it ain't the last "Wheel of Time" novel. "Ruh-Ro" you say? Yes, I too was quite surprised that instead of 1 novel finishing up the series there will instead by Three! Wikipedia reports that the next novel is tentatively set for release in November of 2010 and the final book to be released a year after that. More troubling is that I don't see how this series can be stretched for another 2 books. 1 book is a certainty but with the number of loose ends Sanderson is tying up there will quickly be a lack of Jordan problems to deal with. I haven't decided what book I'll read next but its looking like it may be a new series entirely. Time will tell if I can hold myself to that.

Working Vacation?

For reasons not entirely understood by me, my work has decided I need to go to South Carolina and live in a hotel for a week. I decided not argue the issue.

I am now in Columbia, South Carolina, and living in a hotel for a week.

Actually I am going to a training down here but the effect is that I am in a rather spiffy hotel and get free rein of the city in my time off. The "city" is actually a small college town. But that means it has college town kind of eateries which is food a man can trust. Its not food that would stick its nose up at you,... you know if it was the type of food that might contain noses. It is just simple good food, typically it also goes well with beer.

In other news I did indeed finish the duck hutch before I left the State. I decided that buying ducks before leaving the area was a bad idea so I'll be waiting till I return before purchasing my poultry.

I have almost finished "The Twelve Kingdoms" an anime that seems to have been ripped wholesale from the types of junkie fantasy novels I have grown to love. As expected from such a critter, I am a huge fan. When I say I have "almost finished" I mean to say I have seen everything but the last episode which wikipedia tells me is mostly a recap of the previous episodes. All told the show runs for 45 episodes and tells the story of a young Japanese school girl who gets sucked into a different dimension where she must battle the forces of darkness to survive. Strangely enough what I thought was going to be the main storyline for the show ended up being resolved less then halfway through, then a new storyline involving the same characters started up. That ran for a while before it too ended. The result is a distinct feeling that the show was literally playing through a series of books. I've never seen a show carry off this technique quite so well. If I had to rate the show I would say it is in par with Ghost in the Shell and totally opposite to everything Ghost in the Shell stands for as a piece of media.

Of Trigun and Ducks

Several days ago I finished watching Trigun. This is an anime I started watching about a month ago and quickly abandoned after the first couple of episodes proved to be wacky comedy as opposed to action-drama. I went back to the series after being assured by many different folks that the the show became better in later episodes. It did indeed get better, but ultimately it was far below the standard set by other animes I have watched to-date. I never really started to like the show, though I was sometimes entertained by it. I blame this on the protagonist being a farcical idealist. The fellow was such a pacifist that he would constantly help mass murders just so he wouldn't have to kill them. Seriously, this happened on a regular occasion.

A typical show would involve some horrible outlaw chasing after the protagonist. During the chase the outlaw might kill anywhere from 1 to a few hundred people. The protagonist would meet the outlaw in a fight, beat him soundly, but instead of killing him, or even imprisoning the outlaw, the protagonist would let the fellow go. Typically the protagonist would have the last word and would offer up some dime-store philosophy about how killing is bad juju.

This kind of crap is so utterly opposite to my way of thinking that I found myself completely distracted from the positives the show was able to create. In the end I feel safe in saying that if you are an ultra bleeding heart the show may be fun to watch. Everyone else would be better off watching one of the other fine shows I have recommended here.

In other news I have begun construction of a Duck Hutch. I told a fellow at work that I was building a Duck Hutch and he just looked at me and said "Are you fucking with me?" "No" I replied, "I really am building a Hutch for Ducks." When asked "Why?" I am building such a think I answered honestly, "Ducks are fun, they go quack quack and follow you around." This is more then enough to embark upon this adventure as far as I was concerned. My co-worker was less then convinced of my reasoning. At any rate the duck hutch is turning out to be a not inconsiderate structure. The hutch features an enclosed section that will have a hinged door for access from the outside and a door for the ducks to enter through. The duck door will have some kind of mechanism that will allow me to shut it and latch it at night. The hutch shall also include a penned area open to the ground where the ducks can leave the nesting area but still be in an enclosed area during the day. There will be another larger door through which I could enter or the ducks could leave the structure entirely. And finally the entire structure will be mobile, having a solid steel axle and 2 ball bearing wheels on one end and handles on the opposing end so a person could pick it up like a giant wheel barrow and move it to a new location. I should have the structure complete by the weekend.

I plan to name my ducks something entirely inappropriate. So far at the top of the running are the names of ancient gods.

As required by anime law

I'm still watching Samurai Champloo though I am now coming close to the end of the series. So far the shows have been mostly on point. In that no show has been especially off track from the overall storyline goal. The cutesy animal sidekick has shown blessed restraint in its appearances as well. I actually begun to think that there would be no random and utterly strange tangent episode in this series.

I was wrong.

I don't wish to spoil it for anyone but suffice it to say the tangent episode involved wasabi, zombies, and meteorites. And yes they made all of those relate together.

In other news today I had not 1, not 2, but 3 trials in a single day. Since this is the first time I have ever had even more then 1 trial in a day I consider it to be a great accomplishment. Out of the 3 I won 2 and lost 1.

Overall I'm up for the month of March, huzzah!

whats a champloo to you?

There is a certain anime by the name of Samurai Champloo. I don't know if "Champloo" is a made up word, a proper name, or something that simply was not translated. I do know that show begins with awesome and continues to perform at fucking awesome levels.

I'm only 10 episodes into the series right now but they have been an incredible 10 episodes. As stated before the show is made by the same fellow that made Cowboy Bebop. Where Cowboy Bebop could be summed up as Cowboys in SPACE, Samurai Champloo can be summed up as ancient samurai hiphop.

I can think of no reason why this combination works, but my goodness does it ever. Certainly the series I have watched so far (Naruto, Bleach, Ghost in the Shell) are all longer and thus can develop more story. But in a straight up episode to episode comparison, Samurai Champloo is far superior to all other shows it is literally appropriate to speak of it as an order of magnitude better.

The other series could only be watched by individuals with extensive time commitments and a willingness to embrace the foibles of anime. Samurai Champloo on the other hand is much like Cowboy Bebop in that just about anyone could watch it with great enjoyment. That being said there is caveat. Samurai Champloo, unlike Cowboy Bebop, has absolutely terrible voice-over work in the english version. Thus the subtitled version is required. Right now I am utterly content with this series and can't wait for the rest.

The Ghost Has Been Shelled

Season two of Ghost in the Shell is Complete. Season 2 managed to have an even more unfortunate name then the first season. The complete name for the season is "Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. 2nd GIG." That is not even a type-o either. That is really the name.

A lot of folks say the second season is better then the first, I'm not sure I agree with them. The first season was a mix of individual episodes and storyline episodes. The second season would start off each show telling you if it was an individual episode of what they called a "dual" episode. However this ended up having absolutely no meaning because in reality every episode was related to the overall storyline (its true though that some were more related then others). Additionally, there was no content after credits so a lot of the wacky was not present in the second season. In the very last episode some of that wacky came back and it was fantastic. Overall though the second season was a much more directed effort then the first season and not necessarily towards any real benefit.

I did however come to the absolute conclusion that I have completely no fucking idea what a "Stand Alone Complex" is. And this is after watching 2 seasons of the show. In the first season I felt like it was some kind of independent AI. But the way they used it in the second season made it seem like it was actually just a confluence of events all being steered towards a single unspoken and undirected goal. Sorta an "invisible hand of fate" but for crisis events instead of markets. Since these ideas are so completely different from one another it leaves me utterly lost as to the actual meaning of the term.

Overall I am quite pleased with the series and once again would recommend it to anyone looking for content who does not mind watching cartoons while reading subtitles. While ultimately I liked the first season more then the second, that does not mean the second was not a good season. I suppose what it really means is that I was incredibly impressed by the first season, and still reeling from that when I watched the second.

Next up on the seemingly never-ending anime escapade is Samurai Champloo (a name I keep wanting to pronounce as Samurai Shampoo). This is a series made by the same guy who made Cowboy Bebop, the anime Americans are most likely to enjoy. Its apparently a hip-hop revisionist look at historical Japan during what I will refer to as the Samurai period but what Wikipedia calls the "Edo" period.

Ghosts begone!

Season 1 of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex has been consumed! The show ended up being a mix of storyline episodes (or "complex" episodes) and "standalone" episodes. Amazingly the show managed to avoid doing more then one cutesy episode during the course of the season. I figured for sure that all anime by law had to produce at least 2 or 3 intermission episodes each season where the animal sidekick takes over the plot.

Final verdict for the season... totally awesome.

I feel comfortable recommending the show to pretty much anyone who doesn't mind watching cartoons. Certainly there are folks out there that can't get-over the medium itself, in which case this show will be of no benefit to them. To anyone else, the show is a solid lump of content that will spread joy throughout one's being.

I really can't say much about the show simply because I don't wish to engage in hated spoilers. That said I realized I never even gave a general description of the show in previous posts. To put it simply the year is 2030 and folks have begun using bio-computers that interface directly (and often are a part of) a person's brain. This leads to folks being some or all machine. The main characters are a special operations police force and basically just go around kicking the crap out of criminals. The government however is not to be trusted (fully confirming a prior post of mine about how bureaucracy in Japanese and British TV is seen as an active enemy whereas in American TV it is no more then a stumbling block and sometimes an ally). Overlaid on top of this is some philosophical discussion about the nature of a human being once some or all body parts are replaced and their role in society.

Its rather deep at times. Then shit blows up and your reminded its still an action cartoon. Oh and at the end of every episode you have crazy robots doing the most zany things, from singing their own theme song, to engaging in mini-plays, to spying on the main characters when they are off camera... All I can say is that it was a very Japanese segment.

A Ghost is a person too!

I've begun watching "Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex." As names go, this one sucks. Maybe it makes more sense in Japanese but the concept the name attempts to describe is at best confusing when watching the series. Apparently a Stand Alone Complex is an AI that created itself on the internet at some point in the future. Or at least that is my understanding so far after 7 episodes. The fact that I'm not sure is a testament to how murky this show can be at times.

What I will say for the show is that it's darn good. It is absolutely a more serious show then either Naruto or Bleach. Where those two shows seem targeted at the later Saturday morning cartoon watching crowd, Ghost in the Shell (GitS) would be targeted at the late night 20 something crowd. The artwork is also an order of magnitude better then either Naruto or Bleach.

That said GitS is still an anime and as such there is some kind of cutesy sidekick. However, in what I am learning is 'true gritty GitS style,' the cutesy sidekick are a bunch of smartcar sized robot spiders that can shoot steel cabled grapplers, bullets, and missiles. Having the experience of content after credits with Bleach I was not surprised to find content after credits with GitS as well. So far this content has consisted entirely of these robot sidekicks that speak in a squeaky voice and during this extra mini-show have done everything from Japanese calisthenics to philosophically discuss the the virtues of spoken language over electronic communication. Yes, it is a bizarre segment.

In college I had seen both GitS movies so I was somewhat familiar with the setting. But what took me by surprise was the similarities in the show to a pre-Halo Bungie video game called "Oni." The great internets have revealed on to me that this similarity was intentional. That being said it is extremely strange seeing a cartoon character carry out kunfu moves that I have an extremely clear recollection performing myself in a video game I first played literally 9 years prior. Some of the moves I'm seeing in GitS were special attacks in Oni and they must have been so thoroughly copied that I have no doubt a video game animator at Bungie must have gone frame by frame through the very episodes I am watching now. This experience is both unexpected and utterly surreal for reasons a non-gamer would never understand.

Bleach = Current

What I did not know in my previous posts about Bleach is that the damn series is still ongoing! I thought it was a self contained story that I could actually consume and be finished with. This is not the case.

After 260 episodes I am now up to current, and that is the best that can be said. The show has still not finished the main storyline left over from season 7 (what I am calling season 7 but what other sites may simply report as the Los Noches storyline). Instead they have embarked upon multiple tangents. I did however learn something new.

My usual habits with watching shows on my computer is to skip the opening credits and to skip the ending credits. What I did not know until about season 8 or 9 is that the darn show has content AFTER the closing credits. This content comes in the form of a quick preview of next week with a random set of voice over work that has absolutely nothing to do with next weeks show and then some additional content in the form of wacky slapstick using the characters from the show. This later bit is utterly Japanese and is sometimes totally undigestable to my American pallet except as a wonder of how different our cultures are.

That being said, occasionally they do explain where they are going in the next story arc and why (in a round about way). What I have deduced is this. The writers of the show do not care about continuity, I mean at all. They care only about producing content. If you watched the show and enjoyed it then they did their job regardless of any kind of imagined timeline. What this means is that these tangents are considered canon but at the same time are not in anyway shape or form part of the main story arc. This is utterly opposite to any TV show I have seen but is somewhat familiar to random web-comics I have read over the years. That said, I still find it bizarre.

Up next is a couple episodes of Naruto I have built up and then Ghost in the Shell.

Bureaucracy as the Enemy

The Bleach marathon continues as I near completion of the 9th season. It is now clear that the main story arc from season 7 will be the story arc that finishes the series. Apparently the writers weren't prepared for that because they have managed to drag out half a season worth of battles into what appears to be all of season 9 and probably all of season 10. This was accomplished by once again without explanation diverting characters into a mini-storyline and then later with a tad more sense, initiating a flashback that covered almost a dozen episodes.

That however is not the purpose of this post. I wanted to take a moment and talk about the differences in culture between America, England, and Japan. In good ol' USA TV the Bureaucracy of Government is rarely seen as the enemy. Frequently you will have the bad guy, and perhaps someone annoying in government that the protagonist must either work around, win over, or use another subordinate to render ineffectual. Most often the later is used. (ie so you have the boss guy of a department getting in the way of the protagonist, therefore the protagonist goes to his good friend who is also employed by the government and helps the protagonist cut through red tape).

Japanese and English TV is not like that. Or at least not from what I have seen. Instead you have the protagonist fighting evil and then you have the government, who through either incompetence, outright villainy, or straight up stubbornness actively attempts to thwart the protagonist. At the end of the day these problems are almost never addressed. So the government that attempts to stop the protagonist from saving the world will not be taught a lesson, or booted out, or any such thing. The flaws in the system are simply ignored. This creates bizarre scenarios from my American perspective. I also have to wonder why this basic cultural plot twist is so frequent in British and Japanese TV but virtually non-existent in American TV. The only thing I can come up with so far is that both England and Japan have deep monarchical roots and that this might be influencing their modern dramas.

NonExistentBleachSeasonSays What?

I just finished Bleach Season 8 and all I can say is... what the heck was up with that?

So far Bleach seasons have sometimes ended at the conclusion of a major story arc, and sometimes major story arcs won't end till the middle of the next season. But one thing is clear, other then maybe 1 or 2 intermission shows between arcs, the show basically revolves around massive story arcs that consist of 1 part mystery, 1/2 part character development and 9 parts drawn out battles. When one story arc ends, another begins fairly quickly.

Seasons 7 stopped in the middle of one such super gigantic story arc. Season 8 started with all main characters essentially back to their default locations with absolutely no explanation of how they got from their previous season 7 locations, or how the battles that were very much *in progress* in seasons 7 ended up. The entirety of season 8 was spent dealing with a story arc that had essentially no relation to any other story arc. Then at the end of season 7 one of the main characters introduced in that season basically tells the normal main characters that you would never ever see or hear from them again. Then season 9 picks right up where season 7 left off, it does so with absolutely no shame at all. It doesn't even bother to explain the very obvious discrepancy.

When you think about this situation, it is absolutely bizarre. Is this a Japanese thing? Is it unique to Bleach? Are there other anime's running around out there with so little respect to continuity?

I don't even know where season 8 fits into the timeline of the show. Quinton Tarantino would have a hard time with this plot. Did season 8 happen after season 9? Or did it happen before? Was it an alternate universe? Should viewers just not consider season 8 to be cannon and instead think of it as some writers flight of fancy? I have never seen a show engage in such behavior and while the season was ok, it certainly was not up to the usual standards a normal season so easily reaches.

Bleach - Its not just for your clothes!

A week or so ago I made a post on a random forum I sometimes visit asking for advice on what next to watch in the cartoon universe. I received many responses ranging from Darkwing Duck, to Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex. A couple individuals told me Batman: The Brave and the Bold was a good series so I gave that a go. I watched 4 episodes which equals about an hour and a half of my life I will never get back. Seriously it was beyond horrible. Someone took the horrendous zaniness of the old style batman tv series and dumbed it down even further for kids in the 10 and under bracket. I have no idea why anyone would consider this a good thing.

One individual quietly suggested I watch "Bleach" if I liked Naruto. Now I happen to have something of a fixation with Naruto that is tempered only by the fact that it is best watched in about 15 episode sets and it takes about 2 weeks for an episode to be released, and I'm already up to current on the show. I happened to know that Bleach is available through Hulu so like some unsuspecting fool I gave the show a try.

Within 10 episodes I am hopelessly addicted. The first story arc was especially riveting. Like Naruto the show can be extremely drawn out in that one battle may take 8 episodes (the first story arc took around 60 episodes give or take a few). Actually its probably worse in this way then Naruto. However compared to Naruto there seems to be a much greater weight on the high end for characters with lots of power. By this I mean there are more then a few folks who can equal the main character in abilities. I suspect this may change as the show progresses but at my current stage the main character gets his ass handed to him on a fairly regular basis, which is nice to see. Additionally where a main theme of Naruto is loneliness the main theme of Bleach seems to be responsibility in using power to protect others. In short Bleach is a bit less Emo then Naruto. On the downside Bleach has fallen victim to the anime curse of needing a cute animal sidekick. Specifically there is a whole cast of living stuffed animals that follow the main characters around to provide comic relief and occasionally useful abilities. Overall I'm quite pleased with the show. I'm currently on the 5th season and with 10 seasons total there are a lot of episodes to watch. If you need a massive time sink I feel safe in recommending it. Mind you I'm watching the subtitled version. If its anything like Naruto watching a dubbed version may rob all joy from the world.

A Snowy Assist to TV Consumption

This past weekend a crazy amount of snow dropped (23") and then Tuesday night into Wednesday we had somewhere between 8 and 15 inches fall in what was literally a blizzard. I've never been in a real blizzard before. I think the difference between heavy snow and a blizzard is the crazy winds that create drifts while scouring other areas of the flaky white stuff. Because of that and because there was already quite a bit of snow on the ground its rather difficult for me to judge just exactly how much snow we got. I can tell you in some places the drifts are easily over 3 feet. In others the snow is only a few inches deep. No matter how you look at it I believe it appropriate to describe the snow fall as an "ass-ton."

All this snow has left me with quite a bit of free time on my hands. The result has been an intense session of TV watching. Specifically I have consumed Veronica Mars season 1 in its entirety. Veronica Mars is an interesting show simply because unlike most teen dramas it defies to be easily formulated. Buffy The Vampire Slayer was a show so formulaic you knew generally what was going to go down before it happened. House is another such show. Veronica Mars throws just enough into the mix that the best you can do is make a sort of general statement. In any one show there is the main storyline mystery that exists throughout the season. There is also somewhere between 1 and 4 side mysteries going on in the episode, except in the major building episodes and those are all focused on the main storyline (see we already are having problems).

The one thing that is consistent is that at the end of the show Veronica Mars has solved all minor mysteries and by the end of the season (at least the first season) she solved the major mystery. In some ways you can predict the outcome of certain mysteries once the viewer has gathered enough facts. More often the show gives you just enough facts to formulate an opinion (a wrong opinion) and then leaves out the most crucial facts till after the mystery is already solved. In this way Veronica Mars always appears smarter then the viewer. Despite knowing the trickery for what it is, that knowledge alone fails to make the main character any less endearing. What I will hold against the main character, or at least the costume designer, is the fact that in any given show the main character will change her hair style 5 times. Seriously its all over the place, and that is not even counting flashbacks. Normally this kind of thing blows right past me. In this show however it sticks because quite frankly some hair styles make the main character go from competent, to bimbo, to bitchy, to smart, to fun and right back around again. Its freaky strange.

The only other thing that needs mentioning is the lighting. I feel like traveling to Neptune California with a 100 watt lamp and planting it somewhere in the city. Undoubtedly it will be the brightest location anywhere in a 50 mile radius.. seriously its like the show hates a well lit room, even when its factually appropriate (like for instance a library in a public school).

All this said, the show is good, darn good. Its got zero science fiction (unless you count inconvenient flashbacks), but it has the right combination of competent writing, and twisting plot to keep my attention. Wouldn't mind if Veronica spaced someone though.

Justice League = Complete

I finished up the last season of Justice League (both regular and Unlimited style). Overall I have to say I'm rather happy with the series. Batman Beyond was a show I should never have gone back again and watched. Justice League is a show I should have been watching when it was still new. Being a general internet geek with a concentration in video games but little to no education in comic books I have heard about many superheroes outside of the regular big names but really didn't know anything about them. Watching Justice League exposed me to the very bare essentials of some of those superheroes and really gives a lot more context to many of the internet discussions in which I have seen them mentioned. The next time I see a web comic about Black Canary or Huntress I'll at least know what they heck they are talking about.

The first two seasons of the show are definitely the strongest. The first half of the third season is pretty weak but it ends with a fantastic story arc. The fourth season (which was only a half season) was pretty weak overall but did have its moments, mostly in the last two shows. I mean when they space someone on a kids cartoon show you have to stand up and take notice.

In a related story I've started watching Veronica Mars. This is a show that kvance has been suggesting to me for probably around 4 years now. Since I am currently on the receiving end of Yet Another Giant Snow Storm (YAGSS), I decided now was a good time to watch it. So far I've seen 2 episodes... they did not make me stand up and take notice of anything. Hopefully the main character named obviously enough "Veronica Mars" will space someone soon.

The Snow Apocolypse is NOW!

The biggest snow storm of my living memory is taking place outside my door right now. So far we have 15" on the ground and another 6 to 10 expected before it finishes up tonight. The other big snow storm of this winter dumped 18" on the ground and this one will easily exceed that measurement.

That other snow storm was also a very powdery snow, and it was relatively easy for my tractor to plow it out of the way (once I learned how). This snow is a heavier and wetter snow. It resists plowing the way a large dog resists going to the vet. I already got my tractor stuck once. Allow me to assure you that digging a farm tractor out of the snow is neither easy nor particularly fun. It took an hour and a half, but by golly I got the job done.

Watching people prepare for the storm of 2 aught 10 was an experience in and of itself. I went to the grocery store 3 days in advance, and at 12:00pm on a weekday it was every bit as busy as if it had been a Friday evening. I'm told that 1 day away from the storm every grocery store in my area was out of bread, even the less wholesome breads like hamburger buns or the sorta breads like english muffins. A week before the storm I had purchased a 25lbs bag of rock salt and stuck it in the back of my car. When I drove home from work early on Friday as the snow was just beginning to come down I felt like a man transporting a bag of gold.

For purposes of completeness and as the internet saying goes: "Pictures or it didn't happen." Behold my proof of the event!

Ohs Noes: Electrical Discharge!

I'm still watching Justice League (now the Unlimited variety) but I have come to notice a few bits of strangeness. The first 2 seasons of Justice League (regular variety) were pretty spiffy. Not only was it more adult than what I originally thought it was going to be but it also had a nice sense of humor on occasion. Every so often the writers would take a moment to poke fun at golden-age costumes and character traits as seen in the modern world. Also the musical score was absolutely perfect.

Now in the first two seasons the heroes were just your core DC comic heroes, folks like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, etc. After season two the show renames itself "Justice League Unlimited" where the "Unlimited" part refers to the fact that a shit-ton of no-name heroes join the ranks. I mean there are a couple of heroes named "Hawk" and "Dove" who are brothers. "Hawk" has super strength and goes around beating people up. "Dove" is almost sorta a pacifist and goes around dodging attacks and lecturing people about how they should not fight other folks cause violence is bad.. seriously this is what they put up to compete with guys like Superman... So yea the writers managed to introduce a massive amount of "lame" into their show. Maybe it will get better but as it stands right now Justice League of the Unlimited variety is a stinker compared to the first two seasons. Oh and the absolute worst part is that they got rid of the amazingly inspiring musical score and replaced it with a super XXTREME! electric guitar creation.

At any rate the point of this post was to deal with another issue. These heroes were never meant to exist in the same universe. See most of these heroes have extraordinary powers in their own right. But when you stack them next to other heroes they tend to shake out into power levels pretty darn quickly. No matter how spiffy Batman is, he is just not in the same power tier as someone like Superman. But having "Power Characters" in a TV show like this simply does not work. So instead there has to be some leveling force that every hero is subject to, something no one can get around. And the writers found it in the humble electrical discharge. On Justice League (no matter the variety) if a hero is hit with an electrical discharge that hero is going down! It doesn't matter if the same amount of power hits superman as batman they are both going unconscious for the exact same amount of time. Anyone can shake off a bullet or RPG, but a cattle prod is like the BFG of the DC cartoon universe. So the lesson is clear, if you are ever sucked into an alternate universe where Justice League (of any flavor) is actually a reality, you should buy a taser. Just a helpful suggestion.

For Great Justice!

I finished up Batman Beyond a week or so ago and deeply regret ever watching it. It turned out to be one of those things that was better in my childhood. Then again I stopped watching it in my childhood as well so maybe it was as bad back then and I just treated it with greater respect then it deserved in my memories.

At any rate once I finished Batman Beyond I begun watching Justice League. This is a show that I never watched while it was being made, mostly because by the time it came out I was already in college and unless it aired after 9:00pm I would not be in a place where tv watching was conductive. Justice League is on a whole different level from batman, mostly because some of the plots the characters deal with are slightly more serious. I mean in the first few episodes an entire race was enslaved and then murdered. That is pretty heavy for a kids cartoon.

This is not to say there are not serious inconsistencies with character powers. For instance The Flash can run faster then sound but on occasion has problems catching up to a truck driving down a highway. Superman is significantly stronger then batman, but the same bolt of lighting that hits batman will hit superman and both will be knocked down for the exact same amount of time. Wonder Woman is the princess of the amazons and can fly. For some reason that no one in the show has bothered to explain, no other amazon is capable of flight. Also the queen of the amazons is a complete pushover and gets knocked out, tied up, or otherwise immobilized in every show she appears, usually at least twice. I'm sure the flight thing is explained in the actual comic book but I have never read a Wonder Woman comic book nor do I have any desire to. For right now I'm going to assume that some item of her costume grants flight, possibly the the pushup bra...

In the future everything is tougher

I'm reliving my later teen years. Or I'm just watching cartoons from my later teen years, one of the two.

I just finished watching the first season of the new X-Men Cartoon which is on Nickelodeon. I loved the X-Men Cartoon of the 90's and when I saw they made a new cartoon that doesn't involve the characters in grade school I immediately consumed the product.

I really can't get into comic books, I find their narratives to be far too limiting. Cartoons based on comics are a completely different animal. The new x-men cartoon fills a niche I didn't know I had. Apparently I've needed more x-men in my life.

Following that vein I found Batman Beyond a cartoon featuring a futuristic batman that premiered when I was still in high school. I think I identified more with the character then because quite frankly he was the same age I was at the time. The first season of the show (which is what I saw when I watched it originally) is pretty spiffy. The second season so far has made me question this cartoon epic I seem to be on. I'll finish the series anyway, I lack content currently and regular tv lacks value from where I'm standing.

After Batman Beyond I have the Justice League cartoon lined up and ready for action. I've never seen this show but I heard good things about it.

What inspired all of this? On Hulu you can find something called "The Astonishing X-Men" which is a motion comic written by Joss Whedon. Its basically a cartoon on a budget. Its also fantastic. Joss Whedon writing tv shows with x-men in it is one step removed from tv heaven near as I can see it.

Edit: I forgot the original purpose of this post. One consistent thing I have noticed in these cartoons is that in the future everything is tougher. Cars can fall off cliffs and still be drivable. People can fall off buildings and not be hurt. Giant metal drums filled with concrete can fall of workmen and they just groan a bit and get back to work. Just about everybody can punch through concrete walls.

And this not a case of Buggs Bunny type animation. These cartoons are supposed to be "realistic." Its extremely amusing watching guys getting chucked from aircraft and being able to say "they'll be ok" and actually mean it.

The year of the future

It is twenty ten the year of the future. In science fiction everything spiffy happens once you can start using two numbers to signify the year. That time is now!

A bunch of folks have posted their thoughts on the previous year and I have decided to go lemming and do the same.

2009 was a big year for me. I had a real job, then after that one expired went out and got another one. In terms of my career the biggest change was that the first time ever I went before a court as an attorney and not merely as a spectator.

In terms of my home life the biggest change was picking up woodworking as a hobby. Woodworking (or my offshoot hobby, woodworking machine restoration) is something I spend a significant portion of my free time either doing or thinking about. It also promises to be a major part of my personal life for quite possibly the rest of my life. Its not often you pick up a hobby that you can see yourself still doing 50 years down the road.

In 2009 a friend of mine had a child, my sister moved back to the states from overseas, and another friend of mine got engaged.

2010 promises to be even better. In the next year I expect to go a lot further in my professional life. Right now at my new job I'm still technically in training, that will end in the next few months. I will almost certainly build my first piece of real furniture, and my friend that got engaged will be married. Those are the things I'm pretty darn sure will happen. Professionally this year will be a foundation year that will set my path for the next few decades. Here's hoping I can manage the same for my personal life.

In the case of copper

My parents had a yard sale today. For those not in Maryland or not reading this the same day I posted it, please note that today it rained, was quite cold, and later on sleeted and finally snowed. In short it was not a very good day to have a yard sale. The good news is that they had the yard sale in a barn so no one got wet (just very cold).

The even better news is that I found something of interest at the yard sale! Specifically I found an old 8" cast iron skillet and a 6" copper sauce pan. I have never owned a piece of copper before and the education I am giving myself reading about proper care and maintenance of copper cookware is rather staggering. For instance, copper is a great conductor of heat but a terrible general purpose material to cook in. In fact its so damn bad that except for cooking eggs and candy, everyone lines their copper cookware with either tin (the purists) or stainless steel (the new age hippies). Tin is cheaper but steel is less of an asshole. By that I mean tin lined pans can not be used over 400 degrees, can't be used with metal utensils, and many folks say can't be used with soap or even scour pads like scotch-brite.

As can be seen in these pictures:





The outside of the pot with its cast iron handle is alright but the inside needs to be redone. Lots of folks offer retinning, but almost no one offers a service that applies stainless steel. Also I know almost nothing about the history of this pot. Its probably at least 70 years old and possibly as much as a 100+ but I really have no way of knowing. Its apparent that the bottom of the pot was welded on after the sides were formed and I'm pretty sure its been a while since that was commonly done.

Unstoppable Hitler Law Student

Unstoppably amazing law school video made by someone at Berkeley.


Introducing: The Rogue's Peak

In order to assist in thinking of how crapy my car is I have devised a whole new way to graph it's general crapyness. Any good internet geek is familiar with the "uncanny valley." Well in much the same way as the uncanny valley is a measure of turning people off to a concept (in that case the use of robots), the rogue's peak is a measure of turning people onto a concept (in this case the theft of some object).

The uncanny valley measures how human like a robot is on the 'X' axis and people's likability of the robot on the 'Y' axis. The rogue's peak on the other hand measures the destruction of some object (where a zero would mean the object is brand new and the object's X axis would increase as more damage was done to it). The 'Y' axis is the chance of the object being stolen.

When an object left in the general public is brand new it has an average chance of being stolen, if it's a little bit damaged (in the case of a car let's say its scratched) its chance of being stolen is probably decreased (ie when it has that lived in look). But once some major damage to the structure occurs, like say a window being busted out, then the chance of it being stolen or stripped dramatically increases. And once someone has started stripping a car or its obviously stolen then other thieves will be even more attracted to the car.

This theory is not totally pulled from ass. In Criminology there are several studies concerning cars being left in less than savory neighborhoods. Cars that were brand new would remain untouched for the most part. But cars with flattened tires or cars with a broken window but were otherwise new would be stripped or stolen within hours.

Now that you have the setup allow me to execute the point of this lecture.

My car is quickly approaching a condition where it will appeal to thieves without any single major damage being inflicted upon its poor abused body.

Actually the real point of this was to come up with a spiffy name for my pseudo statistical analysis.

Grrrr

It looks like someone has hacked my AIM account and changed my password. I'm not sure why anyone would bother doing that. Its not like there is any benefit to having my AIM account but there it is. I can't seem to get it back either since none of my email addresses seem to be working as the registering email which probably means I did a mailinator job on it or that part got hacked as well.

Basically it means I can't recover from it. If you have an AIM account please respond so I can add you to my new list.
I've been playing Champions Online for the past few months and for a while it looked like I was going to get a character to the max level (something I've never actually done in an MMO before despite playing most of the major ones out there). Then along comes a game called Dragon Age: Origins made by Bioware. As names go its quite stupid, but then again that's rather the standard for the industry.

Dragon Age is an over the shoulder/overhead hack n' slash RPG with your now Bioware standard dialogue tree and quest system thrown in. Unlike most (if not all) of the previous games in this genre the graphics even up close are not half bad. You can zoom out so that the game is played as strictly overhead but I prefer to zoom in quite a bit and play over the shoulder using the WASD format to control movement.

However unlike Bioware's previous forays in this genre, this game does not carry the Dungeons and Dragons license. That means that when I go to pick a spell for my elven mage I don't see things like 1d6 in the damage description. Actually I really have no way of comparing spell damage. I know energy cost, and then my damage is controlled by my stats.

When I first heard of Dragon Age I thought I was going to miss the D&D license quite a bit. Now being around 8 or so hours into it I can say that not only do I not miss it. I actually find it extremely refreshing to see a list of spells and have no idea which is really better then the other or how they will work. That may sound odd, but really after having played 6 or so D&D games I'm ready for something more then Magic Missie and Scintillating Shield or whatever its called.

Overall I'm extremely happy with Dragon Age and expect it to consume a lot of my gaming time for the next few weeks/months ... years? ;-).

Ramping Up for Wheel of Time

Sometime in late October, early November (depending on which book store you listen to) the very last book in the Wheel of Time series is going to hit the street. This is a book that even death itself could not kill. I say that because the author, Robert Jordan, has been stone cold dead for two years now.

This is also one of the very few series I have read through from beginning to end more the once. For the most part I don't enjoy reading books more then once, but when I do it usually means the books are something special.

There are 13 books in the series total counting the new one and the preque. Each book is around 500 to 900 pages long. Adding all that up it means I have spent more time on this one series then any other single series be in TV, books, internet, music, or movies.

I am currently re-reading the last published book in preparation for the final edition and I have to say I am slightly more excited to get my hands on the darn thing then I was for any of the Harry Potter books.

Here's hoping it can live up to my unrealistically high hopes. ;-)

Wood and the Future!

Much has occurred!

Since my last post my brand spanking new computer was diagnosed with a faulty motherboard, and I gained a new hobby.

First the computer:

After much consternation I was forced to admit that my computer had serious faults with it. Specifically every 3 hours to 10 seconds the computer would bluescreen then restart, it was most inconvenient. After swapping out every single part in the computer except for the mobo, cpu, and psu I was forced to admit the most likely candidate was the motherboard. I thus obtained a RMA number and sent it off, no word on when its due back at this point.

Now for the hobby:

I am now a junior padawan woodworker in training. How did this come about? I'm so very glad you asked. A few weeks ago I became interested (the less charitable might say obsessed) with obtaining a high quality kitchen knife to replace my current less then stellar faberware pro chefs knife. After much research I settled in on a Blazen 210mm Gyuto (gyuto being a japanese chefs knife for all you normal less obsessed folk out there). With awareness of knives came awareness of cutting surfaces. Specifically that the best surfaces available are end grain wood cuttingboards. End Grain being a cuttingboard made up of little blocks with the grain of the wood facing up towards the cutting surface (or the same direction the tree once grew). This style is easiest on the knife edges. Sadly these kinds of cutting boards also tend to be somewhat expensive when bought in decent sizes.

Ahh but how hard could it be to make such a board? Well as it turns out, with the proper tools and a bit of patience, its not too terribly hard:




That thar is 16 (3/4)" by 19 (1/4)" by 1 (7/8)" of pure black walnut. Its also the very first woodworking project I have ever constructed. I doubt very much it will be the last.

Computing POWER!

Today is a day of geeky spectacular! Today is a day I built my new computer. I have come full circle on names and my new system is known as “doctorwho” as it damn well should be. After all this is truly an impressive beast:

Intel i7 920 processor

6 gigs of DDR3 RAM

Nvidia 260 GTX

500 gig HD for OS and 640 gig HD for games

  

Oh and I decided to run Windows 7 on it as well. Not only does it save me some money running a beta rather then trying to pay for a new OS. But the darn thing is pretty near shippable as is.

In fact, I’m using a new program “Winodws Live Writer” to upload this journal entry rather then go through the main livejournal website. I don’t think I’ll be using this program very often, but I was quite impressed to learn it supported livejournal natively.

  

And now for your viewing pleasure, obligatory computer build pictures:

 

DSCF3297

 

DSCF3298

 

DSCF3305

More Mirrors

Well its been a few days, I now think I am in a better place to parse my thoughts on Mirror's Edge.

Since my first post I went back and beat the game again, this time I definitely took only about 5 hours total. A lot of that is due to my increased playing abilities, but some of it is simply from knowing where to go next. I also have tried a few of the game's other modes, basically you can race yourself to complete certain areas in the game if you want.

Of the problems that can strip away ones joy for this title, combat is probably number one on that list. I can see why that is as well. The combat in this game is really not very smooth. That's probably because this is NOT a combat game. It has combat in it, it has guns, and folks that need shooting. But that does not mean you should partake in such practices. The entire point of the game is to move smoothly a dramatically from one position to the next. Combat breaks that flow, and its designed to. Combat is literally an obstacle in the game that is as much psychological as it is physical. As gamers we are trained to solve problems most often by going through them. Example:

(man with gun) + (door behind man) + (desire to get to door) = (kill man, then go through door)

Mirror's Edge requires, yes requires, you to break that time honored solution. Instead Mirror's Edge formula looks like this:

(man with gun) + (door behind man) + (desire to get to door) = (jump off the building, swing on a pole, and slide into the door via a railing)

Yes just killing the fellow would be more direct, but combat in Mirror's Edge is unwieldy. While it is almost certainly technically possible to take on two opponents at once in this game, I certainly have not managed to do so successfully. When fighting one the other has ample time to plug you full of holes, and unlike other games where combat is desired, in Mirror's Edge your avatar is simply not made of the sterner stuff.

Keyboard POWER

Sometime over this past summer I bought a Unicomp Customizer Keyboard. Essentially it is a recreation of the old IBM Model M keyboards (the big heavy clicky kind). At the time I bought it, I thought it was pretty great and I kept on thinking it was great right up till a month ago when I accidentally spilled my beer on it. After that, it didn't work quite right (like at all). So sadly I had to revert back to my old Saitek II keyboard.

Last week I finally decided it was time to put the past behind me and search out a new keyboard, one that could provide the tactile feedback I craved. I could have bought a new Customizer, but I really wanted to try something new. Specifically I wanted to find out what all the fuss was about with Mechanical Keyboards. These are keyboards that use individual switches under each key rather then a rubber membrane (as most keyboards use) to provide key resistance.

After a ginormous amount of research I came to the conclusion that there are only 3 possibly models of keyboards that I would be comfortable with. The first is the Das Keyboard, the second is the Steelseries 7g, and the third is the Filco Majestouch. The latter is the best of the 3 but its only sold in Japan. Or so I thought.

Apparently a company calling itself ABS is selling the darn Filco board in this country under their own brand name. Today my new board arrived and so far I must say it is pretty darn awesome. The keys have better tactile feedback then any normal board but not quite as much as my Customizer. Its also not quite as noisy as the Customizer. Despite there being less feedback I don't miss the loss at all. There is enough meat to these keys that it doesn't feel like I'm typing on mush like a lot of membrane boards.

It may seem like a silly thing to obsess over but as someone who plays a lot of video games on this machine, I can say that the implements of my hobby are quite important.

And now... back to more Mirror's Edge.

Mirrors Edge = Damn Sexy Awesome!

There's been a lot of crap going around in the review department about Mirror's Edge.. and if you are some poor soul enslaved to a console I can see where you would feel the pain.

However, if you are one of the dynamic wonders that has seen past the allure of the console and been, dare I say 'inaugurated,' into the pure blissful realm of the PC, then unruly control restraints have fallen away and you are free, FREE I SAY, to experience the outstanding symphony of delights that is Mirror's Edge.

If you have never heard of Mirror's Edge then you might wonder what the heck the game is about. The short short answer is that its about jumping from roof-top to roof-top while big bad men with guns try to stop you. This is a concept I have expressed interest in before.

I have as of a few moments before conquered this magnificent game and now I write to you good people as my way of basking in the afterglow of my favorite game of 2008. That's right, I'm giving it a big ol' Game of the Year Award. Yes technically it came out in 2009, but I cite stupid Electronic Arts execs as the cause of such things. The game by all accounts was ready to go in 2008 and so that is when I shall count it as being released.

Why do I like this game so much? Top on the list has to be immersion. I have not been so unmindful of outside considerations since I played "The Longest Journey." Then there is the flow. You could argue the entire game is basically about the concept of not breaking the flow. The better your character is at moving seamlessly from point A to point B the more the game rewards you. After considerations of flow come the wow factor. There wasn't 5 minutes going by in the game where I didn't see some challenge up ahead and say "are they serious!!" Then almost effortlessly I was able to steer my avatar through that challenge consistently impressing myself with the jaw dropping grace in which the game operates.

All this praise does not mean the game is without flaws of course. The story for instance is pretty near awful. Whoever did the writing needs to consider a new career. There are street signs that emote more from the reader then this game can coax out of its user. I have half a mind to mention the combat as a sour note as well, but the other half persistently points out that if you are fighting more then 1 person at a time you are doing something wrong. I could write a lot more about this... and probably will but I need to let the experience decompress some more....

Magic Bites - yea thats a title

I just finished reading two books by up and coming author Ilona Andrews, and now...now I must blog! or journal, or contemplate or whatever.. Andrews appears to be a fairly new author (as in brand new) she has thus far written two books of a series. The first book is called "Magic Bites" the second is called "Magic Burns" and the third book which will not be released till March is called "Magic Strikes" (do you sense a theme here?).

Anyway these books are best described as pop-sci-fi. Yes its that special category I created sometime ago. The basic world premise is that in the not so distant future (a matter of years rather then decades) magic returns to the world...but not completely. Magic comes and goes in tides and when its in control technology simply stops working. Such things as phones and computers and sometimes cars simply will not function. But magic will recede and technology comes back into effect. Often it will be hours or days before a shift will occur, in the meantime either magic or technology will hold sway.

I won't say much more about the plot since I am confident at least 1 or 2 readers of this journal will be interested in these books, but I will mention one more detail. The closest books I have found to compare this series to are Laural K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series (with a lot less sex), and I like these books for the same reasons as I like Hamilton's work (at least her early work). The books won't win any literary awards but they are fun quick reads that distract from most everything else going on around you. Enjoy!

Latest Month

September 2013
S M T W T F S
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
2930     

Syndicate

RSS Atom
Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow