Monday, January 31, 2005

A Good Day

It's a good day when I log onto a forum related to our games, and I see this directed at me (my handle on these forums is "Brother Magneto", after my favorite mutant):

Warms me evil little heart to know how many people out there hate me, even though they've never met me.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Movie: Black Sunday (AKA The Mask of Satan)

James is sick, Liz is training puppies, so I'm home alone. Time to do some writing.

Yesterday morning, I watched Black Sunday, on old horror movie I picked up super-cheap on a recommendation and never had time to watch. Black Sunday is Tim Burton's favorite horror movie (according to the marketing blurbs on the packaging, anyway), an Italian horror film done in the early 50s before there really were such things as Italian horror films. It's a vampire flick set in the mid-1800s, with all the appropriate gothic scenery: ruined cathedrals, old crypts, crumbling castles, mobs with torches and pitchforks, the works. It was surprisingly gruesome, too: the "mask" in the alternate title is a spiked iron affair nailed to the face of a witch with a huge mallot, and they didn't spare any blood.

It seems pretty tame and cliche by today's standards, but there were certainly a couple of wince moments, and some really cool special effects. Probably worth more as a historical curiosity than a horror film, but I've seem much worse.

Sunday Puppetry

Sunday morning. I slept well last night, for the first night in about a week. Seems like this cold is on its way out; I had a couple solid hours of coughing fits last night, but then it all stopped. This morning, it's just a little bit in the nose.

Last week was pretty much dealing with the cold when I wasn't dealing with work. I've got a nice little extracurricular activity from the office that's taking up most of my free time, but it's one of those things that I really enjoy doing, so the time I've put into it is really more personal therapy than work. I still have a contract with some nice billable hours left on it, and I'm planning on jumping back into that this afternoon.

Yesterday, John and Angela came over. The plan was originally to see Hotel Rwanda in the afternoon, but Angela was hung over and didn't want to see a movie about genocide, so it turned into a dinner thing. We broke out the Clue Master Detective my parent's got me this Christmas (thanks Mom!) and had some fun with that, and then with Apples to Apples. We thought about seeing the movie late last night, but tickets would have been too expensive, so we stayed in and played games and talked instead. We should get together with them more often.

Today, I'm going back to the gym this morning, and I think I'm going into the city to play cards with James and Chad. And that's really all that's happnening in my life these days. The World's Largest Dungeon group appears to be breaking up, either from lack of interest, too many characters, or whatever, which is too bad. We fought the Dungeon, and the Dungeon won.

I think I need some breakfast.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Movie: Elektra

Two movies in one day? Lucky me!

Well, not really. The office kicked in so I could see Elektra; again, I'm glad I didn't pay for it. It was actually really good for about the first thirty minutes: the introductory sequence was taken word-for-word and shot-for-shot from the comics, which considering a comic book is basically a storyboard, is one of the best ways to shoot a comic book movie. The beginning of the rest of the film also follows another Elektra comic story arc, but quickly degenerates into a bunch of bad martial arts nonsense. There was even a bad-guy roll-call at one point (Baroness, Cobra Commander - ATTACK!)

The high point was the trailer for Sin City (Quicktime required to view at link), which I hadn't watched yet. Now that looks like an amazing comic adaptation!

Movie: Intolerable Cruelty

Tonight's Netflix offering was Intolerable Cruelty, a Coen brothers romantic comedy with some big Hollywood names and some usual Coen hijinks. The plot was predictable (twice, I called out what was going to happen next), but it wasn't terrible - if you're going to watch a romantic comedy, you might as well watch one by the Coens. My only problem with the film was that they spent a good deal of time creating the reasons why Catherine Zeta-Jones disliked George Clooney, and about thirty seconds on why she actually did like him, so when they (SPOILER ALERT!) end up together, it lacked a certain authenticity.

But, it was a fine way to spend an evening.

Normally, Thursday would have been gaming night, but we cancelled due to the creeping crud, which has now decided that my lungs are OK places to rest as well as my sinuses. Liz got this one day before I did, and she is still feeling bad, so I know I've got at least one hard day left.

I hate viruses.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Movie: Saved!

Even though I lived in Tulsa for four years, and attended a high school with a large population of fundamentalist Christian teenagers, and I was a religion major in college (even took a class specifically in 20th Century Christian Thought), I still feel rather clueless about the conservative, fundamentalist, Protestant worldview. I think that's in no small part to my being raised Catholic, and the fluid nature of conservative evangelical Protestantism seems to run contrary to a lot of what I learned as a Catholic, but it could just be a cultural thing as well. So I Netflixed Saved!, an indie flick billed as a teen high school comedy, at an evangelical high school. It was surprisingly serious - covering homosexuality, teen pregnancy, abortion, and so on - but most of the main characters seemed to be cariactures rather than fully-developed entities, especially the school's "fundie queen" (played by Mandy Moore).

While Saved! was obviously critical of people such as Moore's characters - those for whom faith is a tool to serve their own self-interests - it really shined in its portrayal of Patrick the preacher's son, Dean the gay kid who gets the main character pregnant, and Mary, the main character and soon-to-be unwed mother who screwed Dean to try to save him from being gay. While Mary struggles with her faith, the other two don't lose theirs, and the film ended up quite complimentary of the quiet kind of Christian who isn't out to create a running tally of souls personally saved, but is merely there to help and love his or her neighbor.

The end got to be a little heavy-handed and contrived, but Saved! is still worth a look if religion interests you as much as it does me.


In another example of why talking about a success before it is certain jinxes me every time, I started feeling awful about noon yesterday and felt bad enough to come home around two. I slept until about six, woke up, watched a movie, ate, and went back to bed. Liz's version seems to have settled as a cough, while mine has migrated up into my ever-inviting sinuses. The good news is, I really do feel better today - the aches are gone, which was a major reason for me going home yesterday, so I'm going to brave the office today, too.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Dodging the Bullet

Liz has spent the last two days in the throes of a coldflu, and I woke up yesterday with a sore throat and a bit of a cough. I started feeling progressively worse throughout the day, and right after work I hopped out to the drugstore to get a bunch of zinc, throat drops, cough medicine, and NyQuil. I took a combination of that last night, and I seem to be better this morning - still not tip-top, but a hell of a lot better than yesterday. My throat still feels a tad scratchy, but I think I beat the system on this one.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

I Like To Push the Pram A Lot!

The Monkey King reminded me that the Monty Python musical, Spamalot, opens in New York about three days before I arrive for Toy Fair.

I'll be attending the night of the 23rd. You may worship me... now.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Movie: House of 1000 Corpses

I haven't written any movie reviews in a while, and this blog has been a little behind on content lately, so I figured I'd get back into my thoughts on what I've been watching.

A few months ago, I got a subscription to Netflix so I could catch up on movies I didn't want to buy and I didn't want to waste my time to rent. House of 1000 Corpses was one of those, but of the movies I've gotten from Netflix, it's the only one I think I would buy, if the price was right.

The plot of the movie is largely summed up in the title: like the ax-murderer horror movies of the 1970s, four kids stop at a roadside attraction and end up prisoners of a deranged family in the title house. I didn't count, but there may very well have been a thousand corpses there. It's a raw horror film with zero hope, as it's pretty clear from about twenty minutes in that the main characters are well and rightly fucked (by their own stupidity as much as anything else). Calling it a gorefest doesn't do it justice, as it's relatively light on the gore; instead, it's a repeated, crushing nightmare of human depravity, made all the worse because there isn't some supernatural force behind it: as is implied in the beginning, everything that happens, can (and has) happen(ed) from the hands of regular human beings.

Director Rob Zombie, formerly of the band White Zombie, has a strong, if frentic, screen presence. The cuts are quick, and he makes excellent use both of hallucinagenic-like cut scenes (often with regular character dialogue still occuring), and of split-screen scenes showing reactions of characters to the horror other characters are inflicting on them.

I certainly won't say House is for everyone - in fact, I can only think of a couple of people I would recommend it to - but if you're a horror fan, this is certainly one of the better American horror movie offerings to come along in quite a while.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Shifting Focus

In case you'd like to read about a real dictator whose citizens are starving (and, by some reports, eating each other), check out this book review about a tome covering the horror that is North Korea. Or, if you're interested in seeing what it's like for an American to visit North Korea (and you're into the photo thing), check out this photo essay (it will take you a while to read the whole thing, but it's fascinating reading). Or, examine North Korea from space.

If Bush had sold us that North Korea was a nation with nukes and they were ready to use them on us, I would have bought it. Hell, I probably would have enlisted.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Plays Well With Others

Tonight wrapped up the third of three weeks of playtesting over at Wolf's place. He's got a cool little adventure; I especially liked the end, there were a couple awesome little details that cemented the whole thing for me and made it memorable. I also met a very nice couple who were fun to game with; they mentioned they were looking for a game, so if we ever get up and running back into a more fantasy setting, I might drop them a line.

It's 20 minutes after midnight, and I don't feel tired at all. In fact, I feel like goofing off in San Andreas for a while.

Iraqi Blogs

Incidentally, if you're interested in reading more blogs from Iraq, this soldier's blog has an excellent directory of them.

Views of the War

A couple of days ago, Bob posted a story on his blog titled "How the Left Betrayed My Country: Iraq", and suggested that it should be required reading for anyone who opposes our presence in Iraq. As one who opposes our presence in Iraq (and, indeed, the whole sorry mess that the invasion has created in the international community), I have it a read. The article states - basically - that the leftist media has it all wrong, and that Iraqis really are grateful that we Americans came and overthrew Saddam. The story opens:

    Before the last war, we Iraqis spent decades cut off from the outside world. Not only did the Baathist regime prevent us from traveling during the Iran-Iraq conflict and the period of the sanctions, but they punished anyone possessing satellite television. And of course, internet access was strictly limited. Because of our isolation, most of us had little idea or sense about life beyond our borders.
I pointed out in Bob's comments that I know for a fact access to the Internet was not as limited as this writer would have us believe, because I read - daily - Iraqi blogs leading up to and during the invasion of Baghdad. And those blogs were saying some pretty anti-Saddam things, but so too were they saying some pretty anti-American things.

Other parts of the article read like a right-wingers wet dream of how they think we lib'ruls are viewed by the Iraqis that greeted us with open arms:
    It’s worth noting, as well, that the general attitude of peace activists I met was tension and anger. They were impossible to reason with. This was because, on one hand, the sometimes considerable risks they took to oppose the war made them unable to accept the fact that their cause was not as noble as they believed. Then, too, their dogmatic anti-American attitudes naturally drew them to guides, translators, drivers and Iraqi acquaintances who were themselves supporters of the regime. These Iraqis, in turn, affected the peace activists until they came to share almost the same judgments and opinions as the terrorists and defenders of Saddam.
Generalizations and questionable sources aside, I don't doubt that there are some Iraqis that feel as this person does, just as there are some - very few, mind you, but some - black people who feel that Alan Keyes rather than Barak Obama represents the views of black Americans.

Through some sort of serendipity, someone at MeFi linked to Baghdad Burning, a blog maintained by a girl in Baghdad. I had read this blog a couple of times last year, but the recent post made after the Bush administration's declaration of "there never were any weapons of mass destruction, hehehe!" is pretty amazing. A few bits include:
    Why does this not surprise me? Does it surprise anyone? I always had the feeling that the only people who actually believed this war was about weapons of mass destruction were either paranoid Americans or deluded expatriate Iraqis- or a combination of both. I wonder now, after hundreds and hundreds of Americans actually died on Iraqi soil and over a hundred-thousand Iraqis are dead, how Americans view the current situation. I have another question- the article mentions a "Duelfer Report" stating the weapons never existed and all the intelligence was wrong. This report was supposedly published in October 2004. The question is this: was this report made public before the elections? Did Americans actually vote for Bush with this knowledge?

    Over here, it's not really "news" in the sense that it's not new. We've been expecting a statement like this for the last two years. While we were aware the whole WMD farce was just a badly produced black comedy, it's still upsetting to hear Bush's declaration that he was wrong. It's upsetting because it just confirms the worst: right-wing Americans don't care about justifying this war. They don't care about right or wrong or innocents dead and more to die. They were somewhat ahead of the game. When they saw their idiotic president wasn't going to find weapons anywhere in Iraq, they decided it would be about mass graves. It wasn't long before the very people who came to 'liberate' a sovereign country soon began burying more Iraqis in mass graves. The smart weapons began to stupidly kill 'possibly innocent' civilians (they are only 'definitely innocent' if they are working with the current Iraqi security forces or American troops). It went once more from protecting poor Iraqis from themselves to protecting Americans from 'terrorists'. Zarqawi very conveniently entered the picture.

    Zarqawi is so much better than WMD. He's small, compact and mobile. He can travel from Falloojeh to Baghdad to Najaf to Mosul… whichever province or city really needs to be oppressed. Also, conveniently, he looks like the typical Iraqi male- dark hair, dark eyes, olive skin, medium build. I wonder how long it will take the average American to figure out that he's about as substantial as our previously alleged WMD.

    Now we're being 'officially' told that the weapons never existed. After Iraq has been devastated, we're told it's a mistake. You look around Baghdad and it is heart-breaking. The streets are ravaged, the sky is a bizarre grayish-bluish color- a combination of smoke from fires and weapons and smog from cars and generators. There is an endless wall that seems to suddenly emerge in certain areas to protect the Green Zoners... There is common look to the people on the streets- under the masks of fear, anger and suspicion, there's also a haunting look of uncertainty and indecision. Where is the country going? How long will it take for things to even have some vague semblance of normality? When will we ever feel safe?

    I hope Americans feel good about taking their war on terror to foreign soil. For bringing the terrorists to Iraq- Chalabi, Allawi, Zarqawi, the Hakeems… How is our current situation going to secure America? How is a complete generation that is growing up in fear and chaos going to view Americans ten years from now? Does anyone ask that? After September 11, because of what a few fanatics did, Americans decided to become infected with a collective case of xenophobia… Yet after all Iraqis have been through under the occupation, we're expected to be tolerant and grateful. Why? Because we get more wheat in our diets?

    Terror isn't just worrying about a plane hitting a skyscraper…terrorism is being caught in traffic and hearing the crack of an AK-47 a few meters away because the National Guard want to let an American humvee or Iraqi official through. Terror is watching your house being raided and knowing that the silliest thing might get you dragged away to Abu Ghraib where soldiers can torture, beat and kill. Terror is that first moment after a series of machine-gun shots, when you lift your head frantically to make sure your loved ones are still in one piece. Terror is trying to pick the shards of glass resulting from a nearby explosion out of the living-room couch and trying not to imagine what would have happened if a person had been sitting there.

    The weapons never existed. It's like having a loved one sentenced to death for a crime they didn't commit- having your country burned and bombed beyond recognition, almost. Then, after two years of grieving for the lost people, and mourning the lost sovereignty, we're told we were innocent of harboring those weapons. We were never a threat to America...

    Congratulations Bush- we are a threat now.
Much of this sums up my thoughts on Iraq. Prior to, during, and immediately after the invasion, the invasion was sold as a hunt for weapons of mass destruction. Those who said those weapons didn't exist - like Hans Blix and the UN - were dismissed as being "against us" because they weren't "with us," just tools of a lib'rul machine and opponents of the war on terror. My thought at the time, as it is now, was that Saddam was not a threat to us. The invasion was made under the pretense that he not only possessed weapons of mass destruction, but that he wanted to use them - or at least supply his good buddies in Al-Qaeda with them.

The implied connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda was always fishy at best, because it seemed to be playing into the ignorance of the American public, and a belief that all Muslims (or, all people with Arab ancestry) are alike. I was reminded of this the other day when a friend of a friend joined us at work for some roleplaying. I was discussing the religious implications of my character's ethos, more for giggles than anything else, and I mentioned that all major religions frown upon killing. This guy (who is very nice, and pretty cool regardless of his beliefs) mentioned that Muslims believed that killing nonbelievers was OK. I asked for clarification, and he said that Muslims believe that a nonbeliever is only three-fifths of a person. I told him that I was a religion major in college and had never heard of that, but that I had studied primarily Eastern traditions and might have missed it. It smacked of something that someone might pick up from right-wing talk radio, but I didn't mention that. He repeated the fact, and I shot back that Protestant Christians agreed that non-Whites were three-fifths of a person as well. He didn't understand what I meant, even when I specifically mentioned the three-fifths compromise in American history, he didn't know what I was talking about - even though it was a seminal point of race relations in the United States for over eighty years.

After the war, the conservative rhetoric has shifted from weapons of mass destruction - now strangely absent from Fox News and CNN - to the joy of removing Saddam, a vicious dicator, from power. If you don't agree with the war, the implication goes these days, then you must have wanted Saddam in power and oppressing people! More of that same "if you're not with us, you're against us" that appeals to the lowest common denomenator, and what the original article Bob referenced is built upon.

But taking everything into account - not just how one Iraqi feels, but how many of them feel; the damage the invasion did not only to the war on terror (it has let Al-Qaeda into an area that was formerly off-limits to them); it has wasted US resources; it has distracted from Afghanistan, hunting the Taliban, and killing bin Laden; it turned the international goodwill that existed after 9-11 into almost universal international hatred; the divided nature of the United States right now; and the hundreds of thousands of dead, I have to ask - is it really, really, really worth it? Saddam killed a million people before the first Gulf War. Why didn't we remove him then, if we're so self-righteous? Was he operating death camps at the time of the invasion? What about Indonesia, which was actively oppressing its minorities in East Timor? What about the genocide in Rwanda, which killed as many people in Saddam in a twentieth of the time? What about Milosevich, whom US conservatives said we should not be wasting our time attacking not ten years ago?

The conservative message has been inconsistant and self-serving, when taken over the last fifteen years. It has been nothing but putting their interests over the interests of the United States and the rest of the world. Milosevich should be defended, but Saddam overthrown. Weapons not around? Shift the focus to Saddam.

I oppose the occupation of Iraq, I read the article, and I found it to be quite lacking both in perspective and verisimilitude. It's great that one guy in Iraq is glad we overthrew Saddam - that doesn't change the fact that we have completely destabilized an entire country, created a whole new generation of orphans that will grow up to fill Al Qaeda's ranks in ten years, allowed religious fundamentalism to gain a solid foothold in a formerly secular nation, and engineered a constant hell for the people we liberated.

Am I glad Saddam is gone? Sure, just like that guy. But for fuck's sake, there's so much more at stake here, one tinpot dictator - a relatively minor stain on history - has not been worth the damage we've done. Period.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Letter From A Blue State

I can't take credit for writing this - it appeared in my inbox this morning - but it's damn funny, and true.

Dear President Bush:

Congratulations on your victory over all us non-evangelicals. Actually, we're a bit ticked off here in California, so we're leaving.

California will now be its own country. And we're taking all the blue states with us. In case you are not aware, that includes Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and all of the North East.

We spoke to God, and He agrees that this split will be beneficial to almost everybody, and especially to us in the new country of California. In fact, God is so excited about it, He's going to shift the whole country at 4:30 pm EST this Friday.

Therefore, please let everyone know they need to be back in their states by then.

So you get Texas! And all the former slave states. We get the Governator, stem cell research and the best beaches. We get Elliot Spitzer. You get Ken Lay. (Okay, we have to keep Martha Stewart, we can live with that.) We get the Statue of Liberty. You get OpryLand. We get Intel and Microsoft. You get WorldCom. We get Harvard. You get Old Miss' We get 85% of America's venture capital and entrepreneurs. You get all the technological innovation in Alabama.

We get about two-thirds of the tax revenue, and you get to make the red states pay their fair share. Since our divorce rate is 22% lower than the Christian coalition's, we get a bunch of happy families. You get a bunch of single moms to support, and we know how much you like that.

Did I mention we produce about 70% of the nation's veggies? But heck, the only greens the Bible-thumpers eat are the pickles on their Big Macs. Oh yeah, another thing, don't plan on serving California wine at your state dinners. From now on it's imported French wine for you.

Ouch, bet that hurts.

Just so we're clear, the country of California will be pro-choice and anti-war. Speaking of war, we're going to want all blue states citizens back from Iraq. If you need people to fight, just ask your evangelicals. They have tons of kids they're willing to send to their deaths for absolutely no purpose. And they don't care if you don't show pictures of their kids' caskets coming home.

Anyway, we wish you all the best in the next four years and we hope, really hope, you find those missing weapons of mass destruction.

Seriously. Soon.

Sincerely, California

Video Games As Art

This article is a must-read for gamers of all stripes:

    "The Grand Theft Auto games are not only works of art, but are among the most politically engaged pieces of mainstream art to come along in the last ten years."
Some of it seems just a little far-reaching, but it supports its points well. I'd love to hear Roger's opinion on this.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Voting in Iraq

Apparently the Iraqis have not only learned about democracy, but they have been taking lessons from Dino Rossi. Why, you ask? Hell, you don't even live in Iraq, or be a citizen of Iraq, to vote in their election!

Golly, I sure hope these elections really are democratic, like Bush promised, and not an excuse to empower a bunch of vulnerable US stooges, like the world suspects.

I think we're actually destabilizing now.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Monday Funny

What about a catapult?

Update: Me

I haven't done a personal update for a while, partially because I've been pretty busy at work helping to transition my responsibilites onto the new guy, and partially because there's not a whole lot to update about. The new guy is OK, but he's damned slow and doesn't seem to have a solid concept of how long it should take to do some of these tasks - nor does he realize how time-sensitive some of this stuff is. It's probably because I have more experience with how our game community tends to respond to things (negatively) and how quickly they pick up on stuff and start dissecting it (almost immediately), so I'm much more sensitive to those kinds of things. Perhaps I should tell him to begin monitoring our forums.

The big news in our life is that we're buying a house. As I said in the writing post below, I don't like to talk about things until they're sure, but this one is looking good, so I'll mention it. We found a house. The price was right. The value should go up. We're looking to stay there for 2-3 years and make a hundred grand off it. We'll see how that plan works.

Writing News

Good news, everyone!

Normally I don't talk about this stuff until it's 100% sure, but this is 99%, so here goes. I got an email that my Deadworld setting for All Flesh Must Be Eaten will be published!

I do believe I may have just climbed a rung on the ladder, which puts me right around rung number three.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

A New World

I got completely swamped at work yesterday, so while I was following the Huygens probe data, I couldn't post about it.

It looks like everything went as planned. You can now download the sounds of Titan, see the moon in true color, and get a composite of the liquid near the landing area.

Most importantly, however, is the fact that Huygens has detected frozen water on Titan's surface. And where there's water, generally, there is life.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Exceeding Expectations

The Huygens probe was designed to transmit data for ten minutes after landing - and has instead transmitted for at least an hour and a half. This is very exciting - it would appear that everything fell into place, and we're going to know a lot more about an alien world very soon!

Sometimes, Words Have Consequences

Yup, that's what President Bush said regarding his "bring 'em on" comment to American troops in response to Iraqi insurgents. He realizes that now, Bush says.

What the fucking fuck? You mean to tell me we elected a man - TWICE - who didn't realize that words have fucking consequences? I mean, isn't that something most normal average human beings learn around Kindergarten?

The Fonz

Hell, I know I'm cool. Here's a graphic to prove it.

I am 18% loser. What about you? Click here to find out!

My Nerd Score (Nerd Quotient?)

Honestly, I thought I was a little nerdier than this - but I've never been very good at math.

I am nerdier than 53% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

The Dream Is Alive

At 7:45 ET this morning, the Huygens probe successfully landed on Titan. This is exciting beyond belief, because it means that most of the variables, if not all of them, have worked in our favor. More news as it develops.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

What Weapons?

Yesterday, the White House quietly admitted there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and there likely never were (sorry, no article to link to - it was on TV last night, but it seems to have fallen off the radar at many news sites). As far as I know, this is the closest admission to any kind of wrong by this administration, even though I watched Bawbawa Watwaws interviewing Bush while I was on the Stairmaster last night and Bush brazenly said, no, he regrets nothing, we've freed Iraq. Yes, the country where 92% of the population views us as an occupying force is free. I suppose to a President who can't seem to get his approval ratings over that vicious 52% hump without a terrorist attack on American soil, 8% must still seem pretty significant.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Mashed Taters

A very positive article on mash-ups from the New Yorker.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

History Fast Approaches

I've always loved space and space exploration. As a kid, my parents took me to see Star Wars and Star Trek movies, and the later was one of my first television memories - it might have even been the Tribble episode. More than once, family vacations centered around trips to the Air and Space Museum and Cape Canaveral. I remember exactly where I was when I heard about the Challenger exploding, and I was moved to tears a couple of years ago when Columbia was destroyed on re-entry. I've got a great telescope my friends and I used in college to check out planets, stars, and more.

So I've been watching with some excitement the Cassini mission to Saturn. Unlike Jupiter, which we've explored thoroughly with the Galileo probe, Saturn, its rings, and most imporantly its moons remain a mystery. While Jupiter's Europa remains one of the prime candidates for finding extraterrestrial carbon-based life, Saturn's moon Titan is another candidate, along with the moon Mimas, which may consist almost entirely of water ice. Cassini has already returned startling information, like images of massive storm activity on Saturn. But the truly historical part of the mission will come next week.

One January 14th, the Huygens probe will descend beneath Titan's thick atmosphere for a two-hour ride to the moon's surface. During that descent, it will continuously radio information to the Cassini probe, which will then relay the information back to Earth. Huygens, a flat flying-saucer-like disc, contains instruments that will measure the composition of Titan's atmosphere, a microphone to record sounds (thunder will indicate atmospheric activity - and this will be the first recorded sounds from another world!), and numerous cameras to take pictures the entire way down. It also has lights to illuminate its landing area, so we can get some clear images of that, and should it survive landing, then it can analyze its landing space.

Of course, a thousand things could go wrong, from the chute not opening to the probe landing in a sea of liquid methane to the probe landing on a cliff and sliding to its doom. But we should have enough data for a unique look at a strange, new world.

The data will be rolling in on the 14th, so I'll be watching carefully and making updates as we see cool new stuff.

Carnie's Delight

We watched the last five episodes of Carnivale in a mini-marathon tonight, in preperation for tomorrow's debut of Season 2. I have to say that I'm really glad to see quality writing for TV in the day of "reality shows," even if I do have to spring an extra twelve bucks a month for it.

And if anyone is looking for an apocalyptic, classical Christian, magical realist dust-bowl era fantasy, look no further than Carnivale.

What's He Building In There?

This morning, we put an offer on another house. I think this is going to be a good deal, but it's scary as hell right now, and I'm trying pretty hard not to think about it.

So instead, I'm going to dink around with my website, and see if I can't come up with a cool, work-safe concept.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


Yesterday, Liz and I headed to the gym for the first time in... well.. a long time. At least two years (we quit going when we moved to Seattle). My legs feel like Jell-o, but it's a good feeling - I'm committed to this whole losing-weight thing, doing it in a healthy way, and changing my lifestyle. Now I just need to follow through.

In other news, we've been watching Carnivale on the video-on-demand, a great way to watch reruns if you have digital cable. It's an impressive show with an impressive cast, kind of a magical realism but with more sinister overtones.

Speaking of, I'm going to watch another episode or two right now. And try to write at the same time.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

King County Voters Represent!

Want to know if you're a registered King County voter, or if your vote was counted in the messy 2004 election? The Seattle Times offers a database for this task.

Goodnight, Sweet Prince

Will Eisner, the father of the graphic novel and surely one of the most influential figures in comic history, has passed away according to his website.

Recommended Reading

Via Metafilter, an excellent article on the truth behind video and music piracy, filesharing, and so forth, from Wired.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

It's Hard Work

Someone once asked James Joyce how work on his novel Finnegan's Wake was going. It took Joyce twenty years to write his book, and his response to this unnamed person was, "I've written six words." His friend responded "James, that's great!" And Joyce's response was, "but I don't know what order they go in!"

I did some work on my novel last week, but I've tried to sit down several times this weekend to pound out some words and I've been able to manage about a paragraph or so. It's extraordinarily frustrating; every time I sit down, it feels like writing even a word or two takes a colossal effort.

I've had these spells before, but I still don't like them.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

All Is Quiet

Yesterday was my first New Year's Eve in Seattle, and boy howdy did they light up that Space Needle with some bitchin' fireworks. Liz and I joined Seth and Matt for drinks, dinner, poker, The Great Dalmuti, and conversation over at Brook and Wendi's, and rang in the new year with style. A good time was had by all. This morning, I'm realizing I've got an entire weekend in which to work on my book, watch a couple of Netflix movies, and cruise through the rest of The Simpsons Season 5. My stomach feels a little woozy (I was the designated driver last night, so it weren't the booze), but otherwise, I'm ready to tackle the weekend in full work-goof-work mode.

DVD Roundup

The best DVDs of 2004, based on movie, picture, and sound quality. If you're building a DVD library, these are the ones to get.

  • Dawn of the Dead: The Ultimate Edition
  • Hellboy: The Director's Cut
  • The Star Wars Trilogy Boxed Set
  • The Matrix Boxed Set
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Extended Edition)
  • The Alien Quadrilogy
  • Spider-Man 2 Superbit
  • Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
  • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
  • The Pink Panther Collection

Movie Roundup

I usually don't rank the "best" movies (hard to do that when you've got over 430 of them sitting on your shelf), but I'll do a little list of my recommended films from 2004.

2004's Movies You Should See:

  • Dawn of the Dead
  • Garden State
  • Shrek 2
  • The Incredibles
  • Primer
  • Kill Bill 2
  • Shaun of the Dead
  • Spider-Man 2
  • The Grudge
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Hellboy (The Director's Cut)
2004's Movies I Haven't Seen But Sound Good:
  • Phantom of the Opera
  • Mean Girls
  • The Passion of the Christ
  • Saw
  • The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou
  • Open Water
Honorable Mentions:
  • Fahrenheit 9/11 (overhyped and a moot point now)
  • Super Size Me (possibly the biggest "duh" premise in the history of documentary filmmaking, but still worth watching)
  • Broken Lizard's Club Dread (guilty pleasure)