Friday, September 26, 2008

Wedding Ceremonies

Okay, so Aradia and I talk about renewing our vows from time to time. We're coming up on ten years as a married couple, so you know, it could be fun. And any time we come across and interesting and unique wedding ceremony, we talk about it, at least in passing. I don't know that we'll ever do it in truth, but it's just fun to talk about.

So, since they've been playing Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End on TV for a while now, I thought I'd look up pirate ceremonies. Which is where I found this. Not a bad pirate ceremony, if I do say so myself. I've seen worse, I'm sure. Spoken in the proper piratey voice, it would work just fine.

But honestly, THIS is going way too far.

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Book Review: The Gypsy Morph

The first Terry Brooks novel I ever read was The Elfstones of Shannara. It was one of the first fantasy novels I'd ever read, and I fell instantly in love with it. I know, I know. His critics claim that his work, especially the early stuff, is warmed over Tolkien. I don't care. I could actually read and comprehend Elfstones in a way that I could never have gotten into Tolkien. I wasn't ready to dig into the Lord of the Rings until college. I just didn't have the tools to get what was going on. But Elfstones I could get. It was accessible, and a good story with a decently subtle moral. I loved it. I still do. It's my favorite Brooks novel, by far, although I admit that I own just about everything he's ever written and enjoy most of it to one degree or another.

So, when The Gypsy Morph came out, it was a no-brainer that I was going to get it and read it post haste. Which I just finished doing. Yes, that's right. Instead of reading my friend's manuscript, or working on Wiglaf's Tale (my current obsession) or revising At What Cost (my last obsession) or hell, doing the laundry, vacuuming or doing anything else constructive, I polished off the last of the Genesis of Shannara series this morning. Was it worth the effort?

Hell, yes!

I was actually worried about this book quite a bit. The ending of Brooks' last Shannara sequence, the High Druid of Shannara, was disappointing to me in a really fundamental way. Brooks never pulls any punches when it comes to introspection, self-discovery and self-sacrifice. But the ending of High Druid was just no very satisfying. It left you with a "Well, damn!" kind of feeling. But The Gypsy Morph is much better. For one thing, there's an actual, honest-to-goodness happy ending, even if it is tempered with Brooks' usual bittersweetness. And I'm impressed with how he's managed to blend the worlds of Shannara and the Knights of the Word. Both worlds are reflections of our own, in one way or another, and it's nice to see a relatively seamless integration. It was just flat-out fun to watch a rune-covered black staff wielding Knight of the World kick demon ass alongside a blue Elfstone wielding smoking-hot, sexy-dangerous Elven Tracker.

There's one other thing I'd like to point out. The entire Genesis sequence has had a heavy environmental message layered on top of Brooks' usual story elements. Not that he's not had things to say about the environment before, but this series took on more and more of that call for environmental preservation as it went along, and I'm okay with that. Well, I suppose it's more of a cautionary tale. But either way you look at it, it's not a greenwash by any stretch of the imagination, if only because it's not the first time he's had elements of environmentalism laced through his works. But it's obvious that the author is very concerned about where we're going as stewards of our world, and I'm pleased to see it done so well. I seem to share his concerns. Also, he doesn't push a particular agenda. I view this series' environmental message as a very general call for a re-examination of our policies and prejudices. I don't think anyone, except some seriously right-wing wackaloon, can disagree with that.

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Spectacularly Bad Idea

Just in case you didn't ALREADY know that PETA was batshit insane: PETA wants to change the ingredients of Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Now, that article's title is a little misleading, because Ben & Jerry's hasn't agreed. At least I haven't been able to find anything saying that they have. However, what scares me is that Ben & Jerry's is ssssoooo "indy-lefty" that they may actually be considering this. I don't think so, but you just never know. If Ben & Jerry's gets in bed with PETA, I'm never buying any of their oh-so-delicious ice cream again.

For the record, I ran across this link in a bizarre set of clci-throughs that started over at Whatever, John Scalzi's blog. I want an Electric Sheep.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Observation Of The Day: Moodkiller

Nothing kills the mood faster than a large, uncomfortable piece of grit in your eye. Trust me.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Stupendously Bad Physics Joke

XKCD #474

I just wish I'd thought of it first.


Just For Ranson -- The Blue Bulleteer!

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A Confession And An Observation

First, the confession: I have never, until tonight, read the original Foundation trilogy by Isaac Asimov.

I know. I know. It hurts my geek cred to admit that. I always intended to get around to it, but there was always something else that seemed more accessible, more modern. And the Foundation series is pretty damned big, all told, so I was leery of getting into the thing. But I resolved to at least read the original trilogy, and if I couldn't get into them, I'd stop there. I read the Empire trilogy a few months ago, thinking they'd be a good way to get started, but boy oh boy, were those a slow read. So it kind of put me off of ol' Hari Seldon's grand schemes for a while.

But they shouldn't have, of course. The Foundation series is a little dated in language, but not in composition or style. These books really stand the test of time, I think. Which all good books should, of course. I could have done with a few less references to the glories of nuclear power, but considering how shiny and new it was, I can't blame Asimov for throwing the word in every chance he got. I'd have probably been excited by the gee-whiz factor myself at the time. I just wish his visions were advancing apace. We could use a few more decent nuclear reactors. They're a hell of lot better for the environment, all told, than what we're doing now.

Now for the observation: I never realized just how much George Lucas RIPPED ASIMOV OFF!

I mean, goddamn! In Foundation, there's a planet of ne'er-do-wells called Korellia! By the time of the Foundation novels, the capital of the Galactic Empire (Trantor) is a planet-sized city! Throw in the fisking anthropomorphic droids and mazel tov! It's Asimov! (to steal from a poem who's name which I can no longer remember). Honestly, it makes me really angry to think of this. I know that creative people build upon what has come before, but jebus! This just about puts the last nail in the coffin of my opinion of George Lucas. I've always been a huge Star Wars fan, and I doubt thats going to change much, but stealing a damned name right out of the book is just wrong.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Metal Thieves

When I saw this article, my first thought was that someone had snuck over the border and pulled a job, but alas, Windber is two hours from Morgantown. That's a little deep into PA for a couple of hillbillies in a truck to penetrate, even for this kind of haul.

Well, probably too deep. Never discount hillbillies. :)

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Emotional Judo

So, how does one convert an aggressive fight-picking in-your-face far-right-wing Republican fundagelical young earth creationist who constantly accuses you of "getting angry" when you've got him backed into a corner he can't weasel out of into an guilt-ridden constantly-apologizing milquetoast who can't quite believe you're not mad at him?

Simple. Tell him he's right.

Tell him that he's right and that you are "getting angry" and obviously can't have a decent conversation about "crazy wackaloon topic of the moment" without yelling, so you're just going to have to avoid that topic from now on.

It's amazing how often calling their bluff works. The man I used this tactic against Sunday night is still freaking out that I won't discuss politics with him until the election is over.

Why did this work, you ask? Also simple. He was cheating, of course. This man regularly comes to me and starts arguments, which I usually indulge him in for various reasons (mostly because I enjoy a good philosophical scrap). But when the topic gets a little too close to something he can't argue his way out of, he either switches topics mid-stream or else accuses me of being too aggressive. In fact, he constantly accuses me of being angry at him for one thing or another, and quite frankly, I'm sick to death of it. So I've decided not to be his enabler any more.

Why bother posting this? Well, it seems to me that there's a deeper lesson here. By arguing with him, I give tacit acceptance of his positions. If I dignify his ramble of the moment with a response, it makes him feel as if he's said something that's probably clever and definitely important. He's usually wrong on both counts.

I will give him his props, though. He did score a good point about Sarah Palin on me the other day. Well, he said something I hadn't thought about, at least. And I gave him his due on that point. But I've decided to treat him just like any other wackaloon fundagelical that wants to debate a science-minded person, be it on a stage in front of hundreds or in a hallway at two AM because he's bored. I'm going to ignore him.

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Purity Lost

So, Aradia and I were watching the premier of True Blood tonight (I love the DVR) and the recording cut off in the middle of the preview of next week's show. Here is a transcript of the conversation from that point.

Aradia: Fuck! GodDAMNit!

Me: Near Maniacal Laughter

Aradia: What?

Me: For years, you wouldn't use a curse word to save your life. Now it's "Fuck! GodDAMNit!" just because you couldn't finish the preveiws!

Aradia: But they were pointing a gun at SAM!

Me: Near Maniacal Laughter

If that makes no sense to you, then I suggest you read the first Sookie Stackhouse novel, Dead Until Dark. Or any of the Southern Vampire series, for that matter.

Oh, and yeah, True Blood rocks! The casting is very good so far. All the important elements of the books are there, although as with almost all book-to-TV adaptions, some minor details have changed. They work pretty well, though, and I'm sure they cut the cost of the show considerably. Which is good, because I want this show to last, and a show with production values this high has got to be expensive as hell. Expensive shows are hard to keep on TV.

Oh, and one more thing. I so desperately want to live the life of Sam Merlotte.

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Friday, September 05, 2008

GOP means "Grand Old Party"

Recently, I've started dropping by John Scalzi's Whatever blog. He's one of my all-time favorite authors for a plethora of reasons. Anywho, that link up there is a good collection of salient points about Sarah Palin and the GOP in general. What struck me while reading it is that no one, and I mean NO ONE, is actually using the full GOP name anymore and I don't know why not.

Think about it. The Republicans wallow in being the GOP. Everyone knows it refers to them. And they have a 72 year old presidential candidate. Why not start saying "Grand Old Party" again. It doesn't take that much longer to type, or say. And as I commented on Whatever, it would sure as hell drive home the 'McCain is a geezer' message.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Book Review: Your Inner Fish

Just finished up Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin, and I have to say that I can definitely see what all the buzz is about. The man has an absolute passion for his subject, and science in general, that is downright infectious. I will say this, though. The bulk of the book is almost a primer for reading The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins. It covers our connections to other animals great and small, from bacteria to fish to primates in a variety of ways, which is what I believe Dawkins was also trying to do.

So, why read Your Inner Fish?

Well, for the fact-o-philes out there, the trivia index on this book is pretty high. I, for one, never knew that we humans (and all other mammals) hiccup because of our sharky and froggy ancestry. The section on cranial nerves and why they trace the paths they do through our heads was also very interesting.

For anyone interested in a career in one of the "field sciences", this book gives a glimpse of the joy to be had there, as well as the cost. I don't think Shubin meant it to be there, per se, but you can tell that there's at least a little bit of conflict lurking somewhere below the surface between his desire to be in the Arctic every summer and his desire to explore the world closer to home with his family.

For anyone looking for ammunition in the evolution/creation debate, Shubin does a good job of showcasing several different areas to look. The book itself is a little light on the hardcore arguments, though. The author doesn't come across as very confrontational at all, which I believe is a good thing for the most part. By the time I was ten pages into the book, I knew that I wanted to give it to one of my crazy creationist friends and beg him to read it. Not that it would do much good, but hey, it would be fun to watch, at least.

And last but not least, anyone looking for a feel-good, pro-science book will gobble this one down. I read it in about a day. It's very accessible, and just leaves you feeling positive about science when you put it down, no matter where you stop when you do. It's just a very positive book. I'll let the author's words explain exactly what I mean.

... the unknown should not be a source of suspicion, fear, or retreat to superstition, but motivation to continue asking questions and seeking answers. -- Neil Shubin, Your Inner Fish

I couldn't have said it better myself, and for those of you who know me well, you'll know that that's quite the concession. :)

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"Loyalty to petrified opinion never broke a chain or freed a human soul..." -- Mark Twain


Fire does not wait for the sun to be hot,

Nor the wind for the moon, to be cool.

-- the Zenrin Kushu