Thursday, July 31, 2003

Search Request Thursday

Wow, quite the crop of interesting stuff this time out! And a zillion fascinating opportunities for me to make in-references that large groups of people will completely fail to get! (Or, rather, would if large groups of people were reading this blog...)

Anyway, here we go:

  • "wide feet" "support group": Man, there's a support group for everything these days!

  • alien sex feind animation: Well, that's gotta be an anime. And I gotta learn to remember that "i before e" rule.

  • sikozu/stark and picture: I actually did quite a double-take at that one before realizing that, of course, they were looking for a picture of this person, and not anything involving what that "/" usually means when it's written between two character names. Because, you know, that would just be weird.

  • dave's home page nude: I know lots of Daves, but none of them have nude homepages. As far as I know.

  • ragging nits: Hmm, that's either a painful-sounding condition or a very original bit of swearing.

  • ideal boyfriend psychological profile: Sweetie, I hate to break it to you, but there ain't no such thing as an "ideal boyfriend."

  • granny goose popsicles: OK, I'm hoping that's a brand name.

  • Jothee: Heh. Pity D'Argo didn't think of looking for him on Google.

  • robert frost krusty stopping by the woods on a snowy evening: Is this like when they had Homer acting out Poe's "The Raven"?

  • halls honey lemon cough drops side effects: They have side effects? Why didn't anyone tell me!?

  • storyline blake's 7: It's actually pretty easy to sum up: A bunch of (mostly-reluctant) rebels attempt to bring down the evil galactic Federation. They fail. In between, there's lots of really great sarcasm.

  • Iraq torture castrate: Wince. I'm so beginning to regret ever using that word.

  • goth nude: I guess you can tell they're goths even when they're nude by the black eyeshadow?

  • FARSCAPE nude MALE ON GRAYZA: OK, I honestly can't decide whether they've misspelled Mele-on Grayza's name, or whether what they wanted is exactly what they typed.

  • coping with verbosity: It's difficult, I know. Try just reading the blog in small doses until the blinding headaches go away.

  • the sims christopher walken skins: Geez, the vampires in my Sims neighborhood are one thing, but I think adding Christopher Walken would just make the place too scary.

  • ray bradbury short story pill sleep awake mars family hair turned white: OK, somebody name that story! I thought it might be referring to something in The Martian Chronicles, but twenty seconds of looking before I got bored and gave up didn't reveal it to me.

  • pictures of breasts and sneezing: Well, at least it wasn't "pictures of breasts sneezing," because the thoughts that conjures up are just too bizarre...

  • edward scissorhands issues with monstrosity: Well, I think it'd be hard not to have issues if one were burdened with, uh, monstrosity.

  • sexy granny bondage photos: I suppose I should regard it as a positive thing to know that there are people who still find older women sexually appealing...

  • what was lost, part 2, "farscape" "underwear": I don't remember any underwear in the "sex" scenes from that episode, but I may just have been too traumatized to notice.

  • naked p: Uh... Your guess is as good as mine.

  • "dental hygeine jokes: Hey, dental hygiene is no laughing matter! Nor is that "i before e" rule I mentioned earlier...

  • rem sleep talk subconscious submerged: Afraid of what you might say in your sleep, huh?

  • free sleeping with legolas quizzes: OK, are those quizzes to tell if you are sleeping with Legoas, or whether you qualify to sleep with Legolas? I imagine the latter would be immensely popular.

  • maximum vomit: Aww, apparently this blog now has a new pet nickname...

  • Farscape sexism chiana: Oh, now there's an interesting question to ponder. Is the character of Chiana sexist? I can actually see why some might be moved to claim that, but I think my answer would have to be "no." If Chiana's vampy sexuality were the only kind of female behavior portrayed in the show, then, yeah, that would definitely come across as sexist. But Farscape has portrayed women as soldiers, as politicians, as priests, as professionals, as villains, as victims... In other words, in the same wide spectrum of roles as it's portrayed its male characters. And don't tell me John-boy isn't capable of using sex appeal when it suits him, either!

  • smallest boobs in Japan: Is this some kind of a contest?

  • Buffy Avon Vila: Ah, that variety of crossover definitely does exist.

  • alan rickman's sex life: Hey, for all I know, he's sleeping with Legolas.

  • fan fiction willow legolas: Speaking of the devil... er, elf. OK, now, that's kind of a weird crossover, but I'm sure it's been done, too.

  • debunking episode blake blake's 7: OK, I strongly suspect that what they're calling "debunking," I would call "engaging in willful denial." Unless they're looking for debunkings of the it-was-the-clone theory. I hate the it-was-the-clone theory. It always makes me feel sorry for the poor clone.
  • More Random Quizzage Lifted from Ferro Lad

    What?! You aren't even Chocolate! You're too bitter
    to be chocolate! You're mean, cynical, rude,
    obnoxious, and not many people like you. If
    they say they do, they're faking, because you
    scare the crap outta them.

    What Kind of Chocolate are You?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Eh? *scratches head* But, I'm... I'm not! Honest! And I like licorice!

    Sea Green

    This quiz says absolutely nothing about your personality. Take it!

    Well, hey, I think that makes more sense than the last one...
    I Am Forced to Consider the Once-Impossible-to-Contemplate Notion That Maybe You Can Have Too Many Books.

    I have to admit it. My book-buying addiction has gotten completely out of hand. My bedroom is pretty much filled with unread books (which I laughably refer to as my To-Read-Pile, but which is actually about sixteen piles so high they tend to collapse spontaneously under their own weight). It's been a very long time since I counted them -- frankly, I've been afraid of what the result would be -- but the last time I did, the tally was over 400. It's got to be well over 500 by now. Ah, hell, who am I kidding... It's probably well over 600. Even at my old reading speeds, before the internet came along and gobbled up the lion's share of my free time, that'd take me four years or so to get through. These days, it'd probably be more like twice that. And still it keeps growing, and growing, and growing...

    It's now long since passed the point where it's become completely unmanagable. I no longer even know what books I have. I bought the same Stephen King collection twice and didn't realize it for months. I keep finding myself thinking, "Ooh, I should get that book... Oh, wait, do I have it already?" and not having any idea what the answer is. And when I decide I want to read something specific that I know I do have, it sometimes takes me 15 minutes just to find it. On one memorable occasion, I spent a couple of hours looking for a book I was sure I had, only to realize eventually that I'd never actually bought it. I did try to organize the Pile once, only to find the task entirely too daunting to complete. And even the rough semblence of alphabetical order I managed quickly deteriorated back into chaos as new books got added to the piles (and the old books got randomly rearranged by virtue of falling over repeatedly and getting haphazardly piled back up again).

    It is clearly time -- in fact, more than time -- for me to Do Something. I certainly need to make another go at getting the books organized, though I suspect that's a job I'll keep putting off for as long as possible. Beyond that, though, I mainly need to stop buying so damned many books. To that end, I am making a resolution: Starting in August, the number of books purchased or ordered in a given month is not to exceed the number of books read in the previous month. Period. I don't care if there's a library sale, even. Now, I've made resolutions like this before, but they've never lasted very long, which is why I'm making this one in public. Even if nobody reading this blog actually cares, having said it here, I will feel honor-bound to keep to it. Or so the theory goes, anyway.

    Of course, the other thing I really need to do is to get off the internet once in a while and spend more time reading the way I used to. But I'm trying to be a bit realistic, here...

    Wednesday, July 30, 2003

    Completely Pointless Post

    Sorry about the lack of blogging today. I was at work, and it was one of those days where I actually had to do a lot of jumping up and down and actually, you know, working. Well, OK, except for the periods where I got to sit around and read Bill, the Galactic Hero on the Planet of Bottled Brains.

    Unfortunately, now that I am home, I, uh, don't really have anything much to say. 'Fraid you'll have to amuse yourselves. Sorry.

    Tuesday, July 29, 2003

    And, No, They're Not Giving Me a Kickback.

    I just want to take a second to plug the Stash Tea website, particularly their online store, where I have just gone to stock up on large quantities of, you guessed it, tea. I'm not quite sure how it happened, but I've become quite the tea drinker in the last couple of years, and that bland and rather bitter Lipton stuff I grew up with has long since ceased to do much of anything for me. The selection at the local grocery store, unsurprisingly, leaves a lot to be desired (although they did have mango passionfruit Stash the other day, amazingly enough), so it makes me very, very happy to know that high-quality tea is readily available to me via my good friend the internet. And I'm even happier to see how much stuff they've got cheap on the closeout page. I just ordered 354 teabags of varying flavors for a little under $40, counting the shipping. Not too shabby! For the record, I particularly recommend the Darjeeling and the Moroccan Mint.

    Mmmmm, tea...
    Random Thought for the Day

    Honestly, I'd like mornings, if only they didn't come so damned early...

    Monday, July 28, 2003

    He's a Very Good Man. He's Just a Very Bad Werewolf.

    I've finally started watching through the Buffy season 4 DVDs and, OK, maybe it's a bit of a comedown after season 3, which was a near-impossible act to follow, but it still has what are probably some of the best individual moments of the entire series. I just finished watching episode six, and, dammit, even on second viewing, Oz still makes me cry. Bastard werewolf. It's interesting, you know... If you listen to the audio commentaries and stuff, Joss Whedon is always going on about how they quickly figured out the secret to getting the audience emotionally involved: hurt poor little Willow and let Alyson Hannigan cut loose with the big sad weepy eyes in her adorable lil' face. It really, truly is blatant manipulation, and I'm perfectly well aware of it, and it still works on me every damned time. Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is art.

    Speaking of commentaries, the commentary track for that particular episode is almost worth the price of the DVDs all by itself. Joss Whedon, Seth Green, and writer Marti Noxon are just having way too much fun, teasing each other and cracking very silly jokes... but also sharing some good insights into the characters and the themes along the way. Joss so needs to do more commentaries. I can't for the life of me figure out why he was so conspicuously absent on the season 3 discs.
    State of the Blog Report

    Wow, it looks like everything's working again. The comment counts have been showing up accurately for the last several days, and I just got a note from the Blogger folks saying my permalinks are now working properly again, too. (Turns out there was something screwy in my template, so it may very well have been my fault rather than theirs, but they fixed it, anyway.)

    OK, given my luck, something now has to suddenly go very horribly wrong...
    Like Ferro Lad Says, That's Better.

    You are a vulcan!

    The illogical behavior of your human cohorts is
    beyond belief! You carefully contain your
    emotions and make decisions rationally. You are
    the closest thing to a natural android, but the
    pointy ears make you WAY cooler. A character
    like you is Spock; this is the highest
    compliment a trekkie can give.

    What is Your Star Trek Personality?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    They May Not Be Faster Than the Speed of Light, But Apparently They Do Exist.

    Hey, there's a new issue of Tachyon TV, the very funny British sci-fi spoof zine. I'd begun to think that site was defunct; glad to see it's not.

    Here's a sample:
    The annual Cult Television convention has announced its programme for 2003. Promising that it will celebrate the best in "contemporary cult tv and sci-fi", tragically, this actually means that the guest lineup currently stands at Richard Dean Anderson and a laptop logged on to BBCi.

    Bwah ha! You know, it feels good to at least be able to laugh at my pain...

    Sunday, July 27, 2003

    Hey, Amazingly Enough, I Don't Think I've Taken This One Yet.

    You're a Human!
    You're a Human! Inquisitive and mellow, you're an
    explorer at heart.

    What Star Trek Race Are You?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Hmm, I was almost sure I was going to turn out as a Vulcan. I think I'm a little disappointed.

    Saturday, July 26, 2003


    It is raining!

    Friday, July 25, 2003

    But I Still Want to Know What Happens If You Strap a Piece of Toast Butter-Side-Up to the Back of a Cat and Drop It.

    Here's another amusing link for you: "experimental proof" that toast really does land buttered side down.

    (Via Pop Culture Junk Mail.)
    Talk About Your Blasts from the Past!

    Take a look at the hottest new high-tech gadgets... of 1983.

    (Link via Project Apollo.)
    Technical Difficulties

    I just stuck a Police album into the stereo to listen to while doing the dishes, and now the CD player won't play and won't open. This is especially annoying because I already had three discs in there besides Zenyatta Mondatta, and if I can't get them out I'm going to be extremely miffed. Not to mention the fact that I don't think I've had that stereo for more than about a year. Stupid low-end discount electronics... You'd think I'd learn.

    Thursday, July 24, 2003

    I'm Ready for My Close-Up, Mr. Friday Five!

    1. If your life were a movie, what would the title be? I can't imagine anybody wanting to make a movie out of my life. I mean, I'm pretty much enjoying living it, but it would be boring as hell to watch. And there would be massive copyright issues, given how much of it I spend in front of the TV. But maybe it could be a documentary or something. Life of a Geek? Actually, you know, maybe you could make a movie of my life. It'd probably be something frighteningly akin to Free Enterprise. Ah, I know! It'd be called Get a Life!. Undoubtedly.

    2. What songs would be on the soundtrack? Probably a whole bunch of sci-fi theme tunes. And Weird Al Yankovic singing "Slime Creatures from Outer Space" or something.

    3. Would it be a live-action film or animated? Why? It would be live-action, shifting over into animation for my Walter Mitty-esque daydream sequences.

    4. Casting: who would play you, members of your family, friends, etc? I think I'd like to be played by Joan Cusak. Even if she doesn't really look anything like me.

    5. Describe the movie preview/trailer. I'm imagining a Reefer Madness-style trailer advertising the movie as a warning to viewers not to get into science fiction or they'll turn out like me.

    Heh. That was fun.
    And I Was Nervous About What They'd Do With the TV-Movie...

    A Blake's 7 cartoon?! I think my brain just exploded.
    It's Search Request Thursday!

    Yup, here they are, the latest batch of interesting things misguided souls have come to this blog in search of:

  • relgious scientfic properties: Well, being misspelled seems to be the main property of both of those...

  • the sims unleashed naked body parts: Hmm, just body parts? Do they crawl around? Can you keep them as pets? "Here, Thing!"

  • how to tell if home has hidden cameras: Well, if pictures of you on the toilet start showing up on the net, that's probably one indication...

  • girls in hun: That's right, order your 2004 Girls in Hun calendar today! Sexy pics of barbarian chicks! Call 1-800-ATILLA now! Operators are standing by!

  • family having sex pics: OK, I'm all for family togetherness, but there are limits...

  • i am keeping my fingers crossed that we can find something that matches up: Well, uh, congrats! I guess you did!

  • how do you fix a dripping swamp cooler: Me, I pay a guy thirty bucks to come out and tell me my side panels aren't on correctly.

  • Where are there nude pictures of Nicholas Brendon: Not here. Sorry.

  • DVD player and a VCR in the same box - the best of both worlds or a passing fad?: Dunno, though I imagine it does have the advantage of cutting down on the number of wires hanging down behind your TV set.

  • pictures of naked Harry Potter characters: Hmm, I'm sure we could find you a nice picture of Sirius with no clothes on, if you don't mind him having fur.

  • embarrassing nude pics, high school, junior high, -xxx, -porn: I suppose it's a bit refreshing to find someone who's more interested in embarrassment than titillation. Though only a bit.

  • funny: Well, I do try to amuse...

  • bounci: I have no idea what a "bounci" is, or why anyone came here looking for one. It kind of looks like the world's most humiliating girl's name, but it's hard to tell without knowing whether or not it's written with a little heart over the "i."

  • "i hate new mexico": It's not that bad in the winter, but for the moment, buddy, I'm with ya.

  • lego "organization system": My first thought at seeing this was: What's so hard to organize? You just sort them by sizes, shapes and colors, right? But then, my conception of legos is based on my own childhood, back before we had all those fancy-schmancy "playsets." God only knows how you have to organize them now.
  • Wednesday, July 23, 2003

    Heavy, Man!

    Hey, go take a look at this very cool rotating map of the Earth's gravitational field. Nifty science, pretty colors.

    (Link via Futurismic.)

    Matt Jeffries, the designer of the original Starship Enterprise and the man for whom Trek's ubiquitous "Jeffries tubes" were named, has died. Rest in Peace, Matt.

    (Link via Ferro Lad.)
    My Side, Your Side, Inside, Outside, Break on Through to the Other Side...

    So, like I've said, I've been watching (albeit rather slowly) through the latest set of Farscape DVDs. Today's featured episode was "Meltdown" (for which beware spoilers!). For various reasons, I've actually ended up watching that one several times over the past few months, to the point where this time out I found myself reciting huge chunks of dialog right along with the characters. Ah, yes, yet another sign that you've watched far too much of a given show...

    Anyway. I've always had rather interestingly mixed feelings about this particular episode. The hormone-soaked John/Aeryn bits, complete with crappy porno-movie soundtrack, annoy me so badly I have to keep fighting the urge to reach for the fast-forward button. On the other hand, seeing Crais running around in full-fledged, whacked-out, Trigger-Happy Control Freak Mode is highly entertaining. And I completely adore the Stark stuff.

    I've always found Stark a fascinating character (as well as being a deeply sympathetic and strangely likeable one), possibly because there are so many mysteries in his background and contradictions in his nature. And it seems to me that "Meltdown," whatever its other good and bad points, is an interesting episode for gaining some insight into this particular character. (Which I am now going to proceed to natter on about at great length, because psychoanalyzing fictional characters is one of my all-time favorite hobbies.)

    The first and most obvious question to ask about Stark has got to be "Just how crazy is this guy, anyway?" And it's not a very easy question to answer... It's clear from "The Hidden Memory" that he's not nearly as much of a headcase as he at first appears to be, that he's been acting crazy in order to keep the Peacekeepers off his back, and that he's quite capable of being pefectly calm and lucid once he's called on it. Later on, though, it becomes equally clear that the guy does have some major mental and emotional instabilities, and one can't help but wonder exactly to what extent he was only pretending to be pretending to be crazy. So to speak.

    He's certainly acting like a complete lunatic in "Meltdown," at least from the others' perspectives, anyway. Holding conversations with empty air, suddenly seizing control of the ship, babbling incoherently, flying them back into the star after they'd made their escape... But here's the interesting thing. When you look at it from Stark's perspective, I don't think anything he does is actually crazy at all. Some of it surely represents a triumph of emotion and noble impulse over common sense and self-preservation, true, but that's nothing you couldn't say about, oh, any number of wacky things John's done.

    No, the reason Stark comes across as dangerously insane -- and I think this is where we start getting to the crux of the character -- is that he has access to information and perceptions the others don't have, and he's very, very bad at realizing that he has to communicate those things to others if he wants them to understand him. E.g., he starts babbling about having to help Sierjna without stopping to explain to anybody just who Sierjna is, let alone why she needs helping and how flying Talyn back into danger is going to accomplish that. You see something rather similar (albeit on a much smaller scale), I think, in "Green-Eyed Monster," where he opens communications from the transport pod by shouting "Vomit, vomit!" and provokes a highly amusing "What the hell is he talking about?" sort of look between the folks on Talyn. In that case, of course, once he calms down enough to explain, it turns out that what he's talking about is a perfectly sane and highly intelligent plan.

    Part of Stark's problem is obviously just that when he gets excited he has trouble forming coherent sentences. But I suspect there's something a bit more psychologically complex going on there, as well. My personal theory is that Stark occasionally has great difficulty remaining clear on the boundary between himself and others, that he has difficulty keeping in mind (at least in moments of stress and excitement) that just because he's perfectly clear in his own mind what he's talking about that doesn't necessarily mean that everyone else has the necessary background to understand it, too.

    It's really not at all difficult to see how it is that Stark might have developed a degree of confusion between "self" and "other." To begin with, we know that he's got pieces of other people's memories in his mind, possibly even bits of their personalities, and that has to do strange things to one's sense of self. Two years of repeated mental violations -- or at least attempted violations -- in the Aurora Chair can't have done him very much good, either. Then there's the fact that he does have access to certain perceptions that other people don't; even for someone much saner than Stark, it must be a bit difficult to keep in mind that other people can't see the ghost who's standing right in front of you, as real and solid as anybody else in the room. Also, he does seem to have some degree of telepathic or empathic receptivity (he says in "Meltdown" that he can feel Talyn's pain), meaning that the boundaries between himself and others may normally be quite porous for him, if only in one direction. Finally, it's impossible not to notice that his instabilities grew much, much more pronounced after his dispersal in "The Ugly Truth." Well, it's hard to imagine anything more likely to exacerbate problems with boundary issues than being quite literally stripped of one's phsyical boundaries and left to exist as free-floating energy.

    What I find particularly interesting is that, if you assume that many of Stark's difficulties stem from this "boundary" problem, his signature "my side, your side" rant is suddenly transformed from mere random nonsense into something deeply psychologically meaningful. It is, after all, all about defining boundaries: you're over there, I'm over here. And what's really interesting is that this is the rant Stark goes into precisely when he wants to play up his own insanity. Which would seem to indicate that, consciously or subconsciously, Stark is actually aware that it's this issue of boundaries that lies at the heart of his own mental confusion. Which I find quite fascinating, indeed.

    Yeah, I know, I know. I should have been a lit major. It's a pity I don't get this interested in Shakespeare.

    By the way, it occurs to me that I've just fufilled a promise I made way back in the earliest days of this blog. Back then, I wrote a similar analysis of that other Farscapian crazy guy, Bialar Crais, and at some point not too long afterward I remember referring back to it and saying, "Hey, you should see me do Stark." Well, now you've seen me do Stark. Maybe in another year or so, I'll analyze Rygel or someone...
    Long Ago & Far Away

    Just because I haven't passed any of these on in a while, here's an NRAO press release about recent observations of the most distant quasar yet detected.

    An excerpt:
    "Our discovery of this much carbon monoxide gas in such an extremely distant and young galaxy is surprising. It means that, even at a very early time in the history of the Universe, galaxies already had huge amounts of molecular gas that would eventually form new generations of stars," said Chris Carilli, of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Socorro, New Mexico.

    The distant galaxy, dubbed J1148+5251, contains a bright quasar powered by a black hole at least a billion times more massive than the Sun. The galaxy is seen as it was only 870 million years after the Big Bang. The Universe now is 13.7 billion years old. J1148+5251 would have been among the first luminous objects in the Universe.

    The original atoms formed in the Universe within the first three minutes of the Big Bang were only hydrogen and helium. Carbon and oxygen -- the atoms making up carbon monoxide -- had to be made in the thermonuclear furnaces at the cores of the earliest stars.
    Sheep from Space!

    Go check out this article from an Australian science news website about satellites being used to track sheep in Ireland. Then come back when you're done. You back? OK, now, did you notice anything about the picture? Like the credit next to the caption? Yup, that's right, said picture was snapped by none other than yours truly! Much to my surprise, when I got back from work today, there was a message in my inbox from an Aussie journalist saying he'd desperately needed a picture of some Irish sheep and he'd used one he found on my website, but he could take it down and find another one if I minded. I wrote back and told him it probably would have been slightly better etiquette if he'd asked first, but as it happens, I think it's pretty cool. It's kind of an interesting article, too, as I have now learned interesting new facts about sheep... Mainly that they're fashion snobs:
    Dummy collars have had to be fitted to some sheep, after researchers found those wearing the real satellite collars were treated as outcasts by other members of the flock. "The sheep wearing the collars became persona non grata," Scully quipped.

    Oh, and while there I also learned that teenagers suck at using the web. But I probably could have guessed that.

    Tuesday, July 22, 2003

    Well, It's Certainly Been True of Some Groups I've Participated In...

    I've just been reading this really interesting article about the social and technological aspects involved in creating online communities. I can't help but think that anybody who's participated in an online group -- or, hell, even an offline group -- is bound to have experiences supporting the author's thesis that "a group is its own worst enemy."

    Here's a sample quote, though it doesn't really do the whole thing justice:
    So these are human patterns that have shown up on the Internet, not because of the software, but because it's being used by humans. Bion has identified this possibility of groups sandbagging their sophisticated goals with these basic urges. And what he finally came to, in analyzing this tension, is that group structure is necessary. Robert's Rules of Order are necessary. Constitutions are necessary. Norms, rituals, laws, the whole list of ways that we say, out of the universe of possible behaviors, we're going to draw a relatively small circle around the acceptable ones.

    He said the group structure is necessary to defend the group from itself. Group structure exists to keep a group on target, on track, on message, on charter, whatever. To keep a group focused on its own sophisticated goals and to keep a group from sliding into these basic patterns. Group structure defends the group from the action of its own members.

    (Link via Project Apollo.)
    But At Least I Have Fingers.

    You Are Edward From "Edward Scissorhands."

    You are very shy and often misunderstood. Innocent, sweet, and artistic, you like to pass your days by daydreaming and expressing yourself through the arts. You are a truly unique individual. Unfortunately, you are quite lonely, and few people truly understand you.

    Take The Johnny Depp Quiz!

    Ah, it's all so very true...
    Comments Comments

    For the record, my commenting system is still screwed up. The comments work, but the counter frequently doesn't. So if you've left a comment here in the past week or so, don't worry... Just because the comment counter says zero doesn't mean your comment isn't there! The folks at enetation seem to be aware of the problem and hope to have it fixed this week... Here's hoping, because it's really starting to annoy me.
    I, For One, Welcome Our Chain-Store Overlords!

    According to the local paper, it's looking like Socorro (population ~9,000, including yours truly), will become home to a Wal-Mart superstore some time in the next couple of years. I understand the traditional response to this kind of news is to scream and protest. "Big chain stores ruin small town living!" or something like that. But my own reaction is much more akin to "Hallelujah! About damn time!" OK, yeah, I might be worried that Wally-World will hurt the small businesses, if there was all that much in the way of small business to worry about here. But, from the consumer's point of view, at least, there just ain't. Unless whatever item you're looking for can be found at one of the hardware stores, the office supply store, or among the extremely limited selection of the one low-end discount-type store we do have (itself a fairly recent development), you're pretty much S.O.L. when it comes to shopping in Socorro. Meaning everybody already goes to Wal-Mart when they've got any major shopping to do. They go to the Wal-Mart in Belen, a 90-mile round trip that's inconvenient, time-consuming, and quarter-of-a-tank-of-gas expensive. Might as well have the damned thing here and let the town benefit from the tax income and the employment opportunities, I say.
    Howdy, Presurfer!

    The Presurfer is having a 24-hour blogging marathon tomorrow -- well, technically today, now, since it's after midnight where I am -- in celebration of his[*] 5,000th post. And he says that, sometime during the day, he's planning on paying a visit to all the blogs in his blogroll... which includes this one. So I thought I'd offer up a friendly wave. As for the rest of you, why don't you go pay a visit and see how he's doing?

    [*] I think the Presurfer is a "he," anyway.

    Monday, July 21, 2003

    Hmm, Do You Think I'm Contagious?

    My Human Virus Scan results:
    Viruses you suffer from:

    Eat some real food. Something which you can identify the source of every ingredient, not the point of manufacture.

    Stop wearing the stick-on ears.

    Read "God's Debris" by Scott Adams (yes, the Dilbert guy)

    Polygons, all the polygons you can get are not enough.

    Stop caring!

    Free love is passe and potentially dangerous, and patchouli smells like cat piss.

    Conspiracy Theory
    Face it, the elected government is in control. Actually that's quite scary.

    Consume more stuff! It's easier to buy new stuff than to recycle.

    Viruses you might suffer from:

    USA (80%)
    Rule, Britannia! Britannia rule the waves! [repeat]

    Gaming (70%)
    Life is not a game. Roll 3D6. On a 4 or more go out and do something with your life.

    British (70%)
    No need for cure. Benign virus.

    Discordia (90%)
    Buy a suit. Invest your money. Eat hotdog buns on a friday.

    Brand Names (65%)
    Having a well-known name doesn't make it good.

    Computer Games (60%)
    Stop staring at the screen and get some fresh air. You should see a doctor about the RSI in your thumbs.

    Prog Rock (60%)
    Long hair looks dumb with a bald spot. Listen to CD's they don't crackle.
    And Then There's That Other Show I'm Obsessed With...

    I've just been checking out the new official Blake's 7 website (an unfortunate flash-based monstrosity that unwisely favors cosmetic slickness over ease of navigation). It seems that the much-anticipated[*] TV-movie project is now going to be a 4-part miniseries. Assuming it gets off the ground at all, that is, as it looks like they're still having trouble getting the money together. They're hoping to have it out by sometime in 2005, though.

    Apparently the premise is that Avon (somehow) managed to survive the shootout on Gauda Prime and has been languishing in a prison for 25 years, only to (somehow) end up becoming a reluctant figurehead for a new group of rebels. Which actually seems to me like an idea with some promise, vague as it is... But the sheer number of ways in which it could be handled badly certainly gives me pause, especially given the track records of some of the people involved.

    At any rate, Paul Darrow (Avon) is definitely going to be the only original cast member in the thing. Sigh. I think I'd feel at least 50% better about the possibilities if only they'd have seen fit to bring back Vila...

    [*] Albeit often with dread.
    Random Farscape Ruminations

    So, I've been watching through the latest batch of Farscape DVDs -- just got through "Incubator" last night -- and I had what I thought was kind of an interesting thought. (Warning: the next couple of paragraphs may contain third-season spoilers. Read at own risk!) Namely, it seems to me that there's an interesting symmetry between the alternating episodes during the period when the crew is split up. While they may be quite different on the surface, there's actually some very interesting points of commonality between each Talyn-based episode and its following Moya-based one.

    OK, admittedly, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of similarity between "Green-Eyed Monster" and "Losing Time," except for both of them involving an encounter with a dangerous alien life form (or two) and the fact that they both feature an unusual amount of direct interaction with and an ususually strong role for their respective Leviathan characters. But the connection between "Relativity" and "Incubator" is very interesting. Both deal with violently dysfunctional parent-child type relationships, and both, I think, touch very strongly on something that I've always seen as a major theme running through the entire show: the issue of to what extent our enivronments, and the environments we grew up in, make us who we are. Compare Aeryn taking comfort in being told as a child that she was wanted and loved with Scorpius' knowledge that he was the product of a brutal rape and the fact that he spent his childhood being repeatedly told that he was weak and worthless. Those are major factors defining who these characters are, and the fact that they're explored back-to-back with two such wildly contrasting characters is interesting. Moving on, "Meltdown" and "Scratch'n'Sniff" don't bear a huge resemblence to each other, but when you stop to think about it, there are a number of similar plot elements: the drug-enhanced sexuality, the killing of innocents for commercial purposes... Then there's "Infinite Possibilities" and "Revenging Angel," two episodes which could not possibly be farther apart in tone, but which both feature John facing death.

    I'm really rather curious, now, whether this was something the writers and producers did deliberately, whether it's something that they did without consciously intending to, whether it was sheer serendipity, or whether it's just me engaging in a little over-enthusiastic pattern-matching. I think I'd find any one of those possibilities entirely believable, actually.

    (End Spoiler Section)

    On an unrelated (or at least, only tangentially related) note, I just got this week's edition of TV Guide in the mail today, and the front cover features the words: "Forget Trek! Stargate SG-1 is now sci-fi's biggest hit!" Hmm, why, I wonder, does that leave me with the strange urge to start gnashing my teeth? I don't think it has anything to do with dumping on Trek, nor am I really all that hostile to SG-1. (I've only seen an episode or two, and while they didn't impress me greatly, I fully acknowlege that I don't have a solid enough basis on which to reasonably judge.) No, the reason for my annoyance is much better understood by looking at a couple of quotes from the article.

    Here's SG-1 star Richard Dean Anderson giving his take on why his show's been successful: "You can only fool an audience for a few minutes with special effects. It's the stories that make them stick around." Now, I happen to agree wholeheartedly with this sentiment, but I can't help but wonder if it's meant to be a thinly-veiled dig at a Certain Other Show that didn't make it this season on Sci-Fi. If so, it's completely off base.

    Sci-Fi's own Bonnie Hammer's much more pointed response hits considerably closer to the bone, which perhaps explains why it makes me so angry: "A lot of other science fiction series either become too complicated or start to take themselves too seriously. Sometimes shows are too smart for the audience. Stargate is smart, but it doesn't make people do homework."

    God damn, but I'm getting tired of being told I'm too dumb to follow the storylines on a TV show. Or even that everybody else is too dumb, and that's the reason I'm not even being given the chance to try. Grrrr.

    Sunday, July 20, 2003

    There Don't Appear to Be Any Recipes Containing Space Rodent, Though.

    Got my copy of the second fan-produced Farscape cookbook in the mail today. Once again, I'll probably never actually cook anything from it, but it's a fun little publication, anyway, scattered with humorous "advertisements" for things like Aurora Chair upgrades and Levianthans for Dummies books and with various amusingly appropriate quotes from the show. (Ex: D'Argo: "Who made this shelak?" John: "Recipe called for chicken. All I had was space rodent.") They've come up with some very funny and highly creative Farscape-related recipe names, too. My personal favorite: "Grayza's Hot Basted Breasts" (Yes, it's a chicken recipe!), though the "Interon Popsicles" have to merit at least an honorable mention.

    And in case you've ever wondered how Scorpius makes a salad:
    First approach your lettuce. Do it slowly and from the shadows, allowing your pointed teeth to be the first thing it sees. While it is frozen in terror by your awesome presence, hack the unfortunate vegetable to pieces with a sharp knife. (Certainly, a blunt knife might be crueler, but we are under certain time constraints.)

    Make the tomatoes watch.

    And so on... If my vegetables ever give me any guff, I think I'll just show them this and have them quaking in their crisper. Ha! That'll teach 'em!

    Saturday, July 19, 2003

    Hell Has Nothing on New Mexico

    I know I lived to regret it when I said so about this time last year, but I just wish it would goddamn rain. If things don't cool off a little here soon, I think I'm going to spontaneously combust.

    Friday, July 18, 2003

    The Friday Five Insults My Honor. Pistols at Dawn!

    1. When was the last time you cheated? At the risk of sounding all goody two-shoes, I don't. The way I figure it, cheating at unimportant stuff is lame and pointless, and cheating on important stuff is unethical. Well, OK, I do sometimes peek at answers when I'm doing a trivia quiz or something, but I don't then go around pretending I haven't.

    2. When was the last time you stole? A few months ago, I got too much change back at Taco Bell or someplace and didn't call the cashier's attention to it. I tell myself that there have been plenty of times when I've gotten too little change at various places and haven't complained, so it all evens out, but even I can see the flaws in that logic.

    3. When was the last time you lied? I pretty much never lie outright. Half-truths and omissions are, in my experience, much more effective when you'd rather not tell the truth.

    4. When was the last time you broke or vandalized another's property? Umm... I borrowed a folding ladder from a co-worker last year and when I gave it back to her she said she couldn't get it to unfold, but I've no idea what it is I actually did to it.

    5. When was the last time you hurt a loved one? Well, I did manage to hurt my mother's feelings a few weeks ago when I failed to hide the fact that something she was doing annoyed me considerably more than it should have. Sorry, Mom.
    Because, Of Course, Nothing Can Ever Just Work.

    It looks like my comment counts are off again. And my permalinks appear to be hosed. Sigh.
    Well, At Least I'm Honest About It.

    Recent conversation between myself and a co-worker:

    Co-Worker: "So, what have you got going on this weekend?"

    Me: "I figured I'd come up with a big list of things I really ought to do over the weekend and then not do any of them."

    Co-Worker: "Hey, sounds like a good weekend to me!"

    Me: "Well, it's what usually ends up happening, so I figured I'd just go ahead and plan on it."

    Thursday, July 17, 2003

    We've Got a Nice Big Batch of Funky Search Requests This Time!

    And here they are:

  • instant badass: Just add water!

  • gurps lexx stanley tweedle: You know, I did at one point keep saying that I was going to make a character based on Stanley Tweedle, possibly even for a GURPS game, but, doubtless to the relief of my fellow players, I never actually did.

  • movie library bookmobile future aliens: I have no idea what this refers to, but, I gotta say, it sounds like my kind of movie!

  • sneezing fanfic: Again with the sneezing!

  • naked marathon seattle: Do they really run a naked marathon in Seattle?

  • barbies heads: For some reason, this particular search request just kinda creeps me out. I think it's giving me flashbacks to that doll-mutilating kid in Toy Story.

  • bad habit nose hygine: Ye gods, that's worse than the sneeze obsession. And I have got to learn to spell.

  • search go expand sincere wrap warp watch video: Ladies and gentlemen, let this be a warning to you: do not drink and google.

  • pictures from my nude vacation: Nope, I just got my own vacation photos back, and I'm glad to say that the photo place did not mix them up with your nude vacation photos, as all the people in my snapshots are fully clothed.

  • nude pictures of Alan Rickman: Hmmm, what? Oh, sorry, I went a bit, uh, unfocused there for a moment... Ahem.

  • sample test questions verbosity: That's right, loyal readers, there will be a quiz to see if you've been paying attention to this blog! Here's some sample questions to help you prepare: 1) What kind of robot is Betty? 2) Who's the coolest Harry Potter character? 3) Why should you be watching Farscape? Please be sure and use a number two pencil and show all your work!

  • futurama "hidden messages": I hear that if you play the theme song backwards, you can hear the words "Fry is dead."

  • "answering machine messages" "three stooges": Leave a message! Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!

  • grannys with sex: Well, disturbing as it is to think about, I suppose having sex is pretty much a prerequisite for being a granny.

  • family pics "loose tooth": This sounds awfully "aww, cute," until you realize that they're only going to find complete strangers' "family pics." Upon which realization it instead sounds kinda disturbing.

  • nude star trek characters: Sorry, I still haven't completed my set of search requests for nude Farscape characters, and I'm not starting on a different show until I have.

  • Brownie Explosions recipe: The key is to get the flour-to-gunpowder ratio exactly right.

  • creepiest moments in Gaiman's Sandman: Hmm, well, the one that sticks with me is the "air burial," where the undertaker dismembers the body and leaves it on a mountain to be eaten by birds. Which I believe is actually based on a real practice from somewhere...

  • characterization in short stories how the minor characters help to understand the main idea: Listen, kid, attempting to get a search engine to do your homework for you is never a very good idea.
  • Wednesday, July 16, 2003

    In Which I Spread a Wild Rumor

    This probably isn't true. But, man, one can hope, huh?
    I Don't Feel Like Posting Anything Containing Actual Substance. How 'Bout Some More Stupid Quizzes?

    Click here to find out what robot you really are

    Hey, that was a really cool movie.

    Don't know him. Was he in the movies at all?

    What Video Game Character Are You? I am an Asteroid.I am an Asteroid.

    I am a drifter. I go where life leads, which makes me usually a very calm and content sort of person. That or thoroughly apathetic. Usually I keep on doing whatever I'm doing, and it takes something special to make me change my mind. What Video Game Character Are You?

    Wow, I remember Asteroids... Come to think of it, I remember that, when playing Asteroids, I would make it a point to never, ever leave the center of the screen, 'cause once I did that I tended to feel kind of lost, and usually got hit by a chunk of rock immediately afterwards. Wow. What a profound connection to this quiz result that is...

    Tuesday, July 15, 2003

    I'm Not Much Inclined to French-Bashing, But This Is Just Too Funny!

    Go to google, put in "french military victories," and hit "I'm feeling lucky." No, really, go do it.

    (Link via Amanda Peterson, who got it from Dork Blog.)
    Still More Harry Potter

    Well, OK, I finally finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. So this is going to be something in the nature of a book review, I guess. But I'll try to avoid spoilers for the moment.

    Anyway, I definitely enjoyed this installment. The writing and the story elements really are getting more sophisticated as the series goes on, and that's something I very much appreciate. In this one, Harry and his friends come across very believably as real teenagers. Hogwarts feels enough like a real school to give me a few uncomfortable flashbacks to my own high school days. The Dursleys are far less cartoonish and boring than they have been (something that really bugged me in the previous books). And there is an increasing sense of a larger wizarding world out there beyond Hogwarts, with its own politics and a variety of adult concerns that Harry is only just starting to become aware of. Good trends, all.

    At 850 pages plus, I can't help but think the book wouldn't have been hurt by a certain amount of editing, but it never dragged badly enough to become annoying, and the last few chapters flew by at a breakneck pace that kept me reading until well past what should have been my bedtime. It didn't have quite the same kind of intricate mystery-story plotting that we mostly got in the earlier books, but there were enough mysteries, large and small, to keep up a decent feeling of suspense through the whole thing.

    In a way, though, having finished the book, I almost feel a little disappointed. Not because there was anything wrong with it, simply because I'm left with a feeling of wanting more. The series is clearly building up to something very, very big, to an ultimate confrontation, surely, between Harry and Voldemort. In the end, though, that's all Order of the Phoenix really is: build-up. It's good build-up, but it leaves me hungry for a climax, and I don't want to have to wait two more books and who-knows-how-many years for it! But then, I never was any good at delayed gratification, I admit.

    There are plenty of other things I could say about the book, but I think I've gone on enough for one post, and, in any case, if I wanted to talk about stuff in more detail, it really ought to be in a separate post labeled with spoiler warnings. So I'll just say one more thing before I go: Snape is cool. I don't care what Harry thinks, he is. So there!

    Monday, July 14, 2003

    Harry Potter and the Voices in My Head

    I'm currently on page 600 of the new Harry Potter book, and I can now answer with certainty the burning question I posed a few posts back. The voice of Snape in my head is pretty much the same as the one my brain conjured up for him in previous books, though it takes only a tiny (and occasionally involuntary) shifting of mental gears and he immediately slides into Rickman's voice instead. Which actually makes for some rather strange effects...

    Oh, and Umbridge, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, is really making me wish I couldn't hear characters' voices, because hers is insanely annoying. Gahh.
    A Sensible Quiz

    Here's another pretty cool online quiz which tests your sense perceptions and your knowledge of the body's five senses. Playing around with the optical illusions is particularly fun, and apparently if you do well enough, you can enter to win an MRI scan of your own brain. OK, surely I cannot be the only one who thinks that's a really cool prize?

    For the record, I scored 14/20, not good enough to qualify. But I take exception to the question involving caviar. No way I'm ever gonna consider that stuff tasty...

    (Link via The Presurfer.)

    Sunday, July 13, 2003

    Has It Been Another Year, Already?

    Happy Birthday to Patrick Stewart, and to Harrison Ford, and, oh, yeah... to me! I'm thirty-two today. And I can't decide which thought frightens me more: the fact that, most of my life, I feel like I've just been faking being a responsible adult, or the fact that, more and more of late, I'm having moments when I start thinking of myself as a responsible adult...

    Saturday, July 12, 2003

    There Once Was a Hollywood Movie...

    Via Ferro Lad, here's a fun quiz that challenges you to identify movies whose plots are described in limerick form. OK, it isn't exactly that much of a challenge -- I scored 10/12, and I'm not exactly Ms. Movie Geek -- but the limericks are highly entertaining.

    Friday, July 11, 2003

    Yeah, I'm Nothin' But a Trend-Follower...

    Well, I finally started the new Harry Potter. I've only read one chapter so far, but, wow, Harry really did turn into a sullen teenager, didn't he? Quite believably, too, I might add.

    Anyway, give me a few days and then y'all can actually talk to me about what happens...
    Why, Yes, I Am an Obsessive Fan...

    I just ordered a copy of the second Farscape cookbook. This despite the fact that I've never actually cooked anything from the first cookbook. (My fault, I hasten to add, not the cookbook's. It's actually a very cool cookbook. I just don't ever really cook these days.)
    A Friendly Friday Five

    1. Do you remember your first best friend? Who was it? I honestly don't think that I've ever had one. Which probably makes me sound more pitiful that I actually am... The thing is, to me, the term "best friend" has always had a certain mystique about it. As a child, television presented me with this mythos of the "best friend" as a sort of platonic soulmate, someone unconditionally loyal, someone so close they most likely knew you better than you did yourself. And me, hey, I was such a loner that all the way through 'til the end of high school, I figured I was doing well if I had somebody to sit with at lunch. I've gotten a lot more social since then, and these days I have a number of people I consider reasonably good friends, but the term "best friend" has to my mind always implied a special Sam-and-Frodo sort of closeness that I don't think I can really lay claim to.

    2. Are you still in touch with this person? Well, my non-answer to the last question pretty much dictates a non-answer to this question, too.

    3. Do you have a current close friend? That, of course, depends on how you define "close," but I'd say I've got at least a couple. There's an internet pal of mine I consider a very close friend despite the fact that I've only actually met him in person a handful of times. I feel like I can genuinely talk about absolutely anything with him, which has to count for a lot. And I've got a friend in Albuquerque who I talk to a lot, who's usually the first person I think of when I need someone to go to the movies or on a road trip with, and with whom I've weathered some pretty bad times (hers and mine) over the years.

    4. How did you become friends with this person? The first guy I met through Phoenix APA, though we mostly got to know each other via e-mail. The second, I went to college with.

    5. Is there a friend from your past that you wish you were still in contact with? Why? There's another friend from college I keep drifting in and out of touch with. The "out" periods tend to last for years at a time, and I always feel guilty about them. When we do get in touch, we always really enjoy each other's company, but for some reason vague promises to "get together again real soon" and "drop by when I'm in town" never seem to materialize, alas.

    Thursday, July 10, 2003

    New Who!

    Yes, that's right, Doctor Who is coming back, this time as an animated show! It's not clear to me from the news items that I've seen whether this is going to be a series or just a one-shot production, but either way, it's very exciting news. The new Who will feature the Ninth Doctor, to be played by Richard E. Grant, who I'm only familiar with from his earlier, humorous stint as the Doctor in the comedy sketch "The Curse of Fatal Death." Well, hopefully he won't be licking any mirrors this time. The script is being written by Paul Cornell, who's witten a number of Who novels which I've thought were very good, but which have generally been a bit removed from the traditional Doctor Who sensibility (to the extent that such a thing actually exists). Should be rather interesting...

    I wonder if this is going to air in the US? And if it doesn't, I wonder who I can get to make bootlegs for me? Damned NTSC-PAL incompatibility.
    Wow, Apparently I'm Popular!

    I just got an e-mail from a friend of mine who works at my ISP saying he just thought I might like to know that "your webpage is in the top 10 pages we serve... #8, to be precise." (He means my home page, of course, not this blog, which is hosted on the blog*spot server instead.) Wow. OK, it's a tiny little ISP, but, still, I'm pretty impressed. I had no idea I was getting that many hits, as I've never gotten around to sticking a hit counter on the site. Apparently the "You Know You Watch Too Much Farscape When..." page is really, really popular. Which is kind of surprising, considering that I don't think it's linked to from anywhere but my own pages. A glance at the stats page he pointed me to, though, appears to indicate that "farscape" is in fact the number two search string for their entire collection of web pages. I guess it's good to know there are that many other people out there who also watch too much Farscape...
    If You Ask Me, This Story's As Moving and Suspenseful As Anything He's Ever Done As a TV Script.

    I'm not normally the kind to pass on stories about kittens, but I had to share this one. A friend e-mailed me a copy of this usenet post by Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski relating an absolutely incredible real-life story that, to be honest, came damn close to moving me to tears. Yeah, OK, sometimes I'm a sentimental sap. But go read it and tell me the reaction isn't warranted...
    Thursday is Wacky Search Request Day!

    Yeah, can't ever get enough of these! Here's the latest batch:

  • personality quizzes funkiness: Hey, I think that's probably the only internet quiz I haven't taken. Damn. Now I want to know how funky I am.

  • Natira seattle: I wonder if that's the Star Trek Natira or the Farscape Natira. I think the latter would be pretty conspicuous in Seattle.

  • "strange new worlds" rigged: I never heard any accusations that the contest was rigged, although I have been known to question the judges' tastes... Hmm, think maybe this person entered and didn't win?

  • catchphrases underwear in a marathon: "Underwear in a marathon" must not be a very catchy catchphrase, because I certainly haven't heard of it. Whatever it means.

  • NASA listen for space aliens andrew ragan: Hey, you think maybe I've got a relative at NASA listening for space aliens? That would be cool! Of course, everybody already thinks my job involves listening for space aliens.

  • angst Spock stories: Haven't got any, but, I admit, I do quite like that bit in "The Naked Time" where he breaks down and cries.

  • cures for rug burns: Alas, for eons, Man has striven in vain for a cure for the dreaded and deadly rug burn.

  • nude nephew jacuzzi: Well, I wouldn't really expect this nephew (whoever he is) to jump into the jacuzzi fully clothed.

  • sex pictures vacation naked "home page" -free -amateur: This has got to be the first ever nude pictures search request I've gotten where they didn't want the pictures for free. I'm left wondering, though... Are there people who take professional naked vacation pictures?

  • nude: Talk about simple and to the point!

  • firefly references blake's 7: Actually, I believe they both stole the "I was aiming for his head" line from The Magnificent Seven.

  • "ascii animation" "star trek" enterprise: If you ask me, Enterprise could only be improved by doing it in ascii animation. At least that would be original.

  • charlton heston's july 4th party: He didn't invite me. Sniff.

  • spike's nude planet: At last, the new Buffy spinoff concept revealed!
  • Wednesday, July 09, 2003

    The Voices in My Head

    Greta left a comment on something I wrote a couple of posts back that I was going to respond to in the comments section, but I quickly realized that I was rambling so much it made more sense to just write it up as a separate post.

    Anyway, Greta was saying that she tends to hear specific voices for characters in books. I'm much the same way, although I find that some characters have very strong individual voices that I can "hear" in my head while many others don't. And, as with Greta, characters in books based on a movie or TV show inevitably have the voices of the actors who played them. Well, unless the characterization in the book is really bad. The vast majority of the time, I simply can't hear dialog in a character's voice if it's not actually something that character would say.

    I'm thinking that it should be very interesting, by the way, to see what happens when I read the new Harry Potter book... When I read the first four books I had a very clear and distinctive voice in my head for Snape, and it was most definitely not Alan Rickman's. But in the movies, I totally accepted Rickman as the character, so I'll be interested to see whether the book version will now have Rickman's voice, the original voice I gave him, or some other voice entirely.

    It can certainly be a bit jarring when the voice a character adopts in your head turns out to not be quite right. I remember reading a Hellblazer graphic novel a friend lent me a while back and immediately getting a very clear voice in my head for the main character, John Constantine. But I was about 50 pages in before I realized the guy was from Liverpool, not London, as I had assumed, and I'd given him entirely the wrong accent. The mental re-arrangement that immediately followed felt really, really odd. It was sort of like the auditory equivalent of erasing the wrong voice from some kind of mental blackboard and then quickly chalking in the right one. After that, he sounded perfectly fine, though. Same voice, different accent. I was actually kind of amazed by my brain's ability to make that change so efficiently.

    I gather people who are more visually oriented than I am experience this sort of thing fairly often. They'll develop a mental image of a character only to experience a serious jolt when it's revealed on page 97 that he's brunette rather than blond, or will have trouble accepting a movie adaptation of a book because the characters look nothing like their own visualization of them. Not being a visually-oriented person, I'm not terribly used to that sort of thing, so I guess that's why I find it so startling when something like it happens.
    Betty's Handy Travel Guide to Universes That Are Out to Get You

    I've been thinking a bit about some of my favorite fictional -- well, OK, TV -- universes and the way things work in them... It's often been said, particularly of science fiction stories, that the setting itself acts as a character, and I think there's definitely something in that. Different universes can have very different "characterizations," and that can make a big difference in the tone of the show. Hell, in large part it is the tone of the show.

    And one of the things I love about Blake's 7 and Farscape -- you knew I was going to be talking about those, right? -- is that the universe is not necessarily a nice "person." It feels absolutely no obligation to cut the good guys a break just because they're the good guys. In both shows, the protagonists often do fail, sometimes very spectacularly, despite the best of intentions. To my mind, that's much more interesting than knowing that the hero is always going to win through at the end of the day. The suspense is greater, the stakes are higher, and it's much more realistic. Plus, you get a lot more character depth when you actually get to see the characters reacting to failure once in a while.

    But the two shows are nevertheless very different in tone, and the way the universe tends to operate isn't quite the same. Here's an analogy I thought up in a moment of sleep-deprivation:

    If the characters are ants, the B7 universe is like a man -- no, an endless parade of men -- in heavy boots marching down the sidewalk. It doesn't care whether you're underfoot or not. Being quick and clever may allow you to escape being crushed for a while, but it's bound to happen sooner or later, anyway. Meanwhile, all the ants are ruthlessly attempting to make sure that somebody else is going to be under the boot this time rather than them. But the main point is that, while the universe is completely unforgiving of wrong moves, it doesn't deliberately set out to screw with your mind. The characters do a good enough job of doing that to each other.

    The Farscape universe, on the other hand, is like a kid playing with ants. And it's equally interested in how the ants react when you suddenly deposit them on top of a huge pile of food as it is in how they react when you pull their legs off. It likes to think up weird, random shit to throw at them, preferably at the times when it will provoke the most interesting stirred-up-anthill reactions. It's thus much more likely to cut a character an improbable break than the B7 universe, but it's also much more deliberately and inventively cruel.

    Anyway, all this musing came about because I was amusing myself by putting together a couple of not-terribly-original but hopefully nevertheless diverting lists of how things actually work on each show. If you ever fall through a wormhole or a looking glass and find yourself in one of these places, these are definitely going to be good things to keep in mind:

    The Laws of Blake's 7

  • If you have the slightest reason to suspect the situation might be a trap, it's a trap.

  • Even if you don't have the slightest reason to suspect that the situation might be a trap, it's probably still a trap.

  • Trusting the wrong people leads to disaster.

  • Not trusting the right people leads to disaster.

  • Trusting the evidence of your senses often isn't a good idea, either.

  • Keen intelligence and good self-preservation instincts won't get you nearly as far as charisma, stubbornness, and sheer dumb luck.

  • Being able to laugh at your own misfortunes only serves to creep your shipmates out.

  • The more effort and sacrifice you put into achieving a goal, the more likely it is to turn out to be completely illusory.

  • Superweapons are seldom worth the trouble it takes to obtain them.

  • Even god-like aliens have psychological issues.

  • No matter how dire the situation, there is always time for sarcasm.

  • The Laws of Farscape

  • When you suddenly realize that the person you thought was the good guy is actually the bad guy (or vice versa), you're probably wrong. And then when you change your mind about it, you're probably wrong again.

  • The enemy of my enemy is still my enemy, but it does tend to make things confusing.

  • The greater the moment of happiness, the more horribly the universe is about to punish you.

  • The likelihood of an event happening is inversely proportional to the number of people who have earnestly promised that it's going to happen.

  • Even if you do see the body, it doesn't necessarily mean the person is dead.

  • The more elaborate and well-thought-out the plan, the less chance there is that it will actually work.

  • However, plans that everyone immediately agrees to are absolutely guaranteed not to work.

  • Anyone contracted to perform a medical or mechanical service will invariably screw you over. And not just by overcharging on the bill, either.

  • Speaking in such a way that nobody understands what the hell you're talking about is a great way to confuse your enemies. It's also a great way to confuse your friends.

  • Technobabble never gets you anywhere.

  • The universe will always arrange for the wrong person to be in the wrong place at exactly the wrong time, because things are much more interesting that way.
  • My Brain Is an Odd Place

    Interesting psychological phenomenon: If I watch two or three episodes of Red Dwarf in a row (as I just did earlier today), then any words I read in the next several hours will be in Lister's Liverpool accent inside my head. This is the second or third time this has happened to me, and it's just bizarre. Does this kind of stuff happen to other people, I wonder, or am I just as weird as I sometimes think I am?

    Tuesday, July 08, 2003

    Heat Delirium

    Have I mentioned lately how friggin' hot it is here? I hate New Mexico in the summertime. A couple of hours ago I got in the car for a five-minute trip to the post office -- in other words, not long enough for there to be any point in turning the air conditioning on, since by the time the car started to cool off I'd already be there -- and by the time I got home I was covered head to toe in sweat and was already feeling the faint beginnings of a heat-induced headache. Not that the house is that much better. The swamp cooler brings the inside temperature down 20 degrees or so, but when it's over 100 outside that still puts it way too far above the comfort zone.

    The really annoying thing is I can't even put on shorts unless I want to go to the trouble of changing before work, because they've got the air conditioning turned up so high in there that it induces goose pimples. And people wonder why I get sick...

    Look, it's this again!

    Current clothes: Khaki-colored jeans. A black t-shirt that says "So many books, so little time." (Man, they can carve that on my tombstone!) White tube socks. Black sneakers.

    Current mood: Ehh.

    Current music: In the stereo right now are Something of Time by Nightnoise, Lay It Down by the Cowboy Junkies, and Mascara and Monsters: The Best of Alice Cooper. Let it never be said that my tastes in music are not broad.

    Current hair: Still behaving itself.

    Current annoyance: The fact that I'm still coughing up big wads of goo. And that my throat's started hurting again (doubtless from all the coughing).

    Current thing: Wild, crazed DVD-buying sprees.

    Current desktop picture: I'm back to the Farscape screencaps again. This time it's this lovely shot of Zhaan and Stark from "The Locket." Which I may have used before at some point; I can't quite remember.

    Current song stuck in head: Various selections from the Cowboy Junkies album, mostly.

    Current book: Hellfire Nation: The Politics of Sin in American History by James A. Morone. Interestingly, I seem to be reading a lot more books on subjects like politics and American history in the last few years than I ever used to. Then again, it doesn't take huge numbers of books to qualify as a lot more than "none."

    Current video in player: Most recently, the Doctor Who parody "The Curse of Fatal Death." Currently in the DVD player is Red Dwarf II, since I had half an hour to kill before work, and that wasn't long enough to watch a Buffy.

    Current refreshment: A cough drop.

    Current worry: Mostly involves my sister, who's having some personal problems I'm not about to get into here.

    Current thought: I can't imagine why I ever thought I liked the taste of Hall's honey-lemon cough drops.

    Monday, July 07, 2003

    More Gratuitous Quizzage

    Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

    Well, I'm not all that up on my B5, I have to admit (though I did just finally order season 1 on DVD, yay!), but from what I've seen of Marcus, he seemed like a pretty cool guy.

    You're toast, burnt radioactive toast. While
    you're ducking and covering, you might as well
    just kiss your ass goodbye.

    Will You Survive Nuclear War?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Yeah, well, I'm probably better off that way. On the off chance that I do survive, though, I do have the advantage of being in good with the guy I'm convinced is going to be the local warlord after the apocalypse.

    You're Ash, baby.
    Gimme some sugar baby.
    Which B-Movie Badass Are You?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Works for me!
    I Like to Think of Them As "Early Birthday Presents to Myself"

    Just got a big ol' box from Amazon, containing, among other goodies, the latest set of Farscape discs, season 4 of Buffy, and, yes, the new Harry Potter book (which I figure I have to read soon, just so I can have a conversation that doesn't involve me shouting, "I haven't read it yet! Don't tell me how it ends!"). Man, now I'm feeling the sudden urge to call in sick again... Maybe for a week or so.
    Literary Pursuits

    Recently, I participated in a fun project for the Phoenix APA with my Phellow Pheeners JK Parkin and Greta Northrup. The idea was that each of us would write the beginning of a story -- I believe the theme was simply that the first chapter should involve a character getting a letter with important news -- and then pass it off to the next person to write the middle, who would then pass it on to the final person to write the ending. (Imaginatively, we called it the "Beginning, Middle, and End" project.) The final result was three complete multi-author stories. I mention this because I see that JK has just posted the first of the three on the Phoenix website, and it happens to be the one I started: a silly space opera sort of thing which features a rather Han Solo-ish character but which was in fact almost certainly the result of me having watched one too many episodes of Firefly. I'm really pleased with this, actually, not so much because my opening chapter is anything to be particularly proud of (although I did have fun writing it), but because it was great to see Greta take the characters I'd created and flesh them out so well, and even greater when JK came along, captured the tone I was going for much better than I did, and wrapped the plotline up in a brilliant, unexpected, and very funny way.

    So, anyway, for anyone who might have been wondering whether I ever write anything other than rambling blog entries... there you have it. Shrug.
    Miracles You Mostly Didn't See in the Last 50 Years

    Man, I love reading stuff like this 1950 article predicting what life would be like in the year 2000 AD. A few of the predictions are at least kinda-sorta right, like weather-predicting computers, an extension of the average lifespan to about 85, and the fact that people would eat a lot of frozen food. Some of them are sadly optimistic, like the prediction of cures for multiple sclerosis and the common cold, or, more amusingly, the assertion that "[w]ith storms diverted where they do no harm, aerial travel is never interrupted." Others fall more than a little short of reality:
    Fast jet and rocket-propelled mail planes made it so hard for telegraph companies all over the world to compete with the postal service that dormant facsimile-transmission systems had to be revived. It takes no more than a minute to transmit and receive in facsimile a five-page letter on paper of the usual business size. Cost? Five cents.
    Heh. Well, I suppose it would have been far too much for someone in 1950 to have been able to predict e-mail. Then there's the usual off-base 1950's predictions: that the dominant power source would be solar (well, at least they didn't say "atomic"), that families would have their own personal helicopters, that telephones would all have video screens. Oh, and they also predicted factory robots (sort of), but kinda blew it when they got to the part mentioning that "only a few trouble shooters are visible, and these respond to lights that flare up on a board whenever a vacuum tube burns out or there is a short circuit." Oh, yeah, those blown vacuum tubes are a major problem in modern automated factories!

    It's easy enough to see where all that stuff comes from, right or wrong, but some of these predictions have a serious WTF? quality to them:
    When Jane Dobson cleans house she simply turns the hose on everything. Why not? Furniture (upholstery included), rugs, draperies, unscratchable floors--all are made of synthetic fabric or waterproof plastic. After the water has run down a drain in the middle of the floor (later concealed by a rug of synthetic fiber) Jane turns on a blast of hot air and dries everything. A detergent in the water dissolves any resistant dirt. Tablecloths and napkins are made of woven paper yarn so fine that the untutored eye mistakes it for linen. Jane Dobson throws soiled "linen" in the incinerator. Bed sheets are of more substantial stuff, but Jane Dobson has only to hang them up and wash them down with a hose when she puts the bedroom in order.
    Mind you, as bizarre as that image is, it's the blithe assumption that of course it's Jane Dobson and not her husband who's going to be doing all the cleaning (and, elsewhere, the cooking and shopping) that strikes the oddest note to my own 21st century mind. Social trends are so much harder to predict than technological ones...

    (Link via Presurfer.)

    Sunday, July 06, 2003

    Next Thing You Know, I'll Be Watching Matlock...

    I'm feeling quite a bit better today, except for the occasional coughing spasm and the fact that I still don't have a whole lot in the way of energy (which is probably as much due to how flippin' hot it's been here as to my cold). I still don't much feel like going in to work tonight, but to be honest, when is that ever not true?

    Anyway, lingering germ-induced lassitude made for a very good excuse to sit around most of the day watching The Simpsons. I've now watched through all the episodes, commentaries, and extras on the season one and the season two DVDs. Guess that means it's time to go and get my hands on season three when it comes out next month.

    One of the things I noticed while listening to the commentary tracks this time is how often the commenters would point out a joke that had become a bit dated since the season first aired in '90/'91, or an idea that was new at the time but has since kind of become a bit old hat. I dunno, the episodes still seem pretty fresh to me. But it does get me to thinking about the fact that, wow, there are kids in high school now who were not even born when The Simpsons first came out. And there are probably young twenty-somethings who don't get references my own brain hasn't even yet bothered to categorize as "dated." Man, if that don't make me feel old... Maybe I'm just dwelling on this stuff now because I've got a birthday coming up, but it's a thought that seems to keep crossing my mind more and more often lately. Sigh.
    Ooh, I Like This Friday Five! (Even If I Am Answering It Late.)

    1. What were your favorite childhood stories? I was then, as I am now, a voracious consumer of stories of all formats and types, so it's a bit difficult to single out any specific ones. But I do recall being especially besotted with the Oz books, to the extent that I expected to be able to look back one day and say, with a considerable (if metaphorical) degree of truth, that I spent my childhood in Oz.

    2. What books from your childhood would you like to share with [your] children? I don't have children, nor do I intend to, but I've already bought a copy of The Real Mother Goose for my two-year-old nephew. My mother swears this book taught me how to read, by simple virtue of having it read to me enough times that I was able to associate the spoken and written words, and, even though I couldn't have been more than three or four, it made such an impact on me that I actually do still remember it. As he gets older, I'm sure there'll be many, many more books from my childhood that I'll look forward to sharing with him. Boy, I really do hope the kid turns out to be a reader.

    3. Have you re-read any of those childhood stories and been surprised by anything? Oh, all the time. Sometimes I'm surprised by how disappointed I am by them. For instance, I have re-read the first couple of Oz books, and while they're fun, they totally don't evoke the same sense of wonder I got from the series when I was a kid. Other times, I'm surprised at how well they hold up. The Pooh books, for example, where just as delightful to me as an adult. I honestly had forgotten just how clever the language in them is. Sometimes I do re-read kids' books and see things I never noticed as a child. Certainly the religious allegory in the Narnia books flew right over my head when I read them at age 9.

    4. How old were you when you first learned to read? I honestly don't ever remember not knowing how to read, though I certainly remember not knowing how to read very well. I do remember being very proud of myself for being able to read all the words on the door of my first-grade (or possibly even kindergarten) classroom (though not, of course, what the sign actually said).

    5. Do you remember the first 'grown-up' book you read? How old were you? Depends on your definition of "grown-up." If it means books that are mostly text, as opposed to picture books, I have memories of two that were, at the very least, the first "grown-up" books that I owned. One was called The Boy from Outer Space and was about, you guessed it, a boy from outer space. As I recall, the kids on Mars, or wherever he was from, thought the funnest thing in the world to do was sit quietly and watch grass grow and think, and the Earth kid had to teach him how to run and play and do typical Earth-kid stuff. I remember rather wishing I could go and live on the space kid's planet, where enjoying sitting and thinking was considered normal and acceptable behavior for a kid, and nobody ever tried to make you go and play baseball. The other was called The Adventures of Calico Cotton, and was about a girl who gets swept away on the tail of a kite to an enchanted land in the clouds where everything has a holiday theme -- there's a Christmas area and a Halloween area, and so on -- only the inhabitants don't actually realize they're in holiday-land until she somehow removes the enchantment. Thinking about it now, it sounds stomach-churningly cutesy, actually, but I remember being utterly infatuated with it then. I think it actually was the first "grown-up" book I read, in the sense of being an adult-length novel (the Kid from Outer Space book was shorter and on a lower reading level). It was a bit of a challenge to read, but I plunged right in, and I've never looked back since. I honestly don't remember how old I was, but I'd say no more than seven. Yep, my infatuation with fantasy and science fiction goes back a long, long way...

    Saturday, July 05, 2003

    Eww, Now I Feel Really... Unclean.

    Which Blake's 7 villain are you?
    this quiz was made by Auntie Krizu(:>)

    My Exciting, Fun-Filled Weekend

    I got a phone call from my Dad a few hours ago. "I could tell you were still sick," he said, "because you haven't updated your web page." Alas, 'tis true. I actually feel rather less sickly today than I did yesterday, but my cold has now moved down into my chest, as almost invariably happens any more. Based on my record, I'll be lucky if it doesn't change into bronchitis and settle in for six months.

    So, most of what I'd planned on doing this weekend ended up not happening. I was supposed to go to a BBQ and a gaming session today, and I tried to talk myself into doing so... But BBQ seems pretty pointless, given my current inability to taste anything; my hacking, phlegmy cough doubtless makes me not very fun to be around; and I'm feeling listless and fuzzy-brained enough that I probably wouldn't have a whole lot of fun, either. So, well, here I am, sitting in my PJs at home.

    My friend from Albuquerque did end up coming down to visit, even though I warned her that I really wasn't up for any activities more interesting that lying around in front of the TV. This actually seemed to suit her well enough... She got access to my extensive multimedia library, and in exchange ended up making me tea and listening to me bitch and moan endlessly about the state of my sinuses. We watched eight episodes of Farscape, three entire seasons of Blackadder, a Doctor Who and a couple of Red Dwarfs. I should mention that this selection of viewing material was entirely selected by my friend. There are reasons why I hang around with the people that I do!

    Oh, yeah, and we also watched (most of) Planet of the Apes on AMC. It'd been a long time since I'd seen that one, and, frankly, I'd forgotten how much of a classic it really was. It's interesting: despite the lack of expression on the latex ape-faces and the fact that Charlton Heston's acting mostly consists of a lot of shouting and ranting, the movie actually does prove that even heavy-handed social commentary can be done interestingly and well and still hold up 35 years later.

    Anyway, after three days of taking it easy, I'll hopefully be feeling well enough to be OK at work on Sunday night. The only annoying thing is that I'd kind of like to just curl up and go back to sleep now, and I really should try and stay awake for a while so I can spend the day asleep tomorrow and be rested for the night shift. Hmm, maybe I should have gone gaming... At least that would have kept me awake.

    Thursday, July 03, 2003

    Still Sick

    I was feeling a bit better yesterday, and the sore throat was definitely starting to fade, so I was kind of hoping I was successfully fighting off whatever it was I was infected with. No such luck, though. I started feeling considerably worse about halfway through my shift last night, and when I woke up today (too damned early, yet again), it was pretty clear that a fairly nasty cold had taken up residence in my body and was in the process of making itself quite comfortably at home. I've already sent word to the boss that I'm not going to be in to work tonight; I'm really hoping that if I spend today resting I should be able to shake this thing quickly, as I've got a friend who's supposed to be coming down for the 4th of July tomorrow and I'm meant to be gaming on Saturday. Sigh. You know, there are occasional times when, I admit, I find myself thinking that it would be nice to come down with a little mild illness just as an excuse to stay in bed and read or something. But, of course, during those times, I inevitably stay robustly healthy. It's when I've got things to do (places to go, people to meet), that the germs always decide to pounce. Stupid germs.

    I should really go and try to get some more sleep, but that's kind of hard to do when you can't really breathe, so maybe I'll just prop myself up here in front of the computer for a while...