Friday, October 31, 2003

If a Universe Is Created and There's No One There To Hear It, Does It Make A Sound?

It seems a physicist at the University of Washington has put together a simulation of "the sound of the big bang." (Although it should be noted that he had to shift the frequency up by a very large amount in order for it to be audible to the human ear.) The original (somewhat technically detailed) article on the subject, together with a link to the .wav file, can be found here. Here's a brief quote:
Theoretical studies have shown that as the early universe expanded, sound waves propagated through the dense medium that closed back on itself, so that the hypersphere of the universe rang like a bell. The detailed frequency spectrum of the sound waves that permeated the primordial universe, literally the sounds of the Big Bang, depends on details such as the expansion rate, the energy balance, and the matter density of the universe at the early age of 300,000 years.

I don't know that there's any great scientific usefulness in it, but I have to admit, it's kind of an eerie/cool sound.
Now This Is My Idea of Halloween Viewing.

It's Farscape "Thriller." Damn, but there were a lot of creepy critters on that show!
Happy Halloween, Friday Five!

1. What was your first Halloween costume? I don't know. I'm sure my parents dressed me up when I was far too little to remember, because I know they did it to my sister.

2. What was your best costume and why? Umm... I remember in, like, kindergarten or 1st grade, I had this dinosaur suit that my mother got from some other kid's mother because they wouldn't fit into it any more or something. It was this green outfit with a hood, a big green cardboard tail, big green cardboard spines down the back, and a lizard mask. I thought it looked really cool, but the tail made it difficult-to-impossible to sit down.

3. Did you ever play a trick on someone who didn't give you a treat? No. Partly because I am sweet and mild-natured, and partly because nobody ever refused to give me treats.

4. Do you have any Halloween traditions? (ie: Family pumpkin carving, special dinner before trick or treating, etc.) Not really. The one Halloween tradition we did have when I was a kid was the big candy-sorting after the trick-or-treating. Mom had to check all the candy for signs of psychopathic doctoring -- there never were any, of course -- and I had to trade my sister stuff she could eat with her dental work for all her chewy candy.

5. Share your favorite scary story...real or legend! Umm... Go read Arthur C. Clarke's "A Walk in the Dark." That one sent delightful chills up my spine when I was a kid, and I still remember it very fondly.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Search Request Thursday

Right. Here we go again:

  • hot buttered Vulcan chicks: Last I bothered watching, that sort of thing appeared to be a regular feature on Enterprise.

  • making Scorpius halloween costume: So, what is he going as?

  • andrew's loose tooth(irony): Who is Andrew, I wonder, and what is so ironic about him having a loose tooth?

  • nude OR naked OR sex OR fucking OR avi OR mov OR vid OR mpg +"raelee hill": Man, apparently they really want those dirty pictures of Ms. Hill any way they can get 'em.

  • "sexy klingons": It's the headbumps. Ooh, baby!

  • Raelee Hill message: I'm tempted to send her a message warning her about that desperate internet stalker who's looking for her nudie pics...

  • Ack the lad twilight spirits: Ack? Is the lad coughing up a hairball?

  • "robert graves" "baby pictures": He probably looked exactly like every other baby, really.

  • "moonlighting syndrome": I wish I knew exactly where it was I picked that phrase up from, because I know I didn't actually invent it.

  • darmok funnies: Hmm, how do you tell jokes in Darmok-speak? If everything in the language is an allusion to something else, does that mean that there are no jokes everybody hasn't heard before?

  • "video exchange" doctor who: I'm game! What episodes ya got?

  • miniskirt pictures: With or without someone wearing them?

  • crossover fanfic sirius black and willow: I'm really curious now as to why Willow seems to appear in all the crossover fanfic people come here looking for.

  • Jimmy Buffet Tie dye shirt store: Look good while you mix up your margaritas!

  • jenben communications: Hmm. How are your communications, Jenben?

  • psycho opening credits: Hey, would you believe I've never actually seen Psycho! Sad but true! I've had a deprived life.

  • cartoon stupid groovin granny: Ah, so this "groovin granny" thing people keep showing up here looking for is a stupid cartoon! OK, I feel slightly more informed now.

  • facts about Andromeda the contellation: Well, fact number one is that it's a constellation...

  • famous quote hitchhikers file cabinet: Ahem: "It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware the Leopard.'" And I really wish I could claim that I could recite all that from memory, but I couldn't quite do it word-for-word. I had to cheat and look it up.

  • "lord of the rings" "dress designs": 'Cause who doesn't want to look like Arwen?

  • "sexiest episodes" buffy: If Buffy had run on the Sci-Fi Channel, I have no doubt whatsoever that we would have gotten a "sexiest episodes" marathon.

  • star trek halloween costumes overnight express: Because how embarrassing would it be to show up to the party without your Star Trek uniform? (OK, yes, I mock. But it's self-mockery, becuase I have to admit dressing up as Spock for Halloween at some point in my life, myself.)

  • temptation island and linguistics: I'm not sure linguistics is the right science. Psychology might be helpful in figuring out how the hell things like that get on the air...

  • pointy haired manager: Alas, these people are not at all hard to find.

  • sesame street thanksgiving evil joke: Evil joke to play on your toddlers: tell them that the Thanksgiving turkey is actually Big Bird!

  • tombstone limericks kids: I dunno, I'd say it's a little tasteless to go putting limericks on your kids' tombstones...

  • naked plumbers free pics: What about the tool belt? How are you supposed to be an effective plumber without a tool belt?

  • Monty Python's Matching Tie and Handkerchief pics: Now that's my idea of style!
  • Fantastic! has a really interesting interview up with fantasy authors Philip Pullman, Tamora Pierce, and Christopher Paolini. The only one of these authors I've read is Pullman (and, I admit, I had a few problems with the "His Dark Materials" trilogy), but I very much enjoyed reading this discussion, which features the three of them talking about the craft of fantasy writing, the importance of keeping a strong sense of reality in a fantasy story, and a lot of other fascinating things.

    Wednesday, October 29, 2003

    Here Comes the Sun!

    In case you haven't heard, there was a hell of a solar flare yesterday. You can see a pretty cool little movie of the flare's progress here.

    Tuesday, October 28, 2003

    Rama-Lama Ding Dong

    I've been reading Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama today... Well, re-reading it, actually, as I first encountered the book sometime in my teenage years. But I picked up a used copy at a library sale a little while back, and I thought it'd be good to re-read it sometime before the movie came out. (Assuming it actually does, of course... I get the impression that it's currently sort of in development limbo.) Considering the frightening things I've heard about the film version of I, Robot[*], I should probably be worried about the prospect of yet another classic science fiction novel being utterly ruined in the transition to film. But, you know, the book version of Rama really is nothing but a special effects extravaganza, so maybe I can take hope from the thought that it'd be kind of hard to mess it up...

    [*] I mean, I thought I was joking when I said that they'd probably gotten a model to play Susan Calvin!
    Mouthing Off

    Well, I'm back from the dentist. Again. It wasn't actually very painful -- all hail the goddess Novocaine! -- but it wasn't exactly a walk in the park, either. They showed me what my tooth looked like after they removed all the decayed bits, and it wasn't more than a bare enamel skeleton surrounding a great big empty space. The stuff they filled it with is a slightly different color, so you can see what's filling and what's tooth, and, as far as the above-the-gum part goes, I've pretty damn near just got an artificial tooth there now. Which would be cool, I guess, if a tooth were the sort of body part whose near-replacement would let you tell people, "Hey, I'm a cyborg!" But it's not.

    And I'm not done yet, either. I'm gonna have to go back in the fairly near future and get a crown put over the thing. Let this be a lesson to you, boys and girls: do not wait for two years between dental visits!

    The most annoying thing at the moment, though, is that I'm starting to feel hungry, and I can't really eat anything until I get to the point where I can actually feel my mouth again...
    Weenie, Part 2

    Well, I'm heading back to the dentist in a few hours, and this time there's going to be needles and drilling and stuff. Sigh. Wish me luck...

    Monday, October 27, 2003

    I Think I've Found My Diagnosis

    From the newsgroup alt., it's The Self-Test for Literature Abuse. I'll be checking into rehab any day now...
    A Proclamation

    When I am Ruler of the World, my day is never, ever going to start before 9 AM. Ever.

    Sigh. At least the Daylight Savings shift is working in my favor this time, which is something of a rarity.

    Sunday, October 26, 2003

    A Halloween-y Quiz

    Your a vampire. And you like it.

    Which Popular Halloween Monster Are you?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Probably comes from having been watching so much Angel of late. I can just imagine my mother saying it, actually: "You keep spending so much time watching those vampires, you're going to turn into one!"
    Still Doing the Unconscious Mutterings Thing

    1. Roadtrip:: Music
    2. Honey:: Bear
    3. Flanders:: Ned
    4. Vampire:: Lestat
    5. Justice:: Hall
    6. Marine:: Biology
    7. Protractor:: Angle
    8. Rubber:: Soul
    9. London:: England
    10. Jerry:: Seinfeld

    Explanations: I like visiting places, but hate travelling, whether by plane, train, or automobile. So the only good thing about the "road" part of a roadtrip is the excuse it gives you to listen to music in the car. I think "Bear" for "Honey" came from having seen part of an episode of Winnie the Pooh recently, for some reason that escapes me now. Justice Hall is one of the books sitting on top of my tottering to-read piles. "Rubber Soul" comes from having been listening to a lot of Beatles lately. And the immediate response that "London" sparked in me was not in fact "England," but rather a nonverbal mishmash of associations and images involving various British TV shows, mainly Doctor Who. But it was kind of hard to think of a way to type that...

    Saturday, October 25, 2003

    I Am the Last, Best Hope for Stupid Quizzes

    Season 1
    You are Season One- a prologue for the larger
    Babylon 5 story. Your primary purpose is to
    introduce the characters and races which live
    in the Babylon 5 universe, though you also
    manage to insert details and moments of
    foreshadowing that are fulfilled in later
    seasons. Although you were not very popular at
    first, the fans have come to appreciate you in

    Which Season of Babylon 5 Are You?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    A particularly apt result, that, given that I've just recently finished watching through Season 1. By the way, I just ordered Season 2 last night. By the time it arrives, I should be done with the Angel discs, and be more than ready for another major hit of B5-y goodness. Whoo-hoo!

    Friday, October 24, 2003

    Back from the Dentist

    Well, that wasn't too bad. Even if the hygienist was kind of sloppy and kept spraying water and spit everywhere. My teeth do feel nice and clean now, at least! And by the time the cleaning was finished, the dentist had already left for lunch, so I didn't have to listen to him telling me again about how I really should have my wisdom teeth out. On the downside, I do have a cavity pretty much exactly where I thought I had a cavity (it was the pain that was the tip-off), and I'm going to have to go back on Tuesday to get that taken care of. Man, I hate the dentist's chair. [Insert Stark-from-Farscape voice: "The chair! The chair! The chair!"]

    Like I said. Weenie.

    I have a dentist appointment in about fifteen minutes, and I really, really don't want to go. I'm such a weenie.
    When I Take Over the World, I Believe I Shall Spare the People Who Put Up This Website.

    Via one of the gang at Phoenix, here's an article which provides invaluable tips for would-be criminal masterminds: Evil on a Budget. Learn the secrets to outfitting your super-secret lair without spending all your hard-stolen dollars! A sample:
    When it comes to decorating your lab, remember the adage that more is ... more. A busy, even cluttered, work environment gives victims and secret agents alike the impression that your fingers are into many fiendish plots.

    Don't worry if some of your lair accessories aren't actually useful or relevant to your evil plots, or even if you don't know what they are. As long as they fit with the overall decor, they'll just add to the sense of complexity and mystery of your operation.

    Studies have shown that most secret agents will flee as soon as a few large and imposing items in your fortress begin to emit sparks and smoke; add a convincing "it's about to blow up" warning siren, and over 90% of international counterintelligence agents will run out the nearest exit without ever checking to see whether any of the smoking equipment is part of the evil plot they were attempting to foil. Having a few idle or unnecessary high-tech items that appear prominently in your fortress decor provides an easy and convenient method of ridding your stronghold of secret agents who have overstayed their welcome.

    May I just say: Bwhahahahahaha! (I've been working on my evil laugh... I figure I really ought to get that down before I start setting up the lab. What do you think?)

    Thursday, October 23, 2003

    Another Stupid Quiz. Because I'm Bored.

    black cat
    You are a black cat, stubborn yet friendly, you
    stick to your values and preferences, and no
    one can convince you otherwise! You are the
    legendary cat of mystery.

    What color of cat are you?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Wes for Prez!

    Via Still Life with Woodpecker, it's the Wesley Crusher for President website! Frighteningly enough, I think these guys have come pretty close to convincing me he's good candidate. Here's some samples of Mr. Crusher's views on the important issues facing the United States:
    Capital Punishment: Crusher is also a strong opponent of capital punishment, after what happened on Rubicun III. Wesley inadvertently stepped into the "forbidden zone" while playing catch with some local youth and was nearly sentenced to death for his crime. That was a close one.

    Cloning: Once you try steaming-hot pizza that just came out of a replicator, you'll change your mind about cloning being such a bad thing. Also, human clones could serve a useful purpose - we could use them as "hosts" for parasitic aliens so they won't have to die or temporarily inhabit Commander Riker.

    Not that I don't think alien parasites inhabiting Riker doesn't actually make for an improvement, mind you...
    Search Request Thursday

    Here we go again: interesting search requests that have led people here this week (as well as a few from last week that I accidentally left off then).

  • naked halloween: I suppose going naked does save on the price of a costume, but judging from the number of hits I've gotten from people looking for variations on this phrase, if you're after a genuinely original idea, this just ain't it. Factor in the possibility of indecent exposure arrests, and I'd say you're really better off with the Dracula cape.

  • "desert island discs" choice "gary glitter": No, Gary Glitter would most definitely not be my choice for a desert island disc. No offense to the guy.

  • what has happened in Dr. Frank Etscorn's life: Well, he taught me in a couple of psychology classes, but I sincerely doubt that counts as one of the highlights of his existence.

  • Girl's school in Darjeeling: Sorry, I know nothing about Darjeeling's school system, only that they produce a very nummy strain of tea.

  • poor dental hygine state: You mean, like Alabama? (I'm sorry. That was uncalled for. I apologize to anybody reading this who is from Alabama.)

  • movie greenhouse water main bathrobe: Well, I can't name that movie, I'm afraid. Anybody?

  • count chocula halloween costume: See, now there's an original idea for a Halloween costume!

  • is as if someone raised the price of dying to maximum vent again lyri: Ooooh-kay.

  • uncertain: I'm uncertain how and why anyone managed to end up here searching for this word.

  • how old is Dr. Frank Etscorn: Geez, I'm starting to feel like I'm being used to stalk this guy...


  • 2003 Yuri Gagarin e-mail guest book: Unfortunately, I'm afraid Yuri Gagarin isn't going to be able to post any e-mail to your guest book this year, seeing as he's kind of dead.

  • "claudia black" official website therapist: Ah, yes, I'm sure I've talked to more than one person who probably ought to see a therapist about their obsession with Claudia Black. Not that I'm one to talk about that sort of thing...

  • alamagordo white sands tourist lost: Man, they are serious there when they tell you to stick to the trails. It's nearly impossible to orient yourself in all that white.

  • professor snape sneezing: Did those Weasley jokers put sneezing powder in one of his potions or something? For shame!

  • screensaver atheist: Hmm, does that refer to an atheist-themed screensaver, or to a person who refuses to believe in screensavers?

  • gorilla boobs: This is me, backing away slowly...

  • Robert Frost "I Will Sing You One-O" commentary: I only bother mentioning this one because I've gotten about a dozen hits on this, or some similar variation, in the last couple of weeks. Hmm, apparently someone's assigned that poem as homework...

  • novelty toilet plunger buy: OK, now I'm deeply curious as to what shapes novelty toilet plungers come in.

  • orac whale bones: Hmm, maybe it's his secret scrimshaw hobby Orac's actually engaged in all those time when he's complaining that he doesn't want to deal with petty human problems because his circuits are otherwise engaged. I guess he'd have to take over a robot with some sort of manipulative capacity to practice it, but that shouldn't be too much of a problem...

  • obscure music "to the moon alice": Actually, I believe that was from a considerably less-than-obscure TV show. Hope that helps.

  • sam and frodo's conflict in two towers movie: Was beautifully played, in my opinion. Sigh. Man, I want to see Return of the King right now.

  • papers "random wibblings": I tend to do most of my own random wibbling here on the internet. It saves on paper.

  • Why does Gaiman call the dream of Bottom is the one moment of genuine: Uh, I dunno. Did you check his FAQ?

  • "astronomy movie" armageddon: Honestly, there was very little remotely resembling real space science in Armageddon.

  • cybermen lego: Well, there's some pretty cool Doctor Who Lego stuff here, but no Cybermen, alas.
  • Wednesday, October 22, 2003


    I got nothing blog-worthy today. How about you people entertain me?

    Tuesday, October 21, 2003

    I've Often Been Told I Was Irrational...

    What Irrational Number Are You?
    You are π

    Of all the irrational numbers, you are the most famous. You have many friends and fans. Like many people, non-Euclidean geometry makes you feel uncomfortable. You are involved in so many things that it seems like it would take two of you to make ends meet.

    You are particularly close to the rational number 22/7. However, you and e have been called "remarkable."

    Your lucky number is approximately 3.14159265

    Shiny Lemur
    Straif's Blog

    I'm actually pretty much OK with non-Euclidean geometry, though.
    Holiday Plans

    Well, it looks like I'm going to be heading back to New Jersey for a big family-get-together thing over Thanksgiving. To be honest, I kinda have mixed feelings about this. I've been doing a lot of travelling lately, and, frankly, I'm starting to get a little tired of it. My idea of a perfect vacation right now, really, would be to take a week or two off of work, lock the front door, take the phone off the hook, and spend all my time catching up on my reading and writing and DVD-watching and housework and sleep and quality time with the cats. Plus, I think I've spend more time in the company of various family members in the last year or so than in the previous five years combined. So, nice as it is to see them all -- and it is nice -- I'd just as soon put off a return to the ancestral homeland for another year or two.

    But I'm definitely going anyway, because my mother brought out the one argument that she knew was guaranteed to persuade me. "Your grandmother would really like you to be there," she said. Hell, I could never deny my Grandmom. She almost never asks for anything at all, but if she told me she wanted me to jump off a bridge, I'd probably do it. Also, my sister and the baby are going to be there, which is definitely a plus. It's always super-good to see them, even if it hasn't been very long since my last visit.

    One annoying thing: I planned out an airline itinerary online last night, but didn't want to book the reservations until I'd had the chance to talk to my mother again about optimal flight times. When I went back today to buy the tickets, the price had gone up by $58. Yeesh!

    One cool thing: Turns out that the flight I was looking at for the second leg of my trip from Albuquerque to Philadelphia was the exact same flight my sister's going to be on for the second leg of her trip from Portland to Philly. So I did go ahead and book it, despite the fifty-eight dollars, and was able to request a seat on the plane directly behind her. I can't help but think, though, that it would have been even cooler if we'd just turned up at the same gate in Cincinnati without either one of us knowing the other was going to be there...
    Well, That Was Completely Pointless. But Fun.

    The Completely Pointless Personality Quiz
    The Completely Pointless Personality Quiz

    Ah, you know, I spent many deeply rewarding hours playing with empty cardboard boxes as a child...

    Monday, October 20, 2003

    DVD-Watching Update

    I'm still working my way through Season 2 of Angel. Somewhat to my surprise, it's suddenly taken an extremely dark, grim, and rather shocking turn. Very cool!
    Name Dropping

    Got into work today at 3:45 and discovered I had just missed the chance to meet Prince Andrew of England, who I had, in fact, completely forgotten was going to be here today. Not that I'm exactly complaining about this... Truth is, I don't envy the guy who was on-shift this afternoon at all. I hate it when VIPs come in and want to look over my shoulder and ask me questions when I'm working. Not that I've ever dealt with quite that big a VIP before, mind you...

    Sunday, October 19, 2003

    Stolen Blog Content

    Greta of The Memory Burns (who's been a real bloggin' fool today!) links to this highly amusing page of physics-related limericks. Here's one of my personal favorites as an example:
    On Liquor Production
    by David M. Smith

    A friend who's in liquor production
    Owns a still of astounding construction.
    The alcohol boils
    Through old magnet coils;
    She says that it's "proof by induction."

    Ha! I knew there was a reason why I suffered through those Electricity & Magentism classes! It was so I could get that joke!

    Greta also links to the Poetic Table of the Elements, a clever little site which features poems about various elements on the periodic chart. From what I've looked at so far, I'd say that the quality varies a lot, but there's some real little poetic gems to be found there. For instance, here's one of the pieces under Neon (which I picked out to look at mainly because I drive a Dodge Neon):
    By Eric Krupin

    for a "noble gas"
    you sure got the common touch
    why i saw you just last night
    at the local barandgrill
    you was all pink and buzzy
    just like me

    OK. I like that.
    I'm Not Sure Why I'm Still Doing These, But Here We Go: More Unconscious Mutterings

    1. Country:: Music
    2. G:: String
    3. Offer:: "What do you want?" (Yes, I still have Babylon 5 on the brain.)
    4. Connection:: Internet
    5. Quest:: Galaxy Quest
    6. Lighthouse:: "Horror of Fang Rock" (a Doctor Who episode set in a lighthouse)
    7. Sycamore:: Tree
    8. Inhumane:: Cruel
    9. Sneer:: Snape
    10. Weapon:: Of mass destruction
    'Nother Discworld Quiz

    Discworld: Which Ankh-Morpork City Watch Character are YOU?

    brought to you by Quizilla

    Hmm, as with my earlier Granny Weatherwax result, I can only sigh wistfully and say, "Man, I only wish I had that much character." Then again, my life would doubtless be rather less comfortable if I did, so, hey.
    Lit Crit

    I've seen this list of "the greatest novels of all time" linked to from several places lately, most recently from A Voyage to Arcturus. I usually find these kinds of lists pointless, at best, but for some reason this one struck me as kind of interesting, and it was good to see that quite a few of the works listed were books that I'd not only read, but actually liked. I thought I'd go down the list and offer some thoughts and opinions on the ones I'm actually familiar with... I've copied the entire list here, but if I haven't made any comments on something, you can assume that it's because I haven't read it.

    OK, let's see...

    1. Don Quixote Miguel De Cervantes

    This one is on my to-read pile, and has been for quite some time. I keep thinking that I really ought to get around to it soon, but, then, there are a couple of hundred other books about which I keep thinking the exact same thing.

    2. Pilgrim's Progress John Bunyan

    3. Robinson Crusoe Daniel Defoe

    I've read this one. The most interesting thing about it, actually, isn't the survival on a desert island adventure stuff, but the social attitudes that are implicit in it, some of which are deeply weird and more than a little disturbing to modern sensibilities. It isn't about one guy surviving heroically on a desert island; it's actually about one guy setting himself up as lord and master of a not-quite-deserted island with everybody else subservient to him, because that's the natural way these things are done.

    4. Gulliver's Travels Jonathan Swift

    Brilliant satire, and still as fresh and enjoyable (and disturbingly relevant) now as the day it was written.

    5. Tom Jones Henry Fielding

    6. Clarissa Samuel Richardson

    7. Tristram Shandy Laurence Sterne

    8. Dangerous Liaisons Pierre Choderlos De Laclos

    I've seen one of the many movie versions of this and liked it quite a lot, but have never read the book.

    9. Emma Jane Austen

    Oh, man. I was forced to read this book in high school, and it put me off Austen for life. I loathed it. (And my attitude wasn't much helped by the fact that it was the English teacher's favorite book, either.) Visiting the world Emma lived in was, for me, like being trapped in my own personal hell, a place where the only subjects of conversation ever allowed are on dress designs and tactics for snagging a man. *Shudder*

    10. Frankenstein Mary Shelley

    A classic. And a book which people who haven't actually read it often have entirely mistaken ideas about. The theme is generally assumed to be that there are Things Which Man Was Not Meant to Know, and that it's Wrong to Play God, and that the creations of our hubris will inevitably turn on us. It's not. It's about what happens when we don't take the responsibility for what we create. Which I think is a much more valid and important thing to focus on.

    11. Nightmare Abbey Thomas Love Peacock

    12. The Black Sheep Honore De Balzac

    13. The Charterhouse of Parma Stendhal

    14. The Count of Monte Cristo Alexandre Dumas

    Haven't read this one, but I ought to pick it up sometime. I read The Three Musketeers earlier this year and really enjoyed it.

    15. Sybil Benjamin Disraeli

    16. David Copperfield Charles Dickens

    I started reading this in a Reader's Digest condensed version when I was 10. (Not that I'd touch a Reader's Digest condensed book with a ten-foot pole now, but, hey, I was ten.) I remember enjoying it right up to the point where the main character grew up, and then rapidly losing interest. I probably ought to try giving it another go sometime, though. I actually do rather like Dickens.

    17. Wuthering Heights Emily Bronte

    18. Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte

    Had exactly the same experience with this as with David Copperfield, actually, except that I have zero desire to go back and try this one again, mainly because I've got the Brontes mentally cataloged as being in the same awful category as Austen.

    19. Vanity Fair William Makepeace Thackeray

    20. The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne

    Was forced to read this in high school and hated it. Mainly I remember page after page after page of boring descriptions of leaves.

    21. Moby-Dick Herman Melville

    Now, this is one that I'm quite sure I would have hated if they'd made me read it in school, but which I very much enjoyed reading on my own. Yeah, the long descriptions of whaling techniques get a little old after a while, but they're a hell of a lot more interesting than Jane Austen's discussions about dressmaking or whatever. And there really is a great story in there, as well as some extremely vivid and memorable characters.

    22. Madame Bovary Gustave Flaubert

    23. The Woman in White Wilkie Collins

    24. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland Lewis Carroll

    Surreal and clever and loads of fun. I've read this multiple times since my first encounter with it as a kid.

    25. Little Women Louisa M. Alcott

    I remember reading this as a child, but almost nothing about it. Doesn't seem like the sort of book that would appeal to me these days.

    26. The Way We Live Now Anthony Trollope

    27. Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy

    28. Daniel Deronda George Eliot

    29. The Brothers Karamazov Fyodor Dostoevsky

    30. The Portrait of a Lady Henry James

    31. Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain

    I love Twain. He's tremendously funny, a great storyteller, and has a fine grasp of character and dialog. And of the books of his that I've read, Huckleberry Finn is easily the best. I enjoyed the heck out of this one despite being made to read it in English class.

    32. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Robert Louis Stevenson

    Another one of those works, like Frankenstein, that everybody is familiar with and thinks they know all about, but which comparatively few people have actually read. Which is a pity, because it's very good. Though I still think that Stevenson's best story, at least of those I've read, is "The Bottle Imp."

    33. Three Men in a Boat Jerome K. Jerome

    I've never been entirely sure whether this was actually a novel, or a (probably considerably exaggerated) work of non-fiction. Either way, it's a lot of fun. I made a point of picking this one up after reading Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog, which was directly inspired by it, and was very glad I did.

    34. The Picture of Dorian Gray Oscar Wilde

    Will it surprise anybody if I say that I decided to read this one mainly because there was an episode of Blake's 7 which was directly inspired by it? Science fiction connections aside, it's a really interesting book, featuring one of the most memorably twisted characters I've ever encountered (and, no, it's not Dorian), as well as a lot of philosophical/thematic stuff that, whether you agree with it or not, is guaranteed to get you thinking in disturbing new ways. It is a little frustrating to read, though, because there's clearly all kinds of stuff Wilde wanted to put in it that he couldn't talk about directly given the mores of the day, so there were many times when I found myself torn between wondering whether I was reading too much in, or whether I wasn't reading in enough.

    35. The Diary of a Nobody George Grossmith

    36. Jude the Obscure Thomas Hardy

    37. The Riddle of the Sands Erskine Childers

    38. The Call of the Wild Jack London

    I may have read, or at least started reading this when I was very young, but if so, I don't remember it.

    39. Nostromo Joseph Conrad

    40. The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame

    Did read this one as a kid. Remember liking it, but not a whole lot else about it.

    41. In Search of Lost Time Marcel Proust

    42. The Rainbow D. H. Lawrence

    43. The Good Soldier Ford Madox Ford

    44. The Thirty-Nine Steps John Buchan

    45. Ulysses James Joyce

    Ugh. I was forced to read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in school, and developed almost as big a loathing for Joyce as I have for Austen. I am convinced, whether rationally or otherwise, that the only reason anybody ever reads Ulysses is for sheer snob value. No thanks.

    46. Mrs Dalloway Virginia Woolf

    47. A Passage to India E. M. Forster

    48. The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald

    Another one I had to read in English class. As I recall, pretty much everybody but me liked it. I think a large part of my problem with it was exactly the same sort of problem I had with Emma, or with Douglas Coupland's Generation X, or with William Gibson's Neuromancer, to tie in examples from a variety of genres. I can't stand shallow people whose biggest desire in life is to impress other with how rich or cool or hip they are, and I hate hanging around with them, even when they're fictional.

    49. The Trial Franz Kafka

    50. Men Without Women Ernest Hemingway

    51. Journey to the End of the Night Louis-Ferdinand Celine

    52. As I Lay Dying William Faulkner

    53. Brave New World Aldous Huxley

    An SF classic, and much more readable than your average depressing dystopian novel. What I find interesting about it is that Huxley's imagined world is simultaneously horrible and, well, actually kind of appealing.

    54. Scoop Evelyn Waugh

    55. USA John Dos Passos

    56. The Big Sleep Raymond Chandler

    Hmm, I really ought to read some Chandler some time. I love hard-boiled detective stories when they're blended in with some other genre, but I've actually read very few of the real and original thing.

    57. The Pursuit Of Love Nancy Mitford

    58. The Plague Albert Camus

    59. Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell

    Yeah, it's an Important and Influential book, there's no doubt about it, but it was actually kind of tedious to read. And depressing, of course, but, then, it's supposed to be.

    60. Malone Dies Samuel Beckett

    61. Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger

    I think the vast majority of Americans were forced to read this in high school, but somehow I never was. Which is just fine by me. What little I know about it leads me to conclude that I probably wouldn't have enjoyed it. Teenage angst, unlike most other forms of angst, holds very little appeal for me.

    62. Wise Blood Flannery O'Connor

    63. Charlotte's Web E. B. White

    A childhood favorite of mine. I used to watch the movie every time it came on TV (which was about once a year). My first encounter with the book was when our teacher read it out loud to us in the third grade. She read us Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan, too. Some fond memories there.

    64. The Lord Of The Rings J. R. R. Tolkien

    You can quibble about Tolkien's writing style, and I won't be too inclined to argue, but I nevertheless regard Lord of the Rings as being possibly the great story of our time.

    65. Lucky Jim Kingsley Amis

    66. Lord of the Flies William Golding

    Another one that everybody but me seems to have read in school. One of these days, I really ought to get around to reading it, if only because I keep encountering so many references to it.

    67. The Quiet American Graham Greene

    68. On the Road Jack Kerouac

    I took an "America in the 60's" literature class in college, in which we read Kesey and all kinds of other stuff in which there was much discussion of Kerouac... But we didn't actually read Kerouac himself. Maybe I should correct that oversight some day, but I'm not feeling in any hurry about it.

    69. Lolita Vladimir Nabokov

    70. The Tin Drum Gunter Grass

    71. Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe

    72. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Muriel Spark

    73. To Kill A Mockingbird Harper Lee

    74. Catch-22 Joseph Heller

    I think this book actually helped me develop my current sense of appreciation for black comedy. it's simultaneously depressing as hell and very, very, funny, which is a great combination if you can carry it off.

    75. Herzog Saul Bellow

    76. One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    77. Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont Elizabeth Taylor

    78. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy John Le Carre

    79. Song of Solomon Toni Morrison

    80. The Bottle Factory Outing Beryl Bainbridge

    81. The Executioner's Song Norman Mailer

    82. If on a Winter's Night a Traveller Italo Calvino

    A book that totally shouldn't work -- what with the second person, and the fact that it never actually finishes any of the stories it starts -- but nevertheless somehow does. I gather that it was mainly written as a deliberate response to various lit-snob theories about "the nature of the novel" and what supposedly makes a good novel, but you don't have to be a literary academic to appreciate the points it has to make about the nature of stories and the experience of reading. And Calvino has a marvelous way with words.

    83. A Bend in the River V. S. Naipaul

    84. Waiting for the Barbarians J.M. Coetzee

    85. Housekeeping Marilynne Robinson

    86. Lanark Alasdair Gray

    87. The New York Trilogy Paul Auster

    88. The BFG Roald Dahl

    I think I read this one, way back in the depths of my childhood. Don't remember much of anything about it, specifically, but I adored Dahl as a child, and still do as an adult.

    89. The Periodic Table Primo Levi

    90. Money Martin Amis

    91. An Artist of the Floating World Kazuo Ishiguro

    92. Oscar And Lucinda Peter Carey

    93. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting Milan Kundera

    94. Haroun and the Sea of Stories Salman Rushdie

    Ought to check this one out sometime. I've heard it's extremely good, but I can't help but wonder how much of the hype has more to do with the author than the story.

    95. La Confidential James Ellroy

    96. Wise Children Angela Carter

    97. Atonement Ian McEwan

    98. Northern Lights Philip Pullman

    This was released under the title The Golden Compass in the US, the first volume of the "His Dark Materials" trilogy. I enjoyed reading these books, but I did have some serious philosophical and narrative quibbles with the series as a whole. The first book, though, was in my view probably the best.

    99. American Pastoral Philip Roth

    100. Austerlitz W. G. Sebald

    Hmm, that's about 20 out of 100 read. Seems like kind of a poor showing, but then, I never claimed to be a connoisseur of Great Literature, anyway...
    And the Wish List Keeps on Growing...

    I just found out that the first season of Forever Knight is out on DVD! Or at least, it will be in a couple of days. Yippee! I mean, I've been enjoying Angel well enough, but FK was the original Angsty Vampire Detective Show, and there's a very warm spot in my heart for it. I'd been hoping for quite some time that it would eventually show up on disc.

    But, oh, man, the DVD-buying budget for this year is going to end up being huge...

    Saturday, October 18, 2003

    Bwahahaha! Yeah, Right!

    Tamara pointed me at this quiz, but it looked familiar enough that I was quite sure I'd already taken it and just hadn't bothered posting my result here for some reason. For which she "tsked" at me, because, you know, I don't post nearly enough quiz results here. Anyway, I went back and took another look at it, and it isn't quite the one I remember taking, after all. So, here ya go, Tamara:

    You're a plotter!
    You're a plotter, someone who carefully crafts an
    intriguing plot to keep the reader hooked from
    one scene to the next. You thrive on knowing
    exactly where your story is going, and what's
    going to happen along the way. Although you
    might veer off your original plan for the
    story, mostly you stick to your carefully
    planned outline. You're a born storyteller who
    enjoys sharing your stories with others.

    What Kind of a Writer Are You?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    And may I just laugh uproariously at that result? I mean, plot? Me?! I can't write plot to save my life. Or, no, OK, I admit, I could write plot to save my life, but under less extreme circumstances, it really tends not to happen.

    I think a big part of the problem here is that the quiz was based on majorly unfounded assumptions. Like, you know, the fact that if you're writing, you must be writing something with a plot. The question that asks you whether you know what the plot is going to be going in doesn't have a "Huh? Plot? What is this thing of which you speak?" option, so I'm pretty much left behind as far as categorizations go, right there.

    I said a couple of posts ago that I like to think I have good writing skills (not that they're always in evidence on this blog), but that I do not have the makings of a novelist. This is precisely what I meant. You want a one-page vignette, you come and see me, and I might be able to do somethin' for ya. (Especially if you want one featuring Blake's 7 or Farscape characters, because I know I can write those.) You want a plot, you are most decisively on your own.

    Of course, if you want long, rambling, pointless blog entries, I got those in great abundance...
    My Name Is Betty, And I Am a Bookoholic. It Has Been Two Weeks Since My Last Book Purchase...

    There was a library book sale today, and I didn't go. Because I'm being good and keeping my vow to myself about not buying more books than I'm reading.

    And god damn, but this strength of will stuff sucks.
    Speaking of Classic Video Games...

    I just got this catalog in the mail which features all kinds of toys and games and other fun stuff... And when I opened it up, what should catch my eye but the nostalgically familiar shape of an old Atari controller! Apparently, the item is an Atari-style joystick which you plug directly into your TV and which you can use to play ten different classic Atari games. No console, no plug-in cartridges; all the games are stored inside the joystick. I think my 13-year-old self would have been genuinely awed by this.

    The thing costs $34.95. I'm actually really, really tempted, if only because one of the six games is Yar's Revenge, and, man, there was a time when I was the undisputed master of that game. *happy nostalgic sigh*

    Friday, October 17, 2003

    The Friday Five Asks Me About My Stuff

    1. Name five things in your refrigerator. Cans of Coke. Cans of Cherry Pepsi. Cans of Orange Slice. 2% milk (necessary for use in coffee). Coffee.

    2. Name five things in your freezer. Nestle-crunch-flavored ice cream. A Tombstone pepperoni pizza (which I think I am going to cook and eat in just a minute). Some microwaveable fried chicken that's possibly been in there a bit too long. Several lumps of hamburger. One very elderly toaster pastry. Yes, I know. I am utterly pathetic.

    3. Name five things under your kitchen sink. Plastic bags, which the cats have doubtless gotten into again since the last time I neatened them up. Floor cleaner of the kind my ex used to describe as smelling like "a chemical spill in a Carolina pine forest." Spare boxes of kleenex. Clothespins. A pile of rags that used to be clothes.

    4. Name five things around your computer. Box of kleenex. Desk-organizer tray filled with various junk. Stapler. A "from the library of..." book embosser. New Mexico Tech centennial mug (1889-1989) filled with pens and pencils.

    5. Name five things in your medicine cabinet. Nasal spray. Throat lozenges. Disposable razors. Travel-sized can of shaving cream. Band-aids.
    Well, Gee, Now I Feel Really Old

    Here's a really funny article from Electronic Gaming Monthly magazine: they got a bunch of 21st-century kids to play classic video games like Donkey Kong and Pong, and transcribed their reactions. F'rinstance, here's what they thought of Tetris (a game which I spent staggering amounts of my free time playing a cheap knockoff version of in college):

    Tim: Which button do I press to make the blocks explode?

    EGM: Sorry, they don't explode.

    Becky: This is boring. Maybe if it had characters and stuff and different levels, it would be OK. If things blew up or something or-

    Sheldon: If there were bombs.

    Becky: Yeah, or special bricks. Like, if a yellow brick touched a red brick it would blow up and you'd have to start over.

    John: Why haven't I won yet? I've paired up so many of the same color.

    EGM: Don't worry about colors.

    John: I just lined up six of the same color. Why didn't they blow up?

    EGM: Nothing blows up.

    The rest is even funnier. Especially when they force the poor unsuspecting tykes to play the old Atari E.T. game. *shudder*

    (Link via Angels from Another Pin.)

    Thursday, October 16, 2003

    OK, I Loathe All TV Commercials, But Even I Have to Admit That That Depressed Rock Is Awfully Cute.

    You are the Social Anxiety disorder rock! :(

    ::Which rock personality disorder (from the Zoloft commercial) should you have? (Results contain pictures!)
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Nah, actually I grew out of all of that. Mostly.
    I Receive Some Acknowledgment

    Got a cool new book in the mail yesterday: Liberation: The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Blake's 7 by Alan Stevens and Fiona Moore, imported to me all the way from Merrie Olde England, the original Home of Quality Low Budget SF TV. There are very few professionally-published Blake's 7 books out there, and, with the happy exception of Blake's 7: The Inside Story, most of them are, to be blunt about it, lame. Word of mouth (or, more accurately, keyboard) on the B7 mailing lists, however, says that this one is informative, entertaining, and intelligently written, though many of the authors' interpretations of specific episodes are pretty controversial. So I'm really looking forward to reading it.

    I was also told, by someone who got their copy before I did, that my name was mentioned in the acknowledgments. Needless to say, the first thing I did when I got my own copy was to go and look, and sure enough there I am, listed with a bunch of other people being thanked for "insights into various episodes." Cool! I had a very long and, in my view, highly rewarding online conversation with one of the authors once, and I can only figure that it must have made an impression on her, which is extremely flattering.

    You know, it's kind of funny... When I was much younger, I used to occasionally consider the idea that someday I might write a book. Well, that, I now think, is extremely unlikely to happen. I may have writing skills (or at least I like to think I do), but a novelist I most definitely am not. And while I could certainly write a book on Blake's 7 (or, for that matter, Farscape) myself, I strongly suspect that convincing someone to actually publish it would be nigh unto impossible. So I've pretty much put away the dream of one day seeing my name on a spine in a bookstore. Instead, in a half-joking/half-serious sort of way, I'd set my sights on a more achievable goal: getting myself into the acknowledgments of someone else's book. Alas, the RPG book I play-tested for ended up getting axed by the game company, and the two manuscripts I've beta'd for an aspiring-novelist friend have, as of yet, failed to find a publisher. I was beginning to think this was going to be one of those distant long-term goals, so imagine my surprise when I discovered that I'd achieved it entirely without trying to or even knowing I had!

    The really ironic thing? They spelled my name wrong. Not that I hold it against 'em. Nobody spells my name right. I blame that Californian actor guy. Him and his stupid "e."
    Currently in the DVD Player...

    Now that I've finished making my way through Season 1 of Babylon 5, I've finally started in on Season 2 of Angel. And I'm definitely glad I've decided to stick with it. It lacks the addictive quality of Buffy, but it's quite entertaining nevertheless, and I very much like the way they've managed to keep the Buffy sense of humor in among all the dark'n'grim Angel-brooding.

    It is a little frustrating, though, to go surfing my way through fannish blogs and LiveJournals and see everybody talking about Angel's fifth season when I'm still only four episodes into season 2. But then, I seem to have a habit of coming in late to everything. Ah, well, if it's really worth getting into, I always manage to end up there eventually... Or so I like to tell myself, anyway.
    This Quiz Was Unworthy of Me. The Questions Should Have Been Harder.

     His motto is: if a job's worth doing, it's worth getting somebody else to do it.
    Very Blackadder! A*

    How well do you know Blackadder?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Is It Thursday Already?

    Hmm, yeah, I guess it is. So, here we go, then, the weekly batch of interesting search engine hits to show up on the referral logs:

  • halloween "sexy plumber": I dunno, maybe it's just me, but I just don't find the idea of somebody snaking out a drain remotely sexy at all.

  • gilligans island halloween costume: Oh, well, that's an easy one. All you need is a red shirt and a goofy hat. Hey, I'm halfway there already. I've got a hat just like Gilligan's in my closet.

  • "slideshow with music": Hmm, you'd think they'd have a preference as to what kind of music... Or what kind of slides, for that matter.

  • dilbert sandbagging: I'm sure he is. I mean, if you go showing the pointy-haired manager exactly what you're capable of from the outset, he's going to start expecting it of you.

  • star trek tos high boots: Ooh, I want some! But not the red miniskirt, though.

  • blue men movie being filmed at cordova and burrard: Presumably they're not filming the whole movie on one street corner?

  • facts and fantasy about number 13: Fact: it's a prime. Fantasy: It's unlucky. That was easy.

  • carrie ann moss suck toes: Is there something interesting about Carrie Ann Moss' toes? This is like the third search request I've gotten involving them.

  • connor trinneer haircut: I wonder what would happen if you walked into the beauty parlor and asked your stylist to give you a "Connor Trinneer haircut"?

  • porno sex pics movie frog porn sex: Frog?!

  • meddle colony info ad pics: "Meddle Colony! The first community designed exclusively for busybodies!"

  • farscape lego leviathan: Ooh! Nifty!

  • crais super cooler system: Wrong Farscape character, I'd think. It's Scorpius who's got the super cooler system.

  • who designs Enya's clothes?: Beats the hell out of me!

  • SCI FI NUDE PICTURES: You really ought to be more careful about specifying which sci-fi characters you want to see nude. Otherwise you might end up with Jar-Jar or something. *shudder*

  • Futurama pictures of Fry in a spacesuit: 'Cause he looks much more science-fictional that way than in that boring red jacket he always wears.

  • Betty's site: You found it! Hi!

  • introvert coward: Hey, just because we don't like to socialize doesn't mean we're afraid to!

  • cocaine sniff pics: Well, I guess the powder doesn't come with how-to illos...

  • food hygine quizzes: Mmm, hygienic food...

  • sister felching: Oh, man, I knew I was going to get icky search requests based on that word...

  • nude vw: You mean, one with the paint stripped off?

  • cool blasts thermonuclear pics: Actually, thermonuclear blasts are usually rather warm.

  • teenager with bunioned feet: My sympathies. I already had bunions when I was a teenager, and now that I'm in my 30's, they're starting to cause me some serious discomfort.

  • nude farscape pics: I've gotten a bunch of variations on this one lately. Still no specific characters to add to my collection, though. Come on, doesn't anybody want to see D'Argo nude?

  • cheesy pickup lines "thinking of you": Ah, it's so nice that you think of me for your cheesy pickup line needs...
  • Wednesday, October 15, 2003


    How Would YOU Take Over the World?

    Battle of the Stereos, Round 2

    OK, today it's bouncy Latin pop vs. Farscape episodes turned up to maximum volume on the TV. Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets!
    Heads Up!

    For those in the US, the Sci Fi Channel is running a Farscape marathon today. (Apparently they were yesterday, too, but that just goes to show you how much attention I pay to the Sci Fi Channel any more. Or to TV at all, really.) Anyway, it looks like they're showing first-season episodes all day until 8 PM, Eastern Time. Right now, it's "The Flax," featuring a guest character who's pretty high on my list of "people they should have brought back," Staanz. Come on, how can you not like a guy(?) who flies a wood-burning spaceship?

    Tuesday, October 14, 2003

    Maximum Insanity!

    I think the blog looks kind of cool this way.

    (Link via The Presurfer.)
    Battle of the Stereos Update

    Well, the good news is that I think that it's quite likely not my new neighbors who have decided to treat the entire trailer park to a free outdoor concert, but just some guys they've hired to set their trailer up. Or so I desperately hope, anyway.

    The bad news is that they're still at it.

    And, no, I decided not to blast them back with selections from my Weird Al collection. I went with Peter Schilling instead. Foolish people, my German Geek Rock shall defeat your puny Mexican Polka! Ha!
    This Is Why I Occasionally Fantasize About Post-Apocalyptic Scenarios Where 99% of Humanity Is Wiped Out and the World Is Empty.

    I have new neighbors. They just pulled the trailer into the formerly-vacant spot next to me yesterday. I haven't met them yet or anything, but I do already know one fundamentally important fact about them: they've got a hell of a bass on their sound system.

    I may have to start cranking up my Weird Al records in retaliation.

    Monday, October 13, 2003

    Gotta Keep Up the Quota of Stupid Quizzes...


    Which month are you?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Damn! I was last month, and I missed it!

    September's a cool month to be, though. I like September. That's about when it finally starts ceasing to be Too Frelling Hot here, for one thing.
    A Complaint

    My internet connection at work now feels too slow.

    Ah, how quickly we become spoiled...

    Sunday, October 12, 2003

    My Blog Has An Evil Twin

    Trawling through the google results on a search engine hit that brought somebody here looking for "maximum verbosity," I have discovered, much to my startlement, that I am not the only "Maximum Verbosity" in the blogosphere. Suddenly I feel so much less original and unique. *Sniff*
    Unconscious Mutterings

    1. Timeshare:: Condo.
    2. Accounts:: Payable.
    3. Temptation:: Island. (Yikes! Where did that come from?)
    4. Hack:: And slash.
    5. Shadow:: War.
    6. Infection:: The Babylon 5 episode with that title.
    7. 800:: Number.
    8. Infidelity:: Cheating.
    9. Springfield:: Simpsons.
    10. Gardener:: Sam.

    Saturday, October 11, 2003

    An Announcement (Or, I Love My Broadband!)

    Am too busy downloading things and indulging in long debates on BBoards to blog. You'll have to amuse yourselves today.

    Friday, October 10, 2003

    Wanna Stroke My Tribble?

    A friend of mine e-mailed these to me. I have no idea where he got them from, or I'd attribute them properly, but I thought they were too good not to share:

    The Top Six Sci-Fi Convention Pick-Up Lines:

    6. "Someone must have shot you with a phaser set on 'stunning.'"
    5. "Nice Asimov."
    4. "Earth woman, prepare to be probed!"
    3. "I'm the droid you're looking for."
    2. "Is that a spare Vulcan ear in your pocket or... well, I'm just asking because some jerk in the parking lot pulled off one of my Vulcan ears."
    1. "Hey, baby. I own Microsoft."

    (Why there's six, rather than the more traditional 10 or 5, I don't know. Maybe it's in base twelve.)
    Who Needs Sleep?

    Jay Manifold of A Voyage to Arcturus links to a couple of really interesting articles (here and here) about a drug called modafinil, which apparently allows people to go quite comfortably without sleep for something like 40 hours with very few side effects. It's already being used to treat chronically sleep-deprived shiftworkers, among others.

    That second article is particularly good. Here's a quote:
    In trials on healthy people like Army helicopter pilots, modafinil has allowed humans to stay up safely for almost two days while remaining practically as focused, alert, and capable of dealing with complex problems as the well-rested. Then, after a good eight hours' sleep, they can get up and do it again -- for another 40 hours, before finally catching up on their sleep.

    Originally aimed at narcoleptics, who fall asleep frequently and uncontrollably, modafinil works without the jitter, buzz, euphoria, crash, addictive characteristics or potential for paranoid delusion of stimulants like amphetamines or cocaine or even caffeine, researchers say. As with an increasing number of the so-called superhuman, posthuman or trans-human drugs or genetic manipulations rapidly entering our lives, modafinil thus calls into question some fundamental underpinnings of hundreds of thousands of years of thought regarding what are normal human capabilities.

    Personally, I feel two deeply contradictory things in response to this thought. On the one hand, being a shift-worker who right this very moment would like nothing better to be curled up in bed catching up on all the sleep I've missed lately, I find the idea of a drug like this highly appealing. It sure as hell would have made this week a lot easier on me. And there is also something seriously tempting about the idea of reclaiming some portion of that one-third of our lives that we spend uselessly unconscious and doing something with it.

    On the other hand, sleep seems to be such a fundamental part of human functioning, and one that's so little understood, that I'm extremely leery about the prospect of tampering with it. Considering that nobody's life is on the line if I fall asleep at my own job, I'd be very reluctant to risk possible unknown psychological or physiological effects just for the convenience of feeling a bit perkier at 3 AM. But what if I'm in the minority there? Can you imagine the social implications if anyone can easily go for days without sleeping? I'm honestly not sure whether I find the concept attractive or terrifying.
    No! Anything But Sports Questions!

    ...And that's not just my Trivial Pursuit motto, it's also my reaction to this week's Friday Five. Still, here we go, anyway:

    1. Do you watch sports? If so, which ones? The only sport I have ever sat down and watched on TV of my own volition (and even then only in moments of terminal boredom) is bowling. Not because I find it terribly exciting to watch strangers knocking down pins, but because it's the only sport I actually have a hope of being able to follow, having never learned the rules to anything else. Oh, wait, actually, I take it back. I do watch Robot Wars, if that counts as a sport.

    2. What/who are your favorite sports teams and/or favorite athletes? I am equally and profoundly indifferent towards all of them. Even the bowlers.

    3. Are there any sports you hate? See the answer to question #2.

    4. Have you ever been to a sports event? No. I never even went to the high school football games.

    5. Do/did you play any sports (in school or other)? How long did you play? I bowled on a league regularly between the ages of 8 and 18, and I was on the varsity bowling team during my junior year of high school. I'm woefully out of practice now, though. I liked bowling because it didn't involve running around or having people throw things at you, and I could bring a book and read between the frames.

    Thursday, October 09, 2003

    Random Fact From My Life #173

    One of my cats has taken to going behind the entertainment center and unplugging my VCR on a semi-regular basis. This would really bother me, if I ever had anything I actually wanted to tape.
    No, I Didn't Forget; It's Search Request Thursday!

    And here's the latest batch of wacky search engine hits:

  • puns for ferro: Poor Ferro, all deprived of puns. I suppose one might call that ironic. (Get it? Iron-ic? Ferro? Ah, never mind.)

  • leif garret nude pics: Hmm, was I just saying last week that the number hits from people looking for nude pictures had gone down? I think they're back up again!

  • "Duck Dodgers" nude: Is that with or without the feathers?

  • pictures of breasts "very funny": I hadn't realized there was anything particularly amusing about breasts.

  • woman silencer spotting: I wonder if they were interested in female hit men, or whether there was just someone they wanted to shut up? Or both?

  • maximum aeryn: Well, I dunno, "maximum Aeryn" would probably have meant less screen time for everybody else, and I like all the Farscape characters.

  • free vote nude pics: Vote early! Vote nude!

  • tinkerbell fonts: Because even pixies have computers now.

  • duck dodgers cakes: Sounds cool. Can I have one for my birthday?

  • morticia adams sexy movie: I don't know that I've ever thought of the Addams Family movies as sexy before...

  • romans hygine teeth: Hmm, did the Romans have toothbrushes? How about dental floss?

  • i need free nude pictures of male man: Well, you're in luck. Those are a lot easier to find than free nude pictures of female men. Although I'm sure there are sites out there for that, too.

  • black grannys having sex with young white men: The incredible specificity of some people's sexual interests never ceases to amaze me.

  • naked harry potter: Does the word "jailbait" mean anything to you?

  • verbosity linguistics: Well, the linguistics of verbosity are pretty much on full and permanent display here!

  • advantages/communicating via the internet: Oh, I'd say there are lots of them. Starting with "nobody knows you're a dog."

  • snarkcake amaze your friends with amazing facts: Yes, I can testify that I have learned many amazing facts from Snarkcake!

  • Which Island of Dr. Moreau character are you quizzes: Wow, it's, like, the one stupid internet quiz I haven't done. With my luck, I'd come out as the Monkey Man, though.

  • Tinkerbell contact lens case: Because the aforementioned Tinkerbell fonts are so tiny that you'll never be able to read them without your contact lenses.

  • Interbreed animals freak pictures: It's a monkey with four asses! (Gratuitous South Park reference. Sorry.)

  • i've put peter schillings things to come album on cd: Uh, OK. Good for you, I guess.

  • Ben Crichton Farscape pictures leather sex: OK, now, that's an over-specific sexual interest I can understand... Ahem.

  • yesterday noticed you daydream desire night mystery "so long" all ;: Wow, it's like free-form poetry. Or are those song lyrics or something?

  • Christopher Walken reciting The Raven: Well, there's a combination guaranteed to creep you out completely!

  • ringtail tv news stories phoenix: OK, I'm all for cable niche marketing, but isn't TV for ringtails (in Phoenix or elsewhere) taking things a little far?

  • fun weekend pics high resolution: Wouldn't it be better to go out and have your own "fun weekend"? I mean, I'm not one to point fingers at other people for living vicariously on the internet, but geez.

  • chatbot literature fiction Dick entropy: You know, I think I've had a few conversations with chatbots that were vaguely reminiscent of Philip Dick at his weirdest.

  • Blake's Seven Weapon transcript: Here. Don't say I never did anything for you.

  • muppet checkbook: Ooh, do they have Gonzo? I want Gonzo on my checks!

  • the best places to hang with friends in albuquerque new mexico: Well, I usually opt for the Page One Bookstore, but that's just me.

  • VW car interions: Somehow, I just don't think Jool would be caught dead driving a VW...
  • Blake's 7 Ends Badly Once Again?

    Apparently Paul Darrow (who was set to play Avon and was also involved in other aspects of production) has has withdrawn from the Blake's 7 TV movie project, citing "artistic differences." He doesn't sound at all happy about what his former associates were trying to do with the concept, and, from everything I've seen and heard about the plans for this thing, I have to say that I find it kind of hard to blame him. So. One can only assume that the series' revival is not now going to happen. I'm actually feeling equal parts disappointment (because I was really curious to see what they were going to do with it) and relief (because I'm pretty sure it would have sucked big time).

    And I'm wondering now how this is going to affect the release of the much-anticipated and much-delayed DVDs...
    I Got the Hook-up!

    Yep, that's right! My wireless connection is up and running! My ISP did, indeed, fix whatever they needed to fix on their end, and all the guy had to do this morning was double-check the signal strength and install a few more pieces of software. I am now connected to the world at a blazing 11 megabits per second, and, I gotta tell ya, it is amazing. I feel like I've been cruising the information superhighway on a bicycle and suddenly I've got a V-8 engine under my hood. Even as I speak, I am already engaged in a veritable orgy of downloading. (And "orgy" ain't too far off the mark, either, considering the near-orgasmic feeling I got when I clicked on a 10 meg file and was told it would take me two whole minutes to download. Ooh, baby!)

    I don't think I ever want to move from in front of this computer. And, hmm, now that I can call and order pizza while I'm online, maybe I don't actually have to...
    Adventures in Computer Technology and Sleep-Deprivation

    OK, I'm sure you're all waiting breathlessly to know whether I now have my wireless internet up and running. To which I can only say, uh... Good damned question. Let me tell you how my day went:

    8:00 AM: I get off work, already so tired I'm having trouble keeping my head from hitting the desk, and crawl into bed. It's been raining, so I'm not even sure they're going to be able to do the installation today, but I figure they'll let me know.

    9:15 AM: I haven't quite fallen completely asleep yet when my ISP calls. It's stopped raining, and we're still on. I can expect the antenna guys around 10:30, but I have to come into the office and pay them for the equipment first. I haul myself back out of bed and do so.

    11:00 AM: The antenna guys show up, having gotten lost on the way to my house.

    12:15 PM: I now have an antenna on my roof. I'm told the tech support guy will be by in a few minutes to handle things on the computer end.

    1:00 PM: Tech support guy[*] shows up, does installation-type stuff, crashes my computer several times, crawls back up on the roof to adjust the antenna, and makes a lot of ominous-sounding "hmm" noises. Yeah, that's right, it ain't working. I'm getting a signal, but no 'net access.

    1:45 PM: Tech support guy finally figures out what's wrong. I don't know what, because I didn't ask and would probably have been too tired to understand the answer if he'd told me. But it appears to be on their end, and it's not something he has the authority to fix. He leaves to go hunt down someone who does.

    2:15 PM: Tech support guy calls and tells me that he can't get hold of the relevant person, and (since I've already told him that it's way past my bedtime) that we can pick this up again tomorrow. He'll be by at 9:00 AM. I thank him, crawl into bed, and sleep the sleep of the terminally jet-lagged, having basically just stayed up all night after having already stayed up all night (for varying definitions of the word "night").

    10:00 PM: I wake up abruptly in the middle of a dream in which I'm desperately trying to catch a bus to New York for some reason, and realize that I have to be leaving for work in about an hour and a half.

    10:45 PM: I know my dial-up is still working, as it allowed tech support guy to telnet in earlier when he was trying to diagnose things, so I log in and check my e-mail. After disconnecting, I notice that, hmm, the other connection appears to be active. Or at least, the icon's flashing. I fire Netscape back up and click on a couple of websites and, sure enough, up they come! Fast! Either my ISP has gotten things fixed from their end, or the Magic Internet Fairy has come and sprinkled wireless pixy dust on my PC while I slept. Either way, I seem to be connected. Unfortunately, I have no time to play around online, because I have to leave for work. Guess I'll find out what's actually happened when the guy shows up tomorrow morning. (He's going to have to come by in any case. He left his tools.)

    Stay tuned for more thrilling updates!

    [*] For those of you who know me in Real Life, or who have been paying obsessive attention to this blog, I should point out that this is not the tech support guy who's a gaming buddy of mine, it's a different one.

    Wednesday, October 08, 2003

    Speaking of DVDs (Yeah, Like When Am I Ever Not?)

    I am really looking forward to December. And not just because I've been desperate to see Return of the King since the moment the credits rolled on TTT, either. There's a lot of super-cool stuff coming out on DVD just in time for Christmas: Firefly, complete with the three episodes that Fox never bothered airing. Season Five of Buffy, which I still have seen not one single episode of. And I don't see it on Amazon yet, but I believe the first set of Farscape season 4 discs should be out around then, too, complete with the deleted scenes that gave us the "Previously on Farscape" scenes that were never seen previously on Farscape. And Babylon 5 season 4 is out in January, though I kind of doubt I'll have had the chance to catch up on seasons 2 and 3 by then. Oh, and of course, before all of those, there's the extended edition of The Two Towers in November.

    Man, I know what I'm getting myself for Christmas this year...
    In Which I Spend Approximately As Long Rambling on About the First Season of Babylon 5 As It Took to Make It.

    Well, I said before that once I'd finished watching through the first set of Babylon 5 discs that I'd post my thoughts on the season as a whole. Having finally made my way through the DVDs now, though, I find that I have so many things to say about the show, and about the experience of actually getting to watch it over from the beginning after my sporadic viewing of it the first time, that it's hard to know where to even begin. I think maybe I'll divide my thoughts up into categories. Let's start with...

    The writing: In my opinion any TV show ultimately stands or falls on the strength of the writing, so this seems like a good topic to start with. And I am very impressed with the quality of the writing on B5. Sure, OK, there are a couple of stand-alone episodes in the first season that, while entirely watchable, do kind of leave me at the end going, "OK, and the point of that was...?" But almost every show, I think, has one or two of those, and they stand out in B5 only because the general quality of the writing is so very high. The dialog in particular is terrific and the episodes' individual plots are often extremely good. But more than that, of course, we're also seeing the slow unfolding of an epic story, and that story is fascinating. It's also a story with a lot of emotional and thematic resonances in among the action and intrigue. It may not be too much of an exaggeration to say that it's the Shakespeare of science fiction TV.

    The characters: Over the course of 22 episodes, I've come to really like these people. From what I saw of the show the first time around, I'd probably say that G'Kar was originally my favorite character. And I still very much enjoy G'Kar and his sarcastic wit, but I've gown so fond of the ensemble as a whole that I don't know if I could pick a favorite character just at the moment. Interestingly, from what little I saw of Sinclair the first time around, I had him mentally pegged as something like "that unlikeable, boring guy who was on before Sheridan." Well, all I can do now is to shake my head and admit that I didn't really know him then, because I've come to appreciate Sinclair as a clever and likeable person who handles difficult situations with wisdom, humility, strength of character, and (considering the people he has to deal with) a surprising amount of tact. Sure, he comes across as a little stiff at first, but I never should have judged him so harshly because of that.

    As for the other characters, let's see...

    Ivanova: I've come to quite like Ivanova, too. There's something about her sardonic sense of humor that's oddly endearing. I love that little smile she gets when things start going wrong. The one that seems to say, "Yeah, things may be going to hell in a handbasket, but at least I can always find amusement in the fact that, see, I was right to be pessimistic!" As she would put it, a very Russian attitude.

    Garibaldi: Another great character, and a likeable guy. Sure, he's a little messed up, and his sense of humor's a bit weird, but he's definitely the kind of man you'd like to have at your back, all the way.

    Franklin: A nice person, a decent guy, and a good doctor, but I get the feeling there are some slightly darker undercurrents there, a sense of arrogance that's potentially dangerous. Beyond that, it's hard to say, as he hasn't really gotten all that much development yet, compared to some of the other characters.

    Londo: Oh, well, how can you not like Londo? He gets so many of the best lines! He's hysterically funny, in fact, and yet at the same time he's also deeply sympathetic, mildly pathetic, and, at times, slightly scary. Now that's depth.

    Delenn: Oddly, I seem to remember her as being more likeable than I'm finding her at this point. There's something about her that's slightly off-putting, and I find it difficult to put my finger on exactly what. I keep wanting to say that she comes across as superior or supercilious, even though the things she says and does actually convey rather the opposite attitude. Maybe it's just that she feels very distant and mystical and alien.

    Kosh: Oh, well, who the hell understands Kosh, anyway?

    As for the more minor characters... I find that I don't feel very much about Talia one way or the other. Lennier started out very dull, but is finally beginning to become interesting by the end of the season. (I loved watching his reactions to being dragged to the nightclub by Londo!) Vir is just a cute little teddy bear of a guy. And Na'Toth is quite appealingly cynical. OK, who have I left out?

    The acting: I have to say, I was not terribly impressed with the quality of the acting at the beginning. It seemed very stilted and stagy, somehow, particularly Michael O'Hare's. I don't know what most of these actors' backgrounds are, but I'm wondering if the problem might have been that many of them hadn't really done science fiction before and weren't completely sure how to play it? Because the only one who seemed entirely comfortable right from the first episode was Star Trek: The Next Generation veteran Andreas Katsulas. (And then there's original Star Trek veteran Walter Koenig, who in his single but memorable appearance in season one hits exactly the right notes from the very first second he's on the screen. That man has so transcended Chekov.) In any case, by about halfway through the season that stiffness is very nearly gone and everybody seems to have settled quite comfortably into their characters. Thank goodness.

    The special FX: One thing I do remember from my original exposure to the show is how utterly blown away I was by the FX. After all, nothing remotely like it had been done on television before. It's a bit odd to look back on that now, given how standard the CGI stuff has become. All the gosh-wow awe of it is gone, and there are more than a few shots where I find myself thinking that, hmm, this looks more than a little computer-fake. But on the whole it still holds up very well, and some of the ship designs are just very, very cool.

    Some general thoughts: I really wish I knew where my head was at when this show first came on the air, because I could just kick myself for not watching it from the beginning in the first place. I keep thinking how cool it would have been to see this story unfolding without already knowing so much of what was going to happen. There are a lot of mysteries in the first season that it would have been fun to speculate about. On the other hand, it's probably a considerable testament to how good the show's writing is that being so terribly spoiled about future plot developments doesn't entirely rob it of interest, or even of feelings of suspense. Sure, I know a lot of what's going to happen, but I'm still terribly interested in seeing the details of how we're going to get there. Enough so that I'm already eager to pick up the second season so that I can see what's going to happen next.

    Oddly enough, though, the very admiration I feel for the show's commitment to its long-term story arc also leaves me feeling somewhat sad. Whether I was watching it or not, I was always very keenly aware that the success of Babylon 5 was what paved the way for the quality SF shows that followed it. It proved that a continuity-heavy show with a multi-year arc and a universe and characters that change significantly over time could work. Without it, I'm sure that we would never have gotten the Dominion War arc in the later seasons of Deep Space 9, we would never have gotten a show like Farscape, possibly (even if it is fantasy/horror rather than science fiction) we would never have gotten Buffy. It set a new standard in genre television, and that change was a very welcome one, indeed. And what makes me sad is the realization that that change may well have been only temporary, and that the pendulum appears to be swinging back the other way again, back towards simpler, more episodic stories. As the cancellation of Farscape, the failure of Firefly, and the dumbing-down of Andromeda all sadly attest.

    I don't want to end on that downer note, though. It occurs to me that I've left out lots of other highly positive things I could say about B5. After all, I've neglected to praise the show's attention to world-building detail, or its surprisingly realistic (for television) handling of science and technology, or its wonderful sense of humor. But I've already gone on so long that probably nobody's even reading this any more, anyway.

    Must go and order season two.

    Tuesday, October 07, 2003

    Those Wacky Californians!

    So, Schwarzennegar actually won? Well, I don't know why I should be surprised. After all, the distinction between acting and politics has been very, very blurred for a very long time...
    Bad Stuff, Good Stuff

    I seem to be walking around in a half-asleep haze this week. Six hours of sleep on Sunday, five hours yesterday, six today... I just keep waking up too damned early and not being able to get back to sleep. It's really starting to irritate me. I know that people on night shifts generally average around five hours of sleep a night, so I guess it's not that out of the ordinary, but I usually don't have any trouble sleeping during the day. I think maybe part of the problem is that it's been cloudy outside. I wake up, the dim lighting fools my body into being sure that it's nearing sunset, and it refuses to go back to sleep.

    Tomorrow doesn't look very promising, either, sleep-wise, as there was a message on my answering machine from my ISP when I got up saying that they might be able to come and install my wireless equipment tomorrow. Which, if true, means I'm going to have to be up to let them in. On the other hand... Let's look at the relevant part of that first sentence again: they might be able to come and install my wireless equipment tomorrow. Yes, that's right, as early as tomorrow, I might have my broadband connection! (Um, sorry about all the italics. I'm excited.) This represents an important first step in my plan of eventually becoming a brain in a vat with a direct neural hookup to the internet. Yippee!
    Still More Quizzage

    You are Granny Weatherwax. You enjoy flying around
    on a broomstick that requires bump-starting,
    telling people they feel much better, and
    intimidating everyone you know. Frankly,
    however, you wish they'd all just stop whining
    so damn much.

    Which Discworld Character Are You?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Ah, if only I could be one tenth, nay, one hundredth as cool and competent as the estimable Esme Weatherwax...

    By the way, speaking of Pratchett, I just ordered his newest, Monstrous Regiment. Which consumes one-third of this month's book-buying allowance, but I have no doubt that it'll be worth it. I mean, you know... it's Pratchett!

    Monday, October 06, 2003

    This Again.

    Current clothes: Tan jeans. A black t-shirt from Mt. St. Helens featuring a view of the mountain and a picture of a bear silhouetted against the moon. White socks. No shoes right now.

    Current mood: Mildly exasperated with life. I woke up today after about five hours in bed and simply could not get back to sleep... and today has pretty much continued along the same lines from there.

    Current music: Currently in the stereo are Enya's The Celts and The Crossing by Big Country. Currently in the portable CD player is the Beatles' Revolver.

    Current hair: Nice and short. I got it cut again a couple of weeks ago.

    Current annoyance: Entropy. Everything in my life seems to be falling apart at the moment. In a physical sense, that is, not in any kind of metaphorical way. Yesterday I had two shelves of books suddenly collapse because the pegs holding the shelves up gave way. Today I was hanging laundry on the clothesline and the line snapped (dumping my nice clean laundry all over the ground). My roof is leaking again. The place where I scraped the paint on my car and never got it fixed (because I'm an idiot) is starting to show signs of rust. And one of my Babylon 5 discs is mysteriously scratched up and wouldn't play properly. Grrr.

    Current thing: Babylon 5! Fortunately, I was able to borrow another copy of the bad disc from a friend. I think I've got about three more episodes to go before I'm finished with the first season.

    Current desktop picture: This colorful image of the Crab nebula.

    Current song stuck in head: I've had "The Hook" by Blues Traveler in my head for the last two days. It'd finally gone away a couple of hours ago, so, of course, what song did they immediately decide to play on the radio? (I'm tellin' ya, it's showing every sign of being "one of those days.")

    Current book: I'm in-between books at the moment, and am instead reading the current issue of Skeptic magazine. Most recently finished book was The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket, the second of the "Series of Unfortunate Events" books for kids. I'm really wishing I had a time machine so I could send a copy of this series back to kid-me. I'm getting a kick out of them, but I bet she'd like them even more. Next up, assuming I'm awake enough to start on it tonight, is William Gibson's Pattern Recognition.

    Current video in player: A tape of third-season Farscape episodes I was copying for my sister.

    Current refreshment: Tea. Yummy darjeeling tea from Stash.

    Current worry: This damn leaky roof. I keep thinking that this time I might have succeeded in patching it up properly, and eventually a big rainstorm always comes along and proves me wrong. At this point, I'm starting to get worried that the whole ceiling is going to disintegrate and come crashing down on me in pieces.

    Current thought: Screw this living in physical reality crap. Stick my brain in a vat and hook me into the internet, and I'll be a much happier person. I am not joking.