Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Weather Gods Hate Me.

Most of the month it's been sunny and pleasant here, often warm enough during the day to go outside in short sleeves. Today, when I have to drive to Albuquerque to pick people up at the airport, they're predicting snow. Sigh.

Whiling Away The Time While I Wait For My Visitors...

Ooh, when do I get my solar-powered cabin in the woods?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Tuesday Afternoon

How in the world did it get to be Tuesday already?

I haven't actually been doing a whole lot over the last couple of days... I took today off work and have been tidying the house a bit in preparation for a visit from my dad and his wife, who should be descending upon me round about this time tomorrow. (*waves to them*) I'm still not exactly going to be featured in Better Homes and Gardens or anything, but at least you can now walk through the utility room in your bare feet without getting crunchy stuff stuck between your toes, so I consider that progress.

Anyway, you might not be seeing me around the internet all that much for the next week or so, as I seem to have read somewhere that when one has guests it's considered appropriate to actually pay some attention to them, rather than sitting in front of a computer all day. We'll see how that goes.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Mad Cow Addendum

OK, I kind of lost the cheeseburger craving when I got to the part in the book that started talking about suspiciously mad cow-like deaths in exactly the area I used to live in, which seem to be traceable back to a period overlapping with the time that I lived there. I think I only ate at the place they're pointing the finger at once, though, and that was almost certainly a different batch of food, and I'm pretty sure I had chicken, anyway. Still, man, that's never a good context in which to suddenly encounter a mention of your old home town...

Friday, November 24, 2006

Perhaps My Brain's Gone Spongy

There is undoubtedly something seriously wrong with me, seeing as reading about mad cow disease has just given me an incredible craving for a cheeseburger.

Yet Another Problem Solved By The Sufficient Application of High Explosives

I'd been wondering what those even-louder-than-usual booms we've been hearing here in Socorro lately were. According to the local paper, it seems that they're making diamond out on the explosives range. That's right, they're making diamond. Out of carbon. Using about 9,000 tons of explosives. Usually they try to schedule stuff like that when the weather's right to channel the shock wave away from the town, but there was an unexpected weather inversion, so we all got our windows rattled pretty good.

Man, this is such an entertaining place to live.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

I Am Thankful For British TV Shows.

To the Americans in the audience: Happy Thanksgiving!

To the non-Americans in the audience: Happy Random Thursday!

As it happens, today is also the 43rd anniversary of Doctor Who. I think I'll wear my Dalek t-shirt when I get dressed to go eat turkey.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A Random Meme of Boredom

Look, here's a bunch of silly questions I found floating around on the internet:

I see: The computer screen in front of me. Duh.
I need: Oxygen and food.
I find: Remote controls between the sofa cushions.
I want: To go home.
I have: A job that pays money, which is why I am not at home.
I wish: I did not have to work for money, but had it brought to me by the Magical Money Fairy.
I love: Doctor Who.
I hate: Star Trek: Voyager.
I miss: Farscape.
I fear: Horrible fatal diseases.
I feel: Restless.
I hear: Lots of electronic equipment humming away.
I smell: *sniffs armpits* No, I don't.
I crave: Wild sex with Jack Harkness. Or possibly a chocolate bar.
I search: For Christmas ideas for my hard-to-buy-for relatives.
I wonder: "I wonder why. I wonder why. I wonder why I wonder. I wonder why I wonder why I wonder" -- Richard Feynman
I regret: That I have but one life to give for... Well, actually, I just regret that I have but one life.

When was the last time you ...

Smiled?: I don't know. I haven't been watching myself. Probably very recently.
Laughed?: I think earlier today when I was watching an episode of Stargate. That Colonel O'Neill's a funny guy.
Cried?: I don't remember, but it was probably over something really stupid, like a movie.
Bought something?: I ordered a sweatshirt yesterday. At least, I think it was yesterday. I figured that'd be my Christmas present to myself.
Danced?: I don't dance. Although I was sort of forced to at my sister's wedding, so I guess it was then.
Were sarcastic?: I don't know. I don't keep track.
Kissed someone?: If I say "do cats count?" I'm just going to sound more pathetic than I already am, right?
Talked to an ex?: I think it was December of '04. I told him it was probably better if he didn't call me again, and he hasn't.
Watched your favorite movie?: You know, it's been a while since I popped The Wrath of Khan into the old DVD player...
Had a nightmare?: I vaguely remember having some kind of disturbing dream in the last few weeks, but not what it was.

A Last time for everything ...

Last book you read: The last book I finished was The Book of Jhereg by Steven Brust, which is actually an omnibus volume of three of his "Vlad Taltos" books: Jhereg, Yendi, and Teckla. It's an entertaining fantasy series; I really ought to pick up the rest of it sometime. The last book I read any of was The Family That Couldn't Sleep by D.T. Max. It's about prion-induced diseases, such as "mad cow" and a rare, bizarre kind of fatal hereditary insomnia, as referenced in the title.
Last movie you saw: In the theater, Pirates of the Caribbean 2, because that's when I swore off movie theaters. On DVD, Seven Samurai.
Last song you heard: According to my iPod, "Little Light of Love" by R.X.R.A., from the Fifth Element soundtrack.
Last thing you had to drink: Darjeeling tea.
Last time you showered: Around noon-ish today.
Last thing you ate: A green apple. I think it may have been a Granny Smith, but I don't remember, and I'm not that up on my apples.

Do You ...

Smoke?: Only when I'm on fire.
Do drugs?: Caffeine. Lots of caffeine.
Have sex?: You mean with other people? I vaguely remember what that's like.
Sleep with stuffed animals?: I have two teddy bears which sometimes sleep in the bed and sometimes lie abandoned underneath it.
Live in the moment?: I live several centuries in the future.
Have a boyfriend/girlfriend?: No.
Have a dream that keeps coming back?: I have several recurring dreams. Or, rather, recurring variations on the same dream themes. For some reason, many of them involve elevators.
Play an instrument?: I played the flute for a few months when I was about ten, but I've completely forgotten everything musical that I was ever taught. Which wasn't much.
Believe there is life on other planets?: It seems extremely likely. It's a biiiiiig universe.
Remember your first love?: My memory's bad, but it's not that bad.
Still love him/her?: Not really.
Read the newspaper?: Nah. I get my news from blogs and The Daily Show.
Have any gay or lesbian friends?: Sure. Although I think most of 'em I only know on the internet.
Believe in miracles?: If by that you're implying something supernatural, then no.
Believe it's possible to remain faithful forever?: Of course it's possible. It doesn't break any laws of physics or anything, does it?
Consider yourself tolerant of others?: I try to be.
Consider love a mistake?: Sometimes.
Like the taste of alcohol?: Not in and of itself, no.
Have a favorite candy?: Chocolate covered pretzels.
Believe in astrology?: No. And despite my answer to the "tolerance" question above, I have to admit that I think less of people who do.
Believe in magic?: I believe in sleight-of-hand.
Believe in God?: No.
Pray?: No.
Go to church?: No.
Have any secrets?: Like I'd tell you if I did.
Have any pets: Three cats.
Do well in school?: I did very well. Which, after five years of college, left me completely burned out.
Go to or plan to go to college?: Every so often I'll think about going back to college and getting a Master's or something. And then I'll come back to my senses.
Have a major?: I majored in astrophysics. Which is a fun thing to tell people, because it sounds more impressive than it is.
Talk to strangers who instant message you?: I don't think that's ever happened. I rarely turn on instant messaging.
Have any piercings?: No. Nobody's ever sticking holes in my body unless it's medically necessary.
Have any tattoos?: No.
Hate yourself?: No. That would suck.
Have an obsession?: Well, there's that all-encompassing sci-fi geek thing I've got going on.
Have a secret crush?: Well, the one on Jack Harkness is clearly not a secret...
Do they know yet?: Sadly, Jack Harkness does not actually exist. So, no.
Collect anything?: Books, books, books, and, uh, more books.
Have a best friend?: I don't know. I have at least one pretty good friend.
Wish on stars?: Like some ball of hydrogen light-years away is going to do me personal favors.
Like your handwriting?: Yeah, kind of. It's distinctive and original, and it's easy to read if I'm actually careful with it. Which, admittedly, I'm frequently not.
Have any bad habits?: Yes.
Care about looks?: I care when my hair gets long enough that it starts to stick out from my face.
Boy/girlfriend's looks?: I couldn't care less what somebody's boy/girlfriend looks like.
Friends and other people?: What about them? Do I care what they look like? Pfeh. They're lucky if I even notice what they look like.
Believe in witches?: I believe in Neo-Pagans.
Believe in Satan?: Only in the same sense that I believe in Count Dracula and Hercules.
Believe in ghosts?: No.

Well. That killed a few minutes pretty darned dead.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Words, Words, Words

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Literate Good Citizen
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

A decade or so ago, I suspect I would have made obsessive-compulsive. I blame the internet for distracting me from my reading. I also find it highly amusing that the "how big is your to-read pile" question only goes up to "10." I think I deserve extra points for making it well into the triple-digits on that one.

I really can't argue with that description, though.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

You Know You're From South Jersey When...

There was a really good episode of House on last night, about which I will not say much a) because I don't want to give spoilers and b) because I don't actually have any Deep Thoughts about it. But I will say this: Man, if I had 24 hours to live, I would so totally want a hoagie.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Vulpine Vicissitudes Of Varos

Speaking of Doctor Who (as I do)... I've been reading a bunch of these old episode novelizations lately. They're kind of fun for when I want a break between "real" books, and some of them aren't bad. Then again, boy howdy, some of them are.

Currently I'm reading the novelization of "Vengeance on Varos", an episode of debatable quality to begin with, although I personally think it does some fairly decent satirical things. But man is the book version bad. A little while back, Fred over at Occasional Fish posted a quote from Jane Espenson about the value to writers of reading bad writing, if only for the sake of encouragement. I totally think Espenson should read this one. It certainly makes me feel pretty good about my own chances of getting published if, you know, I ever actually wrote anything publishable. (Man, I could novelize Doctor Who episodes! I totally could! I'd be way better than this guy!) It also makes me realize that scriptwriting and prose writing clearly do not involve exactly the same skill set, because the guy who wrote the novelization also did the original script.

Here, check this out. It is very possibly the most amusingly awful passage I've read in ages. The setup (which is goofy enough in its own right, although perhaps not unusually so for Doctor Who) is that a couple of women have been captured by a mad scientist who is using some kind of experimental ray to turn them into... Well, I have no idea what, actually, and neither does he. But, here:
'I just won't look!' Peri said, clenching her eyes shut but feeling the stiff vulpine feathers that had now emerged almost fully all over her arms. Peri began to bear less and less resemblance to the attractive girl who, despite all her vicissitudes, had always retained a physical bloom of health. Now she had begun to resemble an ugly vulture-like bird with glossy black feathers that grew longer and longer as she approached final disfigurement.

Areta was a trifle more fortunate than Peri for she retained much of her original body shape though the texture of her skin had turned completely into a lizard-like scale of apple-green.

Dude, if you posted that as fan fiction, people would mock you. And who knew foxes had feathers? They must be mutant space-foxes!

Can't... stop... giggling...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Random Links, With A Whovian Bias

Irritating Game: A really irritating game. Click on the lower left corner for English instructions, such as they are.

The real reason Christopher Eccleston left Doctor Who: A video that should be funny to Who fans and Trekkies alike. This guy's Eccleston impression is frighteningly good.

John Barrowman interviewed on Jonathon Ross, part 1 and part 2: Warning: contains spoilers for episode 4 of Torchwood, and some very off-color conversation. (I'm not sure he'd even be allowed to tell that dirty frat party story on American TV.) But, man, Barrowman is just incredibly funny and charming and goofy and geeky and, oh, god, I am far too old and cynical for a celebrity crush...

Friday, November 10, 2006

Take A Look At The Lawman...

Man, I've got a TiVo full of stuff I'm way behind on watching, but at least I've finally finished the first season of Life on Mars. I think I can really recommend this one; it may not be one of those programs that spurs an obsessive interest from me, but it's definitely worthwhile. The premise is that a modern-day police detective, Sam Tyler, is in a car accident and inexplicably wakes up in the year 1973. Except it appears that he is simultaneously (or actually?) in a coma back in 2006, as he can occasionally hear doctors talking around his bedside and the sound of life-support machinery, as well as other odd things. The result is a show that works on a number of different levels: There's the over-arching mystery of exactly what the heck is going on here, how real it is, and what Sam ought to do about it, and then there's a sort of cop-story-of-the-week format overlaid on top of that. There's also some interesting culture-clash stuff about the differences between 1970s and 2000s policing environments, some moments of real emotional poignancy (especially when Sam encounters faces from his own past), and a dry, witty British sense of humor. What really makes the show, though, are the sometimes absolutely hysterical interactions between Sam and his thuggish 1973 police captain, who is one of those wonderful, uniquely British characters who are so unlikeable that they emerge straight out the other side and into likeability again. Oh, and there's some great classic rock on the soundtrack, which is definitely a bonus in my book.

By the way, I was lucky enough to get my hands on the full hour-length episodes that were shown in the UK. I understand that they were chopped down immensely for airing on BBC America, and it makes me cringe to think how badly they must have been butchered to make room for a full complement of American commercials. If you're in the US and interested in catching this one, I strongly recommend seeking out the uncut versions.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Another Month, Another Meme

Current clothes: A blue t-shirt with... I dunno, it's not exactly a tie-dye pattern, as there are none of those big circles, but it's something similar. Blue jeans. White tube socks. Black belt. Black sneakers.

Current mood: It wasn't too bad until the "current annoyance" thing popped up a few minutes ago. Now I'm, well, annoyed. But I'm sure I'll get over it soon.

Current music: I haven't actually been listening to much music lately... Mostly my auditory input has been podcasts. Most recently played: Escape Pod, Planetary Radio, Penn Jillette's radio show, Ron Moore's Battlestar Galactica commentary, and The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe.

Current annoyance: I just got this long, incoherent political screed in my inbox, sent to me as a private message from someone I don't know via a non-politically-oriented website I have an account with. I immediately reported their ass to the admins. Now I feel kind of guilty, as it was probably just some stupid kid who felt passionately about sharing that message with people. And I feel really annoyed with myself for feeling guilty, as spamming is never an acceptable option for sending any message, and people who do it ought to be discouraged thoroughly and immediately. Damn it.

Current thing: Turning into a crotchety old netizen, apparently.

Current desktop picture: This depiction of "Supernova 1993J and its fourier transform," which received an Honorable Mention in NRAO's recent astronomical image contest. Not only is it a cool picture, but I feel a certain connection with it, since my job, basically, is to turn one of these images into the other. (Well, OK, my job is more like operating the machine that does the first step in that process, but close enough.) Also, I recall being really, really annoyed by how difficult that particular project was to do, and how many times it had to be done over due to various problems, and saying something along the lines of, "This had better be the most interesting damned supernova remnant in the history of astronomy!" Well, it may or may not be, but at least I have this pretty picture to show for all my grief and hair-tearing.

Current song in head: David Bowie's "Life on Mars." See "current DVD in player" for the reason.

Current book: The Book of the Still, a Doctor Who novel by Paul Ebbs. I am very, very slowly working my way through these Eighth Doctor books, and I think I'm finally getting close to the end of the series. I've only read the first chapter in this one, but it looks like it's going to be really interesting.

Current DVD in player: Most recently watched was Daria: Is It College Yet? I never could stand Beavis & Butthead, but the spinoff was much more appealing, mainly because its protagonist actually had functioning brain cells. Also sitting in a player is a disc with a couple of episodes of the British show Life on Mars, about which I'm sure I will have some things to say when I'm finished watching it (other than the fact that it's resulted in the Bowie song being stuck in my head).

Current refreshment: I finished my morning coffee a little while ago, and am thinking that I really ought to scare up some food.

Current worry: We're going through some reorganization at work which basically requires me to learn an entirely new skillset on top of the old one. I won't say I'm actually worried about this, as I'm sure I'll pick it all up. But I think the transition is of necessity going to be messy.

Current thought: I am hungry. I want a nice, big breakfast, with bacon and eggs and hash browns and juice. Which I probably won't actually have...

After The Politics, It's Time For Religion.

I've just finished Daniel C. Dennett's Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. It's kind of an odd book, and I wasn't terribly impressed with it at first... He spends 40 or 50 pages talking about why he considers it a legitimate exercise to write the book before he actually gets around to, y'know, writing the book, and then another 150 or so giving me a strong impression of talking a great deal without actually saying very much. But around the 200-page mark either I woke up or he suddenly started being a lot more coherent and interesting, and I enjoyed reading the rest of it.

Anyway, there's a passage (at about page 300), that I wanted to quote, mostly for my own benefit, because I really, really like it and want to look at it more:
In the course of my research on this book, I found one opinion expressed in slightly different ways by people across the spectrum of religious views: "man" has a "deep need" for "spirituality," a need that is fulfilled for some by traditional organized religion, for others by New Age cults or movements or hobbies, and for still others by the intense pursuit of art or music, pottery or environmental activism -- or football! What fascinates me about this delightfully versatile craving for "spirituality" is that people think they know what they are talking about, even though -- or perhaps because -- nobody bothers to explain just what they mean. It is supposed to be obvious, I guess. But it really isn't. When I've asked people to explain themselves, they typically beg off, along the lines of Louis Armstrong's oft-quoted reply when asked what jazz was: "If you gotta ask, you ain't never gonna get to know." This will not do. To see for yourself how hard it is to say what spirituality is, take a stab at improving on this parody, boiled down from many frustrating encounters: "Spirituality is, you know, like, it's like paying attention to your soul or having deep thoughts that really move you, and not just thinking about who's got nicer clothes and whether to buy a new car and what's for dinner and stuff like that. Spirituality is really caring and not being just, you know, materialistic." Along with this common and unreflective view of spirituality goes a stereotype of the atheist: atheists lack "values"; they are careless, self-centered, shallow, overconfident. They think they know it all, and yet they completely miss out on the spirit. (You really can't be a good person unless you have a spiritual life.)

Now let me try to put better words in their mouths. What these people have realized is one of the best secrets of life: let your self go. If you can approach the world's complexities, both its glories and its horrors, with an attitude of humble curiosity, acknowledging that however deeply you have seen, you have only just scratched the surface, you will find worlds within worlds, beauties you could not heretofore imagine, and your own mundane preoccupations will shrink to proper size, not all that important in the great scheme of things. Keeping that awestruck vision of the world ready to hand while dealing with the demands of daily living is no easy exercise, but it is definitely worth the effort, for if you can stay centered, and engaged, you will find the hard choices easier, the right words will come to you when you need them, and you will indeed be a better person. That, I propose, is the secret to spirituality, and it has nothing at all to do with believing in an immortal soul, or in anything supernatural.

Honestly, I think the whole book may have been worth reading just for that bit.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Next Time, I'm Writing In "Batman."

No post-election commentary from me (although I will confess myself pleased with the results), but I did want to share this great bit of timely humor: Election Day 2006 - Whose Side Is Your Favorite Superhero On? I'm not even that big a fan of either politics or superhero comics, but this cracked me up completely.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I Talk To Myself Often, Just Usually Not By E-Mail.

I received a really bizarre e-mail today, which I am quoting with permission of the author. The subject line was "Ah, there I am! I mean, there you are," because it's from the kind of person who uses Doctor Who quotes as the subject of e-mails. It was kind of surreal to read, although I suspect the effect would have been better if I hadn't encountered it while half-asleep:
Greetings from your past. In the fall of 2005, you agreed to receive this message, which has been preserved for a year in the E-Mail Time Capsule. For more details, visit

Here is the text of your message:

Hello, me from a year in the future! Hope this e-mail finds you well, yadda, yadda, yadda. This is probably pointless as a time capsule, because you can just look back at the blog archives if you ever happen to be wondering, gosh, what was I doing in November, 2005?, but what the heck. I'll send 'em to later yous (uh, mes), too. If I remember.

So right now, well, little Vir the kitten is seven weeks old and cute as a fuzzy little bug. Did you manage to teach him not to bite? 'Cause I can imagine that being a problem, now that he's adult-sized. Not that you can answer that question, of course, lacking a functional time machine. Well, I guess you *can* answer it, just, you know, a year later. And by this time you already know the answer, of course, so it's kind of pointless.

Yeah, I'm rambling. You used to do that, remember? And, a year later, I'm sure you still do.

OK, I need to get back to not-working now. (Nov. 7th, 2005: Dayshift. No queue. Dull.)

Have a good day. Go do something fun that'll be worth telling yourself about a year later.



I vaguely remember doing this now (and apparently I did mention it here), but I have absolutely no idea what it is I said in any of the other e-mails. So I guess it'll be a surprise!

For the record, Vir Catto no longer bites the way he did at seven weeks. He actually grew out of that pretty quickly. And it is a good thing because, yeah, I think that'd hurt a lot, as big as he is now. Of course, he's still a pain in the ass in a lot of other ways. But he's still kind of fuzzy and cute, if no longer to quite the same bug-like degree.

Alas, I fear I shall fail to follow my younger self's instructions about going out and doing something memorable, as my plan for today is basically: chug down enough coffee to offset the fact that I only got about six hours of sleep, watch a couple of things on DVD, go to work. I'm sorry for failing you, younger self! But that's almost an inevitable part of life, really, isn't it?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Today's Random TV-Related Thought

Watching British cop shows is weird. I keep finding myself thinking, wait a minute, why on Earth don't they just draw their guns-- Oh.

I suspect that, no matter how many British cop shows I watch, this is always going to be the case. Which certainly says something about either about the US or the UK. Or possibly just about me.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Mmmm, Cheesesteak...

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: Philadelphia

Your accent is as Philadelphian as a cheesesteak! If you're not from Philadelphia, then you're from someplace near there like south Jersey, Baltimore, or Wilmington. if you've ever journeyed to some far off place where people don't know that Philly has an accent, someone may have thought you talked a little weird even though they didn't have a clue what accent it was they heard.

The Northeast
The Midland
The South
The Inland North
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?

I suppose it's nice to know that, after spending pretty much my entire adult life in New Mexico, I still haven't lost the old South Jersey accent. Even though no one here has told me I talk funny in years.