Friday, November 30, 2007

You'd Think I'd Have Stopped Being Shocked At These People.

Note to self: When sitting down to watch an episode of The Sopranos, there is always a possibility that there will be some turn of events on the series that disturbs your emotional equilibrium for the rest of the day. And while this may be a hallmark of quality programming, it is also something that should be taken into account when choosing your lunchtime viewing.

I've only got a few episodes left, but now I'm sort of afraid of them.

Stupid Drama-Queen Gasballs. They Only Do It To Piss Me Off.

It's rather awe-inspiring, in a way, to contemplate how the explosion of a star twelve million years ago can lead directly to me having a really, really annoying week at work. It makes one think about both the fundamental interconnectedness and the fundamental annoyingness of all things in the universe. Or something like that.

Fortunately, I think it's finally over for now. Hooray! *does a happy dance on the supernova's cooling stellar corpse*

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hard Labor In The Data Mines

It would be nice if something -- anything -- would actually frigging work tonight. *kicks expensive pieces of technology petulantly*

Congrats To Me! And Also To Roger Smith of Grand Rapids, MI.

I won a prize in Planetary Radio's 5th anniversary trivia contest! I was able to correctly give the escape velocity of Jupiter and the identity of the person for whom Stickney crater on Phobos was named. (I will neither confirm nor deny whether the entity known as Google was involved in this process.)

To be honest, I was hoping for the grand prize -- a speck of Martian meteorite -- or even the autographed Star Trek poster. But I'm sure I will be able to happily waste many otherwise potentially productive hours with my new Space Station Sim game. (Or at least, I will if it'll run on my pokey old computer. Man, I think every day "new computer" is moving a little higher up on my list of things that I want out of life.)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Latest Batch Of Random Links

Million Dollar challenge test: Rosemary Hunter: As part of their Million Dollar Psychic Challenge, the James Randi Educational Foundation tests a woman who claims God gave her the power to make people urinate.

John Edward Ambushed: Speaking of people who don't have psychic powers, here's a couple of Australian comedians making fun of John Edward.

Atheists and Anger: Moving from parapsychology to religion, this long blog post, I think, says a few worthwhile things even if, being the wishy-washy "can't we all just get along?" moderate that I am, anger makes me mildly uncomfortable. But if we're being angry, personally I'm angrier about Giordano Bruno than I am about Galileo. Still.

Things We Can Agree On: Similar subject matter, but a very different tone. This guy clearly understands both perspectives well, he's very funny, and he's right. I want to print copies of this and hand them out on street corners.

Dr Who fan shares his house with 225 Daleks: Watch out for this guy, because that's more than enough for a galactic takeover bid.

Robots infiltrate roach society: Speaking of galactic takeovers... Can the Cylons be far behind?

The Nerd Handbook: Practical advice for dealing with your nerdy SO. Really, this only covers a particular subset of nerds, but for that subset, it's pretty accurate.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Whovian Birth and Death

Today happens to be the 44th anniversary of Doctor Who. Unfortunately, it's not a very happy birthday, as the news has just come out that Verity Lambert, the show's first producer, has died. Those of you who've been watching Who this season may remember "John Smith" giving his parents' names as "Sidney and Verity." Well, Ms. Lambert was the "Verity." She was, in a fairly literal sense, the mother of Doctor Who. She was also the BBC's first female TV producer, and went on from that ground-breaking achievement to have a long and highly distinguished career.

I'll observe a moment of silence for her... And a moment of gratitude for helping to bring the world such a great and iconic TV series. I very nearly included Doctor Who in yesterday's list of things I appreciate in life.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Albuquerque Turkey And Things I Appreciate

A very happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Americans! (And a happy random Thursday to the rest of you!) I just got back from turkey and conversation with friends in Albuquerque, for which I am appropriately grateful. *waves to said friends*

I've never been too sure about the word "thanksgiving" -- it comes with connotations of belief in a capital-P Providence that I don't personally subscribe to -- but I think it's an excellent thing for people of all worldviews to take a moment now and then to appreciate all of the good things in life, and perhaps to nurture a little humility at the thought that none of those things are automatically guaranteed to us.

I'm wearing a sweatshirt right now that says, "Books. Cats. Life is sweet." The usual stuff about health and friends and family aside, I think that pretty much covers my own top Things To Be Appreciative Of.

Other random things I'm feeling highly appreciative of at the moment:

  • Gorgeous fall weather, even if it looks like that may mostly be past now.

  • The invention of the mp3 player, which, among other things, makes longish car trips alone so much more bearable.

  • Having a job, and the attendant having of money. There are a number of very expensive things that I'm trying to figure out exactly how to budget at the moment, but the very act of doing that makes me realize how much better off I am than so many other people. I'm (mildly) worried about whether I'm going to be able to go to Australia, get my house painted, pay veterinarians to figure out why Vir the cat makes Darth Vader noises, and maybe buy a new computer, all in the next year or so. That is so much better than worrying about how you're going to buy food and clothing that it's not even a quantitative difference, but a qualitative one.

  • The fact that the universe makes so much sense that human beings can sit here on Earth and actually figure out things about the nature of distant galaxies and the conditions at the beginning of the universe. Even if it is hard to do. That is so freaking cool that I don't even have words for it. (See, the cats may not be interested in reading about cosmology, but I am.)
  • Tuesday, November 20, 2007

    I Want My TV.

    God damn it, Heroes is finally just starting to get really, really good again, and now there's only two more episodes. Just give the damned writers some money, already! Cheapasses.

    And apparently things are getting ugly enough that we might not ever get to see the end of Battlestar Galactica, either. It's enough to make a fangirl cry.

    Monday, November 19, 2007

    Walk On!

    Apropos of the discussion of walking in the last post, I've just stumbled on a site that computes a location's "walk score", meaning how many of the places you might need on an average day are available within walking distance. My house gets 65 out of 100, apparently, which is definitely on the good end. Although some of the locations they mention as fulfilling my walk-to needs are not exactly very good examples of the things they're purported to be.

    I notice that they only seem to include things less than a mile away as "walking distance." Pansies.

    My Mother Always Told Me I Was The Weird One In The Family.

    It seems I have been tagged to do this "seven weird things about me" meme. I thought that maybe I already had done that here at some point, but I guess not. Anyway, here goes:

    1. I talk to myself. A lot. I try not to do it too conspicuously in public, but when I'm on my own, I can deliver entire 20-minute lectures to myself, complete with hand gestures. I also sometimes talk to the cats, especially when I'm planning out my day. "OK, kitties, I'm going to take a shower now, and then I'm going to go out to the post office..." Like it's more psychologically acceptable to talk to animals who can't understand me than it is to talk to myself, at least if the subject matter concerns said animals the way my comings and goings (and thus my availability for cat dish-filling duties) does. Also, once in a while I'll read out loud to the cats. I was reading bits of Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos to Vir Catto yesterday, but he seemed sadly uninterested in Hawking's ideas about black holes.

    2. I use my car maybe once a month, usually when I have to buy cat litter or drive up to Albuquerque for some reason. Otherwise, I walk everywhere. I live in a small town -- few places I want to get to are more than 15 minutes away -- so this is eminently doable. Walking is the ultimate win-win situation for me. It's good for the world at large, what with not burning up pesky fossil fuels and all. It's good for my body, being the only real exercise I get. And it's good for my mind, as I find it helps to clear my head, lift my mood, and concentrate my thoughts. I do all my best creative thinking when I'm walking. And, if it's light out and I don't have any particular creative thinking I need to do, I can read while I walk. For some reason, people seem to find this strange. I suspect this is mainly because they haven't tried it; it's easier than it looks, honestly. But anyway, yeah, in conclusion, I love to walk. Sometimes -- OK, kind of often -- I'll walk a two-mile round trip at 2 AM to drop a letter in the mailbox at the post office that I could easily have mailed from home, just to give myself an excuse to get out and walk.

    3. I don't eat invertebrates. Shellfish are basically just giant underwater bugs -- ick! And mollusks are squishy, slimy things. Also, while I'm ruling out whole classes of lifeforms, I'll add in an entire kingdom and say the same thing about fungus, with the added point that that stuff grows in shit. You may keep your lobsters, scallops and mushrooms for yourself. Thank you.

    4. I cannot think properly with the TV or the radio on. The sound moves into the part of my brain that I use to think with and interferes with the words I use to think in, and I do not have the ability to tune it out. The effect is lessened if it's soft instrumental music that's not to my taste but also not actively annoying, or if it's something really dull and quiet playing on the TV, like a golf tournament. It's heightened if it's something I find interesting (even if only in the train-wreck sort of way that you get with a lot of TV programs) or something with strong lyrics. But if I really need to concentrate on something, especially something that involves writing, I really need either silence or white noise. Music is for occupying my brain while I do mindless physical tasks, and I only watch stuff on TV that I actually care about enough to devote my full attention to.

    5. I have a book-buying addiction. I had to impose a quota limiting the number of books I buy to less than the number I read, otherwise I would have found myself buried under an avalanche of books. Not that that might not still happen.

    6. My idea of getting dressed up is wearing khakis instead of jeans, a sweater vest over my t-shirt, and boots instead of sneakers. If an event requires getting dressier than that, you're going to have a hard time talking me into going.

    7. I spend eight hours a day at work in front of a computer. Sometimes twelve. So, what's the very first thing I do when I get home? Sit down in front of the computer. Hey, important e-mail might have come in during that 15 minutes it took me to walk home!

    Um, wow. That all makes me sound more eccentric than I thought I was.

    I Believe In Being Open-Minded, But Not Enough So That Your Brain Falls Out.

    You Are 48% Open Minded

    You aren't exactly open minded, but you have been known to occasionally change your mind.
    You're tolerant enough to get along with others who are very different...
    But you may be quietly judgmental of things or people you think are wrong.
    You take your own values pretty seriously, and it would take a lot to change them.

    Thursday, November 15, 2007

    They May Be On Strike, But Their Sense Of Humor Is Still Working.

    If you're missing your regular dose of The Daily Show and Colbert due to the writers' strike, take heart! The Daily Show writers have produced a very funny video about, well, the writers' strike:

    You know, I'm not sure there's anything more to be said on the subject after that, really. But the Colbert Report writers have produced this, er, rebuttal:

    Good luck fightin' The Man, guys!

    And Yet People Have Been Known To Mock Me For Using Big Words.

    Hey! They were trying to pull an advertising stunt in the alt-text here!

    Wednesday, November 14, 2007

    So There, TiVo! Who Cares What You Think!

    It looks like the program I wanted to see is going to be available on Nova's website on Friday, anyway.

    Man, I do love the internet.

    Algorithms Are Judging Me.

    So, apparently there was an episode of Nova on tonight about the Dover Intelligent-Design-in-the-schools court case, which I was somewhat interested in seeing, except that I didn't realize it was going to be on until after I'd already left for the day. "No problem," I told myself. "I bet the TiVo gets it for me, anyway." Well, it didn't. I'm not really bothered about missing the show, but I find that I do feel rather hurt by the fact that my TiVo doesn't think I'm the sort of person who watches Nova.

    Sunday, November 11, 2007

    I Also Woke Up With A Headache, But I Don't Think That's Related.

    I woke up this morning -- well, OK, this afternoon, but it was morning for me -- and was going to get out of bed, but there was a cat lying on top of me. So I fell back to sleep and dreamed about waking up but not getting out of bed because there was a cat lying on top of me. Fortunately, the recursion did not continue past that point, or I might still be asleep.

    Friday, November 09, 2007

    Homeowner's Blues #173

    Great. Now the Mythbusters have made me totally paranoid about my water heater.

    In Case That Last Link Wasn't Random Enough

    The 10 Best Animated Movies for (Traumatizing) Kids: What childhood is complete without a healthy dose of trauma?

    20,000 pounds of sodium being dumped into a lake: It makes a very satisfying boom.

    Outtake from the Doctor Who episode "Human Nature": If you've seen the episode, you'll remember that the Doctor leaves a video with a list of instructions for Martha. We only get to see the beginning and the end of it on the show, because Martha fast-forwards through the middle. But David Tennant had to keep talking so that she'd have something to fast-forward through. The resulting video clip proves that David Tennant is a) adorably amusing when he's babbling and b) really quite a heck of an actor.

    The Writers Strike: Why We Fight: A video presentation explaining the reasons behind the current Hollywood writers' strike. I'm not exactly happy about the strike -- my shows! my precious shows! -- but the stuff they're asking for sounds extremely reasonable to me, and I happen to be a big fan of the people who actually put in the creative talent being the ones to get the money, so I wish them much luck. And not just because I'm going to be annoyed if I only get half a season of Lost next year.

    Genesis, the computer program: Amusing, and as believable as any other creation story.

    The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe: I think I may have linked to this at some point in the past, but they're currently pushing to hit 30,000 weekly listeners by the end of the year, so I figured I'd give 'em a plug. This is a podcast which examines a wide array of topics from a standpoint of scientific skepticism, featuring some very entertaining and intelligent people. I listen to it regularly.

    From The "Where Are They Now?" Files

    It has just been pointed out to me that a guy I went to high school with has apparently become a musical robot with a giant flame-shooting penis. To repeat my immediate response: I don't think I have ever been so surprised and so utterly unsurprised by anything at the same time in my life. Because I totally would have voted for him for "most likely to become an android with a flame-shooting penis," if such a category had ever remotely occurred to me.

    Wednesday, November 07, 2007

    Currently, I Am Possibly Even More Of A Sci-Fi Geek Than Usual. Amazingly Enough.

    Current clothes: A sort of peach-colored t-shirt with a picture of a teddy bear on it and the words "Oklahoma Bear Hug" underneath, which my mother bought me, for some reason, when she was, for some reason, in Oklahoma. The bear appears to be hugging some letters, possibly an O and a U. My guess would be that they stand for "Oklahoma University." I don't know; I'm only wearing it because I wanted to dirty something bright-colored so I'd be closer to a full laundry load. Over that, a short-sleeved light-blue denim shirt, unbuttoned. Jeans. A black belt. White crew socks. Black sneakers.

    Current mood: Eh, not bad.

    Current music: I think it's mostly been random playlists again lately, nothing terribly memorable. Mostly today I was listening to Escape Pod, which delivers cool science fiction stories directly into my ears.

    Current annoyance: Since I updated Firefox, it's started doing this thing where when I spell-check a word, the spell-check suggestions do not disappear from the right-click menu, but hang around forever, piling up on one another, presenting me with a huge and useless menu of pointless words and rendering it difficult to find whatever menu item (or, indeed, spelling suggestion) I'm actually looking for. This is now annoying me beyond all reason or sanity. And apparently it's only happening on my computer. Firefox on the work machines seems fine, even though it's had exactly the same upgrade. Why have you done this to me, Mozilla? Why?

    Current thing: Last week, it was sleeping ridiculous hours and not working at all. That was nice. I haven't figured out what it is this week, though.

    Current desktop picture: Still the same First Doctor wallpaper as last month.

    Current book: Just finished The Areas of My Expertise by John Hodgman. Next up: Timeless by Stephen Cole. Yes, it's yet another Doctor Who novel. I've been going through these Eighth Doctor novels at a rate of about one a month, and apparently the point where I start thinking "Hmm, it's about time to read another of those Who novels" is about the same as the point where I start thinking "Hmm, it's about time to do that currently meme."

    Current song in head: "Old Country Doctor (The Ballad of Bones)" by Warp Eleven. Which has been flitting into my head every time I've picked up the aforementioned John Hodgman book. Because, you see, it's a song about Dr. McCoy, and it's got this great line: "I have been asked to do many a thing outside the area of my expertise." Because, see, Bones is always complaining that he's a doctor, not a bricklayer or a moonshuttle conductor or something, and, yes, the inside of my brain is an interesting place, why do you ask?

    Current DVD in player: Disc one of Stargate SG-1 season 5. By the way, for those who were worried -- as I'm sure you all were, desperately -- I did manage to get hold of the episodes on disc two that Netflix couldn't get to me. So we can all rest easily knowing the latest science fiction-related crisis in my life has been averted. By the way, while I'm talking about Stargate... I have decided, at this point in my viewing, that what I really want to see is a Stargate: Cool Old Guys spinoff, featuring Jacob Carter/Selmak, Master Bra'tac, and General Hammond.

    Current refreshment: I just had some frozen lasagna for lunch (well, not while it was frozen, obviously) and am now enjoying a mug of tea and some salad.

    Current worry: Eh, there are things I could worry about, but why bother?

    Current thought: Dammit, Jim!

    Monday, November 05, 2007

    It Is Hard To Predict, Especially The Future.

    I've started noticing myself developing a real problem with books written more than a decade or so ago, which is that any time the plot depends on the characters being out of phone contact with each other or on characters not being able to find out some piece of information that I could google up in less than three seconds, I feel weirdly annoyed. Which I know is ridiculous for a book that's set in, say, the 1980s, but is probably a legitimate suspension-of-disbelief problem for books written in the 1980s but set in the 21st century.

    Of course, the rapid march of technology doesn't just mean that science fiction novels might be dating themselves more quickly than ever. It seems pretty clear to me that it presents some challenges to modern storytellers, too. I think that cell phone reception suddenly going out for no good reason is already something of a movie cliche, and disrupting cell phone signals now appears to be a common ability (or intrinsic talent) for supernatural entities.

    Sunday, November 04, 2007

    I Would Rather Spend Daylight Than Save It.

    So, I spent a couple of hours last night reading by flashlight. It was a horror novel, sort of, so I guess that made for an appropriate atmosphere.

    And now we're off of Daylight Savings Time, finally. This is also something that sucks for us poor night-shift people. Where everybody else gets to sleep an extra hour in order to keep themselves on the same clock schedule, I have to stay up an extra hour. And then the sun's coming up while I'm trying to get to sleep, and by the time I'm finished my morning coffee, it's set and left me in the dark. I've been known to rant and rail against the whole concept of Daylight Savings, but, really, the truth is that I don't understand why we don't simply go onto it and stay there.

    (And, of course, by Murphy's Law, I always do seem to be on night shifts when we switch off DST and mornings when we switch back.)

    Powerless Owls

    Annoying thing about being a night person #607: When the electric company needs to shut the power down for several hours to replace a transformer, they will do it when they expect most people to be asleep, leaving you with a good long while to spend wide awake in pitch darkness. With no computer.

    *waves goodbye to the internet for the night*

    Friday, November 02, 2007

    An Extremely Useful Thing I Just Learned How To Do

    How to tell Firefox to forget that misspelled word you just accidentally told it to add to its dictionary.


    Thanks to spending nearly every waking hour last weekend at work (and thus missing what was apparently a really good Halloween party, dammit), I found myself with only sixteen random hours to put in over the subsequent seven days. Whereupon I decided that I'd rather have my time off add up to a nice round figure, sacrificed a couple of easily spareable vacation days, and scored myself an entire week to spend not working, which is far and away my favorite thing to spend a week doing.

    But I have not been idle! Well, OK, not entirely idle. Thanks to the time freed up by my hookey-playing ways, I now have accomplished the seemingly impossible: I have cleaned and organized my shed! Yeah, yeah, that may not sound like much to you, but that's only because you've never seen the inside of my shed. It formerly consisted almost entirely of a random, precarious jumble of cardboard boxes left over from when I moved in. More than that, it provided an excellent illustration of the "nature is trying to eat my house" principle. It's extremely easy to see how that structure could end up completely filled with dirt after a few decades because, man, it was already well on its way.

    I'm pleased to report, by the way, that I didn't get bit by any poisonous spiders (as far as I've noticed), and that I only cut myself while slicing up boxes once. This should, I believe, bring my injury-per-household project ratio down a tad. Go, me!