Friday, September 26, 2008

More Random Links

Hey, it's slightly less lazy than posting stupid quiz results...

O'Bannon on Returning to "Farscape": Some more news -- including some preliminary cover art! -- about the forthcoming Farscape comics, the first issue of which should be out in November. It also mentions that "novelist Keith R.A. DeCandido will be scripting O'Bannon's plots," which pleases me. DeCandido wrote the one professional Farscape novel that was actually good. Features a number of questionnaires you can take to explore your personal idea of morality while contributing to actual psychological research.

TV Tropes Wiki: An extensive, entertaining wiki devoted to exploring all manner of plot devices, character archetypes, narrative conventions, and just plain cliches from TV and other media. I don't recall if I've mentioned this site here before, but even if I have, all the time it's been sucking away from me lately surely earns it another link.

Scientific Attempt To Create Most Annoying Song Ever: Some guys took a survey asking about what people hate most in music, then created a 20 minute song that features all of it. I recommend downloading it; it's hilarious. They also created the "most wanted music" along the same lines. Now that had me about ready to gnaw my own ears off in order to escape. There's a lesson to be taken from that, probably.

Aaron Sorkin Conjures a Meeting of Obama and Bartlet: Sorkin writes an imaginary conversation between Barack Obama and former President Jed Bartlet from The West Wing. Mostly, this makes me really miss The West Wing.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Just Dishy

Got to do a fairly cool road trip at work today. (Tiring, though. Working until midnight and then hitting the road at 9:00 AM is not exactly an ideal schedule, especially when you've been having a sleep deprived week already.) We drove out to Pie Town, NM (which is about as close to Middle of Nowhere, American West as one might ever wish to get) to visit the VLBA's nearest radio telescope site. I'd actually been out there a couple of times before, many years ago, but my job didn't involve interacting with the antennas at all then, so it was a worthwhile exercise to do it again now that I can put names and functions to the various components. It really doesn't hurt to have an idea of the physical locations of the stuff you have to get people to go out and fix. Plus, crawling around on the antenna is always fun. And, look, I took some pictures!

Here's me sitting on the dish, in closeup:

And in a longer shot:

This one is looking up at the dish:

And because you really ought to have a full-length view of the thing and I didn't get one today, here's one taken the last time I was there, on a much grayer day:

Yay, astronomy!

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Consumer Complaint

Dear Universe,

I wish to report that the Monday I received from you today is defective. Could I please return it for a replacement (preferably a functional Tuesday)?

Thank you,

Friday, September 19, 2008

Just Call Me Daniel Jackson.

Your result for The Absolute Language Test...

The Rain In Spain Stays Mainly In The Plane

The statement above is a play on words, I know it's supposed to be "plain." So please no more e-mails about how I spelled it wrong.

You are a master of the art of language! You probably speak more than one language and are very well cultured because of it. You also get annoyed with people who don't use proper grammar and constantly correct them. Give yourself a pat on the back! You're ready for the Embassy Ball!

Answer Key:

Take The Absolute Language Test at HelloQuizzy

Alas, I only speak English, but I can sort of read Spanish, albeit with considerable difficulty and a lot of guesswork. But I do think languages are nifty! And I believe we've already established my Grammar Nazi tendencies.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

More TV Talk

So, the new TV season is starting up... slowly. There isn't actually all that much I'm interested in, to be honest, but I've welcomed back one favorite show and tried out one new one. So...

House: Oh, House, I don't know quite how it is that you manage to make jackass characters and disturbingly dysfunctional relationships so amusing and entertaining and even "awww"-worthy, but don't ever change. Well, not on that front, anyway. The changes you've already made, I've been fine with. In fact, I prefer the new underlings to the old ones. You can bring back Old Guy again any time you want to, though.

Fringe: I watched the pilot, and wasn't all that impressed. To begin with, the whole investigating fringe science/paranormal crap while dealing with massive conspiracies thing is becoming a pretty tired premise by now. I have no doubt it's still entirely possible to do fresh and engaging things with it, but the pilot sure didn't feel especially fresh or engaging to me. On the plus side, the cast seems really good, and it's very visually stylish. And there was a hint or two of humor that suddenly made the show sparkle for me briefly, although I'm not actually sure they were at all intentional. Otherwise... well. All the decisions the characters made and actions they took seemed to happen entirely because the plot (or the setup for the series) required them, rather than because they made any sense at all. And the science was far beyond "fringe" and well into the realm of "painfully, laughably bad." And this is coming from a Doctor Who fan. At least Who never took it all so seriously. So, yeah, on balance it really just wasn't quite interesting enough to induce me to stay around for the second episode. I figure, if it morphs into something worthwhile -- and I admit that the potential is there -- I'm sure people will let me know, and I can go and watch it on DVD.

So... When is Heroes starting up again? Next week? I think that's the only other currently returning show that I care about (except for a couple that I'm not going to watch as they air because I'm still catching up on the DVDs).

Oh, Look, Another Stupid Quiz.

What Be Your Nerd Type?
Your Result: Literature Nerd

Does sitting by a nice cozy fire, with a cup of hot tea/chocolate, and a book you can read for hours even when your eyes grow red and dry and you look sort of scary sitting there with your insomniac appearance? Then you fit this category perfectly! You love the power of the written word and it's eloquence; and you may like to read/write poetry or novels. You contribute to the smart people of today's society, however you can probably be overly-critical of works.

It's okay. I understand.

Science/Math Nerd
Gamer/Computer Nerd
Social Nerd
Drama Nerd
Anime Nerd
Artistic Nerd
What Be Your Nerd Type?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Well, I'm enough of a literature nerd to be bugged by the fact that "it's" should be "its" in that first paragraph, damn it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Welcome To Another Edition Of "What Betty's Watching."

I've just watched the first disc (being one story told in six half-hour episodes) of Sapphire and Steel, a somewhat obscure British SF series from about 1980. It features two... Aliens? Deities? Anthropomorphic personifications of chemical substances? It's not remotely clear. But whatever they are, apparently their job is to troubleshoot, uh... cosmic... glitchy... weirdnesses... Hell, I don't know.

I don't even know whether I think it's really good or really bad; it seems like the sort of thing that can't possibly fall anywhere in the middle. On the one hand, it's very slow-moving and rather stilted, and absolutely nothing about it makes a lick of sense. On the other hand, the first story, at least, is quite effectively creepy. And the eponymous cosmic whatevers are interestingly and convincingly... other. Honestly, part of me thinks that the idea of a TV show that gives us an outsider's view of truly alien (albeit outwardly human) beings doing things that are essentially incomprehensible is fascinating, gutsy, and deeply refreshing. The rest of me, though, is wondering why the heck anybody ever thought that would be watchable.

I've got the rest of the series lined up on my Netflix queue, and I truly can't decide whether my attitude at this point is, "Cool, I'm looking forward to this!" or "Geez, I have to watch how much of this?" But, hey, not many shows can flummox me that way. I feel like I ought to give it points for that.

In other DVD news, I bought seasons 1 and 2 of The Venture Bros. a little while ago, and am discovering -- or, to be more accurate, confirming -- the fact that I can watch the same episodes of this show over and over and over and somehow never find them any less entertaining. I finished season 2 and then immediately started over again with season 1, which may seem worryingly obsessive, even for me. But I've got to watch something while I'm walking on the treadmill. Goofy comedies go far better with exercise than creepy dramas, after all, and I've finished with those Whose Line Is It Anyway? discs.

Funniest Thing I Have Seen All Day

Via Cute Overload. This vid is titled "Kitty plays red light green light," but I can't help thinking of it as "Don't Blink! (Kitty Edition)."

Saturday, September 13, 2008

And More Random Links

Michael Palin for President: Pick the right Palin!

Hurricanes, as seen from orbit: They're deceptively pretty.

Sarah Jane Adventures Series 2 Cinema Trailer: I'm definitely looking forward to this, although I'm a little bummed out by the fact that apparently Maria is going to be leaving the show.

Ten things you don't know about the Earth: I did know several of these things, actually, but they're interesting.

World Names Profiler: Type in your surname, and it'll give you some interesting facts about it, including filling in a world map to show the places where that name is common. It correctly identified my own name as Irish in origin, but apparently said name occurs in the highest concentrations in the US and, for some reason, Poland. I then tried giving it my mother's (highly unusual) maiden name, and while it didn't have any information on the ethnicity -- it's unambiguously German, for the record -- and showed an almost blank map, it did spit out the first names of several of my relatives and some places associated with others. So I'm impressed by the quality of its database, but also a little bit creeped out.

OK, I'll Take It.

Your result for Reincarnation Placement Exam...

Tralfamadorian Messenger

41% Intrigue, 78% Civilization, 36% Humanity, 38% Urbanization.

We had trouble placing you, but finally found just the thing... for someone who adores technology and knowledge, but doesn't care for much else. Intrigue and adventure? Not important to you, evidently. The company of your fellows? Not to your tastes. The bustle and crowd of the city? Not for you. Were it not for your positive attitude toward modern technology, we would have made you a medieval monk and let you live out your days in a quaint little cell, with access to all the books you could possibly want to read. But instead...

You will be a mechanical being, born on a planet where machines have long ago taken completely over and organic life has become extinct. You will be sent as a messenger to the other end of the galaxy with a message of good will -- a journey of approximately 205,125 years.The message reads: "Greetings."

Hello. Goodbye. We hope you have an satisfactory journey.

Take Reincarnation Placement Exam at HelloQuizzy

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Make It ME!

Your results:
You are Jean-Luc Picard
Jean-Luc Picard
Beverly Crusher
Deanna Troi
Leonard McCoy (Bones)
Geordi LaForge
An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
Will Riker
James T. Kirk (Captain)
Mr. Sulu
Mr. Scott
A lover of Shakespeare and other
fine literature. You have a decisive mind
and a firm hand in dealing with others.

Click here to take the Star Trek Personality Quiz

Friday, September 05, 2008

September's Currentlies

Current clothes: Black sweatpants. White socks. White t-shirt that says, "The angels have the phone box." And I imagine half of you are smiling at that and half are looking puzzled, because, really, you either get that reference or you don't.

Current mood: Not bad. I've been up for, oh, about an hour and a half and am starting to feel about ready to think about the idea of the possibility of maybe starting my day.

Current music: Can't remember what I listened to last, except for a bunch of podcasts. Probably more random-shuffle stuff.

Current annoyance: My feet hurt. Not just the bunion, although that's worse than it's ever been. Most days, I have this constant, dull ache in both my feet, all over. And the tendons contract so much while I'm sleeping that for the first minute or so after I get up, I feel like I can barely hobble. Sigh. At some point in my life, I really am going to have to break down and see a podiatrist.

Current thing: Not working! I took some time off last week to de-stress and to get some stuff done around the house. And then this week, thanks to having worked long hours over the holiday weekend, I've been off since Wednesday. Man, there is no better feeling than knowing my time is entirely my own, regardless of whether I'm doing anything interesting with it or not.

Current desktop picture: This picture of a meteor trail over the California desert.

Current book: Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You by Sam Gosling. Although I'm not entirely sure I want to know what my stuff says about me. I suspect that once you get past the obvious -- I'm a huge sci-fi nerd who obsessively collects books -- anything an independent observer would conclude about me from my stuff is probably either completely misleading or mildly embarrassing. Or both.

Current song in head: Leonard Cohen's "Democracy," since I just encountered a quote from it in the course of some idle blog surfing.

Current DVD in player: Disc 2 of season 1 of Jonathan Creek, a late-90s British series about an investigative reporter and a designer of stage illusions who solve locked-room murders and other baffling mysteries. A friend suggested quite a while ago that she thought it was something I'd enjoy, and she turned out to be very, very right. Admittedly, my delight in the show doubtless has a lot to do with the fact that it stars Alan Davies, on whom I developed an utterly embarrassing crush during the course of watching umpteen episodes of QI on YouTube, and with the fact that he's playing exactly the sort of brilliant misfit I usually find adorable. But the mystery plots are good, too, as are the character dynamics and the cleverly written dialog. Also of interest to genre TV fans: the first episode features Anthony Stewart Head as a creepy magician with leather pants and a disconcerting American accent, and Colin Baker as a soon-to-be-corpse.

Current refreshment: Nothing at the moment, but I'm contemplating the concept of orange juice.

Current worry: Aargh, there's more stuff that needs to be done with the house that has me worrying about expense, hassle, and whether I even have a clue what I'm doing. Once again, it becomes abundantly clear to me that I really am not cut out to be a homeowner.

Current thought: I want my new eyeglasses. This pair is so scratched up and so permanently smeary that looking at the computer screen through them is mildly annoying.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

September Is Also A Good Time For More Random Links.

Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest 2008 Results: This year's winners in the "bad opening sentences to imaginary novels" contest. They're pretty bad.

Selections from H.P. Lovecraft's brief tenure as a Whitman's sampler copywriter: Chocolate has never been this terrifyingly insanity-inducing!

WHO-1: The Bessie Homepage: Doctor Who fan page devoted to the Doctor's beloved car, Bessie. presents presidential answers to the top 14 science questions facing America: Barack Obama answers fourteen questions about science and national policy. According to the website, McCain has agreed to answer them as well, but there's nothing from him up there yet.

Torchwood: Lost Souls: Description of a Torchwood audio play which will run on the BBC's Radio 4 on September 10th. (It looks like it should be available on the web afterward, as well.) The page contains a brief preview trailer. It also contains some major spoilers for the end of Torchwood season 2, so be warned. Apparently the plot involves dangerous side effects from the activation of CERN's Large Hadron Collider. This is a real project, and real people have expressed worries about it, but the danger is entirely science fictional. Some bonus Actual Science links: The BBC reports on this subject and the Bad Astronomer discusses it.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Ramblings For September: Doctor Who

So, taking me up on my invitation to tell me what to blog about, Fred asked:

Which old-school Doctor Who characters/villains would you most like to see in the new series and why? (This doesn't necessarily preclude ones we've already seen revived).

Okey-dokey! Well, first of all that parenthetical bit is pretty important, because I think we've seen the two best and most important recurring villains already. I know there are people who are getting heartily sick of Daleks, and I agree that it's entirely possible to over-use them. Once a season might even be too often. But Doctor Who without the Daleks is, is... Well, it's inconceivable! And yes, that word does mean what I think it means. Who wouldn't even be here without the Daleks; it would have been dead in the water in 1963. They are the iconic Doctor Who villain, and of course they'll be back. Repeatedly. And, in my opinion, that's exactly as it should be.

And then there's the Master, who may not go back quite as far, but who has almost as much staying power as the Daleks. I still say that it's an iron-clad rule of the show that you cannot kill the Master, no matter how definitively you appear to, and I have no doubt that he will be back eventually. And I believe that's as it should be, too, because he's a marvelous foil for the Doctor, and because there's still a great deal left to be done with him.

(I'll be just as happy if we don't see the Cybermen again for a while, though. I have nothing against the Cybermen, and I liked the relevant episodes of New Who better than many people did. But they're less scary than the Daleks and less engaging than the Master, and I don't know that there's all that much still to be done with them that can't be done as well or better with more original adversaries.)

As for characters we haven't seen yet on the new series... There was a rumor going around a while back that we were going to see the Ice Warriors returning, and I was actually rather disappointed when that came to nothing. The Ice Warriors were among my favorite villains, I think because, while they were undisguisedly a warrior culture, we did see at least one instance in which they weren't painted as bad guys at all. I like that a lot; it indicates a kind of realism and complexity that was never present with, say, the Sontarans. On the minus, side, though, it might be a bit much to expect viewers in the 21st century to accept the idea of a civilization on Mars, given that we've had robots there fruitlessly hunting for microbes for a while.

Another rumor that was going around prior to season 3 was that the Rani would be showing up again. Now, I love the Rani. She has a sharp mind and an acid wit, and her complete amorality makes a perfect little philosophical triangle out of the Doctor and the Master's familiar good-evil dichotomy. Also, unlike the Master, she is in fact completely sane, which makes her potentially much scarier. But I had seriously mixed feelings about the idea of bringing her back, and I still do, as I think she would require very careful handling and that writing her badly would be infinitely worse than never writing her at all. There's also a danger of making a total joke out of the whole "last of the Time Lords" concept by having tangibly not-dead Time Lords popping up over and over. (By the way, I used to go around saying, only half-jokingly, that if any other Time Lord had survived the war, I was voting for it to be Drax the Cockney Time Lord, who provided the comic relief in "The Armageddon Factor." But because that really would make a joke out of the whole thing, and because it would perhaps be a less funny joke at this point than it might have been earlier in the show, I reluctantly withdraw the suggestion.)

Moving away from Time Lords and bad guys (and Time Lord bad guys), I wouldn't mind seeing the occasional companion re-appearance, a la Sarah Jane. (Not to get too spoilery for season 4, but I can't help thinking about the fact that if, say, anybody wanted to round up the various friends that the Doctor has on Earth, there would be a hell of a lot more of them than we've seen on the new show.) I do have to admit that my desire to see old companions again is purely a self-indulgent fangirlish one, and one that runs up against a whole host of issues, starting with the fact that actors die, age, and move on to other things, and ending with the very real danger of the show getting so self-referential and nostalgic that it alienates new viewers in the process of disappearing up its own ass. I thoroughly agree with Steven Moffatt that it's much more important to invent new characters and new monsters and new adventures than to compulsively revisit the old ones.

However, even admitting that maybe Sarah Jane and K-9 are enough and that it's a bad idea to round up whichever of the Doctor's old companions they can still find the actors for and throw them all into the new show willy-nilly, there is still one solid, unassailable answer to Fred's question. They need to bring back Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, late of UNIT, the man who is indisputably the Doctor's best and oldest human friend. The Brigadier has been in and out of the Doctor's life since his second regeneration, and there is absolutely no reason for that to stop now. I've heard that he's supposed to make an appearance on The Sarah Jane Adventures at some point, which delights me, but not nearly as much as it would delight me to see another reunion between him and the Doctor. Even aside from how fascinating that bit of character interaction would be, well, he's the Brig, and the Brig is impossible not to love. (Oh, and while we're at it, I wouldn't mind seeing his replacement, Brigadier Winfred Bambera from "Battlefield" again, either. Possibly I just have a thing for UNIT brigadiers...)

Um, yeah, there. That enough of an answer for ya? Really, you people should know better than to ask me questions like this...

(Oh, and by the way, I feel compelled to say: I do try to avoid spoiling myself for this show, so if anybody has information, or even rumors, about who actually will be returning in the future, please refrain from mentioning them here. I admit, I'll probably find it impossible to avoid some of them eventually, plus there are so many unfounded rumors that even when I hear the true ones I generally don't believe them. But I do like to at least make the effort. So, if anybody's actually read this far and wants to discuss the subject in the comments, well, consider wild-ass speculation welcome and informed speculation discouraged.)

Insert Your Own Stupid Pun On The Word "Eye" Here.

Just got back from an appointment with the eye doctor. Apparently my left eye got slightly less nearsighted, but the right one got slightly more astigmatic, so, in precise medical language, "it's a wash." It did seem awfully cool, after 37 years of getting steadily more myopic, to finally be going in the other direction, but when I mentioned that to the optometrist, his reply was, "Yeah, but at this rate you'd need to live another three hundred years before you'd stop needing glasses." Well, it's something to keep in mind for when I've perfected my immortality serum. But he also told me to enjoy it now, because once you hit the early 40s, it's all downhill, eye-wise. Thanks, doc.

Improved or not, my eyes didn't change enough to need new glasses, but I'm getting some anyway, because I've managed to scratch the heck out of my current pair. Plus, the only backup pair I have is from a really old prescription, and it's not like I'm capable of being a functional human being without them.

By the way, you know what's a fun trick to play on your patients if you're an eye doctor? Give them eye drops that make it really difficult for them to read, and then tell them they can have a discount on their eyewear if they write a check. Ha!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Honestly, I Still Got Nothing.

Oh, right, it's September. I was going to write intelligent and substantial blog posts in September.

So, uh... What should I talk about, then?