Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Sneak Peek: The first three chapters of Shadow of the Giant are available over at Hatrack.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

To Young For Nostalgia: So EGM let a bunch of kids play some old video games. See what they said at Child's Play and Child's Play II.

Some of my favorite bits:

On Pong:

Kirk: I'm sure when this came out, it was better than whatever else was out. Want to play chess with me, son? No way, Dad.
Brian: I want to play Pong!
Tim: Oh, I'm starting to suck. John, you drained my skill.
John: Yes, I used a power-up.
Tim: What? There's no power-ups in Pong. The concept of a power-up hadn't been invented yet.

On Star Wars:

EGM: Do you feel like you're in the middle of the Star Wars universe right now?
Everybody: No.
Parker: It feels like we're in some barely 3D universe.
Bobby: Maybe it feels like we're in the Star Wars universe where you can't see that well.
Dillon: Go up, go down, go up, go down. [The X-Wing blows up.]
Rachel: And be dead
EGM: What do those TIE Fighters look like?
Anthony: Stars.
Garret: Fireworks.
Bobby: Fireballs.
Parker: Psychadelic snowflakes.
Dillon: It's snowing up.
Rachel: This looks like a game out of Willy Wonka or something.
Bobby: It's like, "I'm Willy Wonka. I've created a new Star Wars."
EGM: Are they scary?
Anthony: No. It feels like they're trying to give me flowers.
Dillon: But flowers that you're allergic to, so you're trying to blow them up.
EGM: Do you feel like you're using the force?
Dillon: No.
Garret: We're not using the Force right now. I just crashed. I feel like my grampa.
Parker: It looks like they didn't finish the game.
Dillon: It looks like [the TIE fighters] are made out of little sticks. If they made a game like this now, someone would definitely get fired.

Clarke: Arthur C Clarke has posted briefly regarding the tsunamis from his home in Sri Lanka, and promises more.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Like Hotcakes: Also on Sci-fi wire, we learn that Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince is already a bestseller.

Color me not suprised.

There It Goes Again: Amazing Stories is fast becoming the Sci-Fi publication equivalent of bungee jumping. Looks like it's about to go on hiatus.

Guess Who's Back: A big thank you to the folks at Angelfire, for bringing back my other, more popular website.

Speaking of which, I will also be launching a second blog on January 1st. You'll see the gist of it when it opens up on Saturday, but suffice it to say it's a little more ambitious than this one.

I also hope to get some things going on

All in all, it should be an interesting year.

Christmas Presents: Well, I think my daughters now officially have more Little People stuff than the kids of the CEOs of Fisher Price.

For books, I got Alton Brown's I'm Just Here For More Food and Glorious Accidents.


Not only that, but the best part is you can skip to whatever scene you want. I mean, seriously, I love this movie, but I think its running time is measured in the same units they use to track astrological phenomena. Civilizations rose and fell during its premiere in Hollywood. If I could get my girls into it, my wife could have a few weeks to herself while it was on.

I also got a nice coat, a nice shirt, and a few episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show on DVD.

I did not, however, get the two must-have PDF files everybody's been raving about--Just in Time: Sony Talks About PSP and No PSP for the Holidays: Sony Delays the PSP Launch in North America. Those price tags may seem a little steep, but the reviewers seem to think they're well worth it.

But I hope everybody's Christmas was as merry as mine.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

That Said: Isn't it ridiculous the way that sexual gestures and references that would constitute junior-high level immaturity if you saw somebody do them at work are considered "witty" when done in the "respectable theatre?"

"Billy, don't say those things," said the English teacher. "They're inappropriate for the classroom. Now, let me explain the dirty joke Shakespeare is telling here."

To See The Face Of God: I saw Les Misérables last night at the Pantages in Hollywood, a fantastic Christmas present from my parents.

I'd seen the play once before, and have read the book--the big book, the 1500 page one, not the abridged version.

Converting a book that long into a play--even a three hour play--is a bit of a task. Even harder is converting it into a musical. Musical numbers are called "Show Stoppers" for a reason; they generally stop the action cold as the characters sing about whatever situation they've just found themselves in. Creating interesting and beautiful music that actually moves the story forward is hard. Moving forward though that much plot is downright miraculous.

Or is it? Hugo's book is definitely abridgeable. Hugo is the epitome of "Show, Don't Tell." Rather than just telling us "The priest was a kindly man," Hugo spends the first hundred pages of the book telling us about the priest's exploits, to the point where the uninitiated may be disoriented by the book's shift in viewpoint character after so many chapters have gone by.

A chapter goes to chronicleing an entire battle, solely so we can see a man picking pockets at the end. A chapter goes to the history of the Paris sewers, so that we can understand that carrying a nearly dead man through them is probably really, really gross.

What's left when all this is brushed aside is extremely sentimental and moral fiction. Hugo creates genuine moral dilemmas for his characters--does Valjean save the man who is to be convicted in his name? Or does he keep the promise he made to save an orphaned child? If he turns himself in, the promise will be unfulfilled and he will leave all of the people he employs jobless and destitute. But he will have to live with the knowledge another is suffering in his name.

The story is about selflessness and sacrifice, of giving when there's no chance of reward, even giving your life for a cause you believe in despite the futility of your gesture.

That's an oversimplification, yes. The play also says a lot about government and religion and personal responsibility and economics and justice and mercy. But I think it's the message of sacrifice that resonates the most with me.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

An Open Letter:

Dear Father Time:

How's it going? I know it's been a while since I've written, but I got a little sore when you didn't answer my phone calls. I still believe you could have made that phone booth go back in time if you had really, really wanted to, but I understand you have your reasons why you wouldn't do it. If you change your mind, there are still a few phone booths around.

That's not what I'm writing about, though.

What I'm writing about is Christmas. It's like, this weekend. And I know, a whole bunch of people (especially kids!) are really excited about it and looking forward to it, but you know what?

It's just not going to work for me. Any chance of bumping it back a bit? Like maybe next Wednesday? I'm sure the kids would understand, especially if we didn't call it a "delay" but if we called the extra days "bonus days." I've learned, in business, that if you put a positive spin on things people sometimes don't notice if they're bad!

Please reply to this quickly.

And please, don't give me that lame excuse that you don't have the time. If anybody has the time, you do.

Thanks a lot,


PS If you can't find a phone booth, a Delorean would be even better. Maybe you and Santa could get together and hook me up. He can tell you how good I've been.

Although I don't really know if you care about that sort of thing.

Monday, December 20, 2004

What To Get: Dave Barry's annual Gift Guide is up.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Weird Laws: Somebody said they'd heard it was illegal to own a dog and a cat in Provo, UT. As in, you could have three or four dogs or three or four cats, but no mix thereof.

Apparently, this was true, but it's now being changed.

While looking, I found this other website: Dumb Laws

Some of the stuff in it's pretty crazy. In Riverside, CA, where I work, "One may not carry a lunch down the street between 11 and 1 o'clock." In Florida, "You are not allowed to break more than three dishes per day, or chip the edges of more than four cups and/or saucers."

Some are clearly left over relics of bygone eras. In Redlands, CA, for example, it says, "Motor vehicles may not drive on city streets unless a man with a lantern is walking ahead of it."

However, while some posts contain links to the original laws, not all do. Since there is no source attribution at all, I'm left wondering about the veracity of laws like San Francisco's alleged law, "Persons classified as "ugly" may not walk down any street."

And on many of the laws that do contain text, a quick reading of the law lets the air out of the strangeness. For example, it says that in Fresno, CA: "Permanent markers may not be sold in the city limits." Sounds nutty, right?

Well, the actual law reads: "It shall be unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation doing business within the City of Fresno to store, stock, keep or display for sale or transfer any aerosol spray paint container, or any indelible ink marker pen . . . . in an area other than a place that is locked and secure or is otherwise made unavailable to the public and which is accessible only to employees of such businesses."

Slightly different than what the blurb asserted.

So who knows whether Los Angeles, CA could really arrest you for hunting moths under a streetlight or crying on the witness stand? Who knows if the Chico, CA town council really thought a $500 fine was the appropriate punishment for detonating a nuclear device within the city limits?

I don't.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Voyage of Discovery I gave the speech to introduce next year's theme at our region's Christmas Party/Awards banquet tonight. They'd adopted a space theme before I came to the region, with stores being called "Starships" and managers being called "Captains." Area Management are called "Admirals."

Two years ago, the theme was "Reach For The Stars." This past year, it's been "Reach Beyond The Stars." For next year, our theme is going to be "Voyage of Discovery." As in, now that we're beyond the stars, let's see what we discover while we're here.

For my speech, I outlined four ways discoveries can be made, and gave four examples to go with them.

Exploration The most famous example of discovery is Christopher Columbus. Not so famous is the reason why most nations were reluctant to fund his voyage. It wasn't because they were backwards and thought the world was flat. It was because they had good mathematicians around who knew his estimates for the size of the Earth were too small. In fact, even the mathematicians had the Earth too small! Columbus was just wrong.

However, he was still determined to make the journey. And while he didn't come back with the tea and spice and silks he'd set out to find, he still came back with chocolate and coffee and tobacco and gold. The point was he explored, and in exploring, he discovered.

Inspiration The greatest scientific discoveries of the last century were not made in a lab. Many of them were done by a very smart man sitting on a park bench, and were done entirely in his head. Albert Einstein's thought experiments, as he pondered questions like, "What would happen as I get close to the speed of light?" he was able to get his mind around the very interesting answers he found. Inspiration comes as an answer to deep thinking and pondering.

Observation Nearly everybody knows the story of penicillin. Sir Alexander Fleming found a bit of mold had made its way into one of his Petri dishes containing bacteria. Rather than throwing it out, like you or I would have done, he sat back and observed the results. When he saw the mold killing the bacteria, he set about figuring out what the chemical that had killed the bacteria.

What not as many people know is why he was so quick to observe this was that he'd had a bit of luck with a Petri dish a few years before. That time, believe it or not, he had sneezed, and a little bit of mucus had made it into the Petri dish. A few days later, he noticed the bacteria around the mucus had been destroyed. He discovered lysozyme, a lesser known antibiotic, was a chemical in the mucus.

So by observation, we can discover solutions and answers in places we wouldn't have thought they would be.

Perspiration Thomas Edison is known for this one. He didn't get to the wrong place--he set out to make a light bulb, and he knew it should work, so he kept right on going until he found the perfect filament.

But he also knew the value of hard work, no matter what the results. He once said, "Just because something doesn't do what you wanted it to do doesn't mean it's worthless."

Hard work is bound to get you something you didn't have before, and you'll be better off for it.

More Than Meets The Eye: Interview with the producer of the Transformers live action movie up here.

From Mr. Willy Wonka: If you haven't seen the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory trailer, or if you still aren't conviced that Tim Burton is out of his gourd, click here.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Geeky Stuff: It's been confirmed all over the internet that Orson Scott Card will be doing a 6 issue mini series for Marvel Comics featuring Ultimate Iron Man.

Not quite sure how I feel about this one yet. It's not quite the same level of excitement as when H*R and TMBG hooked up.

Iron Man never really set my world on fire. My brooding, alcholic superhero with no powers of choice was Moon Knight.

Stop laughing, I'm serious.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Blogging: You know, there's nights I wonder what the heck I'm really blogging about, anyway.

I look at other blogs which, although they do not have a written agenda, still follow a cohesive pattern in the majority of their posts--whether that's promoting a certain agenda or proving info on a certain topic--simply because their owner's personal interests focus so strongly on one cohesive line of conversation.

This blog contains nothing of the sort. Yeah, I blog about specific topics a lot. Cooking, writing, magic, finance, diet, and politics all pop up pretty regularly. The problem is that while it may be regularly it's not often. Anybody interested in what I have to say about, say, magic, would get sick of waiting for me to say something else about it to bother to keep checking back.

Blogshares (A site which I still do not understand) has me listed as "satire." I like that label, but have a couple problems with it, not the least of which is that any time I think of something funny, I feel guilty about putting it here instead of over at my other, pitifully neglected humor site.

I don't really consider myself a "life blogger" although on occasion, I'll post something like this, that's just my random thoughts on no particular topic, or a picture or two of my girls if they're too cute to pass up. Usually, if I find myself mentally composing a blog post in my head, it's something borderline preachy.

I realize that I'd probably get bookmarked more and get more hits if I actually pinned down one or two coherent topics and stuck with them, or if, perhaps even better, I put more thought into making each blog post I made entertaining and coherent rather than just spouting whatever sprung into my mind. Then I might have someone reading this blog besides just people who know me and are trying to avoid an awkward moment where I reference something I blogged about and they have no idea what I'm talking about.

Or, for that matter, more people who do know me might find the prospect of reading the blog less repulsive than the prospect of the awkward situation.

So will I change anything based on these thoughts? Who knows. But aren't my daughters cute?

Endangered Good Eats: In case you're wondering, pirarucu is delicious.

I would recommend, though, that if you have a choice you go with the tucunaré--peacock bass. Fantastic fish, when it's fresh.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Obscure Movie Review Of The Day: Shaolin Soccer

Imagine if Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Matrix got together with The Bad News Bears or maybe The Big Green and spawned a film offspring, with a tiny bit of Naked Gun's genes thrown in as seasoning.

You'd have Shaolin Soccer, a Hong Kong action comedy about a group of Shaolin Monks who have had trouble adapting their Kung Fu skills to the real world, until they come across Golden Leg, a former soccer star who's now a bum after having his life ruined by the sadistic coach of Team Evil.

Perhaps no scene sums up this movie better than the one that comes early on in the picture--after a bystander proclaims that sometimes, "I just have to sing, other wise I'll explode!" the camera zooms in to show a raging fire in his pupil.

Suddenly, we zoom in on a half dozen pupils, and find the same fire in a half dozen eyes.

And just as suddenly, all half-dozen people launch into a dance number to a rousing version of "Celebrate!"

The entire film is such a blend of intense special effects used to pull of goofy gags. Surprisingly, while much of the film's humor is goofy, they still give the audience credit for intelligence. For example, one of the teams they play in the "Super Cup" tournament is clearly made up of women disguised as men in order to play. However, this is never once referenced or pointed out--it's left to the audience to figure out what these girls are doing and why.

I highly recommend it to any fans of goofy comedies, Matrix-style special effects, or Hong Kong comedies.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Speaking of Money: I also recommend Dave Ramsey for good, basic, nuts and bolts financial stuff. His radio show started up a few weeks back here in town, and since I've read good chunks of his books standing in the Business/Finance section of Barnes and Noble.

His Baby Steps are as good (and sane) a place as any to start a financial turn around.

Isn't Technology Wonderful: Well, I just got 52 emails from late September to mid-October that I hadn't seen before. Was there some kind of two month long internet traffic jam?

Robert Allen: While I can't recommend the whole book, since I haven't finished it yet, I do recommend the first chapter of Multiple Streams of Income. While 20% interest does sound awful high (He made his first fortune off 70's real estate jumps) the information is still sound (and the 70's real estate jumps are back).

Saturday, December 11, 2004

From The "Everything's Coming To DVD Eventually" Department: ::coughs::

I Feel Good: James Brown has been diagnosed with cancer. He says he can beat it, and I believe him. If he can survive appearing in The Tuxedo, he can survive anything.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Tip O' The Day: Took my daughters to see the fireworks at Disneyland last night (We sat in the "O" in "CALIFORNIA," which worked out fine) and since I got there a little early I took my daughters to look at Christmas lights and managed to get myself lost (I knew there were problems when I saw the sign that said "Coastal Access --->").

However, it occurred to me there's a free map in every major grocery store--it's in the Apartment Guide. My wife grabbed one from a Ralphs and we were right back on track.

And I have been assured the name of the street we ended up on (Bolsa Chica) means "Bag Lady."

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Scared Ya, Didn't I?: Good article today in Parade Magazine about how a lot of the hype about everything that's about to kill us is just that--hype.

Ironically, it's written by Michael Crichton, who has made his living the last few years off of novels like Jurassic Park and Prey, which exploit the same fears.

So if he's able to make a fast buck off your fears, doesn't it make sense the media would be able to as well?

Of course it does. And we all know this, up there in our grey matter. But with some of the dangers being real--terrorism, for one--it becomes harder and harder to sort out the genuine from the artificially inflated.

So go have a look at why killer bees, saccharine, and other thing aren't as bad as you think.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Burnin' Nation: You've surely heard about the controversy surrounding Bush's new appointment.

The question on everybody's mind is, why didn't Bush just nominate Trogdor? Because anybody can smite Kerrek, but nobody can kill Trogdor.

And, since Kerrek, like Bush, is a teetotaler, I'm sure the late-night crowd will soon be painting him as a wild, raucous partier.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

An Idea To Steal: In science fiction, there's a sub-genre called steampunk. The premise of it is, what if technology had advanced without electricity. What if computers were mechanical devices, rather than electrical devices? What modern technologies could have been constructed by alternate, more primitive means?

So I've invented a new sub-genre. I'm calling it greasepunk. What if modern technology had been invented using 1950's technology? Instead of your computer having a CD-rom drive, there would be a really big phonograph hooked up to it, sort of like the tape player "drives" on the old Commodores. Home VCRs would be big reel to reel VTR's.

And the internet would be a reference librarian with really, really fast fingers. Although it would sometimes take them longer to get pictures.

Helping With Your Holiday Shopping: So, you still haven't found just the right gift for that special somebody? Well, customized classics is here to help.

Need something for your significant other? How about a copy of Romeo and Juliet, with your names in the place of the fate-crossed lovers? Now I know what you're thinking--didn't the bard off them both in the end? Not to worry! There's an optional additional scene where, I quote, "It turns out the apothecary's poison didn't work and Romeo survives, and Juliet's stabbing of herself merely made her pass out."

Need something for your boss? How about a copy of A Christmas Carol with their name in the place of Ebenezer Scrooge, and your family in for the Cratchits? Pick which of your kids gets to potentially die to eek a little sympathy--and maybe a raise!--out of your employer.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Coolest Tradition Ever: Alright, the family has given me permission to disclose the coolest Thanksgiving tradition ever. This picture pretty much sums it up.

Yup. That's a pumpkin. By Thanksgiving, Halloween pumpkins are just perfect for letting into with a baseball bat. And you can get 'em dirt cheap the day after Halloween.