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"Pain and loss define us as much as happiness or love. Whether it’s a world or a relationship…
Everything has its time and everything ends."

Sarah Jane Smith - Doctor Who: Series 2 - School Reunion

R.I.P. Elisabeth Sladen

There are worse eulogies.

The really sad thing: there's no one at my office who has the first clue who she was.

Dreamwidth

Apr. 7th, 2011 02:55 pm
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I feel very out-of-it for not knowing the recent outages were DDoS attacks out of Russia.  I'm certainly glad they're quieting down.

Nonetheless, I've finally made the jump to Dreamwidth (same user name) as an emergency backup should LJ ever implode catastrophically.


Anyone else who's already done so, please let me know...I'd love to set thing up as smoothly and seamlessly as possible.  Thanks!

I'm still figuring out things like invite-codes, but if you'd like them, let me know that too...once I have any (or have found them) I'd be more than happy to pass one along.
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On March 8th, 1941, two bombs fell on the Cafe de Paris in London killing 80 people including jazz musician Ken 'Snakehips' Johnson.

I learned of this incident while reading "Soho Moon"  this weekend.  It's the sequel to "Midnight Riot" by Ben Aaronovitch (see previous rave).

Imagine my surprise when I run into the Cafe De Paris bombing a second time this morning while reading "The Attenbury Emeralds", the latest Peter Whimsey book by Jill Patton Walsh (so far, it's not bad.  It's not Sayers, but it's at least 'A' quality fanfic*).

It's not the first time I've run into a name or event in two unrelated books read sequentially, but it always strikes me as incredibly odd.



* The only truly jarring part, for me, was when, as an aside, Harriet protests that she shouldn't be compared to such mystery novelists as Sir Arthur Conan Dolye, Agatha Christie or...Dorothy Sayers.  Since Sayers is best known (mystery-wise) for Lord Peter, it all gets a bit recursive and distracting.


News

Mar. 26th, 2011 02:34 pm
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It makes me vaguely enraged that I get a CNN breaking news update to inform me that former politician Geraldine Ferraro has passed away, but I have to log onto my Friends List to learn that Dianna Wynne Jones passed away.  I haven't read nearly as much of her work as I ought to have, but given how very influential and popular she was, some more official recognition of her passing seems warranted.

::sigh::

I actually turned the computer on to rave about "Midnight Riot" by Ben Aaronovitch, which is about a police constable in London who sees a ghost and is subsequently apprenticed to the only wizard on the London police force.  It's amazing.  Other people have talked about the spirits of the River Thames (which are very cool), but my favorite part was the fact that the main character is cunning.  He's not scientist, but he's got a rationalist background and so he tries to puzzle things out.  Magic interferes with electronics, so he takes a bunch of old electronic calculators, lays them out in a line and casts a spell to see how far the techno-scrambling effect goes.  He's not codifying magic (Newton did that), but he is trying to figure it out from a 21st century perspective.  Harry Dresden tells you how magic works, Peter Grant is trying to tell himself how it works.  The difference is very intriguing.  It's not often I want to immediately go out and buy a book that I just finished reading from the library, but this is a series I want to commit to early.  The fact that there's already a sequel out: "Moon over Soho" is just a bonus.

I should also mention that the writing is very _very_ droll.  If you like that sort of thing, it'll hook you within the first page.  Otherwise, YMMV.
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This is just cool.  The folks at LibraryThing (which is amazing cool) has put together a catalog of all the books on the International Space Station (there are apparently around 100).  I share a quarter of the titles.  David Weber and Lois Bujold are both quite popular.

http://www.librarything.com/profile/IntlSpaceStation


In other news, they've also got catalogs of the libraries of many historical figures, from Jefferson to Melville to (I believe) Tupac.

The fact that they're a really nifty place to catalog your _own_ books is almost just a friendly little bonus.

Placebos

Jan. 18th, 2011 06:50 pm
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Ben Goldacre writes the "Bad Science" column for The Guardian.  Watch him give a 15 minute lecture on the placebo effect in 5 minutes.  Hyperactive and educational (and somewhat profane right at the beginning and end)!


The mini-lecture really got me thinking this afternoon.  Can we test the placebo effect in other animals?  I had this grand vision of giving rats flavored caffeine pills...and then giving them flavored sugar pills and seeing if they still got hyper...but then The Wife crushed my dreams of a Nobel by pointing out that this would be more of a conditioned response and that I was basically recapitulating Pavlov. (Thanks, Wife.)

But I thought on!  What sort of non-humans can we explain medicine to directly?  Bring on the Apes!  Someone needs to recruit an enterprising Zoo Vet and some chimps that have learned sign language.  It'd be brilliant!

...and in the mean time, as a more practical research path let's look at a bridge between human and animal: anyone know if post-verbal toddlers are susceptible to the placebo effect (since they are effectively the same mental age as most great apes)?  What's the cut-in point?  When to sugar pills take effect?  And is it a gradual thing?  Sure, you kiss boo-boos to make them feel better pretty early on, but what about a sugar pill that did other things?  Could you induce a psychosomatic rash with words alone on most 5 year-olds?  6 year olds?  Inquiring minds want to know!!
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I don't think this article can be distributed far enough.  It's got me looking at the whole Westboro Baptist Church phenomenon in a new light.  They're still slime, but no longer slime worth getting riled up about (since that's what they want):

Fred Phelps is a Con Man: Why the Westboro Baptist Church is a Scam
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I'm was the middle of watching the latest episode of 'Smallville' when a thought struck me (don't look at me like that, it's the last season!  The only other one I watched was the first...it seemed symmetrical!).  When are superheroes going to stop re-hashing McCarthyism?  

If that trope was a dead horse, it'd be pulped by now.  Every single team/universe, either in comics or on TV has, at one point or another, been attacked by a hysterical populace/media/government as a "Hidden Menace".  Occasionally X-Men delves deeper into racism/xenophobia, since some mutants are visible, but superheroes?...they look like everyone else (but dangerous).

The irony of this reverse-McCarthyism trope can be seen if you replace "Superhero" with "Commie".  "There are hidden Commies out there, superior human beings who are needlessly persecuted as they work for the betterment of humanity."  If McCarthyism is soooo bad (and, mind you, I'm not saying it wasn't) then the people it opposes must be really swell folks indeed!

...kinda makes you wonder if some sort of Soviet propaganda meme has been tireless churning away beneath the surface long after its instigators faded away.  Did Stan Lee ever visit Russia? :-P

Oy

Nov. 3rd, 2010 08:40 am
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Just what I needed: another layer of political anxiety to slather on over all my other anxieties.

This is the last time I allow myself to believe that a lack of cell-phone polling will save us.  I had mentally prepared for a loss of 30-40 nationwide.  60+ >> 30.

*sigh*

At least we can _probably_ look forward to a presidential stomping in 2012.  And if anyone runs against Palin in the primaries, well...that ought to be _mighty_ entertaining...

...but not substantive or useful.

Cryoburn

Oct. 29th, 2010 07:56 am
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What would it look like if a big-name author wrote fanfiction in her own universe?

...read the epilogue to 'Cryoburn' and find out.  5 drabbles, 5 POVs, 1 subject.


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Just revisited the first two episodes of Inspector Gadget via Hulu.  It's been a long time.  While watching I was struck by a theory regarding the Inspector's ineptness:

Running the the myriad cybernetic implants and prosthetics requires so much brain power that it has impaired his cognitive function.  It can be hard enough coordinating two arms and two legs...now add several more arms, a helicopter, roller skates, a mobile phone, automatic binoculars, a laser torch, etc. etc. etc...there's only so much cerebral material to go around, and each limb requires a share (their occasional malfuction suggests that there aren't _enough_ shares to go around).

Probably, the Inspector was actually a brilliant man before the operation (a fact he dimly remembers) and his brilliance is the only reason he's still able to walk and breathe at the same time.

...and that's probably enough thought given to an 80s cartoon show.  Other than to mention that Penny's computer book seems incredibly prescient...if somewhat bulky.
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The Wife's watching "Ferris Bueller's Day Off".  It's a favorite.  Given the recent wave of nostalgia film & TV are currently riding, we began to wonder when they'll remake it...or even if they could.  That's when it hit me.

Matthew Broderick is 48.  In 20 years time, they'll make a sequel.  Beuller, 70+ and in a nursing home will sneak out for one last day of freedom...with his buddy (who he's liberated from the Alzheimer's ward).

It's a little uncanny how quickly the picture assembles itself in your mind from such a brief & simple concept.  Almost writes itself, doesn't it? :-)
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It's like a vid homage to "The Muppet Show" except the title of the song is actually "Everything is Better With Muppets!"  Once again, the line blurs.


Books!

Sep. 18th, 2010 05:14 pm
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Between currently checked out library books, books I've recently purchased and books I've taken off the shelves and put in a stack because I feel like it's time I read them again, I've got 52 volumes at my bedside (I've dug out a small bookcase for them).  Can we please pause the world until the end of October so I can catch up?

I want to post about books, but I never seem to have either A) the time or B) the insight.  You can only use the phrase "that was really neat" so many times in a row before it begins to pall.  I will say this though: having just read Seanan McGuire's lastest Toby Daye book and re-read the first half of Elizabeth Bear's Elizabethean Promethean Age duology ('Ink & Steel'), I'd really love to see what the Fae would look like if those two authors collaborated.  Their takes aren't identical, but similar enough for some really groovy synergy, I think (and yes, 'groovy' is a technical term).

...of course I think lots of author collaborations would be groovy...Bear/McGuire is just realistically so (for a given value of realistic).
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As a anniversary present, my wife has gotten me a 23" monitor.  It is huuuuuge.  I love it.

However...

Some webpages resize themselves, but my friends page doesn't.  So every entry is 3 lines long, and when I say long, I mean looooooong.  I miss paragraphs.

I've thrown myself to the mercy of the LJ support team and submitted a request, but if anyone happens to know a way, just off the top of their head, to resize things/ increase the margin/etc. I'd be very grateful.
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Just finished enjoying the hell out of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. 

The most amusing thing, though, was then I had an epiphany halfway through the movie: it would actually be possible to film 'War for the Oaks' by Emma Bull.  I have an awful time visualizing (audiolyzing?) music in novels, so this may just have been a reflection of that, but if someone announced they were actually doing it, I'd now feel more confident about the whole endeavour.
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Peter Sagal is the host of NPR's 'Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me', which is a very funny quiz-show about the last-week's news.  He was invited to perform at the latest wootstock concert, a celebration of Geek Culture hosted(?) by Wil Wheaton, Adam Savage (of Mythbusters) and others.  It's a Nerd Variety show.

This is a recording of Mr. Sagal's performance: a meditation on minion-hood entitled "I, Henchman."  There are shades of the Venture Brothers in there, but only because they're each tapping the same post-modern vein.  Hysterical and artistic, it's worth 15 minutes of your time.

http://petersagal.com/wordpress/?p=289

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It's amazing what sticks with you, and why, and when.

Last two days I've had a song stuck in my head from Sesame Street...a song I have not heard in at  _least_ 20 years, and one I only half-way remembered.  I don't know where the earworm came from, but to exorcise it, I finally found the damn thing on YouTube.  It's just as catchy and clever as I half-remembered it and so now I share it with you.


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1) Watched the first season of Slings&Arrows last week.  Why did nobody _tell_ about this show?!? (Well, ok, people did, so to speak.  I'd never had heard of it were it not for LiveJournal).  Heartbreakingly hilarious and full of everything I love and hate about theater all wrapped up together.  Anyone with the _slightest_ fondness for Shakespeare needs to watch this post haste.  It'll be two weeks until the 2nd season is available at the library.  That's three weeks too long.

2) For unrelated reasons, found myself reading 'Gaudy Nights' again.  I think this makes the third (possibly fourth) go-around.  As I was wrapping it up, I was struck by an epiphany.  While Ian Carmichael remains my canonical Wimsey, I found myself daydreaming of a re-make.  Doing so: I discovered that there is only one current actor who could possibly play the part.  I came upon him thusly:

A) He can play a foppish, cheerily gad-about British aristocratic buffon with the best of them.  In fact, his performance (both of them: two different characters) was well-nigh archetypal.

B) He can also play a bitingly witty, exceedingly insightful investigator; wounded, driven & cyncial.

In short, the only actor who could convincingly portray Lord Peter Wimsey on today's screen is Hugh Laurie: the man who is both Bertie Wooster and Dr. Gregory House.

Because really: isn't Wimsey almost a perfect hybrid of the two (in terms of characteristics, if not construction)?

The defense rests.
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3 seasons in 3 days and I am blown away.

I'd seen the pilot and one other episode back when it first aired, and it seemed nice enough, but I never quite got into it.  I'm actually glad of that, because seeing the finished product as a unitary whole was extremely satisfying.  It had some narrative heft to it that most cartoons lack...without going into the overblown angst and sturm-und-drang of some "adult" anime.

Also...once she gets going, Katara kicks ASS!  Her fight scenes were always my favorite.

I really wish I could be more coherent, but I'm on a bit of an Avatar overload right now.  I can say that, when I first saw the trailers for the live-action movie, I thought they looked promising...but having seen then entire series now, I cannot imagine how a movie, or even a series of movies, could do it justice.
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