Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Three Pointless Quizzes

A friend sent me a slew of quizzes. Here are my various and sundry results.

In the "Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?" quiz, I am Galadriel. Not my top choice, but okay. (My friend was Princess Leia.)

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

Possessing a rare combination of wisdom and humility, while serenely dominating your environment you selflessly use your powers to care for others.

Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.

Galadriel is a character in the Middle-Earth universe. You can read more about her at the Galadriel Worshippers Army.

In the "What Fantasy Character Are You?" quiz, I am a wizard. Good enough. (My friend was a cleric.)

What Fantasy Character Are You?

You are a wizard. You cast spells of force terrifying to behold. You are a seeker of knowledge, and are very learned. You are the consult of the group leader, and you give advice and information to everyone in the party. You are old, ancient, and very wise.
Take this quiz!

And in the "What Hideous Monster are You?" quiz, I am the Big Friendly Giant. Rah! (My friend was the Jabberwocky.)

Big Friendly Giant

You are 20% monstrous and are filled with 5% Evil!

Congrats on being the biggest pussy out of all the monsters. You are
the star of a Roald Dahl book. You befriend Orphans and battle evil
giants. Honestly, what the hell is wrong with you? Seriously, all the
other monsters give you wedgies and swirlies.

Pointless wastes of time, all of them. But fun!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Kannazuki no Miko (final review)

Kannazuki no Miko does get better after that awful first episode. Alternatively, I suppose it’s possible that I developed somewhat of an immunity, but I do think the quality of the story improved.

As it turns out, there are several bishounen, which would seem to negate my original impression of this being just a straight man’s fantasy show. Pretty boys in anime are generally intended to appeal to straight women, so they really did try to create a show with broad appeal. Sometimes it comes across as a bunch of random stuff thrown in a blender, but I’ve seen worse attempts.

However, there are several things about the show I dislike, aside from those I already mentioned in my review of the first episode and the unforgivable offense I mention below. Some of the villains are almost indescribably annoying, especially the lolicon catgirl nurse.

But still, by the second DVD the show had gotten good enough that I found myself actually looking forward to the next episode. Then at the end of the second DVD the plot turned in a direction that pissed me off so very much that I nearly quit watching.

Note to writers: if you plan on attempting to redeem a character who goes evil in the middle of your plot, do not have that character rape anyone, especially not someone s/he professes to love. Even if the victim does (astonishingly) forgive that character, many members of the audience will not, no matter what happens for the rest of the plot.

I forced myself to go on after that, grumbling and muttering my way though the last DVD, frustrated and annoyed and generally discomfited. But by the last two episodes (which I actually broke my one-episode-per-sitting rule and watched together), they pulled off a much better ending than I had expected. Mind you, that doesn’t mean it was a great or completely satisfying ending, but it was as good of an ending as could be hoped for that plot. I won’t go into details, because I wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone who does plan to watch it.

The better qualities of Kannazuki no Miko remind me variously of Pretear, Fruits Basket, and Gundam SEED. If you like those kinds of shows, then there is a chance you might like this one, although I make no promises. Poor writing and a choppy, uneven plot lower its caliber considerably. Overall, this is not a great show, nor even a good show. But it isn’t completely awful either. I can't really recommend it, but your mileage may vary.

But I still like the techno dance themes and battle music.

Sunday, February 25, 2007


Yesterday afternoon, I went out with a couple of friends. I paid close attention to the weather reports and planned on getting home before the storm rolled in. I ended up timing it pretty well, actually. When I headed home, it was raining and the streets were just wet. No problem. About halfway home, ice pellets outnumbered raindrops, but the streets were still fine. About three-quarters of the way home, the streets had grown crunchy with ice, and a translucent white crust covered the grass. By the time I pulled into my parking space, the roads were definitely slick, and I had a treacherous walk up the hill to my apartment complex. I’m certainly glad I wasn’t out any later, but it was fascinating to observe how very quickly this transformation took place.

After getting that initial layer of ice over everything, the weather turned to actual snow. For a while, it was the sticky kind, which makes such a splendid coating on trees and things. I wish I had followed my impulse to go out and take pictures around midnight, because that is when the trees were at their most beautiful, with thick white sheathes on every branch, ghostly in the glow of the streetlight and the haze of the blizzard.

But no, I figured the trees would still be pretty in the morning. And they are still quite lovely, but the high winds that tore through the dark hours knocked off a good deal of the thickness. Here is a shot from this morning, shortly after 7:00 am.

It’s a good day to hole up at home with a steamy cup of cocoa.

Friday, February 23, 2007

One Day Mini-Vacation

I took a day of vacation from work today just because I wanted to enjoy the nice weather before the blizzard that every weathercaster is predicting arrives. My first impulse was to do something unusual, to make it a real vacation. So I decided to go to a museum I’ve never been to, and I chose the Great Plains Black History Museum. A web guide to Omaha attractions listed their hours as Monday through Friday, 10 am to 2 pm. So I went at about 10:40 am. The sign posted by their door said their hours were 8 am to 5 pm--even better--however, the door was closed and locked, and no one responded to my knocking.

So, with my plans blown away, I just went to the zoo. Not exactly rare or unusual fare for me, but that’s fine. I avoided most of the buildings, because I wanted to enjoy the pleasant, chilly weather. Unfortunately, a great many of the animals were off exhibit, so I didn’t see much. However, it was all made worthwhile by the African hunting dogs, which are apparently new, being in the same enclosure where the maned wolf used to be.

I looked down into the pen and saw what I at first though were two half-grown puppies snuggled up against their mother. When one of them stretched and yawned, I saw another head underneath, and I realized that it was actually a jumbled heap of four puppies. Mother was curled up in a ball sleeping by herself a few feet away.

These are beautiful dogs with large, round ears. Their widely varied markings of black, white, and brown formed spots, stripes, speckles, and flowing, blooming, irregular shapes I don’t have names for. The patterns reminded me a bit of Mexican lace agate, and each animal’s markings were unique.

One of the pups grew restless and moved out of the pile. The other three snuggled up together again, like magnets snapping together. The odd pup out sat near his siblings for a while, then decided he wanted back in. So he stood on top of the others until they shifted to his satisfaction, then nestled himself into the hole that opened. So adorable! And me without my camera!

The joy of watching the puppies cuddle with one another was tempered by some of the other animals’ neuroses, which were displayed full force today. The black-footed cat is one of my favorites, but she seems to have developed an obsessive-compulsive streak. She paced in a very regular triangular pattern. After a couple of circuits, I noticed that she she seemed to always walk in exactly the same places. To check, I picked a spot and watched her footfalls carefully, counting the steps, and discovered that she was always stepping up to the ledge in exactly the same spot and taking the exact same six steps before turning left. That was kind of sad. It got sadder at the main cat complex, where the black jaguar sat chewing the fur off the tip of his tail.

Feeling a bit melancholy, I left the zoo. It was past lunch time, so I was hungry. I thought about going to one of my usual places, since I didn’t feel like coming home and cooking, then I decided to revert to my original plan of going somewhere out of my Habitrail. I remembered over fifteen years ago noticing a place in South Omaha called “Burger Lust.” I never went in, but the name always stayed with me. Since I was in the neighborhood (it’s not far from the zoo), I decided to take a chance.

The full name turns out to be Louie M’s Burger Lust. And it is a bona fide vintage diner. I’ve gotten so used to eating at places like Red Robin that I’d forgotten what a diner was like--not shiny and new, but old and worn down, oozing with character. Green linoleum counter, toadstool seats, faded signs, and mounted fish on the wall--this was small-town Americana in the heart of the old part of Omaha. So I ordered the only truly appropriate meal--burger, fries, and chocolate malt. The fries were nothing special, but the burger was enormous and flavorful, and its uneven edges were a testament to its handmade glory. And the malt was more dessert than beverage, being as thick as soft-serve ice cream (although I know it was normal hard ice cream to start with, because I watched her scoop it out of the tub) and topped with a huge ball of whipped cream and drizzled chocolate syrup. Next time, I’ll skip the fries, but the burger and malt are definitely worth going back for!

I’m still so very full from that gigantic burger that I think my next course of action will be to stretch out on the couch and relax for a while.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Spear-Wielding Chimps

In the news today, I read that some female chimpanzees have been observed making spears out of branches then using them to hunt bush babies. I don't have much to say about it, except "wow," but I thought I'd share. Check it out.

I'm Presto

Which Dungeons & Dragons cartoon character are you?

Which Dungeons and Dragons Cartoon Character Are You?

You are Presto the Magician. You have a magic hat that you can pull almost ANYthing out of...unfortunately, getting what you _want_ is a little tricky
Take this quiz!

Quizilla |

| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

Well, I do actually think that fits me. Friends who are also fans of this show, take the quiz and report back to me. I wonder if we have a full party of adventurers. The friend who sent me the quiz is Hank, so we've got two.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Watch the Arrows

Yesterday, traveling from Omaha to Lincoln on the interstate, in one of the road construction zones, the curve was rimmed by the usual arc of signposts with little arrow signs pointing in the direction of the curve. Except that a couple of the arrows were backwards, as if helpfully directing drivers to the best places to slide off into the ditch.

Mom and I watched several episodes of Monk on DVD. I had not seen the show before, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Being a little obsessive-compulsive myself (although not nearly so much as Mr. Monk), I can really identify with the main character.

We also attended a tuba and flute duet. It seems like an unlikely pairing of instruments, but it was quite enjoyable. All in all, a very nice day.

On the way home in the evening, I had the privilege of seeing the thin sliver of the bright moon just before it sank below the horizon. The sky had not yet reached full darkness, so the dark side of the moon appeared as a deep blue disc nestled in the silver crescent. Beautiful.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Numismatic Joy

Finally, at long last! Today the first of the new presidential series dollar coins has been released! Behold, the new George Washington dollar.

One particularly cool feature of this coin is the text around the edge, something not done on a U.S. coin since 1932.

I cashed a check at my bank and got a $25 roll of the new coins. The only thing I don’t like is how scratched and dinged up they are even in their uncirculated state. I think the mint must toss them about a bit before putting them into rolls, because even after removing the paper very carefully and separating the coins gently, I couldn’t find a truly pristine one for my folder.

But they’re still very cool. I put two in my coin folder--one in the proper George Washington slot, the other in a variation slot to display the reverse. The remaining dollars I shall spend. I enjoy unleashing new coins into the wild, because coins are more fun when they circulate.

P.S.--As I was uploading the pictures for this blog entry, I went back to the other room to put away my camera. There I discovered that my feline miscreant had been so upset about my ignoring him while I photographed the dollars that as soon as I’d turned my back, he’d thrown up on the pile of coins! I am not making this up! (I’d prove it with another picture, except that it’s quite disgusting.) So I will be washing the coins with soap and water before I spend them. Look out! Money laundering!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day Coda

Time from arrival at home until feline destruction of rose? Forty minutes. Actually, I think they exercised admirable restraint.

Nothing left but to dry the surviving petals for potpourri.

(This is why I don’t own a proper vase--there’s no point. The cats will not suffer any flower to exist for long enough.)

Valentine's Day

There’s something wonderful about receiving a rose on Valentine’s Day, even if there is no romance attached. One of my colleagues in another department brought a bunch of roses to work and distributed them randomly throughout the building, cheering many folks in many departments. Just as I was leaving work for the day, he caught me by the door and gave me the second-to-last of the roses. He kept the last one for himself. It really brightened my day.

Of course, when I got home, I accidentally smashed my rose against the doorjamb in my move to block a feline miscreant’s attempt to escape into the forbidden hallway.

(And now the feline miscreant is busy rubbing against the computer, seeing just how much fur he shed into the CD-ROM drive. When he bumps the case just right, the CD tray slides out. He seems to derive great joy from opening it repeatedly and making me reach over to close it again. But I digress.)

Happy Valentine’s Day! And for all my fellow spinsters out there, remember, tomorrow all the chocolate goes on sale!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Kannazuki no Miko (episode 1)

A friend gave me the DVD box set of Kannazuki no Miko, a 12-episode anime series. Some months ago, another friend also recommended this series to me. Before I go on, I must point out that both of these friends--who do not know each other--are unmarried straight men. I do not think this is a coincidence.

I watched the first episode tonight. I should also point out that it is my habit to watch one episode of something on DVD while I eat dinner. On a typical evening, this is all I watch, so the reason I stopped after the first episode had nothing to do with the quality of the show.

However . . .

It starts off with a ton of fanservice. Panty shots, bra shots, dressing, undressing, ad nauseam. I’m sure some people get turned on by this sort of thing. Me? It just makes me laugh. It’s so silly and not even remotely sexy. Excessive fanservice is what made me give up on Najica Blitz Tactics after only one DVD, even though I actually liked the main character.

After a rather slow and lackluster start, KnM breaks loose with a cataclysm in the sky, giant robots, and lots of smash-and-crash. And one long-haired bishounen. What’s he there for? So they can pretend they have something to appeal to straight women? This is otherwise such a straight guy’s fantasy that the pretty man seems incredibly out of place. Maybe he’s lost?

Back to the main characters, the two girls with cut-and-paste personalities. Now, I’m all for lesbian romances (obviously), but they have to be believable. Like in Maria-sama ga Miteru, a wonderfully romantic non-romance. (Yeah, sure, they’re “just friends.” You just keep telling yourself that.) But in KnM, the lukewarm lesbian action is, shall we say, ill-timed. What, you’re going to cop a feel before you give her CPR? What, now you’re going to kiss an unconscious girl while the giant robots are fighting right over your head? Shouldn’t you be running for your lives? Carrying her away from the battlefield? Kiss her later, when you’re both safe and she’s awake, for crying out loud!

Every minute I watched, I kept hoping it would get better. But it kept a-slidin’ down, apparently on the philosophy that one can never have too much cheese on top of scrambled eggs.

I will watch the rest of the show, in my usual single-episode doses. It was a gift, after all. And I suppose it is possible that it might get better.

At least it has a catchy little techno ending theme. Makes me want to dance.

(By the way, if either of the above mentioned friends are reading--you know who you are--please don’t be offended. I still love ya. I just think the show is cheesy.)

Saturday, February 10, 2007

MS Fnd in a Lbry

This morning I read the short story “MS Fnd in a Lbry” by Hal Draper, originally published in Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, December 1961. Apparently it’s quite difficult to find in print, but there is an online copy available at:

The basic premise of the story is that as the body of human knowledge grew exponentially, so did the need to index it. Eventually, it reached the point where education did not teach anyone anything except how to use the indexes to find information. This is already sounding like the present day.

When the indexes became too large and cumbersome, they broke--as all overly-complex things eventually do. And thus, with all information and knowledge effectively lost (although it was stored somewhere--just no one could find it), society collapsed.

The concept, if not the mechanics, was very prophetic. In 1961, before hyperlinks and electronic indexing, the problem was envisioned as the astronomical size of physical indexes, catalogs, and bibliographies. Today, the problem is more related to file types and the inadequacy of keyword searching.

The first plague of the Information Age: file types. I have files on my computer that I can not read. They are stories I wrote with ClarisWorks. ClarisWorks was eventually replaced by AppleWorks, but the current version of AppleWorks can no longer read old ClarisWorks documents. Therefore, these old works of mine are effectively lost. I know someday the .cwk filetype of AppleWorks will be obsolete, but AppleWorks does not handle .rtf (a slightly safer bet for a slightly longer run) with any degree of adequacy. So I need to get MicroSoft Word for Mac. However, this requires me to upgrade to a more recent version of Mac OSX. The most recent version of OSX comes on a DVD-ROM, so in order to upgrade my OS, I would need to buy a DVD drive, as my computer presently only has CD-ROM capabilities. Do you see the dominoes all lined up? But they are expensive dominoes to knock over, and so I am trapped with .cwk, wondering how many times this cycle will repeat and how much of my work will be lost within my lifetime. Hopefully no more than has already been, as I hope I have learned my lesson. However, I am human, and humans fail despite their best intentions.

Knowledge is lost due to obsolete file types or storage media quite frequently. I can not remember the name of the project or where to find information about it (a separate problem of the Information Age, which I’ll come to shortly), but I do remember reading some years ago about a project to record some vast body of knowledge in a very compact space. Within ten years, the technology was so obsolete that no one had the right kind of drives to read the storage medium, much less the software to read the files. This is a central problem facing libraries today. In 100 years, you can open a book, and as long as it hasn’t turned to dust, you can read it. In 100 years, can you absolutely, positively guarantee that you will have the right software to read a .pdf? Will CDs eventually go the way of the floppy disc or the U-Matic tape? (Do you know what a U-Matic is? We have some in my library, but who can view them?)

“Important” information, of course, will be converted to whatever the new format of the day may be. But who decides what is important? How much information will be forever lost, unevaluated?

The second plague of the Information Age: the loss of proper indexing. Library administrators all over the world, especially in the United States, no longer believe that cataloging is relevant or important. They bow before Google and say, “See? The people have spoken. Keyword access is enough.”

Yes, I use Google. I use it a lot. I’ve used it no fewer than five times in the last hour. But it is not always the right tool for the job. Keyword fishing is not very efficient. Cast one out. No good results? Try something else. Still nothing. Hmm, think, think, think, what else might X be called? Do you know every possible synonym for whatever you’re looking for? What about foreign language terms? Don’t you wish keyword searching were coupled with high-quality, well-maintained thesauri? See the above paragraph, where I referred to a project that I did not know the name of. If I knew the right keywords, I could probably find it with Google. But I do not know the right keywords, and so the knowledge is lost to me.

UPDATE! Even as I typed this essay, the word “Domesday” floated to the surface of my mind. Ah, serendipity! The oft unacknowledged friend of all knowledge-seekers! I tried “Domesday” in Google, and found a bunch of stuff on the original Domesday book, but not what I was actually looking for. But Wikipedia--a much more organized, codified tool than Google (although, again, not always exactly the right tool for every job)--did lead me to the BBC Domesday Project.

Because someone put great effort into converting the information into a format readable today, the knowledge on the BBC Project’s laser discs has been preserved. But again, someone had to realize that the knowledge was slipping away and go to the effort to retrieve and reformat it. How much other knowledge has already slipped away?

If this sort of speculation about the future interests you, I also recommend the book Dark Age Ahead by Jane Jacobs (New York: Random House, 2004.) She does not particularly address the issues I’ve discussed here, but she explores many other social and economic houses of cards we have constructed. When we reach the point where we do not realize what we have lost, then we will truly be in a dark age.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Chasing Tiamat

It’s a childhood wish come true! When I was a kid, my absolute favorite Saturday morning cartoon ever was Dungeons & Dragons. I liked the heroes, of course--especially Uni and Sheila. (Rewatching it as an adult, though, Diana is way cooler than Sheila.) But my favorite character of all was a villain--Tiamat the five-headed queen of the dragons. I used to draw her, write stories about her, and dream about her. (She wasn’t evil in my dreams. Just misunderstood. How could anyone that cool be evil? Besides, she helped the heroes at least once.) I always wanted a Tiamat toy, but of course, no such thing existed at the time.

Well, earlier this week I saw a nifty Gargantuan Blue Dragon for sale. They also had a Gargantuan Black Dragon, which led me to wonder if they had made all of the D&D dragons. So I went home and got online, looking for a Chromatic Dragon--what Tiamat was supposed to be, according to my old 4th edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual (c1978). No luck. Then I just searched for Tiamat. Jackpot! I found a fully painted plastic figure called “Aspect of Tiamat” and made a fairly expensive impulse buy.

(Note that, for me, “impulse buy” means buying it the same day I discovered it. I still checked ten online stores, six of which listed the figure as out of stock, and, of the stores remaining, the one with the lowest price had only five left in stock. So maybe it should be called an “obsessive-compulsive slightly-delayed-impulse buy.”)

And now, a momentary pause to give three cheers to the United States Postal Service. I ordered Tiamat late Tuesday evening and chose the slowest, cheapest shipping option available, which happened to be USPS First Class. (Actually, given a couple of lukewarm experiences with UPS and several downright awful experiences with FedEx, USPS is my preferred shipping option anyway. But I digress.) The toy could not possibly have shipped earlier than Wednesday, and it was sitting on my doorstep tonight when I came home from work. Now that’s fast! Forget that “five to seven” days they said to allow. Thanks, USPS! You rock!

So now I have my very own Tiamat. She doesn’t look as cool as she did in the cartoon, but she looks way better than she did in the Monster Manual. I am happy.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Kevin & Kell

I thought I'd share one of of my favorite online comics, for those looking for something to read.

Kevin & Kell is the charming story of a wolf and a rabbit who are married to one another in a world where predators and prey do not normally interact beyond feeding and fleeing. Their children include a rebellious wolf cub resentful of his rabbit step-father, an adopted hedgehog, and a carnivorous baby bunny. Their taboo family seems to invite taboo friendships as well, as animals of all types, from a lesbian rhinoceros to a trans-diet herbivorous wolf in sheep's clothing, find safe haven together.

Sweet and funny, this is a very wholesome comic overall. No nudity, no bad language, nothing I have ever found objectionable. The characters and story are always first and foremost, and most of the social commentary is actually pretty subdued.

The format, art quality, and storytelling style are all very professional, worthy of newspaper syndication, except that it goes one better by having all daily strips in full color as well. And, unlike any other online comic I have ever encountered, the artist has never once missed a day or been late with a new comic.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


I finally saw Dreamgirls tonight. I was not familiar with the Broadway play on which the movie was based, so I didn’t know much going into it except that it was about a group of singers and, well, that it would have lots of music.

And the music was excellent. I anticipate a soundtrack purchase in my near future. Many of the songs had my foot a-tapping. The songs, like the plot, increased in power as the show went on. What started lighthearted and almost fluffy grew into a very strong story. The acting was good all around, and the singing was wonderful.

The story spanned a decade from the late sixties through the early seventies, and the passage of time was shown through the marvelously detailed and meticulously accurate changing costumes, sets, hairstyles, and even the fonts on printed text. Historical events, such as Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream speech and the Detroit riots, further anchored the story in its period. (And bonus for me, who likes to see how stuff works, there was a close-up of a vinyl record being pressed. Neat!)

Beyond the trappings of set and costume, the show was filled with subtle touches. The facial expressions of the nameless, voiceless background characters spoke volumes about the shifting moods and lines of tension. Many plot points were never explicitly stated--a look or a gesture was enough.

Definitely worth your time. I recommend it to just about anyone, unless you hate music or something.