Evil wares

Feb. 3rd, 2009 10:18 am
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (menace)
I had plans for last night. Not especially ambitious ones, but I knew how I wanted to spend the evening. Unfortunately, it turns out that Starr's computer picked up a couple of viruses from somewhere, causing WoW to crash on launch as well as blocking most malware removal sites and large swaths of microsoft.com. I spent about three hours fighting them, getting one virus off the machine and restoring her WoW function, but the "Backdoor" trojan is resisting all attempts to remove it. Grrr.

Slept pretty good last night, but traffic was heck this morning. We had a little light rain, which apparently caused everyone to panic, so I got in a little late. I have no desire to be grumpy all day, though, so I'm looking for some music to cheer me up a bit.

Along those lines, I enjoyed MarsCon's Friday night performance by The Cassettes, so I picked up their latest album - on cassette, of course - which included a card for free digital download. No DRM, either. It's pretty good stuff, and any band that includes a home-made theremin is worth some attention.

I just needed to look up a high voltage traveling arc for another reference. For some reason, this in itself has cheered me up a bit.
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (gaming)
It takes a certain kind of person to play World of Warcraft, yes. It takes another kind to try and figure out the geographical details of the place.

Azeroth's "Google Map" has been assembled at mapwow.com. For most of the game, players have explored two continents on that fantasy world (though at least one more is known to exist), but the actual map scale has never been revealed. Some time ago, I figured that one could record the time it takes to walk between two points on the map, and multiply that by the average walking speed of a hero laden with equipment, and come up with a fair estimate of the scale.

I'm far too lazy to do that, of course, but someone else wasn't, and neither was another person. Turns out that the "continent" of Kalimdor is about 4 miles wide... or around 41 square miles in size. For my Virginian friends, this is vaguely the size of the combined cities of Blacksburg and Christiansburg.

In a related note, this destroys a hypothesis I had made before about the shape of the world of Azeroth. The "world map" seen in the Burning Crusade game expansion must be considered an artistic rather than a faithful representation; and I argued that Azeroth was clearly flat, because there is no difference in the position of shadows between the northernmost and southernmost points of the continent at the same time of day and season. (The Greek Eratosthenes used the shadow trick to figure out the Earth's size in the 3rd century B.C.)

Unfortunately, if Kalimdor is around 10 miles long, then that's not enough distance for the shadow trick, and the question remains unresolved. Oh, well. Perhaps the Gnomes can develop a space vehicle and get some photographic evidence (there is indeed photography in WoW).
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (gaming)
The other day Starr picked up a book for me, one that I've been meaning to read for years: Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World: Science As a Candle In the Dark. I'm enjoying it, but he's preaching to the choir, and I've not yet gained any new insights from the book. On the other hand, I also finally have a copy of [livejournal.com profile] tltrent's In the Serpent's Coils waiting in line, and I'm looking forward to reading that one. In my opinion, "Young Adult" fantasy and science fiction is where much of the good stuff is happening right now. Say what you want about Harry Potter, but Sorcerer's Stone was a better read than many of the transcribed D&D adventures that pass for fantasy novels these days.

Speaking of transcribed D&D, Gary Gygax's recent death caused me to drag out some of the old adventures I'd saved since the mists of First Edition, with an eye to running them again. In particular, I'm looking at the old S-series: "Tomb of Horrors", "White Plume Mountain", and "Expedition to the Barrier Peaks" (a particular favorite).

Now, I know these were convention tournament modules, but I was struck by the lack of role-playing, or even much of a plot besides "collect loot and survive to the end". The adventures are full of unfair puzzles, insta-deaths, and places where the GM will have to do some blatant railroading if the party's not going to wipe (no running back from the graveyard to rez!)

If I were to run them now, and the basic concepts are juicy enough to make the idea interesting, I'd have to do some major re-writing for my audience. I'd want map revisions, monster changes, and some serious story integration. It wouldn't be a trivial task, even discounting the problem that the adventures were designed for experienced First Edition AD&D characters. What game system do I want to use - a D&D version, Earthdawn, Herc & Xena, an alternate-universe Shadowrun? (And in most of those cases, which edition?)

Yeah. This is kinda turning into a campaign, which is too bad; I'm not sure I can spare the time right now, fun as it sounds. The urge to run "Barrier Peaks" near Roswell using the Deadlands setting may have to wait.

Addendum: The sentence "the chest contains 10,000 gold pieces" was obviously written by someone who had never counted out 10,000 quarters, say, and then tried to carry them around for any length of time.
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (cool-future)
First day in two weeks I've felt halfway decent. My sleep was restful, the little headache pulses are gone, and I even had the initiative to get back to walking today. (Only 2/3 of a mile, because it got cold out, and I didn't bring a jacket this morning.)

Tonight I will be catching up on housework and bills, and of course giving my Mom a call to see how she's doing.

Was thinking more about the high-tech Captain Nemo today. If you dropped today's MacBook Pro in his workroom, I suspect that he'd figure out how to turn it on, and even use some of the software if there wasn't a login password. I expect he'd work out what the battery was, and might even be able to recharge it using the technology of his time. I'm sure he could work out the basic concept of the motherboard, and I'll even grant that he could reverse-engineer the simpler peripheral protocols with enough brute force, time, and care.

I'm fairly confident, though, that the LCD screen, integrated circuits, memory, and hard disk would be completely beyond him. At his technology level, any of them would have to be ripped apart and destroyed to achieve even a basic understanding of the principles involved. A magnetic storage medium might be within his imagination, but the ability to build another one just wouldn't exist yet.

(A few of the TNG and DS9 episodes annoyed me in this fashion, showing the heroes taking apart communicators and tricorders with utterly primitive tools. I'm convinced that one couldn't even crack the cases with less than highly specialized tools, and if one did, the contents would be largely integrated into a few non-user-serviceable bits. But that's just me.)

Perhaps Nemo could accomplish much with "black box" parts delivered by a mysterious supplier, much as the scientist-heroes of This Island Earth did. But could our justly-paranoid sea captain trust the source?
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (flying_gif)
T - I - R - E - D.

Went back to Roanoke on Saturday. My mom's doing great: she can move both her leg and arm now, and on Sunday took a few steps (with a great deal of support). I'm told this is still Gold Medal performance, and my optimism was repeatedly fed this weekend. [livejournal.com profile] nanoreid was there for a bit, and I got to say hi to Ginny and Ian as well. Starr bought my mother a knitting loom which can be fastened to a solid surface, and now my mom can indulge her addiction one-handed for the duration!

Roanoke felt a little odd, there are buildings and shops which weren't there last time I passed through - a bit like hearing an old song on the radio and finding an entirely new chorus after the second stanza. I took a hotel room there Saturday night to save us the drive to and from [livejournal.com profile] shrewlet's offered crash space in Blacksburg, but while the room was huge, the bed was hard as a plank, and we slept poorly for folks who would be driving 204 miles home. Route 460 was a beautiful, tranquil drive, though. I'm sold on that road for now.

Yesterday we woke too early, and headed over to spend lunch with Starr's mom, then the afternoon at Amy's with the gamer group. Her mom was going to gas grill the food, but after the gas loop rusted away at a touch, we went with good old charcoal, and lunch was yummy. I now know where Starr gets her habit of cooking a regiment's food for a few people, and felt guilty leaving before I could consume a second hamburger.

While the afternoon was sold as a combination grilling / gaming event, I'm not sure anyone was really into the gaming, and after a few hours of excellent chatting and cattching up, we left to get me some badly needed quiet time. I developed yesterday something that feels much like my old migraine headaches, something which comes in short, searing pulses then goes away for a half-hour or so. (One of the first things Starr did when hearing about that was to check me for stroke indicators - of which I seem to have none.)

In geek news, the Mars Phoenix robot probe has a Twitter account. Andy Ihnatko referred to the account as cosplay for rocket scientists, but I'm enjoying keeping up with what the probe's doing (or at least what it was doing 15 minutes ago - speed-of-light lag, y'know). Some quick Googling finds images taken by the Mars Recon Orbiter of Phoenix on the way down (Phoenix Down?) which means that we Earthlings not only managed to hit a target scores of millions of miles away, we got a picture of it from another camera that had previously done so under our instruction. [T]hese are the things that hydrogen atoms do when given 13.7 billion years. - Carl Sagan

So, yeah. Probably another early bedtime tonight, which is a shame because I wanted to get some WoW levelling in. With luck, the rest of the week will go a little easier on me!
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (Default)
  • 10:48 Reading BadAstronomer's live tweets of the launch of the space shuttle this morning. I love this Internets thing. #
  • 10:50 Hating the fact that, due to the early EDT changeover, I'm getting up in the dark again :( #
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Ex Libris

Feb. 9th, 2008 03:53 pm
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (magical)
Now that I have cleared out some books, and indeed started another stack to go, I feel less guilty about picking up a few more.

Reading right now:
Storm Front, by Jim Butcher
A little something [livejournal.com profile] madwriter suggested to me

Wanting to pick up ASAP:
In the Serpent's Coils, by Tiffany Trent
Benighted, by Kit Whitfield
Wizards at War, by Diane Duane
The Sagan Diary, by John Scalzi
The Empty Chair, by Diane Duane

I've had books 2 and 3 of Butcher's Dresden Files for over a year. Now that I have book 1, I feel I can finally start reading through, though after all these years I've finally learned to break up reading a series with other books by other authors. Having met Tiffany two Technicons ago, I figure it's high time to read Coils; and [livejournal.com profile] cjmr knows why I'm planning to read Benighted. With A Wizard of Mars coming out, I need to catch up on my Young Wizards; and I can finally wrap up the story of my favorite literary Romulan Commander with Empty Chair (out for over a year, and I somehow never noticed).

I'll save comments on [livejournal.com profile] madwriter's offering for some other entry sometime :)

More thoughts: I'm not sure I've bought many new books over the last year. Most of these have been on the shelves for a while. I think I needed to convince myself that it was okay to spend the money again, as long as I don't let my living space collapse under the accumulated weight. Also, I'm pleased about how many of these authors I've gotten to speak to, even briefly and electronically. I love the 21st century. Lastly, I'm depressed by the difficulty of finding a science book section in B.Dalton's or Waldenbooks. It's not like I can't get the individual books I'm interested in from Amazon or have Jesse down here order them for me, but I wish I lived in a country that wanted to read about science.
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (menace)
Really, I can't bear to watch this "UFO Files" program for another second.

Yes, I do indeed love the idea of flying saucers and extraterrestrial visitors, for the same reason I dig Atlantis and telekinesis; because it would be cool. But can I please have more than second-hand stories and photographs of indistinct blobs? Could I please please have some indisputable proof, something that could be used to convince almost anyone?

Sagan said "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence," and I'm not going to argue with the man. I'm not here to debunk anyone. I want to hear the story that shakes the world. But it's going to take more than "I knew someone who had a friend who worked with a guy who swears he saw stuff in a government document of some kind."
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (orbiting)
"What are your dreams?" I was asked. I couldn't answer - I wasn't sure.

I've been spending a lot of years focused on making it to the next day. If I thought extremely far ahead, I made plans for two weeks away. I'm not saying it was a daily struggle for food and shelter - I've been fairly comfortable the whole time. My dreams got little thought, though. I was busy.

What have my dreams been in the past?

- I wanted to be a starship crewman. (Well, I'm working for NASA. Not bad.)

- I wanted to be an experimental particle physicist. (Less interesting to me now as a career, plus I'd need to devote something like 15 years to catch up to that horse.)

- I wanted to be a well-known movie and TV actor. (I'm having plenty of fun, and eating better, doing that as an occasional hobby.)

- I wanted to be an airplane pilot. (After my trip up two Novembers ago, I've decided to go after my license as soon as my slowly-increasing savings will support that.)

- I wanted to be a well-known novelist. (Still not impossible, though I've done pathetically little toward that dream in the last years.)

There are one or two others, but those are the oldest ones. The next question is, what are my dreams for the future? It looks like some of those carry over, but I ask myself now not only what I want to be, but what do I want to do? (A clearly related matter.)

Worth some introspection.
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (Default)
  • 09:02 @snidegrrl: great job acing that final - woo! #
  • 09:03 Humid and warm this morning. Will be claening the apt. tonight, but got TSO tickets tomorrow! #
  • 14:26 I am indoors. It is 75 degrees outside right now. Why am I indoors? #
  • 17:46 Thought my concert tickets had gone missing. Just found them again. BIG sigh of relief. #
  • 23:11 Just watched Science Channel video of people doing repairs on the Empire State Building's spire. Vertigo- and nausea-inducing. #
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mikailborg: Chris drew this picture of my first Starfleet character for a newsletter cover, years ago. (kriet)
Got some cool stuff from Starr for my birthday... a refractor telescope, a black tee with a handcuff graphic ("I can't believe I'm buying you another black t-shirt") and... this!

Can you guess what it is (besides an afghan, of course)?

Fourth Doctor Afghan

The answer's behind the cut )
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (flying_gif)
I quote the Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait:

"Most people are surprised — I was when I first heard — that Brian May is actually a scientist. He had just started working on his PhD thesis when he got distracted by his guitar playing in some band or another. But he knew was gonna be a big man someday."

His thesis is entitled Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud, and it seems he now has his degree. I only hope the "Flight of the Hawkmen" theme played as he accepted the honors.

This is just... excellent.
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (whovian)
I have all of Doctor Who season 3 on my Mac. I have most of it on the DVR. So it was about time for me to get around to finishing season 2.

The last four episodes restored my interest in the Tenth Doctor, and I'm looking forward now to seeing "Runaway Bride". While I had nits to pick, these scripts really engaged me again, and I honestly think that this season's two-part finale is stronger than season 1's.

But I have to say that I'm pretty divided about episode ten. The episode was clearly about science-fiction fandom, and I understood all too clearly the points it was making from that angle. But the last bits with the guest lead and his grilfriend were wrong in so many ways... and I mean that seriously, not in that rueful fun manner.

Cut for spoilers and whining )

After all that, though, I've enjoyed the majority of the season, and am slowly learning to just hand-wave such things away. Now for season 3.
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (flying_gif)
I love E.E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman series. Many of the reasons why I love it are succinctly expressed in the comments to this other user's LJ entry, in which [livejournal.com profile] jordan179 discusses all the SF cliches that Smith practically invented.

One of my favorite comments to the entry is: "When I read a lot of modern science fiction of the "doomed to disaster" variety, I often think that what the characters in the story need is an E. E. "Doc" Smith or John W. Campbell Engineer-Hero to come along and knock the problem on its head a few times." I talked about this in my "zombie horror" entry. Too many SF / Fantasy characters these days have already given up, and won't even try to do something about the horrible situation they're in.

This lead me to the following link: "The Doom that Came to Necropolis". Imagine a Cthulhu Mythos story starring a square-jawed man of Science! who won't be cowed by shadows in the dark...
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (flying_gif)
Today, as I drove to work, I plugged the iPod into the car stereo and listened to an episode of Astronomy Cast. (iTunes link)

Astronomy Cast bills itself as "your facts-based journey through the cosmos". There are few surprises in the podcast for a hard-core space geek, but the presentation is good and the content accessible to almost anyone listening. The science expert for the show, Dr. Pamela Gay, becomes excited and passionate when talking about her fields of expertise, but seems ever so slightly impatient any other time. Overall, it's entertaining and informative, and it's usually one of my first listening picks.

Today I heard pretty useful advice about purchasing binoculars and telescopes for casual amateur astronomy - useful because I think there's a telescope in my near future. (Suffolk is a short drive away and has nicely dark skies.) The previous episode, however, made *me* impatient; 30 minutes pointing out that higher dimensions, alternate universes, black holes, and FTL travel really do none of the fun things that science-fiction writers come up with. Hey, kids, human exploration will be over as soon as we land on the remaining solar planets - after that, it's all data analysis! Check out this set of spectra!

I admit, based on what we know right now, all that's probably true. But scientists have thought before that little remained to know, then been forced to change their minds when something new poked though the statistics. I'll acknowledge the validity of thier statements for now, but I'm not yet ready to give up the dream of yearly trips to Alpha Centauri! In the meantime, the "serious scientists" need to stop being such bummers. Carl knew better.
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (space_tech)
Wil Wheaton is reviewing old ST: TNG episodes for a website known as TV Squad. He's just reviewed Justice, and my trivia sense tingled; Brenda Bakke, the half-naked actress who gleefully welcomes Worf as the "Huge One", also played Nim, the Texas Air Ranger in Gunhed.

This, of course, contributes nothing at all to your day.

Slighlty more interestingly, astronomer Phil Plait has posted that tonight's 9:35 launch of the Space Shuttle will be visible over most of the US' east coast. A link to a similar opportunity from '97 suggests that Norfolk viewers might be able to see the STS reach 12 degrees over the south-southeast horizon, while Roanoke area space buffs will only see the engine glow for 5 degrees (possibly discounting intervening mountains).

(I'll probably forget to go look, though.)

Billyuns

Oct. 6th, 2006 09:02 am
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (space_tech)
Carl Sagan's Cosmos - on Google Video, and freely downloadable for your desktop computer or in iPod/PSP format.

Yes, he talked funny. Yes, the clothes are so early 80's. But the man believed that the discoveries and ideals of science were within the reach of anyone who could operate a TV set, rather than the private property of Ph.D.s and research corporations. He spent a great deal of his life backing up his belief with actions.

Though the show is over 20 years old, there's little that needs to be revised or edited. Though we've learned much more about all the subjects he covers, the base concepts are still solid. It's really worth several hours of your time to watch it, if you haven't... or to watch it again if it's been a decade or two. One of my favorite nuggets of information is his observation on organic chemistry: since the birth of the universe produced only hydrogen and perhaps some helium, heavier elements like carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen had to be produced in the fiery deaths of the first suns.

You, me, and every human being who ever lived can claim stars as ancestors. :)

And for those who like their science a little more 'splody, free Mythbusters episodes. It's more propaganda for such a crazy idea: if you're not sure whether to believe a story, do your own checking!
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (flying_gif)
A year after having it loaned to me, I have finally picked up and read "Eldest" by Christopher Paolini. This book is the sequel to "Eragon", which I found to be enjoyable, if lacking in originality. "Eldest" is more of the same; I'd suggest it to any reader I know, with the caveat that they shouldn't expect anything mind-blowing. The writing is good, and the characters are interesting, which is more than many fantasy books can claim.

Still, one day I want to read a high fantasy novel where the elves are short-lived and highly industrial, if not technological. Perhaps the ancient lost civilization that left behind all the ruins and dungeons could be one of humans, or lizard men, or Things We Barely Understand instead of the freakin' elves again. And hey, how about hippie, type B dwarves that live simple lives of farming and woodcarving? You get my drift, here?

We lived through Ernesto - our house was never in danger, though I did lose power halfway through my morning webcomic troll. Driving to work was a dumb idea - two different blocks were flooded, and when the tires stop making the "zzziiiisssshhh" noise and begin making the "blubble-blurble-splep-blobble" noise, the water's too deep - but dumb luck saved me, and the drive home was a little better. The yard looks a bit battered, though.

The International Astronomers Union voted last week that Pluto isn't a full planet, but a "dwarf planet". They did this in part because Pluto's moon, Charon, is almost the same size as Pluto and might have deserved planet status; and a more distant body in our solar system, "2003 UB313", is even larger and might have been awarded the same privileges. "2003 UB313" has been nicknamed "Xena" by its discoverer, and no stuffy astronomers' group is going to sit still for "Planet Xena". (The nickname is unofficial, but may well stick.) (And yes, Xena has a satellite... Gabrielle.)

Pluto, Charon, Xena, and the asteroid Ceres all qualify for "dwarf planet" status under the IAU's new rules. I say Pluto still deserves the love, and we all know what's a planet and what's an asteroid, whatever they say. Manned mission to Planet Xena!

Podcast recommendations of the day: Taverncast, for WoW players; not only is the material useful and interesting, but it's presented in a very light-hearted, entertaining manner by the hosts. Also, Geek Counterpoint, for those with a science bent; much drier in tone, but still well-presented and interesting - my interest was caught by the episode on inflatable spacecraft. Seriously.

The Hyundai is very mad at me right now. The dash clock and stereo are cutting out intermittently (and separately), the a/c has stopped working (and with it, my defogger, which has made driving in the rain interesting), and my temperature gauge is running high. Given how much of the car is factory-sealed, that may mean a trip to the dealership. :(

I may finally attend a NekoCon this year, given that it's right on my doorstep and all. Thinking about it.
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (menace)
I'm very addicted to podcasts now: working through the backlog of the cool ones I've found is really helping me get through my work day.

It's all the fault of the Fragile Gravity podcast at http://unseenllc.com/feed/glidepath.xml - of course I'd want to hear what [livejournal.com profile] kittykatya and [livejournal.com profile] impink were up to.

Then, as I realized that one show per week or so wasn't going to feed my addiction properly, I stumbled upon World of Warcast - a fun, casual hour of lvl 40s and 50s talking and goofing off about Blizzard's little life-sucker.

A link from an astronomy website drew me to Slacker Astronomy, where you don't have to be a hardcore space geek, but you do have to have a goofy sense of humor.

And now, well, I'm hooked. The iTunes music store offers hundreds of free podcasts, ranging from language lessons in Japanese to video podcasts of French Maids explaining XML coding. You don't have to have iTunes or even an MP3 player - there's lots of software which'll let you subscribe and listen from your desktop machine.

So that's the morning post; I need to finish loading Steve Jackson Games' new Fnordcast onto the iPod and leave for work...
mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (cheesed)
Ahh... a nice road-ragey morning. Rather than rant about it, though, I'm going to let it wash right over me.

After months of procrastination, I have cleaned up my office. There's a four-foot-square floor-to-ceiling stack of boxed books and models in one corner, but at least I can use the rest of the space now. I look forward to getting a real computer desk to replace the wheeled cart I'm using at the moment.

Jo and her son Danny and I watched "Cosmic Voyage" last night, which was a updated version of the classic "Powers of 10" educational film plus some material on the ongoing history of the universe. It was narrated by Morgan Freeman, so you couldn't go wrong. We were discussing the 'life on other planets' issue - with a hundred billion stars in our galaxy alone, it would be amazing if the intelligent life thing had only worked out one single time - and I brought up an article of faith on my part: cool science-fiction movies aside, any race which manages to reach the stars will have matured far beyond the desire to invade us, mutilate our cows, make circles in our fields, and probe our lower GI tracts. Jo pointed out quite correctly that we were close to reaching the stars, on a universal timescale, and we hadn't matured to that level yet; my heartfelt response was that if the human race doesn't put its house in order really damn soon, travelling to the stars will be quite the moot point.

I really could have sworn I had a lot more to talk about this morning. Maybe it was mostly the road-rage. Oh, well - if anything comes back to me, it's not like I won't be in front of a keyboard all day.

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mikailborg: I can't even remember what event I was attending, but I must have been taking it seriously. (Default)
mikailborg

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