Friday, September 30, 2005

...And By "Rise," What I Mean Is...

So I'm reading this book, and you know, it's pretty good or whatever. Stonewall is kicking some butt, Abraham Lincoln is being a crazy Commie, and General Custer is having gross sex with a redheaded barmaid. Ahhhh whaaaaaa.

It's pretty much an adventure/war/historical fiction book, but every 100 pages or so, Harry (it is absolutely necessary to click on that link) launches into a two page sex scene featuring your favorite historical figures. So far, Mark Twain has had timid sex with his wife, the details of which are omitted here because they are totally grossout country. Then there's General Custer. Who's into some freaky S&M stuff, I tell you what. *Shudder*. Didn't really need to know that Custer takes pride in his markmanship with things other than his rifle (paraphrased).

We learn about the things you might touch or hold during intercourse, and the state of certain hidden spaces on the human anatomy. For instance, whether they are "damp" or not.

I'll never look at this picture the same way again.

All I can say is please God, not Lincoln.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

No Need To Rise Again, South delivered today, with How Few Remain, by Harry Turtledove. ihd is convinced that that is a fake name, I don't know why. She also thinks Clive Cussler sounds fake, which of course is ridiculous.

How Few Remain is, according to the subtitle, about the second war between the states. Turtledove is supposedly the "master" of alternate histories, and this one is about how the CSA won the Civil War after winning the Battle of Antietam (bloodiest battle in the history of the USA). Apparently in real life, the Yanks found Lee's battle plans wrapped around a bundle of cigars, which allowed them to prepare themselves for the suprise invasion into Maryland. In the book, this doesn't happen.

This book should not be confused with Turtledove's other book about how the South won the Civil War (Guns of the South), where time travellers from aparteid South Africa travel back in time to give Lee AK-47s. I dunno, I haven't read that one either. That one is a standalone, while this one is supposed to be the first in a long series that goes all the way through the 1950's, with WWI and WWII in a world with the CSA.

Anyways, hopefully it will be good. We'll see. Also I got a bike helmet! It's blue.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Postman Always Something Something

So my mom sent me a letter, full of cutouts of newspaper articles, as is her wont.

Anyways, she didn't put enough postage on it (she had stuffed so many articles in there that I guess it weighed too much), so while I got the letter, I also got a bill from the postlady for 23 cents. Who ever heard of such a thing?

So two dimes and three pennies go in the mailbox. I guess it's like a collect call?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

More FMA, More FF, More Nerdliness

Whoa, I just watched the next 4 episodes of Full Metal Alchemist, and let me just say: intense. I am getting into this show I tell you what.

It kind of reminds me of Final Fantasy IV for some reason. Maybe it's the emotionally conflicted badass warrior with a dark past on a journey for redemption angle, or something. Still waiting for FuSoYa.

Monday, September 19, 2005

"In some areas, Phở King is a name of an actual restaurant."

So iheartdorks and I decided to branch out a little bit this weekend and went to a Vietnamese resturaunt out here in Spotsylvania called "Pho Saigon." They've got two locations, one of which is only about a mile from the house, and the other of which is only about 1.5 miles from the house. They also have a sparkling review over at the Free-Lance Star, which may mean something, I don't really know. It certainly made me feel a little safer, although since resturaunt reviewers usually love food, and since I generally hate it, that probably wasn't a wise feeling.

Anyways, if you read that review, you'll learn all about the friendly waitress (the daughter of the owners, I believe). Reading the review though doesn't really do her justice, and as we walked into the place, we were greeted with a loud "HELLO! How's it going!" before I could even see past the jungle of plants in the little airlock vestibule thing.

Usually I am put off by overly friendly people, but this lady had a, dare I say, genuine-ness that made my suspicions that it was all just an act grumble quitely to themselves like an old man that no one listens to instead of barking like a chihuahua that no one listens to, but everyone hears anyways. She even made me try to pronounce Vietnamese words, which, under normal circumstances, would be a Fatality, right there in the lobby.

Anyways, I guess pho is a kind of traditional Vietnamese noodle soup. I got the chicken kind, and it was pretty much just chicken soup with rice noodles instead of rice or whatever. I dunno, I don't really eat chicken soup. But it was pretty good. They give you basil leaves, a bit of lime, and some "bean sprouts," which look like roots or something. I didn't eat those. ihd ordered some vegetarian thing, you'll have to ask her about it.

The great thing is a medium bowl of soup is like a whole meal. I mean these things are intimidating they are so big. The reason this is great is they cost only 5$. So it was a 20$ meal with two entrees, appetizers, and drinks. w00t.

Also, their menu has like 5,000 things on it. Actually, it has 136 things on it. That's entrees and appetizers. The dessert menu is seperate. It's kind of ridiculous. They use a lot of exclamation points and are evidently very excited about soup and rice dishes. So excited that they invented 136 of them. I'm not complaining.

Anyways, pretty good experience. Nice to know there is a great, friendly resturaunt in the suburban wilderness of Spotsylvania. (Also right next to the office!).

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Advent Means Christmas Is Coming

So I downloaded and watched Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. For those of you who don't religiously follow the ins and outs of the Final Fantasy series - no, lifestyle, FF7AC is the movie sequel to the video game Final Fantasy VII, which itself was almost but not really the sequel to Final Fantasies 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, and almost but not really the precursor to Final Fantasies 8, 9, 10, and 11 (all of these are here). Maybe more, not quite sure.

Each Final Fantasy game happens in its own universe and holds in common with its bretheren only incidental, but dogmatically adhered to, details. For instance, [most] every game has some guy named Cid in it. This tradition was broken recently with the appearence of Final Fantasy X-2, which was the sequel to Final Fantasy X, and which featured a J-Pop girl band as the main characters.

Adding to the wrinkles is the first Final Fantasy movie, called Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. Intoxicated by the forbidden beauty of their full motion videos, and perhaps wishing to thumb their noses at the reviewers who dismissed the more recent games as dressed up movies (too many cutscenes), Squaresoft founded their own motion picture studio in Hawaii, with the idea of becoming I guess the Pixar for adults. Or the Pixar for teenage boys who wish they were adults.

So they came out with FFtSW. It was widely regarded as a piece of crap, despite the presence of Alec Baldwin as the male lead and the unprecedented number of individual hairs rendered on the female lead's head (this was a major selling point of the movie at the time). The motion picture part of Squaresoft went bankrupt soon after, but not before making one of the Animatrix shorts, called Final Flight of the Osiris, which was pretty good, and was helpful in understanding the two Matrix sequels (which still didn't make much sense regardless).

So that's the background. I'm here to tell you that FF7AC is what FFtSW was supposed to be. It's what I and every other Final Fantasy fan was drooling over when FFtSW was first announced. In a fun coincidence, it's also what the Matrix sequels were supposed to be. It's what (not I) and every other Matrix fan was drooling over when the sequels were first announced. This movie is awesome. It also happens to make little to no sense. It is still awesome.

The action in this movie is absolutely breathtaking. The characters all seem to have Neo-like powers when fighting, but it's done right, where they can't just fly around wherever they want or explode things by looking at them. You still get a sense that this is a real battle happening, maybe because everybody else can dodge bullets too. There are crazy motorcycle chases, there are crazy gunfights, there are crazy swordfights. People will be jumping through the air, running up the sides of buildings, flipping motorcycles around and throwing them at each other, and just generally defying the laws of physics... and the whole time you will be thinking: this is great.

The story is thin. I'm not sure who translated (the movie was subtitled) this version, but it is pretty rough, so I could be wrong. You don't really need to know what happened in the game (they give you a quick synopsis), but it would probably help. Frankly, when I played the game, I had pretty much no idea what was happening back then either. If you're interested though, here is a plot synopsis, which explains everything that happens, and, if you are feeling really interested, here is the game script. But again, not really necessary, as the movie doesn't really revolve around anything except killing the crazy guys. The best solution is probably to read about it on wikipedia.

All things considered, this movie is definitely worth watching. It's pretty much a 1 hour, 30 minute long cutscene, but really, that's exactly what it should be. And what it should have been the first time. But Tycho (as usual) said it best:

This film contains scenes that may be totally fucking awesome. Your favorite characters may be rendered in extreme detail as they take part in mind-blowing battles set in familiar locales. Futuristic scabbard/motorcycles might be depicted in a way that makes them appear sweet.

I'm looking forward to the US release so I can buy it, and I'm really looking forward to some more sequels... maybe to Final Fantasy VIII? Please?

Monday, September 05, 2005

Alchemy, Alchemy and More Alchemy

Lots of Alchemy going around lately. For those of you who don't know, and who can perform analogies, alchemy is to chemistry as astrology is to astromomy. Or, to pick a more timely comparison, as intelligent design is to evolution, or as Miss Cleo is to the Weather Channel. That sort of thing.

Apparently alchemey used to be all the rage, back in the 1700's and before that unto the mists of time. The most well known part of it was the quest to turn lead into gold. Harry Potter is familiar with this, what with the Philosopher's [Sorcerer's] Stone. Anyways, it used to be a very respectible pursuit, with none other than Isaac Newton devoting quite a bit of time to it - according to a random internet source, more time than he spent sitting under apple trees and revolutionizing physics. In fact, he was probably thinking about alchemy while sitting under the apple tree.

Which brings us to a book called Newton's Cannon, by J. Gregory Keyes. I read this at the beach after stumbling across it reading Wikipedia about alternate histories. It's about What If Newton discovered Alchemy and turned it into a science. It features Louis XIV, The Sun King, who has taken an immortality potion, waging war against England. Both sides use all kinds of crazy Alchemy weapons, like a gun that shoots lightning bolts, and cannons that make water (including the stuff inside your body) boil, etc. etc. And, just for kicks, a 14 year old Benjamin Franklin, who becomes sort of an action hero / scientist part.

Ben Franklin was a famous lady's man in Paris (seriously)

The book is alright; it's part of a long series, but I don't know if I'll be reading the other ones. The alchemy in it, which really is the main selling point, unless you like French Royal Court intruiges, sort of stumbles, as it either takes the form of mundane things like Alchemy-powered light bulbs or telegraphs, or the form of just outright magic. The bad guys, for instance, are kind of like ghost body snatcher clouds of mist things.

The problem with the first kind is that although light bulbs would probably be amazing to Benjamin Franklin, they arent really that amazing to, well, me. Maybe they are powered by Alchemy or whatever, but in the end, they're just light bulbs. The problem with the second kind is: why not just write a ghost story? Or a fantasy book? The book I think tries to be a steampunk type thing, but it turns out to be a book about magic.

That said, it's sort of fun. You get to see Ben Franklin have sex with a prostitute in London, and you get to see Isaac Newton play a Doc Brown from Back to the Future part. And since ***SPOILERS*** the world kind of gets exploded at the end, maybe the later books in the series will focus more on cool stuff instead of what's happening at Versailles. ***SPOILERS OVER***

The other bit of Alchemy I've been seeing lately is the Ross-recommended Full Metal Alchemist. This is an Adult Swim anime about (again) a world where Alchemy works. It's got a couple of brothers (one of whom is a suit of armor and the other of whom has a metal arm and leg) who travel the world looking for the Philosopher's Stone. It is pretty excellent and switches between cutesy anime and kind of shocking.

Anyway, the alchemy in this show is more magicy than that in Newton's Cannon. You basically draw little Wicca circles on the ground and then you can do crazy stuff like turn water to ice, or create spears out of thin air, that sort of thing. They keep reminding you that "alchemy is a science," but so far the show could be completely identical if they just called it magic.

Which isn't to say it is bad. While Newton's Cannon spends a lot of time going into "scientific" explanations of how things work, but then just makes it magic anyways, Full Metal Alchemist just lets it go, and it's a lot easier to engage your willful suspension of disbelief drives as a result. There's a good amount of action, and some nice touching scenes between the brothers, who have bitten off a little more than they can chew in the world, and are trying to set things right again.

So in the end, I'd give the book a C+, with the reservation that the later books in the series are likely to be very different and (we would hope) better. The show gets an A; it's a whole lot of fun.

The reason any of this is interesting to me at all is that I've always been fascinated by failed scientific theories. Something about the fact that there was a time when there was a real contraversy about how fire worked, or about how light worked is just really interesting to me. So those two links are some fun reading, and of course there's the old Obsolete scientific theory page to keep you busy. Enjoy!

Friday, September 02, 2005

You Will Go To The Moon

This is cool. NASA today released a gigantic (27 megs for the full-res) panoramic view from the Mars Rover Spirit. Apparently it has been climbing this foothill over there (on Mars) for the past few months and it has finally made it to the top. I think they said it is about the height of the Statue of Liberty, which is pretty good for a little go-cart the size of a cat.

Anyways, the picture is kind of breathtaking, for me anyways. This is another planet and here we have pictures of it like somebody went there on vacation. Course, I get goosebumps when I see Apollo pictures from the Moon. It's just awesome (as in, full of awe) to see these places out in space, on another planet, and they are just like Earth. Or, in this case, Arizona (which is a wonderful place, don't get me wrong). People argue about what the benefits of the space program are, but for me - it's worth it for its own sake. I think in another life I would have been an explorer. Unfortunately, we're at a time in history when everything within reach is already explored, unless you have billions of dollars. Oh well.

Here's a QT movie of the shot, sort of neat to watch. If you go here, and click on "view top 10 images" over there on the right, you can see some really neat stuff. I would call it "beautiful," but it's a bunch of rocks, and I don't want to sound too sentimental. Of course, here's the one I've been blabbing on about.

It's also worthy of note that these two rovers are now on day 591 of their 90 day mission. So we can remember them next time NASA forgets to convert meters into feet. They're making it up with these guys.