Tuesday, February 28, 2012


I watched Thor on DVD, and am pleased that I got it out of the library for free rather than paying $10 to the theater.
Good points first: Tom Hiddleston made an excellent Loki, particularly in the early part of the film where you can see Loki subtly manipulating the people around him. Chris Hemsworth (from Melbourne, be it noted) portrayed Thor, and probably did as good a job as could be done, given what he had to work with. And the scene with him sitting in the rain next to Mjollnir was good.
But I must have missed the soul searching scene where Thor decided to be purely defensive. When Loki is about to blow up Jotunheim--well, it wasn't that long ago that Thor was just fine with that, and we didn't really see a reason for him to change from "happy Norse berserker" to "wait, bad guys deserve to live too". It would have been nice to see a little moral quandary at that point. "Blow up Jotunheim? Sounds good! But wait, dear old Dad never did that. He'd probably say it's unjust. And Mom would probably say that if you're unjust to your enemies, you're going to be unjust to your allies sooner or later. And, you know, the whole blow them up with the Bifrost Deathstar Cannon thing is kinda cowardly. So, I tell you what, Loki. You want to go down and take on King Laufey and his thugs mano a mano, then I'm good with that. But nuking the whole realm of Jotenheim is a bit too much, and if you keep trying to do it, I'd have to, you know, whack you in the head with a hammer."
Overall, it didn't feel like a complete movie. Yes, it's part of another six or ten or however many movies for Marvel, but it still felt a bit thin as contrasted with Iron Man or Captain America.
On the other hand...it's a comic book. Maybe I shouldn't be expecting too much complexity.


I saw an article on Instapundit to the effect that neuroscientists have something of a handle on the chemistry of memory, leading to the possibility of selective memory erasers. Just some random thoughts arising from that--treat these as story seeds for the next science fiction novel:
  • does it become possible to treat PTSD? Do you only treat those people who are completely shell shocked and nonfunctional? If not, where do you draw the line? For crimes like rape, assault, and burglary, where there's a sense of violation, are the victims treated with memory erasers? How about consensual statutory rape--if the victim gets memory erasers, does it still deserve to be a major crime?
  • If war and violent crime are bad, shouldn't we leave the memories so people have the emotions that, yes, these things are bad? If we can make them less bad by alleviating the memories, does that mean that people will make less effort to avoid those events and they'll happen more often?
  • How about making other people take it? If you have an evil neighbor, the sort of person who is spiteful and petty, and she takes offense at something and starts a feud...are there circumstances in which you can legally compel her to forget the incident that started it?
  • if you're in front of your peers and do something stupid, you can take an eraser, but you can't make everyone else take it. You could find that you don't remember the impromptu stripper act you did when you were drunk at the company New Years party, but everyone else does. Is that better than if you did remember it? Do you tend to seek out strangers, because that way if you do something embarrassing, you can forget it and they won't be around to remind you?
  • To what extend could memory be modifiable? Can you erase your entire memory of a person--your ex-husband, for example? Your mother? How about if you then want the memory back?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Saint Angel

Dinner tonight: a thick slice of French bread, with Saint Angel cheese. Saint Angel is a French triple cream cheese with a thin white rind and creamy texture. It's similar to Brie, but a bit softer and more of a buttery flavor.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


I attended a party held by Steven and Barbra, with a Dia de Muertos theme. (Yes, that festival is at the beginning of November, and yes, this is the weekend after Mardi Gras, but Dia de Muertos is what we had). Barbra made excellent carnitas and lots of decorated sugar skulls; Steven made a pie, vegetarian chili, and bean dip and tortilla chips, plus various non-thematic munchies, soda, beer and wine. Most of the guests seemed to know Steven from the yoga class he teaches, or from Ironman events. There was Jamie, who molds industrial plastics; Pat, who bought a house in October and gotten his books moved in, but not himself; Stacey, who had come down from Richmond to model in a photo shoot showing off an AK47 and a MAC10 with suppressor ("[the MAC10] doesn't look like a big gun, but when you're holding it out at arm's length, trying to keep perfectly still while the photographer is getting twenty shots, it gets really heavy"); and about another ten people whose names are eluding me at the moment. A typical party: get some food, then stand around with a drink in hand and talk to people. Had a good time. Daisy, the pit bull pup, was the star of the party; she is twelve weeks old and adorable, with several people saying she looks like Pete the Pup.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Wrinkle in Time

Ran across A Wrinkle in Time on Josh's bookshelves--this copy was one that a college friend had given me. Worth re-reading.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

20th GOP Debate

Who came up with the idea for the GOP to have TWENTY debates? Seriously. Best line for tonight (as taken from Stephen Green, Vodkapundit):
Mitt: “Is this program critical enough to be worth borrowing from China to pay for it? If not, I’ll eliminate it.”

(Stephen: I so wish he weren’t lying)

(edit) Or possibly the best line was:

Newt: “When you have government as the central provider of services, you inevitably move toward tyranny."

Let's see....I don't think Mitt is leader enough, Newt is stable enough, Ron Paul has a grasp of foreign policy, or Santorum is sharp enough. I'd hold my nose and take any of them over Obama, of course, but why can't we come up with some good candidates?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Napoleon's Campaign in Egypt

Since I've started work again on my 2011 NaNoWriMo novel, and since it's set amidst the Napoleonic French campaign in Egypt and Syria, it's time for more research!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Most Important Job Interview Question You Can Ask - Forbes

The Most Important Job Interview Question You Can Ask - Forbes:

When you're deciding whether to join a company, ask the interviewer "Are you happy?" Don't pay too much attention to what they say, but watch their face as they respond to that.

Friday, February 17, 2012


Socialists cry “Power to the people”, and raise the clenched fist as they say it. We all know what they really mean: power over people, power to the State.

-Margaret Thatcher

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Wild Wild West

I have to admit I had fun at this, although "admit" may be the key word here. It certainly wasn't a great movie. The chemistry between West and Gordon didn't work well--I think because we're used to Will Smith playing smart characters, and in this movie he was the action type while Gordon was the genius. Selma Hayek was there purely for eye candy; her character didn't really have anything to do other than stand around in a corset. Same thing with Bai Ling / Miss East. It looked like the story was setting her up to be an important character, and then it just fizzled. I'd like to have seen more of her, but after the fight in the plantation, she just stood around next to Loveless, doing nothing. The final fight scene was badly written; instead of taking on previously-established bad guys, West takes on a bunch of minions we've never seen before. On a 1 to 10 scale, it can't rate more than a three.
But nonetheless, I had fun.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Books in Progress

Dies the Fire, by S M Stirling. Imagine if electricity and high energy chemistry (gunpowder, internal combustion) went away. You have medieval technology plus whatever you can scavenge; chainmail is a lot easier to make than it was historically, for instance, because you can find reels of wire instead of having to draw it. If you're already concerned about a Carrington Event or a EMP attack, this may be a bit depressing.

Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. Haven't gotten far into it yet; the message thus far is "any good story has to have these six factors. You can wing it or plan it, but you have to have these. You will do better if you know what they are, instead of blindly flailing around and hoping to hit them."

Burton & Swinburne in the Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon, by William Harrison. Sometimes you can read Book 3 of a trilogy without having gone through 1 and 2 first. And you could probably do it with this one, but I wouldn't recommend it. I found it hard going. This may be because Burton does some time travel, and gets involved in the Great War , with all the gore and mess and stupidity of the real Great War, plus biological weapons. Not something I want to read about for fun. I quit about halfway through.

Agent to the Stars, by John Scalzi. The protagonist is a talent agent in Hollywood. His boss hands him a challenge: "An alien species has secretly contacted me. They want us to market them to the world, to make sure that the world sees them as Friendly Aliens rather than Evil Aliens. By the way, they look like snot and smell like rotten fish." The story is a lot of fun and has a couple of twists which took me completely by surprise.


It has always amazed me that the people who want the government to do a few important things, and to do them well, are called "anti-government," while those who want the government to do many things, all of them badly, are not.
--Glenn "The Blogfather" Reynolds

Saturday, February 11, 2012


First real snow of the year, about half an inch. Temperature was right about freezing so it was kinda snow, kinda freezing slush. There was no "soft, fluffy" stage, it went straight to "crunchy". Power went off several times in the night, the wind was howling, and the mutt was pacing. Not a good night for actual sleep.

There is no adequate substitute for hot chocolate. Coffee + mini-marshmallows doesn't do it.

Friday, February 10, 2012


Got out my NaNoWriMo 2011 manuscript and did a little work on it--nothing major, just getting back into gear.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Hats part 2

After the sad tale of the out-of-stock hats, I was resigned to waiting until later in life. But, on Monday I said to myself, "While I'm here on Amazon anyway, you know, I might as well just check and see..." and sure enough, there was exactly one "Hat, Gambler Style, color Black, size L" in stock. And about fifteen seconds later there were none in stock, because I'd claimed that one. It was Monday night that I put in the order on Hats.com; the box arrived Wednesday. Fits just right. Clearly someone had passed the word to Mr Four Luck Dragon Venerable Hatmaker, and he made a special effort to get that one finished and dispatched to me. Yay!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Well behaved women

One of my neighbors has a bumper sticker: "Well behaved women don't make history."

That's because most people don't make history. Behaving badly doesn't mean you'll make history. Unless you're counting the police blotter as "history".

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The OMG-AR15 Unicorn zombie gun - Boing Boing

The OMG-AR15 Unicorn zombie gun

Just in case your little girl needs an assault rifle with chainblade.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


It's been a relatively international week for food. English fish and chips, Thai nam phrik pao, Italian shrimp something-or-other (breaded with Parmesan, served with warm lemon slices), Indian chicken tikka masala, lamb vindaloo. The Thai wasn't spicy enough and regrettably it had fresh cilantro, which tastes like soap to me. The lamb vindaloo was nice and hot, and the shrimp was better than I expected.

Amazing Things

Human beings are capable of amazing things. Don’t make excuses. Do something amazing.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Lake Vostok

According to Discover, "After two decades of drilling through miles of Antarctic ice, Russian scientists are about to breach an underground lake that has not been exposed to the surface in more than 20 million years. "

Of course, as Charles Stross tells us in A Colder War, some things might be in the lake that we really don't want to know about.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


On examining the populace, I have concluded that 97.3% are below average.

From "Armed and Dangerous"

Armed and Dangerous: "Two bits of science news appeared on my radar today with not much in common except that they’re both exceedingly bad news for the political class. That more or less guarantees that they’ll get poor or nonexistent coverage in the mainstream media and is a good enough reason for me to write about them."