Thursday, November 29, 2007

Web Game Festival Gate Bible Earth School

Today's title comes from some spam I just received. I'm not sure what they teach at the Web Game Festival Gate Bible Earth School, but I'm rather curious to find out. Not curious enough to open the email, though, I guess.

Am I alive? Yes. Do I have anything worth posting about? Not really. Does that bother you? Probably not.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Last night I pulled out my copy of Rudyard Kipling's "Just So Stories" and tried reading it to the kids. Emma and Walter loved it, and it put Richard to sleep. I remember my mother reading us stories from the book when I was a kid, so it was fun to see the kids enjoy it too. The circle is now complete.

One of the most fun was "How the Leopard Got His Spots". That's the one that I most remember. The line "sit on his head 'til morning" found its way into the family canon and gets quoted frequently. Many other lines jumped out as forgotten favorites, such as "He who takes cakes that the Parsee-man bakes makes big mistakes!"

Emma liked the book so much she asked to take it to bed with her so she could read it. My job here is done!

After the kids went to bed I watched some more Babylon 5, followed by part of Ken Burns' "The War" on PBS. And interesting pairing, really. Both shows deal with the realities of war on both a macro and micro level. It's one thing to look back on WWII from sixty-plus years later and judge what happened by today's standards. It's another thing altogether to experience it from the perspect of those who were there.

Take the decision to use the A-bomb. It's easy to criticize now, looking back across decades of the Cold War, Mutually-Assured Destruction, and the current threat of rogue nukes and dirty bombs. But at the time the only alternative that they could see was an invasion of Japan itself at the cost of millions of lives.

None of the regular troops or the civilian population even knew the bomb existed at that point. When suddenly two of them were dropped and the Japanese surrendered I'm certain they felt immense relief at having avoided a fight that would have made everything that had gone before it seem like a barroom brawl. And what had gone before it hadn't been at all easy. Just taking a single island cost more lives than the entire Iraq War to date.

I can't imagine very many people then seeing the A-bomb as a bad thing. Of course they couldn't see what was coming. But while we're enjoying the blessing of hindsight, we should also consider that we survived the Cold War. In spite of our low opinions of ourselves and human nature, the A-bomb was the first and last nuke used in war. It saved many more lives than it took.

Anyway, what our nation achieved in WWII was nothing short of miraculous. That our men and women faced that trial, slogging through unimaginable horrors, and returned home to resume largely normal lives speaks volumes.

I've only seen bits and pieces of "The War". I'm not sure I want to see all of it.

But I probably should.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Odd Movies

I watched "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" last night. It's one of those movies that I've been meaning to watch for years but never quite got around to. Until I found my brother had it, that is. I borrowed it from him, and last night I finally had enough time to watch it.

I found it...vaguely disappointing. Visually it's a masterpiece reminiscent of Miyazaki. The design work is great. The acting is...well, better than you realize. Considering that most of the time the actors are reacting to stuff that isn't there, they do a superlative job.

But the characters themselves are flat and uninteresting. Gwyneth Paltrow looks great in retro clothing, just as I expected. Jude Law looks...well, let's just say I wouldn't turn down outfits like the ones he wore. But other than that, they just didn't do anything for me. I think I cared more about Lex than Joe or Polly--and I didn't care that much about him, either.

The writing and editing were bad. So bad, in fact, that I can't help but think it's done on purpose in homage to...something. And therein lies the problem. Homage only works if the audience if familiar with the genre being...homaged? Homagiated? I'd say it's probably homage to the old serials of the 1930's and 40's, but I've never seen them. And there is no way they could have even approached the EFX this movie has. If anything I think this may be homage to old radio plays, as a listener's imagination is the only medium that could have accommodated this kind of story.

The plot was little more than a shell, really. We were never given more than the briefest of exposition, and there were many, many places where more was needed--not just wanted, but needed.

All in all, the movie is comparable to the character Polly Perkins: Gorgeous, but not much substance. And I think that's why I struggle with this movie. It's not often that I simultaneously love and hate the same work of art.

I referenced Miyazaki (aren't I the cultural snob!) before, and in hindsight the reference is more apt than I realized. I've only seen one of his movies, "Howl's Moving Castle", and it was beautiful. But unlike in "Sky Captain", the characters were developed. There was a lot of background information glossed over, and not much exposition, but I think Miyazaki shows more skill at knowing what to explain and what to just let "be".

Visually, however, they have a lot in common--though I also rate Miyazaki higher for attention to detail. They both provide spectacle in the best sense of the word. The British flying aircraft carriers were impressive, and one of the best moments of geeky pleasure came when the British aircraft slipped their propellers from front to back to switch from airplane to submarine mode. It, okay?

So yeah. Good movie. Bad movie. Unsatisfying in that they did such a good job on some things that surely they could have done a better job on the rest of it. Oh well, it was worth everything I paid for it. (Thanks, Bro!)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Jinkies, Scooby!

I ran across this history quiz online today. I got a 90%! I guess I've retained more than I would have thought--though I admit that had it not been multiple choice I'd have gotten most of them wrong. Still, I didn't expect to do THAT well.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Ghost Town

It would appear I'm the only one on my team in the office this morning. We did a big, nasty upgrade to our system over the weekend. Or I should really say "they". I'm not a technical person, so there wasn't much I could do

Our system was supposed to be online by start of business this morning. We made it, but only with about three hours to spare. The original schedule was to be done by noon yesterday.

IT is an odd business. It seems we're always dealing with complex systems that we don't fully understand and can't predict. We give optimistic estimates, then kill ourselves to beat the deadline.

Part of the problem is the nature of business. We simply can't be without important systems for more than couple days. We were already soliciting grumbles when we took the system down on a Thursday. If we'd asked for a few more days to make sure we did it all right we'd have been lynched. If we'd not have made the deadline this morning we'd have been lynched. And if we'd decided to bail out and go back to the old system it would be a month at the earliest before we'd get another chance. I sit like a nerd in the wilderness, waiting for the others to come. And praying nothing major goes wrong this morning before everyone else regains consciousness.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Which Is It?

My local paper is predicting economic doom and gloom. Meanwhile, this article is pointing to our solid GDP figures and near-record unemployment as signs that everything is just fine.

I know which one I prefer to believe.

And not to make light of the mortgage woes right now, but I have a hard time feeling sorry for either side. The mortgage companies shouldn't have been offering easy money on confusing terms. The consumers should have been paying more attention. To bail either side out only encourages more of the same. People sometimes need to get hit over the head with something to learn their lesson.

So pardon me if I'm not jumping at the chance to have the government spend my taxes to bail out someone who should have known better. I live below my means. I was careful about the terms of my mortgage when we moved two years ago. We bought less of a house than the mortgage company told us we could afford because I asked questions, did my own thinking, and knew my financial limits.

Perhaps I'm just weird. Perhaps I'm just old-fashioned. Perhaps I'm hopelessly out of touch. I think I need some government money to help me get back into touch. ;-)