Friday, December 31, 2010


It's that time of year again, when people start thinking about everything they've botched up the previous year and what they'd like to change in the coming year.  Or at least what they'll complain about botching up next year. 

Like most other Americans, I have some fairly predictable resolutions:  Spend less, save more, lose weight, spend more time with enriching hobbies and less with the unfruitful ones. 

Still, this post over at Shamus's blog had me thinking about my own little corner of the internet.  I always did like blogging, even when my only hits were the three friends who would check in a day, various trolls, and random Google hits that didn't result in anyone actually sticking around to read something.  I really do regret letting the blog sit more or less fallow this year. 

I think part of the problem is that I just don't have the same passions as I did when I started this back in college.  I used to write a lot about philosophy and religion then, but I was exposed to so much more at the time.  These days I just don't have the same exposure to material to inspire anything worth writing about (which is probably an indictment of my reading habits, if nothing else). 

News commentary and criticism?  Eh, perhaps, but it's not like there isn't enough of that going on.  Plus, college newspapers always made it so easy, given the goofy things that they'll publish. 

Science writing?  I actually wish I did more of that.  I'm about to finish Ben Goldacre's book (which deserves its own post, really), and it's definitely inspired me to write more about responsible science.  It's the sort of thing I'd enjoy getting paid to do, although it would mean writing more and writing better.  I'm no slob with the written word, but I've been lazy, and there's plenty of people out there willing to bang out 500 words about why some study or other is a bunch of horse pucky.  If I want to go that direction, I'll need to step my game up.

Video games?  Goodness knows that occupies enough of my writing anyhow, little though it is.  Unfortunately, most of what I play these days is World of Warcraft, and I can really only write so much about that.  Oh, there's an audience for it, but I don't want that to be my occupying focus. 

It was suggested to me that getting back into blogging would be easier if I refocused the blog.  Having a clear purpose would help, and feeling passionate about my topic(s) would go even further.  I'm still not sure what that is, but at least I know that I need to figure it out.  Probably not the most exciting resolution, but it's a start.

Happy New Year, folks, and good luck in 2011.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


If you've seen any movies this summer, then you've likely seen at least one preview for the upcoming TRON:  Legacy.  The original TRON was released early in my life, so I can't say exactly how the visuals compared to other movies at the time.  Still, the previews for the sequel look very attractive with today's level of CG animation.

To prepare for the new movie, I rented the original a few weeks ago.  It wasn't nearly as good as I remembered it, though its problems weren't much different than any other 80s movie, Sci-Fi or otherwise.  Still, the movie has maintained a following for almost 30 years, so it did something right.

The jaunt to the past inspired me to partake in another TRON franchise, mostly to see if it gets utilized for the upcoming LegacyTRON 2.0. (Why yes, I am about to talk about a video game well after it was relevant.  How did you know?)

Continue below the fold

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Dresden Files

I've always been reluctant to be too critical of variations in media.  What I mean is, if someone turns a book into a movie, I try not to get hung up on the differences and simply appreciate each for its various merits.  Not that there isn't room for that.  It's just that the criticisms are often a measure of what you wanted the translation to be, not what it is.

At least, until I started reading The Dresden Files.

Originally, I was introduced to the short-lived (one season) series on the Sci-Fi Channel (before it became SyFy).  The premise:  Harry Dresden is a hard-boiled Chicago PI, and also a wizard.  He's not shy about it; in fact, he advertises in the phone book as a wizard.  He spends his time handling various cases for clients as well as providing his services as a consultant for the Chicago PD on cases that are "unusual."  He uses a hockey stick as a staff and a drum stick as a wand.  It's like Harry Potter meets film noir. 

At the time, I appreciated it for what it was.  Then I found out a friend of mine read the book series, and a few loans later I was tearing through the books.  It's been a while since I've gotten to enjoy fiction like this, and it's been refreshing.  Maddening, too, since I finish them so fast I'm left with a constant thirst for more. 

Recently, my girlfriend rented the DVDs of the television show for me, and it's been bittersweet.  It's fun seeing the show again, but I'm having trouble appreciating it the way I did before I knew about the books.  The show was cheesy, to be sure, and definitely would have benefited from being picked up by any station but Sci-Fi.  Still, I find myself picking it apart for all the things that differ from the book.  There's perfectly reasonable explanations for the changes in many cases, but it's difficult to enjoy all the same when I spend more time thinking about the differences than appreciating it for what it is. 

Not much else to say on this, really.  Just a recommendation to pick up the books, and a plea to some other network to clean up after Sci-Fi's failure to recognize a quality franchise when it comes along.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

It could always be worse

So, I caught the last half-hour or so of the LOST series finale, which effectively doubled the amount of time I've spent watching the show over all.  Call it a mix of morbid curiosity and a desire to understand the reactions of my friends who watched it.  Apparently they went the "Fulfill characters' stories" route rather than the "Explain all the sci-fi mysteries" route, which angered a lot of people.  I guess everyone was already dead the entire time, or there was a parallel universe that was purgatory, or something.  I didn't get it.

It actually reminded me of the ending of a series I watched on Cartoon Network a few years ago, The Big-O.  The premise was awesome:  A post-apocalyptic world where the only survivors were the inhabitants of Paradigm City, a place controlled by a corporation with an agenda.  Forty years after the event which turned the rest of the world into an uninhabitable wasteland, nobody in the city has any memory of their lives before the incident, leaving them to struggle with understanding their history, their lives, the traditions and customs that drive and bind them . . . and at the center of it all, the protagonist:  Roger Smith, a billionaire superhero reminiscent of Batman.  Oh, except instead of fighting crime in a funny suit, he acts as a "negotiator" for hire and fights monsters and robots in his giant robot ("megadeus"), the Big O.

Neat, eh?  As the series wears on, we learn a lot about the world.  People slowly discover memories, personal or otherwise, of life before the apocalypse, something of great interest to the Paradigm Corporation.  We learn that there is life outside of Paradigm City, both when giant robots attack from beyond the city, but also when Roger encounters a woman who works for "foreign powers." 

Roger seems to be on the cusp of discovering the relationship between the Paradigm Corporation, the apocalypse, and the foreign powers when the series ends.  As it ends, Roger finishes a fight with another giant robot, and . . . we see him open the door into a control room, where one of the characters sits and operates a console that seems to be directing everything.

That's right . . . it was all just an illusion being programmed by someone.  What a ridiculous cop out.

Still, at least it's an ending.  Many of the shows I enjoyed watching were started, only to drop before they finished (Inuyasha), or be transferred off of the channel I watched it on (Naruto).  Some of them suffered from a lack of interest and vanished before they intended to (Undergrads), while still others carried on but became a shell of what they once were (Heroes, The Simpsons).

So, LOST fans, it could be worse.  At least you got an ending, even if you didn't like it.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

You're not qualified to have fun

I haven't written about it much here, but back in 2008 I started playing World of Warcraft.  I always wondered why people found such games so addicting, but, well, now I know.  I haven't written much about it because it's kind of a specialized interest; it's easy enough to write a single review of a game, or even a short series, but WoW is one of those games that can take up a lot of attention.  People even have full-time jobs just writing about it!

Recently in game, I applied to a new guild.  For those who don't know, players band together in groups called guilds to facilitate higher level play.  Often, the "endgame" content requires 10-25 players to accomplish, so being a part of a guild not only provides a (semi)stable structure for doing so, but also offers a stronger sense of community than you get otherwise.  In many ways, it's almost required to be a part of a guild in order to see that endgame content.  You can just group together with strangers (pick-up groups, or "pugs"), but often times this can be very stressful; expectations are very high, and there's very little patience or tolerance of mistakes.  Sometimes it's akin to demanding a PhD for a burger flipping job.

I recently applied to join a guild on my server.  If you think it sounds funny to say that I applied, as if it were an actual job, then you're not alone.  I was rejected, and my reaction was worth pondering for a moment.

Some people take this game very seriously.  There are people who play many, many hours a day and are highly competitive about completing "world first" achievements.  Even though some guilds will never play on that level, they are very serious about completing the same content.  As such, their standards can be exceedingly high.  They won't take someone into an instance who hasn't been there before (which leads many players into a Catch-22 scenario).  The wide variety ways that you can customize your character become irrelevant, as suddenly there are "right" choices and "wrong" choices.  There are people who will tell you that you're a substandard player based on, say, a 1% difference in health pool, or a 2% difference in damage.  The fervent belief in such things can be almost religious.

It's an odd thing, being rejected for what is, at its heart, a hobby.  I mean, it might make some sense for an intramural sports team, for example (although people would understandably be upset about perpetually riding the pine), but this is a video game.  I can't imagine someone saying, "No, you're not good enough at Donkey Kong, you can't play with me.  You'll drag down the entire game."

There's certainly something to be said about playing as well as you can.  If you're counting on nine (or 24) other people to put on their "A game," it can be frustrating that progress is blocked because someone is slacking off in one way or another.  Still, the level of elitism and hostility that arises out of a cooperative hobby is very surprising sometimes.  Perhaps it's just an extension of the GIF theory.

Back from the wilderness

Ah, the old girl's still here.  Glad to know Google doesn't delete these things when a blogger disappears for a few months.
So where was I?  The demands of graduate school left me studying ~8 hrs a day for, well, almost two months.  It's not like I couldn't have found five minutes at the end of the day to jot down something, but there's only so much mileage you can get out of, "Exams suck.  Grad school sucks.  Is it March yet?"  You wouldn't believe how consuming it can be. 

A lot of things are up in the air still, but my hope is to get back to regular posting.  Whatever "regular" means for this blog, at least.