Thursday, December 30
Just got back from seeing The Incredibles with my family.
This film is a work of art. In my opinion, the best film from Pixar to date, and that says a lot. There were only a couple of moments when it slowed down - for the rest of it (and at 2 hours, there was quite a bit of rest of it) I was totally involved in the film.
The short that accompanied it, Boundin', was also a delight, and introduced my family to one of my personal favourite quintessentially American critters, the jackalope. None of them had ever heard of a jackalope before, so they were probably wondering why I was laughing so hard at that point.
Unlike Finding Nemo, The Incredibles isn't for really young children. There's actually a fair bit of violence in the film, and unlike, say, Bugs Bunny, the violence clearly has consequences. But for older children, and for us grown ups who haven't forgotten being children, it's an absolute must-see.
Tuesday, December 28
It's been an amazing year for elections. Australia, America, Indonesia, Afghanistan, and now Ukraine. Okay, so the elections in Spain didn't go the way I'd like, but they were free and basically fair. (And considering that Spain was a military dictatorship as recently as 1975, that's of no small import.)
I'll leave my borders orange for now, in honor of Viktor Yushchenko and the people of Ukraine.
Monday, December 27
I'm fully occupied right now digesting (burp!) and watching anime, but here's something for you in the meantime:
My Christmas quest was simple enough: buy toy cowboy guns for my boys. Caleb and Eli have boots and hats, bandanas and sheriff's badges. But they don't have holsters and guns. Without those critical components, however, you've really just got yourself a Village People costume. We've made do until now with two wooden pistols that were originally designed to shoot rubber bands. But I wanted to get them shiny cowboy guns, the kind that make a little boy's heart race, that turn a bad guy's legs to jelly, and that give a damsel that funny climbing-the-rope-in-gym-class feeling when she sees them strapped around your waist.
One man's quest for the perfect Christmas present, at Sand in the Gears.
Saturday, December 25
To all the Munuvians, to my many friends throughout the blogosphere and the broader internet, to my readers and family and friends, Merry Christmas!
I have a big bag of chocolate-coated macadamias here. Anyone interested?
(These are from the same company that makes abalone-flavoured, and indeed wasabi-flavoured, macadamias. I hope like hell that they clean the machinery between batches...)
I was thinking about James Lileks and Michele Catalano's posts about Christmas lights and the difference between coloured-lighters and white-lighters, and reflecting that around here (Sydney) people don't really go in for Christmas lights very much.
And then I thought to myself: Duh!
Mr Lileks lives in Minneapolis. This time of year, the sun rises at 7:50 am and sets at 4:36 pm (#). That's less than 9 hours of daylight. Plenty of dark time for everyone to see your handiwork.
In Sydney today the sun rose at 5:42 am and set at 8:07 pm (#). Not a reverse of Minneapolis, since we are not as latitudinally blessed* as that city, but nearly 14½ hours of daylight. Unless you were out late or up very early, you'd never see the lights.
* Mineappolis is 45° N; Sydney about 34° S. The southernmost city in Australia, Hobart, is only 43° S. Dunedin in New Zealand, at roughly 46° S, is currently blessed with 15¾ hours of daylight.
For my American readers (hi there!) Sydney is about the same distance from the equator as Long Beach, California. And no, it doesn't snow here. Particularly not at Christmas. Except for one occasion, on which subject Google has let me down utterly...
|You Are Socks!|
And all through the office,
Not a telephony application was stirring,
Because they'd all crashed.
I don't know why - they fell over at different times and for different reasons - but one by one, over they fell. Just to make sure I wasn't bored, I guess.
Pixy: That little boy has a toy puppy stuffed in his shirt pocket! How cute!
"Toy" Puppy: Woof!
Pixy: And so lifelike!
Friday, December 24
You know, if through genetic engineering or some nanotechnological miracle cure all of humanity is gifted with perfect vision, there won't be any more girls with glasses.
This makes me sad.
What was The Mirthful Ones is now Fistful Of Fortnights. Only they are sad because no-one has pinged them.
Okay, it looks like the reason that no-one has pinged them is because no-one can ping them. I'll contact MuNu tech support and - oh, wait.
If you have ever spent any time in the science fiction groups on Usenet, you'd recognise the name of James Nicoll. Witty and erudite, and the unfortunate victim of more bizarre accidents than the collected populations of five of the smaller European states*, he has been a regular contributor to rec.arts.sf.written for as long as I can remember:
Results 1 - 10 of about 57,600 for james nicoll. in rec.arts.sf.written.* (1.01 seconds)
Anyway, he now has a blog. Okay, it's at Livejournal, but we all have to start somewhere.
An Open Letter to my cat Hillary
I appreciate that there can be no pause in the ongoing war between you and your bitterest enemy, you tail. I applaud your diligence and am amazed at the RPMs you reach chasing it. I would offer one lone bit of advice: seek a venue for tail chasing other than the slippery edge of a water-filled bath tub.
James has a number of cats, and many of them seem to have acquired his affinity towards implausible misadventure:
Blotchy has a history of run-in with doors. In fact, I once had to cut up a door to get his paw from under it. In most ways, he is a bright cat but he just seems to have bad luck with doors.
This time, he had somehow managed to pull the bathroom door closed as he walked out, pinning himself between the door and the wall. He could have easily escaped by going backward but he does not understand that. Instead he must have kept trying to push forward, getting increasingly upset and angry that the door was grabbing him. The growls alarmed the other cats, who tried to calm him down by attacking him (I assume this makes sense if your brain is the size of a walnut), thus all the noise.
Apart from his cats, James has one of the best jobs in the world: He is paid (paid!) to read science fiction novels before they come out.
Lois McMaster Bujold's The Hallowed Hunt (non-spoiler)
So I finally read this. It's sitting in the work related TBR pile for ages, because I keep what I think will be the best manuscripts for last, to help me get through the latest "Recent Plot Chunk of On-Going Fantasy Story #62" and "Loud Explosion Clumsy Info Dump Space Adventure #23", which I wouldn't have to read if you people would just stop buying them.
Bias: I am not a fantasy fan. It's not like I hate it but it just doesn't punch the right buttons for me. It's like coffee, which I like, vs tea, which I am indifferent to.
Omission: I have not read the second book in this series.
Good News: It doesn't matter. Each book set in this universe is a complete book and each comes with enough information of the world that you do not need to have read the other books.
Lois McMaster Bujold is one of my favourite authors, and The Curse of Chalion is perhaps her finest work. James is reading the manuscript (MS) for the third book set in that world, something we mortals will not have the opportunity to do for months!
It's not all good, though:
A Short But Unkind Review
So for my sins, I was assigned Mission to Minerva by James P. Hogan. This is the fifth book in the Giants series, of which I have read the first three and this one. Nothing I have heard about Entoverse (the one I missed) makes me want to hunt it down but when I was a teen, I was very fond of _Inherit the Stars_.
Bias calibration: I am on record as thinking Hogan succumbed to the Brain Eater years ago. I base this on the crank theories he promotes on his website (and in his books, but there's really no way to tell just from a book if the author is using the idea because they think it makes for a good story or because they really truly think Jupiter horks out Venus sized loogies from time to time). Recently I discovered Hogan is a defender of David Irving and a promoter of the Institute for Historical Review as a news site, and swore off reading Hogan. A discussion with my boss in which various valid points were made convinced me to read this one for them, although I am sure they would accepted a no from me.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present James Nicoll. Please keep a safe distance, and be sure to extinguish any open flames.
* "What's the difference between a radiant space heater and an oven, when you get right down to it? Aside from the fact that I don't stick my leg in an oven."
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Thursday, December 23
Tim Blair has his quotes of the year for 2004: April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November and December. January through March to follow, I expect.
The City of Sydney has gaily-painted* banners fluttering beside its major thoroughfares this Christmas, bearing messages in many different languages. I could see two different Chinese scripts, one that I thought I recognised as Thai, one in the Cyrillic alphabet, and many others. One I saw was in Spanish**; the first word was Felice; I didn't catch the second since the banner was waving in the wind, but I could see that it wasn't Navidad as one might expect.
Then I found one in English. It reads:
Well, quite. And a Pleasant Summer and Cheerful Winter to you as well.
(It's Felice Fiestas as it turns out. And isn't it Feliz Navidad in Spanish? Are Fiestas of a different gender to Navidads or something? Why are you looking at me like that?)
* Or printed, or however they do it these days.
** I think.
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