Saturday, March 29, 2014

Hitler's Furies

Hitler's Furies was interesting.  I guess I've always assumed women were complicit in the holocaust (and not in the sexploitation way like Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS).  It seems to me you can't run a genocide without the full participation of the culture, at least in the 1940s (I think governments have only gotten more skilled at deceit).

Wendy Lower's book tries to cover that aspect of the war, but eventually falls short.  She says herself that there's a lot working against her.  Societal expectations that women weren't truly involved in the killings, or ever involved in killings of any sort, particularly children.  Modified histories by individuals keen to cover their involvement or who still believe the Nazis were in the right, but know history is against them.  Time - some of those she interviewed died during her research period and World War II and even the post-war trials are now far in the past.  And a variety of rationales and silence that have been perfected over the decades, from "I was just doing my job" to "My dead husband did it and I was trying to protect him with my original testimony" to "I didn't know that's what they were doing next door."  The result is that she has a very small set of use cases to work from and Lower has to rely on more of a conjecture approach, pondering how many other women might have been involved based on modern crime statistics, Nazi-era internalization of Jews as less than human, psychology, and what little she does have as indicative of mothers, wives, nurses, administrators, and guards.  It falls a bit thin when it comes to facts and first person accounts, and it doesn't help that her end notes are truly at the end without reference within the text.  I found myself wondering whether I should have checked out two copies of the book so I could keep one open to the back as I read along.

Still, some parts stuck out as particularly horrifying.

On page 86, Lower details how the disposed bodies were everywhere.  That not knowing wasn't necessarily a plausible excuse because you could smell decomposing bodies when you picnicked.  Your feet would sink into ad hoc graves.  And road gravel was sometimes loose because bodies were buried in the middle of the road.  "The sites of mass murder were not in out-of-the-way places; rather, they often encroached on the shortcuts and paths that connected towns."

On page 93 and elsewhere she accounts that whole sections of towns were cleared out, such as 10,000 (out of a town population of 15,000) were murdered in Novogorod Volynsk, and that Germans would recount pillaging in neighborhoods left vacant but still littered with Hebrew texts and personal belongings.  The visual of the texts scattered on the floors is a powerful knowing that the owners wouldn't leave them there unless they had no other choice.

The story of one woman feeding starving children who had escaped from a boxcar only to subsequently walk them to a mass killing pit and personally shoot them in the head one by one while they cried isn't an image I'm likely to forget.  And to leverage feeding them as a sympathetic instance in a trial rather than as an indicator of someone particularly cruel or psychotic (to feed them acknowledges them as human in my opinion, but then again I was never in Nazi-era Germany) speaks to the how deeply society was skewed.

There are significant portions dedicated to the aspects of the Holocaust run by those who weren't soldiers as those were more likely roles for women.  Administrators who handled the paperwork.  Women comforted the men who couldn't handle the killing and got them going again. Nurses potentially euthanized German soldiers injured on the Eastern Front (rumored under Action T4 - see Opposition).  And "The first Nazi mass murderess was not the concentration camp guard but the nurse.  Of all the female professionals, she was the deadliest.  Centrally planned mass killing operations began neither in the gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau nor in the mass shooting sites of Ukraine; they began instead in the hospitals of the Reich.  The first methods were the sleeping pill, the hypodermic needle, and starvation.  The first victims were children.  During the war, nurses gave thousands of deformed babies and disabled adolescents overdoes of barbiturates, lethal injections of morphine, and denied them food and water." (120).  Lower states elsewhere that midwifery was a role of power, and midwives could condemn a child as non-Aryan, resulting in the death of the child and potentially the mother, based on an assessment of the features sometimes tinged with personal bias.  The Child Euthanasia entry on Wikipedia covers many of the details including financial remuneration for reporting a child.

I found the Nazi mottoes and linguistic constructions Lower cites more frightening than Orwellian mottos and those from The Circle:
  • "Kinder, Kuche, Kirche" - children, kitchen, and church (30)
  • "Juden Kaput!" Which gave me the willies.  Turning that phrase into a slogan, including for women's rallies, sums up the mindset.
  • Ostrausch - the intoxication of the East (164) - the idea that going to the East, Poland and Ukraine, was akin to the wild west of the US and gave one a euphoria that led to a certain hedonism, wildness, and that even nobility.
One can smell a bit of Orwell's 1984 in the language, and if you look back at possible origins of his Newspeak (Wikipedia): "The Principles of Newspeak" is an academic essay appended to the novel. It describes the development of Newspeak, the Party's minimalist artificial language meant to ideologically align thought and action with the principles of Ingsoc by making "all other modes of thought impossible". (For linguistic theories about how language may direct thought, see the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis.) Note also the possible influence of the German book LTI - Lingua Tertii Imperii, published in 1947, which details how the Nazis controlled society by controlling language.

I'm going to end on the stupidest thing - in my opinion - I read in Hitler's Furies, because it speaks to what Lower was up against in trying to research the book and craft an idea of women's role in genocide.  Good historical work is often built on the accumulation of sound theory as historians leverage the ideas of each other and other disciplines and first person narrative.  Because so much of the first person narrative is potentially lies or obfuscation, Lower relies more heavily on the other aspects.  Trying to analyze the role of women in the Nazi regime obviously abuts the fields of criminality and psychology and those studies are full of a preponderance of nonsense about women as mothers, sex fiends, wives, and more. Before you can craft a meaningful story about women's roles in The Holocaust, you have to overcome meaningless statements like, "Another dubious theory posits that women have committed more crimes than have been documented, given that women are "naturally deceitful" and secretive.  The "evidence" provided is women's skill at concealing menstruation and faking orgasms (158)."  And yet those were attitudes that were believed and applied during the era and therefore important to acknowledge, not as fact, but as perception of fact that was acted upon by courts and doctors and actively leveraged by women themselves when faced with punishment.

A good book in many parts, just not executed well as a whole.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Circle

I'm conflicted about The Circle.  It's not the most well written book I've read.  And the main character is annoying.  Perhaps appropriately, given she's very believeable as a self-involved, thinks she's helping by forcing others to participate in her definition of normal and progress via social media, assured of her own self-importance and great-things-are-due-me, idiot. And Eggers is heavy handed with his theme over his storytelling, leaning in favor of Orwellian quotes and a semi-one dimensional set of characters and sheep-like public, almost to the point of melodrama.  Then again, it's a dystopia, and I allow some leniency for effort in that category. A bit of hyperbole is generally the rule if you're trying to take an idea to its extreme.  And the idea that Google might take over the world bit bit, erase the concept of anonymity and push it to the extent where facial identification determines your presence in every bit of digitized media ever uploaded to the environment, is amusing.

Where it's creepy is where it aligns with my own big organization experiences.  Rankings on your social network participation.  And this statement, which aligns surprisingly with my own company's mission and commitment to acting like a cohesive enterprise: "we here at the Circle have been talking about Completion a lot, and though even us Circlers don't known yet just what Completion means, I have a feeling it's something like this.  Connecting services and programs that are just inches apart."

However, I'm not sure I believe in the short run any company is capable of forcing that sort of acceptance upon everyone.  And Tuesday I was at a two hour lecture about the other side of the coin.  Bitcoins for anonymity.  Semi-covert websites for anonymity of trading and avoiding the impact and monitoring of business and government.  And how to curate your personal information when it comes to giving away your fingerprints to Disney.  Your face to Microsoft and your XBox One.  And your license plate to some start up that wants to tie it to your Facebook account.  It was a great presentation.  The presenter showed us IR for the Kinect and how it tracks your pulse via your face.  How to make a trade for Bitcoin on the corner, live.  How to order fake gift cards, live.  And how to get arrested by the FBI if you try to hire a hitman.  It's obvious there's a real tension between what he called the little brothers - corporations trying to collect information about you.  Big brother - the government trying to collect info.  And swaths of society trying to stay out of those systems and off the radar.

Real people are much complex and ambivalent than in Eggers' book.  But he's right that critical mass can tip the balance.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Bowling and more...

Monday was daddy/daughter spring break outing day.  We went to Bryant Lake Bowl for breakfast/lunch with Grandpa and the Great Uncle (Eryn's, not mine) and then stayed to bowl two lanes.

We had them all to ourselves for most our time there.  Not a lot of people bringing their kids to bowl at noon, although a mom and her two kids did show up about mid way through our second game.

Eryn was very consistent.  38 both games.  She was a little perturbed that she guttered the last few frames of the second game after tying her score from the first game. But not perturbed enough for a third game.

We did not loft the ball.  It was nothing like the night Kyle and I were there and the hipsters were running wild.

See?  Smooth release.

I scored something like a 125 and a 175.  Not bad - that second score is above my average when I was a league bowler.  I like the Bryant-Lake lanes.  They always seem fairly flat to me - lot a not of deviation ball to ball.  Of course, maybe it's all sorts of deviant and just perfectly offsets my own crappy throws.

Here's at least a little bit of a loft.  I was trying to catch her at it so I could report her to the waitress.

Eryn learned to score, although as you can see, she feels she needs to show her work.

After bowling, we went to Particle Fever.  I took us to the Lagoon instead of the Edina, which wasn't a good plan.  But fortunately, we were 45 minutes early, so we had lots of time to get to Edina.  The movie was excellent - lots of first person interviews with folks who had worked (work) on the Large Hadron Collider and their search for the Higgs Boson and hope that when they found it the boson would be light enough to allow them to pursue super-symmetry rather than a multiverse, as a multiverse can preclude additional particles.  I liked the quote, and I paraphrase, "Moving from failure to failure without a diminishment in enthusiasm is one definition of success."  Our co-watchers were all retired guys catching an afternoon movie.  The pair of them behind us were discussing their own physics work back in the day.

Eryn was impressed with the escalator at the Edina Theater.  I'd forgotten it's so big for what seems like a small (four screen) theater.  It goes up two floors without a break and looks like it's been misplaced from the London Tube.

Here's a big head Eryn wouldn't let me take her picture with from the Lagoon, which isn't where we went.  So nothing at all to do with the events on Monday other than to show we were lost and it cost us $1.50 to be lost in the parking lot.  One good thing is that I saw Origami has a store right there behind the Lagoon.  I'm going to have to figure out hours.

We finished off our popcorn and chocolate with a visit to The Edina Creamery.  So we had sports, fine dining, and brain activities all in the same day.  A good Spring Break day, even if it wasn't traveling someplace warm.

Things I do not like...

I believe this is supposed to look sexy.  Anyone who knows me knows that I place this in the same category as a bunch of guys standing around in dirty overalls, or a bunch of overweight guys wearing multi-colored Zubaz.  The boots don't help at all.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Basketball and Candy

Sunday afternoon we went to the T-wolves/Suns game on the tickets we got while attending Klund Jr.'s Target exposition game.  It was a very good game if you like watching your team turn a 20 point lead into a 7 point loss.  Not that I think my wife or daughter minded.  Eryn is more concerned about the food available and my wife likes to hang at the game with friends.  I'm not above being accused of not focusing fully on the game.  I took pictures of friends and walked a loop around the arena to get some exercise and see if there were any more coworkers around.  I found one architect at the game and one in a nearby store shortly after the game who had also been in attendance.

Eryn learned about Candyland.  When I was a kid, my mother parked next to Candyland almost every time we went to downtown Minneapolis, which wasn't all the infrequently.

In keeping with my collection of blurry pictures, here she is turning her head to look at all the candy so often I can't focus.

Things I Didn't Buy at Goodwill - For Kyle

While Eryn was eating her Jimmy John sandwich, I popped into Goodwill to look around as it was right there.  While looking through the albums, I found the first two below in different stacks.  I set them out front to take a picture for Kyle and then, while digging through another stack, I found a third album.  Who knows how many I would have found if I'd kept looking.  Apparently one, Sunshine Day. I think Ricky Tanner really likes his dog.

Given this little blurb, "Ricky Tanner (born 1963) was a member and soloist of the famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Salt Lake City, Utah. Ricky as a treble had a rare bell-like crystal clear voice. His last CD recording (as a 21 year old tenor) was made in 1984, just after returning from an LDS mission trip," his career seems to have coincided with Donny Osmond's career who had his teen idol years in 71-78.  They may have even sang together when the Osmonds sang with TMTC.  I bet he needed a pretty sister instead of a dog if he wanted to really hit it big.  The Donny and Marie article at Wikipedia is worth looking at for the list of guest stars and for the fact that it was originally created by Marty and Sid Krofft.  And yes, I did point you at the Boy Choir and Solist Directory which includes novels about choir boys.  Feels like a weird fetish site after you browse for a while.

A bigger version of the image is at: 

Kyle pointed me at a Rod McKuen album from his own Goodwill adventures.  This is the one to own - it seems special, almost like preparation for his very first television appearance.  My sister might appreciate that he was an uncredited voice in the original The Little Mermaid.

I was so tempted to get this for Ming.  But I don't think he would have appreciated having it as much as I would have appreciated giving it to him.  It was almost worth it on the off chance I found myself with five minutes of unfettered access to his garage wall and a handful of screws.

And one thing Kyle and I learned from Rewind This (Rotten Tomatoes, Offiicial Site) at the Trylon is that in any batch of VCR tapes, you can always find at least one double tape copy of Titanic.  Or two...

Or three...

Or four...

Monday, March 24, 2014

A musical week in review - middle school band concert and The Sudden Lovelys

Thursday was Eryn's band concert.  She was one of four oboes.  For their section solo, they put on purple leis.  We sat next to Diane (Jenny's mom) and her family and talked about Minecraft and programming.  My poor wife was in the midst of a geek convo.

I couldn't get a good picture of her from where I was sitting, but here she is.  It's obvious she's playing an oboe at least.  She's been growing her hair out.  I'm not sure how she can even see the music.

Wednesday night we went to see The Sudden Lovelys (Danny and Paige) at Dusty's for a pre-release show of their CD release, Brave and Alive.  I wish we could have been at the Icehouse official release Saturday night, but it's a bit late for Eryn and we like to take her along because she likes them so much.

Dusty's was where they played together for the first time and it was certainly an intimate setting.
There's no zoom on this photo and I was eating an egg-topped dago and fries during their set.  The news songs are great with the studio recording and today I finally got to hear them on a device that wasn't couple to built in computer speakers.  The Kickstarter-backed studio recording makes a real difference in the quality of the sound.

If you haven't caught their video for Gone is Time, here it is.  And go support some local artists and buy Brave and Alive (and their other albums).

Sunday, March 23, 2014


At the MIA, there was a chalkboard in the store.  I was very amused to see someone was making sure to greet Bad Wolf, ala Doctor Who.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Acting Class

Eryn's acting class is closing in on being over.  She's been at the Children's Theater Company taking a Percy Jackson-based class.  They've been learning to deliver monologues and lines from the book.  It's aimed at 3-5th graders, so I think it may be a bit on the young side for her, but a good way to get her toes wet.  The next class is aimed at 6-8th graders and focuses on tools of acting, so she's going to have to buckle down a bit.  If she's serious about acting, then by next summer (not the upcoming one, 2015) she should be capable of auditioning.

Thursday lessons have been a good daddy-daughter time.  I get out of work an hour early (dubious - it's still after 8.5 hours - it's just not keeping to "core hours") to pick her up at school, catch a Slim 5 at Jimmy John's sandwiches, and then get to the MIA to hang for a little while over a cup of coffee before class.  I get a lot of reading done while she's in class, at least when the other parents aren't snoring loudly in the parents' lounge.

During one class, they took them all backstage to see how they handle getting people around, accommodating live music, raising parts of the stage, etc.

I spent the time wandering around taking some photos.  If you've been back stage once, you've been backstage a million times.  I'm not sure a professional would agree - but I don't have the background to appreciate the subtleties.  Still, a much better rope setup than in my high school.

How to act like a toy solider.  Just try to find a class that has that sort of versatility.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Dells 2014

A bit behind the curve, but this is an example of Facebook stealing my longer posts.  A bunch of these photos are from the back and forth I had with Kyle and Ming as my family traveled to Great Wolf Lodge at the Dells (and back) two weekends ago.  Eryn had a wonderful time.  She wanted to play the Magi Quest area that had been installed where Wiley's Woods playground used to be, and spent a whole day running around the hotel chasing the various quests with her wand.  Much more exciting than the one-store setup that used to be at the Mall of America.  She spent almost the full day waving her globe-ended wand and my wife and I just sat around reading.  Weird that she's getting to be old enough we're not always necessary.

She played so much in one day that she made the Top Runes This Month list on the hotel channel.  I know she upgraded to the more complicated package early on, so those are hard-earned runes.

This is my favorite picture from the weekend and perhaps the only one I have of her on the slides, or in the waterpark at all.  The last time I remember having her at Great Wolf she was so little she was sprinting away from the giant bucket of water every time the bell went off and she wouldn't go near a slide taller than two feet.  This time we rode them all, including the giant tornado-like structure.  When we went down, I ended up with my back to the drop, facing her.  Her eyes got huge when we took the plunge into the funnel.  It reminded me of when we went tubing at the ski slopes near home.

After much consideration, that phone must be there because there are older people who stay with their grandkids and may need bathroom aid?

I posted this picture over on Facebook to let my friends know I was trying to reach them.

The beaver that guards the entrance.  I'm convinced he's getting ready to whack someone rather than carrying a stick to his lodge.  The kids really seem to enjoy the animatronic presentation twice a day.  For me, it interrupted my reading in front of the fireplace.  Nearby are a couple of birds that look like part of the entryway display/decoration, but are set off by the Magi Quest wands.  There were a lot of kids who were really excited to figure out they could make them chirp.  Looking at this guy some more, he reminds me a lot of the gopher from Caddyshack.

We ate at Denny's - the older one that's not affiliated with the chain - and at the Moosejaw where you can have ribs and wings.  Eryn was incredibly embarrassed when Pooteewheet and I put on our antler hats.

She drove to The Dells, so she's about as tired as she looks.

Downstairs, they redid the gaming area.  This guy was part of the Metallica pinball machine.  Ride the Lightning!

Here's the machine art.

The important thing is to make sure you get all the band members.  I only got as far as Kirk :(

They also had one of the limited edition Wizard of Oz machines that I played at the MN State Fair.  A fun machine, but I swear I manage to let Toto Run Away - which involves losing a ball - two times out of three.

We stopped in Osseo, Wisconsin, on the way out and back and did some antiquing.  I thought Matthew might like to know they had a few machines for sale, although nothing that got me excited enough that I'd replace Luna's kennel location with a machine.

I could have picked up a few good law books.

My wife was disappointed this guy wasn't for sale.  But he was just there to guard the gift shop.

And this is the real reason we stopped.  The Norske Nook.  Sweet, sweet, pie.  We stopped on the way out to eat lunch and on the way back just to get pie.  I had three pieces including banana cream, raspberry, and Mounds coconut.  The coconut pie was weird because the next day it smelled like I was peeing baked coconut flakes.  Definitely a place we'll stop at again.

And if you don't stop for the pie, stop to buy a copy of 91 Ways to Serve Lefse for that special someone in your life, by Mr. Lefse!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Don't Dress for Dinner

I forgot to mention we went to Don't Dress for Dinner (alt wikipedia) by Marc Camoletti at the Theatre in the Round not so long ago.  It's wedged between two plays with adult content: Six Degrees of Separation and Dead Man's Cell Phone.  Given Eryn actually blushed when there was a scene where someone "inadvertently" bent someone else over a couch for comic effect, grown up content must be really grown up at TiTR.

But Eryn really seems to enjoy the ham-it-up sort of plays with the attendant miscommunication and mistaken identities.  And intermission allows us to parse it apart in chunks and catch her up if she gets a little lost.

I agree with TC Daily Planet, it was a particularly good showing by Heather Burmeister as Suzette the Cook.  She seemed stiff for the first few lines and then really loosened up and stepped up as the primary presence in the play, tying all the characters together by being at the center of their machinations.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Bill Bryson's Shakespeare: The World as Stage

Bryson's book on Shakespeare was enjoyable.  His purpose was to cover what could be said for certain about Shakespeare and, he admitted, there's very little of that and much more about what we don't know and what was erroneously reported as fact over the centuries. I suspect I'll read a few other books in the Eminent Lives series as well.

Rather than go into any great detail, I'll quote a few of the more amusing, disturbing, and interesting passages.

"One variation was to put a chimpanzee on the back of a horse and let the dogs go for both together.  The sight of a screeching ape clinging for dear life to a bucking horse while dogs leaped at it from below was considered about as rich an amusement as public life could offer.  That an audience that could be moved to tears one day by a performance of Doctor Faustus could return the next to the same space and be just as entertained by the frantic deaths of helpless animals may say as much about the age as any single statement could." [72].

For a friend who wondered why anyone might still want to learn Latin:
"Yet curiously English was still struggling to gain respectability.  Latin was still the language of official documents and of serious works of literature and learning.  Thomas More's Utopia, Francis Bacon's Novum Organum, and Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica were all in Latin.  The Bodleian Library in Oxford in 1605 possessed almost six thousand books.  Of these, just thirty-six were in English.  Attachment to Latin was such that in 1568 when one Thomas Smith produced the first textbook on the English language, he wrote it in Latin." [115]

On James I.  Not the account I ever read during college history courses, either British or Scandinavian, and I had both:
"James was not, by all accounts, the most visually appealing of fellows.  He was graceless in motion, with a strange lurching gait, and  had a disconcerting habit, indulged more or less constantly, of playing with his codpiece.  His tongue appeared to be too large for his mouth.  It "made him drink very uncomely," wrote one contemporary, "as if eating his drink." His only concession to hygiene, it was reported, was to daub his fingertips from time to time with a little water.  It was said one could identify all his meals since becoming king from the stains and gravy scabs on his clothing, which he wore "to very rags."  His odd shape and distinctive waddle were exaggerated by his practice of wearing extravagantly padded jackets and pantaloons to protect himself from assassins' daggers...James and his brother-in-law, King Christian IV of Denmark, undertook a "drunken and orgiastic progress" through the stately homes of the Thames Valley, with Christian at one point collapsing "smeared in jelly and cream." [133-134].

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

It Can't Happen Here - Follow Up Reading

After reading It Can't Happen Here, I ordered the proceedings of Sinclair Lewis at 100: Papers Presented at a Centennial Conference.  The good thing about having access to the Minnesota library system is it includes being able to lay your hands on collections produced at SCSU.

I was only interested in the two papers on It Can't Happen Here.  The first, A Middle-Class Utopia, was passable.  James T. Jones focused on the dystopic aspects of the book, addressing the 1.) political utopia, 2.) the philosophical/anthropological utopia, 3.) the historical utopia, 4.) the prophetic utopia, and 5.) the satiric utopia.  He goes on to postulate that as far as dystopic fiction, it may fall short of the definition by not resulting in "the total defeat of the individual" (225), a criticism I've level at many books which aspire to be dystopic.  It's an interesting assertion, because It Can't Happen Here reads like a dystopia and shares a lot of the traits of a dystopia and, I'd call it one, right up until the end where hope takes root.

Reading It Can't Happen Here With College Freshman by Judy F. Parham is much less interesting.  It felt like a lot of excuse making for her students.  They're average readers.  The text reading level fluctuates wildly between pages.  There's too much contemporary history for a modern reader.  They don't have the reading skills to handle satire and dystopias in general.  There needs to be a lot more prep to appreciate the context, including writing satires of their own and dystopias of their own.  I don't disagree with the joys involved in that last statement, but in the end it seems to boil down to, "I didn't have the smartest, most-experienced, readers."

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Golem and the Jinni

I read The Golem and the Jinni because it made some best of lists for 2013, both fantasy/scifi and other.  Part way into the novel, I was convinced I'd been tricked into reading a fantasy romance novel.  It is a fantasy romance novel.  But Helen Wecker is a hell of a good writer.  Apparently that expensive Carleton education can come in handy.

At the heart of it, it's a bit Romeo and Juliet and starcrossed lovers, but without the angst of teenage romance, and with a theme that romance breeds better relationships than lust.  Not only are the characters from different backgrounds: Jewish and Arabic, at least where they make their homes, but from different species as well.  It's a clever way to position considering what really makes the Golem and the Jinni different.  Clay and fire?  Jewish and Arabic?  Taker and giver?  And when they're put in the melting pot of immigrant-era New York, much of it ceases to matter beyond their reliance on each other, including those in their community who aren't supernatural.

Throw in a bad guy magician with an unnatural lifespan for a unique set of reasons, and there's a historical span beyond the early US setting.  Many levels and beautifully written.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Doctor Sleep

I believe I've fallen into the Facebook trap.  I do a lot of chit chat over there, so I blog a bit less.  So you don't hear about playing Euphoria, and Alhambra, and Crusoe, and King of Tokyo (and I should blog about King of Tokyo, so I can forever commemorate beating Logan twice and taking out everyone but Adam in one swoop, including myself, another time.  That's a good game), or Ming's 20th anniversary in the US present (still 6-8 weeks, although I'm finalizing very soon if I don't hear any input from Kyle).

The last week I've been reading Doctor Sleep, the sequel to The Shining.  I have to say, I liked The Shining better.  And when I say I liked The Shining better, I mean I liked the Room 237 version better - e.g. the Stanley Kubrick film version which deviates significantly from the book, right down to the ending.   Stephen King is one of those writers I feel can be improved by a movie adaptation.  There are certainly many bad adaptations of his movies, but the best of them are better than the books.

To sum up Doctor Sleep, I once read a don't-send-us-a-story-like-this tired writing plot/trope list - I thought it was the one at Strange Horizons, but that doesn't look correct, maybe it was an io9 list - and high on the list was never to tell a story where a seeming innocent turns the tables on a more powerful enemy.  E.g. your vampire's victim turns out to be an eater of vampires.  Your molester finds out the little girl he's stalking is in fact a vampire (I have that one floating around here somewhere from back around 1987).  The furry you're going to bash turns out to be a disguised serial killer or a real animal, and a mean one with sharp teeth.  That sort of thing.  Stephen King threw that list out the window and wrote 500+ pages around the theme.  The last rule is always that if you're someone well known, you can break the rules (I think Scalzi says that in one of his essays).

It didn't feel like a continuation of the 1977 book and even less like a continuation of the Kubrick film.  As a standalone, it was ok - middle of the road ok.  If you're going to devote a bit of time to a horror novel, his son's book, Horns, was much more interesting.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Impact: Earth!

I was reading a few articles about the near earth object passing between us and the moon (98 feet,2014 DX110) and one article referenced Purdue's Impact: Earth! Flash application.  I played around with rocky and iron meteors, slamming them into the ocean and land, and positioning myself various distances from ground zero and checking out the effects like tidal waves, cratering, wind speed, and thermal radiation (where'd my clothes go!?).  That's a fun app for pondering global apocalypse.  Someone should make one for zombies.  Number of plague sites.  Starting city/cities.  Day of the week.  Infection rate.  Zombie speed.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

A Shirt Size I'm Glad I Never Had to Wear

The definitions or portly all say round and somewhat fat, stout, rather heavy, corpulent.  I think it's used because it's supposed to also include aspects of dignified and stately, but it makes me think of William Howard Taft.  Perhaps Dignified or Stately might be a better description if that's what they're really trying to capture.