rjray.org    Powered by Blosxom

This work licensed under a Creative Commons License:

+ raelity bytes
+ paul e. [LJ]
+ Rain Graves
+ gnat [use Perl;]

Syndication feeds:
# RSS 1.0 format
# Atom 0.3 format

My other sites:
- Silicon Valley Scale Modelers
- Book page for Programming Web Services With Perl

Other journals I read:
= DJ Adams
= rebecca blood
= Tim Bray
= Margaret Cho
= Warren Ellis
= Neil Gaiman
= Rafael Garcia-Suarez
= John Gorenfeld
= Lawrence Lessig
= Michael McCracken
= Jeff Vogel
= Norm Walsh
= Wil Wheaton

My journal at use.perl.org:
· Restless
· RPC-XML-0.57.tar.gz uploaded to PAUSE
· RPC-XML-0.56.tar.gz uploaded to PAUSE
· RPC-XML-0.55.tar.gz uploaded to PAUSE
· Forgive Me, Bretheren Monks
· Extry Extry: Winer Leaves the RSS Advisory Board
· RPC::XML 0.54 Uploaded
· The Books of Perl
· Good Intentions Don't Equal Good Results
· Errata Tracking Page for PWSWP
· Image::Size 2.992 Uploaded
· Props to Portland PM
· Lightning Talks
· OSCON, Tuesday
· OSCON Plans Now Set

» Blogs that link here

Powered by Technorati

We will never have true civilization until we have learned to recognize the rights of others. — Will Rogers

Genre Fiction and Writing for a Known Universe 2002.11.29.05:53

I just finished reading the trilogy of books by Jeanne Cavelos based on the Babylon 5 concept of the techno-mages. The trilogy, called "The Passing of the Techno-Mages", deals with the group that was briefly introduced in season two of B5, and focuses on the character of Galen who was introduced in the brief "Crusade" series. In the books, Galen is a new initiate into the order, and it deals with how the mages view the coming Shadow War, and their decision to not take any part in it. As far as fiction goes, the books are pretty decent. The pacing is good, and the plot is very compelling. The way the writer fills in the background and mythos of the techno-mages is very fascinating, and it serves to show just how under-utilized the Galen character was in "Crusade".

It also got me to thinking about the whole genre-fiction thing. I read a lot of it, it happens. I've read a lot of novels written for the White Wolf "World of Darkness" universe, specifically their Vampire: the Masquerade mythos. The techno-mage trilogy marks the second set of three I've read for the B5 universe– I read the trilogy by Gregory Keyes on the genesis, workings and eventually outcome of the Psi-Corps earlier this year. I've read some 16+ vampire books. I've also, in the past, read a select few Star Trek books and other similar stuff. Besides these, there's hundreds of book based on Star Wars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, even things like Battletech and D&D. I haven't read any of those (not even the Buffy stuff, though I'm a big fan). But if the audience weren't there, there wouldn't be so many of them.

Not all of the books I've read have been that great, and some outright stank. But I'm really drawn to them because of my interest in the source material. I'm a big fan of B5, and since learning the card game based on V:tM, I've been interested in most things related to it (without actually getting drawn in to the role-playing game itself). But it's no doubt a limited appeal, a limited audience for the books. And it makes me wonder what extra challenges the writers have to deal with, staying within the confines of the universe they're writing for.

# [/entertainment/books]

Shattering My Sense of Government Inefficiency 2002.11.27.03:04

I just went through check-in and security at San Francisco International in a whopping 10 minutes, give or take. To be fair, there wasn't a huge crowd, but that wasn't the real contributor to the speed.

I'm flying United Airlines, and when I arrived I found that e-ticket holders had an option of using self-check-in automated terminals. Using any credit card, you identify yourself to the terminal, and touch-screen-type the first few letters of your destination. You are then brought up the options of identifying how many pieces of baggage you're going to check, reviewing and changing your seat even, and finally printing your own boarding pass. All that is left is to actually hand over your baggage, have your photo ID verified and collect your baggage claim tickets. Whoom, you're ready to go. The process of security isn't that much different, but they just seemed more stream-lined in the processes. My laptop was still examined as a separate item, they still looked over my backpack more than once (I have a notepad/clipboard I keep meaning to take out, because the metal cross-spring looks funky on an X-ray), and so on. But they seemed more practiced an comfortable. No one appeared to be just going through the motions or even bored. Just... efficient.

Of course, I now have over an hour to kill before my flight even starts to board.

(And yes, I know that the use of a credit card for ID is more than a little iffy, but between the e-ticket and the frequent-flyer account that already tags me the cat is pretty much out of the bag anyway.)

# [/misc]

Duel Reviews: <a href="http://us.imdb.com/Details?0280665">Femme Fatale</a> and <a href="http://us.imdb.com/Details?0246460">Die Another Day</a> 2002.11.23.09:42

This was an odd movie day, even for me. Not one, but two films in the theatre, not even limited to DVD.

Die Another Day was a team outing for lunch at work. This is good, because I would probably have paid full price for it otherwise, Bond-fan that I am. And it isn't worth $8.75. That's too bad, because I thought The World is Not Enough to be one of the best offerings since Sean Connery hung up the dinner jacket. The biggest problems with this installment are pacing, and some area where attention to the FX was sorely lacking. There's a para-surfing scene that is just wretching in the CGI rendering. The movie drags through non-action parts, and goes almost too quickly on the action sequences, leaving you with a disoriented sense. Plus, everyone is jumping on the "bullet motion" camera bandwagon, and we just don't need it with Bond. He's already cool enough. Halle Berry is wasted as Jinx, and I hope that the rumors of there being spin-off movies for her character are just rumors. She can do so much better.

Keeping with the "it could have been much better" theme, I went to see Femme Fatale this evening. I admit it: I went to ogle Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, and watch her be really, really bad. And if that is what you want, you'll be happy. Again, pacing was the enemy, and you never really felt like Stamos' character could really pull off passing as French and fooling a savvy politician who wrangles the Ambassadorship to France. It just seems like he would know better. But this movie is all about the eye-candy and it delivers as promised. One I should definately have either seen as a matinee, or waited for video. Nothing would be lost in the transistion to the small screen, and you'll have the option of pausing and re-playing the steamy parts.

# [/entertainment/movies]

Not Very Good at This 2002.11.22.20:12

5 days since my last journal entry. This is generally what would happen in the past, when trying to keep a "traditional" journal. A burst of energy and activity at first, followed by a lull, then eventually I'd just quit writing entirely. I'm hoping to break that cycle with this one, though.

It does beg the question, however, as to what role a journal like this should play. Some of the writers who's journals I read keep them light, just using them as a forum for sharing interesting URLs and the occassional life update. Others, like Doc Searls, tend more to issues with the occassional glimpse into a personal life. And some I know of are intensely personal, written for the writer's own benefit first and foremost, and if others find something they can use in there, that's OK too.

I'm not a very open person, so I don't know where I'll eventually end up feeling comfortable. I do note that as I write this, almost a third of my entries are entertainment-related, owing to my love of movies and books. And very little is actually about me, or should I say, about me.

# [/misc]

Another Present from Red Hat 2002.11.17.12:38

I'm currently converting all my MP3 files to Ogg Vorbis format, not because I want to be particularly correct about things, but because the new version of XMMS that Red Hat 8 installed won't play MP3 files. Another decision they chose to make for me, on my behalf. Thank you so very much.

# [/tech]

Petition to Withdraw from the Human Race 2002.11.17.12:31

Respectfully submitted.

I either have no sense for judging the sincerity and trustworthiness of my friends, or I just have no sense of how to be part of society. And hours of watching TV (another third of "24") nor comfort food until I'm sick has made any difference.

I have no right to complain, really. So I won't.

I'm pretty sure it's just me. It's like that humorous take on the Inspirations series of posters, this one called "Dysfunction":

The common element in all your failed relationships is you.

And that is totally, completely true. It's me. All me, me me me.

If you're reading this and you think I'm talking about you, I can almost promise that I'm not. Don't read anything into it that isn't here in plain text. Seriously.

# [/misc]

Mystery of the Batteries Solved 2002.11.16.11:13

It seems my voltage converter was the problem. Back in the U.S., where I can feed the recharger clean, unfiltered 110AC, it seems to work just fine. Batteries charged using it lasted the full model club meeting this evening.

# [/tech]

I Feel So Dirty 2002.11.12.18:01

I laughed when I saw that Starbuck's shops were popping up in London, thinking that they probably wouldn't be able to compete with the existing café culture here. And of course, I don't even go into Starbuck's at home, I'm certainly not doing so here.

I'm in the Starbuck's on Old Broad St., near Liverpool St. station. Why oh why am I in the lair of corporate conformity?

They're currently doing a trial-run of providing wireless network access with T-Mobile. It's free, and they even have power outlets to plug my laptop into. That's why.

But I'm only drinking a juice. I don't even like coffee, anyway.

# [/misc]

Well Bugger it All 2002.11.12.17:46

I'm determined not to let the last day or so ruin my trip. But suffice to say that this hasn't been as wide-eyed and magical as my first trip to London was.

My problems with the digital camera and its batteries persisted. Then when we got to the RAF Duxford air museum, I found that something had caused corrosion in the battery compartment of my 35mm camera's flash. It was completely unusuable. On top of that, something must have jarred the lens assembly, as it wouldn't focus properly unless the zoom lens was completely inward, at the closest range. So all my indoor photography had to be done with the digital, but I was going through batteries so fast that I had to use the 35mm outside. Then I had to play focusing games.

When I got to my hotel, I found that despite having booked online with a credit card, I was expected to pay at the time, and pay in cash no less. So I had to go find a cashpoint (ATM) and get the funds. Then I found that my room was on the 4th floor, which in English English means the fifth floor. The ground floor is called exactly that, and the next floor up is where the numbering starts. Then I find that they have no elevator, so I have to schlep my baggage up the stairs. And stairs in London are really fucking narrow. And steep. But I made it, rested up a bit, and went out for a bite of dinner and a wander.

Dinner was passable, but I should have known better than to wander. For one thing, my feet were already heinously sore from all the walking at the show and at Duxford earlier that day. But I wanted to wander SOHO again, since it had been so, well, vibrant last time. What happened was, I ended up getting conned by a very slick pair of street-hustlers who led me to believe I was getting a ticket to a sold-out show. Through that con and some good sleight of hand, I ended up out of about £60 ($120). The worst part isn't the money, though that part did hurt. The pisser is that I should have known better, and even ignored some red-flags early on in the conversation that I should have paid more attention to.

Then, to just crown the evening, as I was walking to the bus to get back to my hotel, a blister on one of my feet broke. So now I'm hobbling along, it's well past midnight (hence the bus, rather than the tube), I'm out a notably amount of money, and then it hits me...

I have to climb five flights of stairs when I get to the hotel.

# [/misc]

The Lovely Countryside 2002.11.11.20:05

The B&B we've stayed in here in Telford is lovely. It's very, well, English:

Of course, the centerpiece of English civilization (Oops– I mean civilisation) is the pub. And there are about three of them within walking distance of the B&B. The one my friends prefer is called "The Bird in Hand", and it's the farthest of the three. But last night we decided to check out the one next door to it, called "Robin Hood". What a night we were in for.

First of all, it was their monthly musician's jam night. Your typical amateur folk music gathering. One guy on guitar and banjo, and older one on fiddle, and a woman with a flute and accordian, who also occassionally sang. But later on, two guys came over and specifically invited the five of us to come over and join them. They were so intrigued by the large-ish group of Californians, that they started fishing around for American songs to sing. While the rendition of "Blowin' in the Wind" was pretty good, "All Along the Watchtower" was just plain painful.

One character, called Rich, was definately what they would call a "nutter" in local parlance. Dude was flakier than pastry wrapping on the Cornish Pasty I tried. Of course, our friend Mike is just as bad, and the two hit it off famously. When we left at 9:00 or so, pleading our early morning as reason for the early night, Mike stayed. We later found that he left 2 hours (and 2 more pints) later.

In an unusual move for me, I decided to get into the spirit of things by having a pint of Guiness, my first. Not too bad, but I think most beer is an acquired taste. And if I haven't acquired the taste by now, I probably never will.

# [/misc]

Must Be My Magnetic Personality 2002.11.10.14:30

Local time: About 2:30, Sunday the 10th

I'm having a shit time with batteries on this trip. Yesterday, trying to use the laptop without any A/C available, I dropped to 40% battery within about 15 minutes. From about 8:00 this morning until just now (2:20 PM) opening up the laptop and plugging it in here at the show, I had drained off 7% or so of the battery just sitting in my backpack suspended. I have three sets of NiMH rechargable batteries for my digital camera, but none of the three sets have lasted more than 10-12 pictures. One set doesn't seem to work at all. I bought a set of plain alkalines this morning, and have thus far today gotten more play from them than I have from the three rechargeable sets combined.

# [/tech]

Around the Floor in Telford 2002.11.09.15:57

I'm here at the IPMS/UK Nationals in Telford. It's a very different kind of modeling show than what we generally see in the U.S., especially where the competition part of the show is concerned.

The show here fills two of three halls at the Telford International Centre (Telford is in Shropshire, near the Welsh border, for those who are interested). Overall, it is roughly twice the floorspace of the largest IPMS/USA National conventions I've been to. But it isn't just a matter of simple square-footage. There are a lot of differences that are regardless of size, that say a lot about the different hobby cultures.

In the U.S., the conventions are about two things: the model contest itself, and vendors selling products. The contest area is usually half the total floorspace. There are no displays outside of competition, except for a few things on vendor tables intended to illustrate their offerings.

In contrast, the show here is much more about display and exhibition than competition or sales. There are more vendors here than you'll find at a U.S. show, but they take up just over half of the space. The contest is about 10% of the space. The remaining space is taken up by club and SIG (Special Interest Group) displays, plus a few non-sales-oriented exhibits by big-name manufacturers like Revell and Tamiya, or displays by groups that aren't necessarily modeling-oriented, like the Aviation Heritage Society.

That's an interesting set of numbers to look at: the show is twice as large, but the competition part is just 20% the size of the U.S. event. Instead, there are a lot of displays here that just aren't present at the U.S. show. Most of the models that are in the competition here are really, really good. It's not a matter of lack of skilled entries, but just a different focus for the show itself. Less about winning, more about socializing.

# [/hobby]

Aircraft Enthusiasts Cleared 2002.11.07.08:34

Planespotters cleared of espionage

This is a relief. I do this anytime I travel. Mostly, I go for museums, but any chance to take pix of the real thing I go for, especially military stuff.

# [/hobby]

Hours From Departure 2002.11.07.08:21

Within about 16 hours, I'll be en route to London, England. I'm going for the IPMS/UK National Convention in Telford, Shropshire. I'll also get to take in a few air museums, and I'll be kicking around London itself for Monday night and all of Tuesday.

One really cool thing is that the good folks at London.pm, the London Perl User's Group, have called an "emergency meeting" for that Tuesday night. A pub gathering more or less in my honor (and because they'll do anything for another night out drinking), which will be a great way to finish up the trip.

Journal writing will be sporadic, since I don't know what kind of access I'll have. I plan on doing some net.stumbling, but no guarantee I'll find a useful signal.

# [/misc]

Bugger 2002.11.06.10:28

CNN Projects GOP to Win Senate, Hold House

This just depresses the living hell out of me. If I don't return from England, this will be why.

Many of my friends think I'm too reactionary about the GOP and the president. I look at this, and see a war-mongering simpleton who's only real constraint thus far has been the resistence he gets from the Senate. Now we have a senate that will be more likely (I feel) to give him all the go-ahead he wants. The worst part will be the committee changes. They'll have the chance to take back things like the Judicial Oversight committee. We'll see all the far-right judicial candidates now, and I expect most of them will get their appointments. Don't expect to see anything more than a slap on the hands to the happy-go-lucky campers at Enron and WorldCom. They might not have gotten more than that anyway, but the chances of real recriminations are even lower, now.

As are my hopes for the short-term future.

# [/politics]

It All Started With the Giant Rabbits 2002.11.06.10:16

As most in the U.S. should have known, today (well, yesterday, to be pedantic) was election day. A lot of key Senate seats were up for grabs, all of the House (as always), and several governor positions. On top of all this was the usual mix of state and local elections, ballot initiatives, etc. Only this year, I talked myself out of voting.

I think my voter apathy can be traced back to the 1976 campaign year. I was 8 years old, and I and my 6-year-old brother had talked our parents into letting us stay up to watch one of those "nature gone horriby wrong" horror films, one about giant rabbits (whose title I can't remember). I remember it was on pretty late, so it must not have been a school night (and ergo not the actual election day that year). Anyway, something political pre-empted our movie feature. We tried our damnedest to stay awake, hoping that the movie would still show. We fell asleep in front of the TV. Some aspect of politics was more important than our movie about giant rabbits terrorizing the countryside.

I obviously still have issues with this.

So, I didn't vote after all, despite telling several people that I would. If the issues I considered important don't pass, I'll have to accept that I didn't do my part. I couldn't motivate myself to vote for Gray Davis as our governor, even though I sincerely believe Bill Simon would be much worse. And none of the third-party candidates have enough clues between them to start a fire, much less run California. Oh well. I suppose I'll go check CNN and see what I've missed so far.

# [/politics]

Time-Wasters I Don't Complain About 2002.11.05.09:25

I've recently added a new TV show to my weekly allotment. That show is the Fox real-time drama, 24.

I avoided it all of last season, because the time-slot was kind of inconvenient, and because I wasn't sure about the hype. But I watched the season premiere last week, then watched it again tonight. It's some pretty damned impressive TV. Because of this new-found fascination, I went and rented the first of the three pairs of DVDs for last season (it comes as a set of six discs, two per case). 8 hours of the first season (6 to be honest, since there aren't any commercials), a ration that should have lasted me until tomorrow, at least I rented these on Saturday, and I finished them on Saturday. And if I weren't heading off to England this Thursday, I'd have already gone in search of the second pair.

I'm pretty picky about my TV-watching, I don't channel-flip anymore (on rare occassion, at least). But this is definately worth tuning in to again.

# [/entertainment/tv]

Who Am I:
Randy J. Ray
Software Engineer


Buy my book!

Programming Web Services with Perl

I've also contributed three chapters to:

Computer Science & Perl Programming

Category quick-links:


24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31          

Apr May Jun
Jul Aug Sep
Oct Nov Dec

Reading and Re-reading
· The Annotated Thursday: G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Would Be Thursday, G.K. Chesterton, Martin Gardner
· The Feeling Good Handbook, David D. Burns
· Organizing From the Inside Out, Julie Morgenstern
· XML Schema, Eric Van Der Vlist
· BEEP: The Definitive Guide, Marshall T. Rose

High in the queue
· Silk, Caitlin R. Kiernan
· Coldheart Canyon, Clive Barker
· Idoru, William Gibson
· Shared Source CLI Essentials, David Stutz, Ted Neward, Geoff Shilling

Recently finished
· Planetary Vol. 3: Leaving the 20th Century, Warren Ellis, et al

Recommended favorites
· The Cowboy Wally Show, Kyle Baker
· Lost Souls, Poppy Z. Brite
· The Alienist, Caleb Carr
· Quarantine, Greg Egan
· The Authority: Relentless, Warren Ellis et al.
· Planetary: All Over the World and Other..., Warren Ellis et al.
· American Gods, Neil Gaiman
· Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
· Neuromancer, William Gibson
· A Philosophical Investigation, Philip Kerr
· Say You Want a Revolution (The Invisibles, Book 1), Grant Morrison et al
· You Are Worthless: Depressing Nuggets of..., Oswald T. Pratt and Scott Dickers
· Cryptonomicon, Neil Stephenson
· Rising Stars : Born In Fire (Vol. 1), J. Michael Straczynski

Powered by Blosxom [Valid RSS] Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS! creativecommons.org