Monthly Archives: September 2007

The long, hard grind…

…Is finally over.

Janus in the crystal caverns

After several days of in-game grinding, started almost immediately after I reached level 70 (because I’m a dork), Janus, my Ghost Saber, has finally come to join me at the top.

It’s good, ‘cuz I was getting lonely up there.

I seem to be much less efficient at this grinding thing than Reclypse, as I didn’t get a significant amount of rep while grinding. I mostly hung out at Firewing Point, where the warlocks were (usually) kind enough to stay at range. Hence, I got a bit of Scryers rep, but as Firewing Signets stop being useful rather quickly I just ended up selling most of them in the AH. Surprisingly, that still didn’t get me enough gold for my epic flyer (or maybe I just spend my gold way too frequently on gear upgrades!).

I did build a lot of melee weapon skill, though :)

Now I’m onto the next grind- 2000 more gold and then lots of daily Netherwing quests!

LOL: Washer chimp is washing!

Via Neatorama, I normally hate monkeys and apes (too much like people) but I love this. Maybe it’s the old timey music, and maybe it’s the super surreal and cute subject matter. More likely, it’s because there’s a cat. I’m a sucker for cats.

That cat puts up with scrubbing really well. He and the chimp must be good friends! There must be something about felines and primates conducive to this sort of thing.

Further evidence:

Exhibit A, monkey and kitten:

Monkey and kitty

Exhibit B, Koko and her kitten:

Koko’s Kitten

I think I might be onto something, here.

Brian Keene: justifying the poor reputation of horror fiction

I do not like Brian Keene.

The Rising
I read his first zombie novel, The Rising, after reading good things about it on the Internet. I hated it. The thing I remember most about it was how repetitive everything in it was- either that, or how stupid all the characters were. I don’t mean normal genre stupid here, I mean characters who are completely incapable of realizing that the speaking undead are capable of reasoning, planning, or being led, despite them spewing exposition and outsmarting the living all over the place. The idea of the dead being reanimated by demons as a way to get them out of hell (I think it was something like that) was new (to me at least), but the execution was excruciating.

Anyway, I was ready to ignore Brian Keene forevermore after that, but then I was at Fangoria, and so was he, and there was a boring time in the schedule and I had time to kill, so I decided to sit through his panel. And I got to know Mr. Keene a bit better, and I got to liking him a lot less. I know he’s apparently horror fiction’s golden child (bleaaargggh), and that everyone is calling him the next Stephen King (gah!) but that is no excuse for metaphorically strutting about so during the panel. The only enlightening datum I got from him was when he responded to a question saying something along the lines of “I don’t read my own work- once I write it, I’m done with it and the first draft is basically what you get.”. That’s a paraphrase, but I don’t think it’s too far removed from the actual statement. Anyway, I appreciated that because it explained a lot- mostly, how a book can start with an interesting concept but end up with such terrible, repetitive, and sometimes inconsistent execution – it’s basically like a train of thought, or an idea. Which actually means that his stuff is pretty good, for what it is. It just isn’t much of anything.

Dead Sea
Carrying on. Sometime after that, Matt Staggs posted a review of Keene’s new book, Dead Sea, in his blog. After reading that, specifically the part where Staggs said, “I was one of a handful of people who didn’t like Keene’s ‘The Rising'”, I decided that the thing might have potential afterall, so figured I’d give Keene another shot.

Note the difference in subject matter between the covers of the two novels- I think that really gives one a feeling of the kind of thought and originality that goes into all of Keene’s writing.

Anyway, suffice to say, ‘Dead Sea’ is a better read than ‘The Rising’. The characters are significantly less stupid, but the writing isn’t; and I’m just not the type of person who can gloss over stuff like that. If you want to turn in first drafts to the publisher that’s your own lookout, but don’t publishers usually hire editors to take care of glaring inconsistencies?

Here are a few examples:

  • Toothbrush
    Page 105: “Mitch had a tube of toothpaste in his backpack.”
    Page 125: “‘You stayed here during the collapse?’ Murphy, the man who’d lent us toothpaste earlier, asked.’
  • Gore
    Page 249: “He’d apparently died in his sleep, even as Hamelin’s Revenge coursed through his veins. His mouth was crusted with blood and he clutched a half-eaten heart…”
    Page 250, two paragraphs later: “<He> immediately stopped his attack and greedily devoured it, dropping the intestine and using both hands…”

I know, I know- nit-picking. But when you are actually paying attention to the details of a story and it starts spouting inconsistencies at you, it really knocks you out of it and makes it hard to get back into things. That’s what it did to me, anyway, and I wasn’t looking for errors- I wonder how many I would have found if I were actually trying to perform an editor’s job?

As to the actual content of the story- it’s nothing new. In my opinion David Wellington covered undead animals much more effectively a few years back, in Monster Island; and I felt the expository meta-fiction (as Staggs referred to the Professor’s dialog) just came off as being rather self-important. And while people seem to appreciate Keene’s use of a hero who is not only black but also gay, I don’t see it as actually adding anything to the story; instead it just seemed to reinforce stereotypes. I’d actually like to know what people from either demographic think of the characterization, but then they’d have to read the book and I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone.

Completely random idea

I think it would be cool if there was a ‘Talk like a Ninja day’.

People could carry on their day normally, except never speaking (except maybe with throwing stars or poison darts – actions speak louder than words!).

On a completely unrelated note, the pirate vs. ninja Internet meme is very stupid, and I wish people would stop perpetuating it. Clearly, ninjas would be the victor in any confrontation between the two- the pirates would be lucky if they even noticed their stealthy doom coming through their grog-fueled stupors.

Never close enough

Via Futility Closet, an image wrought with intrigue and mystery!

Cat, rat mummies

In the 1860s, workers discovered the remains of a cat and a rat behind the organ in Dublin’s Christ Church Cathedral.

There’s no telling how long they’d been there. Their bodies had been desiccated in the dry air of the cathedral.

I’m really curious what the story (of an unknown age, presumably younger than the Cathedral and the organ) behind these mummies is. You know there has to be one, and it’s probably pretty interesting.

One possibility is that both animals actually died where they were found. But if that is the case, why didn’t the cat eat the rat? You don’t starve to death mid-stalk with food in front of you. If the cat died first, why didn’t the rat eat the cat? If they really did die at the same time, what could have killed them mid-predator-prey-relationship like that? Poison gas?

Another possibility is that both animals died somewhere else, and were brought, post-mortum to the place where they were later found. If that’s the case, then why? Some occult ritual? A curse, or a blessing?

Do you have any theories? Care to share? The more ludicrous, the better!

I’m up in ur cookie, stingin’ ur mouths!

Last time, we learned about Balut.

Today, via Mental Floss, we learn about Japanese wasp cookies.
Japanese wasp cookies

Japan’s newest snack craze is the product of a rice cracker producer who decided to spice up their recipe a bit … by adding wasps.

As you can see from the picture, they don’t skimp on the good stuff (like Raisin Bran, they give you two scoops), though no word yet on what taking a bite of this delicacy does to your tongue. A bag of 20 crackers costs about $3, but supplies are limited since the wasps are caught in the wild, and “only the best” are used.

What it does to your tongue, indeed. Also, what it does to your gums, esophagus, stomach, intestines… you get the idea.

I doubt these stinging delights are really the sensation they are made out to be.

Firstly, I never trust anyone who says something is a “craze”; it sounds too much like market dronese. This goes doubly so for rumors from the far east– things are often very strange over there, but they’re usually not that strange. Usually.

Secondly, if these are really wild wasps, lovingly harvested by elderly wasp hunters in a nearby village, I cannot see there being sufficient supply for the professed demand. If a $3 bag of these cookies contains 20 cookies, each similarly crammed with chitiny morsels, they would surely exhaust their supply sooner rather than later, assuming they were actually selling very many bags at all.

No, if this is happening at all, I think it’s just in this one village, and it’s something that some exterminators are doing on a lark. Some tourist probably happened by and got excited, as tourists are wont to do.

Still, the image is pretty gross. As I’m apparently getting a string of these, I’m creating a tag for them: Do. Not. Want.

 

This virtual life

Via brk, this[Valanos’ Longbow]; is pretty nifty. Yeah, the bow is nifty too (I’ve had two of them!), but I specifically meant the tooltip. Apparently, the white box stretching to the depths and obscuring everything is supposed to be an IE problem, but I’m seeing it in Firefox, too (and not just on my site).

While I’m here, would you care to see my current state of WoW? No? Too bad.

Nyshana, my main, is progressing nicely through the long, hard, grind. Once I reached 70, I promptly ran out to Darkshore and tamed myself a level 20 ghost saber (Janus). I guess running over there when I was level 20 would have made my life way too pleasant. Several days of in-game (and several weeks of out-game) time later, and now he’s level 67 and can usually hold agro. Now that I can actually quest again, the money grind for my epic flying mount is going much better, too.

Charna is my currently favored alt. I started playing her in my wait for the expansion and my fed-up-ness in playing an alliance hunter and my superficiality in not wanting to play any of the then available horde hunter races. I played her again more recently, whenever the pet leveling grind was getting me down. I’ll play her yet again once some friends who just rolled blood elves catch up to her level.

Latrodecta is my much neglected first character, who used to have a much better name. One day I should level her again, if only to boost her lockpicking skills.

Supereaters

Y’know how some people are gifted with what seems to be a hyperactive metabolism? You know the ones- they eat like shrews and are built like tongue depressors? Now, through the Miracle of Science™, you too can obtain this superpower.

Well, not really ‘now’; but I bet they’ll work on this before they work on finding a cure for cancer.

Via Neatorama, news from the upcoming dietpocalypse: ‘Skinny gene’ does exist, researchers find.

In the mice, the researchers found that increasing adipose activity improved the animals’ health in many ways. Mice with experimentally increased adipose activityate as much or more than normal mice; however, they were leaner, had diabetes-resistant fat cells, and were better able to control insulin and blood-sugar metabolism.

In contrast, animals with reduced adipose activity were fatter, less healthy and had diabetes.

The researchers’ work on flies showed that the gene is “dose-sensitive” — that is, the various combinations of the gene’s variants lead to a range of body types from slim to medium to obese.

“This is good news for potential obesity treatments, because it’s like a volume control instead of a light switch; it can be turned up or down, not just on or off,” Dr. Graff said. “Eventually, of course, the idea is to develop drugs to target this system, but that’s in the years to come.”

I think this sounds pretty innocuous- twiddling a certain gene to match what occurs naturally in others doesn’t seem too bad. I think it’s rather akin to the possibility of using gene therapy to treat harmful genetic mutations- such as has been done in the past with SCID. Afterall, if this research is then correct some forms of obesity basically are genetic disorders, at least in our society. Sure, fat stores can be very useful when there is no food, just as wisdom teeth are very useful once your other teeth have fallen out and you have room for them. However, both things usually end up doing more harm than good in this day, age, and place.

On the other hand, imagine the terriblosity of a world where everyone who can afford it can become as thin as they care to, and the alienation that those too poor or with moral objections to such practices would feel. Actually, I guess that’s not too terribly different from what we have now.

Personally, I feel ambivalent about this. For me, part of the fun of trying to become thin is the effort it takes- losing weight takes willpower, and builds/shows character. And the feeling of having successfully lost weight, and moreso, to have kept it off, is irreplaceable. It’s an accomplishment, and one worthy of being proud of.

Sure, there are other ways to sculpt one’s body, but personally, the female bodybuilding look doesn’t appeal to me.

A Mario level that plays itself?

Via BoingBoing:

As was mentioned in various places, this isn’t a real level that can be found in the game. Instead, it’s a hacked ROM, interesting in the same way that a Rube Goldberg machine is, or (as one BoingBoing commenter noted) in the same way that really intricate Domino setups are.

My only gripe is that Mario seems to inexplicably glide to the right on occassion, like on the platform at 00:36. I seem to recall a bit of momentum retention in-game, but not that much.