Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Forest of Stars review

I read my second, and probably last, book in the Saga of Seven Suns science fiction series by Kevin J. Anderson. This one, called A Forest Of Stars is set five years after the first book and continues following the adventures of many characters, a chapter at a time (although sometimes confusingly mixing in the point of views). It was okay, but I think I'll abandon the series for the following reasons:

  • I got more and more annoyed with the fact that all the main governments discussed are either monarchies or some sort of corporate oligarchy. In other words, in the distant future, democracy doesn't happen. I realize it is probably easier to write about a single ruler, but it just doesn't feel right.
  • Interbreeding of the species is annoying too. Unless at some point later in the series explains how this comes about, it just is too far fetched.
  • Everything hinge too much off of too many wildly improbable coincidences, like the leader of the Hansa just happened to walk down to the launch deck to discover a rogue robot. Or the figurehead King accidentally uncovering an assassination plot. Just too many


And those above reasons, combined with my general apathy towards sci-fi, means I'm probably not going back. There's too many other books out there. If you like some good, "hard" sci-fi, a real sprawling space opera, with death, hardware, romance and some intrigue, you might give it a try.

A Forest of Stars
Kevin J. Anderson


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Professor Wikipedia

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Who Killed Amanda Palmer?

WKAP is now available in plenty of different options, from straight CD all the way up to the deluxe version complete with unique autographed Neil Gaiman / Amanda Palmer book. All include free high quality MP3 downloads. Let's show Amanda that the Internet works!

Preorder Who Killed Amanda Palmer



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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Stalking Yggdrasil

On the video gaming front, I have been playing two games - Etrian Odyssey on the DS and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl on the PC. I also traded in my copy of Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare on the PS3 for the PC version, although I haven't played it much.

Etrian Odyssey is a fun little old school turn-based RPG, hearkening back to the days of Might & Magic and Bards Tale on the PC. Everything is at 90deg., you step forward on square and stuff happens. You can have up to five in your party, which can be the typical fighter/mage/healer/archer classes. Then you head out to explore the mysterious Yggdrasil Labyrinth near the town. Sounds very much like my old school D&D adventuring actually.

The combat is also the usual pick an action for each of the party members, then they act based upon initiative. It's fun, interesting, and not very mind bending, making it a good end of the day game to play. It's also really tough. I'm only in the very beginning, having made it down to the first level, and you die alot. I ran into my first "F.O.E." (which really is an acronym for something silly), some super monster that I can barely dent. Again, a favorite game master trick of mine in D&D campaigns, putting impossible monsters on early levels, just to teach the players some humility, to know when to fold up and run.

The other cool thing about Etrian Odyssey is the mapping is done on the touch screen, so you actually draw out the dungeon as you explore it. It's a nicely done interface, so you can draw walls, floors, treasures, events and notes. It is again a nice throwback to the old days of mapping levels. I'm enjoying it, even if it is (or maybe because) tough.

I'm also back playing S.T.A.L.K.E.R., which I keep doing fitfully. The interface and items are still a bit mysterious and the manual doesn't help. I'm reading the Gamespot game guide now to see if it explains more about what artifacts are, how to use them, and what some of the UI clues are (like the little number on the minimap). It is a fun game, but also pretty tough. I've finally figured out how to heal on the fly, so that's helped. The AI seems to be pretty good, both friend and foe, and the atmosphere, especially when it gets dark, is good and creepy.

My Day of Defeat clan, The 95th Rifles, is sort of casting about for a new game, as DoD 1 is on its way out. No one has been real keen on DoD:Source, so we've started hosting a Call of Duty 4 server. I had it for the PS3, but traded it in (at a heavy loss!) for the PC version. I played a little multiplayer yesterday and find it pretty hectic now, but maybe it'll feel better as I get more experienced. I haven't tried the single player game yet, although the first Call of Duty remains one of the few games I've ever played all the way through, despite its heavy use of scripted events.

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Friday, September 5, 2008

Husband Store

An old joke I was reminded of for some reason:

A store that sells new husbands has just opened in New York City, where a woman may go to choose a husband. Among the instructions at the entrance is a description of how the store operates.

"You may visit this store ONLY ONCE! There are six floors and the value of the products increase as the shopper ascends the flights. The shopper may choose any item from a particular floor, or may choose to go up to the next floor, but you cannot go back down except to exit the building!"

So, a woman goes to the Husband Store to find a husband.

On the first floor, the sign on the door reads: Floor 1 - These Men Have Jobs.

The second floor sign reads: Floor 2 - These Men Have Jobs and Love Kids.

The third floor sign reads: Floor 3 - These Men Have Jobs, Love Kids, and are Extremely Good Looking.

"Wow," she thinks, but feels compelled to keep going.

She goes to the fourth floor and the sign reads: Floor 4 - These Men Have Jobs, Love Kids, are Drop-dead Good Looking, and Help With Housework.

"Oh, mercy me!" she exclaims, "I can hardly stand it!"

Still, she goes to the fifth floor and the sign reads: Floor 5 - These Men Have Jobs, Love Kids, are Drop-dead Gorgeous, Help with Housework, and Have a Strong Romantic Streak.

She is so tempted to stay, but she goes to the sixth floor and the sign reads: Floor 6 - You are visitor 31,456,012 to this floor. There are no men on this floor. This floor exists solely as proof that women are impossible to please. Thank you for shopping at the Husband Store.

To avoid gender bias charges, the store's owner opens a Wife Store just across the street.

The first floor has wives that love sex.

The second floor has wives that love sex and have money. The third through sixth floors have never been visited.


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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Right Hypocrisy

Along the lines of a cool Ben Bradlee quote I read today here:

"Even the very best newspapers have never learned how to handle public figures who lie with a straight face."


Comes this great clip from the Jon Stewart show:



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Clerkenwell

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Movie Review: GoldenEye

Just lazing around last night, so I quickly scanned the list of free HD movies found OnDemand from Comcast. Nothing too intriguing until I hit GoldenEye. As I mentioned in my review of Casino Royale that I hadn't seen any of the Pierce Brosnan Bond movies, thus I didn't know that Judi Dench had taken over as "M". Coincidentally enough, GoldenEye (sic) was the Bond debut for both of them, so it was a good opportunity to catch a Brosnan Bond.

I can remember saying back in the day when I was a Remington Steele fan that Brosnan would make an excellent Bond. And he did, although the performance felt a little stiff and forced. Perhaps he does a better job in later movies, although this wasn't too bad. He sure looks the part.

In GoldenEye, Bond goes up against some Russian treachery, as the unbelievably wild and sexy Xenia Zirgavna Onatopp (played with stylish pizazz by Famke Janssen) steals a helicopter and helps hijack a secret Russian super EMP (Electro Magnetic Pulse) bomb that can knock out the electrical devices in an entire city. Bond obviously gets in the way, rescuing a beautiful Russian technologist in the process.

Not too bad, although the violence was pretty overwhelming. I always thought of the Bond sagas as having more subtlety than just having him machine gun down hordes of faceless foot soliders, which happened on several occasions. And the baddy kept having these wacky setups to try and kill Bond with panache, which were as annoying as ever. Oh, Hollywood still can't do fake snow that is in the slightest way believable.

The picture quality was really nice, but the sound was only in stereo, which is often the case for the free ones. I'll bet it would have given the subwoofer a real work out. Tina Turner's theme song was good, as was the opening montage. And it had an excellent car race along the twisty mountain roads.

But in the end, it was about all that you could hope for from a Bond - delicious women, exhilirating escapes, solid supporting cast and wildly implausible plots! There are worse ways to spend a couple of hours.



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