Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Book

Finished reading Memoirs of a Geisha yesterday and I'm sorry I ever started it. I like Japanese things, I like reading about Japan and, not knowing much about geishas, thought a book (even a novel) about the life of a geisha would be interesting and informative. And it might well be, but I still don't know because this book isn't really the "memoirs" of a geisha. Instead it's an insipid love story that really only deals with a very few years in her life. It is interesting to read about how things were done and about some of the day to day activities in which a geisha participated. But the main character is dumber than a box of hammers. She can barely figure out how to tie her own shoes and has not even a rudimentary understanding of human nature that persists for years before she finally wises up and can deal with the world around her without making a total hash of everything. This is definitely a book to skip.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Give me my @#$% money!

Or I'll have Frank cut you.

UPDATE: Watch out if you click, apparently he has a troll spamming his comments with links to nasty things.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

More books (an afterthought)

As I noted in this post, I recently read Overture to Death by Ngaio Marsh which was the only book by her which my library did not have in its system and they apparently couldn't get on an inter-library loan from anywhere closer than San Antonio. Right, so when I went to the library today for the book sale I dropped the book in the book-return box and went to look for books to buy. Lo and behold, what should I find but a copy of the exact edition I had just returned. My library system didn't have the book because they were getting rid of it. Odd, no?

Book Sale

The local library held it's annual (or perhaps semi-annual) book sale today. Spent a fair bit of time and about $13.50 for 25 books. Pretty good deal, I'd say. Most of them were mysteries, Christie, Stout, Marsh and Sayers, but I also picked up a couple Asimov Foundation novels that matched the one I already had and filled out that trilogy. (I don't consider the tacked on later Foundation novels to be truly part of the canon, for reasons that are obvious to all right-thinking people who have read them.) From the non-fiction side of things, I got a volume of Margaret Thatcher's memoirs dealing with her time as Prime Minister and a copy of Macchiavelli's The Prince.

Of the books, there are probably about half a dozen mysteries that I hadn't read before and I haven't read either of the non-fiction books. Now that I consider it, however, I don't really know that The Prince is non-fiction. All I know is that it details some political theories, but I don't know if it's presented in the form of a novel or what.

While I was at the library I picked up a book I had on hold, Frazz: Live at Bryson Elementary. Frazz is one of the comics which I read on a regular basis (I need to update the list here; I don't read all of those comics any longer) and I laughed out loud a Frazz more often than I do at any other current comic, excepting only Get Fuzzy. The only drawback to Frazz is that it is too preachy and self-righteous for my taste rather too often.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

More WOW

It still crashes my computer sometimes, but other times it works just fine. So I don't know what the deal is. I can play it a bit, but I can't group with anyone because I don't know if my computer is going to give out at a crucial moment and cause everyone to die. Not fair to impose that burden on other people, so this wonderful massively multi-player game I'm forced into playing almost entirely solo. Yeah, it does.

Betting on WOW

What WOW needs is a betting system. Probably the easiest to implement would be one that would allow players to wager on the outcome of their duels. Right now when one duels, the winner gets nothing more than the ephemeral satisfaction of having won. And presumably adding a wager system would still allow people to duel for fun, or make a miniscule wager of a single copper piece. But for people who prefer higher stakes or have a firm belief in their ability and their gear, being able to offer a duel and say "I'll bet you 10 gold I can beat you" and have a system that prevents the loser from welshing on the deal would be nothing short of fantastic. Even better would be a system in which other people could wager on a duel between two other players, though this would be more difficult to implement, I would imagine. Perhaps duel won-lost records could be kept and successful duelers could enter competitions. With the ability to put some money on the outcome, imagine watching and participating in duels in Gurubashi Arena or in the center of Gadgetzan. You could have a whole new system of PVP rankings. Gladiatorial combat in WOW with money changing hands in wagers. Oh, yeah.

My first inclination (like you probably) was that if people other than the participants are allowed to wager on duels, this will lead to rampant cheating and problems with goldfarming through wagering on fixed fights. My friend who suggested that aspect of the idea, however, thinks that it could be kept under control in the same way that ninja looting is kept under control; that is to say, do it but once or twice and everyone will know not to bet on your fights. Your reputation will suffer so that no one will play with you any longer. I'm not fully convinced that's feasible, but I'm open to the idea since that would be even cooler.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Books

I've been re-reading quite a bit of Raymond Chandler's work lately, though I did read a book collection of his short stories recently, all of which were new to me. I'm enjoying it and finding that there are few, if any, of his novels that I have not yet read, though when I was looking his books up at the library I didn't recognise about half of the titles. The short stories were good, though some were a lot rougher at the edges than his novels and many of the plots were familiar as he used and combined elements from the short stories to lay the foundations of his novels. Most of the last handful or so were very strange stories that were very different from the rest. A couple were rather more depressing than his usual fare and a couple had fantastical elements more associated with Weird Tales than with straight detective stories, but they were well written for the most part. There was even a Marlowe short story which I hadn't read before and had been written after most of the novels if not after all of them and which, as a result, had a completely original plot. I quite enjoyed the book. I should warn anyone interested that if you're a slow reader, budget time for this because it's nearly 1300 pages long.

By contrast, CS Lewis' The Abolition of Man is quite short and could be read by anyone rather quickly. It's barely 100 pages and the book's dimensions are small in other regards as well. It starts out as a condemnation of the tendency of educators to include moral judgments in lessons where they do not belong, such as the teaching of English, and moves from there (and this is the bulk of the book) to a defense of traditional moral precepts based on arguments from logic and natural law. At least, that was how I understood the book. I'm always nervous when I comment on a book with a philosophical bent that someone else who has read the book will reply that I have not understood the thrust of the author at all and I will be worsted in the exchange because I have not been able to comprehend the author's meaning.

Most recently I have finished reading the last of Ngaio Marsh's mystery novels that I had not read before. I have now read all of her 30-odd book canon of Inspector Alleyn stories (most of them last year) and jolly good most of them were too. This book in particular was Overture to Death which was pretty creative and interesting though, since it was an earlier story, it includes the abominable Nigel Bathgate in the role of incompetent Watson to Alleyn's Holmes. The murder method in this book was rather fanciful, but it was made about as plausible as it could be and the author did play fair with the clues leaving them all out in the open for the reader and reserving only the detective's conclusions. And while I have not retreated from my initial impression of Marsh as somewhat of a Sayers wannabe, I do think they are good enough that I will be looking for them in second-hand stores and at library sales with a view to collecting them all.

Moving

I'm not moving, but I and a few others are helping a friend (a college roommate of mine) move this weekend. Always fun times manhandling a king size mattress up a narrow flight of stairs that bends 90 degrees in two places. Did most of the large and heavy furniture today and the word is that it's boxes and odds and ends tomorrow. I get fed, get exercise and hang out with friends all day. Yeah, I think I come out ahead.

On a slightly different note, as soon as I lamented to the world about my computer crashing when I played WOW, it didn't do it at all when I played yesterday. So I don't know what is going on. I just hope it doesn't happen any more.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Life and stuff

I think I'm going to have to give up WOW. It's a wrench, but every time I play, my computer crashes after a time. The length of time varies, but it's rarely more than an hour and often much less. When it reboots itself, the error reporting indicates that one of the system components failed. Not good. But I only ever have this problem when playing that particular game. So I'm thinking that I may just give up that game and try and stretch the life of this computer out a bit longer. It still does the things that I really require out of my computer: e-mail, DVD playing, internet surfing, music playing, etc. The games are nice, but they have become less important to me with time even if lately a particular game has been consuming a fair bit of my time.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Prisoner

I've been watching episodes of The Prisoner with my wife lately. We haven't been watching them every night, but when we get a chance we sneak in an episode or two. I'm still really enjoying them, despite this being the third time I've watched them through. (I think it's three...) Sometimes movies and television don't really stand up to repeated viewings. One notices more detail and plot holes can loom larger when one has time to anticipate the twists that are coming. But despite some flaws (the "science" is really just a bunch of ridiculous Macguffins (and yes, I know I don't usually use Wikipedia) the stories themselves stand up well and remain interesting and fun.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Books

Read two new (to me) books in the last couple days, both of which were very good. The first was Dead Water by Ngaio Marsh, which leaves only one more of her books that I haven't read. (The title of that final book escapes me for the moment.) The reason I haven't read the last is because my library system lost its only copy and I delayed so long on reading Dead Water because the only copy my library has (in English) is in large print. I hate reading large print books. It wasn't a bad book, and played scrupulously fair in presenting the evidence to the reader entirely. I wasn't shocked by the murderer, but I did guess wrong. Oddly, however, the book's back cover blurb had the victim wrong, which seemed really odd to me. I mean, don't people read these books, or at least skim them, before writing those things?

The other book I read was Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer. You may have seen the movie with Brad Pitt that came out a few years ago. The movie was good, and the book was excellent. Not only was it an interesting period in history, but the story would have made a fantastic adventure/fantasy tale. If one didn't know better, one would say that something like this is too exotic to be real. A German mountain soldier, on an expedition to the Himalayas is interned by the British in India when World War II starts. After several unsuccessful attempts, he manages to escape and flees with a friend to Tibet. Once there, he evades deportation for several months and then the two of them sneak into the middle of the country to the capital of Lhasa where, once they have been granted asylum, he manages to befriend the young Dalai Lama shortly before the country is invaded and subjugated by the ChiComs. I'd recommend this book to just about anyone. It's amazing.

Movies

Watched Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit last weekend. It wasn't bad. Quite funny in places, the animation was impressive, but the anti-hunting message was pitched a bit strong. All in all it wasn't too awful. The shorter episodes were better, however, than the full-length movie. I'm not sure if it's a weakness of the characters or what, though. Chicken Run, by the same chaps, was quite good so I don't think it's a fault with the medium.

This past week I also watched Pride and Prejudice, the most recent version starring Keira Knightly and Matthew McFayden (who?), and it was surprisingly good. It stuck far closer to the book than most other movies I've seen which were based on books. Though, do remember I just read the book for the first time a few months ago, so I'm not as intimately familiar with it as I am with something like The Count of Monte Cristo. Nor have I seen any of the other versions of Pride and Prejudice, so I can't compare it to them. Donald Sutherland was excellent as Mr Bennet and he got to speak some of my favourite lines from the book verbatim. There were a couple moments where the dialogue turned jarringly modern, but it was by and large superb.