May 10th, 2010

#2062: Thanks, Democrats.

Big companies are thinking about entirely dropping health benefits for their employees. The article starts off with a PowerPoint slide showing how much money AT&T can save by dropping coverage and paying the fine: 4.1 billion dollars per year.

The article goes on to discuss why Henry "Nostrilitis" Waxman first demanded these companies explain themselves...and then quietly dropped the notion of having hearings at all. It would have been very, very embarassing for Democrats if those companies had gotten up in front of the committee and the CSPAN cameras and explained.

So a bunch of people are likely to lose their employer health insurance; and how many of them will get raises which reflect even a major percentage of that loss of income? Don't hold your breath.

Democrats and ObamaCare have just made life more expensive in the United States.

Thanks, Democrats.

* * *

The Chicago area has the highest gas prices in the country. Higher than California? WTF?

87 octane costs $3.16 per gallon out my way.

Thanks, Democrats.

* * *

Why are we thinking "cyberattack"? I thought the cause of the huge dip had been explained--someone made a mistake--so why ask the question?

Is something going on about which we're not getting the whole story?

* * *

In other news, "the Huge Dip" is going on my list of nicknames for Boss Tweek.

* * *

When the money to support socialism runs out, people riot. The people are used to getting "free money" from the government, but socialism is ultimately unsustainable and it always collapses, sooner or later.

When the cupboard is bare, the kids riot. Stuff gets broken and people die.

The leftists blame the deaths on capitalism, of course.

* * *

Can Africa get its shit together sufficiently to do something like this? I'm voting no, because if Africa had the ability to manage its own affairs in anything like a reasonable and effective fashion it wouldn't be the unmitigated shitpot it is.

Too many warlords, not enough rule of law. Too much corruption.

* * *

Obama's likely nominee has as much judicial experience as he had executive experience on Jan 20, 2009. He's probably sitting there thinking, "Hey, look how well I turned out!"

...argh. I just got a stabbing pain behind my eyes. I think I'm going to go lie down for a bit.

* * *

BakaBT is back up--or it was last night, anyway--but I flamed out around 8 PM last night and had to go to bed, so I put the computer to sleep and hit the hay.

* * *

The one deficiency with the weed whacker is that it's just a little too short for me to use without bending over just a little bit--just enough to make my back scream at me after a while.

But I can hold it with one hand and operate it pretty effectively, and that lets me stand straight.

* * *

Sunday morning I finally got around to watching all the crap I'd recorded--V, the car shows, Doctor Who--and I can't believe how freakin' predictable V is.

Spoilers:

Father Jack is wracked with guilt because he thinks the V shuttle they shot down was full of humans and is about to confess the crime to the FBI. When told the shuttle was in fact full of human corpses he suddenly regains his spine. No one notices that what's-her-face was alone in the room with him shortly before he manned up. Most people would think, "What did she say to him that made him so defiant?" But not the people in the V universe; no.

(And don't law enforcement people generally roll tape on interrogations? Couldn't someone review the tape and discover the reason for his sudden change of demeanor?)

Anna's daughter Lisa tells Anna that Tyler isn't coming to live aboard the V ship, that "I've failed you, mother." Anna hauls off and slugs her. Who didn't see that coming?

In fact, why the hell is Father Jack trusting the news reporter guy? ("Chad Decker"? Really?) The guy's in bed with the visitors, and he's a freaking reporter. Rule of thumb number one for any person involved in a fifth column or resistance movement of any kind: DO NOT TRUST REPORTERS. EVER. NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT. And now they've been given proof that they can't trust Chad Decker any farther than they could comfortably piss the USS Nimitz, yet they are still talking about bringing him in.

Come on: Father Jack gives Decker an oblique warning about flying on V shuttles, and Decker himself later admits to Father Jack that he told Anna, who is only the freaking grand high poobah of the Vs, that he received a warning about an imminent attack. If that isn't a big flashing neon sign that screams DO NOT TRUST ME, then what the hell is?

And Tyler, who is seventeen going on twelve, is all broken up over Lisa admitting that she was just using him. Predictably, Tyler is now beginning to shift all his loyalties back to his mother, even the ones which had drifted long before the Vs arrived. *sigh*

I wonder how much longer I'll be watching it?

End spoilers.

DW was, unexpectedly, a two-parter.

Can I just say right now that Karen Gillan, who plays Amy Pond, is made of hawt? If a certain novel of mine were to be made into a movie, she is the perfect person to play one of the characters in it. Everything is dead on, right down to her accent.

Amy Pond gets bonus points for having a brain. The Doctor tells her not even to blink, so while she's chiding him, "You know how hard it is not to blink?" she's closing one eye at a time. (Exactly what I'd do.)

* * *

It's not even 10 AM yet. Dang, I'm up early. That's what I get for going to bed at 8 PM.

#2063: V comments

Pretty much this is all either spoilers or probable spoilers. Don't read it if you give a rat's ass about having an uncorrupted experience with V...but as I said, the series is too damn predictable. The woman who played Tori in Battlestar Galactica, the federal agent, I knew she was a V from the moment she showed up.

Father Jack's mentor, the old priest, I think he's a V, too. I've thought that from the first episode.

I have to admit I now have no idea WTF the Vs are up to. What are they doing with the people in the "live aboard program"? They're jabbing them with really nasty-looking iron maiden-like machines for some reason, and apparently they're obtaining genetic information from them. Lisa saw Tyler's image in the data from some random woman; what does that mean? Is it showing good mating combinations?

Why are the Vs looking for humans with/from big families? Are they indeed breeding food/slaves as I feared at the beginning?

I'm holding out hope that they are not after Earth's water. I'm also holding out hope that they're not planning to take over Earth because they ruined the ecosystem of their homeworld; but their true motivations are still not obvious. Anna has an invasion fleet on the way, though, so clearly the Vs instend to stay on Earth regardless.

WTF was up with shooting down the V shuttle? Earth weapons couldn't do it, yet the missile they used looked suspiciously human in origin. There was some blather about "V code" being uploaded to the missile hardware but I have no idea how a little programming can make an antiaircraft missle with a high explosive warhead suddenly work effectively against something made from unobtanium.

What's that? "Earth missiles couldn't lock onto the V ship?" Why the hell not? It's invisible to radar? Perhaps it doesn't radiate heat (in direct violation of the laws of thermodynamics) but there's more than one kind of surface-to-air missile, you know. Heat-seeking is merely the easiest, because human technology does obey the laws of thermodynamics and the sky is rarely hotter than a flying machine.

Because no one else asked: where did the Vs get the human body parts they loaded on that shuttle?

"Chad Decker"? You really gave a character that name? Seriously?

I have a feeling I'll continue to watch through the end of the first season. I'm making no bets on how much of the second I'll watch.

I finally stopped watching Star Trek: Voyager about the time Jeri Ryan joined the cast. I saw the season premiere where 7 of 9 joined the cast; and never watched a single ep afterwards. I just lost interest in it because the show was too predictable, and it had drifted so far from "science fiction" and into "the gadget fix of the week" that it couldn't hold my interest any longer. (Is there anything the deflector dish of a starship cannot be used for? Anything at all? "Look, if you cross-connect it with the replicators, you can turn an asteroid into nachos!")

V has that kind of feel to it. The "Fifth Column" is existing by the skin of its teeth primarily on luck alone; their successes happen because of luck and their reversals happen because Anna uses strategy. There's no planning, no effort to expand, no attempt at communicating with other cells of the resistance. Every operation they undertake succeeds, usually handily.

A realistic fifth column wouldn't work that way, but of course it would cost too much to do a series about a realistic resistance movement fighting against alien invasion.

So far the show has been just interesting enough to keep me coming back, but it has managed to do no better than that. Certainly there is absolutely nothing new in this series whatsoever; it's using the same old tropes and memes from all the prior "alien invasion" stories and doing nothing new or unusual with them.

This doesn't make it bad. It just makes it "typical television". The problem is, I don't like "typical television", and unless something massive happens in the season finale to change the game I'm probably not going to see the point of following it next season.

#2064: Finally got around to watching Wings of Honneamise again.

Damn it, I forgot how good that movie is. (I abbreviate the title WoH. Just so you know.) There are spoilers in here, but c'mon: the movie was released in the US 16 years ago.

I don't know how many times that makes, now, that I've seen it. I bought the dub on VHS one fine Saturday morning in either 1994 or 1995, for the princely sum of $20, and it turned out to be one of the wisest anime investments I've ever made.

(Of course I watched a DVD tonight. I'm no fool.)

I have never watched the sub, ever. I watched a little bit of the show sub tonight, but except for a couple of minor points the dub is perfect.

Problem one: re-use of voices. Melody Lee did Mizu Mishtal in El Hazard so I instantly recognize her voice whenever it shows up anywhere, and besides doing Riquinni's voice she did at least two incidental voices. It kind of breaks my concentration.

Two: there are a few phrases the script writers for dubs use to pad lines out, so that the speech of the character matches the movement of his lips, or "flaps". Some writers use it to excess. For the most part, this movie doesn't suffer from that kind of thing, but there is one line where it's really bad: Shiro is standing on the vehicle support structure trying to memorize his speech, and one of his friends from the Space Force is talking about how the launch site is atop a "cave man's garbage heap". He wonders what people in the future will find when they dig up the launch site?

"I've got an idea. How about this?" Shiro says. ...it's all "flourish". It took longer to say the rest, "They find two skeletons who don't have any answers," in Japanese, I'd wager, and there wasn't anything else they could have him say.

(Another good example of this comes from Tenchi Muyo! OVA 3: Sasami is chiding Ayeka for being antisocial, and says, "The father may be out, but I can tell you this: Tenchi is at home!")

"Flourishes" pad the line to the correct length without changing the content of the line, and in fact they're the best possible compromise, but they still make me cringe.

The dub of WoH is uncommonly good, though, even for 1994.

The world itself is incredibly complex and thoroughly different from ours. Gainax spent an amazing amount of time developing alternative designs for every basic technology we take for granted. The alternatives are just as technologically valid and obey the laws of physics, but they look different.

Example: Matti's motorcycle uses a suspension design we wouldn't use on a motorcycle. Where we use straight shock absorbers with springs, they use a sort of folding design. It looks cool as hell, but it would be fantastically expensive for someone to build a motorcycle that way in our world, because our motorcycle industry is built around using straight coil-over shocks instead. If our motorcycle industry had gone a different way, we might build them the way they build motorcycles in the world of WoH.

Heck, the MGB sitting in my garage has lever-type shock absorbers, which aren't that far removed from the suspension system of Matti's motorcycle.

All the aircraft use rear-wing with canard control surfaces. The enemy jets have drop tanks mounted atop the wings, and when released, aerodynamic forces pull them up and away from the plane. The prop planes have two contra-rotating propellors (we've built a few planes that way ourselves) mounted in a pusher configuration.

...the only thing I take issue with there is the design of the propellors. I'm not sure the props are "reasonable" from a physics and engineering point of view. For one thing, the way they curve would make it impossible to implement a constant-speed propellor design; and for high-performance aircraft such a propellor is desirable for a variety of reasons.

Still: everything is recognizable; there's no weirdness for the sake of being weird. Form still follows function; it's just that the form is different in one way or another.

The rocket engines look exactly like ones we build, mainly because their designs are dictated by the laws of physics.

The music was done by Ryuichi Sakamoto, and he was given license to make it different. It took me several repeats of the main theme to figure out what was going on with the clapping ("clap-clap; clap; clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap" outside the basic percussion of the song though in time; and it alternates sides to make it even more confusing) and none of the instruments sound like ones from our world. It's not what we'd call "melodious" but it's neither atonal nor arrhythmic, and some of it is really good.

After seeing WoH, a friend of mine likened the ending of the movie to the end of 2001. I like it, though.

The attempted rape scene: it was the most jarring moment in the movie, by design. The director said we're supposed to understand what Shiro is thinking all the time, but that scene is the hardest one to understand. So here's my go at explaining it:

Shiro has had his eyes opened to the plight of the poor. His contacts with Requinni have shown him that people are suffering; and when a rich reporter asks him about the money being spent on the space program, he leaves the interview hall, scatters all his money in front of some beggars, and walks away. He ends up helping Requinni distribute her flyers, and spends the night on her floor (alone). He's unhappy with the injustice of the world.

The next evening she comes home from work, and as she's getting out of her soaked shoes, money spills from one of them as she takes it off--a not-inconsiderable amount, considering that she's living in a storage shed and wearing clothes that were given to her.

The money--I ended up stealing the design of the money for a story of mine (and I barely even filed off the serial numbers). They're rods, made of copper, silver and gold. Different lengths make different denominations. (And if I'm right, some of the money Requinni had was gold. But it might have been the lighting.)

Shiro realizes that Requinni--who is very religious and whom he took to be virtuous--is herself flawed; she's a freakin' miser! He concludes that even if the most decent person he ever met is that way--refuses to spend her own money on necessities, instead living on the charity of others--why should he try to behave himself? Why not just take what he wants?

...before he's even gotten to the point of undoing his pants he realizes, "WTF am I doing?" and she clocks him with some kind of candelabra or something, which knocks him cold.

It's my best guess; but it makes sense to me given the information that I have, and as I said the director said that Shiro's motivations are always supposed to be obvious.

The movie won several awards, and it deserved every one of them; it's really worth the time and effort to watch it.