Water Consumption in Edmonton During the Olympic Hockey Final

March 9th, 2010

Gun thoughts

March 8th, 2010

I was reminded a moment ago of the video game Syndicate, about which I have fond memories. As a the rising star of a ruthless corporation in a cyberpunk future - back when cyberpunk was a genre with impetus - you orchestrated the kidnapping of random citizens, who you then brainwashed, fitted with massive amounts of cybernetics (to the point of replacing multiple limbs and organs), and sent out decked in trenchcoats and Matrix levels of firepower to liquidate whatever obstacles the game placed in your way.

So yes, rather amoral, yet I cannot but remember Agents Nixon, Reagan, Carter and Bush (the player was able to choose the code names of their agents) strolling down the street in their trenchcoats, igniting tenements and police cars with ludicrous volumes of minigun fire, with a fond sigh and rosy glasses.

Anyhow, that got me thinking of the amusingly ironic naming of the 'minigun'. You'd think, based purely on the name, that a minigun was some sort of modern-era derringer, a hold-out pistol you produced by surprise. (For additional surprise, give it the firepower of the Noisy Cricket). A real minigun, of course, is quite the opposite - miniguns are mounted on helicopters and fire 4,000 rounds per minute from spinning barrels, a rate of fire so fast it sounds more like the Devil's flatulence than a machine gun.

So what, then, is the maxigun? Google turns up nothing in terms of military hardware, sadly, which forces one to rely on imagination. I'm picturing a battleship turret, only with rotating barrels firing 4,000 rounds per minute. Which, frankly, would be a fine weapon if you needed to bombard a city the way a meteor bombards a sand castle. Or if you wanted to carve your name into the moon.

At any rate, it's something I expect my tax dollars to go towards, if they aren't already.

Cheap loans! Totally legit! Certainly not spam in any way!

March 4th, 2010

Fortunately, most spam is blocked before it reaches me (and even then it gets dumped into a Junk folder). But every so often a winner manages to get through.

Now, this might sound sketchy:

Dear Email Owner,

Do you need a fast loan?

But, hey, I am an Email Owner! So he's got that right. And they give loans at the low, low rate of (as low as ) 3%!

we give out loans at very cheap and moderate rates

Sounds good.

We are trusted,reliable and dynamic.

Even better! All of those things are good, and what I look for in unsolicited email loan offers.

We offer Loan Amount of : 5k-$5m

SWEET! Now I can finally get that yacht! Next year, Larry Ellison is going to be my bitch at the America's Cup race!

On the other hand, how can they possibly give me a loan for 5 million dollars? They don't know me from Adam (well, except that I'm an Email Owner). What if they go bankrupt, handing out millions of dollars to just anyone?

I want to fully assure you that you will get the funds if only you are very serious and trustworthy.

Phew! I should have known that they'd have that covered.

But...I dunno. It still seems suspicious. But what's this? It's another message, from someone completely different! And certainly not at all related, in any way, to the person offering me a loan by email!

Hi, my name is Kathleen Deborah, i was in a big problem and was in need of a financial aid due to the current global financial melt down finding such was very difficult. i was so desperate even to the extent that i got scammed to the tune of eight thousand dollars.($150,000 dollars). But God finally came to my rescue when i came across William Cook Loan Investment who eventually secured for me the loan that i have so desperately wanted.

Kathleen's obviously a pious woman, but just doesn't have a head for numbers. Or grammar. Or capitalization. Still, how can I refuse, now that I received completely independent confirmation of William Cook Loan Investment's (God-sanctioned) loan operation?

(I'll let you ride on the yacht for free, but it's BYOB. Just so you know.)

Reviews: The Last Kingdom, The Pale Horseman, Lords of the North, Sword Song, The Archer's Tale, Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton, The Nine

February 25th, 2010

The Last Kingdom, The Pale Horseman, Lords of the North, Sword Song by Bernard Cornwell - 8/10

The first four novels in Cornwell's 'Saxon Chronicles', these books are set in ninth century England, at a time when Saxons and Danes (aka Vikings) are contending for control of England. The protagonist is a Saxon, but one who fell in amongst Danes as a young man and is culturally more Norse than Christian.

The books are fine adventure stories, full of battle and revenge, but the characters are human and lack the silly machismo that makes so many adventure novels hollow. I enjoyed the first half-dozen or so of Cornwell's more famous 'Sharpe's Rifles' series, and these are in the same mold, enjoyable to read, with solid characters and honest plotting.

One thing I appreciate about this series is Cornwell's deft handling of the period setting - he doesn't rub it in your face, and he resists the temptation to inject future-hindsight motivation to his characters. All the characters from main to insignificant, from King Alfred to the nameless Welsh border-raiders, behave as they do because that's who they are, rather than behaving according to any sense of historical impulse. Too many historical novels contain a false gravitas, with the characters laboring under an awareness of being an important past rather than simply human beings acting in the now. There's none of that here.

Simply by its nature, of course, the setting is deeply interesting, with cultures clashing and mingling in an era of drawn swords and raiding ships. It requires no embellishment, and Cornwall spends his energy instead on telling an interesting story with compelling actors.

The Archer's Tale by Bernard Cornwell - 6/10

Same author, same genre, yet a very different result. The characters in The Archer's Tale are much less compelling than those in the Saxon Chronicle, the plot is less interesting, and it was a much less enjoyable read overall. It's set during the hundred years' war, and Cornwell handles the period deftly, but all of the individual elements of story just weren't as good.

Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton: A Biography by Edward Rice - 6/10

Richard Francis Burton is a fascinating individual - first European to see Lake Tanganyika, fluent in 20+ languages, pilgrim to Mecca, first European to visit the forbidden city of Harar, translator of the first definitive English edition of the Arabian Nights (in addition to several other works), his life took him to almost all corners of the world.

To the great detriment of posterity, after his death his wife burned many of his papers, and many others were discarded or never released by the British government. Also unfortunately, Rice's biography doesn't really rise above those challenges. In this biography Burton comes across as surly, arrogant, bitter, repeatedly stymied by his enemies - all of which were probably true - but sadly he does not come across as particularly fascinating. Rice pays little attention to Burton's successes, other than to deliniate them, and fails to convey any deep sense of interest in the man.

I'm glad I read this biography - it's certainly well-researched and does an admirable job of presenting the facts, but I don't recommend it as a good read, and would be interested in reading a better one.

The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin - 8/10

An excellent 'biography' - perhaps 'snapshot' would be a better term - of the individuals who sat on the supreme court between 1981 and 2008. Although possessed of conclusions (namely, that the supreme court represents America, is a political institution, and is becoming more conservative) where this book really shines is in presenting the justices as people, with opinions, convictions, eccentricities... it's a fine exercise in biography, and I recommend it as a pleasurable read entirely aside from being a fascinating look into the functioning of the supreme court.

It is a Bad Time for a Diet

February 23rd, 2010

Cadbury Creme Eggs are available in stores.