Thursday, September 29, 2005

100%, 24 karat, fried gold.

Go here. Do it now.


Monday, September 26, 2005

A new identity

You're Thailand!

Calmer and more staunchly independent than almost all those around you,
you have a long history of rising above adversity.  Recent adversity has led to questions
about your sexual promiscuity and the threat of disease, but you still manage to attract a
number of tourists and admirers.  And despite any setbacks, you can really cook a good
meal whenever it's called for.  Good enough to make people cry.

Take the Country Quiz at the Blue Pyramid

Book 40

"Area 7" by Matthew Reilly

I've been meaning to read a Matthew Reilly book for a while now.
I read the mini-book that was given away a few months ago ("Hell Island" it's called), and so had a small introduction to the characters and style. The principle character is Marine Corps (US Marines, that is) Captain Paul "Scarecrow" Schofield and like Harris with his Lecter, Reilly loooooves Schofield. Of course, if I wrote a book about a character that rocketed me to fame and fortune, I might feel an affection for them too.

The basic plot is that a Presidential visit to the eponymous secret Air Force facility in Utah gets a little complicated when a rebel faction of the USAF take him hostage and place him in a contest to fight for his life. Enter Schofield and his team to save the day. Eventually.

Much like Michael Crichton's later work, this reads like a novel just waiting to be optioned by Hollywood. In fact, I think it already has been. The action is tight, the combat sequences quite well written and the tension... well, I never felt like anyone was in any real danger. Probably because of the Harris/Leter factor, I think. I couldn't see Reilly snuffing any of these characters that he loves so much. Also, the novella-ette that I read is set after this one, so I knew they were okay.

There were, however, three very annoying stylistic elements to Reilly's work that frustrated the hell out of me. He has a habit, when things are getting really exciting, of placing key phrases in italics, so that Schofield will duck out of the way just as burning wreckage is about to crush him. Similarly, Reilly will occasionally place an exclamation point at the end of a really exciting sentence! And last but not least, he uses onomatopeic (sp?) words as their own sentence. In fact, on more than one occasion he employed all three devices in the one sentence, and so a mag-hook is launched up into an elevator shaft and kerchunk! finds it's mark. I guess these little things annoy me because I want the writing to emphasise and excite me, not the writer. Do you see what I mean? I have been genuinely excited and thrilled by action sequences in books ranging from Gibson cyberpunk to Pratchett fantasy, all without the writer specifically drawing attention to exciting bits. I don't want to see the strings, just enjoy the puppet show.

Overall, I'd rate Reilly as ideal airport or holiday fodder. Quick to read, easy to enjoy but leaving me wanting something more.

Two and a half death-defying escapes out of five

Oh, and PS: The FN P90 is an SMG (Sub machine gun) or PDW (Personal Defence Weapon). It is not an Assault Rifle. The AK47 is an Assault Rifle. Or the M16. The Wikipedia and even the manufacturer seem to agree.

The P90:
The AK47 and M16:

Sunday, September 25, 2005

All together now...

Possibly the greatest Photoshop Phriday image ever.


Again. This time for ReP's production of "Sly Fox" that'll be hitting Theatre 3 in November. I believe they had around 14 auditionees for around 11 roles, so I think I may be in with a chance. Did Steve's lesbian rant from Coupling and the director laughed, so that didn't hurt. He hadn't actually heard of Coupling either, and it's always nice to give a director a piece they haven't seen before. Helps you stand out from the crowd. When there has been a crowd, that is... We talked about about the show, and he gave me a rundown of their tak on it.

"Sly Fox" (written by Larry "M*A*S*H" Gelbart) is basically a retelling of "Volpone" (written by Ben Jonson) and if you want a plot summary, follow the links. What Aarne (that's the director) wants to do is move the setting to 1980's Canberra (and that's a possessive, not plural, "s" so the apostrophe is right...) and the style almost to commedia dell'arte. I think this will put it not a million miles away from Bell's "Servant Of Two Masters", of which you have heard me wax much lyrical, which would be awesome!!

I should hear back tomorrow, so here's hoping...


So what the hell does it mean that I got a damn spam comment on my blog? Who the hell even spams a blog? Do they feel that the millions of viewers of my blog (that's about 1700 in the real world) will sudden go all gooey over horse pictures? Or stop talking into their mobiles while they drive?

And in a similar vein, who takes ham from a fridge? Sure, a mostly communal fridge, but it was sitting on top of the rest of my stuff (dip, yoghurt). I get that they took my Mars bar. I'm not happy about it, but I get it, but who takes ham?

And who spams a blog?

There's some weird people out there.

Book 39

"Jarhead" by Anthony Swofford

Painfully honest and smoothly written, this is both one of the best biographies and one of the best accounts of warfare I have ever read. Anthony Swofford was a US Marine during Desert Storm, and was a member of an elite STA ("Stay") Team. He was a qualified and (apparently) talented sniper who served in the desert for many months and never actually fired a shot in anger.

The tone of the book is one of almost confused pride and a questioning of why he was there (or anyone was there). Swofford seemed proud of being a marine (a desire he'd had since childhood) but there were many other issues and people in his life that weighed on him and affected him.

Not always an easy read from an emotional point of view, "Jarhead" was nevertheless a quick read. It offers an insight into the mind of at least one genuine Marine and also shows a glimpse of a genuine writing talent.

Four bored, drunk, violent, patriotic Marines out of five.


Ever wondered what half the cast of The West Wing or Scrubs favourite swearwords were? Or a whole bunch of other UK and US celebrities? Then check this out.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

No great surprise...

I hope this test I nicked from Razorgirl_au doesn't screw up the formatting thing...

You are a

Social Liberal
(68% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(21% permissive)

You are best described as a:

Strong Democrat

Link: The Politics Test on OkCupid Free Online Dating

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Does razorgirl read my blog?

A quick test.

I saw Jim t'other day and asked for his e-mail address. Why? Because I'm trying to set up a semi-regular roleplaying session. What am I wanting to play? I had me a great idea the other day...

A Deadlands game set in the Firefly universe!

When I asked Jim if he was interested, his first response was "Chaedy is going to kill you". Curious to know why, I asked and he responded "'Cause she's in America".

Let's see if I get some abusive comments now...

Of course, we could maybe set up a PBeM thing... :)

Let's get serious!

I started going to the gym this week and I've been once every weekday.

IT all began on Monday with my fitness assessment (I weigh 103kg!) and the designing of my personal program. A bunch of light weight stuff on the machines, mostly done for toning I think. Low reps (15) with slow movements. Still, toning's what I asked for. The guy also wants me to do 120minutes of cardio stuff a week too. This week I managed... carry the two... divide by the number of spanners in a Sidchrome toolkit... 130. It would've been 140, but more on that later.

On tuesday I had my first full go on the program (also supervised) and we tweaked it a bit. I gotta say that the vibe at the gym (Southern Cross Health & Fitness Centre, for those that wanna know) is great. Friendly staff and attendents, with the 'roid-munching, condoms-full-of-walnuts guys evidently steering clear. Yay.

Then it was just back each day to either do my program or sit on one of the bikes for 45 minutes while I read my book and keep the RPM above 70.

I also found out that the cross-trainer kicks my arse. My plan is to do my program monday, wednesday and friday, followed by around 30 minutes of cardio, and do 45 minutes of cardio tuesday and thursday. This week it was program tuesday and thursday, but I'm digressing... on thursday (after program), I figured I'd give the cross-trainer a go. For those not in the know, the cross-trainer is like a stair-climber thing (in that yer feet go up and down) but it also has ski-pole-like sticks to grab onto and move yer arms too. I looked at this thing and figured I could go for 20 minutes and I was so very, very wrong. I barely managed 10 without collapsing like a beached fish. I think it's cause I'm standing and supporting my own (not insignificant) weight that makes the cross-trainer so hard for me. Still, I'll work at it and hopefully get up to 20 minutes. :)

Another thing is that going to the gym has been waking up my metabolism. This is a good thing as far as having energy and being up-vibe and bouncy all day goes, but not so good from a "now I'm hungry and have to try not to gorge on crap and waste all my effort" point of view. We'll be getting more fruit and nuts into the Gouger household, let me tell you. :)

Oh, and for those of you out there thinking "I give it a week" (I'm mainly looking at Graham and Sam here :) ), I really hope I don't pike out on this, 'cause I really am loving it.

Put the kids to bed

Gacked another one, this time from Sam, although Ratti tells me he got it from her...

My life has been rated:
Click to find out your rating!
See what your rating is!
Created by bart666

I reckon that's MA to all you Aussies out there and R for the Yanks.

Book 38

"Altered Carbon" by Richard Morgan

My luck with picking good books (as noticed by fatfingers) continues. Although I can't be said to have picked this book, so much as had someone tell me it was awesome and go and buy me a copy.

The basic genre? Think cyber-punk meets Raymond Chandler. We have high tech, extreme violence and sex, coupled with drug use and exploration of what it means to be human, but we also have a locked room murder mystery with a dogged PI and hard-nosed police.

The basic storyline? An ex-special forces criminal is caught in a raid and leased by a rich industrialist on earth to find out why he (the industrialist) committed suicide. You see, in this future most people are implanted with a memory unit, or "stack", that records their memories and personality so that if their body (or "sleeve") is damaged or killed, they can just be put in a new one. We call that "resleeving". While most people just have their own stack, the mega-rich can afford off-site backups (every two to seven days) and so even if their stacks are destroyed (something which equals Real Death for most people), then their back-ups can be sleeved. With me so far? Well our industrialist - who, by the way, is about 300 years old - had his whole head lasered off from the neck up. No stack and so no memory of what happened, cause he lost his head about 44hours or so after his last backup. The police believe it was suicide, but he doesn't think anything could happen in that time to make him want to kill himself. Enter our hero, more or less shanghaied from the far corner of the galaxy, and cue the murder mystery.

Morgan writes action sequences better than almost anyone else I have ever read. His story fair cracks along, with near-perfect pacing and some genuine laughs (and cringes) along the way. The twists in the story aren't exactly heart-stoppingly unexpected, but the construction and flow of the tale do mean they all make sense in the logic of the narrative. The characters are wonderfully grey in their construction and actions, making me wish I had this one for my Masters exegesis. The post-hero of this novel (Takeshi Kovacs by name) and Jack Bauer would probably get on quite well. Provided they were on the same side.

Expect to see the two other novels Morgan has written turn up on this list (or next year's), and go out and buy this book.

Four derms of tatrewhatsitsname out of five.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Are we shiny?

Yes we are. And what the hell am I on about? I'm talking Firefly, Joss Whedon's sci-fi/western and, I gotta tell ya, it fucking rocks! Seriously. Awesome SF, mixed with all the bits of the Western genre I like and with Whedon's dialogue and characters thrown in for good measure. The basic story revolves around Captain Mal Reynolds and his crew, jobbing smugglers and guns for hire in the aforementioned sci-fi/western universe. It's a standard crew of the nice one (Kaylee, the engineer), the thug (Jayne Cobb), the pilot (Wash), the Captain's war buddy (Zoe, who is also married to Wash) and their passengers include a preacher who is bringing the Word to the outer colonies (or something) and a brother and sister who are on the run from the Alliance (the Galactic Empire equivalent).

This series is tightly-scripted, well-acted and just brilliant. Of course, it got rogered by the execs so only got the one season, but there is a movie coming out on the 29th and it looks like it will also rock. I'll get back to you on that one. In the mean time, do yourself a favour and go out to JB or whereever and buy the series. It really is that good!

Momentous days...

And days without broadband, hence why I'm so far behind, but I'll try and catch ye all up.

Firstly; I got the job!!!!

As of October 17th I'm going to be a trademark examiner for IP Australia! Full time, full benefits and everything! My first grown-up job! Or, at least, my first grown-up, non-casual job. Mmmm.... employment security... :) This is all assuming that they don't find something in my medical test that means I can't work there. I had to go to Health Services Australia and have a pre-employment medical and I ain't never had a medical before. I even had to pee in a cup and all I could think of was the scene from Scrubs where Dr Cox tells the kid to put the cup on the ground, close his eyes and just "go nuts"! I didn't though. :)

In the mean time, I'm back at Gaudi until I start at IP and still picking up odd theatre shifts here and there. And doing some stocktaking for Eliane at Pumpkin Patch too, so I should be able to pay the bills. Mostly.

Secondly; Carmen and I now live together!!!!

The new house is awesome and we're completely unpacked! I've even unpacked the four or so boxes that were to be "sorted on unpack"... when we moved into Finniss Crescent. :)

Third and finally; I joined a gym!

Actually, we all did. Yamba sports club had an open day for their 10th birthday and waived their usual $199 joining fee. We all (Carmen, Ratti and me) checked it out on saturday and saw how cool it was so we joined. Carmen and Ratti just got the standard "you can use our stuff and do our classes" membership, but I got the "we give you a fitness test and plan a program" membership. So, from no phsyical/medical tests pretty much ever to two in two days. What a busy week I've had. I did my first session today and it wasnae too bad. The cardio will be good to build up on, and I may even get some muscle definition too. Lucky me! :)

And that's most of the major stuff updated. Sorry I've been so slack, but what with moving and having no broadband (still don't, actually) I've been a bit cut off.

Book 37

"The Opal Deception" by Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl is back and this time he can't remember jack about the Fairies which is very bad because the thwarted villain Opal Koboi wants revenge. She's already killed a senior LEPrecon officer, had Captain Holly framed for it and turned herself into human. Now Artemis has to get his memory back, help Holly and defeat the villain. Can he do it?

This is another fun book from Colfer, proving once more (for the third book entry in a row) that children's books don't have to be dull or partonising or sanitised (we have zappings and vaporisings in this little number). Colfer's plotting is complex, without being complicated or confusing and the characters are engaging and strong (if not all totally likeable). As a re-thinking of fairies and the like, these books also blend magic and technology nicely togther too.

Four and a half cam-suits out of five.

Books 34-36

"Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events" by... Lemony Snicket, I guess...

Rather than write what will essentially be the same review 6 times, I'll just group these all together. "6 reviews", I hear you cry, "but there's only 3 books in the title". And you'd be right, but given that they're only about a hundred and fifty pages long, I decided to count two of them as one entry. (There's some spoiler action here for the books, but only minor)

For the first week we were in the new house (about which, more later...), I basically read a Lemony Snicket a day. They are engaging, amazingly well-written novellas that every kid should read or have read to them. They feature words and concepts that might be a little more advanced than munchkins are used to, but these words and ideas are clearly described in context, so that if the text reads - and here's a made-up example - 'he saw the falling rocks and moved with alacrity' it will then go on to say 'which here means "great speed to avoid being crushed into jam"'.

The books centre around the Baudelaire children (Violet, Klaus and Sunny) whose parents are killed in a mysterious fire that also destroys their home. They are sent to live with their nearest (by geography) relative, the odious Count Olaf. Olaf want to get his hands on the marvellous Baudelaire fortune and the children have to stop him. Fortunately, Violet is a mechanical genius, Klaus is an avid reader with an eidetic memory and Sunny (the youngest) has some very sharp teeth and powerful jaws. Between the three of them they manage to concoct a plan to defeat Olaf. Unfortunately, Olaf escapes to turn up in the next book - in disguise - and try again. And so on and so forth. The sequels all follow a similar pattern, with the children surrounded by evil or incompetent adults and forced to rely on each other to thwart Olaf's plans.

I thouroughly enjoyed every one of these books, and now have to get the rest of them so I can find out what happens next!

Four and a half poorly-disguised villains out of five for each of them (with maybe a half-villain less fluctuation here and there)

Book 33

"Evil Genius" by Catherine Jinks

Young people today are spoiled. They have Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl (about whom more later) and Lemony Snickett (about whom, more next). There is a large volume of quality children's and young adult fiction out there. "Evil Genius" slots neatly into the later category, with some inpleasant implied concepts, but nothing too full on or psychologically scarring.

The story is that of Cadel Piggott. He is a genius child with prodigious computer hacking skills. When he is 11 he finds out his father is a technological genius and master criminal who has set up a college to teach future criminal masterminds in Sydney (principally for the benefit of his son). What follows is a suprisingly adutl exploration of good and evil as Cadel learns a few truths about what being a criminal mastermind is all about.

I really enjoyed this one, and found myself feeling more uncomfortable about some of the implied concepts behind it that I did while reading "Haunted", which flat out describes things like self-mutilation and murder. The characters were engaging and the story was well-plotted and fair zipped along. This is certainly one for the 12+ age group, but definitely one they should look at.

Four quasi-supervillains out of five.

Book 32

"Haunted" by Chuck Palahniuk

I've only ever read one other book by Chuck Palahniuk, and it wasn't "Fight Club". It was, however, very clever, extremely readable and really fucked up. "Haunted" continues the trend. It is the story of a bunch of misfits, social maladjusts and basic screw-ups who join a 'Writers' Retreat' to withdraw from the world for 30 days. What happens to them (and what they do to each other) is told in a series of short stories and poems, each written by a different member of the group and told from a different point of view.

The different styles and attitudes behind the writing manage to keep the reader hooked (or, at least, this reader). As a warning, remember that Chuck does enjoy his messed-up shit (like self-mutilation and murder), so if the thought of that sort of thing puts you off, this may not be the book for you. If, on the other hand, you enjoy a well-constructed and clever story you might want to pick this one up.

Three and a half crazy millionaires out of five.