Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: March, 2006

Oh, That Dreaded Reading List

Eden from So Anyway asks:

What was your required reading in high school? What did you love? What did you hate? What do you think everyone should read and why?

A lot of the so-called classics were required reading at my high school. I didn’t really hate any of it, but I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic either. I think what took away from the enjoyment was the analysis of each piece that accompanied every chapter. Didn’t the author write a novel or a play to be appreciated in a more general sense rather than be dissected endlessly on term papers and lectures and tests? Yes, these term papers and lectures and tests are necessary for learning but that doesn’t mean that I have to like it.

During high school, I read the typical stuff: Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet, Julius Ceasar, Macbeth, Hamlet), Wuthering Heights, Oliver Twist, Huckleberry Finn, To Kill A Mockingbird, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, The Turn of the Screw, The Age of Innocence, All the King’s Men, Cold Sassy Tree, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, etc.

There were also several times where I got to choose what book I wanted to read which sometimes turned out to be more fun (such as Heart of Darkness and Waiting For Godot). And then there were those classics that I read outside of the classroom on my own: Jules Verne, Ray Bradbury, Victor Hugo, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Truman Capote, those other Shakespeare plays (The Tempest, King Lear, Anthony and Cleopatra, The Taming of the Shrew).

As for what I think everyone should read–there should be more sci-fi/fantasy on the required reading list. I wouldn’t go so far as to advocate Harry Potter (which is better suited for younger kids) or even geek favorites like Douglas Adams and Anne McCaffrey, but I would like to see authors such as William Gibson, Octavia Butler, and Ursula K. Le Guin who dabble more on the side of social commentary.

The Thursday Threesome: External Hard Drive

Onesome: External– What sorts of gadgets do [you have] hanging off your computer? We’ll spot you that printer, but how about other goodies like scanners, card readers, cameras, MP3 players and such?

Wireless card, flash/jump drive, and an external 3.5-inch floppy drive.

Twosome: Hard– What part of working with computers is hard for you? …working with one particular piece of software? Getting that camera to connect? …or dealing with the family members who don’t understand what the deal is?

Just don’t ask me to actually program something. You know, writing any sort of code that doesn’t have anything to do with web pages.

Threesome: Drive– What drives you to the computer? Is it friends? Work? News? Recipes? The weather radar?


More Evil Than Spam

At least with spam, it’s just an e-mail address. The deal with the last post is more insidious than I had thought. The random university that had mistakenly billed me has an account on me since before I graduated high school. They billed me because they “accidentally” accessed my account. They said they got the information because I sent test scores to them.

I NEVER sent test scores to them.

The only way they could have possibly gotten any information on me is if they paid the testing company for the information. This is creepy because this means this random university probably has other information on me besides just my name and address.

And there’s another thing that I don’t get: Why is my “account” with them, which was created in the last millennium, still accessible even though I never had any contact with the university? Is it standard procedure for universities to even create accounts for anyone they run across during their info grabbing sprees? If one random university has me on their roster, how many other universities have accounts on me? Or for that matter, does every university have me on file?

And let’s not forget the testing company. Sending out scores and addresses is one thing. But credit card numbers as well?

Plastic No-Go

Blech. Getting your credit card information compromised is a real pain in the butt. I found this out today when I got a bill from a random university that I’ve never been enrolled in, never applied to, never visited (let alone come within 300 miles), and had never considered for anything.

So if anyone who works for a university accounting department is reading this: when something is billed to a person who’s not a student, the student’s parent/guardian, financial aid/scholarship fund, or related to the student in some way–you should immediately realize that something is WRONG. Don’t go sending bills willy-nilly figuring that random people will pay up or else you’ll be getting annoying phone calls from people like me.

Postmodernist Drivel

About the title of this post: It’s the best put-down of a scientific paper I’ve accidentally overheard recently (no offense to English/Lit people, but po-mo is definitely the wrong way to explain how something in nature works).

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I’ve been plane hopping lately so if you spotted someone with a bunch of Wired magazines* and a copy of Paul R. Ehrlich’s Human Natures (I’m almost done with it, by the way–it’s pretty good), that was me. And this is also why I have up a belated meme…

*Aside: As a related comment to the previous post, one of those Wired magazines had an article about the changing readership of comics. It was implied that the new wave of comic fans are teenage goth girls with tattoos and piercings who have tired of manga. What’s up with that? That’s not surprising at all. It would be much more amusing if the Oprah book club started reading them for fun.

The Thursday Threesome: New Car Smell

Onesome- New: What’s new in your life? New car, new house, new job or new person, or even just a new toy you bought for yourself?

Um, nothing right now, although all that plane hopping (i.e. catching connections) resulted in briefly visiting states I’ve never been to before–if you call getting stuck in an airport an hour or two “visiting”.

Twosome- Car: What kind of car do you drive? What kind of car would you like to drive if you could?

I think I mentioned what sort of car I have somewhere else in the blog. Basically, as long as the car works, everything’s great.

Threesome- Scent: Scents are great at bringing back memories. Is there a scent that any time you smell it you flash back to something in your past?

Not really.

This And That

Most of the comments I get nowadays are spam. Which I suppose isn’t surprising since I haven’t kept up the actual blogging as much. Today, I got something that looked like a legitimate comment, but when I looked up the entry it was posted to, it had nothing to do with it. Then, I looked at the comment more closely and realized it was nonsensical ranting.

Hey, usually I don’t have anything against nonsensical ranting–but if it has nothing to do with the post, I’m not going to publish it. (For those of you curious, my post was about World AIDS Day. The comment was something about false gods that degenerated into a conspiracy-ridden mish-mash about global warming.)

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Recently, I saw the animated film, Howl’s Moving Castle. I read the book by Diana Wynne Jones as well–after I saw the movie. Is there really a comparison between the two? I can’t say that one is better than the other–both are just different. Yes, there are similarities between the two. Scenes and dialogue from the book are also in the movie. But the movie itself is far more condensed and simplified plot-wise though there is the trademark attention to visual detail as there is in every other Miyazaki work. Characters are condensed; motivations and personalities are switched around. Some motivations are never explained adequately or are explained away in an entirely different manner.

Examples: Suliman in the movie was an old sorceress working for the king. She is actually an amalgam of two people in the book–Howl’s old tutor Mrs. Pentstemmon and the Royal Wizard Suliman who is assumed dead after his confrontation with the Witch of the Waste. The movie gives redemption to the Witch where the book doesn’t. In the movie, the scarecrow is an enchanted man and the dog is someone’s spy/helper. In the book, it’s vice versa.

One’s view of a movie or book, I suppose, is also influenced by how well one knows it. The book was published twenty years ago, but for some reason, I’ve never read it until now–so both book and film versions are rather new to me. On one hand, the book is far more rich and complex and upon reading it, yes, things make a lot more sense. On the other hand, it’s also a pretty good Miyazaki film (even if certain critics call it washed out and derivative). So I’m waffling. But this only means that I hope no one ever asks me to choose between the two.

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On comic books: I have never paid much attention to them before (even if I did have a former roommate who was a comic book junkie). I guess I was just mostly oblivious. I’ve read the first volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen which was…interesting. But I don’t really go for superheroes, even if they’re the post-Victorian/steampunk kind. Someone had recommended Ruse to me once (although how I’m going to get copies of that is anybody’s guess) and of course, the ever lauded Sandman. After visiting the comics store and seeing all the superhero comics decked out on the shelves, I wonder, is there really a dearth of well-drawn, complex comics without superheroes?

Dream Blogging

I had one of those dreams again where I got the compulsion to blog.

I’m fairly certain the dreams are never the same even though I don’t remember much of it when I wake up, but I do know that during the dream, I don’t feel like I’m dreaming. Usually it’s something along the lines of “I can’t believe this is happening, I’ve got to blog this!” or “This is so cool, I’ve got to put this in the blog. My readers would be all over this!”

But then I wake up and realize it’s all some crazy dream and then scrap the idea of blogging it because really, who wants to read a dream? None of it really happened.

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The Thursday Threesome: Erin go Braugh!

Onesome: Erin– Quick, toss out two names that sound the same yet are spelled differently! We’ll spot you “Erin” and “Aaron” to get you going…

The first thing I thought about was all those spelling variations where you change the “i” to a “y” or vice versa. Or where names are changed subtly to denote gender differences. If you really want homophone proper names, you should look at Chinese names. All Chinese names are homophones for something else. But I’m guessing you don’t want that answer. It’s too easy.

Twosome: go– …going to do anything special this Friday? Green pancakes for breakfast perhaps? (Seriously, I know someone who does that…)


I never celebrated St. Patrick’s Day except when I was in grade school. And I only wore green because threats of pinching were involved. Dang it, why can’t people just keep their hands to themselves?

Threesome: Braugh– Erin go Braugh! There are many sayings for St. Patrick’s Day. What is one you’ve heard and liked?

I don’t know any St. Patrick’s Day sayings. If I used the Internet to find some, I would be cheating.

The Thursday Threesome: On the Nightstand

Onesome: On– a clear day I can see all the way to _____!

To the next county?

Twosome: the– very next project I’m going to work on is _____. …and why would that be?

Well, at this point, I’d better concentrate on my current project before thinking about the next one.

Threesome: Nightstand– What are you reading this time of year? A thriller? Romance? The tax code?

I thought everyone was reading the tax code.

Anyways, a fantasy novel I’ve recently finished: Sebastian by Anne Bishop – It’s remarkably tame considering the fact that the main character is half-incubus. Otherwise, some unusual fantasy world building where getting from place to place is literally less about following a map and more about following your heart.

Some books I’m thinking about starting but may or may not end up reading: The Quantum Rose by Catherine Asaro and Moon Called by Patricia Briggs and Nightlife by Rob Thurman.

The Thursday Threesome: “The Shakiest Gun in the West”

Onesome: The Shakiest– comedian is gone! …but not forgotten: what scene or what movie/TV show was your favorite Don Knotts piece?

I don’t follow shows or movies simply because of an actor so I can’t really say there’s a particular scene by anyone that I’m partial to. That said, I’ve seen Don Knotts on the two or three episodes of The Andy Griffith Show I did see and Three’s Company.

Twosome: Gun– Who handles the law enforcement powers in your neck of the woods? Is it a police department or a sheriff’s office? …or are you under military jurisdiction?

The police department. I think.

Threesome: In the West– Okay, quickly now: your favorite scene in any western! Nope, not the movie, just the one scene you like best or is most memorable to you…

See answer to first question.