March 31, 2007
The Greatwinter Trilogy
I purchased the hardcover edition of Souls in the Great Machine, by Sean McMullen, back near its initial release. The promise of sequels was there, but I didn't get around to reading them until just now. The Greatwinter Triology is finished off with The Miocene Arrow and Eyes of the Calculor, but I felt both of these books lesser works than the first.
Souls in the Great Machine takes a very interesting premise about where things might end up if advances in electrical engineering were stunted by an artificial force, and how in such a situation the ownership of a calculator (i.e. calculor in Greatwinter) would be a force to reckon with. There is a lot of interesting character development and world development in this novel, as well as lots of ideas to play with. The book consists of two parts, where characters and ideas are developed in the first half, and the climax and revelations are revealed in the second. This is not a seminal work, but it's very enjoyable to read.
Unfortunately, The Miocene Arrow was not as interesting to me. Perhaps the biggest obstacle was how closely it resembled the manga Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. The miasma became the callscour. There are warring factions where combat is primarily conducted through airplanes (although I wonder just how much research McMullen put into aerial combat). The idea of female flyers is unique and romantic. There's even reference to the Dorok people.
There is also much less character development in this novel, and a much greater focus on play-by-play narration of combat. I can't really recall any interesting or new ideas, either. Regardless, after reading about half way through, I found myself wanting to find out what happens next.
Eyes of the Calculor brings things to a conclusion, and the lands of Australica and North America are brought together. (Mexhaven appears to be ignored, despite claims of a large population. And apparently no humans survived on any other large land areas, even though one would imagine the Call being less fatal over Asia.) It reads much like The Miocene Arrow, and also suffers from a lack of character development. The interplay between Martyne and Velesti is interesting for a time, but the radical change in character of Serjon was somewhat unbelievable and the complete dismissal of Bronlar was disappointing. The relationship between Samondel and Martyne pales in comparison to the one between Glasken and Lemorel in the first novel, or even the lesser one between Darien and Ilyire.
I also found it somewhat interesting that in all three novels, McMullen presents at one female character as insane. In Souls in the Great Machine, it was Lemorel. In The Miocene Arrow it was Bronlar. And in Eyes of the Calculor, there is Jemli. In all three cases, these women were normal and endearing characters to begin with. Only to suddenly become vindictive, petty, and cruel. I really don't know what to make of this particular aspect of McMullen's trilogy.
March 25, 2007
Luna and I just went through all nine seasons of The X-Files, and the movie. The X-Files is one of my favorite television series, so I grabbed all of the DVDs when they went on sale a while ago. Luna likes some of the episodes more than others. She finds the more action-oriented creature features or the comedy ones most to her liking. I like those, but its the conspiracy episodes I like best. One thing Luna didn't like when we started watching was the opening theme song, because she thought it was creepy. Later on, though, she didn't mind.
There were a couple of interesting things I noticed, watching through everything in one go. One example is the transition from fullscreen to widescreen, where some of the middle seasons actually stretch the picture on occasion to achieve widescreen aspect ratios. But the later seasons are really widescreen. I also found there was one season which overall seemed like a bad transfer. I think it was either the second or third seasons.
I also realized that the series really wasn't as good once Mulder left, and Agents Doggett and Reyes became the main characters. It also sounded a little weird hearing Scully take on the more imaginative character once Mulder wasn't there. Doggett became her foil as the skeptic, which was her previous role beside Mulder. The creature features became less creative and more of what you might expect on a typical horror film.
Another aspect that I initially found a little strange was watching episodes one after another. Most of the episodes are not continuations, and expect to take place in time with their airdates. In other words, there really is supposed to be a week of time between episodes, or even an entire summer (two or three months). Skipping over that elapsed time is a little strange.
Now we just need to wait until December 22, 2012.
March 16, 2007
Luna received the biometrics appointment notice from the USCIS today. Her appointment is scheduled for April 6, about three weeks from now. We need to bring the notice (and possibly the previous notice as well since it said we should bring that notice to the appointment too) and photo identification, i.e. her passport. I guess her birth certificate documentation is being handled by a different department, or is something that can be processed in parallel.
March 13, 2007
Birth Certificate Requirement
Luna got another letter from the government today about her Adjustment of Status application processing. It turns out we needed to include a birth certificate, or statement in Chinese and English, stating her birth if her certificate is lost. Her birth certificate was actually lost when the police station in her neighborhood burned down, if I remember correctly. So her mom is sending us the statement from Shanghai. We have a little under three months to send in her birth certificate, so we have enough time. But of course any delay is undesireable.
March 11, 2007
Bridge and Settlers of Catan
Karen and Sebastian came over yesterday night. Luna spent most of the afternoon preparing food for our dinner. She made beef curry, mapo tofu, some cooked vegetables, some sort of soy sauce flavored chicken, and a fifth dish I can't remember now. This was the first time Sebastian's been here, so he spent some time looking at the bookshelves and turtles and playing with the cats. I think Karen sort of played with the cats vicariously at first, but then later on she played with Niea with Luna's rope. Her allergies didn't act up because I'd vacuumed a lot that day.
After dinner we played bridge for a few hours. I was partnered with Sebastian this time, so it was boys against girls. We didn't play perfectly; Luna didn't bid something she should have when she probably had ten of the clubs and both Sebastian and I bid wrong once. But in the end Sebastian and I beat them by a hundred or so points. It was a pretty long game.
There was some time left after bridge before Sebastian and Karen wanted to go home, so we played a game of Settlers of Catan. Luna dropped out after a while because she was too tired (although after she napped for a short time she was awake again). Near the end of the game Sebastian and Karen were vying for first place, trading the Longest Road points and attempting to build as quickly as possible since they were both getting most of the resources. But I built slowly, with three cities cut off from expansion and each other, and with very few resources. And on my final turn I grabbed Largest Army and revealed two victory point development cards, allowing me to leap from six to ten points as a surprise to both Karen and Sebastian.
March 8, 2007
iiO - Poetica
Anyone who's into the dance scene is sure to know of iiO's amazing single, Rapture. The duo recently released an album titled Poetica, which contains more dance numbers of the same high caliber featuring Nadia Ali's distinctive voice. It also contains a few tracks which have different sound to them. Maybe less dance and more melodic or down tempo. Not as catchy but still very good and worthy of appreciation. Overall, I find the entire album very enjoyable.
Sinéad O'Connor - So Far...The Best of Sinéad O'Connor
So, this album, So Far...The Best of Sinéad O'Connor, collects the best singles of Sinéad O'Connor's career up until 1997. While I've always felt somewhat drawn to her, and vividly recall seeing her tear the Pope's photo on Saturday Night Live, I never really paid attention to her music before. And I found myself not really noticing this album while listening to it. Perhaps it was just because I wasn't entirely focused upon it, but more so I think it's that her songs aren't catchy or unique or rhythmic. Instead, it's the lyrics that really matter and that requires careful attention.
I suspect I'll have to listen to this album and the songs several times. I will have to listen carefully to the lyrics and exactly what she is trying to say. Her songs are very contemporary and fueled by her feelings and opinions on current events and the human condition. So maybe I won't have the background or context that is required to fully appreciate her music. Regardless, I don't think I'll be able to appreciate her music without putting some more effort into it.
March 3, 2007
Tonight's movie night featured Half Nelson, a Sundance film selection that Tintin brought. Ken came with her, and Wendy and Brian showed up and brought along two new people: Ling and Matt. Thomas and Julie also showed up. Half Nelson was okay, in my opinion, although it has gotten excellent reviews from critics. It's a very intelligent and interesting character study, but not very entertaining or thought provoking in my opinion. The acting is certainly very good, and the plot and environment are both believable and well developed. I think the film has a firm basis in reality.
March 2, 2007
Luna received a notice yesterday stating our I-485 Adjustment of Status application had been processed, and that we would soon get a letter informing us of her biometrics appointment time. I believe she is required to give a blood sample and fingerprints at this appointment. Although I'm led to believe there are some religions that would prevent giving a blood sample, so I wonder what would happen in that case. Anyway, the application was processed fairly quickly since it's only been about two weeks since they received it.