Doctor Who and James Bond

Many Bonds
I never made this connection before, but director Sam Mendez of the next Bond movie (Skyfall) points out a remarkably obvious similarity in retrospect:

MENDEZ: That’s why I mentioned the word in the press conference, “regeneration” rather than “evolving,” because I feel it is like, you know, we have Doctor Who…there’s a geek answer…we have Doctor Who and I was brought up on the idea of Doctor Who, who at the end of his final episode, he dissolves and a new actor pops up and he regenerates and it’s a whole other character: sometimes it’s an old man, sometimes it’s a young man, but he just changes. I’ve always loved that idea.

The interesting thing here is that unlike other characters, both Bond and The Doctor are actually different in each regeneration. I mean, we’ve had multiple franchises for Batman, Spiderman, and Superman, but none of them really offer a really different take on their titular characters. Bond actually changes quite a bit between incarnations, with Moore being more reserved, Connery being more charming, and Craig being more conflicted. Of course not as much as The Doctor, but the idea is interesting.

Reaming Reamde

REAMDE, by Neal Stephenson

I HATE to be that guy but I just wasn’t expecting Reamde to be so … mass-market. Here’s the review from, which cements the problem I have in general with most reviews of celebrity writers with the very first sentence:

It’s becoming increasingly clear that throwing all expectations overboard whenever Neal Stephenson releases a new novel is a good idea.

Um… no. Expectations are why we have celebrity rock-star writers. Neal and Neil are two of my all-time favorite science fiction writers for a reason, and I read them because I want to read a Neal or a Neil story. I don’t want a Grisham novel or a Steele book. I want more of what I love. In this, Reamde failed spectacularly to deliver, despite starting out with a concept that was almost tailor-made to set alight all my dopamine receptors: gold-farming and MMORPGs. (I don’t intend to rename the blog anytime soon, but it would probably be more apt).

I find reviews of that sort to be empty of any real value. In contrast, Mark writes an honest review in praise of Reamde which makes a far better case for any fan of Neal to pick it up at some point – I don’t have such serious qualms or complaints that I can’t agree with most of Mark’s assessment. But oh my god, Anathem was such a monumental masterpiece! And the Baroque Cycle literally expanded my horizons, historically speaking. (Yes, I’m aware it was fiction. And in an alternate universe, where gold has a stable isotope.)

I guess I expected something similarly mind-blowing with respect to MMORPGs, and i was certainly happy to see what Neal had to teach me about gun lore, liberal biases aside. But (and this is where I nitpick in spoilery fashion) I found the MMORPG part curiously shallow… for example: Continue reading “Reaming Reamde”

and, we are back

Well, that was unpleasant!

As this site has grown in pagerank, it’s become the victim of ever-more sustained hack and spam attacks. The latest round was bungled, it simply took me offline rather than silently harvest my mojo for nefarious purposes. It’s clear that at some point I am going to have to pony up several hundred dollars a year at or equivalent and pay for monitoring and cleanup as this is just too time-consuming to keep doing myself.

It’s not as easy to keep a blog running on your own host as it used to be. Astro hasn’t posted in two years, for example, and is sorely missed. I’ve got a paypal button on the site like everyone else but that’s not any kind of solution, increasingly being self-hosted is going to become a perk of the privileged who can afford it, whereas the everyday bloke who wants a soapbox will have to gravitate towards a free platform like – which is an easy target for censors.

It’s not like I have anything profound to say, really, but I see this platform as a luxury, and I am keenly aware of just how ephemeral it is. That said, I’ll keep plugging away as long as I can 🙂 So, I’m back – what did I miss?

(ah, Pete has reviewed my review of fractale! And, I think he did a better job on this than I would have. And, given his praise, he will be disappointed in me when I profess my love of Robotech over SDF: Macross.)

new PC build

I think we badly need another PC in the house. Of course this is sort of a strange statement given that we presently have a Dell 800 and Thinkpad 42 (laptops), an EEE 701 and a Dell Mini 10v (netbooks), the current kids/gaming rig (whose evolution I described in detail here) and an aging Dell minitower handmedown that originally shipped with Windows Me.

The problem is that I never got around to upgrading the handmedown, and am right now running the rig with the Asrock mobo, the AGP card, and DDR 400 ram with a dual-core chip. The Asus mobo is sitting around unused. My original plan of moving the DDR400 ram and AGP card to the Asus mobo and buying new DDR2 ram and a PCE-e card for the Asrock had a fatal flaw: it’s hard to find a decent PCI-e card for the Asrock, since all the compatible PCI-e cards seem to be discontinued on newegg.

Also, the rig gave me some major headaches the last few days. While playing WoW suddenly teh entire PC would completely freeze – not BSOD, but literally freeze so solid that nothing responded, not even the three-fingered salute. Only a hard power cycle would wourk, and then i would sometimes be able to boot up and other times the primary boot device would not be found. To summarize, the problem only triggered when doing heavy graphics load, but manifested as a boot device problem. I initially suspected a corrupt MBR or a failing video card fan, but why was there a connection between video card use and booting up? Ultimately after taking the PC apart, vacuuming the inside, and poking around, I realized what had happened – the fan on teh video card was full of dust (because the PC was on the floor.) This caused the fan to seize up, and vibrate the card – which was causing the SATA power connection on the hard drive to jiggle loose a little bit. This was because inside the case, the power cord from the CPU to both units was on the same bundle, and also rested a bit on the video card vertically.

Let me tell you, the diagnosis for the above was not as easy in real life as it was to type.

Anyway the PC is vacuumed, the power cords reseated and reorganized, and the PC is now up off the floor. And i was able to get back to Azeroth yesterday to tweak the guild settings and bank without crashing. But the whole affair made me realize that this was the only PC in the house that can actually play WoW at all – with the exception of the Dell Mini 10v, which is also kind of remarkable if you think about it.

At any rate, i need to upgrade the hand-me-down now, but finding the right PCI-e card for the gaming rig is not easy. I have two choices here:

1. persevere and find a compat video card for the Asrock machine, and build the other PC as I originally planned (though Id probably buy a new case). This will require about $50 for a PCI-e card from this list (if I can even find one!), and abouut $80 for 2 sticks of 2GB DDR2 667, along with a power supply and case (~$150). Total: about $300, and reuse of everything I’ve bought so far.

2. give up on the old Asus mobo and just redesignate the gaming rig as kids PC, then buy myself a shiny new kit. The total: $500. Only $200 more than the upgrade path, but sort of an admission of defeat.

I guess there is also option 3, which is to upgrade the present gaming rig as in option 1, and then redesignate that as the kids PC as in option 2. The downside, other than the total cost, would be that I’d be throwing away a perfectly usable P4 chip and Asus mobo. Admittedly these are outdated and ancient, but for a kids PC running W7?

I am just loath to discard the old mobo, and also the whole reason I bought the Asrock was this idea that I’d do incremental upgrades. I suppose option 1 would be the smarter route. but finding the PCI-e card for the asrock is the real sticking point – ive searched in newegg for every card in the list but cannot find the exact products. There are some similar matches, but I am uncertain if those would work. For example, the compat list has “GeForce 8400GS Foxconn GF 8400GS/256M” but none of the 8400GS cards on newegg are Foxconn. Would any of them still work? I need some advice here!

UPDATE: I am really confused as to what cards are compatible. Here’s the website for my asrock mobo; would this $100 card work? or this $40 one? if yes to both, what am I really getting for the extra money?

Glenn Beck’s crusade against Network Neutrality

Glenn Beck has decided Net Neutrality is the tool of the devil.

Thank god that we have a functioning techsphere, which serves as a factual counterpoint to nonsense and propaganda. The lack of any such objective source in the political blogsphere is basically the reason that I started geekblogging. Still, sometimes, the political stoopid finds you, no matter how far you run.

In a nutshell, this is why network neutrality matters.