Honest Mitt

Doesn't have quite the same ring to it, does it?

Mitt was finally caught today in an unusually blatant lie.  He's been saying that he retired from Bain Capital in 1999, and that Bain's subsequent actions therefore don't reflect on him at all.

But he apparently told the SEC that he was Chairmain, CEO, and sole owner of Bain as late as 2002.

So, did he perjure himself before the SEC, or did he blatantly lie to voters?  Either way, it's hard to believe he can still be taken seriously as a candidate.  (There are some other issues, as well, in terms of companies he dealt with while heading the Olympics effort, but those are less well-known, and will probably be ignored.)

But he's still part of the political elite, so I'm sure Obama won't start an active investigation into the possible perjury.  Granted, it'd look like a highly political act, but it'd be nice to get Mitt speaking under oath.


Breaker, breaker...

I've managed to find time to (re)read several books lately. Something in the middle of watching Aladdin with my daughter made me want to re-read Judith Tarr's excellent Alamut. And my son playing with my copy got me to re-read Lawrence Watt-Evans' nearly-as-excellent The Misenchanted Sword (the cover on that page, btw, is absolutely terrible.  Unforgiveably so, since the printing I have, from 1985, is quite good). I also recently managed to squeeze in Brandon Sanderson's Warbreaker, and found it very interesting.

And it's the latter that I want to talk about here.  I can't remember what originally got me interested in it. It wasn't finding out that Sanderson was the one who'd be finishing Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, because I remember making that connection well after I'd bought the book. Perhaps it was seeing the book in the bookstore some time ago. Or maybe seeing it in Amazon's recommendations.

In any event, it centers around two adjacent countries that were, several hundred years previously, one kingdom. But a rift driven by magic split them, as the kings were driven out of Hallendren, and took a portion of the country with them (which became Idris, also known as the Highlands). Hallendren then developed a very strange governmental system. But the two countries have managed a peaceful, if suspicious, existence since then.

As the book starts, war is threatening to break out between them. So the book follows some of the most prominent people who are trying to incite or prevent that war. The two main proxies for following it are daughters of the king Dedelin (I chuckled at one of them being named Siri), who have very different perspectives. One is locked in the main palace of Hallendren, while the other is wandering T'Telir, the capital of Hallendren. The third proxy is one of the 'gods' of Hallendren.

The book is not really the sort of thing I generally go for, insofar as much of it is trying to figure out what is actually going on. And there were several things that surprised me quite a bit (although the biggest mystery to the characters seemed quite obvious to me).

One of those big surprises is that the first character introduced disappeared for at least half the book after that introduction. That made for several interesting situations.

The other big thing about the book, of note, was how magic worked. All of it is driven by Breath, which is intimately linked with color. Everyone is born with one Breath, which doesn't allow doing much. But Breath can be given, and with possession of large numbers of Breaths come innate abilities (a table at in an appendix lists them, although that table rather irritated me through a bizarre combination of omniscience and declaimed lack of knowledge). But, aside from the abilities that come just from having Breath, people can also use it to animate objects for specific tasks.

I'm not going to get more specific here, because specifics of that (or, more specifically, lack of character knowledge of those specifics) drive some of the plot, but I did find the magic itself quite interesting.

The other big thing, that was never well explained, was that sometimes people could Return from the dead. These people come back with some number of the innate abilities of Breath, despite still only having one. But these Returned are worshipped as gods in the larger country, and charged with ruling it. There are other important things about them, but those might spoil parts of the story.

Overall, I liked the book quite a bit. I was a little disappointed in the ending, as I would have liked to have seen a bit more about Siri. And my other slight disappointment was that I would have liked to get a bit more explanation (or, perhaps more to the point, more accurate explanation) on why Returned come back. The only explanation given definitely wasn't right, as it couldn't explain some of the Returned who appeared in the book. But those were very minor issues; I'll probably look for other books by Sanderson.


A Chalice of Gold

My wife and I finally watched 'The Golden Bowl' recently (based on the Henry James novel).  We'd had it for a long time (and it was on my to-get list for over a year before that), but we just haven't had any time for movies recently.

Anyway, I'd been looking forward to it, having heard that it was a good story.  Plus, I've always been a big fan of Kate Beckinsale; I was disappointed that her role, while very important, was not more in the spotlight.

But the story itself was very good.  And Nikc Nolte, playing her father, did an extremely good job (playing pretty seriously against type, according to everything I've seen him in before).  I was impressed by him.

But the two key characters were their spouses, Jeremy Northam and Uma Thurman, respectively.  The movie actually opens with the two of them talking, establishing him as poor nobillity and her as well-educated by also poor.  He wanted to marry wealth, so that he could, for instance, rebuild the broken-down palace in which they were conversing.  And he thought she should marry wealth as well, and agreed to help her to that end.  But she insisted that she cared about no such thing, and would marry him, even if they were both impoverished.

From there, it cuts to Northam's Prince Amerigo (and of course, Vespucci came up immediately) getting ready to marry Beckinsale's Maggie Verver, daughter of the industrial magnate, and first billionaire, Adam Verver.  It all comes together a minute or two later when we find out that Thurman's Charlotte is an old, and dear, friend of Maggie.  The jaws click shut shortly thereafter when Charlotte agrees to marry the elder Verver.

It goes about as you'd expect from there, given the declarations above.

But it was still very interesting to watch.  The two Ververs reminded me a lot of my mother and grandfather, in terms of how close they were (without the billions, alas).

But the way everything came together in the end, and especially the ways that the various characters handled it, was very interesting to me.

The one weakness of the movie, to me, was explaining the attachment of both Maggie and Charlotte to Amerigo.  I imagine the book did a much better job, from that perspective.

But really, that was a pretty minor weakness, and I enjoyed the movie quite a bit.


More power, Igor!

Not having power seriously sucks rocks.  This picture is of a small park that I found last week when I played an ultimate frisbee game there.  Nice place, although very windy for ultimate.

The reason I'm posting it, though, is that, if you look, you'll see lots of lights on.  When I took it (Saturday morning), power was out for over half the people in Virginia.  So we see how big a deal it can be to have buried power lines (the buildings in the background are in Crystal City, which does have them).  (If you're curious to see the other pictures I took there, here's a few of them.)

As I said, over half the state was out at the time.  Unfortunately, that included our house.  In fact, by the time I was taking this, the battery for our FiOS connection was dead (so no home phone), as were most of the UPS's (except for the one I had shut off for most of the night).

This made driving around a bit of an adventure; most of the traffic lights were out.  Thankfully, we didn't see any accidents caused by that, but it was causing huge back-ups in a lot of places where you wouldn't expect them.

We ended up going to a Burger King for lunch.  The only interesting thing about that was that they were only able to accept cash.  Thankfully, we had some with us (not always the case).

After that lunch, we went to a friend's house to visit with him for a while (his power had been restored by then).  Ironically, after we'd been there for a bit, and were waiting for my wife to return from an errand she had run, his power went out again.  So we went home shortly after that, happily finding that power was on when we got there.

So we were lucky, in that we were out of service for less than twenty-four hours.  We had, pretty much from the beginning, been expected the outage to last multiple days (like the last time).  Many people are still waiting (including my dad), so we're definitely very thankful to be back online.

Update:  One side effect of the missing power was that my DVR forgot that it had been set to record today's Euro 2012 finaly between Italy and Spain.  Sadly, I didn't realize that, and didn't turn it on until the trophy ceremony was starting.  So I don't have any idea how the game went, but congrats to Italy for their win.