What happens to the evil?

My wife's parents flew out today; they've been visiting us for a while now.  We had a good time while they were here.  It was especially nice that they watched the kids for us for most of the day last Sunday.  We took the opportunity to catch the final matinee of 'Jekyll & Hyde' at the Kennedy Center.

My wife wasn't familiar with the show at all (or the original story, come to that).  I had the original concept album, and had listened to it many times, but hadn't seen it either.

They were apparently trying to drive attendance by getting stars that were known outside of Broadway.  I have no great issue with that, although I hadn't heard of the two stars before (Constantine Maroulis (of American Idol fame, it seems) and Deborah Cox (of R&B fame)).

I had some minor issues with the sound, although I do wonder how much of that was a matter of how far back we were sitting (we bought the tickets the night before), and how much was performance-related.  I should get the new 'concept album' to compare, I think.

In general, I didn't like the pacing in the newer version.  That was especially true in 'Bring On the Men', which was much choppier, but it was noticeable in other pieces as well.  And I wasn't thrilled with Mr Maroulis (his performance was where I was particularly wanting to compare the album), especially as Jekyll (and especially in the beginning).  I thought he did a much better job as Hyde, and towards the later parts of the show.

Ms Cox was excellent throughout, I thought.  In fact, she was good enough that I bought a couple of her R&B albums, out of curiosity.  Disappointing there, though; the material just didn't do much for me.  Ah well.

Two more criticisms related to the new version.  I was disappointed that the subplot between Lisa (whose name, inexplicably to me, changed to Emma) and Stride was gone; I particularly missed their duet at the engagement party (it also removed any reason not to kill Stride in the bloodbath at the beginning of Act II).  And the penultimate scene, with Jekyll and Hyde, seemed a bit off.  They added so much distortion to Hyde's voice (coming from a recording, obviously) that it was unintelligible.  Adding a little distortion there made sense, but it sounded terrible, to put it mildly.

But it was good to see the whole show.  I hadn't realized (or had forgotten) that Facade was sung by the members of the Board of Governors of the hospital.  That was a cool scene, starting with them largely undressed, and dressing them onstage to that song.  Very nice.  And the setup for 'This is the Moment' was pretty cool as well (this was also the turning point for Mr Maroulis' performance; I was very disappointed with him until this song.  He was good to excellent the rest of the way).

Overall, well worth seeing, and I'm glad we had the chance.


Who can be the most scurrilous?

This whole Petraeus incident has got all sorts of issues flying around about it. The media seems to care, because sex was involved. There are also privacy questions, and the question of whether Petraeus should have stepped down to begin with.

I'm not sure where I am on all of the issues. I'm fairly happy to see Petraeus gone, but only because I don't like having the spy agencies run by a military guy. I just don't want to see any more crossover there than required by immediate mission needs.

On the privacy front, I actually don't have a whole lot of problem with what was done, because they were investigating something that might have been a crime. The only part I don't know about is whether they got a warrant or not. If they did (and I think they would have had no problem getting one), then I think the system worked as it should. If they didn't, then I think they should have (though I believe the law doesn't, but should, require one).

Another part I have to think about is this. Petraeus was in position to know more about spying operations than anyone else in the country (even the President, who has less reason to know details). An affair is a major red flag for maintaining a clearance, because it's potential blackmail material. So I have mixed feelings about the ouster. I generally don't much care about a public official's sex life (for all I know, maybe his wife knew about the affair), because it has little effect on ability to carry out duties. But the potential for blackmail (especially if his wife didn't) is a real problem. So I have mixed feelings.

One thing I had to wonder about. When you have a clearance, you need to get reinvestigated periodically (how often depends on the clearance). Generally, people are asked for a list of people in different contexts (co-workers, neighbors, friends, etc) who will vouch for them. If someone has had a biography written, is the biographer automatically used as a reference? I have no idea, though it would certainly make sense.

After writing the previous (several days ago), this spot-on article about the media's approach to the whole thing was pointed out to me (Gruber, again).  I think the only questionable part of the whole thing was his complete dismissal of blackmail as a possibility; even if it hadn't happened (and there's no reason to think it did), it was still possible.  But that's a very minor quibble with an excellent article.

Hurry up and wait

I haven't really wanted to talk about the NHL lockout, it's just too depressing. And I can't say that it's gotten less depressing.

The thing that irritates me about the whole thing, as it has about the last couple of labor stoppages in other sports, is that this one is about some of the owners trying to handcuff other owners. And in this scenario, the players are really just pawns, even though they are, nominally, one of the parties in the negotiations.

It seems that the biggest sticking point is how to divide the money, with the players currently mandated (per a provision that the owners pushed during the last lockout) to get 57% of the money. Now the owners want that rolled back to about 50/50. Given that the main problem is between owners, I think the players should suggest a salary cap of 57%, with a floor of 43%, and not mandate any particular level of spending (but require all current contracts to be honored). I would bet that the players would end up getting 53-55% in that scenario, and there's no way for the owners to spin that to look like the players are the ones being greedy.

But, we seem to be stuck with endless amounts of nothing, as it appears that talks have come to a standstill. Maybe there should be mandated daily meetings. That is, force them to be in the same room. Let them do whatever they want in that room, but they'll eventually start talking. It would still take a while, but would be quicker than letting things happen whenever they want to get together.

Librarians Unite

I had a chance to look around a book store a while back (before seeing Raiders, now that I think about it), and did some browsing there. I eventually picked up a new one called Libriomancer, by Jim Hines (of whome I'd never heard). The title caught my eye, especially when, browsing the flap, it seemed a well-chosen one.

I got around to reading it a couple of weeks ago, and enjoyed it quite a bit. It was compared to Butcher's Dresden books, not completely unjustly, but this is not as good as those. This one I was able to put down.

But it had a very interesting magic system (actually, one fairly fully fleshed out with references to at least one other) based on using books. The idea is that a book made popular enough reaches into the Jungian subconscious, and gets some influence over reality. The main character, Isaac Vainio, is a librarian in Michigan's Upper Peninsula who is an outcast in the magic-using society (oddly named in a mix of middle high german and latin). Being a librarian gives him lots of volumes out of which to pull his power, but he's currently forbidden except in cases of self-defense.

And the book starts, of course, when that self-defense becomes necessary.  Insert obligatory twilight reference here, if you want (incidentally, I was quite surprised and mildly horrified when, that same night, I saw that the store had an entire section on 'Teen Paranormal Romance'.  Hopefully, Fifty Shades of Gray wasn't in it; I hadn't heard of the book at the time, so I didn't check).

The outcast part is the strongest parallel to the Dresden books, in fact, except that there is a much better reason for Isaac to be so than was the case for Dresden.

What was good about it? Well, the magic was very cleverly done, and well used. The characters are believable and enjoyable, and the threats are very interesting. I really liked how many different styles of vampires there are, and how that was explained. And Isaac managed some pretty cool stuff over the course of the book (particularly towards the end). Oh, and there were lots of literary references, especially to sci-fi and fantasy novels (some of which, admittedly, went over my head, but others were very well done).

The only part I didn't like was that the main thrust of what the bad guy did didn't seem possible, given the explanations given. In particular, it was explained that the power came about by being widespread. But the bad guy's book somehow managed to be sufficiently wide-spread to give him power while being unknown to librarians. That doesn't seem possible, and was given no more than a hand-waving explanation.

But that was a very minor point.

I am curious to know how far in advance Hines has the books plotted out. In some axes, he got a lot further than I would have thought reasonable for one book. But the main enemy is only introduced to the point of showing that they exist. So that part's intriguing.

Anyway, I'm very curious to see where it goes, and looking forward to the next volume.


When I heard about Brave, quite some time ago, I was pretty excited about it. Despite that, I never managed to catch it in the theaters. I did hear that it was only ok, even from friends, but that actually didn't do much to dampen my enthusiasm. The trailers certainly looked funny, and it hit me in a couple of soft spots (celtic influence, red-headed heroine, prominent archery).

So I didn't hesitate to preorder it when it was announced, and was happy to get it Tuesday.

I didn't watch it that night, though, thinking I wanted to get to bed earlier. And then I stayed up until two. sigh

So I watched it last night, starting with the new short, Legend of Mordu. Was quite disappointed by that. Was a decent background piece, and I liked how the witch portrayed herself. But compared to Burn-E or Jack-Jack Attack (or even Dug's Special Mission), it was extremely lacking. I doubt I'll watch it again, and I love watching those others.

Oh, and I watched La Luna with my son. It was largely obvious what was going to happen, especially as I'd noticed the name of the boat in the opening shot. But it was still very cute and enjoyable. It won't get into the conversation about Pixar's best short (I have a hard time picking between For the Birds, Presto, Lifted, and One Man Band), but I'd put it on a par with Geri's Game or Boundin'.

Anyway, after putting the kids to bed, I finally got around to watching the movie itself. I had somewhat mixed feelings about it. I liked Merida quite a bit, and I really liked some of the sequences leading into the main story (Merida's Day Off was extremely powerful, ignoring that doing that wearing a dress would have been suicide). The baby brothers were also hilarious, as was Fergus. And Emma Thompson did an excellent job as Elinor, the mother.

My big complaint about it, though, was that the main conflict was a self-inflicted problem. I'm never a big fan of that, and that certainly wasn't what I expected from what I saw in the trailers. I think I was expecting something more along the lines of Merida becoming the head of the kingdom in her own right, through dramatically saving the kingdom or something along those lines. But the only thing she ended up saving them from was her own pig-headedness.

I'll certainly end up watching it again (with my daughter, at the very least), but I must admit that it didn't live up to my (likely unrealistic) expectations.

I'd say it's worth watching, just know that it's mostly about Merida's relationship with Elinor (and does have some nice scenes between the two of them, as well).


Further Joyriding

I've been playing a bit more Jetpack Joyride lately (to the tune of 3090 games and 7590km since I mentioned picking it up again). Haven't gotten all the medals, but I'm getting close.

Actually, it was kind of funny; I was at the local Apple Store with my in-laws, to help them with something. Having a few minutes on my hands, I played around with an ipad mini, and found a custom version of the game installed. Fun. The mini won't get me to go buy anything, but it's intriguing. I might buy one once they have a retina version available, particularly if my iPod Touch dies (it'd make a nice replacement for that).

I also played it again on a new iPhone at the store. It played a tiny bit differently. I'd wondered about the widescreen ratio, and the way that was handled was to keep the person a further from the left edge of the screen, so that the game stayed the same difficulty. Clever way to use the extra space, without making the game easier. Actually, I mis-spoke a minute ago. It looked a bit different, but it played identically.

I also figured out something the other day. You have a specific time period after teleporting, where you can't do it again. I thought that was just a game-balance thing, so you couldn't repeatedly teleport to get out of almost anything. That might be the effect, but I'm pretty sure the reason is because you teleport forward. So there's a short time where you stop moving forward, to get back to your original horizontal position on the screen. And I think that the time it takes to get back to that position is identical to the no-teleport time. Subtle, but interesting.

And I just want to say that the Profit Bird doesn't like me, lately. Last three times I've had the mission, 'Travel X Total meters in the Profit Bird'. Last time was 1250m, I got 1037m on my first run. Not too bad. The time before that: travel 500m, got 496m on first run. What are the odds that there would even be an obstruction there? The time before that: travel 1000m, got 995m on first run. Yeow! Only saving grace on that last one was that I got the Bird again that game.

Now, a small complaint: I'd really like to be able to get all the stats on the prior run (or, even, on the current run). The stats are obviously kept, so it'd be cool to be able to see them. Not a big deal, but it would be nice.

Oh, and a minor strategy note. I originally mentioned not liking the gravity belt, that I found it more disruptive than the shoes. I recognized, even then, it having potential for allowing one to get further, and I've since experimented with it. In fact, I rarely play without it nowadays (less than 10% of the time, I think).

Making choices

Haven't felt much like writing lately. I'd like to say it's because there's nothing going on, but that certainly isn't the case. I mentioned going to vote that morning, but didn't write anything that evening, or the next morning. A side note that I implied in that post, but didn't say explicitly: I think everyone should vote, whether they agree with my views or not. One thing that really torques me about current debate. Why is this a partisan issue? Everyone should want as many people as possible to vote.  Isn't that the whole point of a democracy?

I actually didn't stay up that night to get the results (having gotten up so early to vote, I was rather tired, and the interim results I was seeing when I was debating going to sleep weren't encouraging), so I saw them in the morning paper.

It was kind of weird, in a way. When I went to bed, the news was showing Virginia (my home state) at 65-35 (roughly) for Romney. I forget what percentage of polls had closed then, but it wasn't a small number. That blew my mind. Hearing that it ended up going for Obama was certainly reassuring, but felt a bit bizarre.

The final results were a huge relief; I certainly don't think Obama is a terrific president (well, in some contexts, but his civil liberties positions are awful.  Which is especially disappointing as he campaigned on improvements there, but they've actually gotten slightly worse), but I am certain that Romney would have been an unmitigated disaster.

The referenda I heard about were very encouraging as well. Hearing the voters explicitly approve gay marriage in two states, and fail to disapprove it in two more, was very encouraging for the future. And having Colorado approve pot use is also encouraging. Far too many people have been killed and imprisoned for something that's far less dangerous than alcohol.

So let's keep moving this country forward, starting with not getting suckered into continuing the Bush tax cuts. If it takes letting them all expire, that's much better than keeping them all.  I guess we'll see what happens.


It's happening...

My wife and I showed up a few minutes before the polls opened this morning.  Was surprised to find a pretty long wait when we got there.  But we voted.  And, as a democracy, it was encouraging to see that the line had gotten longer while we were voting.  I'm curious how long it will take for the line to clear out.  An hour?  Two?  Three?

I'm guessing closer to the latter.  But it's good to see so many people taking time out to vote.