Thursday, April 29, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Initially, it was meant to be a little bit of dialog coding here and there, just to get things into shape, but it keeps expanding; I mean, if I can get the dialog coded, why not make the creatures so I can test it? And if I make the creatures, why not at least tell them to walk away when they've said their lines, and if that, why not set the trigger to get the dialog started in the first place? And so it goes, as I find myself wending my way deeper and deeper into the jungles of foreach and fun.
My scramble to learn wscript(1) has been fraught with peril--or so I gather from the error messages I am constantly getting as I struggle to compile my code.
One warns of "trailing whitespace." Wait--isn't that what ghosts have? What have I gotten myself into?
Another, sounding more like something my philosophy-loving brother might say, warns that I "cannot unify a bool and a function with an argument item."
My favorite, partly because so far I haven't actually had to do anything about it, yetis the "SANITY CHECK!" that scrolls by each time I load the game. Am I checking to see if I still have it? Handing it in at the door for safekeeping? Is it better to have it or to lose it?
Yes, indeed, the road to code is full of hazard, and here I am, only just at the beginning. After all, once I comprehend the bools and the ints(2) and get my arguments in order, I must needs learn polylists and how to mark them. There are, I believe, about 20 places in the current batch of scripts that need them for various and sundry reasons. Also, I really need to learn to use foreach and fi,(3) rather than gloating over them as obscure and interesting additions to my vocabulary.
In short, this is all very confusing. It is also interesting. I haven't done anything quite this mind-bending in years. And, yes, it is fun(4). After arguing on and off for days with a particularly stubborn quest, I finally got it--all of it--to work. That was awesome! And, despite the fact that I know every stubbed argument and misplaced parentheses in each and every file I have made, it still seems magical when I load the game and see my people in there, walking.
(2)Or by this weekend, which ever comes first.
(3) And to pronounce them. "Fi" means, roughly, the "end of if." But I don't know how to say it! I like "Fie" as in "Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum!" But it may very well be "Feh," or it could be a soft sort of sound, the sort one makes when trying to say "if" backward. Or perhaps it is the "command-that-may-not-be-named." These are the hazards of learning code via IM rather than face-to-face. One never hears the words said. Is Iter "itter" or "eye-ter"?
(4) In both the ordinary-world sense of "amusing and enjoyable" and in the computer world-sense of "a function" (though perhaps that is stretching the use a bit).
Saturday, April 24, 2010
I found myself with Yolen's Twelve Impossible Things Before Breakfast. It's a lovely little collection with a range of moods and story types: "Tough Alice," my least favorite, is a morality tale that features some great, quirky moments in Wonderland--the puns almost make up for the rather heavy-handed moral at the end. "Mama Gone" is creepy, terrible, hopeful, and heart-warming all at once; "The Bridge's Complaint" is funny, "The Babysitter" chilling, "The Sea Dragon of Fife" heroic and human, and "Brandon and the Aliens" gross.
Additionally, the book has short notes from the author in the back discussing how the stories came to be written and what Yolen herself likes about each.
I enjoyed reading them and suspect they'd make great read-alouds as well.
In short, Twelve Impossible Things Before Breakfast is worth having on the shelf for those times when you need a quick story fix.
Friday, April 23, 2010
It's a beautiful, balanced book that somehow manages to have a thirty year old and a twelve year old as co-protagonists and makes it work. The characters are both eccentric and practical.
Ok, interruption here; I'm giving a description when what I really want to say is less concrete. The book shimmers. It's like the stained-glass windows in the story, full of color, light, and subtle tricks of shape and shade.
I want to read it again.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
My overall impression, though, was that this episode was an improvement over the last two. I actually found myself caring what happened to these people.
Erica got to do something other than fuss over Tyler, we found out a bit more about Tyler's past--and he now has some legitimate reason to be confused and upset, which makes him less the generic American teen, plus now there's an interesting mystery about him.
Otherwise: Sulky Terrorist, whose name I still can't remember, got to be useful, and Valerie shows signs of coming into focus as a character; I am starting to remember her name without using Google, and that is always a good sign.
Ryan is still annoying.
Anna's still scary.
And I am actually looking forward to seeing the next episode, and will probably give it my full attention.
Yes, I know We Can't Win. already aired; I'm just not that good at seeing shows on time! Very glad hulu is around.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Lots, and lots and lots more:
When the International Census of Marine Microbes (ICoMM) kicked off in 2003, microbiologists had identified 6,000 kinds of microbe and predicted that they might find as many as 600,000.
After collecting samples at more than 1,200 sites around the world, ICoMM researchers compiled a database of 18 million microbial DNA sequences and identified hundreds of thousands of different microbes. They conservatively estimate that there must be at least 20 million kinds of microbe in the oceans. The true number may even be billions or trillions.
And they're all over the place! I'd quote, but I think it's better to let you read it for yourself.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
I keep meaning to blog about writing and about starting to learn wscript, but I've been spending all my computer time writing and learning wscript (and having a blast, somewhat unexpectedly--normally I hate picking bugs out of stuff).
So, for the moment, no real entry on strange error messages and odd commands.
Instead, I'll give you an entirely authorized and never-before-seen screenshot: the map of Mal Nassrin. Feast your eyes on it and wait impatiently!
Monday, April 19, 2010
Eiffel's Tower: The Thrilling Story Behind Paris's Beloved Monument and the Extraordinary World's Fair That Introduced It by Jill Jonnes
It's an interesting slice-of-life book, and I had a great time reading nineteenth-century flame wars (James Whistler loved a good quarrel), and noting that the Eiffel Tower was initially dismissed as something that "not even the Americans" would touch.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
It is interesting. William Perkin, who is almost unremembered these days, was interested in chemistry back when chemistry was viewed as dull and impractical, of less use than Latin or Greek.
He was also an amateur painter. This last is important because he tried to make artificial quinine and ended up with mauve instead, he took another look. Where previous researchers who had found interesting colors in their labs calmly dumped them out and went on with whatever they had been doing, Perkin looked at this bright new mauve, liked it, and contacted a textile dyer. After some initial difficulties, he became an immensely wealthy man and founder of a whole new industry, and, yes, ultimately helped with medicine since a number of the new artificial dyes turned out also to have antibiotic properties.
The book benefits from a great title, good writing, and an unexpected angle on an unexpected topic. It is worth a read--or, if you've forgotten the details, a reread.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Arthur's been facing tough decisions since Mister Monday, and they get no easier here. The colorful world of the House is as confusing, dangerous, and beautiful as ever, and the the consequences of his decisions are felt in both the House and our world.
The only drawback is that it had been long enough between the books that it took me a little while to get back up to speed on who the different characters were. The end was also a tiny bit disappointing; I'm not sure why--it's not as if it came completely out of the blue.
Definitely worth reading, though I suggest reading the series together as one block, now that that is possible.
Friday, April 16, 2010
Much lovely description of New Zealand follows, most of it fitting beautifully into the story and making me happy to travel along (Most: Aunt Dimity has a couple of those "I did my research" lines authors sometimes insert), some (unwarranted) scares, and the stray relative Lori is searching for is found and brought safely to the beautiful English village where she lives.
I'm glad to say that Lori seems to have outgrown her tendency fall for every handsome man she travels with; it was getting old a very few books into the series. Now, she travels happily with her native guide, and chats with her husband on the phone.
The Aunt Dimity books are not serious mysteries; even for cozies, they are cozy. Sometimes, that is just what I am looking for.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
I find we disagree on it.
I liked it and thought it well-written; certainly it withstood the inevitable comparison to Orchid Thief considerably better than I had expected. It does a superb job of showing the author's growing fascination with and involvement in the story. It also does a credible job of portraying the various people involved in the rare book world, particularly Sanders, the book store owner and bibliodick and Gilkey, the con man and book thief.
What it never quite did, despite the title and despite Bartlett's statements, was convince me that Gilkey loves books. He loves the good life, he's quite oblivious to any reason why he should not steal to have it, and he steals books as one part of that desire--books, but not only books; he also steals rooms in hotels, meals at restaurants, and a number of other luxury items. So, where Orchid Thief convinced that Larouche, however, briefly, truly did love orchids, this book is about a thief, not a bibliophile.
The world of the book-sellers was more interesting, but much less explored.
So--a good book, but not a great one.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Really, any two out of the three would make this a stand-out book, but the three together? Spectacular.
I never, ever, would have expected to be laughing out loud while reading a book on microbes, and while I might have read one or two bits out of another book (because I do things like that), I would not have read so many, or so constantly.
In his final interview-with-himself, Ben-Barak writes that "the main thing I wanted to show was how fluid and varied life is. . . . . Reality's deliciously absurd and fun" (191), and that is exactly what he conveys from page one all through.
Run to your nearest library and grab a copy--or head to the book store and buy one. It's worth it.
Briefly: I liked it better than Welcome to the War but was less impressed than I would like to be.
On the secrets front, Ryan came up with a credible reason for Erica not to tell Tyler what she knows about the V's, but we kept the secret count high by adding a new secret--Tyler's dad is not his biological dad and that has something to do with their split. We don't know yet who his "real" dad is--will it be a science fictiony or a soap-opera-ye secret?
And Ryan is still being an idiot. The line between making a character lovably, believably flawed and making the viewers want to strangle him really isn't that fine, and the show crossed it last episode and has kept on going.
Definitely the best bits in this episode were ship-board as Anna's new program to weed out dissidents began, and it started to look like even non-Fifth Column members might object. There are serious possibilities for plot twists here.
Let's see, other than that: The several month delay is affecting me more than I had expected it to. I'm really not attached to these characters any more, and I expected to be. I'm also feeling like the show is moving at a glacially slow pace, which I think has more to do with the chasm than with the actual pacing of the season as such.
And veering into comparison territory: Tyler, while not nearly as irritating as Robin (original V; he's a pretty close equivalent role-wise, so far), remains an unappealing character. I don't hate him, but it's hard to see why the V's want him so much, or to really fret about his ultimate fate. He's too much the generic American teen (Who is, I may add, vastly more irritating than any actual American teens I have known).
Erica continues to disappoint me, due primarily to my own initial expectations: Since she is an FBI agent, and has shown an ability to fight, I expected her to combine the roles taken by Julie and Ham Tyler in the original V: To be the leader of the Resistance and the expert on guerrilla warfare. Instead, she's actually been less sturdy emotionally than Juliet Parrish was. Juliet went from medical student to leader of a resistance cell. Erica has gone from tough FBI agent to wailing mom: Yes she is entitled to worry about her son; she should worry about him; I wouldn't like her if she didn't care, but these last two episodes that has entirely defined her character, with a little time out for worrying about Ryan and then Georgie. Her FBI skills have been, with one admittedly cool exception (nice of that assassin to tell her right where his heart was), confined to using their database. Not bad, but not enough, not given what I'd hoped.
Father Jack pretty much stayed in the background this ep, so nothing good or bad to say about him.
The Sulky Terrorist (*searches), ok Kyle Hobbes, may well turn out to be a good addition to the show, but I can't say much one way or the other yet. So far, he's done a lot of brooding, some sulking, and a little bit of extra-curricular clandestine activity that may or may not turn out to mean anything interesting. Ham Tyler was much more fun.
Georgie: Got interesting about the time he got caught. We shall see.
Anna: Marvelous, fantastic, super-reptilian, and really scary. Not better-than Diana, but as good as and decidedly more up-to-date in her evil.
So--eh. I'd really like to see this go somewhere; I'd like to see it get another season and develop in strange, new directions and depart from the old V in ways it has yet to do, but will it last long enough? Will I last long enough?
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Yesterday and today were days that reminded me again just how much I love writing, just the sheer joy of getting the words down, the fun of feeling them shape themselves; it's flying for the fun of it.
Productive too--I got two good, long character segments written and fixed some smaller bits and pieces here and there in other dialogs. I even found a bit of looping dialog in game and (lowers voice) I fixed it myself. Yes, I, even I, ventured into the tangled jungle of already coded wording and made it work right, and I'm ridiculously pleased with myself as a result.
Today's work is not-quite-finished; it's a thorny, tangled shrub instead of a nice, tidy dialog tree, but, like all trees, it can and will be pruned. The important thing is it's there, and I like it!
I also picked a thousand and one little coding errors out of said tangled shrub. Such is life, and life, today, is very good.
In other news, JCompton and I have actually managed to find another shared cultural reference! Multiple discussions of characters and concepts have floundered when one or the other of us has said "You know, kind of like X only different," and the other has said "Like what?" In the long run, it's probably Good for the Game as it means there is a much broader frame of reference, but in the short term it has made for much explaining and convolution, and that this, the second time, is worth a moment of silent contemplation.
Wanders off happily to prune virtual dialog trees.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Saturday, April 10, 2010
I first fell in love with Columbine flowers at (you guessed it) Disneyland, having seen them in one of the Tomorrowland gardens. I found a few more around the neighborhood and admired their graceful stalks and ballet-dress beauty.
It was too late, however, to find any plants, so I had to buy seeds, which I planted with some trepidation--I'm not that good at keeping seeds alive and nurturing them through that awkward, delicate seedling phase when too much water drowns them and too little withers them, and the difference between the two stages is a few drops.
To my delight, however, a number of the plants survived my care; no more than a small percentage, but enough. I planted them all around the garden--instructions on Columbine care vary, some saying "Full sun" and some "shade," so I mixed them.
Some died in the torrential downpour we had over the winter, but some lived, and now several are blooming! Or, rather, promising to bloom. The only open one is an unpromising mix of sickly green and pale red, but I have hopes that it will darken into something more impressive.
In the meantime, three others hold tightly furled buds, mysteries waiting to unfold.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
1) Continue Eiffel's Tower, which is a non-fiction account of the building of the Eiffel Tower specifically and of the 1889 Paris Exposition?
2) Start Except the Queen, which is due in two weeks, and which Charlotte's Library made sound terribly appealing, and half of which is by Jane Yolen, an author I happen to love?
3) Start Lord Sunday which came in today and which is also due in two weeks? It's the final book in the Keys to the Kingdom series, and I've been looking forward to it since finishing Superior Saturday back when.
4)Or should I read Aunt Dimity Down Under, the latest installment in the frothy mystery series I've been reading, a series almost too light even to be called cozy?
I already had to, reluctantly, return Ice unread (Don't worry, I'll put it on hold again) in order to make room for more books.
Monday, April 5, 2010
And I was underwhelmed.
It was an ok filler episode, but they've been gone for months; I was expecting more bang. Instead, that fleet we'd seen ominously hovering in space at the end of the 4-episode premier arc was still a long way off, we're no closer to finding out what the Visitors want Tyler for, and very little else has advanced.
It was entertaining enough while it lasted but annoying about five minutes later. That's better than most TV shows do--several shows are annoying five minutes in--but not good enough.
One change I noticed was in Erica. During the pre-season four, she was worried about Tyler, but she also seemed to be aware that there was an entire world in this war. This episode, she spent talking about Tyler, Tyler, and only Tyler. Both Father Jack and Ryan responded to her in terms of Tyler only, as though that were her sole stake in the war. She is entitled to be a worried mother, of course; I just hope it doesn't end up being the full definition of her character.
And a big, big irritant was the "I've got a secret" theme running through the show. Let's count the secrets that people are keeping, apparently only for the sake of drama:
1)Ryan: "Honey, I love you, but I won't tell you I'm an alien." This was entirely believable when he was incognito on Earth and could pretend that the Visitors weren't coming back. It was barely believable after they did come back, though it stretched credulity that he still refused to tell her after he rejoined the Fifth Column. Now, she's pregnant and panicking, and he still won't tell her because he's "afraid of what it would do to us." It's not just unlikeable, it's downright unbelievable. The only thing it does is give him an excuse to give us anguished looks over her shoulder. Oh, and it allows for Valerie's secret:
2)"Honey! I've been going to the Visitor Healing Center!" Only she hasn't told him because . . . because if she did, then he would have to tell her what he knows and secret 1 wouldn't be a secret any more. Really--this is the sort of thing that would come up in conversation. And, speaking of the healing center, there's Father Jack:
3)"Hey, guys? While I was at the Visitor's Center, they injected me with R6!" Only he's not telling because, um, he's afraid he'll get kicked out of the club, I guess. Oh, and he doesn't realize just how important it is because, there is Ryan:
4) "Guess what? I know what R6 does!" but he's not telling because, um...the sexy Visitor doctor told him he shouldn't until they know more. Say what? Yeah, this is going to lead to lots of "Jack can be tracked and doesn't know it" plots plus, probably a "Which of us is the traitor?" thread, and it is completely illogical. And then there is Erica:
5)"Tyler, hon, the Visitors are nasty, evil, lizard people. Your lady friend? You wouldn't like what she looks like under that skin." But she's not telling because she can't get out of range of the jacket? I'll grant she has some reason not to entirely trust him just at the moment, but she does have some proof, and it's hard to believe that the Tyler-centric woman of this episode wouldn't use it; after all, she let Ryan do the eye-peel thing for a mercenary who was openly uninterested in joining them. And, speaking of Ryan (again) there is:
6)"Guys? I know a bunch of Fifth Column members, but I'm not telling who they are, where they are, or how many there might be. I'm not even going to arrange for some alternate means of contacting them. That way, if I die, you'll be completely on your own." And neither Erica nor Father Jack have asked about this. Granted, it really isn't a good idea for everyone to know everyone else, but only one Visitor-human liaison? When they are desperate? I don't think so.
So I'm not quitting: This is only one episode, and as a filler episode, it almost, kind of works, but I do hope the next one is better.
I have written for it, though. I was pretty unhappy with the last batch of banters I wrote about, so I did something I haven't done for a while--took a notebook (the kind with paper in it, not the computing kind) to the beach, sat under my favorite tree by the bay, and wrote long hand. Got the remaining banters written and revised the earlier ones I disliked, discovering while I was at it that only two of them really needed to be torn apart, the rest only needed some tinkering, so I was quite happy with the results.
I've hit or passed my "minimum needed" list on the NPC-NPC banters, so now I'm coding them up. Fortunately for me (and for future modders) the banter coding in WScript is close enough to the coding in WEIDU to make WEIDU knowledge useful. It's not identical--one of the reasons I have not worked on the Trio lately is that WEIDU is capitalized while WScript isn't, and that can trip a person up, and there are other differences--but it's close enough to help. The PC-NPC banters are slightly different again, but also workable. This leaves Paul free to focus on quests which need attention.
No way. I was working on banter coding for The Broken Hourglass when it hit and I had time to 1)Unplug my computer in case of power disruption 2)Code several more lines (and I'm *not* a fast coder) while 3)Wondering whether or not I should be getting under something, and if so, what?
Need I add that I am no great fan of earthquakes? No, probably not. It's unlikely I'll get a lot of replies from people wanting to tell me just how much fun they find quakes and how much they look forward to each one.
Saturday, April 3, 2010
This one seemed pretty relaxed about the people walking by. Not sick-relaxed--s/he was paying attention in between naps, but not too bothered.
This year, though, I tried something new--tie dye eggs.
The dye is a much thicker, more intense, more permanent gel that one drops onto the egg with somewhat flimsy eye-droppers and then rubs it in using a specially provided plastic bag.
It's kind of fun, though I have a theory that the people who made the kit and the people who wrote the instructions never actually spoke to one another (there are three separate sets of instructions on what to do with the dye, and they're all different, there are two different drying trays, for one), and I got the best results from dropping the dye into the plastic bag rather than the egg.
But--I only had eight eggs to experiment with (I love to dye cold boiled eggs; I don't love eating them), and one of them cracked, so I have a lot of bright gel dye left and a vague feeling that there ought to be some creative use for it. It doesn't spread out well on construction paper, copier paper, or paper towels, so tie-dye paper is not an option. It's also not terribly storable--intense, indelible dye in a flimsy, uncovered plastic tray is a disaster waiting to happen.
So I thought I'd blog and ask--what do you do with leftover Easter Egg dye?
And in the meantime, I'll go make some (undyed) cinnamon rolls.