Friday, July 01, 2005

Spotted Owl Reports + Alcohol = Hilarious

Once again going through old bookmarks, I found this old gem. Some guy wrote a report on spotted owls while drunk and actually turned it in for a grade. If you love spotted owls, you may want to look away.

Becoming a Statistic

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

Okay, I saw these all over the place and finally broke down and contributed to MIT's survey. Will this be one of those times where I can spot my dot on the bell curve? That's not always a good sign, you know...

Aspiring Evil Overlords, Take Note

If demolishing the Earth seems too difficult, perhaps you should just become Supreme Overlord. If that is your plan, you might want to read the guidelines first. Thanks to Preethi over at Polyscifi.

Vatican Astronomy Club

Apparently, the Vatican has an astronomy school. Just one step closer to the moral imperative of space exploration.

Updated Sidebar

I updated the sidebar. Decided I should let people know some of the blogs I frequent. Consider yourself duely informed.

July 4 Weekend

I'm out for the weekend, so posting may be light to nonexistant. Except for right now, because I got off early (bwahaha!). So I'll write until the traffic dies down or it's obvious that traffic won't die down and I should really go if I want to be in Richmond before 2 am.

We Are Go For Launch

Discovery is offically set to launch for July 13, the first flight of any shuttle since Columbia broke up in February of 2003.

But first, to celebrate the fourth of July, we're gonna blow up a comet! Okay, not really. We're just going to crash into it. Will I be up at 1:52 am when it hits? Most likely. Will I semi-live blog it? Eh, we'll see.

More Supreme Court Fun

Sandra Day O'Conner has retired. She was a swing vote in many cases, so the fight over her seat will undoubtedly be fierce. This is not going to be pretty.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

VTACOite, Jr.

Jeremy Ramont (VTACO alumnus) and wife Jen's new daughter Matilda Claire has arrived! Congrats, guys. Welcome to parenthood!

Tom Scares People Away

Has Tom Cruise weirded you out so much lately that you refuse to see his new movie, War of the Worlds? Then sign this online petition and go see Batman Begins instead. ;)

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Quote of the Day - June 29, 2005

Would you rather find out how weird your friends really are or stay at home alone?

- advertisement for an NTN game

Need Criteria for Success

The buzz is about Bush’s speech last night. There is nothing Bush could say at this point that could satisfy his detractors. Confessing that invading Iraq was terrible mistake, even if he thought this were true, would serve only to fuel the rage of true enemies, outrage weak allies, and embarrass strong ones. But Bush continues to dig holes for himself as he continues to make excuses for why we are there. That is the problem with the Iraq debate. It is less about the future and more about the past.

For the record, I think we should have focused on Afghanistan and stayed out of Iraq. Afghanistan was indisputably a terrorist regime, not only a safe haven for terrorists but a breading and training ground for them. If we had gone in, defeated the Taliban, and put forth our best and fullest efforts to build a secure and functional democracy in a once fundamentalist nation, the sympathy shown to us after September 11 might not have dwindled into bitterness. The world was with us on Afghanistan. The case for Iraq was much less clear. I don’t think Bush lied. I just think the administration was high on their success in Afghanistan and bit off more than they could chew. They were so convinced that they would be greeted as liberators that they didn’t think of what might happen after the initial euphoria of victory wore off and they were suddenly in charge of rebuilding two countries vastly different from their own. (I’m not going to get anymore into specifics about why I disagreed with the decision to invade Iraq because that’s not the point of this post. And I'm not that masochistic.)

But that doesn’t matter now. We’re in. Memos and evidence of WMDs and whatnot are good only for historians at this point. Whatever their intentions, however much or little they thought about post-war problems, we’re in. And we have to think about what comes next.

I don’t want a schedule. That would be artificial, not to mention a signal to insurgents of how long they have to wait before the country is theirs for the taking. But we need criteria for success. Number of Iraqi soldiers and police ready to defend Iraq. Percentage of Iraqi children attending school. Reliability of the power grid. Deaths per month. Days since last bombing. Some of the above. All of the above. More than just the above. But something. We need to define what success is before we can know if we’ve succeeded. Bush says we’ll be there as long as it takes. A secure, democratic nation is a great goal, but how do you measure that? Bush is so fond of accountability in public schools with tests and statistics to judge whether or not a school is doing its job. How about some tests and statistics here so we’ll know when we’re close to success?

Monday, June 27, 2005

Quote of the Day - June 27, 2005

The Medium: I just had the weirdest dream.
Her Husband: Of course you did. It's a day that ends in a 'y'.

- "A Couple of Choices" episode of Medium

Tom Goes to the Dark Side

Go here and watch the Quicktime video that Christiana links to. It is a moral imperitive.

What Makes a Successful Heroine?

USAToday did an article on female heroes. Joss Whedon will be writing and directing a Wonder Woman movie, and the hope is that it won’t flop horribly like Catwoman or Elektra. I have few worries because I know that Whedon knows how to handle a strong female character. His work on Buffy has done a lot to demonstrate that she-heroes can succeed.

But what makes a successful heroine? What makes an audience believe in a woman who makes it a habit of saving the day? And not in a “I brought bandages” kind of way. I think there are several elements that have developed over the years that creators of today’s heroines need to keep in mind.

Sexuality is neither sacrificed nor exploited. Focusing too much on the fact that your hero is a woman can cause problems. If she denies her femininity, you’re implying that, to be a hero, a woman must act more like a man. Go the other way and have her exploit her femininity to get her way, and you risk denying her the opportunity to use her intelligence and strength to get out of a tough situation. The first heroine to really achieve this balance was Ripley in Alien. Ripley was originally intended to be male and (according to IMDB) all of the characters were unisex. In other words, none of them were written to be male or female. This, I think, prevented the writers from falling into some of the usual traps that writers for female characters can fall into (consciously or otherwise). As such, there are no gender-based presumptions that character X will scream but do nothing to save themselves or that character Y will remain unshaken by the events that transpire. It allowed to characters to be their character and not their gender. These were people working together on a seemingly lifeless planet who are killed one-by-one by a mostly unseen foe. They should all be fighting to survive. And they should all be scared. Ripley survives not because she’s sexy or over-compensating for testosterone deficiency. She survives because she’s smart, tough, and probably more than just a little bit lucky (if you call being the lone survivor of a massacre lucky).

A compelling motivation. An audience is much more willing to accept that a man will go out and pick a fight with a bad guy because aggressiveness in men is more generally accepted. If you have an aggressive female character, there better be a darn good reason she’s not staying at home taking care of the kids! Okay, it’s not so bad as that, but women are seen as nurturers. Their motivations are necessarily different from their male counterparts. Sarah Conner made a tremendous transformation in Terminator 2. She went from the clueless and helpless damsel in distress in the first Terminator to the survivalist of Judgement Day. Gone was the terrified screaming, replaced by a confident, commanding voice. Why? She had a son and a future to protect. Some heroines are trying to make sense of life (Trinity in the Matrix), some are out for revenge (The Bride in Kill Bill), some are fighting for mere survival (La Femme Nikita, Dark Angel) and still others are fulfilling the role of protector (Buffy, Witchblade) Of course, most of my examples mix a lot of those motivations together in various concentrations. It’s called having a complex character. This may be why female heroes do better on television than in the movies. There is more time for character development.

Vulnerable but not helpless. Heroes are often defined as much by their weaknesses as they are by their strengths. This aspect of heroines, however, appears to be the toughest to accomplish. Writers are sometimes afraid to make a heroine vulnerable at all for fear of falling into the “women are weak” stereotype. Do you risk undermining her independence by giving her a love interest? Do you show the emotional toll that her life is taking on her? How about the physical toll? It’s tricky, but when done right, the character is much more believable and relatable. Buffy’s greatest vulnerability – her friends – was also her greatest strength. Take them away and you get someone more like Faith, a fellow Slayer who went over to the Dark Side, as it were. Making the love interest a source of emotional rather than physical support seems to work well. Take Allison on Medium. Her husband cannot come to her rescue because most of the problems she faces are inside her own mind. All he can do is be there for her as she tries to put her abilities to good use. Medium also does a good job of showing how Allison’s psychic abilities and what she chooses to do with them take a toll, not only on her, but on her family.

Something may be missing here, but keeping these three things in mind will at least give you a good start on creating a successful heroine. Three things. That shouldn't be so hard. Right?

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Pick up lines

Pick-up lines are fun to read even if you'll never hear or use them. I found a whole list of them. Some are more like put downs than pick-up lines ("I may not be the best looking guy here, but I'm the only one talking to you"). Some you should use only if you really want a gold-digger ("I make more money than you can spend"). Others are acts of desperation ("Before you run, I am not freak"). Do any of these actually work?