Hack vs Slash
I had this glorious plan, going on...two months now? It's probably been more, I may have been planning this since the summer. I wanted to buy a barebones notebook, and create from scratch my portable gaming masterpiece, as a counterpart to my fully-loaded desktop in the big aluminum box. It would mean an end to running WinXP on a slowly-failing Celeron 950 (which went over a GHz until my dad stole back the good heatsink!) with 768MB of ram (two-thirds of which is borrowed) and an ATI Radeon 9600 256MB, which is my current secondary machine in the case of basement LAN action, which happens all-too-infrequently for my tastes. Then, on top of this, I was going to buy an Xbox 360 HD DVD drive, and start enjoying some 1080i content (yes, 1080i, because I have a clunky old CRT television), with the aid of one or both of my computers and a little app called AnyDVD HD.
All this comes to a crashing halt for a few reasons, the first of which being that the laptop chassis I want comes in a few flavours, and getting the precise match would involve ordering from the US, enduring possible tariffs, delivery surcharges, and all those scary things that must be keeping our domestic industry intact by making it nigh-impossible to get what you want for cheap when it's not available in Canada. I guess I could break down and buy a lesser variant of this chassis from within the country, but it would feel as much like defeat as victory. The Xbox 360 HD DVD drive, well, not so much a problem as a question of who I trust on ebay. $70 for a buy-it-now? That just sounds like too good a deal...
The real kicker is that a reasonably-priced laptop by Acer is selling for $400 off at the future shop. It has everything I want except for DVI output and an MXM module, including an HDMI port and an HD DVD drive. It costs $800, easily half of the total cost of the DIY laptop and the HD DVD drive would cost separately. I may have to give in on this score, and simply buy the DIY laptop separately, but at that point I will have spent some $2000 on laptops, which would - if spent on a single laptop - probably get me a single unit with a RAID array, 17" screen, and SLI. Maybe I should do that, instead, although I cannot for the life of me think of where I might get a laptop IDE HD DVD drive for anything less than $800 on its own.
In short, I have gone from a single decision back to start, and I have to start this process of deciding the best course of action all over again. I am not the most decicive person at the best of times, so this really helps nothing.
Maybe I'll see if I can't cajole my dad into splitting the cheap laptop with me, if I can have the HD DVD drive. Now fitting THAT into a barebone chassis would be what I'd call a fun little project. Not so much hacking involved, but I'd probably avoid buying Tor 9x screwdrivers...
In the game of Hack versus Slash, why are the big box stores out to take away all of our fun?
The Moral Compass
So I did go and see a certain fantasy movie with supposedly atheist roots, and I have to say that I'm disappointed. You'd think that if a movie were going to raise religious hackles, it could at least have the decency to be a good movie, and more importantly, to be an atheist movie. There isn't any mention of a "Creator" or "God" figure, there's not even a Big Brother. The Magesterium is churchlike only in terms of its visual style, which is great, I love how the stern-looking clergyman type is the bad dude with the poison for once, and the free thinkers are the good guys, that's AWESOME. Like Sci-Fi Channel's perplexing "Riverworld" adaptation, the movie has only made me want to read the book, because it has presented me with some cool world-building, and not a lot else, which I expect the book will fix. This is a terrible trend in movies, because libraries will let you borrow a book for free, and cliffs notes to summarize it for you don't cost as much as movie tickets and overpriced popcorn. Visually, this movie is astounding, and I would gladly give armoured bear hugs to the concept artists and digital rendering crew, fantastic work! Now if only the screenwriters could have worked a little harder, then we might actually have CONTENT! Also, it would help if Daniel Craig and his Tiger had featured more in the movie, but you can just read any old review of GC and know that.
What saddens me about this situation is that an opportunity to bring atheist messages into entertainment has been missed. I'd like some entertainment that stands up and says that you don't need Jesus, or God, or Mohammed, or 4 000-year-old books to have morals, ethics, drive, determination, life, and happiness. I'd like to see something that challenges not just arbitrary authority, but the actual tenets of religion. This is not to say that we need to go about killing God in books for this purpose: positive messages are more desireable in the end. Better still, just look at the truth: the genetics, the selection pressures, and social life. Look at why religion might be beneficial, look at how it is not, in some cases. I think it's fair to say that any imposition of belief would place us atheists in bad faith, and so rather than bonking people over the head screaming "there is no God!", just lay down interesting facts and let them draw their own conclusions, rather than giving them rhetoric and scripture. Will that win "converts"? Not many, but then it's not like converting people to atheism is all that time-critical: belief doesn't really matter if there's no afterlife, so there's no "saving" people! There is only showing them that they can take control of their own moral codes.
So I've been working on a review of BSG: Razor, but it's not really been coming together. I end up listing every little thing about it, when really I only need to get a few points across:
1) If you like BSG, it's basically more of the same. For that matter, it's an incredibly ordinary mid-series miniseries, because it introduces cool characters and events, and then blows them up or away before the audience can say "wait, why weren't they in the series proper, if this was important" WARNING! CONTAINS GIANT SPOILERS!
2) If you haven't seen BSG, you don't want to start here.
3) Admiral Cain's relationship with the cylon 6 "Gina" is the best new character development. It places the infiltrator within the crew of Pegasus, it makes Cain human, it makes her descent into cold-blooded revenge so much more understandable, and also makes her treatment of Gina all the more horrifying. Even though BSG has played with sex scenes in the past, they don't go the easy route of sexploitation of two attractive female characters. Good move on their part, because it stands out as character development, and not ratings-grab. It's also presented with no bias. The only reaction is "It's just the admiral seems so self-sufficient". Tricia Helfer and Michelle Forbes have great on-screen chemistry, which is the crowning touch to this master-stroke. Brilliance
4) I really like Admiral Cain's original XO. It makes it very painful when she shoots him. Also Brilliant!
5) The new character, Kendra Shaw, is mad, mad hot, and ohhh that accent. Pity she dies in a stupid cliché involving a nuclear bomb that must be manually detonated
6) The cylon hybrid whom she destroys (along with a basestar) is cool. Too bad we still don't understand why the Cylons were compelled to become fleshy and have religion in the first place. Hell, we haven't a clue, even. Prophecies are cool, but the series really ought to back-fill in order to shed light on the origins of the organic Cylons.
7) Speaking of clichés, we have an entire plot arc revolving around...Something Adama saw or did earlier in his career, but neglected to mention even when it would have been pertinent. Anyone remember "Bulldog"? It's as if the writer's strike forced the crew to fill in the plot with no imagination, or something. Especially that nuke thing. That's from Armageddon, and it's even sorta happened in the series already (end of season 1 ish, before Boomer shoots Adama)!
8) They could have just had a bunch of Kendra Shaw beauty shots and that one scene where the Cylon says "By your command" with all the Vocordery goodness of the original show. It would have advanced the plot of BSG about as much as Razor.
More later, I promise