Thursday, December 22, 2011


Speaking of trailers, the one for Prometheus, Ridley Scott's maybe-prequel to Alien, has just gone live. Check it out. See if you notice any similarities to this trailer for Alien.

By the way, do any Browncoats out there think the ship in the trailer looks a lot like a Firefly-class freighter?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Hobbit Returns

As you may know, Peter Jackson is bringing an adaptation of The Hobbit to the big screen, and he's splitting the story into two films. The trailer for the first of these two movies, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, has just gone live. I must say that, after a few-year break, I am officially re-excited about the Lord of the Rings universe.

Friday, December 09, 2011

PR: Fight Gone Bad

Tonight, I set a new personal record for the workout known as Fight Gone Bad: 287 points. That's a solid improvement, and I plan to aim for 300 next time.

PR: Snatch

Yesterday, I set a personal record in the snatch: 144 lb. That's not only a PR but also my first above-bodyweight snatch. I felt like I could have gone up a pound or two more, but I ran out of time. My technique still needs work, so I think 150 should be possible in the near future.

I also put up a 190-lb clean and jerk last night. That's 2.5 lb short of my PR, but, after all the reps of heavy snatch I'd done, I was pretty happy with it.

Monday, December 05, 2011

A Trailer Parked by the Cabin

The first trailer for Joss Whedon's upcoming horror flick, The Cabin in the Woods, is now available on the Tube of You. I can say, with only a small risk of spoiling anything for those of you who don't watch the trailer, that the movie appears to be a little more science fiction and a little less fantasy than I was anticipating.

Now, who wants to go see it with me in April?

Friday, December 02, 2011

PR: Snatch

Tonight I set a PR for the snatch: 140 lb. That's a 3.5-lb PR and just 2 lb shy of bodyweight for today. My technique needs a lot of work, so I think 150 lb is possible in the short term. Wish me luck.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Boneshaker: The Motion Picture

Cherie Priest has just announced that her steampunk zombie adventure, Boneshaker, is being made into a motion picture. There's even a screenwriter attached already. Follow that first link for more details and this one for a few more.

Having enjoyed Boneshaker and the other stories in Priest's Clockwork Century series, I'm quite chuffed about this news.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

PR: Front Squat

I must admit that I've lately been uncertain what my personal record in the front squat was. I don't have an entry on this blog, my records for that move are not properly indexed, and my recent squat rescaling complicates matters further. When I went into Monday's workout, I was pretty certain my PR for a parallel-depth front squat was something like 225 lb. Despite all that uncertainty, the 235-lift I recorded that night is definitely a PR. And now that I've recorded the lift here, I won't have this problem again.

Monday, November 21, 2011

PR: Press

Today, I set a new record in the press, sometimes called the overhead press or shoulder press. The new record is 142.5 lb, a 3.5-lb improvement over the previous one. But those two numbers don't tell the whole story. I set that 139-lb record about 3 years ago. Since that time, I've developed an injury in my left shoulder and a resulting strength imbalance. I've smuggled a lot on this move, and my 1-rep max dropped to around 120. My strength has been coming back over the last few months, which has encouraged me, and this new PR has made me quite happy.

Sadly, my shoulder still hurts.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

PR: Fight Gone Bad

On Thursday, I set a new PR for Fight Gone Bad, but the new record requires some explanation.

First, the PRs that I've posted for this workout were performed at home. Since I don't have a 20-lb medicine ball or 12-foot cielings, I've always done FGB with 2x20-lb dumbbell thrusters in place of the wall-ball shots. Since I've been going to CrossFit Diesel, I've been able to do the workout as prescribed, but I haven't beaten the 266 I recorded at home.

Thursday's workout was a CFD creation called Fight Gone...Good? It's just FGB with the sumo deadlift high pull and rowing replaced by rest. Because of the way FGB is scored, the new workout is a legitimate FGB, but one where the athlete has chosen to put zero effort into 20% of the rounds. My new score of 262 is higher than I've been able to post for FGB at CFD, so perhaps this workout is pointing me towards a strategy for maximizing my score on Fight Gone Bad.


Having a sick baby is a nightmare, except in a nightmare, you get to sleep.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

PR: Jerk

Last night, I set a new personal record for the jerk: 205 lb. That's a 12.5-lb improvement or my previous best, which was performed in combination with the clean. Some of that gain is certainly due to omitting the energy-sapping clean; the rest is likely due to technique. In other words, I don't think I'm any stronger. Still, it's an improvement, and this new value is a skosh over 1.5 times bodyweight, so I'm quite pleased with it.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

PR: Deadlift

On Monday, Halloween, during the Night of the Living Deadlifts, I set a new personal record for the deadlift: 345 lb, a 10-lb improvement. And I did it while wearing my Jayne Cobb costume.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

PR: Grace

Today I set a personal record for Grace (30 reps of clean and jerk for minimum time) of 6:09. That's a huge improvement, so I'm quite pleased with it. I'll be aiming for under 6 minutes next time.

PR: Snatch

On Thursday, I set a new personal record for the statch: 136.5 lb. That's a 14-lb improvement. Given that I haven't really practiced my snatch in half a year, I think 145 should be possible with a little technique work. I also managed 190 lb on the clean and jerk, just 2.5 lb short of my PR, even though I was already pretty fatigued from the the snatch workout. So, I think 1.5 times bodyweight is possible in the near term.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

PR: Back Squat

Yesterday I posted a new personal record for the back squat: 255 lb. That's a 10-lb improvement, so I'm quite pleased with it. I feel compelled to point out that this improvement isn't due to increased strength. At least, not only to increased strength. Steve cued me to not hang out at the bottom, deciding if I'd descended low enough, like I have been doing. Instead, he suggested bouncing out of the bottom. I realized that this motion not only reduces time spent at the point in the movement with the worst leverage, but also takes advantage of the stretch-shortening response. Applying this technique at 245, the load felt easier than 240 had, and I was able to put up 250 and then 255, but not quite 260. I'll aim to hit that last number next time.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

PR: Sit-Up/Pull-Up WOD

Today I set a new personal record on this workout. My new time of 7:03 was only 4 seconds faster than my previous best, but a PR is a PR.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

PR: Clean and Jerk

Today I set a new personal record in the clean and jerk: 192.5 lb. That's a 15-lb improvement over my previous C&J PR. That's also a 7.5-lb PR in the clean. I'm quite excited about this result.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

PR: Back Squat, Deadlift, and CrossFit Total

Last Friday, CrossFit Total was the workout of the day at CrossFit Diesel. Here's how I did:
  • Back squat: 245 lb. That's a few-pound PR for my new depth standard.
  • Press: 130 lb. That's 9 lb short of my PR, but it represents an improvement over recent performances, and it indicates that the injury and weakness in my left shoulder is improving. I hope to get back up to body weight (136 as of Friday) with my next pressing workout.
  • Deadlift: 335 lb. That's a 10-pound PR. As with my most recent deadlift PR, this was a sumo deadlift. It was challenging, but I managed it, and without rounding my back. I think 2.5 times body weight (340 lb) should be easily reachable soon.
  • Total: 710 lb. That's a PR, too.
It was a good day.

Squat Rescale

Since I've been working out at CrossFit Diesel, I've come to realize that my squats were too shallow. The correct standard is for the crease of the hip socket to be below the knee, but I had been going about 2 inches above that. As you may know, squats become much, much more difficult over the last few inches. So, I've decided to throw out the personal records that I report for squats (back, front, and overhead) and start recording anew. One ramification of this move is that all my old CrossFit Total PRs must also be discarded and restarted.

So, gentle reader, you can expect yet more unwelcome PR posts in the near future.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

GR: Angie

Today I set a new personal record and a gym record for the workout called Angie: 15:55. That's 64 seconds faster than my previous best. It was a challenging WOD today, but the effort paid off. Now if I can just get the push-ups done a little faster, I'll be in business.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Muse Ick

It's been half a year, gentle reader, since I updated you about the music I've been enjoying. So, it's time for another unsolicited musical report.

  • "Sincerely, Jane" by Janelle Monáe. This is probably the track on this list furthest from my usual musical wheelhouse. The vocal and instrumental performances and are quite enjoyable, but what really makes the song, in my opinion, are the horns in particular. I found this song almost a year ago, when the artist appeared on one of the weekend public-radio shows. I need to check out the her other work.
  • "Eternal" by Faun Fables. The lyrics to this song are quite fun, and I enjoy the lead vocal and the instrumentation. I especially like the chanting male background vocals. They give the track a Polynesian flavor. I found this song, like many of my new favorites, through Pandora.
  • "Wonder" by Megan McCauley. So now we are getting into my usual musical strike zone. I found this song after enjoying the artist's "Fragile."
  • "I am the Doctor" written by Murray Gold, performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. This track, of course, is from Doctor Who. Specifically, it's been used in Series 5 and 6 (new numbering) when the Doctor is figuring out and then solving some challenge. Often in a chace sequence. I enjoy the up-tempo parts immensely.

So that's what I've been listening to lately. You?

Friday, September 16, 2011

I'm Certifiable, Apparently

Last weekend, I attended a 2-day CrossFit Level 1 certification at Trident CrossFit in Alexandria. The event consisted not only of multiple lectures on topics such as CrossFit's definitions of fitness and health, the correct form on the 9 foundational movements (and others), and nutritional, but also breakout sessions in which we practiced performing and teaching the various movements, 2 workouts, and a written exam. I learned today that I passed the exam. Thus, I am now a vetted CrossFit Level 1 Trainer.

Yay me.

PR: Weighted Ring Dip

After my hugely successful weighted pull-ups, I took a whack at weighted ring dips. I manged 90 lb without trying too hard. That's a 12-lb jump from last time.

GR: Weighted Pull-Up

Today I set a new personal record in the weighted pull-up: 118 lb. That's a 17-lb improvement from last time, and I'm quite excited about it. I'm even more excited because this lift was also a new gym record at CrossFit Diesel, but only by 3 lb.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

PR: Overhead Squat

Today I set a new personal record in the overhead squat: 170 pounds. Plus, I was thiiiss close to getting 175. Next time, next time.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Five Years Ago

Five years ago today, I married this amazing woman. I hope she'll agree to be married some more tomorrow.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Abstruse Goose

I've been enjoying Abstruse Goose ever since Pat recommended it to me. This comic strip occupies much the same parameter space as my long-time favorite, xkcd, but it is its own comic. I found today's stip particularly amusing and thought-provoking.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Avenging Whedon

I'm inclined toward zero interest in the upcoming Avengers movie. I mean, big team-up films never seem to work, and most of the characters are left without anything important to do. Shoot, that was a problem with many of the Star Trek films, and those weren't even team-ups, except for Generations. Only one thing has me excited about this film, but that one thing has me very excited. That thing is Joss Whedon. This recent interview reminded me why he has me eager to see this film.

Monday, July 25, 2011

PR: Grace

In addition to the C&J PR I just posted, I also set a personal record for the workout called Grace (30 clean and jerks at 135 lb for minimum time) today. My new time of 8:48 is almost 7 minutes faster than my previous record. That time difference suggests an enormous improvement in technique or fitness, but I believe the speeding up was due to a different factor. The last time I performed Grace, I did so with steel plates in our second-floor apartment. That meant that I set the bar down carefully between reps. This time, I did the WOD at CrossFit Diesel with bumper plates, and I dropped the bar, with some guidance, between reps. That one change could easily have saved me the six-and-change minutes I took off my time today.

It was a good day at the gym.

PR: Clean and Jerk

Today I set a new personal record for the clean and jerk: 177.5 lb. That's only 2.5 lb more than my previous best, but a PR is a PR. I've cleaned 185 in the recent past, so I think that, with a little technique work, I should be able to reach that weight on the clean and jerk.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Cabin Comes Out of the Woods

Whodonites in the readership may recall that Joss Whedon's "horror movie to end all horror movies," The Cabin in the Woods, was scheduled to be realeased late in 2009. Then it was rescheduled for early in 2011, so that it could be converted to 3D. Then, it's studio, MGM, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and the film was put on hold. Well, now Lionsgate has acquired the distribution rights, and, once again, TCITW has a release date: April 13, 2012. We'll have to wait almost a year to see if the film actually gets released then.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

The Face: Another Couple

Although any kind of mental, emotional, or physical exertion can produce The Face, cameras are usually only present to record it at CrossFit Diesel. Here are a couple more photos demonstrating this expression:

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

PR: Run and Swing

A week ago, I set a new PR for this workout. My new time of 15:04 was an improvement of 1:41 over my previous (and only) best.

The Knights of Badassdom

It appears that LARPers are getting their own movie, courtesy of Summer Glau.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Book Review: Tau Zero

(This review contains no significant spoilers.)

The Setup

Tau Zero was published by Poul Anderson in 1970, though I didn't get around to reading it, in e-book form on my iPhone, until this spring. The story follows the crew of a Bussard ramjet on the way to colonize a planet circling a nearby star. Sadly, the plan goes awry.

What I Liked
  • The scale of the story is quite grand.
  • The vision of a few dozen people hurtling through intersteller space in a small, claustrophobic ship are well realized.
  • Some implications of relativistic travel are interestingly explored.

What I Disliked
  • The characters are not well fleshed out.

The Bottom Line

Tau Zero was a very enjoyable read. I give it 8.0 out of 10.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

PR: Clean

Today I set a new personal record for the clean: 185 lb. That's 10 lb more than my PR for the clean and jerk, which I managed to tie today. I guess we know which part of the C&J is my weakness now.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Gavin, Going Home

Here are a few shots from Gavin's fifth day, the day he went home from the hospital.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Gavin, Day 4

These photos were taken on Gavin's due date.

Gavin, Day 3

A few photos from Gavin's third day:

Gavin, Day 2

Here a few more photos of Gavin. These are from his second day of existence as a separate being.

Monday, May 30, 2011

PR: Vest Fest

Today I set a new PR in one of my favorite made-up WODs: Vest Fest. My new best time, 16:23, was almost a minute faster than my previous best, which I recorded the last time I attempted this workout.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Darmok and Jalad

As a fan of xkcd, Star Trek, and metaphors, I was quite tickled by Monday's xkcd comic.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

No Exageration

My mother-in-law, as Alison and I are heading out the door to the pharmacy:
I need cigarettes and Dr. Pepper and do they have any packs of those little doughnuts that I like?
Seriously. This quotation succinctly summarizes her diet.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Welcome, Gavin

Today my lovely wife Alison gave birth to our new son, Gavin. I'm very excited to get to know him.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Rapid-Fire Audiobook Reviews

Since I don't anticipate having time, in the near future, to give each of these audio books a full-blown review, I'm posting short-form reviews here.

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi.

An engaging story set in a well-realized universe. This novel is positioned as a young-adult book, but it doesn't underestimate its reader. 7.5 out of 10.

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi.

The premise for this story, which is set in the same universe as Ship Breaker, but on the other side of the Earth, is compelling, and the worldbuilding is impressive. However, the characters weren't identifiable and the story was too slow. I just couldn't get into it and stopped about two thirds of the way in. 3.5 out of 10.

Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear.

The premise of this story is intriguing. Unfortunately, since the narrator and all the other characters have no idea of what's going on around them, the plot comes off as a muddled mess. 5.0 out of 10.

Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge.

This story is set in the same universe a Fast Times at Fairmont High, and it includes at least 5 of the same characters. Interestingly, 2 of the main characters are substantially revamped for this novel. The worldbuilding is typical of Vinge, which is to say impressive. The story is exciting, as well. 8.5 out of 10.

The WWW Trilogy (Wake, Watch, and Wonder) by Robert J. Sawyer.

An interesting story set in the very near future. The main character is so likable that I didn't mind reading from the perspective of a teenage girl. Sadly, there's a bit too much teen-girl drama. 7.5 out of 10.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

PR: Deadlift

Yesterday, I set a new PR in the deadlift: 325 pounds. That's 5 pound better than my previous best. That may not sound like much, but I set the previous PR about 3 years ago and frequently overstress my lower back when doing this exercise. Since starting at CrossFit Diesel, I have been working on my form, trying to avoid injury. I've recently be doing my deadlifts sumo-style---wide stance, hands between the feet---and really seems to help. Sumo deadlifts transfer some of the load from the lumbar region to the glutes. That's an improvement, at least for me. My new long-term goal is 2.5 times bodyweight, which currently works out to 337.5 pounds.

Monday, May 02, 2011


Some of you may have heard of Ron Howard's plans to adapt Stephen King's Dark Tower series as film trilogy and a concurrently airing television series. Well, the role of the central character, the gunslinger Roland, has been officially given to Javier Bardem. So, there you go.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Venge's Revenge: Children of the Sky

Great news, everyone. Vernor Vinge has finally written a sequel to A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky, two novels that sit on my top-ten list. The news addition, Children of the Sky, apparently takes place on Tines World a decade after the end of AFUTD. I can't tell you how excited I am about this news.

My only complaint about the first two books is that the titles are so similar that I have to think about the difference between the Deep and a deepness, within this universe, in order to remember which is which. Vinge's only helping me a little on this front, when it comes to the latest novel's name. Oh well.

If you are wondering why I've used the "dogs" subject tag on this post, well, you need to read AFUTD to find out.

Incidentally, Vinge's unrelated novel, Marooned in Real Time, is also among my favorites. I'm currently "reading" Rainbows End via audiobook, and just this morning, I heard a fourth-wall-breaking throwaway reference to the Tines and the Unthinking Depths. Hilarious.

Monday, April 11, 2011

PR: Row 5 km

For various reasons, I haven't rowed a 5-km distance (not counting those 5-ks included 10-km rows) in about a year and a half. My current PR was set 2.5 years ago. Well, it was my current PR until 5 minutes ago. My new PR is 21:38.4, a 9.0-second improvement. I'm quite pleased with that result.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

GR: Muscle-Up

On Friday I set a new personal record and gym record (at CrossFit Diesel) for consecutive muscle-ups: 10. I think I have 11 in me, so I'll try again sometime.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Today I set a gym record for consecutive reps of toe-to-bar: 30. Not bad, considering that I had just done a workout with 55 pull-ups in it.

Monday, March 14, 2011

GR: Cindy

In the pantheon of CrossFit WODs, rarely is the athlete given a choice within the prescribed workout. Athletes are encouraged to scale the load, number of repetitions, or one or more of the exercises, but those choices are just that: scales. The most notable exception to this pattern is that Cindy and Mary are usually prescribed together, and the athlete has the choice of Cindy or Mary. For either workout, the goal is to perform as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes (AMRAP 20) of 3 bodyweight exercises. Since Mary consists of exercises that are more difficult, at least individually, I've only ever done that workout. I believe I've only done Mary at CrossFIt Diesel once in the 14 months that I've been a member, but I honored to say that hold the gym record for it. That's not too surprising, since it consists entirely of skills at which I excel.

You can guess where this is going, I'm sure, even without reading the title of this post.

On Thursday, CFD offered me the choice of Cindy or Mary once again. I decide to give Cindy a try. My score, 22 round 5 pull-ups, and 4 push-ups, set a new gym record. I'm quite proud of that performance; it wasn't easy. I don't think I can honestly call it a personal record, since I've never attempted this workout before, but, on the other hand, maybe it is.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Embassytown: Chapter the First

In other news about one of my favorite authors, the prologue and first chapter of China Miéville's upcoming science-fiction novel, Embassytown, are available online. I found this excerpt very intriguing; there are so many questions I want answered. I'm excited to read the rest of the book.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Contrast: The Hunter has Become the Hunted

I've posted numerous photos showing one of my Miatas being dwarfed by a truck or SUV. These kinds of pictures are easy to come by, since my car is almost always the smallest in any given parking lot. Encounters with Loti and MR2 Sypders are rare. An exception occurred the other day, when I pulled into my local strip mall to find the highlighter-yellow Smart Fortwo that I've seen there recently. For once, my car was the "big" one. This relationship was especially true because I was driving Zelda, my "big" Miata.

These two cars are remarkably different, given that they are both rear-wheel-drive two-seaters, don't you think? Both cars,do look very happy about the experience, though.

This post reminds me that I wish Smart would bring back the Roadster and Roadster Coupe and export them to the States. Those, I would drive.

Scalzi News

Those of you who care about John Scalzi are probably aware of this recent news, but I thought I'd share it to be sure.

First, if you've enjoyed his books in the Old Man's War universe, you'll be interested to know that Paramount Pictures has acquired the film rights to OMW, and Wolfgang Petersen is attached to direct.

Second, on Monday, Scalzi finished a new novel set in a new universe. Details are scarce, but its on the lighter end of the spectrum of his works.

So, that's all the news that's fit to Scalzi.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011


The theme song to Castle has been stuck in my head frequently late. Much to Alison's annoyance, songs stuck in my head tend to leak out, but their pitches are not preserved in the process.

Also stuck in my head, but unrecognizable to my dear bride, "People are Strange" by the Doors.

Music Comma New-Ish

Of course, I've also been listening to some more "contemporary" music:
These songs also all came from Pandora.

So, what have you been listening to?

Music Comma Old-Ish

I'm sure, gentle reader, that you've been wondering to yourself, "What has Michael been listening to lately?" Well, the answer is a bunch of "old" stuff:
  • "Pompeii" by E. S. Posthumus. I enjoy how this track combines orchestral music and a choir with contemporary electronic instruments.
  • "We Took Pelham" by Deadly Avenger. Again the combination of an orchestra with electronic sounds really entertains me. I was correct in believing that this track was built up from a piece called "Going the Distance" from the Rocky soundtrack.
  • "Lux Aeternia" by Clint Mansell. This piece was written for Requiem for a Dream, which was released in 2000, but parts of it are very classical-sounding to me.
  • "Palladio" by Escala. This is a modernized and slightly cheesy version of the "Diamonds are Forever" song used by De Beers. Cheesy but fun.
  • "Kashmir" by Escala featuring Slash. Clearly, these ladies are doing the string-instrument version of lip-synching in the linked-to video. String-synching, I guess. There's no way they are playing while dancing around like that. And where's Slash in the video?
  • "Kashmir" by Led Zeppelin. Because the Escala version reminded me how much I like this song. And because it was time to get the Led out.
  • "The Chain," by Fleetwood Mac. Because sometimes classic rock fits my mood.
I found most of these tracks through Thanks, Pandora.

Friday, March 04, 2011

PR: 10-km Row

I set a new personal record of 46:20.6 on the 10-km row today. That's 7.6 seconds faster than my previous best. I'm happy with it.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Book Review: Bloodshot

(This review contains no significant spoilers.)

The Setup

Bloodshot is Cherie Priest's latest novel to be published. It's not a member of any of her previous series, such as the Clockwork Century. I reviewed those stories stories here, here, here, and here. Instead, this urban fantasy story follows paranoid-but-reckless vampire thief Raylene Pendle's investigation of a secret government program, encounter with a Cuban drag queen, and interactions with not-so-adorable street urchins.

What I Liked

  • The writing style is much more in keeping with what Priest posts to her blog than with what she has used in the Clockwork Century stories. The casual and funny style in this book is much more appropriate for the contemporary setting and subject matter than the somewhat Victorian style of her steampunk stories.
  • The main character is likable and funny, and her various personality quirks and---some would say--flaws make her interesting.
  • The plot includes a number of twists and turns that keep the reader from becoming bored.
  • The pacing is very good. From just a few pages in, the story moves along sharply.
  • The book is an easy, fast read. I don't mean that it's written at a grade-school level. Rather, the fast-moving story and casual writing style make the pages just fly by.

What I Disliked

  • The setup is a little trite. It seems like vampires appear in 50% of the books, TV shows, and movies produced in the past four years. In particular, I feel like I've seen a vampire thief somewhere before. I may be thinking of the Angel, who is actually a vampire detective, which isn't too different. Still, as I said, Priest certainly makes the character interesting and the plot engaging.

The Bottom Line

Overall, I give Bloodshot 8.0 out of 10. It's not a challenging, thought-provoking novel, but it is a very fun read. Like all of Priest's books, as soon as I put this one down, I wanted to know when her next book was due. Fortunately for me, she's a prolific author. Ganymede, the next Clockwork Century novel, is due out later this year, as is Hellbent, the sequel to Bloodshot. Priest is currently working on Inexplicables, another story from the Clockwork Century, as well as some secret project. Ms Priest can count on me to read them all.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Lessons Newton Taught Us: Pants

Another valuable piece of information we would never have gained without our pup:
Whenever your human puts on pants, you must go smell them. Thoroughly.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


I believe I posted a new gym record for the hero WOD known as JT today: 8:59. That's not a personal record, since I don't believe I've done this workout before.

Firefly Returns to TV

But not the way you've hoped. The original show will be broadcast in the originally intend order, in high definition, and with interstitial "bonus" material on the Science Channel beginning in March. That's good news, I suppose, but my favorite part of this story is when Nathan Fillion tells what he would do if he won the lottery.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Audiobook Review: The Half-Made World

(This review contains no significant spoilers.)

The Setup

Felix Gilman's The Half-Made World could be described as steampunk, but instead of taking place in an alternate history with advanced steam- and clockwork-powered technology, it takes place in an alternate reality, where supernatural forces are prominent and steampunk-like technology also exists. The story is set on a continent, which I think of as an alternate North America, that is slowly being created along its westward edge. Civilized nations lie along the east coast, especially in the northeast. On the west coast, the laws of nature have not quite settled down, that the distinctions between plant and animal, the phases of matter, natural and supernatural, are not strict. Between the coasts is a vast frontier that serves as the setting for a 400-year-long war between the forces of Gun and Line.

The Line is a mechanized, industrial society ruled by a few dozen Engines, each of which is inhabited by an immortal demon. The Gun are also immortal demons of similar numbers, but they choose to inhabit pistols and rifles. Each Gun is carried by an Agent, whose speed, strength, senses, and healing are all enhanced by their masters' influence. The Line's forces number perhaps in the hundreds of thousands, while there are only as many Agents as there are Guns. The Line represents order, the Gun, chaos. But it's not that simple.

Also present on this continent are the aboriginal First Folk, supernatural not-quite-humanoids with access to their own demonic powers. The Red Valley Republic, which attempted to carve out an independent existence, was destroyed decades ago, but its presence is still felt on the continent.

The story follows John Creedmoor, Doctor Liv Alverhyusen, and---best title ever---Sub-Invigilator (Third Class) Lowry as they each set out on a mission of their own or their masters' choosing.

What I Liked
  • The universe Gilman created for this story is very interesting. The nature of the demonic forces and the unfinished state of the western edge of the continent are particularly intriguing.
  • The story itself is both interesting and exciting. It rarely drags.
  • The writing style seems very appropriate for the subject matter.
  • The characters are interesting and distinct from each other. In particular, Creedmoor is a lot more than the by-the-numbers charming rogue he could have been.
  • The narrator, Tamara Marston, does an excellent job of giving the characters distinct voices and deliveries. In particular, her rendition or Marmion is enjoyable.

What I Disliked
  • The pace does slow down more than I'd like sometimes, but that's usually only for a short time.

The Bottom Line

Overall, I give The Half-Made World 8.5 out of 10. It's imaginative, fast-paced, and satisfying. I highly recommend it. In particular, it seems like exactly the kind of story Alison would enjoy.

Friday, February 04, 2011

PR 10-km Row

Tonight I set a new personal record for "traveling" 10 km on my rower: 46:28.2. That's at 20-second improvement over my previous best, so I'm happy with it.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

PR: Snatch

Tonight I set a new personal record for the snatch: 122.5 lb. I realize that's a laughably light weight, but the snatch is very technique-intensive and very challenging for me. So, I'm happy with that result.

Monday, January 31, 2011

I hate Walmart...

...perhaps even more than I hate Radio Shack. I realize that I may be making myself sound like a total snob right now, but I don't care. It is full of herds of ill-behaved children and rude people. Are the aisles narrower at Walmart than at any other store? Because I cannot push my cart down any one of them because people and their carts are camped out in the very middle and they do not respond to your presence next to them. You are expected to wait until they are good and done and ready to move, and they won't budge one second before that moment, thankyouverymuch.

I would avoid the place entirely, but my mother is visiting and she has her prescriptions filled there. God knows why. I've tried to convince her that her copay will be the same no matter where she goes, but she has bought the ads on TV about the cheapness of the Walmart pharmacy, I guess. So, tonight, like a good daughter, I stopped on my way home from work to pick up her prescription. I also had something that I had to return (from the last time we went to Walmart to pick up a prescription). This meant that I had to stand in every line at Walmart.

First, I stood in the line to return stuff. This is where I encountered the Very Large Close-Standing Man (VLC-SM). The VLC-SM was approximately 6'5" tall and weighed roughly as much as a small car...and he liked to stand just slightly too close to me in line. When I finally got to the front, I breathed a sigh of relief. Now I could move away from him! Except when I did...he inched forward and got right up on me. Repeatedly. Then he saw his friend Steve across the store and had to yell at him really, really, loudly. It was a long wait.

After I dealt with the return, I had to stand in the pharmacy line. It was long. When I finally got up to the counter, the lady informed me that my mom's prescription was not ready and that they had a 3-4 hour wait time. I gave her my best, "I'm pissed, but willing to be reasonable" look and informed her that my mother had called the prescription in at 9:30am and told them that I would be picking it up at 6:30 that evening, so I had already waited well over her 3-4 hour window. She talked to her manager and said it would be ready in 15 mins. Hallelujah. I went and picked up a few other things that I needed.

Then I got to wait in the pharmacy line again.

Then I got to wait in the regular checkout line because they will not ring up your items at the pharmacy counter if you have more than 4 things. I got in the inappropriately-named Express lane. When the people in front of me left after a lengthy discussion with the cashier, I piled my stuff on the belt only to be informed by the cashier that I would have to wait a moment. He left. Everyone behind me in line started moving lines, but I was the unfortunate one with all of my crap on the belt. So, I waited...and I realized that the previous customer's total was still showing on the register and her bags were still there. When the cashier got back he took her gallon of milk out of the bag and tried to shove it in the cooler with the bottles of soda with limited success. Finally he finished, voided her order, and rang up one of my items....whereupon the lady showed back up. She said, "Oh, did you put it all away?" The cashier looked at me and said, "Oh, sorry, let me ring her up." I rolled my eyes and sighed and the lady said, "Oh, fine, ring her up first." Um, yeah! Since he had already started, I think so!

There was more after that...I got lost on my way home (don't ask) and I ended up behind a piece of road equipment driving at 5 mph. By the time I got home I thought my bladder might burst (the only thing worse than shopping at Walmart is using their bathroom...shudder). I decided to get Subway for dinner because the way my night went I thought I might just burn the house down if I tried to use the oven! Hopefully I can avoid Walmart for at least another month.

PR: Overhead Squat

I set a personal record on the overhead squat tonight: 167.5 pounds. That's only a 2.5-pound improvement, but a PR is a PR.

Monday, January 24, 2011

PR: 10-km Row

On Saturday, I recorded what I believe to be a PR on the 10-km row on the Concept II rower. My 10k rows are usually not too hurried; after the short, intense CrossFit workouts I normally, do, I treat the 10k as a relaxing bit of light exercise. (5-km rows are a different matter.) I aim for under 49 minutes, which I can hit without working too hard. Sometimes, if I'm feeling energetic, I'll hit times around 48 minutes. Saturday, I covered the imaginary distance in 46:48.4, which isn't bad. Sadly, I guess this means I'll actually have to try hard next time.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Tools on Parade

This weekend, I used the following tools:
  • Air compressor and tank.
  • Pneumatic impact wrench.
  • Pneumatic brad nailer.
  • Miter saw.
  • Table saw.
  • Two taper jigs for the table saw, one homemade.
  • Two electric drills.
  • Various ratchets, wrenches, ratcheting wrenches, sockets, extensions, and so on.
  • A hammer or two and a couple of screwdrivers.
  • Two paintbrushes.
I believe I've explored the word of tools pretty well in the last couple of days.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

PR: Lynne

Yesterday, I set a new PR for the workout known as Lynne: 194 reps total. I owe the substantial improvement---25 reps---to the strategy Even suggested.