February 17, 2010

Moving the blog address

New location: http://thedancingdane.blogspot.com

I've been on the UThink platform for six years now, and have been pretty darn happy here. Because the system was developed by one of the library tech guys, I've been able to get some pretty individualized support, and I really enjoy staying local, as it were.

But, I suppose, all things must come to an end. Blogger's recent integration with Amazon.com associates is an opportunity too good to pass up. I've always struggled with incorporating my associates links into my blog entries (the images never quite showed up right without some major html tweaking), and the ease of Blogger's Amazon widge is too compelling.

I also have some concerns about the longer term efficacy of using this blog. I believe my UM login will follow me when I leave the University, but I can't guarantee that. So, I'm moving to Blogger.

At the moment, I don't plan to move this blog over. At least, I haven't seen that I can do so easily. I may go back in at some point and try manually moving things, but I have over 500 posts, so that may not actually happen.

February 15, 2010

We watched Dug...I mean...Up yesterday


We got Up from Netflix. The movie is definitely charming, and not really what I expected at all. The disappointment for us, though, is that the Pixar short feature "Dug's Special Mission" was not included with the Netflix disc. So, when I saw the movie for $9 at Target, with not one, but TWO shorts, I grabbed it.

Dug was definitely my favorite--SQUIRREL!--character in the movie. I could probably gripe for a while about the use of dobes and rotties and bulldogs as the "bad guys," but I won't, this time. (And the image was somewhat mitigated by Alpha's misfunctioning collar that created "helium voice.")

The one place I couldn't suspend disbelief was with the character of Charles Munz. (Okay, I also had problems with dogs serving dinner and flying airplanes, but I can get over that.) Anyway, Munz was probably in his mid-twenties or so when Carl Frederickson would have first heard about the Spirit of Adventure and Paradise Falls at age 5 or 7. So, when Frederickson meets Munz some 70 years later, Munz should be nearer to his deathbed at age 90 or so. Instead, he looks like he is 20 years younger than Frederickson. Maybe he found some anti-aging technology in his search for the bird?

I also found it a little sad that Carl didn't begin his adventure until after Ellie was gone. They promised each other they would go to Paradise Falls to live, but they never did. If animated characters can't live together in their dream location, what hope to us real-world-schmoes have?

Finally, the phrase "Adventure is out there!" struck me as a not-quite-as-clever as Toy Story's "to infinity and beyond!" exclamation. I don't see "Adventure is out there" catching on in quite the same way....

Overall, though, the movie was fun and kept us entertained through the entire thing. And "Dug's Special Mission" does contribute to the film in a quite meaningful way; in some ways, I wish it were an actual part of the movie, but regardless, I was glad to see it.

UPDATE: We actually watched it again the following night, and it really held up. Actually, there is a lot of subtle animation going on, and it pays to watch closely for extra little gems of details.

November 28, 2009

Of Children and Dogs

I just started reading The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. The book itself is very good, but there is one particular incident that really struck home with me, even though the time and place are so much different from my own life.

The setting is post-WWII British countryside, and the protagonist is a country doctor (think James Herriot for people). He has been invited to a soiree at Hundreds Hall, one of the remaining gentrified estates. The lady of the house has invited a few other landed families, even though the house itself is falling into disrepair because the family cannot afford its upkeep. One of the families, the "new kids on the block," so to speak, brought their daughter, Gillian, who is probably somewhere between 5 and 8.

The scene in question is a few hours into the gathering, during which everyone assembled has realized that this group of people are not particularly destined to become close friends.

Ever since her arrival she'd been keeping up a rather monotonous show of being frightened of Gyp [the family dog, and elderly black lab], ducking ostentatiously behind her mother's skirts whenever his friendly wanderings around the room took him near her. Just recently, though, she had changed her tack and begun to make small advances toward him. Mr. Morley's plucking at the harpsichord had, I think, begun to bother the dog; he had taken himself to one of the windows and had settled down behind a curtain. Pursuing him there now, Gillian drew up a footstool and began gingerly petting and stroking his head, chattering nonsense to him: 'Good dog. You'r a very good dog You're a brave dog'--and so on, like that. She was partly out of our view, being over by the window. Her mother, I noticed, kept turning round to her, as if nervous that Gyp might snap at her, and once she called, 'Gillie, be careful darling!'--making Caroline snort slightly, for Gyp had the gentlest temperament imaginable, the only risk was that the child would tire him wit her chatter and her constant dabbings at his head.

Only slightly later, Gyp does indeed lash out at Gillian, tearing her cheek badly. The doctor takes her downstairs to the kitchen (and hot water) and stitches her face up. The debacle ends with Gillian's family insisting that Gyp be destroyed, which the doctor eventually does.

When I was 8 or 9, my grandparents, my mother, and I went to dinner at the house of friends of the family. I've never really been afraid of dogs in the least, and probably invade their personal space far more than I should. As it turns out, the adults were all talking, and I was playing with the family's dog, a German Shepherd mix of some sort, elderly, but not old yet. Suddenly she snapped and bit me on the face, on my right cheek. On the way to the hospital, there were two fears I had: 1) that I'd have to have a shot (I still don't appreciate needles), and 2) that the dog would have to be put down.

I still have scars on my face from the incident, though not bad enough to have ever needed plastic surgery. But I did have bandages on my face for a while, and I did have stitches, and it was a dogbite to the face. Yet even then I knew that I was at fault, not the dog. I knew, even at 8 or 9, that the dog was simply defending itself after a while of being draped over by this strange child.

I'm still not afraid of dogs, and I do tell my story when people say that bites or even the fear of bites has led to their own fear of dogs. And even as a child, on my way to the emergency room, I was completely terrified that the family would lose their dog and that it would be my fault. My first instinct will always be to give the dog the benefit of the doubt; because we do not share a common language and because we have the upper hand, we are responsible for protecting those under our care, even those who are not human.

November 23, 2009

Reading Log: Dreamdark: Silksinger by Laini Taylor


Dreamdark: Silksinger (Faeries of Dreamdark) by Laini Taylor

It's a pretty telling thing when a book sticks with you, even through a massage and another books. I've been waiting for Silksinger since reading Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer about a year ago. I love the Dreamdark world, the fairies and their legends and tales. I was a little afraid that we wouldn't see Magpie Windwitch and the crows in this sequel, but that fear was completely unfounded. As the Magruwen's champion, Magpie has to be a part of this story too, and the new characters, Whisper Silksinger and Hirik Mothmage are wonderful.

The Azazel is the Djinn of the hour in Silksinger. Magpie and her crow companions, and Talon from Blackbringer have found the Djinn Ithuriel, with the help of the imp Batch. Magpie bribed Batch into helping (Batch can find things that he wants to) by promising him a pair of wings. Upon returning through the Moonlit Gardens (the gateway between life and death), Magpie discovers that the last of the Silksinger clan is guarding the Azazel and bringing him to his ancient home of Nazneen. Magpie knows that Whisper is being hunted by all manner of demons ("snags" in the language of Dreamdark) on someone's orders.

Whisper, in the meantime, is trying desperately to get to Nazneen, but without coin or anything but the kettle holding the Azazel, can't get a ride in any of the caravans. After trying several tactics, she stows away in the same caravan that Hirik has become a mercenary for. Hirik also has a secret...he is of the Mothmage clan, the same clan that legend has it refused to help the dragon Fade, and has now become a clan in exile. Hirik also wants to reach Nazneen in order to become the champion of the Azazel and reclaim his clan's honor--the clan knows the truth, that they were incapacitated by magic in the rubies that the rest of the faeries believe the Mothmage clan was paid off to stay out of the war.

Ultimately, Magpie, Hirik, and Whisper all end up in Nazneen. While she is returning the Azazel to his throne, Whisper is captured by the devils who have been hunting her, and taken before Ethiag, the demon commander. She is not alone in her prison, as the Master has also kept the Firedrakes in prison since the defeat of Fade...the Master uses leeches to gather the Firedrake's blood, the only thing keeping him alive through the centuries. Ethiag demands that Whisper sing him a flying carpet (the specialty of the Silksingers), which does, but she weaves in an undertone of wrong-ness.

In the ultimate pages, Magpie learns about betrayal and lives through the death of a dear friend. Her quest ultimately succeeds, but I can't wait to read the next volume.

I loved Silksinger as much as I loved Blackbringer about a year ago. Taylor's writing is very enjoyable, keeping me engaged in the story. But her writing is so evocative, that I kept thinking of the book through the massage I had later in the afternoon. It stuck with me that much.

Reading Log: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld


Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

I haven't read Westerfeld's the Uglies trilogy, so I can't compare Leviathan to his previous works. But I did thoroughly enjoy the book, despite the fact that it's the first of a series that has just come out and now I have to wait forever for the next volumes.

As a young adult, I don't know if I would have enjoyed the steampunk atmosphere, but I do now. As a kid, I tended to want my books to be pure fantasy or pure sci/fi, but Leviathan has an interesting blend of machinery and nature.

The alternate history is also interesting, especially since I know at least a little bit about WWI. Westerfeld notes that there wasn't really a son involved in the murder of Archduke Ferdinand and Princess Sophie, but Westerfeld nicely sticks Aleksander into the story

I did have some difficulty conceptualizing the Leviathan itself, though. It's hard for me to think of a living ship, a whale-creation that is both alive and mechanized, one that contains an apiary within its belly. I'm also not sure I liked the Darwinists use of animals...I think I preferred the Clankers with their non-sentient machines.

So that I remember when book 2 comes out:

Deryn Sharp, 15, posing as Dylan Sharp, new mid-shipman on the Leviathan; on her first day, even before her middy exams, she was blown away while flying a Huxley, a jelly-fish-like single flier

Jaspert Sharp, Deryn's older brother, and an airman in the corps, helps Deryn disguise herself and study for the exams

Aleksander Ferdinand, 14 to 16 or so, son of murdered Archduke Ferdinand and Princess Sophie; Sophie was not deemed royal enough blood, so the emperor disinherited Alek upon his birth--the archduke achieved a recognition from the pope, declaring Alek heir to the emperor's throne

Count Volger and Otto Klopp--Alek's retainers (fencing master and chief mechanic, respectively), who rescue and support him as he escapes from the Serbs and other enemies out to kill him

The Leviathan docks in Hyde Park, London, to pick up Dr. ? Darwin Barlow, ancestress of Charles Darwin, and one of the original designers of the Leviathan and many other fabricated beasties. Dr. Barlow is on a mission to deliver fabrication eggs to the Ottoman Empire. Even though England is not officially at war during the course of the novel, the Leviathan is shot down over Switzerland, and lands on a glacier which is devoid of any life. The Leviathan can repair herself, but she needs enough food sources to rebuild her energy stores.

At the same time, Alek has been wakened by Volger and Klopp and hustled into a mechanical walker, supposedly as part of his military training. Only later does he learn that his parents have been killed, and Volger and Klopp are following the archduke's final orders to protect Alek. The only way to get him to safety is to flee across Austria to neutral Switzerland, to a glacial castle the archduke and Volger have prepared for just such a contingency. The Austrians see the Leviathan crash, and Alek ventures out to help.

The book ends with the crew of the Leviathan cobbling parts of the Austrian walker to the Darwinist ship, and defeating German forces which have discovered them. They have struck a bargain with the Austrians, not yet their enemies at war, to take them to the Ottoman empire, where Alek and his retainers will disappear.

September 30, 2009



Arctic Circle 9/29/09

September 29, 2009

Civil discourse

According to The Onion last week, Friday, 9/25, was supposed to mark the nadir of western civilization. A few sources identified in the article agreed with me that there's probably lower yet to go.... I don't say this because I'm hopeful for humanity, but rather because I believe we have farther to fall into complete and utter disgrace. I think today's "Cornered" nails this sentiment:


I could have used this...


I remember being so terrified in the beginning of junior high because we only had FIFTEEN! minutes to get between classes. How was I ever going to find all my rooms and get to class on time with just FIFTEEN! minutes? I needed a bloodhound....

September 25, 2009

More fox

This picture comes from today's The Rainey Sisters blog:

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Right here in the Twin Cities!

September 22, 2009


Love this pic:

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September 21, 2009

Attention seeking

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September 14, 2009

Baby elephant!


Remy's alter-ego

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This is Remy. Whenever food is at stake, she transforms into her alter-ego "Flash Golden."

September 13, 2009

The end of summer

Today's Deflocked pretty much says it all:


September 4, 2009

Political Rant

It's probably because most of the media I pay attention to has some kind of left-lean to it, but I'm going absolutely crazy reading or hearing about all of the nut-jobs in this country. Oh. My. Dog!!!

Of course almost everyone has heard about Obama's plan to address the nation's school kids. And the right wing has once again lost their minds! "Oh, no!" they cry. "He's going to turn them into little socialists."

Can we please just sit down, shut up, and realize the world hasn't ended since Obama took office in January or was elected last November? Can we? Please? For my sanity?

I was listening to an older "Wait, Wait" episode over lunch. Peter described some of the antics at town halls regarding health care. While these crazies are entertaining, I couldn't laugh because they scare me so much. WHO really believes that Obama will turn the U.S. into just-post-WWII Russia? (It's in the "Who's Carl this time" section at the very beginning of the August 15 episode.)

I'm just so sickened, disgusted, and downright scared of these people that it can get hard to even leave the house. I liked Motherreader's response today, but again, preaching to the choir. I'll show you "Death Panels," dear crazies of America, oh, just wait until I get those death panels in place. Trust me...you'll be the first to know.

UPDATE: Just read David Sirota's "editor's pick" Open Salon blog post from yesterday. I think he puts my concern into even better words. These are scary times, and while the crazies are amusing for their very craziness, those of us who still have some sanity left may become an ever-dwindling minority....

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