Doesn't anyone sell flippin' bookcases anymore?!

Mar 17, 2016

It's been an interesting weekend, to be sure.. Lyssa and I have been in the market for a couple of things lately, namely a bookcase or media shelf of some kind that we can migrate our DVD collection to, and ring binders that we can move our CD collections into while we rip and encode everything. So, to that end, we spent Saturday driving around searching for stuff along those lines. In two days, we didn't find any bookcases anywhere we looked (well, that's not entirely true, I did find one bookcase, a floor model at OfficeMax, but the construction was dodgy at best, cheap-looking plastic at worst, so I decided to pass on it) and the best price on CD binders we could get was $40us for a 280 disk binder. On the whole, definitely not worth the money. Yesterday was a strikeout as well. At least on Saturday I was able to score an upgrade for Luel. Work keeps using up all of my disk space, so I found a good price on a 120 GB laptop hard drive, which I installed in a USB chassis and set about copying everything over, which wound up being an all-afternoon project.

In fact, Luel finished dumping the contents of his existing hard drive to the new one by the time Rialian showed up and I had to leave to pick up Orthaevelve because we were taking her out to dinner at the Bombay Bistro to celebrate her aforementioned book deal. It seemed that night that many other people had much the same idea, because we had a half-hour wait to get a table, which had not happened before that evening. Still, we stood around trying not to scare the mundanes and discussed the direction that Orthaevelve's book was taking and some of the stuff that she has to do to get it ready for publication. The Bombay Bistro is easily one of the best Indian restarants in the DC area, up there with Tiffin's in Maryland. I think I could have passed on the appetizer on Saturday night, but it went well with the dish whose name I can never remember.

Not only am I poor with the names of people, you see, but I'm also pretty bad with the names of individual dishes.

After dinner we retired to home to hang out and talk. The four of us caught up on what's been going on lately while I hacked more on Luel to fix a bug in GRUB, the bootloader. Either it has to do with the fact that all of the files on the old drive were copied over to the new one, or it has something to do with the fact that the new drive is three times as big, which might result in flawed calculations on the part of the setup utility. After some hacking, though, I discovered that if I ran through the steps the automatic installer tried and failed to perform by hand, it did the device math right and installed (and booted, let's be clear) successfully). I'm working on a more in-depth analysis to send back to the GRUB project in the form of a patch.

At some point on Saturday night Lyssa broke out the maple wine given to us by Silveraena in Canada and we made a toast to good friends.

Sunday morning brought with it our second futile attempt to find bookshelves and turkey sausage for dinner. It seems that the gods of consumerism were determined to see us stay at home and not do anything this weekend.. we finally found sausage after a trip to the other supermarket (the better one on the other side of town) and returned home to hide from the rest of the world for a while.

Lyssa made dinner (turkey sausage in tomato sauce with onions and peppers) in the slow cooker while I cleaned up the apartment a bit and then set about uploading more photographs to my website. I've got well over a thousand, so this is a project that is probably going to take another couple of weeks, at the very least. That's without factoring in time to build a new firewall and now a new mail server because every time I drop eastern Asia into Lain's firewall rules, they buy another block of IP addresses and the spam starts flowing all over again.

Note to self: Find a way to tap and store the energy used to generate and send spam for technomagickal use.

Note to self: Reconsider building The Server From Hell(tm) and finding a colo facility to host it for me. Maybe at least a terabyte of disk space and two processor cores... possibly two dual-core CPUs.

Hasufin and Mika came over later in the evening for dinner and to watch television with us. Because they don't have cable they can't watch The Dresden Files on Sci-Fi, and due to the snow last week they missed the premiere, but thankfully Sci-Fi re-ran the first episode (actually the third episode shot, entitled Birds of a Feather) at 2000 EST/EDT, and immediately afterward ran the second (the fourth episod, actually), The Boone Identity.

The Boone Identity wasn't a bad episode; in fact, I thought that it was stronger than Birds of a Feather. That, and I'm not much of a fan of "plucky kid" stories, but I digress. The episode gave the viewers a better idea of what Harry's cases tend to be like (there's one thing about books and television shows that people tend to forget, and that is the fact that they are never the boring "cat stuck up a tree" cases - by definition those aren't all that interesting, and don't get told), a bit of background on what his not-all-that-interesting cases tend to be like, and more of an idea of what the cosmology of the television series is.

I consider the television series and the novels by Jim Butcher to be entirely separate - variations on a theme, different takes on the Harry Dresden mythos, parallell worlds, whatever you want to call it. For that reason, there will be different details and mechanics. At this point in the television series, I do not think that one is superior to the other. That's like saying that black polo shirts are superior to navy blue polo shirts, when in fact there isn't much functional difference, just a distinction of preference.

That's something that really gets my goat about fandom, by the way: Hardcore fans treat their personal preferences and prejudices about their particular fandom as scientifically quantifiable facts, when in fact about all they've done is scientifically quantified the fact that they take their fandoms way too seriously and need to drink some milk because all that caffeine can't be good for you.

There is a reason that there are pins that say 'FIJAGDH' - 'Fandom Is Just A God Damned Hobby'.

I can't honestly say that I'm digressing here, because I'm really not. If you look at the Sci-Fi Channel Forums, you will find a lot of what Jim Butcher and Fred Hicks have termed 'nerd rage', which perfectly describes this phenomenon. The people who have never heard of the Harry Dresden novels seem split over whether or not they like the show; the ones who don't like the show are the more vocal ones, so it seems like there are more of them. The people who have read the Dresden Files are also split on the like/dislike issue but tend to make more reasonable arguments, make more comparisons, and generally don't type in all capital letters or forget to use punctuation or the spell checker.

I'm not trying to rag on them or anything, but it really kills your credibility if you rant incoherently, and on the Net that includes expressing oneself in text.

Okay, that actually was a digression, and I'll get back on track.

They are essentially different series with different stories, and thus cannot be readily compared. One of the things about stories told in books is that rarely are there illustrations, the author has to describe what things look like to help the develop a mental image of the action. Some authors do this with just a few sentences, others can go on for paragraphs on end. Another thing is that the author can describe the mechanics of the world the story is set in, either by laying everything out in a third-person omniscent form, or by having one or more of the characters explain things (to the reader, which breaks the fourth wall, or to another character and the reader gets to 'eavesdrop' on the explanation). Again, this can be done well or it can be done poorly; take, for example, the theatrical edit of Bladerunner. It is difficult in the extreme to do the former in a visual format (television or movies) and have it not come across as comic book-cheesy. This is why the first movie adaptation of Frank Herbert's novel Dune is considered by many to be a theatrical stinkburger.

I could go on for a while but I'll save your eyes and cut to the chase: There are some literary conventions that just don't work for movies or television.

Adaptations of books into movies or television shows imply by the definition of the word that some things have to be changed. I just covered the biggest part of that. There are also some things that most people don't really know about that require changes to be made that are not part of the storyline but part of the prodution process, things that the mechanics of filming don't allow for. For example, in the novels Harry drives around in a whipped-to-hell Volkswagon Bug christened "The Blue Beetle", because it's mechanisms are simple enough that the random weirdness that builds up around wizards can't really interfere with them.. most of the time, anyway. In the television show, Harry has a Korean War-era Army surplus Jeep, which incidntally also fits the "wizards and high technology don't mix" part of the cosmology. There's another reason for this: When you see an interior shot of a vehicle in a television show, it was filmed from the outside of the car, part of which has been cut away to show the interior and occupants. For each angle, you need a different car with a different part of the body cut away. This can get very expensive, and chew up the per-episode budget of a show pretty fast. Jeeps from that era don't have solid passenger cabins but rubberised sheets of canvas with plastic windows snapped to an open frame. It's easy to shoot different angles with a Jeep, you just have to unsnap the canvas from one part, resnap the other part, and start filming.

There are also certain aspects of reality that you can freely ignore in a book but if you actually had to look at them while walking down the street you'd have a hard time witing them off as mildly eccentric yet readiy explainable. Or to put it simply, "There's a seven-foot tall guy walking down West Cermak Road carrying a wooden staff covered with glowing runes!"

In a book you can write it off as "most people don't pay any attention to it because its too subtle," but onscreen it's too hard to suspend the belief that everyone else in the scene wouldn't see it. This is one of the reasons that the character of Harry will carry a hockey stick in the series - it's easier to believe that he's on his way to or from a hockey game and stopped off someplace to run an errand. This is a stylistic choice. So is making Harry's shield bracelet a leather strap with a couple of copper shields on it: While you can imagine a little silver chainlink bracelet while reading a book, you really can't see one very well on screen.

There are lots of other things about the adaptation that I could go on and on about but I'll spare you. Besides, other fans with much more time on their hands have already written at great length about them in other places, so I'll leave you to search for them if you're really interested.

Back to The Boone Identity.

It was a very well written episode, I thought: As I mentioned earlier in this post, it gives us a better look at TV-Harry's world: Dealing with the police, handling clients who might or might not be this side of crazy, running down leads in the private eye tradition, and trying to find solutions that don't involve doing any serious harm to his friends. One thing that a lot of fen complained about was Harry not using magic - he does in this episode, in spades. We also get to see more of his working relationship with Murphy, and get a better idea of what kind of person she is. We even get to see something of his famous technology curse.

That's another thing that people don't get, or at least get subconsciously: If you use The Big Schtick too often, it ceases to be interesting and the show gets boring. Shows like MacGyver and The A-Team had their schticks, but they were different in every episode, and so never really got boring.

At any rate, I think the show's doing very well, and I'd like to see the Sci-Fi Channel keep it running and give it a fair shake. Going to the forums is probably the worst way of getting in touch with the channel, so if any of you are also fans of the show, you'll probably want to e-mail feedback (at) scifi (dot) com to tell them.