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Last night, I dreamt I went to the Manderley again. [Sep. 6th, 2011|03:22 am]


It began with a walk down a long dark corridor lit only by dim and distant red lights that left all but those standing closest in blackness and made those faces that could be seen look like flat blood-rimmed shadows. At check-in the concierge handed us a pair of playing cards and said “Thank you for visiting the McKittrick, here are your room keys. You can wait at the Manderley Bar until your rooms are ready” and pointed up the stairs to our right. The show’s website indicates that the McKittrick was a hotel completed in 1939 and shut down under mysterious circumstances until being reopened six months ago. From the outside the building looked very little like a hotel and the location in the far western reaches of Chelsea (or is it the far southern reaches of what was once Hell’s Kitchen?) makes the presence of an abandoned hotel seem genuinely strange, but we did enter through the building’s side door and a mania for bizarre construction that struck the city during the depression gave it the then tallest building in the world several miles distant from any neighborhood with an actual demand for that much office space, leaving behind what is very nearly a quarter mile high ghost town. So perhaps a lost hotel does not seem so outlandish, there are stranger things in Gotham town.

'I heard a voice cry ‘Sleep no more!'Collapse )
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I wrote a paper about Newton [Aug. 23rd, 2011|11:18 pm]
So, reading the Structure of Scientfic Revolutions was kind of a happy accident. It solidified a bunch of things that I'd been thinking about the epistemology of science for a long time. The paper's kind of a mess and ended up being twice as long as assigned, and only barely about Newton. If I had to choose again I might have written a paper about the persistence of older paradigms of science instead, like the continued practice of astrology and how discredited biology shows up in alternative medicine e.g. naturopathy and it's 19th century vitalist basis. Mostly because talking about the influence of occult philosophy on Newton turned out to be a tall order for a short class.

Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum LapideCollapse )
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A Game of Thrones [Jun. 10th, 2011|11:02 pm]
I've been comparing George RR Martin and Gene Wolfe's respective approaches to medieval fantasy in my head and I think it's pretty fruitful and interesting. Both apparently approached the genre with an eye towards offering a personal variation. And they both, like Peter Jackson, look like giant Hobbit-men. They have widely divergent approaches to narrative structure, with Wolfe trending to the more experimental and Martin staying with a much more conventional shifting close third person perspective. Not that conventionality in structure is a weakness of Martin's, because it allows for a much larger cast of characters to interact in an intelligible fashion.

I've read somewhere that Martin was inspired by things like Ivanhoe and The War of the Roses, but I keep thinking of the book as Arthurian myth if it were told by a 19th century realist. He has noble knights and wicked enemies, but they're complicated by political reality. Useful monsters like Gregor Clegane get knighted, and sellswords like Bronn beat storied and noble knights because they're smart enough to play to win. Which is in part why Ned Stark loses so hard in the first book; he will let his distaste for that reality restrain him. But Martin doesn't quite reach the scope of a realist (but I wish he did because I think his vision is coherent and interesting enough for it) since he doesn't quite go to the same social depth. We only really see the top strata of his society and their lives outside the boundaries of what is required by the plot aren't really explored.

Gene Wolfe takes a very different tack to the same basic material, reworking it wherever possible. His narrator is deeply unusual and the story doubles back upon itself, plays referential games, and is generally obfuscatory. He shares a similarly cynical view, though to a far greater degree; Severian is a savior and a torturer by vocation. His actions in the story offer a similar mix of the brutal and the generous. The generally picaresque structure of Severian's account also allows Wolfe to meander through the kind of unusual episodes that take up very little space in Martin's novels. Greatjon losing his fingers and Hodor's weird naked wandering could be entire chapters of the Book of the New Sun.

What they share in common is probably more important, since both The Book of the New Sun and A Song of Ice and Fire are both so well made that the events flow from their characters and seem to have an Aristotelian necessity to their outcomes. There's wholeness of vision they share that makes exploring their worlds more rewarding than the ruck and run of fantasy literature.
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(no subject) [Nov. 10th, 2010|08:24 pm]
What do you think the person who secretly returns books to the store that have been missing for years means by it?
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The Elvish Meme [Jun. 20th, 2010|04:05 pm]


Phonetic Sindarin



Etymological Sindarin

Now write your name!

The alphabet:
http://www.starchamber.com/paracelsus/elvish/elvish-in-ten-minutes.html

A dictionary:
http://www.jrrvf.com/hisweloke/sindar/online/english.html

A pronunciation guide:
http://www.seansgallery.com/pages/tolkien_alphabets.htm
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Urth of the New Sun [Jun. 14th, 2010|12:16 am]
The trip on Tzadkiel's ship is an unsatisfying departure of style until it becomes evident that it was a bit of sleight of hand to make the coming of the Conciliator less evident. Also, I could read a whole book about the reign of Typhon.
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(no subject) [May. 17th, 2010|10:39 pm]
James put up the tarp to block the view of the ongoing construction site that is our store so we could buy textbooks from students off of a table pushed up to the front door. When he was done we all examined it and agreed that it was indeed just like working in Dexter's kill room.
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Picking up the thread of A New Year, A New Sun [May. 10th, 2010|10:56 pm]
Typhon the Autarch head appended to his servant Piaton, much like the analept grafted Thecla's mind to Severian's? Or Baldander's and Dr. Talos's strange symbiotic relationship?
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(no subject) [May. 5th, 2010|03:10 pm]
I only want to talk about the Alzabo and the Zoanthropes today.
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(no subject) [Mar. 27th, 2010|04:55 am]
I am now a scholar of dirty jokes written in Old English.
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(no subject) [Feb. 10th, 2010|11:00 pm]
Sometimes I think the predominance of continental vowel values in the romanization of eastern languages and the IPA is because Europeans are too dumb to understand variable pronunciation of a grapheme. Between hanyu pinyin, the IPA and Old English, I've got at least five pronunciations for every vowel in the alphabet rattling around in my head. However, Mordicai, your defense of variable spelling pretty clearly shows you've never tried to use a dictionary to look up words in a language without standardization. Seriously, it's a good idea to get people on board with the standard. Who cares if it doesn't sound anything like it looks. It's fucking writing, not an aural transcript.

Also, I think I'm out of wine.
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Alumna sues college because she hasn't found a job [Aug. 4th, 2009|11:35 pm]
http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/08/03/new.york.jobless.graduate/index.html

I found this via the Consumerist. The vigilant defenders of consumer values over there naturally raked her over the coals for having the gall to expect something for her $70,000. It is, of course, very easy to call her suit meritless. She seems very nearly unemployable, at least as far as the kind of work she believes her degree entitles her to is concerned.

But this strikes me as a very nearly perfect example of what is wrong with the university system. She enrolled on the implicit promise of better employment, performed as was required, and now holds a $70,000 piece of wall decoration. Because not only has her education not provided her with the ends she sought, it has also pretty evidently failed to cultivate the skills it is expressly for. She can't even spell the goddamn word "tuition." And for the privilege she's probably leveraged the next twenty years of her working life to Sallie Mae.

I certainly wouldn't hire her, but she damn well does deserve her money back.
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Favorite thing I saw on a comic today. [May. 29th, 2009|02:54 pm]
"I am an illegal immigrant, just like Superman."

>
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(no subject) [May. 21st, 2009|11:27 pm]
I had a dream that I was in a train station with steep and narrow stairs, like a cliff face.

I climbed to the top of the stairs but there was a woman in front that wouldn't move so I had to throw her off. The other side was like the backstage area of a theater.

There was a fat psychic in tattered rags that seemed like a secondary character on lost, but was really just a customer from the store. The psychic who sleeps with his sister said to me, "I play the game now better than I ever have before."
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(no subject) [May. 5th, 2009|06:28 pm]
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Puns I like too much [Apr. 15th, 2009|08:50 pm]
Tonight's brand new episode of Lost is called "Some like it Hoth".
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Tiefling options for mordicai [Apr. 11th, 2009|06:57 pm]


Tiefling Options

Because of their varied backgrounds, tiefling appearance can be quite varied. It is also possible, and even likely that not all tieflings will have the same innate powers. Because of this, the following two tables were created to add variety to tieflings, and should be used at the time of character creation.
The tiefling ability table should be rolled on five times, the results used in place of the standard infravision, darkness, 15' radius ability, and resistances to cold, fire, electricity and poison. Note, however, that all of these abilities occur on the table.

Tiefling Appearance
01-04 Small horns on forehead
05-06 Small horns on temples
07 Single horn on forehead
08-09 Long, thin face
10 Fangs in mouth
11 All teeth are pointed
12 Forked tongue
13-14 Pointed ears
15 Fan-like ears
16 Extremely long nose
17 Very small (almost unnoticeable) nose
18 Extremely long eyelashes
19-21 Red eyes
22-23 Black eyes
24 Feline eyes
25-26 Extremely deep-set eyes
27-28 Green hair
29-30 Blue hair
31 Multi-colored hair
32-33 Six fingers (including thumb)
34-35 Three fingers (including thumb)
36-37 Black fingernails
38-39 Red fingernails
40-41 Fingers one inch longer than normal
42 Arms six inches longer than normal
43 Legs six inches longer than normal
44-46 Horse-like legs
47-49 Goat-like legs
50-52 Goat-like hooves
53-55 Long, thin tail
56-57 Horse-like tail
58-59 Lizardlike tail
60-62 Spiny ridge on back
63-65 Spiny ridges all over body
66-68 Hairless body
69-71 Body covered in short fur or long hair
72-73 Body covered in striped markings
74-75 Extremely greasy skin
76-80 Scaly skin
81-83 Leathery skin
84 Small feathers rather than hair on 10-100% of body
85 Green-tinted skin
86 Blue-tinted skin
87 Red-tinted skin
88-89 Special side effect (roll on table below)
90-94 Roll twice again, ignoring rolls above 89
95-00 Roll three times again, ignoring rolls above 89

Tiefling special side effects

01-10 Ashy odor surrounds body
11-15 Sulfurous odor surrounds body
16-20 Rotting odor surrounds body
20-25 Skin exudes ashy grit
26-30 Body casts no shadow
31-33 Body has no reflection in mirror
34-40 Susceptible to spells such as spirit wrack and cacofiend
41-45 Tanar'ri react toward tiefling as though baatezu
46-50 Baatezu react toward tiefling as though tanar'ri
51-60 Presence causes unease in animals
61-65 Presence causes unease in NPCs. Reactions at -4
66-70 Prolonged touch withers normal plants
71-75 Fingers treated as claws (1d4/1d3 damage)
76-80 Touch inflicts 1 point of damage due to high body heat
81-85 Touch inflicts 1 point of damage due to cold body temperature
86-90 Odd skin composition results in base AC of 1d6+3
91 Cannot reproduce
92 Holy water inflicts 1d6 damage
93 Exposure to direct sunlight inflicts 1 point of damage per round
94 Cannot enter "holy" areas
95 Harmed only by magical or silver weapons
96-00 Intuitively can speak the language of one fiendish race

Tiefling Abilities

01-03 blur one time per day
04-06 charm person one time per day
07-09 chill touch one time per day
10-12 comprehend languages one time per day
13-15 darkness, 10' radius once per day
16-18 detect good/evil two times per day
19-21 detect magic three times per day
22-24 ESP one time per day
25-27 invisibility two times per week
28-30 know alignment one time per day
31-33 mirror image one time per day
34-36 misdirection one time per day
37-39 pyrotechnics three times per week
40-42 suggestion one time per week
43-45 summon swarm one time per week
46-48 vampiric touch one time per week
49-51 whispering wind one time per day
52-55 half damage from fire
56-59 half damage from cold
60-63 half damage from electricity
64-67 half damage from acid
68-75 infravision 60'
76-79 +2 saving throw vs. fire
80-83 +2 saving throw vs. electricity
84-87 +2 saving throw vs. poison
88-91 +2 saving throw vs. cold
92-95 +2 saving throw vs. acid
96 +2 saving throw vs. petrification/polymorph and paralysis
97 +2 saving throw vs. rod/staff/wand
98 +2 saving throw vs. spells
99 Roll twice, ignoring results over 95
00 Roll three times, ignoring results over 95
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(no subject) [Apr. 10th, 2009|11:54 pm]
I dreamt that overnight the owners had removed all the store's inventory and replaced it with weird Dr. Seuss clothing and added a room filled entirely with glowing wooden disks that hung suspended in midair like fish in an aquarium. The store had also grown larger and been moved from a dark and dingy side street to a sunlit corner.

We were doing a steady trade in our new stock when I came in but I couldn't help but be mad about the lost books. I'd put a whole lot of effort into acquiring the orders and adoptions for them and I didn't see how we could sell these clothes and wooden disks upstairs while doing the textbook business out of the mysterious new basement. I was especially mad that I would have to get all the damn books back.

There was an immaculately slovenly group of people sprawled on a set of new Ikea easy chairs having a loudly self-satisfied conversation. I suspected they were my new staff. I glared and asked if they worked at the store. They said yes, and I told them they wouldn't be if they kept up the godawful racket. I woke up feeling very satisfied about being mean to them.
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(no subject) [Mar. 11th, 2009|09:57 pm]
Alright, so I have four short boxes and one long box worth of comics I just don't want. I can't think of a way to sell them that will make enough money to be worth the time or will sell enough copies to free up the space I want back in my apartment. The fee structure and software fees for the online listing sights are all so terrible I am dead certain I would end up paying more money than I'd make. The issues I own that might have some collectability are generally also ones I like or have some kind of attachment to. Any ideas about how I can give the unwanted ones away? I'm filled with a far too great sense of vestigial attachment to just toss them in the recycling yet. But that'll go away soon because every week these things are taking up more and more apartment space.
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I <3 youtube [Mar. 8th, 2009|12:55 am]
I am sad this clip isn't the entire appearance. I could watch these people dance to "Down In It" all day.




The future was funny in the 80s.

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(no subject) [Feb. 20th, 2009|11:29 pm]
Today I whacked my head on the time clock again. Last time my I dug out a pretty good divot, this time I just felt headachey and eventually queasy.

I got into a disagreement with a school teacher who came into the store. She was under the impression that schools were closed this week to celebrate three different presidents. I told her they picked the week around President's day for the week long holiday so the Board of Ed. could save money on heating by turning off the schools' furnaces for a week. When she said, "That's not what they told us" I told her that's what the city told the newspapers when they started doing it more than a decade ago.
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Pies Alicia and I have made [Feb. 3rd, 2009|12:04 am]
For Halloween with Maggie and Emily:
1 apple pie
3 pumpkin pies

For Thanksgiving:
3 pumpkin pies

Christmas test run:
1 pear w/2 apple gruyere pie

Because I couldn't get rhubarb before Thanksgiving:
1 rhubarb pie w/ blackberries and raspberries

For Christmas:
1 pear gruyere pie


Alicia made these with her friends and not me:
1 rhubarb and 4 mini apple pies

After Christmas because pie is delicious:
1 pear apple w/ a little gruyere

I want to make because I think I could make it not be disgusting:
1 lemon meringue pie


The textbook rush is maddening. My feet and knees hurt every day. Today is the first day in a month that we've finished all of the pending textbook receiving. I just had to stay until after 11 PM again to do it. I think we're doing really well. We've also invented ways all of the other stores could be making more money, and it would be nice if the owners would get them to do it so we could all keep our jobs in a dying retail industry for a while longer.
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What the hell is wrong with BSG product endorsement? [Jan. 16th, 2009|10:37 pm]
First it was Quizno's 'It has just been revealed.... lesbians.... Mmmm mmm, toasty.'Collapse )
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"I'm lookin' for a man. A salesman." [Jan. 6th, 2009|10:39 am]
I just netted the first large order since I started. It's a core requirement with a 600 student enrollment, which, if I am not mistaken, will be the largest exclusive order we've had yet. Also, I think it's our first exclusive for a core class. Interestingly enough this is pretty clearly a result of a couple emails I sent almost two months ago. Fire and forget salesman!
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(no subject) [Dec. 27th, 2008|01:46 pm]
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(no subject) [Dec. 20th, 2008|10:27 am]
Here is the thing I would do to fix textbook pricing and make the market for them stop being so broken: eliminate gratuitous desk and exam copies. If professors and universities had to directly bear the price tag they'd take real action to reduce prices. Currently? Professors complain and then assign the overpriced book anyway. For many, prices never even enter consideration as a factor. There's a lot of ink spilled on publisher's practices when the real problem begins and ends with faculty.
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(no subject) [Dec. 19th, 2008|07:59 am]
Christmas double feature:

It's a Wonderful Life
Back to the Future Part II
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Vividity [Dec. 17th, 2008|12:35 am]


I keep forgetting to mention I was in this movie. I play a killer. The day of the shoot I terrified a woman walking her dog in Brooklyn Heights with my fake gun. Nobody could convince her not to call the cops, least of all the cop who was there to oversee our permits. Not to spoil the surprise for you, but I get killed in it. I fell over on the pavement like five times and spent the next three days with aching ribs. I kind of wish you could see the director's previous short. mordicai gets beaten up by a drawing of a giant samoan come to life in it.
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(no subject) [Dec. 6th, 2008|11:15 pm]
So, I'm watching You've Got Mail because it's a terrible movie and I have a secret love of watching terrible movies on cable. And the thing about it that outrages me most is not its treacly cliches and its ridiculous depiction of a New York that only exists in Nora Ephron's adderall riddled brain, it's the off-hand comment by one of the characters about the annual sales of Meg Ryan's tiny independent children's book store. I am sorry, but you cannot run a three employee bookshop on the Upper West Side in Manhattan on only $350,000 a year in sales. That's goddamn ridiculous. You'd have to run that damn store by yourself. Clearly there's something wrong with my brain.
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Failed Etiquette Roll [Nov. 19th, 2008|07:54 am]
Yesterday, while looking for an Economics professor who puts many thousands of dollars of business through our doors, I introduced myself to the Chinese professor who shares his office. I popped out a card, gave it to her, and rolled out some version of the spiel. She took my card with both hands and carefully read it while I talked. Later, I remembered that I was supposed to present it with both hands and not like I was passing her a cigarette or something. I've become pretty interested in the kind of non-verbal signaling involved in this part of the job. Like tweed apparently works as a badge of office. If I show up in the Harris Tweed sportcoat I found for $15 at Beacon's Closet people might just say "You're here from the bookstore, right?"
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