この手を伸ばすこと怖くはないの 二度と

記憶 Kioku, Kajiura Yuki

23 Apr 2008

I R Spammer!


There’s no security in email. In particular, there’s no way to prevent forging anyone’s identity. It seems fairly obvious when you think about how the technology works, but that thought process requires a little technical insight. Basically, I could claim my email address is president@whitehouse.gov and send email to anyone appearing to be from King George. There’s no way contested email should ever hold up in court. Of course, you can trace the headers and wonder why the President would be sending mail from a small town ISP in Texas, but that’s beyond the capability of most email recipients and even the header trail can be fooled.

Anyway, a lot of spam software picks legitimate email addresses to stuff in a message’s From: line. It helps the message get through one line of spam detection (needing a legitimate domain, though the user name portion doesn’t need to be valid). So a lot of the spam that’s sent appears to come from a real individual at a real address – although he or she had nothing to do with it.

Well, my turn came up this week. Apparently one of the botnet spammers picked up one of my email addresses, and thousands – likely tens or hundreds of thousands – of spam messages have gone out signed by iain@aint.com. I know this, not because I’ve seen the messages, but because I’ve seen hundreds of bounce messages from stupidly configured mail transfer agents. “Your message was unable to be delivered.” Usually with the reason that the server had determined that it was spam. Hell, if it’s spam, why compound the problem by returning it, you idiot?

So right now there are probably several thousand people reading email from me saying “Buy herbal Viagra!” or “Hi, sexy, I’m Suzanne, let’s talk.”

If this is my fifteen minutes, I’m not impressed.

22 Apr 2008

An Update

Games, Writing

I’ve been promising Candace an update for… god, it must be a year, or close to it.

The truth is exactly what I set this blog up to document (and in part, I guess, to prevent) – I got sucked back into playing World of Warcraft.

Since that happened, all thoughts of keeping up with anime, with writing, and even with maintaining this blog, have gone out of the window. I played, pretty much obessively, until a few months ago.

In a way, nothing changed. I had really hit a brick wall with The Book. Even now I’m not sure that I want to continue with it. And I think, partly, avoiding thinking about The Book fueled my gaming obsession. Playing WoW made it easy not to stop and think.

I’ve really enjoyed playing again. Well, there was some ugly guild drama that upset me for a while, but mostly I did. I’ve gotten three characters to 70, and a fourth almost there… but then the game fizzled, as it always seems to. So for the last couple of months, I’ve been back in EQ2 and gradually reducing the commitment even to that…

I’m not sure how much it will help, when it comes to The Book. I definitely plan to revisit the short story that I’ve been submitting. I think that one truly has potential. But I just feel like the plot complications have overwhelmed the excitement I felt while writing. And I feel that I’m too obsessive to be able to back away and rework the plot.

Well, I have a couple of other ideas, too. I’ll let them percolate as I try to unstick myself from games.

One idea I had was for a contemporary fantasy. I started working on ideas for it well before WoW intruded. Mostly as a humorous concept, then. About that time, The Dresden Files started showing, and some of its background seemed very like what I wanted to do. The series wasn’t that great, but after reading a lot of comments on IMDB about how much better the books were, and wanting to know just how large the overlap was between the real Dresden Files and my thinking, I started to read the series.

It is excellent. It’s really, really good. Very readable, very credible, first-class noir-style detective thrillers with believable, scary magic and constant intense action. The cover blurb of the latest book on Jim Butcher’s site covers it quite well:

No one’s tried to kill Harry Dresden for almost an entire year, and his life finally seems to be calming down. For once, the future looks fairly bright. But the past casts one hell of a long shadow.

Reading a Harry Dresden book can be exhausting, because they are so relentless. And that’s brought up more thoughts about trying to continue writing.

I don’t have a problem with the ideas in the Dresden Files. There is some overlap between them and the original concepts I’d worked on, but not enough that I’d have to work to avoid Jim Butcher’s mythology. But what I realize is I just don’t have the imagination to create the constant pressure that he does. And it works so well, that I think I’d be very disappointed that I can’t.

I’ve been reading other contemporary fantasy, and a fair bit does seem to be of the noir / high action type. It’s either that or horror, and I don’t have any interest in writing horror. Dark, yes, and my intention now, if I do act on it, is to create something much darker than I’d originally planed, but not horror. And if I can’t match a thriller’s pace, then maybe I have nothing to offer.

And of course, at that point, I give up thinking and log back in to EQ2…

09 Oct 2007

Bad Sci-Fi


A former cow-orker (there’s a reason for that construction…) sent me a link to a Something Awful article, The 22 Most Awful Moments in Science Fiction.

Most of it I agree with. Much as I love Dr. Who, the plastic chair of death is so bad it’s hilarious. In fact, to be really fair, probably half of the list should be taken up with bad Dr. Who moments.

I have always refused to watch Alien 3, for precisely the reasons in the article. As far as I’m concerned, Newt, Hicks and Bishop are still awaiting rescue with Ripley (though Bishop may need a little more rescuing, or some good glue.)

I think it’s very unfair about Babylon 5 (though not so much about the fans, where most of the venom was directed); B5 was an imaginative show that didn’t deserve to have its storyline screwed up by constant cancellation threats, and Crusade held a lot of promise. And the Three Laws are just as valid – in their context as a base for a fictional artificial intelligence, which is not the same as the machines that we’ve named “robots.” They’re not perfect, and even Asimov explored their flaws, but they have a well-deserved place in Science Fiction lore.

But then I never agree with everything about a “worst of” list, and it was funny.

However, it brings a thought to mind…

Much as I think Babylon 5 is one of the greatest series ever to have happened, I’ve finally realized that it’s time to let it go.

With great excitement, a few weeks ago, I bought the latest DVD. This is what I wrote to afore-mentioned cow-orker.

*On the other hand* – if you get chance to see the latest direct-to-DVD Babylon 5 production, “The Lost Tales,” don’t take it. Run away. Don’t let it do to the series what Alien 3 did to Aliens. (Except not for me, because I refuse to watch it.) I won’t offer to loan you the DVD, because that would be mean. The only reason I won’t throw the piece of crap away is that I might otherwise in the future be tempted to rent it to see if it was really as bad as I recall. If it’s in my collection, I don’t need to ever think about watching it again.

The writing was never Babylon 5’s strongest point – which is a strange thing to say, given that its stories were the best around. We forgave George Lucas’s horrible dialog in the original Star Wars, because the story was fun. When the story deteriorated in the three prequels it was much more apparent that the writing was really bad.

Babylon 5 had a vision. It didn’t have the write-by-committee feel of recent Star Trek series, where the stories were awful, and the dialog uninspired (though often superbly acted). Individual episodes were well-planned, and fit well into the main arc. When the series cancellation loomed at season four, the arc was hurried, and felt it – that really shows how well the show had been designed beforehand.

But the dialog was stilted and predictable. Characters were distinctive, but although they behaved differently, their dialog was largely the same. Same clichés and stock phrases. It’s been too long since I last watched it for many to come to mind, but “done, and done” does. If only Sheridan had spoken that way, you could see it as characterization, but several did.

The writer, Joe Straczynski (JMS to us loyal fans) had a brilliant imagination, but perhaps should have had his dialog reworked a little. We forgave him that because of the story.

In the final season, the main arc had been closed off early (because of the cancellation threats), and the side-stories that had been intended to continue within the arc had to be fleshed out independently. That didn’t flow well, and I think most B5 fans would agree that Season Five was the weakest of all. It didn’t help that the new station commander, played by Tracy Scoggins, spoke – in pauses – like – she was – reading from a bad – teleprompter. She was the worst actor the series had had, after Claudia Christian, Ivanova, who had been consistently excellent.

Now, consider Babylon 5 writing, like the fifth season, except take away any story arc, and any interesting individual storylines. Use Bruce Boxleitner, who suited the role but isn’t really that great an actor, and Tracy Scoggins, whose haltingly-artificial mode of speech is worse than ever. Drop the space scenes, because you have no special effects budget, and shoot everything as talking heads, with the story explained in interviews. I.e., throw away anything interesting about B5, and focus solely on its weaknesses.

While you’re at it, take Galen the technomage, but turn his enigmatic behavior around so that he appears as a psychopath rather than a thinker. So that even Peter Woodward’s presence isn’t sufficiently redeeming.

That’s “The Lost Tales.”

Admittedly it doesn’t violate the series in the way Alien 3 does, but it’s uninteresting, predictable, badly-written and badly-acted, which is a sorry epilogue to a great series.

Babylon 5, R.I.P.

29 Mar 2007



A few days ago, before going out of town, I decided I wanted to listen to some old songs by Justin Hayward and John Lodge. The album Blue Jays was released in the mid-70s, when the Moody Blues was in hiatus. I’ve never liked it as much as a regular Moodies album, but some of the songs are quite poignant. “Nights, Winters, Years” by Hayward has the feel of an orchestral version of the old classic “Nights in White Satin,” and “Maybe” is one of Lodge’s more moving lyrics.

So I found it, and listened for a few days, and as I often do, drifted off to other similar material, finding Justin Hayward’s “Forever Autumn” (from Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds album) on YouTube. That reminded me of one of my all-time favorite music videos, the Moodies’ “Your Wildest Dreams,” another Hayward song.

It took me a while to remember the name. I haven’t heard the song in months – years, perhaps. I had to dig through a discography on the net to figure it out. When I did, I went back to YouTube and found the video. (I won’t link it; it shouldn’t be there, and likely won’t be for long.) After downloading it, I watched it several times, and then of course got the song stuck in my head.

That evening I went to eat in the hotel bar. While I was eating, I decided that I had to clear my mind of obsessing about the song. Not only was it going around in my head, I could hear it in whatever the sound system was playing. So I listened for a moment – and I’ll be damned if after many months (at the minimum) of not hearing “Your Wildest Dreams” anywhere, the hotel music system was playing it. Right as I’d just found it and couldn’t stop hearing it.

That was a very strange experience. Really weird. On the other hand, sometimes it’s good to know that evidence of fracturing sanity really isn’t what it seems…

13 Mar 2007

Obsessive avoidance?


I haven’t played EQ2 in a month or more now. With the short story claiming all of my attention, I got out of the habit – but even now I’ve started mailing it out, I still haven’t played. I keep thinking about it, then I think, well, I’m not really missing it …

Now I’m beginning to think that avoiding EQ2 has become something of an obsession, and I’m not sure that it’s a healthy one, because I’m not doing anything else with the time I’m not wasting. I haven’t been writing – not of anything that’s progressing The Book or anything else useful, anyway. I seem to be going out of my way not to do anything, really.

Part of it is that I’m really having a hard time with work right now. I’ve been given a project that I hate, that’s late, that I don’t understand, and that won’t use any of the skills I’ll need to find a new job. I can see me working on applications like this for the next five years, then when I don’t have any choice but to find different work, I’ll have five years of working on ugly spaghetti code in a language no-one uses in an environment that was out of date in the mid-90s. No recent C++, Java or anything else that might distinguish me, and that I could, and can do better than most – currently. That won’t be true in five years.

Add onto that a quality audit that has consumed my time documenting a process we’ll never use and I hate the whole situation. I’m supposed to work to a script for the auditor (should he choose me – “Geekachu! I choose you!”) to show that we’ve been using these practices all along. Now, I don’t really have a strong objection to pulling the wool over an auditor’s eyes; I guess maybe I should, but it’s not significantly different from what anyone else does. But when it comes to answering questions, I am extraordinarily bad at handling stress, and I’m not likely to give the auditor the picture they want. Lying isn’t in the skill set they hired me for.

So it seems that hating my job has become something of an obsession, too, and not one that has any constructive effect or creative byproducts. Maybe I should get back to my EQ2 escapism until I can deal with work.

02 Feb 2007

Current / recent viewing


I started this post a while ago as a “catch-all” for series that I’m watching. It’s probably time to move it out of drafts and start a new one.


Red Garden. (Subbed by Kaze-no-Koe/Shinsen (eps 1-5) and Shinsen-subs (eps 6+))

I don’t like the art style. I’m probably in a minority there, but I think the characters are quite ugly. I’ve seen several mangas with similar styles, and I don’t like them, either. The art looks like it’s supposed to be more realistic, but to me it’s more like moving caricatures.

Still, that’s a personal gripe. I can tolerate it, and the story has been very interesting for the first 13 episodes. A very minor spoiler here, revealed in the first episode: [spoiler /mild spoiler/ /hide spoiler/] You have to find find it intriguing when, at the end of the first episode, the four girls who are the main characters discover that they are dead.[/spoiler] Though the story has been a bit slow moving so far, it’s held my interest. I don’t expect it to make the “current obsessions” list.

Unusually, it’s set in New York instead of Japan, though it still has the high-school cliché. Some of the action seems more Japanese than American, but it mostly works. Relationships (including individuals and couples well past high school age) are believable. One whiny girl is really getting on my nerves – but she’s getting on the nerves of the other three.

At episode 13, we can’t really be sure that “our” girls are on the right side of the fight – except that we know the other side are killers. It seems both sides are pretty evil, but what they’re doing is still very cloudy. Hervé’s being voiced by Koyasu Takehito makes it very difficult for me not to see him as a villain – he’s Touga in Revoutionary Girl Utena.

The series seems to have huge potential, if it will start moving now that it’s at (I assume) the halfway mark. The writers don’t strike me as being likely to give us a predictable or unsatisfactory conclusion.

I dislike the introductory animation, and absolutely loathe the ending for the first few episodes (it changes at 11 or so, though the new one isn’t much better). Not in the same class of unwatchable squick as Strawberry Panic‘s ending, but pretty bad nonetheless.

I always like to watch the previews. I had to stop doing that with Elfen Lied because they were such heavy spoilers, but Red Garden has a nice amount of mystery, interesting scenes and no real information. I like that.


Yes, I know, I keep coming back to Simoun, but I’ve now seen the final episode. I’m not going to comment more until Simoun-Fans’s sub is complete, but I have to say it’s a great series. I need to find some discussion threads to see how well my understanding of it gibes with others’.

Azumanga Daioh

Maybe the most pointless anime I’ve yet seen (except for Neon Genesis Evangelion, of course). Goes nowhere, just vignettes in the lives of a few high school girls (sound familiar?). No story. No plot.

And hugely fun.

It’s childish, touching, funny and sweet, and I’ve really been enjoying watching it. There’s just not much good that you can say about it; it’s the telling, not the tale that’s so enjoyable. On, and the ending song, “Rasperry Heaven,” is lovely.


Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie. I didn’t think it likely that the movie would be stranger than the series, but I was wrong. It was an interesting retelling – clearly quite different in setting and history, yet very much the same story. Ambiguous ending, but in a completely different way from the series. I think it would have made even less sense without having first seen the series – the cameo of Chu Chu and the Nanami-cow not affecting that either way.

Himemiya had a more interesting personality this time, though I thought Utena was less so.

Chrono Crusade – update as I watch more. I started watching this only because of the opening song, “Tsubasa wa Pleasure Line” (sung by Kuribayashi Minami, several of whose songs I like). Nothing much special in the premise so far – exorcism = blowing away demons with holy-water-imbued bullets – but the “good demon” and the nun’s demonic pact make it a little different. I’ll see where it goes.

(Note: though I’ve already written this up, I’m leaving my old entry in place to remind myself of how different my early reactions were from those after I’d finished watching.)

Stellvia of the Universe. Sometime in the 22nd century, the Earth was almost destroyed by the radiation front of a nearby supernova. Nearly two hundred years later, the matter front, travelling at 1/10 C, will finish the job, if a series of space stations can’t shield the planet.

Not bad physics for a sci-fi anime, though why the pilots are teenage recruits, and mainly girls, is a question only the anime gods can answer.

Later reaction: it lived up to its early promise, though the physics was shakier than it appeared at the start. OK, the light / matter influx from the supernova were fairly believable – but then the pilots joust their trainer spaceships at huge relative velocities, and just bounce off each other. Oh, and there’s a giant fighting robot. I don’t like mecha in general, and when they’re only used to satisfy the cliché it just annoys me.

The main character is quite annoying. How many times is it possible to come out with a world-saving solution to a problem, only to go back to wallowing in self-pity? Not as many as Shima does, certainly. And her romance with Kouta has all the embarrassment and avoidance of the issue that I dislike about generic anime boy-girl relationships. She’s completely in awe of his brilliance, even though she’s the one that keeps saving the day.

However, the solutions themselves are well-done. There’s about the right level of angst, except when Shima gets into her self-loathing. As a space opera, it’s nicely handled. And as far as romances go, the two secondary ones are much more interesting. Akira / Joy (the tallest girl, who’s quiet and serious and the shortest boy, who’s also the class clown) almost makes the series worthwhile by itself. And the last minute confession in the final episode… [spoiler /Guess who?/ /Hide spoiler/] of Ayaka and Yayoi (both girls) for each other is quite lovely. Especially the chorus of jealousy from all the boys.[/spoiler]

One other annoyance about the show, but I’ll need to hide it behind a tag, even though the outcome is hardly a surprise.

[spoiler /Ending spoiler/ /Hide spoiler/] This isn’t a show that you’d expect to have a sad ending, and it doesn’t. Everything works out for the best, and it isn’t really a surprise – however, throughout the last episode, everyone’s talking about what will happen after they’ve succeeded. Not if they succeeded, when. Maybe it could have worked as bravado, but it didn’t have that feel. Instead, it was a huge tension let down. 20 minutes of “everything’s going to be fine.” That was the one point in the series where it really needed extra drama, and the writers let us down. I can’t see the point.[/spoiler]

This is definitely a keeper, and one I’ll probably buy eventually (I rented it from Greencine). The flaws are minor, and the story’s something that can certainly stand re-watching.

28 Jan 2007

Chrno Crusade


(a.k.a Chrono Crusade.) I’ve been watching this for a while, but got interrupted by EQ2. Now I’ve finished it. I’d planned just to list it among “misc. animes” in a wrap-up post sometime, but in the end I was surprised. I’ll add more about that behind a more tag.

What’s worth noting is that it does have a touching boy-girl romance that isn’t played (much) for embarrassment and avoidance. Though the girl is the series’ protag, and the boy is an ancient demon…

The first half is pure action, with the heroine blowing up demons and creating havoc, and some hints of a mystery. The second half is very intense, with a theology so twisted that you have to wonder why they would even claim that it’s based on Catholicism, but which nevertheless is fairly consistent and leads to a very dark story.

One of the four main characters (Azmaria) is played by Saeko Chiba, who’s also Natsuki in Mai HiME / Mai Otome. In this, she’s a young girl – I don’t know if we know exactly how old, but I’d guess about 12. I’m impressed at Chiba’s skill at voicing the deep-voiced, confident Natsuki and the little girl Azmaria. As Azmaria, she has to persuade us that she has a child’s singing voice so beautiful it shows the divine – and she does (though her English accent is pretty bad).

She also sings the closing theme, partnered with my music idol, Kajiura Yuki. That’s a song that didn’t impress me immediately, but grew on me through the series – beautiful, quiet, and powerfully poignant. More about that below the tag.

It was music that got me into the series – Tsubasa wa Pleasure Line by Kuribayashi Minami, who sang some of the best songs in Mai HiME (and played Erstin in Mai Otome). I heard it on animenfo radio, and that led me to see what the series was like that it introduced.

Beyond that, I can’t really say anything without getting into very heavy spoilers. Even whether I’d recommend the series.

Update: After a couple of days’ contemplation – yeah, I’d have to say I would recommend it. It’s definitely one of the best series I’ve seen, though it certainly has predictable ideas in a genre that I think is weak and overused.

So, here goes. Beyond this point lie spoilers.

Read the rest of this entry »

22 Jan 2007

Out from under – for a time.

Anime, Writing

I’ve managed to evade the grip of EverQuest II somewhat for the last few days. Since writing the short story, that is.

I don’t seem to do well at handling life without an active obsession, but reworking the story as much as it needs has provided that. And rather than go back to EQ2 when I’m done with a revision session, I’ve been using the break to catch up on Simoun. The fine folks at Simoun-Fans are now up to episode 23 – only 3 left. ‘Course, that’s only 7 further on from where we were when I last obsessed over the series, so I’m still going to have a long, painful wait after I get up to 23.

I started over from the beginning, because I’d forgotten so much, and it really is a good series. [spoiler /Slight spoiler/ /Hide spoiler/] I do find myself a little depressed after episode 19. Not saying more, even behind a spoiler tag.[/spoiler] My gripe about the music persists. It’s so completely inappropriate.

About the short story – currently titled “The Scent of Petunias” – I’m at the stage with it where I can’t decide if I should really hate it. This always happens, and I find it extremely stressful. It happens right after I decide that a story / section is good enough to get critiqued, and before I get much serious feedback. I haven’t been able to name the feeling. It’s not exactly embarrassment that I’m showing the story around. It’s more an extremely strong apprehensiveness about the potential for embarrassment.

I feel very much the same if I make a controversial post to a public forum. It isn’t a rational fear – but most of my fears aren’t rational anyway, so it isn’t anything new.

In this case, I love the concept. I think that for the most part I’ve done it justice, but then I read a section and it seems incredibly amateurish, so I fix it, then find another – and soon I’m worrying not about whether the writing is any good, but whether I’ve edited out all of the feeling in my constant changes. And whether it’s worth even close to this level of effort, for only 25 pages.

But then, I approach a short story very differently from The Book. When I write something short, I’m looking for a mood rather than a narrative – and that’s another thing I get anxious over, because I wonder if the mood is overdone, and whether it always seems to be the same from story to story… I can certainly tell the difference between tone between this short story and The Book, but I’m not sure if it’s much different from the last serious attempt I made at a short story.

What I will say is I enjoyed the process enough to try working on some others. I have several ideas that just may be viable, though most tend to be “hey, that’s a neat concept – but where’s the story?”

It’s also fueled my motivation to work on the online project I mentioned a while back. But I have to get some other starter stories for that before I can take it anywhere.

Current obsessions: (anime) Simoun

18 Jan 2007

Something Worthwhile


I finished the SF short story I mentioned, and I’m quite proud of it. It needs polishing, and I somehow doubt it will be seen as having the kind of distinctive style that SF magazines prefer, but I will try to have it published.

Current obsessions: (games) EverQuest II
(writing) SF short

16 Jan 2007

Active Obsessions

Games, General, Writing

One obvious problem with documenting obsessions – and one I did recognize up-front – is that when they hit, you don’t take the time away to document them.

So I haven’t written much since EverQuest II regained its grip. I’ve been away levelling up my characters, doing quests, obsessively wasting time. Some old friends have returned, one due to my persuasion (he was killing time in World of Warcraft, so I don’t feel guilty about dragging him back), and I’ve been playing with them some, doing the Christmas quests, making items and money in-game, and generally having a blast.

I had hoped that the discipline of maintaining this blog would help me manage my time when I got sucked back into EQ2 (or whichever game it would be), but that hasn’t happened. If maintaining the blog had required any real commitment, I would likely not have started it anyway.

My writing’s suffering. of course. I still am at a part of The Book for our critique group that isn’t going to change, so I can refurbish it a little and present it – but soon I’ve got to start making serious changes. I’m convinced now that the narrative is too linear, and I don’t know what to do about it. I introduced plot elements that stretched credibility in order to keep the plot from being simplistic; what I need instead is more story twists, and simplify the involvement of the antagonist(s).

I just finished a Robert Ludlum book, “The Ambler Warning“. He needs better editing, as do most authors as popular as he is, but he still writes a hell of a good thriller. A Ludlum thriller involves huge and unexpected plot twists, inexplicable background that you know will be explained, but can’t see how, and action-packed scenes all the way through. The Ambler Warning didn’t disappoint. It just makes me realize how far away I am from creating a powerful thriller.

I have had an idea for a Science-Fiction short story that I intend to write, if I ever free up the time to do so. I pretty much have it all mapped out in my mind now, it’s time to put pen to paper…

Current obsessions: (games) EverQuest II
(writing) SF short