Friday, February 4, 2011

What wid' all dem monsters?

I'm not sure why there seems to be an abundance of songs in the past year or so about the monster inside, or the monster in big business, or the monster in entertainment, or the monster in fame, but add  Lady GaGa, Skillet, and Kanye West to the monster bin. Now you may love some of these songs, but I am not a fan of Kanye West's Monster.

Now, I'm actually a fan of Kanye West's music (I don't care about how he is in real life, so I leave all that celebrity gossip to someone else).  His song Monster and the accompanying video are simply terrible.  Check it out for yourself if you don't believe me.  If this link is down, search for it and I'm sure you can find one.

Whether or not you like or dislike this video/song, Key of Awesome's parody of the video is infinitely better.  Check out the parody here.  If you like that, Key of Awesome puts out some pretty amazing parody videos that are sure to give a few chuckles if not some laughs so search for them on YouTube.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko

Night Watch, Day Watch, Twilight Watch, and Last Watch are all books part of a tetralogy by Russian writer Sergei Lukyanenko.  I've just finished the first two books as audiobooks and have to remark that it is some of the most intriguing and thoughtful fantasy I've ever read.  The books deal with people who have supernatural abilities and are able to perceive the supernatural world.  These people are called "Others" and don't actually consider themselves human. Once they plunge into the supernatural "twilight", which is like an unseen alternate world that regular humans can't see but surround them, they lose their status as a human and attain the supernatural abilities of an Other. When this happens, they have to pick their controlling force (think light side and the dark side in Star Wars) which is either towards the light (the good) or the dark (implied as evil but better described as simply lacking morality in the conventional sense and living for oneself).  While you might want to classify these books as simple creative fantasy, think again.

What Lukyanenko creates in these books is more than a complex intriguing storyline in a well thought out complex world.  He creates characters and archetypes that permit discussions on morality, theology, and philosophy much in the way that Fyodor Dostoevsky did in books such as Crime and Punishment and Brothers Karamazov.  The world presented here is the literally a world ruled by the laws of yin and yang. Light and dark Others are in constant opposition to each other striving to tip the scales from a balance that is meticulously maintained through laws of a truce between the two sides. The onces who enforce the balance are the Night Watch (who monitors the dark Others and ensures they live according to the treaty) and the Day Watch (who monitors the light Others and ensures they live according to the treaty). The two sides are constantly trying to find ways to outwit the others within the bounds of the treaty to shift the balance towards their own side in the world. The books focus on members of these watches and as you can imagine by the book titles, the first book focuses primarily on the Night Watch and the second book focuses primarily on the Day Watch.  Not only are the plots and conflicts intriguing, the dialogs are rich in philosophical contemplations on the forces of good and evil, of free will and destiny, and are littered with references on topics from music to religion.

If you like fantasy, and you like to read things that will make you think, then these books are for you.  Be warned though: this is not the kind of fantasy that is jam packed full of action and events.  This is the kind of fantasy that moves at a methodical pace interlaced with a significant amount of thought provoking and heavy dialog.  There's plenty of action as well, but if you don't enjoy lots of discussion and dialog, then these books aren't for you.

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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Thoughts on the Novel: Anthem by Ayn Rand

Unlike many dystopian novels that provide discourse and critique on politics and human values, Ayn Rand’s Anthem, written in 1937, delves into a deeper discourse on human nature and juxtaposes the concepts of living for the collective whole (the “we”) and for the self (the “I” or “ego”).  I’m not going to give a summary of the book since I mainly want to discuss a few thoughts related to this juxtaposition of “we” and “I” as presented in this book (very briefly so I apologize in advance for any poorly laid out ideas).  I encourage anyone who hasn’t read the book to do so and it can be found as a free download in both ebook and audiobook form from various sources on the web.

Society in Anthem revolves around the peace and equality of the collective whole. The goal of the society is to provide a social construct where everyone is equal, all jobs are equal, all working knowledge is equally accessible, and where there is no “I”, only “we”. In fact, people here do not even know the word “I” and refer to themselves and the whole indiscriminately as “we”. The people in Anthem are trained to be more like clones than individuals. By stripping away individualism, people do not need to rate or compare themselves to everyone else. Since only the most intelligent could possibly comprehend advanced knowledge and technology, knowledge and technology have all been stripped down to only what everyone can understand equally so that no one is smarter than anyone else. In fact, when the main character tries to introduce electric light as an invention to further mankind, it is rejected over the candle primarily because the knowledge that would be comprehended by few would give them power over those who couldn’t comprehend.  Society of the “we” is simply to live as “we”, not to advance itself and fall victim to the times of inequality and knowledge of their past (modern civilization).

The moment people decided to reject the “I” and accept the equality and unity of the “we”, they forever limited the power of the collective whole to the weakest link.  This idea seems counter-intuitive at first because working as a group allows people to make great advancements in science, technology, and society.  There is a distinction that should be made though of a group of individuals working together, with their own individual perceptions of their strengths and weaknesses, to a single collective hive-type society, where every single unit of the whole has a specialized function to maintain life for the whole without individual conceptions that their purpose is any higher or lower than anyone else. In a collective “we”, individualism (i.e. the ego) would destroy the entire structure of the whole with impulses such as individual desires and goals that would conflict with those of the collective good.  While maintaining peace and satisfaction of the collective good through absolute equality may be a noble cause, it stifles any progress since the initiation of each new idea or invention must be carefully planned out to carefully maintain the delicate and structure of that equality. Thus, if equality means unanimous peace at the cost of progress, then inequality is the biggest threat to aspirations of peace in society as it is and has always been. Since inequality stems from the ego, or individuality, then human nature itself is the largest hindrance to achieving peace among its own race.

The juxtaposition of ultimate peace and disorder, the “we” and the ego, and of equality and inequality, forces us to accept a couple of implications. If humanity strives for absolute peace of the collective whole through equality, then the pleasures of individual desires and experience must be given up. Conversely, if we strive to fulfill the desires and goals of the ego, then humanity at the same time must accept that conflict is the result. While Anthem abstractly places these absolute positions on opposing pedestals, we all have desires stemming from the ego and desires for the whole. Rather than live for one or the other, isn’t life about living with a compromise between the two?

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Goodbye Elbryanland....

As some of the readers of this blog might know, I've had a website up since 2001 named Elbryanland that contained all sorts of random assorted passions such as art, poetry, and photos.  As of last night, this site has been accidentally deleted by me.  The servers didn't die, I wasn't hacked, nor did I fail to pay to renew the domain. In the end, the site died by the fell swoop of an accidental asterisk typed by my own hands.

Since the site hasn't really been touched in over two years, you might think "oh, no big deal."  While it's not a "big" deal, it does have some consequences. Elbryanland servers originally hosted this blog until Google stopped supporting hosting via ftp.  The blog was migrated to Google servers which is why everything is still here except the pictures.  The pictures were hosted on an image server on Elbryanland and when the site was deleted, so too were the pictures.  Since the site was old and is hosted by a friend of mine, backups were not being maintained by me or my web host. It's undetermined at this time whether or not any of the data will be recovered but I am going to assume the worst.

Oh well. I doubt anyone will miss such a poorly maintained and outdated site that was long lost to the inevitability of irrelevance. So long Elbryanland, we had a good run but it is time to bid thee farewell.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Gnocci Anyone?

I haven't posted in a very long time, so here's an adventure in cooking.

Tonight I had the random inclination to create a dish using gnocci (potato pasta). I've never cooked anything with gnocci before so this was just a random idea in my head. I took a package of gnocci, a jar of Newman's Sun-Dried Tomato Alfredo sauce, some spinach, chicken breast, and cilantro and got to work.

Idea of the dish was this: Lightly marinate the chicken and pan fry it. Heat up the sauce and add thinly sliced fresh spinach in it until it had nearly a third spinach consistency (almost like creamed spinach but no where near that thick). Cook the gnocci, then on the plate put gnocci on the bottom, then chicken (probably about 1/2 of a chicken breast worth cut up in small chunks), then sauce, then cilantro on top. It turned out good, but definitely needs some refining.

First off, I did not have the proper ingredients for a quick marinade. I wanted olive oil but was all out. Instead, I used 2/3 vegetable oil and 1/3 white vinegar with garlic, basil, and fresh cilantro. As I didn't have a couple of hours for this to marinate, I forked the marinade into the chicken and let sit for about 5-10 minutes (it was already 9:00 and I was hungry). Then I threw the chicken in a preheated skillet and cooked covered for a few minutes before I stupidly realized that the chicken would take forever to cook unless I sliced it up. So slicing I did, while it was cooking in the pan and finished cooking the chicken uncovered. Then I started slicing up the spinach for the sauce (oh, this has been slowly heating the whole time). It actually took a LOT more spinach than I thought it would to get what I was looking for. The gnocci was easy...3 minutes in boiling water and tah-dah, done. With the sauce, chicken, and gnocci done, it was time to eat it.

The results: Good, but, properly marinating the chicken would have made this dish much better. Also, a little fresh cilantro goes a LONG way and there is definitely no reason to put 2 whole leaves worth on your dish like I did (maybe I put three...what in the world was I thinking!). In the end, the dish was overwhelmed by the cilantro but luckily still good.

Next time, much less cilantro and a better marinade for the chicken :)

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Just thought I'd share with the world that yes, I got DJ Hero. Yes, I think rhythm games are cool. Yes, I think this game is cool. And Yes, this picture of me rocks!


Friday, September 4, 2009

Some Surfing Pictures

A few people have asked for pictures of me surfing so I finally have some. Laurel was kind enough to take some of me when she was down to visit so enjoy!

The wave may have closed out but I still feel like superman!
Me riding a really small and soft wave.This is my favorite of the pictures Laurel took.

Yeah, nothing fancy or amazing but just a little proof of the talk. Unfortunately, there weren't any really good waves when she was down here so just pictures of me on small stuff.

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