Fuel for thought

I’m playing around with the publishing features on Google Spreadsheets and thought it would be fun to embed a couple of items from my mileage tracking spreadsheet.

Here’s the averages bar, which I use as a kind of dashboard for overall historical information:

I tried to get some of the new charts to publish, but it wasn’t working. Then I tried to get a link to a sheet that I made a couple of charts on, and that wasn’t quite working either. So, go look for yourselves if you’re really curious.

No tag for this post.

Recent Reading: Spindrift by Allen Steele

Just finished reading Allen Steele’s new novel “Spindrift“. It was really quite a good read but I could not shake the feeling that it was a book that I had read before. There just didn’t seem to be much that was new or challenging in it, which in some ways I suppose can be a good thing but possibly just wasn’t what I am looking for in a novel these days. The one exception would be the character of Ramirez who turns out to be slightly different than I expected and was fairly well developed as a plot hook. Still, a good read but I have trouble recommending it for purchase in hard cover unless you’re already a fan of Allen Steele’s work, or the Coyote series in particular.

No tag for this post.

So much for that brilliant idea…

Normally I don’t post about things like this, but it’s pretty irritating and I think some people might care. Fair warning: discussion about my body and it’s reactions to medications follows.

So today I have determined that not only can I not take anything from the Aspirin family for muscle pain but I can also not take naproxen sodium either. In the last two years I finally linked the incidence of a particularly troublesome type of stomach spasm to taking ketoprofen (Orudis KT) for some occasional back muscle pain. Specifically an intense stinging pain starts at what I think is probably the esophageal sphincter and runs up the length of my esophagus to the back of the throat but I feel no need to vomit and actually feels quite a bit more painful than the symptoms related to vomiting. Since then I’ve tried ibuprofen, aspirin, and now naproxen sodium and they all have varying intensities of the exact same symptom, none of which are particularly tolerable but I think this pretty much rules out all of the OTC NSAIDs that I’m aware of. I never had much luck using acetaminophen (Tylenol, etc) for muscle pain but I think I may just have to use it and deal with the much lower effectiveness on the muscle pain.

Oh, and if anyone ever ends up taking me to a hospital it’s probably a good idea to remember that I probably shouldn’t get any of this stuff orally given other options. (And I need to remember to get this added to my medical chart, or at least figure out how to do so…)

Anyone want a mostly unused bottle of Target house brand naproxen?

No tag for this post.

Sour cows

In the category of things that would be a lot of fun to do, but I probably will never get around to actually doing anything about participating in: I’ve recently found two different races that I’ve thought it would be fairly entertaining to take part in. Yes, actual car racing, of sorts.

The first one is actually a reality show on Spike TV called BullRun. I ran across it the first time when they posted the series premiere to the Xbox Live Marketplace for free. It’s basically a long distance road rally with pretty crazy special stages and a classic reality show elimination system. How could that not be fun? Well, besides the TV cameras and the manufactured drama and etc? Besides, my TDi would beat the pants off of most of the competition in mileage and me and whoever I partnered with (ideally my brother) would only have to make a few modifications to make it competitive in the special stages and unlike the team that got eliminated in that series premiere who also had decent mileage, I can navigate.

The second one I actually just heard about today and is The 24 Hours of LeMons which has the entertaining requirement that the vehicle in each entry must cost less than $500. Plus it has events named things like: Personal-Injury-Lawyer Anti-Slalom, the Marxist-Valet Parking Challenge, and the Wide Open Throttle Rodthrowapalooza. Almost tempting to head to Detroit in September for the second event of the “season”.

Comic Thoughts: Iron Man Disassembled

A friend recently bought the Iron Man Disassembled tpb and I mentioned how I had thought it was one of the worst Iron Man stories in quite awhile. Unfortunately when challenged for specifics I actually couldn’t quite remember why, but I did remember the story leaving a bad taste in my mouth that was only fixed four issues into Warren Ellis rebooting the series not too long afterwards. So I borrowed her copy and figured out what I thought the problems were.

I think I should preface this by saying a few things about what I think about Iron Man. As some people who know me already know, I have a deep and abiding enjoyment of Marvel’s team book, The Avengers. I got hooked with issue #31 of West Coast Avengers (I should really write something someday about that particular issue) and have since managed to assemble (heh) a great majority of a full run of issues of the main Avengers and probably close to 98% of the spin-offs and related titles. But the solo books for a lot of the characters have not really been nearly as interesting to me. I think it mostly has to do with enjoying the interplay between multiple important characters in a story rather than focusing on a primary hero and their entourage. That said I have significant runs of both Captain America and Iron Man and at various times have even been a regular reader of both series but it has always been easy for me to drop the titles when they get stupid. Just to pull out a random example: I have never, ever, ever seen an Iron Man story involving time travel to the middle ages that was not entirely stupid.

So, about the Disassembled storyline. The tpb collects issues 84-89 of Vol 3 which contains two rather distinct stories. The first one “Prologue” is written by John Jackson Miller and the second, “The Singularity”, written by Mark Ricketts.

“Prologue” was published as a, well, prologue to the Avengers Disassembled event and is by far the better of the two stories in the book. It has excellent characterization, a decent plot (for a super hero fight comic), and a decent core idea about conflict of interest that is explored in a very appropriate context, in this case Tony Stark’s dual role as U.S. Secretary of State and member of the Avengers which at the time was a United Nations sponsored organization. The dual role theme is explored further, if lightly, in reference to the Avengers as a United Nations organization on U.S. soil as well as the Avenger’s Mansion originally being a family home for the Stark’s back in the mists of time, and finally circling back to the classic superhero problem of maintaining a dual identity. In this case Tony Stark is public about his identity as Iron Man but still finds the demands on his two very different jobs/persona’s as businessman and hero to be in conflict. The story is handled well in two issues with a well executed split between the talky first half and the more action oriented (though still somewhat talky) resolution in the second half. The art is good, if not exceptional. In particular I really enjoy the use of lots of other characters to flesh out the world. Little conversations with all sorts of people who exist in this over the top world are what make the Marvel Universe alive and compelling to read for me. The snatches of dialog with the protesters, or Jarvis getting help setting the table for formal dinner are what make the Marvel Universe worth reading and John Jackson Miller understands this and does it well. It however not without it’s flaws: Finding a forgotten cold war doomsday machine in the Avengers basement is about as hackneyed as you can get, but handling it as a macguffin to frame the conflict of interest theme works reasonably well.

With “The Singularity” we have an almost diametrically opposite example of a comic. To begin with, I find the jaundiced color scheme to be off-putting at best and just plain ugly. While I’m glad that someone is taking chances with the art in a comic book, it’s so sad that it has to fail so spectacularly. Yes, red and gold are the classic Iron Man colors, we get it already. Now please try not to make one of the pages look like the regurgitated results of last night’s bender. The story is a frightful example of not one, but two of my most hated comic plots: The Ham-Handed RetCon and the Tie Up Loose Ends So We Can Reboot Faux Epic. As far as I can tell, the assignment was handed out with the following instructions:

  • Revert all character development that has happened in the past 4 years
  • Do not make more than vague references to the events in the other books
  • Find a way to incorporate Happy and Pepper back into Tony’s life, but don’t bother thinking about it too much
  • Make sure the U.S. Military Iron Man units can not be used anymore
  • Clean up any other hanging plot hooks that may be laying around
  • Oh yeah, and spread it all across four issues

What results is, unsurprisingly, a dreadful mess. The mild attempts to interject the same kind of local color that was so successful in Prologue comes off as both trite and overdone. The story ends up being one cold and lifeless scene after another especially when any attempt to convey any real emotion is attempted. In the eight panels across two pages near the end of issue 87 where Tony’s latest ex-love interest is killed I felt nothing. This is a character that I have followed for a large portion of my life (as scary as that is) and a major character in his recent story is killed off and I barely even noticed. I, a guy who tears up reliably near the end of even the most mediocre romantic comedy, is unaffected by what is, in theory, a major event. Is it the art, the story, the plot, the characterization, or a combination of any or all of the above that is preventing me from taking this at all seriously? I’m not sure but the rest of it is about the same: big fight, reveal of the villain, miraculous intervention by the entourage, moody aftermath, more moody aftermath, yet more moody aftermath, and still more moody aftermath with a side of faint glimmer of sunlight, finally the big reveal of the real villain for no good reason. After all of which you put the book down and forget all of it in the next five minutes, if you’re lucky. It is dull, bland, emotionless drivel from beginning to interminably late end. No wonder a reboot was needed if this is how they go out with a bang.

When I made the comment that I linked to back at the beginning of this post I had not realized that “Prologue” had been included in the collection and can almost see picking getting this collection just for that story except for people who actually care you can probably source the actual issues for less money and you won’t be left with two thirds of your purchase being essentially unreadable.

Thank goodness there were other stories in the Avengers Disassembled event that were worth reading with Thor Disassembled being my personal favorite and really worth the purchase. It also suffers from a lack of coherence with the rest of the Disassembled stories but it really stands by itself very well.

At the other end of the spectrum there are actually worse things put out in the same event with a really tough call between Spectacular Spider-Man Disassembled and Captain America and The Falcon Disassembled being the worst. Spectacular Spider-Man starts out with a good lead by using a character who is not an Avenger and having absolutely no discernible link not only to any of the other Disassembled stories but also to any of the rest of the earlier, concurrent, or following Spider-Man continuity but is quickly equaled in Cap & Falcon by incredibly bad art, ludicrous plot, and dialog most likely plagiarized from an emo 13 year old’s fanfic project for something like Liberty Meadows or Strangers in Paradise.

First Person Singer

While a bit unfortunate that it is not longer, Opera Slinger turns out to be unreasonably fun for such an odd premise: Using the classic WASD first person control scheme, get your character into the spotlight before the competition and then sing your heart out. It’s only one level, and just four songs with some pretty corny lyrics so it plays out in less than 10 minutes. I did find navigating the opera house to be a bit more problematic than I would like, but I imagine running it a couple more times would solve lots of those issues.