Aliens in This World

An ordinary Catholic and a science fiction and fantasy fan.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

That Giant Time-Sucking Sound

I was going to go to the movies today. I was all excited about it. But then I discovered something much more interesting and absorbing.

Distributed Proofreaders.

This is soooo sad. I did 50 pages of proofreading this afternoon. Instead of having fun. When my job, this time of the month, is proofreading! But I can't hellllllp it. I loooove to edit things. In fact, the really sad thing is that this site (since it seeks to recreate the original text, fluffs and all) is not really proofy enough for me.

And still it calls me. I can feel it calling. "Proof me! Proof me!" Aaaaaaaah!

(Anyone who is even vaguely surprised by this doesn't know me very well. Myers-Briggs has its limitations, but I'm so INTP it's disgusting. And this is exactly how I write papers. Scary, eh?)

Audio Books

Thanks to my lovely work computer (which puts out radio static you wouldn't believe), I can't listen to the radio at work. So I have to rely on my music CDs or audiobook CDs and mp3s. I much prefer the latter. I don't like to listen to music when I'm doing something else; either it's too interesting to be background or too background to keep me interested. Also, there's only so many times you can listen to the same song without getting sick of it. (Which is why commercial radio is the most boring thing on Earth, especially now that the stations' repertoires are so small.) So it's audiobooks for me.

If your workplace has a liberal internet policy and a fast pipeline, then the online version of BBC7 is definitely the place to be. They read stories to you, as well as broadcasting classic comedy shows. But alas, I'm out of luck there. So the library is my friend. Library versions of audiobooks are nearly always unabridged. Also, you've already paid taxes for them, so if you don't use the library, you're wasting your own money. But what if the library isn't quite enough?

My next recommendation used to be "", but that's gone. (For all practical purposes.) So here's a few good deals. has hundreds of public domain books available for free download and read by human beings. The catch is that the free version is only 8k, which means it sounds like somebody reading a book behind an electric fan in the summertime. is read by human beings with English accents, and the books are really good ones. Naturally, they would like you to pay money and get the better versions...and I admit to being tempted. I've spent more than a hundred bucks at a bookstore in my time, and I certainly didn't get hundreds of audiobook files on DVD for it.

Christian Classics Ethereal Library has an mp3 section. Ruth Lomas does not have an English accent, and you do get to hear her turning the pages. But all in all, I very much enjoyed her reading of Chesterton's story "The Trees of Pride". If you ever wanted to read Anna Karenina or the Fioretti, you can download it here!

Radio Gutenberg is the audio download page for Project Gutenberg. They now have audio versions of all the Gutenberg texts of Doyle, Conrad, Dickens, Twain, Wells, Verne, London, Eliot, Defoe, Melville, Hardy, Burroughs, and Wharton, and single audio files by many other authors. This is a great resource for long car trips and the like. The Gutenberg audio archives also include American folksongs performed by Roger McGuinn and old jazz, opera, and classical recordings of public domain pieces, as well as early gramophone records teaching Spanish and typing. This is great stuff.

Wil McCarthy put out his 2003 book The Wellstone in audiobook format for free download. Problem is, it's not read by a real human being but a voice synthesizer. Even a good voice synthesizer is just that. However, I'll admit to having been driven by desperation in the past to use the accessibility software on my work computer to read a text file through my headphones while I performed some mindnumbingly boring task, and it's definitely better than nothing. I applaud Mr. McCarthy's act of kindness.

This should keep me busy for a while, and maybe even teach me something. Better than mindnumbing boredom any day.

Signs of the Apocalypse

Ken and Barbie broke up. Cathy's getting married. Clinton made a speech I liked.

Well, whether it's frogs or toads that start falling from the sky, the Ohio legislature is on the job. This, of course, is only days after dealing with such important and controversial legislation as the Defense of Marriage Act. (Which may actually be the point -- a little frivolity to help the legislature recover its internal goodwill.)

Valentine's Day has become a major holiday in Iran, Pakistan, and India, despite opposition from religion leaders. It is widely regarded as empowering for women. Meanwhile, US feminists are "celebrating" Valentine's Day by talking about sexual violence against women.

It's a very strange world.

Attempted School Carjacking

The big story yesterday in Dayton was a student getting shot at Colonel White High School. It's not in a particularly great area, so most people's first thought was gangs, not Columbine. All the same, it was pretty sickening to find out it was an attempted carjacking. Allegedly masterminded by a member of the basketball team.

So last night's basketball game was canceled, and at least the student wasn't injured too badly. But here's the quote that made me roll my eyes (although I agree the expensive car is stupid).

Richard Kidd, a school district employee and Adams' uncle, said driving an expensive car to school is a bad idea.

"Send a kid to school with a $20,000 car with 20-inch rims and of course there's going to be a carjacking," Kidd said. "What do you expect?"

Oh, I don't know. Maybe I expect that kids shouldn't be doing carjackings at all, much less in the school parking lot?

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Of Great Size and Commanding Appearance

Irish wolfhound Ch. Arannwood Viking came in 4th in the Hound Group at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show tonight. He looks like a good, strong dog to me, though I thought his neck was kinda big. (But he looked like a big muscle-y dog, so the bigness of the neck may not have been out of line. I saw him on the TV a few moments; what do I know?) Anyway, he's from New Richmond, Ohio -- so go, Buckeyes!

There were some features on helper dogs during USA Network's broadcast of the show, and one of them was about "reader assistance dogs". A child learning to read sits with a dog as well as the reading tutor. The dog's calming presence allows some children to concentrate better on the task at hand instead of worrying about performance and stage fright. I thought this was pretty neat, especially since my mother often allowed our dogs to "sit in" on her home instruction sessions to calm children, or conversely, used seeing the dog at the end of the session as a reward. It was also similar to the work done by the shrinks' dogs over at Hounds of Heaven.

If you're interested in Irish wolfhounds (which makes you a right-minded sort of person), you can't do better than check out the Irish Wolfhound Club of America's website. As a right-minded person, you will want plenty of information on the advantages and disadvantages of owning the breed, and how to find a reputable breeder. You will also find sobering stories about wolfhounds whose owners didn't realize what they were getting into, and so left their dogs in the lurch and in need of rescue.

Speaking of parent's new IW, Liath -- the one rescued from her stunted, shut-in life as breeding stock for a puppy mill -- is doing very well indeed. She is now able to go on mile-long walks with my parents, and is confident and happy. I really need to get some pictures of her up on the blog.

Speaking of pictures, here's some wolfhound art on a Land Rover from the Midgard Project's Paris gathering page. A running wolfhound at the Irish Wolfhound Club of Scotland. A coursing wolfhound. A gallery of photos from a fun match by the IW Club of the Delaware Valley.

And now for something completely different. The London Irish rugby team's mascot is Digger the Irish Wolfhound. What a great costume! If you look under Matchday Mascots, you'll see the real Irish wolfhound mascot who helps Digger out.

Finally, if you ever wondered what it looks like to have people come up to your dog and make jokes about horses, check out the IWCA booth at Eukanuba's "Meet the Breeds". A perfect illustration of all the stages of meeting wolfhounds: people holding back in fright, children approaching hounds in awe after being reassured of their safety, the guy who hangs back to talk a little longer, the wolfhound who gets bored and lies down, the children who suddenly materialize once the wolfhound is down on their level...oh, yes, I've been there.