I haven’t been posting on Twitter or such lately. Not sure why, just haven’t had the impetus. So these are my current haps.

– Finished my read-through of the major Tolkien works on Middle-Earth; followed it up with a complete watch-through of the extended edition of the trilogy, which I finished tonight after 6 days of Lord of the Rings movie awesomeness. Final assessment; yeah, I love LotR, and it was a fun way to ramp-up my first watch-through of the movies since Return of the King was still kicking around on HBO. Sure I wore Lisa out with lectures on differences between the film and the books. Plan on really hitting the special features of the DVD set, at last, in the coming weeks.

– My follow-up book to the works of Tolkien was Stephen King’s “Under the Dome”. First-rate epic of the sort King hasn’t done in awhile. Furthermore notable for his large-scale research and uncompromising climax. In short, I loved it.

– Due to the airing of “The Pacific” I’ve delved deeply into my WWII history shelves. Re-watched “Band of Brothers” on Blu-ray, and am currently re-reading Ambrose’s book. Whether “The Pacific” will live up to BoB’s legacy still remains to be seen, but the first two episodes were pretty great, though very different from BoB.

– Video games have taken a back seat the last couple months, with the 2010 Olympics dominating most of my time in February, a marathon watch-through of the Oscar-nominated best films, then my tear-throughs of the media mentioned above. Heavy Rain’s demo on PS3 blew me away and I look forward to the full game. Bioshock 2 has been terrific, but taking a break somewhat due to the stresses of the series. Have been enjoying Prince of Persia’s relatively mellow and death-free vibe on the console lately.

– Currently awaiting my Dell Mini 10v to play with some Hackintosh goodness. Will update about my experience with an OSX netbook in the coming weeks.

So that’s what I’ve been up to lately – nothing too remarkable, but often attention and time consuming.

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Just finished watching The Hunt for Gollum – a 40-minute film based on the LOTR appendices and shot in the style of Jackson’s films – which tells the story of Aragorn chasing Gollum’s trail shortly before the events of the first film.

The British-made film was shot on HD video and made on a production budget of only $5,000; the cast and crew were volunteer fans. Footage from the Jackson films is integrated, and the principle characters, Gandalf and Aragorn, look and sound much like McKellen and Mortensen. Gollum’s appearances are brief but exactly like the feature film’s. There’s a remarkably well-choreographed fight scene about halfway through the film. And while you might guess at times that the production is working on a budget, you’d never figure it was one this tiny. Very worth watching for fans of the series.

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A quick video I put together of the Olympic torch coming through Ladner, BC, quite close to my house. The torchbearer passes the flame to the next torch a few feet away from where I shot the video.

This was February 9, three days before the Games started, and the crazy excitement that has seized the city is already in evidence.

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I’ve been deeply immersed in Middle-Earth for the past couple months, as I decided to to a more-or-less chronological read-through of all the published material on it. I was poking around on Wikipedia looking at Tolkien articles, and I found this interesting bit in the history of the page on Eldarion (Aragorn & Arwen’s son):

Eldarion’s lineage would make him 7/128 Vanyar, 5/128 Noldor, 1/32 Teleri, 9/64 Sindar (for a total of 17/64 Elvish, or about a quarter), 5/256 Maiar, 15/256 of the House of Beor, 1/128 of the House of Hador, 1/128 of the House of Haleth, and depending on the purity of Aragorn’s ancestry, up to 1/2 Numenorean.

It had been reverted as original research, and when I really looked at it, the math didn’t check out (they only account for 55/64 of Eldarion’s ancestry with the above figures). So I tried doing the math myself. I did it as percentage rather than fractions, and worked backwards from Eldarion to all of his mixed ancestors. This is what I came up with:

1.56% Maiar (above 5/256=1.95%), 39.06% Elvish (17/64=26.56%), 9.38% Edain (19/256=7.42%), 50% Numenorean.

The Numenorean figure obviously doesn’t change. For lack of better data, we have to assume Aragorn was 100% Numenorean, though no matter the particular tribes of Men that Aragorn descended from, Eldarion comes out as 59.38% human and 39.06% elvish, with the remainder his Maiar blood from his great-great-great-great grandmother Melian.

I didn’t break down the Edain or Elvish into their various sub-groups. I’m not entirely sure how the above Wikipedia editor assigned them, as some of Eldarion’s ancestors are difficult to assign to specific groups of the elves. Celeborn, Galadriel’s husband and Eldarion’s great-grandfather, is a notable problem; according to much of Tolkien’s writing on him, he’s a Doriathan Sindar that Galadriel met after the flight of the Noldor; in his later writings, however, he’s a Telerin prince that she met in Valinor. Classifying his great-great-great-great grandfather Thingol is a little tricky too, due to his peculiar status as king of the Sindar, but also a Teleri who saw the light of the Two Trees.

I think it suffices to say that Eldarion had confirmed blood from every major group of elves except the Avari and the Nandor, and they’re the two groups of elves that really don’t figure significantly in Tolkien’s stories. So Eldarion combined strains from the Vanyar, Noldor, Teleri, Sindar, most of the races of Men mentioned prominently, and even a sprinkling of the Maiar blood of Gandalf, Sauron and the Balrogs, making him effectively descended from all of the first three ages of the world. Pretty cool way to wrap everything up in one figure at the end of it all.

I’m generally an Olympic nut. No matter where the Games are, it becomes my dominant obsession for the 14 days our athletes compete against the best in the world. I never remember being free of the Olympic obsession; maybe it was those Chiquita banana ads for the 1980 Olympics all over my favourite Richie Rich and Archie comics when I was a kid that started it. Regardless, the Olympics are the centre of my world for a few weeks every other year – and most especially those years we have the Winter Olympics, a generally more exciting and interesting event than the Summer. Yes, it’s partially because Canada does better in the Winter; but it’s in no small part because the endless repetition of the Summer – with scores of swimming and foot races of every conceivable variation and an endless parade of creepy gymnasts – gets me down. The Winter Olympics always seem tighter and more focussed.

Well, I wasn’t ready for the Olympics in my own city. Since the torch came through my hometown, and was passed and a new torch kindled within a few metres of where I’m currently writing this, the enormity of having the Olympics in the city I’ve spent all but a few of my 35 years in has hit home. The entire world is watching places I’m intimately familiar with. World-class athletes are treading along bits of pavement I’ve walked in the past year. This is… well, there’s no other way to say it. It’s fucking awesome.

I was devastated on Saturday when Jenn Heil’s first-rate run proved second-best; I’m very proud of her and think she skied brilliantly, I’m just sad there was someone out there better. Then today I had the joy of an unexpected medal in the 3000m women’s long track skate, and the utter elation of seeing a gold medal won by a Canadian for the first time on home soil.

I’ll try to make some updates over the next couple weeks, but surprisingly, even my obsession with Lost is taking a back seat to the excitement that is the Olympic Games in your home town. I’m looking forward to exploring some of the downtown venues soon, and most excited about the curling games I have tickets to this week, and I hope to write about them.

But if I’m just too busy goggling at the spectacle in my home town and I have nothing else to say in the next couple weeks, let me make sure I say this at least once – GO CANADA!

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I’ve never seen the difference between Canadian and American news broadcasts as clearly as I did tonight switching between the pre-Opening Ceremonies footage on NBC and CTV. I mean, really:

NBC: 15 minutes on the death of the Georgian luger. Several interviews about how dangerous the track is. Graphic footage of his crash several times. Footage of other crashes on the track. Then, the part I was looking forward to; a profile on Vancouver. Becomes a bit on the friendship between Canada and the US. Starts talking about the war in Afghanistan, which becomes a weirdly long tangent on Canadian involvement in the Iran hostage crisis of ’79. Then they invoke Gander and 9/11. Back to you, Brian Williams.

CTV: Bits on the speed skating venues, and the Canadian speed skating hopefuls. A quick interview with Shaun White. Then a cut to Whistler, where they profile the city a bit, then go to one of the parties. Two chicks take a body shot off a guy. Then a guy with some chicks in a hot tub talks about concerts in Whistler, then gets a couple guys to strip to their underwear for free beer. Cut to Manuel Osborne-Paradis’s mom talking about him “chillaxing” on the couch at home in prep for the Games. Back to you, Brian Williams.

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So this week we saw the beginning of the end for Lost, a season that has been held in breathless anticipation by most of the series’ remaining fans. No doubt the serialized storytelling and plot intricacies of Lost have caused it to shed viewers over the years – a third fewer people viewed this week’s episode than watched the pilot back in 2004 – but those of us who have stuck with it have a lot invested in this final season.

The season premiere has been summarized and blogged by plenty of people, most of them better writers than I, so I don’t feel a need to rehash what happened in plot detail. Over this season I just am going to share a few of my thoughts and musings about the week’s episode rather than a full summary of it. Spoilers for this week’s episode, natch.

– The “flash-sideways” narrative structure has promise, but the way they’ve done it is going to be a wee bit confusing. It’s clear that detonating Jughead had many other consequences than preventing the plane crash, not the least of which was the sinking of the island. Hurley is clearly not cursed any longer, unless he was being sarcastic. Did he still win the lottery with The Numbers? If the Island was sunk, how would his asylum buddy ever have heard the broadcast that introduced them to Hurley? What about Sawyer, who is clearly not the angsty, tortured just-killed-an-innocent-man guy we saw in season one? And more importantly, are they going to be filling in the backstory on the “alternate” 815’ers, and how their lives changed before the crash?

– Also on the subject of the alternate universe, it’s interesting that items which featured prominently in Lost episodes – the bottle of vodka Kate used to stitch Jack up, Locke’s box ‘o knives, and Christian’s body – are missing in the alternate universe. Is Desmond part of that? Did Desmond and Jack not meet at the stadium a few years ago? When they met in the Swan in season 2, Jack recognized him instantly. This time he just seems plagued by a sense of deja-vu which seems to allude to vague memories of the island.

– In true Lost fashion, they gave us an answer that didn’t answer anything about Smokey. Okay, so the Man in Black (aka. the adversary, Esau, Jacob’s nemesis, etc.) and the smoke monster are one and the same. But what the hell or who the hell is the Man in Black? It seems clear to me now, with the protective ash circle and the Friends of Jacob burning down the cabin last season that Jacob was never in the cabin at all, but rather it was a prison for MiB, and him who said “Help me” to Locke. Are all the manifestations on the Island attributed to Smokey – Kate’s horse, Christian, etc. – the MiB, or can Jacob or another entity also pull off the Buffyverse First’s appear-as-dead-people trick?

– I’m laying bets, as many are, that Sayid will awaken in the temple possessed by Jacob. Maybe it’s a red herring, but it seems certain that the Island’s primary purpose is to serve as the staging ground between the two entities known as the Man in Black and Jacob, and I suspect that the bodies they use for it are borrowed. Things seem to be heading towards placing Locke – who I’m sure is still coming back – and Jack, or maybe Ben, into these roles. I prefer Jack, as the fundamental split seems to be faith vs. science. There may be a hint towards this in Jacob’s serene, spiritual demeanour and the harsh mechanical noises of Smokey. Adam and Eve, the first season’s skeletons with their white and black stones reinforce the assumption that this relationship holds the key to most of the Island’s secrets.

– I can’t believe how long it’s been since we’ve seen Claire. I suspect the fact that we only saw her framed from the chest up is significant, and she’s not pregnant in the alt-timeline.

– The Stephen King fan’s analysis: If Aaron only exists in the original timeline, it recalls to mind The Talisman, which is about two parallell dimensions in which most people have “twinners” in the alternate dimension, much like the situation now created in Lost. The main character (with the suspiciously Lost-centric name Jack Benjamin Sawyer) is one of the few who exists in only one dimension, so he’s able to learn the trick of switching between them. Maybe Aaron will have a similar status.

– Further Stephen King fan’s analysis: The dual timelines bring to mind the plot of the first 3 novels in the Dark Tower series. I’ll be slightly vague but this is still a bit spoilery. One character dies in Dimension A, which causes him to appear in Dimension B, where he meets other characters. He then dies in Dimension B, in a fall very similar to Juliet’s. Later, time travel allows his death in Dimension A to be prevented, so he never enters Dimension B and it negates the sequence of events that led to his second death. Here’s the kicker; both he, and the people he knew in Dimension B, begin going insane from the paradoxical memories caused by this event. Rectifying these memories by merging the timelines becomes crucial to saving the characters’ sanity.

I suspect events in Lost will play out similarly, since we know through the writers that these dual timelines will eventually be rectified. Let’s see if everyone starts going nuts in the interim. That’s about all I have for now. More coming after next weeks episode. I just wish I could skip through the next 4 days like I do commercials on a PVR.

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With the conclusion of Apple’s much-awaited demonstration of the iPad – a name that is drawing a considerable amount of humour at the expense of the feminine hygiene product industry – the waiting is finally over. We have seen the future, and the future is a) very sleek and pretty, b) much less expensive than predicted, and c) rather underwhelming.First, let’s talk about what it can do. Take away the nice big screen (with the strangely large bezel) and the more desktop-like interfaces for Apple core experiences like iTunes and iPhoto, and we basically have an iPod Touch. It’s a closed platform like the iPhone, with only the applications that Apple makes available. No Firefox or other browsers that compete with Safari, no Microsoft Office instead of iWork, that kind of thing. This will seriously limit its use to many of its target users. It’s terrific that someone with the iPad can put together a Keynote presentation and then plug it into a projector, sure, but without the far more widely used Powerpoint available, its utility will be severely limited for the kinds of users who actually need presentation software.

The $499 entry price point is great… but it’s pretty stripped down at that price. For a device being touted as a platform for viewing multimedia, 16gb isn’t much room for video, and when you add in the rest of the stuff you’d want on it… well, my own iPhone is a 16gb model, and that’s enough room for my apps, a couple movies, a couple TV shows, about a third of my photo library, and about 5% of my digital music collection. That’s acceptable for a phone, but far from ideal for a device designed expressly for this kind of thing. Once you get up to 64gb, the price goes up a lot. And when you add in 3G for another $130, it’s getting pretty expensive – $899 for a fully-loaded 3G 64gb unit. We’re getting into Air territory there.

The 3G announcement has little bearing on Canadians. One thing I’d like to know is whether I can tether my iPhone to the iPad. Pretending for a moment that I live in the US, I have no desire to pay another $30/month for an unlimited 3G plan for my iPad when I already have a $30, virtually unlimited 3G plan for my iPhone, especially when I have to pay another $130 for my iPad to be capable of it. And I already know I could tether a Macbook Air for sure.

It’s astonishing it doesn’t include a camera, when even Nintendo hand-held gaming machines have them these days. A screen-side camera for iChat seems like an absolutely natural feature and it’s missing. I see how the eBook reader could be fully acceptable even without the “electronic ink” technology of the Kindle, as I find the screen resolution on my iPhone more than acceptable for reading books through Stanza. I’m hoping that they release an app that will let iPhone users also access their new book library, but I’m not jumping on any for-pay eBook bandwagon until many of my concerns about it are laid to rest, and until I figure out whether I’d be better off building a library with Apple or Amazon.

I’m a consumer Apple user. I don’t need portable computing for my job – any email-capable portable device does me fine in that regard. I don’t travel for my job and work close to home, so I don’t need to fill in time on commutes or business trips. My principle portable needs are for personal reasons. When I head down to PAX this year, I need a device with me that will let me blog and write, carry some novels in my pocket, keep up with email and Twitter, watch videos and listen to music while killing time in lineups, and dump my photos and videos off my digital cameras. My iPhone lets me do everything except clean off my digital cameras, and the iPad won’t let me do that, even at $499. For $299, though, I could get a perfectly acceptable netbook with more than enough storage, as well as providing a larger screen and keyboard for writing, and in a pretty similar footprint to the iPad.

Sorry, Steve, you lost me with this one. I’ll wait and see what the second generation of them looks like, but for now, it’s looking like a Hackintosh is the way to go for the next year or two.

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