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Wow. Looking back at the last few posts I've made, it's clear that… - Frances Bea
Wow. Looking back at the last few posts I've made, it's clear that blogging isn't one of my strong points. Not with posts coming less than once every six months on average. Oh, well. I'm struck by how much things haven't changed since my "recent" posts about them. My elderly cat is still stable, still spending most of her time napping, still incontinent (yeah, eww, I know), and still pretty much the same. After some experience, the only difference the incontinence makes in my life is that I change my bedding twice a week and add Biokleen Bac-Out to almost every load of laundry I do. (I add it where the bleach goes, rather than where the detergent goes, but the bottle gives no advice.) My volunteer work at the SPCA continues, with the only difference being that I've been there long enough to now be authorized to work with the more challenging dogs, which is great because I get on better with the big dogs than the small ones. The big dogs are more likely to be restricted to experienced volunteers just because behavior problems are more likely to be considered risky. Tink, the dog I posted about in May took a very long time to get adopted because he started to have behavior problems as he reacted badly to the shelter environment. (We try, but the shelter is still traumatic for a lot of dogs.) He finally found a home with a couple in the country who I hope will be able to work through some of his issues because he is a great dog.

So, new things. The biggest thing is that I have a new niece. I think her parents have some reservations about posting her baby photos online, though, so I won't. My brother and his wife now have a family of six (three boys and a girl), and I have undying respect for their fortitude in getting themselves into such a level of responsibility. My brother is six years younger than I am, so it's hard for me to think of him as old enough to be a dad at all. I am starting to get to a point where I'm able to think of him as an adult - some of the time.

I have been working on a new work project for the last few months that has been occupying a great deal of my attention. It's been a lot of fun, but I don't know how easily I can express why. The short version is that we are building a new system for searching the library catalog. That probably doesn't sound like fun, but the main reason I enjoy it so much is because of the huge potential for creating something that works much better than what we have now. I spend a great deal of my time working with systems over which we have limited control and therefore limited ability add functionality even when we have the resources to build the new pieces. When we're able to build things in house the potential is comparatively boundless.

Other than that, I've been watching a fair amount of television for someone who doesn't have cable. What I do have is a high-speed internet connection at home, an unlimited mobile data plan, a Netflix subscription, and a willingness to occasionally buy DVDs. Between these, there are still some specific things I can't access, but what I can get to is more than enough to while away all the hours there are. Season six of Futurama has been added to Netflix streaming, so I've been catching up with it on the bus home from work. (Is it psychologically significant that I never want to watch TV on the way into work? If I read during the ride, it'll be non-fiction.)

I have become devoted to two different BBC entertainment shows.

"Sherlock" portrays Sherlock Holmes and John Watson in a manner that is amazingly true to the original stories given that it's set in modern-day London. The very first episode "A Study in Pink" is based on the first Holmes novel, "A Study in Scarlet". In it, we meet Doctor Watson first, a doctor retired from military service after being wounded in Afghanistan. In the original novel, we met Doctor Watson first, a doctor retired from military service after being wounded in Afghanistan. In both, he is looking for a roommate because his military pension doesn't cover rent on a decent room in London. In both, he meets an old friend who happens to know Sherlock Holmes is also looking for someone to split rent with. While a lot of things are timeless, like attempts to tame Afghanistan, high costs of living in large cities, and insufficient military compensation, obviously a lot of things are different. The addition of a smartphone to Holmes' basic arsenal is a natural, and some of the stories have been juggled around in ways that really improve them. Sticking to the first episode, the novel "A Study in Scarlet" devoted about half of the entire book to a fable about how evil the Mormons are in the form of the killer's confession about his motives. I don't have any warm feelings about Mormonism, but the original novel was ridiculous and hateful in the amount of copy it devoted to Anti-Mormon diatribe. "A Study in Pink" took some of the elements of the original mystery, but reshuffled them and ended up with what I felt was a much more satisfactory story which did a great job of introducing the characters of Holmes and Watson, also managed in a small way to introduce both Sherlock's brother Mycroft and his nemesis Moriarty, and never even mentioned Mormonism. Overall, I feel like the show is brilliantly conceived, tightly scripted, and well acted. My only complaint is that the Moriarty character has a tendency to use silly voices for no apparent reason, which I suspect the actor may be doing as a way of avoiding sounding old fashioned.

"Merlin" is brilliantly acted, but would be a better show with more solid writing. It is an Arthurian storytelling that shows Merlin and Arthur as about the same age as young men before Arthur becomes king. Arthur's father, Uther, is king and has laws dictating the death penalty for the use of magic, so when Merlin learns of his destiny to serve and support the great future King Arthur and to help usher in the golden age of Camelot, he finds that he has to protect and nurture the future king without allowing anyone, including Arthur, to realize that he's using magic to do so. The actor playing the title character is Colin Morgan, who I am seriously impressed by. He expresses very complex emotions with his facial expressions, and in the really emotional scenes he can break your heart with a glance. The rest of the actors are very good too, and you can see that once they get a good sense of their characters are really able to supply the emotional resonance that isn't always explicit in the script. So... my problem with the writing staff. The scripts are individually well-written for the most part, and very entertaining, though in quite a few places they seem to unnecessarily have Merlin sneaking around stealing things, apparently just to create the French-Farce-style comedy of him getting caught in compromising situations and having to work his way out. They having him stealing keys WAY too often - usually from Arthur. Apparently the hi-jinks are more fun than just allowing him to learn a lock-opening spell. He needs to steal clothing, and money, and even food off of Arthur's plate while Arthur is eating as though he had no legitimate or easier way to get food. (The food stealing wasn't to feed himself but to feed a fugitive that he's sheltering, but the episode seems to avoid recognizing that Merlin himself does eat and has access to food that hasn't already been served to Arthur - and that as the person who's serving Arthur most meals in the first place, he could probably just acquire a larger serving and not give all of it to the prince.) My biggest issue with the writing on the show is in the broader consistency sense. Different writers seem to have different ideas about the personalities of the characters, and write them differently, and the characters often change to fit the convenience of the storytelling, rather than the other way around. When a character being an idiot aids the story, then he's an idiot. Merlin has a single book of magic that we see from time to time he needs to keep hidden because it could get him executed, but when he needs to research magic, a pile of magic books is always handy for exploration and then forgotten the next time there's a risk of exposure. There are also some major gaps in exposition with respect to character development. One character has a well-explained falling out with Uther, but simultaneously starts hating several other previous friends without explanation. I can say so much about the flaws in the show's plotting, that it may seem disingenuous when I say I've become a devoted fan. I really enjoy the show, and in the end that is probably mostly due to the character of Merlin, his brilliant portrayal by Colin Morgan, and the completely adorable onscreen chemistry of the Arthur/Merlin friendship.
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