&$#@*!, my roses have Japanese Beetles on them right now. Pretty, as beetles go, but they'll make roses look lacy at best and digested at worst. Little jerks. I just clipped off a couple of blossoms that were A)beyond repair and B)full of beetles, and chucked them over the fence. It's important to get the beetles away from the plant, since they leave a scent behind that attracts others of their kind. One repellent is, seriously, to smash them and leave their bodies lying around. (I didn't do that.)

David Mitchell talks to Japan Today about his upcoming novel, which will be about Nagasaki in the early nineteenth century. I heart David Mitchell; go read all his novels. He says some really smart and interesting things about writing and imagination here. (via Bookslut)

rPhone - the finest in steampunk technology. rPhone is the first portable telephone constructed of materials you've come to associate with progressive technology... from its exquisite rosewood paneling to the handsome brass frame, it shouts "This is the 18th century!" (via MeFi)

PuzzleFilter - MeFi post about Puzzability, a puzzle-writing company started by three former editors of Games. (via... duh.)
We saw Zodiac on Saturday night... I thought it was really good. I've found the case interesting enough over the years that I've watched a handful of specials about it, so I knew some things about it, including who the "best suspect" is. If the actual perp is still alive, he would almost certainly be an elderly man, now; the killings happened almost 40 years ago, and they didn't think the killer was particularly young at the time. The best suspect is dead and some other interesting ones have been behind bars for a while.

Can you handle the movie? The murder scenes are graphic but not gory, and anyway, Zodiac wasn't really a mutilator or torturer, as serial killers go... heck, he wasn't even particularly careful about making sure his victims died, so several survived. There are scenes of enormous dread in the movie, even if you are familiar with the facts of the case... you never know how much will be fictionalized! Towards the end, the tension was nauseating, which happens to me very rarely in movies. (My mom came with me and Tom, and almost walked out at one point, during which there was no gore whatsoever, just this sense of terrible dread.) There are no big shocks, though. Nothing jumps out at you during those moments of dread, as might happen in a horror movie, and all of the onscreen killings happen pretty early in the film. There are no autopsy scenes, as you might expect from police procedurals dealing with serial killers. It's pretty tame in what it shows, but enormously frightening in what it suggests, which is a serial killer intentionally without method who likes to play games with the press and police.

I loved Robert Downey Jr as Paul Avery, a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle who wrote extensively about the case as it was happening. The screenplay is great - the scary scenes are scary, but there are other scenes, through the course of the investigation, and as the investigators and journalists play off each other, that are hilarious, handled with great comic timing.

Zodiac as a case, to me, isn't creepy so much because of the murders themselves, which were fairly straightforward (shootings, stabbings), but because of how much he liked to mess with the press, fomenting hysteria, and because of the complex ciphers he created. I can't be the only geek in the audience who gave an appreciable sigh of recognition every time the book The Code-Breakers came onscreen. In fact, it seems apparent that the fictionalized version of Robert Graysmith became as obsessed with the case as he did precisely because he was a puzzle buff. In real life? I'd have to know Robert Graysmith.

(Incidentally, as a puzzle buff, I have to say... I hate trying to decode ciphers. Encoding them is, to me, a ton of fun, as is learning about the mechanics of encoding various ciphers, but frequency analysis and all the associated mathification is no fun at all.)

Anyway, I don't know if you want to see ZODIAC, but if you're interested, it's very well-done and not a waste of time at all.

one minor spoilery thing. )



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