Saturday, December 3, 2016

Saturday, November 26, 2016

State of the 'Blog 2016

Another year's end comes rushing toward us. My blog output continues to shrink year-over-year, and the content itself would make it appear to have turned into a book review site. The demands of work and life continue to constrict my output for several reasons. The state of the news has made it either uninteresting or depressing to try and pluck out things of interest. It's not that they aren't still there, it's just that I spend less and less active attention on it. The same is true of programming and amateur art, in spite of my best intentions. The relative ease of social media, and the corresponding lack of interoperability, absorbs many of the quick-link posts that I used to store here. Even the book reviews are more accessible over on Goodreads. And yet, I remain as unwilling to give up this spot as I am to put more work into it. And without me paying much attention I have surpassed the 1000 post mark. I do not really see things changing much next year, but you never see the big changes coming, so who knows. Safe journeys until we meet again.

Bookworming: Virtual Light

Virtual Light, William Gibson, ****
The usual caveat that Gibson is probably my favorite author applies. Virtual Light is a relatively straightforward thriller set in one of Gibson's fantastically extrapolated worlds. The highlights, as usual, are in the background details rather than the action itself. The Bridge trilogy, of which this is the first book, sits between the Sprawl and Blue Ant trilogies both in their publication dates and in tone and focus. The Sprawl is sci-fi cyberpunk, while the Blue Ant leans much less on technology and uses a more contemporary setting. The Bridge lands in between. There is still the air of supertech in the background, but the focus is much more on the ephemera of society, large and small.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Bookworming: The Island of Dr. Moreau

The Island of Dr. Moreau, H. G. Wells, ***
A hundred years before Jurassic Park's Ilsa Nublar, there was another tale set on an island that also warned of the dangers of being too confident in the use of our science to control nature. And surprisingly, the formula hasn't really evolved much (no pun intended). Readers or viewers of Michael Crichton's suspense novels and the movies derived from them will find themselves at home with the rising tension and exponential unraveling of The Island of Dr. Moreau. For those who like those sorts of novels or for those who might want to be familiar with the source from which they spawned, I can heartily recommend this little literary history lesson.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

On the 2016 Presidential Election

I've thought quite a bit about how to express my feelings regarding the election. I've thought about not expressing them too. Given the dynamics, and me being a straight, white, middle class, desk-job-holding man, both choices are liable to offend. So I'll just do what I do and make a couple of observations.

First, there is a phrase often cited in stories about hiring practices for programming jobs: "the candidate is qualified but not a cultural fit for us." It seems to me there are some interesting parallels in those examinations of the tech industry and the way the election played out.

Second, we have all endured a protracted campaign of lies, propaganda, opportunism, and heavy-handed political machinations on clear display. There are no more smoke filled back rooms, the smoke is all out in the open, and we are choking on it.

Third, the consequences of using fear and hatred as tools are both lessons from history and a common way to identify a bad guy in popular culture. But that doesn't mean they aren't tempting. And it certainly doesn't mean they aren't effective.

Finally, there have been many illusions shattered over the past couple of days, and many illusions reinforced. Trying to figure out which one is which can tell you much about yourself.

For those that read this far, thank you for your time. I wish you well in all things. I wish I had some better answers. Instead I'm going to go back to stressing about work deadlines that always seem too close, wishing I was playing games instead of adulting, and daydreaming about spaceships.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Bookworming: Envy of Angels

Envy of Angels, Matt Wallace, ***
If you have ever wondered what you might get when you cross urban fantasy and "reality TV" cooking shows, then this is the novella for you. While the characters are playing it straight, the author is not, bringing a healthy dose of absurdist humor to the story. (The general tone reminds me of Pratchett's The Color of Magic.) If you like your characters deep and arcs complex, this may not be for you, as the short work doesn't bother with anything more than the barest of sketches. That said, the writing is excellent and the story moves along nicely. While not entirely in my wheel house, I suspect I will be checking out more of the series.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Bookworming: Quiet

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, Susan Cain, ****
I will say up front that I am an extremely introverted person, and that informs/influences my interpretation of this book. It would have been handy to have had twenty years ago, and perhaps even better had my parents been able to read it. I'm not in a position to evaluate the rigor of the scientific research presented through the book's many anecdotes, but it does ring true to my experiences. Quiet is an easy read, with some interesting things to say to all sorts of people. If the subject sounds interesting to you, give it a go. Plus I would especially recommend it to anyone raising a shy or sensitive child.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Our Modern Cyber-Dystopia

I tend to see cyberpunk as an early-computer-age sci-fi remix of noir's genre tropes. Futurism of the fringes, fascinated with futility. Over on the Monsters and Manuals blog, noisms casts some thought toward what cyberpunk would look like if derived from now rather than the 1980s.
Modern cyberpunk is grass verges that are overgrown because the council can't afford to have them cut. Modern cyberpunk is abandoned industrial estates with trees growing up through the car parks. Modern cyberpunk is white-elephant airports that never had passengers or planes and have now gone to seed. Modern cyberpunk is entire towns overgrown with weeds because nobody walks anywhere anymore and only the roads need to be clear. Modern cyberpunk is waste ground full of long grass, wild flowers, nettles and bees' nests, strung out between shuttered factories. It is former farms half-reclaimed by nature because GM crops take so much less space. It is banks of solar panels and wind farms with greenery flourishing in between. It is school playing fields re-wilded through disuse. Modern cyberpunk is green.
Whether this is cyberpunk I think may be debatable, but I don't believe the observation and the sentiment behind it can be denied. As the automation age has moved out of the confines of the purely mechanical and into the realm of mathematics, its pace accelerates. At least some parts of society have not been able to adapt fast enough, or, for the more Darwinian-inclined, are being selected against. Our modern dystopia. The world as a whole is better off than ever before. And yet...

We (in America) seem to stand poised in a place where the work force is shrinking, the social safety nets are tenuous, 'The Media' is holding on by a thread, governments loudly doing nothing has given better reelection results than actually fixing anything, and no matter how much productivity improves the Corporations just want more. So yeah, maybe this is the new aesthetic of the fringe.