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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Space Viking - review

Despite the terrible title Space Viking, by H. Beam Piper is actually a fantastic novel.
It's a solid space adventure story through the eyes of a singular character who is also on a personal journey through the path of vengeance for destruction brought into his life.

What makes it even better is the metaphorical analysis of government styles and the collapse of civilization that Piper has wrought into this story in a tapestry that makes perfect sense for the context.

This novel has made me decide that, like Heinlein, I need to find everything Piper wrote and consume it.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Deathworld - review

I read Harry Harrison's Deathworld for the first time a decade ago.
At that time I read both of the sequels.

Now that I am consuming audiobooks I decided to reread this book because I remember enjoying the entire series immensely; despite the terrible title.

At first view this is a straight-forward and simple adventure story but it has a great deal of depth beyond that.
The main character is an interesting study in psychology and his views are a thinly-veiled commentary on religion as a whole (the veil is pushed aside at the end of the book).

This book is a morality tale about unending war and the psychology of what perpetuates it as well as a commentary on the way humanity impacts the environment.

But, it is also the adventure story.

And it makes me wish I was a Pyran.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Windows XP

I like Windows XP.
Really. I like it a lot. I wish I could simply keep using it. It serves all of my needs and does what I want reliably.

But, stagnation isn't the way to survive, let alone thrive.
Windows 7 also meets my needs and has additional functions that some people will find very helpful.
I have yet to actually see Windows 8 in anything other than online video.

There are many people in the world still using Windows XP. As the above statements outline I understand this and I see their warranted belief in keeping an XP computer. The hardware is fast enough to do most everything they need and the capacity for storage is less of an issue in the age of "cloud" storage.

These feelings of wanting to keep what is current have legitimate roots but they are usually coupled with comments about the lack of warning and the "forced" nature of the upgrade.

The two side comments are completely illegitimate. XP is the operating system that has been in service the longest of any consumer-grade operating system. There is NOTHING forced about the new products coming along and the manufacturer working to create newer products that take advantage of the greater power of the newer hardware. That this is uncomfortable for you doesn't mean it's forced any more than having your car wear out after 10 years and you finally needing to replace it is the automobile manufacturer forcing an upgrade on you.

The lack of warning is also a fallacious assumption. On April 14th, 2009 Microsoft outlined that this product was being shifted into the End of Life phase of product support. That means that, for the last 1,820 days this product has been on a limited timetable and headed toward lack of support. That is 6 days shy of five years of warning that this product's life was to be terminated.

Put this in comparison - Windows 98, which is arguably the best predecessor to XP, had a lifespan that started on June 25th, 1998 and terminated on July 11th, 2006. 2,938 days in total. XP's 1,820 days in post-life maintenance seem completely respectable on this comparison alone but it becomes even more relevant when one considers the full lifespan that Microsoft has supported XP. XP was released on August 24th, 2001. The termination of it's support on April 8th, 2014 means it has been actively supported by Microsoft for 4,610 days.

If you're on the edge of complaining about this please reconsider and, before you do, consider whether or not you have other products that have had such a lengthy support cycle.... especially software products.

Then just be quiet.

(Additional note: I'm a MAC user at home. I CHOOSE to use a Mac over Windows. Even with this I am defending Microsoft of this decision because they've been MORE than fair to XP users).

Slow News Day - fiction

The title outlines everything you need to know... or does it?

Divergent - review

Over the weekend I saw the movie Divergent.

The short version of this review is that I feel I need to acquire and read the books now.

The longer version is that the world created for this story is an interesting post-apocalyptic future. Humanity has become divergent in itself such that five major personality traits have become accentuated and everyone needs to force themselves into the molds that those traits create. Anyone not "making the cut" ends up problematic and homeless.

Over generations this system hones people into the five characteristic "factions" such that the core traits are reinforced. Anyone who is not clearly one trait of another is "divergent" from the society and is a terrible risk to the stability of the society.

The movie generates a lot of questions to be asked about the reality and the setup and a variety of other pieces of the world. The movie leaves a lot of holes to be filled. Allegedly, the book fills many of these holes in.

I enjoyed the film. It was paced well and many people won't notice the subtle things that I, and the group of people I went to see it with, nitpicked (or, if they see them they won't care).

Graveyard of Dreams - review

This H. Beam Piper story was a bit of a surprise. No time travel; no alternate quantum realities.
Just a basic people story that happens to take place in a reality in which interstellar travel is fact.

The story uses the setting, and hints of the history, to an effective manner in outlining the means by which one individual can affect a change on a planetary scale.

One person can make a difference if they have the right vision and the right knowledge so long as they also have the right backing.

That's the uplifting take-away from this story; even though the story itself highlights the depressing reality of economic stagnation and the self-perpetuating system that economic depression is when it depends on actual cash.

The many allegorical aspects of this story make it a worthwhile read.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Police Operation - review

This is another story by H. Beam Piper.

This one handles the ParaTime concept (e.g. multiple quantum realities) in a single narrative that takes place in our world.

The raw story is a simple one and would have minimal repercussions had the story worked out differently but it does a great job of setting the stage for many aspects of how ParaTime works and how the people from the 1sr Level handle their incursions.

The science is a bit off in this one, especially in how extra-terrestrail life is touched upon but that, again, could be due to divergent forks in reality which our reality is not a part of.

This was the longest of the stories included in the set of stories I read, but it was well worth the read.

In fact, I think the main character, and the ParaTime Police, would be a good mine for Hollywood to adapt into film.

Of course, I have no faith that they would do it correctly - so the result would likely be garbage,

Friday, April 4, 2014

Flight from the Future - review

H. Beam Piper seems fascinated with time and multiple realities.

This particular story cleanly handles the Grandfather Paradox in a way that wasn't particularly obvious to me while reading the story.
This, like the other works of Piper, is worth the read.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Confusion of Betrayal - fiction

What am I? What are you?

Knights of Badassfom - review

I recently has an opportunity to see a movie that has been in production hell for several years:

This film is silly.
It's very silly.
But it is filled with actors whom I guarantee you'll think "OH that's THAT guy" (or girl) for most of the movie.

It has a simple plot and it is outrageous but it is supposed to be.

This movie is, in no way, high cinema nor is it a masterpiece worthy of critical acclaim.

What it is, though, is a film that is written and directed and acted by people who understand the LARP and reenactment communities.

The film portrays so many aspects of these communities in a way that is amusing and accurate without ridiculing them that I, as someone who has taken part in both LARP and reenactment events, was thoroughly amused.

I look forward to owning a copy of this film so I can watch it with my friends over and over again.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Temple Trouble by H. Beam Piper - Review

Piper generated several linked story sets, one of which is the "paratime" set. Paratime is, essentially, a multiverse and there is a prime civilization that has figured out how to slide between realities and governs all of the rights to mine, etc all of the various realities in a variety of ways.

Temple Trouble deals with an isolated incident in which a troublesome world is only marginally controllable by religion and the paratime people from the prime world who are trying to exploit the world for resources that the world is not using and probably never will due to the divergences in its sociological development.

This is one of several stories I have encountered in which religion is portrayed solely as a means to control the population. It does pose some interesting questions, one of which it does very overtly toward the end.

This story, while familiar in a lot of ways and somewhat predictable (but it might not have been when it was written and published) is still a worthwhile read and I was most entertained as I "read" it in the car.

The Answer by H. Beam Piper - A review

I am not sure how I managed to never hear of this author before but now I have and I am reading a collection of his short stories.

The first was "The Answer."

H. Beam Piper died in 1964. This story takes place in 1984, 15 years after the nuclear holocaust that devastated the entire northern hemisphere.

There is not much to discuss without generating spoilers other than to say that the direction I expected the story to take is not the one it took and it generated a new concern for me (and all of us that contemplate apocalyptic scenarios) to ponder.

If you have never consumed this story I recommend it.

The First Men in the Moon - A Review

I recently finished reading H.G. Wells' The First Men in the Moon.

I found this book to be very similar in many ways to The Time Machine.

Wells' insight into many of the scientific principles being explored of the day is, without question, extensive. The postulation that Wells uses in this work to pontificate on topics that he is seeing the most rudimentary study of in his age.

One of the things that fascinated me the most about his conjecture is the level of awareness that mankind had in Wells' time about the density problem of the moon. Their "obvious" answer to the problem was that the Moon must be of similar material to the Earth but filled with caverns to make it less dense. I find this a reasonable assumption that was made, given their lack of any additional information on the topic.

Another interesting item that Wells extrapolates on is something we know to be very much different from the assumptions his era was making. The creation of "Cavorite" in the book is based on the base assumptions that light and heat and electro-magnetic energy are actually different and that those differences are similar to each other in the same way that they are all different from gravity.
What we know now is that gravity is a force unto itself, and a force we do not yet understand the mechanism of while all of the other forces discussed are actually variations of the same force.

Aside from the core mis-assumption of the varying forces and the vast incorrect conjectures about the atmosphere on the moon I found only one major flaw in the overall story. We know, with absolute certainty, that one plant may not be seen from space but that an entire field of them will be visible as a color tint. The rapid growth of the lunar plant life that Wells describes would have generated a visible color stain on the surface of the Moon that would have been visible to the naked eye.

Another side note is that the main characters reference Jules Vernes' piece about lunar exploration in what might be one of the earliest examples of a pop-culture character referencing the titular work of a competing work of the same genre and rough storyline.