Review: Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Frankly, my attention and patience wore a bit thin after the conclusion of the future settings. Although that's a deep betrayal of the major point of the narrative. That the past, present and future are skeins within and about one another, woven together.

I picked it up having passed it over when the S&L book club was reading it (I was either reading something else, or my reading habits were for a moment fallow), but finally watched the film and wanted the details which were so obviously missed filled in. For the most part, that need was satisfied.

As disturbing as many found the herky jerky approach of the movie, I preferred it to the onion structure found in the novel itself.

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Review: The Wise Man's Fear

The Wise Man's Fear
The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this series. Although how the third book is going to squeeze in 17 to 30 in just one novel...? He's going to have to do some trial-like skips.

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Review: Cthulhurotica

Cthulhurotica by Carrie Cuinn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed it for its novelty. The quality of the stories was wildly inconsistent. It wasn't terribly sexy, and the sex that was there tended to be...tamer...than I'd expected.

But I appreciate the collaborative effort to add something different and diverse to this particular scifi/horror genre.

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Review: Libriomancer

Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked the magic mechanism, and the story was a fairly well-written, fast read. I appreciated that it avoided some obvious tropes, including ending in a fairly brave fashion. Technically, a 3.5.

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Review: The Name of the Wind

The Name of the Wind
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just finished, still processing, so I feel this review is premature. What can I say? Kvothe is one of the best fantasy characters I've read. The manner in which the story is framed, and the down the road potential of it (the unreliable narrator and all) are exciting.
Having to fight my inclination to go directly to the sequel.

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Review: Reamde: A Novel

Reamde: A Novel
Reamde: A Novel by Neal Stephenson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Have you been hankering for a long winded novel about a multi-cultural/multi-national rag tag squad of hackers, hard boiled soldiers, cantankerous old men and religious gun nuts living out a utopian fantasy of stemming the flow of jihadists sneaking over the Canadian border?

I read it, there were parts I certainly enjoyed, the conclusion was for the most part satisfying. But still not a book I'd necessarily recommend with any enthusiasm. If you like thrillers that try to weave in some other stuff, or if you really get into long, descriptive asides of whatever the hell Neal was fancying that day, then carry forth and read this. For all its positives, and it has a few, this was not an easy read.

For one, there's the structure. It takes place over twenty one days, and each chapter is a day long. And in each day, it dances between several POV characters. This makes for some long chapters, and then some very long chapters. I imagine this is by design. There are some days that I read saying to myself, ugh, when will this day end, which I'm sure was the position of the characters as well.

So yeah... Reamde, erotic fiction about guns.

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Review: Kill Decision

Kill Decision
Kill Decision by Daniel Suarez

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Now with 100% less Giant Super-powered Deus Ex Machina

I really enjoyed Daemon and Freedom(tm), for their pacing, and the thorough dive into technology speculation. And I'm happy to say that continues in full in the reading of Kill Decision. From killer ants to pheromones to seventy two hour batteries (ok, the 72 hr batteries are almost as implausible as the giant super-powered Merritt), Daniel Suarez explores the geopolitical, technological and moral implications of an autonomous military in the hands of them that can afford it. And it's a very scary vision of What If.

I consider it a win anytime a book spurs me on to do further research on a topic. So this is a triumph.

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Review: The Coldest War

The Coldest War
The Coldest War by Ian Tregillis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nazis and Commies and Cyborgs and Magic! Oh My!

A good follow up to Bitter Seeds. And it patched up where the first was rough. Although I guessed the identity, and nature, of the disfigured man after reading Bitter Seeds, it was great to see exactly how it played out.

And I look forward to the next in the series, The Wild Adventures of Marty McFly

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Review: Year Zero

Year Zero
Year Zero by Rob Reid

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was ready to give this two stars up until the epilogue. The libertarian tech ethos was running just a bit too thick. It's a silly book about a serious topic though.

All that being said, it was short, and I appreciate the Epilogue. Hell, I would have been fine just reading the Epilogue.

So. Go read the Epilogue. Especially if you hate Microsoft.

The added at the back has a series of playlists for each of the characters, that's supposed to inform one's view of the character in question. That's something I really like, so I started making some of them in Spotify. Here they are.

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Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I would have given it four stars had it not relied upon the tired trope of love made him discover the real world. But I'll forgive a lot for freshman effort. Lot of time and love went into the writing of this book.
But as I said in my status reports, there were several times where he wasn't writing from 2044 so much as he was projecting to it. No confidence that in the world of GSS and IOI orgs like Wikipedia and YouTube and programs like Saturday Night Live will still exist.
This story did give me serious bouts of nostalgia, I give it high marks for that. Really do wish I could give it another 1/2 star. I hate the scalar rating system. There are multiple nuances to how I judge a read, and a 1-5 scale doesn't do it. I'd give this 4 stars easily for the way it made me feel, and the 3 is for the way it was written.

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Review: Caliban's War

Caliban's War
Caliban's War by James S.A. Corey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If I take both Leviathan Wakes and Caliban's War together, I would give them 9 stars, with the 9th star being in a state of quantum flux between them. The Expanse is just a fun, engaging read. It seems hollowed out asteroids are all the rage nowadays, and that's fine with me.

With the Expanse, and forgive me for speaking of them as a whole, but I am, we're given a plausible near-ish future in which we're seeing the strains of an interplanetary system. I like how we're given a sense of the manner in which these lengthy transit times impact relations of the various factions.

Most certainly recommend this series.

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Review: 2312

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There seem to be two kinds of science fiction I enjoy. Those that write well and tell a good story. And those for whom the story is just a way to explore ideas. Idea explorers. I would put Asimov, for instance, in this category.

Kim Stanley Robinson likes words. And he likes using a lot of them. Sometimes so much so that I felt my eyes glassing over. But that isn't always a bad thing.

So part of the reason I decided this was going to be my next pick is an interview I'd listened to where he spoke at length about gender. One of the topics was the indeterminate gender of one of the characters, Jean Genette. He talked about trying to avoid the use of gender defining pronouns in regards to this character. I was with it until it started creeping in as the character became more of a POV character, and made more frequent appearances. And the odd thing was that the definition was consistent, consistently male. Repeatedly masculine pronoun usage slipped in, which completely destroyed the image of this character that had been conjured. Oh well.

That said, the story itself reached what, to me, was a predictable conclusion [SPOILER] the synthetics (qubans or quboids) being fired off extra-sol-system [/SPOILER] primarily because KSR has stated in several interviews that he doesn't believe homo sapiens will expand beyond this solar system. The conclusion was predictable, but the manner in which it was reached was ham fisted.

All in all I found the novel somewhat frustrating. I'm glad I read it, but the story itself seemed kind of weak. And after having gone on at length about this future vision of a diversified and self-directed humanity, it ends with a rather stereotypical princess meets prince charming (almost too literally) and they get married.

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Microsoft Surface, Tablet Edition, Version 8

All About Surface for Windows RT
All About Surface for Windows 8 Pro

I certainly won't reject the opportunity to look at one, but I have a couple of concerns.

  1. Microsoft badly mismanaged Origami/UMPC, years before the first iPad. I still have burn marks from that. I don't want to see a repeat of that.
  2. The pressure sensitive keyboard cover is THE killer innovation in the device, and that is something that is independent of both the software and the tablet specs.
  3. No pricing has been announced, and according to the specs, I don't see any model with built-in radio (3g/4g). That means no carrier deals, so no subsidized pricing. If these units start at more than $350 for the lowest tier, I don't think they'll succeed (just the unit, the keyboard-cover will be a 30-60 I'm guessing).
All that being said, I will wait until at least three months after availability (ETA Q2 2013? Maybe)- before purchasing one if it proves to be more than slick presentation. Windows 8 plays a big part. The most recent release candidate is improved in many ways, but I am still not a big fan of the Metro interface on desktops and notebooks. And the user learning curve for it is very unpredictable. You'd think it was an easy concept - hit start and type what you want to do or app to run...but that has been available on Windows 7 for some time, and users still have hundreds of shortcuts on their desktops.

There are things about all of this that I find troubling, but that's due to #1 on that list above.


Leap 3D

Ok, sign me up. At $70, if it works half as well as it does in this video, it'd be worth it.


Your (Inner) Circle

So there's this thing about the way Circles function on Google+ and apparently it's a source of some amount of confusion out among the plussines.

Let's start off with a common example. You like your stream to have some activity, so you've Circled quite a few people. Hundreds, thousands. But you want to use Circles as a means of being well organized. You've got Family, Friends, BusinessAcquaintances and Following. Then you add in a couple of interest-based Circles. You add Science! and NSFW and Noisy and Anime and +Felicia Day .

Now, like most, you've also got a smartphone or tablet, and you've set it up to sync with your Gmail account, and you've installed the Google+ app.

Oh hell, now my phone, in Contacts, is listing EVERYONE, wth.

Worry not, there is a solution, but it's not apparent. Let's address the central issue first.

You've seen it before, in the drop down of what you want to share, in the privacy settings on what you want to expose to others. Your Circles.

That's everyone in your Circles, right? No, not necessarily. It's poorly named. It should be Your INNER Circles because in your Google+ settings, scroll down.  See that there, Customize Your Circles.
What does it mean?
Those with the checks are in Your (Inner) Circles. What are the features of being checked, besides being included when you share to Your Circles? (Worth nothing that also means that when you share to Your Circles you are not sharing it to the ones unchecked here. And that rule ripples outward. Extended Circles is Your (Inner) Circle + Their (Inner) Circles.
But what else?

Well, those in Your (Inner) Circles are synced to your phone.

On ICS+ devices running stock, you can further customize which of those synced Circles is displayed. That functionality doesn't seem to be present in non-stock and older Android devices.

There are also a number of settings which default to Your (Inner) Circles, like who can Chat with you, or send notifications.

It's worth your time to explore. But this concludes the reason for this particular missive. Have too many Contacts on your phone, uncheck a few of those Circles as per the dialog above. 


Privacy Policies

Google's New Privacy Policy

Go read it, I'll wait...

Now here's Bing's...oh wait, no, it's here


Here are the important things to keep in mind:

  1. Is it something you can read and understand?
  2. Are there tools that put you in control?
  3. Are paths and tools to reclaim, erase or obfuscate your information provided?

Stop buying into headline grabbing hysterics and hypocrites PR campaigns (I'm looking at you Murdoch and Microsoft). Stop signing contracts without reading them.


Beautiful Melancholy

The Descendants

Grade: B+
George Clooney plays much the same character he has in his last half dozen films (Up in the Air, Burn After Reading). His acting in this regard may be one note, but he plays the note very well.

The supporting cast, for unknown/non-actors (majority) and a few of the brief cameos by familiar faces, do an admirable job. The daughters are both excellent, and their reactions are heart rending and believable.

The central story-line of death and infidelity, set against this idealistic and indescribably beautiful paradise setting, really drives it home.

Enjoyed the film. Recommended.


Tried for a Sopranos Ending. Failed.

Martha Marcy May Marlene

Grade: C-
Take a pass unless you are wide awake and very bored. This slow moving film, with little character development and a pretentious ending hand-crafted for Cannes or Sundance takes everything interesting about mind-bending PKD dream-reality-memory existentialism and gives it a dingy Ozarks sheen.

I preferred Galactic Pot Healer.


Google Docs Library

So I posted about this on G+ but I've been using the Android Docs app to take offline copies of web pages I print to PDF.

Here is the link to the Library


Cruise Control

In the middle ranges, I feel nothing. 
No excitement or ambition. 
No desire to get to my destination quickly. 
If I could have the process automated, I would be all too pleased. Just set destination and let the rest do the work. Take what's needed from input and output, set levels to optimal for coasting. 
On the highway it's easy enough, but puts me to sleep dreadfully fast. 
Side streets I feel as if I could take a sharp turn at any moment and run over someone, or hit something. Navigation is not my strong suit. I can ponder a choice of rice or noodles until I forget I need to eat. 

An automated life... 
Is that so bad? Isn't that the American Dream? They say it's the journey, and not the destination. 
How does that work out when if it's not from Point A to Point B, there is no movement? There are no lines here. Just a series of points. 
Explosions of matter, dispersal patterns. 
How best to move safely through them without collision?
Automated, on cruise control.


The Day The LOLcats Died

This bloody thing deserves it's own posting. Only problem is my blog here isn't blacked out. I'm not nearly that industrious.


Review: Woken Furies

Woken Furies
Woken Furies by Richard K. Morgan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ok, so I finished, and as is the case with much speculative science fiction, it kind of loses it's way after the major concepts are explored.

With a name like angelfire, could we expect the Orbitals to be anything else? Icarus Reborn as a title would have been too blunt, and has already been taken.

But along with that seemingly innate desire for immortality of the iD, there's an acceptance that the form of ascended/digitized sentience may be more of a shared experience. That sharing will render those unprepared gibbering mental zombies jettisoned off as floatsum into lower mechanized or biological life. But for those comfortable with their revolutionary riders, religious delusionaries and alien intelligence, it'll all be beaches and cream.

So in that sense, an exceptionally hopeful book.

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I dream of another me, one that made different choices...

Woken Furies
thoughts so far

Ok, I can see the arc of the trilogy now.
  1. Altered Carbon - coming to terms with the trans-humanist condition of an existence that relies upon a sentience unbound
  2. Broken Angels - acceptance of the human species being only a part, and a rather parasitic and unimportant part, of the continuum of sentience
  3. Woken Furies - recognition of our existential quandary. our own individual self is both completely unremarkable, replaceable, multiplicative and derivative; and inexplicably precious.
I'll have more to add later I suppose.

One thing that does occur to me in this universe Morgan has created.
There has been little exploration so far as to how these technologies have impacted (or eliminated) families. It seems that the only ones that bother to reproduce and have any familial bonds at all are the poor and inadequately stacked. As lifespans increase, even now we see that the prospect of _death do us part_ is much more frightening when it might mean sixty or eighty years, when it used to mean twenty or thirty. When your identity can persist for hundreds of years... What would create a truly enduring bond in a world where even your connection to yourself was as ephemeral as the clothes you take off at night?