The Den of Ubiquity
Friday, September 28, 2001:
Terrorists Surprised To Find Themselves In Hell
The new Onion is out, a special report on the Attack on America. (Titled: "Holy Fucking Shit".)
Some of it is pretty funny, but other parts of it are still affecting, but a bit more serious. What I find most telling is "Report: Gen X Irony, Cynicism May Be Permanently Obsolete", which is practically self-referential...
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The Thrill Is Gone
It's been a few days since I blogged. Been too busy working on the soccer scheduling program at work(which seems to be working now), but soon it will be back to Java. I've got a course next week which may mostly duplicate what I read in the Java books I've already looked at--one for Complete Idiots[TM] and one for Professional Developers. Oh, and the one in between, from How To Program. I really need some higher-level courses, like Enterprise stuff, but since those don't come around for a few months anyway, I might as well take some introductory ones in the meantime.
But I'm sure you're waiting on tenterhooks for the story of the awful job I moved back to Edmonton before I started here at Joseki. I've been trying to decide whether to use real names or not, and I've decided not to. Anyone who knows me will know who I'm talking about anyway.
So it's September 1997, and we're living in Grande Prairie. Terranet disappeared sometime in July, so I'm unemployed, though my wife is still working at the Grande Prairie Regional College library(or Learning Resource Centre, as they officially call it in an attempt to remind people that they do more than check in books). I'm under the impression that what I want to do most is Unix system administration, though I am applying for programming positions as well.
One day I get a call from a guy I'll call Fred at a company I'll call Vectoron. I'd applied to them, and apparently they had a software position, although it would require going to Fort McMurray for several months, although we would also have to move to Edmonton because there would be future jobs in other places. It doesn't sound like much fun, but I'm still in that "oh please give me a job I'll do anything" mode which is probably a typical Gen-X thing. Then I get a call from another guy, I'll call him Ralph, who works for a different department at Vectoron, which sounds close to system administration, and he wants me to come down for an interview.
So I go down to talk to Ralph. Fred is apparently on holiday at the time, but I talk to a couple of senior programmers in his department, as well as a bunch of other people. I do a cakewalk simple programming test in C, and Ralph offers me a job in the hardware division, a three-month contract at first, to start as soon as possible. I stay at relatives' houses for two weeks while my wife gives notice at her job and frantically packs up our stuff; I find a condo to rent, drive up on the weekends, and we move back down to Edmonton.
The job at Vectoron is not what I expected. I do a lot of installing Windows NT 4 and Windows 95 on various computers, actual hardware work like creating network patch cables, installing hard drives and CD-rom drives and RAM chips, and suchlike. I get occasional glimpses of the UNIX machines that are ostensibly part of my job, mostly test platforms for customers who use the same OS, but there is rarely anything to do on them. I have no previous computer hardware experience to speak of, by the way, and I find it all very difficult, especially installing networks cards, which is still my bane.
The first thing Ralph says to Fred when Fred returns from holiday is "You can't have him."
There's another guy in Hardware as well, who I'll call Sam. Sam doesn't like Fred at all(which seems to be mutual), and is taking courses part-time and looking for transfer to another department.
At the end of October, after I've been there about a month, we move to a big new office. I get the privilege of staying late so that Fred can go home and have Hallowe'en with his kids, because some phone hookup thing is supposed to happen at 8:00 and somebody needs to be there to answer the phone guy's questions. I rush home for supper and then back to work, and the phone guy doesn't ask me a single question.
Other highlights of my job include coming in to the building late at night to shut down all the computers because they're going to X-ray the building to find a missing cable in the walls or something...and then wait around for them to finish so I can turn it all back on again in case one of our overseas employees needed to connect to our FTP site or something. I came in on the weekend to do an emergency job to fix up a new computer for someone that needed it immediately on Monday. Then there was the time Fred went away on personal leave for a few weeks, leaving badly unqualified me as the only one available to deal with all our problems. Once the Software people came to me wanting to offload some of their old projects onto a CD, because they were running out of disk space. I did it, and then later that day Fred talked to me on the phone and told me not to do it. Apparently he was trying to teach the Software people not to use so much space on the network by not allowing them to do this. I began to realize that there was a big feud going on between Fred & Ralph.
Early December, Fred calls me into his office and tells me he's unhappy with my performance and there've been complaints about me, he insults my personal hygiene and my screwdriver skills, and says that they're terminating my contract effective immediately. He says that Ralph wouldn't even want me in his department, even though I had been secretly talking to some of his guys about that very thing. He follows me around while I clean out my desk and head out of the building.
My dominant feeling is relief.
Looking back on it, I was totally just a pawn between Fred & Ralph. Getting hired while Ralph was on vacation, Fred gloating over it, and then giving me work I was totally unqualified for, so he could fire me later.
Admittedly, I would've hated working at Vectoron anyway. Ralph told me once that he liked his people to get into the shower in the morning saying, "Oh, boy, I get to go to work today!" I can't think of a single job anybody would pay me for where I would do that. I would be perfectly happy not having to work at all, were it not for the money thing. And there were people there working twelve-hour days or longer, to fill contracts. I know that there's a lot of people who work like that, but I am not one of them. I like getting to work six-hour days and not have to think about work outside of work time. I think Scott Adams, in the serious section of one of his books, suggested the "Out At 5" work plan, which allowed your employees to go home in the evening as opposed to piling on extra work they had to work overtime for. I wouldn't want to stay as late as 5:00, but I endorse the principle.
But then, I'm just a Gen-X slacker at heart. I vote Liberal because I don't want to have to work for a living if I don't have to. I remember reading an essay written close to a century ago which theorized that in the future nobody would have to work more than a four-hour day. Whatever happened to that future? Was this guy a Victorian aristocrat with no grasp on reality, or are the vast majority of people just unable to cope with that much leisure time? I'm sure there's complex economic reasons for it, or maybe I'm just not clever enough to get myself one of those kind of jobs.
I'm temperamentally unsuited to work, and there should be some kind of accommodation for that.
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Wednesday, September 19, 2001:
Right Now You Could Be Outside
So far I've been fairly please with my $1 booksale purchases on the weekend, with some exceptions. The Parachute Club's "Small Victories" was one of them. I really like their album "At The Feet of The Moon", but this followup was a victim of too much Lorraine Segato. Lorraine Segato is sort of like Canada's Natalie Merchant, and the same thing happened with Parachute Club as happened to 10,000 Maniacs(IMHO)--the lyrics started to become more important than the music, and as a result the music suffered. This album is a victim of incredibly weak music, and the overemphasized lyrics were incredibly trite and Boomerish. I don't think I'm going to add this tape to my permanent collection--and that is something almost completely unprecedented for me, just so you know how much it truly sucked.
Voice of The Beehive's "Honey Lingers" I had listened to before, and I did like the song "Monsters & Angels", and the rest of the album is perfectly fine, if not outstanding. (I don't demand consistent outstandingness.) Debbie Gibson's "Out of The Blue" is a little bit of nostalgia, but I've always liked most of her songs(I do have her next three albums as well), if they are sometimes a little bit on the saccharine side. InXS's "Welcome To Wherever You Are" is another I passed over before, and I have to say that I still don't really know any songs on it except "Beautiful Girl"(which I remember mostly because of the striking video, which I always presumed was done by the same person who did Van Halen's "Right Now" and the Indigo Girls' "Galileo"), despite just having relistened to it. I know there was an earlier video, but I can't remember which song it was for.
Then there's a Daniel Ash CD whose title I can't remember(though I could go look it up), but which was quite good as well, better than some Love & Rockets albums(Ash's usual group, if you didn't know).
It sounds like I may also not be keeping Idle Eyes' "Love's Imperfection", but that's just because the tape is in bad shape, and also not particularly striking. Idle Eyes had a bit hit in Canada with "Tokyo Rose" in 1985, and this is their followup album from 1986...so the tape might be fifteen years old. Most of my own tapes from that era have started to degenerate; some of them I've managed to salvage and record onto other tapes, some of them I've replaced(like Stevie Nicks's "Rock A Little" and Kate Bush's "The Dreaming"; I even went so far as to buy Duran Duran's "Rio" on CD), and some of them I'm still trying to find other copies of. Big Country's "The Seer" I finally found on CD, but more recently my copies of OMD's "Crush" and Simple Minds' "Once Upon A Time" have died, and I haven't found new copies of those yet. (So if you've got a spare of one of these, give me an email and let me know. Vinyl is perfectly acceptable.)
I've also been continuing to listen to library CDs as well. I just finished Los Lobos's "By The Light of The Moon", which I had avoided for a long time because I really used to have "Shakin' Shakin' Shakes", in my extreme anti-rockabilly days. I no longer hate it as much, but I stick to my opinion that "One Time One Night" is the only worthwhile song on the album.
Jamiroquai's "Synkronized" was totally disco, though there were one or two songs(like "Black Capricorn Day")that transcended it. It was okay, and listenable, but give me Beck's "Midnight Vultures" first.
I also listened to The Lighthouse Family's "Postcards From Heaven", which I kept having the sinking feeling was actually a Christian album in disguise, but I never could pin it down. Still, it was far too E-Z Listening for my tastes.
I finished the S.M. Stirling book I was reading, and while I think it could have been plotted and paced a bit better, it was still involving, and I think the world he's created (or extrapolated, perhaps)is very interesting, and I would read more about it. (Some of the plot threads have been tied off, but not all, and everyone's had children, so we could have a "next-generation" novel anytime.)
Next, out of a choice of four different library books, with varying due dates, I have decided to go for Spider Robinson's The Free Lunch, which should at least be quick, after the week it took me to read On the Oceans of Eternity, so I will hopefully have time to read John Clute's Appleseed before it's due back next weekend.
It's a nice rainy day outside today. And I really mean that. I don't like sunny days. I don't suntan(apart from my pentennial sunburn, which I already have covered this year), I don't wear sunglasses, I don't wear shorts, and in general I get hot very easily. So I don't like ultraviolet rays from the sun killing my skin cells, I don't like sun-glare in my eyes making driving treacherous, and I don't like the greenhouse effect turning my car into an oven(since I have to park outside). (By "greenhouse effect" there I simply mean that the sun heats up the inside of my car with visible light, but the heat is trapped inside because infrared is blocked by the glass. Like in a greenhouse, you know? Before they discovered carbon dioxide?)
In fact, I think the whole "being outside" thing is overrated. I'd rather eat inside a restaurant than outside, or in my kitchen than on my patio. Outside has wind, and dust, and sun, and dirt, and bugs. My computer is inside, it's easier to read inside than in wind and sun, and it's easier to regulate the temperature. Not to mention that I do live in a climate where there are four or five months of winter and it's too cold to go outside much anyway. (Don't get me started on skiing and snowmobiling and other such silly pastimes.)
Two mailing lists I'm on have been deluged with discussions of the Fall of the Towers. One of them is the mailing list of SF Canada, the association of Canadian speculative fiction writers; the other is the mailing list of Wyreth, one of the Atlantis games I'm currently involved in. The SF Canada list has a lot of intelligent people, with wildly varying opinions, so the discussions are erudite and interesting, and usually not too acrimonious; however, most people are Canadians, with a few transplanted Americans, so the viewpoints are a bit distanced. The Wyreth list has members from eastern Europe, Down Under, Latin America, and even South Africa, as well as North America, so there are a wide range of viewpoints...but there are also some mind-numbingly stupid/ignorant people there. I guess most of the people who have time to play online fantasy games like that are high school or college students, with the attendant lack of wisdom that usually implies.
I'm about sixty messages behind on both lists. I just don't care that much that I have to have my opinions known, or to know others, or to have the last word. I'm also continuing to avoid any Usenet newsgroups, since I know what they'll all be talking about.
The only reason I could really see to participate in these kinds of discussions would be to try to convince other people that their opinions are wrong, or to be so convinced yourself...and usually such attempts do bring about a lot of acrimony, because people get very attached to their opinions, especially emotion-based ones. It's a bit easier to let go of an opinion based only on information, when that information is proven to be wrong. But heaven forbid someone tell you that your emotions are wrong.
I can't remember if this is in what I posted yesterday, but in the SF Canada discussion Peter Watts, talking of sociobiology, said(and my apologies, Peter, if I misparaphrase you here)that a lot of the emotional responses in our brain are essentially those put there by evolution, that stem from our "lower animal" heritage, and you could generate about the same emotions in other primates under the same circumstances. So in some ways our emotions are the least human parts of us. Not that I'm some kind of Vulcan or social Darwinist or anything--but emotional responses are often not the brightest ones to choose in a given circumstance.
I could ramble on about this, but I haven't really marshalled my thoughts and so it would be rambling indeed. You(whoever you are)deserve better than that.
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Monday, September 17, 2001:
All Just Zeroes And Ones
Of course there are stories about how, since it's possible that terrorists used encrypted email to communicate and organize their attack, that the FBI will start monitoring email, because it's a national security risk.
I say, there's more ways than big flashy encryption to communicate secretly over the net. I picture a play-by-email Dungeons & Dragons game:
"Okay, so we're at the dragons' cave. I use my mystic spell of disguise to get past the kobolds guarding the entrance, and then I hide on the dragon's body. When it starts flying, I use my spell of control and ram into the tower on the island."
I'm sure I could come up with something better, but you get the idea. By judicious use of innocuous code words, you can probably talk about whatever you want. The trick, of course, is to arrange the code words beforehand, but that can be done through non-electronic means. (Of course, code books can be captured, and if they're shared by one terrorist cell and not another...) Okay. Enough on that for now.
With ConSpec having been postponed, we were able to go to the Edmonton Public Library Booksale on the weekend. It's also on next weekend, too, and they're putting our new material all the time, but it's the principle of the thing. It was held down in the third level of their parkade, and I couldn't help thinking, as dozens of people milled about tables, that this would be a really bad time for a power outage. But it didn't happen.
It was almost completely unsorted--only into "Paperbacks", "Fiction", "Non-Fiction", tapes & CD's, and some foreign language stuff as well. Most of the "Fiction" hardcovers I didn't bother looking at, since little of that would be stuff I'm interested in anyway. The paperbacks were about 80% romances, and my wife picked up a bunch. I think I got about ten paperbacks myself, three or four CD's and nine tapes. Most of them were ones I had listened to from the library and decided not to put on my "to-buy" list, but for only a dollar I thought I'd take the plunge.
Bruce Cockburn's "Dart To The Heart" I avoided for a while because I really didn't like the single, "Listen For The Laugh", but I did like "Hang Me At The Crossroads", and I've got most of his other albums, so I sprang for it, and I'm sure I can live with one song I don't really like. I also picked up Jesus Jones' "Perverse", which had been another maybe, but I liked it better this time. (I kept thinking it was a James album, actually, but hopefully now I have it straight.)
Our little boy Simon is starting to learn how to count. Unfortunately, he only knows "one" right now. Last night he got into a big box of diskettes I have at home. They're old demo discs from Joseki, only double-density and with big "OLEG" labels on them, and we've got tons of them, so I didn't mind him playing with them. He took them out of the box and scattered them on the floor, happily counting them: "One...one...one...one..."
I've been reading S.M. Stirling's On The Oceans of Eternity, and it's been kind of dragging a bit. I've probably been working on it for a week already, which is a bit long for me. And I've still got all those library books piling up that I'm supposed to be reading this month... The book is third in Stirling's Nantucket series, and the last so far. The premise of the series is that the island of Nantucket, in more or less the present day, is inexplicably transported back in time to 1450 B.C., as well as a Coast Guard ship anchored nearby. (The reason this happened is not important to the series, and nobody wastes that much time worrying about it.) They immediately start trying to build up the infrastructure they need to sustain at least part of their current level of technology(though transistors will be precious for a long time to come). Some of them decide to defect and strike out on their own, making their own rules, and that conflict is central to the books.
This book, however, while it does include a fair amount of that conflict, switches back and forth with annoying rapidity, crossing timelines(so it can be April in part of one chapter, and the previous September, October, and November in other parts), spending far too much time describing/research dumping, and including scenes that seem utterly irrelevant to the action. (I'm reserving judgement on those yet, but I'm pretty sure.) So I've been reading the Onion compilation Dispatches From The Tenth Circle a lot instead. Still, Stirling's research is impressive, what he hasn't made up out of whole cloth because who the hell knows, and I particularly like his attention to linguistic and nomenclature detail, because those are interests of mine.
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We Will Still Be Monkeys Down Deep Inside
You can't get away from the World Trade Center thing, although I've tried. (My best candidate for a catchy name for it so far is "The Fall of The Towers", to borrow from Samuel R. Delany, or whoever he borrowed it from.) It's been cropping up on practically every mailing list I'm on, and frankly I've stopped reading much of it. But since I haven't been blogging much here anyway, maybe I'll include some of my posts from the one mailing list, stripped of context, which reflect some of my opinions on the matter anyway.
(A reply to someone else who said that in looking for motivation in the bombings, we should be looking at animal responses rather than religious or political justifications:)
Maybe what Peter said earlier has some validity, although I tend to distrust biogenetics as far too simple an explanation. (My personal philosophy is that simple explanations are probably wrong.) So let me try a simple explanation and we'll see if it can get pulled apart.
You have a group of people living in a society, resenting other people for what they don't have, fearing and distrusting strangers because they do things differently. For many people, experiencing new things is very scary, and not being able to predict from one's experience what will happen next is terrifying. But because of the strictures of society, they can't do anything about it without being ostracized for breaking the rules.
Then someone comes along and says that it is okay to do something about it. The strangers are evil, and they must die. We can take their possessions and land. And it is okay because they are evil, and we have proof, if you don't look to closely at it.
Now the rules have changed, and if they follow their urges, they are actually doing what other people are encouraging them to do, and they will be rewarded for it. They can kill foreigners, because they're heathens/capitalist pigs/barbarians/infidels and the rules of society don't include them.
The purpose of religion has always been to try to explain the inexplicable phenomena of nature, and to provide some kind of teleological framework to the apparent randomness of life and death(something that the pattern-seeking human brain is practically hardwired to do). It has also grown to provide a sense of community.
But every major religion in the world has also been used by demagogues to demonize and justify the exclusion of others from the social contract. The social contract was probably often interlinked with the religion itself, and by redefinition of terms you can make it mean anything you want.
So I think that the reason religion is often used to justify violence against others is simply because it is so closely linked with the rules of society. If the laws of your country are the laws of your scripture, then a reinterpretation of the scripture will change your laws. This, unfortunately, is linked the community religion provides--for there to be a community, there must be a way to tell those inside from those outside.
(After a reply pointed out that the term should be "sociobiology" rather than "biogenetics", and a reference to Occam's Razor--that the simplest theory was probably correct:)
Oops. Mea culpa. I knew the word I was looking for was a blend of two Greek combining forms. I defer to your greater experience.
As for Occam's Razor & simple theories--I guess it might be my physics background, where simple theories keep getting replaced by more complex ones, or my limited knowledge of psychology, where everyone seems to come up with their own pet theory, which works in some cases, and which they thereby declare to work for all cases. But this may well be a strawman because I haven't studied the field.
I'm perfectly willing to concede that our emotions and our instincts spring from presentient(or pre-intelligent, if you will)development, and are basically monkey emotions and monkey instincts, with some differences because we are a different species. But our intellect is our own, when we let it be superordinate(if that's a word--the opposite of subordinate is what I mean)to our emotions and instincts.
Certainly I wouldn't think that our brains are any better wired to deal with today's civilized world than our bodies are designed to sit in chairs in front of computers and type on keyboards and click mouses all day. But we can learn to type, and we can learn to be civilized as well.
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Wednesday, September 12, 2001:
Tuesday Bloody Tuesday
Has anyone come up with a catchy and memorable name for the events of yesterday yet? I mean, "Pearl Harbour", which some people are likening it to, is nice and catchy. But "World Trade Centre Day" is too long, "World Trade Day" sounds like it has something to do with "awareness", and "WTC Day" a bit too cryptic. "WT Day"? "Pentagon Day"? But the Pentagon is not what people will remember--people will remember those images of the plane flying into the skyscraper. Maybe, if they find out who did it, they'll name it after them, but I don't know about giving them that kind of long-lasting notoriety. I don't know if "Black Tuesday" is taken yet, but that's a little too generic by this point.
It was very disorienting reading the articles about events that had just happened, all saying "Tuesday morning". It was Tuesday morning as I was reading it, but I kept having to double-check in my head. Obviously the articles will make more sense if they're read on another day, but reading it the same day was very confusing.
The biggest personal consequence to me so far of the whole thing is that the writing workshop this week has been postponed, due to the unlikelihood of the American writer guests being able to fly up here, or even cross the border, in time. Ditto for the associated symposium this weekend. Well, we hadn't found a babysitter anyway.
I'm happy that Canada has been able to help the stranded overseas travelers. I remember the joke about how to tell a Canadian: If you bump into him, he will say "Excuse me". And it's true, we are in generally really nice people.
If things do blow up, I sincerely hope we can avoid the same kind of scapegoating that has happened in the past--suspicion of anyone with an Arabic heritage, or of Muslims. This really shouldn't turn into a religious thing. Although I have been reading about the Crusades recently, and I remember Rick Green, on the "History Bites" show, saying that many Muslims saw the formation of Israel as just another Crusade, another bunch of Europeans meddling in the history and sovereignty of the Middle East. But random targeting of local Arabs is unlikely to accomplish a single goddam bit of good. (Not that the kind of morons who would do that are likely to be reading my blog, of course...)
And let's say, for the sake of argument, that Osama bin Laden is responsible, and the U.S. declares war on Afghanistan for harbouring him. Now I'm going by memory here, but I seem to recall that Afghanistan is a landlocked country, surrounded by such U.S.-friendly nations as Pakistan and Iran, as well as former Soviet republics, which I believe are mostly Muslim. Would these countries be able to avoid being drawn into the conflict on one side or another? Which one would they choose? Would any of them feel comfortable in allying with the United States, or even standing by while another country they probably feel closer kinship with is attacked over their own land or airspace? But maybe that's why Osama bin Laden would feel safe enough to launch such an attack. It would almost make one wish that the U.S. had kept their mouth shut in 1980 when Russia was invading them. (But then, they'd be just as independent as Kazakhstan these days, wouldn't they?)
It's not like the Taliban gets any sympathy around here anyway. I imagine a lot of Americans would be happy to encourage the U.S. government to go in and overthrow them with the slightest excuse. And it sounds like a sizable portion of Afghanis wouldn't mind either.
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Tuesday, September 11, 2001:
When The Walls Coming Tumbling Down
This may make me sounds like a totally superficial person, but my first thoughts when I heard about the terrorist bombings in New York and Washington were: Is this going to affect any of the TV shows coming out this fall?; and Is this bad timing for the rising Millennial generation?
The TV thing, well, okay I think about that stuff. But I would be curious about whether the destruction of the World Trade Centre would show up on Friends, for instance, which is set in New York, or whether it would just be ignored. I mean, I'm not thinking that they'll introduce a dramatic plotline where Chandler's office in the WTC is destroyed and he's trapped in the rubble until rescued, but at least it should be mentioned in the background somewhere. And The West Wing, while set in an alternate reality(as, let's face it, are most shows, but usually they at least have the same President), often mirrors events in the real world, so I wouldn't be surprised if they incorporate something.
And if this attack is a "new Pearl Harbour" as some have mentioned, and things blossom into outright war, then that might be a hard thing to ignore in any case. Of course, people will need distraction from ugly reality anyway, so sitcoms will more likely ignore it, but drama series will probably mine it for storylines.
As for the generational thing...well, I haven't gone into it much here, but Neil Howe & William Strauss have come up with an excellent theory of generational cycles in history, expounded first in their book Generations. There they described four different types of generation, and how the U.S., at least, has cycled through them since its initial colonization. They expanded this theory somewhat in The Fourth Turning, and their books 13th Gen and Millennials Rising have focused on the last two generations to come of age. (Also check out their web sites at www.fourthturning.com and www.millennialsrising.com.
In a nutshell, the generational types are Hero(like the G.I. generation that fought in World War II), Artist(like the Silent generation that grew up in WWII, settled down into suburbia in the 50's, and went through midlife crises), Prophet(like the Boomer generation that rebelled against their straitlaced elders in the 60's and 70's, and have been insufferable ever since), and Nomad(like Generation X, born in an era where they were mostly an encumbrance for their freedom-seeking parents and generally told they were bad kids). The Millennial generation, which(in the U.S. at least)consists of people born after 1983, is a new Hero generation, to replace the fading G.I.'s. According to the timeline espoused in The Fourth Turning, a Crisis, along the lines of the Great Depression/World War II crisis that came about when the G.I.'s were rising into adulthood, and others throughout their history, is due...about 2010.
The thing is, of course, a Crisis is not necessarily something you can plan the timing of...but much is dictated by the country's reaction to it, which is dependent on the arrangements of generations(what Howe & Strauss call a "constellation")at the time. Witness the different between World War II(fought by Heroes), the Korean War(fought by Artists), the Vietnam War(fought, and protested against, by Boomers), and World War I and the Gulf War(very different wars fought mostly by Nomads).
And also witness the American Civil War, which was the only hiccup in the cycle. Coming about in the wrong generational constellation, it resulted in the only cycle with no Hero generation...because the Heroes will still in childhood when it was fought, and so they ended up as the overprotected children of war as opposed to its capable young soldiers. If the U.S. gets pulled into a war now, with only a few Millennials able to fight, what will it do to the country as a whole?
On the other hand, at the very least this will be a defining moment for the generation. I'd go so far as to say that it may be a boundary moment--the next generation may well start with those too young to remember the World Trade Centre bombing. But that does make for a kind of a short generation. But nobody can deny this will be an important moment. (Yeah, I know, that sounds fatuous, but I can't think of any better ending for this...)
Oh, and thanks very much to news.blogger.com, which helped me find news sites that actually responded to HTTP requests. Mostly newspaper as opposed to TV web sites, I think, which may make the difference.
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Sunday, September 09, 2001:
Another Day, Another Blue-Pink-Electric Yellow Dollar
My, Blogger does seem to be creeping glacially today. Somebody must have given them the Code Red worm or something. But I usually pre-edit it in a text file anyway, so I'll just start off here and wait for the service to come up.
So I finished reading A King of Infinite Space, and thought it was interesting. And there's acknowledgements at the end where Steele lists the bands who contributed his chapter titles, which would have saved me a bit of work if I'd seen that earlier. So it enabled to me to determine that the "Simple" song was Phish instead of Collective Soul, from which album I haven't been able to determine, and "Bittersweet" is definitely Big Head Todd & The Monsters. Unless I completely missed something, though, there seem to be two bands listed--JudyBats and Subdudes--but only one unmatched song, "Guilty". Maybe I'll ask him this week. I've tried to find the songs here either at the library or on Gnutella, with middling results.
Another library/bookstore trip this weekend(as every Saturday), but not nearly as big a haul as we only went to Coles instead of Chapters. I did buy the new Onion compilation, Dispatches From The Tenth Circle, as well as the paperback edition of Dave Barry's Big Trouble--so looking forward to that movie, which I recognized instantly from the trailers well before they said the name--and a library booksale copy of The Veiled Web by Catherine Asaro, who I recall seeing in Locus magazine if nowhere else.
I've also been reading Asimov's Chronology of The World, my current non-fiction book, since I finished my reread of Stephen J. Gould's Bully For Brontosaurus, not to mention Christgau's Consuder Guide: Albums of The '90s. I like his approach to history writing, but then I tend to like Isaac Asimov's nonfiction anyway. I found especially interesting the story of Robert Guiscard and his brother Roger, sons of knight from Normandy in the 11th century--the former striking devastating blows against the Byzantine Empire in Italy, and the latter conquering Sicily and Malta and ending up King Roger I. Now that must have been a rush...
Now, I promised at some point to talk about my book-reading system, and while doubtless nobody out there cares, I'll go through it anyway because it's my blog and I'll ramble if I want to.
It was probably at least back in high school--certainly by the time I'd finished a year of college in Grande Prairie and was moving to Edmonton--that I acquired a steadily growing backlog of books that I have yet to catch up on. Spend twelve or more years buying books faster than you read them, and you'll get one too. And I read books fairly quickly, but there was a point where I would commonly go into a second-hand bookstore(the key to the quantity)and buy twelve books...every week or two.
So anyway, at first I just read books in the order I bought them. That worked for a while, but then I started getting urges to reread some of my favourite books again, so I made every third book a reread. And then I had a subscription to Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, and occasionally bought other SF magazines as well, so I stuck those in as well. I had a unit I called a "stack", which consisted of four new books, two rereads, and a magazine.
But then there were a lot of books that I bought that I wanted to read a bit more quickly. So I created a "Priority" slot and stuck that into the stack. And I borrowed a bunch of books from other people, and had to stick in a slot for them too. Ask anyone I borrowed books from back then how quickly I got them back. Not every damn quickly. I've still got some I borrowed from people ten years ago, although admittedly these are my parents and my brother, so they're not worried that I'll disappear and they'll never hear from me again. (That's happened with a couple of books I borrowed, but then it's happened to people I've lent books to as well, so I figure karmically it's pretty even.) In June 1992 I started keeping track of what books I read when, because, well, I was a compulsive listmaker back then too. There were a lot of library books in there too, especially after I got married and moved closer to the main branch of the public library. (I was totally unaware of branch libraries at the time.) And I stuck in a "Classic" slot for, well, classics--Dickens, Dumas, Hardy, Austen, etc. And then there were the books eligible for the Aurora Award for best Canadian SF novel every year, which I crammed in just before the voting(or nomination if I was really organized)deadline.
In 1994 I started "advancing" books in my Standard and Priority queues, that I decided I just wanted to read. But I was never quite comfortable with the idea of just picking books to read next on the spur of the moment. I would come up with lists of books that I wanted to remember that I wanted to read, and then I would them according to those lists, and those lists would specify the next hundred or so books for me to read... But, of course, I had fun making up the lists.
Finally, on New Year's Day 1996 I decided to revamp my whole reading system. I had already organized my stacks into various "slots", but I increased the number and systematized them a bit. There were slots for SF & Fantasy Series, for Fidonet Echo SF & Fantasy authors, rereads, my wife's favourite authors, and the like. Well, to be comprehensive, there was:
Canadian(included the occasional non-SF author as well)
Nicole's(that's some of my wife's favourite authors--rotated between Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Alistair MacLean, Mary Stewart, and Dick Francis, with an occasional romance)
Standalone(sort of like my old "Priority" slot; basically a book I wanted to read that wasn't in a series, though I stretched that a bit)
Terry Pratchett/Wild Cards(two long series I was far behind on)
Random(just what it says, something selected at random from the entire list)
Non-SF(the fact that there's only one slot for this shows you how much of it I read)
Cherryh/Lee(that's C.J. Cherryh and Tanith Lee, two of my favourite authors that I was also far behind on)
Finishing Series(because there were a lot of series, and still are, that I'm only one book away from the end of--until recently I've been very used to years passing between my reading the books in a series)
I also tried to cut down on my library reading a bit--for a while every other book I read was a library book, which didn't help me defeat my massive backlog, although I did find some good books there anyway. I also modified a few slots--I finished the Wild Cards series, but am still working on Pratchett(though almost caught up now), added a "Keeping Up" slot for authors I like to read right away, split "Non-SF" into "Literature" and "Thriller", split off Dean Koontz and Dick Francis into their own slot, since we have so many of theirs, and added a "New Canadian" slot in the hopes that my Aurora catch-up wouldn't be quite so extreme. I may abolish the Echo slots at some point, since it's been years since I interacted with any of the Fidonet authors, but I'm mostly using it as an excuse to catch up on Lois McMaster Bujold and Glen Cook right now...
Finally, in the last year or so I've moved into a slightly more free-form style. I have a shelf where I have one book from each slot--but then I can pick _any_ book on the shelf to read next. And I've even sometimes just taken books that I get an urge to read, and put them on the shelf. It's very liberating, but I still get to make lists! If I'm not feeling liberated at any given time, then I can give myself a "theme month", so I'm reading all fantasy series, or read them alphabetically, or thin books, or thick books, or hardcovers, or whatever. (This month I'm mostly reading library books, because I've got a backlog that I need to deal with...)
Anyone still left here? Well, a few more random thoughts not related to books at all...
Today I managed to screw up washing clothes in the dryer...not my fault--my mother called after I'd started the water running but before I'd put the clothes in, and when I came downstairs it had stopped just before the spin cycle, so I had to fiddle around with the dial to get it to where I wanted it to be... And just now I discovered that I'd forgotten to turn on the tap when I hooked up and ran the(mobile, portable, whatever you call it when you have to wheel it over to the sink)dishwasher, which is not the first time I've done that. I have famously also run the washing machine with no clothes in it, but that was years ago and I'm All Better Now.
Our baby book( What To Expect The First Year)recommended that we establish a "bedtime ritual" for our little boy. One thing it suggested was a favourite story to be read every night. Our creative minds managed to come up with the idea that we would recite Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky" every night to our son before we put him to bed. ...And so we have. Once he fell asleep in the car and we put him to bed, and had to recite it at 1:00 AM when he woke up and wouldn't go back to sleep. I wonder when he'll start asking us what it means? Will we have to come up with something different for his potential siblings? That's the only poem that I can recite, unfortunately. Although my wife has several of Simon's books memorized; maybe we can do Fox In Socks or something.
And now it's time to go to bed. 'Twill be a busy week ahead.
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Friday, September 07, 2001:
Better To Be Slippery Than To Be All Wet
Just in case there were some of you who doubted that I was a compulsive listmaker, I noticed today that several of the chapter titles of A King of Infinite Space seemed to be recognizable song and album titles. So I said to myself, "I should make a list of those and see how many I can find!" Here are the results, just to prove it:
Chapter 1. Live Through This--obviously the Hole album title. (Features a cameo appearance by the band.)
Chapter 2. Simple--There's a lot of them, but my best guess is Collective Soul, from their self-titled album.
Chapter 3. This Is A Call--Apparently from the Foo Fighters' self-titled album; I hadn't heard this one before.
Chapter 4. Misery--Again, more than one, but my best guess is Soul Asylum, from "Let Your Dim Light Shine"(though the first one that leapt into my head was by the BoDeans...)
Chapter 5. Can't Get There From Here--Absolutely no question that this is from my favourite REM album, "Fables of The Reconstruction".
Chapter 6. In The Springtime of His Voodoo--This was actually the one that made me most want to look up the titles, because I knew I knew this one but couldn't remember it. (I kept getting Jimi Hendrix.) Apparently it's on Tori Amos' "Boys For Pele", so I don't feel too bad about missing it, because I haven't listened to that album as much.
Chapter 7. Artificial Sunlight--The only one I could find was on Possum Dixon's "Star Maps", who I've never heard of, but am willing to try. They'll go on my very long library list.
Chapter 8. Come As You Are--Most likely from Nirvana's "Nevermind", although Peter Wolf's also occurred to me.
Chapter 9. Blue Sky Mining--Unquestionably Midnight Oil; I think the album is called "Blue Sky Mining" while the song is "Blue Sky Mine", but I could be wrong.
Chapter 10. Somebody To Shove--Instantly recognizable as the opening track of Soul Asylum's "Grave Dancers Union"
Chapter 11. Territorial Pissings--Also from Nirvana's "Nevermind", though I had to check to be sure. (Oops, did I just lose my PG rating? Hey, you can say "piss me off" on TV these days...)
Chapter 12. Bittersweet--Big Head Todd & The Monsters? The only one that I know is by Moxy Früvous, which I doubt Allen Steele would be alluding to.
Chapter 13. A Murder of One--Counting Crows, "August & Everything After"; another one I recognized but couldn't quite remember.
Chapter 14. Private Revolution--World Party, "Private Revolution", a classic from the mid-80's. (Or was it covered recently? Can't remember.)
Chapter 15. Champagne Supernova--Obviously from Oasis's "(What's The Story)Morning Glory?"
Chapter 16. I'm A Little Rocket Ship--I recognized this one too, from the title at least, though I can't call the song to mind--Cracker, "The Golden Age"
Chapter 17. Feeling Gravity's Pull--Another one from "Fables of The Reconstruction".
Chapter 18. Between Planets--Of course the Robert Heinlein title occurs to me first, but apparently this is a song by The Jesus & Mary Chain on "Automatic".
Chapter 19. Superunknown--The title track of Soundgarden's "Superunknown" LP(duh)
Chapter 20. Support Your Local Emperor--Blues Traveler, "Travelers & Thieves"; not a big Blues Traveler fan so far, but that is a neat title.
Chapter 21. Guilty--Absolutely no clue on this one, except for the Blues Brothers version. And too many for The All-Music Guide to display properly.
Chapter 22. Soon, Coming Closer--Apparently from Eric's Trip's "Purple Blue", a band I've never heard despite their being Canadian and everything. Remedial study is required.
Chapter 23. She Lives(In A Time of Her Own)--A classic by Roky Erickson & 13th Floor Elevators.
Chapter 24. I Got Id--Pearl Jam, apparently from a two-song EP recorded during their sessions with Neil Young. I don't feel bad about this one. Maybe I'll check it out on Gnutella.
Chapter 25. By Starlight--Smashing Pumpkins, "Melon Collie & The Infinite Sadness", an album I would like to have, but I've been picking by cheapest for so long that double CD's tend to get neglected (By the way, is anyone else besides me annoyed by 80-minute albums that have to be issued on 2 CD's, but don't seem worth it? Richard Thompson's "You? Me? Us?" is the worst offender I've run across in this category.)
Also this afternoon I was listening to Stereolab's "Emperor Tomato Ketchup". I was almost put off from them by the noisy "Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements", but on my brother's urging I checked out some of their other stuff. I quite like this album, even if I have trouble keeping track of the songs on it right now (always a problem I have when titles are hard to map to tunes). I definitely like the opener, "Metronomic Underground", though. This morning I was listening to "The Who By Numbers", which just reinforces my conviction that I like Pete Townshend solo much better than The Who. The version of "Squeeze Box" on "Scoop" was much better than this album's, and while the song titles were interesting, the songs themselves made no impression on me. Of course, I haven't tried "Quadrophenia" or "Tommy" yet (apart from a couple of glimpses of the latter movie on TV, and of course Elton John's "Pinball Wizard").
I meant to do something about describing my bizarre and idiosyncratic methods of choosing books to read and records to listen to, but I don't think I'll have time. It's the weekend!
Maybe I will post a provocative link or two...not Howe & Strauss pages yet, because I'd have to ramble about them as well, so let's go for Karawynn Long's home pages.
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Thursday, September 06, 2001:
Under The Same Low Wall
I am a much happier programmer today, because I am taking a break from wrestling with Java(yesterday, having gotten it to connect to an Access database while the server was going up and down trying to get Oracle installed on it, I tried to make all the buttons on my toolbar appear the same width, despite having different length labels, and was not successful). Now I am working on Soccer.
See, Joseki Systems has the contract to do soccer scheduling for two of the community leagues around town, and has for some years now. But only now are they porting the software to Windows. And the scheduling is quite interesting; really, it's an exercise in combinatorics. And I just think it's cool. (Apparently one of my bosses is a former expert in combinatorics...didn't know that, just thought he was a champion Go player.)
I finished The Innamorati, and quite enjoyed it--very earthy, witty, and uplifting, and indeed lots of commedia dell'arte. Now I'm reading Allen Steele's A King of Infinite Space, in anticipation of taking a writing workshop from him and Michael Bishop later this month. I've previously read and enjoyed his short story "Live From The Mars Hotel", about a rock band on the first Mars colony, and this one has started off well. In the first chapter, the main character and his friends go to Lollapalooza(and it's obvious that Steele knows his music, which I appreciate mightily), and then he gets killed. In the next chapter, he wakes in a white room...
Currently listening to "Wishville" by The Catherine Wheel. I dunno, I've heard people say good things about them, but I'm still pretty lukewarm toward them. They're okay, but the music doesn't do anything for me, and if the music isn't interesting, I'm not generally going to bother to pay attention to the lyrics. That's one of my personal axioms of music, in case you're wondering. Music first, then lyrics. Good lyrics can immeasurably improve an already good song, but they can't do anything for a song that's not grabbing my interest.
But today I was listening to "Oil & Gold" by Shriekback, which I might have mentioned previously. Ah, sweet bliss. A truly spectacular album, which some of you may know only from the single "Nemesis"("Priests and cannibals/Prehistoric animals/Everybody happy as the dead come home/Big black Nemesis/Parthenogenesis/No one move a muscle as the dead come home"), but that's far from the best thing on the album. I am fondest of "Faded Flowers", one of their more whispery songs, but there's only one song on the album that I don't consider among my favourites. If you can, find yourself a copy of it. If you don't like it, send it to me.
I hear that some people have been known to send anonymous gifts to bloggers. Or do you have to be a sixteen-year-old girl to get that? If anyone is feeling generous, let me know. (You can go to my web page to find my email address if you want.) I'm most interested in books and music, as you might have gathered...
I was reading up on some of the new TV shows coming out this season. Some of them sounded interesting, but it's been so nice this summer not watching a lot of TV. And I don't watch that much anyway, really, compared to some people. I love "Friends", for some reason, and have taken to watching the daily reruns on A-Channel, but I haven't been watching the weekly reruns of the most recent season. (They'll show up daily soon enough...) "The West Wing" is a great show too. Apart from that, it's mostly SF stuff--my wife & I watched "Star Trek:Voyager", and are planning on watching the new show with Scott Bakula, and we also liked "Andromeda"(although it was a bit uneven), and I like "Lexx". I've pretty much seen all the episodes of "Red Dwarf" and "Doctor Who"(that aren't lost in the mists of time), but like to watch them again sometimes. We tried a few episodes of "Boston Public", and it was okay, but eventually we stopped. "Babylon 5" and "Twin Peaks", like most really incredible TV shows, got cancelled. Oh, and I really like "South Park", but, like "Lexx", my son is getting too old for me to feel comfortable watching it when he's around, and my wife doesn't like it anyway. So I've only watched a few episodes over the last year or so.
But when it comes right down to it, I can live with the fact that there may be good TV shows that I don't watch. Ditto for movies. But books and music I am obsessively trying to gather in case I'm missing something.
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Wednesday, September 05, 2001:
Fountain, Stands There Looking Happy
In my blog today I'm going to talk about Lorenai, because it's something that occupies my mind a lot, and so I might as well give my vast blog audience the background they deserve to more fully and rapturously grok the drivel I'm going to post on here.
I was heavily involved in Ackanomic(yet another topic for future mention--for now let me just say that it was a play-by-email game of surpassing absorption)when I was idly wandering around looking for other pbem games. I don't recall the exact path, but I found something called Lorenai listed somewhere, and it sounded interesting, so I read over the rules, completely misinterpreted large sections of them(as I usually do trying to read rules before I've played the game), and signed up.
Lorenai was a pbem fantasy game, inspired(in good and bad ways)by Atlantis, which is a bit better known. Jiri Klouda, who was IIRC a student in Prague at the time, had apparently managed to do the game as one of his course assignments(probably in a software-engineering type course--I remember something similar, though we didn't get to pick anything so interesting), and it was buggy, unstable, irregularly scheduled, and constantly under development. And at first, and for a long time, it was something I did for half an hour or so a week(well, less than that, since that was the absolute minimum time you could expect between turns, and once or twice it got closer to a month). My "faction" was named Azpiazu, and I used names based mostly on old D&D characters, of which I had more than a few. (Oh, what a nerd I was. ...Okay, so I still game every once in a while. So what? I can stop any time I want.)
Jiri had taken a lot of place names from Tolkien; the city where I started out was Minas Tirith, and there were constant hazards about. (Minas Tirith was apparently meant to be a city under siege, and it did seem that way a lot of the time.) But I managed to explore, which was something I always loved, and which was a lot of what attracted me to games like Civilization(which I played for a long, long time, almost continuously, until Civilization II came out and cured me). And then an older player, the Wanderin' Wastrels, basically gave me his entire faction, and suddenly I became a force to be reckoned with. I became involved with the Minas Tirith Alliance in defense, and then offense, against our foes. (Some of them quietly quit the game, no doubt bored with running a huge faction more than in fear of our retaliation.) And everything was going groovily. I was actually playing several other factions sub rosa, through various aliases, and had used their mages to determine large portions of the world map. I was beating up monsters lurking in Druadan and Fangorn forests. And I was having a helluva time correlating all sorts of data from the game. Because I am a compulsive list-maker, oh yes I am.
And then, unfortunately, the game went on hiatus, which turned permanent. Jiri finished at school and didn't have access to a machine to run it on anymore; later he declared that he would be working on a sequel game, Lorenai 2(which had been started as another software engineering project), as well as a revamped version of Lorenai 1. Eventually he released the source code(yay!), and the complete list of reports for all factions(YAY!) which I proceeded to download, even with the paltry 56K modem I had at the time. I now have more data than I could ever correlate in my lifetime, but I'm happy nonetheless.
I also decided that, since I had everything I needed to continue the game from where it left off, I would do so. I didn't feel like going so far as to get other players to run their own factions, oh no. That would be too much work. Instead I decided that I would play my own faction, and some of the others, and slowly absorb other factions as I went, until I occupied the entire world. At my current rate, this will take me about 150 years. I'm also playing a couple of Atlantis games, and not even being remotely satisfied with them.
Realistically, I don't know if I'll ever recapture the fun I had in the later stages of playing Lorenai. But maybe I will, and I'll keep trying. In my copious spare time.
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Tuesday, September 04, 2001:
Live Slow Die Old
As I half-expected, I didn't blog very much over the weekend. Too much other stuff to do. Actually, a three-day weekend seems about right, since most of what actually got accomplished over the weekend was on Monday. Of course, if I'd had to work on Monday I would've tried harder to do stuff on Sunday, so it's hard to tell.
My wife and I watched Proof of Life on Monday. Enh. I'm beginning to get very annoyed, in a curmudgeonly way, by movies that have wildly varying levels of volume. This one was violent enough that we didn't want to watch it while Simon was awake, so we were trying to watch it during his nap(and since he didn't sleep for all two hours and fifteen minutes of it, after he went to bed as well), and between loud scenes of helicopter and machine-gun fire, we have maddeningly quiet scenes of Russell Crowe mumbling incomprehensibly in his Australian accent. (Don't get me wrong, I love Australian accents, but somebody had apparently decided Crowe's character didn't need to enunciate.) And the movie didn't quite satisfy. It wasn't quite full-on action, and the action-packed ending sequence seemed practically tacked on. I mean, you have a kidnap negotiator who's probably wedded to the fact that attempted rescued just get people killed, and then at the end he just goes ahead and tries a rescue anyway. It just didn't gel for me.
Listened to "No Substance" by Bad Religion, which I liked better than I expected. I think I keep getting Bad Religion mixed up with Bad Brains, so I expect them to do thrash reggae or something. Lyrically I found them reminiscent of Chumbawamba, very politically- and socially-oriented. "Raise Your Voice" was my favourite track. Still probably won't end up on my purchase list, but I will try them again. Currently listening to "Extra Virgin" by Olive, which seems to be sort of in between latter-day Everything But The Girl and, I don't know, the Cardigans, or something. It sounds pleasant--I will automatically rate bands with female vocalists than those with male, somehow--but I'm not sure that any part of it is striking enough. (One of my many never-to-be-finished projects is a listing of bands sorted by quantity of female members. My preliminary estimate is that more than half of all bands are all-male, and maybe closer to two-thirds. More than one female will be quite rare.)
More later if I get bored again.
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Saturday, September 01, 2001:
With The Lights Out, It's Less Dangerous
Thought I'd drop in and post something before I go to bed here. (The joys of parenthood...11:30 is staying up late, and 8:00 is sleeping in.)
I finished reading The Scholars of Night, which was okay. Spy stories really aren't my thing, although I did like The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum. (Not the sequel as much.) Anyway, John M. Ford tends to write a lot of different stuff-- Princes of The Air and Growing Up Weightless SF, The Dragon Waiting fantasy(at least I think so, I haven't read it yet), as well as Casting Fortune, a collection of his stories for the Liavek shared-world anthology series. (Those were another project of his Minneapolis writer's group, pretty much--I should be able to remember their name...the Scribblies, maybe? Not very dignified, but then I belong to one called the Cult of Pain...another story for another time.) And his two Star Trek books were very different too-- The Final Reflection is mostly from the point of view of a Klingon character, and How Much For Just The Planet? is, IIRC, set mostly on a planet where people act like they do in musicals--all the time.
My next book will be The Innamorati by Midori Snyder, a very interesting fantasy writer who's had a few books out yet, including a trilogy. They tend to be pretty good, if not overwhelmingly amazing. This one is supposed to have something to do with commedia dell'arte, I gather.
Bought a whole bunch of books today. You know how some people are about shopping for clothes? That's how my wife and I are about books. First we picked up a bunch at the library booksale table, for less than a quarter each(I think they gave us eight or nine for a dollar today), including The Cave of Time, volume 1 in the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure series. Boy, that took me back, no pun intended. I spent a lot of time with those when I was a kid. And tonight I read throught the whole thing, going through all the alternate endings. Kinda nifty. Also a couple of Shakespeare plays, The Merchant of Venice and The Comedy of Errors. I'm trying to get the Compleat Works, a little at a time...
Then I happened to have a few free minutes while waiting for my wife to finish another errand, so I took a look at these tables they had set up, where Avid Reader members (that's the Coles bookstore chain discount card)could fill a bag for $7.99. Of course, it's always a bizarre collection of mostly-remaindered stuff, but they had a whole section of Computing Science monographs and paper collections published by Springer-Verlag. I picked up three of them, plus a book on neurology and one on neural nets, and Iain Banks' Inversions. (I don't have time to go into him right now...another thing for later. Anyone keeping track?) I also went to a real remaindered book store, but didn't find anything worthwhile there. But then, after going to Wal-Mart for a few assorted things, and Home Depot for materials for expanding our brick-and-board bookshelf up another couple of shelves, we rewarded ourselves by going to Chapters. There I got Dave Duncan's Sky of Swords, which I'd read from the library(I heartily recommend almost anything by him, he's amazing), and J. Gregory Keyes' Newton's Cannon(I'd been impressed by his Babylon 5 Psi Corps novels, and thought I'd try some of his own work). And my wife, who's into romances, bought a bunch of books too.
And the library finally got in volume three of Legends, with the Robert Jordan novella. I may not have mentioned this, but I'm a huge fan of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, but I didn't realize when this book originally came out a couple of years ago that he had a story in there. I recently spent some time on rec.arts.sf.written.robert-jordan, and reading its associated FAQs, and realized my error. But the Legends thing was released in one volume in hardcover and three in paperback...and the library didn't realize this, so the three paperback volumes weren't distinguished in the catalogue. I got volume two twice before I finally hit the jackpot. Also Spider Robinson's Free Lunch, but after the steaming pile of dreck that was Callahan's Key, I'm not expecting too much...still, I'll give him a couple more chances before he drops down to buy-maybe.
Since shortly before going high-speed, I've been spending time on Napster, and then Gnutella, trying to find some obscure MP3s. I like to try out bands before I spring for their stuff, and while the library does have an amazing music collection, it has its gaps(especially anything that never made it to CD). I've been particularly looking for old Frantics radio show episodes--they were a comedy group that had a weekly radio show on CBC, and they were pretty damn good, and most of their stuff has never been released. I'm thankful to the people who thoughtfully taped this stuff and then transferred it into MP3. (I don't feel guilty about pirating anything that's gone out of print. If I have no other way to gain access to it, I'll go under the table.)
Anyway, most recently I'd found a copy of Tori Amos's acoustic piano cover version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit", which I've wanted to find ever since I first heard of its existence. It didn't disappoint me. (I had fun getting my wife to try to guess what song it was while it was playing...) I like her stuff, mostly her first album, "Little Earthquakes", which is her most consistent, and her last couple as well. "Under The Pink" and "Boys For Pele" didn't do as much for me, but granted I haven't listened to them as much.
Also this evening I was listening to some of The Beatles' White Album, and Shriekback's "Care". I love Shriekback's "Oil & Gold", and generally consider it my all-time favourite album; "Care" is from their more ambient(probably not the right word, but like I said, I can't dance about architecture)days, so I find it a bit less impressive, but fairly consistent overall. It's hard to pick out individual songs to like, though. (If I had to, I might pick "My Spine(Is The Bassline)" or "Madness Into Method".)
And I should stop there for tonight. Except that I want to mention my wife and her writing career. She writes under her maiden name, Nicole Luiken, and she had three books published before she was twenty...and then nothing for ten years. But now her drought(publishing, not writing--she's got a huge backlog of unpublished novels by this point)has ended, and she'd got three books out this year. Violet Eyes, a YA SF thriller, was out in January, Running On Instinct, an adult thriller, was out in hardcover in July, and Silver Eyes, the sequel to Violet Eyes, will be out in December, just in time for Christmas. For more information, you can check out her web page. And yes, she has promised that when she's as big as Stephen King(heck, I'd settle for Dean Koontz)I can quit my job and she'll support me.
Okay. Now I'm really stopping. If anyone's reading this anyway, since I just linked it to my web page tonight and it still hasn't shown up on Blogger...
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