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Showing posts from September, 2012

Years of Rice and Salt

Years of Rice and Salt, by Kim Stanley Robinson, was a frustrating read. It's a compelling book, full of 'so wrong it's right' moments, and a very satisfying ending, but it is a slog.

So, if you've never heard of Years of Rice and Salt it's an alternate history novel tracing the six or seven hundred years development in the world once Europe has been completely wiped out by the Black Death instead of only mostly being wiped out. The great civilizations of the world go through revolutions of philosophy and technology that parallel but never recapitulate the events of our own history: Dar al-Islam recolonizes Europe and goes through what might be termed a cultural renaissance in the far-off Central Asian city of Samarkand. A wayward Chinese military fleet discovers North and South America but the colonization and exploitation of the New World proceeds much more fitfully. The Industrial Revolution occurs in Southwestern India in the Travancori states.

As a fan of …

Romney Moment

Spend enough time on r/ politics and you're bound to get your fill of awkward Romney moments but this really is a memorable one.



I've watched this twice and really I think Joe Scarborough's reaction is, if anything, restrained.

iPhone Update

Sweeeeeet!

Christmas in September has finally arrived. I'm still waiting for my update to finish but I'm excited by the improvements. There's no way I'm getting the new iPhone so this is the next best thing.

My pick for best feature I haven't tried yet? Turn-by-turn navigation. It's the one thing I really miss from my old Droid.

The promise of Siri improved is also intriguing but I'll believe it when I see it.

My problem

...Is there is too much to write about!

That's the thing about having a blog, all of a sudden things I keep finding things that I really, really want to write about.

I don't think of this blog as a diary. I think of it as a collection of very short, very topical informal essays. But after a few days of cool television, weekend recreations and Romney gaffs, I'm floundering. What to talk about first?

Let's go with my gut, which is the Gaffe.

This is going to probably extend well through the rest of the week and a lot of (e) ink has already been spilled on its behalf but let's not lose sight of the crucial point of the 47% comment. Mitt is a bad candidate. He was bad in 2007. He was bad during the primaries. He was bad after the primaries. He's bad oversea, he's bad in a convention. He just sucks as a politician.

Now, some of you are smirking and saying: aren't good politicians the ones you have to watch? I would argue no. I would say that having a person …

Quick Impressions from Florence

Florence and the Machine create music that sounds like Dusty Springfield backed by Peter Gabriel's band. The look they carry is that woman in every Art Deco print from the 1920's: green diaphanous dress swirling around a sylvan free spirit framed by pyramids, mirrors and fountains. None of these images really gel together, exactly, as much as flow in and out of each other like the dreamy superimposing of stage shots they projected on the big screen to either side of the Comcast Center's stage.

Florence Welch is another largely undigested blob. She sings with a piercing, soulful soprano, reaching for the emotional urgency of say Aretha Franklin or Donna Summer but always skating away at the last moment of each note into a playful release. Florence struck me as a forest spirit of some type. A pixie, or a sprite, or an elf. She skips around the stage, twirling in her green dress, flipping her auburn hair, accepting tokens from the front row of the audience like a delighted Ti…

Back to Skyrim

After finishing Fallout New Vegas, it's back to Skyrim for a few months. I bought Dawnguard and I'm sure I'll plunk down a few bucks on the Hearthsim expansion at some point. Weighty sigh.

So much unfinished business from my last play-through. I only got to maybe a third of the Daedric quests, I really only finished the Mage College faction quests and I didn't even bother with the Civil War story arc. This game is enormous.

But it's also surprisingly compact. I remember in my first play through wandering through the tundra and coming across one astonishing ruin after the other and basically feeling depressed that I would never get to every site again. This time I've paid more attention to how the game achieves that sense of a vast untrammeled wilderness while still piling up all sorts of interesting places to go. One way it does this is by clever world design. As the crow flies, Riverwood is not far from Whiterun, certainly not as far as Helgen is from Riverwoo…

Dinosaurs...On a Space Ship!!!

Your enjoyment of the most recent Doctor episode pretty much rests on your amusement at the title of the show and reading of said line by Matt Smith. If you, like me, have always secretly been waiting for just such a line to be uttered by anyone then you will like the second episode of season seven.

In any series as long and convoluted as Doctor Who themes and motifs are bound to appear. A few I could name off the top of my head would include the Doctor as Savior, the Doctor as Destroyer, the banality of evil, 'timey wimey' plot twists, and the nature of reality. This episode falls into a special category I might term 'Sky Sharks,' after the flying fish and sharks that appear in "A Christmas Carol." Basically the idea behind a 'Sky Shark' episode is to take two or more ideas that have no business being included in the same sentence: for example, 'sharks,' 'sky,' and 'carriages' and then slapping them together into some bizarre …

Thoughts on DNC

The first sets of tracking polls are beginning to reflect a bounce for Obama. In the vocabulary of pundits, it's difficult to know if this trend will prove 'sticky,' or endure for longer than a week but clearly the convention was well-received. The speakers were more passionate, direct, and effective than the ones on display in the Republican convention the week before. It's become a kind of standing joke, but seriously, can you remember anything that anyone said in Tampa other than what an empty chair was supposed to have said?

Michelle Obama revealed herself to be an amazing political speaker, subtly and deftly mining the deep emotional concerns of Democratic voters. It will also be interesting to see if the demographic shifts in Texas allow Julian Castro to capitalize on a great keynote speech.

Then we have Bill Clinton. Someone suggested to Obama that Clinton become the "Secretary of Explaining Stuff," which I think, in retrospect, was the one thing this …