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Showing posts from April, 2013

The more you think about it...

Yeah, I've already said my piece about the lock-down during the manhunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, but I'm going to add a little to it. You see, upon reflection, the whole thing just really grates at me.

Can I just say how annoying it is to find myself agreeing with Ron Paul? The former representative and serial presidential candidate came out today pointing out what seems to be the inevitable truth about this whole encounter: that it's a dramatic over-reach for law enforcement. He called it an occupation, which which while an exaggeration still makes a valid point. I salute the men and women of law enforcement  who had the dangerous and difficult task of finding the alleged younger bomber, but I can't help thinking where does this all end? Must all normal commerce and activity cease whenever one deranged individual detonates a bomb or fires a gun? Are really this terrified?

Videos like the one below show that the house-to-house search was anything but voluntary. Police of…

The End of a Series

I've spent the past few days thinking about the ending of "Blue Mars," the final book in the Kim Stanley Robinson Mars series. It took me a while to decide what exactly I felt about the book. On one hand, this book had perhaps the best writing of the entire series. The characterizations were sharp and memorable, the long descriptive passages evoked times and places with poignancy, and the various themes of the previous two books of the trilogy really did meet a satisfactory conclusion.

On the other hand, this book felt like an elaborate and prolonged fade-out, one enormous epilogue that never quite came into focus. Partly, this was by design. One of the themes of the series, overall, appears to be tracing the emergence of post-scarcity, peaceful paradise throughout the human solar system. You can't have much of a paradise when things are blowing up and falling apart.

Most of the conflict of this story revolved around the remaining characters of the story: Sax Russell…

Mouseguard

This is somewhat belated, but a couple of weeks ago I GM'd for a unique role-playing game. One of my friends +Aisha Cruse has been going on a You Tube chronicled resolution binge this year, attempting all sorts of novel activities. One of her resolutions was to play a table-top RPG. Cue me.

+Matthew McComb suggested Mouseguard, which I think is a great choice for a first time RPG experience. The game, based on a comic by David Petersen of the same name, allows players to become a mouse warrior in service of a paramilitary organization protecting the mouse territories. Basically, in Mouseguard, you get to play mice armed with swords. This would all be very cute if it wasn't for the superior production quality of the book (seriously this is the best looking RPG I've ever seen) and the fact the rules were written by Luke Crane of Burning Wheel fame. The basic mechanics of the game, earning passes and fails on skill checks to simulate the slow increase of abilities, team-based …

Oblivion

Oblivion marks the unofficial beginning of the 2013 Summer Spectacular season. Iron Man 3 is a couple of weeks away and then Star Trek somewhat beyond that. I have mixed feelings about blockbusters; on one hand they do tend to be the only times when Hollywood invests money and effort into science fiction, but the type of SF on display is almost always a 1) sequel, 2) played for laughs, 3) poorly conceived, or 4) all three. So, first off I want to make it clear that simply having an original, fairly coherent science fiction movie, is in itself a welcome development. If you like movies that attempt, however feebly, try to stake out some new speculative ground, you should show a little support to this film.



A little support.
This is not, when all is said and done, a very good film. It has its charms, which I will quickly summarize shortly, but it has more than its fair share of defects. The largest issue is the question of basic storytelling. I enjoyed the first half of the movie more th…

Locked Down

It has been, to say the least, a busy week.

With the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the events seem to be heading towards the inevitable long epilogue of legal proceedings and analysis. I haven't really had time to process all of this, but obviously, for someone with simultaneous interest in history and technology, there was a lot to ponder about this week.

I have been in shock for my city since hearing the news about the bombing on Monday. The images and suffering from the attack are hard to wrench from my mind. The deaths of a small boy and two young people so filled with promise and life is an enormous tragedy. The number of casualties  maimed, lives forever altered, is profoundly disturbing. This is terrorism. This was done to subvert our sense of meaningful lives and replace it with a crushing scene of senseless murder.

But in the more than 10 years since 9/11, one gets the sense things have changed in America. While the media quickly started chasing its own tail waiting for a…

Aaron Swartz

Yesterday I took part in a protest over Aaron Swartz's unjust prosecution at the hands of US attorney Carmen Ortiz. I had followed this story this winter as the details emerged of an obvious case of prosecutorial over-reach. I hope that Swartz' death will ultimately provide the impetus to reexamine some of the unbalanced priorities in the Federal judicial system, particularly the amount discretion allowed prosecutors in deciding who in this society gets treated as criminals.




Aaron Swartz used the unsecured MIT networks to download a massive amount of legal documents from the online database JSTOR and make them available on peer to peer networks. JSTOR declined to press charges, but federal prosecutors Carmen Ortiza and Stephen Haymann ultimately levied the full weight of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act against him, charging him with crimes that could have resulted in a million dollar fine and up to 35 years in jail.


Aaron Swartz' 'crime' was paying for the right t…

Sad news

I heard news that Ian Banks, author of the classic Culture series of science fiction novels and Wasp Factory, has announced he has late stage terminal cancer. Banks is a gifted author,  probably  single-handedly rescuing the moribund space opera genre in the late 90s. I give my best wishes to his family in this difficult time.