Fri, Jun. 20th, 2014, 10:29 pm
not to disprove what brutus spoke.

Read Snuff, by Terry Pratchett. (And you can kind of tell I moved near a used bookstore. . . and the local public library is quite excellent. . . and moving also was an opportunity to get all the books out of boxes in my garage and onto actual bookshelves. Some of them are even lightly sorted. I've been reading a lot, is what I'm saying.)

Anyway, Snuff. I'm not going to make an overall summation -- it's the 39th discworld book, and you've probably already made up your mind whether or not you like them -- but I did want to observe that this book has one huge stylistic defect that wasn't present in the others. The dialogue's all been replaced with paragraph-long rants, giant hulking stilted monologues. These characters used to have distinct voices, and now they have an uncomfortable tendency to preach in unison.

When I was writing seriously, my co-author and I would stand in the kitchen on weekends and read segments aloud. It was a good way of catching typos, but it was also a good way to get a sense of just how bulky the words were, how unwieldy and dull they became when ingested one-by-one. It's a thing that's easy to miss when you're familiar with your own style, and scarcely have to read one word in five to know the entire sentence.

(As you might guess, the livejournal does not get this treatment.)

Pratchett used to know this, and I suspect he edited quite aggressively to "cut out the bits readers tend to skip". That he didn't -- well, it's in poor taste to leap to the conclusion that Alzheimer's is catching up with him, and it's tragic, and something I don't want to think about myself -- but I'd rather not leave that possibility to lurk in the background, so I may as well say outright: I think, at very least, the difficulty that he now has writing negatively affected the rigor of his hitherto customary editing process.

Other critics have mentioned that they disagree with Pratchett's political philosophy, or with elements of his characterization. I don't know about that, because in some ways I'm just a simple writer. I took offense to a mechanical issue with his writing, and wrote about it at length because apparently I was much more offended than I realized at the time. The rest you can judge for yourself.

Thu, Jun. 12th, 2014, 12:44 am
moving from one place to another.

Picked up a copy of Mishima's 『命売ります』, which the Wikipedia is pleased to translate as Life for Sale. It's strange -- I bought it mostly because it's a Mishima work I'd never heard of, and once upon a time that would have been important to me. But at that time it hadn't occurred to me that so much of his work might remain untranslated, and in fact sunk into utter obscurity, at least in the English-speaking world.

But it doesn't matter, I suppose. There's probably a reason it hasn't been translated yet.

I did find an interesting bit of trivia while trying to discover if a translation existed. John Nathan, who translated Mishima's The Sailor who Fell from Grace with the Sea, recounts how he couldn't translate the original title (which is a pun, as so many things are) and eventually just gave up and asked Mishima.

I went to see Mishima, who seemed to relish the challenge. "Let's come up with a long title, like Proust," he said. Then he astonished me by rattling off half a dozen such titles in Japanese. I wrote them down as he spoke them. One seemed to translate itself: Umi no megumi wo ushinawarete shimatta madorosu -- The Sailor Who fell from Grace with the Sea.
It's a brilliant title, one I've always admired. Knowing that it was a joke on the spur of the moment -- well, I can't say I'm surprised, but I should be.

Thu, Apr. 10th, 2014, 11:30 am
capacity to have an effect.

Been sewing a fair amount lately. Darned my M-65 field coat. Sewed up the lining of my favorite jacket. Hemmed some jeans. Replaced some buttons. "Mending" might be a better term, since I'm pretty firm about sewing only for practical reasons.

It reminds me again that I'm put together from bits of William Gibson characters, even when the characters in question were written long after I'd settled into their traits. In this case, Spook Country:

Heidi's distaste for trickiness in decor, Hollis knew, was actually an extension of her dislike of art in general. The daughter of an Air Force technician, she was the only woman Hollis had ever known who enjoyed welding, but only for the purpose of repairing something essential that was actually broken.

Wed, Jan. 29th, 2014, 10:23 pm
framework to underpin behavior.

Having moved to within spitting distance of Google's headquarters, I'm seeing a lot of the self-driving cars on the road. They're pretty neat -- I, of course, am all for making driving an obsolete skill -- but it does make me wonder: how aggressive are they?

I bike, of course. So I assume I can cut off the self-driving cars pretty aggressively, and that once I've done that, they'll follow passively, moving to pass only when safe. They probably have faster reactions than a human driver, and they're less prone to get impatient.

But what if I decide to play chicken? Will the car stop? In the absence of obstacles, if I charge it, will it go into reverse? If a collision seems unavoidable, does it prioritize what to hit? Will it leave the road if sufficiently hounded?

Wed, Dec. 11th, 2013, 12:41 am
formerly used for driving machinery.

Finally ended my contract at the day job. It's a source of remarkable ambivalence for me -- on the one hand I enjoy recieving monies and buying nutrients, on the other I was pretty tired of that job, and especially of the particular species of gross corporate dysfunction that afflicted that company.

And, because I'm vastly more fortunate than I deserve, I seem to have fallen into a new day job, back in the SF bay area.

I just thought that I'd have so much more time. I'd be able to finish all those outstanding projects, do everything I said I would. And instead it looks like I'm leaping back into the red queen's race. A more interesting job, better-paid, but still not quite what I think I wanted.


Fri, Sep. 20th, 2013, 03:22 am
those passions which yet survive.

Read Kim Stanley Robinson's 2312. Surprisingly good! In general, I think hard SF is pretty boring, but this really shows a lot of the strong points of the genre -- what you might call the romance of physical reality. There are a bunch of scenes where he just describes how grand it all is, and how wonderfully we've come to terms with the sheer expansive possibilities of existence in that future.

It reminds me of Jablokov's stuff in a few places, with its offhand descriptions of massive interplanetary engineering projects. Less elegant, but I suppose that's scarcely avoidable.

Not a terribly quick read, but not a slog either. Recommended, with the reservation that "for those who like that sort of thing, this is the sort of thing they like."

Mon, Jul. 8th, 2013, 11:56 pm
device for creating suction.

Sometimes I read my 419 spam. (Terrible habit, I know.) But this one's amazing in its metacity.

I am Mr Ibrahim Lamedo the chairman of ECONOMIC & FINANCIAL CRIME COMMISSION (EFCC).EFCC in alliance with economic community of West African states (ECOWAS)with the head office here in Nigeria.we have been working towards the eradication of fraudsters and scam artists in western part of Africa with the help of the united states government and the united Nation.

We have been able to track down so many of this scam artist in various part of west Africa countries which includes(NIGERIA, REPUBLIC OF BENIN, TOGO,GHANA CAMERON AND SENEGAL)and they are all in our custody here in Lagos Nigeria. We have been able to recover so much money from these scam artists.The United Nation Anti-Crime commission and the United state Government have ordered the money recovered from the scamers to be shared among 100 lucky people around the global.

This email is been directed to you because your email address was found in one of the scam Artists file and a computer hard disk in our custwilliamsody here in are therefore being compensated with $1.5Million Dollars.we have also arrested all those who claim that they are barristers,bank officials,lottery Agent who has money for transfer or want you to be the next of kin of such fund which does not exist.

I mean, the audacity of claiming to originate from Nigeria would be good for a chuckle by itself. The idea of paying out giant rewards by lottery to people who fell for an earlier 419? Purely brilliant. Subsequent paragraphs warn that an immediate transfer of 120 USD will be needed to claim the money. Of course. And it closes with a warning that there are other fraudsters about, and that any scams should be forwarded to them immediately. They are, after all, dedicated to the eradication of fraudsters and scam artists.

Wed, Jul. 3rd, 2013, 02:13 am
gone by and no longer existing.

Went under the fence at an abandoned elementary school. I don't know, it's all a little too preciously gothy for me, but there's a definite power in that desolation. I went to a school that looked a lot like that, and those memories, such as they are, remain irresistible.

I took these pictures, inasmuch as was practical, from about three and a half feet off the ground. Especially from this angle, this ramp seems like some kind of architectural whimsy.

Abandoned playground equipment is always sinister.

Still worked. Didn't drink any.

There was some graffiti, but less than I'd expect. Most of all, I found the sheer bright primary-colored rectangularity of the school's design striking.

The plants broke in waves over the fences like stop-motion filmmaking. For the most part, the structures seemed fine. Just overgrown. Relics of a vanished world.

Fri, May. 31st, 2013, 02:23 am
state of inactivity or equilibrium.

Been (re)reading some of Murakami's minor works. (I'm just making this category up, but I'm pretty sure it's a reasonable division to make.) One of them was After Dark, which I'm pretty sure I've mentioned that I thought he was just phoning in. It's got his usual character types behaving as you'd expect. Dual world, evocation of Tokyo, eccentric teenage girl who saves the day through some act of self-realization.

I may have made this complaint before. In this space, even. I'm deliberately putting it in the worst way. It's better than it sounds -- I actually enjoyed it quite a bit this time through, perhaps because, even if he's not pushing himself, he's made something genuinely comforting. I'm not sure how that works. I found it relaxing, engaging. Light, but not devoid of merit.

Besides, there's one of the classic Murakami rants on page 15. Behold:

"No matter how much I scream at them to make my toast as crispy as possible, I have never once gotten it the way I want it. I can't imagine why. What with Japanese industriousness and high-tech culture and the market principles that the Denny's chain is always pursuing, it shouldn't be that hard to get crispy toast, don't you think? So, why can't they do it? Of what value is a civilization that can't toast a piece of bread as ordered?"

Tue, Apr. 2nd, 2013, 01:20 am
required and paid in kind.

Doin' my taxes like a responsible adult. I'm getting kind of used to it -- I know what forms I need to file, so I don't get flashes of outrage anymore at having to do schedule SE, or the momentary frustration of checking the flowchart and finding I'm not able to file 1040EZ. Hard to believe, though I guess it's just more proof -- "you can get used to hanging if you hang long enough."

Of course, as previously documented, I'm not actually very good at filing my own taxes, and should probably leave it to professionals. Or at least software. But I am pretty stubborn, and every year I think, "Well, this year I'll get it right." Hasn't happened so far.

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