A week or two ago, the Oracle quarterly CPU (Critical Patch Updates) notification went out. So I scheduled my Solaris patching for the maintenance day I have: Sundays. The first round went fine today. Next Sunday, I’ll do the rest. Solaris patching is just about the least troublesome thing I have to do. It takes a fair bit of time, but the reversion path on Solaris 10 with the Boot Environment (BE) feature is as safe as houses (well, not houses badly built in an earthquake zone, or ramblers built on slabs on a flood plain, but you know what I mean).
Boot environments enable me to use the ZFS file system tools to make a copy of all the important bits of the operating system, mount that copy, and patch that. Then I can set it to be the new active BE, and reboot. Once done, I test. If all is good, and patching didn’t break things, I move on. If patching breaks things, I simple set the prior BE to active, and reboot again. Then I’m back to the state of the system prior to patching. It’s an excellent feature.
On the home front, I’m still happily running FreeBSD 10 as my main OS. I think there’s an update available, to 10.1, but I’m not going to try for that this evening. I’m tired – I pushed really hard on the exercise front this last week, and my knees ache a bit. No yardwork at all this weekend. The lawns could have stood to be mowed, but next week will be fine for that.
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Today I finished reading Genevieve Valentine’s SF novella, Dream Houses. You may recall my mentioning that Ms. Valentine read from this work at Capclave ’14 a couple of weeks back. It’s a bit eerie reading a story someone wrote, and hearing the words in her voice … wowsers! A note: You can get Dream Houses in eBook format. Mine is an inscribed trade hardcover edition.
I really liked this story. From the opening words straight through to the end, I was hooked – if it had been as long as this week’s second book, I’d be half dead from sleep deprivation. That’s one of the joys of the novella length. You can get the intensity of the short story form, and add in the missing character development that there isn’t room for 3000 words or so. Ms. Valentine has written shorts that I’ve read and enjoyed in Clarkesworld, but Dream Houses gets under the skin. It’s not a happy tale, I’ll give you that much. It seems that many of the novella length stuff I like, isn’t. (See Scalzi’s The God Engines, for example.) I care about Amadis, last of the crew alive on this run to Gliese. I pondered the motivations of the ship’s AI, Capella. I still wonder how many times Capella binge-watched 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Dream Houses is dark, exquisitely crafted, and deeply creepy. I’m going to have to read it again, sooner than later, to get more out of this marvelous confection. Highly Recommended.
A couple of days ago, I finally finished reading Iain M. Banks’s Against a Dark Background. I’ll give you this: If you’d read two or more of the Culture novels, it’s trivial to identify this tome as one by Banks. Against a Dark Background is deeply embedded in the Banks school of SF, but without any of the redeeming (IMO) quirks of humor that spice up the Culture books.
I guess it was one of those weeks, since this book is dark, dark, dark, too. And at about ten times the word count of Dream Houses, it was more of a workout, too, in trade paperback format. More to the point, it was a mental and emotional workout, almost more than I wanted. I very nearly put this book down. And by the end, only the protagonist, Lady Sharrow, continues to be damaged goods. Damn near everyone else is dead. It’s as if this story was Banks doing a dark, humorless SF version of a season of Black Adder. Everyone dies at the end there, too.
I wanted to like Against a Dark Background. I’ve enjoyed all the other SF written by Banks that I’ve laid hands on. The intricacy and attention to detail that are the mark of Banks are present. And in the details of sections here and there throughout, I was hauled into the story, against my will. Oddly, both books this week are about a woman as (eventual) sole survivor, ending badly even so. But while I loved Dream Houses, Against a Dark Background was a slog for me. I keep books I plan on reading again. I have SHELVES full of books I plan on reading again. This book isn’t staying. And that’s a darn shame.
Clarkesworld Magazine: Issue 97. This is my “five free minutes, I’ll read a story on my phone” target. I’ve been a subscriber (through the Kindle store) to Clarkesworld for a couple of years now. The quality and curation of the fiction is superb, the non-fiction is usually interesting and enlightening, and the cover art is awesome. I can always recommend Clarkesworld!
I’ve just started (as in, I’ve finished the prologue) of Paolo Bacigalupi’s newest novel, The Doubt Factory. At Capclave, Paolo referred to this as his “Public Relations Thriller.” I enjoyed The Windup Girl immensely, so I’m please to be able to add this one to my collection. I’ll let you know in a week or two how the ride was.
Unidentified Funny Objects 3, edited by Alex Shvartsman.
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Our condolences to the families, friends, and units of these fallen warriors:
- Lance Cpl. Sean P. Neal, 19, of Riverside, California, died Oct. 23, in Baghdad, Iraq, from a non-combat related incident.
- Cmdr. Christopher E. Kalafut, 49, of Oceanside, California, died Oct. 24, in Doha, Qatar, of a non-combat related incident at Al Udeid Air Base.