Work Week Plus

The work week started early … really early. I was up at 0500 this morning, and at my desk at the office by 0555. We had an 8 hour maintenance window to do a raft of VMware and other patching. Licensing issues prevent us from doing things the easy way, so we get outage windows and do things the hard way. That includes getting key virtual machines back online before 0800 on Sunday morning. It was actually a pretty good day – we finished up with two hours left in the maintenance window, which is good estimating. Had something gone horribly wrong, two hours is enough to fix much of it.

Side note – first night down into the 40’s – it was about 47°F out in the back yard when I got up.

Since nothing went horribly wrong at work, I was home and out in the yard mowing by 1300. Got inside and relaxed a bit, and grilled some lovely marinated chicken for supper.

As Sunday’s go, not too terrible.

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Recent Reading – Caliphate by Tom Kratman

No piece of fiction I’ve read in recent years has filled me with sadness for our future like Tom Kratman’s Caliphate. (Note, if you want to read it, the Kindle price at this moment is $0.00.) There is nothing in this book that seems implausible to me. If anything, I find it to be a bit optimistic in the reading of the tea leaves. All civilizations fall, but Europe falling to the radical Muslims through willful ignorance and apathy seems like exactly the path they’re already on. Will events play out as they do in the book? I don’t think so. The radical muslim world are the latest batch of humans happy to play hardball in a brave old world that keeps wanting the game to be played by the rules set by first grade teachers. Be clear: the world is not a kind and easy place. We’ve had it pretty good for the last century or so, but to expect these conditions to last is implausible. What is plausible is Tom Kratman’s premise in Caliphate.

I found the book to be a more-than-good-enough read. Not tightly-paced enough to keep me awake while I read it through. But the story is compelling. I was able to care about the characters, and weep for the world that we’re making for ourselves in this work of fiction. For me, it’s also reminiscent of the Daybreak series by John Barnes. But while there’s tech that doesn’t exist in Daybreak (thus allowing me to distance myself from the action), no such issue exists to prevent me from buying into everything that happens in Caliphate.

You can (and oh, people do) criticize his writing, his stance, his service to America, and everything under the sun. It’s clear how he receives his criticism, right at the top of his website. I wouldn’t say he revels in it, but he want to be sure that before you proceed, there are people foaming at the mouth to disagree with him and his perspective. Frankly, I hope this particular vision of the future is wrong, but I fear it isn’t.

Out of the batter’s box is Terry Pratchett’s Raising Steam.

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DoD has announced no new casualties in the last week.

Late Summer

With three weeks to go in Summer (proper), summer in terms of weather and humidity finally arrived this week. A few days up into the low 90’s brought us some unpleasant heat and occasionally lots of rain. Last night we had 1.3″ here alone. I didn’t look at the weather  radar at the time so I don’t know how broad that front was. But we had lightning and rain for the best part of three hours.

Leading up to that, I spent about 5 hours working out in the yard. Some of that was regular stuff like mowing and cleaning out some dying plants in front.  But I also gave a couple of hours to fence-mending…

A few days ago, Lexi was out hunting bunnies in the back yard, then … she wasn’t. Lexi followed a rabbit, not down a hole, but out a hole. Yep, a hole in the fence which Lexi was able to rapidly enlarge enough to chase through and after. Sigh. The good news is, once discovered, we went out calling her name, and she came running up to me from out of the small wood in the common area behind our property. The bad news was that the fence needed mending.

I ended up replacing about 20 boards, and blocking off a few more bits with patching. I’ve still got to mix up a slightly matching stain combo and get those boards coated. But between the fence and other yard work yesterday, I dropped about 6# sweating. So, I rehydrated for much of the afternoon.

Today: Shopping and patching systems at work consumed the bulk of the day.

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Recent Reading: The Big Aha by Rudy Rucker.

Last year, I backed Rudy’s Kickstarter ™ for his new book, The Big Aha. I’d been a fan of Rudy’s since reading Software in the early 1980’s. The Big Aha is a big departure from the style of fiction, and of writing, from that earlier era. The author credits Bill Craddock’s Be Not Content as his primary stylistic influence. Using quantum mechanics instead of Lysergic acid diethylamide as his tool for making an entire world behave like a bunch of loons is … interesting. However, I found it difficult to follow the story. I found it difficult to care about the characters – they remind me of everything that’s bad about soap operas. And, sadly, though I persevered to the very end of the book (and it’s taken me a good long while), I just didn’t like it.

That doesn’t mean that you might not like it. You will want to be happy in a place where there are lots of new, made-up words. You’ll want to like characters that make even less sense (when straight, aka not in “cosmic mode”) than people on this screwed-up planet. If you like soap operas, and fantasy, and science fiction, you might like this story. My clear personal failing is that I don’t like soap operas.

The better news, from my perspective, is that with The Big Aha done, I now have my permission to start reading pTerry’s Raising Steam.

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Our condolences to the family and friends of Spc. Brian K. Arsenault, 28, of Northborough, Massachusetts, who died on Sept. 4, in Ghazni, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when his unit was engaged by enemy small-arms fire.

A Lovely Day for an Anniversary

Yep. Sixteen wonderful years I’ve been married to Marcia. To celebrate, she worked on a t-shirt quilt for a customer, while I … went to work. But this evening, on the way home …

Got my gal some roses

Got my gal some roses

She seems to like them. She also got a sewing thing accessory as a pressie, while I’ve got a set of E. E. “Doc” Smith paperbacks headed my way. We’re so romantical. We’ll go out to supper to complete our celebration one of these days.

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Marcia got a FitBit thing a while back, and she likes it very much. It helps her keep track of a lot of the things she needs to. Since I’ve been trying to do better on that front, like this (this evening):

Burned a kilocalorie

Burned a kilocalorie

I could also do better at keeping track of such things, as well as managing my portion control through better records keeping. But I chose a different bit of gear: a Jawbone UP24. I executed the purchase through Amazon, which saved a few bucks, and I have had very few problems puzzling out how to make the App interface operate. I’ll report further on the product, the app, and how/if it’s helping me with any of my goals at some ill-defined later date.

Downs and Ups

In one sense, it was a really bad week. Hours after I posted last Sunday, I became violently ill, almost certainly due to something I ate. After about 24 hours, I was able to start re-hydrating, and taking in such challenging foods as soda crackers (in small quantities – I had ten crackers, all of Tuesday). Wednesday was slightly better, and that night I slept through the night. So I went to my one day of work on Thursday, and got enough done.

The upside of the week was Capclave, which I attended on Friday and Saturday. It was going on today as well, but I am still not fully recovered, and decided to lump Sunday and holiday Monday together into another period of recuperation instead.

Capclave was, just like last year, awesome. I had a lot of fun hanging out with a bunch of really smart people, many of whom write F&SF or work with writers, from editors to artists to publishers. Clearly, I’d get even more out of the conference were I in the biz, but time for that sometime later. Because I’m not nearly as much of a George R. R. Martin fan, I was able to spend more time learning about new writers, and other fun stuff. Last year, with John Scalzi as GoH, I frankly spent more time in squee mode, to the detriment of the balance of my conference. Capclave peeps, I thank you for a wonderful Con, and I’m already looking forward to next year.

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Mmmm, rain. I almost left this out. Since last Monday, we’re just shy of 5 inches of rain in our back yard. That brings our 11-1/2 month total to 44.06 inches, just over the 30-year annual mean rainfall for our area.

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My message to Congress: Do Your Freaking Job!

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Our condolences to the families, friends, and units of these fallen warriors:

  • Lance Cpl. Jeremiah M. Collins, Jr., 19, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, died Oct. 5 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
  • 1st Lt. Jennifer M. Moreno, 25, of San Diego, California, died Oct. 6, in Zhari District, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked her unit with an improvised explosive device.
  • Sgt. Patrick C. Hawkins, 25, of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, died Oct. 6, in Zhari District, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.
  • Sgt. Joseph M. Peters, 24, of Springfield, Missouri, died Oct. 6, in Zhari District, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.
  • Pfc. Cody J. Patterson, 24, of Philomath, Oregon, died Oct. 6, in Zhari District, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.
  • Spc. Angel L. Lopez, 27, of Parma, Ohio, died Oct. 5, in Zabul province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with small arms fire.

Liaden Book Time

  • Agent of Change
  • Carpe Diem
  • Plan B
  • I Dare

These I have read (relatively quickly, given how busy I am these days) – books written by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. I came across Agents of Change when it appeared in the Baen Free Library. I devoured it, and went to Baen to feed the habit. I ended up buying the Korval’s Legacy Collection and the Phase Change Collection direct from Baen. Good pricing, ten books full of awesome. Taken together, the four books named above are a galaxy-spanning space opera that brought me to mind of the best of E. E. ‘Doc’ Smith and Heinlein. They make me very happy. I’m also partway through Fledgling, which is set in a different part of the same universe. Tie-ins? Of course, at least a bit.

Why didn’t I know about these when they were written? Del Rey first published Agent of Change in 1988! That was admittedly a frantically weird part of my life, but I’ve almost always found time for great science fiction. I just … missed them, some how. I’m so glad that Miller and Lee not only wrote these, but have kept on writing: Exciting Times for the Liaden Universe® tells us that there’s plenty more to come, and I still have lots to read from Korval’s Legacy and Phase Change. Highly Recommended!

Travels done

And we’re back!

Nine days in California and in the air are done: We flew out to SFO on the 22nd, and flew back through DFW on the 30th. We visited with my folks for about three days, then headed over to SF and stayed there while I attended VMworld 2013. I attended three general sessions and 19 technical sessions in four and one-half days … my brain nearly exploded. I watched countless demos, met many wonderful and smart people, and acquired enough t-shirts to last me until the next millennium. The weather was lovely, and Marcia split her time between the City and learning some design software.

While in the air, I was reading a couple of Liaden Universe novels by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. Agent of Change and Fledgling are both available for free at both the Baen Free Library and on Kindle for the time being. You can consider those to works to be a gateway drug, since the writing is wonderful. You’ll spend some more of your time and money on their books, because you should. Learn more at http://korval.com/.

I’m not sure, but I’d guess that the authors get more of your money if you purchase through Baen … you can always ask them. It’s certainly worth encouraging the Baen Free Library when you buy from Baen, too.

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Our condolences to the families, friends, and units of these fallen warriors:

  • 1st Lt. Jason Togi, 24, of Pago Pago, American Samoa, died Aug. 26, in Hasan Karez, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device.
  • Sgt. 1st Class Ricardo D. Young, 34, of Rosston, Arkansas, died Aug. 28, in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit with small arms fire.
  • Staff Sgt. Michael H. Ollis, 24, of Staten Island, New York, died Aug. 28, in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device, small arms and indirect fire.
  • Staff Sgt. Joshua J. Bowden, 28, of Villa Rica, Georgia, died Aug. 31, in Ghazni, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with small arms fire while on dismounted patrol.

Mr. Penumbra’s … A Review

I’ve been stalking watching Robin Sloan for a while now. He apparently lives in San Francisco when he’s not on the Internets. Robin wrote and posted online a short story called Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, back in 2009. I read it shortly thereafter, and was greatly pleased by the characters, the settings, and the plotting. All-in-all, one of the tightest, shiniest short stories I’ve read in a long, long time.

So, when Robin headed down the Kickstarter path with his first dead trees work, the novella entitled Annabel Scheme, I jumped on the bandwagon, and supported his effort with real moola. It’s good to be a patron of the Arts*.

Recently, all this attention and excitement got Robin into the eyes of a publisher. The opportunity blossomed, and expressed itself as a novel-length version of that original short I loved so much. Now you can buy it online, here, for example. There’s also B&N, and some other  little online bookseller that probably has stock, too. Amazon? Yeah, probably. Anyway… Putting glow-in-the-dark book stacks on the slipcover is genius, by the way.

Last night, when I should have put the book down and turned out the lights, I carried on reading through to the end of this wonderful tale. It’s like Robin took the perfect little doll house version of the tale, and scaled it up into a proper people-scale edifice worthy of living in for a while. I can hang out in different rooms, and see many more wondrous sights from all the new angles and perspectives that the more capacious novel provides.

Our hero is still diffident, his girl is still a genius, and Penumbra still is … but the horizons are much further out, and the tale’s changed to accommodate the expansion. New characters are woven in and out of the fabric of the story – you can see the short story in there still, but it’s got a lot of new friends. Some of them are likeable, some less so, much like the folks in all of our lives. The blurring and bending of reality at the intersection of old technology (books and moveable type) and new technology (the Internet and extreme-scale computational power) is more pointedly the focus of the story, now, and that’s no bad thing. It hits a demographic that’s likely to work really well for Robin’s writing career.

One more thing about Penumbra’s: it’s a good world, too. Robin has room to grow more stories in that space, if he wants. Annabel Scheme is in a related universe, but only just. I look forward to his next work, and the next. Does Robin mind if I put such expectations on his time? I hope not.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Robin Sloan. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux: New York. 2012). Highly Recommended!

*  Patron of the Arts – I’ve been supporting authors and musicians, mostly, with my entertainment dollars. Just because something can be had for free (like the PDF edition of Annabel Scheme), doesn’t mean I don’t go buy the Kindle version instead. Okay, not true – I got the signed dead tree edition from Robin via the Kickstarter. Today, driving home, iTunes offered up Amanda Palmer, then Zoe Keating … two more artists I’ve been paying as directly as possible. I want them to keep working, which means mortgage and food and such, so supporting artists I love is important to me. I hope it is for (some of) you, too!