Archive for August, 2009

Favorite Books of 2006

01:41 31 Aug 2009

2006 involved quite a lot of reading, including perhaps a higher number than average of books in series.

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Gateway Review

01:38 30 Aug 2009

Frederik Pohl’s Gateway, the opening novel in his Heechee series, won the Nebula in 1977 and the Hugo, Locus, and John W. Campbell awards in 1978 (making it even more highly-decorated than most of the “triple crown” winners).

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Favorite Books of 2005

01:31 28 Aug 2009. Updated: 19:23 24 Oct 2010

In 2005 I set myself a goal of reading 60 books, partly to try to make up for the low numbers in 2004. I barely made it, reading The Phantom Tollbooth on 31 December.

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Favorite Books of 2004

01:13 27 Aug 2009

I read only 37 books in 2004, the lowest total since I started keeping track. I’m not sure why I read so few that year, particularly since quite a few of the books on the list are books that I was completely absorbed by and went through quickly. The quality is mixed, but some of them were excellent.

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The Forever War Review

05:16 25 Aug 2009

Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War is the fifth winner of the science fiction “triple crown”, winning the Nebula in 1975 and the Hugo and Locus in 1976. It is a story of future interstellar war, between humanity and a species known as “Taurans“. It focuses on the war career of its main protagonist, William Mandella. I consider it an anti-war novel, and was quite impressed with it when I first read it last year.

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Favorite Books of 2003

15:34 24 Aug 2009

This time, I’ve managed to let just a day pass since my last roundup of books from a given year.

2003 started slowly on the reading front; apparently The Idiot took me three months to get through. The first five months of the year saw me read just four books, an extremely low rate. I returned to a normal reading pace thereafter, with some dips and a surge in December.

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Favorite Books of 2002

15:54 23 Aug 2009

Yet again it’s taken me more than a year since the last collection of book favorites. Part of the reason for this delay is that I’ve made abortive efforts to improve the display of book information on this blog, but none of those have reached a point where I think they’re usable. So, basic text lists it is.

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NCAA Ethics Violation: Bagels with Cream Cheese

22:22 21 Aug 2009

The NCAA is the National Collegiate Athletics Assocation, the governing body for American college sports. One of the responsibilities it has taken upon itself is the policing of student amateur status, to make sure that colleges do not entice star athletes to join their progams with money or other bribes. I already considered this a ridiculous situation, but realized today that I underestimated just how ridiculous it was.

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05:57 20 Aug 2009

My friends Niall and Léan introduced me to this tile-based word game the other night, and I’m quite impressed with it. It’s like a speed version of Scrabble played without a board and without points. Each player starts with facedown tiles, and players simultaneously turn them over and try to form crossword-style word layouts with them. When a player runs out of tiles, they say “peel” and each player has to take a tile from the pool. When there are fewer tiles than players left in the pool, the first player to use their tiles wins.
I was happy with this winning effort from last night:

Bananagrams: Revolvers Example
However, the first thing I noticed when I opened the photo today was that I should have gotten rid of “par” and ”age” to make ”programmed”…

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Attempts to Change the Discourse

21:58 18 Aug 2009

There’s a campaign at the moment, “Think B4 You Speak”, that’s attempting to get teens to not use homophobic slurs in their interactions. The aim is a good one, but I have my doubts about its efficacy—doubts that are expressed rather well by this Penny Arcade strip.

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CrossFit Ireland First Impressions

22:57 17 Aug 2009

I made it to CrossFit Ireland today, eventually—it wasn’t that easy for me to find it, and I probably should have watched their driving video rather than just using Google Maps. As I’ve stated before, Irish signage is terrible, and I shouldn’t have expected that it would be easy to identify the Hibernian Industrial Estate.

I did find it in the end, and even managed to just about be on time.

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A Clearer Picture of Mass Killings

03:50 16 Aug 2009

Timothy Snyder has an interesting article on how contemporary understanding of the Holocaust is tilted towards Western victims in the New York Review of Books, which includes an overview of mass death in the period around World War II. Upsetting, as you would expect, but worth reading.

(Via Who Is IOZ?)

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Sides of the Road/Path

22:00 14 Aug 2009
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Because Possessions Don’t Really Need Names

23:37 13 Aug 2009

The title is somewhat inflammatory, and look, there’s nothing wrong with someone taking their partner’s name when they get married. There are plenty of practical reasons to do so, and it’s an individual choice in any case and doesn’t require justification.

However, pressuring women to change their last name when they marry is another matter, and I find it both disheartening and surprising that 70% of Americans think that women should take their husband’s last name when they marry. I just don’t think there should be any social pressure to do so. It gets worse, too.

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Social Design Patterns

07:00 11 Aug 2009. Updated: 10:21 13 Aug 2009

Via BoingBoing, I came across quite a good article on information architecture and user experience design for social websites. If you’re at all interested in the area, I recommend it. There’s also a related wiki that seems to have a great deal of content on it.

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Don’t Watch Taken

18:12 10 Aug 2009

I was tired and stuck in my seat and made the poor choice of watching this awful Liam Neeson action movie. I say “awful” but I don’t just mean bad, I mean its themes and messages were highly questionable and disturbing. Spoilers will follow, but a) it’s not worth seeing and b) I’m not sure they’re “spoilers” with a movie as predictable as this.

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Time to Try Vim

09:14 09 Aug 2009

There are three kinds of major text editors: Emacs, vi (now really Vim), and “other”. I’m sure there are some other quirky small ones out there, but those are basically the major categories. “Other” encompasses what I think most people would expect from a text editor: a window in which you can type freely and see your text appear, and which behaves somewhat like other applications, including word processors, in its basic functionality.

I’ve used the “other” category for years. I think that the first one I used heavily (I’m not counting MS-DOS Editor) was TextPad. I stuck with that for quite some time, and then started using HomeSite. I think I played with UltraEdit for a while too. Eventually, however, I wanted a cross-platform and free software editor, and shifted over to jEdit. I’ve used it heavily for several years, and consider it the best of the “other” class.

I have, however, always thought about making the effort to learn vi, because I’ve always loved the keyboard-only approach and like to save time by making my text editor use more efficient.

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Crows Are Smart—Aesop Edition

16:46 07 Aug 2009

Apparently the story about the crow using stones to raise the water level in a pitcher was no fable. I already knew about crow tool usage being pretty impressive, and this just reinforces that notion.

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Typeface Considerations

23:31 06 Aug 2009. Updated: 09:20 07 Aug 2009

I used to be somewhat obsessed with fonts. When I was doing more graphic design, I regularly looked for new fonts, tried to use just the right font for just the right occasion, and generally was very picky about them. Over time, that’s faded considerably, and I settled down to using fairly unspectacular fonts for most things, accepting that for the most part the “basic” serif and sans serif fonts available on the majority of systems were good enough.

After a system upgrade today, Lucida Sans Typewriter, the font I’ve been using in jEdit, suddenly stopped working properly without anti-aliasing. I couldn’t get it back to what it had looked like before, and so I was left with finding another suitable editor font.

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Attempted Photos of Grey Whale Cove

14:54 04 Aug 2009

Grey Whale Cove is a spot slightly north of Montara Beach, one of my favorite places to drive. Two Sundays ago I decided to get some shots of the area around Grey Whale Cove. Unfortunately, I’m a terrible photographer.

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Reflections on Offendedness

18:16 03 Aug 2009. Updated: 19:33 03 Aug 2009

Several months ago I wrote a piece on Racism and Science Fiction/Fantasy. I wanted to write more about that, but it’s been tough for me to work my thoughts into something cogent enough to post; I still have at least one unfinished post on it lying around. Some recent online reading has helped me to identify one of the things that was disturbing me, however: the role of offendedness in the discussion. Its role in other discussions, including wider cultural debates, has also bothered me for a while, and this post is about my view on it and the path that led me to this articulation of it.

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Python Script for Subversion Status

23:48 02 Aug 2009. Updated: 11:33 06 Apr 2010

I find in my use of Subversion that I often want to see a side-by-side list of files that aren’t under version control and files that have some other status. I also want these lists to be sorted alphabetically. Naturally, I ended up writing a Python script for this.

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