I finished Christopher Wright’s Pay Me, Bug! last night, and I’ve gotta say, I enjoyed the heck out of it. It was a space opera in the best sense of the term; in fact, I think I’d argue that it’s the best example of a space opera I’ve ever read.1 It’s got, at least, that most important aspect of a space opera: a sense that huge things are happening… in the background.
I finished reading The Improbable Rise of Singularity Girl last night. I also just got the book yesterday morning, so that really tells you what I thought of it. I can definitely see why it passed the Immerse or Die test.1 Which is, incidentally, how I wound up hearing about the book, as a tangential reference from an author I follow who has a book in the Immerse or Die StoryBundle. I’ve been meaning to get that book2 and read it at some point, and the descriptions of some of the other books fascinated me.3 So I dropped enough money on it to get the full bundle, Bonus Books included.4 And now, having burned through the first of those books in a single day, I figured, clearly I enjoyed reading it enough to ignore a bunch of my responsibilities5 and curl up in a chair and read for hours on end, so I should probably do it the honor of a review.
I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed Interstellar, and then I went and watched this video. It’s a behind-the-scenes bit on TARS and CASE, the robots in the film. Those ‘bots were, of course, one of my favorite aspects of the whole thing.
They were so well-executed, and a lovely counterpoint to David in Prometheus. David was skeumorphism to the extreme, designed to look exactly like a human. When he (spoiler alert) gets damaged, you see a lot of biotech internals, nanowhatever and fluid that doesn’t look like blood, but definitely doesn’t look like oil.1
I may or may not have spent four hours yesterday playing Cities: Skylines. It was, to me, a worthwhile use of my time.1 The game is very enjoyable, and I’m planning to spent a lot more time playing it over the next week.2
Seriously, go check it out.3 The game’s really nice, looks great, and runs on approximately every operating system.4 I had fun gaming on my MacBook5 – it is what I refer to as a beast of a machine, because it’s got the best specs you can cram into a MacBook without doing your own modifications, and it runs the game at near-maxed settings with ease. Sure, the fan is screaming and the battery percentage drops faster than a lead weight in a vacuum, but I’m gaming on a laptop, so I really can’t expect more.
I’ve got one or two issues with the game, but they don’t come up until later – the most noticeable is the same thing that my favorite “reviewer” mentioned when he talked about it – there’s no real way to lose. No disasters, and no negative levels on the RCI demand.6 Now, I’m not really complaining about the lack of disasters – I was always too frustrated by them in SimCity 4, because the learning curve on that game was too steep for me to ever really get off the ground. Cities is distinctly easier – more ‘casual,’ I’d say. And I like that lot.
Oh, right, I said I had one other issue, although it’s not technically an issue with the game. I wanted to tinker with the sandbox-style settings, so I used the built-in mods7 to give myself unlimited money and unlock everything. Except… the ‘unlock everything’ one only pushed the population numbers to max just long enough to hit those unlocks. Plenty of things were still locked due to not having hit their prerequisites, and that really bothered me. Mostly because I just wanted to build the fusion reactor, and I couldn’t! It was very tragic.
Oh well, I got to build a space elevator at least, so I’m still happy. It’s a good game, and now I’m going to go write a paper so I can play some more. Priorities!
- I don’t do much gaming anymore because I’m so very busy, and I tend to find lower-time-useage ways to get rid of my stress. ↩
- Some people party over spring break. I am not one of those people. ↩
- Today the link is to the Humble Store, instead of AmazonSmile. Humble has a lovely bit in their checkout process where they split the proceeds of the sale between the developers, a bit to ‘keep the servers running,’ and the rest to charity. Plus, you get Steam keys! ↩
- I believe it’s listed as being compatible with Linux, though I’m not sure which distros. If you’re running linux, though, I figure you’re smart enough to make it work. ↩
- If you’re going to be gaming on a MacBook, though, go into Steam’s settings and disable the in-game overlay, then quit out of Steam, then use Activity Monitor to force quit the inevitable bits of Steam that locked up instead of closing, then reopen steam, then launch the game. Otherwise, it’ll crash instantly. Shoutout to Valve, you’re doing good work over there. ↩
- Okay, there’s clearly negative numbers, but they aren’t visible to the user, they’re just used to run the internals. I can tell by the way the demand for everything says ‘zero’ but the map says ‘all these buildings are being abandoned because nobody wants them.’ ↩
- Somehow that feels wrong to say. ↩
Prompt: If you could recommend one book, which one would it be?
I’ll cheat a little bit, though, because once you remove my favorite authors, as I did by blocking out everything from my ‘favorite books’ list, there’s not a whole lot left. So I’m going to use one of the bits of ‘minutia’ of that list, and say that the one book I’d recommend to everyone is Neal Stephenson’s Diamond Age.1
Diamond Age is a rather sprawling book, but it tackles a lot of topics that I find utterly fascinating.2 There’s a lot of nanotechnology, which is used to touch on the cosmetic and medical uses that become possible, including some of the issues of ethics that show up when you’ve got the tech to rewrite someone’s brain. There’s a well-thought-out conceptualization of the sort of changes in society that the advent of atomic-level manipulation3 would bring. Hell, there’s even a good discussion of parenting, with special consideration for parenting through a digital remove, something that’s becoming more and more relevant in our increasingly connected world.
In short, Diamond Age is a fascinating read, and that’s what I’d recommend to everyone to read. Of course, Stephenson being who he is, that isn’t the only book of his that I’d recommend: Snow Crash4 is another phenomenal piece of work. I’ve read both Snow Crash and Neuromancer, which are widely considered to be the two pieces of cyberpunk literature, and I personally enjoyed Snow Crash a lot more. Sure, Neuromancer had a space station and I’m always a fan of space stations, but the idioms involved felt a little bit dated to me. Snow Crash, despite being written before Tron was released, still feels modern. And who doesn’t love a good parody of capitalism? Check it out, it’s pretty great.
Once more, I’ll make an attempt to bait reader interaction: got any books that I should really read? Hit up the comments and let me know.
- This isn’t an Amazon Affiliate link, which is the normal practice for people blogging with links to Amazon, but instead an AmazonSmile link. Instead of the referral percentage going to me, it’ll go to a charity of your choice. ↩
- Plus it’s just badass; how many books can you accurately describe with the phrase “post-scarcity neo-Victorianist” with no exaggeration? Answer: not enough. ↩
- By means of what is essentially a really fancy 3D printer ↩
- AmazonSmile link again. You might also notice that I’m directly linking to the Kindle books, because saving paper is good for the environment and stuff. ↩
I’m dropping this bit of introduction in at the start to explain a bit: I wrote this post about a week ago, and I’m posting it now because a) I was too ill to do anything yesterday, and b) Terry Pratchett, mentioned below, passed away on Thursday. He was an amazing writer, and a huge inspiration to me and millions of others. I was consciously aware of the fact that he was dying – his decline due to Alzheimer’s Disease is a matter of public record – and I’d even read his last book, Raising Steam, which was almost painful to read. It was an amazing book, capturing that sense of building something that made me love The Truth so much, and it managed to include just about every character he’d ever written – a tall order in a series that covered more than 50 books and pieces of spin-off media. And it hurt so much because it was so clearly a goodbye. He knew he wasn’t long for this world, and he was able to say goodbye in such a beautiful way. So I’m dedicating this post to Sir Terry Pratchett: you were a phenomenal man, and you will never be forgotten.
Continuing my trend of ‘favorite [category of media]’ posts, I’m gonna talk about some of my favorite books today! (I did that post about what I’m reading a little while ago, but this is more about the stuff that I’ll go back to time and time again.)
Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones
Easily my favorite book, this is (quoting the cover) a tour de force of a book, written as a response to her own “Tough Guide to Fantasyland,” which mocked the stereotypical fantasy novel. Dark Lord is set in one of those stereotypical fantasy novel, but from the other perspective: the ‘hero’ of the novel is actually a tourist, paying an exorbitant amount of money to an exploitative tour agency in order to go on an adventure in another world with magic and monsters. The book ignores those ‘heroes’ and instead follows the ‘dark lord,’ someone who was forced to take up the role to make the tourists experience a proper ‘adventure.’ In true DWJ style, the book starts off slow, but by the time you hit the midpoint of the novel, you realize that you’re physically incapable of putting the book down.
High Wizardry by Diane Duane
I had to think about which of Diane Duane’s books I wanted to mention – Omnitopia: Dawn was a strong contender, but I can still remember where I was when I got So You Want To Be A Wizard, the first book in her Young Wizards series (which includes High Wizardry). The series is one of my favorite of all time, and while I’m not entirely sure if the chronology matches up, I often attribute my wanting to be a programmer with the influence that the Young Wizards series had on my life. The idea that magic wasn’t some sort of inherent trait, but just the ability to convince the world to do what you wanted, combined with the concept that it was just a matter of saying a few words… Well, it got even better when, in High Wizardry, the concept of a computer as an instrument of magic was explored in a beautiful way that, aside from the very specific elements of the computer in question, still feels like science fiction.1
The Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pierce
I tried, I really tried, but I couldn’t pick just one. Honestly, her other major set of works, the Tortall series, is also amazing, and should probably show up as another contender on here, but I had to put the Circle first because it’s what I read first. It’s a beautiful exploration of a unique system of magic with characters that I fall in love with all over again every time I read the books.2 Seriously, go read them, I cannot recommend them enough. And I’m still hoping for a movie series, it would be perfect.
The Truth by Terry Pratchett
Another one where it was hard to pick from a massive series, The Truth follows the invention and growth of the newspaper and newspaper industry in Ankh-Morpork, the ‘big wahooni’ of the Discworld. I’ve read just about3 every book Sir Pratchett4 wrote,5 and I’ve loved very nearly all of them. But it’s this one that stood out the most to me – the sense of something being built, plus the characteristic silliness6 and just a hint of hair-raising horror make it my favorite out of his works.
I’ve also got to throw a plug for David Foster Wallace’s Consider the Lobster in here, just because that was the other book that was a big influence on my footnote usage. Another one I read in high school english, Cloud Atlas, goes in here, because of how I reacted when I read the last couple pages of Letters from Zedelgheim. No spoilers, but I’ll just say that I was blissfully oblivious to all of the subtext going on, and when I figured it out on the second-to-last page I dropped the book and sat in silence for a while, and was rather inconsolable for the next couple days. I’ll also drop a plug for Robert Sawyer’s WWW trilogy, which has had a lot of influence on my ideas about artificial intelligence, and another for Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson, which is why I’m so hopeful about the future of 3D printing. A mention for Iain Banks’ Culture series, a beautiful, sprawling set of space operas which I adore. Finally, a shoutout to Patricia C. Wrede, who wrote both the Enchanted Forest series and the Frontier Magic series, both of which I would be happy to read another thousand times.
I read a lot, folks. Hit up those comments – have you read any of these books? And what are your favorites? I’m always looking for more to read!
- That is to say, it doesn’t feel out of date, at all. A ‘new millenium edition’ was recently released, which made it work out even better, but it honestly had aged beautifully before that. ↩
- I’m being deliberately vague about which series I’m talking about because, honestly, it’s true of both. ↩
- but not quite ↩
- He was knighted for his writing. Yes, he was that good. ↩
- I’m adding this footnote in as part of my editing sweep – I’ll admit to having had to blink back tears as I changed this to the past tense. ↩
- And footnotes, which clearly influenced me a lot. ↩
I’ve done a post about all the different text editors I have on my laptop1, but today I’m going to talk about the general programs I’ve got. Specifically, which ones are in my Dock.
First, some of the stuff that isn’t technically in the Dock, but rather the bar at the top of the screen.2 Day One is present, followed by f.lux, Dropbox, OneDrive,3 and then the various system utilities.
Now, in the Dock itself. Finder, of course, then Chrome. Because internet addiction.
Then we’ve got Airmail 2, a lovely replacement for Mail.app, which I wound up switching to after a combination of ‘weird Yosemite bug’ and the WiFi at my work blocking Exchange servers4 rendered it unusable. Airmail has a nice interface and helps keep me organized, and it works nicely with Outlook on iOS, which I’m using as a replacement for the combination of Mail.app iOS and Google Inbox.
Next on the Dock is Things, a handy little to-do list app. The ‘add a task anywhere’ function is pretty handy, and it syncs nicely to the iOS app. It’s also very expensive, as far as apps go, and I wound up getting it as part of a bundle of software which helped me save a lot.
Following Things is Messages, which I mostly use for sending memes to people. I can’t be productive all the time.
Then there’s Typed, the new addition to the ‘text editors’ list. I’m gonna go ahead and throw in a mention for Mou here, because, while it isn’t on my Dock anymore, I still use it all the time – I tend to switch back and forth between those two all the time. I like Mou’s interface better, but Typed can maintain a framerate above ‘5 fps’ when viewing/editing large documents, so…
Then there’s iTunes, which I’ve also talked about in the past. Then there’s Day One, once again, since sometimes the widget isn’t enough.
Then Desk, another of the text editors from the previous post, which I’m actually writing this in.5
OneNote follows Desk, and I swear, one of these days I’m going to actually type up that backlog of notes I’ve got in my atrocious handwriting. Someday. Soon, I promise.
Then Calendar, which I use way too much. My calendar looks like I’ve got at least one secretary whose only job is to fill in my calendar. It’s… a bit sad, honestly.6
Finishing up, we’ve got System Preferences, because I feel like no Dock is complete without it, and Activity Monitor configured to show CPU usage in the icon, something that I have set up in some form or another on any computer I use.
So, that’s my software setup. I’ve got a lot more stuff installed, but those are the things I use enough to justify having them in my Dock. What’s your setup look like, dear reader?
- Which I could actually update now because I’ve got at least one new one since then… ↩
- There’s a specific term for that bar, but I can’t remember what it is and I refuse to spend ten minutes Googling that sort of thing. ↩
- When it hasn’t crashed, so… roughly 30% of the time? ↩
- That is exactly as ridiculous as it sounds. Probably more, actually. ↩
- There’s a bug in the Markdown rendering engine at the moment, so I can’t use the built-in ‘post’ functionality, but I still like the interface so much that I’m doing all my blog-post writing in Desk and then copy/paste-ing it into the WordPress installation here. ↩
- It’s also a lot of fun to show people and watch the pity appear. ↩
I use iTunes a lot.1 Like, a lot. I don’t think I’ve ever had it closed on this computer.
Why? you may ask. Well, I like music. Hopefully you’ve figured that out by now, since I listed a music textbook in the ‘what I’m reading’ thing earlier, and I’m sure I’ve mentioned how many music classes I’m taking somewhere.2 It’s what I use to play music on my laptop, and it’s what I3 use to keep my music library organized.
It’s a respectably-sized music library, at that: 2,100+ songs at the moment, and it’ll probably keep going up.4 So, what’s up with the title of this post?
Well, I make a new playlist every month. For a while, I just had one playlist,5 but I got tired of that after a while. 300 songs in one playlist seemed like a bit much, especially when I’d be listening to it on my phone, spot a song that I didn’t want on there… and then forget before I could do anything about it when I got back to my laptop. This way, it’s always fresh; a song I don’t like will be on my playlist for a month at the most,6 and whenever I get some new music I like, the smaller size of the list means that I’ll be able to hear it much more frequently.7
The other really cool benefit of this system, to me at least, is the fact that I can look back and see what I was listening to at any time. I’m a big fan of the whole ‘quantified self’ thing – my phone tracks my steps and distance walked, and I use an app to keep track of what I eat just because I like looking at the charts – and this is, to Grey-the-vague-audiophile a very cool thing.
Anyhow, readers, since I know there’s at least one of you out there – what’s your system for music? Pandora list? Thousands of playlists for every possible mood? Something I haven’t thought of because I only listed three ideas? I’d like to know, so hit up that comment box.
- It’s a much less terrible program if you’re using Mac OS X instead of Windows; I’m convinced that Apple was so intense about having it look like it was on OS X that they actually wrote the entire OS X windowserver system into the program and then run iTunes within that. ↩
- If I haven’t, I’m taking 6 music classes at the moment. That in addition to working for the music department at school. ↩
- As someone with not-actually-OCD-stop-calling-it-that, or “I prefer things to be organized, but I don’t compulsively clean them.” ↩
- The nice thing about the remixes that I’m partial to at the moment is that, thanks to copyright law, they’re generally free to download. ↩
- Titled “Main Music List” because I am super creative you guys ↩
- Just because I’ve changed tactics doesn’t mean I’m any less forgetful. ↩
- Handily increasing the efficiency of the whole “repeating a song until I can no longer listen to it because I hate it so much” thing. Y’know, like Owl City’s Fireflies. ↩
I noticed the other day that the sunset was being very pretty! It was a nice break from the ‘being grumpy’ that I was in the middle of, and it turned an all-around grouchy moment into a contemplative one. So I took a picture. Enjoy!
I took this picture a few days ago on a lovely cold day. Fall took its sweet time arriving, and I have been quite tired of the melting heat; having a bit of fog and some colder weather is a nice change.
Oh, and this photo was taken with my iPhone 6, instead of with my fancy camera, because I didn’t feel like running around trying to get my camera at 6 in the morning. Pretty good, no?
Hey, I bet you thought I was done talking about the beach after last time. Nope! This time I have even less to say, since there are some pretty dang beautiful pictures in here, if I do say so myself. The subject matter made it fairly easy.