Cawnpore and Perseus are available in the Createspace eStore and on Amazon.com where, if you order a physical copy of the books, you get the ebook for free. They are also available as ebooks on every ereader out there.
6 September, 2012
18 November, 2014
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I don’t see a lot of these around the internet, but like cars and appliances, it’s nice to know what the longevity, etc. of an expensive piece of equipment is likely to be.
My then-girlfriend bought me my first MacBook Air in October 2010, four years ago, mostly because I had so loved my first iPad she thought I might appreciate the aesthetics of the device and the small size and weight — important at the time, as I pretty much went everywhere by motorcycle, and it would fit in my tank bag. Here’s the initial impressions of the computer.
So, four years on, how is it? The body is still solid, doesn’t creak, and still looks great — no scratches or blemishes to speak of. The display is still clear and bright, with no pixels burned out. I don’t have quite as much need for the size, as I either work at home, or when the kid’s in daycare, which means I’m in the “cage” (car), but it’s still the most comfortable computer to use that I’ve owned.
Once I got used to the Mac interface, I found it worked quite well, although they really need to work on their help references; when you run into issues, you often have to go online and hit the Apple support boards to find answers. The Air has had four or five friggin’ OS changes since I bought her, and I suspect Yosemite — the latest — is going to see the end of support for the pre-2012 machines. That’s perhaps the one issue with Apple — they don’t do backward compatibility for more than a five or six years, then you are on obsolete OS and tech (the original iPad that found it’s way to my little girl is now in that limbo — none of the app she has are upgradable, and it can handle the new iOS8.) However, I’ve met plenty of folks still pounding along on decade old MacBooks and happy to not have the latest and greatest.
To that end — with Mountain Lion, the Air started having issues with video and running up the fans on the computer. For the first few months I didn’t even know it had them; I never heard them. The video card just can’t handle the new Flash and H.265 streams without get seriously hot. Even web sites with Flash would also run the machine hot and drain the battery. Up until recently, I used Chrome for most of my web work, but recently found the newer version of Safari was faster and did a better job of keeping the various ads from killing battery life.
As they’ve moved out the various OS, I saw negligible improvement or reduction in performance, battery life, etc. I was lucky and had none of the bugs that hit some of the machines for wifi and other problems, so I can’t comment to those that did. Yosemite was a sharp improvement in the user experience: you can make and receive phone call without getting your lazy ass up to find your phone (if you have a newer iPhone on iOS8), do text messaging the same, and their productivity suite has mostly recovered from the gutting it got to make it talk to the iOS version better. All the iCloud stuff is nice, but I don’t use it because I’m too cheap to pay for space, and too security conscious to throw all my data out where people can get at it easily. (I still pull the SD card with my personal stuff when traveling. Screw you, TSA.)
The older CPU is more than ample to handle most of my daily chores — i can have as many as six docs open, a few tabs on Safari, iTunes playing something that is stored on the external drive and have nary a skip in performance, although when it comes, it’s inevitably iTunes that’s the culprit. Battery life at 300 cycles, four years in, is about 6-7 hours doing some writing, some web surfing, and the like. If I turn off the wifi, it jumps about 2 hours. The original 6700 mAh is now 6067mAh (90%)…that’s pretty friggin’ good for a four year old machine. None of my old laptops had a battery survive more than two years before they had to be replaced. With the curve these batteries have, I can anticipate another year to two before battery failure.
So if you are in the market for a MacBook Air and don’t want to pay premium prices for a new one, a used laptop looks to be a good buy; if you want a new one, you can expect to keep it for four to five years before it slides out of the support stream…and even them should be usable. That’s only rivaled by my original Compaq from the late ’90s, and the 10″ Dell Inspiron I knew was still running like a top at six years old when I saw it last. (Sold it.)
14 November, 2014
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I was going to just do my usual quick review of the movie, but there’s so much going on tied to the success/failure, hype, and other aspects of this movie that have clearly skewed the other reviews of the film I want to address them first.
One of the bit bandied about the interwebz is about the “backlash” against Chris Nolan as a writer/director. His detractors view him as pompous — and certainly his statements about Interstellar have borne some of that out; his claims to have wanted to create something on par with 2001: A Space Odyssey seem to have infuriated that clique of sci-fi fans for whom the Kubrick opus cannot be matched. But that’s not the point. Is Interstellar a better movie than 2001? No, it’s a different movie, and in some ways excels at storytelling in ways Kubrick often failed; in other ways, well it’s not that good.
Others claim Nolan’s films aren’t particularly clever, or complain about plot holes. Welcome to Hollywood — you’ve got two hours (well, three here) to do what you want or need to, and usually that’s going to require some fudging figures. Complaints about The Dark Knight usually revolve about the weak last act with Harvey Dent, or the dense amount of social topics addressed rather offhandedly — like ubiquitous surveillance. Batman does it, there’s a bit of hand wringing, then it’s over; Winter Soldier kicked you in the face with the subject…but that was, in many ways, the main thrust of the movie. Inception is seen as overly convoluted to disguise its weaknesses. Fair enough. It was still fun. Insomnia was still great — anyone who can make Pacino act instead of yell for two hours is okay by me.
If there’s a sin Nolan commits as a filmmaker, its the same one we’re seeing with all writer/driectors, from Nolan, to Tarantino to Peter “Fuck, three movies to do what is essentially a novella” Jackson. Interstellar, like King Kong, or Inception, or Django Unchained would have been much more engaging if they were slightly shorter then Wagner’s Ring opera.
Then there’s the issue of hype and audience expectation. This is something I’ve noted, particularly from the know-it-all cinephiles in review circles — they can’t stand when the product doesn’t match the advertisement. It’s that Christmas toy that isn’t so cool once opened. We saw this a-plenty in recent sic-fi movies — particularly ones with the name Damon Lindelof in the writing credits somewhere. People were angst ridden that Ridley Scott’s Prometheus didn’t do deep meaningful questions about the state of reality and man’s existence. Yes, they tried to gussy the movie up with stunning visuals and a few hand waves at philosophy, but in the end — if you were paying attention — you were going to get a monster movie. Go in with that expectation, and it’s not that bad. (But certainly not up to the quality of the original Sphaits script.) Both of the JJ Abams Star Trek movies were awful if you expected a Star Trek movie; but if you realized they were set pieces for crazy fun action sequences with a bit of plot stringing them through — sort of a action porn movie — you probably didn’t feel like your childhood was raped out of you through your eyes.
At heart, though, the question should always, first be, did you have a good time?
So having heard about the overblown questions about the nature of reality, the importance of love as some kind of supernatural bond, and seeing the 2:45 runtime, i took my freebie Fandango ticket and went to see it on a Friday night.
…and I loved it.
It’s not without issues, but what film this year outside of Guardians of the Galaxy (yes, GotG is that fucking good) doesn’t have some issues. Here’s the first one: it’s too damned long. It’s been about 14 year since Lord of the Rings meant any successful writer/director stopped having to hire a damned editor. Chop some of the scenes back a bit – mostly the first 45 minutes on Earth and the black hole/time travel bits — it’s a fantastic movie. (Kinda like cutting the stargate sequence and trimming the intolerably long, dry talking bits from 2001 and concentrating on the events on Discovery would have improved that film.
It’s a bit schmaltzy. The Brand character (Hathaway) has a long diatrabe about the power of love and time and space, but she’s essentially trying to find anyway to convince Cooper — for whom she just destroyed his chance of seeing his kids before they were collecting Social Security — to take her to the planet her lover had surveyed. I didn’t see it as philosophizing; I saw a desperate woman trying to convince the kid she just screwed over to do things her way.
One of the critics’ complaints was the lack of a real emotional through line between Cooper (McConaghey) and his kids. I have a three year old that would fall apart if I left for another galaxy tomorrow; this apparently missing emotion queue kicked me in the balls so hard I started crying after the movie was over. Not during; after. For the whole walk home, I felt guilty about the possibility I might let my kid down in some hazily defined, not-going-to-space way. Bravo, Chris; screw you, critics.
The end is not as pathetically high-brow as 2001, and before your blather, yes, I read The Sentinel and yes, I understood what Kubrick was doing. It still sucked. This is the weakest point of the movie — the “in the black hole” act. It gets better after that.
The science is good enough for the average audience. Kind of like people bitching about satellite altitudes in Gravity, you’re missing the point if you’re busting out your Casio calculator watch and trying to work out the actual time dilation the planet should be experiencing. There’s no sound in space and Nolan uses the sudden silence of a decompression scene to scare you as easily as if he had done the big noise gotcha. The ship is well thought out and looks realistic enough. They worry about fuel, but not in the sort of numbers crunching way Apollo 13 did; that’s not the point of the movie. The “Earth is dying” trope is a bit worn out (sorry, environmentalists!) but it is a serviceable McGuffin for putting the characters in space.
The visuals are absolutely arresting. The sound design is great. Matt Damon plays a cowardly douchebag with abandon.
So past all the hype and hissy fits about Nolan, Interstellar was a solidly entertaining movie, with generally good performances, mind-boggling visuals, decent science, and a nice twist connected to time dilation at the end.
On my full-price, matinee, rent, borrow, avoid scale — it’s a full-price. I might have popped for IMAX, if I wasn’t a cheap bastard. But if it’s between Interstellar and Guardians of the Galaxy…Guardians, my son, Guardians.
5 November, 2014
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Looks like Neill Blomkamp may have pulled it out of the fire for his next one. The Hollywood experience gave us the middling but pretty Elysium, with its overly preachy enviro and class-warfare messages. Here he goes after the artificial intelligence in a fearful human world theme, and it looks pretty good. It’s nice to see Hugh Jackman in something over that Wolverine garb, playing the heavy here.
I particularly like the Shirow-esque look of the robot.