Thursday, November 29, 2007

Rodney King has been shot in San Bernardino ...

"Early indications are that it very possibly could have been a domestic dispute," Paterson said.

I am not surprised. Having made one bad decision, such as living in San Bernardino, people are prone to make others.

The lesson here: don't go to San Bernardino. Just don't do it. Think of the children.

Monday, November 26, 2007

No Country For Old Men, Beowulf, Enchanted, American Gangster, and Isaac Asimov ...

Went to go see No Country For Old Men tonight at the last showing, and on that note, here's a word that film reviewers don't often use correctly: nihilism. Most movies I've run across over the years that reviewers have described as nihilistic are merely soul-crushingly bad: movies that lacked the wit to say anything meaningful on the subject of meaning.

Not so Country. Country is a brilliantly conceived and executed piece of work. Tommy Lee Jones gives his best performance since Lonesome Dove -- and I'm a sucker for Tommy Lee; only Robert Duvall and Denzel Washington compare to him as actors in the last 2o or 30 years. Roger Deakins's cinematography makes you appreciate just how badly most movies are really shot. I'd need to go see the movie again to tell you in detail why the sound work and editing were so brilliant, but let's take it that they are. The movie is based on a novel by Cormac McCarthy that I haven't read -- but I read that the movie is very faithful to the book, and if so, the nihilism at the center of this movie is most likely McCarthy's from the word go.

Country is brilliant and will win awards, but it is the vilest film I've seen since Denzel Washington's Fallen, and before that, the first Nightmare on Elm Street movie. Fallen and Nightmare share almost identical failings: protagonists who, faced with a problem, do the right thing, struggle valiantly, solve their problems on the terms presented them -- and then fail due to plot machinations out of left field, nastiness for the sake of nasty. Anyone who's actually seen all three of these films (an interesting cross-section itself, I'd imagine) will find this a ludicrous comparison in most ways; though Nightmare and Fallen are both well-made movies, the best moments in either don't rise to the level of execution in the worst moments in Country. (Though a few points for Washington, who never embarrasses himself.)

Country is smarter than the other two by any measure, better made by any measure -- but equally empty at its heart. People are weak and there are monsters in the world, and sometimes no matter what, people die ugly, awful deaths at the hands of those monsters. That's it. That's the takeaway. No point in struggling, really ... and really, I wish everyone concerned with this particular piece hadn't bothered to.


Saw Enchanted on Saturday with my three sons. It's the best Disney movie since The Little Mermaid -- maybe better than The Little Mermaid, which I saw three times in the theater. The actress playing the lead is named Amy Adams; I've never heard of her before, but she's astonishing, playing a traditional Disney princess (animated, in the first scenes) ... who ends up in New York City and learns about complexity, first hand.

The core of the movie is contained in a single scene: Giselle, the princess, has been taken in by a handsome lawyer and his six year old daughter, and has gone about New York doing good, in a cute, charming, and essentially one-note performance -- and then has an argument with the handsome lawyer. In this one one fairly brief scene, Amy Adams takes Giselle from chirpy-happy Princess, through the realization of anger, to a sort of joy at the realization that she's capable of feeling anger, to a moment of attraction to the well-meaning if slightly nebbish dad, to shock and dismay at herself for being attracted to someone other than her Prince .... and sells it all. It's a flat-out brilliant sequence that for sheer bravura reminds me only of the bit in Mulholland Drive where Naomi Watts reads for a role -- once in character as a bad wanna-be actress, and then again all-out, reading the piece as well as Naomi Watts herself could read it. The Watts and Adams scenes are very different in tone, but they're both performances that are almost as much about the art of acting as about the stories they're advancing.

I'm a sucker for stuff like this, so take Little Princess as your marker -- if you didn't like that, you won't like Enchanted. I loved it.

[Edit: by Little Princess, I mean Little Mermaid, of course.]


In Denver I saw American Gangster. It's a good movie, not great. Washington's very good in it, but Russell Crowe gets the better role -- as he did in 3:10 to Yuma, for that matter. I do wish Washington would get that -- it's odd to say breakout role, given how consistently brilliant he's been over the years -- let's say defining role. His Best Actor Oscar came for what wasn't even close to his best work, Training Day; and he hasn't yet had that movie that people will point to, fifty years from now, as a great and defining work -- Bogie in Casablanca or The African Queen; Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones in Lonesome Dove; de Niro in Raging Bull or Taxi Driver; John Wayne in Rio Bravo or The Searchers; hell, even Harrison Ford in Blade Runner, to grab something from the little SF corner of the world. I could go on with twenty more examples -- Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window, Cary Grant in North by Northwest, Pacino in The Godfather; but you get the point. Washington hasn't had that movie yet. He deserves it, and I hope he gets it. Far from being too late -- Robert Duvall was nearly 60 before he got to play Gus McCrae.


Saw Beowulf by myself last weekend. Didn't bother going to a 3D showing, for obvious reasons, though you could certainly tell it had been designed for 3D. Overall, not a terribly good movie, but certainly a notable moment in the digitization of film. Angelina Jolie's naked in every shot, and she's onscreen several minutes. It's less arousing than it sounds, but is still a little startling for a PG-13 movie -- there's no way this film would have gotten less than an R with live actors. It's brutally violent, and, as noted, Angelina Jolie is naked for several minutes -- I doubt she'd have gone naked that long in a movie where it was her actual ass on the screen.

This has implications for porn, of all things -- wouldn't surprise me at all to find actresses selling off their virtual images to do things they wouldn't do themselves in a million years. I'm a little surprised Pam Anderson hasn't thought of it yet....

Beowulf is closer. It's not photoreal except in some scenes -- one shot out of ten, maybe -- but it's closer. Eyes are hard and they don't quite nail them here, but they're not glass, either, cloth and hair are good if not great, movement ranges from "should have put some damn jitter on that spline" to "could have been a person, really."

I've still got the scene and sound files for The Long Run pilot I was working on some years back. We lost our render farm at the time -- I was borrowing time on a render farm for a web startup -- and every time a new CPU iteration arises, by God, I'm tempted to unarchive those files and see exactly what it'd take to render those scenes today. We framed them at the time for 640x384 -- 80% of D1, which is 720x480; today you could probably render at 720P, and still look good on 1080P displays.


I've recently re-read Asimov. I've been working my way through my core literary history, in the last couple years -- I've written enough about who all those people and works are that there's no point in rehashing it. I'm close enough to the end that I re-read Asimov, who didn't impact me as much as some other writers -- the Robot novels, the Foundation novels .... a gap of 25 years, followed by the later Foundation and Robot novels, in which Asimov took a stab at tying together his two main series. (They always were related, though how the long-lived humans-with-robots turned into the short-lived humans-without-robots in the Foundation novels was never clear, or for that matter terribly plausible.)

Asimov's two great inventions were Psychohistory -- the idea that the future of humanity could be predicted, via sufficiently advanced mathematics; and the Three Laws of Robotics. I won't bother quoting the Laws -- it's unlikely anyone reading this blog doesn't know what they are, and if you don't, Google is a great tool.

The Grand Unification of Asimov's later years doesn't work. That's it, end of story. I suspect Asimov knew it, too. The more time and energy Asimov spent trying to shore up the discontinuities between the (by internal chronology) early and later work, the clearer it became that Psychohistory itself was thoroughly implausible, that there was no good mechanism for squeezing robots out of human society over really long spans of time, that the Great Forgetting that made humanity forget the actual existence of Earth, is home world, was really hard to sell ... and at the end, Asimov didn't sell it. (I'm reminded of a sneering reference to Asimov in one of H. Beam Piper's novels -- Lord Kalvan something-or-other -- in which one man turns the tide of history, and an observer thinks that this puts paid to so-and-so (not Asimov's actual name, but an obvious stand-in) -- to so-and-so's theory of historical inevitability.)

The later books have their pleasures, to be sure. Watching R. Daneel Olivaw interact with Hari Seldon may be fan service, but it's first-rate fan service. And odd as this may sound, watching Asimov struggle with the implications of his future history has very distinct enjoyment to it -- I don't think he succeeds in unifying it, but as Asimov notes in the forward to one or the other of the books, if they're not completely consistent, well, he admits he didn't plan for consistency to begin with. You have to admire Asimov's bluntness about his own work.

The guy really couldn't write text and for that matter didn't plot particularly well. He may be the worst popular writer I've ever read at the level of sentences and paragraphs and What Happens Next. But once you get past all that, and I do consistently get past it when reading Asimov, watching the mind at work is a real pleasure, and worth the time it takes.

The faceoff between the Mule and the Speaker of the Second Foundation, in the novel Second Foundation, still has a raw power to it today that the vast majority of all writers, anywhere and anywhen, can't begin to aspire to.


There's been a lot of sharecropping in the SF universe. I've done my share; I wrote 3 Star Wars shorts for relatively little money, and I'd happily have written them for free. (Well, I did -- there's no writing I've ever performed that paid as well as my programming work, hour for hour. At that level it's all been a matter of how much I could afford to lose for the privilege of telling stories.)

[Edit: such as, for example, my first marriage....]

Beyond that, beyond people writing for love, you get honest sharecropping -- people doing a fair job for the money with a given set of circumstances and characters, out of sheer professionalism, regardless of their love for the material. This describes plenty of Star Wars, Star Trek, Buffy, Xena, etc.

And then there are the whores, and there's nothing wrong with that, either -- if they're churning out the cheapest fastest text they can manage for the buck, well, it's an honest transaction; publishers who cared would hire someone else. Readers who can tell the difference will read someone else, and readers who can't tell, bless them, they've found True Love for cheap.

The Second Foundation Trilogy is something really unusual: three writers at the top of their crafts, sharecropping in someone else's universe. It's a sign of the reverence the field had for Asimov, and for the impact the original Foundation Trilogy had on the field. (It was, as Asimov notes reliably when he talks about the series, voted the greatest series ever at one convention or other -- not bad for a guy who wrote the first story at 21.)

The three novels are Foundation's Fear, by Greg Benford; Foundation and Chaos, by Greg Bear; and Foundation's Triumph, by David Brin. I'll write about the second and third another day.

I very nearly dislike Foundation's Fear, and I speak here as someone who has Greg Benford as the best SF novelist of the last generation: Great Sky River and Childhood's End are the two finest novels the field has ever produced, IMO. (And, sure, YMMV, not that I care.) But what attracted Benford to this material I can't imagine. He's a better writer than Asimov (all three of them are) -- but if you're going to sharecrop in the universe of another writer, some basic respect for the other writer's tone, characters, continuity, and so on, simply seems ... respectful. Benford doesn't show much.

I can't give Benford too hard a time on tone: his voice is so strong that any attempt to sound like Asimov would probably be foolish. So he doesn't begin to try. He wrote a Benford novel, set in the early days of Hari Seldon's time on Trantor. (In between Asimov's novels Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation.) And fine: Benford can't or won't mimic Asimov's voice (the other two do, to pretty good effect) ... but the novel is so glaringly out of touch with Asimov's core concerns that it's hard to pretend you're reading a "Foundation" novel. Nearly half the novel follows the adventures of a pair of AIs modeled upon Joan of Arc and Voltaire; the remainder, actually concerning Hari Seldon, casually violates the things we're told about Seldon and the people around him in Asimov's novels. A simple example because it's already 3 in the morning as I write this, and I'm getting up in 3 hours to drive to Irvine: in Foundation's Fear, Yugo Amaryl, Hari's friend and close associate and dedicated mathematician, is worked up about the political state in his home Sector; he's a Dahlite, the Empire oppresses the Dahlites, and Yugo's mad about it. Fair enough, in its way; when you met Yugo in Prelude, he's angry about his own personal state, about how he's been treated. But in Fear, Benford turns him into a Dahlite activist -- which directly contradicts Asimov's description of the character in Forward the Foundation, in which we see more of Amaryl:

Amaryl had seen him enter and was now approaching. Seldon watched him fondly. Amaryl was as much a Dahlite as Seldon's foster son, Raych, was, and yet Amaryl, despite his muscular physique and short stature, did not seem Dahlite at all. He lacked the mustache, he lacked the accent, he lacked, it would seem, Dahlite consciousness of any kind. He had even been impervious to the lure of Jo-Jo Joranum, who had appealed so thoroughly to the people of Dahl. It was as though Amaryl recognized no sectoral patriotism, no planetary patriotism, not even Imperial patriotism. He belonged -- completely and entirely -- to psychohistory.

I could come up with more, but it's late; let it stand that there are more. Perhaps more annoying than the places Benford ignores Asimov are the places he extends him -- there are no wormholes in Asimov's universe; Benford adds them. There are no AIs other than robots in Asimov's Foundation-era stories: Benford adds them. In short, he writes a Benford novel, and not one of the better Benford novels, using some of Asimov's characters. It's an interesting read because Benford's can hardly write without making points of interest, but it's a failure of a novel: Benford's essay at the end, on how the second trilogy came to be, is by a bit the most interesting thing in it.

The Bear and Brin novels are much better as extensions of Asimov ... I'm not going to write about them tonight, but I will somewhere in the days to come. Bear, in particular, nailed the tone -- if I hadn't known I wasn't reading Asimov, I might have thought I'd stumbled upon a really good Asimov novel with, by some cosmic accident, really graceful text ....


I really can't tell you how thoroughly I despised No Country For Old Men. Maybe I'll go see it again, just so that I can despise it with notes.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What's Next ...

Having a conversation over on Steve Barnes's blog ( -- about homosexuality. In response to one post I found myself wondering what my kids would be struggling with --

My parents had to learn accept the equality of people with different skin colors, different ethnicities. I don't think it was difficult for them, and certainly there was no racist language tolerated at our house when I was growing up. I didn't hear about the Jewish conspiracy, the yellow breeders, the wetbacks stealing jobs, the criminal blacks -- until I was older, and then it was from people about whom I could make some pretty good judgements ...

I grew up in an anti-gay atmosphere. My Dad was a good guy -- but he looked down on the queers, the "three dollar bills." Didn't think they should be serving in the military, didn't want them in the locker room, thought there was something fundamentally wrong with them. He softened on that stuff later in life, but never got rid of it. (My mother's a remarkable woman -- never had a bigoted word about any human being she ever met or discussed, not in my hearing. The worst thing I've ever heard her say about anyone was "I guess she wasn't raised to be very thoughtful." My mother's had a difficult life in many plaes -- if you think no white people have picked cotton in this country in the last century, you'd be wrong; she did it at four years old, and remembers worrying that they wouldn't be paid for the cotton she picked, because her hands were bleeding and she was getting blood on the cotton. At four, and that's not the worst of what she endured. How she turned out as sane and wonderful as she did is a mystery to me, but I'm glad she did.)

At least in my late teens I was already clear that I thought gays should be permitted to marry, that it should be illegal to discriminate against them in jobs, housing, etc. Certainly I was aware of their existence -- I was pretty when I was younger, though I don't remember being tempted in those days. Certainly not by the men who were actually hitting on me -- even now I don't find men my age attractive, and back then the middle-aged men trying to get into my pants were simply repulsive to me. This goes to my "practicing heterosexual" description at this point in my life -- women my age are still attractive to me, and men my age aren't. Today even if I wasn't married, I doubt I'd be dating people in their 20s of either gender.

In my mid-20s I found myself with gay friends. One fellow in particular I ended up spending time with, and we hung out in a gay bar together. This buddy never tempted me -- but some of the guys in that bar did. Without getting into detail, let's call the thought the deed -- I suppose that could be compared to being an anti-semite and suddenly finding you're Jewish, or, under the "one drop" rule, to hating blacks and abruptly finding you had black blood yourself, some generations back. (Not necessarily that many generations, either -- light-skinned blacks have been passing for a long time, sometimes with their own families.) I got past it, and a few years later was pretty comfortable with what was going on inside my own head -- but it was an adjustment.

My kids won't need to make the adjustment. Other people's sexuality more bores them than otherwise -- some people are gay, or bi, or whatever, and some people like strawberry ice cream: what else you got?
So what comes next? When they're my age, what are they going to be having problems with, which of their assumptions are going to be challenged by changes in mores? Polygamy? Gender changes becoming more common, a la Varley's old stories? I don't see that in 30 years. Age of consent? I'm skeptical that's going to change -- it's gone up, not down, with every increase in the complexity of society; very few people at 18 today are functioning adults, with the complexity of modern society.
What's next?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Less Than One Percent

Saw my doctor yesterday, got injected with a new drug, Lucentis, about which I know nothing except the name -- a better drug than macugen, which I used to get injected with.

Good news/bad news, but way more good than bad. The right eye has gone off again, and is getting worse ... which of itself is almost good news. I used to be hugely right eye dominant. What's supposed to happen after you become visually impaired is that your brain learns to map the images from the two eyes back together, picking the good image from the remaining good eye as the dominant image. This didn't happen with me; I had too much light coming in the right eye, and my brain insisted on trying to look out of that, for the most part, for all the three years since this happened. So I wore the patch, which I admit I like much of the time -- but even liking the look, it's a pain to make sure you have it with you everywhere you go. But the option is reading with one eye closed, driving with one eye closed, etc. So I lived with the patch, liking it and being annoyed by it at the same time.

The right eye going further south has freed me from the patch, it appears. If my doctor fixes the eye up again and gets some light coming back through the eye again, I may have to resume the patch -- and I suppose I should hope for that; the better shape the right eye stays in, the better chance I have of getting the entire eye back some day, with stem cell research that looks encouraging in this area ...

But I won't be much depressed if it turns out that the right eye stays dark. I see better that way.

Here's the good news/good news part of this post, however ... when the eye went bad 3 years ago, I asked my doctor what the odds were of it happening in the left eye as well. He couldn't or wouldn't tell me at the time -- I asked him again this time, and after 3 years of seeing the eye (if that's what it was) -- he said the odds were good. I pressed him -- better than even money? One in ten of the left eye going bad? "Oh, no," he said, "less than one percent."

My head feels like I got hit with the flat of a shovel at the moment, but I've been happy about this all day. I can live with those odds. I've been making long-term plans for my kids -- you have to -- but I hadn't really been making long-term plans for myself. Too much up in the air. And now I can ...

It's good to be me.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Any email, blog entry, forums post, comment, whatever ... regardless of subject, politics, sports, finance, real estate (crashing), sex, drugs, rock and roll ... any text communication that begins with "lol" is not worth reading.


I've been fuming since MS deactivated my main desktop with "Genuine Advantage" most of a year ago. Tuesday night my Vista notebook downloaded five patches and installed them. Since then that computer no longer boots. I paid $180 for that license, it runs on one and only one computer, and MS fuckity-fuck fucked me for having had the stupidity to pay to alpha test Vista on my production machines.

I am worn out with Windows. I will put up with them forever in my consulting work, because there's no choice, but I'm switching to Ubuntu on my main desktop and on the notebook, and I'll blog here about how it goes.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Terminal Freedom, Devlin's Razor, Ai War, Freeway In My Back Yard

Terminal Freedom and Devlin's Razor are going to proofers today, late tonight. I'm sending both books to anyone who volunteered to proof -- but TF has been proofed a couple times; DR would be more useful to me, if you're picking only one.

If I haven't said so, and maybe I haven't, I really appreciate the time and energy people have put into this.

A Freeway in My Back Yard is probably going to ship before AI War does, but AI War shouldn't be long thereafter. I am looking for some POD service to provide hardcopy for those who really want it, for all these works.

Freeway is a collection of everything short form I've written that's worth publishing. It includes some stuff I've published separately -- Old Man, On Sequoia Time, the Star Wars stories, NPR and other essays, the Ola Blue short I wrote (Leftbehind) -- and probably "Cities in the Darkness," the Camber Tremodian story that's sitting in half-finished form on my hard drive. There are also likely to be exerpts of other longer works, not all of which I promise to ever finish -- bits of some Continuing Time novels I'll probably never write, some scenes from the Speedfreak story I wrote as a teenager, the opening chapter of Sharp Teeth -- and the scene where Trent meets Melissa du Bois, exactly as written in the first draft when I was (I think) 17.

I may even bundle up "A Day in the Life of a Telephone Pole," which I wrote when I was 12. It's pretty awful, but you know, 12.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Back from Denver ...

Having problems with my eye and couldn't risk the sudden depressurization of a plane, so I drove to Denver weekend before last, and drove back this last weekend. My days of taking really long drives are probably behind me -- in my 20s and even my 30s I could do drives like this, and did, without too much difficulty. I've driven 600,000 miles or so, by my best estimate -- I've driven through the Gulf Coast to Louisiana, through Mexico down to Guatemala, up and down the Pacific Coast too many times to count -- Canada, Washington, Oregon, California, Baja California....

I've driven to San Bernardino, 200 miles roundtrip, way too many damn times to count. My family's out there, unfortunately.

Probably not doing this again. At 44 years of age the strain was real. Knees locking up, back sore, neck sore -- and that was before I got to Denver. This was my first trip to Denver, and it turns out that Denver is Hell on Earth.

It wasn't the people -- hi, Cody -- or the work. I won't name the company for a variety of reasons including the fact that I consulted for them in a set of buildings that for good reasons lacked the company's name or any other identifying mark ... but the work was interesting and the people were first rate.

But I couldn't breathe.

Denver is (famously) the Mile High City, officially 5280 feet above sea level. I've been higher than that -- I've been up near the peak of Mount Baldy in California, which is 10,000 feet -- but I've never spent more than a day there. I've spent the night in Big Bear, California, a few times -- that's 6,752 feet above sea level. And I drove to Mexico City once, which is up around 7000 feet.

But the week in Denver was the longest time I'd ever spent at high altitude. I didn't notice it the first day particularly, but the first night I had trouble sleeping despite being exhausted -- put it off to "too tired to sleep," which is rare but has happened to me before. The second night I woke up several times, irritable, missing having Amy in the bed with me -- the third night I woke up four or five times and realized that I was simply short of breath. It didn't get any better until I drove home, through Denver, Utah, Nevada -- Las Vegas itself is 4,000 feet above sea level. Las Vegas has always made me feel jittery and nervous -- which surprised me, because big cities don't; I've been to a variety of big cities and I cope with them fine. I'm from Los Angeles. I always wondered if I had some judgemental "people having too much fun" thing going on -- a puritan streak I hadn't suspected.

Turns out it's not a latent puritan streak -- I realized as I was driving through Vegas that I was still short of breath....

Outside Las Vegas, in a fairly short stretch, the 15 drops from 4000 feet to 2000 feet. Maybe it was psychological, but I found myself able to take a good deep breath, and feel I was getting enough air, since the first night I'd become aware of being short of breath in Denver.

Got home Saturday morning, slept most of the day, and spent Saturday evening and all day Sunday enjoying the feeling of being fit enough to walk fifty feet without gasping for air.

Pretty much planning on retiring to Cabo San Lucas. My rare flashes of "top of a mountain would be good" just took a serious body blow.


It had to happen eventually. I've driven 600,000 miles, and every ticket I've ever gotten -- I'd guess I've gotten a dozen or so moving violations since I've been driving, about 1 for every 50K miles -- every ticket I ever had, I deserved. (More broadly, whenever I've interacted with cops, which is its own statistical universe, they've been righteous in their conduct -- didn't always agree with what I was being cited/arrested/detained for, but at least they were doing their jobs as they were supposed to.) So cops have always been fair with me ...

Until now.

Leaving Colorado hell on earth I was on cruise control on the two-lane 70 freeway, doing about 72 in a 75 zone. I wasn't looking for police -- I wasn't speeding. Traffic was booming by me (with Colorado plates, rather than my California plates) at 80 or 90 miles an hour, in the left-hand lane. It was dark and I was aware there was someone behind me following along at precisely my 72 mph, for miles and miles -- never bothered to check who it was: another responsible middle-aged guy like me, no doubt.

I came up on a guy doing about 65, got off cruise control, waited for half a dozen vehicles to go blasting by me at 80+, accelerated up to about 80 to get into the flow of traffic in the left hand lane, got around the guy doing 65, slowed down again, was reaching to set the cruise control -- and the guy who'd been following me hit the lights, turned on the bubble machine, and pulled my ass over. And wrote me for 87 mph.

I barely broke 80. That's not opinion; I was watching my spedometer. Half the known universe had blown by me while I tooled along at 72, this tool following me. But they had the right plates, and I didn't. I took my ticket ($77) and said thank you, without a hint of how I felt; getting into pissing contests with The Man is a young man's game, and I'm much too old for it. But I was ticked off for the next 500 miles.

Monday, November 5, 2007


It's interesting watching language evolve. When I was a kid, there was a retarded girl who lived down the street from us. Nice girl, very sweet tempered. Sometimes other kids would be mean to her -- she got "idiot" or "moron" occasionally -- but we lived on a cul de sac, the families were mostly friendly, and the block mostly looked out for her. She was "retarded."

I used the word a couple years back on Lakerstalk and got jumped on by some people (friends) who said I was being disrespectful. This morning I read a long article about autism that concluded by observing that "retarded" was no longer an acceptable usage -- the journal "Mental Retardation" changed its name this year to "Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities."

Not saying they're wrong to make the change -- sensitivity is good, and if it takes a few more syllables, I'm OK with that. I'm broadly good with calling people whatever they want to be called -- if "colored people" want to be "negroes," fine. If "negroes" want to be "black people," fine. If "black people" want to be "people of color" ... actually that one sends sparks to shoot out my ears occasionally as the circuitry deals with the overvoltage of having been through that whole circle in one short lifetim, but I roll with it because, end of day, what people call themselves is their call, not mine. "Gay" instead of "queer" or "homosexual" or "lesbian" -- fine. Though I can't keep up with whether they're L&G or LGB or LGBT or GLBT -- I saw LGBTQQ the other day, which stood for "Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transexual Queer and Questioning" -- if they'll just stick PHATPIML in there -- "Practicing Heterosexual At This Point In My Life" -- I will happily pay dues. Or it could be "IKSRPBOTYAWAYLAB" ... "I've Known Some Really Pretty Boys Over The Years And What Are You Lookin' At, Bub?" (YWAKS? Which is of course: Ya Want A Knuckle Sandwich?)

It does all remind me of George Carlin's piece about how "shell shock" got turned into "combat fatigue" and then into "operationally exhausted" and then into "post-traumatic stress disorder" ... all the while the poor soldiers were suffering from the same damn condition. I understand why "colored" and "fag" and "retard" got shuffled out of the language, and I'm fully behind it all. But where the language has gained shades of gray, it's lost simplicity. That may be a good tradeoff (probably is) ... but the loss of "shell shock" -- and "old people," to borrow from Carlin again, who are now "senior citizens" -- can still be mourned, and I do.


Got some spam recently I think because of that Lakers-related post -- it was "buy tickets and gear" kind of stuff. I've turned on comments moderation for the moment. I'll give it a few days and turn it back off again. Mostly I don't like comments moderation -- slows back and forth down somewhat, IMO -- but if the blog starts getting a lot of spam, I may go to it. Steve Perry moderates his comments, which I assumed was because he was an old guy authoritarian: "shape up and spell correctly or else!" But maybe it was spam after all ...


Boston College lost this weekend, which was good. Unfortunately, the Patriots probably are the best football team in the history of the game. I can still hope, but they whipped one of the top teams in the history of the game, Manning's Colts, 24-20, in Indianapolis, after having being down 20-10 midway through the 4th, and after having suffered from some downright remarkable officiating -- the Pats set a franchise record for penalties in that game and still pulled it out, in the home stadium of the unbeaten Superbowl champions.

I still hate Boston. Most people only hate individual franchises elsewhere -- which would be the Celtics in my case. But after enough decades of pain, my specific hatred of the Celts turned into a generalized hatred of all of Boston. So I do hate Boston ... but not enough to prevent me from enjoying what the Pats are doing.

Every year about this time people start ranting ab0ut the Last Unbeaten Pro Football Team, and how they might end the season unbeaten ... and it never happens. (OK, happened once, 35 years ago.)

This is the first time I haven't thought the people calling for a complete unbeaten season were delusional. I think the Patriots might do it. They're angry, motivated, and really, really good.


I'm on the road this week and have a post on that coming soon; I also brought along Devlin's Razor and Terminal Freedom, and should get them out to proofers this weekend.

And in my actual downtime (I'm only booked 40 hours this week, and have no wife or kids to distract me) I'm working on the 2nd half of AI War. Those of you I owe mail to, you should get it this week.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Random Thoughts ...

Finally got my main system back up again. New boot partition, and finally scragged the RAID array and went back to single drives. RAID 5 is not a good desktop technology and may never be; the pain-in-the-ass of keeping it up and running is fine for production systems, not so good for home machines.

One thing that's crossed my mind a few times is native RAID 5 inside hard drives -- most of what kills drives is head crashes, even today. If you've got a drive with three or more platters you could offer RAID 5 internally with a single drive ... as long as the heads are working on 2 platters, you're still functional.

This is a freebie to the hard drive industry. I'd never buy anything else, ever again.


I can't imagine why there isn't a "Fight Club" musical yet. I'll write the ad for them: "The first rule of Fight Club ... is you do not sing about Fight Club."

Fight Club is Jodi's favorite movie. I think it's a load of horseshit myself -- "we are the middle children of history" my butt -- but it is funny in places. It's already camp enough: it'd make a great musical.


I can't understand why there's a water shortage on a planet with so much water and sunshine. Is it that hard to build a system that lays water out in the sun and catches the evaporate?


How much electricity could you recover if you put pressure plates under the roads? Vehicle going over the pressure plates depress them, leaving the plates release the pressure and generate electricity. Maybe you could light the roads with it. You could even selectively light the roads with it -- only light the lamps around the spots where cars are actually passing and generating electricity.


For all I've written about flying cars, I'm not really ready to live in a world that has them. It's bad enough passing them on the side of the road on the hottest summer days: you can't drive up the 405 incline on the worst days of summer without seeing cars that didn't make it to the top of the Santa Monica mountains. Now picture them plummeting from the sky ... mothers with small children parachuting to safety ... "What is this on your parachute, Ronnie?"


The Martian Child is out this weekend. Looking forward to it, though early reviews aren't good -- there's apparently some creepy stuff about the kid, the "Martian Child." The Martian Child is Sean Gerrold -- called Dennis in the movie, which was his name when David Gerrold adopted him. Great boy -- I played basketball with him for about a year, 10+ years ago now, on weekends. He'd been through rough stuff (and gave David some difficult times) but he was incredibly bright and charming. I hope the movie brings that across.

Really looking forward to American Gangster, though. That's the best trailer I've seen in years. I'm going out of town on a contract this week -- I don't really like traveling, at least on business -- miss my family too much. But it does give you free time, usually. Maybe I'll get to see American Gangster while I'm on the road.


Looks like it's just time separating Kobe from his exit from Los Angeles. I remember a day 20 years ago -- the Dodgers had won the World Series, the Lakers had won the NBA Finals, and Los Angeles still had two football teams. (OK, one -- the Rams went to Anaheim in 1979, which is when I stopped rooting for them.) Now the Dodgers suck, the "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim" is so stupid it's had to tolerate --

"The La Brea Tar Pits" translates to "The The Tar Tar Pits."

"The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim" translates to The The Angels Angels of Anaheim."

No team that plays in Anaheim is an L.A. team, I don't care what they call themselves.

So we have no pro football, a lousy baseball franchise, a lousy basketball franchise (and the Clippers, too) ... the Lakers are a borderine playoff team with Kobe; without him they're likely to test the losing record of the 1972 Philadelphia 76ers, who went 9 and 72. There's a been a lot of static over Kobe over the years; on most of it I've had his back. But I'm ready for him to go now. No hard feelings, some relationships are broken and it's time to move on -- I'm friendly with 2 ex-wives and one ex-girlfriend, I can manage no hard feelings with a 6'6" basketball player I've never met. But the Lakers aren't committed to winning now -- can't believe I'm writing that, I've never, for over thirty years, doubted the organization's commitment to win -- but here we are, with the best basketball player on the planet in purple and gold, and a front office that's either brutally incompetent or consciously rebuilding while wasting that player's best years. The Lakers should pull the trigger, let Kobe move on, and get honest about the rebuilding process. It would cost them money -- a lot of money; those courtside seats are expensive, and even the ones up in the 300s aren't cheap -- but it's the right thing to do. (Well, no -- the right thing to do is to mortgage the future and win now ... but plainly the Lakers aren't going to do that.)

In Boston they have the Red Sox, the Patriots (probably the best football team I've ever seen) ... the Celtics reloaded with Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett ... and Boston College is undefeaed and #2 in the BCS.

This is from "All Possible Worlds" -- Sam suspects that one of the Princes of his Order is a bad guy, and goes to see a psychic ... who warns him that dark forces are gathering, evil is coming ...

MAMA AGHABARIA: He comes from a dark land, a land of ancient evil.
SAM: Boston?
MAMA AGHABARIA: Not all evil is related to the Celtics, Sam.
SAM: Is he from Boston?
MAMA AGHABARIA: As it happens.

God, I hate this.


My younger daughter ran her last race of the season today. She's short and doesn't have a long stride, so she runs cross country where grim, dogged determination helps compensate. It was great seeing her down the stretch ... a hundred odd people running, most of them out ahead of her at the start, and she just ran them down over the long haul, passing all the people who lacked her determination and wind.

I'm awfully proud of her.