Friday, July 13, 2007

Let's do a montage!

One-paragraph book reviews:
  • Just finished Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge. It's the first hard science fiction book I've read in almost a decade, and now I want to go read everything else he's written. The person who lent it to me used the word "prescient" to describe it, and I think that's an excellent word. He has some really believable ideas about the growing convergence between the virtual worlds we create and the physical world we inhabit. It's filled with all the sorts of things you'd want to read in a sci-fi book set on Earth: artificial intelligence, fantastic advances in medical technology, an increasingly powerful state that's offset by increasingly powerful terrorists, mind programming, and so much more. Also, he's one of those sci-fi authors who actually knows what he's writing about; I couldn't help chuckling when one character pulls out a computer running an illegal copy of Hurd OS.
  • Before that was Pattern Recognition by William Gibson. This is only the third Gibson novel that I've read, and it's radically different from his cyberpunk books. It's set more or less in the present time, perhaps a few years in the future of its publish date, and is yet another spookily perceptive book. Written in 2002, it correctly anticipated the explosive growth in viral marketing and guerilla online campaigning. The plot of the book is concerned with trademarks and ideas, how movements get started and what sustains them. When I was describing it to a friend they quickly made the connection with The Tipping Point, which I hadn't considered but which is an apt comparison to make. It reads like a mystery, though, with one remarkable woman engaged in a personal and professional quest for the truth.
  • And just for fun, The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip by George Saunders. This is the sort of children's book I'd want my kids to read. The drawings are amazing - they're done by the same person who did James and the Giant Peach and The Stinky Cheese Man. The story feels like pure Saunders, without the violence but with the same sense of humor and ear for the absurd ways people relate to one another. It also features what may be the best ending sentence of any English language book out there.
And that's about it, other than way too many great New Yorker articles and thought-provoking New York Review of Books pieces. George Saunders had a new piece a month or so ago in the New Yorker which was brilliant and heartbreaking.

There's no television, obviously, and I'm coping by wrapping up the final season of Angel and - finally! - going through all of Cowboy Bebop in order. I'm hoping to synchronize the two of these so I can transition directly into Firefly, upon which point the two series shall fuse into one and my head will explode.

I saw Ratatoille - I think it's the first movie I've seen in the theater since, oh, maybe X-Men 3. Anyways, it's excellent. I enjoy all of Pixar's movies that I've seen (still haven't watched A Bug's Life or Cars yet), but even by their high standards this one was great. I'm a little curious if I would have enjoyed it as much a few years ago; I'm far from a gourmet, but the idea of devoting one's passion to making great food is no longer as absurd to me. Besides that, though, Pixar scores on all points: great story, gorgeous animation, and a brilliant sense of pacing.

Sorry for taking so long between posts. Work's been super-busy, but we passed a major milestone yesterday and with luck I'll be breathing a little more freely. When I haven't been at work, my time's been more structured than usual. I'm trying to at least post pictures for things that I would otherwise write up, so if you want the scoop you can head over to Timmy's House of Incandescent Sprinkles. There's been a lot going on (well, compared to my usually serene social calendar): a conference in San Diego, a company trip to Santa Cruz, a weekend with my folks driving down the California coast to visit San Simeon, the Fourth of July in San Francisco, a pilgrimate to the Kwik-e-Mart... hey, I may be a hopeless nerd, but at least I keep occupied!

Oh, and this month I crossed over 500 miles on my bicycle this year. Huzzah! That's still far below my father, but not bad for someone just commuting to work. It continues to be a fun and invigorating part of my lifestyle.

That's it for now. Hope everyone's doing well, and let me know when you pick up Civ IV: Beyond the Sword!

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