The Core Dump The Core Dump is the online home of Nic Lindh, a Swedish-American man living in the Sonoran desert. 2016-10-05T15:38:00+00:00 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. Asymmetry between the major parties fries the circuits of the mainstream press (PressThink) Nic Lindh 2016-09-26T00:00:00+00:00 <p>Jay Rosen on how the Trump candidacy “fries the circuits of the mainstream press.”</p> <blockquote> <p>As practiced by the “mainstream media” (the professionals who work at NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, PBS, NPR, the AP, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Reuters, Bloomberg, Politico, Time magazine) political journalism is constructed — it rests entirely — on a mental picture of the American system in which the two major parties are similar actors with, as Baquet put it, “warring philosophies.”</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="">PressThink</a></p> It’s so much easier to suggest solutions when you don't know too much about the problem Nic Lindh 2016-09-05T00:00:00+00:00 <blockquote> <p>It’s so much easier to suggest solutions when you don’t know too much about the problem.</p> </blockquote> <p>—Malcolm Forbes</p> Malazan Book of the Fallen Nic Lindh 2016-08-29T00:00:00+00:00 <p>The <em>Malazan Book of the Fallen</em> series consists of 10 brick-sized novels that <a href="">according to Wikipedia</a> make up 3.2 million words. Yup, 3.2 million words. That’s a lot of words.</p> <p>Fortunately, it’s fantastic.</p> <p>What we’re looking at here is a massive series, not just in terms of word count, but also in terms of world building—it spans thousands of years, several continents, several cultures, a multitude of races, several systems of magic, and a sprawling host of characters. <em>Massive</em>.</p> <p>But what’s most impressive to me is that despite the insane word count, <em>Malazan</em> is tight. Unlike most high fantasy with 100-pages-to-walk-around-a-bush sections, there are no draggy bits—every word reveals character, builds the world, or moves the story forward. It’s written like a series of interconnecting short storys or novellas that snap together to create a story arc. I get a headache just thinking about creating something like this. Massive respect to Steven Erikson for even undertaking such a massive job, no less pulling it off.</p> <p>Erikson also trusts his readers—there is no coddling. If a character disappears for three novels and then comes back, there’s no reintroduction or reminder of who that character is. They just show up and it’s up to the reader to remember who they are. The same thing goes for character introductions: There’s no signaling to let you know if this will be a major or minor character. It might be a major character the series will turn on, or the character might die four pages later. You don’t know. You have to pay attention at all times. No coasting.</p> <p>The same thing goes for the systems of magic. Wizards do magic stuff from the get-go, but the reader has no idea how it works—there are systems, but it’ll take the reader a while to figure them out. In the meantime, you just have to roll with it.</p> <p>So what’s the <em>Malazan Book of the Fallen</em> about? There’s obviously a lot—<em>a lot</em>—of high fantasy plot happening, but at its heart it’s a meditation on mortality and the choices we make.</p> <p>If you’re the kind of reader who enjoys being challenged and you like fantasy, definitely give the first book in the series, <em><a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=gardens%2Bof%2Bthe%2Bmoon&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1472341005">Gardens of the Moon</a></em> a shot. Just be prepared to be both awed and confused.</p> The car is going digital and that’s a good thing Nic Lindh 2016-08-21T00:00:00+00:00 <p><img src="/images/prius-shifter.jpg" /></p> <p><i>The Prius shifter is unapologetically a joystick. And yes, Phoenix, AZ gets a bit toasty in the summer.</i></p> <p>My favorite feature in <a href="">my Prius</a> is the one in the hero image above: The gear shifter is, unapologetically, a joystick. The shifter tells you by its shape and design that you are performing no mechanical action—you are telling a computer what your intention is, not actually initiating the action yourself.</p> <p>For car nerds this is sacrilege—the enjoyment of the car is tied to your connection to the vehicle, your physical involvement with the iron that makes up the car. And the Prius puts the fact that it’s all fly-by-wire <em>right in your face</em>.</p> <p>You can compare with BMW piping pre-recorded engine sounds through the vehicle’s sound system in a misguided effort to help the driver feel more in touch with the machine.</p> <p>Because no matter how much Potemkin feedback car manufacturers add to their products these days, a modern car is a computer on wheels. And that’s a good thing—I’m old enough to have spent my childhood and early, formative, driving years in analog cars and they were <em>terrible</em>.</p> <p>Constant breakdowns. Slurping gas like an Amy Schumer character slurps white wine. Constant leaking of mystery fluids. Gearboxes that <em>grind</em>.</p> <p>Remember using the choke to get the car to start on a cold morning? (For any millennials reading this: The choke let you override the fuel to air mixture that went into the carburetor by pulling out a freaking stick on the dashboard. After the car started you had to push the choke back in as the engine warmed up or it would stall. Yes, this was a real thing—ask your parents.)</p> <p>Cars were a mess back then. But we didn’t know that because the concept of a car that mostly just worked was unthinkable. And of course being a teenager, the freedom of the car and the open road, <a href="">parking with a person of your preferred gender</a>, these are powerful experiences and feelings that a lot of people have transferred into the bucket of bolts that broke down on them all the time instead of their youth and hormones.</p> <p>Which doesn’t make it wrong for a person to enjoy tinkering with an old car in their spare time—on the contrary, whatever constructive hobby a person can find is a great thing and I hope it brings you happiness.</p> <p>But as the defiant little joystick in the Prius shows, cars are moving to a much better technological place. And that is something that should be celebrated. And props to Toyota for being completely unapologetic about it.</p> Review: Kindle Oasis Nic Lindh 2016-08-05T00:00:00+00:00 <p><img src="/images/oasis-and-voyage.jpg" /></p> <p><i>Oasis Walnut leather cover, the Oasis itself, and a Voyage.</i></p> <p>The <a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=kindle%2Boasis&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1470417409">Kindle Oasis</a> is for the connoisseur of e-readers, the person who reads a lot on them and who also enjoys the feel of a premium device in the hand.</p> <p>Because that’s what you’re spending close to an extra $200 on, compared to a lowlier Kindle <a href="">like the Paperwhite</a>: page-turn buttons, more even backlight, lighter weight, and a very nice leather cover.</p> <p>Apart from that, the software is (sadly) much the same and the speed of the device is much the same.</p> <p>The leather cover (sorry, vegans) does look and feel premium, and since it holds moar battery, this Kindle can go for longer than previous versions—not that they were ever slouches in the battery department—by sipping from the cover when it’s attached.</p> <p>The drawback with this sceme of using the cover as a battery pack is, of course, if you use the Oasis without the cover you have a Kindle with terrible battery life.</p> <p>If you read a lot—<em>as I do, he insisted, justifying his purchase</em>—being blessed with actual page-turn buttons instead of the weird touch areas on the <a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;keywords=kindle%2Bvoyage&amp;tag=thecoredump-20&amp;qid=1470418567">Voyage</a> alone is worth the price of admission, since it lets you actually feel where buttons are instead of having to look at where your fingers are on the device. (One day there’ll be a fascinating article or book chapter written on what got into the water at Amazon when they decided chintzy touch sensors with fake clicks were much more future than pedestrian buttons. I look forward to reading it.)</p> <p>So as hardware it’s nice—an excellent reading machine. But Amazon keeps making me sad by not delivering best-of-breed software. Amazon is in the business of delivering good-enough. The most egregious example is that the Kindle still doesn’t have automatic hyphenation. In 2016.</p> <p>Nope. You’ll see the rivers of white and you’ll like them, dammit. Just because we have a screen that aptly mimics paper doesn’t mean we should think about typography, does it?</p> <p>As an example of the patented Amazon Attention to Detail™, the instruction manual preloaded on the devices says Welcome to your Kindle Placeholder. Yes, Placeholder. And the title is Kindle Solstice. That is some attention to detail.</p> <p>I so, so wish Apple would get into the e-ink reader market, but it doesn’t look like that will ever happen—imagine an e-ink device running iBooks. <em>Wistful sigh.</em> If Apple had that, their bookstore might actually take off.</p> <p>But in this universe we have Amazon’s Kindles. And this one is physically a very nice device, one that’s worth upgrading to if you read a lot and appreciate the finer things in life, but not one that will get you meaningfully more than a cheaper Kindle.</p> <p>As a side note, if you happen to be a cheapskate and just want a cheap thing to read on, let me implore you to at least get a <a href="">device with backlighting</a>—it’s a massively nicer experience.</p> <p>Let’s hope the Oasis 2 will come with a faster processor and that Amazon will somehow find the motivation to crack the mysteries of automatic hyphenation.</p> <p><strong>Note:</strong> Amazon links are affiliate links. If you purchase through them I get a tiny cut. It doesn’t add anything to the price.</p> Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes Nic Lindh 2016-06-03T00:00:00+00:00 <blockquote> <p>Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes.</p> </blockquote> <p>—Bertolt Brecht</p> “Tea, Earl Grey, hot” Nic Lindh 2016-05-29T00:00:00+00:00 <p>Virtual assistants are hot. Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google’s, well, Google are becoming more and more capable and smart. While Apple, Google, and Microsoft are shipping assistants on their smartphones and wearables, the one for the home right now is Alexa—Amazon’s ghost in the cylinder.</p> <p>But competition is heating up: Google recently announced a competitor to the Echo coming in the fourth quarter of 2016, and Apple is rumored to introduce something in this space at <a href="">their developer conference</a> in mid-June. So competition is coming for Alexa, but right now it (Alexa is a bunch of software running in who knows how many data centers across America, so I’m going to refer to it as “it”, despite the female name and voice) is the only one you can buy and plonk down in your home.</p> <p>If you’ve read this blog before you know I’m a massive sci-fi nerd, including of course the brilliant-if-uneven <em>Star Trek: The Next Generation</em>. I love Gene Roddenberry’s vision of Star Trek as showing us how we, as humanity, can be better. And despite the rickety sets and wobbly acting—apart from Sir Patrick Stewart, of course—<em>Star Trek: TNG</em> hit on so many great technological advances, like their reading pads that were pretty much tablets, the holodeck, which I never understood how they got people to leave voluntarily, the tricorders, which were pretty much smartphones with even more cool gear, and, of course, the taken-for-granted masterpiece, the ship itself. Just talk to the air and ship will know you’re talking to it. Ship will do what you need it to. Ship is your friend.</p> <p>And now you can have ship in your house. Kind of. Ship’s primordial ooze ancestor. And you know what, ship’s distant ancestor ain’t half bad. Alexa knows thing. Alexa can help you with things.</p> <p>But above all, <em>you can talk to the air and the air responds.</em> Sure, it’s not a true AI in any sense of the word—it’s dumb as a box of bricks, but when you talk to the air and it gets it, it’s <em>magical</em>. Seriously, it’s magic.</p> <p>I giggled like a little girl when I first set it up and it responded to me.</p> <p>“Alexa, tea, Earl Grey, hot.” Of course it knew how to respond to that.</p> <p>For my use case, Alexa fits in well. I ask it random questions that pop into my head. “Alexa, what’s the temperature?” etc. I have it set timers and alarms. I have it play podcasts from my phone through its not-great-but-okay speaker.</p> <p>It’s a spirit I can command. A dumb spirit now, sure, but it’s getting smarter every day, and who knows how smart it will get.</p> <p>It’s future now.</p> Mad Max: Fury Road vs Mad Max Trilogy Nic Lindh 2016-05-23T00:00:00+00:00 <p>There’s an amazing amount of shots reused between the original Mad Max trilogy and Fury Road. It’s impressive how George Miller’s vision has stayed true to itself over the years.</p> </div></div></div> <div class="embed-responsive embed-responsive-16by9"> <iframe class="embed-responsive-item" src="" allowfullscreen></iframe> </div> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> When the levee breaks Nic Lindh 2016-05-15T00:00:00+00:00 <p>The professor who taught the first political science class I took spent much of the semester on his pet theory about how people will tolerate a surprising amount of oppression, but there is a limit and once you get past it, <em>boom</em>.</p> <p>This was a long time ago, so he used examples like the Iranian revolution, where the Shah created such a corrupt, horrific regime that finally the people had enough and went full medieval, instituting a theocracy that’s been a thorn in the west’s side ever since.</p> <p>I’ve been thinking back to those lectures by that funny little man in his bow tie over the last few years—the Occupy movement, the Tea Party, Black Lives Matter, and the rise of Trump and Sanders seem powered by anger and frustration.</p> <p>People are angry. Inequality is at the level of the robber barons, the middle class is under siege, rural America is wilting on the vine, and people of color are still dying at the hands of law enforcement.</p> <p>At this point the anger is mostly constrained inside the political system, though it’s starting to leak out, like with the Bundy Ranch standoff and the Ferguson riots.</p> <p>Obviously, the Occupy movement and the Bundy Ranch crew place the blame for their anger in different places, but both points of view feel in their bones that they are getting shafted. Shafted hard.</p> <p>And it’s not getting better—the trend lines point to inequality increasing, for the downward spiral for rural people and the middle class to continue to accelerate.</p> <p>And I think back to my old poli-sci professor and wonder where the limit is, at what point the levee breaks.</p> It’s a content blocker, not an ad blocker Nic Lindh 2016-05-08T00:00:00+00:00 <p>I don’t use ad blockers. I think it’s a fair trade: You give me content and I see your ads.</p> <p>I do, however, use content blockers.</p> <p>The difference is not sophistry or comic book guy pedantry—an ad blocker blocks ads while a content blocker stops your browser from downloading many different kinds of data. This especially includes trackers, the little pieces of software that follow you around the web, cataloging your every move.</p> <p>This means content blockers also block ads, but that is because the advertising networks track you across the web.</p> <p>Does that mean they know specifically who you are? Name, rank, and serial number? Probably not. But we can’t know for sure, because the industry isn’t saying. What we do know is that when you visit a site that participates in an ad network—which is most commercial sites—the ad network uses the information it has on you to create an auction where different advertisers bid on the privilege to show an ad to you, or at least the demographic you’ve been lumped into. The auction takes milliseconds and then the ad starts to load.</p> <p>What this means in plain English is that when you go to a site, your information is sold and aggregated. So it’s not a matter of if you trust the site itself, but if you trust the companies the site is selling you to. Companies you don’t know and <em>can’t</em> know without manually inspecting the source of the site.</p> <p>Perhaps I’m over-sensitive, but the feeling of having my browsing habits sold to the highest bidder whenever I visit a site gives me the creeps. Content blockers are the weapon we have against this.</p> <p>It’s not the ads themselves. You giving me content in exchange for exposing me to ads is fine, good, even. You giving me content in exchanging for selling my information to who-knows-who is simply not okay.</p> <p>It’s also an amazing state for the media industry to find itself: They have outsourced the very thing that brings them revenue. This does not seem particularly bright, to put it mildly.</p> <p>The solution is simple in principle but difficult and expensive to implement: Host your own ads. Accept that the internet is here to stay and that you need to own your own publishing and revenue stack. Accept that if you are a publisher today <em>you are partly a technology company.</em></p>