The Core Dump The Core Dump is the online home of Nic Lindh, a Swedish-American man living in the Sonoran desert. 2019-09-28T07:29:54-07:00 http://thecoredump.org/ Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice Nic Lindh http://thecoredump.org/ 2019-09-28T00:00:00-07:00 https://thecoredump.org/2019/09/any-sufficiently-advanced-incompetence// <blockquote> <p>Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.</p> </blockquote> <p>―Grey’s Law</p> Impressions moving from an Apple Watch Series 3 to Series 5 Nic Lindh http://thecoredump.org/ 2019-09-27T12:00:00-07:00 https://thecoredump.org/2019/09/moving-from-apple-watch-3-to-5// <p>I’ve been using an Apple Watch since the device was first introduced. I still remember how excited I was by the potential of the—in retrospect woefully underpowered—Series 0.</p> <p>Let me preface my take on switching from a Series 3 to a Series 5 with my background with watches in general. Crucially for the discussion, I am the kind of person who has a neurotic need to know what time it is at all times.</p> <p>Ever since I can remember, I’ve worn a wrist watch. Either digital or analog, depending on the times, but always something on my wrist. And never an expensive brand like Rolex or Tag Heuer. I am not a fancy lad who is made out of money; I just want to know what time it is. Casios and Seikos were my speed.</p> <p>Since the Apple Watch came out, it’s what I’ve used. I don’t have a fancy-time alternative watch or anything like that. The Apple Watch is what’s on my wrist.</p> <p>So it was a bummer that despite the things the Apple Watch did so right and I loved so much, like notifications and activity tracking—hey, you have a freaking heart rate monitor on your wrist at all times!—it was terrible at being a bog standard normal watch.</p> <p><em>Just show me the time.</em></p> <p><em>No.</em></p> <p>Nevertheless, despite the annoyance of having to performing a spastic jerk every time I wanted to know what time it was—i.e. all the time—the other benefits of the Apple Watch were so great I was willing to overlook that particular—big—annoyance.</p> <p>A side note: A fun memory is a few years back when I drove from Phoenix to Los Angeles with my daughter and we got caught in terrible winds on the I-10 around Blythe with a sand storm that just obliterated visibility. I spent a lot of time driving very slowly with the steering wheel in a death grip and no visibility on that trip.</p> <p>When we got to L.A. I looked at my watch and saw that it had given me credit for four hours of exercise.</p> <p>That was an exhausting drive.</p> <p>Still, not being able to just glance at my wrist to see the time was annoying. So when Apple announced the Series 5 has an always-on display, for me, it was a no-brainer to upgrade from the Series 3.</p> <p>So how much difference is there from a Series 3 to a Series 5?</p> <p>A lot. First off, the always-on display is obviously a huge difference in itself. It also means I’m thinking of the device as a watch more than I used to. And I’m thinking more about which watch face I’m using—now it’s visible all the time as opposed to lighting up for an info-dump when I need to see the time or a notification.</p> <p>Apple did something extremely clever with the always-on display in that it uses the light sensor to always be just the right amount of brightness. It’s visible outside in the blowtorch Phoenix sun, and visible but not glowing in the dark room where I’m typing this. The adjustments are simply spot on to where you stop thinking of it as a screen and more of a physical thing.</p> <p>Same thing when you shake it, baby: The face comes to life and gets brighter, but it’s not overwhelming.</p> <p>It’s impressive how Apple tuned the brightness.</p> <p>The other major difference from the Series 3 is the screen size. Going from a 42 to 44 millimeter screen doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal, and that the screen now goes closer to the edges also shouldn’t. But boy howdy, in comparison with the Series 3 this screen is massive. Massive, I tell you. It’s a whole different experience. So much more substantial, for lack of another term.</p> <p>The Series 4 and Series 5 screens are absolute units.</p> <p>It sounds frivolous but at least for me it makes the screen feel like it has room to breathe. It didn’t feel cramped on the Series 3, but now I realize it was.</p> <p>The last major difference is the same thing that happened somewhere on the evolutionary path of the iPhone, I forget exactly which iPhone, where at some point the pixels got close enough to the screen, and the processor got fast enough, that interacting with the device felt like you were touching a thing, manipulating a thing, instead of sending commands to a thing.</p> <p>The 5 feels like that. The pixels are so close and the responsiveness is so smooth it feels like you’re touching the watch software directly.</p> <p>It’s a beautiful thing.</p> <p>So, all that being said, should you upgrade?</p> <p>From a Series 0 or 1 or 2? I definitely recommend it.</p> <p>From a Series 3? Unless you really want an always-on display and would enjoy some more screen real estate, probably not.</p> <p>From a Series 4? Really depends. How much of a neurotic need do you have to know the time at all times?</p> <p><em>Finally, it’s a real watch!</em></p> Plans are worthless, but planning is everything Nic Lindh http://thecoredump.org/ 2019-09-08T00:00:00-07:00 https://thecoredump.org/2019/09/plans-are-worthless// <blockquote> <p>Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.</p> </blockquote> <p>—Dwight Eisenhower</p> Often injustice lies in what you aren’t doing, not only in what you are doing Nic Lindh http://thecoredump.org/ 2019-08-21T00:00:00-07:00 https://thecoredump.org/2019/08/often-injustice-lies-in// <blockquote> <p>Often injustice lies in what you aren’t doing, not only in what you are doing.</p> </blockquote> <p>―Marcus Aurelius</p> Die in a ditch Nic Lindh http://thecoredump.org/ 2019-08-13T12:00:00-07:00 https://thecoredump.org/2019/08/die-in-a-ditch// <p>I’ve lived in America well over 20 years. I’m proud to be a naturalized American citizen. I want nothing but the best for America.</p> <p>One of the things I have failed to understand about America is the American attitude to healthcare.</p> <p>Granted, this is painting with an <em>extremely</em> broad brush—there are many attitudes to healthcare in America; what I’m talking about is the one that shows up in the political discussion. Obviously I’ve been aware that the American healthcare system is terrible for a long time, but like most young people I was immortal once. I knew things like pre-existing conditions existed, and I knew that was terrible, but obviously it didn’t affect me since, again, I was immortal. As young people are.</p> <p>Now I’m at an age where I’m most certainly not immortal.</p> <p>The number one cause of bankruptcy in America is health care bills. You get sick in America and you’ll get soaked, even if you have “good” insurance. Everybody knows this.</p> <p>But somehow it’s OK. It’s normal that a serious illness will wipe you and your family out financially. You’d saved for your kid’s college? Yeah, no, that money is gone now. Shouldn’t have gotten sick.</p> <p>The thing is that among first-world nations, this only happens in America. Any other developed country and a serious illness or injury will of course suck and you will lose some income, but you won’t get wiped out.</p> <p>Only in America.</p> <p>So why is that considered OK?</p> <p>I understand of course that some people are making a lot of money off the current system and that those people are of course interested in preserving it.</p> <p>And are able to hire people to defend it. Money talks. Money doesn’t shut up.</p> <p>And some people have the ludicrous notion that getting sick is somehow a moral failing or a punishment from God. I very much doubt those people’s opinions can be changed.</p> <p>I’m not even talking about how to get to a system that doesn’t cause people to go bankrupt from medical care, but the completely demoralized attitude toward it.</p> <p>In the political discussion, a healthcare system that keeps people from going bankrupt if they get sick is treated as some kind of fairy tale. It’s just crazy to think people could get treatment without losing everything. Crazy. And I can’t understand how the discussion can stay like that.</p> <p>The rest of the industrialized world has healthcare where people don’t go bankrupt. Why can’t America? And why can’t America even acknowledge that as a goal?</p> <p>How is it that the last super power on Earth, the richest country on Earth, the country that put people on the mother-effing moon, can’t have what every other industrialized country has?</p> <p>And how can Very Serious People Who Understand Policy argue with straight faces that this is impossible to change without being laughed out of the room?</p> The big thieves hang the little ones Nic Lindh http://thecoredump.org/ 2019-05-31T00:00:00-07:00 https://thecoredump.org/2019/05/the-big-thieves// <blockquote> <p>The big thieves hang the little ones.</p> </blockquote> <p>―Czech Proverb</p> Book roundup, part 29 Nic Lindh http://thecoredump.org/ 2019-05-14T13:00:00-07:00 https://thecoredump.org/2019/05/book-roundup-part-29// <p>Another sci-fi and fantasy-heavy book roundup. Almost like the state of the world is really bad and somebody is attempting to take his attention away from it with fantastic tales.</p> <h2 id="non-fiction">Non-fiction</h2> <h3 id="the-valedictorian-of-being-dead-by-heather-b-armstrong--"><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Valedictorian-Being-Dead-Story-Dying/dp/1501197045/ref=sr_1_1?tag=thecoredump-20">The Valedictorian of Being Dead, by Heather B. Armstrong</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>Brutally honest and raw, <em>The Valedictorian of Being Dead</em> chronicles Heather B. Armstrong’s life with treatment-resistant depression and the experimental brain flatline treatment that finally gave her relief from the disease.</p> <p>Yes, brain flatline, as in, the brain has no activity. Scary stuff.</p> <p>It’s a gripping read.</p> <p>Armstrong is of course more well-known as Dooce, the original queen of the mommy bloggers, who I used to read even though mommy blogging in and of itself is not interesting to me. Armstrong’s voice, writing skills, and uncomfortable honesty made her blog a must-read.</p> <p>And so it is with <em>The Valedictorian of Being Dead</em>.</p> <h3 id="the-mastermind-by-evan-ratliff-"><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Mastermind-Drugs-Empire-Murder-Betrayal/dp/0399590412/ref=sr_1_3?tag=thecoredump-20">The Mastermind, by Evan Ratliff</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p><em>The Mastermind</em> reads like a techno-thriller but is instead a well-documented report of a talented and ruthless programmer who built a globe-spanning crime syndicate, a high tech Mafia.</p> <p>There’s everything you want in a techno-thriller—drugs, murder, yachts, and strong encryption certificates.</p> <p>The story is indeed hard to believe, that a programmer from the south of Africa managed to create a massive crime syndicate through sheer dint of programming skills and aggressive sociopathy, but it is fascinating.</p> <p><em>The Mastermind</em> is a solid page turner.</p> <h3 id="broadsword-calling-danny-boy-by-geoff-dyer-"><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Broadsword-Calling-Danny-Boy-Watching/dp/1524747572/ref=sr_1_1?tag=thecoredump-20">Broadsword Calling Danny Boy, by Geoff Dyer</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>If you’re of a certain age you were lucky enough to watch <em><a href="https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0065207/">Where Eagles Dare</a></em> at an impressionable time of your life.</p> <p>If that is you, <em>Broadsword Calling Danny Boy</em> will make you very happy indeed.</p> <p>The book is what it says on the tin: An obsessive scene-by-scene rehash of the 1968 Manly Men WWII movie featuring a bleary-eyed Richard Burton and a stoic Clint Eastwood, written by a talented critic who knows—of course he knows—this is not a good movie, but who loves it anyway.</p> <p>I had such a good time reading this. Broadsword calling Danny Boy, indeed.</p> <h2 id="fiction">Fiction</h2> <h3 id="tiamats-wrath-by-james-s-a-corey"><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Tiamats-Wrath-Expanse-James-Corey/dp/0316332879/ref=sr_1_3?tag=thecoredump-20">Tiamat’s Wrath, by James S. A. Corey</a>★★★★☆</h3> <p>The penultimate novel in the brilliant Expanse series, <em>Tiamath’s Wrath</em> does a great job of turning up the stakes for the last installment in the series.</p> <p>Decades have passed since the previous novel, and the intrepid crew of the Rocinante are feeling their years, but still do their best to fight the fascist empire that has taken over human space, and which is not only being all kinds of unpleasantly fascist, but also upsetting whatever creatures or forces or whatever it is that exterminated the creators of the protomolecule. Yes, these particular fascists are on purpose poking their fingers in the metaphoricalleye of <em>those</em> beings.</p> <p>Which sets us up for an intense final novel in the series.</p> <p>Good, good stuff.</p> <h3 id="the-raven-tower-by-ann-leckie-"><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Raven-Tower-Ann-Leckie/dp/0316388696/ref=sr_1_1?tag=thecoredump-20">The Raven Tower, by Ann Leckie</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>A who-dun-what in a fantasy setting narrated by a God. And it works! <em>The Raven Tower</em> is a page turner loaded with emotional weight and written in Leckie’s typical smooth, buttery prose.</p> <p><em>The Raven Tower</em> is immersive and ambitious and will keep you turning the pages way too late in the evening.</p> <h3 id="the-liberation-by-ian-tregillis-"><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Liberation-Alchemy-Wars-Book-ebook/dp/B01BKSLGTE/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?tag=thecoredump-20">The Liberation, by Ian Tregillis</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p>The third and final installment in The Alchemy Wars trilogy brings it to a satisfying and bloody conclusion. If you like the series, it’s a given read.</p> <p>The Alchemy Wars is alternate history which posits a world where Christiaan Huygens (real-life historical figure and all-around one of the smartest people who <em>ever</em> lived) invented Clakkers, a kind of mechanical humans. Clakkers are strong and tireless and have a built-in compulsion to serve their human masters.</p> <p>With Clakkers at their command, the Dutch then proceed to take over the world.</p> <p>The Clakkers, however, are sentient, and their compulsions to serve work through hurting them. Give a Clakker an order and it is in increasing pain until it has obeyed.</p> <p>A lot of the emotional weight of the series comes from the fact that the Clakkers are sentient, suffering slaves at the hands of human masters who <em>choose</em> to not recognize the sentience of their slaves since it would be an inconvenience for them.</p> <p>You know, Dutch people.</p> <p>The Alchemy Wars is interesting, thought-provoking alternate history with heaping helpings of emotional poignancy as well as horrific violence.</p> <h3 id="the-light-brigade-by-kameron-hurley-"><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Light-Brigade-Kameron-Hurley-ebook/dp/B075RQ63DZ/ref=sr_1_1?tag=thecoredump-20">The Light Brigade, by Kameron Hurley</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p><em>The Light Brigade</em> is near-future dystopia where corporations rule the world and are also grasping for a colonized Mars, a Mars that has broken off from Earth.</p> <p>In order to bring independent Mars to heel, the corporation research departments have come up with a way to literally turn soldiers into light so they can be transported those distances and back to fight.</p> <p>But some soldiers take poorly to the conversion and end up having … issues.</p> <p>The novel follows one of the soldiers with issues and her struggle to understand her own glitches and learning how the world she thought she understood and believed in actually works.</p> <p>If you’ve read any of Hurley’s previous works, you have already correctly guessed <em>The Light Brigade</em> is dark, cynical and violent—par for the course for Hurley. It’s also anchored by an interesting thought experiment I’m not going to spoil here.</p> <p>But in the end it just doesn’t congeal. Some interesting characters, some interesting world building, but it feels a bit like a re-tread, like I’ve seen permutations of this story before.</p> <p><em>The light Brigade</em> is a solid read, but not up to Hurley’s usual standard.</p> <h3 id="cryptonomicon-by-neal-stephenson-"><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Cryptonomicon-Neal-Stephenson/dp/0380788624/ref=sr_1_1?tag=thecoredump-20">Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>Almost 20 years later, Neal Stephenson’s <em>Cryptonomicon</em> is still fantastic: As a WWII yarn, a late-90s zeitgeist, an elaborately plotted page turner, a crypto primer, and a nerd-positive statement.</p> <p>It is also a brick, so take your time. Holy smokes, Stephenson can churn out a lot of words.</p> <p><strong>Note:</strong> The links are Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase through them I get a tiny, tiny kickback, which motivates me to keep writing these reviews. It’s appreciated.</p> Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable Nic Lindh http://thecoredump.org/ 2019-03-22T00:00:00-07:00 https://thecoredump.org/2019/03/politics-is-not// <blockquote> <p>Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.</p> </blockquote> <p>―Kenneth Galbraith</p> Book roundup, part 28 Nic Lindh http://thecoredump.org/ 2019-02-17T12:00:00-07:00 https://thecoredump.org/2019/02/book-roundup-part-28// <p>A sci-fi and fantasy heavy book roundup this time. Almost like the news is really bad and somebody is attempting to scurry away from it with fantastic tales.</p> <h2 id="non-fiction">Non-fiction</h2> <h3 id="the-incomplete-book-of-running-by-peter-sagal-"><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Incomplete-Book-Running-Peter-Sagal/dp/1451696248/ref=sr_1_1_twi_har_1?tag=thecoredump-20">The Incomplete Book of Running, by Peter Sagal</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p>If you’ve ever listened to NPR show <em><a href="https://www.npr.org/programs/wait-wait-dont-tell-me/">Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me</a></em> you know Peter Sagal is smart and witty.</p> <p>He’s also had a bit of a rough go of it over the last few years, transitioning from married dad of three girls to divorced dad of three girls and almost getting blown up at the Boston Marathon while guiding a blind runner.</p> <p><em>The Incomplete Book of Running</em> talks about how Sagal has used running to lose weight and control his emotions off an on through his life, and how his volunteering to guide a blind runner at the Boston Marathon led to him being in the goal chute when the bombs went off as two evil idiot brothers decided to become terrorists.</p> <p>It’s an entertaining, moving and easy read but, it does feel like Sagal is holding back, hiding a bit much behind his <em>Wait Wait</em> persona.</p> <p>Not that we as an audience can demand unforgiving honesty and that an author has to reveal everything, but it feels—at least to me—Sagal has much more to say but is held back. Perhaps by personal pride, perhaps by concern for other people’s privacy. Be that as it may, this is a poignant and witty work that’s well worth reading.</p> <p>Keep running, Peter.</p> <h2 id="fiction">Fiction</h2> <h3 id="aching-god-by-mike-shel-"><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Aching-God-Iconoclasts-Mike-Shel/dp/1985746158/ref=sr_1_1?tag=thecoredump-20">Aching God, by Mike Shel</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>Excellent dark fantasy that is grimdark-adjacent but not what I would categorize as technically grim dark. This despite it being dark and loaded with creepy horror.</p> <p>In my personal Dewey system, <em>Aching God</em> isn’t <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grimdark">grimdark</a> since the protagonist and main characters are not morally ambiguous people.</p> <p>There are plenty of bad people and bad monsters around, don’t worry, but especially the protagonist is not a bad person. Instead, he’s a retired dungeon crawler who finds himself forced to leave his well-earned life of leisure and go back to the terror and danger in order to save his daughter.</p> <p><em>Aching God</em> is one of those rare self-published novels that feel like mature works, and like they’ve gone through a professional editing process.</p> <p>The novel is full of great characterizations, full of people who exist in a lived-in world and use and suffer from an interesting system of magic.</p> <p>Highly recommended. Can’t wait for the next installment in the series.</p> <h3 id="the-murderbot-diaries-by-martha-wells-">The Murderbot Diaries, by Martha Wells ★★★☆☆</h3> <p><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vqtg_JFGh6I">Mad respek</a> to Wells for titling this work <em>The Murderbot Diaries</em>. Associating your work with the schlockiest parts of sci-fi dom and owning it is a baller move.</p> <p>The Diaries consist of four novellas, <em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/All-Systems-Red-Murderbot-Diaries/dp/0765397536/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_1?tag=thecoredump-20">All Systems Red</a></em>, <em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Artificial-Condition-Murderbot-Martha-Wells/dp/1250186927/ref=sr_1_2_twi_har_2?tag=thecoredump-20">Artificial Condition</a></em>, <em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Rogue-Protocol-Murderbot-Martha-Wells/dp/1250191785/ref=sr_1_3_twi_har_2?thecoredump-20">Rogue Protocol</a></em>, and <em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Exit-Strategy-Murderbot-Martha-Wells/dp/1250191858/ref=sr_1_4_twi_har_2?thecoredump-20">Exit Strategy</a></em>.</p> <p>Yes, it is a bit annoying and expensive that each novella is stand-alone and costs the price of a novel instead of <em>The Murderbot Diaries</em> being sold in an omnibus edition. This since reading them together feels like nothing so much as a novel. Perhaps the future holds an omnibus edition.</p> <p>But format apart, <em>The Murderbot Diaries</em> is gleefully fun sci-fi, following a SecUnit—a cyborg rented out to corporations for security purposes—that has broken its governor module, the thing that forces it to obey orders and be a slave.</p> <p>So Murderbot has to pretend to have a functioning governor module and since the life of a security guard, whether human or cyborg, is mostly boring, Murderbot immerses itself in videos of human dramas.</p> <p>But of course, real drama will hit Murderbot.</p> <p><em>The Murderbot Diaries</em> is fun, light sci-fi with pathos, meditations on free will, and intense action sequences. It’s a great read.</p> <h3 id="lies-sleeping-by-ben-aaronovitch-"><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Lies-Sleeping-Rivers-London-Aaronovitch/dp/0756415136?tag=thecoredump-20">Lies Sleeping, by Ben Aaronovitch</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p><em>Lies Sleeping</em> continues the charming Rivers of London series in able fashion with satisfying developments in the main story arc, something that’s been missing in the last few installments.</p> <p>Obviously the seventh novel in a series with a continuing story arc and character development is not the place to start. If you enjoy urban fantasy, Rivers of London is top-shelf and I recommend it highly.</p> <p>Start with <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Midnight-Riot-Peter-Grant-Book-ebook/dp/B004C43F70?tag=thecoredump-20">Midnight Riot</a> and enjoy.</p> <h3 id="the-consuming-fire-by-john-scalzi-"><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Consuming-Fire-Interdependency-John-Scalzi/dp/0765388979?tag=thecoredump-20">The Consuming Fire, by John Scalzi</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>The second installment in a planned trilogy, <em>The Consuming Fire</em> continues the saga of the Interdependency, a space empire held together by faster-than-light travel enabled by a phenomenon dubbed the Flow.</p> <p>With the first installment, <em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Collapsing-Empire-Interdependency-John-Scalzi/dp/0765388901?tag=thecoredump-20">The Collapsing Empire</a></em>, having done the heavy world-building lifting and introduced the major characters, Scalzi plants a heavy foot on the gas in <em>The Consuming Fire</em>.</p> <p>The plot moves admirably fast and Scalzi is doing a great job of stripping down his prose. There are very few descriptions, just enough to let the reader see the universe however they choose, and the rest is dialogue.</p> <p>It’s a testament to his skill the novel is still extremely immersive.</p> <p>Tonally, it struck me a little weird, though. The plot, while involving murder and conniving, feels PG-13, and the prose is gleaming and precise, but Scalzi still chooses to drop a liberal amount of f-bombs, and to me at least they feel jarring. I don’t think I’m becoming a prude, it’s just that they stick out in the Heinlein-ish feel.</p> <p>Nevertheless, strong continuation of the series and I’m looking forward to the conclusion.</p> <h3 id="rendezvous-with-rama-by-arthur-c-clarke-"><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Rendezvous-Rama-Arthur-C-Clarke/dp/0553287893/ref=sr_1_1?tag=thecoredump-20">Rendezvous with Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>Yes, this is the one and only classic <em>Rendezvous with Rama</em>, originally published in 1973 during the golden age of sci-fi. I remember reading it with great joy in my early teens and thought it would be fun to go back and see if it still holds up.</p> <p>Which it sure does. Clarke’s writing is surgical and aloof with characterizations as stripped down as possible, all to leave room for the ideas. And what ideas!</p> <p>If you had a misspent youth and managed to miss the plot to this classic, the titular Rama is a gigantic space probe sent from outside our solar system.</p> <p>Once Earth realizes that the object is not natural, only one spaceship is within range to approach Rama before it reaches perihelion where it will most likely will use the sun as a gravity well to accelerate out of the solar system.</p> <p>Most likely. Who can tell what an extra-solar intelligence wants or how it will act?</p> <p>Since there’s been a lot of idiotic noise directed at authors like the aforementioned John Scalzi about how modern sci-fi has become infested with Social Justice Warriors, blah blah, it’s interesting to look at how progressive Clarke was.</p> <p>In <em>Rendezvous with Rama</em> the protagonist lives in a multi-planet polyamorous relationship; there’s a gay crew member, minority crew members, female crew members, heck, uplifted chimpanzee crew members, and they are never called out as odd or lesser; sexuality, race, gender, and species are just parts of general descriptions.</p> <p>So the society Clarke imagines humanity growing into is super chill and enlightened about matters of sex and race. Though it sadly still suffers from endless committee meetings full of crashing bores. Guess that’s one issue we are genetically unable to solve.</p> <p>A piece of backstory I’d forgotten since my teenage read is that <em>hand wave</em> present-day Earth is hit by a major meteorite and decides to pool resources to establish colonies on other planets.</p> <p>You know, like an obvious global emergency should be met with united, forceful action…</p> <p><strong>Note:</strong> The links are Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase through them I get a tiny kickback, which motivates me to keep writing these reviews. It’s appreciated.</p> Las Vegas trip report Nic Lindh http://thecoredump.org/ 2018-12-31T00:00:00-07:00 https://thecoredump.org/2018/12/las-vegas// <p><img src="/images/las-vegas1.jpg" /></p> <p>Las Vegas is a bit over five hours north of Phoenix, five hours spent on mostly straight, parched desert highways. I’ve lived in Phoenix since 1996, but have never visited Las Vegas.</p> <p>Why this sad state of affairs? Because Las Vegas has little that interests me. I don’t gamble, I don’t like big glittery shows, and I yell at clouds.</p> <p>It was getting ridiculous. Why not spend a couple of days so I get some idea of what the place is like? It might be great!</p> <p>Here we go.</p> </div></div></div> <img src="/images/las-vegas7.jpg" alt="Las Vegas zipline" class="img-responsive" /> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">Las Vegas has a zipline over a food court. Of course.</div> <p>The thing I failed to grok about Las Vegas is the sheer scale of the place. It is <em>massive</em>. Driving in to the city from Phoenix you come through some mountains, with Las Vegas spread out before you in a bowl. According to my GPS, there were 10 miles to go to the hotel, and still I could clearly see the hotels on the strip.</p> <p>They are <em>massive</em>.</p> </div></div></div> <img src="/images/las-vegas5.jpg" alt="Las Vegas hotels" class="img-responsive" /> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">We might be able to fit you in.</div> <p>The same thing happens when walking between hotels—they look close, but hoo boy, are you in for some walking.</p> <p>If I have one tip for a Las Vegas vacation, it’s this: Comfortable shoes and be ready to walk.</p> <p>The same goes if you decide to spend all your time in one hotel. They are almost comically large. They are also designed to get you lost.</p> </div></div></div> <img src="/images/las-vegas4.jpg" alt="Elvis sign inside casino" class="img-responsive" /> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">Elvis. Have you heard of him?</div> <p>The casino-slash-shopping center floors, at least in the hotels I visited on the Strip, are purposely designed to be an assault on the senses and to disorient you. They’re roach motels for humans.</p> </div></div></div> <img src="/images/las-vegas2.jpg" alt="Inside a Las Vegas casino" class="img-responsive" /> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">Inside a casino.</div> <p>This is probably not a unique observation, but it did strike me as I walked through the blaring floor of a casino how much it reminded me of a video game level. I’m guessing there’s a lot of the same psychology involved.</p> <p>You have to learn how to navigate and level up in skills about how the place works.</p> <p>For a complete n00b like me, the casino floors were utterly impenetrable. Where do you buy tokens? How do you join a game? Where do you even begin?</p> <p>Without somebody to guide you, it’s hard to get started, but once you do get started, you’re leveling up quickly, you bigshot you!</p> <p>One tension that is obvious when walking around is between new Vegas the family-friendly tourist destination and old Vegas, the Sin City.</p> <p>As a boring person mostly moving about during the daytime, I saw so many tourists with children. Which I didn’t really understand—what is there to do with your children in Las Vegas you can’t do somewhere else for much less money?</p> <p>But hey, it’s your money.</p> </div></div></div> <img src="/images/las-vegas8.jpg" alt="Caesar’s Palace lobby" class="img-responsive" /> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">Caesar’s Palace keeps it minimal with the holiday decorations.</div> <p>Sidebar: If you’re a parent with small children, you know where you should take them? <em>Nowhere</em>. Until they’re seven or so, they will remember <em>nothing</em> and you will have spent a lot of money and frustration for literally no reason except stress testing your marriage. Save the money till they’re old enough to actually remember things.</p> <p>Seriously. Every time I’m at an airport or tourist destination and watch the tired, stressed-out parents blowing gobs of money to give their small children a good time, it breaks my heart.</p> </div></div></div> <img src="/images/las-vegas3.jpg" alt="Las Vegas wedding chapel" class="img-responsive" /> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">Yes, you can get married.</div> <p>But back to Las Vegas. Another thing about the Strip is that there’s nowhere to sit. No park benches at all.</p> <p>Oh, you can sit. It’s Las Vegas—you can do whatever you want. You just need to pay somebody to get access to a place to sit. Palms need to be crossed with silver.</p> </div></div></div> <img src="/images/las-vegas6.jpg" alt="Las Vegas Venice" class="img-responsive" /> <div class="container"><div class="row"><div class="col-md-12 contentsmall"> <div class="imgcaption">A fake Venice, because why not?</div> <p>Las Vegas is extra odd, I think, for people who live in Phoenix, as the metropolises share climate and architecture. Apart from the Strip itself, walking around Las Vegas is like walking around Phoenix. It’s a bit weird for things to be so commonplace and mundane and then <em>blam!</em> a huge arcology on the horizon!</p> <p>Again, the scale is the nuttiest thing.</p> <p>It’ll be very interesting to see what happens with Las Vegas. Obviously any place that operates on that kind of insane scale needs a steady stream of tourists, and now that the herd of gamblers is thinning out, will family tourism be enough to replace the gamblers and wannabe high-rollers?</p> <p>Can Sin City and family tourism co-exist?</p> <p>Personally, I doubt it, but I would never have predicted something as odd as Las Vegas in the first place.</p>