The Core Dump The Core Dump is the online home of Nic Lindh, a Swedish-American man living in the Sonoran desert. 2018-11-14T16:36:32-07:00 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. Book roundup, part 27 Nic Lindh 2018-10-19T12:00:00-07:00 <p><img src="/images/december1994_1920.jpg" /></p> <p><i>Credit: Simon Stålenhag</i></p> <p>Not that many titles in this roundup, and no non-fiction, as I’ve been spending most of my reading hours plowing through Glen Cook’s brilliant <a href="">Black Company</a> series once again. This was prompted by the sudden release of <em>Port of Shadows</em>, a novel set between the first and second novels in the original saga. There’s a full review of <em>Port of Shadows</em> below.</p> <p>Apart from that, this roundup has the return of Sandman Slim, two brilliant Swedish art sci-fi books, and some velvety, twisted grimdark fantasy.</p> <h2 id="fiction">Fiction</h2> <h3 id="hollywood-dead-by-richard-kadrey-"><a href="">Hollywood Dead, by Richard Kadrey</a> ★★☆☆☆</h3> <p>Sandman Slim is back from the dead! Kind of. He is, as the title says, Hollywood Dead. And is forced once again to perform another task for Bad People.</p> <p><em>Hollywood Dead</em> is the weakest novel in the series so far, mostly because it, like Slim himself, lacks energy. The series is at its best when it’s a huge motorcycle roaring through Hell blasting The Misfits on a ghetto blaster, but this installment is more of a whimper, with a subdued, self-doubting Slim.</p> <p>It’s understandable for Kadrey to have some trouble with where to take the series after having literally conquered Hell and stormed Heaven, but the brashness and hell-bent-for-leather rock’n’roll energy of the earliest novels were what made them so fun and special, so <em>Hollywood Dead</em> feels like an interstitial.</p> <p>Still, I’m not giving up on the Sandman and am looking forward to the next one.</p> <h3 id="tales-from-the-loop-by-simon-stålenhag-"><a href="ålenhag/dp/1624650392?tag=thecoredump-20">Tales from the Loop, by Simon Stålenhag</a> ★★★★★</h3> <p>Simon Stålenhag’s <em>Tales from the Loop</em> is like it was designed specifically for me: Nostalgia for a Sweden of the past and sci-fi dystopia mixed into one with gorgeous artwork. But it’s not just about the artwork, which mixes mundane, usually overcast, Swedish landscapes and objects of the ’80s with fantastic sci-fi objects, but also a series of vignettes from the perspective of a boy growing up in this alternate reality.</p> <p>The Loop of the title is a particle accelerator that enables the creation of wonderful but poorly understood technologies.</p> <p>I read this one slowly, basking in the artwork and letting the emotions in the vignettes seep in.</p> <h3 id="things-from-the-flood-by-simon-stålenhag-"><a href="ålenhag/dp/1624650465?tag=thecoredump-20">Things from the Flood, by Simon Stålenhag</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p><em>Things from the Flood</em> continues the story begun in <em>Tales from the Loop</em>, with the boy narrator from the first book moving into adolescence and something going horribly wrong with the Loop.</p> <p>Not quite the experience of <em>Tales from the Loop</em>, perhaps because the premise has already been unfolded, but still strong and deeply emotional.</p> <h3 id="the-court-of-broken-knives-by-anna-smith-spark-"><a href="">The Court of Broken Knives, by Anna Smith Spark</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p>Smith Spark uses language like a dagger in this odd and twisted grimdark fantasy. It features some of the usual fantasy tropes like dragons, prophecy and magic, but treats them in fresh, new ways.</p> <p><em>The Court of Broken Knives</em> is grimdark wrapped in velvet and compulsively readable, though a bit difficult to get through as several of the characters are such terrible, terrible people. But hey, that’s grimdark for you.</p> <h3 id="port-of-shadows-by-glen-cook-"><a href="">Port of Shadows, by Glen Cook</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p>This is novel one and a half in the amazing Black Company series, dropping in uninvited but welcome long after the series conclusion and covers events that take place after the end of the first novel, <em><a href="">The Black Company</a></em>. This is kind of weird, yes, but very welcome for fans of the series.</p> <p>One often underrated part of the mythos is how much it plays with unreliable narration. Different annalists—Black Company chroniclers—cover events differently with different focuses and takes on characters, sometimes even disagreeing on pure facts. It adds to the depth of the series.</p> <p><em>Port of Shadows</em> takes this to a whole new level, with Croaker—the current annalist—admitting to having his memories tampered with and being kept out of the loop for operational security reasons.</p> <p>It’s also different in tone than the other installments, with more interpersonal relationships, including Croaker’s with a brand new Taken called Mischievous Rain. Or <em>is</em> she a new Taken? DUN-DUN-dun.</p> <p>Whatever or whoever Mischievous Rain is, she certainly is interesting and brings out new sides of our old hero Croaker.</p> <p><em>Port of Shadows</em> also provides glimpses back into the early days of the Domination, just enough to whet your appetite for more.</p> <p>It’s an unfulfilling novel in many ways, with Cook doing a lot more playing with the form than he usually does, but it’s a brand new novel of the Black Company! So let’s rejoice.</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. If you deign to purchase one of the books through them, it’s appreciated.</p> To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle Nic Lindh 2018-09-14T00:00:00-07:00 <blockquote> <p>To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.</p> </blockquote> <p>—George Orwell</p> “Cancel everything. You’re going into emergency surgery today” Nic Lindh 2018-09-02T12:00:00-07:00 <p><img src="/images/left-eye.jpg" /></p> <p><strong>DR;TL</strong> If you suddenly see black floaters or flashes of light, drop everything and get to an ophthalmologist as soon as humanly possible. You might be going blind. <strong>/DR;TL</strong></p> <p>A few weeks ago I woke up on a Thursday with huge black floaters in my left eye. Floaters, I’ve had since I can remember. For some reason being extremely nearsighted brings them on.</p> <p>But they’ve always been grey.</p> <p>These were full black. Imagine having strands of seaweed floating across your vision, obscuring what you’re looking at and, as the name implies, <em>floating</em>, so you can’t get used to them. They’re just floating around in your eye, obscuring as they please. Float, float, float.</p> <p>So it’s extremely annoying, but it’s a thing that happens. <em>Shrug</em>.</p> <p>By Sunday, the black seaweed floaters have been joined by what I can only call a gauze across my vision on the left eye. Think vaseline across a camera lens for what it looks like. And in the gauze are little black dots swimming along with the gross and horrible seaweed.</p> <p>Wake up Monday morning and go to work. Where, it turns out, who knew, I have to use a computer. But I can’t really see out of my left eye. It’s just a blur with seaweed and black dots.</p> <p>At this point I’ve consulted with Dr. Google and black floaters, it turns out, are a <em>very</em> bad sign that you might have retinal detachment.</p> <p>So I call around to find an ophthalmologist to take a look. And I have a headache from one eye being all blurry and having to keep it closed to be able to read.</p> <p>After a lot of phone calls, I finally find an ophthalmologist who can see me on Wednesday. As a sidebar here, apparently ophthalmology is a great business to be in, as most places I called were booked solid weeks out and some of them wouldn’t even take voice mails.</p> <p>Wednesday rolls around. Gauze and gross seaweed floaters are still there. Scheduled for the ophthalmologist in the morning, then a deep cleaning at the dentist in the afternoon.</p> <p>Yeah, I party.</p> <p>To be precise, I’m at an ophthalmology clinic, but the doctor I’m meeting is an optometrist. I figure that’s fine; the optometrist can perform the diagnosis and is hooked up to the surgeons if I need them. Which I hope I don’t. Hoping I can just blink a bunch of times and the black floaters will disappear.</p> <p>Here’s the drill: Meet a nurse, have your eyes numbed and dilation drops applied, then eye blood pressure taken. Then wait in a waiting room. As the dilation drops kick in, the world goes blurry. Nobody tells you what to expect or how long to wait.</p> <p>Forget about spending this wasted time on the phone. Can’t read it.</p> <p>Get taken to a room to wait another unspecified amount of time for the optometrist.</p> <p>The optometrist comes in and starts the examination.</p> <p>An extremely bright light is shined into my eye. I am ordered to look in different directions.</p> <p>Look down. Look up. Look up left. Look up right. Look down right. Look down left.</p> <p>During this, due to the intense light, I see the blood vessels in my eye. It is a new sensation and it is disconcerting.</p> <p>I hear: “Horseshoe tear.”</p> <p>That can’t be good.</p> <p>And it isn’t.</p> <p>Optometrist says, “Cancel your plans. You’re going in for emergency surgery today.”</p> <p>There is very little explanation of what is happening in my eye and why this has to be today. It just has to be today.</p> <p>OK.</p> <p>The receptionist takes my copay and then starts calling around for places where I can have the surgery.</p> <p>I’m feeling nothing but dazed.</p> <p>Am I about to go blind in my left eye?</p> <p>Is that a thing that’s about to happen?</p> <p>The receptionist finds a place where I can have the surgery. At 3 p.m. It’s a few miles north of where I work, in uptown Phoenix, about 25 miles away.</p> <p>Remember the dentist appointment I now have to cancel? My wife was supposed to drive me there, as I have a dentist phobia and was prescribed some Xanax to deal with the anxiety.</p> <p>Instead, she will now drive me to some random eye shop so I can have this potential blindness dealt with.</p> <p>Now I’m home and have a few hours to kill before I go in to find out if I’m <em>going to go blind in my left eye</em>.</p> <p>So I take two dentist Xanax. Hey, they’re for anxiety and if this isn’t anxiety I don’t know what is.</p> <p>Wife comes home and we depart for uptown Phoenix. Traffic is horrible with several wrecks on the I-10. At 2 p.m. Parked on the I-10, the clock ticking away on my appointment, as I’m heading in to find out if I’m going to keep being able to see out of my left eye.</p> <p>Xanax helps keep me from freaking out. So, it’s doing its job.</p> <p>We finally make it to the retina specialist clinic two minutes late. The Trip was supposed to take thirty minutes; we left thirty minutes early just in case. Still arrived late. Thank you, Phoenix traffic.</p> <p>I check in at the clinic, get my eyes numbed and dilated again, then proceed with the usual medical clinic unknown-length wait until I’m in with the ophthalmologist.</p> <p>And now I find out that what they didn’t tell me in the morning is that you can only do the laser surgery if there isn’t any fluid in the tear. Is there fluid in the tear?</p> <p>Stay tuned to find out.</p> <p>No, there is no fluid in the tear. Yay! They can do the laser surgery.</p> <p>This is obviously great news, since the traditional surgery involves opening the eye with a scalpel. <em>Shudder.</em></p> <p>But no need to freak out about that. We’re go for laser!</p> <p>While waiting for the laser show, I ask—you have to ask, they don’t volunteer any information—why this happened.</p> <p>Quote: “Bad luck and age.”</p> <p>I also ask what the black dots I’m seeing floating around are. Turns out they are red blood cells. The gauze obscuring my vision is blood in my lens. Yeah.</p> <p>If you’ve never had a laser cauterize a tear on your retina, here’s what it’s like:</p> <ul> <li>You put your face in what seems like a pretty normal piece of optometry equipment.</li> <li>The ophthalmologist puts what they call a “lens” in your eye. (It’s weird but mostly fine, as your eye has been numbed, so you don’t really feel <em>the thing a person is holding against your open eye ball</em>.)</li> <li>I’m pretty sure the “lens” is only there to keep your eye from closing.</li> <li>When the laser fires the light is obviously incredibly bright, and it feels like you’re being poked in the back of your eye with a pencil.</li> <li>Poke, poke, poke. The laser fires a lot.</li> <li>You obviously want the laser, because it is cauterizing your wound.</li> <li>But your brain and reflexes <em>do not want</em> a bright green flash and a poke where nothing is supposed to reach, ever.</li> <li>So it takes all I have to not rear back.</li> <li>Which is very annoying to Captain Laser.</li> <li>And while I very much appreciate Captain Laser cauterizing the wound in my retina, I’m doing the best I can to stay staring at the Super Bright Poking Laser, thank you very much, so I really don’t need shit about how I’m not staying put at this point, thank you very much.</li> <li>If my stoic restraint isn’t up to your standards, perhaps you could have put a strap on the equipment, eh?</li> <li>With the stress and the Xanax I’m not sure exactly how long this went on, but probably ten minutes or so.</li> </ul> <p>We’re finally done and I’m drained.</p> <p>Note that nothing in this process hurt. The blast of light and sensation of a pencil stabbing the back of the eye is weird and uncomfortable, but it doesn’t hurt, per se. But the stress and uncertainty are enormously draining.</p> <p>I go back for a checkup one week later and it looks like the cauterization is holding.</p> <p>I am now utterly paranoid about floaters. And for good reason. The tear I had in my retina could have rendered me blind at any point. Blind. As in, Can’t See Anything. Retinal detachment is very much not a joke.</p> <p>But yeah, this was tiring. May you never have to watch the black floaters creep in. But if you do, literally drop everything and get to an ophthalmologist.</p> Book roundup, part 26 Nic Lindh 2018-08-03T13:00:00-07:00 <p>This roundup is a bit light as I’ve been unable to finish a surprising amount of books, but don’t want to give them negative reviews as I might just not have been in the right state of mind for them rather than them being bad books.</p> <p>Times are hard for states of mind right now.</p> <p>I’ve also been doing a lot of self-soothing re-reading Terry Pratchett, specifically the <a href="">Night Watch Cycle</a>. The character arcs of especially Sam Vimes, but really the whole cast, as well as Pratchett’s growing empathy and complexity of plotting are joys to read.</p> <p>R.I.P. and GNU Sir Pratchett.</p> <h2 id="non-fiction">Non-fiction</h2> <h3 id="the-storm-before-the-storm-by-mike-duncan-"><a href=";tag=thecoredump-20">The Storm Before the Storm, by Mike Duncan</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <blockquote> <p>Thieves of private property pass their lives in chains; thieves of public property in riches and luxury. —Cato the Elder</p> </blockquote> <p><em>The Storm Before the Storm</em> is the story of the events that lead up to the fall of the Roman Empire. Considering current events in America, the parallels are more than a little scary.</p> <p>The biggest thing that stuck out for me was that the Romans operated according to a tradition called <em><a href="">mos maiorum</a></em>, which basically translates to “the way of the ancestors.” There weren’t many laws, per se, but rather customs political leaders were supposed to adhere to.</p> <p><em>Cough</em> presidential candidate tax returns <em>cough</em>.</p> <p>As time passed various crises arose, whether through corrupted leaders or external events, and the customs were broken a little bit, then a little bit more, then a little bit more until the Republic fell.</p> <p>Another eerie parallel between the Roman Republic and America today was income inequality. Most of the insane wealth gathered through territorial expansion and brutality went to only a few people while most of the Roman population existed in half-starved poverty.</p> <blockquote> <p>We are silent when we see that all the money of all the nations has come into the hands of a few men; which we seem to tolerate and to permit with the more equanimity, because none of these robbers conceals what he is doing. —Cicero</p> </blockquote> <p>Of course, some of the leaders, like Cicero and Cato the Elder saw the storm clouds gathering, but were ignored.</p> <p><em>The Storm Before the Storm</em> is kind of a horror book if you’re paying attention to current events.</p> <h3 id="white-trash-by-nancy-isenberg-"><a href="">White Trash, by Nancy Isenberg</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p><em>White Trash</em> is extremely uncomfortable reading, shattering as it does a lot of the myths America has woven about itself, from its beginning as a place to dump British “waste people” to the ongoing efforts to not pay attention to the poor living on the edges of society.</p> <p>As she writes about the beginnings of the colonies:</p> <blockquote> <p>Can we handle the truth? In the early days of settlement, in the profit-driven minds of well-connected men in charge of a few prominent joint-stock companies, America was conceived of in paradoxical terms: at once a land of fertility and possibility and a place of outstanding wastes, “ranke” and weedy backwaters, dank and sorry swamps. Here was England’s opportunity to thin out its prisons and siphon off thousands; here was an outlet for the unwanted, a way to remove vagrants and beggars, to be rid of London’s eyesore population. Those sent on the hazardous voyage to America who survived presented a simple purpose for imperial profiteers: to serve English interests and perish in the process.</p> </blockquote> <p>That’s, uh, not the most enlightened view of the value of human life.</p> <p>Isenberg does an excellent job of lifting the lid on the myths and showing the much, much uglier reality beneath, and she does so with a historian’s clarity and ample sourcing.</p> <p>One drawback is that <em>White Trash</em> is very long, too long I’d argue, and gets a bit repetitive in places.</p> <p>That in mind, it’s an important work that deserves your attention.</p> <h2 id="fiction">Fiction</h2> <h3 id="calypso-by-david-sedaris-"><a href="">Calypso, by David Sedaris</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>Probably the best work of Sedaris’s career. If you’ve read him before, you know what to expect: Observations on life and family from an extremely observant and strange man, observations that manage to be wry, disturbing and warm at the same time.</p> <p>At this point Sedaris is in his fifties, his mother has passed away, his father is awash in Fox News, and his siblings are also getting on in years.</p> <p><em>Calypso</em> is dark and mature, wrestling with mortality and some disturbing family revelations I’m not going to spoil, while keeping the Sedaris trademark warmth and humor.</p> <p>Solid read.</p> <h3 id="tell-the-machine-goodnight-by-katie-williams-"><a href="">Tell the Machine Goodnight, by Katie Williams</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p>Near-future sci-fi where an inventor has created a machine, called Apricity, that can scan your DNA and give you somewhat vague tips to increase your happiness. Which supposedly works, somehow. The tips can include things like “learn a foreign language,” to “build models.”</p> <p>But the existence of Apricity is secondary to the characters that inhabit the world, who are complex and flawed in different ways. The writing is clear and filled with great phrasing.</p> <p>While a little bit precious and self-consciously literary, <em>Tell the Machine Goodnight</em> is a short, haunting read that lingers.</p> <h3 id="prince-of-fools-by-mark-lawrence-"><a href="">Prince of Fools, by Mark Lawrence</a> ★★☆☆☆</h3> <p>Set in the same universe as the very good and incredibly grimdark The Broken Empire trilogy that begins with <em><a href="">Prince of Thorns</a></em>, <em>Prince of Fools</em> is the beginning of a new trilogy, The Red Queen’s War.</p> <p><em>Prince of Fools</em> takes place at the same time as events in the previous trilogy, but follows parallel events with little overlap.</p> <p>Prince Jalan Kendeth is one of the grandchildren of the Red Queen, a fearsome presence. Jalan enjoys wine, women, and losing his money at the fight pits. He’s an avowed coward and ne’er-do-well.</p> <p>On the plus side, <em>Prince of Fools</em> has plenty of action and swashbuckling and some character growth from our protagonist. On the minus side, Jalan is not an interesting character and his viking side kick also remains one-dimensional.</p> <p>There’s lots of sound and fury, but in the end the entire novel ends up feeling like a level in a not very good video game. There’s just not enough plot in there for an entire novel.</p> <p>Though it may be that my expectations were simply set too high—The Broken Empire series is stellar, with a protagonist who is deeply and fundamentally a terrible, terrible human, but a terrible human who you get to understand and empathize with.</p> <p>Jalan is a twat and his character growth just isn’t all that interesting.</p> <p>Nevertheless, Lawrence earned another chance with The Broken Empire, so I’ll read the next installment in the trilogy to see if it takes off.</p> <h3 id="provenance-by-ann-leckie-"><a href="">Provenance, by Ann Leckie</a> ★★★☆☆</h3> <p><em>Provenance</em> is set in the same universe as the stories in the Imperial Radch trilogy, but in a different culture. Which is the problem with the novel. The Radch were horrifying but interesting, while the characters in <em>Provenance</em>, the Hwae, are mostly just boring and a bit silly. Sometimes you just want to yell at the page as a Hwae gets wrapped up in some ridiculous cultural trap.</p> <p>But the Hwae are what they are. The plot is also slow to start as we learn about these imbeciles, but picks up admirably toward the end.</p> <p>If you enjoyed the Imperial Radch trilogy, you’ll probably like <em>Provenance</em>, even though it does feel a bit watered down in comparison.</p> <p>If you haven’t read any of Leckie’s work, start with the excellent <a href="">Ancillary Justice</a>.</p> <p><strong>Note:</strong> Some 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> Renewing the nerd card: Installing Ubiquiti UniFi in the house Nic Lindh 2018-06-29T00:00:00-07:00 <p><img src="/images/netgear-murder.jpg" /></p> <p><i>Netgear R6400 thinks of murder.</i></p> <p>Every once in a while you have to renew your nerd card. It’s the law. Seriously, look it up. So to renew mine I went the utterly predictable route and updated my home WiFi to a <a href="">Ubiquiti UniFi</a> setup.</p> <p>This was prompted partly by daughter—intergalactic destroyer of bandwidth—complaining about the existing WiFi sometimes flaking and by a need, a need to nerd.</p> <p>For the last several years WiFi in the household has been provided by a Netgear R6400 hacked with a Kong build of <a href="">DD-WRT</a>.</p> <p>That’s right: WiFi and routing in my home has been provided by a consumer device I patched to run software from the Internet provided by an individual or group that goes by the moniker Kong. For me, that felt satisfyingly cyberpunk. Which it probably doesn’t for anybody sane.</p> <p>Mirrorshades, people, <a href="">mirrorshades</a>.</p> <p>When looking into alternatives, I of course came across the infamous Ars Technica <a href="">article about Ubiquiti UniFi</a>. Which you should read if you haven’t. It really captures the nerd yearning.</p> <p>I wonder how many units of <a href="">Ubiquiti</a> gear that article has moved…</p> <p>After I was triggered by the Ars Technica article, the traditional nerd obsessive Internet search-and-read began, and after that also proved positive, I pulled the trigger and the devices winged their way here.</p> <p>Casa Core Dump is now irradiated by a <a href="">UAP-AC-PRO</a> access point, and routing is performed by a <a href="">Unifi Security Gateway</a>.</p> <p>Yes, only one access point. Casa Core Dump is a 1,900 square foot house and the UAP-AC-PRO <em>beams hard</em>. I’ll probably add another to flood the backyard with WiFi when the weather cools down.</p> <p>And things are going well. In the two months the router and access point have been here, they have been rock solid.</p> <p>Let’s enhance that one: They have been <em>rock solid</em>. The devices have, so far, been sheer plumbing: They sit there and do what they’re supposed to without calling attention to themselves. Which is <em>exactly</em> what I wanted when I bought them.</p> <p>But nothing is perfect, so if you’re planning on making the jump, note that your adventure only begins when you install the equipment. With flexibility and features comes a period of tweaking as you settle the devices down.</p> <p>Your setup is not my setup, and you’re not replacing what I’m replacing, and you’re not using your network the same way I use mine, so you’ll see different issues. But wireless being what it is, there will be overlap, so here are the major issues I found and how I resolved them.</p> <p><strong>First issue:</strong> AirPlay would disconnect randomly. Which, yes, is something AirPlay is famous for doing. But it was solid with DD-WRT on murderbot. Ugh?</p> <p>After some experimentation, turning down the 2.4 GHz radio signal strength seems to have made AirPlay behave. AirPlay being AirPlay, your experience may differ.</p> <p><strong>Second issue:</strong> Spotify on the iPhone could no longer find my ChromeCasts, even after <a href="">enabling multicast DNS</a>. Turns out the ChromeCasts needed to be rebooted.</p> <p><em>Did you turn it off and turn it on again.gif</em></p> <p><strong>Not an issue per se</strong>, but if you want the fancy graphs in the UniFi controller—and if you’re the kind of person who spends the money on this kind of gear, you want the fancy graphs—you must have a server constantly running. Not an issue for me personally, since I already have a box doing server things, but the controller software is a bit enterprise-y to install.</p> <p><em>Cough, Java, cough.</em></p> <p>And judging from forum posts around the Internet, the controller sometimes does not upgrade gracefully at all. Which, if you want to be charitable, I guess you could look at as being a bonus Enterprise IT Admin Simulator™.</p> <p>There are also some surprising oversights in the controller software. For instance, there’s no way to get month-by-month bandwidth graphs. It just shows bandwidth since the controller was started. A major oversight since we’re now living with bandwidth caps in America.</p> <p><em>Yes, America: Bandwidth caps, ISP monopolies, and no net neutrality. Let’s give ourselves a hand, everybody!</em></p> <p>Another strange oversight is that you have to leave the glossy goodness of the controller and use your SSH-fu to run an inbound OpenVPN server on the thing. It’s apparently on Ubiquiti’s roadmap to expose OpenVPN in the controller software, but it’s not here yet.</p> <p><strong>Executive summary:</strong> I’m impressed with my Ubiqiti UniFi gear, though there are some odd oversights I hope they rectify soon.</p> <p>If you’re the kind of person who enjoys fancy dashboards, slick GUIs, has the patience and skill for the occasional “enterprise” type difficulty, and wants rock solid Internet in your home or office, I recommend Ubiquiti gear.</p> <p><strong>NOTE:</strong> Some links are Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through them I get a tiny kickback, which is greatly appreciated and doesn’t add anything to your cost.</p> The greater the ignorance the greater the dogmatism Nic Lindh 2018-05-26T00:00:00-07:00 <blockquote> <p>The greater the ignorance the greater the dogmatism.</p> </blockquote> <p>—Sir William Osler</p> Working in the pod mines Nic Lindh 2018-05-01T00:00:00-07:00 <p><img src="/images/podcast-setup.jpg" /></p> <p>This is a follow-up to my previous post on <a href="">getting started with podcasting</a>, reflecting on things I’ve learned since that post about six months ago. Hope this help somebody else out.</p> <p>First, a lot of online discussion about podcasts focuses on microphones and editing software. Both of which are foundational in that you can’t make a podcast without a mic and something to process the audio. Granted.</p> <p>But they are table stakes and not what sets a great podcast apart from one that’s not quite there. Don’t get me wrong, you need to get your audio quality up to where it’s listenable, though what that means will depend on your audience. Table stakes. Not something to obsess about.</p> <p>Talking about, worrying about, and purchasing gear does serve as the perfect procrastination technique: You’re not wasting time not working on your podcast: <em>You’re improving the podcast</em>.</p> <p>I currently have two podcasts, my <a href="">Swedish-language solo podcast</a> and my <a href="">English-language podcast with a co-host</a>.</p> <p>Flying solo and recording with a co-host are utterly different experiences.</p> <p>When recording with a co-host, you’re having a conversation with a human and trying to be mindful enough of mic technique that you get it captured with good quality. It’s a natural act with a bit of added cognitive load to keep the mics in mind.</p> <p>Recording alone on the other hand is a profoundly unnatural act. Being alone in a room and talking into a microphone is like nothing else. It takes a lot of practice to get comfortable being a lunatic who talks at an empty room.</p> <p>Which brings us to the main point: A podcast is a performance. Whether you’re talking alone or with other humans, you are on a virtual stage and you are performing.</p> <p>Content is king, but no matter how good the content, if it’s presented poorly nobody wants to hear it.</p> <p>Everybody has had the experience, whether in school or at a seminar, of having to sit through somebody droning and sputtering their way through a presentation.</p> <p>It’s pain. And nobody is going to voluntarily expose themselves to that kind pain when there are literally half a million other options out there.</p> <p>For me, personally, I tend to have a flat affect, especially when standing in an empty room talking to a wall, so I try to be conscious of that and really amp things up.</p> <p>Yes, it feels ridiculous at first, hamming it up like a British character actor in a B-grade Hollywood movie, but it gets easier.</p> <p>Finally, editing is part of the performance.</p> <p>All I’m personally trying to accomplish when editing is to have the monologue or conversation flow naturally, which means taking out false starts, garbled words, long pauses, and of course the dreaded mouth sounds.</p> <p>Yech, mouth sounds. The worst.</p> <p>It takes me about three times the length of the recording to do a pass. But that time is getting shorter, both from getting practice at editing itself, learning to read the wave forms better, and from getting comfortable while recording, so the recordings are cleaner.</p> <p>Practice, practice, practice.</p> It is impossible for a person to begin to learn what he already thinks he knows Nic Lindh 2018-03-26T00:00:00-07:00 <blockquote> <p>It is impossible for a person to begin to learn what he already thinks he knows.</p> </blockquote> <p>―Epictetus</p> Smell the Foam Finger Nic Lindh 2018-03-11T00:00:00-07:00 <p><img src="/images/dodgers-stadium.jpg" /></p> <p><i>Dodgers Stadium. Photo: Tom Denne</i></p> <p>I’ve started a second podcast. If you know me personally, the topic will shock you: Sports! And not just sports, but American sports.</p> <p>I obviously don’t know anything about American sports, so I enlisted a friend to help out with the knowledge. Meet my co-host: <a href="">Tom Denne</a>.</p> <p>The impetus for <a href="">Smell the Foam Finger</a> is that I’m a systems thinker, meaning I have a compulsive need to understand how things work. And sports make up such a large part of the fabric of American society, a part I understand next to nothing about. So I wanted to learn more. And Tom sure loves talking about sport. Boy, does he ever.</p> <p>So let’s kill two birds with one stone! I’ll learn about American sports and others who also want to understand more about it can follow along on the ride.</p> <p>I do realize there’s probably about three American nerds who want to go on this journey, but the cunning plan/hope is that sports-interested people from outside the U.S. would like to understand the sports they are exposed to in American movies and TV. Hopefully those people will enjoy being provided a greater understanding of the American sports scene.</p> <p>If you listen and think to yourself, “Is it even possible that Nic is that ignorant of sports?” the answer is yes. Yes, I am that ignorant.</p> <p><a href="">But hey, I’m trying.</a></p> <p><a href="">Join us on this journey of self-improvement</a>, why don’t you?</p> Book roundup, part 25 Nic Lindh 2018-03-03T00:00:00-07:00 <h2 id="non-fiction">Non-fiction</h2> <h3 id="fantasyland-by-kurt-andersen-"><a href=";tag=thecoredump-20">Fantasyland, by Kurt Andersen</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p><em>Fantasyland</em> is a history of the United States that attempts to unravel how America became the sort of nation that elects a person like Trump to its highest office.</p> <p>It starts at America’s humble beginnings as a 1600s scam convincing British people to move to a Virginia claimed to be littered with gold. Yes, the first British immigrants weren’t religious people seeking to create their own utopia, but suckers in a gold scam.</p> <p>But the religious people followed and set vigorously about building their utopias.</p> <p>Andersen places a lot of weight in America’s Protestant roots, and how Protestant faith is centered on finding your own relationship with God—there are no authorities who can tell you you are wrong.</p> <p>But Protestantism started in Germany, you say? So why didn’t the same ferocity of religion happen there? Andersen thinks a lot of the reason is that German culture already existed, along with deep Catholic roots, which tempered Protestantism a bit.</p> <p>From there on, <em>Fantasyland</em> takes us through America’s centuries of fervent <em>belief</em>, both religious and non-religious, and a cavalcade of hucksters, grifters, and showmen.</p> <p>Until we arrive in the 1960s, which, Andersen—who lived through them himself—argues, triggered the anti-reality tendencies that are flowering now.</p> <p><em>Fantasyland</em> is very interesting and does a lot of heavy lifting to connect the wilder pieces of America’s psyche over time with where we are today.</p> <p>It’s also quite long and exhaustive and, frankly, depressing.</p> <p>But if you’re interested in where America is today and not satisfied with interviews with blue-collar people in rustic diners in Iowa, it is highly recommended.</p> <h3 id="the-miracle-of-dunkirk-the-true-story-of-operation-dynamo-by-walter-lord-"><a href=";tag=thecoredump-20">The Miracle of Dunkirk: The True Story of Operation Dynamo, by Walter Lord</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p><em>Dunkirk</em>, the movie was fabulous—I really enjoyed it. And it made me want to learn more about Operation Dynamo. So I picked up <em>The Miracle of Dunkirk</em>.</p> <p>Both the movie and the book do a great job of illustrating the utter, complete chaos in which Operation Dynamo took place.</p> <p>If you enjoyed the movie or if you’re interested in general about World War II, I highly recommend <em>The Miracle of Dunkirk</em>. If you’re at all like me you’ll read this book and then watch the film again and understand the film a lot better. You will also appreciate the film more, as it does an amazing job of hinting at the real events and using them as dramatic backdrop without hitting you over the head with them.</p> <p>The importance of the Miracle of Dunkirk for the rest of World War II and thus for the fate of the world simply can’t be overstated. If the Germans had managed to eradicate the British Expeditionary Force, Britain would have stood defenseless.</p> <blockquote> <p>Britain could replace the 2,472 lost guns, the 63,879 abandoned vehicles; but the 224,686 rescued troops were irreplaceable. In the summer of 1940 they were the only trained troops Britain had left. Later, they would be the nucleus of the great Allied armies that won back the Continent.</p> </blockquote> <p>For the Miracle to happen, the Germans had to go out of their way to fail, the weather had to hold, and British civilians in unheard-of numbers had to take their vessels to sea against the might of the Luftwaffe, German submarines, and the German guns surrounding Dunkirk, shelling the port and the sea.</p> <p>Operation Dynamo really shouldn’t have succeded.</p> <p>When it comes to the Germans, we can lay the blame on Göring and Hitler—Göring feared the tank units that had driven the Expeditionary Force and its French allies to the sea would get too much credit and thus too much status in the endless internecine battles that plagued Hitler’s inner circle, so he convinced Hitler the Luftwaffe could finish the job and the tanks should be pulled back.</p> <p>Amazing.</p> <p>And the weather:</p> <blockquote> <p>The English Channel is usually rough, rarely behaves for very long. Yet a calm sea was essential to the evacuation, and during the nine days of Dunkirk the Channel was a millpond. Old-timers still say they have never seen it so smooth.</p> </blockquote> <p>Amid all the stories of heartache, bravery and suffering that fill the book, there are also brilliant nuggets like this:</p> <blockquote> <p>McCorquodale was one of those throwbacks to a glorious earlier age in British military history. Gleaming with polished brass and leather, he scorned the new battle dress. “I don’t mind dying for my country,” he declared, “but I’m not going to die dressed like a third-rate chauffeur.”</p> </blockquote> <p>If by some chance you haven’t seen <em>Dunkirk</em> the movie, I highly recommend reading this book before you do. Reading the book and then watching the movie again will really open up the movie for you.</p> <p>Highly recommended.</p> <h3 id="das-reich-by-max-hastings-"><a href=";tag=thecoredump-20">Das Reich, by Max Hastings</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>As you’d expect from Hastings, <em>Das Reich</em> is a clear and lucid tome. It covers the horrific massacre committed in the village of Oradour by the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich on its way to repel the Allied invaders at Normandy, but also puts the behavior of the SS in the context of the war.</p> <p>Which is not to say that the book in any way shape or form excuses the atrocity, but simply elucidates why the Das Reich acted the way they did.</p> <p>Part of the answer lies in the sociopathic and brutal culture of the SS as a whole:</p> <blockquote> <p>The aspect of their conditioning that is most relevant to this story is the extraordinary respect with which they had been imbued for the virtues of strength, of ruthless dedication to the task in hand, and the equally extraordinary indifference to the claims of the weak and the innocent. All their virtues were reserved for others within their closed society. They possessed neither charity nor mercy for any who were not deemed to have deserved it by their own code.</p> </blockquote> <p>Another reason—not excuse—was that the Das Reich had just been recalled from the hell that was the Russian Front, where war was total and merciless:</p> <blockquote> <p>They abandoned shaving for weeks on end to protect their skin, forgot mail from home, for it never came, grew accustomed to seeing their own ranks shattered in battle, rebuilt and shattered once again until their old units were unrecognizable. Casualties provoked meteoric promotions to fill the gaps. Heinrich Wulf found himself commanding a battalion reduced to a tenth of its establishment, yet when he himself left Russia, only one in ten of those men was left. ‘Our only concern was not to be captured,’ he said.</p> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>[…]</p> </blockquote> <blockquote> <p>The West came to seem almost a dream world. To the men of the Das Reich who emerged from the East in 1944, the rich fields and vineyards of south-west France brought them back to the glorious, happy memories of 1940. Yet they found that much had changed. Those who served there in 1940–1 had found most of the French people astonishingly relaxed and friendly. They now discovered that in public civilians addressed them coldly, or not at all. There was less to eat. The terrorist threat meant that it was impossible for vehicles or men to travel alone outside city centres. Even in Toulouse, the officers’ messes and the Soldatenheim were faced with wire mesh against grenade attack.</p> </blockquote> <p>To add to the frustration, German High Command decided to use this elite armored regiment to suppress French Resistance activity—a task for which tanks are ill-equipped—instead of helping repel the Allied invasion.</p> <p><em>Das Reich</em> also spends a lot of time explaining the setup and situation of the maquis, its different factions, and how the British and Americans made half-hearted efforts to arm and train the maquis.</p> <p>In the end, despite great risk, great effort, and horrific losses, the maquis only managed to delay the movement of Das Reich toward the beaches by a few days—though crucial days they were—and most of their efforts were in vain. Except, as Hastings makes sure to explain, the real victory of the maquis was to help the French self-image:</p> <blockquote> <p>Much more than this, much more than the number of days that the maquis delayed the Das Reich, every man and woman who played his part and survived was exalted by the experience even through the terrible layer of pain. The great contribution of Resistance – that which justified all that SOE did and made worthwhile the sacrifice of all those who died – was towards the restoration of the soul of France.</p> </blockquote> <h3 id="the-undoing-project-by-michael-lewis-"><a href=";tag=thecoredump-20">The Undoing Project, by Michael Lewis</a> ★★☆☆☆</h3> <p>The topics of <em>The Undoing Project</em>, the behavioral economics work of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, their shattering of the economic theory foundation of the rational customer, both their incredible life stories, their intense friendship, their lives during World War II and then in an Israel at war, are great and very, very important.</p> <p>But the book is a slog.</p> <p>Perhaps it felt like a slog since Michael Lewis has made his career writing punchy, breezy books about difficult topics and has proven again and again he can boil the topics down to their most human essentials. Perhaps it’s this, that it feels so different from his other works, that makes it so disappointing.</p> <p>However it may be, Kahneman and Tversky’s contributions to our understanding of the fallibilities of the human brain are fascinating.</p> <p>Kahneman and Tversky’s lives were fascinating.</p> <p>The tensions of Israel’s co-existence with Arab nations in the Middle East after World War II is interesting.</p> <p>But <em>The Undoing Project</em> is still, disappointingly, a slog. This is the first Lewis book I had to power through. It feels like he’s in love with too many topics and has a bit of a problem deciding where to cut, so he includes everything.</p> <h3 id="waiting-for-the-punch-by-marc-maron-"><a href=";tag=thecoredump-20">Waiting for the Punch, by Marc Maron</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p><em>Waiting for the Punch</em> is a compilation of best moments from Maron’s successful podcast <em><a href="">WTF</a></em> in written form together with new words to introduce the sections written by Maron.</p> <p>It’s great. Parts are harrowing, some are sad, some are laugh-out-loud funny. Having these great moments from what is probably the most intimate and vulnerable show in the world collected thematically is powerful.</p> <p>If you’re a fan of <em>WTF</em>, getting the bone broth version is a strong experience, and if you’re not a listener, this is a good introduction.</p> <p>For me, personally, this kind of material is not something I want to listen to, but would rather read, so <em>Waiting for the Punch</em> provides a great entry into the best of the show.</p> <p>And if I were to get all <em>WTF</em> on it, perhaps wanting to read instead of listen to all the hours of audio says something about how I want a layer of separation between myself and the human voices, or perhaps it shows my neurotic fixation with time management, or perhaps it just shows I like to read.</p> <p>Who can tell? But it is a great, powerful read with lots of grit.</p> <h3 id="vacationland-by-john-hodgman-"><a href=";tag=thecoredump-20">Vacationland, by John Hodgman</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p>Hodgman made a nice career for himself being an offbeat tweedy goofball who manufactures lies. The media climate in 2017 being what it was, he decided to stop lying and start telling the truth. And his truth is a wonderful place, a warm bath to slip into.</p> <p>As he himself calls out in the book, Hodgman performs “white privilege comedy,” and it doesn’t get much more white privilege than having not one but two summer homes, one in Maine and one in Massachusetts and worrying a lot about being, as the people up there say, “from away.”</p> <p>Which is not a criticism. <em>Vacationland</em> is gentle and warm, a tonic for these troubled times, and while not laugh-out-loud funny, very much droll.</p> <p>I enjoyed my time in Hodgman’s brain a lot.</p> <h2 id="fiction">Fiction</h2> <h3 id="points-of-impact-by-marko-kloos-"><a href=";tag=thecoredump-20">Points of Impact, by Marko Kloos</a> ★★★★☆</h3> <p><em>Points of Impact</em> is the 6th novel in the Frontlines series, which it continues with aplomb.</p> <p>Obviously, being the 6th in a series, it’s not the place to start, but if you’re already a fan of the series wondering if you should pick this one up: Yes, you should.</p> <p>It moves briskly along with some good battle sequences and some character growth for our protagonist Grayson, who, in his 10th year of war and with most people from his past dead, is starting to suffer from PTSD and Weltschmerz.</p> <p>My one frustration with <em>Points of Impact</em> is that it still feels a bit stuck in neutral. Sure, lots of things happen, but the main storyline needs to start progressing; we need to learn more about the Lankies.</p> <p>I’m hoping the next installment kicks in the afterburners.</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>