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Book Review: The Chronicles of Amber Vol. 3 of 5 – The Sign of the Unicorn by Roger Zelazny

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The story of this time-traveling, in-fighting and incestuous family dressed in anachronistic medieval attire really hit its stride in this volume. The pacing and political intrigue are tight and complex, yet comprehendible. The things revealed by twists are unforeseen and captivating. If you’ve read the first book or two and wondered what all the hoopla was about (the series has appeared on many Best Of awards lists and name-checked as an influence by a healthy number of talented writers, Neil Gaiman among them), stick with it and you’ll probably be rewarded at this point.

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Posted by on August 23, 2012 in Books

 

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Finished Asimov’s ‘Foundation’ Novel, Here’s My Brief Review

Galaxies! Check this out:

“Look, Manlio, we’re proceeding along a planned history. We know that Hari Seldon worked out the historical probabilities of the future. We know that some day we’re to rebuild the Galactic Empire. We know that it will take a thousand years or thereabouts. And we know that in the interval we will face certain definite crises. Now the first crisis came fifty years after the establishment of the Foundation…Almost seventy-five years have gone since. It’s time, Manlio, it’s time.”

That’s got to sound really cheesy to if you haven’t read it before. And it is amazing how goofy a lot of this stuff is, especially taken out of context, yet it ultimately comes out of something intelligent and compelling. I’m addicted to the feeling of discovering fictional universes with traits that sound corny and stupid on the surface, but are actually deep and fascinating once I take the time to get to know them.

The most unique thing about this book is probably how protagonists and their rivals change regularly as the story spans multiple generations. The concept great – a plan to save the collected knowledge of sentient beings over a millenium as an empire collapses and regresses. It was challenging trying to keep track of all the characters, but not that bad. Chapters are usually 8 pages or less (much, much less in many cases) and the plot is engrossing. You have to keep reading to see how they’re going to solve each new crisis. Each time the hologram of the plan’s creator appears (and this is rare) to guide his descendants, I’m palpably excited, almost as much as the characters themselves.

The central mechanism upon which this whole thing is built requires your acceptance that something called ‘psycho-history’ is developed in the future, and that it can reliably predict future actions of human groups – for at least a thousand years. This can be difficult to accept at first, and for some reason seems to make the writing feel a little dated. It’s explained that the ability to understand and predict human behavior requires really large sample sizes, which is something I deal with in my statistics work as well. It’s a sound, if very basic, truth about any data set, and you’ll learn to live with a little disbelief since the rest is so exciting.

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2012 in Books

 

Android Is Winning: Google’s Latest Voice Searches Coming to iOS First

“Now here’s the thing. See those screenshots above? They’re very elegant, very nice, and they’ll be iOS exclusive in a few days. Even Android 4.1 users won’t have this exact implementation.”

Over 90% of Android phones won’t have this when it’s released on iOS soon (even 4.1 won’t have the updated visual layout). Android: the cutting edge of last year.

[Source: Danny Sullivan]

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

The Smoking Gun in Apple v Samsung

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Well, it looks like Samsung really did deliberately copy the iPhone feature by feature. Of course anyone paying attention at the time leading up to and immediately following the iPhone’s release should know how all the other cell phone makers went back to the drawing board to change their devices after it was clear the iPhone wasn’t a flop.

I’m guessing that a lot of the people who mistakenly think this lawsuit is about patents on rounded corners didn’t own pocket PCs and smartphones prior to 2007. For those of us who did (me: Handspring Visor Edge, Toshiba e330 Pocket PC, Sidekicks), it was clear as day how much the iPhone changed everyone else’s devices.

It was no mere coincidence, as Samsung claims, that iPhone-like devices were going to become the norm without Apple anyways. That is absolutely ridiculous.

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2012 in Technology

 

@Forbes Why the Nexus 7 is NOT Google’s ‘Waterloo’

napoleon-dunce-capGene Marks’ trots out the dead corpse of an idea that catering to business customers, with gadgets and corporate services, is the long-term future for tech companies. So he thinks Google will fail because they’re expending too much effort targeting consumers. And while they’re distracted Microsoft will destroy them because the upcoming Surface will be nice for consumers but be a god-send for businesses.

The big problems with this argument are:

  • An entire movement called “The Consumerization of IT” – the most successful devices right now are those that resonate for consumers firstly, and these people are either bringing their personal gadgets into work or demanding them from their corporate IT staff. This is a widely accepted fact.
  • Specialized software and services that cater to businesses are no longer essential. Although Google Docs hasn’t given Office any major competition, there are myriad cloud services that sync my documents to my laptop, iPad and phone – all of which work for business or personal stuff. Why would we need a separate “corporate-centric” version of these services?

But the biggest reason this theory is DOA? The prime example of a company that focuses more heavily on the corporate market in the tech product and services space is RIM. It was recently estimated by comScore that The BlackBerry, once an essential tool for “serious” business people, has now slipped below 10% market share. And they repeated this same platitude all of the way to the bottom.

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in Technology

 

Magazine of F&SF, June 1972 – Review

The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, June 1972 (Volume 42, #6)The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, June 1972 by Edward L. Ferman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I regularly find a lot of different issues of Fantasy and Science Fiction in bookstores and I’ve always wondered what I might discover if I only had the time and conviction to go through all of them. I came across this issue and purchased it immediately after seeing Gene Wolfe’s name in the contents. 

While his story was worth the $4 I paid, there were some bonuses too, listed below. One of the bigger surprises: The film review just happened to cover Night of the Living Dead!

Tarzan of the Grapes by Gene Wolfe: 
This is an enjoyable, if slight, story; tongue-in-cheek and having a very “meta” concept. This is only the second story I’ve read of Wolfe’s but I am anxiously awaiting the day I make it to the Book of the New Son that sits at the end of my to-read shelf. If these couple of glimpses are any indication, then an Amazon.com reviewer’s comparison of him to J. L. Borges is not inappropriate.  

Affair with a Lonesome Monster by Paul Walker:
Well-written story about a couple of psychic aliens that wage their final battle in a gay teenager’s mind. The setting and the frankness of the boy’s sexual orientation makes me really curious about how commonplace the topic was in popular culture at that time. Perhaps F&SF was still so marginalized that it was one of the safe places to write about that. 

The Week Excuse, by Isaac Asimov:
This is a well-reasoned essay on the failures of the Gregorian calendar and how it could be improved. Well it seems well-reasoned, I wasn’t able to follow it completely. It seems comically fitting that the first Asimov I’ve ever read would be this. Foundation is next, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy it much more than this dry diatribe.

Variation of a Theme by Curt Siodmak:
Well-told short tale of a man trying to get rid of an actual halo that appears around his head. Perfectly paced, most likely due to the fact that Mr. Siodmak was a prolific screenwriter (turns out he penned the script for The Wolf Man with Lon Chaney and the 2010 remake). 

Son of the Morning by Phyllis Gotlieb:
I had to force myself thru the first half of this one.  It got way better after that. Giant, psychic red tigers from outer space prevent a ball of pure energy from instigating a pogrom in a small village’s synagogue. Yes it’s crazy, but you’ve got to love those really absurd concepts. Apparently Ms. Gotlieb was a somewhat popular Canadian scifi author. I probably won’t seek out her other stuff, out but I can see why plenty of other GR users like her. 

View all my reviews

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2012 in Books

 

I Hope They Make Another

Found this gem today:

…it’s not a classic but it’s on its way to becoming one, and I want to talk about it here because it received minimal notice (like none) when it first appeared. By now it is a prize example of the film that builds a reputation only by word of mouth, without even the benefit of TV exposure, because it’s too rough to be shown thereon. Readers who live in cities or college towns, or who read the underground press…will know that I’m talking about Night of the Living Dead.

…I attended a midnight showing, the audience of which was primarily hip kids in their 20s come to laugh it up. Instead, I haven’t heard that kind of authentic audience response in the way of screams and gasps since the old days when an audience really did scream and gasp at horror movies.

…it concerns a night when the recently dead are reanimated with a hunger for human flesh.

The film combines suspense/terror … with gut, shock horror (extreme graphic cannabilism) more successfully than any other I can think of. Presumably George A. Romero (director/photographer) and John A. Russo (writer) deserve credit for the extraordinary film. I hope they make another.

– Baird Sales movie review in the June 1972 issue of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2012 in Books, Film

 
 
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