Books:  1 copy of every book in the worl

Book Review: King David's Spaceship by Jerry Pournelle

King David's SpaceshipKing David's Spaceship by Jerry Pournelle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don't really remember what made me love this book so much to begin with, but I looked for it at used book stores years ago and was thrilled to find a copy, which, naturally, I haven't read since. XD The premise is supposed to be a galaxy split apart by interstellar war, so that many planets lost technological capabilities entirely. The current Empire is trying to reunite the galaxy and doing everything in its power to prevent another war. As part of that, they are rediscovering less technologically-capable worlds, and observing something similar to Starfleet's Prime Directive where technology transfers are concerned. These worlds then become colonies of the Empire, with no representation and very little say in their futures. One such world is Prince Samual's World, which has managed to claw its way to the beginning of an industrial revolution by the time the Empire arrives. They discover what the Empire intends for them, and also discover that worlds with spaceflight capability are not made into colonies, but are instead granted Empire member status, which includes representation in the Empire and technology transfers to help boost their economy. They learn of an even more primitive world not that far away, that has an ancient Imperial library installation from before the galactic civil war. Hoping to access this Imperial library facility to learn how to make a spaceship, they arrange a trading expedition to this world, led by our protagonist, MacKinnie.

What I've just described would make an excellent story all on its own, with the focus on both the politics of the situation and the potential character-development. However, the author seems to want to tell several different stories, including one about sailing boats, one about warfare in pre-industrial societies, one about politics, one about religion, and only a very minor one about an industrial revolution society making a spaceship. I didn't care for this fragmentation of the story, or for the minute details of sailing a ship or conducting a war. The characterization is not very good either, in my opinion. Few characters are more than two-dimensional, and even those that are don't develop. They change, but it's not a process we're shown, just one that is revealed at the end in a way that makes the reader think they must have missed the development process while reading the rest of the book.
  • Current Music
    2011 Tour de France Stage 1
  • Tags
CSI:  Greg could have been a rockstar

my top 50 songs

I got tagged on Facebook and spent tons of time putting this together, so I figured I'd cross-post it.

There are 5,622 songs in my iTunes, so narrowing it down to 50 is almost impossible. XD My favorites tend to change, too, but I'm gonna try to go for top 50 long-term favorites.

1. Patrick Park - Arrive Like a Whisper
2. The Dandy Warhols - Bohemian Like You
3. Melissa Etheridge - Breathe
4. k.d. lang - Hallelujah
5. OneRepublic - Come Home
6. Soltero - Communist Love Song
7. Great Big Sea - Consequence Free
8. Headstones - Cubically Contained
9. Townes Van Zandt - Dead Flowers
10. Journey - Don't Stop Believin'
11. Allison Iraheta - Don't Waste the Pretty
12. Alix Olson - eve's mouth
13. Nirvana - Dumb
14. David Bowie - Five Years
15. Buffalo Springfield - For What It's Worth
16. Steve Earle - Ft. Worth Blues
17. Johnny Cash - Hurt
18. The Clash - I'm So Bored With the U.S.A.
19. Concrete Blonde - I Don't Need a Hero
20. The Rolling Stones - Laugh, I Nearly Died
21. Patrick Park - Life is a Song
22. Captain Tractor - London Calling
23. Shawn Mullins - Lullaby
24. Gary Jules - Mad World
25. The Hugh Dillon Redemption Choir - My Mistakes
26. Stan Rogers - Northwest Passage
27. The Tragically Hip - Oh Honey (Can't find a link for this one, but it's on the soundtrack for Men With Brooms.)
28. Relient K - The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything
29. The Little Mermaid - Poor Unfortunate Souls
30. VAST - Pretty When You Cry
31. Blue Rodeo - Rage
32. Carpenters - Rainy Days and Mondays
33. Coldplay - The Scientist
34. Jonathan Coulton - Still Alive
35. Guns N' Roses - Sweet Child 'O Mine
36. The Mountain Goats - This Year
37. Regina Spektor - Us
38. Shawn Colvin - Viva Las Vegas
39. Something Corporate - Watch the Sky
40. Fastball - The Way
41. Mika - We are Golden (I use this song for my phone alarm clock.)
42. Queen - We are the Champions
43. The Kinks - Well Respected Man
44. Joey Ramone - What a Wonderful World
45. Bob Dylan - With God on Our Side
46. Carly Simon - You're So Vain
47. Green Day - 21 Guns
48. John Lennon - Working Class Hero
49. Adam Lambert - Aftermath (acoustic live)
50. Evie - Come on Ring Those Bells
  • Current Music
    John Lennon - Working Class Hero
  • Tags
Blade Runner:  But then again who does

we are the lucky ones

We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Sahara. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively outnumbers the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.
--Richard Dawkins
  • Current Music
    Patrick Park - The Lucky Ones
  • Tags
Firefly:  River kill you with my brain


Somebody is spamming the comments of my old entries. Exactly what I DO NOT NEED today. You know, I just read a book where the Internet had evolved consciousness, and it announced its existence to the world by getting rid of all spam. Now would be a good time for that, you hear me, Internet?
Pterry:  not a violent man

Because expressing sympathy is so passé

This is really depressing:
(CBSNews) On Friday, Feb. 11, the day Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down, CBS chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan was covering the jubilation in Tahrir Square for a "60 Minutes" story when she and her team and their security were surrounded by a dangerous element amidst the celebration. It was a mob of more than 200 people whipped into frenzy.

In the crush of the mob, she was separated from her crew. She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers. She reconnected with the CBS team, returned to her hotel and returned to the United States on the first flight the next morning. She is currently home recovering.

There will be no further comment from CBS News and correspondent Logan and her family respectfully request privacy at this time.
What's almost as depressing, predictable as it is, is the victim-blaming and Muslim-bashing that have inevitably followed. Echidne has an excellent post detailing the horrible, predictable, stupid victim-blaming:
1. This experience teaches women that there are jobs women just cannot do. They get raped if they try and should stay at home, reporting on high school football games. I include that example because I came across it three times in the first 200 comments linked to above. Thus, women can be reporters but only about something which doesn't let you advance very far in your career or truly compete with men. And the reason is not the women themselves but what can be done to them by some men. Thus, it is the victim who should pack her bags and go home, while the assaulters don't get told to do that.

2. This experience teaches women that gender equality is impossible and that they should accept it and not to try to horn into the military services, for instance. Sorta like vive la difference but from a misogynistic point of view. Something like a sexual assault is Just The Way Things Are, and we should all be reminded of the value of traditional gender roles. Except, of course, in the case of Muslims who shouldn't have them.
I wish Lara Logan a full, peaceful recovery, and I hope she knows that none of these comments are true: it's not her fault, she didn't somehow deserve it, and she has every right to do the job she does or any other she chooses without *expecting* to be raped for daring to do so.
Darcy:  Dear LJ

today I am going to tell you an exciting story

Recently I took up drinking coffee. This has turned out to be a Bad Thing. It bothers my stomach, and makes me nauseated, and makes me dehydrated, which causes (more) migraines. So I've decided to stop. I spent the weekend living on Phenergen (because, seriously, stomach, ow!). I'm back at work today. I miss coffee. It was so much nicer when I could down a large amount of caffeine in just a few minutes to jump-start the day. Now I'm back to sipping a Diet Dr. Pepper all morning. :-/

(I lied. It wasn't an exciting story. :-P)
TDF:  Tour Day France

It's Not about the Bike

So, it's been a month. I'm still around, I just haven't gotten inspired to post anything. This is probably more of a links round-up than anything else, but whatever.

Lance is in Sports Illustrated (don't know if that's a permalink, so sorry if it stops working). As usual, SI takes no interest in cycling, and in fact completely fails to try to understand it, unless there's a doping scandal involved. (When Lance won his--I think it was his fifth Tour--some SI columnist got all pissy that when he crossed the finish line on the Champs-Élysées it wasn't a huge giant deal and he didn't get it, wah, etc. etc. Anyone who actually pays attention to the Tour knows that he'd won it the day before and that the overall win is traditionally not contested in the last stage--it's like a ceremonial victory lap for the guy who's already won. It's therefore typical not to pay a lot of attention to the race leader crossing the finish line, because it's anticlimactic and not very good TV.) Anyway, SI contends that Lance used an experimental blood-replacement drug called HemAssist at some point is his career, with quotes from the usual suspects (Floyd Landis, Frankie Andreu and his wife Betsy, and of course oblique references to Greg LeMond's asshole opinions).

John Leicester, in a column for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer titled "Lance Armstrong on wonder drug? Mmmmmm", is skeptical of the claims about HemAssist, since it's apparently not very effective. Tests on that category of drug have not shown an improvement in sports performance, so if nothing else, why would he have taken it if it didn't help? (This, of course, doesn't rule out him having taken other drugs, such as EPO.)

I've given my opinion on this before. I think Lance probably took PEDs, probably throughout most of his career. I think, so long as he never admits to it, no one will be able to prove it. And, in the end, I don't care. I think the quest to prove he took PEDs is pointless and will ultimately harm the sport, possibly irreparably.

And I think his legacy isn't seven Tour wins, tainted or not.

His legacy is overcoming cancer, and then going on to inspire others to overcome cancer too. Lots of others. His legacy is the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which uses 85% of its proceeds to directly fight cancer and support people living with cancer.

Two columns I read today really seemed to see this and make sense of it. Kevin Blackistone writes "Lance Armstrong's Big Win Not on Bike":
When I finally reached Geoff Thomas by phone in the summer of 2005, he'd just come off Col du Galibier, the highest peak in that year's Tour de France, where he'd pedaled most of the day over 100 miles through rain, sleet, snow, plummeting temperature and gusting wind on his campaign to duplicate the feat of his hero, bicyclist Lance Armstrong.

But Thomas wasn't inspired by Armstrong's athleticism. Thomas was an athlete himself. Just a few years earlier, he'd retired from a 20-year soccer career in England where he captained Crystal Palace to the FA Cup final in 1990 and made nine appearances for the national team.

Instead, Thomas was inspired by Armstrong's best-selling testimonial, "It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life," written by Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins. It recounted what Armstrong went through as he was shoved to death's door by testicular cancer and then fended off the disease to not only return to the Tour de France but also to dominate it.

Thomas read the book in 2003, as he lay gravely ill with a particularly virulent strain of leukemia. Only a bone marrow donation could save him, and Thomas vowed then that if he beat cancer he'd ride the Tour route, as Armstrong had, to raise awareness about leukemia and money to fight it.

Who knows how many Thomases Armstrong has and continues to inspire? But since Armstrong started the Lance Armstrong Foundation in 1998, he's sold 70 million of what seem to be those ubiquitous yellow rubber wristbands in support of cancer awareness and research.

The millions of Thomases are Armstrong's ultimate legacy. Armstrong's seven victories on the Tour de France are, as the title of his first book suggested, footnotes by comparison.
And at CBS Sports Gregg Doyel writes "Lance's good works matter above all else, even steroids":
For the sake of argument, let's say Sports Illustrated is right, and Armstrong is guilty. He did it. He swallowed steroids, he shot them, he might even have snorted them. Let's accept that as truth, but let's also acknowledge this:

It was worth it.

The world is a better place because of it.

Since 1997 the Lance Armstrong Foundation has raised $325 million for the fight against cancer. Swish that around your brain for a few seconds. Savor it like a satiated man would savor a sip of fine wine, or like a thirsty man would savor a gulp of water.

Lance Armstrong has helped save lives. And steroids made that possible.

No, the end doesn't always justify the means, but this isn't a philosophical debate on that topic. In this very specific case, if we assume the worst of Armstrong and assume that steroids fueled his rise to cycling greatness, the ends do justify the means. Even if the means were steroids.

Because the ends are not those seven consecutive Tour de France races he won.

The ends are the $325 million he has raised and the lives he has helped save.
And that's pretty much my opinion too. So what if he did it? It's only a small part of what he's done with his life. The fight against cancer is the most important part.

If you're so inspired, you can donate to the Lance Armstrong Foundation here.