Review: Reaper Man

Reaper Man (Discworld, #11; Death, #2)Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is my second read. I have dropped the rating from 4 stars to 3 stars

I love Discworld’s Death. He makes any book better by his presence and so I especially love the books that feature Death. In this book Death is the A story. As we’ve seen throughout the previous 10 books, he’s developed a slightly more human personality. There was even that book a while back (Mort, I believe) where Death became a short order cook for a while. Apparently the auditors of reality don’t like this and Death now has a life timer. He ends up living out the rest of his life in a rural town and has a character growth arc.

The B story revolves around the effects of a lack of Death. My recollection of this book involved remember a Death of Mice and other Deaths. Turns out this was the tiniest smidgen of a plot point and didn’t loom as large as it had in my memory. We follow Windle Poons who was introduced, I believe, in Moving Pictures, as a semi-senile Wizard pushed around in the Discworld-equivalent of a wheelchair. Due to Death taking a break, Poons can’t die and essentially becomes a zombie (although without any of the zombie tropes we’re aware of in our real world). While there’s somewhat of an arc with Poons that’s kind of a lamentation of what death robs you of and how we don’t spend enough time in our youth truly paying attention – it’s mostly an excuse for Pratchett to introduce horror elements – vampires, werewolves, etc. He will make great use of this in future books. And there’s a weird plot about shopping malls that I didn’t like the first time and liked even less this time as it seemed too similar to the movie theatre plot of Moving Pictures.

If you like Discworld, read it for Death’s parts. The part with the horror guys and the wizard faculty (which is no longer ever-changing with Ridcully at the helm) are just OK.

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Review: The Most Dangerous Game

The Most Dangerous GameThe Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My enjoyment of this short story (or was it long enough to be a novella?) was only marred by the fact that the story is so famous that I’ve seen it referenced and parodied a million times. Of course, that’s part of what made me want to finally read it.

First, point of clarification, I always thought the “game” in the title was the hunt. But “game” refers to the animal. As in the phrase “an elephant is a game animal”

This story was written in the 1920s and so it has that “90% of this book is a philosophy discussion that might be had on a college campus” that I’m used to from reading Golden Age Science Fiction.

Nonetheless, the story is a great one (look at all the adaptations listed here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adaptat…), especially considering the notions of hunting, manliness, etc that were common in the west in the 1920s. It’s got some proper surprises and climaxes and, especially because it’s a short story – I wasn’t sure if it was going to have a happy ending or not. Generally, the further you get from Hollywood movie (Broadway -> regular play -> books -> novellas -> short stories) the more likely you are to find subversions of tropes, expectations, and social mores.

Pretty fast read – and recommended since everything references it (as long as you can get past the 1920s-1940s more dialog than action style).

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Review: Final Fantasy VI

Final Fantasy VI (Boss Fight Books, #28)Final Fantasy VI by Sebastian Deken
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was a kickstarter backer on the campaign for this book

I’ve been waiting for this book for a while. This game, along with Chrono Trigger, was very formative in my early gaming years. The book decides to focus on one of the greatest things about Final Fantasy VI (FF3 in the original US release), the music. I can’t argue with the fact that Uematsu’s music is incredible – I own a bunch of Final Fantasy soundtracks. That said, my preference would have been for a few chapters on the music. Mr. Deken’s work views FF6 entirely through the lens of music. It is definitely a unique lens and one that he is very well situated to opine on. It makes this book special compared to others that would tackle the same subject. It’s also what you get with a Boss Fight Book – a book that is HIGHLY dependent on how the author relates to the subject – for better and for worse.

And so, I give it 3 stars which Goodreads says is “I like it”; exactly how I felt with the book. If you are both a Final Fantasy and music geek/nerd, you will love this book with its multiple pages of FF6 sheet music. If you’re just a FF6 fan, I think you’ll still enjoy it. If you’re just a general video games fan, it may be a tougher sell.

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Making sure video games can be played by the widest group

Ever since a class during my undergrad which mentioned technology that can help make sure the real world is accessible to all folks no matter what their physical limits may be, I’ve been very interested in the topic. It’s led to my interest on web accessibility (although I’m not always perfect when it comes to this blog) as well as in other realms. One of my favorite series from the Game Maker’s Toolkit Youtube channel is his yearly wrap-up on how accessible games were that year. Here is his 2020 video:

This is why the most recent episode of Imaginary Worlds caught my eye. It’s about the recent history of being able to play games while blind and I found the episode fascinating. I’d encourage you to have a listen here. I especially love the section on how Naughty Dog thought they had an awesome product until they invited a blind consultant (for lack of a better word) who explained the way those in the blind community have a wide range of issues with their vision and so do not have a universal set of needs to make sure games are playable.

Review: Auberon

Auberon (The Expanse, #8.5)Auberon by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As the back of the book (so to speak…this is only available as an ebook at the moment) says, this novella is a chance to see what Amos’ old colleague Erich is up to. The novella starts off with a quote about a changing of the guard that mirrors the opening to The Churn. It appears that Erich has learned the lessons of that book and applied them to his current enterprise. At the same time, this novella really isn’t about Erich and his crime empire at all. (Although that probably would have been a pretty great novella in its own right). Instead it’s about Governor Rittenaur and, despite being listed as #8.5 in the series, it might reasonably fit in better as 7.5. The plot takes us back to right when Laconia has taken over and Governor Rittenaur is sent in to be in charge of the most important star system in terms of riches and potential scientific developments. It’s a story about colonizers and colonies that is mature enough to show that neither side is perfect. In a way, who you side with in this story says more about you than it does about anything else. Within that story, it’s also about ideological purity vs the real world. As we’ve already seen in a few novels, Duarte’s leadership style enforces and creates a hierarchy that does not tolerate deviations because they’re so certain that they are on the right side. One can form so many parallels to history in that.

I really enjoyed it and basically blitzed through it in a day. I actually think that this particular novella can just about stand on its own and be read without any other knowledge of The Expanse. You won’t know what “the pens” are or why Laconians are so rigid in their morals. But if you just accept that, this story more or less stands on its own and that somewhat makes me think it’s quite a strong story. Honestly, I think the same could be said of The Churn.

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Review: Death Masks

Death Masks (The Dresden Files, #5)Death Masks by Jim Butcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If Goodreads had half-stars, I’d definitely give this one 4.5 stars. Butcher has taken everything I like about the Dresden files and eliminated a lot of what was annoying. Dresden has FINALLY earned the trust of Murphy on the SI unit at the Chicago PD. It was getting tiresome having them fight over dumb stuff. By the same token, Dresden is finally not trying to be such a hero that he holds back info from Murphy in a way that both endangers them and causes her not to trust him. Over the last couple books, Dresden and Marcone have reached a level of respect for each other. Sure, Dresden still would prefer to keep Marcone uninvolved, but at least he’s realized he shouldn’t be so childish.

Outside the main plot of this book, Butcher continues to advance the world-building. This time there were a few more drips because I think he’s given us enough for us to see that he has a larger plan in mind. So, unlike the bomb that dropped in the last book, this one just has a few mentions of his past and heritage. The battles Harry finds himself roped into have much more complex endings and resolutions than before. Also, The Archive is awesome and I hope we get more of her and her bodyguard.

I think the only dig against the book is that the mystery itself seemed a bit less tight than the previous mysteries he solved.

If you’re enjoying Dresden, this is more of that with less of the annoying parts.

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Review: Lightspeed Magazine, April 2014

Lightspeed Magazine, April 2014Lightspeed Magazine, April 2014 by John Joseph Adams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a GREAT issue. I don’t think there was one story that wasn’t top-notch. My favorite SF stories were Codename: Delphi and Exhalation. My favorite fantasy was The Only Death in the City. The Afterparty excerpt was great and I added the book to my To Read list. As I normally do with collections or SFF magazines, below are my reviews per story. (They roughly align with my status posts, but sometimes I have to trim the statuses to remain within the character limits)

Science Fiction


Codename: Delphi – a story almost certainly inspired by the Iraq/Afghanistan wars of the 2000s-2020s where drone operators worked from afar to provide backup to the war effort. In this story, battlefield oversight and command is now a job contracted out. Our protagonist works in a “call center” providing this oversight role and we spend a night with her. It’s one of those short stories that is less about character growth or a full story. Instead it’s a scene in what could be a much larger narrative. I enjoyed the story quite a bit.

Francisca Montoya’s Almanac of Things that Can Kill You – what starts off as a darkly humorous explanation of all the ways humans can die ends up telling the tale of a post-apocalyptic world. It’s especially creative for the fact that the story is told through ways of dying that are listed alphabetically.

Complex God – A very interesting take on the emergent AI concept. It also leads to an unexpected twist as our protagonist has their own twist planned as well.

Exhalation – a neat metaphor for what the current scientific thought tells us will happen with out own universe as time passes. It has a bit of that SF Golden Age (1930s-1940s) tone to it and I really enjoy that whenever I find it. 5/5 for this story.

Fantasy


Observations about Eggs from the Man Sitting Next to Me on a Flight from Chicago, Illinois to Cedar Rapids, Iowa – very odd sort of fantasy in which you get glimpses of magic or things not quite being what they seem.

The Day the World Turn Upside Down – A fantastical metaphor for a breakup alongside a literal, non-metaphorical breakup. It was a sweet story and a nice read.

Alsiso – An exploration of how memes mutate that was a lot of fun to read. Also seems to maybe overlap a bit with the premise of Small Gods by Terry Pratchett.

The Only Death in the City – Something has happened on Earth and now people are reincarnated and completely remember their past lives. What would this to do life and society? Then our main character is the first newly born in thousands of years (he does not have a past life) – and so a moving story begins. An excellent selection for this fantasy reprint!

Novellas & Author Spotlights

The Autopsy – A science fiction horror novella that has a bit of a Lovecraftian bent to the narration. The plot has a few unexpected turns, but they are executed quite well. Reading the first paragraph of the next section of the magazine, an author feature, mentions this story is a classic. It definitely deserves that award.

Mihael Shea: No Form is Eternal- A tribute to Mr. Shea and The Autopsy.

Novel Excerpts

Afterparty – An intriguing novel involving (essentially) 3D printed drugs. The character of The Vincent cinched it for me and I added this book to my To Read List (long though it is)

Steles of the Sky – An excerpt from a novel that takes place in a fantasy-tinged Mongol empire. Thanks to having read The Mongoliad I recognized the names as Mongolian immediately. Story seems fascinating. Perhaps I will give the author another shot. (I didn’t like the first novel of hers I read)

Non-Fiction

Interviews

Interview: Darren Aronofsky – An interview about the movie and graphic novel adaptations of Noah.

The Myth of Everyman – An essay on why it was problematic that the entire Noah cast (in the movie) was white. A good, short essay to show someone who doesn’t understand the concept of why it’s bad that “white” is assumed to be the “default”.

Interview: Scott Sigler – Wonder how well Pandemic the book squares with the reality of pandemic in 2020-2021. Man, this is hard to read during COVID.

Artist Gallery/Artist Spotlight: Remi Le Capon – a mix of steampunk and SF images. His description of an ideal art project sounds like The Witcher meets Steampunk.

Author Spotlights


Linda Nagata – Looks like I was slightly off in the inspiration. Apparently the short story is providing POV to a character from one of her novels.

Shaenon K. Garrity – About the inspiration for the character in Almanac of Things that can kill you

Scott Sigler – A little more background on Prawatt and where she came from and her motivations in “God Complex”

Ted Chiang – How a Philip K Dick short story was part of the inspiration for “Exhalation!”

Carmen Maria Machado – The origin of the egg story.

Thomas Olde Heuvelt – The author’s experience with grief led to the story and its extended metaphor.

Spotlight: KJ Bishop – Discussion on how Alsisso comes from the idea of consumerism as the evolution of theology.

Spotlight: CJ Cherryh – In the discussion of The Only Death I learned that Paris is one of the oldest European cities.

Misc
—-
The Legend of RoboNinja – A parody of cyberpunk, complete with unnecessarily complex words. Very fun.

Author Spotlight: RoboNinja – A great parody of the author spotlights.

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Review: Generation Xbox: How Videogames Invaded Hollywood

Generation Xbox: How Videogames Invaded HollywoodGeneration Xbox: How Videogames Invaded Hollywood by Jamie Russell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anyone who has followed my book reviews on Good Reads or my blog knows that I have read quite a bit of video game history. Whether it’s a history of video games starting with the miltiary and university campuses, a book like A Mind Forever Voyaging: A History of Storytelling in Video Games or the Boss Fight Books series – I’ve gone through quite a bit of video game history. So when this one started off with Atari and the ET game I was a little wary. By this point anyone my age or older with any bit of knowledge of video game history knows of the crash in the 80s and how it was (at least partially) caused by Atari’s horrible ET game. The Indiana Jones game would have been news to me if I hadn’t seen a long Ars Technica article about it last year. So a slightly boring start for me.

But then the book swiveled away to a part of video game history that I was just a little too young and a little too poor to have known about. (Too young for Night Trap and too poor for Sega CD) The chapter on the Super Mario Brothers movie was great and I also recommend listening to the SMB movie How Did this Get Made podcast episode. Wen they got to the FMV craze, I remembered playing some demos of those games when I got a CD-ROM drive kit back before computers came with CD-ROMs or sound cards. From there it moved on to Tomb Raider, GTA, and more modern titles. Each way it showed how the movie and video game industries were engaged in a tango in which the role of lead partner kept changing.

Eventually the book’s thesis turns out to be that Avatar is the ultimate, final merging of these two mediums. In the same chapter it mentions how Andy Serkis and his mocap (or apparently nowadays it’s called motion performance) work has changed Hollywood. Also, for a few decades now, the AAA video games have been making WAAAAY more money than the Hollywood blockbusters.

It’s a great book that shows a different part of video game history than all the other books I’ve come across. I appreciate it for that. I know books can’t be infinitely long, but I was surprised he (or she…. can’t tell just by name) didn’t really spend time exploring video cut scenes like in Command and Conquer considering how important those were at the time. Perhaps because it didn’t contribute to the ultimate thesis? Or was a dead end since most cuts cenes are now done “in engine”. Also a bummer this was written before The Mandalorian provided what I think is the true apotheosis of the video game/Hollywood merger. I also thought it would have been an interesting note in the epilogue about how AAA games may be merging with Hollywood, there continues to be an indie scene with immensely popular games with SNES graphics (like Stardew Valley).

Highly recommend if you’re into video game histories.

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Review: Programming Perl

Programming PerlProgramming Perl by Tom Christiansen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve effectively finished this book, although I’ll admit to skipping the section called “reference”; the book had already gotten deeper into the weeds than I needed at the moment.

I’ve read a lot of programming books over the past 15 years (and a few before that when I was a young buck trying to learn exactly what one could do with “computers” or on the “Internet”). But rarely have I read a programming book as delightful to read as this one; especially since it focuses so much on the internals of the language. But the book is written with that dad-joke-ish programmer humor that keeps it from ever getting too dry.

Perl isn’t as popular as it was when this book was written. Shoot, even Ruby, once a darling thanks to the Rails framework, has faded due to the likes of Python, Go, Rust, and C#. In the first quarter of 2021 it was ranked #21 on Github. But Perl once ran so much of the web (even a recent episode of Commandline Heroes mentioned the folks who made the Batman Forever movie using it for their site) and probably still runs a huge chunk of sys admin scripts around the world. It may be worth learning just for that skillset. It’s also interesting to see how groundbreaking it was at the time and how other languages (like Python and Ruby) have borrowed from it (very heavily in Ruby’s case).

Ultimately this book isn’t for learning Perl. Funnily enough, there’s a book called Learning Perl that works much better for that. But if you find yourself still working with (or newly working with) Perl, this book will give you a nice, deep background into how everything works that will allow you to write very powerful Perl programs or understand that Perl program that the retired Perl Monk wrote and that you now have to maintain. I wish more programming language books were written this approachably when covering the innards of the language.

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Review: Moving Pictures

Moving Pictures (Discworld, #10; Industrial Revolution, #1)Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is my second time reading as I do my Discworld re-read. Dropped the start rating from 3 stars to 2 stars.

This one seems a slight step backwards in the progression of Discworld novels. It’s not really about any character growth and we more or less get a sitcom-like reboot at the end. It appears Pratchett had not yet decided that we wanted to continue to modernize Anhk-Morpork as he would in the later novels. We do get a few new characters. Windle Poons is introduced here and continues into the next book, Reaper Man. Our main character’s class mate later features as a grad student who does the Discworld version of particle physics research. Otherwise, it’s another story in which too much magic allows Lovecraftian monsters a way to come in from the demon dimensions. Other than that it’s almost a Flintstones-level parody of Hollywood in which you look for the Discworld equivalent of real-world things – like 20th Century Fox being Century of the Fruitbat Pictures.

I didn’t really enjoy this one the first time around and a second reading didn’t improve my opinion of the book. You can skip it if you want – it doesn’t have any real consequences to the future of Discworld. Read it for CMOT Dibbler’s shennanigans or Archchancellor Ridcully’s insistence on not bending his will to the university’s culture and how it bothers the bursar.

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Review: Introducing Go: Build Reliable, Scalable Programs

Introducing Go: Build Reliable, Scalable ProgramsIntroducing Go: Build Reliable, Scalable Programs by Caleb Doxsey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Over my many years as a programmer (and now boss of programmers) I’ve read many of O’Reilly’s series – Learning {language}, Programming {language}, {language} in a Nutshell, {language} Pocket Reference. This is the first time (that I can remember) that I’ve read a book in the “Introducing” series. I’d say this book is great for someone who already knows how to program, but wants to get a feel for the syntax Go uses. That does mean that the early chapters that introduce conditionals and loops are a bit elementary, but I have a hard time feeling that someone who’s never programmed before would really get the later chapters with pointers. Each chapter ends with some questions that makes me wonder if this book was developed to be a textbook for an introduction to programming high school or university class. It would certainly work well for a dev who has the support of a teacher and/or TAs.

I breezed through it because I’m planning on using O’Reilly’s Head First Go book to truly learn go. It’s a lot more comprehensive and I think the Head First philosophy of using visual learning tools will serve my learning style well.

If you want a reference guide this isn’t it. But if you want a quick intro to the Go syntax, it’s read.

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2021 Cherry Blossom Race

After nearly 2 years of training, I finally was able to run the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 mile race on 12 Sept. Yeah, last year I ran a virtual race, but that was really no different than a training run. This year we finally had the COVID-19 vaccine and so the race was able to take place in person. It was worth it. 

The starting line when I first arrived to the race.

I’m new to the sport, but in my conversations with others, it’s a well-worn trope that you have to wake up early for race day in order to be there on time to find you spot, line up, and wait for the race to begin. Since I had to make it all the way to Washington DC, I got up at 0445. When I did the 10k, I only had a handful of raisins before the race started. Since I was doing four more miles and waking up about 2.5 hours before the race, I decided to have 1 cup of cereal and milk. It turned out OK – I didn’t feel sick or throw up or have to stop mid-race to use the bathroom.

By the time I arrived at the parking garage and had my bib pinned, I had about an hour before it was time to get into the corral. RunCoach recommended running an easy mile before the race and I saw various people jogging around. I wasn’t 100% sure if that would be a good or bad thing (especially since I didn’t sleep well – I think it was anxiety for the race) so I split the difference and jogged from the parking garage to the race site. 

At the Red Corral/Gate at the Cherry Blossom Race

Once there it was just a waiting game to get into the Red Corral. It was interesting, for a race of this size and prestige (it was an official race with $25k in prize money for the top runners), people essentially entered the corral at the last minute. I got in there as soon as it opened so I got a front position as usual. As I did for the 10k race and my virtual race, I pre-programmed it into my Garmin as a workout so that I could monitor my pace throughout. 

Overall, I was able to keep a nice, steady pace – that made me proud. When I did the virtual race my mile times were all over the place. I was able to pick things up a bit for the last mile and I was able to sprint the last 400 meters to the finish line. Unlike the 10k, I didn’t feel like I was dying as I did that. I felt great and had a good time with the run. Also, when it comes to running, nothing beats that cheering crowd at the finish line.

Because this race had a lot of loops, it was interesting that we kept seeing the yellow group (the professional athletes and those with seeded times) throughout the race. There were definitely a few reds who caught up with them. I wonder why those folks weren’t given yellow bibs if they were that fast. Were the reds doing personal bests? Were those yellows who were lagging? Speaking of that, a few yellows definitely had a bad race since I saw a few result to walking – again, surprising since they were the elite group.

My GPS progress throughout the race
My race rankings

I was happy with my finish time (10 seconds faster, as I mentioned before) and VERY happy with my rankings! For my age group and gender I was in the top 20%. And overall 13%. It makes me proud that the training paid off.

Where do I go from here in running? Well, I didn’t feel exhausted at the end, so I have not hit the ceiling of my abilities yet. I felt more bushed when I did the virtual run last year. That said, to move up from my time of 1:14:38 (ten seconds faster than last year’s virtual race) just to 1:10:00 would require me to go 30 seconds faster on each mile – quite a feat. I’ll be running a 10 mile trail race this December and next year’s Cherry Blossom race in the spring (when it’s supposed to take place). Other than that I’m planning on training for at least a half marathon. Part of me would like to at least get one full marathon checked off my bucket list. But I do know that for my age/fitness level/etc that’ll definitely be a tough one. I didn’t feel exhausted after my run, but my right knee was hurting enough that I took some Ibuprofen when I got home. 

Post-race self-portrait with the medal

Review: After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall

After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the FallAfter the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A reminder that I go by Goodread’s tooltips for the star ratings. At the time I’m writing this, 3 stars is “liked it”

This is a very compelling short novel (or maybe novellette? or novella?) That jumps back and forth between 3 time periods, although eventually two of them coalesce into one. In the future (2035) humanity is hanging on by a thread after some kind of world-ending disaster has struck. The best parts of the story focus on the interpersonal conflicts in a “society” that cannot afford them. More than at any time in which you’ve ever hear the platitudes, the group really does need to be put above individual needs.

The earliest timeline has some very interesting potential with the main character that isn’t fully realized, in my opinion. Our main character almost seems to exist simply for a penultimate chapter mini-info-dump. Also to provide tension that (view spoiler)

In order to discuss why this book (which I had a hard time putting down) only early 3 stars, I’m going to get into spoiler territory. On Goodreads it’ll be hidden by the spoiler tag, but I’m pretty sure that when I repost on my blog, it’s going to not be hidden. Last warning……

The most disappointing aspect of this story is (view spoiler)

Should you read this story? I think that as it’s happening there is a lot of compelling story, especially in the future sections. I think the present-day is given slight short shrift (perhaps to keep the story from ballooning). I was a little unsatisfied with the part I mentioned above, but I think that how much you can tolerate what I hated is going to depend on where you sit on the story-telling spectrum of journey<->destination and reveal all<->complete mystery. At any rate, it’s a pretty short read – I think most people could probably knock it out somewhere between a lazy afternoon and a lazy day. Summer’s coming and I know some folks love their beach reads. This could easily fall in there.

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20 Years Ago Today

Twenty years ago today I was a freshman at Cornell University. I’d only been to NYC once before, during my family’s college tour trip in spring of 2000.

It was part of my college visitation trip and it was a surprise that we would get to see NYC. It was a miserable day, but I was ecstatic to see this place I’d only heard of in movies. I begged my mom to let us visit the World Trade Center since I’d seen Kevin go up there in Home Alone 2 and I wanted to stand at the top of the world in the largest city in the world. But there wasn’t time for that. She said we’d see them next time we came to NYC….

I was in class when the attacks happened. Eventually when I got to our creative writing class (or whatever it was called – Cornell made every freshman take this class regardless of major) the professor said he wasn’t sure if he should go on in light of what happened. I’d been in class all day so I had no idea what he was talking about. Later, when I got back to my dorm I had a bunch of emails to check the news. That’s when I saw the smoke coming out of the towers, but I still wasn’t sure what was going on. That day was my first day doing my work study job to update a slideshow that played on TVs throughout the campus. I was told to just listen to the news and update the slides accordingly. My brand new girlfriend at the time (now my wife) was freaked out because sometimes her dad had business at the World Trade Center and the phones weren’t connecting. It was a few days before it all made sense to me and I understood what was happening.

Since a good chunk of the student body was from NYC, the school held a vigil a few days later. I recorded the vigil and, as my coping mechanism, later made the following video, which I submitted to the digital video club showcase later that year.

A video I made around 25 Sept 2001 to cope with how I was feeling about the attacks

According to metadata on the original file (I re-encoded to MP4 to take up less space), I made it somewhere around 25 Sept 2001.

It was such a different world back then when it came to understanding what was going on. There wasn’t Twitter or Youtube. I didn’t even have a blog until 2 years later. (Not this one, which started in 2005, my previous blog)

For a while the 11 Sept attacks made incredibly large ripples throughout society. The Afghan War, which just ended last week. The Iraq War, which led to ISIS. The TSA and all the changes to airplane travel that make it almost hilarious that movies with plots like Home Alone 2 could exist. I became very political in my blogging and thoughts for a long time. Eventually it all faded. To be honest, I was half surprised we were still at war in Afghanistan. I thought we’d trained up their military and left years ago.

In a lot of ways we still live with the legacy of the attacks in various laws and procedures, but it’s mostly faded to the background and we now have adults who have completely grown up in the aftermath – who never knew a world before the attacks. It feels strange to have it have happened so far in the past when it was such a large part of my early adulthood.

Review: Lies of the Beholder

Lies of the Beholder (Legion, #3)Lies of the Beholder by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This novella is a great wrap-up to the story of Stephen Leeds. Now that the trilogy is published as one volume, I think that’s going to be your best way to get into the story. For this final entry, we find that Leeds seems to be losing a grip on his ability to keep himself sane by expanding out into various aspects. It’s such a short story there’s not too much more to be said about it, so I’ll consider the entire story.

I don’t know if there’s any real mental condition that has either the symptoms or cures that Sanderson explores with the Legion series, but I think Sanderson does a good job creating an interesting set of stories around the condition. However, I actually prefer the way he’s handling a similar condition over in his Stormlight series. There the character also has conversations with various aspects, but also (I think slightly more realistically?) can have a particular aspect take control of the body and be the primary aspect for a time. The first two stories in Legion are more like detective stories with a little psychological fantasy laid over top. The ending is less of a detective story than a thriller. I think Sanderson definitely sticks the landing and makes great use of everything he’s been building up in Leeds to great effect. As for the bit of science fiction that makes up the crux of this story, I think Sanderson’s creativity works a bit better in a fantasy world. I guess we already know this is a fantasy world because of the camera from the first story (or second, I can’t remember), but the tech here really blurs the line of whether it’s supposed to be more fantastical or SF and it feel slightly flat for me.

In the end, if you got the novellas individually, I think this entry is a good conclusion. If you haven’t, I think it’s an interesting series that’s worth the price of admission, but don’t consider this to be ultimate Sanderson – check out his Mistborn Series, Warbreaker, or The Stormlight Archive for that.

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